Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lost in Time with In Perfect Time

In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin is a brilliant tale of romance on the front lines during World War II. Sarah blends true to life historic events with multi-dimensional fictional characters to paint a captivating picture of romance during wartime in the 1940s in and around Italy.

It is the story of a young, troubled flight nurse searching for redemption and finding true love in the process and of a young pilot trying to escape his past by sitting out future possibilities whose defenses are shattered by true love.

I the have read two other books in this series and am left wanting to know these characters even more. I was excited to get the opportunity from the publisher to receive a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Critique

Writing: Sarah's writing is descriptive prose, blended with action, humor, compassion and romance. In Perfect Time is no different.
Sundin explores the struggles her hero and heroine have in truly accepting the gift of faith and overcoming internal struggles while on the front lines of WWII.

The prose and dialogue are very well balanced and engage us deeper with the story. Through alternating chapters that focus on each character, Sundin tells us the stories of Kay and Roger with a pace that makes it hard to put down. Each character has a complexity that make them seem like real people. Flawed and wounded by what life has dealt thus far, both Kay and Roger put up defenses to control who they let in. Kay, who has a reputation of being a loose flirt, searches for acceptance through her relationships. Roger, who doesn't trust himself, puts walls of defense around him to keep from finding his true passion.

The backdrop of the war and the internal struggles each character faces provide plenty of tension. The romantic angst, however, is off the charts as each character becomes so handicapped by own inner battles they nearly miss the gift of love and acceptance in front of them.

Sundin brings back the characters from her two previous novels and helps tie up some loose ends. I am glad I got to know this group of nightingales and their men.

Historical significance: Sundin's immense knowledge of both World War II and nursing brings much credibility to the storyline. The settings are so vividly described I felt transported to an army base in Italy or a remote German cave. Sundin depicts 1940s culture, and as such, some of the characters smoke and drink and defy the traditional views on sex before marriage. The war scenes include descriptions of dog fights, bombings, plundering and injury. In Perfect Time, as well as the entire series, offers a unique look at the contributions of women on the front lines during that time.

Spiritual themes of redemption, assurance and grace are strongly highlighted throughout. Each of the characters, as do many of us at times, have a difficult time understanding and fully embracing forgiveness, the free gift of God's grace and newness promised to those who have accepted Christ.

Audience: This book would appeal to women and men who enjoy historical fiction. With strong, but not pushy, spiritual overtones, both Christians and non-Christians will enjoy the entire series, which I think has a broad appeal with enough action and romance to be a feature film.

You can get In Perfect Time at Amazon and book retailers near you.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reflections on Summer at Home & Why I'm Ready for Back-to-school

Some 11-12 weeks ago, I left the agency world to set out on my own as an independent contractor in the field of marketing and public relations. This change solved an immediate family challenge regarding childcare for the summer and revealed a greater need than I had thought for my presence to be more fully, and more often, at home.

As I reflect on these past weeks, I have come to realize that this transition has been more radical for me than I thought it would be. 

My oldest will soon be 13. Since she was born, I have worked outside the home full time. I handled the morning duties and returned for dinner and bedtime. Weekends were sacred, but in which I squeezed quality time, cleaning, errands and activities. 

I would get the kids off to school and turn off the mom switch and turn on the professional switch as I drove to work. 

Focused on the day ahead, I would walk into my office high rise, take the elevator to the tenth floor and enter my clean, orderly, mostly quiet and serene office space. I would then spend 8-10 hours in my private, even quieter office where everything was in it's place. 

Neatness and order we're highly valued at my place of work. So much so that we once were given a keynote presentation on expectations for the cleanliness of the break room sink with photographic examples of what was and was not acceptable (not kidding). Colleagues were called back via loudspeaker, to our casual conference room if they had forgotten to fluff the pillows upon exiting.

In the evenings, I would have time to transition between professional and mom/wife on my drive home. Once home, I would have family dinner and put the kids to bed. 

Now, not so much. My work space is opposite land. Here, instead of fluffed pillows, we have pillows strewn all over the living room floor. A perfectly clean sink is a significant, and short-lasting, accomplishment. Dishes pile up as soon as I can clear them. I manage a team of demanding little people who often resort to bribery, whining, tears and total meltdowns to try to get their way. A closed door or a phone to my ear has no meaning whatsoever. Interruptions are constant. My private office is my bedroom. There is no transition time. Multi-tasking takes on new meaning.


Over these past weeks, there have been numerous times I thanked God for the blessing of being home with my kids, out of the rat race of agency life, still contributing to my family finances and enjoying the challenge of launching my new business. We have had nature walks, days at the pool, food truck Thursdays, some craft projects, and plenty of cuddles. I have gotten to know my children much better and see issues confronting them I would otherwise not have had the time to discover. I feel truly best to be where I am, doing what I am doing now.

But I also have to admit, all this change and togetherness has brought me to the point of anxiously looking forward to the kids heading back to school.

You see, as a working out-of-the-home mom, I never understood the memes highlighting the happiness mothers feel at the end of summer and the prospect of sending kids off to school again. I mean, when I was working in the office and consequently saw my kids so few hours a day, the idea of twelve whole weeks together doing fun things, going to the pool, doing cute craft projects, visiting local attractions and endless cuddles, was very attractive. I couldn't understand why any mom would be excited for it to end.


Now, I do.

Ten Things I'll be Happy There Is Less Of When The kids Go Back to School

  1. Endless questions all day long
  2. "Mom, I'm hungry"
  3. Never-ending dishes
  4. Constantly being on alert to be sure my little escape artist hasn't gotten out
  5. Cleaning a room, only to return to a mess minutes later
  6. The rise in grocery and water bills
  7. Sibling bickering!!!
  8. An audience every time I go to the bathroom (including "yea! Mommy, did it")
  9. "That's so unfair!"
  10. The Disney Channel, PBS and NickJr shows
The summer overall has been good and I am thankful that this new gig seems to be working. I'm glad we are entering a more structured (and yet even more hectic) part of the year. 



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Surprised by a Ragamuffin

Today, I managed to steal away some time to watch a movie on the life of Christian music star Rich Mullins. It was not what I expected. I, of course, have heard and sung many of Mullins' hits over the years. "Our God is an awesome God," is a classic hit that at least three generations of youth group teens have sung. However, I did not know much about the development of Christian music genre and the influence of Mullins.

It turns out, Mullins was both a renegade and a ragamuffin. Music spoke to him at a young age and helped take him away from a troubled relationship with his dad. But it took years for him to find the peace he was looking for. Along the way, he challenged the way Christians lived out their faith and he went against the establishment in Nashville to try to stay true to his faith and music. 

Mullins' faith was inspired by St. Francis. He simply wanted to love as Jesus loved. Yet, he had a hard time receiving love in return. Mullins made millions but only lived on an average persons wages giving the rest to charity. He was a vagabond, troubled with self-worth issues and alcoholism, wondering and searching and still reached millions with a message of love and salvation. He was taken from us by a tragic accident but his music and art live on.

The movie is narrated from the viewpoint of Mullins. His story is a good reminder that God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. It challenges each of us to continue searching and seeking, in the midst of pain and confusion, to understand and accept the love of God in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Even in our brokenness, God can work through us to help others in profound ways.

The DVD was releases this week at retailers nationwide. I was given a copy of the new DVD  for my review. I was also given a copy to giveaway on my blog. Comment below with your favorite Rich Mullins song to be entered into a drawing for the DVD.


Where to Buy
Consider buying one DVD for yourself and giving one away to a Ragamuffin in your life at


About the Film:
RAGAMUFFIN is based on the life of Rich Mullins, a musical prodigy who rose to Christian music fame and fortune only to walk away and live on a Navajo reservation. An artistic genius, raised on a tree farm in Indiana by a callous father, Rich wrestled all of his life with the brokenness and crippling insecurity born of his childhood. A lover of Jesus and a rebel in the church, Rich refused to let his struggles with his own darkness tear him away from a God he was determined to love. As he struggled with success in Nashville and depression in Wichita, Rich desired most of all to live a life of honest and reckless faith amidst a culture of religion and conformity.

About Rich Mullins:
Singer and songwriter Richard Wayne “Rich” Mullins was best known for his worship song “Awesome God” which has been embraced as modern classics by many Christians. His music has been covered by many artists, including Caedmon’s Call, Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, Third Day, John Tesh, and Hillsong United. Mullins’ musical career formally began with Zion Ministries in the late 1970s, where he wrote music and performed with a band called Zion.  Mullins first solo hit, “Awesome God,” appeared on his third album and brought his music to a wider audience. Rich Mullins was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Gospel Music Association (GMA) on April 29, 2014.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Care and Keeping of your Soul

We spend so much time working on physical wellness, educational pursuits and relationship development, but how often do we consider the condition of our soul? After all, it is all we will be left with when we die. Shouldn't we be sure it is cultivated and cared for?

What is a soul exactly?
How do you care for it?
What does the soul desire?
What are the best ways to meet those desire and what ways should be wary of?
What happens when our soul is in darkness?

These are the questions best selling author and pastor John Ortberg address in
his newest book Soul Keeping: Caring for the most important part of you. Influenced by the teachings on spiritual formation by Dallas Willard, Ortberg organizes his reflections into three segments: What the Soul Is, What the Soul Needs, and The Soul Restored. The second section offers direction for building soul wellness through rest, worship, freedom, blessing, satisfaction and gratitude with scriptural examples of key concepts.

One of my favorite chapters is The Soul Needs Blessing. Ortberg quotes Willard saying there are two great words in the Bible that describe the posture of our souls toward other people. One is to bless. The other is to curse. In every encounter with people, we will will what is good for them, or we will will what is bad. We are highly aware of our souls being blessed or cursed in our interactions with others. We are sensitive to this because our souls were made to be blessed.

Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another. We must think it, feel it, and will it. We communicate it with our words and bodies. Blessing is done by the soul.

Ortberg describes "soul love." It is a love I desire and one I want to give others. To love someone with your soul means your will, your choices, your mind, your thoughts, your feelings,  your body, your behaviors, and your habits are aligned for the good of their entire being before God. 

Wow.

Although a heavy topic, the book is understandable and an easy read. This is a book I will reflect on often as I try to craft a remarkable life for my family. Helping my children and husband care for their souls is of key importance. 



I want my kids to know how to get true soul satisfaction before they are tempted to try the poor substitutes this world offers. This won't likely just happen by accident. I must teach gratitude, worship, rest, blessing and mostly teach this by example. In fact, my primary job in my vocation of wife and mother is that of family soul tender. I have never thought if it that way before, but that was my key takeaway from the book. Of course, I cannot tend others' souls, unless mine is also well cared for.

The Lord bless you and keep you;The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer TV Review: Signed, Sealed, Delivered on Hallmark Channel

For TV lovers, summertime can be frustrating. My husband and I like to settle down and watch a show or two at night. We have several summer series we enjoy, like "Major Crimes," "Rookie Blue," and this summer's special treat "24." Unfortunately, some series don't even start until July (like our guilty pleasure "Big Brother"), long after our other favorite series have ended. We also get frustrated when new shows debut only to be cancelled two shows into it, like "Crisis." What was the point?

So I was happy to pre-review an upcoming episode of the new original series "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Created by "Touched by An Angel's" Martha Williamson, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" is a light and comedic drama featuring four postal detectives who track down the intended recipients of mail that for various reasons was undeliverable. The investigation of these pieces of lost mail and redirected letters and packages can result in saved lives, solved crimes, reunited loves and changed futures. 

As described on the Hallmark Channel, which runs the show on Sundays at 8 pm EST, the team includes charming Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius), a genius postal detective and the group’s leader; new team member, Shane McInerney (Kristin Booth), a technophile who brings 21st century sensibility to the group; free-spirited, “girl next door” Rita Haywith (Crystal Lowe) who has a photographic memory; and lovable Norman Dorman (Geoff Gustafson), a master in conventional research methods.

The team interacts in a collegial manner that is enjoyable to watch. Sort of like "Cold Case," the show focuses onsolving mysteries of the past, but instead of murder, it is mail. Any one who loves to solve a good puzzle, would enjoy this series. From the episode I saw, it is fairly family-friendly as well, but for older kids. I'm glad we now have a show to enjoy on Sunday nights this summer.

What are your favorite summer shows?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Musings from a newly converted work-from-home mom

It has been a month since I switched from being a work outside the home mom, to a work from home mom. At the same time, I simultaneously welcomed the kids home for summertime. It has been a joy and a challenge. It is an exciting time. As I embark on this next leg of my journey, I am ever mindful of my mission to craft a remarkable life for my family. This move to be more present in my home is a big step toward that. I did not realize how much I was missing my spending 10-11 hours of my day away from everyone.



Initially, I have taken on just one client for which I am working 20 hours a week. It has truly been a joy to get involved with this non profit serving people with developmental disabilities. It is a cause near and dear to my heart. I have also set aside a few hours a week toward building my business - setting up an LLC, building my website, working with my fabulous graphic designer friend to craft a visual identity, reaching out to my network.

At the same time, I want my kids to get more of me too. To accomplish that, we have set up a good schedule for our day and for our housework/chores. So far, we have been able to keep up with it pretty well. We alternate days for cleaning on different floors of the house, so everything gets hit twice a week. Laundry worked on daily, as are mealtime chores. Projects are for weekends. We are currently working on clearing out the massive overgrowth in our back yard and I hope to do a bathroom/laundry refresh this summer as well.

Our daily schedule begins around 6:30 am with some quiet time for me and a little screen time for whomever has woken up. After breakfast, between 7:00 - 8:00, we launch into daily chores, learning time and active playtime. After lunch, we have quiet/nap/reading time. I work full eight-hour days on Mondays and Thursdays (my husband is home with the kids) and from 9-noon and 1:30-3:30 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays while the kids are having quiet time. While I am working in the morning, my oldest facilitates learning time and active play with my little ones. We try to hit the pool or do something fun together from 4:00 until dinner time. I aim to take Fridays off

I also try to include an outing several times a week such as the pool, park or library. Occasionally, we will do a big outing such as the Children's Musuem of Atlanta or Lake Lanier. Additionally, we have day camp, VBS, sleep away camp for my older one, and dance camps on the schedule. If we are able, we will take trips to Savannah and Saratoga. 

We have already planted flowers, gone to the pool, went to story time at the library, made some crafts and had plenty of cuddles and giggles. This promises to a full, fun summer! 

Friday, May 23, 2014

What do working moms and frogs have in common?

How do you boil a frog? If you put him in boiling water, he will jump out. But if you put him in a pot of water and then slowly turn up the gas, he will doze off until death. Well, being a working mom, is kind of like being that unknowing frog.

I have been a work out-of-the-home mom for almost 13 years. Except for work from home Fridays, and a brief period in which I worked in a virtual office, I have worked in a traditional office in the fast-paced field of public relations. I have been fairly successful, working at a nice firm that has great perks, got to travel to amazing places and serve clients who are making a difference in the world. At the same time, my precious family has grown and I have been involved at school, with Girl Scouts, advocating for my son and volunteering. It easy to think I have been doing all right. It's easy to be fooled. 

You see, as I had more babies, it got more difficult. Traffic has always been an issue, there have been times I traveled two hours each way to and from work, for many years it was at least one hour each way. When I moved to our current neighborhood, my commute was cut to 20-30 minutes each way. With this new found convenience, it was easy to fool myself into thinking I had it all together. That this "extra" time was put toward my family, but I still didn't make it home much before seven. My husband and I played tag team with house and kid responsibilities to juggle responsibilities at our two jobs.

I was missing my family, my life. We were just barely getting by and I didn't see it.

As a working mom I jumped into that pot of water. Each year, as I had more children, took on more responsibility at work, got involved at the school and in extracurriculars, the pot of water got warmer and warmer. I was unknowingly existing in a constant state of stress - boiling. Yet, somehow I was so used to it, it seemed normal. 

Sometimes, it takes being plucked out of the pot to fully realize all the stress that was bubbling up underneath you all along.



That is what happened to me. I was simmering in the pot and was given an opportunity to jump out. I'm beginning a new career as a work from home mom, an entrepreneur. I'm starting my own communications firm and I signed my first client today! 

Now I know working from home and launching my own business will bring its own stress, especially since I'm launching just as summer takes off. However, I've already had a glimpse at how being present and available can positively affect my whole family. It's an incredibly exciting road ahead that is God's design, not my plan. It came together unexpectedly and clearly with God's fingerprint all over it and I'm excited to be on this journey.

Being a mom, whether you stay at home, work from home or work out of the home, will always be a balancing act. Dear moms, don't let the stress lull you into such a numbness that you get boiled like the frog, listen to that still small voice that tells you there is another path, wake up and jump out so you can be all you were designed to be.