Winner of Never Unfriended

It’s time to announce the winner of my Never Unfriended giveaway. Thanks to all of you who entered! I had 8 people enter, and I used the random number generator to select a winning number.

entries

winner

That means that CAPPYLOVE3 is the winner! Congratulations! Check your email for details about how to get your book.

For those of you who didn’t win, I highly recommend ordering a copy of the book for yourself.

The Prayer I Stopped Praying

As the weeks leading up to Ava’s arrival pass with increasing speed, I am filled with a variety of emotions: panic at the thought of raising a newborn, when it’s been 6 years since I did such a daunting thing; stress about the fact that her nursery is nowhere close to being ready (she does have a crib to sleep in, but it would help to have a clear path to said crib); excitement as I think about what Ava will be like and how she will be different and similar to her big sister (will she be born with a head full of adorable hair like Charlotte and cry incessantly the first few months of her life, or will she be bald and content?). And of course, there’s the anticipation as I think of meeting Ava for the first time, gazing into the eyes I have dreamed about, clutching the tiny fingers, caressing the tiny feet and toes that spent weeks kicking me from the inside. There will be much to wonder at and take joy in, much to compare to my experience with Charlotte, and no doubt much that will be new and different.

One such new thing is that this time, after I bring my daughter home from the hospital, I will not have to think about counting down the weeks until my maternity leave ends. In those early weeks of Ava’s life, I will not have to agonize over getting her ready to sleep in a daycare crib and eat on a schedule. Why? Because this time I am getting what I long ago desired with Charlotte–the chance to stay home with my baby. Last week I sat down with my boss, after much dread and anxiety (I have worked for him for 7 years), and I told him that my last day is May 17 and that I do not plan on coming back after Ava is born. Even as I type those words, it is hard for me to believe they are true, but they are.

After Charlotte was born I struggled mightily to reconcile my desire to stay at home with the need that my family had for me to be working. Over time I made peace with the fact of being a working mom, but pangs of longing still lay buried in my heart, and I would plead with the Lord to make a way where there didn’t seem to be a way. I prayed off and on about my desire to stay at home for several years, until finally I didn’t pray anymore. I decided that God was telling me “no” to that particular prayer, and so I did what I could and searched for all the ways that being a working mom was a blessing: it helped provide for my family; it gave Charlotte the opportunity to socialize with other kids and be exposed to so many sweet, dear teachers at her daycare; it stimulated my mind. And in those early days of being desperately sick with ulcerative colitis, and later on with my two hip surgeries and lengthy recoveries, it was a relief for me to know that Charlotte had a place to go every day where she was loved and cared for, when it was hard for me to do those things for her.

Nevertheless, when I found out I was pregnant with Ava, after years of wondering if my health would ever be stable enough for me to have another child, I felt that familiar longing rising to the surface. So I started praying again, asking the Lord to provide a way for me to stay at home, even for just a while. Our finances were certainly better than what they were when Charlotte was born, but we still were uncertain about how it would work. Meanwhile, we put as much money into savings as we could and talked about the pros and cons of quitting my job. The numbers didn’t completely add up, but with our savings, we knew we could make it work for several months at least. I had to ask myself if I could be okay with giving up my job in exchange for 4-6 months of time at home with Ava, and when I thought about it, the choice was easy. I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew it was possible in a way it hadn’t been 6 years ago when Charlotte was born. There will be other jobs, but there is only one Ava. So we’re taking a step of faith and walking into unknown waters and trusting that God will help us cross safely to the other side. I don’t completely know how it will all work, but that is the way of life, isn’t it? We pray and we trust and we do our best and know that God will give us what we need, nothing more, nothing less.
I may have stopped praying that prayer a long time ago, but the hope in my heart was resurrected, and now I see God answering prayer upon prayer upon prayer, and all I can do in response is offer my deep gratitude and praise.

We will sing to our souls,
We won’t bury our hope.
Where He leads us to go,
There’s a Red Sea road.

When we can’t see the way,
He will part the waves.
And we’ll never walk alone,
Down the Red Sea road.

from “Red Sea Road” by Ellie Holcomb

Never Unfriended: A Book Review and Giveaway!

This past month I had the opportunity to be on my very first book launch team to help promote the release of Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker. Lisa-Jo is the community manager for (in)courage, a website that I love and that has encouraged me greatly over the years. When I saw that Lisa-Jo’s book was going to be about friendship, I jumped at the chance to review it.

NU_OrderNow-1_1024x683Friendship is something that I have struggled with ever since I graduated college and realized that friendships don’t come as naturally when you’re not constantly surrounded by peers in the same stage of life. I actually wrote a little about my difficulty with friendships on my blog back in 2009 (holy cow, I have been blogging for a long time), and reading that post again made me thankful that 1) so many people in the comments echoed my sentiments and 2) I have come a long way in my pursuit of friendships since that post. Nevertheless, I still feel that I have a lot to learn in this area, and so I was eager to read Never Unfriended and see what it had to say.

The book did not disappoint. I found myself caught up in the book’s opening pages and put my trusty pink pen to work highlighting sentence after sentence.  I took my time with this book so I could stop and think about each chapter and what it said about friendships. I loved Lisa-Jo’s confessional, relatable tone and found so many parts of this book that resonated with me and challenged me to think about the way I approach friendships. Some of my favorite quotes:

“While we might have defined friendship our whole lives by what others do to us, in the end it’s what we do for others that will define us as friends or not.”

“We have worshiped at the altar of inclusion when we were built to worship at the altar of the only living God.”

“Latching in to a friend with the hope that they will give us God-sized affirmation will always disappoint.”

“When we are convinced that our lives bring delight to a God who views us with such an all-consuming passion that He would choose to woo us, love us, die for us, sing over us, and celebrate us, then we are women who can give other the gift of guilt-free friendship.”

“Perfect will leave you lonely. But friendship teaches us that perfect is rarely as interesting and never as satisfying as real.”

“God is wildly in love with even the people who might make us the craziest. The people who are difficult and the people who are grumpy and unhelpful and hard to understand. And sometimes those people are us.”

I wish I could quote all of chapter 10, the chapter titled, “Live Like the Kingdom of God is a Co-Op, Not a Competition.” It talks about jealousy and comparison and how those things can eat away at us and our relationships. It is the chapter that convicted me the most, as I am the queen of comparison and everyone comes out a loser in that game.

The few nitpicks I have are related to the writing style, which uses a lot of choppy, fragmented sentences. She also quotes a lot from secondary sources, and I thought some of the integration of those quotes into her writing could have been smoother. Neither of these things detracts from the book’s message, however.

Bottom line: If you’re someone who has struggled with friendships, this book is for you. If you’re someone who wants more out of your friendships, this book is for you. If you’re someone who loves the friendships you have but want to be a better friend, this book is for you. I definitely recommend it, and the good news is, I want to give away the copy I pre-ordered!

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY, just leave a comment on the post answering this question: What is one quality you value in your friends? 

The giveaway will remain open until Thursday at midnight. I’ll announce a winner this Friday, April 7. Good luck!

*Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

Pregnancy Update: Almost 27 Weeks!

How far along? Almost 27 weeks. I can’t believe I’m almost finished with the second trimester.

How big is the baby? Ava is about the size of an eggplant, weighing somewhere around 2 pounds now!

Maternity Clothes? Yes, 90% of the time. I had to order some warm weather maternity clothes this week because it’s been unseasonably warm for this time of year, and most of my maternity clothes from my last pregnancy are winter and fall clothes. I knew I was going to be pregnant for a whole different season this time, but the warm weather snuck up on me!

Sleep? Still very hit or miss. I got a Snoogle Mini pillow in the hopes that it would help, and I do think it has helped some, but I still have a lot of difficulty getting comfortable and wake up frequently, even when I take Unisom.

Symptoms? I still get headaches, though not as frequently, and heartburn has been pretty fierce.

Food Cravings? Fruit and desserts (so basically my normal food obsessions).

Name? Ava Nicole.

Movement? So much movement! Ava seems to really come alive in the late afternoon and at night when I’m trying to go to sleep. I love feeling her kicks. I only wish that Stephen and Charlotte could feel them too, but I’m afraid that my thick abdomen is preventing that.

Best Moment of the Week? Finding some good deals on baby clothes at a consignment sale.

What I Miss? Nothing, really.

What I’m Looking Forward To? Getting the nursery put together. Right now it’s still functioning as our guest room, so we have a lot of work to do. I’m thinking about buying this adorable literary heroines banner from Carrot Top Paper Shop to hang in the nursery, but I’m not sure what else I want to put in there. I’m also really looking forward to seeing what Ava looks like and if she will resemble Charlotte.

Fun Fact? Ava’s brain wave activity is picking up, and she’s able to hear and respond to noises now. Charlotte loves talking to my belly, so I hope that Ava will recognize her voice after she’s born.

I feel like these next few weeks are going to fly by, as Charlotte’s 6th birthday is coming up on Saturday, and then we have a trip to Chattanooga planned for spring break just a few weeks after that. I have started making a list of all the things we still need to do and gear we need to borrow or buy (we borrowed quite a few things for our last pregnancy so we’ll need to fill in what we don’t have anymore), and I am feeling the need to start crossing some of those things off the list. Ava will be here before we know it!