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Monday, April 24, 2017

Kid Lit Book Review: Super Narwhal


Some kids learn to read quickly and they jump into the deep end of reading and dive down just as deep and as fast as they can, devouring longer and longer books. Other kids are more reluctant readers. Reading is harder for them, they learn slower and are more hesitant to read for long stretches of time. I have struggled with my reluctant readers until they discovered the beautiful thing that is the graphic novel for young readers. With a few words on each page and engaging illustrations graphic novels turned my reluctant readers into enthusiastic readers, eager to find their next favorite book. The difficulty with this genre can be finding titles that are appropriate and finding titles with anything even close to educational content.

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt: A Narwhal and Jelly Book by Ben Clanton is a terrific addition to this genre. The illustrations and content are engaging, imaginative and in places even educational. It's a great book to gift your young reader. It is divided into four short "chapters" where best friends Narwhal and Jelly imagine that they are super heroes and also make up a story about a super hero waffle and his strawberry sidekick. You can pre-order it on Amazon now - it releases May 2
If you can't wait till then try looking for Narwahl: Unicorn of the Sea (A Narwhal and Jelly book) which is also super-cute and mildly educational. You can view a couple of pages on the Narwhal and Jelly website and download some super cute activity pages you can also check out his Instagrams.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley.com for the purpose of this review. Links to Amazon are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog! If you want to see what I'm reading to my kids right now then be sure to follow me on Instagram! 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

what if my miracle is you?

It is beautifully foggy this morning. However this morning the boys woke up the baby thirty precious minutes early. This morning one of the girls are the very last bar that I was going to give the baby for breakfast. This morning I have basically done nothing but sit at my computer and cry.

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I have felt, for awhile really in a vague feeling at the back of my head, that I couldn't properly write my "brave" book until I got my "confessions" book finished and seeing as I am starting notes on a "delight" book I need to clear the decks so that I can continue to write properly. I'd been trying to get "brave" written, basically trying to merge my 31 days of brave  part 1 and part 2 but as I have been writing all about being brave with our stories I have been realizing that I am not being brave with my own.

I wrote a series called "Confessions of a Road Kill Christian" back a couple of years ago and now I'm trying to turn them into a proper book. So here I sit, trying. I went back and read the first few posts I wrote back then. They hit me in my gut. I know that I need to write this now, because the truths I learned back then I am needing to re-learn right now. Shredding the "should", refusing to live in shame, rejecting the lie that I have to get myself together before I can come to God. These are all lessons I am continually re-learning. So here I sit typing through the tears.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

a post about writing

My life coach pretty much threw down the gauntlet. We were talking yesterday about my writing and I was complaining about my writing - it is at the very core of who I am, but it is at the fringes of what I actually do every day. I was hoping she would give me some kind of a magical cure for my conundrum and I don't know, maybe in a way she did - but what she said was "maybe, in this season, you don't really WANT to write." These words have lit a fire within me to prove her wrong.

I struggle struggle struggle to make myself do the things that I think are the most important. In some ways I'm not much of a fighter, I'm actually kind of a pushover and I give into resistance pretty easily. So setting boundaries on writing time (not just the very last few minutes of the day, or whatever the rest of my family doesn't need - like these ones) is murder for me. Laying down the "no" to whatever it is in order to say "yes" to writing is just. so. hard for me.

As I was brushing my teeth I had a mini-epiphany and it was long enough that I felt like I needed to write it down somewhere - thus the blog post. So here you go. Here are my top reasons why I'm not writing that are all in my head:

the lie of scarcity
I feel like I have about five minutes of quality time in which to write - whatever I write during those five minutes had better be "the right thing". Um, no. Exhibit A - Elizabeth Gilbert. She'd written a few things here and there about this and that before she published her unexpectedly, wildly successful book of memoir called "eat pray love" and now she has a very popular book on creativity called "Big Magic". She has written things in between these two big hits that have ranged everywhere from mildly successful to total flops. That wasn't wasted time. It's true that I'll make less progress if I work on a bunch of different projects all at once - but I don't need to put all of my eggs in the basket of this project I'm currently working on. It'll be accepted or it won't be. All I can do is write it and keep writing it. Then I'll move onto writing the next thing. One of these things might be published, or not. One of these things might sell nicely, or it won't. If I keep on waiting for "the one" that is going to land a movie contract or become a best-seller or whatever, I'll be frozen in fear. If I keep on waiting for that moment when I can sigh and say "yes, I'm not a total failure as a writer." I might need to grown that internally instead of longing for it externally. I have lost the exact words I want for this. I thin we know what this feels like - we desperately want someone to come along behind us and say "yes." to us. I'm kind of terrified that it I don't pick the right project to work on then I won't get that "yes" from the world that I want. So I'm trying to remind myself that over the course of my lifetime there is plenty of time to write, to write books that don't get published or that don't sell much. It's okay.

the lie of importance
This is a sister to the lie of scarcity - and this is the idea that whatever I write needs to be important. It needs to matter. Yeah, so I think I have got this out of my system at least most of the way. I used to be so hung up on everything I considered as a possible writing project had to be a Big Important Work of art or spirituality. Recently though I have read books that weren't Big or Important they were just middling works but they were helpful. Or I've read novels that were pure cotton candy for my brain and they were delightful. It's okay to be small and simple. Sometimes that's what is needed.

the lie of shame
I have been shaming myself about my lack of writing and I don't think I had even realized it - I was playing the loop about "how can you call yourself a writer when the only writing you do is a few words on Instagram. That's not what a real writer does. You are a fraud." and usually this is followed up with "You're going to fail. You'll never be good enough. You can't hack it." Or something like that. But my eyes are opening to how destructive a force this is. Shame is not our friend. Shame weighs us down. I was never once motivated to do something good by shame. Gentleness looks at a disaster of a day and "counts the wins" (as one of my favorite authors likes to say). Gentleness puts on the tea kettle and tucks me into bed and says "tomorrow you can try again". I can not say it enough how hard the last year and a half of homeschooling Josiah plus all of Grayson's medical drama. Writing has kind of fallen to the wayside. But other things deep inside of me have been growing. I get to a peek of them every once in awhile. Those deep things are the important things, and they'll get their day in the sun sooner or later.

I think that's all of the things I wanted to share tonight. It's super late so I'm going to bed. If you have something you'd like to share about this please send me a message via social media or leave a comment! This whole writing thing is hard. We could all use all of the encouragement we can get.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Humilty


Today started off pretty badly. I got hit in the head with a Ken/Barbie doll, and not just a playful whap in the face, no I walked into the living room just as one of the boys was launching him out of it and it hit me full-force at the top of my head hard enough to make me cry. And I guess because I don't cry as often as I maybe should I cried and cried and cried about this hit on the head. Thankfully I didn't respond in anger, I just sat there on my living room floor and cried.

Later I sat on my bed and I got out my journal and I started writing, to myself and to God. Because I am really stressed right now. We are heading into the final stretch of school and that's a hard transition for all of us, and we're heading into testing week, which is stressful, plus we are heading towards Josiah's first time doing standardized testing and that is a mental fight for me. I want Josiah to make me look good. Ugh - that is the ugly truth of it. I want him to validate my decision to homeschool him and prove that I haven't completely failed at it and if that could be declared on a paper in black and white that would be very nice. I know I'm wrong. I am trying to talk myself out of it on a daily basis and keep telling Josiah that he'll do just fine, but this mama is seriously loosing it inside. And to top it all off Daniel has a lot of job stuff going on, and I just feel done. Over it. There is too much to handle.

So I have been praying about how I've been feeling lately and writing in my journal about it and a few words slipped out that surprised me -  I feel like I shouldn't be this upset about my life. This made me do a double take. I HATE that word shouldn't. It is such an ugly word to me. Am I upset about my circumstances? Yes? Okay. Be upset. Don't be ashamed of my feelings! Yes, it's not the end of the world. Yes, it could be worse. But it's not nothing and it is okay to be upset and then move on.

The other thing that came out of this journal writing was the word humility. Which surprised me because I don't usually think of humility as being the answer to being stressed out. But after siting with this word for a few minutes I realized that there is comfort in knowing that I am not the center of the universe and my problems are not huge to God.

Humility means rightly knowing who you are. It means not thinking more highly of yourself then you ought to. I think it also means not thinking of yourself as more lowly than you are either. In the religious tradition I was raised in humility was venerated and sometimes I think it got distorted into a game of "how low can you go?" I don't think that is healthy humility. We shouldn't be puffed up with pride but we shouldn't be deflated with false humility either. Both are, I think, equally effective ways of sidelineing us to be effective in God's kingdom.

I closed my notebook and then opened it again and wrote these final words "I may be small, but I am seen." 

Those few words meant a lot to me and changed the direction of my day. I rolled them around in my mind. I am small, but He sees me, and He loves me. If he sees the birds who are sold two for a penny and he cares if one of them falls to the ground, how much more does He care about me?

A couple hours later Josiah came in from the backyard with the tiniest little wildflower. It was even smaller than the clover that is taking over our back yard. He said "I searched the yard to try to find more, but this is the only one like it that I could find. I wanted you to have it because I thought you'd like it." Small, but seen. I felt so much like this was not a coincidence.

I think that this is true humility - I know that I am small but I also know that I am seen and loved by my infinite God.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New page! #KindleDeals

I started a new page here on my little bloggity blog corner of the word web. If you follow me on social media you may have noticed that I've started posting more frequently about kindle deals for books I like or authors I follow. Once I see them I can not not share them! But I get that not everyone wants to have low-cost ebooks waved in their faces all of the time and also maybe you remember I posted something about some book you wanted to read but you can't find the link - voila now you can! And now I can post about these deals and sales to my little heart's delight! If you think you might want these updates going to your inbox at some point please fill out this form 




Read a review by Glenna Marshall
Still Waiting by Ann Swindell $7.86 Kindle /$8.27 paperback 


Love Lives Here by Maria Goff $7.39 Kindle 


This is my favorite of Emily's books!!! 


Here are a few others I noticed...




Lessons I learned from painting my bathroom ceiling


If you are interested in my bathroom renovation part 1 you can read about it here. (It is on my old/photography blog.) Here is what my ceiling looked like when I started:


Pre-painting stage one: procrastination

In every form possible. Dither about if you have the right tools and if you have enough paint. Tell yourself that your husband would do a better job at it than you but then realize that your husband doesn't have the time/energy/interest in painting your bathroom ceiling. Decide to just go ahead and paint the ceiling. This might take 3 hours or 6 months or it might even take you a year. No judgment from me. Also if you are honestly not quite done with this stage or you've just visited this blog post because you're my friend just jump down to the end of this post, okay? Because there is something I want you to know... but if you are really going to get this thing done - read on.


Be sure to clear your area really well. I took the bulbs out of my light fixture and I'm really glad that I did. Anything that is in the bathroom WILL be covered in dust when you are done sanding. Seriously there is nothing in my life that has ever prepared me for how messy sanding ceilings is. I recommend eye protection and a face mask. Breathing in drywall mud dust is not pleasant. 


First - sand any rough spots with a sanding block
Next - wipe down with a dry rag.
Then paint the ceiling.
Consider hiring a babysitter.
Put on some happy music. I recommend the Trolls Soundtrack. That's what I listened to because it is my baby's favorite. We also listens to Ed Sheeran 
Maybe put your phone in a plastic bag.

Be sure to be safe with your ladder. Don't try to move it with your paint can in your hand. You might hurt yourself, or spill your paint. Don't try to paint directly above your head or too far away from yourself. Make sure that your area is properly ventilated.


These are the paint brushes I had. Surprisingly this weird little brush with barely a handle did an amazing job. I even used it to cut in. It lost a couple of bristles which was annoying but I will definitely hang onto this brush and use it for my next project. 

This is the paint I used - as you can see I bought it a awhile ago and one of my kids took the label off while it was sitting in my bathroom waiting to be used. What I do know about this paint is that it is paint + primer. This is important. If you don't use paint + primer you'll have to prime first but also the paint is a thicker consistency and doesn't drop as easily which you really really want for painting the ceiling. So I recommend when you go to buy paint that you buy a paint + primer. Also this was a terrific size can. If you end up buying a huge gallon of paint then be sure to pick up some kind of can to pour your paint into as you paint. That is a thing right?

Also here is a bit of big sisterly advice - know yourself - I was barely able to handle having my sweet baby in his bouncer and my kids in the other room. Don't invite someone to do this with you unless you know your extroverted soul needs the company. This introvert needed to do this alone. It got easier as I worked but I was Stressed Out as I got started. It is okay if you need to tell someone "no, you can't help." Also it is totally okay if you just send out a cry for help in social media and end up hiring someone or better yet, watch someone's kids so they can play with paint in your bathroom. 

My painting technique was basically the same as when I paint my nails - so basically like a 20 foot square manicure that I will have to stare at for at least the next year. But - really, if you can paint your nails, you can paint a ceiling, girl. And if you can't? Well, there is a first time for everything. Basically I dipped my paint brush in the can, wiped one side to minimize spillage and then painted next to the part I'd just painted until the two areas were blended and I tried not to go over the same area too many times once the paint had started drying. 

Don't get greedy - eventually you will feel a sense of urgency and start to get too much paint on your brush and try to paint too large an area at once. This is when you will start making the biggest mess and start wasting paint. Stop. Change your music, check on the kids, make yourself a sandwich, drink a sports drink, but DO NOT WASH YOUR PAINTBRUSH, like I did. Definitely not one of my gold-star moments. Just wrap your brush in some plastic wrap and let it sit for a bit then it will be ready for you when you come back to it.  You don't want to finish your ceiling with a 1inch brush - trust me on this. 

I found that while I was painting the wet paint looked really "streaky" but as it dried out I was shocked to see how much it smoothed itself out. 


Here is my paint brush once I was done. I am throwing this stinker away. It was less than a dollar and it is beyond gross now. 


So here is what all of this means to me - sometimes there is a mean voice in my head that says "who are you to ____" fill in the blank - pursue that passion, be her friend, chase a dream... and I listen to that voice more than I'd like to admit. But every once in awhile I have a moment like today when I tried something that someone else could have done better, but it needed to be done, so I did it. Today I did something that I felt totally inadequate to try, but I did it anyway. I knew that I didn't know what I was doing and there is a very good chance that there is a blog post out there that can tell you "the right way" to paint a ceiling but here is what I am going to tell you - I just did it. It's imperfect but it is done. And you know what? It turned out better than I thought it would! So the next time I hear that voice saying "who do you think you are?" I'll think about this day and remind myself that I am someone who did something hard and way out of my comfort zone. I got messy and I messed up in places but I did it. And that means something. 

Also - this counts as an arm day, okay? 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Book Review: Brave is the new Beautiful by Lee Wolfe Blum

Brave is the New Beautiful by Lee Wolfe Blum arrived in my mailbox on an ordinary Monday morning. I had seen it earlier, popping up around the corners of my Instagram feed and I was super interested - the cover is beautiful and the title draws you right in - but I wasn't exactly sure what the book was going to be about. Brave was my word of the year both last year and the year before so I knew I needed it, whatever it was. So I curled up in my reading corner of the couch and started reading and I read it in between homeschooling my boys, and I read it for a bit before my big girls got home from school, and I read a bit more before I started on dinner and I read a little bit more after my boys went to bed and I read a bit more after my husband went to bed until at 1am on Tuesday morning I had read Brave is the New Beautiful cover to cover.

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This book is a collection of stories of extraordinary bravery - stories of women who have suffered and lost, battled and been broken but through it all, one way or another, they chose to be brave. To speak up instead of hide in silence, to love instead of wilt in despair, to hope when hope grew dim. These are not stories tied up with pretty bows and happy endings. These are the raw and real stories of women who have lost their children and been abused, suffered through cancer and through a crisis of identity, women who have come out with their faith in-tact, maybe a bit shaky, but still there.

The point of all of these stories is that beauty isn't about a number on a scale, or a size on the tag. Beauty isn't found in following the latest trends or fad diets. Beauty isn't even about what we manage to squeeze into our little squares on the internet. Beauty comes from within and true beauty is found when we choose love over fear, in all of it's many forms. Beauty is when we bravely choose to be ourselves.


"So many of these women didn't see themselves as brave or beautiful... along the sidelines of the headline news are inspiring tales of bravery hidden in the mundane details of women's everyday lives - women who make the decision to get up every morning and keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing what is good and right despite the crises and turmoil and dilemmas life tosses at them. These are women steadily making the decision to step out of the boat to walk on the water. Women choosing to take off their masks and live their most authentic life." 

Intertwined between these stories of bravery in the middle of life's epic storms there is a quieter story, the story of Lee's own choices to be brave. Honestly - her story was my favorite part of the book. Her meditations on bravery in the middle of her ordinary struggles powerfully resonated with me and as she shared about her struggle with comparing herself to others, her fight against the pull to prove her worth, and her struggle to mask her own awkwardness and neediness, even from God I saw myself more clearly. Oh there are so many places that I have underlined with stars and hearts and exclamation points in the margins.  I was trying to pick a quote to share here and there were just too many to choose from. So go get yourself a copy or oder one here - and you'll know what I mean.

I received a copy of this book for review. Links in this post are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Book Review: Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker

Friendship has been one of the most powerful forces in my life, and my friendships with other women have influenced who I have become second only to my husband and kids, but friendship, especially friendships with other women, aren't always easy. In fact it often is the opposite of easy. Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker dives into the heartbreak and glory of friendships by sharing the stories of her failures and successes in friendship.


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I love that in Never Unfriended Lisa-Jo Baker is honest about the messiness of friendship but she is also hopeful and practical. This, for me, is the trifecta of Christian women's writing. Honest, Hopeful, & Practical. This isn't just a series of meditations on friendships with no "now-what?" this is a practical how-to for navigating the minefields of friendship.

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The essence of the book is this - how do you become the friend you have always wanted? How do you become the friend that is "never unfriended" because you are that friend other women have always wanted. Ever chapter of Never Unfriended is relatable and easy to read yet powerfully insightful and I wanted to highlight practically every page.



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I received a copy of this book as part of the launch team. Links in this post are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cookbook Review: Food52 Mighty Salads


Salads are, in my opinion, one of the most perfect foods. They only take as much time to prepare as you choose to put into them, and if you have the right ingredients in your fridge you can whip up a perfectly balanced meal in minutes. Salads are also easy to modify for my food allergies, which is important to me. This cookbook of salads far exceeded my expectations. With salads in many categories - leafy salads, non-leafy salads, hot salads, cold salads, salads that are vegetable only and also salads where meat is the starring ingredient, bean salads, grain and pasta salads, salads perfect for a complete meal and salads that would be a perfect side dish.One of my favorite aspects of the Food52 Mighty Salads cookbook is the photography. I love it when a cookbook has really good photography and have a hard time bringing myself to seriously consider those that don't.  The Food52 website is known for it's beautifully photographed food, so my expectations were high for the photography in this cookbook and I was not disappointed. You can pre-order the Food52 Mighty Salads Cookbook here.

via: Food52
I was given a digital copy of this cookbook to review. 
Links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!