Sunday, August 30, 2009

30 Years!

I am 30 years old today, August 30th! In honor of these two "30s", I thought I'd post a list of 30 things. Those of you who know me won't be surprised that it's a list of BOOKS. :) I can't say that these are my 30 favorite books, because who could pare down their favorite books to just 30?! But I've tried to list books I've really loved and read again and again, from several different genres, over the last 30 years.

30 Books I Have Loved During My 30 Years

  1. Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel - one of the first books I ever owned, given to me in 1981 by my great-grandmother. I still have that copy, and a new copy that I read to my kids all the time.
  2. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl - I still love this book. Last time I read it I picked up some great marriage advise on the importance of complimenting your husband in front of your children:
    Mrs. Fox said to her children, "I should like you to know that if it wasn't for your father we should all be dead by now. Your father is a fantastic fox."
    Mr. Fox looked at his wife and she smiled. He loved her more than ever when she said things like that.
  3. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken - My 5th grade teacher read this book to us and I couldn't wait to read it to Grace. Kids books should always be entertaining and enthralling to the adults who read them out loud.
  4. Winnie-the-Pooh (and others) by A. A. Milne - I didn't start reading the Pooh books until I was almost out of my teens and I thought they were delightful! My two favorite stories are "In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents" and "In Which Kanga and Baby Roo Come to the Forest, and Piglet Gets a Bath." A. A. Milne's poetry books are wonderful, too, and Ernest Shepard's illustrations sweet and whimsical. Disney ruined Pooh, just for the record.
  5. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis - This is my favorite of the Narnia books, but I love them all! (except Prince Caspian which I don't like much.) The Narnia books are the best example of children's stories that are deep enough and funny enough and thrilling enough for adults to really love too. They were read to us and by us as children, but I had an amazing experience when reading them again in college, seeing truths in them I had never seen before! Make sure you read the books to your kids before you let them see the movies!
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - I read this first in my late teens and have always enjoyed reading it again. Another one I'm excited for Grace to be old enough to read!
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I remember asking my mom for a book one day when I was bored and she handed me this one. I thought it sounded horribly dull, but fell in love with it as soon as I started reading. My first and favorite Jane Austen, although Sense and Sensibility is a strong second. (The A&E mini-series is awesome Even Richard likes it - "Mr. Darcy is a stud!")
  8. Watership Down by Richard Adams- when my best friend in 6th grade told me to read this wonderful book about rabbits I think I laughed out loud. But actually, it's one of the best adventures I've ever read, despite the fact that the characters are all rabbits! I have re-read this one many, many times.
  9. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis - The first time I got done reading this book I couldn't believe how much I loved it or how little I understood it. I still don't think I really "get" everything he's saying in it, but it's a beautiful story!
  10. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas - Another book my mom gave me one winter day that I didn't think I would like, but then devoured! It's long, but an incredibly intricate, thrilling, nail-biter of a story. Way better than the movie(s).
  11. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - My mom read a Reader's Digest condensed version of this book to me and my siblings one year and I had a hard time not reading ahead on my own! This book I would rate in my top 5 favorites. I absolutely love it.
  12. Lord Peter: The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories by Dorothy L. Sayers - Outstanding short-story mysteries starring the aristocratic amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. Who could resist such tales as "The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention," "The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach," and "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag"? Even though I know the ending to all the mysteries, I love reading them again and again.
  13. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien - Okay, I know this is technically three books, but I'm going to count them all together as one and call it the best made-up story I've ever read. I will never forget the mix of fear, suspense and excitement I felt listening to my dad reading the part about the Black Riders to us kids! The movies are good, but not as good as the books. I've lost track of how many times I've read them!
  14. A Godward Life: Book Two by John Piper - We own more books by Piper than any other author (mostly because of getting free copies of his new books by attending his church!) and this is one of my favorites. With 120 daily readings, it is just the right bite-sized portions of incredible truth about God to fill my mind and heart throughout the day. I love "God is Love, God is God: Balancing the Complexity and Simplicity of the Bible" and "Augustine on What It Means to Love God: Thoughts on Love as Delighting, Not Just Acting and Willing"
  15. Women and the Word of God: A Response to Biblical Feminism by Susan T. Foh - I seriously just picked this book up at a garage sale one year without even really looking at it. A few years later when I actually read it, I was surprised and pleased by her writing style and the content of the book. I know that Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem is supposed to be the be-all end-all resource on complimentarianism, but it makes me sad that there's only TWO woman contributers in 26 chapters! I love reading a woman on women.
  16. The Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney - This is a very small, short book, and incredibly dense with the beauty of Christ what it means to live each day IN HIM. It changes me and renews me each time I pick it up.
  17. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones - Not just "theology", but a beautiful insight into Jesus and His teachings.
  18. As For Me And My House: Crafting Your Marriage To Last by Walter Wangerin - My favorite book on marriage.
  19. The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God by John Piper - These poems were originally Advent poems written and read by Piper to his congregation. I listened to an audio recording of them just days before Matthias was born and died and they have ministered to me many times since.
  20. These Strange Ashes: Is God Still in Charge? by Elisabeth Elliot - this book about Elizabeth Elliot's first year as a missionary in Equador (before she was married to Jim) is a beautiful picture of the joys that God gives us in our losses.
  21. Home by Choice: Raising Emotionally Secure Children in an Insecure World by Dr. Brenda Hunter - Incredibly formative for me in understanding and loving my role as a full-time mother. An outstanding book for any stay-at-home mom.
  22. Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel - my favorite parenting book.
  23. A Piece of My Heart: Living Through the Grief of Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death by Molly Fumia - Although not from a Christian perspective, this book really ministered to me after Matthias' death.
  24. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by Dr. William Sears & Martha Sears - My favorite book on childcare. It really is everything you could possibly need to know about taking care of your baby!
  25. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International - The best breastfeeding book ever! A classic for many years that is the only resource you need for happy, healthy breastfeeding.
  26. The Vital Touch: How Intimate Contact With Your Baby Leads To Happier, Healthier Development by Sharon Heller - Very formative for me in understanding how babies need to be cared for and how many American parenting practices don't give parents and babies the intimate contact they need.
  27. Giving Birth: A Journey Into the World of Mothers and Midwives by Catherine Taylor - A colorful, anecdotal, and research-supported narrative filled with observations on the working lives of midwives and the women who have depended on their skills and strength to help bring their children into the world. One of my favorite books on childbirth!
  28. Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by Harvey Bluedorn, Laurie Bluedorn - the first book I ever read on homeschooling. Reading it convinced Richard and I that we should homeschool, even though we were planning on sending Grace to a private school. God used this book to lead us to homeschooling and it has been a valuable resource every year that we continue.
  29. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise - Another incredibly valuable resource, but also fun to read and very helpful in forming my own views about educating my children.
  30. A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola - The perfect complimentary book on homeschooling to go along with the other two. It has given my homeschooling philosophy just the right amount of freedom and gentleness to add to the structure of Classical education.

So there it is! I know I've missed a shelf-full of wonderful books that I love, but in order to work I had to go with only 30. I'd love to read a list of your favorite books, too!

Oh, and I just wanted to add that the BIBLE is very obviously missing from my list. Not because it isn't one I love, but just because I didn't feel like it belonged in this list. The Bible isn't one book in a list of favorites for me. It belongs all to itself as the most beautiful, most thrilling, most lovely and truest Book ever written. And it is my FAVORITE. Everything else ever written pales in comparison.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Have You Had One of These Days?

I read this poem on and thought how perfectly it describes some days! Apparently I'm not the only one who experiences Cheerios crunching under my bare feet in the kitchen. But that's not so bad.

It's Not So Bad

Melanie Vogel

It's not so bad, when dinner's late
At the end of a too-long day,
When the big kids are clamoring to eat,
And Cheerios crunch beneath your bare feet
As you impatiently wait for pasta to boil,
And the quiet, self-sufficient toddler
Helps himself to an unfinished bowl of popcorn on the table,
And his chair tips over and ends his quietness,
And as you hug him against your hip,
He spots the ancient marshmallows in the open cabinet,
And cries still more earnestly when you tell him no,
And the baby, patient no more,
Begins to desperately slurp her fingers,
So you dig out some long forgotten music,
The grown-up kind you never listen to anymore,
And you scoop up restless baby,
And squeeze close the unhappy toddler,
And dance in the kitchen while the pasta boils,
Swaying and circling to bluegrass tunes,
And singing still-remembered lyrics,
While the baby clutches your hair in sticky fists,
And the toddler grins and hangs on your hip,
And Cheerios crunch beneath your bare feet.
It's not so bad.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Dates

Time is flying by, as usual, and here are some momentous dates that are sneaking up on me:

• This Sunday, August 30th, I turn 30! Um, where did the last decade go?! It's not that I feel "old" turning 30, it's just that I feel like I got here so fast. I was considering writing some "30 Days Till 30" posts that would be full of the insights I've gained in the last 3 decades and goals for the next 10 years, but that obviously didn't happen! I don't think I have 30 such posts in me. Plus I don't know what happened to August, but I would have had to start that quite some time ago! Oh well. Here's what I have to say about turning thirty:

I am looking forward to my 30's; enjoying my children, becoming (hopefully) a wiser and better wife, growing in understanding and love towards my husband, and deepening my walk with the Lord, my understanding of what it is to be IN CHRIST and to be KNOWN by Him. I am praying that my wisdom and grace will grow with my age; that I will take up my cross to follow Christ and be a blessing to those around me even more in my 30's than I have yet. I am looking forward to the crown of wisdom that comes with gray hair (although I'm not technically looking forward to getting actual gray hair)!

• I will be 33 weeks pregnant at the end of this week. Um, where did the last 32 weeks of pregnancy go?! This pregnancy has really flown by, I'm sure in part because of how busy I am now with the other children. I used to be able to tell you exactly how far along I was to the day, and now I'm lucky if I know within 3 weeks! But it hit me recently that I have roughly 8 (probably more like 9 since I'm pretty sure I'll go overdue) weeks until our baby will be here! Oh my gosh, we need another car seat and that double stroller and I need to wash and fold all the baby clothes again and figure out where in the world the boys are going to sleep and buy birth supplies and... okay, maybe it's not that pressing, but up until now I've been thinking "we have forever" until the baby comes and now it doesn't seem like forever anymore. I have had to face the reality that I'm going to have to go through LABOR to get this baby OUT (it's still a daunting thought, even after 4 times!) and that I will, God willing, be holding my BABY in 2 months (it's still a blissful thought, even after 4 times!) The reality of this pregnancy and this baby is finally setting in, and I'm excited!

• Next week is the last week before we START SCHOOL!!! Um, where did the summer go?!?! Wow, I need to organize the school room and make lesson plans and buy supplies and make schedules that I never end up keeping and figure out how to homeschool with two toddlers and a newborn (anyone have any help with this one?) and PRAY for more grace and wisdom and patience for the upcoming year than I think is humanly possible. But I am excited for this upcoming year as well. Grace will be in 5th grade and I'm really pumped for all the reading and learning we'll be doing together.

All these things are a bit daunting, yet also full of excitement and expectancy. I am trusting God as I move toward turning 30, having my 5th baby, and teaching another year of school, to be my Rock of Habitation, to which I may continually come. (Psalm 71:3)

Sunday, August 16, 2009


These two boys are very different, but both so funny and so much fun! We've often wondered what Matthias would have been like and what life would be like with him here. Moses and Judah have enriched our lives incredibly since the loss of Matthias, but they can never take his place. Matthias will always be missed while we walk this earth.

Moses looking through his "glasses."

Summer haircuts.

Cute boys!

Moses doing his cheesy smile for the camera,
and Judah much more reserved. I want to eat them both!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Matthias' Grave

So, it's been 4 years and we just this last week put in Matthias' permanent grave marker. It's a long story why it's taken so long, including, among other things, problems with the cemetery and my own issues with finding/designing/affording exactly the right stone. Matthias' grave is the only thing on earth I have to care for and tend for him. I could not feel happy putting a Precious Moments angel with the words "Playing in God's Garden" on it. I had in my mind what I wanted and it had to be just right. And - finally!- it is.

Richard and I both felt badly that there's only been a temporary marker at Matthias' grave for this long, but the very special thing that has come as a result is that Matthias' two little brothers were able to help Richard and Grace install the headstone! It was so precious and dear to watch all three kids work on it.

Some of you who were at Matthias' funeral may remember that Richard had the privilege and blessing of digging his son's grave. That was very unexpected, but it turned out to be something Richard has treasured - being able to work and sweat in the August heat just one time for his firstborn son. Well, installing the gravestone was a blessing, too, which Grace and I both felt well. To be able to do something so concrete here on earth for our son and brother seemed right and good.

Here are the pictures of us installing Matthias' grave marker and how it looks now:

Richard digging the space

Then the kids filled it part way with gravel to give it a firm foundation

Patting it smooth

Measuring the depth

Now some sand on top of the gravel to make the foundation very level and smooth

Richard dropped the stone in using nylon straps, in case he had to take it out again

Making sure it's level

The grass around it should grow back in quickly.

These are images of Matthias' actual handprints and footprints,
and part of Isaiah 40:11, which is a verse dear to my heart.

Grace remembering and missing her brother

I often take pictures of the kids at this monument when we visit Matthias' grave.

Grace wrote this poem and placed it by the grave:

by Grace

Matthias is born!
Let us sound the horn!

He has the sweetest little body,
I doubt he will be naughty.

He is so very sweet,
He will always be a treat.

But now he is dead,
But God is the Head.

I will always miss my brother,
Even though I have another.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I got a call today from a friend who just wanted to tell me that she was thinking of me during this time. It was such a blessing to have someone remember Matthias' birthday and to call and offer her love and support to me.

After four years, I begin to wonder if anyone else remembers that sweet little baby who grew inside me for 9 months, who was in this world for 36 hours. It always blesses my heart when someone mentions Matthias or speaks his name or remembers him in any way.

We were so incredibly blessed by the outpouring of love and support we received after Matthias died. For weeks and weeks we received cards and emails and phone calls, and that was part of what God used to sustain us in that time of grief. But now we have walked through that intense grief to a place of healing and even joy in remembering Matthias and his precious time with us, so we aren't in need of that kind of support.

However, there are a few people in my life who continue to remember Matthias every year, who call or send a card or email just to tell me they know and remember and care. I am so thankful for them! They are not afraid to hear me speak of my sadness or to enter into it to a certain extent. And they give me this double gift: caring for me in a time of grief, and remembering my little baby with me.

Thank you, dear friends!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Remembering Matthias

It will be four years on Sunday since our sweet baby Matthias left our arms and went to the arms of Jesus, and as always this is a hard week, and month, for me. The memories flood back so quickly and although I am not walking through that intense pain anymore (thank God that He brings us through that to a place of healing!), even the memory of it is painful. I feel sure that there will be a deep sadness in my heart forever, until the day when "He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain." (Revelation 21:4) Until then I hold a grief that has been comforted but not erased.

Yesterday was Matthias' due date and I remember it coming and going, four years ago, and wondering if I would be pregnant forever. I didn't know that in four more days I would meet my baby and in five more days I would let him go again. What would we do if we knew beforehand of the suffering that about to come upon us?

I'm sure I'll be posting more in the coming days, but I wanted to share a few things. First, here is Matthias' story. I would be honored if you would read it if you haven't already, and share in his life and death with me.

Also, here is a photo montage of his brief life and images of his precious face:

Since Matthias' death, I have been receiving newsletters from a wonderful organization called M.E.N.D (Mothers Enduring Neonatal Death). A recent issue of their newsletter was about sibling grief and Grace wrote and submitted her thoughts on losing her brother. You can download the issue in pdf and read it here.

Lastly, I read today the blog of a family from our church who recently lost their only son at nine months old. Some of the events of little Micah's death reminded me of when Matthias died, such as having to make the decision to remove life support and then holding your son as his spirit leaves his body. My heart goes out to these bereft parents as they struggle through their grief. Would you take a moment to read about their sweet Micah, say a prayer for them and perhaps send them a word of encouragement?

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.

And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."
~2 Corinthians 1:3-7