Living not striving…

Random thoughts and daily adventures in my life

White Picket Fences November 16, 2009

Filed under: Book reviews — erikaivory @ 2:22 am
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I need to post about a book that I am enjoying but haven’t quite finished.  If you haven’t figured this out about me yet, I have a nasty habit of biting off more than I can chew:)  Yes I am admitting it friends.  Well, I am in the midst of another season of this.  So I loved the last Susan Meissner book that I read, The Shape of Mercy, and I am enjoying this one so far….however, I haven’t had much time to read.  So I will include below the summary for White Picket Fences as well as an author bio.  I have cut back on my book reviews because I want to be able to enjoy them and not feel like I am in 9th grade English Lit and I have to finish it this weekend so I can make a stupid shoebox diorama by Wed.  Did you ever make those?  I LOVED reading but HATED book reports.  Anyways check out the book:)  I won’t steer you wrong.  No I haven’t finished it but Meissner is a solid win.  Keeps it interesting, great character development and not predictable.  Also digs into the tough issues, not just happy feely.  I like that!

You can pick up a copy from this online site:


Book: White Picket Fences

Author: Susan Meissner


Amanda Janvier’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay while her vagabond brother is in Europe, but the white picket fence life Amanda wants to provide is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son Chase, is haunted by the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will love White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?

Cover art:

Author Bio:

Susan Meissner cannot remember a time when she wasn’t driven to put her thoughts down on paper. Her novel The Shape of Mercy was a Publishers Weekly pick for best religious fiction of 2008 and a Christian Book Award finalist. Susan and her husband live in Southern California, where he is a pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. They are the parents of four grown children.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Do you have any blogger friends who might like to participate in this or any other blog tours? Please direct them to the official WaterBrook Multnomah Blogging for Books site page at


Living it out November 6, 2009

Filed under: Random stuff — erikaivory @ 2:40 pm
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I am going to think out loud here for a minute.  We are really processing the concept of moderation and need vs want in our own lives.  We are trying to make some wise decisions not only financially but in philosophy in how we live and the messages we are teaching out children.  Over the past year plus Mark and I have been challenged with the needs of people around us and how that compares to the excess with which we daily live.

So what does that look like?  Well last month we spent over $30 on coffee, donuts, etc.  Wow!  All our little trips to Krispy Kreme and Starbucks really adds up.  That is almost what it costs to sponsor a Compassion child each month.  So we have started making some cut backs and changes in our monthly spending.  Some of these changes are kind of a bummer because they might affect our “comfort” and our children’s “comfort” a little bit but they haven’t affected our needs.  We have over and above what we need.

It has made me realize just how selfish I am about my own comfort.  This also affects other choices though.  And this is where I am struggling and praying for discernment.  Areas where I normally would just spend money because that is “what you do”  I am now trying to really pray and evaluate what is wise and if that purchase really is helping us achieve our larger goal.  Over and over the Bible commands us to “do good”. Here and here and here are just a few of the places.  God keeps bringing Scriptures across my path that point to His emphasis on doing good.  Apparently it is pretty important to Him, because He mentions it a lot:)

So this week we are facing school pictures and the book fair.  Oh how I love books and pictures of my kids.  But I have LOTS of both of those, and while it kind of bums my kids (and me) out a bit to pass on this time around….the reality is that is a chunk of change that could be used for many other wise things.  We are trying to live out and teach our kids how to be deliberate about where our money goes.  And while some of that saved money might be used for an afterschool sport or some family fun, we also want to be deliberate about using it to “do good” and teach our kids the joy of helping those in our community and around the world.  We are learning though that helping the poor is not something we do just because we are blessed or because it is nice or because it feels good.  It is something we are commanded to do by the Father of all good things.   It needs to be part of my lifestyle.

We are focusing on certain reputable charities as well as looking for ways to reach out to the people that the Lord has cross our path.  Over the next couple of weeks I will highlight some really amazing organizations that help us obey the command to do good.  How about you?  Can you share some of the ways you are fleshing out this lesson personally or with your kids?  I would love suggestions of ways to teach my boys how to “do good” as well as other organizations that have a history of integrity.  Please share:)


Rotten strawberries, Ezekiel and Watchmen November 2, 2009

Filed under: Deep thoughts — erikaivory @ 4:32 am
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Do you ever come across a Scripture that stands out to you because it correlates with something the Lord has begun to teach you…but it makes you groan a big UGH! Because you know that this lesson is not going to be fun?  I know that sounds complicated and possibly something you totally can’t relate to but this has been going on in my life.  So bear with me and if you remotely care I will explain.

A few weeks ago I found a great sale on strawberries, which is hard to come by this time of year, so I bought 5 quarts of berries.  I set about washing them and cutting them up to store in Rubbermaid containers in the frig.  I noticed that the first few strawberries on the top of each quart were all shiny and red.  And when I looked at the bottom of each package in the store before I bought them I was sure to pick out only the containers that looked like they held strawberries free of mold and mushiness.  Unfortunately what I found in each package was that between the top and bottom layers the middle strawberries held a different story.


Nice pretty strawberries

For after I took off the top few in each package I found below one or two strawberries that had large spots of nasty, green, fuzzy mold.  To my dismay each moldy area that touched a neighboring strawberry spread the mold around.  So inside the package I ended up with between 3-6 moldy strawberries in each quart.  I was bummed.  I was able to cut the yucky spots off of a few of the strawberries and save some of the good, ripe juicy areas.

How sad that although I thought I investigated thoroughly,  every container held within it one or two very sick strawberries.  Now if I had purchased those quarts early enough and removed that one moldy strawberry  the mold may have stayed contained, or better yet if I found that little sick strawberry early enough in the rotting process I may have been able to cut off that single moldy spot and saved not only the quart but most of that little strawberry itself!

2009-10-13 20.08.57

Yucky moldy strawberries

Mold spreads, quickly.  Unless it is cut off it will destroy the strawberry and the berries that are surrounding it and touching it.  That poor little strawberry doesn’t mean to spread the mold that is destroying it.  And certainly it would rather be enjoyed in a nice strawberry shortcake, rather than tossed in the garbage as useless.


You have to know where I am going with this:)  There have been times in my life when I have allowed some mold to attach itself to me.  It may have been a negative attitude, an ungrateful heart, gossip left unchecked, a complaining spirit toward my husband, a bent toward laziness or some kind of unconfessed sin.  I could give many personal examples.  If left to itself that mold would grow and take over many other areas in my heart and life.  It would start internally but before long it would manifest itself externally.  Before long it would begin to affect those around me…my children, my husband, my friends, their children, people at school, at church, and on and on.  The poisonous mold that was rotting my character, relationship with Christ, witness to others would begin to seep into other people’s lives and begin to slowly destroy them too.

Now a couple things can happen.  The Lord could get my attention through His Word, a sermon or maybe a friend with caring loving words could point out to me this area in need of Christ’s wise paring knife.  Hopefully I would ask him to cut off that decaying area so the rest of my “berry” could be useful.  Or if I do not heed the Lord’s warning that decaying mess could not only render me useless and rotten but it would also begin to destroy those around me.  By not submitting to the Lord’s correction in my life I could unintentionally be hurting those I love.  Without even realizing it I could be poisoning my family and friends.  My decay and disobedience and sin could lead to their unholy habits, disrespectful attitudes and hardened hearts.

Big breath…I want to be aware of what the Lord might be wanting to remove from my heart and life.  If I have mold, please Lord cut it out and help me to stay open to your correction!  This, of course, I do believe is part of what the Lord wanted to teach me and keep me on my face in humility asking Him to keep me clean of the sin that would destroy me.  Then for some crazy reason I decided to read through Ezekiel.  I try to alternate between the Old and New Testaments and it was Ezekiel’s turn.  This book is interesting to say the least.  This dude was trippin’.  You think I am joking?

Well, check this out…

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.

Again when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die.  Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin.  The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”

Ezekiel 3:16-21

Okay, wow!  Did you catch that?  I know it is Old school and all but I feel pretty strongly that speaks out to a responsibility on my part to holding others accountable.  And to me it says I have a responsibility to those that are righteous and those that aren’t.  No I don’t have all the answers as to who I am obligated to warn and when I need to be politically correct and certainly I struggle with being non-judgmental.  What I do know is that when God places people in my life that I know He cares for and I see them doing things that hurt themselves and others…I need to speak out.  Does this mean I am now the moral police?   Heck no!

Are you kidding me?  You and I have relationships with certain people though that are placed in our lives for a purpose.  And our purpose in their lives may be as a “watchman.”  Do I like that thought?  Not particularly.  I would rather go out with a friend for coffee and talk about Christmas shopping instead of asking her hard questions, like is she hiding an eating disorder, or is she having an inappropriate internet relationship or if she is hiding her shopping addiction from her husband.  Do we have that role in every friendship?  I certainly hope not.

But I tell you what,  I want and need a watchman or two in my life.  I know that I have at least two girlfriends that would risk our friendship over asking those kind of hard questions.  I know they care too much about me and my marriage and my relationship with Christ to let me rot without them interceding and doing whatever they can to get my attention and turn from my sin.  Those last few verses above in Ezekiel take my breath away.

It says if I see a righteous man doing evil…and pause here.  I don’t believe it is talking about a random gossip or disrespecting our husband every now or then.  I get the impression he is talking about major sin that leads to destruction.  Something that affects lives and families and futures.  Certainly some of those small things unaddressed though can lead to a lifestyle of destruction.  Okay back to the righteous man doing evil…and if I turn away and ignore it.  God will put a stumbling block in their path and they will die.  And I will be held responsible.  Me!  Heavens to Betsy!  This call to accountability involves you and me.

I need a watchman to get in my way, stand in the path that I am headed down to destruction and say STOP!  LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING! DON’T YOU REALIZE YOU ARE HEADED TO DESTRUCTION! TURN AROUND RIGHT NOW! If I choose to step around them or push them out of my way then I may die in my own sin.  And did you catch the part that says, “the righteous things he did will not be remembered”?  I can’t live on the good deeds from my past to counterbalance the sin I am now choosing to live in.

Neither scenario is easy or fun.  It sucks if I am living in a way that requires someone I care about to have to come to me to say stop!  But I have needed a watchman in the past and if I need one again, Lord please allow me to be teachable and heed the warning.  Also not fun is the thought of being a watchman in someone else’s life.  A watchman needs to be bold, brave, honest and strong.  A good thought though is that my understanding is watchmen have to take shifts.  They can’t stand on guard 24/7.  Which means hopefully we will be asked to be watchmen in people’s lives for seasons.  That sounds a little less intimidating to me.

Do you have relationships with people that would allow this kind of brutal honesty and transparency?  It means relationship, openness and trust.  It means time and commitment and getting messy in each other’s lives.  We don’t seem to see a lot of that these days.  If you don’t have at least two people of the same sex in your life that would be a watchman for you then I challenge you to begin to diligently ask the Father to bring these someone’s into your life.  That means you need to be watching and looking for Him to answer that prayer and then for you to step out and develop those relationships.  And then the next tough question, is He asking you to step up and be a watchman for someone right now?

Okay that is enough for us all to think about for awhile, whew!  Yes, all from some rotten strawberries:)