Wild At Heart – Book Review

 

I picked up this gem at a thrift store for a buck fifty.  I figured, when I saw the volume’s subtitle, “Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” that with a husband to love and a son to raise, I didn’t have much to lose. After reading the first chapter earlier in the week during a few spare moment, I read the entire rest of it yesterday. I could not put it down! Fascinating, stirring, and sorely needed are a few words of description I can ascribe to its content. I was actually quite unprepared for the wealth of knowledge I found, as well as the realization of how little I actually know about the way men think and what their God-given driving forces are. I’ve been blessed with a husband who is willing and pleased to communicate with me. When I ask him questions about what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling, he tells me. But I hadn’t realized that I was still hearing all that he was saying through my feminine perspective. This book helped me recognize that fact, and gave me a better appreciation for the ways God created my husband differently than me.

{A few important disclaimers! Firstly,  I read the original version, published in 2001. It has since been revised, and I have no idea what the revisions cover. Secondly, I DO NOT recommend this book for ladies who are not married, as it can be very explicit at times. And thirdly and finally, I recommend this book, but cannot endorse most of the movies/lyrics/authors referenced therein. Okay, there. Disclaimers ended.}

Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge, is about the journey of masculinity that every male embarks upon. This is a book about men, for men, by a man. But it’s also written with the understanding that the women in their life will read it. Original design, spiritual warfare, and revival truth are all part of the picture. It’s about identity, love, and all the big questions in life. And even though it is directed specifically towards men, I found that much of Eldredge’s writings applied to me, simply because I’m a human being, and a follower of Christ.

Eldredge tells us that every man desires three things that are an inherent part of his God-given nature: an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue. I took away from this book a better understanding of the adventure, battle, and beauty that my husband needs [and that my son will someday need], and my role to play in it all. Much of Eldredge’s insight are based on the Creation account in the Book Genesis. I found it fascinating that so many clues to the most basic, yet different, needs of men and women are laid out right in there in the first chapters of the Bible.

I was especially challenged regarding the mother-son relationship. I now know better to prepare for, and be on the lookout for, the day Jungle Baby needs his freedom–specifically, freedom from me. {Brace yourselves, ladies, this part, especially written in its blunt male style, may be a hard one to read. But is it serious advice to heed, if you want to really let your son be the man he was created to be.} Eldredge declares that a mother who does not “allow her son to become dangerous…will emasculate him.” I’ve always had a desire for my son to become “manly”. But defining it as “dangerous” takes it to a new level of reality. For, as the author so clearly outlines, this life is a War, and if you don’t look at it that way, you’re already losing the battle.

Speaking of battles, I think my favorite chapters were the two focused specifically on spiritual warfare. Men’s battles are in the spotlight, of course, but the spiritual strategies needed to fight these battles apply to every Christian. For instance, regarding Romans 7 and the battle against sin, Eldredge says:

“You are not your sin; sin is no longer the truest thing about the man who has come into union with Jesus. Your heart is good. …The Big Lie in the church today is that you are nothing more than “a sinner saved by grace.” You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ.”

There is an incredible freedom in this truth that so many in our churches are missing! {By the way, I read this paragraph a mere 48 hours after hearing a sermon on the exact same thing. You can download the message I heard here, from mediafire: Radical New Realities.}

Wild At Heart was obviously very different than books authored by women–as it ought to be. To be honest, I enjoyed the different literary “taste.” It was raw, yes, but also refreshing. A nice change of pace in writing style, as women’s books usually are a bit more…I don’t know, chatty? Although that can be enjoyable, it also can make them harder to follow. Eldredge’s message was a clear flow of ideas, progressing like a soldier marching towards his military objective.

I took away a LOT of questions to ask my husband. In fact, I used a pen, highlighter, and sticky notes, and listed topics that I wanted extra clarification on at the end of each chapter. Be prepared to let the book be a merely a springboard for studying your man’s deeper waters.

Though I don’t agree with Eldredge on every theological point that arises, he tackles some of the most fundamental and, sadly, overlooked aspects of a believer’s relationship with Christ, laying them out in a clear, concise, and motivating manner. Obviously, part of having a right relationship with Jesus is seeking to have right relationships with those in our families. I highly recommend this book for every wife and mother who wants to truly learn about and love the men in her life!

How to Love the Life You Live

man on top of the world

person standing on top of a mountain

“Live the life you love.”

We’ve all seen that quippy little quote floating around, on inspirational internet images, or wall decor at the coffee shop. I don’t know about you, but as a newlywed and a first-time mommy, I sort of snort internally when I read it. (If this is one of your favorite motivational nuggets that pushes you to keep going when you’re tempted to give up on a dream–I’m probably gonna step on your toes, here. 🙂 Please know, I’m all for encouragement, so if that mantra is encouraging to you, by all means, don’t let me ruin that for you.)

But for me, it just doesn’t work. I guess the biggest reason is that it seems to say, “Go after what YOU want, because that’s the most important thing. Live for what pleases you and makes you happy.” If you don’t read it that way, that’s okay. But that’s pretty much how it reads for me, and I’ve come to the understanding that the best way to make myself UNhappy…is to chase my own happiness.

So. I choose to flip that saying around and look at it differently. I choose to read instead, “Love the Life You Live.” In other words, be content! Be joyful in your “season of life,” whatever that may be. I’m pretty sure that we actually have to relearn this lesson in every new season of life that we enter. At least, I do. I had to learn it as a single person. I had to learn it in different jobs that I worked. And, I am learning it now, again, in a whole new dimension as a wife and mother.

This is my point: What if instead of telling ourselves we should be chasing down a life we can love…what about just deciding to love the life we are living? Right here, right now? The one that may seem to be too busy, or not-what-we-had-planned, or unexciting, or even painful?

Question: How do you do that? How do people actually love the life they have when there’s sickness, or loneliness, or tragedy, or disappointment? I’ve been blessed to have some very good examples in my life of people who have chosen to embrace joy, to refuse to let it go, in the face of incredible falling-apart-ness. I am truly challenged every time I think of these people while I’m the midst of a little ol’ pity party.

One of them is a friend I’ll call Sarah. She has personally suffered what could easily be called tragedy, not once, not twice, but three times…and those are just the instances I know about. I’m talking about illness, pain, and criminal wrongdoing touching all the most important people in her life. I’m talking about broken necks and child molestation and death. Yet she is one of the sweetest, most joyfilled people I know, and she trusts God implicitly. She clings to Him. She doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for herself because of what has come into her life, even though, by all human standards, she’d have every right to. Nor does she play the martyr, and try to let everyone know what a tough time she’s had. No, she has chosen to hold onto joy, and to love the life she is living, despite it’s pain. I stand in awe of her. But I know her joyfulness didn’t just happen. It is real in her life because of specific and deliberate decisions that she has made. Here are several choices that I see in Sarah’s life, and in the lives of others who exhibit this kind of loving the life that they are living.

1. Be intentionally grateful

Thankfulness can be a lifeline against drowning in despair. Seriously…have you ever had a horrible, horrible day, and just begun saying “thank you” for any and every little thing that you can think of? I’ve tried it. The results are pretty amazing. And immediate. You can begin to see that there are still so many “good and perfect” gifts to appreciate. My husband recently told me, very gently and wisely, that the reason I often struggle is because I spend time focusing on the things I don’t have, instead of what I do have. He was right. Is it easy to be grateful when you feel like nothing is right in your world? No. But it is worthwhile.

2. Be in the moment

Worrying about the future? Aching over the past? Honestly, all we do is make ourselves miserable. I heard a statistic that said only eight percent of the things we worry about could actually even happen. Wow. (That’s actually a bit comforting, honestly!) And the past? We can change zero about that. Does that mean the thought of those things don’t hurt or that they don’t have the capacity to make us anxious? No. But the bottom line is that there is enough to focus on here and now. There are people in your life, today, that need you. So, take a deep breath, and just “do the next thing.” {Great opportunity, here, to implement number one…find something to be grateful for in that “next thing.”}

3. Be close to God

Ultimately, He is what gives meaning and joy to life. All the other joys are because of Him, and from Him. Being close to God is a choice to be made, more than a thing to do, though. Yes, there are things that we can do to be close to Him, such as reading the Bible. But unless we first decide that we want to be close to Him, there isn’t much point in cracking open those pages. {It would kind of be like taking your spouse to dinner, but not really wanting to talk with them, or listen to them…they will know it, and your relationship isn’t going to progress forward.}

 

Now we KNOW all this…but we have to choose to act on it. It’s a decision of the will , not the feelings. So if you’re struggling to love the life you’re living, you have to decide…do you really want to, and are you willing to do what it takes? I think that if we really want to love the life we’re living, in all its messiness and imperfection and unexpectedness, then we can. And, the neat thing about choosing to love it? We’ll find we really are living the life we love, too.

 

Minimalism, Cozy Style.

cozy cup of tea next to open book

So apparently there’s this thing called “cozy minimalism” that is being talked about in the blogosphere.

cup of tea with a book cozy reading

 

I had never heard of it until I ran across a post on said subject. I quickly realized that yes, this was my category. (Woohoo, now people can label me and put me in a definitive box! Yippee!)

When many people hear the word “minimalism”, they conjure up pictures of asceticism in their heads. But the term “minimalism” actually has several different cultural definitions. Technically, minimalism refers to an art form that focuses on simplicity. But there’s a growing school of thought that has developed in our society as a kick-back against materialism, and it has nothing to do with art. In the words of these guys, who are actually known as The Minimalists,

“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.” 

However, minimalism is also sometimes hijacked by home-department marketing professionals, and translated “make everything in your bedroom one color.” Which actually means, “buy more stuff!” So, definitions matter here! In this post, I’m not talking about the style of art, but more the anti-materialistic ideology.

I have always thought, when I read about minimalism, that the basic idea undergirding it appealed to me (more of life, less of stuff, simplicity, etc.). And I hate clutter. My husband can tell you that I’m sort of a paper-nazi…if it’s not connected to the spine of a notebook, or in a file folder, I want it in the trash. So I guess in some senses, I’m a good candidate for the minimalism label.

However, often the design inspired by minimalism does not appeal to me. I like clean lines, white space, and occasional monochromatic color schemes. In moderation. But I also like bookcases crammed with good books, mismatched and colorful coffee mugs to spare, and plenty of warmth. I like my space to say “organized,” yes, but also “we live here, thank you.” And so many of the rooms with minimalist decor seem so…soul-less.

minimalism

But then, “cozy” minimalism was introduced to me. You can read what I read HERE. The author seemed to put into words exactly what I had never taken the time to…that yes, I like part of the minimalist take on life, but I’ll never be a true minimalist in the styling of my home. And guess what–there is an alternative. And it has a name!

Enter, cozy minimalism.

The term itself is fairly self-explanatory: cozy means warm and inviting. Minimal means the only bare essentials. So it’s a balancing act of deciding what gives your house a homey feel, while still filtering with a “what do we need/use” mindset.

What I like about this concept is that it takes the basic values of minimalism ideology–making space in life for what really matters by deliberately choosing to not become overwhelmed by stuff–and weds it with the reality of where most of us live: “I have two very similar tote bags…but I use both…and I want to keep both.” Comfort, without clutter, is how I like to look at it. I can still keep all my candles (that are actually all from the same color and scent families), but I’ll choose to pare down my sock drawer, because I don’t need/like/want all the socks I own.

My home can still be fresh and relatively clutter-free, but not forced into specific parameters about how many of these or those I own. It’s about choosing things that are functional and practical, but also bring some beauty or joy to this One Little Life, whether or not there’s a bit of redundancy. I choose what we like and what makes our home US, without trying to fit it into a specific mold. 

And so, that’s why I now consider myself a “cozy minimalist.” 

So what’s your opinion? How do you classify your Castle-style? Cluttered and eclectic, like Aunt Matilda’s parlor? Bare and austere, like Uncle Lou’s big city loft? Or somewhere in the middle, in the “cozy” sector? What fits you and your family best, and why?

3 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Brought My Newborn Home

baby feet held in mother's hands newborn

No one ever told me what it was like to have a baby for the first time.

baby feet held in mother's hands newborn

Sure, there were all kinds of information available about the process of birth, what color to paint your nursery, how your life would change, etc. etc.

But…no one ever told me what it was like.

For instance, that last moment of superhuman effort to push him out…how it felt like warmth and slipperiness and determination and desperation all at one time. And that, actually, the afterbirth is hard, too, for several reasons–a post on that coming soon!

And then, after all the bustle and busyness melts away, there you are, lying in bed. The lights are out, your husband is asleep on the couch in the room, and suddenly, after what feels like dozens of people barreling through your life in a few short hours…it’s just you and your baby. And he’s whimpering a little, and listening to your voice as you whisper in his tiny, perfect ear. No one ever told me what that amazing first moment of bonding is like. No one ever could. I guess that’s because it’s not something to be explained, but experienced.

 

And, that’s not all I was never told. I did tons of research, both online and in books, prior to the Jungle Baby’s birth, but there’s Just. So. Much. Information! Here are several pieces of valuable information that either just aren’t out there in plain sight, or that I somehow skipped over (the latter option is quite possible!). Hopefully, new or soon-to-be mamas will find these tips on caring for a newborn useful.

1. You will need to cut their nails. Sooner, rather than later.

Most babies are born with perfect little fingers and toes. However, those sweet little fingernails and toenails grow! FAST. Babies love to keep their hands close to their faces, and will inevitably give themselves some nasty scratches. Also, especially if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want those nails kept short, otherwise they will give you some scratches too. And the toenails need trimming to avoid getting painfully snagged by socks and leggings.

So if no one gives you a pair of baby nail clippers {I recommend these} at your shower, get some before baby arrives! (Or, send your mom out to get some within the first week or two, like I did.)

 2. Newborns’ hands and feet peel, big-time.

It looks sort of like sunburn, actually. It’s white, and is really bad in between the toes and fingers. But the good news is that it doesn’t bother the baby whatsoever, and will go away quickly. Sort of like baby milia. If you want to put something on it, this is what I used. I prefer using natural products whenever possible and affordable, especially on a brand new baby. I also like merchandise that does double duty. The Natural Nipple Butter is a win both ways!}

3. Burping is important. Very important.

Now, I knew babies needed burp. What I didn’t realize is that newborns need it OFTEN. As in, every 3 to 5 minutes during a feeding. Otherwise, the air will build up in their underdeveloped digestive systems and cause serious pain for them, and serious concern for you. I learned this the hard way, when Jungle Baby struggled with distressing gas for a week or two.

You’ll have to forgive me if this is painfully obvious. But I didn’t spend much time with tiny babies growing up, so I never knew that newborns needed burping so much more often than bigger babies. The good news is this frequent burping will give both of you plenty of practice with latching. 😉

 

So there you go! Hopefully, these tips may save you (or the mama-to-be that you share it with) some worries or difficult moments in the first few weeks with a new baby. There is so much information to digest and take in when preparing for a new baby, and different things will be important for different people. Veteran moms…what did I miss? What are things that would have really helped you be more prepared for life with your newborn?