Ante Up!: A New Book by Chautona Havig!

About two months ago, Christian author Chautona Havig released an interesting mystery named Sweet on You. Now, not too much later, she’s completed another book named Ante Up!. This one is the fourth in a series called the Aggie’s Inheritance series, about a young woman who inherited her eight nieces and nephews after her sister and brother-in-law died in a tragic accident.

I’m reviewing the story today, but a more in-depth review will be posted on the website on Friday, so keep an eye out for that in this week’s newsletter!

Ante Up! by Chautona Havig

This is another great story by Chautona Havig! I’ve been waiting for it for quite a while, so it was great to finally be able to read it now. Aggie’s family is growing in this story; it’s been four years since the last book and now besides her eight nieces and nephews she’s preparing to welcome her second baby! However, things aren’t exactly going as planned. After dealing with vandalism soon after returning from a trip, there are new complications in the pregnancy. Can she keep her faith, despite the apparent setbacks? Vannie and Laird are getting older too, and have struggles of their own to navigate. Can the family hold together—and Aggie keep her eyes on the Lord—during this difficult time?

This was a challenging book for me to read. Seeing Aggie go from a happy, content Christian to an angry, empty shell wasn’t easy. Thankfully, there IS hope even when all odds seem against you, and Mrs. Havig did an excellent job bringing that out. (I was really relieved when Aggie finally realized the aforementioned truth—the ending was satisfying, although I want more!) I was captivated the entire way through, even though the overarching theme is such a difficult subject. I came away feeling very encouraged. Can’t wait for the next book!

Note: This book does contain a lot of stuff about pregnancy in it, so it isn’t suitable for men or children.

My Goals for This Week

Planning has always been a sore point for me. I love the idea; love the feel of paper under my fingers and seeing plans take shape before me. I can easily spend hours reading productivity blogs about how one could go about making a plan for what you want to do in a year, broken down into quarters, months, weeks, and finally days. I love it, I really do.

Yet, this morning, as I was mulling over the words from Proverbs: “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule…” (12:24), I realized how very lazy I have been about my work lately. How little I’ve accomplished, and how much I’ve let the important things slip.

I’ve discovered—over, and over, and over again, that I don’t do well with no plan at all. The weird thing is, I rarely finish everything I plan for a week, but maybe knowing that I want to do it spurs me on to at least try to meet my expectations. It is discouraging when I realize that what I planned to do four weeks ago is still there to be done this week, but somehow it is also reassuring that somewhere I’m still fighting to continue making progress.

Morning Beauty 01

I’ve never quite known how to combat the endless chain of planning and then after a few weeks feeling discouraged because I didn’t manage to even hit the mark on my own expectations—let alone meeting the perceived (more likely imagined) expectations other people have for me! In some ways, it’s a harsh, never-ending rat-race.

Then I looked out the window at the foot of my bed and saw the rising sun coming through the trees, lighting them with a golden glow, and was reminded that each day is a new day. Yes, we—our work—suffers when we don’t do it, but the Lord is gracious and gives us a fresh, golden start. Every. single. day. Even when we don’t see it. He gives us a chance to try again—and it’s up to us to take that chance and use it to its full potential.

So for this next month, I’m going to fill out one of Productive Flourishing’s weekly planner, and scan a copy (one for the past week, one for the coming one) to post on the blog each week. I don’t need to do this, but I want to be accountable to myself. I’m going to do this.

Morning Beauty 02

After praying about this month and this week, here are my plans for what I need/want to get done this week. Next week, I’ll show this one again (with the accomplished stuff marked off), and next week’s plans.

Week Planner

This week, I want to focus on learning from the Lord. From that, I want to do my work to serve Him and His people better. More opportunities seem to come up daily to serve. I just pray that I can be faithful to this calling, and be able to support those around me in their callings as well.

Why It’s Important to Choose Your Books Wisely—I’m Guest Posting!

Why you should know what your child is reading

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Kendra Stamy, author of the blog A Proverbs 31 Wife, asked me to write a guest post for her. This was a difficult post to write, because I know some of the things I talk about could potentially be very controversial. At the same time, as Mom kept reminding me, these are the kinds of things that need to be shared. After lots of prayer and writing and rewriting, it’s now live. If you’re interested to hear my thoughts on why it’s important to know what your child reads (or why it’s important to choose wisely yourself!), go here.

Reading, Art, and Guilt — a Guest Post

Twice in the past two months I have had an “ah-ha!” moment. Both times, I suddenly had an answer to something that I had been feeling guilty about for years.

I was reading by the time I was three years old. When I was a baby, someone gave my mom a book, something about “Teach Your Baby to Read.” I was the first baby, so she had time, and she made flashcards to put on objects all over the house. I can’t remember not being able to read, and I’m guessing maybe she eventually regretted teaching me that young, as I quickly developed an addiction to reading! I remember being excited to start first grade, but then being very disappointed because the first day of first grade the reading lesson was simply, “God.” I was reading whole books by then! I spent hours and hours reading thousands of books as I grew up, and put that love of books to good use when I started a bookstore in my late teens. However, after I got married, little by little I started feeling guilty for loving to read, and guilty for taking time to read when there were other things to do, as there always are. Comments some people made such as, “I only ever read the Bible and ___________(church paper),” or, “Reading is a waste of time for me,” added to that feeling of guilt. I still read, because I can’t make myself stop reading, but always with a slight feeling of guilt.

Reading, Art, and Guilt

One of my son’s art projects.

Last year, my daughter came in from her bedroom one morning saying that she felt like the Lord had given her an idea. She wondered what I thought of a website devoted to book reviews. She would include warnings with the reviews of anything that parents might want to know about the book before giving it to their child, and build a search function to help parents find books about a particular area they were studying. After we all prayed about it, she built the website, and soon I started writing some reviews for her of books I read to myself or aloud to the other children. Still, I felt somewhat guilty about loving to read!

A couple of months ago, a couple of my children and I went to a book fair. As usual, we came away with a large stack of books, including a few that we already owned. We had to stop at a friend’s house to drop something off on our way home, and offered her the duplicate books. She was happy to take them, thanking me for the recommendations for her children, since she has a hard time knowing if a book will be worth reading or not. I was thinking about that little exchange after we left her house, and suddenly the thought came to me that part of my ministry to other people is to be able to recommend books for them and their children! God gave me the gift of being able to read exceptionally fast, and therefore I am able to read a lot more books than most people, which means I can help people by pointing them to the books they need! What a revelation. I still have to be careful not to let myself read when there are other jobs that really need doing (after all, I have a husband and eight children who like to eat three meals a day), but I no longer feel guilty about reading while I rock the baby.

My other revelation came just a few weeks ago. I have been homeschooling our children for 11 or 12 years now. Somewhere around 10 years ago, I picked up an art course at a book fair, and decided that we would do art classes—doesn’t everyone do art classes? Don’t children need to learn art? I decided that once a week, while the youngest two (I think) napped, I would do an art lessons with the three oldest children. We did—a grand total of three lessons! After that, until I ended up selling the art course when we moved overseas six years ago, I kept intending to get back to it, but life was constantly in the way. Anyway, I have very little interest in art or crafts of any kind. There was always a guilty feeling in the back of my mind, though, that my children were missing out because I was not making time to teach them any drawing or modeling or any kind of crafts.

A few weeks ago, my middle sons spent two days holed up in their workshop every spare minute, building something. When I finally got to see it, I was astounded. Those boys had cut a large circle out of a piece of plywood, and painted a railroad track around the edge. They painted roads and fields on the board, and built tiny houses. They unwrapped copper wire from the motor of a defunct washing machine, and built fences by drilling holes through twigs that they glued into holes they drilled in the board. They strung telegraph wires around the track the same way. They glued tiny trees into place, and made stick figures out of copper wire to put in various places. They even made little wooden cars and a train engine. What is all that, but art? And I had nothing to do with it! I don’t have to teach art to my children! If they are interested, they will learn by themselves. All I have to do is give them free time and allow them to use the materials and tools they find and want to use.

Believe it or not, a great weight has lifted from my mind since I realized these two simple things. Guilt has a way of dragging us down, and other people’s expectations can make moms feel very guilty. At least, that is the effect on me. When I don’t do or believe the same as the people I am around, I tend to feel guilty about that, as if I am wrong—but guess what! God didn’t make us all the same! I have a unique ministry—and so do you. It would have been nice not to have to wait so long to find mine, but I am thankful to not feel guilty anymore about reading and art!

Emma-BioEmma Filbrun is a stay-at-home homeschooling mother of eight children, and in between chasing toddlers and keeping the tribe fed you can usually find her reading a story to several of the children or directing operations from her rocking chair (where her baby puts mommy time high on the agenda). She shares the mishaps and adventures of a large family on her blog, Lots of Helpers.