5 Guilt-Free Reasons to Watch (and LOVE) Magic Mike XXL!

magic mike xxl, male entertainers, femininity, masculinity, male strippers, women, feminism, equality, female sexuality, pleasure, sensuality

Initially, when I learned there would be a sequel to Magic Mike, my first reaction was, "But...why?" I  enjoyed the first movie, but didn't understand the reasoning behind making another. However, after seeing some positive reviews and hearing great feedback from respected friends, I reconsidered. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see it in theaters this summer because we'd just moved to Denver and were busy getting settled, finding work, etc. Thankfully, I was able to catch it on Google Play a couple weeks ago and watch it with my husband at our leisure. As soon as the credits rolled, I knew I wanted to write something, but wasn't sure when or where to pitch it. In the end, it came together at this moment, and as luck would have it, Magic Mike XXL comes out on DVD and Blu-ray today

As an aside, I must confess I hesitated to share this piece because I was worried about what some might think. 

She's a married, Christian woman recommending a movie about male strippers?! She should be ashamed! *unsubscribes*

I get it, I really do. But, part of my journey here is to do things that scare me, and believe me, this qualifies! In spite of the trepidation, I couldn't shake the desire to share my thoughts on Magic Mike XXL because the themes I mention below took me completely by surprise. Moreover, please know that it takes more than eye candy to hold my interest for two hours. If that were all this movie was, I would have stopped it within the first 15 minutes and gone about my day. Instead, I was immediately hooked because I actually cared about the characters involved. No, it's not Shakespeare, but there were more than a few moments of sincere honesty that deserve to be celebrated.

**Not sure if I should issue a spoiler alert, but I'll err on the side of caution and do so**

1. The relationship between the men is genuinely supportive.

Rather than the showcasing the usual tenets of traditional masculinity like derision and humiliation, they look for ways to bolster each other during times of struggle. There's no need to question anyone's sexuality because he is showing sensitivity or a desire for romance. In fact, Channing Tatum's character verbally expresses his love for his friends, and instead taking shots at his manhood the men immediately echo his sentiments, supporting him all the more.

In particular, I loved the scene in the convenience store because it shows how far they'll go to encourage Richie, whose "dry spell" is making him feel a bit insecure. Again, rather than kicking him while he's down or attempting to procure meaningless sex on his behalf, the guys band together to pump him up so he can regain his confidence. The combination of the men watching through the window (and cheering like they're at the Super Bowl!) and Joe Manganiello's efforts to bring a smile to the stoic woman behind the counter makes this the funniest scene in the entire movie!

2. Matt Bomer's magnetic rendition of Heaven + Donald Glover's sweet rap serenade prove men are capable of heartfelt gestures of romance.

These two scenes are among the most powerful in the entire film and there's not an ounce of nudity in either one. Through a series of unlikely events, the guys end up at the home of a wealthy southern divorceé, played by the lovely Andie McDowell. They arrive while she is having drinks with her friends, all women in their 50s. During a discussion about sex, fantasies and other topics, one of the women confesses she's never made love to her husband with the lights on. At this, Matt Bomer's character begins to serenade her with one of her favorite songs, Heaven by Bryan Adams. It is such a beautiful moment because he confirms her desirability, something our youth-obsessed culture tends to stop doing once women reach about 30 or so. Also, it speaks to the hang-ups many straight men of previous generations still hold and the ways in which those mentalities negatively affect their partners.

In the same vein, Donald Glover's character, Andre, does the most charismatic improvised rap I've ever seen. After asking one of the patrons of Domina (a club owned by Jada Pinkett-Smith's character) a few questions about herself, he discovers she's recently divorced and out for the first time since her marriage ended. Using the information she's just shared with him, he creates a personal and unique song on the spot, bringing her much-needed joy in the midst of stressful personal transition.

magic mike xxl, male entertainers, male strippers, feminism, masculinity female pleasure, sensuality, equality, sexuality, sex

Significant Style: The Black and White Shirtdress.

style, fashion, fall fashion, blogger, shirtdress, bcbg

While I absolutely love fashion, I haven't done a lot of style-focused posts in this space, but lately, I've been pressing into why I've been less-than-eager to explore (and share) that side of myself. After pondering the subject quite a bit, I came up with some arguably compelling reasons.

The Objections

1. Almost everyone is doing fashion posts (and many are absolutely killin' it!), so how do I stand out in a very saturated market? Also, why make more work for myself?

2. I'm a wife and mom of three—I'm lucky if I get the opportunity to take a shower and brush my teeth! Where will I find the time to pick an outfit that's on-trend, find a photographer, scout a location, and take care of my daughter in addition to all the stuff I already have on my plate?

3. I'm...not as young or thin as I used to be. What if I look awful in the photos?

4. Since the move, my wardrobe is painfully small and I don't have the budget to buy new things every week. How will I keep up with the ever-changing trends without spending a fortune?

5. What if I just...suck?

Slow Progress is STILL Progress: Why Learning Patience Is Integral to Success

motivational quotes, life quotes, patience, perseverance, success, humility, progress

It's been a rough couple weeks around LMS headquarters (i.e. our apartment), folks! Seeing as how I'm the only employee behind this budding business venture, I've been feeling the strain of being one woman with many hats, each vying for her attention. Now, some hats are more important than others. My husband and children, for example; my spiritual walk with God is yet another. Lately, I've been struggling to figure out which hat needs my attention at any given moment, because honestly, there are times when seemingly EVERYHATNEEDSTOBEWORNRIGHTNOW! and all I want to do is curl up into a ball and pull the covers over my head.

The slow progression has been humbling, to say the least.

Yet, even in the midst of this new period of quiet, I find myself looking for the lesson, that nugget of truth that will sustain me. I realized the other day that this action, of trying to find the bright side, is actually a HUGE sign of progress for me. If you've been here awhile, you already know I'm a (recovering) worry-wart and perpetual hand-wringer. When things would go wrong in my life, I would immediately assume the absolute worst and attempt to prepare myself for what would surely be the inevitable onslaught of awful. However, since learning to fail forward, I've been given a much-needed present: perspective.

5 Super-Important Reasons To Read The Harry Potter Series With Your Kids

There is one affiliate link in this post, which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no cost to you). I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to share what I love and help support my family. Thank you!

Harry Potter, reading, literacy, kids, fun, fantasy, reading guide

I've hesitated in writing this post because I know it sharply divides the Christian community. I, myself, was raised with the message that Halloween was "The Devil's holiday", and shows like Bewitched, Scooby-Doo and The Smurfs were evil because they glorified witchcraft, demonic activity, and the occult. Despite having reached my own conclusions about the current state of Christianity, I still found myself battling these deep-seated notions from my childhood. However, when my oldest son expressed interest in the books, I could think of no reasonable objection because I had not read the books. How could I decline his earnest request without firsthand knowledge? Is that really the example I want to set for my children, that it's okay to reject unfamiliar experiences based on hearsay and assumptions? Absolutely not. So, rather than shield it from him, I told him we could read the first book together as a family. This was an appropriate compromise because it allowed my husband and I to be aware of the content and also guide any pertinent discussions. Both of us have a deep and abiding love for God, and have taken great care to impart that devotion to our children. However, we also know we are raising global citizens who need to be able to not only function, but thrive, in a changing world. For that reason, we're committed to tackling their questions honestly and openly—especially the ones that make us uncomfortable—because they need and deserve it. Right now, the issues are as simple as what books to read, but very soon, the thoughts they bring to us will be far more complex. By that time, we will have established a relationship built on mutual respect and trust.

As we began the first book, I fully prepared myself for the fact that we might not finish. Maybe we'd get bored and lose of interest, or perhaps the advanced reading level would prove too much for our seven year-old. Turns out, I shouldn't have worried in the least! We've read two books in their entirety (and are rapidly devouring the third!), and I can honestly say our entire family has fallen in love with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the characters. Diving into this series has brought our family such joy, while also giving us a much-needed break from a challenging season of life. Evening readings are something we all look forward to, particularly after a long day of work, school, and assignments. As we've delved deeper and become more invested in the stories, several important reasons to read the Harry Potter series have bubbled to the surface. I am in no way trying to convince anyone to change minds here; if your heart is set, I absolutely respect the thought that no doubt went into your decision. However, if you're on the fence or if the children in your life have expressed curiosity about these books, this list may be helpful.

*If you're looking to save a little money, head to Target.com between now and September 26, 2015, and save an extra 10% off the Harry Potter Collection with the code BOOKS10*

reading, harry potter, kids, fun, fantasy, literacy, reading guide

1. Offers a Poignant Reminder of the Ups and Downs of Childhood
As adults we often forget our kids are actual people with feelings, as opposed to robots who must do what we say when we say it. Yes, we have much on our plates and most of the time, our hearts are in the right place, but our children are complex beings who should be honored. Lately, I've remembered the eloquence of J.K. Rowling's young characters and chosen to amend the tone with which I address my kids.

Monday Motivation: Your Revival Is On Its Way!

As I write this, I am sitting in the most comfortable spot on my couch. My daughter is taking a much-needed nap, while my youngest son quietly plays Legos in his room. My husband and oldest son are playing outside in the pool, reveling in the final days of summer.

For the first time in many weeks, all is calm in this apartment and I feel a peace I can hardly describe. It is soothing, comforting, and serene. Other than the soft, lilting music from Pandora (The Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix Station, in case anyone is wondering), this space is completely quiet, allowing me to type, but also reflect on our time here in Denver. We are just shy of the three-month mark, but it may as well be a lifetime since we piled into our car and left Arizona for good. It was such an overwhelming feeling to leave our hometown, knowing we would never return. I remember discussing my feelings with my husband and being shocked to discover they weren't all positive. Yes, I was excited about the prospects of a new beginning, to see how God would unfold our story, yet the significance of what—and who—we left behind rested heavily upon my already-battered spirit. That sting still sneaks up on me, today, although the introspection of distance is increasing; the further we get from that private hell, the more we are able to reflect on the magnitude of His grace and the power of His protection. On our own, we never would have made it out of Phoenix, let alone Colorado.