Friday, July 21, 2017

My Great Big God by Andy Holmes

Product Details

Illustrated by Marta Alvarez

20 Bible Stories to Build a Great Big Faith

This is a beautiful hardcover board book that tells 20 Bible stories in rhyme. Each story has 2 four line stanzas and is preceded by "My great big God...." And then it launches into the story about something God did, from Creation to Samson to Esther to Jesus' Birth, the Feeding the 5,000, His death and so on. Each story ends with a clinching sentence such as "My great big God keeps me safe!" "My great big God guides me!" "My great big God does amazing things."  I think that is my favorite part of the book, because to me, it just reinforces the great God we serve and helps to drive home the point of the story. You can't tell much of a story in 8 rhyming lines.

The pictures are brightly colored and nicely done, through they are more cartoonish rather than realistic. I would say that book is about a 5 by 7 for size. Age wise, I would put it at about a year up to maybe five years old? Board books, I tend to classify as much younger books and books children would grow out of sooner, but I think this book might even be fun for a young reader to read through. I don't know, I don't have a young reader to test my theory out on.

I was just very impressed by this book when I first looked at and am now trying to decide if it's going to gain immediate access to our bookshelves or be shelved away for a gift.

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers and I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Ambivalent Love of a Mother

Ambivalence[1] is a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards some object.[2][3][4][5] Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having an attitude towards someone or something that contains both positively and negatively valenced components.[6] The term also refers to situations where "mixed feelings" of a more general sort are experienced, or where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness.

Thank you Wikipedia for your definition.

I'm not even sure how to broach this topic, but it's been rattling around in my head the last couple days and I need to post something other than book reviews on this blog. I don't even know if I can adequately explain what I am even feeling, but here goes.

Almost two and a half years ago, this little bundle made me a "real" mom. I now had a live baby to hold in my arms and play doll with. It was exciting after the hard times of the previous year and a half. And a rather difficult nine months on top of that. But sometimes, I wondered: do I really love her? Where is this pitter-patter, jump for joy, hold my baby close feeling that I thought I should have? Where is this I don't want to lay you down, I want to hold you forever feeling? Would I even miss her if she died? These thoughts would go through my head and I would wonder, do I really love my little girl? And what is wrong with me if I am struggling with this? Why am I not just giddy at the idea of being a mom to her?

The first year passed and it was good. I loved her, I told myself I did. I took care of her, but I was tired. She took a lot of care. And she was a good baby, but it felt like she needed a lot of entertaining. But she had a good daddy, she really did. Her mom sometimes felt like she single momming it, but that was more my fault and my attitude than anything her dad did. I still struggled with wondering how much I loved her. 

And now another year has gone by, another baby has gone to be with Jesus and my heart is full. She is two on this picture and she is sick, but she is my joy. That time between one and two has solidified the fact that I do really love this little girl. She plays by herself, she plays at my feet, and she loves to "help" me. I don't really feel ambivalent in my love anymore. I still stare at her sometimes and get tears in my eyes over the way God has blessed us with this amazing, healthy, little girl. I stare at her and listen to her talk and wonder what in the world we are doing as parents and how we think we even have the right to try and parent. I'm still growing up myself. She still has the best dad ever and she has him solidly wrapped around her finger. She talks constantly, gathers big piles of books to look at and has been a little obsessed about playing with "baby brother's toys". 

But now baby two is on the verge of making his debut: is it going to be the same thing? Am I going to look at him and wonder if I really love him? Am I going to have the pitter patter in my heart, the joy in the middle of the night, the "I can't live without him" feelings? I don't know. I somewhat dread the first year because I know how it was with Amber. But I'm better now, right? I know how quickly that stage passes and what fun it can be, right? I'll grin and bear it, right? I'll hold the memories tight in my heart, right? Someone tell me!! I need to know it's okay. Or isn't it? 

I feel a little vulnerable with this post. I look at moms around me, my friends, and they make mothering seem so natural, so a part of them. And somedays I still want to just walk away and go to town and sit down at a coffee shop or even McDonald's without a care in the world. And yet, I remind myself, that day will come soon enough. In four years, she will be off to school and a whole new life will open up for her. And then I get excited and a little bit sad all at once. So is the ambivalence a part of being a mom? Is it the same thing we discuss about marriage, that you don't always have those feelings, but you choose to love and do the right thing in spite of it all?

And my answer to that is, yes, I think so. I think if my little girl had been taken from me in that first year, she would have left a hole so big, it could never have been filled in completely. I think I would have cried buckets of tears and probably fought off some guilt, (I've already had to apologize so many times to her for an improper attitude or improper discipline, etc) So yes, in the midst of feeling ambivalent, I think I still made the choice to love, at least most days.

And that is what I want to continue to do, for my children, for my husband, for those around me. Ambivalence is a feeling and it will come, but the choice remains mine. And I want to choose rightly. 

And now just some fun stuff: that was a well-spent 75 cents. She calls it her "puzzle" and I'm sure if you were to ask what color it was, she would say green. Instead of rose-colored glasses, she lives her life through green-colored glasses.

She is wondering these days if she should "be excited" or not. And yesterday, the prospect of a four-wheeler ride to watch Daddy get his paperwork was met with much hopping up and down and running and jumping.

I am amazed how much she catches. She can pretty much pray "God is Great", a lot of "Our Father, which art in Heaven", and sing snippets of songs like Jesus Loves Me and Behold, Behold. She also has a book or two that she can recite pretty much from memory. I stand agape and in awe and in fear as well. What am I teaching her that I don't even know I'm teaching her?

It melts my heart, when after getting disciplined, she will look at me and say, "I'm sorry, Mama."

And yes, the teacher in me has bought her a preschool program that I am excited about starting with her. It will wait until life has become a bit more normal for us, after the baby and maybe even after our trip to New Jersey. It's more for the mom at this point in my endeavor to be intentional and in order to make sure I spend time with her after the baby. She is used to my full attention now and I want to make sure she doesn't feel left out after "little brother" comes. And because her mom loves stuff like that. 

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

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I have read a few of Rachel's book and some of them have been pretty good, some of them have been terrific. If you get a chance to read her Wedding series or whatever it's called: The Wedding Dress, The Wedding Chapel, and The Wedding Shop, do. If you like fiction anyway.

The Writing Desk comes in just under the above mentioned books, which I should mention, I don't think I've ever read The Wedding Shop, so I can't testify to its goodness. But Rachel is able to shift between time periods and between main characters, at least two from each time period in an effortless manner that makes it easy to follow along. Sometimes, when authors do this,  I find myself chafing at the bit as I read the one section, just wanting to get back to the other time period and the other main characters. But Rachel keeps you interested in both throughout the book. You know the two are going to tie together somehow and you're wondering how it will work.

This book it's a writing desk. For the one, it has produced many books where she wrote as the ghost writer for a famous author. For the other, it was supposed to be her muse, her "people", her inspiration, but it didn't work that way.

This is a book about mending relationships. Tenley, the modern day character, learns to love Blanche, her mother, and to, I think, even forgive her for abandoning her at a young age. Birdie, the Gilded Age character, is manipulated and controlled by her mother, but is actually given a chance at love at the altar. Her and her mother do come to a truce of sorts too. Both find comfort in the same Bible, in learning to know who Jesus is. I'm not sure where Birdie comes out on, but Tenley, I believe does come to believe in God and to trust Him for her salvation as well as for guidance on what to do.

Of course, there's the heroes who sweep in to rescue the ladies, but that's for you to read about.

I did enjoy this book. I was reminded again that I don't need to be afraid or dismayed because God is with me and I can trust Him to guide me and lead me. And I'm so grateful for that fact.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Farewell, Four Waters by Kate McCord

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One aid worker's sudden escape from Afghanistan

This book, this book, if you have time for only one book, make it this one. Yes, it's called a novel, but it's based on true events though they have been mixed and match for security reasons. I just am not sure you could make up these kinds of stories. It's the kind of book I dreamt about at night. And last night, I confess, I had skimmed ahead just a bit and I think I thought about the book every time I woke up last night. So it wasn't a wise move on my part.

Kate McCord has written three books about her time in Afghanistan. Kate is not her real name either, again for security reasons. Her first book is called "In the Land of Blue Burqas" and it's on my to-read list. Then this one is next and her last book is called "Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places" and is next on my list to request to review.

Now on to a look at the book. It only covers a two week span, starting with an NGO worker being killed in Kabul to Marie's (the main character) sudden flight from Shehktan and eventually out of the country. You don't think about the disorientation and mind chaos that can result from needing to flee, but this book very vividly portrays that.

It also portrays Marie's method of working through it, of learning to see God in her situation with her heart and not just her brain and mind. It shows her learning and believing that God is there, He does see and He does care.

It shows the risk NGO workers could live with on a daily basis, unable to trust anyone, constantly on the alert and yet willing to give themselves for the cause of helping the Afghan people. Marie's latest project had been starting a literacy program for the woman to teach them to learn to read for themselves.

I don't want to give a lot of details about the story, because I really think you need to go read the book. It's just that good.

This book was given to me by Moody Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, July 3, 2017

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

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This is the first in a series called the Orphan Train Series by Jody Hedlund. I think this is also one of the first books I've ever read by Jody. It was definitely rather predictable with the normal fairy tale ending. That was a little disappointing, but it's what we expect in historical fiction.

What I did like about the book was, at the end, Jody mentioned the Orphan Trains, led by the Children's Aid Society, which were a real thing in the 1800's. In 1857, the era this book was written, there was a financial crisis and economic panic with women laborers being at a disadvantage and having a hard time finding working in New York. The Children's Aid Society, in addition to sending orphans out West, set up special placement offices to send women out West to find jobs as seamstresses, cooks, launderers etc. They were placed in the Midwest, most often central Illinois in the hopes of a better life.

This is the premise that this book is based on. Elise, the main character in this book, is the oldest of three girls and they have taken in two orphan children as well. When the financial crisis hit, she was without a job and so took the train West to the town of Quincy in the hopes of securing a little financial freedom and being able to send for her sisters and the two orphans. I like Elise. She is outspoken and witty and she challenges the status quo. Of course, she also falls in love with the founder of the town, who is the son of one of the richest men in New York City. Hence the fairy tale.

I don't want to give away any more clues to the story. I did like that the story is based on actual fact, though obviously Elise's story was an extreme case. But it is definitely in the light-hearted chick flick reading category for me.

This book was given me by Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

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I think this is the first book I have ever ready by Courtney and I hope it isn't the last. I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it had the predictable romance in it, but there was something else in here, something that I think a lot of use could relate to if we are willing.

Look at the title for instance. On first glance, if you think about why that title, you would assume, because the book is Christian fiction, that it would mean looking up to Jesus. Well, in all actuality, the main characters in this book don't seem to have a real close, walking relationship with Jesus. There isn't a lot of prayer mentioned, which could be the biggest downfall of the book to me. But still the main character, Lane, by the end has uttered at least one desperate prayer and I have to believe God is working in her life in some way. Again, I think we can all relate, at least I can, to the desperate prayers being shot heavenward as one sentence snippets. But when I read the author's note at the end of the book, I don't think that was the purpose of the title at all. She talked about being in New York and watching people and realizing they were all glued to their phones looking down. And she just wanted to tell them to look up, to look around, to take in the sights.

And that is how Lane was too, for most of the book. Her phone was her lifeline, her job, her security, her identity. She was wrapped up in it and wasn't looking up and around. How many of us can relate?

Lane has some real identity issues. Work was her security, hence the solid connection to her phone. She had grown up feeling like a misfit, feeling like very few people really cared for her, including her parents. She was overweight and people called her Pudge. She was serious, not the fun loving thrill-seeking girl. Her brother would come home early on Friday nights just to hang out with her because he knew she would be home alone. So she left her small town and didn't look back until an accident brought her home and face to face with all these people. I'm not going to tell you how it ends, you can probably already figure it out.

But the bigger issue is where do we put our identity? Do we shut people out because we have been hurt and betrayed and are unwilling to take a risk on people again? Do we put too much emphasis on our productive identity and not on our social relationships? Is it time to untether from our phones and look up and around and see the blessings all around us?

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more by Courtney Walsh. I received this book from Tyndale and was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Run with Me by Sanya Richards-Ross

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The Story of a U.S. Olympic Champion

I had never heard of Sanya Richards-Ross before I read this book, which I suppose is not that surprising as I don't keep up with athletes and their performances all that much. I will have to say that, after reading this book, I am very impressed with the dedication and hard work required of someone who makes running their career.

Let's be honest here, I hate running. I am out of breath before I've run 10 meters, much less 400 meters, so the story of Sanya and her dedication to running since she was 9 is impressive to me.

This book was written with the 8 to 12 year old audience in mind. It's been awhile since I've been that age and I don't have any children that age to use as a comparison. I thought the book was definitely written in easy to understand language. I would say that some of the concepts seemed like they might be a bit hard to understand, especially for an 8 year old, concepts about God's grace and things. On the other hand, the personal discipline that Sanya had at that age would be a great challenge for that age group to emulate. The book was about 99% about her running and her races and her championships which could get a little boring for this age group.

I did enjoy the book, but I wouldn't have minded hearing about other parts of her life, things she did besides running, what Sanya's doing now, and so on. That would have added a bit more interest for me.

But again on the flip side, I really liked how Sanya brought God into the running aspect of her life. She relied on Him in her races and made comparisons of how the various aspects of racing can be applied to the race of life.

All in all, it's a good book and will go into my library of children's books and I will hope that in a few years my own children will enjoy reading it.

This book was given me by BookLookBloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

My Great Big God by Andy Holmes

Illustrated by Marta Alvarez 20 Bible Stories to Build a Great Big Faith This is a beautiful hardcover board book that tells 20 Bible ...