Monday, January 15, 2018

Oh Death where is thy Sting?

My posts may seem a bit on the morbid side right now, but it is the life we live in. Another of D's cousins passed on to glory yesterday and it leaves those of us behind pondering a bit. She left behind a husband and six children, the youngest just a bit older than Logan. That strikes home close.

So we recite that verse: "Oh death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory?" And while there's a cynical side of me that say, "Oh there is a sting all right, in reality, for the child of God there isn't. Death is swallowed up in victory. We, who are Christians, know where we're going. We know heaven is waiting. And while there is most assuredly a stinging grief for those left behind, we can have the victor in knowing we will see our loved ones again someday.

Now, I will be the first to admit that this can be a stinging cliche to the family. Death feels so final right now, but..... "There is coming a day when no heartache shall rise, no more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eyes. All is peace forever more on that happy golden shore. What a day, glorious day that will be."

As people you love go to heaven, it does make heaven feel a bit more real, a bit more tangible, if that makes any sense.

But what about me now? I am here on this earth. I am alive. I am healthy. How am I making the best of this life right now? When my good friend died almost three years ago, rash promises were made. I will never be mad at my husband again. I will always be grateful for what he does, etc. etc. And then real life happens and you forget and move on. Then someone else dies and I find myself hating myself for my bad attitudes and struggle to be joyful, knowing that I should be cherishing these moments with my husband instead of fighting against them. And I wonder how? How do I keep my perspective that life is only temporary and I could lose my loved ones at any time? How do I keep that idea without excessive worrying and without fear gripping my heart? I fear and worry too much already.

Right now for my devotions, I am doing a one-month creative journal called 30 days to joy. I think it's going to take me more like 60, but anyway. Can I keep that joy alive? Can I treasure the days that are right here? Does it come back to my current soap box of savoring life? Is that how I keep my perspective? Or is it a daily choice to choose joy? Or is it even deeper than that and it's first of all a daily choice to choose God, to put Him first and foremost and then the rest will fall into place?

Obviously, I have more questions than answers and these few scattered thoughts don't do justice. But if you think of it, lift up the family in prayer. I can't imagine what they are going through.

PS: I don't know that anybody cares, but there will not be a Thursday post due to traveling. In case you didn't know and I don't know how you could have, but I am trying to post Tuesday and Thursday of every week.

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen

The LADIES OF IVY COTTAGE by Julie Klassen Julie Klassen is becoming one of my favorite authors. It's not that she writes super inspiring, challenging books, but she writes big fat books about the 1800's or so. These books are not filled with romance and gibberish and they are not all about wealthy people having everything and wanting more. In fact, the few books of hers that I have read are more the opposite. The wealthy have become poor. Yes, there is romance in them, but it seems to me to be a bit more on the mature side, a well thought through plot.

This book is no exception. It's the second in the Tales from Ivy Hill Series and just as good as I remember the first one to be. My biggest complaint with reviewing books is I get the series so spread out that I forget what the first one was all about by the time the next one comes out. I know, it's such a hard problem to have!!

The main characters in the story are three ladies who are friends making a living in an era where the well-to-do would have looked down on that idea. Two of them at least had come from the wealthy side of life. One had stepped down of her own choosing to marry and the other had been dropped down by her father losing his money. There is, of course, plenty of suitors to go around, but as I said, that part, to me at least, was not super sappy and immature.

One inspiring thing about the book was the kindness shown to other down and outers and even to the wealthy. A terrible secret was revealed about the late magistrate, but nothing but kindness and compassion was shown to his family and to the other involved party, even though they appeared to be from opposite ends of the spectrum. Another thing was the girls' school opened for those who were less fortunate, another noble, though not common thing in those days, at least as I would understand it.

I just enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the next one in the series. There had better be a next one because there were a lot of unanswered scenarios in this book.

I received this book from Bethany House and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Raising Men not Boys by Mike Fabarez

RAISING MEN, NOT BOYS: Shepherding Your Sons to be Men ofGod

Shepherding your sons to be men of God

Foreward by Josh McDowell

Let me start by quoting from the last page of the book: "Our parenting efforts must be laden and saturated by our heartfelt prayers. These prayers for the conversion, sanctification, maturity, wisdom, and fruitfulness of our children will undoubtedly rise to God as requests near and dear to His heart. Ask in faith and work in wisdom."

That right there is key to all parenting efforts: laden and saturated with prayer.  How else can we hope to achieve success in raising faithful Christian men and women?

While this book focused solely on raising men, I think there were quite a few principles that could be applied to raising ladies as well. Obviously there are some key differences as well.  Mike has some very excellent points on raising boys, the key one being, to me at least, saturate them in the Word of God. Have them read their Bible, make them a prayer list, take them to church, put them in positions of service, etc. etc. He also emphasized modeling these things to them along with modeling a good marriage, insisting on respect for their mom, and teaching them good communication skills. One thing I also really like was his emphasis on making them sweat every day. Don't be a helicopter parent, let them get out and experience life, climb trees, run around, etc.

While I enjoyed the book and thought there were some really good takeaways from it, it felt a little stiff and perfect to me. Mike only raised two boys and he seemed to make no mistakes while doing it. I am not doubting his principles. I think they have a lot of weight especially in today's society.  I think it was more the no nonsense way of writing maybe that didn't quite resonate as well with me. I certainly don't want to say his message isn't accurate because I believe it is and I believe it is what we as Christians should embrace more than what we do.

I received this book from Moody Publishers and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Savoring the Tough Stuff



Can or should the tough stuff be savored? What advantage does it give you, if any? I don't have all the answers and never will, but I can share what I think it can do for me.

Four years: it's amazing to me how some of those memories are still so stark and real in my mind as I look back. I can remember very well what I was doing four years ago today. It was a Saturday and it was D's Christmas party at work. It was a very nice meal with lots of Amish in attendance, but also a few good friends. After lunch, the guys went to shoot clay pigeons and the girls played games. A few of us girls had decided we needed a bathroom run and had come back to our place where all of the girls were to kind and gracious to mention that a certain article of clothing had been left behind in the bathroom on the floor. Doesn't your brain remember the funniest things? Hanging up was a new dress that I was planning to wear the next day at church, a maternity dress, so while I like new dresses there was a certain amount of trepidation to making the switch over to maternity clothes.  I really don't remember what we did in the evening, probably discussed once again how life was going to change if our little girl really had Down Syndrome.

And then, the next morning came and I am not going to share many of those details again, I think I have before. But they are still real to me. I can still feel exactly how I felt, still remember thinking that I was sure it was nothing and they were going to send me home and I was going to be embarrassed. And later wishing they had just told me it was nothing and I had been able to go home embarrassed. I remember being tormented at the idea of weeks of bed rest and wishing it could just be over and when it was over feeling so guilty about my lack of willingness initially. I also remember how fun it was to be able to order my food, whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and have it delivered right to my bed. That was amazing and the food was pretty good too.

January 13 was more of a blur because I didn't feel good, but I think I can still feel that ache in my bones, the way I hurt all over, the way I wanted to go home so badly, but it was hard to convince the doctor to let me when I looked and felt so awful. And I remember holding sweet Nicole in my arms, her little body already a little discolored in death and feeling that loss.  I remember, maybe more from the picture, our kind doctor resting his hand on my knee with a sadness in his eyes. I remember how D's brother and sister and his cousin and wife came in that night yet, late though it was. I remember how another friend came to watch the kids and had quickly whipped up a card to send along in. And all the visitors the next day despite the snow. I remember how everyone held my little girl. That was amazing to me because I don't know that I would have wanted to.

And the burial. I don't know that I will ever be able to erase that memory of the dirt hitting the little casket. Anyway, I have probably repeated myself over and over these last four years, but I remember the kindness and care and the hundreds of cards that came in (advantage of being a small town doctor's nurse in a world of Mennonites). And yes, I remember the first Sunday back at church and how totally awful it was and how I resolved to do things differently if the tables were ever turned. Sundays were just horrible for me for the next long while: the tears would come, there were so many children, and I had no energy or ambition to reach out to people. It was not the other people's fault.

So what has this remembering and savoring done for me? I like to think it has made me a more sensitive person. I can begin to understand what others go through when they lose a baby, either in miscarriage or as a stillborn. I can see the need to reach out when someone has lost their baby and let them know you care. And I have learned that it is best not to say, I meant to send you a card, but never got around to it. That doesn't do much for the grieving mom.

I think there is one other thing that savoring the tough stuff can do: it gives you memories. Those sad memories are some of the only memories I have of my little girl. Are they fun memories? No, not at all, but they are memories all the same, memories that I want to hold on to and not lose because they are all I have left.

And so as I near Nicole's fourth birthday, I just wonder: what would she be like? Would she be the chatty Kathy that her sister is? Would she be the laid back, seemingly more patient personality that her brother is so far exhibiting? Would she be a good mix or completely different? Would she have had a lot of health problems? Would she be ready to go to Sunday School or would she be too shy and timid?

I'll never know, but  I will continue to wonder and I will continue to look at the two little girls in church and imagine my little girl there as well. And I look forward to the day when I can see her again.

Until then, I will "Hold tight to the sound of the music of living, happy songs from the laughter of children at play. Hold them near, while they're here and don't wait for tomorrow to look back and to wish for today."  And that is what I would challenge each of you to do as well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren

TROUBLED WATERS

Number four in the Montana Rescue series and definitely a chick flick. I read Susan's Christiansen family series and those were really good and I guess I'm expecting all her books to be on that level.  Through probably if I'm honest, they were just good chick flicks too, but they felt a bit deeper than that.

So yes, this is one of the books where the guy is a millionaire and likes the girl who is losing her house, but he's stubborn and bulldoggish and has to have things his way.  Of course, there is a big calamity and of course everything works out okay in the end.

However, and this is the important part that we all need to hear, Ian-the millionaire, did have to recognize his need of God, his need of Someone bigger to control his life. He needed to surrender to be okay not doing things his way, to recognize that he was not in control.  That is the piece that is good, the piece that we all need to hang on to.

I received this book from Revell Publishing and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Savor Life - One Sip at a Time

We had a really good message on Sunday. Now to clarify, we have a lot of really good messages, but this one hit home to me for a few reasons. One, there was a piece in there that reflects how I am trying to live my life and two, our pastor used one of my favorite songs, a song that has reduced me to tears in the last few years.

"We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand.
Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.

"Tiny voice that I hear is my little girl calling for her daddy to hear just what she has to say...."
That phrase right there would often bring the tears on. I was singing it the other day and Amber wondered why I was singing about her daddy. So the song has bittersweet memories for me anymore.

The gist of that section of the message was to savor life.  Enjoy it, drink that cup of coffee, let it warm your hands and your soul.  Ah, I can relate to this and preferably drink it out of your favorite coffee cup. And if you don't have a favorite, it's time to get one. A few months back, my favorite cup met its demise at the hands of my stubbornness (and I have the carpet stains to remind me), and so the thrift store met my needs with the above pictured cup that I really like. Coffee just tastes better in your favorite cup.

And then a friend and I were talking after church: what about savoring those dark moments? Like when the kids are puking or misbehaving, or your fragile grip on reality is slipping away, or your baby doesn't live to see this earth? How do we savor those moments? Are we supposed to? I think of Dorcas Smucker and how she saw a picture of when her kids all had the chicken pox and it made her a bit nostalgic. I only have two children and can't imagine feeling nostalgic about something like that ever!!! :) :)

Or today for instance, when the man of the house is off to the dentist and is dreading it? How do you savor that? Well, I don't know about him, but I'm savoring it by getting to spend the day with him sans kids. Thank you mom!!

I don't have all the answers. My next blog post is going to talk a little bit about savoring the memories of sad events in life.  My thought is if we can "savor" the bad moments as well as the good, we will be well-rounded. I don't think you have to enjoy the bad stuff, the sickness, etc. but it is part of who you are and it does define you. If I am savoring the good memories and giving thanks for them, won't it help my frame of mind when the bad stuff comes? Won't my attitude of gratitude help me "automatically" look for the good amidst the bad? The extra unusual cuddles in a day when nothing else gets done? The joy of knowing your little one is safe with Jesus despite your empty aching arms?

And now I'm off for a day long date with the man sandwiched between two less than joyful events for him!!!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

I am blessed

With a new year upon me and my determination to live in gratitude, I am reminded again just how blessed I am, even when life feels a little tough.

When D works late and the home front feels crumbly because of it, I am blessed. He has a good job and a strong work ethic and he provides well for us.

When A refused to take a nap and then falls apart and cries over everything, I am blessed. I have a healthy, normally happy, chatty two year old. (And I am so incredibly blessed on this count.)

When L cries because he's been neglected or because his sister is crying, I am blessed. He has a good set of lungs and a normally ready smile, and cute "crying drips" coming off of his face.

When the weather outside is very frightfully cold and windy, I am blessed. I have a mostly warm house and a furnace that chugs faithfully away and money in the checkbook to pay the propane. And I get to spend my days inside where it is warm and not out on a loader!!

When I get woke up multiple times a night by the children, I am blessed. I have children to love and care for and the stamina to continue getting up and then I have coffee to drink in the morning as well.

When A comes and cheerfully tells me she puked in the living room, I am blessed. She did it on the leather chair, so clean up was a breeze and she seemed perfectly fine and quite pleased over having a bucket to puke in if the need arose again.

And now when I am in the middle of writing this and A comes and joins me on my lap, I am so incredibly blessed. I have a living little girl who can walk and talk and hug and cuddle.

So to sum this all up, I am blessed beyond measure!!! Thank you Jesus!!!!

Oh Death where is thy Sting?

My posts may seem a bit on the morbid side right now, but it is the life we live in. Another of D's cousins passed on to glory yesterday...