Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Marriage Challenge: Week 2 and 3

So I was going to post once a week on this, but I never got to it last week and that was probably all right. I pretty much bombed it all last week and not in a good way.

Last week's challenge was to Speak Kindly.

This week's challenge is to Touch Intentionally.

So when you first started dating, you would never have thought to yell at them or wait, I don't yell. I just say in a perturbed tone of voice, "You know you could help do this." Or "why are you home so late again?" Etc. etc. You know what it is for you. You would have never done that when you were dating. In fact, you were probably appalled if you saw another lady speaking that way to her husband or vice versa. And now, you are 5, 10, 15, 20 years into marriage, 1, 2, 3+ children later and kindness can sometimes be the farthest thing from your mind.

I believe it is Ravi Zacharias that says, "There is never a reason to be unkind." So I would like to make a thousand and one excuses for why I failed last week, but the fact is, there isn't a good reason, there isn't any reason to be unkind. So what if I was up a million times at night, all night long, every night of the week, (mild exaggeration inserted here for effect), and I was tired, and the baby was crabby, and the husband didn't come home, etc. etc. etc. I still had no excuse for being unkind. Because really, if you think about it, it could become a vicious cycle. I get frustrated and unkind when D doesn't come home early, but then really, with that kind of treatment, why would he want to? Think about that for a little.

Okay, so I'm working on it this week, to speak kindly IN. ALL. CIRCUMSTANCES. REGARDLESS.

And then this week's challenge to touch intentionally. I sort of get this, but not really. With only one child, I don't get to the end of the day very often and feel as though my private space was invaded the whole day by a clinging child or two or three. For the most part, Amber likes to be right beside me, but I don't necessarily have her clinging to me, unless of course, I'm making supper. Okay, not always there either. However, I do like my space at the end of the day or the middle of the day, etc. where I can just be by myself and chill out for a little.

Which brings me to a totally unrelated subject: how to handle bedtime. By the time bedtime rolls around, I just want her to go to bed already. I don't want to go through the whole process of getting her undressed, keeping her from destroying the cupboard contents, getting her teeth brushed, reading her her story, etc. etc. I find my patience wearing thin and everything is "No." "Don't do that." "Don't touch that." "Sit down." And well you get the idea. I think there has got to be a better way. And yes, praying for a last final round of patience would be a very good place to start. And I know some of you are saying, "Well keep the cupboard door shut." Yes, I know, but she goes in there to get her toothbrush and toothpaste and can't always resist touching or knocks something over while she's getting her stuff out. It's all a work in progress. But if anyone has a streamlined bedtime routine, I would love to hear it.

And to all of you: have a great week.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Is Time a Healer or a Revealer?

How can it be three years already? Happy third birthday in heaven, Nicole. We love you and miss you like crazy down here.

Three years. In so many ways, it feels like a lifetime ago and yet, when I stop and ponder and remember, the memories pour over me and the feelings, the thoughts, the tears wash over me and it feels like it was only yesterday.

I can remember that first phone call, the concern that there was a chromosome abnormality with Nicole. I was at work. I remember going to the bathroom and just sobbing. It felt so huge, so overwhelming. I remember going home, crying with Dave, researching, and then by the end of the week deciding that we would be given a huge responsibility and blessing to have a special needs child.

I remember so much of that fateful Sunday morning, the fears and the tears. Of going to the hospital and telling Dave, "They're just going to tell me I peed my pants." And then later wishing that that was exactly what they would've told me. Of again, wishing for it all to be over, but then, with God's help, determining that this was possible. I could survive a hospital stay of weeks and months. It would have been one week at home, followed by 10 weeks in the hospital.

Then Monday came, and some of it is blurred. But I remember feeling just awful. I couldn't have cared too much what happened. I remember hearing Nicole's heartbeat for the last time around 3 in the afternoon and realizing it was a bit fast. I remember the beauty of the pain meds as they let me be out of it in between the contractions. I remember my first words after Nicole was born. I remember holding her and crying and the staff being so kind and taking pictures and yet giving us our space.

And I remember the immediate difference I felt. I felt well again, ready to take on the world, in a very limited fashion of course. I remember that Henry's came, and Hannah, and Matt and Sylvia that night yet. How they held her and we planned her funeral service, but mostly I remember how they cared enough to leave their homes at 9:00 at night to come to the hospital to see us.

I remember the beauty of a shower that next morning. I remember all the visitors we got that day: Troy and Sharon, Kerra, Kelsie, Jason and Cheryl, Darrell and Christina, and Hannah again late at night.  I remember the horrible snow storm that was so fitting as well. I remember crying because I couldn't go home yet.

I remember going home and my family being there. Our entire sibling bunch rallied around us and showed up, from New York, from New Jersey, from PA, from Hayward, and from the area. They all came to the funeral of their niece. I still find that amazing and precious. Friends came to support us.

I don't know that anything was worse than that first clod of dirt hitting her little casket in the ground. Nothing compared to that grief. And yet, we lived through it.

I wish I couldn't remember the feelings of pity-me and no one understands that I felt in the ensuing months. I wish I didn't have those feelings to remember, but I did. I struggled with the why's of it. I struggled with feeling like people didn't care or understand.

Now is time a healer or a revealer? I believe it was Ravi Zacharias that said, "Time is a revealer of how God does the healing." And that is true. While these feelings are close to my heart and I can still relive so much of it in my mind and feel in a way what I felt then, God has been good. We have a beautiful, vibrant bundle of energy here with us on earth. God has revealed to me that my attitudes were not right, that I didn't have the right to self-pity, that I didn't have the right to curl up in a corner and want everyone else to make the first move, I didn't have the right to obsess over the ways people weren't there like I thought they should be or that they didn't want to talk about it all the time. God has revealed and is continuing to reveal these areas to me. He's continuing to refine me and it's a hard process. I'm stubborn. I like to pity myself even though it makes me miserable.

God has revealed to me how He cares, how He loves our little ones in heaven with Him. He has given me a compassion for those who lose little ones. I can understand in a way I never could before. He has shown me that His ways are not about my comfort, but about my refining.

Losing babies is not easy and while I'd like to say losing my first two babies taught me everything I needed to know about that, that hasn't been true, but I know God is faithful. It's a continual work of trust and hope and faith. And I'd like to think that if we were ever to lose another Nicole, that I would know more this time, that I would allow the things that God has taught me to refine me even more, that I wouldn't shut myself off and then blame everybody else. That's probably been the hardest realization of all, that self-pity deprived me of so much, even if it would have been painful.

And so, we will celebrate Nicole's life and the things she has taught me and I will strive to be a better person, a better mom because she was in my life, even if only for a short span.

So having a cupcake celebration with the book study ladies feels a bit big for me, yet it is my effort to get outside of myself and my feelings and to celebrate life because we don't know how long life will be given to us. So go eat a cupcake today and celebrate. We're celebrating life, not death. Nicole is way more alive now than she would be if she had lived.

And as you can see, our little miracle to the right there is very much alive and eager and loving life.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

God Made You Nose to Toes by Leslie Parrot and Illustrated by Estelle Corke

This is a fun little rhyming children's book that talks about the different parts of the body, hands, nose, knees, ears, etc. and something you can do with them. Like you can play with the sand on the beach with your hands, hear the various sounds around you with your ears, etc.

It's a beautiful padded board book with excellent illustrations. There's a toucan on every page and often a monkey pictured as well. The colors are vibrant and catching. My almost two-year-old really likes it. It would make an excellent gift for that 1-3 year old bracket. And maybe I will find as my daughter gets older that she will like board books longer than I think she will.

There's one thing I don't like and that is when Leslie talks about the hand, she says five fingers. It's a minor thing, but to me it's four fingers and a thumb, but I realize that wouldn't make a great rhyming story and maybe that's why she worded it that way.

I do like the emphasis put on God in the book. Leslie talks about God caring for us enough to know the number of hairs on our head. She also talks about the moon and stars being given by God, etc.

I just think this is a great book and am guessing I will get to read it many times unless I squirrel it away for a gift sometime. From what I can gather, the book was written back in 2002, but then newly illustrated in 2017, so if you go on Amazon the cover picture looks different.

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

Kingdom Family Devotional by Tony Evans and Jonathan Evans

Product Details

52 Weeks of Growing Together

This is a 5 day a week devotional with a different theme for each week. The themes include: love, respect, purity, money, prayer, servanthood, integrity, perseverance, giving, maturity, communication, hard work, and 42 more.  Each theme is broken out over the five days with different Bible readings for each day. Wednesdays, or Day Three, tends to focus a lot more on different Scripture and is called "Wednesday in the Word." Fridays, or Day 5, focuses more on fun projects for the weekend and is called "Fun Friday", though not every Friday features a fun activity. Different activities include drawing a picture to look like a family tree for the week that talks about family, creating prayer jars for the week on prayer, making lemonade to see how the water changes for the week that talks about discipleship.While I didn't read every reading, it seems like there are some interesting stories scattered throughout.

The purpose of the book is to help parents use it as a tool "to instill biblical truth and spiritual values in the minds and hearts of the next generation." Let's have the parents instilling correct truths into our children instead of whatever they glean from their friends, TV, or other forms of social media.

I am impressed with the book. It is a nice-looking hardcover book that is normal book size. It would fit very well with a Bible to keep handy for having devotions. I will say that the pretty picture of the family walking through grass that is pictured on the front of this book is actually just a small paper cover about 1/3 the size of the book. I think with regular use, you would want to remove it for ease of use.

I am hoping this is a book we will be able to use as a family once our child(ren) are a bit older. It can easily be tweaked to fit each family's needs. For example, the first fun activity was dancing to a song. While our kids might get into this, I'm not so sure I would, so  I think I would edit that. :) :) But then, maybe I should branch out a bit too.

I was given this book by Tyndale House Publishers. I am not required to write a positive review.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz

Product Details

The setting is over the time of the Revolutionary War and Daniel Boone's exploration west into Kentucky. It's a time of Indian raids and much bloodshed. Temperance Tucker and her family have been involved in some of this bloodshed and there is loss and grief poignant throughout the book.

Temperance, the main character of the book, along with Sion, the secondary main character, have both lost their first loves to the Indians and then of course, they fall in love. I can't say the book wasn't well-written, it was, but for me, it was a little too graphic. And yes, I don't like a lot of violence of any kind in the books I read. And yes, I know that that can make fiction even less realistic, especially when writing about frontier life. But to me there's a way of saying someone was killed by the Indians without describing the torture that might have occurred before their death. It's not that there were lots of violent descriptions, it was just a little too much for me.

The genre of the book is historical romance and there is definitely that aspect of the book, but to me the majority of the book lies around death, dying or wanting to die to be with deceased. Temperance almost had a careless attitude toward life because she thought if she would die, then she could be with her fiance. And that carried through for about 3/4 of the book.

I did enjoy the stealth employed by Temperance and Sion, the way they knew how to sneak through the woods, to cover their tracks, to move soundlessly. I loved the way Laura brought out the beauty of the untainted frontier, the flowers, the trees, etc. She was very intentional about mentioning beauty. I liked that.

I also liked one of the last sentences of the book because I think it is so true for today, "The moonbow was shattering...reminding her that even on the darkest nights there was a glimmer of hope, of promise, however hazy."  With God, that is so true.

So, in conclusion, I would like to read another book by Laura Frantz before I make a final decision on whether or not I like her style. But I do say the book was well-written, just not my style of content.

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Raising an Original by Julie Lyles Carr

Product Details

Parenting each child according to their unique God-given temperament.

I passed by this book for a few times because I wasn't sure I was that interested. There can be a lot of hype about temperaments etc. and I didn't think I really was into that too much. Not that I don't want to be aware of my child's temperament, but just didn't view it as that important.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I picked this book then, but I decided to read it and I am glad I did. Julie does talk about temperaments some. There are about two chapters dedicated to Raising an Original Personality Evaluation Summary on your child. I went through this rather quickly and really couldn't decide for sure what I was and Amber seems a bit too young yet, at least for me to decide on this.

While I think that part was valuable, that wasn't really what stuck out to me in the book. What stuck out to me is how our child is unique and my goal as their mom is to take those unique threads and allow them to develop God-given abilities and talents. To let them forge their own way, with boundaries of course, but not to push my agenda on to them. To not try to raise a mini-me. To not feel like my kids' actions and behaviors all reflect back on me and give me my identity. To not feel like a good mom if my child goes on to become a rocket scientist and a failure if she only goes to work at McDonald's, even though she absolutely loves her job at McDonald's. It's giving my child the wings to fly without attaching them to my dreams or expectations or trying to get them to have the experiences that I missed in my childhood.

I am afraid I am not making a lot of sense, so just go read the book. Two things to wrap this up. I need to raise a child who is purposed, not perfect. "We all have areas where we think the Lord may have dropped a stitch He was knitting us." But it's in those seeming "imperfections" that He can often do the greatest work. There is no true level of "normal".  Here's another quote, "Yes, your child's strengths within her temperament and her talents may be the things you find easiest to be proud of. But what you might see as her weaknesses may hold incredible potential. Her weaknesses may hold treasure. Her weaknesses may just hold inklings in her direction.

"Which would make those weaknesses powerful strengths."

And last, but not least, remember that my child is an original that needs to be given back to the Originator. God is in control and I need to trust Him to be in control.

I did enjoy this book. My only question is how Julie managed to stay looking so young. I included a bio picture, which I pretty much never do, but she looks so young. She has 8 children, and has been married for 27 years. And I think she looks the age of one of her daughters. Anyway, complete side note.

Julie Lyles Carr

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers and am not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Marriage Challenge: Week 1

Greet Lovingly

Back a few years, when we were sending out wedding invitations, I received a reply that had some really good advice on it. (Yes, we sent out this little reply cards that people actually mailed back in to me. And yes, I would still recommend doing that because people will send you good tidbits of advice like this one I'm about to mention and people will also send you money in those little envelopes.) 

I don't have the wording verbatim and I am way too lazy to go and try to find it, but the gist was this. Always greet your husband at the door when he comes home from work. If I'm remembering correctly, this was advice she had received when she got married and advice she had followed faithfully up to that point. At the time we got married they would have been married about 12 years and had 2 girls. It just so impressed me and is something I have tried to do as well. I don't always do it and I think almost every time I don't, her advice comes whispering in my ear. Go meet him at the door. Set aside your own interests and projects and go meet him. (Kay, I don't know if you read my blog or remember this, but it was good advice.)

So that is the challenge for this week: Greet your husband at the door. Stop what you are doing and make him the most important person in your life. It's easy to maybe feel frustrated when he greets the children first, but are we doing our part to make sure we are there in line to greet him. And greet him with a smile and cheer. Maybe the day has been long and hard and you have longing for a little relief. Cheer will make him more receptive to helping you out. Being happy he is home will go a long way to making a much more pleasant evening.

Becky Thompson, who's book I am getting these ideas from, says you should greet your husband as if it was your first day of married life or the first day you fell in love. Ah, that changes things a bit doesn't it?