Thursday, April 28, 2016

One Year

It's a year today!! How can it be? I feel like I've been holding my breath this week, maybe even this month. I'm not sure why and I for sure am not sure that I will be able to coherently express my thoughts that will make any sense to anybody, but it doesn't need to either.

I was thinking about this yesterday, pondering what I was going to write today and I think I might understand a little bit of why I've been holding my breath. You survive the first year and you survive all the firsts that you have to do alone. You reach the first year mark and you can no longer look back and say "Last year, we did this and this". On the first year anniversary, I think there's so much closure in a final, final, final way.

I'm not going to even being to profess I understand what Jason and Braxton, Nelson and Melinda, Gwen and Wendall and all Cheryl's other close friends are going through. To each of us she was someone different, someone special, but she filled a different role and for the ones I mentioned, she was so close to them: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. She left a big hole. I can only go off of the pain and loss that I feel.

I think for me, reaching this year mark helps me to recognize reality. On this day a year ago, April 28, 2015, Cheryl became more alive than she ever was before, but for those of us on earth, death struck us hard and loss became very real. Living 2.5 hours away and going through our own family issues at the exact same time, I often felt like it didn't seem real that Cheryl was really gone. I can still feel that way even though I was faced head on with it this past weekend. Being with J and Braxton and feeling the loss of Cheryl and Bentley really drives it home in a hurry and it made me want to cry.

I think reaching this year mark, feels like closure in one way, and yet in another it feels like I am finally grieving the loss. I hesitate to say it like that because it feels like I am copying from what a friend and I discussed this last weekend and I'm really not sure it is the right term.  March 28, 2015 was the last time I saw Cheryl alive, the last time I heard her voice. When that day in 2016 rolled around, I felt the loss. I could no longer say "Last year, Cheryl and I did this or last year J and Cheryl came around." That's when reality sets in.

Now today? Today I can replay the tape. I know exactly where I was when I heard the news for the first time. I can still hear Rosie in my ear on the phone saying "Gerald Burkholder died", yes I misunderstood it the first time and wondered what the significance of that was. Then she repeated it and I understood it was Cheryl Burkholder and shock set in. How could that be? Dave too remembers where on the road he was when he found out.

I don't know if any of this makes sense, but there's this knot in the pit of my stomach and this heaviness on my heart that has been building up over this week. It's like my heart is fully recognizing what my brain's been saying for the last year. Combined with the fact that there are more firsts coming up over the next week and a half for me and this is the first one and so I think the dread is somewhat that as well.

What have I learned over the past year? I thought I would learn to treasure my husband and never argue with him and I'm ashamed to say that wasn't the case. I do love my husband (not going into any mushies here, thank you), but it's been a hard Hard year.

I want to learn to be more like Cheryl with her words of kindness whether she liked you or not, with her generosity, with her love of life. That's a work in progress, but more of a fail than it should be, I know that. It's too easy to reach inside of myself and curl up rather than get out and do something for other people.

I have learned that death is final and completely unpredictable and you are NEVER ready to say good-bye. I have learned that friendships should be treasured and never taken for granted because we aren't guaranteed a lifetime with them. I have learned that God is bigger than our grief and our struggle and He will carry us even when we feel incapable of even praying. I have learned that grief is so individual, but so life-changing.

While I miss Cheryl, I do not regret knowing her. The saying is true, "It is better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all" or however it goes. It is true. Cheryl was that person that you could relax with, that you could talk about anything with. And somehow I think if Cheryl could send me, send all of us a message it would be to hang on and hurry up and join her. Our loss was definitely her gain.

"Cheryl, you are missed. You were a good friend. You and Jay were a couple that you could hang out with whenever and there was always good conversation about, well everything and anything. I have so many good memories of you and I think one of my biggest fears right now is losing hold on those memories. I can't imagine the wonderful time you are having in heaven, you and Bentley. I wish so much I could have met Bentley before he died. I guess I like to think of you and him "watching over" Nicole and that is comforting to me. You were such a good friend after Nicole died, you would listen and listen and I'm sure at times you wanted to tell me to "move on" but you were so gracious. I just miss you, but I am looking forward to the day when I will see you again."

The Pug List by Alison Hodgson

Product Details
A Ridiculous Little Dog, a Family Who Lost Everything, and How They All Found Their Way Home

One morning, the Hodgson family awoke to their fire alarms blaring. Thinking it was a false alarm, they turned them off and went to check things out. The alarms started again. Rousing their children, they stumbled out the door and saw their garage was on fire. A random arsonist, it seems, stumbled on to their house and decided to burn it down. Over the course of the next few months, more houses burned. And while their house was never identified with the other houses, it was likely it was all the same guy.

Over the course of the next year, they dealt with insurance claims and paperwork and paperwork and post-traumatic-stress-disorder and decisions about building a new house and on and on. But finally they are back in their house, but it's not home. Nothing is familiar, even the landscape outside changed with digging for a new house. It take time to readjust. It takes time and a 9-year-old's desperate plea for a pug. She worked hard saving her money and when finally a pug, Outrageous Oliver, was found, they became inseparable. It was healing for her; her night time fears seem to disappear.

The book is classified as inspirational, but to be honest, to me it was much more just a story of loss and how being able to get all new stuff as a result of losing everything is not as fun and glamorous as it sounds. In other words, it was a story, a memoir maybe with a couple inspirational thoughts thrown in. This is not to say the book wasn't any good. I enjoyed it, but I just wouldn't classify it like it was. However, there were a few things she said in the book that stuck out to me.

After the fire, when Alison would get up at night, she would always stand on the last step and look out the window toward the road. One time when she did that, she was struck with the incredible beauty of the scene and she wonders, "Was the only reason I was here to witness this beautiful moment because an arsonist had set my house on fire? What else am I able to see that, without suffering, I would otherwise have overlooked? And what is happening all around me that I don't notice, that I'm looking past and just miss? C. S. Lewis said that pain is God's 'megaphone to rouse a deaf world.' Could it also be its microscope?"

How often do we pay more attention to detail after suffering? I'm writing two blog posts today, this one is easy, the next one will not be, but it speaks to this a bit. Because of death, do I value life more highly, do I appreciate people more? If I don't, I should. I found out yesterday, that a little boy 2 days younger than Amber was killed in a farm accident and so I hold on a little tighter to my little girl, grateful to still have her. Anyway, read my next post for more thoughts.

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review on it. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bathrooom Humor

Yes, I know, what a title. My last post, I lambasted an author for using bad language and then I start out this post with a title like that!!  Trust me, I think it's mostly clean, this post that is. It's just something that struck me funny in a bathroom last Sunday.

It was nursing home singing last Sunday for our group and "Pat ourselves on the back," NOT, we actually went. I won't say how many times we've gone since we moved back, let's just say my uncle could count them on his left (I think that's the right hand) hand. Are you confused? Me too, so don't worry about it. The family that knows my uncle might be able to figure it out and the rest of you--it's not important.

Anyway, back to the topic. I went to use the bathroom in the nursing home. It was a public bathroom, but remember this is a home for OLD folks. Two things struck me funny in the bathroom. First off this picture. I tried to actually put the picture on my blog, but I can't get it to work.  Well, that's a nice reminder that you should wash your hands because yes I am not interested in keeping 1 followed by 12 zeros germs on my hands; but then again touching poop is not something I try to do in public bathrooms, or anywhere really for that matter. But thank you just the same, because I am sure there might be invisible poop that I could accidentally touch.  This sign would seem much more fitting in a resident's room, especially in the room of someone who isn't quite as capable of handling their hygiene needs, but still think they are capable. Okay, enough of that.

The other thing that struck me funny was one of those sanitary napkin dispensers hanging on the wall. Yes, I know it was a public bathroom, but it was an old folks' home public bathroom. I don't think too many of them would be using those things anymore, but maybe a visitor would. Anyway, the think that made me laugh was the brand name was "Free Choice". Well great, how nice, it's free choice, but out of two options. You can pick thin maxi or a round tubey thing. Definitely free choice, but it should make the decision process easy because when you go to Walmart for those things, you can have a whole aisle to choose from. So is free choice anytime you have more than one option? Can you give some the choice of two things and call it free choice and what about the options of "take it or leave it"? Is that free choice too? I'm sure I could draw some kind of spiritual analogy from this if I thought hard enough, but I don't have it in me today.

Okay, that's my wacky humor for the week and I'm pretty sure it's not going to be as funny to anybody else as it was to me at the time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Real Doctor will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy

A Physician's First Year

Being a nurse, this book really intrigued me and it was very interesting. It told the ups and downs of a resident's first year on the job, the life-threatening situations he dealt with, his accidental needle stick from an HIV+ patient and his ensuing regimen of meds, the man who badly needed a new heart who got one at the end of the book, his first successful time running a code and so on and so on. He talked about the fatigue and the way medicine took over his mind and he saw people's skin conditions or their limp and hypothesized about how they got it.  I believe Matt really wanted to connect with his patients and I believe he did as best as he could. You could see his confidence building as the book went on and his first year as a resident came to a close.

Matt has a very interesting way of writing that held your attention and I read the book very quickly. However, I cannot recommend this book to anyone else and I am planning on pitching the book myself. This makes me very, very sad, but I cannot in good conscience hang on to it. Why you ask after I bragged it up as being very interesting? The book is full of the F word and I am not okay with that. That hindered my ability to fully enjoy the book because that word crept up frequently and very unnecessarily. The book would be an excellent read except for that. There are a few other unnecessary words, but I can deal with those, I cannot deal with the F word. Period.  So to that end, I will not give this book a very high ranking. And that makes me sad.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Wild About the Bible Sticker and Activity Book

Product Details

Pictures by David Miles

I really, really like this book. It has 50 reusable stickers and there are actually places in the book that most of the 50 stickers are supposed to go. Some of the other books I have gotten will have spots for about a quarter of the stickers, so I really like that there are many designated spots for stickers.  There are various activities: sticker pages, dot-to-dot, word search, coloring pages, word scramble, crossword puzzles, etc. Because of that though, this book is geared for an older child. It says 4-8 and that's true for a lot of the activities, but I'm guessing a typical four-year old isn't going to be doing the crossword puzzles or word scrambles.

I think it would make a great gift or a nice quiet activity for church. I was very pleased with the book. The pictures are big and would be easy for a younger child to color but then there are things that would keep the attention of an older child as well.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

It's Confusing to Me

And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.
And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:
For so was it charged me by the word of the Lord, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.
10 So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.
11 Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.
12 And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah.
13 And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon,
14 And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.
15 Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.
16 And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:
17 For it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.
18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.
20 And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lordcame unto the prophet that brought him back:
21 And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord, and hast not kept the commandment which the Lord thy God commanded thee,
22 But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.
23 And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back.
24 And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.
25 And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
26 And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him.

So I don't generally quote large passages of Scripture like this, but I read this story this morning and it confuses me a bit. Before the part I started quoting, the man of God had healed Jeroboam's withered hand, had prophesied that the altar would be split in half and both of those things had happened, so I believe he was attentive to God's voice, but what happened?
You hear growing up that your elders have wisdom and it behooves you to listen to them. The man of God did this but the prophet was lying. Then the prophet tells the truth and says the man of God will be killed. Why did the prophet lie in the first place? Was he jealous? Was he surprised at the man of God's prediction? 
I guess I totally understand why the man of God listened to him. He was a prophet, he said that God had told him these things, shouldn't the younger man listen?
And where does that leave us today? Do we not listen to our elders? I think the key thing in here is that God had given him clear instructions and hadn't reversed those instructions. Sometimes we know in our hearts exactly what we should do, but we are hoping that someone comes along and tells us that's not necessary. Then we jump on that person's advice and ignore our inner voice telling us what to do. 
These are a few of my very random Thursday thoughts.
Happy Thursday to you all. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Baby Wren and the Great Gift by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Illustrated by Jen Corace

This is the second book I have gotten that was written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and I was not disappointed.  It's a cute little story about a wren who was watching the animals around her and thought they could do such wonderful things, the kingfisher could dive, the fish could swim, the eagle could soar, and etc. but what could she do? And then a beautiful sunset caused her to burst out into a beautiful song of thanks to God that filled the canyon and she discovered that she had a wonderful thing to do as well.

The book says it is for ages 4-8 and I would say that's fairly appropriate, though I think even younger could enjoy the story and pictures. The illustrations are nicely done. I'm can't think of the right word to describe them: whimsical, cute, quaint, I'm not sure, but I like them.

This would make a nice gift for the littles in your life or just to add to your own collection of children's books. It's hardcover with a book jacket. It will look nice on my bookshelf when I ever get one!!

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Treasure Concealed by Tracie Peterson

Product Details

This is the story of two people, a boy and a girl of course; the boy comes from an abusive father and a loving and God-fearing mother. While wealthy, his home was not a place of fond memories. The girl comes from a loving though gold-seeking father and an ailing, loving and God-fearing mother. She wants a permanent home where she can stay for years and the love of a good man. Both have been a embittered by life and neither one is sure that God is to be trusted. Through hard times and the unfailing example and memory of their mothers, they both come to a trusting relationship with God and accept Him to be a God of love and compassion,  a God they can rely on who does love them. And then, of course, they get married. You didn't expect anything else did you?

But, that being said, and it appearing like a chick flick, I like Tracie Peterson and I like her style of writing. Of interest, the girl's father was mining for gold and kept finding these pesky blue "balls" which turned out to be expensive sapphires that made up for the lack of gold they were finding.

I always like to find some inspirational thought to take away from a fiction book. This is one of them on whether or not God is disappointed in us for the our mistakes and our doubts. "So can you allow that God knew the doubts you would have? Can you believe that God knew long before this time of your life that you would make choices and decisions that were other than He wanted you to make?"..."Then how can God be disappointed in you? Disappointment suggests an unrealized expectation, and if God knows all, then how can He be disappointed?" The Reverend went on to say that God sorrows and grieves for His children and their mistakes, but He's not disappointed. I think this is true; it feels a little hard to separate the two and yet I believe that God does sorrow when we sin, but He doesn't love us any less, He's not going to reject us if we confess and repent.

This book was given me by Bethany House for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fun Things from the Last Week or So

Well, rats, I was going to make this easy and post some pics from my Instagram account only to realize I don't know how or you can't, one of the two. So while I take the round about way to find those pictures, let me talk about some other things.

I received this book in the mail this week and I loved it. There are two cds that come with the book and they contain songs to go with each Bible story and also a picture that you can download to color that matches the picture in the book. It's a nice hardcover book and I was so very impressed by it. I am going to stash it away for Amber for a birthday gift some year. Yes, I have no problem saving my free books to pass along as birthday gifts to my children. In fact, I think it's kind of brilliant if I can get them free gifts!!

Something else that struck me this week was a reading from my daily devotional book "The One Year Home and Garden Devotions" by Sandra Byrd. Here's a snippet: "And yet, we can't simply blame "the church." We are the church. And sometimes we are the ones who are so rushed that we don't take time to offer a bit of love to someone who desperately needs it. Or we find petty, nitpicky things to be irritated about with the pastor,...even though Scripture reminds us that love is not easily angered. We don't jump in and get involved, but then we complain that no one really knows us. Yes, the church as hurt me, too. But the church has also loved me, prayed for me, fed, me, taught me, worshiped with me, cared for me, called me, led me." I just thought that was so good and so true for me at times.
 So you hear those awful stories of parents sticking their kids in closets and locking them in there, and I think that is just mean and awful and the parents should be stuck in closets too. But A loves her closet. Why? Because she is a girl and there are shoes on the floor and a basket of socks on the shelf and she can have a high old time destroying the orderliness of it all.

To all the moms who cannot get their children to eat, I am so sorry, but I cannot understand. This is the pile of carrots that caused a serious meltdown one evening. I was leaving them for her dad for his supper, but no, she cried and fussed and wailed and we went outside to distract her and we came inside and she cried and fussed some more and finally I was like, "Fine go eat the carrots." And she did. True story.

 I have no idea why my blog is working like this. There is no rhyme or reason to where the text is going with the pictures, but oh well, you won't get bored this way.  Amber has her own little corner, under my desk. My dad built me this cool shelf down there and it's perfect for storing all her "toys" under there for her to play with when we're in the office. Toys like magnets, and quilt blocks and baskets and hinges and such like.

This, my friend, is some good eating. Go here for a very yummy treat. And they're relatively easy because you can spread them out over three days which totally rocked in my world.

This is a very cool view from about 15 floors up in Duluth. A revolving or rotating or whatever you call it restaurant. This was our view about half way through our breakfast.

 This was our breakfast.

And this was our view as we were getting ready to leave. We made almost a complete revolution in the time we ate breakfast.

 I was trying to get a peacefully sleeping picture, but I made too much noise and she woke up.

And beings she had to wake up, then she should turn her music on right? I saw the other day that this mobile was for 0-5 months. Well!! I didn't even get it put up until she was older than that. I took it down today because I figured she was too old for it and the music was sounding sick cowish it. And everyone knows it's easier to get rid of things than to change the batteries in it.

Clay Terra Cotta Pot
This is a boring clay pot, albeit a new one which is more than I can boast of. Mine were garage sale finds I think, because indecisive me couldn't make up my mind the last time I was at Hobby Lobby. So I bought two cheap flower pots at WalMart the other night to make up the rest of my pot display and I'm afraid I will be disappointed, but.... I can always change my mind and return them.

This is what my orange clay pots turned into. I am quite happy with them. A little cheer in the drabbest of days will be nice. I am kind of partial to the black and yellow one, but happy I didn't just stick with yellow on the gray one, but branched out even though I knew I liked the yellow. Maybe next week I can show them again in their splendor, filled with dirt and plants and sitting on my window sill.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hope Unfolding by Becky Thompson

Product Details

Grace-filled Truth for the Momma's Heart

This is a book for moms who need grace, for moms who need assurance that they are a good mom. Some of Becky's subtitles to her chapters are: "God Hasn't Forgotten About You", "God is Good Even When Life Isn't", "You Are Not Alone", "Let God Be Your Strength", and "Have Grace for Who You Are".

This was a good book. I have only been a mom to a living child for a 13.5 months and I have discovered that it is hard and it can be lonely. Life isn't about just me anymore or even just me and my husband. There is a little person who demands my attention 24 hours a day and 23 hours of the day I love to give it, but there are times when I am tired and ready to just walk away for a little and not worry that the baby is going to wake up or be tired of her current toys, etc. I run out of patience and can get a little snappish and that is not good, but there were a couple things that Becky said in this book that I would like to share with you.  She shared more than a couple things, but I want to whet your appetite not satisfy it.

One is you don't know everyone's story. When you see the mom in the store who is yelling at her kid and your heart cringes and you feel bad for the awful environment that that poor kid is needing to grow up in, you don't know. You don't know what else is going on in life for that mom. You don't know if that is the first time she has ever yelled at her kid like that. You don't know. Maybe she just lost her job or her husband left or some of the other kids have been sick for weeks and she is feeling drained and exhausted. These are my words, but the fact remains, let's not judge the other mom in the store. Let's give grace to the other mom we see and try to help and encourage each other. Because after all, if we happened to lose it in the store and lash out more than we intended, we would want grace extended to us.

The other thing that Becky shared is this: "You are a good mom". The Devil wants you to believe you aren't, that you are a failure and that your kids will turn out to be juvenile delinquents, and that you should just give up. But that's not true. We make mistakes, we blunder and our kids may make some serious mistakes, but we can still be a good mom. If we love our kids and do the best we can, we are good moms. Most of all, if we rely on God and let His grace wash over us, we can then through His love and grace extend love and grace to our children. I want to share part of a paragraph with you from Becky's book:

"We cannot care for little hearts on our own without letting Him love through us. We cannot expect to be good moms in our own strength. But when we allow ourselves to be washed in His simple whispers of grace, when we choose to hear the Lord say, 'We can do this together! I've got you and I've got them, and I'm going to help you,' that is the moment that we step out of the shadows."

And then these questions: "What would it look like if our generation of moms stopped living in insecurity? What would it look like if we accepted the truth that we don't have to be perfect to be the best moms to our kids? What would it look like if we started a movement of women who didn't focus on their failures, but instead celebrated each success?"

This book was given me to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Forever My Little Girl by Karen Kingsbury, Illustrated by Joann Lew-Vriethoff

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Aww!! It's such a cute little book.  It starts out with a little girl being born and the parents admiring the love and joy the sweet little girl. It then traces her throughout some of the major milestones: walking, six years old, seventh grade, first dance, marriage, and then the dad growing old and feeble, etc.  With each section, there's a little paragraph talking about the stage and how the mom or dad was there for the little girl and then there's a little rhyme about holding your hand through whatever comes. This is followed by some Bible verses and then a prayer.  It's just a really nicely put together book. The pictures are cute in a whimsical sort of way.

The story is Bible-based and so true. Amber will always be our little girl and I want to be there to hold her hand through whatever comes her way and to ask God to guide her and us on this journey called life.

It's gift-book size and I think I would gift it to either a mom just starting out with a little girl or to my own little girl when she is a bit older. I'm not sure what age I would give it to her: teenager, high school graduate, somewhere in there maybe.  I just read the back of the book and they recommend it as "A perfect gift for Mom, Dad, or for a grown-up little girl as she starts a new stage in life."

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Big Trucks Getting the Job Done Together, Illustrated by Sergio De Giorgi

A dozer, a digger, a crane and a dump truck work together to get the job done. Written in rhyme, it reminds me a bit of the book "L...