Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy Heavenly Birthday

Happy Birthday Cheryl and Dad.

I started this post a few weeks ago now. It was one I had thought about writing, but wasn't sure if I should or not. It's one of those not-so-pretty posts, one that delves into sadness and tears and such like.

I was prompted to start it after reading my friend Jennie's post on Cheryl's upcoming birthday. I had forgotten Cheryl's birthday was coming and that in itself made me sad. But just reading her post and then reading the comments, I was struck all over again with the reality that Cheryl is really, really gone and there is nothing I can do to change that fact. In my heart I know she is so much better off, the grief is still there. I still want to go back to those days of stopping off at J and Cheryl's house to hang out. Having another couple that both you and your husband relate to is not something to be taken for granted. It's more rare than you would think.

It just feels like there are so many special people in heaven that I would like to be enjoying life with down here. Just yesterday, for one brief moment, I heard Dad's footsteps on the basement stairs. It was plain to me, just like they sounded when he would come down the steps to see what Mom and I were doing downstairs. I thought, "there's Dad" and in the next second, I knew it wasn't. But it was a solid reminder again that he is gone too.

And my own little family, December 21 marks 4 years since our first baby went home and now half of our family is in heaven. I want to ask God why? Why me? But I do know that's not right question. Why not me? I'm not any more special than the next person. I don't deserve preferential treatment. People have suffered much worse than I have.

And this is where I can stall out. Where to from here? I can wallow in my grief and despair and have it turn me into a whiny, self-pitying person. Or I can follow Jennie's example and do something for others. Don't get your hopes up, I don't have a giveaway planned, though that would be a lot of fun. I spent my time wallowing. It isn't pretty for me or the people around me. I'd like to say I have overcome and am now the most giving, cheerful person you could meet. That's not even close to true either. I hope I have grown through these storms of grief, but even that feels like a wish some days.

I think it is good to feel and to grieve. This is my own philosophy now, but in order to grieve you have to first lose something precious to you. If you have never grieved, then you have never lost something precious and that is sad. Now if you truly have cherished relationships and they are all still intact, Praise the LORD!!! But that seems a little unlikely. So maybe I should be looking at grief as a blessing. Because I miss Cheryl, because I miss my Dad, because I miss my babies, it means I had something there to miss. I had a relationship with Cheryl, a friendship that meant something to me, so of course I miss her. If I had only viewed her as a surface friend or refused to allow myself to enjoy our friendship or to let it mean anything to me, than her death would be an event, not a process. I would have gone to her funeral and then been done with grief. What a sad, sad way to live.

Now, it's not that grieving is fun, but I am realizing it is a result of having had something really good. Cheryl was a good friend, my dad was the solid fixture in my life from the very beginning, my babies were my heart and soul and dream.

I don't know if I am explaining myself very good or not. Let me just say that for those people who do not really live and truly treasure relationships and live intentionally with the people around them, my heart goes out to them. Yes, maybe they are sheltering themselves from grief, but they are also keeping themselves from a treasure trove of memories and moments that make the grief bearable. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't distance myself, I would plunge even more headlong into these relationships knowing they were only going to last for a too short of season.

Then the question for me becomes, why am I not doing that for the relationships that are still in front of me? Ah, yes, my goal for 2017. To live intentionally and with purpose and to make the most of every moment with every person.

So I wrote the above part last week. This morning in my devotions, I was reading from Romans 8 and the triumph of the verses caught my attention. So often in Romans, we get hung up on Romans 8:28. "And we know that all things work together for good...." I am not doubting the validity of that verse, but sometimes in grief it can feel a little trite and cliched and you wonder if the people quoting it have ever really gone through what you are going through. Sometimes when you find it on your own and read it, it makes more sense and you can see it for what it is. But that's not the verse I want to point out.

Listen, just stop and breathe deep and let these words soak into your soul. I hope they will provide an anchor for you like they did for me this morning when I read them. It's coming from Romans 8:26-39

"For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

God is on our side, He's praying for us when we don't even know how to utter words, when our souls feel barren and our words unutterable, He is there and He is interceding on our behalf.

"If God is for us, who can be against us?.....It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress,.....? yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I don't know if this brings salve to your hurting heart like it did for mine this morning. God is really for us, He loves me, nothing that happens is going to change that. He will pray for me even when words fail. That is such a huge comfort to me and I pray it does for you as well.

GOD IS FOR US!!!!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

A December Challenge

December is just around the corner and the busyness of the holidays can take away from the meaning of the season. I found a photo challenge that I am going to try to do for the month of December and I am inviting you all to join me. I have a list that I downloaded from some printables I bought that I will post and each day you need to take a photo of that item. Now if you don't have a photo of that item, which I don't of all of them, then you can post a picture of something else.

The goal of this is to take the time to stop, look, and capture the feeling of the season. I want to enjoy each day and sometimes I can get so caught up in my list of to-do's that I forget to stop and pause, so this photo a day challenge is to make me stop and pause. And, I am going to endeavor to post my picture on a daily basis, possibly with some thought that stuck out to me during the day, if my brain computed anything worth sharing.

I'm not sure if you can do this or not, I will have to check, but hopefully you will be able to upload your photo in the comments section of this blog. If you can't do that, you can post your picture under my blog link in Facebook.

So here's the list and the date to go with them.

1. Favorite Holiday Movie
2. Slippers
3. A smile
4. Book you are Reading
5. A hug
6. Fireplace
7. Wrapping paper
8. Favorite Christmas decoration
9. Something that brings you joy.
10. Christmas lights
11. A lit candle
12. A cozy blanket
13. Your favorite ornament
14. Candy Cane
15. Stockings
16. Baking
17. Favorite Christmas Book
18. A Family Holiday Tradition
19. Pajamas
20. Faces of loved ones
21. Christmas Tree
22. Wrapped Presents
23. A mug with a hot drink
24. A natvitiy set
25. Christmas morning JOY
26. Weather outside
27. Something new
28. Journal
29. Nap
30. List of goals
31. New Years Eve Prep

Faith Filled Parenting

A Primary Decision

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By Dr. Kevin Leman and Jeff Nesbit

The Worthington Destiny

This is the third book in the series and I think some things would have made more sense if I had read the first two. The book was still very good and very well-written, but just would have made more sense if I had read the first two first.

It's the story of the rise of the first female President, which I find a bit ironic considering our recent election. I'm guessing some of that played into the story line for the authors as well beings the book is brand-new.

The book is classified as contemporary fiction. I am not sure that it is Christian. God is never mentioned. The Bible is a time or two, but the principles the Worthingtons lived by seemed to be Bible-based. It was a paraphrase from Luke 12:48 and it was this, "To those who are given much, much is required." There is also a theme of forgiveness and doing the right thing no matter what that runs through the book. In some ways the book has stronger Christian elements than books that spout Bible verses at regular intervals. I was challenged by the concept of doing the right thing no matter what. In the world of politics, that's a foreign concept. Also the idea that family is first and very important and you protect each other no matter what as well.

The principles of the Worthington's should definitely be emulated in each of our lives. Yes, there were some major mistakes made, like a child from a one-night affair, but the forgiveness and grace that was extended? It seemed to me that it was nothing short of God's grace.

This book was given to me by Revell Publishing. I am happy to write a review giving my honest opinion of the book.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Evaluating

I think I must be getting older. Yes, I know that's a given. I'd like to say I'm getting more mature too, but I can only hope on that one.

But the reason I said I must be getting older is this, we are nearing the end of 2016, about 35 more days to go and I find myself evaluating my year, looking at my life, considering what I want to change in 2017. I find myself almost struck with a frantic feeling of both there's so much I want to do in 2016 yet and there's so much I want to change about myself in 2017. I can almost feel overwhelmed with the thought of it all.

In 2016 yet, there are Christmas gifts to DIY, fun food to make, some bucket list things I'd like to do for Christmas, some traditions that I'd like to think up and start making a pattern in our family. One of them has been established in our family, but then we moved up here and it became very difficult. Since the first year we were married, I believe, we have gotten take out or gone out to eat on Christmas eve. It was easy in Spencer, AppleBee's actually stayed open on Christmas Eve. Then we moved up here and we ended up with fast food Chinese the one year and I don't even remember what we had the other year. So I think we are going to need to switch it up a little if we want good food this year. There are other projects I'd like to do yet this year as well, but I'm trying to remind myself that people are more important than projects and being able to be spontaneous will make me more pleasant to be around than doggedly sticking to a list regardless.

Then there's 2017 and I find myself writing down potential goals for next year, thinking about my word of the year and how I'm going to live it out. I'm not going to do the 101 goals that I did this year. Yes, 101 is an exaggeration, but I'm going to limit it a bit more this year, though I enjoyed last year's goal setting craze and didn't do too terrible at it even.

Does anybody else find this happening? This looking back and looking forward with almost like a heavy weight because of all there is to do and all there is to change in my life and character? Or do you all float through life, grabbing it by the horns as needed, but not compelled to make lists and set goals and develop discipline? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Which one are You?

Take life as it comes?
Or charge headlong into it?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth

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I haven't posted a book review in over two weeks, I must be lazing off!!! Actually, I had two books going at once and also read a non-review book in between. Not that I think anyone missed me or anything. But just to be clear, I am back and have about six books to review in the next few weeks.

Okay, "All the Pretty Things". When I started this book, I loved it. I thought it was an amazing story and it is. Edie was born to an alcoholic father. She rarely saw him sober, but she loved him and enabled him until his dying day. She missed that father figure in her life and attempted to salve that wound by working hard at everything she put her hand to except her marriage. She was raised in rather extreme poverty. Her parents divorced and both remarried, but divorced again. She was abused as a child, though it became a repressed memory that came out through recurring nightmares. She was introduced to Jesus and would often respond to altar calls to make sure she was saved. She went on to become a family practice physician.

She married young, had two children, got caught up in an affair and successfully ruined two families through the affair and the ensuring divorce. She remarried and had two more children. She regrets her bad decisions and went through a very dark time of depression and learning to deal with the loss of her dad and seemed to grab hold of faith in God once again.

Now, I don't know if you've caught on to my hesitancy yet or not, but there are certain parts of this book I struggled with. Overall, seeing the story as that, a story of someone having the courage and the strength to rise above their circumstances and make something of themselves, it is excellent. It's a well-written story. I enjoyed reading it. It's just her view of God and death bother me a bit. She mentions her dad finally being at peace when he died and one time she mentions him looking down from heaven, but yet there is no mention made that he ever accepted Jesus or even recognized the sin he was living in. Also, the whole divorce and remarriage issue is a big thing for me. I am not going to judge Edie and her husband and say they are not Christians.  That is not my job and I am glad it isn't, but I don't believe remarriage is sanctioned by God and so to me that ruins a good piece of the story.

So in conclusion, it was a well-written story and very interesting. And to read it as just that, a true story, I would recommend it. However, I would caution against believing everything as being Biblically-based and would challenge the reader to search out these things for themselves, which really should be done with every book you read. No author is doing it perfectly and everything should be taken out and lined up with the Bible.

I would like to give one thought that she gave at the end of the book that struck me. "Whether we work or don't, whether we homeschool or not, whether we've had nurturing marriages or not, we walk in humility--knowing that we are dependent on God to use mostly our failures to teach us something of what it means to be a parent, to be a human being.

"We fumble around in the dark, begging for wisdom, praying that our children know how much they're loved, trying to be willing to admit when we're wrong--because we so often are. Parenting and living require more faith than knowledge, more grace than rules, more trust than answers."

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House and I am writing a review based on my own opinions of the book.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl

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I'm not sure what to write here. This is a story of gangs and a big cartel against law enforcement. Add to that a few moles in the law enforcement and you have the makings for some plans to go seriously awry.  It is definitely suspenseful, but it's not really my kind of story. Which is a little hard to believe since I read the book in 2 days. But this is not the kind of book I would want a steady diet of. I find myself looking behind doors and freaking out of the dark and imagining the worst after I read stories like this.

Nancy did a good job of writing. It was interesting, just not really my style. There are a few things that I want to take away from the book.  One is your past can go with you and affect who you are today. Mercy, the heroine of the story, had a father who left her mother for another woman. Her mom turned into an alcoholic, dependent, whiny person. This caused Mercy to lean on no one and open up to no one, especially God. Faced with losing those she loved in this story, her best friend since childhood and her ex-boyfriend she broke up with because of fear, she realized that working through her past was necessary. Most importantly she realized that opening up to God was the only way to make it through life.

The other thing about this story is the young people that get caught up in gangs. They don't necessarily mean to, they don't necessarily want to, but they are taught to believe they are victims and nothing is their fault.  They grow up in bad settings or just make some bad choices and one thing leads to the next. There was a boy like this in the story. He was willing to get out and help the good guys but was accidentally shot by another member who I also believe was forced into the situation by his father the ring leader behind the whole thing. The compassion that the law enforcement showed for this boy in recognizing him as one that wanted a chance was impressive to me as well. In this day and age where law enforcement are made out to be the bad guys, we need to remember that there are many there who do what they do to make this world a safer place and to help protect young people like this.

I don't know if that made any sense or not. One thing that bothered me about this book was in the acknowledgements she mentioned the law enforcement who have died shining as stars in the sky and also in her thanks to Jesus, she only mentions him as her Best Friend, which could mean anyone, and none of the personal pronouns are capitalized. I know that may mean nothing, but it's not something I really liked.

This book was given me by Bethany House. I am happy to write a review stating my own opinions.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Riley Unlikely

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With Simple Childlike Faith, Amazing Things Can Happen

Written by Riley Banks-Snyder with Lisa Velthouse

This is an amazing story. It feels so much unlike my teen years that I can almost find it hard to believe and yet it is inspiring and impressive because it all began with a 13 year-old girl and her dream to go to Kenya.

And for five years in a row they went bringing school supplies, hygiene kits, etc. to those who needed them. They helped establish a school and were working on buying property to establish a safe house and maybe teaching classes. The building was equipped with an apartment that Riley hopes to make her home someday with her husband Graham.

At 14 years old, Riley and her family established a non-profit organization called Generation Next. They established this basically so they could get donations from department stores who wouldn't donate without being able to write it off for a deduction. The non-profit grew into more than they ever expected.

In the middle of this, at age 16, Riley was diagnosed with a medical condition that would prohibit her from having children. She struggled through this for a little while, but once again felt God's call to her for the children of Kenya and threw her energies into it.

I'm not going to say much more. Just go read the book. It's a quick read, but very interesting. And challenging. For a young teen to donate so much of her time trying to secure donations and money to help the people in Kenya is just amazing.

For more information the non-profit organization Riley is in charge of go here

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I am happy to write a review on it.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

31 Verses to Write on Your Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs

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This book is full of some of my favorite verses. Liz takes apart each verse word by word or phrase by phrase so that it is easy to understand. Each verse  is printed in the NIV version, but she quotes numerous versions throughout the chapter which give different word pictures to help better understand the verse.

This is fairly small book that can be quickly read, however I do recommend taking the time to memorize the verses, at least a few of them, I don't know if I will memorize them all, but I want to write them out, at least parts of the verse, so that I can have it on display to think about. Like I said, there are a lot of favorites in here that I have memorized already.

Just a few examples of verses:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline."    2 Timothy 1:7

I did enjoy the book. It is fairly light reading, but there are some good truths hidden in here.

This book was given to me by Blogging for Books. I am happy to write a review giving my honest opinion.

I Never Saw This Before

I've been working on reading through the Bible in year. I've done this before possibly from front to back, but also with a little Old Testament, a little New Testament, and a little Psalms and Proverbs mixed in. This year it was front to back. I have to be honest, the Old Testament prophets got a little much. I apparently did not inherit my dad's love for these books of the Bible. That makes me a little sad. I'm sure I could cultivate that love though. There were definitely nuggets of gold that I found throughout these books, but I am enjoying the New Testament now.

So we all know the story, a rich man comes to Jesus and wants to know what to do to have eternal life. Now here's the first thing I see and I actually didn't even notice this until right now when I'm hammering out this post. He came running to see Jesus. He was excited. We run when we are either scared or excited. Yes, I know people run for the sheer pleasure of running, but I can hardly be friends with those people. I run to get away from something or to get to something if I'm in a hurry. So this young man running to Jesus gives you the idea that was either excited to talk to Jesus or desperate for an answer to his question.

He wants to know what to do to inherit eternal life? I'm going to assume here that he was fairly confident he was going to get a stamp of approval on his life and be told, "You my young man are doing just fine. You keep doing what you're doing and you'll get to heaven." Jesus starts out by saying "Keep the commandments." Can't you see the young man heaving a sigh of relief and thinking to himself, "I knew it. I knew I was a good man. I knew I was on the right track." "Yup, Jesus, I've done all these things since I was a baby."

Then Jesus drops the bomb on him and tells him to go sell all his stuff and give the money to the poor. "Then you will have treasure in heaven, but then you also need to come and take up your cross and follow Me." We know how this story ends, the rich young ruler leaves sad because he was rich.

Now there's a phrase or two in this story that, I think, often gets overlooked. I don't know if I've ever really noticed it before today or ever heard anyone else discuss this story and mention it, but I think it's vital to take note of. Listen:

"Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him," First Jesus looked at him directly. He wasn't using him as an object lesson for the crowds, he was looking at the young man, listening to him, hearing him and then secondly he loved him. He wasn't just trying to get rid of the man by giving him a command he knew he wouldn't want to keep. Jesus really loved this man and because of this love He gave him the hard command. He knew how hard it was for people to give up their things. He knew the trust we all place in our money and our possessions, but He also knew the secret to true happiness and eternal life was to place all this in God's hands.

I think when we are talking to others and we have some hard stuff to say there are two things we need to do. First we need to look at them, we need to see them as an individual loved by God and deserving of respect. We need to give them our undivided attention and really see them. Secondly, we need love. Hard things said without love are just that: hard things. Hard things softened by love can become palatable and doable. Now obviously the rich young ruler walked away and maybe the person you will talk to will walk away too, but you can let them go knowing you followed Jesus' example by seeing them and loving them. And that's hard to do sometimes.

But I want to take the time to really see the people God puts in my path and then to love them as an individual created by God and loved by Him.

Just my ponderings from the Book of Mark, chapter 10, verses 17-22.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

When Others Shuddered by Jamie Janosz

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Eight Women who Refused to Give Up.

Evangeline Booth
Fannie Crosby
Virginia Asher
Emma Dryer
Mary McLeod Bethune
Nettie McCormick
Sarah Dunn Clark
Amanda Berry Smith

Eight ladies, few names I recognized when I started the book, but each totally committed to God and sold out for His purpose. Did they make mistakes? Yes. Did their families and marriages suffer? For some of them yes and that can bring up a different dilemma that I won't discuss here. Did they make a difference in the world around them? Absolutely.

We all know Fannie Crosby, the blind hymnwriter who wrote many, many songs in her lifetime.

Emma Dryer was influential in helping to get the Moody Bible Institute started.

Nettie McCormick was a wealthy good friend of Emma's who contributed financially to many, many good causes in her lifetime.

Sarah Dunn Clark and her husband started Pacific Gospel Mission, a place I visited when in Chicago helping with street meetings.

Amanda Berry Smith helped at hundreds of camp meetings world wide

Virginia Asher was concerned for the "lost girls" in the seedy places of Chicago. She would be asked to visit brothels to pray for the sick. She was known as an "angel of mercy". Her motherly spirit helped to break through even the toughest hearts.

Evangeline Booth, the daughter of the William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, followed in her parents footsteps

Mary McLeod Bethune started a school for Negro children.

It was an interesting, informative, and challenging book. These women gave their all, they served wtih faithfulness despite opposition, despite society's rules. They found their value in Christ alone.

The book also has a study guide at the end of it that I skimmed through and found it to be very thought-provoking and good. Where sometimes I think study guides can be a little redundant, these questions came back to the reader and challenged me to look at my own life and views on life.

Questions like, "What world events have broken your heart in recent days?" "How can women today influence younger women to follow God?" and others.

This book was given to me by Moody Publishers. I am happy to write a review giving my honest opinion on the book.

Indescribable Coloring Book

Based on the hit song as recorded by Chris Tomlin Written by Laura Story and Jesse Reeves This is a really cool coloring book. I love ...