Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Berenstain Bears Bless our Gramps and Gran

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By Mike Berenstain

I have enjoyed the Living Lights series of the Berenstain Bears because they teach a good life lesson along with being a fun story. I have always been a fan of the Berenstain Bears. I remember reading them at book stands in the stores when I was a little girl

This one talked about Grandparent's Day and I really, really like that aspect of the book. We put a lot of focus and attention on Mother's Day and Father's Day, but can tend to forget the Grandparents, so I really liked that aspect of the book.

The story line itself was a little unique in my book. The Bears talked about what Gramps and Gran did for them and what they could do for Gramps and Gran for Grandparent's Day. What they decided to do was make a book about Noah's grandchildren and give it to Gramps and Gran because, I guess, Gramps and Gran had made them a Noah's ark set.

Now while I didn't go to the Bible and double check, I do think they used the Biblical names for Noah's grandsons. But then to make it even, they made up 16 granddaughters and gave them modern names. The story was nice, it just didn't ring as true for me as some of the other books have.

My daughter still enjoyed the story and there's nothing wrong with it, it just didn't click with me as well. I thought it a little odd, I guess. But I did appreciate the reminder to celebrate Grandparent's Day and want to endeavor to remember to do that. According to the book, it is always the first Sunday after Labor Day, so it is coming right up.

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why God Calls us to Dangerous Places by Kate McCord

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Not that long ago, I posted a review for the book Farewell, Four Waters, a novel based on truth about the work being done by aid workers in Afghanistan. This is another book by the same author. I don't know her real name, Kate is a pseudonym.

This book shares some of her experiences, but is more of a devotional/inspirational book that looks at why God would call people to go to dangerous places like Afghanistan or even inner city areas that are laden with crime. Some reasons she gives is because God went first to these areas, He loves these people so much, He wants to fill His table, and these people need to see and hear and touch a Christian. She says there are six common experiences that almost all Afghans share who have come to Christ. They have met a Christ-follower, they have read or heard a portion of Scripture through stories, radio programs, etc. They've experienced a dream or a vision in which God revealed Himself. That combination of experiences led them to count the cost. When they did become a Christian, they did so alone and usually in the dark. They experienced persecution, but if they remained faithful they would return to tell the story. These things often took place over years.

Another thing she brought out is how it affects families and friends and churches of people who are called to dangerous places. They are called to trust and walk through the dangerous places with the called, even if they never set foot in the dangerous land themselves. She used the example of Zebedee allowing his sons to walk with Jesus. How must he have felt, how must he have grieved the loss of his boys in the family business and yet you don't read that he held back.

She brought out the importance of surrendering all to God. God may not call me to a dangerous place, but He does call me to a surrendered life and what can I do to support those in dangerous places? It was a good thought-provoking book. At the end of every chapter, she has some really good questions to think on and journal about, often accompanied with Scripture to look up and read. The book is covered in Scripture, either quoted to or alluded to with footnotes directing you where to go.

This book makes me want to be a more committed Christian right here in my little town with my little family. No, it's not considered a dangerou place by any means, but I am still called to be committed wholeheartedly to God and to be faithful right here.

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

Beloved Hope by Tracie Peterson

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This is the second book in a series about three sisters, Grace, Hope, and Mercy. It being a sequel is the main reason I requested this book to read. Hope and Mercy had been at the Whitman mission at the time of the Whitman Massacre by the Indians. Hope had been raped repeatedly, became pregnant, and gave the child away at birth to a friend who was unable to have children.

Because of all this, she struggles very hard to forgive the Indians and to move on with her life. She is consumed with a desire for revenge and believes that seeing the Indians come to justice would end her struggle. After five Indians are hanged, she realizes that will not bring her closure like she hoped for. Anyway, I don't want to give away too much of the story. As you can imagine, there is a man involved and even though Hope has resolved to never marry, he wins her heart, etc. etc.

But there are a few key things in this book that stuck out to me: forgiveness and releasing fear. Hope came to realize that she was afraid of about everything and while, even at the beginning of the book, she was trying to trust God again, fear was holding her back. She was learning slowly to give that fear over and recognize it as coming from the Devil and not from God.

On the issue of forgiveness and holding grudges, I would like to quote something said by her younger sister Mercy, which I think is very good. "Grace helped me see that when you hate someone, it's like a chain wrapped around your heart that reminds you of all the ugly, bad things that person did to you. Holding a grudge takes a great deal of strength. You keep carrying it, and it wears you down. You can hate so much and get so worn out from it that it makes you ill and ruins your life. It's better to let bad things stay in the past and put the chain down. Leave it to rust. You don't have to carry it and be reminded of what happened....and you don't have to get worn out and sick."  I like the image of a chain around your heart, because that is really what it is, grudges and unforgiveness holds me hostage far more than it does the person I am angry at.

I did enjoy this book, but it is one of your more predictable chick flicks, in my opinion. I do, however, think that there are some good words of wisdom in this book as well.

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

My Great Big God by Andy Holmes

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Illustrated by Marta Alvarez

20 Bible Stories to Build a Great Big Faith

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Ambivalent Love of a Mother

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

Thank you Wikipedia for your definition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Farewell, Four Waters by Kate McCord

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One aid worker's sudden escape from Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

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

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

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

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

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

Raising World Changers in a Changing World by Kristen Welch

How One Family Discovered the Beauty of Sacrifice and the Joy of Giving This right here, this is a good book. I highly recommend that yo...