Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Refuge by Ann H Gabhart

The Refuge

Ann has written a few books on the Shaker community and this is her latest one. I don't know much about who the Shakers were and so I found this very interesting. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the descriptions though I know the whole celibate lifestyle was definitely true, which I found very intriguing as to how they thought their community would continue to grow if there were no more children born. But that's beside the point, I guess.

Into this community, Darcie and Walter had come for refuge from the cholera plague. They, of course, weren't going to stay forever, they just wanted safety. Well, safety is an illusion, as Darcie discovered when her husband was killed. This is not a spoiler, it's in the first paragraph. And so Darcie feels stuck now, with no way to support herself if she leaves. She's having a baby and Shaker tradition is that all are sisters and brothers and so Darcie would be unable to raise her baby. The baby would go to the Children's House and be raised by other sisters. How does this all work out? That's why you read the book--to find out.

This is the tiny spoiler, if you want to call it that, that I will give. Babies and love have a way of softening hearts as this story reveals. And that is a good reminder we all need--the reminder of love. When Darcie chose to pray for and love an unlovable little girl, it made all the difference in this girl's life.

There is also the widower with a daughter that is involved in the story as well, but the romantic factor is pretty subtle I think.

I enjoyed the story for the story. And my takeaway from this book, as I said earlier, is that love and prayers can make a difference in people's lives. I need to remember that when I want to lash out that a little love could make all the difference.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

On a Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher

On a Summer Tide

"One thing I know for sure, you either get bitter or better by what life throws at you."

This is my takeaway quote from this book. And it is so true, but something I forget way too easily.

This is a nice breezy summer read. Set on an island, the feel is warm and sunshiny. I mean what can go wrong on an island? But wait, there's the missing lobster, the painters who don't show up, the mayor who's a real character and then there's Peg, who you just have to love. But, none of these are the main characters, the three sisters who are here to help their dad out, to help restore a long-held dream.

And, of course, there's romance. I mean it's a nice summer read after all, isn't that what you would expect? I will say this romance is fairly understated, things go wrong and things go very right, but not necessarily as you would guess. There's not a defined ending, but I'm guessing there are more books coming. There are three sisters after all and this book highlighted the older sister. I don't know for sure there are more books, but I would surely hope so, because there are many unanswered questions.

There's a seven-year-old boy who has seen enough trauma in his life to last an adult and he's coping with string and what does that mean and how should it be handled?  I hope I have given you enough clues to pique your interest and not so many as to make you go no way.

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

Memory Making Mom by Jessica Smartt

Memory-making Mom: Building Traditions That Breathe Life Into Your Home

Building Traditions that Breathe Life into Your Home

"Traditions are a planned determination to remember, celebrate, and value what is important."

"Traditions offer security.
Traditions provide comforting memories.
Traditions make life sparkle.
Traditions remind us what matters.
Traditions connect us to others.
Traditions shower love.
Traditions are worth it."

I debated getting this book because it just felt like another to-do list, another reminder of how much I fail as a mom to make life fun and interesting for my children. But I'm also a sucker for books like this that are brimming with ideas and to-do lists, so I got it.

Jessica has some really good things to say. She understands the busy mom who doesn't have a lot of margin in her day.  She doesn't ask every mom to go out and plan a big five-course dinner every night of the week because that is what your children will remember. She does stress the importance of food in a child's memory, but it can be simple, like having pancakes for breakfast every Saturday morning or a box of donuts from a favorite bakery, etc. Or maybe it's having a special treat one evening a week with the meal. Yes, she does mention some elaborate meals for holidays, etc. but there are also many doable traditions that are easy to incorporate.

At the end of the book, she offers over 200 ideas relating to different holidays, important events, learning opportunities, serving opportunities and more. Some of these are elaborate, some of them are simple. Let the birthday child pick the meal. Collect a rock from a hike to take back home as a visual memory of the time together. Read a book together. Have a chili cook-off to celebrate fall.

One thing I really appreciated was Jessica's emphasis on faith and bringing God into the equation. Teach your children to have quiet time, get them a special Bible and their own "coffee" and everyone sit down and read their Bibles at the same time. Take them to church regardless of how pointless it seems, especially in the little years.

I enjoyed this book and want to hang on to it for a reference when I feel like I have the margin to add in something fun and need an idea for a new tradition.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Two Weeks by Karen Kingsbury

Two Weeks: A Novel by Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury does it again. Only four chapters in and I was wiping my tears. I haven't read a lot of Karen's books in the last couple of years, but this is the second one this year and I am really wanting to go back and start at the beginning and read all of her backlists.

This book is once again about the Baxter's, a lovely close-knit family that Karen has devoted many books to. The main character is Cole, an 18-year-old son of Ashley Baxter Blake. He is mature for his age, compassionate and completely sold out for God. Elise, the other main character, is also 18 and one semester of bad choices has led to a teen pregnancy. This is the journey of first love, hard choices, redemption, and lasts. And I hope it's not the last we will hear of Cole and Elise. I want to know how their story ends.

This book gripped me. I couldn't read it fast enough and yet I didn't want it to end. I think there were a few reasons for this, one was in the early pages of the book and a little girl that was born too soon. Those kinds of stories will always move me to tears because I relive my own heartache through the pages of a book. Secondly, I think it was because Karen emphasized Ashley's journey through this book as well. Cole is her oldest son and he is supposed to be heading off to college in the fall and she is facing some lasts with her son: his last breakfast, his last day as a high school student, etc. etc. And Ashley reflects back about how she thought this day would never come back when Cole was little, that it was a million years away. And I need that perspective now when I'm in the trenches of mothing littles and I wonder if the day will ever come that they will grow up. It seems so far away and yet it's going to be right here before I know it, so the challenge this book gave me was to treasure every moment.

I also really like the relationship Cole had with his parents--he talked to them about everything and that is something I want my own children to have.

My takeaway from this book is something I already mentioned: treasure each moment. I don't know when it will be the last time my daughter wants to sit on my lap and be comforted. I don't know when the last time will be that they will take their favorite blanket to bed with them. And quite frankly, as the book also shows, I don't know, but that the last time I see them may be long before I am ready to give them up.

I received this book from Net Galley and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, May 10, 2019

I'm Losing my Mind...... Or Taking Care of It

 The day stretched out in front of me as I sat on the couch sipping another cup of coffee and contemplating my quiet time. Without warning, the tears started falling and my mind struggled to grasp what was going on? Why now? Why am I fighting against life now? It was going relatively smoothly and so why this uprising in my spirit?
A scream punctuates the relative quiet of two children playing, "It's mine, he took my toy." I once again began my mantra, "What are you supposed to do when that happens?" "What is the right choice to make?" "You may not scream."  And the normal response came back to me, "But he started the fussing or the fight or whatever name the event was dubbed that time" And my mind wants to shut down and flee the scene. I feel ambivalent about it all. Can you guys just settle your own fights for once? Or better yet, how about you play nicely for once? There's a novel idea.

An hour later, I am blissfully cleaning the bathroom, talking to D and wondering at the extreme quiet from downstairs. But since I'm on the phone, cleaning the bathroom and simply enjoying the quiet, I decide it's worth whatever wreckage may be going on downstairs because seemingly they must be playing together nicely, right? And since I'm more stressed out than usual, it seems better to leave well enough alone.

I come down to find the little man happily poking holes with a pen in the top of the cardboard filing box I had recently acquired that contained church files. Well, I had really hoped to keep that box looking nice until we moved, was that so much to ask? I contemplated snapping a picture and sending it to the deacon's wife with the caption "I bet your boxes never looked like this one" But then she raised six boys and D and I wondered last night, how did they do it? They not only survived, but they seem to be thriving and looking forward to retirement. It gives me hope.
Earlier this week, I had listened to a podcast on self-care. It's from the Coffee and Crumbs podcast and I really liked it. It wasn't focused on how moms need so much time away or need to do certain things, etc. It was more on noticing what your triggers are when you get overwhelmed and simple things you can do to take care of yourself to keep those triggers from happening. These are moms in the trenches with us. And one thing one of them said, just stuck with me. She mentioned that every day she tries to make her children laugh a little. When she is feeling down and ready to snap, she might have an impromptu picnic on the floor with graham crackers and Nutella and pretty soon she is laughing herself and feeling so much better. I loved this because this was self-care taking place right along with making a fun memory for her children.

So yesterday, once I recognized what the problem was, I finished cleaning, did a few misc things and then I got each child a bowl of meat and cheese and some granola bites and we headed into the living room where we sat on the floor and read stories. I felt better, they were mostly good except for the one piece of meat Logan had to steal off Amber's plate. Well, then, of course, once he got bored with the stories, it was so much more fun to crawl on the couch and attempt to come falling off between Amber and the story because that created such a fuss about not being able to see the pictures.

So I know self-care can get a really bad rap among some people as being selfish, etc. And I recognize that people have different thresholds. I have a friend who I'm not sure if her kids ever stress her out and I have a friend who is really struggling with balancing life and her kids right now. Neither one is right or wrong, we are all made differently and it's okay. But I think we need to recognize the triggers and if we see them manifest in our lives, we need to take the time to do something about them. For me, it was recognizing the cause behind the extra snapping and anger I was feeling and then being okay with sitting down and reading a book or taking a nap while they were napping. It also meant asking God to help me and meaning it. I'll be honest, I didn't want to ask God to start with, I just wanted to be mad and grumpy. It means acknowledging the cause: are you missing out on sleep, are you stressed about something else, etc. etc. And sometimes it means calling a friend who's been there, done that, and asking for advice.

And most of all, I think it means giving each other grace. I don't have all the answers and I don't want to come across like I do. But I think it's way too easy to have a one size fits all answer to things like this and we aren't one size fits all people. Extending grace and being willing to help. I was so encouraged by my friend who is struggling and the people that have kicked in to help her by babysitting or bringing food. I want to be that for other people too, but first we have to be vulnerable about how we're feeling and we're not going to do that if we are worried about being judged for being human.

And that is my rant for the day. Oh, yeah the picture? I'm guessing Logan was gonna "dust" that light shade. A little boy and his "table" is a dangerous combination.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Silken Thread by Kim Vogel Sawyer

A Silken Thread: A Novel

The Atlanta Cotton Exposition of 1895 is the historical event this book is built around. Laurel, the main female character, has been bossed by her five older siblings and told she may not leave their widowed mother to get married, that it is her responsibility to provide care to her in her dotage. Her mother, at this point in time, is perfectly able to care for herself, but the siblings laid down the law. Now Laurel thinks that snagging a rich man would be the answer to her problems. And that is about all the plot specifics I am planning to give.

But what about character? This book flips point of view from Laurel to the potential rich suitor to a poor, honest, hard-working young man to a black man and it shows the growth of character throughout the book. Laurel discovers that racial prejudice and social classes are very much alive and thriving in 1895 and she must choose how this all will affect her life.

I thought Kim Vogel Sawyer did an excellent job at developing the characters, at tackling difficult subjects like racial prejudice and injustice. Her style of writing was engaging and kept me flipping the pages.

And there was some real wisdom spouted in these pages: "'You say you ain't a slave, but you's wrong. If you's owned, you a slave. Ever'body who's born got two choices--be owned by God or be owned by sin. Now me, I a slave, but I choose to be a slave to God. 'Cause He bought me with a price--the life o' His own Son. He pay that price fo' you too.'" Such good advice, something I need to remember.

I really enjoyed this book and I enjoyed Kim as an author. She is going on my list of authors I want to read more of. And since I think she has written quite a number of novels, more than one million books in print, I think my TBR list has just grown quite a bit.

I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

It's All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee

It's All Under Control: A Journey Of Letting Go, Hanging On, And Finding A Peace You Almost Forgot…

A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging on and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible

The first thing I have to say about this book is just Go Read It!!  I really want to shout it at you in all caps, but I have the sense to realize that just because the book hit me between the eyes and I highlighted extensively on my Kindle version (I don't think I could highlight a paper copy), does not mean it will hit everyone the same way. I was reading this book at a time in my life when I really needed to surrender control, to be obedient to God's call, and to also be willing to accept help. These are all things that Jennifer talks about in this book.

Jennifer was a news reporter and loved it until God kept pulling on her control strings and asking her to give up that job, then she taught news reporting until God asked for that job too. Now she writes about the greatest story of all: Jesus and following Him and does an amazing job of it as well. I think this is the first book I have read by her and I will be on the lookout for her other books as well, though I think the first thing I really want is this book in paper copy. Which brings up an interesting point, I am discovering that I do better with fiction in the e-book format, because when I read nonfiction serious stuff,  I tend to just want to race through the book and have it done so I can move on to the next thing and I really don't get much out of the book.  I decided when I started this book that I would just try to read a chapter or so a night and well, it was just what I needed, but now I want to get a paper copy so I can see, feel, and touch it.

I marked so many passages in this book that I'm not even sure which ones to showcase, but I'll try to pick some that really spoke to me when I was reading it.

"God works in so many ways, and quite often, he does that work through actual human beings who are willing to show up when it's inconvenient. We can't afford to hide behind God's sovereignty when he's calling us onto the battlefield." She explained this statement with the story of a man whose house was flooding. He was offered help several times but refused it saying God was going to rescue him.  When he finally died, he wanted to take God to task for failing to come to his aid and God said, I tried three times and you refused. And she finishes the story with this: "God sends help through ordinary people called into service. Sometimes you will be the miracle for other people. Sometimes other people will be the miracle for you. They will show up with a car, a ladder, a foil-covered casserole dish, a hug. And in that moment, you'll be so grateful that someone cared enough to commit to the hard work of hanging on. For you." That is so true and people have done that for me this week, through flowers, a meal, texts, etc. and I am so grateful.

One final quote on obedience yet that stood out to me. Can you tell I loved this book yet? I could quote so so much more. "Obedience is not for wimps. At first, obedience can resemble the passive posture of letting God carry you where he will. It turns out that obedience is quite often a gutsy thing that will compel you to stand upright and march forward, even if it threatens your own security, your own longings, and your idea of success. Obedience is not an act of the weak, but a rising up of the strong. Obedience might embarrass you or inconvenience you. Sometimes it will leave you in the dark, and the only light you will see is the small patch pooling at your feet. You ask for a spotlight to see straight ahead into the next two years of your life, but instead, God gives you a 'lamp unto [your] feet' and lets you see no further than this hour."

As you have already gathered, I highly recommend this book. I received it from Tyndale Publishers through NetGalley and was not required to write a positive review.

And now, to my blog readers, if you made it this far, this is the other side of that loss of control I just wrote about. That obedience quote from the book hits hard. I haven't attained yet, not even close, but I want to. I have never appreciated the idea of being a wimp and so I don't want to start being one now. But quite frankly, we just want to go back to normal right now. I also don't like being embarrassed or inconvenienced and I certainly want to be successful. And for crying out loud, I'm a planner, don't make me just see two steps in front of me, I want to plan my next ten years out. And right now, the future, while clear in one respect also looks a bit murky. Someone has told me, don't try to plan out how the future will look, it won't work and I know this in my head, but...

I was also thinking on my word for the year: success. I had forgotten about it for a while, but I thought about it this week again. If I want to live out my word for the year, then I need to put my hand in God's, look at the step He has made plain and put my right foot forward and go one day at a time. And I can't compare with the person next to me, their success is going to look different from mine and that's okay. And someday I might blog about the ways that, looking back, I can see how God has been preparing us for this new phase in life without our even realizing it, but for now, it's too raw, too personal to share with the world wide web.

The Refuge by Ann H Gabhart

Ann has written a few books on the Shaker community and this is her latest one. I don't know much about who the Shakers were and so I ...