Sunday, October 23, 2016

rad women worldwide {book review}

My initial goal when I received Rad Women Worldwide was to read through it and then shelve it until the kids were older and ready to integrate it into their history lessons.

But as soon as Rad Women Worldwide came in the door my kids adopted it as their book. I have found my 3-year-old all over the house this week with the book in her lap, silently flipping through pages and enjoying the illustrations. And my 5-year-old son has brought it to me and asked me to read a page or two that caught his interest.

I even found my daughter sitting on the bed I just stripped with the book in hand this morning!

Since I am planning on teaching my kids in a classical style I can't wait to use this book to highlight relatively unknown historical figures when we are focusing on certain time periods and geographical zones. Of course we are a few years out from that, but I am so excited about homeschool and jumping in and learning with my kids. I love history, but there were still quite a few women in the book whose contributions to the world I did not know.

I love the papercut artwork in Rad Women Worldwide (I think that's a big part of why my kids love it. It is so visually appealing!) and that multiple countries and time periods are covered. I also like the reference section in the back that highlights more fascinating women. The homeschool side of me is really excited to pull that out someday and send my kids out on research trips.

I think Rad Women Worldwide is a great reference book for schools and homes to have on hand. And I think we need to get a copy of Rad American Women A-Z as well!

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Friday, October 21, 2016

in the eye of the storm

It has been a week.

Thursday morning I was writing a LONG blog post about how Bennett has been having a series of allergic reactions, but hopefully the next two days would be calm, when he had another reaction.

Here's the really fun (sarcasm) news: We're not sure what exactly he is reacting to. His doctor is fairly certain Bennett is having a massive immune response to something: either the initial food we thought caused the reaction, or a virus. Right now Bennett is on a very limited diet for 10 days - meat, vegetables, fruit - and then we'll start to reintroduce foods slowly.

Because without being on a limited diet this happened:

Bennett had a breakout - hives all over - Tuesday morning, followed by a flare up in the afternoon and evening. We thought we knew what the trigger was, but immediately after breakfast on Wednesday morning he broke out again. And this time it was worse. On Thursday I once again thought I knew what the trigger was, but in the middle of breakfast I noticed small dots breaking out on his face. I immediately took his food away and put him in a bath with apple cider vinegar and baking soda. I gave him an extra dose of the medicine and tincture given to us by our doctor as well. I don't know if it was the quick action on my part, or something else, but his reaction yesterday was not nearly as severe.


Five reactions in three days has me a little on edge.

And by a little I mean verging on hysteria much of the time. 

Despite being a nervous wreck most of the week there has been relief as well. The people who have loved us and given me grace while I fall apart have been instrumental in helping us survive the week. I am high needs in these kinds of situations. The stress has been so intense I've been sick most of the week.

And there's been the hand of God on Bennett and our family as we navigate this week.

On Tuesday as I frantically pulled out of the driveway on the way to the doctor the song playing on the radio was Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson and the first lines I heard were,

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control

It was one of those moments where the desperate prayers I lifted up as I prepared for us to leave the house and go to the doctor were heard.

On Wednesday as I was driving to school/work (while Bennett is in school I work for the church in a different part of the building) this song came on

Then on Wednesday afternoon Jonathan came home from work, because my ability to carry on alone didn't seem possible. I needed someone else to be "on" for a while. It's really hard for Jonathan to leave in the middle of the day. I know he had to move patients around, and I know it wasn't easy, but I appreciate him stepping in when I was depleted.

And on Thursday after I completely fell apart on the phone with Jonathan, sobbing and wailing about not wanting to lose another child, a friend called and asked if she could pray over me. Jonathan letting me cry, and my friend praying truth and healing over me and Bennett, were life giving for me. I didn't feel like I could cope. My stomach hurt so much I was ready to haul Bennett and myself into the ER. But with the tears flowing out and the prayers coming in my stomach stopped hurting and I was able to calm down enough to parent effectively and handle Bennett's latest breakout.

Weeks like this I always wish I was a bit more together. Logically I know Bennett is not going to stop breathing suddenly. And if he does struggle to breathe I have medicine to give him via an Epi-Pen and there is a hospital a few minutes away. But when you've watched a child of yours stop breathing, it's extremely difficult to face emergent, or even urgent, situations without that trauma jumping forth from the back of your mind yelling and demanding to be heard. Jon thinks, Hmmm, he's having a reaction, while I think, This is it, the moment I lose him just like I lost his sister.

This evening I can look back and see how I could have handled things better. Or if not better, at least with a little more peace in my heart. But in the moment panic takes over and I just can't see straight. However, I can also see that although I was not very calm I did manage to pray a lot, ask for help, and be thankful.

Thankful for what, you ask?

That I didn't have to go through this week without my faith and my God holding me up.

For Bennett's doctor, who put up with my early morning phone calls and made time in his day twice to see us.


A car to take me to the doctor.

The ability to pay for the doctor and medicine.

Friends and family.

In all of that - the phone calls, the doctor, the people, the prayers - I see the hand of God and I see my prayers being answered. I've been in this season where my faith is stretching and growing through community, and to have the communities that I've found in the last six and a half years be with me during this difficult week has also been a way for me to see God at work in my life.

It is so difficult to say, this is really hard for me. I am not coping well. I don't feel like I can do this, but I am really trying to live honestly and vulnerably, and sometimes that means admitting I don't feel like I can handle what life is throwing at me.

The last three nights I've slept with Bennett's forehead pressed against mine. I forgot that he used to sleep like that as a baby; it was one of the few things that would comfort him when he was small and itchy and we didn't know why. This week I've watched him turn to art and coloring to distract and comfort him when he was in the middle of severe, uncomfortable breakouts (I'm talking head to toe hives). It's important for me to see the growth and change in him; to see the baby and the boy that are contained within every 5-year-old. It reminds me Bennett is growing, and he is here, and full of life and love.

As we drove to his doctor's appointment this afternoon he was listing all the things he saw out the window that God had made. After he worked through that list he said, "And God made me!

He sure did, buddy. And I am so glad God not only made you, but that in His infinite wisdom He chose me to be your mother. I don't feel equipped or able, but through Him I am. Isn't that amazing?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

a mile wide {book review}

A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith by Brandon Hatmaker is a challenging book. I am glad there were discussion questions at the end of every chapter, but I need someone to read it with me now!

Hatmaker writes honestly and truthfully about faith and how to create a deep spiritual life at a time when the church is awash in confusion. It's easy to get lost in living a Christian life, in doing the perceived right thing, and following the crowd, but Hatmaker consistently points out what the Bible actually says about discipleship, the church, justice, missions, and living a Jesus focused life.

I've been reading a lot about community and living well with others. A Mile Wide reminded me to continue seeking out those who don't necessarily fit into my everyday life, and to continue building on the idea of creating relationships outside the church.

And in a season when I feel like my faith is rapidly developing and changing this book encouraged me to keep going; to continue learning and seeking time with those who can help me develop my faith.

Every faith based book I have read in the last six months has highlighted two Biblical truths: love God, love others. Brandon Hatmaker takes the same idea and builds a spiritually deep book around the concept so that after reading A Mile Wide one walks away with a blueprint of how to strengthen and deepen one's walk with God.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

parenting and anxiety: 6 years after my loss

It's been six years since Charlotte died. Six and a half if we're splitting hairs. It's been 5 years since our B came into the world; 3 since we met our Ainsleigh girl. If you think that being six years out from loss with two healthy, thriving children growing before my eyes is easy, in some ways you would be right. I am speechlessly grateful we were able to have two healthy children, and I am immeasurably thankful we were gifted with two children to raise in our home, but that doesn't mean I don't struggle with anxiety and fear.

This afternoon I reached that Mama boiling point where the kids' rooms had to be cleaned, and I was the only one who could do it properly. I usually have them do it, because it's not my job to clean up their things, but today I wanted it Mama clean. The kids were outside playing, which is what they do most days, rain or shine, while I cleaned Ainsleigh's room.

As I picked up and sorted toys I wrestled with whether or not I should be cleaning Ainsleigh's room while the kids were outside. Usually if the kids are outside I am in the kitchen or dining room. I can't always see them, but I can hear them and easily jump up to make sure all is well. As I dumped out her toy bins and picked a few things to get rid of / toss an insidious narritive played out in my head:

If they ask I will tell them I was only in here for five minutes. I will explain that I checked on the kids frequently. I will explain how it was not my fault x, y, z happened. There is nothing wrong with letting the kids play in a fenced backyard for a few minutes while I clean a bedroom. It does not mean I am a neglectful mother. It does not mean I am not paying enough attention to them ...

Who was I even defending myself to? Who is this "they?" And why are "they" so concerned with my parenting?!

The guilt I feel over Charlotte's death hangs like a fog over my parenting life. It permeates every aspect of my parenting choices, so much so that I find myself defending my choices to unknowable forces, like I did this afternoon. I often try to explain my parenting decisions to this invisible "they" because I feel like I failed Charlotte so thoroughly someone might decide I am not worthy to have living children and step in to take them away.

I felt like I was put on trial after Charlotte died. And yes, some of that is on me because I wrote so publicly about what happened, but at the time I felt like I could not keep my thoughts and feelings in and continue to breathe. But even without the public component, which was absolutely brutal in its mean-spirited assumption that my choices led to Charlotte's death, we were judged. There was an element of, well, you birthed out of hospital ... from numerous corners. I felt like those who heard our story found us guilty of failing to parent Charlotte well. And to be honest, sometimes I thought God did too.

It's only been recently, while reading the Bible and stacks of books on spirituality, faith, and developing a relationship with Jesus that I've begun to understand on a heart level that the only judge is God (James 4:12, Revelation 20: 11-15 ) and knowing that truth in a deep spiritual place has led to great freedom.

As I raise my kids how I want to: with time away from me, with unstructured hours outside, with space of their own, as well as quality time with me, there is an element of fear present, but it has become possible to parent despite this fear because I have Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in me. Letting the God of angel armies do battle for me instead of taking on the burden of defending my spirit from evil myself has changed my life.

Let me be completely clear and brutally honest: If I was suffering under this burden solo it would be crippling. I would not be able to function fully or parent my children well.

This week, for the first time, I felt a wave of fear about B going to preschool. I have never felt that way before, but I tuned into the news one too many times and the fear just about knocked me over with its power to invade my imagination and create twenty-five horrifying scenarios in two minutes flat.

But then part of a verse I had read the day before came to mind: perfect love drives out fear (from 1 John 4:18) That small fragment of verse reminded me to put down my phone and ask God to remove the feelings of fear.

Then I remembered a sentence I read a couple weeks ago in Falling Free by Shannan Martin about entrusting God with our families:

"If we say we trust him with our lives, we can prove it by trusting him with theirs."

And I realized God is using everything I am reading and studying to help me function and live in peace.

(Let me pause for a moment and be clear about something: I am not saying medication for anxiety does not, or should not, have its place. I have not needed it, but I absolutely think there are times when one needs it, and there is nothing wrong with using it to increase one's enjoyment of life and ability to function.)

It's not easy. It's not like I have a few verses and book quotes memorized so I'm fine now. I don't battle with anxiety daily, but it is a very present part of my life.

When B was born I was so terrified he would die I sought help via counseling. And while that counseling was good, and I received enough coping tools to help me through those particular weeks of crisis, I needed something more. And as I have increased my Bible reading and studying, as well as my reading about faith, I've gained more insight into how to manage my anxiety.

So, how exactly do I tamp down the anxiety?

It starts with being in the Word first thing in the morning as suggested in Uninvited (Lysa TerKeurst) instead of immersing myself in the world's words first via the news, instagram, and facebook.

It's paying attention to my words and keying in immediately when I notice they are not from God. God does not deal in fear, hysteria, criticism and guilt. Those are not the words he uses to bring change to those who love Him. When my stream of thought shifts from life giving positivity to life shaming negativity it's imperative to notice and cut it off via prayer and the calling forth of remembered Bible verses.

It's building relationships with people who can be present in my life and the lives of my children, and keep me focused on the fact that while this world feels frightening at times there are good people all around us who love our family.

It's being honest. It's taking the time to write out these words and confront the ways I am struggling, as well as the ways I am improving.

It's seeking help when I need it, as well as offering help when I am feeling strong and capable.

I don't think I can stop putting myself on trial. I don't have the power to overcome those feelings of guilt and inadequacy. But after years of begging God to tell me - please! - why Charlotte died, that question is no longer part of my life (thank you Jesus for removing that burden). It is by his grace that I am saved, and it is through his power and spirit that I can be free of anxiety and guilt. Or if not free, as I am not yet there, free enough to remember who is in control and where to turn when the darkness closes in.

Monday, October 3, 2016

for such a time as this {love, henri: book review}

Love, Henri is a collection of letters written years ago, but it is a refreshing, reassuring read for the politically uncertain, chaotic world we live in. If we lose sight of our faith and focus on what is transpiring in our world it is straight up scary out there isn't it, friends?

But books like Love, Henri remind us that the world has always been a frightening place with upheaval, wars, and dissension. In 1981 Henri Nouwen was asked in a letter if he thought humanity would survive the century. Here is part of his answer.

"But important for me is not if our civilization will survive or not but if we can continue to live with hope, and I really think we can because our Lord has given us His promise that He will stay with us at all times. He is the God of the living, He has overcome evil and death and His love is stronger than any form of death and destruction. That is why I feel that we should continually avoid the temptation of despair and deepen our awareness that God is present in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us and that that presence allows us to live joyfully and peacefully in a world so filled with sorrow and conflict."

Isn't that a beautiful reminder of where our focus should be?

In his letters Henri Nouwen doesn't just write about what may happen to civilization and how to maintain hope; he covers every topic. Henri's letters cover subjects from moves to job changes to grief to unfaithful spouses to denominational differences to struggles in the church to difficult friendships to insecurity and rejection to current events to missionary life and fulfilling one's calling ... The list is endless!

I am going to keep Love, Henri on my permanent shelf and refer to it for Biblically sound, Scripture based advice any time I need it. It tied in so well with books I have recently read as well as the 1 & 2 Peter Bible study I am participating in right now I want to keep it close at hand so I can refer to the many sections I marked.


If you like this book you might like ...

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, September 23, 2016

uninvited {book review}

I have to admit, when I began Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst my attitude was a little smug: I don't need this book! I like the concept of it, but I feel great about myself and I love my friends! I am so loved!

Then I remembered there are moms I hide from, or avoid, or don't try to get to know because they scare me.

Last year I needed almost the entire school year before I would talk to a mom because she seemed so put together. Turns out she's really nice! And I can now say "hello" to her without feeling scared.

This year I watch little ones while their mamas attend Bible Study and a fellowship group. The mamas all look so fresh, their clothes are so cute, and they all have ankle boots (booties? is that what we call these?) and now I think I need a pair ... but please don't expect me to wear makeup. Please. I just can't. I don't know how.

And there I go again - assuming other moms won't like me because I don't look or dress like them.

So yes, turns out I needed this book, because maybe all of these feelings and thoughts inside of me come across on the outside without me realizing it and maybe, just maybe, people are scared to approach me.

Feeling rejected is hard.

Being rejected is hard.

In Uninvited Lysa steps into that hard, raw, really painful space of rejection and applies Biblical truth to deep wounds.

I read Uninvited as an e-book, which was really hard for me because I wanted to write all over it. I took four pages of notes instead. I know, I know, you can highlight and mark passages in e-books, but it's just not the same!

A few things I LOVED about Unvited:

The reminder that "people can't be our soul-oxygen." We have to fill our hearts with the truth that Jesus loves us, because expecting love to come from outside ourselves will just leave us feeling disappointed and rejected.

We need to be in His word before we get into the World and its messages so that what is at the forefront of our minds is His message. I've been getting up in the morning, leaving my phone on the nightstand, picking up my Bible and starting the day with that. I am not allowing myself to touch my phone until I get the Word in front of me, and the kids, because I want His word to be the first thing I encounter every day.

Scarcity Thinking vs. Abundance Thinking: We think, if she gets that - house, job, car, husband, life - what is left for me? whereas God promises He has a plan and path uniquely set out for everyone.

Being given Biblical tools and resources to help me understand rejection, relationships, and how to communicate better. I am not in the middle of any friendship crisis right now - YAY!! - but if I am ever again in a place where things are falling apart with a friend I am going to use this book as a guide to get us both through with intact hearts and souls. Uninvited has useful and applicable advice on how to handle challenging relationship situations well.

I received this book from BookLook bloggers in exchange for a fair review 

Monday, September 19, 2016

when mountains move {book review}

I have to be honest: when I see a Christian publishing house imprint on the back of a novel I usually put that novel back on the shelf, but after reading When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell I want to give more fiction put out by Christian publishing houses a try!

I didn't realize When Mountains Move is a sequel, so there were moments when I was a little lost, but I still found Millie's story engaging and interesting.

When Millie marries Bump Anderson she attempts to leave her past behind and begin a new life with him in Colorado. However, Millie is unable to bury the past completely and has to find a way to make her marriage survive the secrets she has kept.

Cantrell's honest writing about the difficulties of motherhood, especially in an isolated situation, rang true for me. The first year of a baby's life can be so hard on a marriage and Cantrell does an excellent job exploring the tension and troubles of that time between Bump and Millie.

When Mountains Move is a quick, enjoyable read. I was captivated by the story, and was surprised to find the story to be less predictable than I expected. I have to go back and read the first book so I can understand the full story behind Millie and her life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers. 


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