Monday, March 6, 2017
Bekah Pogue's book Choosing Real is an invitation to learn how to cope and enjoy the journey when life doesn't go as planned. Pogue encourages readers to lean on God and let go of striving for perfection when life goes sideways. She uses her own life experiences, particularly the loss of her father, to explore what it means to truly 'enjoy the journey.'
I appreciated Pogue's honesty and encouragement as she wrote about her experiences as a mother and learning how to be content with her place in life. There are a lot of books out on this topic right now, because our world has changed so dramatically, and we are living so much of our lives online, but Pogue does an excellent job of bringing every topic she explores back to God and how living closely with him can help us let go of the idolatry of striving and comparing.
I enjoyed this book and I think you will too! Thanks to the Blythe Daniel Agency I have a copy to give away! Leave a comment and I'll pick a winner on Thursday!!
Monday, February 13, 2017
What do you do when a dear friend finds out they have cancer? What do you do when your neighbor, whom you've only met once, experiences a significant loss? What do you do when a family in your church encounters crisis after crisis? How do you help? What can you do? Should you do anything?
Alongside by Sarah Beckman seeks to answer all of these questions with solid, researched advice, much of it drawn from her experiences and the experiences of people she interviewed, all who have been through - or are in the middle of - crisis. I wish I had fifteen (or more!) copies of this book to give away. I wish all of the parents I have met who lost children had people in their lives who read this book, because some of the comments and actions that I have heard about have made a devastating loss even more so. I wish I had a copy of this in my hands years ago, but I am glad to have it as a resource now.
Beckman covers everything from what level of response to a crisis one should have based on their relationship: from Tier 1 to Tier 4 (this is so helpful for those who are trying to navigate how to respond to friends and acquaintances in times of need) to what to say and not to say, and what gifts / offers might be appropriate.
I especially appreciated Backman being honest enough in her writing to admonish people to keep their focus outward and make sure their purpose and intentions are to serve, not glean information, or show off how much they are assisting. Motivations get mixed sometimes and it is important to remember that helping someone through a major life event is for and about them.
Alongside is a useful guide one can pull out again and again as different events in life happen. There are practical gift guides, helpful websites, and practical advice spread throughout the book. You can either read it front to back or use it as a reference guide as needs arise.
I highly recommend this book for everyone who is trying to live out the Biblical edict to love one's neighbor (which is everyone by the way, not just the people next door or across the street). And even if you are not a Christian there is practical, helpful advice within these pages if you are walking through a difficult time with someone.
Thanks to the Blythe Daniel Agency and The Blog About Network I have one copy of Alongside - signed by the author! - to give away. Please leave a comment if you are interested in winning a copy. I'll choose a winner on Friday, February 17th!
Friday, February 10, 2017
I feel like we are doing the up, down, loop around roller coaster ride with our boy B and his food issues all day every day. Every time I think, we've got this! we reach a crest and plummet to a low, low place once again.
I was waiting to fall asleep last night, alternating between thinking about B's food issues and praying, when I realized a lot of my parenting life has taken place in the land of zero answers. (Isn't that true for all parents? We have no idea what we're doing, right?!)
Why did Charlotte die?
The answer hasn't been revealed to us.
Why does Bennett have food issues? What exactly are his food issues? What is the base problem?
The answers haven't been revealed to us.
Why was Ainsleigh born with hearing loss in one ear?
The answer hasn't been revealed to us.
With all of these questions I want the resolution that answers bring. I want that big hallelujah moment when all is revealed and everything makes sense, but the tricky thing about revelations and answers is that we often don't get to know everything this side of heaven.
The lingering questions about the girls I am mostly sort-of kind-of okay with not having answers for. I've done a lot of grief work since Charlotte died and most days I can live with the unanswered questions that surround her birth and death. As for Ainsleigh, her situation is not ideal, but it's manageable and she's not noticeably delayed, so I'm not overly concerned about what exactly happened during her gestation to cause her hearing loss.
But what do I do if the Praise Jesus he's healed moment!! doesn't come around for years, or at all, for my boy? What if we're ten years out and B is still battling food issues and we're still riding that roller coaster? What does that look like? How do I cope? Will I still be hanging on to faith and hope and believing that God has my B and his life in the palm of His hands?
I'd like to say I will, but in the same breath I have to admit I cannot fathom ten more years like this. It doesn't feel sustainable, BUT I don't have to go forward on my own power. I just have to keep handing the problem over and asking for help as each new day and challenge arises.
I've been learning a lot about myself lately (therapy will do that to you) and how and why what is happening around me has landed me in this place of barely coping. And I've had to rely on God to get me through each day because I literally cannot. It's been very stretching and challenging and I don't like it AT ALL, but my brain is kind-of broken - not to mention my heart - and if I can fix myself now (with a whole lot of help) maybe that + Jesus is how I get through this time of waiting and hoping for healing that could go on for years.
The good great thank you Jesus news in all of this is that we get to shed these troublesome earthly bodies some day and be completely whole and healed in heaven if we accept Christ into our lives and hearts and allow him to change and shape us. That is good news! I'm excited! But my kids haven't made that step yet, so I need to model Christ for them and introduce them to the Bible and take them to church and show them the way. It is hard to witness B in pain, clutching his stomach, but there is so much light and hope in being able to be with him in the moment and say, this will not last forever. I promise. It might not abate until heaven, but if you believe in the Lord and ask him into your life it WILL abate then.
Though life may feel dark and heavy now the Praise Jesus moment will come. It might not come when we want it to (likely it won't) and our pain and sorrow may last longer than we think we can endure, but God promises he will wipe every tear and take away our sorrow and that we will be whole with Him in heaven. Holding on to that promise is how I am going to make it through each day while I ride the roller coaster with my B and wait for answers and healing.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
In Nothing to Prove Jennie Allen writes about the abundance of God's love and how we need to put down whatever we are carrying, whatever is slowing us down, or causing us to be numb, or making us strive, and realize that God is enough and He has us in the palm of his hand, we just need to quiet ourselves and rely on Him.
In the second half of the book Allen focuses on various chapters in the book of John and relates them to God's Streams of Enoughness. Those chapters made the book come alive for me. I often feel like I should be doing more for others. I get stuck in routine, we all do, and before I know it we're already a month into 2017 and a lot of the 2016 goals and promises I had in mind have fallen by the wayside.
I was especially convicted by Allen's exhortation to rely on God and let my life and mission flow from that dependent relationship.
Allen writes, "Consider the things that are holding you back - the things you say you don't have enough of .... Now I want you to picture the streets in heaven. I want you to picture streets as far as you can see and every street is full of warehouses as far as you can see.
I just want you to picture all that God has and all that He wants to do.
Then you land in heaven with him. He looks you in the eyes and says, 'I wanted to go crazy through you. I wanted to change your neighborhood, your city. And you kept going up to your room and watching Netflix.'"
For me it's reading a book instead of Netflix, but it's the same general idea! God wants us to be His voice and He wants to work through us, but we have to let go of our fear and anything else that is holding us back and let Him.
Lately my story, my life, my habits have been focused inward. I've been focused on me and how I am feeling and how I need to get better because I can't continue as I have been, but what I really need to do is put all of my need on God and turn my focus outwards. Because I am not the only one who feels like life is hard and overwhelming, and as I learned with my last post, being honest and reaching out leads to more connections and deeper friendships.
It was just such a relief to read Nothing to Prove and be reminded that I can put everything that is going on in my life on God's shoulders and he can use it for His purposes. My life, small though it feels sometimes, can make a kingdom difference if I rely on the power of God to transform instead of my own skills and abilities. Nothing to Prove reminded me that I can't do anything without God, but with Him I can do whatever is asked of me.
“I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.”
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
I've mostly been posting book reviews here because I haven't wanted to share as much about what is going on in our lives. The kids are getting older and I have been feeling the need to be careful about what I share about them and their lives. And most of the time my life is fairly boring and routine: we're remodeling the house, B is in preschool, I read a lot ...
Of course I began writing here at a time when I needed to be heard and understood. I wanted others experiencing loss to know they were not alone so I shared about all of my grief and parenting after loss struggles even though some of it was hard to write about.
I wrote about my anxiety after B was born and how I needed outside help so I went to counseling. And that counseling helped quite a bit, but it didn't really solve anything. I felt better most of the time, but I was still anxious about a lot of things. Then B had a series of reactions (just hives, no Epi-pen required) in October and I quietly fell apart.
I appeared fine on the outside, but I was an anxious mess on the inside. I was sick to my stomach (literally) with worry and fear, but I continued putting 'find a new counselor because I didn't LOVE my last one,' at the end of my to do list.
Then I had an anxiety attack in the middle of a church service one Saturday night. I was sitting there worrying about B and the small spot he had on his face after dinner. I worry spiraled, as I do, letting my mind wander from worst case scenario to just shy of worst case scenario when I realized my vision was off. Well that was frightening. And then I got really, really, really hot. I leaned over and asked Jonathan to walk out with me. When we had walked down a side hallway I told him I didn't feel well and he checked my heart rate. It was over 200 bpm.
After calming down - and crying - I told Jonathan it was probably time to get help. Again. Finally.
I called a counselor the next morning - another random choice, which did not work perfectly last time, but I think this one is a better fit - certain I was ready to do just about anything to prevent another anxiety attack.
A few years ago I would've been like, it's time to get help! Let's all get help! Thank the Lord for helpers! This time I'm more ashamed. I mean, it's been nearly 7 years since Charlotte died and I'm still feeling aftershocks. SEVERE aftershocks. Just about pass out from fear and anxiety in the middle of church aftershocks. And it makes me feel really broken and messed up.
But when I told the new counselor about Charlotte dying her jaw was practically on the floor, and it reminded me that what happened to us was very sudden and incredibly traumatic so aftershocks are to be expected, even seven years after the initial traumatic event.
So I'm back to doing the work I need to do to heal. Because I can't live every day waiting for the children who are here to die. That's more waiting for disaster that may never come than living, and it is certainly not a healthy place to parent from.
And B is fine. He's on a new medicine, his doctors are optimistic about the plans we have in place for him, we've been given the go ahead to reintroduce a few foods and even try a baked egg challenge in a month (dear Lord give me the tools I need to cope with that before it occurs!) and he is overall just fine.
I, however, am not fine. I need to reorganize my stress responses so I can parent from a healthier place. I need to be honest with myself and others about how I am so that they can help me find my way. I need to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with how I am handling my grief. I have peace about much of Charlotte's life and death, but I still struggle with what happened - the actual event - because it was so traumatic and life altering.
And I need to tell you something: if you feel like you may need help, get it. Don't wait. God created kind compassionate helper healers for a reason. It's okay to ask them to walk alongside you while you figure out what you need to live a complete and healthy life. It's not easy asking for help, or admitting that everything is not fine, but it's better than having an anxiety attack that leaves you convinced you are dying - trust me.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
I selected this book on a whim. I was scrolling through a list of books, trying to decide on a title to read when the subtitle caught my eye:
What Falls From the Sky: How I Disconnected from the Internet and Reconnected with the God Who Made The Clouds
Esther Emery spent an entire year offline. No phone, no computer, no email, no facebook, no blog, no instagram ... nothing to do with the Internet for an entire year.
Could you do it?
I couldn't, but the idea of it is intriguing, so I settled in to read this book one evening and I blazed through it.
I didn't expect the writing to be so descriptive and beautiful. I didn't expect to feel so deeply for Esther and the gut wrenching upheavals that led her to go offline for a year. I loved that she didn't sugarcoat her story; instead she was brutally honest about the job she lost, the strife between her and her husband and how those things affected her life and the choices she made, and eventually led her back to God.
And the background stories that are skillfully woven throughout the book were just as interesting as Esther's reflections on her life.
It was intriguing and sometimes harrowing, to read about what it was like for the Emerys to live in close proximity to a family in crisis, but it was also a good reminder on how to love others well. And the stories about Esther's mother, who was a homesteading back to the land proponent in the 70's, were also fascinating.
Above all else Esther Emery is a good storyteller, and I enjoyed reading about her life and how she came through a time of crisis with her marriage and faith intact.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Sunday, January 1, 2017
I have to keep this short since I am still dealing with one hand in a brace. Hopefully my hand will be healed soon; I am ready to have it back!
I enjoyed Ted Koppel's account of the security risk our power grid is, but I found the first section a little too dry. I really enjoyed the third section about what to do in the event of a cyber attack, although it left me wanting to buy 5 acres and build a bunker!
I like reading disaster plan books, or what if books, because they force me to think about the emergency plans we have in place and what our family needs to do to improve. Reading Lights Out presented the opportunity to ask myself a series of questions: What would we do if the power was out for months? Could we survive? What would change? How would we need to adapt?
One concrete action I've taken since reading Lights Out was to make an emergency box solely for my son who has food allergies. In the event of a major disaster, like 1\3 of the United States being without power, it might be difficult to obtain the foods he needs to stay healthy.
Lights Out is an important book for everyone to read so that they may be prepared in case a large scale cyber attack is perpetuated on the United States.