Thursday, April 13, 2017

the lucky few {book review}




I was reading through The Lucky Few by Heather Avis when I realized she lived the story I'm in right now. It's a story of letting go of how we expect mothering and parenthood to be, and who we thought would make up our family, as well as relinquishing control over everything - even our children - and giving our families to God so He can direct our steps in the way He wants us to go.

For Heather and her husband Josh, the journey includes the valley of infertility and the rocky uncertain path of adoption and parenting special needs children. Throughout The Lucky Few, which chronicles the Avis family's life as they move from a family of two to a family of five, Heather is honest about her doubts, hopes, fears and strong feelings.

I read The Lucky Few in one day. As I was finishing it up my kids were at the park with their dad, burning off energy before bed. Moments after I read the last words I could hear the arrivial of my family. Ainsleigh was screaming and crying so hard in the driveway I could hear her from the house. While at the park Ainsleigh slipped and fell in a creek. (She is fine, we took her to the ER to make sure, but our sweet girl had a terrifying experience last night.)

As I held Ainsleigh in my arms in the ER waiting room I thought about the chapters in The Lucky Few when Heather and her husband are struggling with the medical issues stemming from their first daughter's open heart surgery. When Heather breaks down over the stress her dad reminds her that God is in control:

"Heather. Heather Elizabeth. Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing you do or don't do is going to change that, Heather. God's got this ...

There it was: life-giving, life-changing truth. We had sat in the hospital in the shadow of death. Now we were home, and that same shadow was knocking on my door, but the truth of my dad's words drowned out the racket that death was trying to make.

The truth my dad spoke that night was branded on my heart. And as the days and weeks and months and years went on, I would say the words out loud whenever I needed to drown out the fear that death would whisper in my ear.

'Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing I do or don't do is going to change that.'"

I know this isn't a straightforward book review - mine usually aren't - but I believe God put this book in my hands so that when we were sitting in the ER waiting room I would recall Heather's words (and her father's) and remain calm.

I've been doing so much work on letting go of my kids and family and asking God to be in charge (because He ultimately is and I'm just wearing myself out trying to steer the ship solo) and then something like last night happens and it reminds me how close all of us always are to the edge.

I can't keep my kids alive.

I can be careful, vigilant, and mindful in my care of them, but I do not have the power to keep them whole and healthy. That is a difficult truth, but it is one Heather Avis comes to terms with in The Lucky Few as she watches God take control and grow her family in unexpected ways.

I enjoyed reading about Heather and Josh Avis and how they created a beautiful family with God's grace and guidance. 

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.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

disaster falls {book review}


Just as I was going to pick up Disaster Falls and begin reading I miscarried. I put it aside for a while, knowing my heart and mind were not in the right place to read a book about child loss. When I flipped the calendar to April I knew it was time to try Disaster Falls again. I needed to read it before May and Charlotte's birthday and all the attendant emotions that come with her month fell.

I thought I would need time to read about Stephane Gerson and how he experiences life and grief after his son Owen drowns on a rapids trip in Utah, but I tore through the book in one afternoon. I was captivated by Gerson's story (how often do we get to witness a father's grief experience) and how he navigated his journey of guilt and grief.

In Disaster Falls Gerson explores his relationship with his father, as well as his father's history, and ties it into the greater story of his son's death, but it was the narrative of Owen's short life that captivated me. I can't always read books on grief and loss. Sometimes the stories are too close to my own, sometimes I can't relate at all, sometimes there is too much bitterness or anger for me to continue, but Disaster Falls is a well written story of a father who loses his son far too soon and how he coped with that loss and his feelings of failed responsibility.

The story of Owen's life and death is interesting and well written in and of itself, but Gerson's meditations on being a father to a surviving child, and potentially having another child, were the most poignant for me. In what might be my favorite passage Gerson writes,

"How would we carry the memory of a dead child while remaining open to the possibilities of a new life?
I wondered whether I would allow myself to experience the full immersion in parenthood that I observed in young couples. If so, where would this leave Owen? If not, if loyalty to his memory and fear of pain held me back, what kind of father would I be this time around? Children deserve insouciance and the belief in a better future and a world in which mistakes do not necessarily yield disasters."

Stephane Gerson's Disaster Falls is a book well worth reading whether you have lost a child or not. He writes about the trauma of sudden loss and what it looks like when a family loses an elemental part of its structure. Gerson also explores how loss, guilt and grief changes him, and how it is possible to move forward while still holding onto memories of the lost life after something unexpected and devastating happens.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

miscarriage {baby #4}


We lost a tiny one a month ago. A really tiny one, just a few weeks along. We were still in the whirlwind of what the ... that throws a wrench in about a thousand things ...

I haven't really wanted to talk about it. Less than a handful of people knew I was pregnant. Then a few more found out I lost the pregnancy when the process went on longer than expected.

But I can now confirm something I have always claimed despite a previous lack of personal knowledge: a miscarriage is hard in its own way. A just forming baby can be desperately missed and wanted. Equally so, a just forming baby can be a shock and a surprise, and the loss can lead to mixed emotions.

That's where I landed: mixed emotions and one difficult month that I'm only just on the other side of. It's not that I wanted a baby, or another pregnancy, or even another child, but once I had it - however briefly - I wanted, and expected, to keep it.

Pregnancy and birth is so traumatic for me I couldn't plan on having another child, but when we were surprised with one I felt the hope that always comes with new life. I also cried a LOT because I don't do well with change and another baby is a BIG change. I felt so confused for the few weeks we knew. I wasn't sure I wanted another baby, but I also didn't expect the pregnancy to end so early. I assumed I would come around to the idea of having a baby eventually. (That's why pregnancy is such a long process, right?) And just when I began to think about Ainsleigh and Bennett - who love babies - with a new sibling in the house, the pregnancy ended.

After the loss I wasn't craving a busy 1-year-old or a saucy 2-year-old or a curious 3-year-old, but I desperately wanted a newborn. That's exactly how I felt after Charlotte died and feeling that way again sent me in to a bit of a spin.

I was worried the feeling would last forever; that my certainty our family is as complete as possible this side of heaven would evaporate and I would once again question if we should have another. But then the feelings faded, after one very intense difficult week, and I remembered that the deep, dark feelings don't last forever, they just feel like they will.

There is no way to know, but I think #4 was a boy. I believe I have a daughter and son waiting for me in heaven. We didn't tell the kids about the pregnancy, but they knew Mama didn't feel well (I couldn't hide that!) and there was so much comfort in their tiny arms and beautiful lives as I miscarried and recovered. 

Losing this baby was a different kind of loss, but it was still a loss and I am so thankful for the people I told for allowing me the space to grieve and have lots of different feelings about the miscarriage. 

There is a small part of me that is reluctant to share this. This loss is a much quieter one than our first. One of my initial goals for this blog, which I've tried to carry forward, is to be honest so that others may feel like they can share their life stories. In that spirit I am going to share about the miscarriage, but I probably won't write about it after this post.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

living with food allergies


I have noticed over and over and over that it is impossible to truly understand the impact and challenges of living with food allergies unless you or a loved one are exposed to the struggle daily.

When Bennett had his reaction last fall to the new nut butter we tried my anxiety went into overdrive mode and it is just coming down now (mostly due to therapy). Even though his reactions in the fall ended with hives and did not affect his breathing at all, I have spent the past few months in a panic about Bennett and his allergies. 

When I am at the children's museum, or the park, or church, and a child has a peanut butter sandwich, or peanuts are served, I want to explain to people how hard and stressful it is to live with a food allergy. If you haven't been exposed to food allergies, or lived in close proximity to people with food allergies, it's hard to understand how frightening it is to see a parent pull a peanut butter sandwich out of a lunch bag.

And Bennett isn't even that allergic! His allergy is triggered by ingestion, thankfully, but it's still stressful to to take him to the park and other kid heavy places because he has a terrible habit of putting his hands in his mouth (we hand wash and remind, remind, remind, but this is a hard habit to break!).

Our friends and family have been accommodating, kind and thoughtful, but if I had to tell a new friend about what it's like to live with food allergies this is what I would say:

It is very challenging and sometimes heart breaking to have a child with food allergies. My son feels left out, he knows he is different, and it makes him sad there are so many foods he can't eat.

I spend a lot of time shopping for food and preparing meals my son can eat. Every time I shop I check labels, even if it's the three ingredient rice crackers I buy every week. Ingredients can change at any time and assuming a food is safe can have harmful consequences. Please don't feed my child anything from your cupboard or fridge or child's backpack without my consent.

There are restaurants we cannot go to because they serve foods cooked in peanut oil or made with peanut sauce. We have to bring a separate dinner for our son if we are eating out. We used to be able to go to two places and get him something from the menu, but he's been too reactive lately for us to try. If we want to "eat out" we either bring food for my son or my husband brings food home and I make a separate meal for the kids (this is what we usually do).

Holidays can be a nightmare. Finding food substitutes and safe options is hard and time consuming. (Last Thanksgiving Bennett had a smoothie while everyone else had a full turkey dinner.)

I have cried because I don't know what to make for dinner / I'm tired of eating the same five dinners that are safe for my son / I am exhausted from cooking.

I have also cried because I want to take my son out and enjoy a treat with him. Seeing pictures of parents taking their kids out for ice cream, a hot chocolate, or a cupcake because they wanted to do something special makes me sad and jealous.

Despite the challenges there are positives as well:

We are all eating healthier. I still eat the foods my son can't have, like wheat, but I eat way, way, way less than I did before. Nearly all of our dinners comply with Bennett's diet restrictions, which means at least one meal a day (and usually two because I often eat leftovers for lunch) is free of gluten, soy, corn, dairy (mostly, I do love cheese) and preservatives / food dyes. 

My son is learning compassion for himself and others. He knows what it is like to feel different and he carries heaps of kindness and empathy in his little heart.

I've learned a lot about cooking and preparing meals from scratch with a handful of ingredients.

And here's some ways you can help:

Be considerate and try to remember the food restrictions. I know this is really hard to do! Right now Bennett's list of restricted foods is so long it is easier to list what he can eat than what he cannot eat!! But the kids who remembered my son's food allergies on Valentine's Day and made sure he had a non-food treat in his bag made my day - not to mention his.

Think twice about bringing foods with peanut butter to kid focused places and events. For kids with airborne or contact allergies just breathing in or touching the allergen can cause anaphylaxis.

If you have a child with food allergies over for a play date:

- Please wash your child's hands and wipe the table down after they eat.
- Don't let them play with toys while eating unless you plan on washing them.
- Don't let them wander around the house with food (my son eating a small bit of peanut butter cracker off the floor when he was 9 months old led to an ER visit and his Epi-pen prescription)
- Musical instruments that touch the mouth are not to be shared (whistles, harmonicas etc.)

Parents of children with food allergies appreciate your kindness and consideration! It is so stressful to be in an environment where allergens are. When there is a safe place for us to drop our time consuming vigilance and let our kids play and make friends our whole family benefits.

Does your child have food allergies? Do you have a friend who has a child with food allergies? What is living with - or near - food allergies like for you?

assimilate or go home {book review}


Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D. L. Mayfield is a well timed book that every evangelical Christian who is interested in reaching beyond the church should read.

Mayfield grew up wanting to be a missionary so when she has the opportunity to use her hometown, Portland Oregon, as a missions ground she is excited. But as Mayfield lives and works with Somali refugees in Portland she realizes being a missionary and loving her neighbor is more difficult and complex than she expected.

Mayfield's refreshingly honest stories about her struggles with helping others, particularly refugees, was enjoyable and written in a an easy to read style. I appreciated Mayfield's willingness to confront her failures and how she learned and grew from her missteps and mistakes.

I recommend Assimilate or Go Home for anyone who is seeking to learn how to help with the refugees who are pouring into American cities. As I read Mayfield's book I realized there is a population in my city I don't know anything about. With this book Mayfield provides a road map of how to sit with and learn from people instead of trying to convert and change them.

Monday, March 6, 2017

choosing real {review & giveaway!!}



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

alongside {book review and giveaway!!}




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!

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