Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Esther

Drawn in Bible Study Esther
Finding Yourself in Time of Trouble

Eugene H. Peterson


Overview:
Bible study is an important spiritual discipline, but it can be intimidating and often difficult for newcomers. The four-session coloring Bible studies for adults in this series are designed for group use and as outreach to new Christians and non-Christians. Incorporating coloring, the text of The Message, and a mix of study and reflection questions, the new Drawn In Bible Study series offers a unique on-ramp experience for those new to Bible study, and a refreshing holistic approach for seasoned Bible students.

In Esther: Finding Yourself in Times of Trouble, readers will get to know Esther, the unlikely queen of Persia who found her voice in a time of crisis. This study features pages for coloring, the earthy language of The Message, and questions that help you understand not just the text of the Bible, but your own connections to Esther's story.

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed working through this bible study.  I remember when I was a little girl that I really enjoyed coloring.  That did not change as I grew older, while I walked away from it for a while, my pencils and coloring books remained.  Over time, they changed, I even found myself purchasing some adult coloring books. I have always enjoyed a good bible study, a way to dive into the word a little deeper.  There were several pages throughout the study with quotes to color.  There were also pages that had small drawings mixed with words to be colored as well as pages devoted to the bible study.  I enjoy having variety and changing things up.  This bible uses The Message translation, it isn't a translation I use all the time but sometimes a fresh perspective is good. I would recommend this bible study.  It is short, four weeks!  I could see where it could be stretched out and maybe have some study sessions where everybody just met and colored and enjoyed the fellowship with one another. 

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through Tyndale Blog Network but my opinions are my own.


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Lucky Few

The Lucky Few
Written By: Heather Avis


Book Overview:
These are the faces that call me “mom,” the three children who made me a mother.

            When I started my journey into parenthood I never thought it would look like this. I never planned on having three adopted children, and I certainly never imagined that two of them would have Down syndrome. But like most of the things God does, once we stepped into the craziness and confusion of the unknown and unplanned, we quickly realized that we were indeed among the lucky few.
            When my husband and I decided to grow our family ten years ago, we were surprised to find that getting pregnant was not as easy as we had thought it would be. And as we navigated the ups and downs of infertility, God led us down the path of adoption. Of course, we would adopt! Not what we had originally planned, but certainly a wonderful option.
            But just as we began to get a comfortable grasp on growing our family through adoption, God introduced us to Macyn Hope, a very sick little girl with Down syndrome who desperately needed a family. As we continued to follow God’s calling, first with Macyn, and later with Truly and then August, we found ourselves further and further from the comfortable paths we thought our lives would take, and instead moving down some very scary, and often painful roads.
            Even though at times His plan seemed terrifying and even downright foolish, little could we have known how much goodness, blessing, and joy would flow out of loving these three little people He’s put into our lives. No, it’s not been easy: not the open-heart surgeries or the challenges of raising two children with Down syndrome or the complexities of dealing with birth-families or the struggles we’ve had with the public education system. But through it all, every new and uncomfortable situation has only proven to be another chance to see how very good God’s plan is for our lives and how downright lucky we are to be able to live it out.  
                It’s only the lucky few that recognize that the most beautiful things in this life are often found in the differences. What some would see as misfortune, I’ve learned to see as nothing more than pure luck.
My Thoughts:
I enjoy reading books that allow me a glimpse into another's life.  We all face challenges and trials and struggles and joy and happiness.  In some way, while we are all different, we are all met with some type of adversity in life.  It can be difficult to remember that we are all faced with some difficulty this side of eternity.  We tend to get wrapped up in the struggles in our own story. I think some times we plan or imagine that things will be a certain way and then when they don't turn out the way we thought they would, well its hard to remember that while it might be difficult to digest the difference, it just might be the best thing for us.  I enjoyed reading the story about how they adopted their children and how God led them right where He wanted them to go.  Obedience isn't always easy but the rewards for being obedient are worth it. One thing that she said that I really liked was, "We can only fully know joy when we know heartbreak as well."

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through BookLookBloggers but my opinions are my own!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

My Sweet Friend....

 I have been sitting here starring at a blank template, unsure of what to say but yet filled with so many thoughts. I watch the text cursor blink, waiting for some input to make it solid, to fill the space, to add meaning to the emptiness that it lives within.  Then my mind drifts into thoughts about how our life could be viewed the same way.  This world is so empty compared to what is waiting for us, and we search for some meaning, a purpose - something that makes us feel solid and complete. Some people find what makes them solid, and in so doing they start filling the pages of their lives with words, pictures, experiences, stories, memories....things that will keep them feeling full and satisfied, despite living in an empty world where pain and heartache threaten to drain our spirit. In living their life story they are not only filling the pages of their life story but also adding a few chapters to somebody else's story. I have found this happens, sometimes when we are completely unaware of it. I don't think we will always know the chapters we write in somebody else's life.  Sometimes we write them when we are declining in health or facing some hardship that seems insurmountable. 

I have been helping out at a memory care facility and yesterday I received word that one of the ladies that I would walk with and work with one-on-one, had departed this earth. When she would come in on days that I was there, we would walk around the facility and 'shop'...she would comment on the nice door decorations of the residents who live there...they have different little rooms in this place and we would walk around and shop in these different areas. We weren't really shopping but that is what seemed to bring some joy to Mrs. Dorothy, so that is what we did.  We would collect odd pillows or pictures or magazines and purchase them 'on credit' and take them back to the house. Mind you, we never left the facility.  Part of working with people who have some kind of memory impairment is joining them where they are, while also having no knowledge of where that may be. I think a big part of it is making a connection. Some days we would walk outside, only to Mrs. Dorothy we were walking on the farm and helping with the animals.  Or working in the fields and harvesting crops.  Some days we were at the hospital and she was taking care of people and talking about how much she enjoyed helping others. As she was losing her memories I felt like I was saving them for her. She enjoyed visits from Sadie!

One day we were walking outside and she was talking about potato farming and she stopped and looked at me and told me that I was a good person.  I told her thank you and asked her how she knew that and she told me because I care and I am a good friend and I have a good heart.  I asked her how she could know those things about me and she simply responded, 'Because he told me so.'  I asked who 'he' was and she was back to talking about all the things she could make using potatoes.  For those few moments though, she was there, and what she was telling me was what I needed to hear.  I felt like God himself was talking to me through these interactions that I would have with amazing people at this memory care facility.  When we walked she would always feel the need to hold on to me and would repeat over and over, please don't leave me. I am not one that really likes to be touched, but for Mrs. Dorothy, I had to get over what I didn't like because it was what she needed.

Mrs. Dorothy certainly blessed my life, even as hers was slipping away. She has written a few chapters in my life's story, while sharing her life's story with me.  She pioneered the way for me into memory care and what that really looks like. I know the only thing certain in life is death, but I also don't think it is something we were ever meant to have to deal with. I am grateful for the time that I had with her, even though I feel like it was way too short. I will always remember her - somehow in the midst of my struggles she reminded me that I am a good person, that I have a good heart, and that the way I care for others is a good thing.  When I think about her I can't help but think about those positive affirmations that she left me with.  I hear her voice clear as day saying it to me now. I am grateful for the pictures I have to reflect back on but the true beauty lies in the way she touched my soul. I know she is at peace. I should find peace in that knowledge but being somebody who feels things so deeply, this is very sad for me.


The write up in the paper 

She wrote her own obituary - it was published on my birthday. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

This time last week....

I was playing a game on the computer.  My cell phone started ringing.  I thought it was my brother to discuss plans to help my grandfather over the coming days. I didn't answer the phone, I was in a competitive game. The phone rang again, they never left a message, must not be important...when the phone rang for the third time I answered...."Rachel, Dad is having seizures again, paramedics are trying to get him loaded up now."  I opened my front door - this is what I saw.  Every time I hear sirens come down our street, I panic, I rush to the front of the house and in my head I repeat, 'just keep going, just keep going.' A few times, they have stopped at my parents house and when they do, followed by the 'just keep going' is 'oh no they stopped.' Sometimes I don't even make it to the door when I see the reflection of the lights through my front door.  This time they did not have sirens on, but the panic was still the same.  This will never become any easier to see. 


Like every other time, I sprinted down to the house. I must say if I could channel that into some race, I am sure I would win. This time when I left the house I didn't have shoes on, my feet ended up bruised and scraped but the pain didn't phase me. Got down to the house to see the paramedics struggling to get dad on the stretcher.  He was still having seizures. That also will never become any easier to see 


 He was telling us that he wanted to die in between massively seizing. He was taken to Mayo, and I think about an hour after the seizures originally started, and with medication from the ER, he was not having seizures but was also not very alert. It would come and go. Seizures leave him completely drained and weak.  There are still certain little neuro tests they do to just keep tabs on him.  Concerned over his lack of response, the following morning he was sent for a CT Scan.  No new brain damage...always a relief.  Who would have thought that, 'no new brain damage,' would be a "relief." He had some seizures throughout the night while he was being monitored at Mayo. Mom didn't leave his side. 


As we got more results and news from the doctors about how to once again tweak his medications, mom decided to go to work the following day.  I told her I would go up and sit with him. It felt like old times.  An odd, but familiar; uncomfortable but comfortable setting.  I ordered him his typical Mayo Breakfast and a few smoothies, is it sad that I pretty much know the menu? Doctors made their rounds and with the new medication on board, Dad was improving.  I left him rest in the morning but when I saw the doctors down the hall I told him he had to be alert and answer their questions if he wanted to get home. When they came in he was awake and answered their questions and they said they felt he could go home, just have somebody with him for support and what not while he builds strength back up.  This is the picture right after the doctors had left the room, he just kept saying, "I'm going home" and had a big smile on his face. He asked me to text this picture to my mom. He was impressed with how symmetrical his smile was!


So at precisely this time last week we were just hoping the seizures would stop.  We were taking turns going back to see him in the ER as you are only allowed 2 visitors at a time.  We may have bent that rule a few times. We were keeping each other company in the waiting room while others of us went back to check on him. Just being there for each other during a time when we were uncertain about how things would turn out. It seems dad goes through the ringer with these seizures, just about every other month. I don't know how he finds the strength to keep going.  Oh wait, I know...mom is standing beside him every step of the way and refusing to let him give up!  I love their love for one another. 

I hate everything he has been through. It doesn't seem fair. It scares me and makes me angry at times but yet it also serves as a sobering reminder of the fact that this fallen world is not our home. There are days that his physical body has left him feeling so discouraged and let down.  I remind him that he is still the same on the inside. 

Don't hesitate to reach out to somebody. 
You just might be the encouragement they need to keep going.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time 
Holy Bible 

Book Overview:

The Bible is not a fairy tale, but every great story happened once upon a time. The NIrV Once Upon a Time Holy Bible contains a presentation page and also highlights six great stories from the Bible on 24 full-color inserts. Each story is told on four pages in full-color, illustrated splendor. Also contains the complete New International Reader's Version (NIrV) of the Bible.
Stories include:
God Makes Man and Woman
Isaac and Rebekah
Ruth Finds Happiness
Queen Esther
Mary and Joseph and an Angel
He Lives!

We all have our own tale to live and what better place to look for help and encouragement than the greatest story of all.
Once Upon A Time
Storybook Bible

Book Overview: 

* Introduce your children to real heroes of the Bible! Accompanied by charming fairy-tale-like illustrations, the captivating adventures of Ruth, Abigail, Esther, the parable of the lost sheep, Mary Magdalene, and others will leave young princes and princesses clamoring to hear more from God's Word. Ages 4 to 8. 144 pages, hardcover from Zonderkidz.
My Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading through the bible storybook myself!  Since I have two young boys, I am not used to having 'girly stuff' in the house. I love the tag line to both the bible and the storybook, "The Bible is not a fairy tale. Every great story happened once upon a time." The stories and pictures would definitely hold the attention of a kindergarten aged child. I like how they had the bible to kind of make this a set.  Something to grow with your little girl. There were a few stories within the bible that were highlighted with pictures and special color pages.  I enjoyed having these on my desk, especially the bible to turn to when I wanted to look up a verse. I would highly recommend these books.  They would make a great gift for a special little girl in your life. 

I received these books in exchange for an honest review through the FlyBy book bloggers program.  My opinions are my own!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Finding God's Blessings in Brokenness

Finding God's Blessings in Brokenness
How Pain Reveals His Deepest Love

Written By: Charles F. Stanley

Book Overview:
Is it possible to be broken and blessed at the same time?
Life brings so many hardships, from failed marriages to lost jobs, from health crises to broken relationships. How can we stay strong in our faith in spite of these obstacles? Trusted pastor and bestselling author Dr. Charles F. Stanley answers these questions and more in Finding God’s Blessings in Brokenness. “Affliction acts as spiritual fertilizer on a believer’s faith,” he says, and can enrich our hearts and spirit.
Perhaps you’ve already experienced circumstances so shattering that you may wonder if it’s even possible to pick up the pieces. And maybe you can’t. But God can—and the good news is He wants to reassemble the shards of your life into a wholeness that comes only from Him.
My Thoughts:
In one word - WOW! As in a sensational success!
Like all books that I receive in the mail, I eagerly open the package like a little kid on Christmas morning.  In most cases once I start reading the book I can't put it down. This one was amazing.  It was written very much to the point.  There wasn't a lot of stories to convey the purpose or point he was trying to make he just got to the point.  I enjoyed reading the book, some parts were harder to read than others just because of life circumstances. The idea of being broken is something we can all relate to but very few of us embrace the pain, we spend a lot of time trying to run from it or avoid it.  In those places that we feel deeply broken, there lies a place for God's love to shine the brightest. One of my favorite parts of this book was in the final chapter which was titled "The Promise of Blessing." There was a section about God's grace and how Paul had a thorn in his flesh that made him feel weak and insufficient. It was Paul's brokenness. Ultimately Paul accepted it as, "God's way of bringing him to the blessing of knowing that God was sufficient for him regardless of any outer circumstances." Stanley went on to explain that we only ever truly learn about God's grace when we are brought to a place where we can no longer endure the pain we feel. He then talked about the refining of precious metals and how it starts with low heat and "certain impurities respond quickly to heat, and they rise to the surface of the metal and are skimmed away. The heat is then increased and other impurities rise to the top of the cauldron of molten metal and are skimmed off. Only under extremely intense heat will the most stubborn of impurities separate from the metal and rise to the top where they can be removed. The process is the same in our lives. The breaking in our lives is by degrees. God breaks us layer by layer, bit by bit. If God moved immediately to the deepest areas of our lives, we couldn't stand it. The most deeply embedded things within us are subject to the greatest amount of brokenness. Only when these deep-seated, strongly entrenched weaknesses or flaws are removed can we truly say, 'i know God's grace is sufficient for anything."  Only by knowing the full intensity of God's refining fire to do we experience God's unlimited grace.  This book was just what I needed, the only bad thing about it was that it seemed to end too soon....
I received this book in exchange for an honest review from BookLookBloggers.


Friday, February 17, 2017

A Spectacle of Glory


A Spectacle of Glory
God's Light Shining through Me Every Day
Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby

Overview:

Do you ever wonder why God created you? The Bible spells it out plainly: God created you to showcase His glory—to enjoy it, display it, and demonstrate it every day to all those you encounter.
After nearly 50 years of living as a quadriplegic, and dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis, Joni has learned firsthand the importance of glorifying God through the toughest of situations. Through this devotional, Joni will help you discover how to put God’s glory on display—how to say no to complaining and say yes to daily following God down even the most difficult paths. Along the way, you will find great comfort and encouragement by focusing on the one who longs to lead and guide you every step of the way, every day.
Don’t ever think your life is too ordinary, your world too small, or your work too insignificant. All of it is a stage set for you to glorify God.
My Thoughts:

I have heard Joni Eareckson Tada's story and was looking forward to reading this devotional.  I had quite a few books started when I added this one to the mix.  I looked forward to reading a short devotion every day.  Some days I read more than one!  The devotions were not that long, they were a perfect length and easy to keep up with.  I enjoyed how each one ended with a little prayer as well.  I enjoyed reading through this and plan on starting over again.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the Book Look Bloggers program!


Monday, February 13, 2017

not again....

"Not again..." that is all I could think as I felt my heart sink to the pit of my stomach when my mom called me last night to tell me that my dad had another stroke.  All I had to compare it to was what his first stroke was like - a terrifying and miraculous journey that strengthened our family as it tore apart everything we knew and loved about a man who we thought was indestructible....a man who always took on the world, and now this world threatened to take him.  

Everything changed that day.  Everything continues to change. It truly is the only constant. Some days I find myself wishing there was some way to go back to the 3 months prior to the stroke, when he was happy, when he would call me to tell me he was proud of me, when he would open the door and say welcome to the jungle to my boys.  I am grateful that he is still here but there are days that I miss him terribly.  

I never thought I would be thanking God for a small stroke.  Today I was doing just that. I didn't know what to expect when I went to see him today.  I was happy to see him stand and move his legs and talk. They have been running tests all day to figure out the fine details and we really don't know much more at this point, other than it was another stroke. He had all the nurses laughing.  The therapists who were working on the floor today, many of them came by and what they said all sounded the same, "when we saw your name we had to stop by and see you."  They complimented him on his progress and how well his speech has come along. It's not really a place you want familiarity but yet that familiarity is strangely comforting. Here we are trying to figure out this stroke and get our feet under us and here they are in awe of how far he has come along, even including the weakness this stroke has brought on. Talk about perspective?!?! 

Two weeks ago he was in the hospital with seizures. Anytime I see an ambulance go by I panic, run to the front window and when I see them slow down at my parents house I say, 'no, no, no, just keep going'....Even though the ambulance has been to my parents house a number of times, it never gets easier to see....now my panic has spread and when we are out and about if I see an ambulance leaving our street I call mom to make sure its not for dad.  The odd thing is I did just that Sunday morning and Sunday evening they had to take him to the ER.  Thankful that he alerted them of the need to be checked out.  Thankful it wasn't four hours later when he would have been in bed asleep. Thankful for medications that can break the clot and give him a much faster turn around. 


Tomorrow is Valentines Day.  It is not a day that I like.  Love is about so much more than flowers and stuffed animals and chocolates.  I guess that stuff is nice but to me it looks like superficial love. A way for people to show the world how much they love you when love is such an intimate private thing, something that should be conveyed more than once a year in kind deeds, soft words, showing up, helping with laundry, spending time with one another. True love, that is what I see when I watch my mom sit beside my dad and hold his hand as he wakes up the day after his second stroke. True love is what I hear when my mom says, "His right side was not moving at all last night and my heart was breaking all over again, I felt like we were starting over."  True love is what  I see when I watch my mom push on every day when life is so different now.  True love is what I see when I watch her look at my dad and still see his beautiful soul and amazing spirit, unchanged by what the world has done to his physical body.  True love is what I see when I watch my dad look at my mom, and even with the inability to find the words.... he speaks volumes about his love for her when you see the peace in his eyes as he looks to her for comfort. In sickness and in health....when its not always fun or comfortable or easy....they live a great example of what it looks like to love one another against and in spite of all odds. I have so much respect for people who lead by example.  Words can be empty shells of promises and good ideas, but seeing it in real life, before my very eyes -- brings with it lessons that will be ingrained in me forever. Love unconditionally. Love what you can't see. Respect one another. Never give up. No matter what, you stand beside the one you love. 


I will be incredibly honest here and say that no part of this feels very fair.  I know we are walking this path for a reason but it sure is exhausting at times.  Today I was able to be there for a stranger in a unique way, who knows if our paths would have crossed if it weren't for my dad having this stroke.  I guess I was where God needed me to be, even if it was not where I wanted to be. That is always a difficult pill to swallow.  

Something good will come from this.  
In the mean time -- for my family -- listen to this song....