Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Hiding Place - Review

I had been wanting to read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom for a while now. I finally did it as my February non-fiction book. I LOVED it. I would recommend it to anyone.

Corrie ten Boom was a middle-aged, single, Dutch watchmaker working and living with her father and older sister when World War II interrupted their lives in a very big way. The Hiding Place is Corrie's account of what their lives looked like before, during, and after serving in the underground resistance and eventually being imprisoned in a concentration camp. This story is real, and raw, and it was so hard to read at times. She doesn't really sugarcoat things, but it's not all doom and gloom either. She was able to find joy in the Lord and that joy amazingly spread to others around her, even in such a terrible place under such terrible circumstances.

One of the neatest things to see was how honest Corrie was about her flaws. Whenever she was content and happy with the status quo, something or someone would cause her to re-evaluate who she was. To me, this story is ultimately about learning to love others because Christ first loved us. Even if those people hurt us terribly. What a christ-like example she was. I think about my life and the hurts I've experienced seem so minor compared to hers, but I still have trouble letting them go. But don't think that forgiveness and love came easy to Corrie. She was often pushed (and sometimes maybe guilted) into it by her father and sister, but eventually she couldn't help but love others. She had to tell others that, as her sister Betsie said, "there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still."

Sometimes, the story read too much like fiction and I would forget that it actually happened to real people. The version I read had various photographs of Corrie, her family, their home, etc. These helped remind me, that not only was Corrie a great storyteller, she was a survivor of a horrifying time in our history. I also enjoyed the forward and preface which were written by people who had actually met Corrie ten Boom before she died. I'm so glad to have read this testament to the remarkable life she lived through the strength of her very real God.

If you haven't read The Hiding Place, I couldn't more strongly recommend it to you. I think one of the reasons I put it off so long was because I knew that it would be difficult. I usually use reading as an escape which is why I mostly read fiction. Sometimes we have to read the hard things to learn about others and to learn about ourselves. See what God has to show you through the life of Corrie ten Boom.

Friday, March 24, 2017

To the Farthest Shores - Christian Fiction Review

I'm a little late in posting, but February's fiction book was To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden. I've read other books by Camden and I enjoyed this one just as much as the others.

To the Farthest Shores is a historical fiction story set in 1904 about army nurse Jenny Bennet and naval officer Ryan Gallagher. They met and fell in love six years earlier, but Ryan left on a military mission, later seemingly abandoning Jenny and their tentative love. When they meet up again there is obvious mistrust on Jenny's part, but Ryan has a small hope that they can be reconciled. He needs Jenny's help to prepare for a new assignment, but with someone making attempts on Ryan's life and secrets on both sides, the deck is stacked against them.

This is one of those books where the characters' own flaws and fears keep them apart. You just want to shake them until they realize how dumb they're being. While this does make them realistic, it is also quite frustrating! Sometimes I felt it was dragged on a little too long. The suspense/mystery aspect was not quite as convincing. (Ryan couldn't figure out someone was trying to kill him after two attempts were made on his life. Come on guy.) It felt a bit like an afterthought to keep the plot moving, but sometimes it just didn't make sense and probably could have been left out altogether. I thought the supporting characters were great, and the story was definitely interesting enough to keep me reading.

If you are looking for a historical book with interesting characters looking for redemption then this is a good choice for you. If you're wanting something with mystery and suspense, then you should probably find something else. To be fair though, this book wasn't really publicized as such. All-in-all it's a good book that I enjoyed reading.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book to review. All opinions, however, are my own.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sophia's Birth Story

It took longer than I wanted to get this written down, and I probably forgot some of it, but here is Sophia's birth story. I really enjoyed reading stories like this before Sophia was born so hopefully this helps someone else. If not, then I at least have a record of it for when I forget!

At my 39 week appointment on a Wednesday we were having a discussion about induction. I was dilated to about 1.5 cm and hadn’t progressed much in the previous 3 weeks. I still had plenty of time, but my doctor wanted to make sure I knew my options. She didn’t want me to go much past 41 weeks, but she was fine if I wanted to be induced earlier. I just knew I was going to go past my due date. On my way out my doctor said I should try to go into labor that weekend since she’d be on call, and I thought, yeah right. J

I hadn’t had any Braxton hicks contractions so when I started feeling some cramping Friday night I just assumed that’s what they were. They weren’t very strong or consistent. I told Lee just so he was aware, but I kept saying I didn’t think it was actual labor. They kept coming though, and they were coming a little closer together. I had heard of people going through prodromal labor for weeks and I was terrified of that happening. The contractions were getting stronger so I decided to go ahead and pack my bag since I hadn't actually done that yet. Oops. During contractions the yoga ball became my best friend since that’s what seemed to help the most. I ended up “sleeping” on the couch that night but I actually wasn’t able to fall asleep until about 5am. The contractions had grown farther apart and they stopped completely around 9am or so. I woke up at 7 with the other kids and Lee let me nap for about an hour later that morning. I assumed it was all a false alarm.

Later that afternoon, though, the contractions started up again. They never were consistent, but they were definitely stronger. I’m such a rule follower that I absolutely wasn’t going in until I met the 5-1-1 rule (contractions 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute for at least 1 hour). Sometimes the contractions were 4-5 minutes apart, but other times they were 10-12 minutes apart. This is probably TMI, but this is a post about a birth so you’ll get over it. I had experienced some bloody show a few times and lost, what I thought was my mucous plug. I knew that didn’t necessarily mean anything, but the fact that it happened multiple times made me wonder. That night was another sleepless night moving back and forth between the couch and my yoga ball. Still no 5-1-1, but contractions were getting extremely uncomfortable, bordering on painful.

Sunday morning Lee was supposed to teach at church. Clearly I wasn’t feeling up to going so he took the kids and I stayed home and tried to rest. I ordered him to keep his phone on him! After no rest and another bout of bloody show I finally called the on-call nurse. She got in touch with my doctor who called me soon after. After explaining what was going on she said to come on in and get checked out. I just knew we were going to go up there for nothing. I waited until I thought Lee was done teaching and called to tell him to come home and get me. He got ahold of some people to come watch the kids and I told my mom what was going on so she could be ready to come up if necessary. I finished packing my bag and we headed to the hospital when he got home. I got all checked in and the nurse who did our birthing class at the hospital was the one who examined me. (She remembered us as well because of the live tweeting Lee did of the birthing class). I was nervous that she was going to say I wasn’t progressing, but surprise, I was at 4 cm and 90% effaced. They got me a room at around 11am, and the waiting continued.
Some of Lee's tweets. He thought he was hilarious.
This is how the nurse remembered Lee.

I really wanted to try to give birth naturally, but I wasn’t married to the idea. Because I was doing okay they let me walk around the halls and just get monitored for a few minutes every hour. The pain was getting a bit worse, but the contractions still weren’t consistent. I practiced some of the pain management techniques I had learned, and although I was pretty exhausted I felt like I was doing well. When they checked me again at around 6pm, however, I had only progressed 1cm. I was so upset. The doctor said they could break my water to see if that helped me progress faster, but I was so tired and stressed that I decided to go ahead with the epidural. BEST. DECISION. EVER. For real. The epidural wasn’t too bad (except for the fact that the anesthesiologist had also heard of Lee’s live tweeting escapades) and I was able to relax enough after it started working that I progressed another 2 cm before they even came in to break my water. I just knew this was going to help. I was even able to take a short nap. Since I thought I was going to be busy with the pain of contractions we didn’t bring anything to entertain ourselves while I was stuck in bed. Poor Lee was bored. Good thing he had his smuggled in McDonald's to keep him company.

They checked me again at around 10pm, and I’d only dilated to 8cm. Gah! Why weren’t things progressing more quickly?! We decided to give Pitocin a try, and at that point I was super glad of the epidural because I knew it could make contractions more painful. Soon after is when the horrendous heartburn began. I mean, it was awful. I’d struggled with heartburn half the pregnancy, but this was on a different level. They gave me some foul medicine which didn’t help at all. I was burping constantly. Gross. When I finally got close to 10cm the nausea began to accompany the heartburn. Joy. Around 11pm the nurse said I was close to ready to push. I pushed for an hour and a half. I was so exhausted. It took a while for me to figure out how to push effectively, and even then, sometimes I was so pooped I couldn’t do much. (Speaking of, I didn't poop while pushing which is apparently a thing and something I was terrified of. Yay me.) Finally, at 12:56am Monday December 12, we heard that beautiful cry. Our 7lb 4 oz, 20 inch, red-headed baby girl was born. Then, I found out said girl pooped all over me as she came out. Better her than me I guess. She also swallowed quite a bit of amniotic fluid, but they were able to suction most of it out later. They placed her on my chest and cut the cord (since Lee refused to do it). The relief was immediate, in more ways than one. Our precious baby was here and she was healthy, labor was over and with it went the nasty heartburn and nausea.

Ignore what a mess I was and look at the adorableness that is our baby.
They cleaned her up and got me stitched up (1st degree tearing). Lee’s folks who were waiting got to meet her before they had to go home again. We texted my mom who was with the kiddos. After I showered and we got in a room I pretty much passed out. It wasn’t great sleep since people kept coming in to check on us and Sophia and I struggled through some unproductive nursing sessions. Bless the lactation consultant and all the nurses. The pediatrician came later and pronounced her perfect (which we already knew) and after one more night they sprang us Tuesday afternoon. Now we just had to figure out what to do with this tiny person!

She had this cute Popeye thing going on.

We’ve had our ups and downs, but the Lord has blessed us so incredibly. In spite of over 50 hours of labor the delivery was uncomplicated. Next time, if there is a next time, I may try natural again. But only if labor goes faster! We look forward to seeing the person Sophia becomes and praise God for her every day.

Hello world!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard

I mentioned in my last post that I was planning on reading at least 24 solid books this year. One fiction and one non-fiction each month. The non-fiction book I read in January was Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard. This book was recommended to me by our pastor's wife a while ago, but I just recently got around to reading it.

Having been thrust into parenthood in a unique way with fostering, and recently adding a new baby to the mix, I knew I could use all the guidance I could get when it comes to raising children. Don't Make Me Count to Three talks about using scripture when disciplining children and recognizing that all disobedience comes from a heart problem. What a great reminder that while we can feel that our children's misbehavior is an affront against us, ultimately, it is sin against God. When you look at the situation from an eternal perspective you're more likely to give grace but also lovingly correct instead of lashing out in frustration.

One of the most beneficial things I found in this book were the "Wise Words for Mom" table which contains a list of a child's behavior with corresponding heart probing questions and scripture for reproof, encouragement and additional helpful verses. She talks about using Biblical terminology when correcting children, and using the verses in kid-friendly language is a great way for them to learn what the Bible says about certain matters (and you to learn as well). I need to work on looking through all the passages and slowly introducing them for discipline. Another helpful part of the book is a phrase my pastor and his wife use. When talking about how God wants children to obey it is "all the way, right away, and with a happy heart." The cool thing about this is that's how God wants His children to obey too! When a child begins to understand what this means, the phrase can be used as a gentle reminder instead of dealing with repeating yourself, whining, etc.

I will say, the one thing I didn't agree with was her take on spanking. She makes the argument that if you don't spank you are not being faithful to God's method for disciplining children according to Scripture. This is something I need to do more research on, but I don't think her arguments for this are foolproof. The passages she uses are from the book of Proverbs which, as Lee likes to say, is often more of a description instead of a prescription. Again, something I will have to prayerfully look into more. Aside from this, however, I think she does a good job of relaying the importance of discipline in the Bible. There are some very practical things that I hope to be able to use in my life.

So, if you feel like you're always counting to three before your children obey (if it even happens then), then I recommend you take a look at this book. Just remember, as always, test whatever you read against Scripture. As a final note, my friend Caroline posted something on Facebook today that can be a good reminder for all you tired parents out there. I've heard it before, but it was a great thing to hear during this trying season. "Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise." What an amazing calling to raise children who love the Lord. One of my constant prayers for my kids is that they grow up to love the Lord even more than I do.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

Y'all, I totally failed on my reading challenge last year. Don't get me wrong, I read. I just didn't read based on the challenge, which means I mostly read random things I could find for free. I'm hoping to do better this year. Here is the 2017 challenge for anyone who is interested. My goal is a bit more simple. I plan on reading at least one good fiction and one good non-fiction book each month. I'll probably also listen to at least one audio book each month. I still have a few from when I had an Audible subscription. I also plan on using my local library as well as finding books available with free narration from the Kindle Unlimited stock. Hopefully I'll be able to read/listen to a wide variety of books this year.

The fiction book I read in January was Still Life by Dani Pettrey. This is part of the Chesapeake Valor series. (I reviewed the first book in the series last year.) We first met the main characters Avery Tate and Parker Mitchell in the previous book. Avery is a photographer who was blacklisted from the art community because of a photograph she took of a prominent political figure in a compromising situation. Parker is a crime scene analyst and Avery worked as his photographer in the last book. This book finds them no longer working together due to Avery's feelings for Parker and his inability to move past the death of his girlfriend years before. A missing friend of Avery's and a disturbing photograph taken of her bring the two together again to solve another possible crime. Add in a human trafficking case and the continued search for Luke (an old friend of the group) and the mysteries begin to pile up.

Once again, Pettrey's characters struggle with very difficult, very real pasts. I enjoy seeing them overcome obstacles and find their new identities in Christ. There is a lot going on, and it is sometimes difficult to follow because of that, but the story is fast paced and enjoyable. I liked how even though you thought you knew what was going on, things kept popping up to make you second guess or change your mind. Even though there is a satisfying ending for Avery and Parker, there are still quite a few things that need to be tied up in the next book. Yet another good Christian suspense novel from Dani Pettrey.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book to review. All opinions, however, are my own.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Sorcery Code - Review

I recently finished reading The Sorcery Code, by Dima Zales. This doesn’t really fit into my reading challenge list, but I was given the opportunity to review it so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This is a fantasy book about the land of Koldun where those who can practice magic are the upper crust of society and (almost) everyone else is basically a serf beneath them. The protagonist, Blaise, is a sorcerer who would like to change the status quo and see everyone with the ability to do magic. He tries to create an object that will do just that, however, his creation doesn’t turn out as planned, it’s a woman. Gala is born in the Spell Realm and finds everything in the Physical Realm fascinating. She manages to get herself into a lot of trouble as she wanders around, discovering her new world and her seemingly infinite new powers. In the meantime, Blaise works hard to try to keep Gala a secret from the Sorcerer Council, his ex-fiancĂ©e Augusta and her new love-interest Barson, a member of the Sorcerer Guard.

This book had many aspects of a typical fantasy novel with the presence of magic, but the way the magic is wielded is new. It’s only available to the mathematically minded and is sorcerers use spell cards and an Interpreter Stone to connect to the Spell Realm. While I thought the plot was pretty good, I unfortunately didn’t enjoy the characters very much. They weren’t given much depth and Gala was downright annoying. I get that she is literally a few days old but jeez, use that supposedly big brain and make some smart decisions. The overall story was interesting, but it was a little slow paced. I found myself skipping over some parts, mostly because I just didn’t care about the characters enough.

This is a clean read, although much is implied. If the price is right (which the eBook is free right now) it would be worth it. And perhaps the second book digs into these characters more. I’m not sure I’m going to try to find out.

I received this product for free in exchange for my review, but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cold Shot Review (Dani Pettrey)

I’ve finished another book as a part of my 2016 reading challenge. It’s another fiction book titled Cold Shot and is by Dani Pettrey. I really enjoyed Dani’s Alaskan Courage series so I was interested to check this one out. This is my “book published in 2016” from the challenge.

The book follows Chief Ranger Griffin McCray of the Gettysburg National Military Park after recent remains are discovered in the park. As a former cop and sniper, Griffin reluctantly uses his skills as well as those of two old friends and forensic anthropologist Finley Scott to try to find the killer. Both Griffin and Finley have to work through debilitating issues from their pasts to work together before a member of the team makes it to the killer’s hit list.

This book is fast paced and enjoyable, but I didn’t like it at much as the Alaskan Courage series. I needed better descriptions of the characters, and I felt like I was missing parts of the story. Griffin and his two former friends have a lot of history and a couple of big reasons as to why they aren’t close anymore. This history is slowly revealed, but I wish these relationships had been fleshed out more. I liked Finley as a character. She was smart, and strong and slowly overcoming past trauma, but I wish she’d had more opportunity to shine. The story was interesting and full of the twists and turns that I had hoped for. I could have just used a bit more detail.

I would recommend this book if you like Christian suspense books. I will most definitely read the next book when it comes out. This one ends with some lingering questions (although the main story ties up neatly). And hey, there's a chance to win a signed copy of the book and other prizes here.

Coming up this month is another fiction book and a book by Beth Moore. Also, I’ll probably be doing some audio books since I bought this 3 month Audible subscription for my long drives to and from work. What are you reading now?

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book to review. All opinions, however, are my own.