Monday, May 22, 2017

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible - Book Review

My May non-fiction book was The Most Misused Stories In the Bible by Eric J. Bargerhuff. This book goes through 13 passages of Scripture which are sometimes misunderstood. It discusses the error some people believe and then walks through the actual meaning according to Scripture. Some of the Bible stories include David and Goliath, Jonah and the big fish, the betrayal of Judas and many more. 


Not all of these stories are "misused" exactly, but they might be misunderstood or misinterpreted. That might sound like splitting hairs, but there is a subtle difference. For some stories the focus is taken off the main idea. For example, with Jonah and the big fish, a lot of people focus on Jonah or the big fish (especially with kids). Really, God should be the main focus of the story. The same with the story of Zacchaeus. Some of the stories are taught incorrectly like Gideon and the fleece. Some use this story as justification for testing God when in reality it should be the opposite. While sometimes it can seem like splitting hairs, misunderstanding Scripture can have serious consequences. 

I will say that as I read through the book I was glad that I had a correct understanding of all the stories Bargerhuff wrote about. That wasn't always the case though. I was definitely one to think there were only three wise men and that they visited baby Jesus in the manger. I also had been a Christian for many years before I heard a correct interpretation of Cain and Abel's offerings as well as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. For some of these stories, a simple reading of the Scripture will take care of any misunderstandings. Others are more complex. It's so, so important to be students of Scripture and not just rely on tradition or Scripture taken out of context. Bargerhuff does a good job of clearly walking through each passage and contextualizing everything. I think this book would be great for anyone that has been a part of "Christian culture" but has only recently started studying the Bible. Or if you're like me and just curious if what you think matches up with what Bargerhuff says.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Inductive Bible Study

As Christians, we know that reading the Bible is important. But not just reading it, studying it. There are all kinds of methods for doing personal Bible study. I've even used several of them, but I wanted to share the method I most often (and currently) use. WARNING: If you're offended by someone writing in their Bible you should probably skip this post. Or don't. It's up to you.

What is an inductive study. Induction is the process of using specific instances to form general conclusions. Inductive Bible study is essentially using details in a passage to draw conclusions about the passage, book, and Bible as a whole. You use the Word to interpret the Word. It involves three skills: observation, interpretation, and application. Here is a really good guide to how it works. (You have to make an account to download it, but it's free). Below I've laid out a few points and discuss how I do it.

Observation: What does the text say?
This is very similar to how you learned to read passages of text in school. Read through it (multiple times), ask questions, mark key words and phrases, notice patterns, themes, etc. Basically what stands out as being important? This is where the marking your Bible up comes in. These things are marked directly in your Bible. This helps you see what's important in the text by just glancing at it. Below are a couple of examples from my Bible.

I use pens and colored pencils to mark key words and phrases. This is my study of Isaiah.
I have a journaling Bible which helps me make notes in the margins.
You can use whatever symbols you want, but if you want a list of common words/phrases to get you started, this is a document I use. They have a few lists for specific books here. If you don't have a lot of room for comments because you're not using a journaling Bible, then I would recommend a regular journal. This also helps you keep track of all your symbols. I still use a journal (which I also use when I'm praying) because it gives me more room to write everything down. 

Interpretation: What does the text mean?
It can be difficult to interpret Scripture, even if you have a degree in it (which I definitely don't). The inductive study method really encourages using Scripture to interpret Scripture. Put the commentary down (at least at first). What clues in the passage, book, or other books of the Bible can help you figure out what it means? Context is key! We are given the Holy Spirit which helps us interpret Scripture. This is why praying before you read is so incredibly important. God will help you interpret Scripture correctly (which keeps us from reading our own meaning into it).

Application: How does the text work itself out in your life?
This is what we all want to jump to first. What does this mean for ME? But if we don't have a good understanding of what it says and what it means in context we are likely to draw the wrong conclusions. This is still a very important part of study, though. Don't be hearers of the Word only but doers. If there is no fruit from what you're reading, then why are you reading it? Let the Word of God transform you.


I often use books from The New Inductive Study Series by Kay Arthur (and various other authors). She gives suggestions on what to look for which can be very helpful. I still sometimes use commentaries, but only after I've carefully read through the passage. God can (and does) use others in increasing our knowledge and understanding of Scripture. Just remember, commentaries are not the Bible. Be discerning while using them. Hopefully this has given you a little glimpse into one method for Bible study. What's your favorite way to study God's Word?


As a side note, another way I like to dig into Scripture is by working through study workbooks. Lifeway Women is offering some of their video studies online for free. You just have to purchase the workbook. I plan on doing one of these studies starting in June and leading discussion in a Facebook group. If you're interested in joining us, let me know!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Resources for Moms


Happy Mother's Day! In honor of the day I want to look at tools that make us better moms. I've offered a few below that I've enjoyed recently, but what I really want is for you to tell me what resources you've used that have helped you. Now, this isn't just for moms with littles like mine. This could be for moms of older kids, grandmas, or those without kids but act as a mom-figure for others. I'll take a look at the suggestions and expand the list so that we can have a place to look when we need help/advice. Now, of course the best places to look are the Bible and our own moms. But lets add to those.

  1. God Centered Mom Podcast - A friend recently recommended this on Facebook and I thought I'd check it out. I want to start listening to podcasts instead of audio books all the time on my long drive to and from work. I've only listened to a few so far, but she and her guests talk about some really interesting things and it's neat to see the perspective of other moms (and dads).
  2. The Introverted Mother - I need to give credit where it's due. I found this article on my friends' blog. These ladies are amazing and have interesting perspectives on motherhood as well. Anyway, this article really spoke to me because it's me to a T! If you think this might describe you as well then check it out.
  3. Don't Make Me Count to Three - Some of you may have seen where I reviewed this book by Ginger Hubbard. She gives her take (from a biblical perspective) of disciplining children. I didn't necessarily agree with everything, but she gives a lot of good advice that I need to do better about implementing.
So now it's your turn. What blogs, podcasts, articles, books, etc would you recommend to other mom's or mom-figures? 


Friday, May 12, 2017

Postpartum Health Journey

I wanted to give a little update on how I've been doing since having Sophia. She's 5 months old today 😍 and she is just the perfect addition to our family.

My postpartum recovery wasn't too bad since I had a pretty uncomplicated delivery. Adjusting to a brand new baby, nursing, and having 3 kiddos was definitely a challenge, but I had some wonderful help along the way. Exhaustion was obviously a big struggle, but it wasn't unexpected. We eventually got the hang of nursing which made nights a lot easier. Sophia actually started sleeping through the night (like ALL the way through the night) at around 6-7 weeks. Since she had reached her birth weight again I stopped waking her up to feed and let her sleep. This sounds great, but my supply took a hit, she struggled a bit gaining weight, and I actually got my first period at 2 months postpartum. Her getting RSV around that time also affected her weight. She's steadily gaining now, she's just super skinny. We still nurse ok, but my ability to pump enough has somewhat declined. Especially since she's pounding down 2-3 times as much as she did when she first started daycare. We're getting adjusted to it all, but it's been a struggle. She's back to waking up once a night to feed, but that's okay with me.

I was pretty lucky in that I only gained around 20 pounds with Sophia. After giving birth and because of nursing I was down to my pre-pregnancy weight at about 10 weeks. I had also started working out a couple of times a week with some ladies from church after my doctor gave me the go-ahead. I was pretty pumped about the weight coming off so quickly, but obviously I still had a bit of a belly, and I wanted to lose some more weight since I hadn't been happy with it even before I got pregnant. I tried a couple of things to safely shed some more of the weight, but I had pretty much stalled. That's where my friend Caroline's challenge group came in.

At the end of March she did a 5 day clean eating crockpot challenge. I jumped on board because I knew part of the problem was I was still eating whatever I wanted. I used the extra 500 calories I needed for nursing as an excuse, just like I did when I was pregnant. In reality, those 500 calories were mostly junk. Plus, who doesn't love a good crockpot recipe, especially with three very young kids? The group also challenged everyone to work out more. I had never worked out consistently, and it was hard to find the time on the days I worked so I think I managed 2 or 3 workouts that week, but I tried really hard to eat clean foods, not just with the crockpot meals, but also breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The goal is 80/20 - eating healthy, clean foods 80% of the time. Because life is too short not to have a small bit of chocolate every now and then, am I right. Because I had enjoyed the week so much (and lost a pound), I jumped onto the 3 week challenge she was holding in April.
It's fun to see the changes. (Ignore my grumpy face in the first ones. I'm sure I was running on very little sleep.)

During the next challenge I continued to expand my repertoire of clean meals (that my family would also eat), and I did much better working out consistently. The challenge group was more of a group of like-minded encouragers. They helped me push my limits, and rejoiced with me when I succeeded. The accountability of logging my workouts and posting pictures of my meals (good and bad) gave me what I needed to really get over that hump. Plus, now, it wasn't just about losing weight, but it was about getting healthy. Each week I had to write down my goals and my why. Keeping this in focus helped me when it got hard. I loved the group so much, that I joined the 3 week group for May as well, and I'm almost 2/3 through it right now.

During that first 3 week challenge I started feeling like I needed just a bit more help to get consistent workouts in and get all my daily nutrition. Caroline is a Beachbody coach, and I saw lots of other ladies in the group drinking Shakeology and doing the Beachbody workouts. There was no pressure to do so (and many in the group don't), but I decided to try it out myself. I signed up for a challenge pack which got me a year's access to Beachbody on Demand which is a digital library of ALL of Beachbody's workouts. I also got a month supply of Shakeology and the portion fix containers that some of the meal plans used. I jumped right in as soon as I got it all, and WOW did I love it. There's a bit of a learning curve at first (especially with the portion containers), but there was a huge difference in how I approached getting healthy. It wasn't a magic potion. It was an all-around system to help me reach my health goals. I've lost 9 pounds since starting that first challenge group, but most importantly, I feel better. I'm more confident in my clothes (but I'll have to buy new ones soon), and I have more energy to keep up with the kids (except on those 5 hours of sleep days). I'm still a work in progress, but I know that this isn't a fad diet, it truly is a change in my lifestyle.

Because of the success I've had with the Beachbody system, I've decided to become a coach as well! Not only can I get better access to the tools I need to reshape my life, I can help others do the same. Like the challenge groups have done for me, I really want to encourage others in their health journey. It's not some pill that they say lets you eat whatever you want because it magically burns the fat away. It's also not a diet that severely restricts what you can eat. Those things are often hard to sustain in the long run. This is something I can joyfully do for years to come, and hopefully I can help others do the same.

I plan on posting more health/fitness posts giving details about what I've done from recipes that even Lee will eat to how I've done with various workout programs. I'm also planning on being a part of more challenge groups. If you're interested in joining me on this fitness journey then feel free to shoot me a message. I'd love to just chat about it, no pressure. I'm not going to creepy cold-call your phone to convince you to try something, but I'll be available if anyone wants to jump on board. I want to say a special thanks to Caroline and the others in the challenge groups who have helped me really start my journey to becoming a healthier me.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson - Christian Fiction Review

Hey, look at me. I'm staying on top of my reading this month. I'm utilizing my time nursing/pumping since there's not much else I can do anyway. My fiction book for May is Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson. This is the 2nd book in the Evie Blackwell Cold Case series. (The first book is Traces of Guilt.)

Y'all know I love me some Dee Henderson. All of her most recent books are connected by the characters Ann and Paul Falcon (from Full Disclosure which I reviewed here). Threads of Suspicion is the 2nd book that follows Evie Blackwell, an Illinois State Police detective who has been appointed as part of a missing persons task force. Evie and her new partner David work together on a pair of seemingly unrelated cases in a Chicago suburb. Evie's case involves a missing college student. As they untangle the threads of these cases they find that things are more connected than they once thought. During all of this, Evie is also trying to work through some personal issues in her life.

Let's start out by saying that this, like the previous book, is not a suspense novel as many of Dee Henderson's earlier books were. I wouldn't even consider it a whodunit, but I don't want to ruin the ending by explaining that too much. I really enjoyed Evie's character. She's complex, especially in that she stays so upbeat in spite of the horrible things she sees in her job. She enjoys the puzzle of solving a crime, but is also compassionate for the victims. I also enjoyed David's character although his relationship with his fiance is a bit strange for me. I'm not sure I liked how Henderson handled the relationship between a believer (David) and a nonbeliever (his fiance Maggie). I'll have to see how it plays out later. I think Henderson is going to give Evie a different partner in each book to explore the other members of the task force, but hopefully we still get glimpses of past characters. I also wasn't really sure how I felt about Evie's relationship with her boyfriend Rob. He grew on me this book, but I spent most of the last book disliking him so it's hard for me to jump on the Team Rob bandwagon. Dee Henderson has always done well with character development and forcing her characters to go through some really challenging things. That is the main driving point of the book since most of the mystery is solved through solid police work and not crazy chases or epic showdowns. I really look forward to seeing how she develops this main character further in future books.

I really enjoyed this book, but like all of her recent books, it's not particularly fast-paced. It has taken me a while to adjust to this new method of story telling from Henderson, but I'm more prepared for it than I was when I read Full Disclosure. If you like Henderson's books you'll enjoy this one too.

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


Monday, May 1, 2017

Invitation (Harbingers) - Christian Fiction Review



My April fiction book was Invitation: Cycle One of the Harbingers Series. This is essentially a serial novel written by four authors, each from a different character's point of view. The four authors are Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky.

The four main characters, Brenda (the street-wise tattoo artist), The Professor (the atheist ex-priest), Andi (The Professor's observant assistant), and Tank (the kind-hearted jock) are brought together under mysterious circumstances. Each comes with a specific gift and they need these gifts to form their reluctant team. Four stories, told from four different perspectives with one central theme: there are dark powers at work that are no longer possible to ignore.

I was a little nervous about this book being written by 4 different authors, but the fact that they each wrote from the perspective of a different character made it work. The different styles of writing made sense. I haven't read any books by any of these authors. I had heard of Frank Peretti because I knew he co-authored a book with one of my faves, Ted Dekker, but that's about all I knew. His story was probably my least favorite because it was told by my least favorite character and it leaned more towards horror and involved ghosts which I'm not a fan of. All of the stories dealt with spiritual warfare which I'm usually pretty leery of too. I didn't really like any of the characters until I read their story. They seemed just a little too flat when described from a different perspective. That may have been the point though, that there's more under the surface that you don't see until you get their point of view. By the end I really did like the characters, and I was invested in the story.

I haven't quite decided if I'd read the next cycle. They have, I think, 19 self-published stories out so far with the 20th coming on May 5th. Bethany House is gradually publishing them as 4 book cycles like this one which means the stand-alone books won't be available any longer. My biggest issue is I have a hard time connecting Christian fiction with supernatural suspense. Allegory is one thing, but ghosts, psychics, etc are a bit much for me. The writing was fantastic, but I'd have to not read it as Christian fiction. However, if that doesn't bother you, then this would be a fantastic read.

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

You're a Good Good Father

Kids say the darndest things am I right? Sometimes you cover your mouth to keep in the laughter, sometimes you cover it to keep in your horror. You just know they will say whatever pops in their mind. Something the three year-old has been saying suddenly struck me this morning (even though she's been saying it for weeks). "You're a good Mommy."

At first hearing it definitely tugs at the heartstrings. It makes me feel like I'm not a total disaster as a parent after all. Lee hears about his accomplishments as a Daddy just as frequently. She said it again today, and God really made something click in my mind. Every time she says it, it's because we've given her something she wanted. Now, to a three year-old this makes perfect sense. I don't think any less of her because of it. This three year-old in particular (because of her history) is especially fond of being given things. Now, I don't know of any little kids who aren't, but she equates this to love because sometimes all she had to look forward to was being given candy or some small toy. For a long time she would constantly ask, "who gave me this?" or the ever embarrassing, "what did you bring me?" when someone would come over. Because spending time with someone she cared about wasn't a guarantee, she clung to any show of affection she could, which was often times physical things. I don't even remember what she was given this morning to spur her words of affirmation, but I could instantly hear God saying to me, "this is you."

You see, even though I am 10 times her age, sometimes I still act like a child in my relationship with God. Not in the good, child-like faith kind of way, but in the selfish, me, me, me kind of way. I of course, will loudly proclaim that God is good. But how often do I think that only because of the things He has given me. I have been incredibly blessed, and I should thank Him for those things. But when I think about all the thankless things parents do for their kids, I am ashamed to say I sometimes fall short in my gratitude when God does those things for me. 

I'm not always thankful when God disciplines me. Trying to explain to a small child that she is being disciplined because we love her and can't allow her to do bad things for her sake, is challenging at best. There are consequences for our actions, and while I know that God disciplines me because he loves me, I often forget to praise Him because of it. Looking back, I can be thankful, but in the moment...not so much.

I'm also not always thankful when God protects me from things that I think I may want. My kids may want to eat a pound of chocolate in one sitting (and honestly so would their sweet-toothed mama sometimes), but I know that's not good for any of us. They may think it would be the coolest thing ever to jump off of high places or run as fast as they can through the house, but I know that those "fun" things come with a high possibility of getting hurt. Sometimes, they have to learn the hard way (just like I do), but it's my responsibility to try to keep them from getting hurt. God sometimes says no because He knows what's best for me. He can see the bigger picture. In my better moments, I can think with clarity and see it's for the best. There are other times that I more or less throw a tantrum because I didn't get what I wanted. 

God is not a good father only because He gives us good things. He's a good father because He gives us the best things. Sometimes that giving comes in the form of discipline so we can be more like Christ. Sometimes it's in the form of a "no" to an asked prayer. While I pray my kids will one day mature enough to see that I tried to do what was best for them just like I grew up to see that with my parents, I also pray that I (and my kids) see that God doesn't just TRY to do what is best for me. He does it. Because He's a good, good, father.

I wanted to share this song because a little over a year ago, when I was going through my second loss, this song meant the world to me. I would stand in the back of the BCM weeping when we sang it (and I still cry every time I hear it). Fast forward to now, I can see that God is not good just because He gave me Sophia. He was good when I was in the process of losing my other babies. God is good because that's who He is. And He loves me...and you.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review of Jesus, the One and Only by Beth Moore

So I slacked off a bit with my reading. I didn't have anything from March, and I'm barely squeezing in April's books. Apparently taking care of three kids and working part-time means it's difficult to find time to read. Who knew. Regardless, I read Jesus, the One and Only by Beth Moore for my April non-fiction book.

In Jesus, the One and Only, Beth Moore walks through the life of Jesus, mainly using the gospel of Luke. She walks through scripture, encouraging the reader to dig deep into the story of Jesus so that we almost experience it instead of fictionalizing it as we often tend to do. She also ties in a lot of her personal experiences so that the reader can see how we can apply Jesus's earthy life and teaching to our own lives. I've brought up a few of the points she made which really spoke to me.

When speaking of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness from Luke 3 she summarizes a few main ideas about temptation. One that I highlighted was "Scripture is the most powerful tool in our fight against temptation. Don't fight back with your words, fight back with God's!" We know that we're supposed to memorize scripture, but do we truly understand how powerful it is. Instead of trying to power my way through a struggle I should rely on the power of God. She also talks about the Word as mentioned in Luke 8 with the parable of the sower. She says, "Our obedience to apply the Word of God is so we can live victorious lives that glorify our Father in heaven. Hearing it is simply not enough." Am I living a victorious life, or am I just letting life happen to me?

Another section that really struck me was from when she discussed Luke 12. "All our worry in the name of love can accomplish absolutely nothing. But all our praying in the name of Jesus could entreat God to accomplish anything. When will we learn to turn our worry effort into prayer?" Worry has always been a struggle of mine. God really freed me from much of it in college. However, now that I have kids I feel the temptation to fall back into the pattern of stressing about everything. I probably hide it well most of the time, but inside, my stomach is constantly in knots. I KNOW that it doesn't do any good, and yet I do it anyway. Because it feels like I'm doing something, even though I'm not accomplishing anything at all. Sometimes I'm on top of things and prayer is my first instinct when I start to worry. Other times...not so much. I'm so thankful for a patient God who is actually able to do something about the causes of my worry!

My favorite part of the book was the last several chapters which talked about Christ's death and resurrection. Beth Moore puts so much emotion in her writing that I found myself crying on several occasions. Both with tears of sorrow and tears of joy. She spends quite a bit of time bringing out specific details and emphasizing that this was God's plan, and He did it for us. What an amazing love the Father has for us!

Even though there were several parts of the book that I very much enjoyed reading, and she brought up a lot of things of which I needed reminding, it did drag on a bit for me. That's the reason it took an entire month to finish reading it. I'm slower reading non-fiction anyway, but this was tough to get into sometimes. It was 350+ pages and sometimes I felt so bogged down in details. While I loved her ability to help me visualize the end of Christ's life, I felt like such imaginings weren't as useful in other parts of the book. She spends so much time on conjecture when we don't really know if it's true or not. I'm sure that helps some people, but it frustrated me. Overall, I did enjoy the book. It was the first non Bible Study of Moore's that I have read. I know there is a Bible study for this, and maybe I would have been able to get through that easier. It's also probably spread out for longer than a month which would have helped. It did give me some great insight, but it may not be for everyone.




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.