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.