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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Messy Grace

No one wants to be used as an example, so a whole book on how to respond to the homosexual community may seem at first glance a  tad "too much". Yet is is a hot topic issue these days and there does seem to be an "us vs. them" mentality, which is a sad thing.

Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach is about how a pastor with gay parents learned to love others without sacrificing conviction. LOVE is the key word in this book. While it may focus on homosexuality, the point of this book is for Christians to love everyone. 

This book was an interesting insight into the pain that those in the LGBT communities feel from most Christians. Judgement, hate, fear. Christians should not portray any of these to anyone. We are not to judge, hate, or fear anyone. 

On the other hand, just as one would not want to be judged for being gay, the tables do turn because Christians get judged for being Christian. Kaltenbach felt judged as well as pushed away when he professed being a Christian to his parents. 

Gays are judged by their lifestyle. Christians are judged by their convictions. This book shows us that the judging needs to stop and the loving needs to start.

(Pg. 107) *We can be accepting but not approving.
*We can be loving without applauding.
*We can be compassionate without commending. 

This goes for all areas in our life. I can love a friend who lives with a boyfriend. I can support a daughter who gets pregnant out of wedlock. I can be there for a cousin that gets divorced. 

That's not to say that I need to start changing my convictions on those matters. It's to say that my place is not to judge someone else and to love everyone. That is the part of Messy Grace. People don't like to feel that you are "against" any part of their life. You may seem judgmental if you don't agree with a lifestyle.  I get that.  Kaltenbach writes "Typically, when we wrestle with the tension of grace and truth, we either go all the way to the grace side, where everything is deemed acceptable, or we go all the way to the truth side, where we speak truth and have no love. It’s harder to live in the tension of grace and truth".

While I do not agree with everything in this book, it opens the dialog. It preaches love and not judgement. It's a great book since this topic is such a big one these days.

This book was sent to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.     

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Space of Their Own

When we were at Faith's Lodge everyone was drawn to the art room. Crafts were at the ready, paint and brushes were accessible for ease of use. Having it there, right at your fingertips, makes creation flow.

So I decided when we returned home that we would have a little corner of our own and got to work creating a space that is open to the kids. As long as they clean up their mess when finished they are free to use whatever, whenever, if it's on/in this desk. 
Like moths to a flame they flocked. 

Amy got her paint on.

Joe and Amy worked with markers and stickers.

While Becca said the desk is too small for her she loves the ease of grabbing an art medium and running to her room to create.

I look forward to switching up the crafts on the table. Letting the kids explore with clay, watercolors, pencils, beads, and more.  Watching the budding artists emerge.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mind of Her Own

 Who knew making dinner could change your life? Louisa Copeland certainly didn’t. But when the George Foreman grill fell out of the pantry onto her head, resulting in a bump and a mighty case of amnesia, Louisa’s life takes a turn for the unexpected. Who was this Collin fellow, claiming she was his wife? And whose kids are those? Her name couldn’t be Louisa. Why, she was the renowned romance writer Jazz Sweet, not a Midwestern mom of three.

It's hard to know how to review Mind of Her Own by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer. On one hand, it's a "Christian romance", but except for some common cliche's, it was not 'roll your eyes' predictable.

On the other hand, I really didn't like the character who Louisa turned into. Jazz Sweet seems awfully selfish, an example is when her husband decides to take a weekend away for them to get to know each other better and she asks the desk clerk for a room of her own and disappears into herself. Why did she even go on the weekend away then...and make not one point of connecting with her husband? It's hard to know how to rate a book when you don't connect, nor like, the main character.

With that said, this was a very quick read. I read it within a Sunday afternoon and it kept me entertained. I was able to escape the humid Iowa weather and live in this book for a few hours. That, to me, screams a good book. This would make the perfect beach, air plane, or "need to escape my life for a moment" book. 

This book was given to me by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Got Tea?

With paring down my grocery budget budget, I've been buying a lot in bulk. Not bulk as in Sam's Club, but bulk purchases when I find good sales, awesome clearance, or in this case, lots of goodies on the Amish bent and dent shelves.

With winter coming up (seriously, I can't even...but think about it...Christmas is just 5 months away!!!) one can never have enough tea. 

We are big tea drinkers in this house. Finding boxes of organic tea bags for just 40 cents a box is a killer deal. This box is arranged two boxes deep, so that is at least 30 boxes of tea. And if there is still some left on the shelf the next time I go I will be grabbing more.

Now to just find a place to store all these...

Friday, July 24, 2015


Being gone for 5 days in July means returning to a bounty in the garden (as well as a bounty of weeds!). 

It's amazing just how quickly things can grow and change in the garden.
Look at the giant cucumber! It was as long as Amy's legs! It actually still tasted good too, no bitterness or giant seeds in it.

One night I tried to make as much of our meal out of the garden as possible. I ended up with:

*Open face bagel sandwiches. They were whole wheat bagels, a slice of tomato (from the garden), bacon, and cheese.
*Green beans and onions (from the garden) and bacon

*Cucumber and green pepper (from the garden) salad


That is a summertime meal! Yummy! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I *Heart* U

When for too long I don't go deep enough into the woods to see them, they begin to enter my dreams. Yes, there they are, in the pinewoods of my inner life. I want to live a life full of modesty and praise. Each hoof of each animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches then lifts away from the ground. Unless you believe that heaven is very near, how will you find it? Their eyes are pools in which one would be content, on any summer afternoon, to swim away through the door of the world. Then, love and its blessing. Then: heaven. 
~Mary Oliver "The Faces of Deer"
(Above photo was taken right next to Jacob's headstone.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


What kind of wings will they be? 

Ostrich wings...which are flightless? 

Active soaring wings which are long and narrow, allowing birds to soar for a long time, like a sea gull?

Passive soaring wings that allow the bird to catch vertical columns of hot air called "thermals" and rise higher in the air, like an eagle?

Elliptical wings are good for short bursts of high speed, like a crow or robin?

High-speed wings are long and thin, but not nearly as long as birds with active soaring wings. As the name suggests, birds with this wing type are incredibly fast, but unlike those with elliptical wings, these birds can maintain their speed for a while, like a duck or falcon?

All so much alike, yet all so very different. 

Monday, July 20, 2015


We spent the last 5 days at Faith's Lodge in Wisconsin, a place for families who have lost children can go to get some healing.
It is such a secluded, peaceful place.
We immediately clicked with the other families. These people get us. These people are us. Amazingly, for the first several days all the other families lost boys; all at the ages of 8 or 9. This grouping wasn't planned that way. Later on a couple who had lost twins at the age of 21 weeks arrived. We were able to see grief from another perspective as well. 
It was startling, walking to the bridge where hundreds of painted rocks were, each representing a child lost. Suddenly overwhelming, a graveyard of sadness. But then...the bright colors, the children's names, the expressions of love...knowing each of these mourned after children has bloomed in Heaven. How colorful, how sweet it must be with each of them there... 

Waiting for us. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

I Miss Me

I miss me.

It seems a funny thing to say. 

When Jacob went home to Heaven he took a piece of me along with him.

My heart is now broken. My soul has scars. My mind has wounds that won't heal. My body has aches and pains. 

I'm no longer me. The me of pre-2010 where worries were only "what-ifs". Where kids stayed healthy and life was daily mundane tasks peppered with awesome simple moments. 

So, so naive of what was waiting around the corner.

Much like a solider who has gone to battle will often flinch at an explosive sound, my body reacts to the dangers of the world. 

I've seen the battlegrounds at the Children's Hospital. I've seen the brave pediatric patients fighting the fight with courage and strength. I've seen the hope, the tears, the fear, the sadness. The walking wounded. The ones who don't come home.

It changes you. The you of before is gone.

Just as one would have to learn to walk again after losing a leg, one would have to learn to "see" again after losing sight, we must learn to live again after losing our precious Jacob.

I'm getting acquainted with this new person that I have become. But, oh, how I miss the old me.   

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Can I really be out of words? Is it possible that after five years of blogging my thoughts have run out? No, I think not.

I'm just tired.

June was a terribly hard month for me. The month of Jacob's birthday, without him here, left me emotionally exhausted. And it continues...because memories from July pester me. 

Memories from three years ago, when Jacob was in the hospital with his stem cell transplant. 

Memories from two years ago when he was nearing the end.

The past affects the present. It sucks the energy, the life from me. 

Grief is powerful. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Date

Published in the Spring 2015 Hip Mama Magazine:
   I held his hand as we walked into the restaurant. Clung to it, really. As the mother of three children it is a rare treat to share an outing with just one. I wanted to savor every moment. As soon as we were seated he dug into the box of crayons the waitress had placed on the table and began to color on the children's menu. Without feeling hurried, or having to corral his younger brother or listen to his older sister's endless blather (eight year olds never seem to come up for breath!) I silently watched my middle child color. His small, china white hands clutched the crayons. His face was serious as he concentrated on staying in the lines. When he tired of coloring he attempted to put together the cardboard prize that came with the menu. He carefully folded and applied the stickers that would transform the piece of cardboard into a real toy car. Then he promptly announced that he was going to save the creation for his little brother.

 The waitress arrived to take our order and he rattled off a long list of the foods he desired; to me, not to her. Having speech apraxia meant that his words were still often hard to understand and he didn't feel comfortable talking to strangers, who often respond with the quizzical "what?" I am privileged to be one of the select few who he lets into his own little world of speech, blessed to be able to understand my little boy when he struggles to get out the words he knows so clearly in his head.

 His eyes lit up when I asked is he wanted to add a sundae to that order. His face beamed with a bright smile that reached his brown puppy dog eyes when I asked the waitress to bring the sundae first, before our meal. Before the waitress left she announced "I'll bring that sundae right out, Jacob."
     "How did she know my name?" he asked after she disappeared to the kitchen.
     "Everybody knows you, You're famous!" I answered. In reality, it was likely the hospital bracelet encircling his slim wrist that probably clued her in, but I didn't tell him that. 
     He grinned with pleasure before returning to coloring. Soon the sundaes arrived and we ate them greedily as we discussed movies and toys, particularly any related to Star Wars, his new favored obsession. We planed some fun games and a movie night for the coming week.
     The waitress soon returned, set the plate of sizzling onion rings and a giant hamburger in front of him. I joked that he wouldn't be able to eat half of it and he smiled as he bit into the burger that was almost half the size of his down-covered head; grease dribbled down his chin as he took on the dare to prove just how much he could eat.
    He wiped his plate clean over talk of the sister and brother left at home. Even with the one on one attention he missed them; those two young people who are such a daily part of his life, his best friends. He is quick to forget how annoying his little brother is when he gets into his things or how his older sister always craves attention. He is happy to sit back and let them have their way. Content would be the word that describes him best.
 As I paid the bill he clutched the toy car (for his brother) with one hand and the crayons in thefist of the other (for his sister, he informed me) and we slowly headed back to the car. I was in
no rush, dragging my feet as he skipped beside me. It was the beginning of July and the heat was stifling as we walked across the parking lot. Grey clouds hovered over us, with the sun valiantly attempting to peek through; I felt as though I was in a sauna. The heat pressed down on me, like the weight of the world on my shoulders.
    Grasping for any way to extend our date, I asked if he'd like to stop at a grocery store for a treat. Once there I threw frozen meals and shelf-stable foods into the cart as he chose his favorite things: pistachios, watermelon, beef jerky, pickles. They all went into the cart. Enough food for the two of us; nothing like my usual shopping trips for my family of five. These meals would be just for us. It felt strange to be a mother of three but only shopping for one.
   As we loaded up the car with groceries my movements slowed. I felt as though I was in a slow motion  movie, wanting this time in the outside world to last longer. Once that was no longer
possible, I buckled us both in the car to head back to the hospital. Back to the cancer treatment he's been enduring off and on for the past year and a half. Back to the isolation unit where he would begin a stem cell transplant that evening in an attempt to rid his small body of the stubborn beast called cancer. 
Back to the battle.

July 5th

3 years ago today Jacob started with his stem cell transplant, which resulted in 40 days in the bone marrow transplant unit, in isolation. He was a trooper through it all, and then glad to get home.

2 years ago today he was weak on the couch, with fluid filling his lungs because of the tumor which the stem cell transplant couldn't kill. We knew that he was reaching the end.

This journey called life is fraught with battles and highs and lows. I'm sure on August 19, 2013 when Jacob heard the words "His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." it was ALL worth it. My sweet boy, at age 8, had been good and faithful throughout all his struggles.

If only we all could learn from his strength and courage.


Unafraid by Susie Davis is all about "trusting God in an unsafe world". 

We all fear. Whether it is about our health, our finances, our family, our world around us, there is stuff out there that is fearful. 

On page 8 Davis writes, "I prayed and held on to God as best I could. But I just didn't see the buckets of blessings. I didn't see God working. I got God as the creator of the universe, the sustainer of the world. But I just wasn't so sure he was into the little stuff - like watching after me in my everyday life.

Now I know God always wants my attention. I have found he'll stop at nothing to get it. But it's hard to see God's love and care when fear is staring you in the face. Fear makes you blind...and deaf and dumb."

Fear can paralyze us. It can harm the relationship that we have with God. There is good fear (stay away from that grizzly bear!) and bad fear (worrying about the "what if's" and things we have no control over). This book shows you how to take that bad fear and just hand it over to God. It shows us how to trust.

Page 93: "Sure, when everything is going according to our plans, it's easy. Trusting God is actually fun. It's a "Thank you, God, for making my life so beautiful." But when you're single and waiting for a husband, afraid you'll be alone all your life, it's not so nice. Or when you're unemployed and can't provide for your family because you're waiting for a job, it's not so fun to trust God. When you're cuddling the baby you prayed for, trust is a marvel. But when you're dealing with the heartbreak of years of infertility and you're visiting a friend cuddling her new baby, trusting God hurts. Deeply."

This. THIS. Trusting God sometimes hurts. Trust isn't easy, it's not always a natural reaction. Yet, we must trust. We must follow where He leads and do what He wants. And that often means to defy our fear and let go...to let God. 

Davis showed us how she overcame her lifelong fear and learned how to trust in God with both the big and the small. Following in her footsteps we can learn to do the same.

This book was given to me by blogging for books in exchange for my honest review.    

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Center of Gravity

"Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is grand. Or is it? When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It's temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss."

The synopsis on the back cover does not do this book justice. As a matter of fact, Ava's mother and her back story is hardly mentioned in the story. Ava very quickly realizes that her relationship can't be fixed. Basically, reading the back of the book makes me feel as though it's talking about a different book.

This is a thrillingly creepy book. It reminds me a bit of Gone Girl with the twisted mind at work. While the storyline itself is pretty predictable it did keep me reading from the time I started it to the time I finished. Yep, a one sitting read. Thankfully it's a fairly quick book to get through at about 310 pages or else I would have been up all night. 

The book revolves around 5 different character's point of view. Luckily, each character was defined enough that the back and forth between people was not confusing and actually well played out. It was interesting seeing this come to life through everyone's eyes.

If you need a book that grabs your attention this one is it!

This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Girl Power

101 Things Every Girl Should Know by Faithgirlz is not your "typical girl fluff". 
The editors of Faithgirlz! and Girls' Life have collected their best advice to help girls take charge and feel confident in a variety of situations, from changing a bike tire to talking to your teacher about a bad grade, from being threatened by a bully to falling down the stairs at school. What do you do when you're at a party and you don't know anyone? What's the formal way to set a table (and why does it matter)? This random collection of problem-solving strategies helps with everyday stuff, big and small. With tips, advice, and lots of humor, this is a book every girl needs.

I hesitated before picking this book, because I'm leery of most advice books for teens. Too much focus is put on boys, make-up, and clothes. This book is the complete opposite. It is filled with situations that every girl will encounter in life and has real life lessons. 

It is quite random, which annoyed me a bit, but my daughter didn't complain about that. It makes it easy to pick up and put down as time allows. The perfect read for any girl!

This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. 


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