Monday, October 26, 2015

Goodnight, Manger by Laura Sassi

 The nights are getting colder, things are getting cosier. It's a sure sign that all things Christmas are right around the corner. This Goodnight, Manger book by Laura Sassi seemed like just the ticket. This book really surprised me, and not in a good way...

The appearance of this book was impressive right off the bat. This hard-covered book comes with a dust jacket and vibrant illustrations. The pictures are so rich and beautiful. The colors evoke such a warmth and sweetness. The illustrator, Jane Chapman did a great job.

Unfortunately, that's about all I liked about this book. The actual content of the story was just bizarre to me. The story centers around Jesus in the manger. The story of the magnificent and miraculous birth of Christ is reduced to frustrated parents trying to get a baby to sleep. First the animals are being disruptive. Then angels come to praise the new king and Mary tells them to be quite. Three kings show up with gifts for the baby and how does Mary feel about that? "Mama's frantic, in a tizzy."

I understand that this is just a storybook. The author has taken creative license and seen the story a new way. However, this isn't just any story, this is the birth of our Savior. She hasn't just changed certain details, she has changed the whole meaning of the story.

Being a new mom isn't easy. Certainly there was a lot going on that night. I can imagine that Mary was tired, sore. However the joy of giving birth to her Savior certainly must have outweighed those things. Can you imagine Mary telling the angles to be quite or getting upset at the three kings for coming?!

Bottom line, there are tons of great storybooks that retell the birth of Jesus. Why bother with one that misrepresents the story? The great illustrations and rhyming do not save this story in my opinion.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Vendetta by Lisa Harris

I love a fast paced mystery novel! Vendetta by Lisa Harris showed a lot of potential to be an outstanding read-- 

Nikki gets involved in a missing persons case that quickly becomes personal. While hunting for the abductor of a teenage girl, she finds clues that point to her own past. Years ago, Nikki's own sister was abducted and it seems he is striking again. Fueled by the desire to save the missing girl and uncover the truth about her sister, Nikki runs down the clues. The closer she gets to finding the truth, the more personal the case gets.

While the book didn't quite live up to my expectations, there were things I really enjoyed about it. I was pleased that it was such a clean book that didn't get wrapped up in the gruesome or overtly sexual. Any teen mature enough for some thrilling subject matter could read this book. If you are looking for a thrilling read that doesn't go too dark or gritty, this is a good option.

The book explored the guilt and frustration of Nikki and another character, Tyler. They both have suffered personal tragedy that left them helpless. In each situation they were powerless to save the ones they loved. Both struggled reconciling how God could allow these things to happen. There were no hard and fast answers, or easy solutions, just some good discussions.

While the book started out strong, I didn't feel like it kept it's momentum through the middle. It felt like a variation of the same situation played out over and over. Nikki finds a clue, the clue leads to a dead end, Nikki is frustrated and lets her personal feeling get the best of her. When things finally did pick up, the climax of the book did not feel satisfying.

While it wasn't a bad book, Vendetta just didn't rise above the rest for me. I did find myself caught up in the story and connected to the characters. It definitely wasn't a wasted afternoon reading it, however I don't think I will follow the rest of the series.

I received this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Every Little Thing

Cover Art"Making a world of difference right where you are..." Can I tell you how many times I have sat down and pondered exactly how I'm suppose to do that? This has been on my heart for years now. After my first child it felt like motherhood had pretty much closed off any ministries outside of my home. I hear about amazing ministries and my heart says "I want to help with that, I want to volunteer!" I want to love on the women at our Pregnancy Resource Center, I want to help at our overtaxed homeless shelter, I want to support that awesome ministry in China. I prayed about these things and found time and time again that it wasn't where the Lord wanted me. I have been given the very big job right now of caring for my home, my family and my children's education. While I can still support those ministries that touch my heart in prayer, right now I cannot physically.

I have found on the other hand, that motherhood has opened a whole other universe where I can make a difference. With my kids I have the huge, seemingly endless job of teaching, praying, leading and disciplining. I also have a new crowd of women that are trucking along beside me. Every week I attend a Bible study for mom's. I get to share my own heart and encourage those around me (and childcare is provided! WIN). I have seen God work there, and it is important work! So many stay-at-home-mom's feel alone and isolated. It is awesome to be able to reach out and say "I'm there too, you're not crazy."

Yes, God has placed me right here. Right in this impoverished county, in this tiny tiny town, at my church with dwindling numbers. Instead of lamenting the season of life I am in, I'm trying to embrace it. This book, Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs has been seriously encouraging me,

"Everyone has had that moment--we see a need and we think, Someone really should do something about that, never imagining that we might be the answer. We don't have the time, the expertise, the money. We've got careers to manage, bills to pay, meals to prepare, and families to attend to. Besides, who are we to think we can change the world?

In this encouraging and empowering book, Deidra Riggs calls you to accept God's invitation to join him in making a difference right where you are, right now. She shows you that you were created with a purpose and with the capacities to fulfill that purpose. And she reminds you that while it's not up to you to fix the world, it is up to you to join God--and his people--in his redemptive work."

Deidra uses her life experiences and examples from scripture to showcase how God can work through us right here. Deidra draws the reader in with her compelling stories. It is easy to get caught up into the wonderful narratives of her life; only to later see how she will incorporate it with scripture to make her point.

Perhaps you hunger to make a difference right where you are, but feel held back by fear and insecurity. I found this book incredibly encouraging. As a person who constantly goes to battle with my own fears, I have a feeling I will be rereading this in the future. 

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Beach Day

Somehow, we always end up at the beach. Always here. This is my favorite spot. We go at low-tide and climb over the rocks to our special cove. The water is always calm, perfect for little people to wade it. My husband was busy so the kids and I went with my parents. Those two little figures in the photo are my son and dad.They spent a majority of the time "rock climbing". My parents are amazing. Titus and my dad have a really special relationship. 

Mom and I hunted for sea glass. This is the best beach for finding glass in our area! Last time I found two purple pieces and a pink piece. My dad thinks the variety and interesting pieces we find might be due to the fact that there was once a dairy very close, right on the cliffs. We live in such an interesting area! Mom and I entertained this little peanut with peanuts. She spent about 30m picking away at her snack. It was a little chilly to swim, which is what she usually does. I plan on making something like this with my glass.

There aren't a whole lot of things that everybody in my family loves to do. My husband and I have totally different ideas of what a fun afternoon means. He would prefer to drive around in the woods while a cozy coffee shop sounds better to me. We both have learned to enjoy activities from each others worlds. The beach though, is something that is fun for everybody... especially if I let him bring his fishing pole ;)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Love Casts Out Fear

Cover ArtThis afternoon both of the kids were napping and I was left with a rare moment of no obligations. It was the perfect time to catch up on a little reading. In my stack of "books I need to read" was this book, Love Casts Out Fear. I was intrigued by the book when I read the description-

"As a boy in Egypt, Brother Nathan witnessed an unthinkable attack on his father, a Christian pastor in a majority-Muslim country. After the attack Nathan sought revenge and vowed to avenge his father. As a man, by God's incredible provision, Nathan ministers in the village where his father was targeted, as well as in countless other cities and villages across Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

Love Casts Out Fear tells a gripping true story of danger, overwhelming anger, and forgiveness that's beyond comprehension. Through Nathan's experiences in Egypt, his beloved homeland, you'll see firsthand the joys and difficulties Christians face in the persecuted church in the Middle East. And you'll marvel at God's ability to care for those who follow his call and to change hearts in one of the most dangerous places in the world to claim Christ as Lord."

This book was a really quick read. I finished it within a few hours. The story is very simply written, but powerful. The story follows Nathan from a very young age until present day. The scope of the book really allows you to see God's grace in Nathan's life. From his early-days, filled with hate darkness to his current ministry, God is clearly working.   

 The reader gets a sense of both village-life and city life in Egypt during the 60/70's. These details of everyday life really made the story come alive and transported you to a dry and dusty Egypt. I also thought the end of the book was very interesting, reading about the how the Arab Spring effected his ministry. I would be curious how current events are changing things now! The book was an easy read that I believe would be suitable for many ages. This is one I plan to lend to a few teenagers in my life.

I received this book from Baker Publishing to read and review.

18 Weeks

18 Weeks

Bump- pretty sure this picture is deceptive because my bump is really a lot larger. The angle isn't quite showing all my roundness ;) I grew so fast at first with this one. I have since slowed down a bit but this week I feel like I have really popped.

Craving- I crave certain foods pregnant or not. I'm just sort of weird like that. I will crave the same thing for weeks and then decide I don't want to eat it again. Right now I am loving anything salt and vinegar.

Aversions- I hated coffee until a few weeks ago. I have gone through that with each of my pregnancies. I go from madly in love coffee addict to cannot stand it. Right now I'm sort of enjoying it again.

Feeling- I pretty much feel invincible until 2. Right about when the kids go down for nap. Somedays it just feels like my whole body is shutting down. I hit a wall and have to lay down. I'm not much of a napper. It takes me so long to fall asleep and I never feel rested when I wake up. Right now I don't have much of a choice. If I can fall asleep for just a minute I feel a lot better.  

Emotions- Honestly, I go between excited and terrified. I really am happy for this baby to join our family. Late at night, when I am trying to fall asleep, all my fears get the best of me. Suddenly my confidence is gone and I have no idea how I'm going to do this. I'm also feeling nostalgic about my other pregnancies. Whenever I am pregnant I have what we have affectionately named "hiccaburps". It's a single hiccup like burp thing. My husband always teases me about these weird things. I got my first few the other day and had to chuckle.

Baby- We don't find out if it's a boy or girl until later this month. So far there has been lots of movement and the kids and my husband have got to feel the baby move.

Speaking of the kids- Babies big siblings are still crazy in love. Early on they named the baby "twinkles". We just go with it. Violet loves to talk to baby twinkles and spends a few minutes each day talking to baby. She is already bossing the baby around while in utero, "no taking my blankey twinkles!" This has been the most amazing thing about this pregnancy, the kids interaction. When I was pregnant with Violet, Titus was just over a year. He had no idea what was going on. This time they both are old enough to get excited about the process.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

ICP Journey Part 2

I had intended to write this post up a few days ago, but my brain and heart have been heavy. On Thursday our community and family was rocked by the shootings at UCC. Roseburg isn't far from us and a lot of my family lives there. So thankful that the family that was on campus during everything is safe!! I have been a bit foggy and unfocused the last few days, praying for those who lost loved ones. I still can't believe something like that happened in our small area!

Anyways, on to the second part of my ICP journey. Read part 1 here.When we decided to add another baby to the family, I knew the chances were high that I would have ICP again. I felt a lot more at ease with the entire thing. It just seemed a lot less catastrophic, I knew I could handle it. If the itching started, we would run the tests.

Without fail around 38 weeks I noticed my palms itched. Within days, the itch crept into my life again. We had moved and switched to a new midwife, but she was just as supportive as the last. I did the blood tests and waited for the results.

During that two weeks I noticed my itching eased from unbearable to annoying. My midwife decided that I could go to my due date, but absolutely no longer. When the results of my blood test came back, it was obvious that my bile acid levels were high, but not as bad as my previous pregnancy.

I felt a lot more confident in general this time around. I knew I could make it through the itching. I had my old tricks and I kept telling myself, "I have done it before!"

I think the reason my ICP wasn't as bad as the first pregnancy had a lot to do with a shift in my diet. Throughout my pregnancy and especially the third trimester, I was very conscious of what I ate. I tried to stay away from any fried or super fatty food that bogged down my liver. I laid off the chimichangas and tried to clean up my diet. This is something I have been trying to do during this pregnancy as well.

The day after Thanksgiving, on my due date, my midwife broke my water. Baby girl came hard and fast into this world, perfectly healthy (besides the cord wrapped around her neck 3 times). Once again I had survived another ICP pregnancy, and more importantly my baby did too!

I hope writing about my ICP might encourage and strengthen some mamas who are going through the same struggle. It is a scary road. Reading about successful, healthy births and babies always lifted me up during the hard itchy nights. If you are out there and you are itchy, you are not alone!! Our pregnancies might be rough but there is hope and relief when baby comes. I am 18 weeks with our third right now, and waiting on the itch. We will see what this pregnancy holds!       

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Journey with ICP

I remember the moment I realized something was wrong with my pregnancy very clearly. Years ago when I was pregnant with my first, I kept repeating to myself that everything was normal. Sure, I had been a little itchy, well a lot itchy, okay maybe unbearably itchy. At 35 weeks though, a lot of weird stuff had happened to me during pregnancy. I figured this had to be another crazy pregnancy thing. Anybody who I mentioned it to seemed unconcerned, I heard "It's totally normal to be itchy, your skin is getting stretched ton!" or "It's probably PUPPS". None of those responses made sense to me. I wasn't really itchy on my stomach. It was mostly my palms and feet-- and well everywhere, especially when I tried to sleep. I decided to quell my fears with a quick Google search. However, instead I discovered something else, the three words that have changed each of my pregnancies since, Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy 

I finally stopped trying to convince myself that everything was normal. Something was wrong. Everything started to make sense, the weird pain below my ribs on the right side, the unbearable itch. I called my midwife and explained my symptoms. Without hesitation she sent me to get blood tests and told me she was fairly certain I had it. She explained that my liver couldn't handle the high level of hormones my body was producing. The normal flow of bile has slowed and built up in my blood. The bile salts exit through the skin which causes the insane itching. Worst of all, the baby is at risk and I could have a stillborn.

I remember sitting in the waiting room at our tiny local hospital, scared out of my mind. I had been trying to hold back tears all morning. The staff had no idea what tests they were suppose to run, they had never even heard of ICP. We waited over an hour while they relaid info from my midwife, trying to figure out just what to do with me. Holding my husbands hand it became very real that we might lose this baby. Even in the best case scenario they would have to induce me at 36 weeks. I wasn't ready to have the baby in a week!

I just kept repeating in my head "how could I have this?" HOW, is it that I have this crazy weird disorder. I was perfectly healthy in every way before pregnancy. I wondered why the Lord would allow me to struggle like this. I knew the answer of course, but it still seemed unfair to me. Friends all around me were having babies, they had normal pregnancies and normal deliveries-- and I had a constant unbearable itch and my liver was not working right.  

When the tests were all done I drove to the city to see my midwife. She told me it would be 2 weeks at least until they got the results. The more we talked though, the more convinced she was that I did have it. She wanted to work through the diagnosis and monitor my body. She didn't believe it was serious enough to merit an early delivery, even though it is standard at most hospitals. I went in twice a week for non-stress tests and ultra-sounds. I constantly kept tabs on babies movement at home. When my tests results came back it was obvious I did have ICP. My levels were low enough that she felt confident in allowing me go to my due date.

Friends and family were praying for me and trying to understand. It grew so tiring, trying to explain what was wrong with me. Not one person I knew had ever heard of it. Even after I was diagnosed, well meaning "experienced" moms would tell me itchy is normal. Obviously I had just developed an allergy, "did you change your detergent??" Truly, sometimes itchy is normal, but for me it wasn't.

I was so worried during those weeks, but truly the Lord was merciful. A lot of mom's have to fight to receive a proper diagnoses. Many O.B's have never had a patient with ICP, and don't recognize the symptoms. My midwife never doubted me for a moment and walked through everything with me. In so many ways the Lord kept encouraging me. I discovered that a shower before bed reduced the itch enough for me to sleep. Strangely, the greatest relief was just laughing with my husband about the absurdity of it all.  

It wasn't until I gave birth to my son, at 40 weeks + 4 days that the itching stopped. He was healthy and perfect. I finally felt free of the constant worry... That is until a year later when I became pregnant again with our second child. I'll continue the story in my next post!! Read part 2 here.