Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just 18 Summers by Rene Gutteridge & Michelle Cox

The title says a lot. . .

This is the fictional account of a community who wakes up to the realization that life is short and our days with our children are numbered.

While the plot is not very complex, reflecting the screenwriting strengths of the author, the message is simple and direct: eighteen summers with our children are not that many.  In the form of novelization, the authors address four different parenting angles: single parent, hover-parenting, success-driven parents and relaxed, laid back parenting.  All styles have challenges and regrets and joys, but it's easy to see by walking through the storyline that our children need us, not a formula or method.

This book was an easy read, yet it may take you awhile: every time I started in, I wanted to lay it down to do just what it encourages: enjoy the summers I have left with my little ones.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Tyndale House Publishers.

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies by Brenda Spahn

Oh, this book is fun!

When faced with the possibility of prison for a technicality she was unaware of, successful businesswoman Brenda Spahn's eyes were opened wide to the hopeless cycle of incarceration for women.  She sees the despair of new parolees as they are sent back to the exact environments they came from without any hope for change; Brenda decides do jump in and do something out of gratefulness to God for reversing her own prison situation. 

Brenda is a rich lady.  Rich, rich.  While it is super heartwarming and movie-like to read the account of  seven ex-cons living with an extremely wealthy woman, the heart of  the story is clear: get involved. It's so easy to throw money at a situation rather than sacrificially giving oneself. 

This is the story of a woman who embraced the unlovable at great personal cost, and her courage moves you to reach out of your comfort zone. Whether it's taking newly released women shopping for undergarments at Walmart or bringing chocolate covered strawberries to prisoners, you will be motivated by all of the practical ways to speak life and Christ into those around you.

Disclaimer: Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianityby Nabeel Qureshi

What if everything you knew to be true wasn't truth?  Would you embrace the truth even if it meant walking away from everything you've ever known?  Would you choose truth over family? Truth at deep personal cost?

Raised in Western culture, Nabeel Qureshi traces his childhood steeped in Islamic tradition to his adulthood and his deep desire to seek truth.

Although I was reading to understand my Muslim friends and their background, I found my own faith strengthened as he wrestled with the difficult questions of Christianity: did Jesus really die? what about the swoon theory? what about the conundrum of the Trinity- isn't that polytheism? As Nabeel tackles these questions with intense scrutiny and deep skepticism, he finds over and over that science and history prove the Bible to be true.

Another thread running through this excellent account of a man's search for truth is the power of a friend who won't let go.  Nabeel's friend David doesn't just love him to Christ - he prays, he spends years building a relationship,  he doesn't shrink from the tough questions, and most importantly, Nabeel knew beyond any doubt that David loved him. 

I chose to read this book because I'm interested in apologetics and usually this genre of book is slow reading and a lot to digest: however I read this in a weekend and couldn't put it down.  The chapters are intense and deep, but also short.  Because of the comprehensive glossary throughout, there's so many aha moments for anyone who cares about Muslim people that you are compelled to keep reading so you can understand your friends even more.

This is a fantastic book for anyone who is interested in Islam, anyone who loves a Muslim friend and wants to understand their culture, and for anyone who is seeking truth. 

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Zondervan's blogger review program, BookLook. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

(why i went to south africa x2)

just some of my notes from when our team shared with our church family as we prepared to go to africa 4/16 - 5/1

CS Lewis said: "I pray because the need flows out of me, waking and sleeping.  It doesn't change God, it changes me."

For me this statement applies to this mission trip as well. Holding little abandoned babies actually changes very little about their circumstances, and it doesn't change God.  But it changes me.  I want to keep my heart tender and broken to the needs of people. Africa does this in a stunning way. When I grow weary and burdened with the frustration of sorting purpose out of the American Dream, looking back and forward to our time in Africa brings clarity and motivation to my days.

Recently Daniel and I took my younger sisters to a Rend Collective concert.  We quickly realized we might be a little older than the target age for the attendees when as we struggled to find seating, we found no chairs.  We'd had a really long week, and had been looking forward to sitting and taking in the concert.  Looking around, this lack of chairs, designed, I'm sure to avoid spectator entertainment and  encourage participation- this bothered no one but us, and it was a beautiful concert.  A two hour participitory worship concert. As  I looked around at all the cardigans and skinny jeans, I was impressed with the young people I saw. They were absolutely passionate, in love with Jesus; they'd taken packets to support children through Compassion; they were on their feet singing to Jesus with direction, focus and energy.  As I sang 10,000 Reasons, too, with a little less passion because my feet were numb, I thought how that passion leads to action.

Because active worship is not usually easy street,  10 years down the road, that passion will be working 90 hours a week in order to support a family and still give compassion, coming home from work and then leading a discipleship group, pouring into the local church, maybe running an orphanage in India or Africa.  But there may be a lot less energy.  You see a lot more discouragement.  You have more responsibility on your shoulders and more people depending on your passion/action . 

Passion led to action for the staff at RHI and they are on their feet in what God calls true worship, caring for orphans.  My main desire this trip is to metaphorically - offer them a chair.  Please sit.  Take just a moment and breathe.  We value you. Your labor is not in vain.  Thank you for pouring your lives out.  Can you just let us serve you for a moment?  Can you - just for a moment- let us care for some of your needs? What you're doing for these little kids matters.  Thank you for not wasting your lives.  If they can feel refreshment - for just a bit-  the trip is totally worth it for me.

In Exodus 17 the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites; As long as Moses help up his arms, the Israelites won, but when he put his arms down, the Amalekites started winning. When Moses' arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit on and they stood beside him and held up his arms, holding them steady until the sun went down.  In this way Joshua totally defeated the Amalekites.  Then Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner.  . . He said "hold high the banner of the Lord."

I can't wait to go, and I'm so grateful for the unwavering support of you all here. Thanks for helping to hold the banner high.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

when you do mother's day solo

My morning at church has ended my two month writing hiatus. 

Sunday mornings are always a mad rush: we give rides, answer texts, have 1000 last minute ends to tie up and are almost always late.  It's really a shame. 

I also go to church by myself a lot.  It's okay, it's normal, I'm used to it, but it's never super fun and I always feel on the edge of mental breakdown fielding all the comments of where my husband is or how tired I look or hearing by myself which child misbehaved.

So today as I pulled up to the church and saw three cars in the parking lot I wondered for a moment if I was truly losing my marbles.  Maybe today was Monday.  Maybe I was an hour behind?  I drove the long way around and into the parking lot.  Still only three cars in the main lot, though I spotted a few more up above in the overflow parking spaces. 

"I guess we're just really early,"  I said to Jacob.  It felt ominous.

"I think we should just go look at the ducks in the park for a little while," he suggested.

"I know, it's like it's weird to be early.  We just can't hit it at the right time.  It's either way too early or late for us."

We're just going to embrace this early thing, I think, and in we go.

First of all, Eli and I must stop at the ladies' restroom; this is his very first Sunday at church in bona fide underpants. I'm not used to shuffling both of us into a bathroom stall and I promptly catch and slam my finger in the latch. 

It throbs.

It's actually bleeding. 

So that's awesome.

But he goes potty so that's really awesome.

I drop him off at Sunday school with extra underpants and promises to check on him. 

In my own class I sit and wonder why the universe still feels off.  I'm forgetting something.

I open the bulletin and what I'm forgetting jumps out at me.

Today is THE LAST DAY to turn in your child's camp registration money
As an exercise in futility I fish through my purse looking for a wad of cash.  Or perhaps the checkbook.  Who am I kidding? I never have a checkbook with me.  Who even writes checks anymore? I just gave my last bit of change to Cambria and Eli for their offering, so it's not an exaggeration to say that I'm penniless.
I sigh inwardly, leaving my coffee and early-to-church aura and slowly retrace my steps, swimming upstream through all the people who get to church at the proper time, get in the van, and drive home to find a checkbook. 
On my way home I see MFD's engine and my engine driver husband which is a nice reminder that my husband isn't home sleeping or out golfing. I already know this but it is nice to be reminded visually.
I stand in the kitchen and catch my breath for a moment, notice my now-cold coffee sitting on the counter and I stop and drink it.  I need caffeine.  I need a lot of patience.
I drive back to church.  I'm late.  I have missed all the coffee chat and sharing time.  Everyone is praying and I wait outside the doors to enter.  The universe is feeling on now.
During the worship service, I once again have the nagging feeling that I'm missing something.
the promises to take Eli potty.
This is becoming the most interrupted worship experience ever. 
We finish and try to leave and search high and low for Eli's missing shoe, do the potty thing again and finally arrive at the van.
The hatch is wide open.  
Why?  No one knows.  Apparently it's just been like that, sitting in the parking lot, with my back-up purse, gym bag and lawn chairs free for the taking.  Like, seriously? 
I think today was just not my day to shine. 
I don't know if it's ever my day to shine actually, but it really, really wasn't today.
I don't have a sweet spiritual wrap up to this: haven't had enough time to think of anything.
But to you, solo momma at church, at school, at the grocery store, at home, who doesn't feel like she's shining, Happy Mother's Day to YOU, cuz you're in the trenches and it's hard
and no one is rising up and calling you blessed
But I'm saying HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to you.
You don't look a bit tired, your absent hubby must be a rock star, your children are all angelic and you're doing a great job.
The "moms with grown kids" from church treated the "moms with kids at home" to Moms' Night Out the other night.  Oh my goodness- go see it. 

Post by Moms' Night Out.

Postscript: {I'm saying postscript because saying PS sounds like peee S to me and I've seen enough pee this week}
Yesterday was the sweetest day of soccer games, family time, out to eat twice and doing yard work and porch swinging with my Daniel, who took the day off for me. So don't feel sorry for my solo mother's day or anything, I'm quite all right.  Back to potty training.