Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Longing In Me by Sheila Walsh

I am an avid reader of a wide variety of books.  Among the variety Christian Fiction and Bible Study bump spines with Dystopian Teen Fiction, Children's Picture Books, Classic Literature, and the occasional Memoir to name a few.  That being said I often avoid "self-help" books in favor of Bible Study, prayer, self analysis and reflection.  However, there truly is a thin line between some Christian study and the category of "self-help books," and this thin line usually makes me very leery when choosing a specific type of book.  Today, I am going to discuss "The Longing In Me" How everything you crave leads to the heart of God by Sheila Walsh

When I first read this title on BookLook Bloggers I had mixed emotions.  I felt that it could either be "the book" that God would use to help me with scars, hurts, and understanding habits that I have collected and carried with me starting at a very young age.  It could help me to see that my behaviors and what I long for are intricately knitted together creating a path to Christ, or it could be a complete flop for me.  A flop in the sense that I many books and Authors will venture into the territory of deeply hurting or wounded people with examples of hardship that seem like...getting a flat tire on your way to a luxury vacation and needing to fly out a day late.  Don't get me wrong, I understand that everyone has grief, stress, and hardships and that all hardships are relative to where a person is in life etc.  No hardship SHOULD be judged as harder than another, but a Mother who lost her only child, or a family who lost everything in a fire will not be able to relate their tragedy to a delayed vacation....does that make sense?  

Ok, moving on...

You will seek Me and You Will find me when You seek with ALL of Your heart! (Paraphrased and emphasis added by me). This verse sums up for me the bare-bones focus of this book...but in the most simplistic way!  

Aside from relating tragedies the purpose of the book is to help you to realize/acknowledge that in trying to heal, feel, or fit-in, bad habits form thus leading you down an already worn path that you should not be on!  You know this, I KNOW this for myself!  Still I find myself looping around depending on people who are not good for me or depending on people more than I depend on Christ. Until I learn this lesson I am bound to stay on the same track.  This book aims to help you jump track and aim straight again.  A bit of my "self help-y" aversion was creeping in...how realistic is it for a book, not a Bible study,*** could attempt such healing and life changing actions?

***Fortunatly there is a companion Study Guide and Bible study DVD and I cannot wait to purchase them!!***

While I had my initial concern about how real and authentic the author may be or to what degree they may know or understand the hardships that create such deep longing and lonliness.  Well, my concern immediately left my body when I tealized that the author was Sheila Walsh.  Ms. Walsh is someone that I have had the pleasure of hearing speak/teach live and in-person a couple of times.  I also love her lullaby album for my kids and for times that we just need some positive peace.  I also owned some of her children's books.  However, while this is a healthy "knowing" about an Author I really did not know what to expect.  I knew from her live "show" that she has had struggle in her life and most importantly I knew that she did not shy away from sharing these struggles.  She is, in my opinion, one of the rare "real" or "truly authentic" Christian speakers/teachers/leaders of our time.  So in hopes that I would gain some wisdom and "meet" a kindred spirit traveling through steep trials I requested to read this book in exchange for an honest review.  

Before I was even done the forward/introduction I had teared-up, laughed, and realized that I needed to consciously make the effort to read this with all walls down so that I could soak up every last drop that God had planned for me!  I knew going in that I had a lot of "holes" to mend.  I had been trying to mend them on my own for so long that I believed I would never be able to heal fully.  While I cannot say that I am 100% good as new, I can say that I have learned so much that I am currently in my second read through in order to glean as much as possible from every jam-packed page of wisdom and heart-felt nudges.  I also do not forsee this book leaving my bed table or my TBR/Currently reading list anytime soon!  

When you feel like you can make it through anymore "therapy" for that day you will still find yourself meditating on what you have read and 9 times out of 10 you will still go back for more.  I am so open and raw from simply reading and asking the Lord to hold my hand and walk me through this, I cannot imagine how Ms. Walsh must feel!  This book is a must read for anyone going through or healing from any kind of trauma, even of the delayed vacation sort☺️.  It is also a must read for anyone who is loving or counseling someone through trauma or heartache.  This book is uniquely geared for women and I would stick with that, but I would also add that this would also be extremely helpful for anyone mentoring or helping young women/girls through trials of the heart, decision making, and having an authentic relationship with our Savior, our God!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Book Review: "ANGELS: A 90-DAY DEVOTIONAL ABOUT GOD'S MESSENGERS" by Christa Kinde

This devotional is a great way to spend time in the Word while also doing a topical studies on Angels.  It is thorough and uses plenty of scripture references for you to dig into.

Angels were once represented as a tiny gold pin tacked on the collar of my shirt to remind me that there was one there-looking over me.  I wore this pin throughout elementary school, to reassure me when I was bullied, to connect me to a church that also bullied me but that had the stories and songs that made my heart swell.  Really it was to encourage me to believe in that which I could not see and to know the love of the women of my family who purchased the pins for my sister and I so that we might find our way through trials.

As I grew into adulthood I found Christ who was there all along, I was just too blind to see Him.  Yet looking back, I could see his fingerprints on my life so clearly that, once my eyes and heart were open.  So I joined a church and loved being there so much that I attended every activity that my full-time college student and single-motherhood schedule would allow.  Sunday morning, sometimes Sunday evenings.  Tuesday evening, Wednesday evenings, sometimes Friday evenings, and so on.  Yet, as I "grew" in Christ and learned from Pastors and friends, Angels took on a different meaning.  While I was attending my "home church" for four or so years I learned that Angels were specific to scripture and lived in a realm separate from us, that they were a big part of the before and of Revelation, but if we were not careful they could become idols, worshiped above their creator.  Angel figurines were frowned upon and aside from the Christmas story and the warning of their "tendency to be a form of idolatry."  Which can make sense since the representation of angels does not match the scriptural description at all.  In fact if we made ages to look scripturally accurate they would likely scare or intimidate children and even adults.

Still, I could not shake the thought that in the many years prior to truly knowing Jesus as MY Savior He and His Heavenly Hosts had been there to guide me, protect me, encourage me, and to help me.  In the past I have used concordances and other "Angel" related books, written by prominent Christian leaders, to try to understand more about them and the conflict that a discussion on these spiritual beings can bring.  I have also grappled with how to teach the Glory of God's Angels to my own children.  So when I saw this option on BookLook Bloggers I knew that I had to grab it.  (BookLook is a free for review program for bloggers and that is how I obtained this book in exchange for my honest opinions).

I was thrilled when it came but was a bit intimidated because it was a 90 day devotional that I had to write a review on in a timely manner.  I didn't want to jump ahead and I certainly didn't want to skim over it and not delve into it for the full measure.  So I soaked it up.  I read every verse, I copied the verses, I studied them, I listened to the commentary, I imagined the stories that the author uses to help us understand the point.  I dog-eared, highlighted, discussed with friends, talked my husband's ears off, led a small group to hear others thoughts on the book, and finally I am here writing about it on my blog.  Exposing my internal struggle about something that seems so minuscule in the scheme of eternity and yet extremely important at they are "Heavenly Hosts," "His legions," an army, protectors of His children, and will make them selves known again in the final days according to Revelation.  I have reached the end of this 90-day devotional for the second time and I have never been happier to read or receive a topical devotional before.  This book has not only changed the way that I interact with my daily surroundings but it has changed my heart.  It has also given me a better understanding of the amazing spiritual world that our society (both secular and religious sectors) seems to think does not exist.  This study will be used as a family study this summer break, and it will be used by me as a reference in the future I am sure.  I truly look forward to hearing my kids thoughts on it and what pearls they take away from it.  Ironically, it is not listed under family devotionals or sold as a kids devotional, when you look at it and read about it it looks to be an adult devotional.  Yet, it was written for ages 9 and up!  It did not seem juvenile to me but it was not too intense that I thought my children would not be able to handle it.  Let's face it some aspects of the Bible are pretty "R" rated and are stories that you either share with your children or you given them to them when they are mature enough to handle them.  So when I noticed the 9 and up age rating I was both surprised and excited because as I said, it will be perfect for our summer study!

The devotional includes over 100 scripture references, myth busters and pop culture references, Bible story excerpts, bits of fiction to aid in the understanding of the delivery, hymns (a really nice surprise), and other methods for a well-rounded study.

If ever you loved Angels, were intrigued by what they might look like, or who they might be.  If ever you wondered why they were so popular among the mythical and unbelievers, yet only spoken about in a few key historical references in church, if ever you questioned wether you will "earn your wings" when you die, or if angels were only used "in Bible times" and not in our "modern world"...than this devotional is for you.  Not necessarily because all of your questions will be answered by checking off the reading's for your 90 day commitment.  But rather, because it is the ultimate guide to all mentions, be them small or elaborate, within scripture.  Along with the possibilities that you have been missing out on a very real and tangible connection to the spiritual realm that exists on this Earth and in the afterlife.  It is beautiful, overwhelming, inspiring, and for some it may be frightening or sobering as one friend put it.  Sobering in the sense that more eyes are on you when you think nobody is watching/hearing.  Do you actions affect your Angel?  Do you have a specific Angel "given" to you as you were knit together in your mother's womb?  Or maybe you were given one at birth?  These are all questions that have come from this study.  A study that keeps you wanting more, that makes you want to dig in and devour, now THAT is a good study!

This book will help you answer questions, and make you ask more.  For a devotional to answer and inspire further inquiry that is a grand slam in the writers world.  I look forward to future works by this author and I definitely recommend you spend the next 90 days acquainting/reacquainting yourself with the Heavenly hosts who serve you (and Ultimately serve our Maker) as well as those who have betrayed their creator and were the first entrants into Hell.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Parenting, Puke, and Phil...As in Dr. Phil

Let me just tell you what an awesome 
older brother and amazing teenager that Aidan is.  So last night Liam was sick throwing up.  I wanted him to come into my room to sleep so that I could help him etc.  Aidan had woken up when he heard Liam crying (this boy never cries) so he was comforting him.  Liam has the issue of waking up a lot at night and he will often climb into bed with us, Aidan, Violet, or Breya.  He knows not to wake Avagrace.  So Liam in all his tears asked if he could sleep in Aidan's room because he "misses him."  I said no Mommy is going to take care of you tonight.  So Aidan sat with him while I got sheets and things, but came over to ask if Liam could sleep in his room.  That he didn't mind taking care of him.  I was like "Aodan it's puke!  You will have to run his back and dump the throw up bucket and have him wash his mouth out etc.  He said " I don't mind, I know what to do, I promise if it gets too much I will tell you.  Please I really want him to know that I am here for him!"  Now if that didn't make me melt I would have insisted.  So I still woke up and helped in some capacity each time Liam was sick even though I was annoying my teenager, lol.  But Seeing such love just warms my soul!!  I still have tears in my eyes writing this!  And other than all the warm gooey's and the pride I was thinking about this....

My kids are experiencing things that nobody wants their kids to experience.  "Grown up things" explained to them at their level of understanding.  Unavoidable discussions and situations.  While it can weigh heavy on their little hearts, they all know that God gives them experiences to learn from and use in their lives.  Dr. Phil loves to say that "1. Don't ask your kids to deal with grown up issues. And 2. Don't make them deal with situations that they cannot control."  I agree with the sentiment but I disagree quite a bit as well.  I am not going to talk about # 2 other than to say that I believe communication on their appropriate level is always the best practice.  Children in theory cannot really control much.  They cannot control what we are making for dinner, unless we ask them to.  They cannot control their sisters life altering condition but talking to them about it is a whole lot healthier than not talking about it!  They cannot control the tornado season or if their family has a shelter or not.  But they can learn how to handle the affects of these situations.  They can control their emotions in a sense.  Will they be scared but not frantic because they know the plan and have mom and dad with them?  Will they choose to be frantic because they don't know what is going on?  Etc..  But his first statement is what I am really talking about today.  ☺️

So, for example in response to # 1, finances.  I have found that teaching our children the difference between needs and wants as well as the ebbs and flows of life that sometimes life brings "feast or famine" (so to speak-famine is a pretty strong word that I would not use but you get the point).  In my opinion, it is a whole lot healthier to talk about things than pretending that nothing is happening or keeping things from kids that already know something is going on.  Our kids knew this year that they had to pick one gift request for Christmas because presents were not a necessity.  I know that this was a bummer and some of the kids were a bit sad when we first talked about it.  One in particular was truly miffed.  So we talked about.  We talked about IT A LOT.  We reminded them of what our family's focus is right now.  (Post fire stuff) we talked at length about Christmases that were over the top.  We talked about having zero space in the house we are staying in.  We talked about priorities and ways to give to others.  We talked about the REAL meaning of Christmas and what the meaning was behind those 3 gifts that baby Jesus was given.  

When Christmas came we saw a very different Christmas that we had seen before and that we anticipated.  First my children have always made gifts for each other.  Yet this year there was an abundance of handmade gifts.  Then they received gift cards from both of their sets of Grandparents before Christmas.  This was so that they could go out and buy things that they really wanted but also learn the importance of a budget and prioritizing what it is you need or want.  We had one child who insisted on buying something for each and every family member before she picked out something for themself.  We did not make that known and so when two more of our children wanted to get gifts or a gift for one or more other family members it was even more touching.  Then the last two kids both picked out something that they knew everyone would like!  All without a single suggestion or prompt from anyone. So all of that was under our Christmas tree along with some needs from our "friend-like-family."  So when they opened the book and 1 big-deal toy from us that they did not know if we were going to be able to get for them or not, it was the most excited and grateful that we had ever seen them.  They did not have that expectation of a gift or gifts.  They did not know that their Grandparents would do what they did.  They did not know that their sibling/s would spend their own gift money on others.  When it was all said and done my kids said that this was the best Christmas ever.  It was simple, and special, and we really saw God's Glory!

I have found Communicating with my kids and telling them what is happening (again age appropriate) has given them security not worry.  Knowing that in life everything is going to be alright because we are in HIS Hands!  Aidan's actions last night could be picked apart by people in many ways, "he didn't ask for a kid," "he's not the parent," "he's just a kid, don't give him adult responsibilities" etc...but not trusting my 13 year old son with a responsibility that he really wanted and supporting him in it was a blessing to all three of us.  I am so grateful for my children and learned to stop listening (99% of the time-I am only human) to the critics long ago!  So my fellow parents, LOVE your children, KNOW your children(really truly know their hearts, their hurts, their strengths, their weaknesses), and do what is best for YOUR child!!  It is as simple as that!  Because parenting in this way will look different for each child and quite frankly, that is the way it should be.  After all we are all individuals!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Death Penalty for an Innocent Man, a War within Myself to Be Who I was Created to Be, And a Revelation to help!

God is SO GOOD and so helpful if only you let Him!  He is good and wants to give us peace.  He wants us to be who WE are, not who we think we should be based on the reactions of others.  He wants us to be OURSELVES even when we are at war within ourselves because we have conflicting components of who we are.  Our Heavenly Father wants to bring those conflicting portions into sync.
I promise, the end of this is worth getting to, it may be a message that He wants you to hear right now!  :-)

This afternoon I was in a low moment.  I was incredibly overwhelmed with the injustice and ignorance that is all around us.  Every place, every state, every country will have humans that are ignorant or blinded by "this is what we know," "it was how I was raised," and so on.  When we moved to Oklahoma my children were not yet in school and I was parenting 3 then 4 then 5 children all six years and younger.  I was focused on God, Work, and Supporting my husbands career.  When my children started school, as opposed to Home-school (because I believe that schooling needs are as unique as the individual so some of my kids are homeschooled and some are not...for now).  When my oldest started school I realized how different my upbringing in Pennsylvania (statistically in the top 5/50 schools yearly) was to the education system in Oklahoma (statistically in the bottom 5/50 schools yearly).  I realized how hard the teachers here had to work, or didn't.  I realized how important it was to have one of those gems that work for nothing to make Oklahoma's education system better even though the school boards and state is not always in sync with what the teachers know to be affective or needed in their jobs.  I have seen a great disconnect between a school board's theories of what will work and what the teachers are telling them that they need.  I have also seen a school board and a school that work together tremendously and impact the children in such positive ways that it seemed no different than my experience in public school on the East Coast.

I have seen the difference of growing up in a norther swing state as opposed to a southern, republican, conservative, Bible-belt state.

I have seen the difference in healthcare from an affluent tri-state area that is full of the top hospitals in the nation to a state whose medical is and can be compared to some under developed countries.  

Oklahoma has some of the highest incarceration rates, the highest children in child-protective-custody, the lowest scores in schools, healthcare and the list goes on.  

So, when three executions of men on death row happened in the past year under our current governor through lethal injection that was botched all three times and caused torturous deaths to these men I felt like I was taken back centuries.  Yes, PA still has a death penalty.  However, since 1976 there have only been 3 men killed in PA by lethal injection.  All three of those sentences were signed by the same Governor Tom Ridge, a republican.  

Now in Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is signing off on another execution for a man named Richard Glossip.  Richard was implicated and convicted in 1998 of a murder that was committed by a man who admitted to the act and the charge, but in a plea deal Justin Sneed, Glossips co-worker, accused Glossip of "paying him to kill" in order to save his own life.  Sneed is now spending his life in a medium security prison and will be essentially committing murder again through the hands of Governor Mary Fallin.  While two court cases have convicted Glossip of murder, the only evidence that they have is the admitted murderers plea/accusation of Glossip paying him to kill.  All along Glossip has been using pro-bono attorneys.  

For some statistics, Oklahoma is the second only to Texas for executions but is the highest per capita in executions.  To further muddle the executions that our Governor seems so readily to sign off on, Oklahoma was the first state to use phenobarbital as one of the ingredients in the lethal mixture.  Phenobarbital is a anti seizure medicine.  And, the one reporter Phil Cross who has been following Glossip and working very hard to get his story out there, to help him and to shed light on what is going on, has been banned from the court room while other reporters are allowed, and other reporters are claiming that they cannot talk about it.  The death penalty in Oklahoma has been under investigation by the Supreme Court over the past several years, it has made national headlines many times, and now even Hollywood stars are sharing their opinions and starting petitions to stay the execution.

NOW here is huge proof to the LUST OF EXECUTION for Oklahoma.  In 2014, Oklahoma had put scheduled executions on hold until the Department of Corrections implemented 11 proposed improvements in protocols governing capital punishment. The review of the lethal injection administration process resulted from an Oklahoma inmate's April execution case in which a doctor and a paramedic failed nearly a dozen times to administer an IV with lethal drugs.  From that, they continued under Governor Mary Fallin's approval to do two more botched lethal injections This will be her 17th lethal injection.  However, out of the past three Governors she looks like a lamb.  Her predecessor Brad Henry (Democrat) signed off on 39 executions, and 51 occurred under the Governor Frank Keating (Republican) before him.  Governor Frank Keating gave the go ahead for minors to be executed for their crimes and the last minor to be executed in the country prior to that practice being banned happened in the great state of Oklahoma under Governor Frank Keating in 2003!  Oklahoma has also been a state to wrongfully put-to-death prisoners.  (example:  Gregory R. Wilhoit convicted in 1987, exonerated in 1993.  Ron Williamson, Oklahoma. Convicted 1988 exonerated in 1999.  Although Texas and Illinois have had far more wrongfully executed persons, that we know of.)

So while capitol punishment is a heated debate with people for or against it and many people unsure of their feelings for it exactly, siting examples of when it would be ok and when it wouldn't, everyone can agree that it is an emotional topic.  However, Governor Mary Fallin has knowingly approved at least three lethal injections to persons knowing that the drug cocktail used has, each and every time, caused prolonged suffering and not sudden death.  Now, a man who was simply accused in a plea bargain.

So as my heart ached over all of this and the fact that I cannot rely on medical care in Oklahoma for my daughter, or the school system (not the teachers) I turned to my Bible and decided to do a study prompted by an old assignment my husband had for college.  In that study I decided to read about a book in the Bible, a person, and a significant place.  I am not going to share all of the details but I basically picked my favorites for each section, or the ones that made me joyful.  They were not the typical picks of say psalms/proverbs/job/etc.  I stuck with the Old Testament too.  The persons were not even the typical and each of them ended up being connected in intimate ways that I never noticed before.  For instance, the father of one of my favorite persons in the Bible was a ruler in the Book of the Bible that I chose.  Because the man's father is named but already dead and not talked about in the story of the son whom I admire so, I had never thought to look up his father, nor did I connect the dots when reading his fathers name in the book that I love and chose.  The location I chose actually stressed me out a bit.  I am a very visual person and wish that they had a "Biblical map" overlay that I could place over our Modern map to see the locations that they speak of.  So I tend to not pay attention to the location.  I asked my husband what location he chose to give me some inspiration.  I finally chose a location, and this location is central to the story of the man I chose and I did not realize it before.  

So, the point of my story is that God can affirm your purpose and your passions and he can show you His love and dedication to you, as His child when you simply open yourself up for his teaching.  Tonight it was as if I just ran my fingers through my Bible and asked Him to show me something (which I often do).  But it was with much less purpose.  I knew I was hurting.  I knew that I was warring with myself.  I feel very passionately about things and I know that I was created to be an activist.  Yet I highly dislike arguments or hurting/offending others.  Speaking about a persons home state in a negative way can hurt or empower a person to help make it better.  I know that I am at a giant risk of hurting people that I care deeply for.  But staying silent would be ignoring a part of who God created me to be.  He knew that I was feeling blue and fearful of how my words may affect others and He showed me that He is patient and loving and will always guide you to do what He has called you to do, even when you are afraid to do so.  

If you would like information on the petition for granting a stay for Richard Glossip click here!