Monday, November 9, 2015

Three Little Words

"Three Little Words" by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

I volunteer with foster youth in my county and this book was recommended to me by another volunteer.  It is a book that highlights why children in the foster system need advocates.  This story is written by a young girl who was in the foster system and her experiences.  This book actually makes me cringe because it is everything that is wrong with our system.  I kept asking, "How could that have happened, how could this have happened?"  Everything that could have gone wrong for this young girl did.  "What had I done that was so terrible that I had to be taken from my mother?"  How many kids think it was something they did?  How man kids think that they weren't good enough?  Many of these children are have self esteem issues believing that they weren't good enough to be loved.  "Behind the scenes, though, she became our champion, and it would be years before I realized everything she had accomplished on Luke's and my behalf."  She is talking about her advocate or CASA worker.  Ashley, the author, didn't know at first how much this worker was doing on her and siblings behalf.  "What I could not avoid was an irrational throbbing for my mother that came in waves." "Besides, the only parent I wanted was my mother, and if I could not have her, then having nobody was better than somebody else."  Foster kids are afraid to be loved and they self sabatoge for fear of being rejected they reject first.  "It's okay not to love us.  And I'm not going to say that I love you, because I haven't known you long enough to feel that way.  I like you very much and I want you to be my daughter forever, but love is something that grows with shared experiences.  I feel the buds of love growing, but it hasn't blossomed yet."  Ashley's adoptive mom first said this to her when she came to live with them.  I appreciate her openness and her honesty.  It takes a lot of time to heal from the hurt these children have experienced and her adoptive mom did not expect instant love.  "You are our chosen child, our only daugher.  We missed so much of your life, and we cannot erase some of the tragedies.  All we can do is help you to be the person you want to be from now on."  Foster parents are heroes, they are courageous people who love the broken back to life.  I am in awe of their dedication and willingness to be in the trenches.  "Children need families, not programs."  "Placement?  We have adopted you.  You're our daughter, so cut the poor-orphan-me crap.  We never had anywhere to send our sons, so why should you be different?"  Ashley was afraid that if she messed up she would be put back into a group home.  Her adopted mom was telling her that she was loved no matter what she did, that this was a forever relationship.  Unfortunately, many kids act out from their fears and hurts and foster parents end up giving the kids back up.  It takes a lot to foster.  "The state had paid her to shelter children who were already wounded, and she broke them further-some permanently.  In addition, I cannot help but hold a grudge against those in authority who were incompetent, negligent, or looked the other way when the system's foster parents were harming us.  So many children in my position have no voice, but I will not be silent.  I will continue to speak out about the importance of getting children into permanent homes more quickly."   Children need homes, they were never intended to be taken care of by an institution.  We need to speak out, these children need a voice.  "Out of these 195 people, only Mary Miller and Martha Cook were unpaid volunteers-yet they are the two people who made the greatest difference in my life."  I'll end with this, make a difference in a child's life, become a CASA worker!  (Shameless plug)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

One More Step

One More Step by Bonner Paddock

This is a courageous book about Bonner who has CP and is willing to push past his limits to show the world that we should not limit people with disabilities.  He finds meaning in helping others after living a life that left him empty.  A life where he never showed his weaknesses, never spoke of his CP until one day he met a little boy fighting a much harder fight with the same disease.  Bonner's perspective changed and he bagan to be a face for CP, helping children with this disease here and overseas.  This book tells the tale of his climb of Kilimanjaro and becoming an Ironman.  "We have a choice in our lives.  We can be content with where we are, or we can set goals and continue to push ourselves beyond our limits."  When we push ourselves we truly find out what we are made of, what we can really accomplish.  "Sometimes knowing too much of what lies ahead makes a challenge doubly difficult."  Just one foot in front of the other, look straight ahead, don't be distracted by others, run your race.  "My ability to fight my own fight was the only thing that owuld separate defeat from triumph."  We get caught up in comparison and competing with others when we really just need to be able to beat ourselves and run our own race.  This was an inspirational book with a great message of helping others and not limiting people.  

Ashley's War

Ashley's War by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

This was such a good book.  I am facinated by the pride that our armed forces have in our country, so much so they are willing to die serving.  I believe it takes a special person, one whom I greatly admire.  This book talks about a team of women who joined our special forces in Afghanistan.  Women are not allowed to serve in face to face combat positions but the special forces needed women to help them when they did raids as the men were not allowed to talk to or even be in the same room as the Afghan women.  A team of American women signed up and did special training to be a part of helping our special forces.  The risk that was involved, the dedication, strength, bravery it took to do this missioin was like no other.  This was an elite group of women who had been waiting for this their whole lives.  All of the felt like they were made for this mission.  It is a group of women who were not in the news, not talked about despite their bravery.  I am so thankful I found this book, so privileged to have read about these brave women, so indebted to their sacrifice.  "At a time when the divide between those who volunteer to fight America's wars and those who never served is wide and growing, it is more important than ever to know who these soldiers are and why they sign up to fight for the sake of the rest of us."  My sentiments exactly.  "If you do that, if you hold someone back, they will eventually end up carrying a grudge."  Let's let our spouses, our children, our friends and family soar.  Let's be the wind that lets them take flight, not the ones holding them back.  "Everybody has something that the other girl doesn't.  This is what makes us a team."  Everyone brings their own thing to the table and together we can do great things.  "Going out to get bad men who were killing innocents and fellow soldiers and then living to tell the tale-well, making it to the other side of all that was a drug in itself, and Amber was sure that nothing else, ever, could match it."  These women were given an opportunity of a lifetime and they rose to the occasion, believing that this is exactly what they had trained and wanted to do.  "I put you into His hands.  Now more than ever, when I get scared or concerned about you, I think back to that moment.  I think of God holding and keeping you safe because I can't.  It gives me a sense of peace and calm."  There was a real danger where these women were and their families were rightly concerned but all that they could do was pray that God would keep them safe as they did the job they were called to do.  "There is a difference between Rangers and the people who support them...  If women are out on the front lines marching with the Rangers every night, what is the difference?  If they go out on missions and wear uniforms and carry weapons, and put themselves in danger to help the American military achieve its strategic goals, what is the difference?  If they are getting killed out there, what in the hell is the difference?"  Women could not be a part of Rangers because they could not fight face to face combat so they were enablers.  But in reality they were right alongside the Rangers, right in the face of danger, risking their lives.  "I brought my daughter today because I wanted her to know what a hero was.  And I wanted her to know girls could be heroes, too."    "How much better would this world be if every person, at the happiest, most fulfilled point in their life, thought not of themsleves, but of the good they could do for things bigger than themselves?"  A much better world indeed.  Read this book.  Open you eyes and heart to some of the women serving our county and dying for our freedoms. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Lucky Life Interrupted

"A Lucky Life Interrupted" by Tom Brokaw

 Tom Brokaw is a famous news reporter.  He has lead a life of many blessings, worked hard to accomplish his goals and been able to meet and be at many famous history making events.  He writes about his diagnosis and journey with cancer.  His lucky life interrupted by cancer, something that he didn't expect, no one does.  He writes with honesty and with positiveness about this journey that so many are on.  "The emotional and financial turmoil, the complete immersion of the family in the struggle to find relief, the utter unfairness of it all, adds up to a price no one should have to pay."   The price of cancer is high, it's a battle so many face.  And as in every strugle there is a lesson to be learned, things  and people to be thankful for, and gratefulness to find.  "These are the cycles of life.  We lose a member of a family and another comes along to renew the continuity, a chain of death and birth that has been under way since the arrival of upright man."  

Rising Strong

"Rising Strong" by Brene Brown

This book is all about the struggle and rising above.  We all fall, we all make mistakes, but the brave of us are willing to get back up and try again.  It takes courage to be willing to fall again, courage to try where you have failed before.  In the process of falling we can learn so much if we are just willing to be open to the lessons.  This book taught me to pay attention to what I am feeling and investigate the why behind the emotions, to remember that failling is not failure, and there are lessons to be learned while I am on the ground.  "But I am learning that the process of struggling and navigating hurt has as much to offer us as the process of being brave and showing up."  I think if we can remember that pain has something to teach us, it isn't as painful.  "The opposite of recognizing that we're feeling something is denying our emotions.  The oppostie of being curious is disengaging.  When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don't go away; instead, they own us, they define us.  Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending-to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes.  This is what happened.  This is my truth.  And I will choose how this story ends."  We have power then and are not owned by our emotions and cirucumstances.  We each have the power within us, with God's help, to choose.  We can't choose the family we were born into, or things that have happened to us, but we can choose how we will let those circumstances shape us.  "And just so we don't miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there's always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can't catch up with us.  We fill every ounce of white space with something so there's no room or time for emotion to make itself known."    I think so many of us are doing this very thing, keeping busy so that we don't have to deal with emotions.  "Just because someone isn't willing or able to love us, it doesn't mean that we are unloveable."  BIG truth right there.  We are all loveable, God created each and every one of us in His image, and He loves us all.  "Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them."  Practicing our values rather than just saying what we value is the hard part.  "It means that we stop respecting and evaluating people based on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they're actually doing."  "Our silence about grief serves no one.  We can't heal if we can't grieve; we can't forgive if we can't grieve.  We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend."  The only way to deal with grief is to grieve, and it hurts and yet it heals.  "When you look away from a homeless person, you diminish their humanity and your own."  We think if we don't look they won't really affect us.  I have learned a gift I can give anyone is to smile and look them in the eyes.  This lets the person know that I see them, I see their suffering and am not just trying to look past it.  "Connection doesn't exist without giving and receiving.  We need to give and we need to need."  "Sometimes the most uncomfortable learning is the most powerful."  Falling down hurts and we can learn while we are down to rise strong.  

An Invisible Thread

"An Invisible Thread" by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

This book was recommended to me by my cousin and it is a very touching book.  It is a true story about a woman who works in NY and passes by a boy begging for food.  Living in NY she has passed many homeless people without thinking twice.  This time as she walks by she stops in the middle of the street and decided to turn back to the boy.  She walks back to him and offers to take him to lunch. This begins the unlikely friendship between a woman and this 11 year old boy.  The story takes us through the years of their friendship and the gaping differences in their lives.  It is a story that could be any one of our stories if we would just take the time to stop and see the humanity before us.  "For a good part of Maurice's childhood, the greatest harm he faced came from the man who gave him life."  What a confusing place for a child to be, the people who are supposed to take care of and nurture you are the very people you are afraid of.  "What does it mean when society says you're unfit to be a mother?  Are there circumstances to be factored in before that judgment is made?  What if a mother is doing the best she can in the face of crushing adversity but still doesn't measure up to society's standards?  When does a mother lose her right to be a mother?"  As I volunteer in the foster system and have sat in on many court cases, these are the questions that must be answered.  It is not always a cut and dry answer, there are so many factors to consider.  It is not easy to make these decisions that alter lives.  "We know about stuff like Chrismas, but kids like me, we know we can never have it for  ourselves, so we don't think about it."  The harsh reality for so many children.  "But I also think about how fleeting such moments of innocence are, about how good intentions and wide-eyed optimism and even love can only protect us from the harsh, corrupting reality of life for so long."  " the things we carry with us from childhood define who we become."  I don't believe our childhood ever leaves us, the good or the bad, but we can choose what we will carry with us into adulthood.  "All of our stories, as much as they are about anything, are about loss.  And, perhaps, they are about what might have been.  But the beauty of life is that inside these disappointments are hidden the most miraculous of blessings.  What we lose and what might have been pales against what we have."  So beautifully said. "If love is the greatest gift of all-and I believe it is-then the greatest privilege of all is to be able to love someone."  And it is, it truly is.  "I consider my childhood a gift,' Maurice once told me.  'It happened to me so I could learn the right way to raise my children.  I saw what my father did, and I might have grown up thinking that was the only way to handle children, like my father handled me.  But then I met you, and that's when I realized there was another way.'"  The impact of one person on another, can in turn, reach generations.  It really is amazing what one act of kindness can do.  A little love goes a long way.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

It's Not About Perfect

"It's Not About Perfect" by Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller was an American Gymnast who competed in two Olympics.  She started gymnastics when she was very young and was competing at a very early age.  She had an amazing drive to accomplish her dreams and the discipline to back them up.  She was always willing to do one more situp, one more routine.  She had a loving family that believed in her and was willing to sacrifice for her dreams to be acheived.  She also had a faith that carried her through hard times.  She is a very accomplished gymnast and an inspiration to many.  She has also inspired others with her good attitude in battling cancer.  The book shows Shannon's passion for life and her drive to make the best out of every situation.  

Every Day I Fight

"Every Day I Fight" by Stuart Scott

Stuart Scott was a ESPN sportscaster who boldly battled cancer.  He has two girls whom he did everything for, they were his whole world.  He left a legacy of being thankful, following your dreams, never backing down, fighting for what you believe in, being honest, and always being real.  "That sense of surprise, that inablility to process the fact of a dad who was as conscientious as a mom-it's a sad commentary on what our culture expects from fathers."  Despite his very public and busy career, Stuart always made time for his girls and was often traveling with them.  Today our society expects a lot less from fathers and in turn is getting a lot less.  "Is there any feeling on earth better than what you feel when you watch your kid triumph at something?"  No matter what fame Stuart experienced his greatest acheivement was his two girls.  "That's something cancer does for you: It smacks you in the face with instant persepctive."  Facing death will give you persepctive and that's exactly what happened to Stuart.  You figure out pretty quickly what is really important, the people you love.  I enjoyed the honesty of the book and the battle to fight cancer.  It was an inside look at a person of fame and his character behind all that he did and accomplished.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Born To Run

"Born To Run" by Christopher McDougall

If you love to run, or want to run, or even hate to run, you should read this book.  The book is tells the story of how we were made to run, born to run.  The book tells about a fascinating tribe in Mexico that run long distances for fun in sandals, skirts and blouses.  The book questions if our running shoes are what are really causing all the injuries to our bodies.  The author is witty and humorous yet manages to educate at the same time.  It was truly fascinating to learn about this lost tribe.  The book also tells of a great race between this tribe and a group of Americans.  I wanted to get out and run while reading this book.  It brought a new sense of excitement to running for me and taught me some things about running correctly.  Although the book did talk some about evolution, I disregarded that part as I know who created me and all of us.  For me it just confirmed what an intentional, amazingly creative God we have.  "That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they'd never forgotten what it felt like to love running.  They remembered that running was mankind's first fine art, our original act of inspired creation."  I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about running and how we were all born to run.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Just Mercy

"Just Mercy" by Brayan Stevenson

Oh man, this book will get you to really think and ponder our prison and justice system.  I think this is the second book that I've read like this.  The author is a lawyer in Alabama who runs a non profit that helps the "poor, wrongly condenmed, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system."  He also helps individuals on death row.  The story talks about some of the people that he has helped, one being a man on death row who insisted he did not commit the murder he was charged with.  This book brings to light the injustices in our system and the people that it affects, which is all of us really.  We are all created equal in God's image yet some are treated unfairly when they need it the most.  Our prisons are filled with people who were foster children, people who are poor, people who are minorities, people who were abused, and people who are mentally disabled.  How are we intervening in these peoples lives to bring them help before they are incarcerated?  How are we helping them once they are released?  "We have given up on rehabilitation, education, and services for the imprisoned becasue providing assistance to the incarcerated is apparently too kind and compassionate.  We've institutionalized policies that reduce people to their worst acts and permanently label them 'criminal,' 'murderer,' 'rapist,' 'thief,' drug dealer,' sex offender,' 'felon'-identities they cannot change regardless of the circumstances of their crimes or any improvements they might make in their lives."  No one wants to be labeled for the worst thing that they have done, I certainly don't.  "Each of us is more that the worst thing we've ever done."  There are many points in this book that have made me stop and think.  I don't necessarily agree with it all but it did make me look at what I believe and question if I really believed it.  I appreciate a book that can do this.  "One of the country's least-discussed postwar problems is how frequently combat veterans bring the traumas of war back with them and are incarcerated after returning to their communities."  Again, how are we helping these individuals before they get into trouble?  "I know that some have been through more than others.  But if we don't expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed."  Hurt people, hurt people.  Expect more from those around us, hope for it and they just might rise to the occasion.  "Oh, I think we can always do better.  The bad things that happen to us don't define us.  It's just important sometimes that people understand where we're coming from."  Sometimes knowing what someone has been through brings mercy and a differenct perspective.  "For the first time I fully reckoned with the truth that the conviction, the death sentence, and the heartbreak and devastation of this miscarriage of justice had created permanent injuries."  How do you get back years in prison for a wrongful conviction?  How do you overcome the fear and mistreatment?  "Most people released from prison after being proved innocent recieve no money, no assistance, no counseling-nothing from the state that wrongly imprisoned them."  How can this be?  How do we expect them to be good citizens with no resources?  Do these people not deserve some compensation, some therapy, for what they have suffered at the hands of injustice?  "I do what I do because I'm broken, too.  We are all broken by something.  We have all hurt someone and have been hurt.  We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.  Our shared brokenness connected us."  We need to let our brokenness connect us, then mercy will abound.  "In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and a desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy.  When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise.  You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things ou can't otherwise hear.  You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us."  This is just like the gospel, Christ showed us mercy when we didn't deserve it and this makes us in turn show mercy to others.  "I understood that even as we are caught in a web of hurt and brokenness, we're also in a web of healing and mercy.  The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving.  It's when mercy is least expected that it's most potent-strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and vicitmhood, retribution and suffering."  The power of mercy really knows no bounds.  The power of mercy can transform even the worst of these.  "...the death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit.  The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?"  "Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving.  The people who haven't earned it, who haven't even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion."           

Monday, August 24, 2015

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

"Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston

This is the incredible story of a man who was hiking alone and got his hand caught by a boulder.  In order to save himself he had to amputate his hand.  He survived four days trapped with little food and water.  This was an accident, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Now I will say that Aron obviously had an adventursome spirit and pushed the limits as far as he could, sometimes too far.  He lived many life and death situations.  He had incredible know how, skill and mind set to be able to keep his head and get himself out of the situation.  It is unbelieveable what he had to do to survive and yet he was able to do it and get himself to help.  Truly the hand of God was watching over him.  He has no regrets and with his prosthetic hand, continues to do all the outdoor adventures that he did before.  He is an inspiration that a disability should not slow you down.  If you like a story filled with adventure and life and death, you will like this story.  It is a bit graphic and there is some profantiy, as a warning.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Before I go

"Before I Go" by Colleen Oakley

This was a great book, really great.  Another randomly picked book from the library and so worth it (but it does come with a warning of profanity usage).  A 27 year old woman named Daisy has just found out her cancer is back with a six month to live diagnosis.  With time running out and all her plans for her life taken from her she finds that what is most important is making sure that when shes gone her husband is taken care of.  This will lead her on a quest to find him the perfect new wife.  Her quest will leave her wondering about her love for her husband and his love for her.  The diagnosis will stretch their relationship to the point of breaking.  I like this story as it uses humor to address a very challenging subject and does it well.  "There wasn't enough room in our tiny house to hold all of our sadness, so I did everything I could to alleviate hers..."  You ever feel like you can't all be sad at the same time in the same house so one person has to act happy to help the rest?  "And how these memories act like kerosene on the fire of my love for him.  They engulf me.  Scorch the innards of my being."  "How hollow a tiny house can feel when someone is missing from it." People are what make a house a home.  "Like I'm a quilt with patches of him sewn into me."  "I'm already so self-reflective, introspective, so overanalytical about everything I say and do that there's nothing a stranger could ask me or tell me that I haven't already asked or told myself."  That might be my favorite line, probably because it's totally me.

The Last Promise

"The Last Promise" by Richard Paul Evans

I like this author and have read a number of his books.  He writes feel good, easy read novels.  This novel takes place in Italy with an American girl named Elianna.  Everyone thinks she is living a fairy tale life but in reality her wanering husband is hardly ever home and she is left to care for the severly asthmatic son alone.  Elianna may be lonely but she is happy being a mother until a mystery man, Ross Story, comes to live in the same villa.  Ross has a past he's trying to forget but Eliana might just be the one who can break down his walls.  This story invloves loss, and love.  "If everything I have suffered was the price to bring you to me, then it was worth it."  Such sweet words and I believe that Jesus would say the same.  The cross?  Worth it to have you in heaven. (That's not in the story but I thought I would throw it in there as it sounded like something Jesus would say and it really all comes back to Him anyway.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free

"The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free" by Hector Tobar

A riveting story of how 33 men were trapped over 2,000 feet underground for 69 days.  This book tells the personal story behind each of these men, how they came to be in the mine that fateful day, how they survived 17 days before being found, surviving a total of 69 days, and the stuggle of being a hero.  The book details these mens lives and what has happened since their rescue.  It is truly a miracle they survived and was a story heard around the world.  It took a nation coming together with many others to complete their rescue.  It took a bond of 33 men to survive in inhuman circumstances for so long.  This is in intimate look into the lives of these men and the tragedy they survived.  It is a book well worth reading and will leave you marveling at the miraculous.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Competition

"The Competition" by Marcia Clark

This isn't my normal read but it looked intriguing and it was.  It is a mystery involving a high end lawyer and an FBI agent who are investigating a school shooting.  It is a bit graphic so I caution you there, but it is a book that will keep you on your toes thinking you know who did it only to be guessing again.  I liked the book for the mystery and how it kept me guessing.  I enjoyed the banter of the characters and how they tirelessly researched the case to solve it.  It was an interesting look into crime and how they are solved.  I recommend this book if you are looking for a mystery with unexpected twists. 

A Golden Voice

"A Golden Voice" by Ted Williams with Bret Witter

This book is about the YouTube sensation Ted Williams.  He was a homeless man with a "golden voice"  Someone took a video of him on the street doing his radio voice and put it on YouTube and it went viral.  Literally a day later he was being flown to NY to appear on the Today Show.  The story is more about his fall and life as an addict and homeless man than the fame.  It is a truth telling book of what happens when addiction takes over a person's life.  It gives a real look into homlessness and the struggle to survive.  Ted has faced a lot of demons in his life and by the grace of God he has been able to put those demons to rest.  Another honest book with redeeming love flowing through it.  Ted speaks about never giving up hope, there is always hope even in the darkness.  We serve an amazing God who never lets us go and will go into the muck and mire to bring us into the Light.  An inspiring story that our prayers are heard and there is always another chance to do right.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Light of the World

"The Light of the World" by Elizabeth Alexander

This is a memoir written about the loss of the authors husband.  It is a book filled with such love and joy admist the loss.  The author captivates her love with her husband so well in it's pages.  It is about treasuring that love and being able to go on and overcome the loss.  It is a deeply moving book that left me being so thankful for the time I have with my husband and family.  "In all marriages there is struggle and ours was no different in that regard.  But we always came to the other shore, dusted off, and said, There you are, my love."  That is what it is about.  We are fooling ourselves if we think there won't be struggle, but always returning to each other and being reminded of our love for one another is how to overcome those struggles.  "To be a parent is to be terra firma, to stand, is to be planted in the earth."  We have to be the strong ones, showing our kids courage even in fear.  We are our childrens examples that even when struggles come we will stand firm and we will overcome.  This firm foundation enables them to stand firm in their lives.  "You cannot stop your birthday from coming, so you might as well celebrate being alive."  "When I was with him, I felt that there was suddenly enough time: to talk, to read, to think, to sleep, to make love, to drink coffee or tea, to practice yoga, to walk.  I think that everyone felt that there was all the time in the world when they were with him."    I want to be this kind of person.  The kind of person where when people are with me they feel at peace, that time has stopped and they can just enjoy the right now.  I feel that this is a special gift we can give people in the hurriedness of this world.  I appreciated the book for the reality of struggles in all of our lives and that there is beauty in the midst of it all.  

Leaving Before the Rains Come

"Leaving Before the Rains Come" by Alexandra Fuller

This was an interesting book and a different read than my normal.  I didn't realize till about 3/4 of the way through the book that the author was writing about her life.  It is about her life living in Africa and then marrying a man from Wyoming and how much her life changes after marraige and her move to the states.  It is a book with tragedy and overcoming that tragedy.  The book tells how drastically different life in Africa is compared with to life in the U.S.  "The problem with most people is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live."  It's so true, we all get lost sometimes and forget what living is really about.  We all get caught up in the supposed to's or have to's and forget the beauty of connection and family and love.   "...there is nothing like the profound loneliness of early motherhood to make a person ache to be embraced by their person of origin."  Motherhood makes us all long for our mothers I believe.  Those early days of motherhood can be scary and make you feel all alone.  Yet becoming a mother makes us appreciate the woman we call mom and forms a bond that wasn't previously there.  "Easy is just another way of knowing you aren't doing much in the way of your life."  God doesn't call us to easy and really most things that are worth while take work.  These are the times that we have to have the biggest faith, when things are hard.  It is when we see God work and truly feel Him.  I don't agree with all of this book but it was an intereting read and I liked learning more about Africa and life there.  I appreciated the authors look at tragedy and being willing to overcome.

Monday, May 18, 2015


"Chains" by Laurie Halse Anderson

I sped right through this book.  This is a story about a young slave girl sold to a family in New York with her sister during the American Revolutionary War.  America is fighting for freedom yet she is still enslaved.  The girls have lost their family, been taken to a new place, treated poorly, yet they must hold on to hope.  This story speaks of the unjustices America has comitted to people of color.  This story tells of the spirit of humans and the hope that we carry for a better life.  This book is written as a historical novel.  Many of the events in the story happened in our history.  I enjoyed this book for the hard look at the injustices that have occurred in Americas history and for the hope that we can all make a difference.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Liz Here Now

"Liz Here Now" by Todd Connor

This is an Incredible book, make sure you get your hands on this one.  It is a true story about a little boy who grew up in a severly abusive home.  He lived in a wealthy family where what was done in the home was kept secret so as to keep up appearances.  The story took place in the '60's and his family had a maid.  This maid, named Liz, was the one person that cared and saved this little boy and his siblings.  The book was written to honor her and all that she did and was to this little boy.  One person can make a difference.  "What she didn't know was that such abusive cruelty that took only minutes of real time would inflict a lifetime of devastation."  What happens in a matter of minutes can affect one persons whole life.  "Desperation sometimes makes people do things without any thought to where the action might lead.  All we know is the next step to take, with no idea where that will lead or how to deal with the aftermath."  Sometimes it's a matter of survival, there is no time for thought, just action.  Liz took action out of a deep love for these children, not thinking of what might occur after her actions, just that she needed to do something.  "She always told us that everyone has a hero inside, but most didn't know it on the inside and so they couldn't show it on the outside."  It just takes one person to believe, one person to have the courage to speak up.  This book honors Liz for the courage and love she showed in saving these children.  It is a book that inspires the reader that one person truly can make a difference with God's help, that love can and does conquer.  It is also a harsh reality of what happens in too many homes to innocent children.  It is a cry for help that something needs to be done, that someone, many someones, need to do something.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

For Love of Country

"For Love of Country" by Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran

I am so grateful that I live in America and I know that my freedoms came at a high price.  My heart is indebted to those who have served and their families.  This book contains stories of those that have served and their sacrifices.  It also has stories about how our veterans are helping out communities and what they are doing when they come back and rejoin the workforce.  Our veterans have so much to offer and teach us, they just need to be given the opportunities.  "We let them protect us, yet we go on with life as usual."  I believe this shows a disrespect to those that deserve our utmost respect.  How can we ignore those that have given so much for us?  "They need to return to a nation that feels connected to them."  We need to give back and have faith in our veterans.  "There can be no greater act of love by a father for his fallen son than to take his place in the ranks in the midst of war."  Powerful and inspiring.  "What we do with our failures makes us the person that we are.  When we fail, we have two choices: we can quit, and that becomes a habit, or we can learn and grow from those failures.  If you choose to grow, you can become a great leader."  Learning from our failures is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and those around us.  "After everything you have been through in the wars, you still want to help people.  All of you make us proud to be Americans."  Our veterans have given so much and when they come home they continue to give.  They are used to service and helping others and this is what they want to continue to do.  "In an era when the work ethic and collective spirit of young adults have been called into question, we cannot ignore how many of them stepped up in a moment of need; how professionally, selflessly, and honorably they preformed their duties; and how often they risked their lives to save their comrades.  Their character deserves to be celebrated with the same pride the nation shows for the World War II veterans."  "It is unhealthy for a nation to become detached from those who secure it.  Our volunteers have given the rest of us a remarkable freedom, but that freedom comes with the responsibility to understand their sacrifice, to honor them, to appreciate what they can offer when they return home, to care for those who are wounded, and to mourn those who have given us their last full measure of devotion."  I think that says it all.  What will you do to show your appreciation?

The Mistletoe Promise

"The Mistletoe Promise" by Richard Paul Evans

I really like this author for his short and sweet books.  He always has a great message in them and they are quick reads.  This story is about Elise whose marraige has ended in divorce.  Elise has kept to herself and is not looking forward to another lonely holiday season.  She is eating lunch and is approached by a stranger that offers her a propostion.  His propostion is that until Christmas they pretend that they are a couple so that neither of them have to endure a lonely holiday.  There are stipulations, like no drama and no deep questions.  Elise surprises herself by saying yes.  Her heart begins to open and she finds herself loving this man but she has a secret that might ruin it all.  "I once read that the secret to happiness is having something to do, something to look forward to, and someone to love."  And I believe that "something to do" involves serving others.  "The thing is, when you grow up with crazy, you don't know what sane is.  You might suspect that there's something better, but until you see reality, it's impossible to comprehend."  I belive a number of our foster kids feel this way, they don't know what family is supposed to look like.  It takes getting out of crazy to know you were even in crazy.  I really enjoyed this book for its simplicity and its message of redemption.  Secrets have less power when they are shared.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Blue-Eyed Boy

"Blue-Eyed Blue" by Robert Timberg

This is a memoir about a man who served in the Vietnam War and was severly burned on his face and arms as a result of a land mine.  The book tells how he overcame a highly disfiguring injury and did not let that fateful day define him.  He became a Washington news reporter, overcoming the stares from the public.  He searched for meaning beyond that fateful day in Vietnam.  "You can't march a generation, or a portion of a generation, off to war, have its members suffer the pain and anguish that accompanies all wars, then tell them that it was all a big mistake, without sooner or later paying a price."  He is speaking of the Vietnam war and how many gave their lives and limbs and came back to a country that said their sacrifice was a mistake.  I can't imagine how that must feel for our veterans.  Wether we believe in a war or not I believe that our veterans who sacrifice so much for our freedoms should be honored.  "I'm convinced that I did the best that I could, but the best that I could wasn't good enough."  This is a veteran speaking about his time in the war.  He lives with this fact every day, that his best just wasn't good enough.  The book opened my eyes to some of what our veterans feel coming back from war.  I understand how mentally and emotionally they struggle when they have seen the things they've seen in war.  We can not expect them to be whole and functioning with out giving them help, it's just absurd.  "The death of a fellow soldier in combat, especially a friend, is an imprinting experience."  These are the kind of things that change a soldier, for the rest of their lives.  I appreciated how the author overcame his trials and how it brought to light the battle our soldiers face at war and when they come home.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Small Victories

"Small Victories" by Anne Lamott

This is the second book I've read by Anne, while a little unconvential I do appreciate her candor and honesty.  This book is about "spotting improbable moments of grace".  This seems to be a running theme in the last few books that I've read, finding grace in the moments that seem like there is not a bit of it.  Life is hard, and messy, and painful, and full of grace and wonder and joy.  It's how we choose to look at things, and choosing is the hard part.  "I didn't know that wounds and scars were what we find welcoming, because they are like ours."  Wounds and scars are what draw us to others, knowing they have been through hardship and come out the other side is very encouraging.  Why do we try and hide our scars?  "...let's face it, it's so inspiring and such a relief when people find a way to bear the unbearable, when you can organize things so that a small miracle appears to have taken place and that love has once again turned out to be bigger than fear and death and blindness."  "You want to protect your child from pain, and what you get instead is life, and grace."  None of us can completely protect our children from pain and pain is where growth happens.  "This is how we make important changes-barely, poorly, slowly.  And still.  He raises His fist in triumph."  God rejoices with us when change is made, no matter how slow.  "I know that when I call out, God will be near, and hear, and help eventually.  Of course, it is the 'eventually' that throws one into despair."  Oh the waiting, the hardest part of God's perfect timing.  "Hope is not about proving anything.  It's choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim bleak s*@# anyone can throw at us."  Love is always bigger because God is love.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

All The Light We Cannot See

This is an amazing book.  It is a very large book, over 500 pages but don't let that deter you, it is well worth the read.  The book is about a blind girl who lives with her father in Paris.  Her father works at the Museum of Natural History.  When the Nazis occupy Paris, Marie-Laurie and her father flee to stay with her reclusive Uncle.  They carry with them what might be the Museum's most precious jewel.  Meanwhile, an orphan named Werner is recruited to an academy for Hitler Youth.  He is very good at mathmatics and fixing things.  His abilities take him into the heart of the war and here he realizes the cost of where his life has taken him.  It is here that he has a brief and unexpected encounter with Marie-Laurie.  They are both trying to survive the awful war.  Their chance meeting will set the course for the rest of their lives.  This book is well written, mixing history with a bit of whimsy.  It keeps you turning pages and hoping for survival.  I highly recommend reading this book.  

One Thousand Gifts

"One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp

The author writes in a very different way, almost like poetry.  The book is about how the author started making a list of 1,000 things that she was grateful for and found joy through this.  She was able to find joy in the simplest things throughout her day and even joy in the hardships.  It is a book about learning that joy and greatefulness take action and those actions can change a heart.  Choosing to be grateful takes giving up control and trusting that we have a God who will take care of us no matter the situation.  Being thankful is the building blocks to the bridges of trust as we look back and see all that God has done for us and blessed us with.  Writing our blessings down, the little things that we are grateful for every day helps us become more aware of them and how blessed we truly are.  

What's Your God Language

"What's Your God Language" by Dr. Myra Perrine

This is a great book to figure out how you best communitcate and feel closest to God.  If you are feeling frustrated because early morning quiet times are not working for you this might open your eyes to other forms of connecting with God.  This book gives the nine main ways that people find connection with God.  The book has a few quizzes to help you figure out where and how you feel closest to God.  It gave me a new perspective, helped me feel less frustrated, and gave me new respect for others who do not connect like I do.  God created us all different so why wouldn't there be different ways to connect with Him?