Tuesday, March 22, 2016

To The End of June

"To The End of June" by Cris Beam

Oh boy, this was a heavy, hard, yet interesting read.  If you are interested in the foster system, are a foster parent, know a foster parent, or work within the system, I recommend this book.  The author explains how our system began, the changes that have occurred along the way, and how our system is failing those it is meant to help.  Cris followed several foster kids and their families over a period of time to help show what it is like being a foster child and a foster parent.  As one who volunteers with foster kids, I know first hand the faults in our system but this book gave me a different look at the biological parents and their struggles.  Honestly my eyes were open to views I hadn't thought of before and I highly recommend this book.  "I know that foster children are twice as likely to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder than are veterans of war."  And that sentence was on the first page!  What are we doing?  "This is one of the reasons why a lot of people go straight for adoption, that they don't bother with foster care.  It's because of the investment-you see your investment go down the drain in months."  Foster parents put a lot of work into these kids only to have them be moved to another home.  It's hard, selfless work and it takes such courage.  "That's why nearly every kid in foster care is diagnosed with ADHD or even Oppositional Defiance Disorder-they don't have impulse control, because they never had proper attachment.  Unfortunately, the system tends to tackle the symptoms rather than the cause, by medicating the children for their hyperactivity or aggression, without addressing the underlying loss, which can take years to repair."  So much of this system is reactive and not proactive and I believe this alone is why we fail our children.  "But if you live in a state where your're going to be charged with child abuse for your addiction, or you know your kids will be taken away if you show up at a treatment site, you're stuck regardless."  Can we get them help before we take their children?  Would there be better success for the child and the parent?  "We've been building a city for children on a sinking foundation."  "Parents should do it because the kids need.  Otherwise they're going to be disappointed.  More money, more training, all of these things would be a boost, but foster parenting, by definition, means personal sacrifice.  You do it because you want to help a kid, and because you enjoy seeing them grow.  The gratitude for what you've done might come later.  Like after five years of hell."  Or honestly, maybe not at all.  "For her doctoral dissertation, Eliana interviewed one hundred kids in foster care, asking them why they thought they were there.  Ninety percent said it was because of something they did."  And that is what these children carry with them.  "Kecia explained that the first of her theories was the most basic and obvious: group homes led to jail because of the connections that you made in care.  The kids you met could lure you into trouble, and the adults were strangers you couldn't trust.  One thing led to another."  Group homes were not meant to raise kids.  "There's one commonly cited statistic-that 80 percent of all inmates have spent time in foster care-"  That figure alone should make us take a good look at our system.  "These kids said they would have rather been abused at home with their parents than abused by the state.  We realize now that the outcomes for children in foster care are going to be worse than if they had stayed in the home."  That statement blows my mind.  I can't even wrap my head around it.  "The agencies and the foster parents dont' know how to manage what every single foster child seems to need-that need to go back.  We need to get better at this part of the foster care trajectory because that journey back is land-minded for self-destruction."  No matter the abuse, no matter the circumstances, a child will always want to go back.  "This is why child welfare experts try to fix the myriad problems in child welfare and fail: the problems are rooted in a society that cares little for its children, for its poor, its mentally ill, undereducated, incarcerated, addicted, and isolated."  As a society we have proven this through our failing systems. "And the poverty aspect of foster care is particularly troubling, as the one shining truth in my research was this: the poorer you are, the more likely you are to get entangled with child welfare."  The author doesn't offer solutions, she wrote the book as mere information.  It leaves the reader wondering how do we fix this, how do we help these children and families?

The Silent Sister

"The Silent Sister" by Diane Chamberlain

I've read a few of Diane's books and they always leave me intrigued, like how does one come up with these plot lines?  This novel was a good change from the heavy non fiction books I've been reading lately.  It is a book that will keep you guessing and wondering all the way through.  Sometimes you don't even know who to root for.  When I was nearing the end of the book I couldn't put it down, I had to know what happened and how it all came together.  Throughout the book I continued to be surprised and I appreciate that about a book, that it is unpredictable.  The book is about a women whose father has passed away and she goes to clean out his house and deal with his estate.  She has a brother who is unstable and of no help.  She does not know whom to trust.  As she continues to go through the house she finds out that what she believed to be true about her family is not true at all.  Her sister that she was told committed suicide might still be alive, the man she thought was her father may not be, and now she doesn't know what or who to believe.  I'd recommend this book if you like a good plot that keeps you guessing and turning pages.  

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

"The Dressmaker of Khair Khana" by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

The author wrote this book about a young Afghan women who during the Taliban reign, helped her family survive by starting a dress making business in the secrecy of her home.  She helped many other families by employing other women.  Kamila risked her life to help her family and those around her.  She showed such strength and courage.  "They were just kids trying to survive another year of war together with no parents to watch over them."  Many of these girls parents had fled for safety but believed the safest place was for their children to stay.  So without their parents, without men to earn money, they had to find a way to survive.  The pressure was great and the risks were severe.  "In that instant she felt perfectly alone, unable to share her burden, and with no choice but to simply carry on." So many women were left to care for their families in a hostile environment that didn't allow them much freedom.  "I want you to know I'm proud of you. I never for one moment doubted that you would be ale to take care of our family and that you could do anything you set your mind to.  You must stay at it, and you must try as hard as you can to help others.  This is our country and we must stay and see it through whatever comes.  That is our obligation and our privilege."  Kamila's father said this to her.  He was so proud of her for what she had done, he counted and believed in her.  I applaud her father for he is belief in her and for Kamila's courage to help others even when it put her life in danger.  "Her life was about more than her own safety."  "With all this despair crippling her city, who was she not to do her part?"  I wish that more people here, today, in our county, felt this way.  We all have a part to play in bettering our lives, our families, our communities, and our world.  Why do we not do our part?  "...but remember that they only have to catch you once to destroy everything.  You name, your family, your life.  Everything."  "Brave young women complete heroic acts every day, with no one bearing witness." The author wrote this story to tell the world that women everywhere are doing heroic things to keep their families together, to love and help others.  We all have our part to play.  This was an intriguing and encouraging book.  I appreciated the look into Afghan women and the types of oppression they have lived through.  

The Treasure Principle

"The Treasure Principal" by Randy Alcorn

As I was told by a cousin when I began reading this book, "It will make you want to give everything you have away."  It's true, this book gives new perspective to giving.  Randy talks about the joy in giving and storing our treasures in heaven not here on this earth.  It's a radical mindset this day in age where the more we have the better off we supposedly feel.  But greed is not the way to happiness and it seems the more we get the more we want.  I enjoy giving but this book challenged me to look at my giving and all my things with new eyes.  "A steward manages assets for the owner's benefit.  The steward carries no sense of entitlement to the assets he manages.  It's his job to find out what the owner wants done with his assets, then carry out his will."  This is how we are to look at our money, not as ours but as God's, and ask what He would have us do with it.  "The more we give, the more we delight in our giving-and the more God delights in us.  Our giving please us.  But more importantly, it pleases God."  "Our giving is a reflexive response to the grace of God in our lives."  He has shown us abundant grace and our response is to give freely.  "Everything we send on ahead will be waiting there for us.  It's our gift to Him, but in His generosity He will give those treasures back to us."  We can't take our possessions with us when we die but we can send them on ahead by giving them away now.  "Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth."  "He doesn't look at just what we give.  He also looks at what we keep."   What are you holding onto that would bring you greater joy in giving it away?  "If we pay our debt to God first, then we will incur His blessings to help us pay our debts to men.  But when we rob God to pay men, we rob ourselves of God's blessing.  No wonder we don't have enough.  It's a vicious cycle, and it takes obedient faith to break out of it."  We are responsible for our debts but are we not giving to God because of those debts?  Maybe we have it backward, give to God and watch our money increase so we can dutifully pay our debts.  "The more you give, the more comes back to you, because God is the greatest giver in the universe, and He won't let you out give Him."  I love that.  I want to try this, try to out give God and see what happens.  "Unless we learn how to humbly tell each other our giving stories, our churches will not learn to give."  We need to hear these stories so that we can be inspired to give and give abundantly.  I challenge you to read this book.  I challenge you to ask what God would want for you to give away.

Monday, March 7, 2016

For The Love

"For The Love" by Jen Hatmaker

So, everyone has been reading this book and I don't normally jump on the bandwagon but my friend told me that it was too funny to pass up.  I have also just recently become familiar with Jen and I do enjoy her honesty so I thought I would give the book a try.  Yep, it is definitely funny, and honest.  "We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead by wise."  Wise is so much better than awesome.  "Wise women know what to hold onto and what to release, and how to walk confidently in their choices-no regrets, no apologies, no guilt."  Can you imagine?  "Nothing is wasted: not a characteristic, preference, experience, tragedy, quirk, nothing.  It is all you and it is all purposed and it can all be used for great and glorious good."  So let's not try to hide who we are, God uses it all for His glory.  "The best I offer the world is the truth-my highest gift.  What the world does with it is not up to me.  I am not in charge of outcomes, opinions, assessments.  I am not in the business of damage control.  When I present a fabricated version of myself-the self who knows all, is ever certain, always steps strong-we all lose, because I cannot keep up with that lie and neither can you."  Truth is so powerful and done in love can be life changing, but I like that fact that she states whatever happens after the truth telling is not my concern.  "You are doing a wonderful job.  Parenting is mind-numbing lay hard and no one is perfect at it and we'll all ack a thousand parts, yet somehow, against all odds, it will be enough.  We all need to hear that, don't we?  "When people fail you-and they will-Jesus is ever faithful.  When circumstances tank-and they will-Jesus will hold you fast."  Thank you Jesus for being the One we can depend on.  "Lean honestly into every hard place, each tender spot, because truthfulness hurts for a minute but silence is the kill shot."  "Treating your husband like a good friend will preserve your marriage forever."  Kindness, sometimes that's all it takes.  "Every marriage includes two sinful, aggravating human beings.  Grace is our only hope."  Grace for the person we are married to and grace for ourselves.  "Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting through..."  Marriage is worth fighting for.  "But fear is a terrible reason to stay silent.  Fear is a terrible reason to do anything.  It isn't a trustworthy motive and it doesn't ever lead us to wholeness."  Fear can rule you, it's ruled me, but God can break those fears and when we speak them, often they no longer hold power over us.  "There is a clear correlation between how we treat each other and how a watching world will feel about Jesus."  No wonder our world is so lost right now.  We can do better, treat each other better, love better and in turn show Jesus better to a world that so desperately needs Him.  "Our shared redemption should keep us grateful and kind, becasue what other response even makes sense?"  "You are too vital to lose years to regret or shame or insecurity or fear.  We are not slaves to those masters; Jesus saw to that.  Face your issues with courage, sister, because truth and love win, and you have both those cards to play."  We need you, you are vital to His kingdom.  This book has a lot of good little nuggets and will make you laugh.  It is not a heavy read but full of points to ponder and use.

The Gifts of Imperfection

"The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown

Fellow perfectionists, READ THIS BOOK!  If you need help letting go of perfection this is a great book to read.  We all need help embracing who we are and to stop being so hard on ourselves.  Kindness to others and ourselves goes a long way.  "Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."  We can be light in darkness, we first have to be willing to step into that darkness.  "Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.  And our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver."  Courage begets courage, in us and in others.  When I am afraid to do something my girls are afraid too.  I'm teaching them courage my doing the things I'm afraid of, not not showing fear but acting despite that fear.  "When we don't practice love with the people we claim to love, it takes a lot out of us.  Incongruent living is exhausting."  So often we treat family worse than we treat strangers.  We need to practice better love to all those around us.  "We don't change, we don't grow, and we don't move forward without the work."  You want to see change, you have to put in the work.  We can't just talk about change, we have to get up and work for the change we want to see.  "Powerlessness is dangerous.  For most of us, the inability to effect change is a desperate feeling.  We need resilience and hope and a spirit that can carry us through the doubt and fear.  We need to believe that we can effect change if we want to live and love with our whole hearts."  Believe in yourself and others, that with God will can make a difference.  "The gremlins are constantly there to make sure that self-expression takes a backseat to self-protection and self-consciousness."  We worry too much about what others think instead of being true to ourselves.  "When we don't give ourselves permission to be free, we are rarely tolerate that freedom in others."  When we give ourselves permission we grant it to others too.  This book takes time to get through, a lot of things to process, but worth the read.  

Like Any Normal Day

"Like Any Normal Day" by Mark Kram, Jr.

A very interesting book, one that I don't necessarily agree with but, gets you thinking.  This is the story of Buddy, who is an all-star high school football player. He has it all going for him, friends, girls, athleticism, and personality.  It took about 30 seconds to change all that.  At a football game he was tackled, flipped upside down and landed on his head.  He lay facedown on the field, believing these were his last moments.  Now this happened in 1973, before all the precautions against injury were in place.  He was flipped onto his back, lifted onto a stretcher, and placed into an ambulance with the assumption he had a broken leg.  Buddy ended up with a broken neck that left him paralyzed.  The brunt of his care was shouldered by his mother. Buddy was in constant pain from spasms that left him weary.  He was extremely worried about what would happen to him once his mother was too old to care for him, and that time was fast approaching.  He felt guilty for the huge burden that he was to his mother.  Buddy wanted his mother to be able to live her own life before it was too late for her.  He had an incredible bond with his youngest brother, Jimmy.  Jimmy lived to see Buddy laugh.  He also shoulder Buddy's emotional well being.  One day Buddy had had enough of his suffering and asked Jimmy if he would take him to Dr. Kevorkian.  Buddy made all the arrangements and Jimmy agreed.  Jimmy felt like so much had been taken from Buddy that he deserved to have this one thing.  This is a story of hardship, struggle, brotherly devotion, and unending love.  It is a story that tells of how tragedy affects so many.