Friday, January 27, 2017

Winter Garden

"Winter Garden" by Kristin Hannah

This book was very good.  It had many twists that kept me reading.  I would get mad at the characters and fall in love with them too.  It was a page turner and another one of hers I would recommend.  The author writes about two very different sisters who have always struggled to win affection from their cold, non emotional mother.  When their loving father becomes ill both sisters struggle with what will become of them not that the person that held them together is dying.  A story their mother is urged to tell by her dying husband will reveal shocking secrets that will undo everything the daughters thought they knew about their family.  The story involves their mothers Russian history that they know nothing about.  "Everyone broke-and held themselves together-in their own way."  We all grieve differently.  We all need the space to grieve our own way.  "He is my home.  How will I live without him?"  "Physical pain was so much easier to handle than heartache."  Emotional pain is often so much harder, harder to push through, harder to overcome.  "Every choice changed the road you were on and it was too easy to end up going in the wrong direction.  Sometimes, settling down was just plain settling."  Every choice matters, every choice leads us either to where we want to be or down a different road.  "There are some promises that are pointless to ask for and useless to receive."  "None of the mothers look at each other; it hurts too much to see your own pain reflected in another woman's eyes."  I think that we often don't look at someone's eyes because we are afraid of their pain and yet this disconnects us as humans.  The greatest gift we can give someone is to sit with them in their pain.  "To lose love is a terrible thing.  But to turn away from it is unbearable."  "You carried your pain with you in life.  There was no outrunning it." There is only facing it with the most courage you can muster.  "They would always be a family, but if she'd learned anything in the past few weeks it was that a family wasn't a static thing.  There were always changes going on.  Like with continents, sometimes the changes were invisible and underground, and sometimes they were explosive and deadly.  The trick was to keep your balance.  You couldn't control the direction of your family any more than you could stop the continental shelf from breaking apart.  All you could do was hold on for the ride."  Hold on to those you love and hold on for the ride.  "How could any women know her own story until she knew her mother's?  We belong to each other and our stories need to be told because they bind us to one another.  "Joy and sadness were part of the package; the trick, perhaps, was to let yourself feel all of it, but to hold on to the joy just a little more tightly because you never knew when a strong heart could just give out."  Joy and sadness are a part of all of us, don't deny any of it, just hold the joy a little closer to your heart.

True Colors

"True Colors' by Kristin Hannah

Alright, bear with me, I'm going to be posting a lot for books by this author.  She's a new found favorite and I'm determined to read all her books.  I'll be going to the library today to pick up two more.
I enjoyed this book but not as much as the other two that I have read.  The story is about three very different sisters and their struggle to cope after their mother dies.  One sister is beautiful and loves to live her life on their ranch with the horses her mother loved.  The oldest sister is a career woman who is always seeking the approval of her father and she thinks she is always right.  The middle sister just tries to keep the peace.  When the youngest sister finds love against the wishes of the family and tragedy strikes it takes everything they have to stay together.  I enjoyed the book and how the author writes about the bonds of sisters and the strains that they experience.  "Cancer had come into their family and broken it into so many separate pieces it seemed impossible they would ever be whole again."  Tragedy will do that to a family.  It can either break us or make us and I think most often it does both.  There has to be a breaking before there is a making.  "As much as believeing in hope hurt, not believing would hurt even more."  Sometimes hope is all we have.  "Sometimes shit just hurts and that's the way it is."  Plain and simple truth of it.  "Scars are like that, she thought; they faded but never went away completely."  And yet, scars are what make us human.  Scars make us who we are and tell out story.  Everyone's story is important.  Everyone's story needs to be told.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Nightingale

"The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah

Wow, this book was exceptional.  It's been a while since I've read a book I couldn't put down but this was it.  It is a large book, over 400 pages, but well worth the time.  I am now going to get my hands on every book this author has written.  This book takes place in France during the Nazi invasion.  It is a story of two women "fighting" the war the only way they know how.  It is about the everyday unsung heroines of World War I.  This book is historical fiction and keeps close to the facts of the war.  It follows two sisters, one whose husband is off to fight the war, and one who is young and fearless.  The sisters whose husband is gone to war is left with her daughter to raise alone as the Germans come in to her town and into her home.  The young fearless sister can not wait for war to find her, she must do something to help.  Both sisters show courage and bravery in unfathomable hardship.  It is inspiring, terribly sad and yet full of hope.  It leaves the reader wondering if they too have the courage to be ordinarily extraordinary.  "What was love when put up against war?"  "Vianne hated what she saw in her daughter's eyes right now.  There was nothing young in her gaze-no innocence, no naivete, no hope.  Not even grief.  Just anger."  The children did not have the luxury to be children during war.  Such harsh things they were experiencing at so young.  "She knew now that no one could be neutral-not anymore-and as afraid as she was of risking Sophie's life, she was suddenly more afraid of letting her daughter grow up in a world where good people did nothing to stop evil, where a good woman could turn her back on a friend in need."  I may not live in war time but I too am afraid of my girls growing up in a world where good people do nothing.  I am trying to teach them that when we see someone in need, no matter how big or small, we can choose to do something.  I want them to see me choosing to do something about the things that break my heart so they will learn that they are capable of helping, always.  "But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us."  This, this is what we need to remember.  Love does win, it always has and it always will.  "You know what I learned in the camps?  They couldn't touch my heart.  They couldn't change who I was inside.  My body...they broke that in the first days, but not my heart...". So powerful.  And I think that that is how some people survived the camps, because they didn't allow their hearts to be hardened by the evil around them.  "Men tell stories.  Women get on with it.  For us it was a shadow war.  There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books.  We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over."  The women that were left behind fought the war in many ways.  They did what they had to do to survive and when it was over, they went on as best as they knew how.  I highly recommend this book.  It is well worth reading.                                                                                                                                                              

A Walk To Beautiful

"A Walk to Beautiful" by Jimmy Wayne

I read this book for my work as an advocate for foster children.  It is the story of a boy who when he was 10 was abandoned by his mother and put into foster care.  He was in and out of foster placements and group homes until one day he was taken in by an older couple.  He became a famous country singer and vowed to help children, like he had been, who are aging out of the foster system.  It is a sad story that parallels so many kids in the foster system and yet it is a story of someone who has been there, who has been able to rise above due to some helping hands and promised to pass that help along to others.  "And I wanted to tell those kids, and anyone else who would listen, it's not where youv'e been, but it's where you're goin'; it's not who you were in the past, but it's who you are today-that's what really matters."  Often the past these kids have was not of their choosing.  Someone has to choose to look beyond their past and see who they are.  "If you really want to do something, you can find the way."  "Bea and Russell didn't talk about loving God and loving people; they just did it."  I think this world could use a little less talking about love and more showing it.  "When circumstances drag on you, weighing you down to the point you think you can't take another step, muster the courage, stay strong; keep walking.  Don't walk only when it is convenient; don't merely walk till you get tired; keep walking through it all.  Walk to Beautiful."  And that walk to beautiful looks different for each one of us.

Two By Two

"Two By Two" by Nicholas Sparks

Just another amazing story by Nicolas Sparks.  Seriously, how does he do it?  My husband got this book for me for my birthday to read on the plane to visit my aunt in Colorado.  He said I might need a distraction from being worried about flying solo. (He also gave me a chocolate bar, winner of a guy I tell ya.)  The story is of a man who has it all until one day, to his great surprise, it all crumbles.  His job is gone, his wife is leaving him, he has to move, and he has a daughter to care for.  Alone, raising his daughter, he is tested and finds the strength and love beyond what he could have imagined.  "Marriage, after all, is never quite what one imagines it will be.  It requires commitment and compromise, communication and cooperation, especially as life tends to throw curveballs, often when we least expect them.  Ideally, the curveball slides past the couple with little damage; at other times, facing those pitches together makes the couple more committed to each other.  But sometimes, the curveballs end up smacking us in the chest and close to the heart, leaving bruises that never seem to heal."    Marriage is full of surprises, life is really, it's what you choose to do with the surpirses that make or break a marriage.  Will you choose your spouse again and again?  Will you choose to see the best in them and overlook the irritations?  Will you show grace and love and forgiveness?  "That's what parenting is all about.  Doing the best you can while being terrified of screwing up."  My thoughts exactly.  "Hope might leave me crushed in the end, but losing all hope somehow seemed even worse."  For what do we have if we have no hope?  "We're all works in progress.  It's the definition of being a parent."  It's the definition of being a human, so show yourself and others grace. "But what I didn't understand until recently was that those tender, orchestrated moments mean nothering unless they occur with someone who loves you just the way you are."  For that is the greatest gift we can receive, being loved for exactly who we are.  This story was different in that the love story was mostly the love for his daughter.  I liked that Nicholas put a different spin on love than he normally does.

Hope Heals

"Hope Heals" by Katherine and Jay Wolf

This is a powerful book about a 20 something woman who had a major stroke 6 months after having a baby.  It is a story of amazing miracles, hard work, and a tenacious spirit.  Katherine chose to fight to live for her son, she chose to find hope in the One that heals.  Jay, her husband, lives out his marraige vows, never leaving Katherine's side, helping her to regain her life.  The struggle and beautiful love this couple shares is truly inspirational. "I suppose in that moment, I realized that when we most need our intangible God to be made tangible, we need look no further than His people to make him manifest."  We need to be the hands and feet of our loving God.  And when we are in crisis we need to remember that God is with us in the people surrounding us.  "Perhaps in the breaking, we can find the healing we long for."  To truly be healed is to face the fact that we are broken and need healing.  It is here that we find His grace and love to put us back together again.   "In fact, the whole miracle thing really stung because the "miracle" had left me unable to live normally."  Katherine lived through her ordeal and it was a miracle that she was even alive.  But being alive she was left without many normal functions and the life as she knew it was gone.  People on the outside see the miracle but don't see the daily struggle to live with that miracle.  "To know you will be saved, even if you don't dare envision how, is to have the wick of hope rekindled."  "I have come to realize that believing in God is not possible without also believing God.  He says He is my hope and strength, and I am taking Him at His word."  We have to know who He is, is character and believe what He says is true.  "I don't think any of us can tell our most vulnerable stories in the moments they occur for fear that they may undo us.  We have to wait until we are in a season of safety before we can open up our deepest wounds."  "I found that acting in love inevitably provoked true feelings of love, and the reverse was no less true."  Love is not just an emotion, it is so much more.  Love often takes action even when we don't feel like it.  This, this is when real love takes hold, to act out love when the feelings aren't there.  When we do this, love-the emotion- is sure to follow.  "When we collectively mourn our losses and strain toward hope, our hearts expand.  We begin to respond with empathy and realize that we all share the story of brokenness, and thus we all share the need for hope."  Truly an inspiring story filled with hope for all of our brokenness.

The Magnolia Story

"The Magnolia Story" by Chip and Joanna Gains

I had heard about Chip and Joanna but never watched their show until my parents gave me the book to read and made me watch their show.  I enjoyed the show and could see why people love them.  The book was just as good as the show.  Chip and Joanna seem to be very real people who love each other and the people around them.  They don't take things too seriously and always try to do whats best.  The book tells about how they met and how they got going on their TV show.  It was amazing to read how God lined things up for them all in His perfect timing.  "And for years my misguided perfectionism robbed both them and me of those moments."  Joanna writes this about how her perfectionism that was never attainable anyway, got in the way of what could have been special moments with her kids.  I began my parenting journey much the same way.  I would get so upset at messes and yell at my kids.  I remember when it dawned on me that perfectionism meant more to me than my children and how mistaken I had been.  When a glass would spill and my kids would be scared of my reaction and apologize profusely I knew I had to change.  What's a little spilled water?  Accidents happen and I needed to remember that I wasn't perfect and couldn't expect my kids to be either.  It changed so much for me, my kids were happier, I was happier and a lot less stressed.  "If you can't find happiness in the ugliness, you're not going to find it in the beauty, either."  We always have a choice and happiness can be found anywhere we choose to look.  "Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts.  Don't quit, and don't give up.  The reward is just around the corner.  And in times of doubt or times of joy, listen for that still, small voice.  Know that God has been there from the beginning-and he will be there until...the end."  Keep pressing on, don't forget the voice that lead you there to begin with, He will keep carrying you.