Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Parenting by Paul David Tripp

Parenting is easily the most difficult task God has ever given me. It has molded me, transformed me, and made me very aware of my actions. But, through it all I know I am not alone. God is with me. He has given me an entire book to guide me along the way. The Bible talks a lot about parenting. God is our Heavenly Father and we should always be striving to be more like Him in every aspect of our lives. The principles in the Bible give us exactly the path in which to take in our parenting journey.

In Paul David Tripp's newest book, Parenting, he gives us 14 Gospel Principles that can radically change the family dynamic. Let's face it, I need all the help I can get in the parenting department. I fail every day. But, thankfully, God is gracious and merciful and so are my children.

Tripp's 14 Gospel Principles are:
  1. Calling
  2. Grace
  3. Law
  4. Inability
  5. Identity
  6. Process
  7. Lost
  8. Authority
  9. Foolishness
  10. Character
  11. False Gods
  12. Control
  13. Rest
  14. Mercy
God gives us a calling in our lives. Parenting is one of them. One of the most profound things I learned while reading Parenting was:

Wow! That hit me right in between the eyes. God is using ME to help form a human soul...my children. I am not worthy, yet He has given me this calling and I am willing.

Through the frustration and the busyness of life, God can use you to guide your children in the Gospel. God has given us the tools (via the Bible) in order to direct us in this calling. Parenting does not end when your children leave the nest either. It is just different. There will be different needs. But, you will always be your children's parent.

There is so much pressure to raise "good" children and give them "good" morals and values. It is so easy to lose sight of our ultimate goal as parents and that is raise Godly men and women. Equipping them to go out one day and face the world as an adult who is strong in their faith.

In this book, you will learn more about seeing what the goals are and how to accomplish them. What goals God has for you as a parent. Reading all of the parenting books in the bookstore isn't enough. God's love and grace and mercy are enough.

Our parenting styles are different but God is the same. His principles do not change. He wants us to have joy and purpose in our parenting. The words in this book have changed the way I think about parenting. I have become more aware of raising my children with the reasons God has given me and not just some advice from another book.

This is the prefect book for any parent (whether for 50 years or 50 seconds) and/or adult who has children in their life. You will find the true reasons for your calling as a parent and the many ways God can work in your life as you journey on.

*Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing me with this book. I received a sample product in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.*

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fraying at the Edge by Cindy Woodsmall

Fraying at the Edge is the second book in The Amish of Summer Grove series by Cindy Woodsmall. The first book, Ties That Bind, was the beginning of Ariana's journey of learning who she really is. Ariana Brenneman learned that she was switched at birth by accident in the first book. That story takes her on a wild journey of realizing that her whole world is crashing in around her.

Her biological father makes a deal with the Amish community that the Brenneman's are a part of. In exchange for not suing them (because the midwife who switched the two girls at birth is Amish) Ariana would come to live with him and the biological mother for one year while the biological daughter of the Brennaman's would come to live with them.

That is where we pick up in Fraying at the Edge. Ariana has come to live with Nicholas and Brandi (her biological parents). They don't live together and she finds out she has "step-siblings" (which is never heard of in the Amish community). She also learns that when she was conceived, her parents were not married at the time. This is devastating news to her.

During her year with her biological parents, the only person she is allowed to contact is Quill, an ex-Amishman who helps others leaving the Amish community. He is also an old friend of Arianas. No matter how hard she tries to avoid having contact with him, because of their past and her anger toward him in coordinating this whole debacle, she has no one else to turn to.

Her biological father, Nicholas, is very anti-Christian. He tells Ariana how wrong her religion is and it puts a wall between them. He also gives her a "bucket list" of things she must accomplish in the year she is with them. Some of the things will compromise her faith but she agrees to the rest. Some of the things are: get a drivers license, go out on a date, go to a bar. Amish people don't do any of those things.

As Ariana continues to get to know her biological family and overcomes a lot of fears and reservations about them, Skylar is "stuck" with her biological family, the Brennemans. Skylar grew up with Brandi and Nicholas as parents. She is addicted to drugs and lives a very hard life. In order to return to her bio parents she must stop doing drugs and get clean.

Little did Skylar know that no matter how hard she tries to push the Brennemans away, they love her and want her. The relationships are hard at first. Her drug addiction gets her into a lot of trouble and she can't seem to see how much she really means to the family. After a while, she realizes that this is her life now. She has peace about it and gets better.

So much happens in the course of three months that Nicholas decides it's okay for Ariana to return to the Amish and for Skylar to come home to them. But, there are lots of things that still need to be dealt with as each girl tries to come to terms with their new and changed lives. They realize that things are different and they may not be able to return and just be okay with their old lives.

Cindy Woodsmall is an amazing Amish fiction writer. I enjoy everything she writes and this new book is no exception. I am looking forward to the next installment of the Summer Grove Series.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.*

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Purpose In The Pain

We are all going through something or just coming out of something or getting ready to go through something. No one is immune to the consequences of a life lived. We all have things we wish we could do better or different. No matter where you are, there is purpose.

For me, life has dealt me a card that is so hard to bear that only God can get me through it. Pain. Physical pain. The kind of pain that you cannot escape from with a magical pill or potion or essential oil. The kind of pain that shakes you to the core and has you wondering why you are even alive.

When I first started having symptoms of chronic pain, I didn't know it would last this long. I didn't know that four years down the road I would still be there. Stuck in the pain. Stuck in the deep, dark pit of self pity and anxiety and depression. But, it's my journey. God knows my pain. He has been with me every step, tear, and scream of the way.

God has also been with me when I questioned Him. I questioned why He would do this to me. Why would He curse me with this terrible disease? But, I knew the answer all along. Sin. Sin did this to me. I don't mean I am being punished. I mean, sin entered the world and gave us pain, heartache, depression, separation from God.

Through the years I have gone through every single emotion a human can go through. Anger, sadness, joy, hope, resentment, self pity, jealousy, fear, depression. That last one sticks with me. I bury it under many layers of other emotions but it is there. Always wanting to rear its ugly head. Always taunting me to give up hope. Give up any thoughts of being healed.

But, God. He sustains me. He has given me purpose in this pain. I don't know what that purpose is other than to make me stronger. Stronger in my faith. Stronger as a wife. Stronger as a mother. Sometimes I don't feel the purpose. Sometimes I feel it so much that my heart could burst.

Through my relationship with Jesus, my Savior, I can say, "I am Healed!" I am still in pain. But, I am healed. This body is not my forever body. My eternal body won't have this pain. But, my purpose is to get through this life proclaiming God's love and mercy and grace and healing.

I have been to the bottom of the pit. Probably even below the bottom of the pit. God didn't give up on me. He never gives up. His strength becomes my strength. His endurance becomes my endurance. I press into Him and He guides me through every painful moment. He sees me. He comforts me and shelters me and redeems me.

So my point is this: There is purpose in the pain. God's purpose. Not mine. His plan. Not mine. His mercy. His love. His faithfulness. His strength. Not mine. Physical pain is hard. It messes with your mind. It makes you feel hopeless and helpless. But those are not of God. Those are the lies of the enemy.

Jesus suffered a greater pain than I have ever felt. He died in my place on the cross. He took on all of my sins (and yours). He loves us so much that He died the death we deserved. He lived a sinless and perfect life and CHOSE to carry that cross to Calvary. He humbled Himself and felt all the emotions and pain that a human can feel. He saw how ugly and sinful and ungodly we are and still chose to save us. Wow.

Whatever pain you are going through (there are so many types of pain), God's got a purpose for it. His plans are always higher. Always. I have to remind myself daily that this world is not my home. This body is not my body. It is only temporary. Whether I am healed here on earth or when I get to Heaven and have a new body, I will get through it. I will sing God's praises and shout for joy!

"For I know the plans I have for you,
Declared the Lord,
Plans to prosper you and
not to harm you.
Plans to give you a hope
and a future."
-Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, October 10, 2016

Chronic Pain Update (A Crack In The Door)

I haven't been writing on my blog like I should. Life happens. I do a ton of reviews (which I love). But, I want to get back to writing on this space of mine. I wanted to give an update on the chronic pain issues that I have and also let you know what we have been doing in our homeschool journey.

Last year I was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This was after 13 other doctors told me I was crazy, had "new mommy syndrome", and needed some rest. Finally, a doctor actually listened to my symptoms and ran the proper tests. I am so glad to have a diagnosis but not very happy about the type of illness I have.

You see, there is no cure. There are medications to mask the pain. But, there is no cure. I not taken any medications for the pain (even though it is unbearable at times) because they are opioids and I don't want to be addicted and strung out all the time. After going to several "pain specialists" (who just wanted to drug me up), I decided to see an actual Thoracic Surgeon.

The one I chose was a 2 hour drive from my house. I was so relieved when he told me that I wasn't crazy and had TOS. He told me I needed to have a first rib resection (have my first rib removed), a scalenectomy (my scalene muscle removed), and I needed my pec minor muscle clipped. Yikes!! It sounds as scary as it actually is. That is major surgery. But, this doctor is not the one for me. He only does this surgery once or twice a month. I need a more skilled and specialized doctor if someone is going to rip my body apart.

The reason for the surgery is to release the nerves, artery, and vein that are trapped in my brachial plexus. They are all being crushed by my first rib and my collar bone (that is called the brachial plexus). My body reacts by having my muscles tense, my arm to go numb, and so much more. It has been 4 LONG years of constant, debilitating pain.

My journey took me to a support group where I heard about a wonderful doctor at Johns Hopkins. That is the closest one to me that has a doctor who specializes in TOS. I immediately began the process of getting an appointment with him. After months of waiting (the local doctors and hospitals here took their time releasing my medical records) I finally have an appointment with the TOS doctor. It isn't until December, but I have hope.

Now, on to our homeschool journey so far this year. We just celebrated my oldest son's 8th birthday. I cannot believe I have an 8 year old. My middle son turned 6 over the summer and my youngest is 3 1/2. He thinks he is 12 though.
We are doing Classical Conversations this year again. It is such a blessing to be able to do this curriculum. We meet on Wednesdays at our own church building. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays we stay home and do our normal school work (which usually takes about 3 hours total) and chores. I leave Fridays open for field trips, library visits, family visits, and catching up from the week with school work and chores.
We have started reading all of the Chronicles of Narnia books. We already read The Magicians Nephew and are on The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe right now. I have never seen my boys more excited to listen to me read. My oldest son has taken off with his reading. He is so smart. My middle son is just beginning to understand that letters actually make sounds that form words. It is amazing to watch them grow and learn.
Jensen Family Academy has already been on one field trip this year to a pumpkin and apple farm. It was so much fun! Our Classical Conversations group went (well, a few families) and we had a ball.
We did just go through Hurricane Matthew but it wasn't much here in VA. I am praying for those going through the aftermath right now with flooding and loss of life. We are truly blessed that we didn't take the brunt of it. I have actually been very ill for two weeks. We didn't do school work at all the week before last and last week was bare minimum. Not sure what I came down with but now I have a cough that won't go away. Oh, the beauty of someone sharing their germs. The children have escaped with no signs of illness, Praise God!
Life is pretty much routine around here.We are enjoying all of the fall activities, festivals, and weather. It has cooled down here and is now sweatshirt weather. I hope you have a great fall! It is my favorite time of year.