Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Story Travelers Bible: A Book Review

Even though G is still an infant, I think it's never too early to contemplate ways we can introduce our Lord Jesus, our Mother Mary, and our beautiful Catholic Faith to her. Books and stories are one of my favorite ways to do that-- and what better book to introduce a little one to Jesus than the Bible?

The Story Travelers Bible is such a cute idea. It's about three modern-day children who go back in time on an adventure tour through the stories and places in the Bible. Set in the same order as the Bible itself, they begin their adventure at the creation of the world and ends with John's vision on the island of Patmos. The book is filled with colorful illustrations, memory verses, and extra 'fun facts' in addition to the Bible stories. It would make a great movie or TV series, but I like that it's a book of stories instead-- just as captivating yet better than screen time. :)

The only things I wasn't crazy about is that because the STB is from a Protestant perspective, there are a few stories that are missing the fullness and beauty in the Catholic faith...the Last Supper, Mary's stories and personal holiness, even some of the typology in the Old Testament. The Catholic Church is so amazing at pulling out the depth of scripture and how intertwined the Old Testament and New Testament are...whereas this Bible reads more of a beginning to end storybook without all the connections present. Still a great book, but I would be hesitant about the few stories that are missing important details. I hope a Catholic publisher comes up with something similar in the coming years. :)

[This book was provided to me by Tyndale at no cost. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What Trust Looks Like

My daughter was loaded in the backseat of the car in her carseat. I glanced at her in the rearview mirror and then glanced up at the pin on my visor. A silver medal of Jesus (Divine Mercy) with the words "Jesus, I trust in You" below it. I breathed a quick prayer of it and we started on our way to the doctor.

The visor pin made me think of a conversation with my husband the day before. We were on our first date post-baby, a simple afternoon getaway to a bookstore and coffee shop. We were talking about what trust looks like for us in this season, when fears have a different shape than they did when we were single. I shared how one thing I learned during my single years is that when it comes to trust, we must trust in a Person, not an outcome. I couldn't necessary "trust" that I would get married and all would be well, but I could always, always trust that God was good and He loved me and He would take care of me.

Little did I know we were about to embark on yet another one of those journeys in learning to trust Him.

The doctor examined our baby girl and then excused herself from the room. She brought in another physician to examine her as well. They were both stumped and started to converse about options and diagnoses and possibilities. While they talked out loud, my heart was racing almost as fast as my mind. Fear was tightening its grip around my throat. They don't know what's wrong. I had hoped it would be a simple exam, obvious answer, and quick fix. But two doctors were confused about what was wrong with my daughter. They started talking about medications and xrays and other testing, but I could barely take it all in.

I called my husband to let him know we were headed to the bigger town's hospital for testing and if he could cancel the repair man that was supposed to come today to fix our water heater (when it rains, it pours). He promised to meet me at the hospital and I could hear the strains of worry in his voice, both of us trying to be strong for the other.

I stopped at Subway to get a quick sandwich so I could drive straight to the hospital instead of going back home. Of course, nothing is quick with a baby and time was in fuzzy, slow-motion ever since we'd left the doctor. I stood in line at Subway, not really caring what I ate but knowing I needed to eat something, and watched the people in front of me. When it was my turn to check out, the cashier glanced at me and said "our card machine just got jammed, so go ahead. No need to pay today."

And in that odd little moment, a distracted Subway manager reminded me to trust in a Person rather than an outcome. The small coincidence of my lunch being paid for on that day was a hug from God. A reminder that He was with us, He loved us, and He would take care of us no matter what lay ahead.

I got back in the car and continued our journey to the hospital, this time with peace instead of fear. A favorite song by Josh Wilson came on as yet another reminder of God's goodness, of the 'dark before the morning' and the 'pain before the joy.'

We still don't fully know the outcome, but things are looking so much better with her health and prognosis right now and we are so grateful for that. But I'm also grateful for the ways God showed up and reminded me to look to Him and not an outcome. He was, and is, tangibly present with His grace in our situation...first shown to me that day by a Subway manager.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

30 before 30: A Bucket List in Retrospect

So that 30 before 30 thing? Where you list 30 things you want to do before you turn 30? I was all into the idea. I love bucket lists! But for the past year, every time I thought about it I couldn't come up with much! And here I am, freshly turned 30 this month!! (I know! Still getting used to this new decade myself... ;) )

 Since I didn't make a bucket list for the past year, I spent some time thinking on all the things I've already done before turning 30 and I had a great time coming up with this list! What a wild, wonderful life! Though I certainly struggled mightily at times during my single years, I'm so grateful I used much of that time for adventures as well. I see so much how God used my travels, my jobs, my relationships, and my experiences to mold me (and prune me) in ways that continue to help me even in this new vocation. Somehow I have a feeling the next 30 will be a little less crazy...then again, marriage and parenting are their own crazy adventures. ;)

1. Kayak in the Caribbean.
2. Get cornrow braids in Mexico.
3. Move out on your own.
4. Get your nursing license at a young age and be able to legally give narcotics before you can legally drink alcohol.
5. Become a CPR instructor.
6. Be a church youth leader for three years and have your heart begin to stretch by your love for the teens.
7. Go on a cruise.
8. Break an engagement and break your own heart as well. Hurt deeply. Find God deeper still and feel heart widen.
9. Drive a motorcycle.
10. Learn to water ski and wakeboard.
11. Swim in the ocean.
12. Hike the Rockies.
13. Hike the Smokies.
14. Shoot a gun with aim like Annie Oakley.
15. Get a convertible and realize your favorite thing in the summer is driving in the open air.
16. Go white water rafting in the moutains of Tennessee.
17. Cook over an open fire.
18. Fly alone to Paris...get lost in Paris...learn the metro system in Paris out of necessity and experience deeply that God is with you in your greatest fears.
19. Ride alone on a train through France to Lisieux and kneel in the convent where one of your favorite saints knelt. Pour your heart out with tears to a random nun who speaks broken English and then gives you a relic and some words of encouragement. Realize again that God is everywhere.
20. Visit a ranch in Texas and learn true virtue, patience, and hospitality from one of the greatest families you've ever met.
21. Perform ultrasounds on women considering abortion and watch their lives be changed by seeing their babies in their wombs. Cry with them. Walk with them. Love on them. And feel your own heart widen.
22. Be on a radio show
23. Go to a third world country and experience Mass on a rooftop.
24. Have your heart broken by an orphan baby boy you will never forget.
25. Have a spa day with Haitian women who were dying. Laugh with them. Rub lotion on them. And realize you're not so different from each other. Feel your heart widen, stretch, and break once again.
26. Fall in love. Oh, what a ride. The love that had mountaintops and valley lows. The love survived two breakups and vocation discernment and fear and grief and uncertainty. The love that grew despite it all.
27. Get married to the one you fell in love with.
28. Experience the hardest loss yet: the loss of your miscarried child. Feel the grace seep through all the broken cracks of your heart. Know that yes, it is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. We will see you again, little one.
29. Get pregnant again and this time give birth naturally (oh, pain like you've never felt before!) to a daughter. A daughter. Oh, your heart is so full, so full.
30. Realize anew that God is so good, He uses everything we give Him (the good and the bad), His grace is everywhere...and life is beautiful.

Here's to the next 30 years, God willing!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Book Review

Several years ago I read the original version of this book, "Same Kind of Different As Me," and was profoundly impacted by it. It was a beautiful (true!) story of a wealthy art dealer and his wife and their life-changing friendship with a homeless man named Denver. Reading about Denver's story, especially beginning with his childhood, brought so much depth to the stories of the homeless all around us. They're not just nameless hungry faces. They have stories, pasts, loved ones. They had mothers who held them as babies. They have dreams and hopes and sorrows and joys.

My husband has continued to impact me just as that book did. When we encounter the homeless, he will look them in the eyes and shake their hands and ask their names. He takes them out for lunch and learns their stories. Through these encounters, both of us have been changed as we meet the homeless and realize though we are each different individuals, we're also so much alike-- we're the "same kind of different."

When I saw there was a children's version of Denver's story, I was so excited! We want to raise our children to see each human being (born, unborn, rich, poor) as a beloved child of God. The book did a great job of sharing Denver's story at a child's level and I appreciate a book that will allow and encourage conversations about the poor and homeless and how we can help them in a deeper way than just "charities and giving money in church."

However, in all honesty, I also found myself experiencing a few hesitations as I read the book...it paints such a pretty picture of a friendship between the art dealer's wife and the homeless man that I'm afraid some children might think that it's okay to talk to all strangers and "befriend" them. It's one thing for your kids to know it's okay to say hello and smile at others or say kind words to them...it's another for them to think it's okay to befriend a stranger on their own. After some reflection, I'm really not quite sure what I think about the book! I hope that as G and our other kids grow older, God will give us wisdom and grace to instill kindness and generosity into their little minds and hearts while also teaching them to be prudent and cautious. Perhaps the book would be a tool for this in addition to conversations about stranger safety. ;)

What do you think when it comes to raising children to be kind yet safe around strangers, particularly the poor or homeless?

[Thank you to Book Look Bloggers for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]