Monday, May 9, 2016

21 Days of Encouragement

DaySpring is providing me with boxed cards to use as a part of this challenge. This post does contain affiliate links. This means that - at no additional cost to you - I may receive compensation for referring business. Thank you for your support!




I remember one time when I gave a dear friend a card. She later told me that the timing was perfect - she had been praying they could start fundraising for adoption in June, and I gave her that card with a check in it (I knew adoption was on their hearts) on the first day of June. To her it was such an encouraging reminder that God cares about small details - such as beginning fundraising in June - and the big picture - them being parents. 

We're called as believers to encourage each other, but I know all to well how easy it can be to forget to do that in the business of life. I want to change that and make encouraging others habitual. So when I saw DaySpring's 21 Days of Encouragement Campaign, I was on board. 

The idea is simple: it takes 21 days to form a habit, so we challenge each other to encourage someone for 21 straight days. I'll be taking to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep you updated on what I've done each day to encourage someone. 

The challenge launches today, but I started early by sending out two cards on Saturday and a text Sunday to encourage three women who have been through tragedies the past several years, making Mother's Day bittersweet. This morning I sent an ecard to my mother in law. 

What will you do to encourage someone today?







Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reflections on My Mother


This post does contain affiliate links. This means that - at no additional cost to you - I may receive a commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

My mom and I are cut from the same cloth. This means we understand each other very well but also that we can butt heads. Thankfully, after my husband, she's my best friend so we get along more often than not. =) After I became a mother, my gratitude and appreciation for everything she's done for me and my siblings over the years increased dramatically. There are a few universal truths about parenting that you either just don't know or don't fully comprehend until you are a parent.

Yes, you hide that last piece of special food so your child doesn't want it and you can eat it when they are sleeping. Sometimes. Other times, you gladly give it to them even though you would really like it simply because you love them, and it makes you happy to see them delight in such a simple thing.

You cry. A lot. Over everything. And nothing. You don't want anything bad to happen to your children. You want to bear everything for them, but you know you can't. And so you watch them live and get a small glimpse of God's love for you in your love for your child(ren).

And you worry because - wouldn't you know! - kids don't come with a how-to book. And every child is different. And you really, really don't know what you're doing. Sure, as a child you thought your parents knew everything, but the truth is they were just making it up as they went along and hoping they were right. And praying God would guide them. Its unsettling.

But somehow, kids survive anyway. And more than that, they thrive. And then have children of their own. And you get to see your parents be grandparents. Now, I'm sure watching your children be parents is rewarding, but getting to watch your parents be grandparents? Its pretty awesome.

My mom has always been a stay at home mom - which was awesome - and now that means that me and my kiddos get to see her a couple times a week during the day. And my children? After asking about daddy every day, Grandma is a close second. I love seeing their love and I love knowing I can 100% count on my mom to have my back and enforce what we try to teach at home at her house, and I can 100% trust her and my dad when they babysit. We don't have to worry about if they'll see something they shouldn't, or hear something they shouldn't. They will be protected, loved, and have a blast!

Even though I see my mom a lot, certain things still make me think of her without fail. My mom is a total beach bum ... at heart. We don't live by the coast, so she doesn't get to act on it often, but we're close enough she usually gets at least a couple weekends at the beach a year. She loves lighthouses and the ocean and, well, pretty much anything coastal. She's the first person I think of whenever I see something beachy.

She's also an amateur birder. She and my dad love going on walks, and half the time now they choose somewhere where there have been reports of a bird they've never seen before. And there's a lot of water fowl out there which means ... an excuse to go to the beach. I love it! But my parents are some of the first people I think of what I see something relating to birds.

And my children already have a love for birds that has been passed to them from my parents. My not-yet-three year old already knows that different birds make different sounds. She knows mockingbirds, woodpeckers, and chickadees by sight & loves telling you if she sees one. One of my second child's first words was "bird" and he gets excited every time he hears one.

Growing up, my children will probably take this knowledge for granted, not realizing why they have it and that it isn't common. I smile, knowing its a special bond they will forever have because of my parents.

And so, this Mother's Day, I want to thank my mom for everything she's poured into me as I grew up, for being my friend and mentor, and for setting an example for me to follow as I raise my own children. And my heart is full when I thank you for the love, energy, and time you pour into my children. I'm a better person because of you, and they're better little people because you're in their lives and invest in them.

I love you.


original image source

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: In Praise of Folly



#vtReadingChallenge: Week 17
A book you have read before




In Praise of Folly
by Erasmus

Hilarious and Tedious

The first time I read this book years ago I thought it was hilariously wonderful satire about our lives as humans from the perspective of the goddess Folly. Picking it up again now, I felt like I was reading a different book. To be sure, the text is the same (I'm reading the exact copy I read previously), but I guess there's something about having three under three where I found myself rereading paragraphs sure I was missing something.

Oh, I still find parts on point, but as a whole I guess I'm just not able to mentally engage the way I was able to BC (before children).

With that in mind, a few points about this book.

1. If you don't have a good grasp on your Greek deities/legends you will be lost. If that is you, skip this book.

2. You also need to be decently familiar with the Bible to catch some of what he is saying ... and understand the context of some liberties he takes with that text from the mouth of Folly.

3. My edition (which I could not find online: Walter J. Black, 1942 printed for the Classics Club with introduction by Hendrik Willem ban Loon of Rotterdam) keeps the language Erasmus originally used. If you are not used to reading things written in an older style of English (Reformation era), skip this book or find a "updated in today's language" edition. Otherwise, you will have a difficult time tracking.

4. This second time around, I enjoyed the 91 page introduction by Hendrik more than I enjoyed the work of Erasmus. Hendrik writes like an old friend and tells you about Erasmus' life in such an easy manner. I recommend my copy of the book for that alone!

So, if you are familiar with classical and Biblical literature, and do not have problems reading works several hundred years old, you will probably enjoy this book as much as I did upon my first read years ago. If you do not have extra mental energy to devote to the work, you will probably get frustrated reading it.

I'm still glad I reread it, in spite of my frustrations. HINT: I discovered upon my reread that I still caught Erasmus' points without getting bogged down in details when I skimmed. I never encourage people to skim books, but I think it might be helpful here.

First time reading it: 5 stars
Second reading: 3 stars
Average: 4 stars (with the above qualifications)

PS - the illustrations in my edition are horrible. What a waste of ink and paper!

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see other books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Spy for the Night Riders



#vtReadingChallenge
Week 16: A book by or about Martin Luther

Trail Blazers series
by Dave and Neta Jackson

Good Historical Fiction for Young Readers

This is an easy, engaging series for young readers wanting to learn more about the "trailblazers" of the Christian faith. This book focuses on Dr. Martin Luther. 

The story focuses on Luther just before and immediately after the Diet of Worms. The perspective is obviously in favor of Luther with a heavy anti-Catholic flavor. I believe the book could've been written to appeal to both sides so believe it's unfortunate the work didn't do that. 

Still, it's fast paced and easy to understand. The book is appropriately aimed at young readers. Some background knowledge of the Reformation would prove helpful, but isn't necessary. There is a brief summary of Luther's life (though incomplete! It doesn't even mention his wife!) after the story finishes. I think a more complete note for children's sake of what elements of the story are historical and fiction would be appropriate, but I suppose that would take up too much space.

All in all, though, a recommended book for elementary aged children.

4 stars

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see all book in the challenge, click here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: The Mabinogion


#vtReadingChallenge
Week 15: A book with magic

The Mabinogion

translated by Lady Charlotte Guest

So Different than What I Expected

The Mabinogion contains Welsh legends/folklore that were passed down for centuries from bard to bard. Being Welsh lore they combine magic with reality in a way that is not common elsewhere in the world. It is in this book where Arthur first appears in history.

As you work your way through this collection of tales, they become progressively easier to read. The earlier ones I found particularly cumbersome because of the Welsh names (so many!) throughout the text. I can only keep track of so many names with weird (to me) spellings that I don't know how to pronounce before I start getting lost. The names become more familiar, and shorter, the longer you read the different tales.

I picked this book particularly because if its historic importance because of the prominence Arthur plays. I thought it was a crying shame to consider myself a pseudo-Arthur buff, or at least lover of all things Arthur & super interested in the historical side of things, yet I had never read these first accounts of his existence!

It was in these accounts where I found myself quite surprised upon the reading thereof. Arthur is certainly mentioned, but he is not the central character in any of the tales in which he appears. His wife is mentioned, as is Kai and a couple others, but even they have less prominence than I suspected they would.

But the Sword in the Stone? Nada. Morgana? Not there. Even Avalon isn't mentioned! Or Camelot! Or his famous double crossed death! So much of the elementary Arthurian legend wasn't there in this, the earliest records we have of him. This surprised, but it also excites me. I have a strong urge to rabbit trail into why exactly this excites me, but the short version is that the way Arthur is presented in this work is absolutely as a historical figure. The embellishments of myth don't touch him which makes his actual existence more likely.

The last story in the Mabinogion relates to the famous bard, Taliesin. I was disappointed in the brevity of this piece. Or, I should say, the brevity of what survived of this piece, as it is obviously fragmented.

This is an important work because of Arthur, but unless you are a student or super into Arthur (like me) I doubt you'll make it through the read because it's just cumbersome at times... even though this translation is probably the best you'll find for a casual reader.

3.5 stars.

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see all book in the challenge, click here.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: The Black Stallion


#vtReadingChallenge
Week 14: A book written by a first time author

The Black Stallion
by: Walter Farley

Predictable, but still enjoyable

So I feel like I may be cheating a little bit by reading this book for my #vtReadingChallenge of a first time author. But I read several books by modern first time authors last year and, as a whole, wasn't particularly thrilled. I figured, hey, every author that got its start had their first book which was when they were a first-time author ... soooo if I read that book then it counts. So, sue me if you disagree.

I love horses, and I've vaguely known the story of the Black Stallion for, um, ever it seems. I've even read some of the other books in this prolific series, but I wasn't sure I had ever read the book that started it all. So I did.

The beginning of the book was distracting to read because of the tense, but somewhere in those first couple chapters it started flowing well, and I didn't look back. It's a well told story of an untamed stallion and a boy who form a strong friendship when they are forced to depend on each other to survive. Now, that all happens fairly early on. Once they are back at Alec's (the boy's) home, they settle in to a new normal together.

I liked the can-do attitude and the message that you can live a dream and do well in school simultaneously if you are disciplined. The awe of the stallion is well communicated, but I could be biased in that way since I've had a lifelong love of horses. I don't like that Alec is sneaking off in the middle of the night and hiding things from his parents. Sure he eventually told his father what was up, but he should've let them know from the get-go.

Still, it's an enjoyable read and one children will also like. The only other Stallion book I know for sure I have read is The Black Stallion, Challenged! and it had some similar features to this book. Now, it is the book we are introduced to Fury in, so that may be of necessity. I'd have to read a couple others before I determine if all 20 books are really just the same story retold, or if they add to the story.

Book 1, though, get 4 stars.

Bonus! The only female in the work is his mother. As a woman, I am 100% ok with this. I'm tired of people adding in a love interest so there is a female character, or to try and bring in female readers or whatever. Just give me a good story. If you do that, I don't care if your cast is all one gender or not. So, thank you, Mr. Farley, for that.

This post appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016, to see all books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: The Gifts of the Jews


#vtReadingChallenge
Week 13: A book you own but never read


The Gifts of the Jews 
(Hinges of History Book 2)
by Thomas Cahill

What a Letdown

I had high hopes for this book. I mean, I agreed with the premise of the book going in, so what's not to love?

A lot, it turns out.

I almost didn't make it past a couple chapters in because of the porn scene. Um, not what I signed up for! Cahill could totally clue me in to the (possibly) sexual nature of ancient Sumerian worship/sacrifice without giving the detail he does. I felt like I was back reading the final chapters of DaVinci Code. Ugh. I was concerned that kind of thing would be throughout the work, but thankfully there's just that one occurrence in the book. I did think he included too much sexual detail other times, though, and he used crude language unnecessarily.

Those issues alone make me get rid of the book. If I want to read something sexy (which I don't) then I'll check out a sexy book. But its definitely not what I want in a more academic work.

Except that's another issue. Cahill makes a lot of assertions, but doesn't provide footnotes or resources to show where he got his information. You can't do that. It's not scholarly, and it mars your credibility.

His belief regarding God and the Bible is also one of the most unique I've encountered when reading a book. He tries to tread the ground between the-Bible-in-inerrant-and-infallible and (the-Jewish/Christian-)God-is-not-real. He doesn't believe the Bible is accurate (except for when it is); he believes many Bible stories are retellings of Sumerian legends (believes the Greeks did the same thing), eg Noah's flood is a rip-off of the Gilgamesh epic. He does believe God is real and you can have a relationship with him, but a lot of what God is described as doing in the Bible is "obviously false". Honestly, his whole stance is confusing. If the Bible isn't accurate, how do you know when it is accurate? When it feels right? What if something feels right to me but not to you? Truth isn't relevant to our feelings, either something is or it isn't. The Bible is either trustworthy, or it isn't. God is either who he says he is, or he isn't. This balancing act Cahill tries to do just doesn't work. and it brings a lot of questions to mind irrelevant to the book Gifts of the Jews. 

That's not to say he doesn't make some excellent points. There were definitely times I had "a-ha!" moments, but a lot of what he said was not revolutionary as I already knew some information and had contemplated other points previously. So all in all, the book was pretty disappointing. It was easy to read, and the premise behind his work is a great one, but the execution could have been better.

Before reading this book I was pretty excited about his Hinges of History series. Now I'm just Meh about it. Will I read other books in this series? I might check them out of the library, but I won't be buying any more.

2 stars.

This book is part of the Reading Challenge 2016, to see other books in the challenge, click here.