Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Reads

Ah springtime!  The time when my reading becomes mobile and I can be found reading in such a fun variety of places.  Once the weather warms up, the possibilities for outdoor reading never cease.  I spent a good amount of time reading from this stack outside watching my children giggle as they played.  

The Pastor's Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Lifetime of Love by Gloria Furman: As a fellow young pastor's wife I was thrilled to dive right into this book.  (I received it as a gift for my birthday this month.)  It is is unlike most "pastor's wives" books that I have read in the past but it does a fantastic job of encouraging the reader in what really matters: the grace that God has so graciously lavished upon believers.  In so many ways the book seems applicable to any woman in any season of life.  So much so that I am half tempted to pass it along to my friends who are not pastor's wives.  I do wish that the book was about twice it's small size.  The fact that it is on the small size makes it so that even the busiest woman should be able to find time to read it during small snippets of time.  It actually fit in my purse so I read much of the book in the stolen moments of my day.  I absolutely loved her encouragement to pray for elders.  I spent time copying down her suggestions on on pages 139-140 into my journal along with the Scripture referenced.  I look forward to putting the author's suggestions of exactly what to pray for your pastor into practice on a more regular basis.

Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth This book was an incredible disappointment.  There were parts of it that I found a little unsettling and I would not recommend it.  This was the third book in the series and I actually really enjoyed books one and two.

Hope Unfolding by Becky Thompson:  This book started out pretty good and then I'm not sure what happened after the first few chapters.  It was just kind of eh.  Maybe it was my mood or maybe it was something else.  Hope Unfolding just wasn't the type of book that I think, "Oh wow I have to share this with at least five friends."  I love sharing and swapping books with friends so I really do think that.  :)  (I really do hate leaving a negative review.)  Please note that I did receive this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for my review.

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington: I was first introduced to the author while listening to the Inspired to Action podcast where she told her story.  This book is essentially almost everything that she shared during the podcast.  The book is good but I was a teeny bit disappointed that the book didn't go much further than what I had already heard her share.  I did appreciate some of the things that Worthington had to say.  She hit gold with her remark, "We think busy is a badge."  I think I have been working for the past 10 years to rid this thought from my mind.  I do wish that when she wrote about priorities she would have stressed the importance of a believer's involvement at church and with other Christians.  I am all about prioritizing and cutting back but don't cut back on your church involvement until you have cut out everything else first.

Letters to my daughters by Barbara Rainey:  I came across this book at a Family Life Conference my husband and I attended together in February.  Imagine my delight when I found it in my mailbox the very next day as a book I had chosen to review.  This book is simply adorable and beautiful.  It is written from the perspective of a mother writing letters to her daughters about being a wife and all that it entails.  I think a wife of any age can glean so much from the letters but I think it would also make a phenomenal bridal shower gift.  Not only does it contain solid, godly advice, but the book is just gorgeous with it's beautiful artwork and lettering.  Please note that I did receive a review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers.

Mason Jar Crafts With Kids by Linda Braden: I picked up this crafty book at our library and was completely mesmerized by how much Eli enjoyed looking through it.  This book is fun and contains a lot of neat ideas.  We have some green paint and a mason jar sitting by the kitchen sink just begging to be decorated.  Hopefully we can complete our first painted mason jar craft this weekend.


Children's Read Aloud Books:
These are the chapter books that I read aloud to my children this month in addition to a number of  picture books we enjoyed.  I always welcome your suggestions for future read alouds.  

The Missing Bible by Janet Sensenig:   We really enjoyed reading this short collection of wholesome stories every afternoon before rest time.  I think there are 23 stories in this book.  The children related well to the stories and I appreciated the opportunity to speak more about being children of character after reading each one.

Who Was Helen Keller? by Gare Thompson: Eli has been so fascinated with the life of Helen Keller for the past few months that I knew we needed to read a biography about her.  We all enjoyed hearing the remarkable story of Helen Keller's life.  Even Eva would bring the book to me and ask me to read from it.

Who Was Harriet Tubman by Yona Zeldis McDonough: We read this book before visiting the National Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati this month.  I felt like the level of detail in this book was appropriate for my young children whereas an older biography might have shared a little too much.  Since our library owns a number of the biographies from this series, I anticipate that we will also read a few more before summer.

What books did you read last month?  I think I am just about due for some type of classic.  Any suggestions?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What God Has Done: Evangeline's Neurosurgery Appointment

Evangeline in recovery after her sedated mri.

Few things in my life have impacted me the way Eva's chiari and feeding difficulties have the past year.  It has been exactly 8 months since the day that my daughter was diagnosed with a Chiari One Malformation in her brain.  The past 8 months have challenged and stretched me in ways that I did not think were possible.  Not at this young age anyway when there have been relatively few true difficulties in my life.

March 10th, the day of our much anticipated second neurosurgery appointment finally arrived.  This appointment had been on my calendar for five long months.  I don't think I started to feel really anxious until I turned the calendar to March and realized that this was the month.  This was when we would find out for better or worse what was happening with Evangeline's chiari.  Would her neurosurgeons continue with a wait and see approach?  Would they suddenly recommend decompression (brain) surgery on a girl so young?  Would the progress that Eva had made in all of the exhausting feeding therapy sessions be enough progress to save her from surgery?

So many questions continued to swirl through my brain that morning.  The one question that didn't was the hope that we have as believers in a God who is good.  During my most difficult seasons of life that is the one truth that I grab hold to and cling to with all my soul.  All morning my husband and I kept reciting truths to one another.  The one that really sticks out in my mind is Deuteronomy 7:9, "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations."

As we entered the neurosurgery suite it still felt very much surreal to actually be there despite the fact that we had just visited in September.  We ended up waiting well over an hour before we were able to meet with our neurosurgeon but it didn't matter.  Sure there was a part of me that wanted to hurry up and get the appointment over with but I just kept thinking of the family whose child had surgery that morning.  That could be me.  I could be the momma waiting anxiously for Dr. M to finish brain surgery on my child.

Dr. M finally entered the room and spoke with us.  He showed us the mri results and to our utter delight we found out that he had no desire to operate!

No brain surgery for our sweet girl!!!  

Not only that but by the grace of the Lord, Evangeline's chiari was actually smaller than it was in July!  Her skull had grown to allow more room for her brain!  She had more csf and no presence of a syrinx!  We had just witnessed a true miracle.

It's really hard to describe what it felt like when we received the news.  We thanked Dr. M and his nurse and then I closed the door.  Then I cried tears of joy!  No brain surgery and God was healing my sweet girl.  I was blown away to find out that Eva's chiari was actually better than before because that usually doesn't happen.

When we were pregnant with Eva, I was so determined that my baby be given a name with tremendous meaning.  We named her Evangeline Grace which means bearer of the good news of grace.  We hope that one day she will become a follower of Christ and will share the good news of the Gospel of grace to many people.  Little did I realize that my sweet daughter herself would be a living testimony of God's grace in her own life.  I have no doubt that we will continue to tell this story of God's gracious gift of healing for years to come.  To God be the glory!

"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; 
let them ever sing for joy, 
and spread your protection over them, 
that those who love your name may exult in you."   
Psalm 5:11

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Eva's Upcoming Mri & Neurosurgery Appt

The week I've been dreading most for the past 6 months is finally here.  It's the week that our sweet Evangeline will undergo another (sedated) mri and meet with her pediatric neurosurgeons.  In so many ways it feels like many of the emotions I experienced in August and early September are back in full force.  For those of you who may not know, Evangeline has a chiari one malformation in her brain.  It was discovered last July after she began experiencing feeding difficulties and no longer growing at a consistent rate.  A chiari one malformation is when the brain (cerebellum) goes down below the base of the skull and into the upper spinal canal.  

Last fall when Evangeline met with the neurosurgeons I really thought that they were going to recommend surgery.  I was surprised when they said they wanted to wait six months to see how Eva would progress with feeding therapy.  Those six months have passed and now here we are preparing for a week of intense appointments.   While we hope and pray that the neurosurgeons will not find a reason for Eva to undergo decompression surgery we really don't know for sure.  (I think being so wrong about what I thought would happen last time makes me unsettled about this week's visit.)  While I am incredibly thankful for Children's Hospital this is still hard.  We are hopeful that Evangeline's doctors will continue with a "let's just monitor" the situation attitude we don't have assurance of that fact.

I've tried to spend the past few weeks preparing by spending time in God's Word and focusing on the truths of God's goodness.  If you are a member of my local church you might also notice that many of my song selections on the piano the past few weeks have centered on that fact.  Today I played an arrangement of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" at church.  The arrangement was nice but the real reason I chose that song was so that I could daily be reminded of the Lord's faithfulness as I practiced.  Let the beautiful words by Thomas Chisholm assure you of the great love and faithfulness of a great God.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;

there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever will be.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Refrain.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Refrain.

It's really crazy to think how much one little word "chiari" has impacted our family since last summer.  My world felt like it was completely turned upside down.  Even now it is something that is daily on my mind.  No matter what happens this week I know that the fact that Evangeline has a chiari one malformation will forever shape our family's story.  I don't think you can go through something like this and it not impact your family in a huge way.  No amount of reading or studying can prepare you for what it really feels like when you learn something is wrong inside your child's brain.  

Just like my original post here about learning about Evangeline's chiari, we continue to covet your prayers.  Please join us in praying for our sweet Eva and for complete healing of her brain.  We have been so encouraged as we have witnessed the incredible strides that she has made in her feeding therapy.  Praise the Lord for the great progress that we have seen so far.

We will never fully understand why the Lord has decided to send chiari into our lives in the midst of a difficult season of life.  What we do know is that no matter what the outcome from this week God is still God and He is still on the throne.  For now we choose to take refuge in Christ.

"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; 
let them sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you."
Psalm 5:11

You might also enjoy reading the following posts about Evangeline's chiari:
My Daughter Has Chiari
What The Neurosurgeon Had To Say

Friday, March 4, 2016

February Reads

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Ed Welch:  I'm working through one of Tim Challies' reading challenges this year.  (It's such a neat concept that you must take a chance to check it out.)  One of the categories is to read a book that your pastor recommends and my pastor (husband) recommended this one.  It was wonderful!  Friendships (and especially Christian ones) have always been important to me but this book challenged me in a new way.  I'm ready to build more friendships and dig in deeper.  I was blown away at just how solid this book was while also being incredibly practical.  Welch gives the readers baby steps of what it actually means to walk alongside others.  He also includes a number of helpful "what not to say" sections.  As I was finishing up the book I felt such an urge to call up a number of my friends as I continue walking alongside them.  (I didn't at that exact moment since it was 11:30pm.)  *Smile*  I'd highly recommend this one!

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff: When I first laid eyes on this book at a bookstore I knew that I had to read it.  I have been mesmerized by the Salem Witch trials since high school.  Unlike most of my AP English class I loved reading The Crucible.  This has to be one of the most extensive books that I have ever read on the Salem Witch trials despite majoring in history.  I've always been a bit fascinated with this tragic period of history.  Although the book was a bit adventurous at over 400 pages I am glad that I read it.  The last chapter "The Dark and Mysterious Season" is one of the best chapters in the book.  If you end up short on time be sure to read the last chapter.

The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity by Kate Frey & Gretchen LeBuhn: As an amateur gardener I have been interested in the role of bees and pollination for the past few summers.  This book was interesting and dove right into many of the questions that I have had about planting a bee-friendly garden.  I really appreciated the numerous photographs and how many specific examples the authors provided.  I have always tried to plant a few different varieties of flowers to attract beneficial bees to my garden but I do worry about being stung.  This book encouraged me to set those fears aside and fully embrace growing a bee-friendly garden.  The back of the book also includes a regional plant list with specific varieties that grow well in each region.  I thought this was incredibly helpful.  I plan on planting the following flower varieties this year which are all bee-friendly: bachelor button, cosmos, poppies, and sunflowers (the pollen type).  Please note that I did receive a review copy of this book from Blogging For Books.

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Work House by Jennifer Worth: This is my second book by Jennifer Worth and I must say that I just adore her writing.  I previously read her book Call the Midwife.  This book is a sequel to her memoir and includes background details to the characters in the PBS show Call the Midwife.  This book focused on how the workhouse affected the people in the East End.  A few of the stories were a little troubling to read but I enjoyed watching the resilience of the human spirit.  Overall I really enjoyed this book and I have already begun reading the next one in the series.

Children's Read Alouds:
Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: The children and I had a delightful time listening to this book in the car this month.  This was one of the first read aloud books that I remember my mother reading aloud to me so it holds a special place in my heart.  We loved discussing the first Little House book together this month!

Who Was Davy Crockett? by Gail Herman: Eli was absolutely engrossed in the tale and saga of Davy Crockett.  I play the ballad of Davy Crockett on the piano from time to time so Eli was especially interested to learn that Davy wasn't born on a mountaintop!  This book was easy to read and we finished it quickly.  I'm sure Eli will read it for himself in just a few years!  This year I am intentionally exposing Eli to a number of easy to read chapter books.  Once he is reading independently I look forward to re-introducing them to him.

Who Was Daniel Boone? by Sydelle Kramer: We all enjoyed reading the tale of Daniel Boone.  In KY history Daniel Boone is one of the most famous Kentuckians since he built the Wilderness Road and Fort Boonesborough.  (I actually live in KY and have been to a number of areas in KY that are mentioned in the book.  I've also visited his grave.)  I'm hoping to take the children to visit Boonesborough sometime in 2016.  This book was a great read aloud and I look forward to reading others in this series.

What books did you read this month?  Do you spend time reading chapter books to your children?