Megan's Ponderings

Contemplations from a Blessed Life

Book Review: You Don’t Know Me

You Don't Know Me

This is the first book I’ve read by Susan May Warren, and I wasn’t disappointed! You Don’t Know Me captures the “perfect life” of the Decker Family and their response when things go awry. After a peculiar stranger comes to town, pasts and presents come to the surface and life as the Deckers know it turns upside down. Each member of the Decker family must decide whether the perceptions they believe about themselves are reality, or whether they’re above the lies and other people’s opinions of them.

This book captivated me from the beginning. It’s not everyday a book is written about hidden identities and the lies being told for the sake of someone’s safety. Themes like “truth always prevails” and “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” were continuously intertwined throughout the story. One concept that stood out most of all was never giving up on someone else, even if they’re not who you expected. Some characters, like Annelise and Frank, held deep secrets so closely that if they surfaced, the character’s reputation would be jeopardized. Others, like Nathan and Helen, felt so guilty for past family experiences that they worked past the perception created by others.

This book is a great read for anyone looking for a little suspense, but not too much. I’d also recommend it for anyone who hasn’t read much Christian fiction, but is willing to expand their repertoire.

For more information about Susan May Warren, visit http://www.susanmaywarren.com.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House Publishers.

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Book Review: Healing Hearts

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Have you ever gone through a situation where you long for support and it comes in the most unlikely place? This book, Healing Hearts by Dr. Hisashi Nikaidoh, illustrates a special bond between 8 moms and their unlikely relationship with a compassionate doctor. Dr. Nikaidoh, a pediatric heart surgeon, collected stories from mothers who lost children during his time at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Not all these children were his patients, but Dr. Nikaidoh had a major impact on each mother’s healing process. Even through Dr. Nikaidoh’s personal experiences, he relates to each mother’s struggle to see beyond the devastation of losing a child and continue living in light of their child’s legacy.

As a mom, Healing Hearts was a difficult read. For these mothers to put their thoughts and feelings onto paper was truly courageous and inspiring. I appreciated their willingness to be transparent in communicating their experiences. However, when I read the summary of the book, I was expecting more of Dr. Nikaidoh’s perspective on how these experiences helped him through his tragedy rather than how he supported these mothers. What inspired Dr. Nikaidoh to include these particular experiences rather than countless other patient experiences?

Overall, I would recommend this book to any parent who’s lost a child, especially to a heart condition. Gaining perspective from another parent who’s been through a similar situation may be the encouragement one needs to go on after a tragic loss.

For more information about this book, visit http://ambassador-international.com/books/healing-hearts.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Ambassador International.

Looks like I may have a green thumb

A few months ago, I mentioned that my family is gardening this year. Because of time constraints, I opted for a container garden rather than a full-fledged, in-the-ground, garden. Well, the pictures speak for themselves…

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If you can’t tell, I’m thrilled with my attempt at a garden! The jalapenos are growing in bunches. The tomatoes are ripening, and I’m hoping to make our first batch of salsa soon. There are also 4 smaller green peppers. The basil continues to reproduce furiously, but the cilantro has gone to seed. That’s one lesson I’m learning: the turnover for new cilantro plants is much quicker than I expected. I enjoyed the cilantro we had at the beginning of June, so I’ll be planting more and looking forward to using it later in the summer.

If you are growing a garden, how’s it going?

Almost 3: A Very Fun Age

Ryan is almost 3, and I’m enjoying every (well…almost every) minute with him. His speech has developed over the last few months. He’s excited to talk to us, mostly about fire trucks and airplanes.  His imagination is running wild, and he’s fascinated with Curious George. He’s also remembering more events each day. So, what does this have to do with me? Well, I get to listen to his discussions about “John Fire Trucks” and “Mr. Glenn’s airplane.” I also get to watch him play with Evan, mostly pretending to be in various situations. I’m also very aware that he’s becoming more independent, needing to “spread his wings” more often.

I’m learning a few lessons from my almost-3-year old:

1. I thought I was pretty laid back, but I was sorely mistaken. Having a child who wants to walk by himself or do another task on his own is enough to bring out the helicopter parent in me. I’m more of a hoverer than I realized. I’m learning that Ryan wants independence, but he also needs clear cut boundaries. I’m ok with that, as long as he stays within an arm’s reach away from me 😉

2. Focus is key when talking to Ryan. If I’m distracted by something else, he will say my name constantly. We are working on patiently waiting for me to be done with my task, but I’m also aware that I need to give him my attention the first time and not wait until I can’t handle the “mommy” call anymore.

3. Ryan wants to be involved in projects around the house, a.k.a. helping. I appreciate his helpfulness, and I’ve learned to take the time to teach him about the task I’m completing. Right now, he puts away silverware, helps load laundry, and wipes up spill. He’s also fascinated by any DIY jobs Philip tackles throughout the house.

4. Ryan is more affectionate than I though. For example, he nuzzles his way under my arm while we read books or watch a cartoon. He gives lots of hugs and kisses, and is starting to say “I love you” without being prompted. (I’m glad I’m writing this down so I have something to remember when he’s in the yelling/non-affectionate stage of life.)

5. We are not without tantrums, “my way or the highway” attitudes, and “mine…mine…mine”. Philip and I are learning what works and doesn’t work. Even when dealing with the selfish behavior of my son, I’m realizing I need to apologize (at times) for my own failures when confronting those behaviors. I’m definitely not a doormat for my children, but there are times an “I’m sorry” is warranted.

If you have children, what are you enjoying about them right now? (Taking a nap is an acceptable answer!)

Book Review: The World of Jesus

The World of Jesus, written by Dr. William H. Marty, is an insightful look into the intertestamental period between the Old and New Testament. Dr. Marty uncovers the events of this silent period in a way that is easy to read yet intellectually stimulating for any Bible scholar. He discusses each of the following periods: Persian, Greek, Maccabean, Hasmonean, Roman, and the Early Church and Herodians. Dr. Marty also includes the impact each period had on the Jewish people and the struggles they encountered. For a deeper individual study or study with a group, discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter, and a helpful glossary can be found at the back of the book.

I found this book fascinating. Although I went to a Christian college and participate in Bible studies on a regular basis, I haven’t learned much about the intertestamental period. As I was reading, I discovered the reasoning behind many events found in the New Testament. For example, I was very interested in the hierarchy of leadership between foreign leaders and the Jewish people, especially the role of high priest. Many rulers tried to use the position of high priest in their quest for political gain, using their allies to assume that role.

One word that came to mind as I read was seeking. The Jewish people had been under so many foreign rulers that their hearts were starting to doubt God’s promise to send a Messiah. They were searching for anyone who would relieve them from the oppression they had experienced under foreign rulers. Unfortunately, they weren’t looking for the right person. Dr. Marty says, “Instead of looking for a Savior who would save them from their sins, they longed for a king who would lead them into triumphant vengeance over the Romans and establish a political kingdom.” (pg. 160)

If you enjoy Bible history, this book is for you. It’s also a great read for any individual or small group wanting to understand what happened between the Old and New Testaments and how those events impacted the life and times of Christ and beyond.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Bethany House. For more information about this book or any other book written by Dr. William H. Marty, visit http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/dr-william-h-marty/1590.

Book Review: The Guardian

“Truly, God’s love is the greatest miracle of all.” – The Guardian, Beverly Lewis

The Guardian

Beverly Lewis does it again! The Guardian, the third book in the Home to Hickory Hollow series, draws readers back into the simpler, yet thought provoking lifestyle of the Amish. The author introduces 2 new main characters in this book: Maryanna Esh and Jodi Winfield. Through tragedy, they meet and are surprised in the quick, yet guarded, friendship that blossoms. Both discover that healing comes in the most unlikely places – an empathy between an Amish widow and an Englischer. In the end, Maryanna and Jodi learn valuable lessons from each other and create a bond that can’t be broken.

For me, this was my favorite book in the series. First, the author does a fantastic job describing Amish life. While reading the book, I recalled the Amish lifestyle throughout the normal tasks of my day. Amish life isn’t complicated by technology or focused heavily on self-image. Beverly Lewis created a climate of simplicity that was a welcomed diversion to the everyday busyness that crowds out daily life.

I also appreciated the author’s focus on unlikely friendships. Maryanna Esh was not fond of Englischers because of past circumstances. However, Jodi Winfield proved Maryanna’s perception wrong. Of course, Maryanna and Jodi weren’t transparent with each other until their friendship developed beyond surface material. But, what a treasure their friendship became to each other! Sometimes, the best friendships occurs in the most inconceivable places.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of life or anyone looking to heal wounds from hurtful circumstances. This book was a blessing to me, and I know you will be blessed also.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Bethany House. For more information about books written by Beverly Lewis, visit http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse.

Mommy-Son/Daddy-Son Dates

Since the boys are now old enough to enjoy time alone with Philip or me, I’ve instituted Mommy-Son (or Daddy-Son) dates once a month. These times are carved out of our normal routine to give individualized attention to each of the boys. Earlier in June, Ryan and I went strawberry picking for the first time. Today, I took Evan to the library and the store while Philip took Ryan to the Rail Festival at Carillon Park. Later this month, I’m taking Evan to the park to work on his climbing skills.

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Why am I doing this? Well, I look forward to any one-on-one time I have with my sons. I spend time with both of them all day long, but I discover new idiosyncrasies when I’m with them individually. It’s also fun to go to new places or try new things, especially when it’s something that interests the boys. I don’t know how, but I also feel like a better mom after individual time with Ryan and Evan.

What are some parent-child dates you do with your kids?

Summer Bible Study: Part 1

If there’s something that excites me,  it’s Bible study. The thrill of learning about the Lord, and being reminded of His love for me, is beyond fun. I usually participate in Bible studies throughout the school year at church, and find another study to do during the summer.

This summer, like last, I’m participating in Beth Moore’s Bible study through her blog. She is “leading” women through Gideon: Your Weakness. God’s Strength by Pricilla Shirer. I’m already 2 weeks in, and God is already working on my heart. For me, the most fascinating part of this study is who Gideon was. He was definitely NOT an Abraham (strong in faith) or a David (strong in might). When the angel of the Lord appeared to him, he was secretly threshing his wheat in a winepress!

Over and over, God calls men and women who don’t measure up to our idea of “God’s chosen”. In the Bible, He called murderers (David), tax collectors (Matthew), childless couples (Abraham and Sarah), and even a secret wheat thresher (Gideon) to accomplish great tasks. But, He didn’t call them after they had demonstrated their greatness. He called them when they were doing ordinary tasks. Mundane tasks, if you will. How often I forget that God is preparing me for something, even in the daily grind of life. When I’m folding laundry, God is preparing me for something greater. (I’m certainly not going to be a professional laundry folder, but I do think God examines my attitude when faced with jobs like that.)

What about our identity? In Judges 6, the angel of the Lord called Gideon a “mighty warrior.” What in the world? Gideon wasn’t behaving like a mighty warrior. Instead, he was acting like a scared child looking over his shoulder for the Midianites to pounce at any moment. I’m so thankful God doesn’t call me by my behavior. I can think of many unbecoming ones that I’ve had throughout my life. But those aren’t my identity in Christ. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” Am I living in light of my identity in Christ or my behaviors?

I’m excited for the next few weeks in this study. I’ll continue to post thoughts about what I’m learning. In the meantime, are you participating in a summer Bible study? What are you studying and what are you learning from it?

(Updated) Friends are Friends Forever…

As a child of the 80s and 90s, this song is the quintessential “friend” song. This song was played every year at my high school’s graduation. (I wonder if they’ve found something new, or if they’ve stayed with the tried and true.) It’s become a joke, just because it was played over and over and over…and over 🙂 But, I can’t help to think that some friends are forever, and when you find a forever friend, you are blessed beyond measure.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship recently. I looked up “friend” on dictionary.reference.com, and I found words/phrases like “on good terms,” “attached to another by feeling or affection,” “supporter.” Those are pretty positive terms, and all those characteristics are necessary for a good friend. But sometimes, one isn’t on good terms with a friend or not supportive of a friend’s decision or action. What happens then? Are the two still friends?

In my opinion, if a friend stays with you no matter what, they are considered a forever friend. They are your supporter, your cheerleader, your confidant. You may not agree with each other all the time, but you love them, and you want what’s best for them. I’m finding that it’s hard to find forever friends the older I get, but they are out there (and I’m excited to find them!).

I have been blessed to find forever friends in 3 other women. We grew up together, from church nursery through college, and to today. We have been in each other’s weddings, grieved the loss of parents and grandparents together, cried over boys together (gotta love high school…), and have watched our families grow together. We’ve disagreed and fought with each other, but that never broke our friendship bond. We’d quickly get over our differences and go back to loving each other.

I love these girls more than they’ll ever know. We don’t live close anymore, but we are bound together forever. We’ll see each other in a few weeks, and we’ll pick up right where we left off.

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Book Review: Road Trip To Redemption

Roadtrip To Redemption

Road Trip to Redemption is an amazing story about the Mathias family. Brad, the author of this book and the father, chronicles his family’s journey on a family road trip. However, this isn’t a normal road trip. This one is fueled by a tragic event that happened to one of Brad’s children. Through various events throughout the trip, God revealed Himself to the author’s family in ways only He could.

Even though I have 2 young children, I was reminded of the importance of focusing on heart issues rather than behavioral issues. No matter what the behavior, a child’s heart is directing that behavior. My prayer is that I can remember this nugget of truth and put it in to practice as my boys grow up.

Another area that intrigued me was a parent’s authenticity with a child, especially in their walk with the Lord. My boys look up to me, and I want them to see that my faith is real and not just a “Sunday only” faith. That means letting down my “perfect parent persona” around them and my friends (especially other moms).

I would highly recommend this book for any parent, no matter how young or old your kids are, as well as those who work with young adults. The insights found in this book are profound, and definitely worth taking to heart.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

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