Apr 152018
 

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As much as I would like to live in my own little bubble, in my own little corner of the world, tending my garden, reading books, drinking coffee, and feeding birds, that idealized vision could only last for so long.  That is the problem with ideals, they are, well, ideal.  They do not account for realistic details.  For example, in order to sit in my garden drinking coffee and feeding birds I would have to had bought coffee, with money earned from somewhere, washed the dishes in order to have a clean cup, and have weeded the garden in order to have anything growing worth gazing at.  None of those – washing dishes, weeding the garden, working – were in the glimpse of my idealized world.  Yet, they all must have happened at some point or another.

So it goes with history at times, either we idealize it or forget about the smaller details completely.  At times, it may not matter so much – like whether a distant past relative made roast or chicken for Sunday dinners.  At other times, it is very important to remember what happened, how we ended up where we and the world is at today.  The actions and words of people in the past have greatly played out into the world we are now living.

Kevin Peraino takes a look into the past, piecing together the different strands to give us insight into how the events of 1949 set the path for where China has ended up today.  A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China is not a story which follows a straight path, but instead flows from one thread to the other, logically, giving the reader a broader understanding of the forces of the past which had an influence on the molding of what we see today.

In other words, the only cure for a run-away story is another story.   ~Kevin Peraino, Prologue to A Force So Swift

I greatly appreciated the broader picture Peraino laid before his readers, connecting and relating the different aspects of what was taking place in various parts of the world, among various factions vying for control and influence.  It is no easy task to walk someone through these details without losing them along the way.

A Force So Swift contains many details, not only in the main body of work, but also in the extras.  The beginning of the book contains a map of the China and surrounding countries, marking locations of various cities and regions.  The last quarter of the book hold an Epilogue, Notes, and a Selected Bibliography.  The 261 pages between these two is split into three Parts, which helps delineate various times in the story’s progress.

The research which went into this book resulted in a narration filled with facts, references to primary sources, snippets of conversations and communications, and expansions of the characteristics of the various players.  As a testament to the author’s skill, he did it all without making the reading too dry.

Truman thought he was being caution in his decisions.  It turns out there was more going on then they realized.  Little did they know this would lead to yet another war within a couple decades, one which would claim many American soldiers’ lives.

China is looking back to its past, trying to find where it went right and wrong.  Learning from their past is a part of finding their identity and creating a better future.  It can be tricky to pinpoint these “good” and “bad” parts among the various tellings of history.  Which has the correct view?  Which recounts it the clearest? How was one affected by the other?  These are questions which do not always have answers.  It takes more than 261 pages to work through over a century of ones history to find the truth, if there even is a single right one.

As I listen to the news and read reports of happening in our country and overseas, I can not help but see influences from the past showing themselves today.  None of us live in a bubble; what we do effects others, and what they do has an impact on us.  We may not know the result of those impacts, whether for good or not.  We may assume one outcome, one which never materializes.  None of us can predict the future.

Should we give up then?  By no means! Keep fighting for what you think is right. Things can change. Meanwhile, remember, the story will not end with you.  Your role is a part of the bigger whole, even if it feels as if we are only  weeding the garden and feeding the birds.

 

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books to review.  All opinions are my own.

Apr 032018
 

I was provided a copy of this book by Moody Publishers for review.  All opinions are honest and my own.  The post contains affiliate links.  If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small percent at no additional cost to you.

Ordinary.

That is a very good description of how I have been feeling as of late. While I have been getting better at keeping a routine, I think we all know that the world will not end if I happen to do my kids’ laundry on Monday rather than mine and my husband’s.

There really is nothing earth shattering about teaching roman numerals to one kid, while reviewing for the umpteenth time multiplication facts with another.  These will not help save a kid from hunger tonight.

Dishes done before going to bed?  Fabulous…there are still people without jobs.

Fixed a broken dresser?  Helpful, yes.  Does that help someone who feels lost and depressed?  No.

It is very easy to go through the day’s activities, day after day after day after … one begins to feel like a gerbil on a wheel going nowhere very quickly.  Not only am I going nowhere, but do I really have anything to offer others?

In a world obsessed with superheroes and celebrities, Dan Stanford reveals how our extraordinary God works through ordinary people to accomplish the incredible.

Dan Stanford gets straight to the point in the introduction of his newly released book, Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes  – “…as bad as the world is right now, we don’t need a superhero to come save the day.”  Wait, what?  Then why am I reading this book?  Thankfully, he continues, “…we need ordinary people like you and me to join God and go change the world right where we are.”

In the next 21 chapters Stanford goes on to give multiple example of people, in the Bible and the world today, who have accomplished great things, even when they were obviously lacking.  He also encourages us to focus on our sphere of influence, use what we have on hand, rely upon God and not our works, and to stop expecting works of great importance to look big and earth shattering – sometimes the biggest thing to someone may come in the form of a small, seemingly insignificant gesture.  To the person, however, it means the world.

While there are many biblical references, Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes is a fairly casual, easy read.  It was not until a few chapters in that I began to get into the book.  That was the point where the author shared more of his background, what led him to where he is today, and more of how this has played out in his life.  I believe the story could have done with a bit fewer superhero analogies at the beginning.

In the middle section, I found myself underlining a fair amount and adding notes in the margins.  This was not due to finding formerly unknown concepts.  Instead, it was to help me get further into the content of the book.  It really did help encourage me to begin applying to concepts internally rather than superficially agreeing with them.

Several various parts are words of encouragement I could have used during particularly rough patches in my past.  Hearing someone say those things to me at those moments would have gone a long way towards reenergizing me to keeping going.

The ending section was a deeper conclusion, though it felt a bit rushed.  This part could have been expanded upon more and would have helped add to the application and encouragement in the reader’s life.  As it is, I believe taking time to think over what is read, rather than rushing through this last bit, will help the reader see more of how this can apply to their lives.

Changing the world doesn’t start with a cape and a catch phrase. Changing the world starts by allowing God to invade your world.

Following the last chapter are two additional sections – notes, arranged by chapters, and discussion questions.  Again, nothing supper long or heavy, but a chance to slow down and contemplate how what you have read may apply to your life and current circumstances.

While a lot of the book is talking about us as people, what we can do, how the world around us can benefit from what we have to offer, that is not the real focus and point.  In Chapter 19 Stanford makes a factual statement – our input was not needed when the world was created; people were being fed, clothed, and housed before we came along and will continue to be after we die; in a few generations we will most likely be forgotten.  Doesn’t sound too uplifting, does it?

Knowing all that, we were still uniquely created, born in a specific place at a specific time for a purpose.  Yes, it could all have been accomplished without us, but He chose to use us, to give us a purpose. How awesome is that!

Feb 272018
 

I was provided a copy of this book by Moody Publishers for review.  All opinions are honest and my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

My latest read took me much longer to finish than normal.  This was to be expected as I had to read each page two or three times, as well as look up various terms and references.  To say it was a growing experience would be a very fair statement.  It was outside topics I normally would read, that seems to have been a theme this past year, which is ripe ground for personal growth.

My initial plan had been to read it and share a review in time for the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the time marked by the date when Luther, according to legend, nailed his ninety-five theses to the doors of the local church.  The anniversary seemed to be all anyone was talking about for months.  Me, the one who does not watch the news, who is known for not really knowing the “hot topic” at the moment, even knew the anniversary was coming up.  “There must be something to this.”

See, I grew up in a church where Luther was not talked about much.  Actually church history was not talked about regularly. If so, it was ‘recent’ church history going back to early American times. I grew up in a church tradition which was not liturgical, did not recite confessions, etc.  Focusing on a particular person or historical church documents during a sermon seemed almost like looking to them instead of the Bible/God/Jesus for direction in how we should live.

Perhaps that is solely a feeling I had and not what was meant to be conveyed, but it is exactly what I was feeling when the church we currently attend would mention Martin Luther or such-and-such convention from centuries ago.  It rubbed me the wrong way.  Then they mentioned they would be showing a video about the life of Luther on a certain evening, everyone was welcome to come and invite friends. That was the final straw.

A new religion or a return to the old ways?

My respect for those in our current church led me to examine myself, my reactions, and to seek out more information.  Enter Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz.  I am so glad I challenged myself to learn before continuing along certain lines of opinion without much of a basis.  While I did not do a complete 180*, I did learn a lot about how we ended up where we are currently.

The start of Long Before Luther came from an online discussion Busenitz had in the comment section of a blog, about whether the Catholic church was the original, true church.  The conversation brought to light an important question, “Did Luther (and other reformers) create a new religion or did these doctrines always exist? Could they be found in the early church beliefs or were they invented 500 years ago?”  In the end, the comments on the blog would have created a 300 page, single space document if they had been printed out.  Seems it was quite the discussion.

To help have an actual conversation, the conversation was narrowed down to two points of contention: is scripture alone the highest authority (sola Scriptura) and are sinners justified through God’s grace in “faith alone” in Jesus Christ (sola fide)?

Busenitz has broken his book down into 4 parts – Reformers and Justification, The Church before Augustine, Augustine and Justification, and The Church after Augustine.  These section help set the stage for what the reformers were trying to figure out, and some of the key disagreements they were having with the Church at that time.  The author then goes back to early church fathers to get try and get a clearer picture of their understanding and thinking.

If this article stands, the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses. – Martin Luther

My natural tendency is not to sparse words, but to take things at their face value.  However, when discussing large, heavy concepts like justification and spiritual authority one needs to be very clear in what is meant and said.  The difference of a single word can change the whole meaning of a sentence.  Busenitz dove into historical writings, searching for evidence of sola Scriptura and sola fide.  The last three sections talk about the evidence he found.

There are also places where Busenitz commented on the limiting factors of language.  If you have ever heard that Eskimo language has many words for snow while English has one, you will understand what is meant.  Latin and Hebrew are more descriptive languages.  If a translation was used and studied from, the original intent of a word may have been a bit blurred or misunderstood.  This is very much true with English, as with Greek or German, etc.

It may have also been the case that these particular issues were not issue in the past, so therefore were not outlined in great detail.  Some things may have been socially assumed to be understood, while others were not issues raised.  This last part was an interesting revelation on my part – the things society is concerned about today were not even issues a few decades ago; how much more a few thousand years ago!  Hence, you will not find full manuscripts describing the historical stance of sola Scriptura and sola fide from the early A.D. era.

What you will find are documents from sources written during those time which give you has sense of what was meant, touching on both of these topics, showing that the reformers 500 years ago did not create these doctrines but brought them to the forefront of the conversation. These doctrines were suddenly more relevant due to what was happening socially, and within the church, at that time.

Following the four sections of the book mentioned above, is an Apprenix section – 9 pages of abbreviations used, as well as 41 pages of notes and references used in writing Long Before Luther.  Busenitz was not hesitant to share where he got his references and facts, they are there for readers to seek out and read for themselves.

Continue to seek to understand

I still believe we should look solely to the Bible for guidance, seems I believed in sola Scriptura all along without knowing there was a word or term for it.  As I worked my way through Long Before Luther, I began understand more about why we do certain things or exactly how we believe effects how we approach other issues.  Having a clear picture of what is meant is important, and for that I am thankful for those whose brains can work through those details with any sort of clarity.  I will continue to seek to understand what is being said, knowing all along that we will never truly understand everything, we can only do our best to try.

Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz has sought to help clarify some key points brought up during the Protestant Reformation, taking what would have been years of research for the average person and putting it together in a well structured book.  Using a multitude of references and historical documents he sought to find if there was a  and biblical basis for beliefs presented by the reformers, or if they had created a new set of beliefs.  To that end, I believe Busenitz achieved the purpose he sought and conveyed clearly the points and support along the way.

Dec 122017
 

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One of the top news stories currently happening has to do with wildfires in California.  Strong winds, previous droughts, hilly terrain, these all make it very prone to large fires which can be difficult to put out.  Fires are not new to that part of the country. If you live there, then fire is a natural part of the environment and most likely a part of your day in ways you may  not always think about – choice of landscaping and building materials for example.

If you do not live in this particular area, you more than likely do not think of how prone that environment is to fire.  It is doubtful you think of it at all.

Then it is plastered all over the television, newspapers, internet, and radio broadcasts.  You could not get away from it if you tried, and everyone seems to have an opinion.

That seems to be the way it goes with natural resources.  They are all around us, we live in them yet rarely talk about them or think about them.  Till something goes wrong.  Or you are out of conversation at a family holiday meal.  Then either everyone has an opinion, often a very strong one, or are ignorant on the topic, yet still have an opinion.

Fire is not the only natural resource which brings out strong feelings.  Wolves do the same thing.  Especially if you live in one of the western states.

As one who does not reside in the west, nor grew up there, my view of wolves is from a natural resource professional standpoint – balance is a good thing; putting back what we took out can only help begin to bring back that balance.

While this sounds great on paper (0r the computer screen), at what point in the past are we aiming to return to?  Before the government began the campaign to eradicate wolves from the forests?  Before Europeans began settling the continent?  At the end of the last ice age?  Which of these is the ‘ideal’ and which is the one we should aim for?

If there is one thing we, as humans, should have learned a long time ago it is this – we do not know everything.  Often we find things more of a mess when we try to ‘fix’ them rather than letting them be.  We act with what we think is the vast knowledge gained by experience or with the newfound scientific research of the era.  Only later, we find out we were wrong.  By then, life has moved on.  Reality has adjusted to the change.  Now a new question arises – should be try to fix what we broke, or let nature take its course and fix things on its own…if possible.

This is what happened with the wolves, a path which author Nate Blakeslee walks through in American Wolf: a true story of survival and obsession in the west.  As with every piece written concerning real life events, the lens through which activities are reported can make a difference in the conclusions reached – was the reintroduction a good thing or not?  Were there more benefits or outweighed by the consequences?

Spoiler – Blakeslee is not a cattle rancher. He is not a hippie.  He is not a government employee.  What he is is an author who took the resources he had and pieced them together, showing both sides of the story.  Or trying to, rather.

The majority of the book seems to follow one particular NPS Ranger, Rick McIntyre.  Understandably so, as Rick too copious notes on the wolves for many decades, almost from the beginning of their reintroduction.  These, combined with notes from other wildlife observers, researchers, and park records gives a large picture of the packs’ reintroduction and growth into the Yellowstone National Park. While a lot of this information aims to be scientific, unemotional, and unbiased, it is written largely from a group of individual who love nature and wanted to see these wolves succeed.

The other side of the coin – hunters, guides, and cattle ranchers may also love nature, though may be affected differently by the wolf reintroduction.  Wolves are a natural predator.  They were at the top, or near the top, of the food chain when they were targeted for eradication.  It is only natural to then assume there would be loses and adjustments in populations of other animals once they were reintroduced.  To help offset these losses, the state governments set up programs to pay for cattle losses due to wolves.

What these programs did not cover were loses in elk to hunt for food, loses in revenue from reduced stays at hunting lodges, and the loss of having to sell property that may have been in a family for generations because the family could no longer earn enough to support themselves in such a rural setting.  While these are loses that can be felt, often they are much harder to quantify.  Even Nate had trouble finding someone to talk openly with him concerning the negative aspects of wolves.  It took him several trips, and a lot of reassurances concerning not using his real name, for him to gain the trust of a local hunter/guide.

Over all, American Wolf: a true story of survival and obsession in the west  gave a fairly balanced view, though I believe it leans more toward a pro-wolf stance.  Perhaps this was the way I was reading the information, the fact that the majority of the information came from those who spent time watching and tracking the wolves, or that information from those negatively impacted by increase in wolf populations is harder to find.

In all, I believe it was a successful reintroduction, with more positive than negative results.  Only time will tell.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Nov 122017
 

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Thinking back to my childhood, I have vivid memories of Sunday lunches at Grandma’s house.  Cousins were there to play with when we were done eating, trees to climb, leaves to jump in, and games of ball to play in the field.  But the most welcoming memory was of the initial opening of the door – warm, delicious smells met you in the coziness of their downstairs.  Yes, there may have been too many people to fit around the table, but that did not matter. Everyone was there and good food was to be had. Not fancy, mind you, but food which was familiar and tasted of home. (We may have even had basically the same meal every week, though my memory does not contain that information.)

Even the cups used had their own smell.  They were nothing fancy either, plastic Tupperware cups which have lasted decades, survived use by many grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, and still look new.  Yet, the smell when you poured soda on top of the ice was something I associate with my grandparents’ house. No other drinking vessel has replicated that smell, it is unique to those cups.

Nourished, a memoir of food, faith & enduring love by Lia Huber follows a similar path – memories of the author’s the past associated with the foods which nourished her, both in body and in spirit.  Through her journey as a young college student, to making major life choices, facing a health crisis, searching for her place in this world, and now to the present, Lia Huber takes her readers on a path of finding her faith and understanding how food can be more than bland, thoughtless item put in front of you three times a day.

…food went from something I didn’t think about to becoming a pivotal part of my life. It was what brought me joy.  It was how I healed my body when doctors couldn’t.  It was how I related to people and gained deeper insight into my life’s purpose and the way I serve the world.

Nourished is not a recipe book, though the end of each chapter contains the recipe for a dish mentioned.  It really is more of a memoir of Lia Huber‘s life and how food and relationships influenced how she came to understand her place in this world.  The recipes shared contain fairly common ingredients which makes them very easy to replicate.  There were several I marked to try.

I was a bit surprised when the author began to talk about her faith in such a bold way.  It was not necessarily inappropriate for the story, but an aspect I was not suspecting.  At times it began to feel like it touched on some new age-ish ideals, though most of what Lia mentions is fairly mainstream Christianity.

Nourished really is a well-written story.  My attention was held from the first chapter and never waned throughout the rest of the book.  If you are looking for a well-flowing book some weekend, I would highly recommend Nourished by Lia Huber.  Who knows, you may find yourself in the kitchen recreating a recipe from your past or finding a new one to help nourish your soul.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Oct 022017
 

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In my mind, I am a young adult with endless energy and possibilities.  In reality, well, I have responsibilities and am not as limber as I once was.

Braving It: a father, a daughter, and an unforgettable journey into the Alaskan wild by James Campbell spoke to my inner younger self, conjuring up images of an adventure I would love to take.  From the coolness of my air conditioned house, sans mosquitoes, I was able to live vicariously through James and his daughter, as they traveled to Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to help his cousin build a cabin. (As was talked about in the book, this is a privilege which was grandfathered in for a few seasonal residents when it became a national wildlife refuge.  Sorry for squashing any dreams you may have had of doing the same during retirement.)

James’ cousin, Heimo, was building a new cabin along a river to use during the trapping season.  Due to restrictions of the location, the building would need to be completed in a small window of time and be very labor intensive.  James had been to Alaska before, was skilled in the outdoors, and said “yes” when his cousin asked for his help.

He also saw this as a good opportunity to give his daughter, Aiden, the Alaskan adventure he had promised her.  At 15-year old, James was not sure how Aiden would handle the ruggedness of the setting, nor the hard labor that was involved.  While they were an active family, it is different when you are in bear country, working in clouds of mosquitos, and sleeping in a tent.

Aiden ended up handling it better than he thought, and it turned out to be an experience which brought them closer together.

Braving It‘s 355 pages talked about more than a single trip to help build a cabin.  They actually went three time throughout the course of the book – once to help build the cabin, once to help hunt and trap, and once with a two other people on a hiking and kayaking trip along the Hulahula River.

With the book separated into three connected parts, there is not a lot of detail about each point in the story.  However, the overall theme of finding one’s self, of facing challenges, and accepting we are not in control of everything weaves throughout the story.  If you are looking for details on how to build a cabin, this is not it.  If you are looking to connect and learn from someone else’s experience living in a tough wilderness, learning to let go as a parent, and a look at a disappearing wilderness, then you are in the right place.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sep 182017
 

This year has held many changes for us.  I thought I was prepared.  I thought I could handle it all.  I thought…

Yeah, I was wrong.

Not completely, mind you, but in the “I thought I…” part of things.  There is nothing I can do to make anything happen.  Try as I might, I can not think something into reality.  What it does bring is anxiety as you see things around you not going as you want them to.

This came to a very clear reality after my surgery in March.  Physically I healed fine and quickly, with little pain.  Emotionally I was brought to my knees.  Once I figured out it was anxiety and not low iron, blood sugar, blood volume, or internal bleeding (sitting on the couch with orders to not do anything for a few days can lead your mind down interesting paths), I knew what needed to be done.  I also knew it was not going to be a quick fix.

Part of my self-imposed routine was to start the day off well.  In the past this meant me getting up at my regular time, having two breakfasts (the first to get my stomach convinced it was actually hungry and not sick), and getting dressed.  This time however, I found myself waking up super early, unable to fall back asleep.

Unable to fall asleep one morning, I went out to the back deck to watch the sun rise and listen to the birds sing.  Within minutes I felt better.  Not perfect, but better.  I went back in to get George off to school, but then back out to the deck I went.

For a few weeks I spent hours out there every day.  We even did home education outside.  The fresh air, sun shine, sound of birds and wind rustling in the tree tops…it was peaceful and what I needed.  Well, peaceful except for the occasional emergency vehicle siren and sound of traffic during morning commute times; at those times I focused on the nicer sounds and prayed for where those sirens were going.

Another part of my time outside involved a morning devotional.  At first, reading made me nauseous, so I used an audio version of the Bible on my phone.  After being able to tolerate printed materials, I added in Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson.

Not only was this book an encouragement, but it also spoke to my love of plants and nature.  Most importantly it spoke to the “I” part of why things were not working out – it was pride.

For years I thought that my sense of peace depends entirely on me. – Hannah Anderson, Humble Roots

Daily devotionals are not something I usually seek out.  I have gone through a few different ones over the years, but find I would rather read from the original text than from someone else’s opinion of what was being said.  This is where I felt Humble Roots deviated from other devotionals – it does not read or feel like a devotional.  Instead, it felt more like a talk with another gardener, one who has been where I was at.

Humble Roots is half plant book and half Christian devotional, each half complementing the other to help demonstrate the point being made.

After spending hours out-of-doors, and not solely in this instance of healing, it is hard to not notice details of nature and take them to heart:

  • The dry creek bed filling up with water in a few minutes time, yet days after a rain storm upstream.
  • The birds singing in the middle of a rain shower.
  • Flower stalks righting themselves after being laid flat by the wind.
  • A plant, growing from a tiny seed which seemed unimpressive and unlikely to survive.

There are lessons all around us, examples of the goodness of God and His providence.

These are also things which we, ourselves, could not make happen.

Humble Roots does not come across as an author talking at the reader, but someone who is also on the journey to find peace and understanding in one’s day.   This gentle approach and easy read was much appreciated at a time when I was already being hard enough on myself.

Toward the end, I found that I did not fully agree with some of the conclusions which Hannah Anderson presented.  They felt a bit forced or abrupt.  This did not mean I could not gain something from the writing, only that I think the last chapter or two could have been edited better.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review.  This post contains affiliate links.

Sep 092017
 

If you have watched any television, turned on a radio, or walked past a newsstand in the last few days, you will have seen or heard about the current weather events taking place along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Harvey was a massive, unexpected, force which has disrupted a huge area and hundred of thousands of people.  Hurricane Irma has been just as destructive, if not more-so, and she is not done yet.  Most consider these natural disturbances a catastrophe.

In terms of humans, I completely agree. Having lived in the Houston area, it is even harder to see the images and realize the scale, knowing that the images do not do it justice.  I was there when Katrina hit New Orleans and many of those residents fled to Houston.  Hearing their stories and seeing their struggles, literally face-to-face, did more than any news image could.

Hurricane Harvey and Irma are natural disturbances on a grand scale.  Thankfully, most disturbance of nature are that so intense.

Scaling back a little, let us take a look at a “disaster” from a different view point.

Consider a week of spring rains across the Midwestern states.  The rains have saturated the soil, thereby sending water flowing into local streams and rivers.  The streams and rivers can only move so fast, yet the water keeps coming.  Water levels rise, resulting in typical yearly flooding into fields, woods, yards, roadways, etc.

Eventually the rains end and the streams are able to carry the excess water into the rivers and down to the ocean.

What is left?

If you were to go look at the stream, you might notice a lack of sticks in the bed…you likely had to step over a line of them along the bank in order to get down to see the stream bed itself.  Perhaps the tall tree, whose roots used to stick out into the stream, is now lying across the stream, branches dangling in the water.

Down in the field, you notice grasses matted down, covered with detritus and debris. Temporary rivulets left lines as the water receded, creating low areas in a once flat field.

Is this a catastrophe or a rejuvenation?

As this natural disturbance is a seasonal, regular occurrence, what might look like a catastrophe to the local ecosystem at first can actually turn out to be a much needed and depended upon rejuvenation.

Where the tree fell, more light is reaching the forest floor.  In a year, this area will be covered with plants who need more light, rather than shade, to grow.  Birds who like to nest and eat along the edges of forests increase in population, and end up eating more of the insects flying near the water.

In 5 years you will not even be able to see an opening in the forest canopy.

The sticks in the stream, which used to catch leaves and block flow are now out of the way.  The water has been able to create a smoother bed and deeper pools.  While the dangling limbs from the tree provide shade and protection, the cleaned out stream bed means there are also more crevices under rocks, more places to hide.  The deeper pools are cooler than the shallower edges, helping regulate the stream’s temperature and aiding aquatic life who need cooler temperatures.

Was this natural disturbance a catastrophe or a change for rejuvenation?

While many in the news label occurrences like this a natural “disaster”, I think that is not always the case.  Without disturbances, a system becomes too similar – population diversities decline, species who can not survive in those conditions die or become extinct, and the system as a whole may loses its ability to handle a disturbance when it does happen.

The idea that natural disasters are not always bad, or disasters, is what Seth Reice talked about in “The Silver Lining: the benefits of natural disasters“.  I had picked up his book at a library book sale, the picture of a field/forest fire on the front having caught my attention.  Yes, I was initially judging a book by its cover. 😉

What I found inside was a great explanation of what happens during a natural disturbance, how we as humans perceive the results, why these disturbances are actually needed, and the observable results of various “disasters” years later.

Even better was the flow of the book.  It was not weighed down with technical terms, but written so even someone without an understanding of the science behind it could follow along easily.  My background in biological sciences and ecology only aided in understanding further what he was talking about.

While everything he mentioned was not new to me, it was a great reminder that there is not always one way to view what is happening.  We need to take headlines with a grain of salt.  The new agencies are in business to sell papers or gain ratings, while telling a story; hence the use of catchy headlines.  After all a headline saying “Forest Utterly Destroyed By Fire” is more likely sell a greater number of (non-academic) papers than “Forest Fire Allows Pine Trees To Reseed.”

Apr 162017
 

Alexander Hamilton book

Life has been a bit crazy lately.

Okay, a lot crazy.

When I received Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life by Jeff Wilser to review, I thought, “Great! That is exactly what I need.  I can use some life tips from someone successful.  Alexander Hamilton fits the bill!”  (Yes, pun intended.)

At over 300 pages, I set out for a deep read, ready to learn and grow from the knowledge imparted by one of our founding fathers.  What I found, was not so much deep thinking, as an easy read about Alexander’s life.  The Introduction put it well:

It is not a traditional biography. Instead, it’s the kind of manual that Hamilton would have written himself, perhaps, had he lived to be an old man.  That’s a bold claim, and of course Hamilton’s actual Guide to Life would have been smarter, deeper, longer, and Founding Fatherer.

Thankfully, it was not a list of maxim of Hamilton’s, as that would have been long, perhaps a bit boring, and not really taught me about the man.  Instead, what I found were sections organized around various parts of life.  These sections were then broken down into chapters based on one of Hamilton’s maxims.  (He had many and obviously they were not all used in this book, else it would have been much longer.)

The 10 areas of life covered were: Self-improvement, Career Advancement, Romance, Money, Style & Etiquette, Leisure, Friends & Family, Leadership, Office Politics, and Honor.

Within these pages, I found a founding father who was not as I had thought him to be.  Perhaps it was due to how the author chose to portray Hamilton, or maybe it was because he really was that different from what I had expected.  As it turns out, he did not have the same pedigree background as the other Fathers, he beginnings were much more humble.  He was mainly self taught rather than attending a prestigious school or having a tutor.  AND he was never President!

Disciplined. Forges his own path. Honor bound, to a fault. Studious.  These are all words which I now associate with this man.

Coming from a very less than ideal family life in one of the colonies, he was looked on as not a “true” American by some of his cohorts. That did not stop him, though, from doing his best to share his knowledge to make the country better.  Even when others dismissed him or politics got in the way, he tried to persevere.

In the end it was his honor, his pride, that got him killed.  Something which seems silly now, but was taken somewhat seriously back then – a challenge to duel over an insult.

The point of this book was not an in-depth study of the man, and perhaps that is why I come away feeling as such.  The author was clear on his point of the book (“not a traditional biography”, “), though I did not take it as seriously as I should have.  The first indication for me that I should have taken the author at his word was when I came across a reference to a modern day game.  It seemed very much out of place and like the author was trying to force a connection. (There was another reference or two throughout the book which made me feel the same, though not too many.)

While I am glad to have gotten to know a bit more about Hamilton, I feel as though there was a lot more left out.  Or perhaps it was the feeling of the author choosing what to share about this man. Or maybe it was the feeling of the book being written only because there was a musical coming out.

Either way, Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life is a good one for an introduction to the man, a place to start learning more.  If you already know a bit about him, then I would suggest moving on to a different book.

 

Would you like to have to chance to read the book for yourself?

 

Blogging For Books sent me an extra book which I am giving away!

As this is my first giveaway on the blog, I am going to keep it simple.  By 12 PM EST of Saturday (April 22), leave a comment below telling me what was the most recent book you read and why you would recommend it (or not).

Using the True Random Number Generator I will choose a winner and post it on Monday the 24th.  You will have till Wednesday to respond or I will choose a new winner. (If you leave your email when you leave a comment, I will email you if you win.)

Please, share this with your friends.  You will not get any extra entries for it (keeping it simple, remember), but I would greatly appreciate it!  I will post it on Facebook and Twitter, which should make sharing it easier. Thank you.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Jan 232017
 

This post contains affiliate links.
5-love-languages-of-children-clean-edgeThere are few books I read during my college years that still stick with me even to this day.  Most were academic in nature, things that I learned but did not affect me personally.  However, during that time I learned about the 5 Love Languages.

How I responded to actions and comments from friends and acquaintances, as well as how I acted towards them, began to change as I began to see them in a new light.  Up till then, I had not even realized my helping set up for a meeting or my willingness to go with them somewhere was how I expressed love.  I had assumed it was the thoughtful thing to do and that everyone did it.

I was wrong.

I learned it was how I showed and received love.  It was the form that spoke strongest to me personally.

Once my  husband and I met, it helped both of us to know our preferred love language.  While our languages are different, we are able to express our feeling in the way the other is most likely to receive it best.  We are also able to give grace when we realize they are not giving us what we need at the moment, because they do not always think the way we do.

While my husband may not always bring me flowers, he does do the dishes at times, or helps clean the kitchen.  Those are the times I feel like he is spoiling me.  He is speaking my language.

When we walk or go somewhere, we hold hands or sit close, and my husband greatly appreciates this. I am speaking his language.

Without knowing these things about ourselves and our spouse, we could have been spinning our wheels sitting in the same room together watching our favorite movies and sending heart felt cards to each other, yet never feeling truly loved.

When we added to our family, we both knew we needed to find our children’s love languages.  The problem was, how?

How do you figure out the love languages of your children when they can not even talk?  Are they the same as the languages of adults?  Are they expressed in the same way?  Do they have a primary language and a secondary language, and do they stay the same as they grow older?

Enter The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The first parts of the book talk about why the showing love is so important in your relationship with your children.  Then a chapter is devoted to each of the various love languages.  If you have never read these books, practice a form of parenting or working with children that has not taken into account what is going on inside them, or are beginning your journey with kids, you will want to spend time in the beginning of this book, considering why this is important.

child shredding zucchini with border

It was interesting to see how these languages are felt and expressed differently in the lives of our children.  Touch, for example, may not mean holding your child’s hand like it would your spouse.  Instead, it might mean touching their back as you walk past them at the dinner table or picking them up to hold them in your lap.  Time might be shown in helping with homework or playing a game.

These love language explanations are followed by the chapter I had been waiting for – Discovering Your Child’s Love Language. Now I could figure out if I needed to keep rubbing George’s back or if Time was his main one and we should bake more together.  Did Jack appreciate me playing games with him or should I continue to do the soft touches on his arms when he sat on my lap? The conclusion?  I should keep doing all of them.

As it turns out, children’s language may change over time.  They do not have a primary one, though they might respond to various languages at different developmental stages.  So, while I will keep rubbing George’s back and playing with his hair (one way we found to almost instantly calm him down), I will keep baking with him and sitting near him for homework.

To be effective in discipline, parents must keep the child’s emotional love tank filled with love.

The next chapters of the 5 Love Languages of Children cover topics related to learning to love your children effectively which I had not thought so much about – Discipline, Learning, and Anger.

I have been told over and over, through our many (foster) parenting classes and books read, discipline is not always a negative thing.  It does not always mean punishment, but instead means guidance and teaching.  It comes from a place of love, not a place of anger and annoyance.  Sometimes easier said than done.  However, I personally have noticed a change in my kids when I make sure to love on them more, or take a deep breath before addressing the situation.  Sometimes a hug or verbal reminder is all they need – “I am right here. Please lower your voice.”  Other times, they do need firm reminders of expected behaviors.  The balance is a tough one to keep at times.

At night time, Jack is still in need of close physical presence, he prefers at least line of sight to an adult; even after 5 years, he does not feel safe.  It had improved to the point of me being able to sit in the living room “drinking coffee”, out of his sight, while he went to sleep; then we moved and progress went backwards at least a year.  I got really annoyed at him last night for disobeying and not staying in bed, responding harsher than I should have.  Once I realized his need and got past my “this is how it should be” thinking, things got better and we all slept (albeit two hours after he his bed time).

One point they make, and where I think some parents go wrong, even I at times, is to make requests instead of commands.  I understand saying “please” always is better then “go do ____”.  Where I used to go wrong, and where I hear other go wrong is saying, “Do you want to go brush your teeth?”  instead of “Please, go brush your teeth.”  The first is truly asking them if they want to or not, so do not get mad if they say “no” and keep playing.  One of my kids would take that question at face value then wonder why you are getting mad at him when he says he does not want to go.  The other child would understand that you really are telling him to go brush his teeth.  When wording something as a request, make sure you are willing to accept a true answer and not just the result you are wishing to obtain.

The same literal child above was reminded last week, that it was time to go and he needed to put on shoes.  The second time I said the same sentence with out any acknowledgment of hearing me I reworded the request into a statement: “We are leaving whether you  have on your shoes or not.  If you do not want your socks to get wet, you need to put on your shoes.” He was over putting on his shoes almost immediately.  No threats, but straight forward fact about the consequences of not doing what was asked.  

Parents who do not take time to speak the five love languages, but simply seed to meet a child’s physical needs, are neglecting her intellectual and social development.

We have seen the results of this in our children.  When they first came to us, their emotional ages were several years behind where they should be.  It was hard to teach them anything as they did not trust us, were hyper-vigilant, etc.  They were focused on surviving and had no mental energy left for learning.

Over time, they have learned to calm down some.  However, they are still anxious.  Anything taught to them during these times may as well be taught to a brick wall.  Their emotional ages,while improving, are still about a year behind, depending external factors and what exactly you are asking them to do (change in schedule vs. deal with a difficult person vs. doing something they would prefer not to be doing, etc.).

The last of these three – love and anger, was a chapter that unfortunately I really needed to read.  With all the changes going on in our home, emotions have been running high.  Anxiousness, sadness, happiness, excitement, nervousness, shyness, uncertainty … all these emotions mixed in with having to schedule appointments, set up services, start new school/church, continue home schooling, leaving an old job, learning a new job, finding your way around a new town, leaving friends, meet new friends, gather paperwork, organize chaos, decide what to keep and what to get rid of, finishing up activities around the house … well, honestly it leads to many days where sadly not everyone responds in the most appropriate of ways.  I see myself referencing back to this chapter in the upcoming months and days, as I am the one to set the example for my kids, helping them walk a path of appropriate handling of anger.

The last two chapters were aimed at the parents reading this book, either single or married.  They covered various aspects of parenting, of being parents, and how it relates to our children and their love/growth.  These chapters held encouragement and tips for creating a solid foundation in us and those around us.

Finally, at the end of the book were several resources: an epilogue, notes from chapters, and The Mystery Game for parents to play with their kids in order to help them determine the child’s love language.

begin to build bat house collage

One of the things I have liked best about this book are the practical examples and solutions presented. These examples helped me visualize what was being talked about, seeing ways to apply it in our home.

Another aspect I appreciated is actually something that is missing – a new parenting style.  The point of the book seemed to focus more on the relational side of parenting your children, rather than telling you how to raise them.

If you have previously read another version of The 5 Love Languages, then you will see some repeat, especially in the first few chapters.  The parts I found to be different or specific were the application area, or how it is expressed.

In the end I was glad I read this book.  It is a great addition to some of the other parenting books we have read and our (imperfect) method of parenting.  The 5 Love Languages of Children was also a great encouragement to keep moving forward even if we are not perfect in our parenting, especially because we are not.