Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blogging Giveaway: The Quest

It has been a while since I've offered a blogging giveaway. Having just finished reading Bob Hostetler's novel, The Quest, I would like to offer it up to some lucky reader. You can read my review here.

To enter this blogging giveaway, simply leave a reply on this post with your name and contact information. I will allow for one week of entries and then will draw a name (from a hat) on next Saturday, February 4th. (Sorry, USA entries only.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review: The Quest

I'll never forget the first time I met Bob Hostetler. I was at a writing conference at Wheaton College and working on an assignment to create a back cover for a possible book I might write. In my credentials, I mentioned having published an article in the British War Cry. As I showed my blurb to the instructor, he commented that I didn't need to identify it as the "British" War Cry. I went on to inform him that there were two different versions of this Salvation Army periodical. He replied, "I know. I was the editor at one time." Yowch! Immediately, the name clicked for me and I asked if he was related to my friend, Larry Hostetler. Indeed, he was a brother.

He urged me to try to connect with him on a more personal level during the conference. Of course, this was quite difficult. Every meal found him surrounded by delegates who really deserved his attention for writing-related questions. We did snag a few moments and then wrote a few limited letters back and forth.

It was a joy to meet him and to discover his excellent blog, The Desperate Pastor. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning of how he came to write his first book. He wrote from experience. His mother passed away when he was still young and during his high school years, he spent a good deal of time ditching school to hole up and read at home. This proved the impetus for a book about a good kid who develops a reputation for going AWOL in his book, They Called Me AWOL. It was a fun read and one I would highly recommend to teens.

For Christmas, I requested his most recent novel, The Quest. Bob has spent a fair amount of time working on books of Christian apologetics with fellow apologist, Josh McDowell. Their popular young adult book, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, has recently been re-released. For this recent novel, he worked with Josh McDowell's son, Sean McDowell. Their premise is simple: "Everyone is searching. Not everyone knows it."

In The Quest, twenty-three year old Emma Seeger finds herself thrust into an unexpected journey when her father mysteriously disappears in Israel. She must work together with her despised step-mother (who took her father away by leading him to convert to Christianity, marrying him and dragging him off to Israel to work for a Christian mission). Emma doesn't want a thing to do with Christianity, but finds herself on a spiritual journey in the midst of her quest to find her father.

With a fast-paced plot, well-drawn characters, and plenty of intellectual arguments for the faith, The Quest is an excellent book for anyone questioning the existence of God and His plan for mankind. The book argues for intelligent design and the validity of the Bible. Although aimed at young adults, the story can be appreciated by all ages. If you find yourself asking how a person could believe in the existence of God or trust the Bible for evidence of His plan, then this would be a valuable read.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: A Perfect Mess

When I read David Allen's book, Getting Things Done, I concluded that I really should get my act together and get more organized so that I could accomplish more in life. I typically fall prey to that theory society touts of organization leading to greater success. Now, I've discovered the flip side of those arguments.

In A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder: how crammed closets, cluttered offices, and on-the-fly planning make the world a better place, authors Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman have compiled loads of examples of instances where clutter and disorganization actually serve to make a person more effective. Although they are not advocating a slide into complete disorder, the authors clearly alleviate the guilt messy, undisciplined individuals are likely to feel over the mess they seem incapable of avoiding.

I don't know how many times, I have tried to get a handle on my piles of clutter and after organizing them and placing things where I think they belong, I discover that I cannot locate something which would have easily been located if the mess had merely been left alone. Despite the appearance of disarray, there is obviously a method to my madness and this book articulates clearly why those methods work for messy individuals. The case studies supporting the hidden benefits of mess were fascinating and comprehensive. These authors left no stone unturned. As the back cover description states, "Drawing on examples from business, parenting, cooking, the war on terrorism, retail, and even the meteoric career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, coauthors Abrahamson and Freedman demonstrate that moderately messy systems use resources more efficiently, yield better solutions, and are harder to break than neat ones."

I'm so glad to have found this book. I feel vindicated. My lack of an organized system is no better or worse than my husband's hyper-vigilant organizational methods ... just different. When I try to force myself into his mold, I am paralyzed. When he tries to use my methods, he feels intense anxiety. So, if you are a person who agonizes over your inability to get your act together and organize your life or your environs, agonize no more. Allow your clutter and mess to work for you and admire the creativity that flows when the mess is kept to a moderate level but not eliminated entirely.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: Sing Them Home

While this was not a bad book ... the plot was interesting and engrossing, the characters were well-defined and the writing was, at times, beautifully lyrical ... it was just not as wholesome as I'd have liked. A Library Journal review snippet on the back cover asserts that the author shows her characters' "failings as they stumble, in a realistic and satisfying manner, toward better selves." I'm afraid I didn't see the characters necessarily become better. Plus, I was uncomfortable with the number of sexual exploits revealed in the book. I don't need that part of life in a book at all, unless it is absolutely necessary for the plot (which, in this case, I don't think it truly was, apart from establishing the relationship of the deceased with his mistress).

It was the description of the plot that enticed me into the story and, despite considering setting the book aside several time, kept me plowing through. Set in the state of Nebraska, Sing Them Home tells the tale of the Jones siblings who have been devastated already once by the disappearance of their mother during a particularly violent tornado in 1978. The story in the town is legend, but the children still have unresolved feelings about this event, even years later. Now, their father has suddenly died, in a storm, and they all begin to process this present grief along with the grief for their mother.

I enjoyed reading the fascinating cultural descriptions of the Welsh community in this small town of Emlyn Springs, Nebraska. The process of grief was also interesting to observe. However, I really couldn't appreciate the promiscuity and lack of morals in the characters. If I hadn't been connected enough to care about the resolution of what truly happened to their mother, I would not have continued reading.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Scorpion Sucker

I almost forgot to post this until I saw the pictures in my camera. By far the most interesting Christmas present Trevor received this year was a scorpion sucker. We all cringed when we learned that he ate the whole thing - scorpion and all! I thought perhaps the scorpion would be encased in some plastic, but no, it was actually the middle of the sucker, just like a disgusting version of the Tootsie Pop!

Nothing says "Merry Christmas," like a scorpion sucker!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I'll Take the Pee Splatters

Last night, at my book club meeting, several of the women began discussing the fine art of teaching your children to take on chores. One woman regaled us with hilarious descriptions of her daughters' slovenly habits. Apparently, their hair bands are strewn around the bathroom and hair clumps are everywhere. Band-aids are dropped wherever they are removed. Recently, the girls came to their mother to complain that the shower wasn't draining. At her wits' end, this mother introduced her daughters to the Zip-It. (I loved that this link showed a line of stockings all filled with Zip-its.) The story was side-splitting as this mother acted out the girls' disdain for the clumps of hairballs they dug out.

As much as I enjoyed the laughter, today I am counting my blessings. Yes, there are pee splatters around my toilets almost constantly, but I'll take that any day over endless clumps of hair and hair accoutrements. Sometimes we mothers-of-boys have to remind ourselves that the drops of urine are easily wiped up quickly with a Clorox wipe! Perhaps my boys' stockings should have been filled with wipes containers and a package of Fruit Loops - the perfect tool for perfecting aim!

Of course, I still need to do a better job of passing on the responsibilities of cleaning the bathrooms (we have FOUR and they tend to all be in use throughout the day). Perhaps if they were required to do the daily Clorox wipe-down, they might work on their aim a bit. Hopefully, they'll learn better aim and cleaning habits before they meet and marry some beautiful, slovenly long-haired beauty ... or they'll both have trouble. Ha!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book Review: In the Company of Others

Although I have heard of the Mitford series books, I have never before tried a Jan Karon book. While I found it slow-going at the beginning, I'm glad I persevered with this book. By the end, I felt like part of the community of characters and cried over the trials and tribulations they experienced.

The story follows Episcopal priest Tim Kavanagh as he journeys with his wife, Cynthia, to Ireland for a bit of vacation time. It seems their trip is doomed from the start with difficulties in scheduling. When an intruder startles Cynthia, she injures her leg, leaving them tied down to the small inn they have been staying in. Shortly after that, a beloved painting goes missing. The two get caught up in the mystery, while also getting caught up in reading an old diary from years gone by.

The book had an excellent message, but the message was secondary to the story. In the midst of a wonderfully woven tale, Karon manages to impart words of wisdom and encouragement to the reader. I was especially struck by the message of hope voiced in a passage where an alcoholic elderly woman is recounting to Cynthia how she has tried to keep her sisters and mother alive:

Cynthia states, "It's very wrong to keep the dead alive, for it keeps us from living truly. You must forgive yourself, Evelyn."

E: "I cannot."

C: "You must forgive God."

E: "I cannot."

C: "You cannot have peace without forgiveness."

E: "I do not deserve peace."

C: "It's what God wants us to have."

E: "Does God ask me what I want him to have? I want him to have pity, to have mercy, and the common decency to give us a life without struggle and disgrace."

C: "Oh, my. We can forget that last notion. He is formed, himself, of the greatest pity and mercy, but without struggle and even disgrace, how would we ever know him, run to him, seek his refuge? We would not."

That passage alone did my heart and soul good. As the front cover suggests, "Set against the music of Irish song and storytelling, In the Company of Others reminds us of our desperate need to be heard and the reconciliation that comes with confession." This was a very worthwhile read.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Top Ten Reads in 2011

Having read so many more books than I usually do this year, I was expecting the choice of the top ten to be difficult. Thankfully, as I went through the list, the following ten popped out as stand-outs:

  1. Power of the Powerless, by Christopher de Vinck - Although this was a second reading of this book, it still stands as such an emotionally edifying read for me. DeVinck's words are lyrical and his message is profound.

  2. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson - What a well-written and intense book this was. A must-read for young adults!

  3. Life Without Limits, by Nick Vujicic - The man with no arms and no legs certainly has no difficulties in spreading his message of empowerment and encouragement.

  4. Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo - This amazing story of four year old Colton Burpo's experience with death and a brief visit to heaven is sure to provide encouragement to those who've lost a child and remind Christian readers that they really are destined for a place of majesty with the Lord for intense purposes.

  5. One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp - While Ann Voskamp has lived a life touched by sadness and pain, she learned much when she attempted to make a list of one thousand gifts she recognized in her life. I learned much through her attempt as well.

  6. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett - This was a book from my book group and not only was the read fun, but it was even more fun going to see the movie with other ladies who had read the book along with me.

  7. Still Alice, by Lisa Genova - This book really got me thinking about what makes a person who he is and the whole idea of losing one's identity (in this case, to Alzheimer's disease).

  8. Minding Frankie, by Maeve Binchy - I've long been a Binchy fan. She peoples her books with such realistic characters that the reader feels like they have actually stepped into her Irish setting.

  9. Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger - Although this read wasn't as amazing as her first book, The Time-Traveller's Wife, it was still an epic tale with interesting characters and a location I could love.

  10. The Whole-Brain Child, by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson - This book was helpful for raising well-rounded and well-adjusted kids as well as for dealing with a host of issues adults experience in life. It was easy to read, held excellent examples and many tools for practical use.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shattering the Hall of Mirrors

I'm on a journey back to God. He didn't leave me, but I certainly walked away from Him. I allowed a few significant life experiences to alienate me from the Lord and from several of His people (whose responses to my trials felt very un-Christlike). I entered a wilderness time and reacted much like the Israelites, with complaints about His provisions and doubt that His intentions were reliable on my behalf.

For quite a while, I've wanted to return, but the chasm seemed impassable. I think the thing that bridged that mighty gap was my return to Scripture. At the end of our CBLI encampment this year, I purchased a new NIV Bible. My old one had pretty much fallen apart (from previous use, not recent use). The prospect of a fresh clean Bible and a conviction that I really was neglecting the Word (one of several convictions resulting from an excellent course on Titus, taught by Linda Himes) propelled me into a commitment to read through the entire Bible and underline any verses which held significant meaning for me.

After finishing the NIV version, I decided to read the New Testament in The Message version. I have never read The Message version and must say that, so far, Romans has been my favorite. For today's reading, chapters 8 - 14, the section opened with the title "The Solution is Life on God's Terms." How true!

Several verses jumped out at me: "Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God," "I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times," "refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it," and "No one who trusts God... - heart and soul - will ever regret it."

It goes on to say of the loyal to the Lord, "They're holding on, not because of what they think they're going to get out of it, but because they're convinced of God's grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago." In describing those who fail to hold on, it says, "The 'self-interest Israel' became thick-skinned toward God. Moses and Isaiah both commented on this: 'Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways, God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears, Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors, and they're there to this day.'"

And I believe that is where I have been - trapped in a hall of mirrors, seeing only myself and the hardships I have been called upon to face. My eyes have blurred to His love and my ears have dulled to His voice. I began to convince myself that He really wasn't there, or if He was it was only in the shadows. What I didn't recognize was the focus of my perspective. I didn't know I was in a hall of mirrors.

Now, I'm determined to shatter that hall of mirrors. Just as I said focusing on losses deprives one of hope and joy, focusing on myself and the hardships of life causes me to be deprived of a closeness to my Maker, who is standing, anxious to call me back to Himself.

Another meaningful verse: "In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in." God persists in testing us and wooing us.

But my focus has to return to God, not away from myself and onto others. When I was living briefly in England, I was asked to give a devotional to the Upper Norwood Band (amazing, really, given that I was a woman and a very young person). In that devotional, I compared our walk with God to being a bandsmen. We cannot blindly play the part we think we're supposed to play. And we cannot listen to those around us to determine whether we are on the mark. The very best that we can do is to play our part, to the best of our ability, while focusing on the conductor of the music. Ignoring the conductor or focusing on the sounds of those around us both fall short of creating the best music.

With the father of the boy healed by Jesus in Mark 9:24, I say, "I believe. Help thou, my unbelief." I say, "shatter my personal hall of mirrors. Lift my eyes from myself and others and focus them on You."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Books Read in 2011

This post is primarily for my own benefit and the benefit of my mother (who likes to keep the list of books I read in the past year). So, here is a list of the books I read in 2011. I think this was my most productive year ever, in terms of reading. I normally read between 30 and 40 books a year. For some reason, my appetite was ravenous in 2011.

We'll see what happens in 2012. I am planning to resume writing a personal journal, so this may take up more time than I used to spend and it may also diminish the number of blog posts I write. However, I think it will be beneficial, despite less reading and blogging.

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
The Red Suit Diaries by Ed Butchart
Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson
Follow the Star by T.D. Jakes
The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson and Richad DiLallo
A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck
Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks
The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD
Dancing with Rose by Lauren Kessler
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff
Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret
Are You in the House Alone? by Richard Peck
Don't Say I Didn't Warn You by Anita Renfroe
Till Death Do Us Bark by Kate Klise
A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White
The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg
Cries of the Heart by Ravi Zacharias
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge
Dracula by Bram Stoker
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Sunflower by Richard Paul Evans
Saving Alice by David Lewis
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith
Healing Sands by Nancy Rue & Stephen Arterburn
The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime ed. by Michael Sims
The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith
Grounded by Kate Klise
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
The Ride of Our Lives by Mike Leonard
Healing Stones by Nancy Rue & Stephen Arterburn
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic
Hormones: Don't Let Them Ruin Your Life by Dr. Sandra Cabot
The Seventeen Second Miracle by Jason F. Wright
God's Forever Feast by Dr. Paul Brand
Healing Waters by Nancy Rue & Stephen Arterburn
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin
Inside Narnia by Devin Brown
Andy Miller: A Legend and a Legacy by Henry Gariepy
The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis
The Power of the Powerless by Christopher de Vinck
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens

Book reviews for each of these books can be found by simply entering the title in the search box at the top of my blog.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Counting Up Losses

In the past month, we have been racking up losses left and right. It is a source of real discouragement for me. Some of these losses are small, but some are rather large. Some were poor investments. Some were careless losses. Each of them provides its own sting.

Recent toy purchases have ranked in as losses. It seems so difficult to guage what toys will hold up to my boys' sometimes less than careful use. There's the small motorcycle set which broke while Sean was showing them at sharing time at school. Two different 3-D shark models, whose fins snapped off within hours of opening. A window cling art kit which fell to pieces immediately upon completion. Hex bugs whose battery life was exhausted after only a few days' worth of playing time.

My favorite purchase of all this Christmas had to be the Smart Lab's Weird and Wacky Contraption Lab. It is basically a kit for creating your own Rube Goldberg machine. While it was a big hit, the pieces are all small and easily broken and the velcro board backing material is already pulling off the wall where they are supposed to mount the individual motion-creating pieces. Will it endure much more use? Time will tell. For the price, one would certainly hope to get more than a few weeks' worth of play out of the toy.

Then there are the losses due to carelessness. Trevor received quite a few small Gogos Crazy Bones for Christmas (one of his latest fixations) to add to his growing collection. He took them to school (against parental advice) and after showing them around on the bus, placed them in his backpack in the cubby at school. No doubt, you can imagine what happened. They have disappeared. Gone in an instant. Also, Bryce left his special calculator in a class at school and is now in need of a replacement.

Finally, there are the losses due to bad investments. A while back, I wrote a post about the purchase of the nail buffing kit. At the outset, I declared that I'm a natural sort of girl. I rarely wear make-up or do my nails. Yet, I was hooked in. I took the bait. It sounded so appealing that with minimal effort I could have shiny, well-groomed nails. However, I have only used the nail buffer and cuticle oil ONCE. It isn't that it is time-consuming. I just don't bother taking the time. Plus, I managed to drop the entire container of cuticle oil on the floor, watching it shatter and imagining the number of dollars I wiped up with paper towels.

Lured by a special coupon and sale at J.C. Penney, I purchased not one, but four new bras. I was assisted by the sales clerk and at the time, really felt that we had landed on a good-fitting bra. They only had one available in my size, but she assured me that we could place the order and I would still secure the "buy two get two free" deal. I have been wearing the new bra and have discovered that the fit isn't as good as I had thought. Now instead of having made one poor investment, it feels terrible to have made four bad investments in that area.

But the largest disappointment in my life right now has to be the expensive new mattress set we purchased just prior to my family's annual Christmas visit. We had decided to get rid of the mis-matched twin beds in the guest room and purchased a lovely used queen headboard. Our plan was to shift our old mattress set into the guest room and purchase a nice new set for our own bed.

Alas, this purchase has felt devastating. You spend one third of your life in bed. I crave good sleep. I abhor back pain. Unfortunately, I think we were in a hurry to just get the job done. We had been to one other store, where I had marveled at the cushiony feel of the Tempur-pedic beds. My husband declared he probably couldn't sleep on something that conformed to his body. Thus, we walked into American Mattress, laid down on the first bed the sales clerk directed us to and after briefly trying two others, determined that the first set was the one for us.

Of course, then came the haggling. I was hoping to spend around $700. My husband was willing to go higher since "a good bed is so important." In the end, the sales clerk sold us the floor model for $1300, six hundred dollars less than the indicated price. We felt we had just secured a really good deal: a high quality Sealy mattress for hundreds of dollars less than the display cost.

We eagerly awaited the delivery of our new mattress set. But, the very first night, I knew the problem was going to be great. It felt like sleeping on a brick. I barely slept and when I woke, I felt stiff and achy. I immediately reported my displeasure to my husband. He felt the bed was fine. He declared that he can sleep on pretty much anything (excepting, of course, a tempur-pedic mattress - ha). After several days of really hating this bed, he suggested I wait it out and then return to the store to refamiliarize myself with their "comfort-guarantee policy."

So, what is their comfort-guarantee policy? I have to sleep on the bed for two weeks and then I have up until the one month point to request an exchange. The hitch? I can only exchange UP. I cannot select a cheaper model and just eat the loss. No, I have to purchase a MORE EXPENSIVE mattress set and pay the difference in price. The clerk showed me the next level up and it would require paying an additional $600 to what we already paid. There was no way I could do that and even if I did, there's no guarantee that the more expensive bed would be any easier to sleep on. So, at this point, we feel stuck. We plan to move the uncomfortable mattress to the guest room (we already have too infrequent a need for the guest room - I would love to have more visitors - and now they'll be anxious to leave once they arrive because of the poor sleep they will experience while here - sob). We've talked about trying to sell the mattress set, but I'm not sure we want people trooping through our home to view a potential purchase. We are, indeed, between a rock and a HARD PLACE!

So, I've been mulling over what to do with the extreme discouragement these losses have wrought in me. The only thing I can come up with is to eat the losses and cling to material things less vehemently. "It is only money," I try to tell myself. Some days this argument works. Some days I still feel pangs of disappointment. I don't want to tally up the actual financial cost of all these losses. It would devastate me. Instead, I want to learn something from it. I want to take away some sort of life lesson.

I don't think I'll be able to fully avoid further losses like this. In some ways, they are inevitable. Things will break or be lost. What seems like a good investment at the time, will, upon reflection, be shown to be a poor investment. So the best I can do is to weigh things as carefully as possible before purchase and then accept the losses when they come.

In fact, instead of focusing on the losses, I think I should probably shift my perspective. We were recently watching the movie "Soul Surfer." The youth pastor shows the youth group a series of slides and asks them to identify what turns out to be a fly's eye or a walnut. She encourages them to gain perspective by stepping away from the immediate appearance. Indeed, we watched Bethany Hamilton gain the perspective she so desperately needed. She had lost one arm, while the people of Thailand had lost home and loved ones in a devastating tsunami.

I am choosing to learn her lesson. I have so much to be grateful for. The very fact that we could afford to plunk down $1300 on a mattress set is alone cause for rejoicing, regardless of the fact that we may be sleeping on our same old set for years to come. Our children have more toys than they really need. Perhaps the new owners of the Gogos and calculator needed them more than we did. Who knows. But, I'm ready to let go of these losses and move on. Clinging was just wrecking my mood.

In light of more significant losses, like the loss of your child's health or life, my losses are extremely minimal and pointless to grieve. But they are still losses and I will still grieve them. I just don't want the grief to overwhelm me and suck my hope and joy.

I follow several families battling the devastation of cancer. Recently, Coleman Larson's family observed the three year anniversary of his death. Even though I don't know them personally, in sharing in their journey and supporting them in prayer, I feel some small modicum of their loss. What always amazes and inspires me is that they choose to cling to hope and daily battle for the best perspective. Yet, I've also watched other families who choose to wear their loss as a badge of distinction - basically declaring "noone else's loss is as devastating as mine and therefore I will remain here in the trenches of despair and refuse to go on because my child was ripped out of my hands before their time." Living in the constant light of loss rips all possibilities of joy and fulfillment from a person.

Although I've lost a child, in miscarriage, my loss is nothing compared to these losses. But I think the method for dealing with loss remains the same. We all face losses of some kind or other, be they big or small. It is what we do with the loss that determines our ability to go on and to cling to hope and faith.

I am hoping for a change in fortune in this coming year. Scripture mentions that there is a time for loss and a time for gain. Would that 2012 reveal itself to be full of equally significant gains to cover those losses we've experienced in the past month. I would wish the same for anyone facing loss, be it small or great (like the anticipated loss of a loved one I am watching for a family we vaguely knew when we lived back in DeKalb). Their loss, at this point, is inevitable. I pray that God would comfort them in their extreme, unspeakable loss and provide them with a time of gain and the ability to retain hope and joy in the midst of their suffering.

Loss is a fact of life. Our perspective in the face of loss is our choice. Thankfully, life isn't limited to this realm alone. There is a future where these momentary losses will be far obscured. I'm clinging to that hope, that future and trying to cling less to the losses of the here and now. I'm trying to claim Bethany Hamilton's life lesson and focus on what I do have rather than what I've lost. Even though my losses are small, in light of life and death, some days I live out the lesson better than others. Now that I've counted up my minimal losses, I'm going to let them go and try to change my perspective so that I can cling to hope and joy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Review: Before I Go to Sleep

I had read that this was a book that couldn't be put down. I waited weeks on the library's waiting list. When it finally came, and I had time for reading, I read it in the space of 24 hours! It was truly a page-turner. However, my feelings about the book are mixed.

The premise was an interesting one. Christine Lucas suffers from a particular form of amnesia. Every night when she goes to sleep, her memory of her life is erased. She awakens each day with only the memories of her childhood. She cannot remember what happened the day before. Her husband must walk her through her identity and her life's activities. He has placed photographs on the bathroom mirror which identify Christine and Ben, himself, as her husband. Every day he explains to her that she lost her memories when she suffered severe head trauma from an accident. However, as she begins to work with Dr. Nash on keeping a journal of what memories she can access, she begins to realize that her husband is not providing her with the truth.

While it was an interesting idea to explore - the loss of memory and how that shatters one's sense of self and even expectations for a future - it was also tiresome to have to review and repeat the same thing over and over (as it, no doubt, would be to someone who actually suffers from this type of ailment - an actual possibility, since the author attributes the idea to association with real amnesiac patients). Still, I did continue to read on awaiting the solution of what the real truth was and the revelation of what caused Christine to enter this state in the first place.

I still cannot say that I liked it as well as many other reviews I had encountered. It was good, but a bit tedious at times. Given this is a first novel, I'd have to extend kudos to the author for a valiant effort and a stimulating plot idea. The writing is easy to read and the pace sensible. I just didn't find it to be one of my favorites. I suppose it was compelling, but not redemptive in its take-away.