Friday, March 20, 2015

He's 25!

 
 

 

Happy 25th Birthday, Benjamin!


Oh my! You're 25! Amazing! Where has the time gone? Words will never be able to adequately express how blessed your dad and I are to have you as our son. We are proud of your accomplishments, but truly it's the person that you are that makes us the most proud. We love you, always, to the moon and back again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Journal to Myself.....going on record

 
 

March 5, 2015


The last 3-plus years have been full of stress, ups and downs and emotions. Maybe more downs than ups? We do not sit and dwell on it all. That does no good. But it was there, and it's still there, the stress.


Marriage is hard, and it's not pretty. It's stressful. It takes comittment to push through the deep valleys. That's where the convenant aspect takes over. The covenant is so important, not sure how many people truly understand the covenant that takes place in marriage. I didn't, but I have been learning. And now, that I have learned about what covenants (not just in marriage) really mean via a Bible study, my eyes and understanding have opened greatly. Parenting is also hard, and it's not pretty all the time, and sometimes it is flat out exhausting. Both parenting and marriage are worth the exhaustion, and stress and deep valleys. But wow, when your in those deep valley type moments, we can certainly flub up. I did. These phases are rough to walk through especially when I am relying on my own strength, and human desires and efforts. I learned that lesson in a very hard way.



This morning, I was pondering the stress of our lives; our marriage and our children. Don't get me wrong, these kids of ours are incredible human beings. I am forever grateful for their presence in our lives. But you know, the true fact, parenting is a constant act of serving,and sacrifice on some level or another. It's a balancing act of not over-serving their needs and sacrificing all of our needs. It's a balancing act of serving them while also raising them to be independent. It's a balancing act of loving them in gentle ways, truthful ways, and in discipline.


When you have a child of higher need than typical, the stress-load increases ten-fold. I am told that our "normal" for daily stress is far greater than the "normal" for raising typical children. I don't know if that is true or not. What I do know is that our daily life is at a high level of stress and that's our normal. There is very little down-time from it. It's a true fact.


 
 

Our 11-year old boy requires constant daily supervision; there's a lot involved in which he requires both physical and mental energy on our part. We carefully, and intentionally carve out time to go out on our bike rides or for dinner. Creating this time adds another stress to the daily-ness of our lives with raising him, but it's a necessary stress.


While pondering this morning, I realized that I do not say this out loud nearly enough: Robert is a wonderful and an incredibly fantastic father.



The girls can count on their Dad without a question. The boys can count on him too. He loves them and has concern over their well-being. For our 11-year old boy, he is always caring for him, and is actively involved in his daily life especially when I am not around. When I am at work, and Robert is home, I have no worries over the children. He does errands for them, and runs them to places where they need to be. He knows our son's needs which includes the names and dosages of his medications amongst other details.


Far too often, especially when I am overwhelmed, I pick on the things Robert does not do or does not see. The truth is this, his weaknesses are my strengths and my weaknesses are his strengths. I could not parent these children alone. I could not parent our 11-year old boy alone. And if I had to, it would be an enormous and an incredibly hard task. A task that I do not want to take on.



We have determined that our level of stress, specifically with raising our 11-year old boy, has reached an over-saturated point. How to lower the saturation level is our question at hand. While we wait for an answer, I need to remember how fortunate I am to have a father for my children who is so active and present in their lives. I need to remember how much he does for our 11-year old son while also doing many things for our other children. I need to remember that my strengths help his weaknesses, and his strengths help my weaknesses. I need to remember we compliment each other, and that we do support each other's strengths. I am thankful.



But here is the other thing, both Robert and I put our hopes in the Lord. Without our hope in Christ, we would be having an even more difficult time with this over-saturated stress phase that we are currently living. I am so thankful that both Robert and I have this hope. As we wait on the Lord, we have hope. We have the strength of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is because of God that Robert and I are willing to compliment one another's strengths and weaknesses.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Journal to Myself.....many things

 
 

January 17, 2015


Many things, there are so many things running around in my mind. So many thoughts, things to accomplish, dates to remember, responsiblilities needing to be tended to, ideas, conversations, etc....all of it is swirling around.


So many things to talk about, to discuss, to come to an understanding....yet, these things I keep inside waiting for the opportunities or not.


Many things are needing to get out of my head and into writing. What is it about writing that is so incredibly therapeutic in some shape or form?


I have several blog posts sitting in my mind needing to be put into written words. Several posts will remain unpublished; too intimate for the blog. For those writings I am finding it beneficial to "publish" them into my journal. Yet, while it's beneficial it is still lacking a bit for some of my thoughts. Conversations are needed or maybe it's the need for me to wait. For the other posts, the ones not as intimate, I do plan on actually publishing them here on the blog. Motivation for blog writing is needed. Well, not so much motivation but rather getting through those moments when I freeze up. Anyone else freeze up with writing blog drafts?


Two posts will be written and published before end of January; My Favorite Books Read 2014 and My Word of the Year 2015.


Hopefully many more blog posts will be published over the course of 2015.




 

 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Journal to Myself.....stretch marks

 

January 8, 2015



Stretch marks; I have them.


There a lot of creams and lotions on the market that promises to diminish or even get rid of them. The marketing is telling women that we should not like our stretch marks. Apparently, it seems that many women believe the marketing. I see these creams in many of my patient's bathrooms, not all.


I have not given my stretch marks much thought until this morning.


This morning, I was struck by a thought --- I like my stretch marks. I like them.


This thought came to me while I was looking at my body before my shower. Some days, it is a brief glance and other days it's a skewed inspection, and today it was a breathing in of wonder.


The wonder that my body participated in giving life to six beautiful souls. That is wondrous. My stretch marks are an outward, physical testament to these amazing events that my body participated in; the giving of life. Remarkable.


Stretch marks, I have them. I really like them. I find them to be beautiful. They remind me to not lose my wonder. I breathed it in this morning.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand {book & movie}



 

"The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer."



Unbroken

by Laura Hillenbrand
copyright: 2010
pages: 407
format: paperback
source: own
Read Aloud with the Spouse


Finished reading..... December 12, 2014


Description: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.


First Sentence: All he could see, in every direction, was water.



My Thoughts: This book...this book...I cannot say enough good things about this book, Unbroken. It was gripping. It was engaging. It was heartbreaking. There was hope.


My husband and I read this book together; I read it aloud to him. It took us four months, and only because our scheduling and sleep interfered. But every time we picked the book back up to read, we were immediately whisked into Louie Zamperini's life. If I were reading the book by myself, it would not have taken me long to finish because I would have had a heck of time putting it down. Reading to myself is far less strenuous than reading aloud. Sometimes, I struggled with reading aloud because I was overtaken by emotion. Other times, the intensity of the story was too much that I had to scan a few lines ahead before I could speak the words. Unbroken truly was a an engaging story.


My husband and I were both mesmerized and horrified, and left the book with complete awe. We realized how little we knew about the Pacific theater of World War II; such a horrible shame our lack of knowledge. The history stunned us, especial how the POWs were treated by the Japanese. We were stunned by the "kill-all order". We were horrified to learn of the price paid by the American airmen; shoddy planes were flown, poor planning for emergencies, high death toll, many died in non-combat missions, etc. We were in admiration for those who served, for the comradere and for how the POWs worked together to maintain their dignity in any scrap of a way that they could. These men were courageous. You cannot come away from this book without admiring their courage, and determination. You cannot come away from this book unaffected.


Louie Zamperini, oh my. I greatly admire this man. All that encompassed his life leading to the end of the book truly left me in awe of his survival, resilience and redemption. And yes, those three words (survival, resilience and redemption) are part of the subtitle for the book and accurately describe Zamperini's story. I don't want to give away much of his life because I really want others to read this book. I want this book to tell the story and not me. I want this book to peel back the layers of Zamperini's life. I want this book to impact you as it did us. But let me tell you, this man - Louie Zamperini - is truly a man to admire. But let me also tell you, he is a man to admire not just because of his resilience, and ability to survive incredible horrors, but also because of his redemption story. Without the redemptive part, Louie may be just like any other POW survivor. But he was redeemed, and it was this that powerfully changed his life for the better. This powerful change had a ripple down effect of changing other people's lives. And that is the most amazing part of the story. I will leave it there because to say more would peel back the layers that this book beautifully portrayed.


The author. It would be remiss of me to not mention how impressed, amazed and in awe I am of Laura Hillenbrand. In order to write a biography in a way that engages the reader from the first page to the last requires the author to have an amazing command of her subject. The magnitude of Louie's life is felt in part due to Hillenbrand's significant indepth research and ability to craft together in written word this man's life. This biography reads like a story; a powerful one. I truly am in awe.


The Bottom Line: Unbroken --- Louie Zamperini -- made a huge impact on us in many ways. This is a must read book for society now and for generations to come. The writing is beyond superb. The story is gripping, intense, sobering, emotional and full of hope. Louie Zamperini's story is truly a story about survival, resilience and redemption. Robert and I both left the story humbled, and in awe. We both did not want it to end. And we both were extremely glad that we finished the last few chapters outdoors in the crisp air as one chapter in particular made tears stream down my face and choked up Robert. Unbroken is not a story to miss reading.



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The movie...... {release date: 12/25/14, rated PG13, runtime 137 minutes}


 

I want to make quick mention about the movie. Robert and I viewed the movie late Christmas night. It was an excellent way to end our Christmas celebrations. We invested months into reading about Louie's life. We could not pass up the movie. I was worried about being able to visually handle the intense and abusive POW camp moments. I was relieved to find that watching these scenes was easier than I thought....easier but not easy. Then again, I am very squeamish when it comes to watching anything much more than a rated G movie -- violence for the most part. We appreciated the flashbacks into Louie's life. I think that benefited the movie's storytelling. As with any book made into a movie, the movie will never be able to give all the details - we did a lot of filling in the details in our minds as we watched. And there is such a thing called creative license. With both those things in mind, I think the movie did a very good with Unbroken (the book). I liked the actor who portrayed Louie, he did a great job. I was a little taken aback by some of the scenes with Watanabe. He was an intensely cruel man, and I think some of the scenes tried to soften him to the viewer or at least that's how it came off to me. All in all, we thought the movie was good, and we are glad we saw it. BUT, do know, it is very much incomplete. That is best way to say it....incomplete. The movie tried to sum up Louie's life after the war in a few black screen shots with an epilogue type writing. I have to give it credit for that. But still....it is incomplete which in turn truly missed the mark on the redemption aspect of Louie's life which is really why the man was Unbroken. Still....I am glad the movie was made. I am glad that many others will have the chance to have an inkling of an understanding of a man full of resilience and who survived insurmountable circumstances.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Firebird by Susanna Kearsely

 

 

"Each choice we make has an effect for good or ill, for all we may not yet perceive it at the time."



Firebird
by Susanna Kearsley
copyright: 2013
pages: 544
format: ebook
source: library


Finished reading..... August 22, 2014



Description: Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable. Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.



First Sentence: He sent his mind in search of me that morning.



My thoughts: This book is exactly what I love about Kearsley's writing. Two strong storylines; the past and the present which are woven believable together. The characters carry their own; believable. From the start, I became invested in the characters lives. The tensions were felt acutely. Every element in this story seriously worked for me.


The history was fascinating; not only was there Scottish history there was also Russian history and I was mesmerized by every bit of it. The way it was told made it very real and present. The history within this story was also a part of the history woven into Kearsley's The Winter Sea, which I absolutely loved. A few elements from Shadowy Horses was also mixed into this story, mainly Rob and his abilities. At first I was not sure how I would feel about characters from Shadowy Horses and Winter Sea mixed into this story, but I found that I loved it. The prior characters made sense in this story; they fit. I am sure Firebird read with more intrigue because I already knew the past characters; their roles within Firebird added depth. And while Firebird is a stand alone book, I do think a reader will gain far more from it's story if they're already familiar with the other two.


I was immediately pulled into this story, Nicola was believable and likable. Her journey rang true for me. I was definitely immersed into her world; her fears, her hesitancy, her desire....all of that. Then there is Rob. Man, at first I wasn't so sure because when I last me him he was a young boy. But wow, Kearsley matured him and the character he grew into was admirable....he endeared himself to me. An aspect that I appreciate about kearsley's storytelling is the love interests that she places within the pages. Even those love interests that fell a bit short for me where written with a tension that revealed itself but did not flaunt.


The relationship between Nicola and Rob never felt forced, or rushed....it developed with the right balance. There is nothing gratuitous about the relationship between Nicola and Rob, the author did a superb job. But it wasn't just Nicola and Rob that held my attention, it was also those from the past. The characters carried their own; they're believable. Both worlds, and those who lived in them captured my attention completely.


Seriously, the two storylines --- the present and the past --- were so well written. They flowed back & forth smoothly. I would be remiss to not mention the actual plot itself was riveting. That is another beauty of Kearsley's writing; she has this knack to keep the reader in the dark with wanting more and more regardless if the characters &/or plot captures them. Firebird totally captured me on both fronts and that intensified my wanting to know how it all played out; wanting to know the whats, whys, and hows of the characters' lives.



Bottom line: This book is exactly what I love about Kearsley's writing. The worlds, the characters and the tensions were wonderfully written. The characters were smartly written. The two strong storylines were fabulously woven together. Rob and Nicola made sense, their tension felt real and spot on. The entire story was believable. Firebird superbly fed my geek love for the elements of time-slip, history and romance. Loved this story.


I do believe this is my favorite Kearsley book to date.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflections.....{pursue} LOVE

 


Every year, for the last several years, I have chosen a word for my year. My Word for 2014 certainly impacted me and in ways that I did not anticipate.


My intent for {pursue} LOVE was to draw closer to God which in turn was to live out my life as a reflection of Christ; in the ways that He loves. It was to purposefully, intentionally, actively and consciously pursue love...to seek love in my actions, words, thoughts and attitude towards others and circumstances of life. In many ways this is exactly what I did. And in many other ways I failed greatly.


I did not need specific activities to keep my word active in my life. It was just there...always. If I were to pinpoint one activity that kept {pursue} LOVE active, purposeful and intentional then it was the activity of remaining in God's Word; reading/studying the scriptures and prayer.


Ultimately, it felt as if LOVE pursued me. It was everywhere. I bumped into it when I least expected. It tapped me on the shoulder when I was doing anything but pursuing love. It whispered in my mind and heart when my intentions and actions and choices were not pure.


"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your souls and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27)


"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 15:35)


to "be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2)


"with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2)


Upon reflection (and even in the midst of some of the moments), I can see the small and big ways I did pursue love. The biggest way I pursued LOVE and the way LOVE pursued me was in my relationship with Jesus. God did draw me closer to Him, and He did show me how to pursue love towards others. I just did not count on the how(s), the way(s), the circumstances, and the moments that God would use to convict me to love; to show love first and foremost to Him, and then to my husband and then to others.


 


When I chose {pursue} LOVE....


I did not count on 1 Corinthians 13 (especially verses 4-8)


Sure, I read 1 Corinthians 13 but I set it aside. I did not count on it making an impact on me, on my life, on my marriage. But it did. It made a HUGE impact.


"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..."

 

Over the last 3+ years, I have been a on a journey and it wasn't always a pretty journey. As a matter of fact, it was downright selfish, and so in turn it was ugly. But, God has used these last 3+ years to form me and grow me closer to Him. As I think about these years, I question why it took me so long to see and know love as God intends us to love. I question why I was so stubborn, and felt determined to think I was right when I was absolutely wrong. Sometimes, I question where my standing with God was, but I have now sort of put that one to rest.


The thing is, ultimately, God used these years for good. I am seeing the good. These years have been a process...a painful process and one that I caused of my own doing. I did not expect my word of the year for 2014 to impact this 3+ year journey, as silly as that sounds considering the word and the circumstances. And, I avoided 1 Corinthians 13 because I wanted to keep my intent for the word separate from my life circumstances. God is faithful. 1 Corinthians 13 could not be ignored. I cannot live John 15:35 if I am not living 1 Corinthians 13....if I am not embracing my marriage.


I once thought I understood what love was, but I was so very wrong. My idea of love was based on the world's definition; feelings. Sure, commitment and all that is talked about but when it comes down to it, love is about feeling; how one feels, how other people makes a person feel, etc. It's all rather selfish. That kind of love is self-focused. What happens when the feeling goes away? What happens when the other person doesn't meet up to expectations? What happens when the relationship becomes really tough and takes work and is not giving the "in love" type feeling? You would think that after all my years of marriage that I would have love, the ins and outs, all figured out. But I didn't...I don't.



It fascinates me how the Lord works.




1 Corinthians 13 has taken on a deep meaning for me. Without 1 Corinthians 13 ---without love ---everything else would be meaningless. The way love is shown to others will be dependent upon the relationship and circumstances. Regardless, love should always be given with patience, and kindness in deed & truth. It is not self-seeking and does not harm. It is outward focused instead of trying to fulfill one's own self ambition. To love another as Jesus loves would mean that I cannot diss another person in conversation or thought. It means that I would not be easily offended, or cold, or unfriendly. Bitterness, anger and numbness cannot fit into the equation of love. To forgive is love. To love as Jesus loves and not as the world defines love is no easy task. I fail. I have failed in an enormous way. BUT, it is not impossible. With Christ in me I can love. It is not the change of circumstances that gives me the ability to love. It's Christ. Without Him, life would be far messier than it is....the endurance, perseverance, patience and the denying of my self-seeking ways would be impossible.

 

In the beginning of 2014, I set out to pursue love. Instead, love pursed me. With that pursuit, I confronted and was confronted by a very wrong decision that I made. It wasn't easy. It was, in in some ways, easier to negotiate with myself as to why something was ok. But every time I negotiated, the Holy Spirit convicted me. That is quite painful. I know God forgives me. But, I failed Robert and others which means I failed God. Ultimately, my sins against others was against the Lord. I did not love.


LOVE was my word for 2014, but really it has been pursuing me for three years. It has been a pursuit to show me and teach me the truth about love. That did not come into fuller realization until rather recently.



 


On September 24, 2011 I asked my husband for a divorce. Why? For many reasons but the ultimate one was because "I didn't love him." Robert and I are currently reading a book together, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, and we just read this.... "A man who says 'I never loved you' is a man who is saying essentially this: 'I never acted like a Christian.' " Sitting here, three years removed from 9/24/11, I can say with 100% certainty that the quote is speaking truth.


For 1 1/2 years, God never left me even though my desire to divorce was ugly and so very clearly not of His Will. He used people in my life to show me His Will. He used circumstances to cause me discomfort. The Holy Spirit never left me; He caused me to start studying His Word again which I set aside in 2011. I started to seek Him again and in a way that I have not done before; this time it was different. There was a distinct difference felt during the Fall of 2012. I don't know what that says about my salvation before Fall 2012, but I am thinking that I was drinking milk. It was during the Fall of 2012 that I started on my way towards eating solid food. During February of 2013 I realized and made the decision that I could not divorce my husband. Reaching that decision was not of my own doing but of God. He worked on my life AND my husband's life. It is only because of God that we did not divorce. He has a stronghold on my life and on the life of my husband. The Holy Spirit worked on me and Robert. The Holy Spirit kept me from proceeding with the divorce.


During this time God was showing me what love truly is by contrasting how the world sees love with love as it should be. The nudging and revelations and mainly the increasing desire to be in His Will is what led me in February 2013 to take divorce off the table. But, I wasn't yet fully in my marriage. I couldn't let go of what I thought was love even though I was seeing the contrasts shown to me. Making the decision to not divorce didn't magically make everything better. It was an effort to stay in God's Will. I stumbled far too many times. What amazes me is how God worked in Robert's life which enabled him to remain full of mercy and grace when I stumbled....while he waited...while he sought God....while I was working through my issues....while I did not show him love. I cannot say enough good about Robert; he taught me lots about love during this painful trial that he endured. He also showed me love even when I was most unloveable.


 
 

It's not easy to find love or to be "in love" in a marriage that is in need of reconciliation. It doesn't bring you that rush one feels when they start a new relationship. A new relationship seems effortless in a sense and full of grace. But a new relationship breeds a sense of falseness; grace is not truly given during the beginning. Grace in a relationship can only be truly given when faults are found, and wrongs are done. One may think they're in love when a relationship begins, but really that love is based on self-seeking....its a selfish love which is not love at all. A new relationship seems like the answer to finally getting the love deserved. But I have now strongly come to believe that the efforts put into reconciling a marriage (especially when both parties are willing) can bear far more fruit than a new relationship could ever falsely promise. Reconciling my marriage is worth the efforts far more than the efforts placed in divorcing. Reconciliation in my marriage is occurring because we both want the reconciliation. Because we both, individually, want to draw closer to God that our marriage has the ability to fully reconcile.


We live in a world that says love is a feeling. That being "in love" is love. I have come to learn, in a very hard way, that feelings are fleeting. They come and go and change. Love is a commitment to endure, be patient, be kind, protect, trust, persevere without keeping record of the wrongs, and without anger, without envy and without pride and is not self-seeking. This seems like a tall order but it is not. Robert, with God's strength, demonstrated the love as taught in 1 Corinthians 13, albeit not perfectly, but still. He did this even during the incredible painful period of our lives. He is still exemplifying this love during our reconciliation phase.



God knows that I need help, and He has helped. During the last three years and especially during 2014, God has used events, circumstances, moments, disappointments, and wonder to bring home to me the truths contained in 1 Corinthians 13. It was as if God was saying to me, "Deanna, you have been opening your eyes, but now open them fully. Do not just see what love truly is but know it. Understand it. Know what love is not. See how love is falsely proclaimed. See the deceit encased in "love". See the character. Understand the character that really does not know how to show love. See the truth. See the character that does truly show love. See and learn how you should show love. Grab onto the ways I teach about love. Let go of the ways the world teaches and condones love....that is false." I was listening. I would not go back on a decision made. I held tight to God's Will for my life. Yet, it has been difficult to move forward even with knowing the truth of love. In November, I prayed a specific prayer; I asked God to release me from my past three-plus years because I did not have the strength to release myself. He answered my prayer. He didn't answer it in the way I would have done, but He answered it and answered it very clearly. It was a painful answer. It did not leave any room for dishonesty with myself. 1 Corinthians 13 became clearer, and through a dear friend, God spoke to me 1 Corinthians 13:11 "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." Over the last three years, God has been speaking to me about love, and I have been moving away from being a child. With the lessons of love learned and with my desire to grow closer to God, I hope to grow further into being the woman God desires.


I understand better now than I did 3-years ago that the world's definition of love is erroneous...false. God has used His Word (the Scriptures), people, situations and circumstances to teach me about what love really is....how He sees it....the Biblical view....the truth of love. I do not have a perfect understanding, and I am certainly a long way off from showing love as God commands. It has been a painful journey, and I still hurt. But, I am pursuing a fully reconciled marriage that has love and rejoices in truth. A marriage that does not seek a worldly-view but rather a god-centered view.



While my pursuing of LOVE was at many times clearly and unquestionably imperfect, the pursuit of LOVE only remained active and purposeful and intentional because of the Holy Spirit that lives in me. I cannot even imagine how I would have otherwise readjusted my actions, words, thoughts, attitude and decisions if it were not for the Holy Spirit. I am thankful for God's protection and His beautiful, amazing, powerful and infinite ways. I am thankful for God's faithfulness to bring good in all circumstances.


I am thankful that I am not where I was even though I am not exactly where I want to be.


I am thankful for choosing {pursue} LOVE as my word for 2014; I will continue to pursue.



Looking back over My Word for 2014 post, I am awed ...."That by keepng my word in focus during the ups and downs of life -the craziness of life - I will be changed. And more importantly, that through me, God will impact those around me. The type of impact and change? I have no clue; that's for God to work out." I definitely had no clue how God would work on me through this word, but he has. It's amazing, really. There has been change and for the good. But having an impact on others? That I am not so certain about. I am certain that God is still continue working on me, and I pray I continue to listen.


It fascinates me how the Lord works, it really does.


 
 
"Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct." J.C. Ryle

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Musically.....Merry Christmas



The Christmas season is full of wonder - The Signs of Christmas - "Jesus appeared, Jesus gave himself as a Gift, Christ Wrapping Himself in Humanity." God's gift to us.


The Christmas season brings wonderful music. I do love Christmas music. This season I didn't listen to nearly enough.


These are a few of my favorites for this Christmas season 2014. Enjoy!


Merry Christmas!




Jesus is Alive | Josh Wilson




O Holy Night | Home Free




Noel -- Little Drummer Boy | Josh Groban 




Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy | Pentatonix (and I am not even a Nutcracker fan, but this version is awesome)




Angels We Have Heard On High | Home Free

Mary, Did you Know? | Pentatonix



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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mariana by Susanna Kearsely

 


"Try looking with your soul, instead. The soul sees what truly matters."


Mariana
by Susanna Kearsley
copyright: 2012 (Sourcebooks)
pages: 364
source: library
format: paperback

Finished reading..... September 11, 2014


Description: The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she’s at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason. As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love. Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past...until she realizes Mariana’s life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time.


First Sentence: I first saw the house in the summer of my fifth birthday.


My thoughts: Here goes the gushing..... Simply, wow! This book demands a re-read. I didn't see that coming; the ending. I want to re-read Mariana so I can soak in the story with the knowledge I now have; to actually see the how the ending threaded together with all the details that I did not put together. Such a good book; that statement is simplifying it. Wow.


I loved this story. Yes, I did. But I must say, it did have it's moments when I was a tad bored or thought it was a bit far fetched. But, yet again, Kearsley's writing abilities kept my eyes glued to the pages. I am grateful for that because, man oh man, this book thoroughly sucked me into this pages albeit that didn't happen until a bit shy of the half way point. But, boy oh boy, was I ever glued to every word for the last part of this story. My heart raced and wow! Wow!


So. Julia. Yes, Julia was very much a character whose narration drove the story. She grabbed my attention from the first page. I immediately connected with her. Every character was endearing, in some way, well, except for Mariana's uncle. Mariana....that character thrilled me. She simply did. Richard, Ahhh.....he definitely caught my attention. Geoff....he was written well, fit the part. Every single one of the characters added layers to the story which added to the intensity of wondering what will be the end result for all. I seriously thought I knew the ending, but nope...I did not and then the story was done. And I was left with a sense of awe...of wow!....of "I need to re-read this book."


Mariana ranks as one of my favorite Kearsley books; truly fed my geek love for historical and time-slip fiction by smoothly weaving the past and present, journeying back into 17th century England and providing twists to the plot. By end of the book, I was in reading bliss.


Bottom line: The ending left me speechless; stunned by what I did not see coming and in a very good and excellent way. The story left me savoring the woven layers. I am a Kearsley fan; her storytelling abilities lend itself beautifully for immersing myself into characters and worlds that offer me moments of sweet reading satisfaction. And, upon reading the last word, I was in the awesome zone of sweet reading satisfaction.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Every Secret Thing by Emma Cole



"I believe there are no random meetings in our lives – that everyone we touch, who touches us, has been put in our path for a reason. The briefest encounter can open a door, or heal a wound, or close a circle that was started long before your birth."



Every Secret Thing
by Emma Cole
copyright: 2006
pages: 403
format: paperback
source: library

Finished reading..... September 14, 2014


Description: When an old man strikes up a conversation with her on the steps of St. Paul's and makes a mystifying mention of murder and an oddly familiar comment about her grandmother, Kate Murray is intrigued. But she never gets to hear the rest of Andrew Deacon's tale. Shocked by his unexpected death, she wonders whom this strange, old man is, and what the odd reference to her grandmother could mean. Interest piqued by the story never told, Kate becomes drawn into an investigation, uncovering secrets about the grandmother she thought she knew and a man she never did. Soon she is caught up in a dangerous whirlwind of events that takes her back into her grandmother's mysterious wartime past and across the Atlantic as she tries to retrace Deacon's footsteps. Finding out the truth is not so simple, however, as only a few people are still alive who know the story and Kate soon realizes that her questions are putting their lives in danger. Stalked by an unknown and sinister enemy, and facing death every step of the way, Kate must use her tough journalistic instinct to find the answers from the past in order to have a future.


First sentence: I've been told, by people more experienced at writing, that the hardest part of telling my story is the search for its beginning, and its end.


My Thoughts: Oh my...this book...soooo good. Seriously is. I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I started reading this book. But I did know it was written by Emma Cole which really means Susanna Kearsely whose writing I absolutely love. So, with that knowledge in hand, I eagerly dove into this book. I was not disappointed! Not at all.


Every Secret Thing is a mystery that starts off right away with an intrigue full of tension. I loved the mix of past and present along with the mystery and the heart-tugging romance. I immediately engaged with Kate; I became fond of her. Deacon...he too brought me into his world; I became very fond of him as well. Their stories beautifully tied together the threads of past, present, romance and mystery.


What I absolutely loved about Every Secret Thing was that while there was a romance thread -- and oh how I became attached to the romance -- it wasn't the main thread in the story. The main thread being the mystery which the underlying romance enhanced Kate's journey of solving the mystery at hand.


Now, I am not the quickest mystery/suspense reader. I tend to stay with the main character as the mystery is solved. I very rarely know who's done it until the reveal. Even so, I think this book did a great job unwrapping the secret, and did so on its own terms. Not only was the mystery angle suspense-fully written, the characters were also written fabulously.


Kate's journey from first meeting Deacon all the way to end of her unfolding the entire story - the mystery within, the solving of a crime - held me tightly. I couldn't put the book down. I sighed with sadness, and hopefulness many times throughout the book. I was extremely pleased with the ending even though sadness was an underlying emotion.


Bottom line: Every Secret Thing was a journey full of intrigue and suspense with a heartwarming and endearing romance that brought engaging and believable characters. I was very much moved.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gifting.....teachers, staff

 
 
 

Teacher gifts stress me, every year. But not this year; easy peasy, cost effective, and expresses our gratitude. And, best of all, the ideas fell into my lap; I did not pour over idea after idea before making a decision. Whew!


Grace came up with her own idea. Love that! Yay! I love when my child takes ownership; Ferraro Rocher chocolates, a candle and homemade card by Grace. It's a gift from her heart to her teacher, and that I think is very cool.


For Isaiah, there are nine people on his team (including bus driver & bus aide) which can become very costly. Yet, each of them deserves our thanks. They all play an important role in his educational environment...in his life. The gift is easily assembled; Starbucks gift card placed inside one of their reusable cups with peppermints added and a "Thanks a Latte for all that you do" printable secured to the top of the lid. This idea came to me via Pinterest and printables via Skip to my Lou. It is a simple way to say thanks, we appreciate your role in our child's life. Plus, it's aesthetically pleasing, and that appealed to me greatly.


I am very pleased with how these gifts turned out; simple, cost effective and conveys our gratefulness for all the efforts poured into our children (especially with Isaiah).


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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Half-Century

 
 

December 10, 2014 marked the day that Robert turned 50 years old. A half-century! Man, he is getting old. I so love teasing him; he will always be older than me. Seriously though, he's a great 50 year old man. Geesh....just looking at that last sentence makes me pause because,really, there is no way that he is 50....50....that is so odd to say. I have now been with Robert for more than half his life. Besides, he really is not old. The man is quite active, and able to do so many things. I am thankful for his physical abilities....for his health. But Dude, you gotta stop all the tripping you've been doing since you turned 50. :-)


So strange to me how the last 26 years has clicked away so incredibly fast.


 
 
 

Fifty is no age to sneeze at...it's huge! So, we celebrated. Nothing crazy, because well, we are not crazy sort of folk. We are fairly laid-back; dressing up is not really us (although, we do dress up on occasion). We celebrated in our home with our kids, my parents, and my sister's family. I made Italian beef sandwiches, salad, and we bought a cheese pizza (didn't think we bought enough meat). My mom made a very yummy cake. No joke, it was super yummy.


 
 

Benjamin and I gifted Robert a Road Bike. It was Ben's idea, he approached me about it several months back. A fabulous idea that I jumped at seeing how Robert has been drooling over Road Bikes for months...months! Benji did a great job picking out the bike. He and I purchased it on November 24th...it was great fun knowing we had the bike in hand for a couple weeks; Robert knew nothing about it. Was Robert surprised? You bet he was.


 
 
 
 

We topped the evening off with attending Elliana's High School Band Holiday Concert. A great way to end the evening. I do feel much joy watching and listening her play the trombone with her band.



The 50th Birthday celebrations did not end on December 10th, nope. I planned a surprise get away for the two of us. Set up Isaiah care (and Grace) with my fabulous friend Jody, and planned school send offs and such with the girls. Thursday morning I gave Robert a note stating how thankful I am in all circumstances, and that Thursday's circumstances were...he and I were going to Starved Rock for two days (one night). He was very pleased. And me? It felt like my birthday because I was very excited for us to be getting away too. I sort of felt guilty about the fact that this trip was not just for him, it was for me too. I told him that I felt a bit guilty about that. He replied with saying that he wouldn't want to spend his time with anyone else but me. It was a fun two day get away with the man who truly loves me. It really was like my birthday; I felt like I was given a huge gift.



Starved Rock. Oh my....such a great and fabulous time! We had so much fun spending these past two days together, alone. I like going to the theater to see plays (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is my favorite) and seeing the Nutcracker at this time of year is the thing to do. But the truth is, the Nutcracker bores me, and venturing into the city to see a play is not so thrilling for me right now. Robert doesn't like plays, and the Nutcracker - yeah, right. Going out to dinner is fun, at times. Bars and dancing, we don't do. So for his birthday getaway celebration, plays and ballet and bars and dancing, and all that were not for us. But this....Starved Rock.....is us. We love bike riding, and going on walks and hikes. We love being outdoors. We both love being active, albeit, he is more active than me. Starved Rock was the perfect way to continue with Robert's 50th Birthday celebration. Time alone was much needed. We had fun connecting with each other; bike riding, walking, hiking, reading, eating, talking...lots of talking...and well other things, you know. I love doing these things with him. It was an exciting, fun and excellent two days.


 


We have been to Starved Rock before for Robert's 40th birthday. It was fitting to go back for his 50th. We joked about going back when he turns 60; we better stay in shape because Starved Rock is best experienced with hiking, and there are some mighty steep inclines to walk up.


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Happy 50th Birthday, Robert!

You a man of integrity, and strong character. You are sincerely humble, and love selflessly with kindness, patience, perseverance, and hope. You do not keep a record of wrongs, and nor do you demand love to be given to you to meet your own self ambition. You have shown me much grace and mercy, and you continue to do so. You are the man you are today because of your love for God, our Lord our Savior. Without Him we would be nothing. I pray that you (we) continue to always seek God,daily. Seek to be in His Will with all that you (we) do. And, I pray for your health; may God bless you with a long and vibrant life. (Wouldn't it be awesome if you were skateboarding and pretty darn active well into your 70s, 80s and 90s like Louie Zamperini? Yes, it would be very awesome)

I give thanks to God for you; His provision to me.

Love, Deanna

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Photo montage.....


On our way to Starved Rock; 2 1/2 hour drive.

 
 
 
Thursday afternoon; our cabin...our failed cabin. The inside was nice, and the bathroom was rather large comparatively speaking to total cabin size. But, Thursday night around 10pm, when we returned to the cabin from dinner and hanging out in the Great Room we discovered that our cabin no longer had heat. Add to that fact, the wifi internet did not really work and that was disappointing to us. Needless to say, we did not stay overnight in the cabin, we moved to a King Size Bed Lodge room. The lodge room was very nice; clean (as was the cabin), fabulous bed, and working wifi. I am not a big fan of sleeping in hotel room type beds....they sort of creep me out when you actually have to get under the sheets, but this bed was very comfy with good sheets and wonderful pillows. We slept well, albeit not for very long.

 
 
After we checked in, we went off for a bike ride; about 7 miles. We had a nice time riding...man was there a huge incline; I couldn't ride all the way up and had to walk about half. But, we were disappointed that there really wasn't anywhere scenic to ride. All the trials were marked "no bikes". And frankly, that makes a ton of sense, but it still would have been nice to have some trails to ride. Even so, the ride was a very minor disappointment out of the grand scheme of things because we still had a nice time pedaling around.


 
Dinner was peaceful, and very yummy. After dinner, we had a nice time relaxing in the Great Room; talking, reading and simply enjoying time together without interruptions.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Early Friday morning, we went exploring. We decided to take the path to Lovers Leap and Eagle's Cliff; 1.8 mile walk. We left before full sunrise; it was beautiful. I love doing this kind of thing with Robert.


 
 
While at Eagle's Cliff we finished our reading of Unbroken; such a good book, and one of the last chapters made me very emotional. But, our reading was interrupted by an Eagle sighting....that added to the excitement of our time together.


 
Dorks are us! Yes we did...we bought matching hats after breakfast for our afternoon hike. Love it.


Our afternoon hike was beyond fabulous; 3.4 miles, 2 hours. We had great fun not only walking the boardwalk type paths but also the dirt trails. Actually, we loved the dirt trails best; more like hiking. And yes, we did go off the trails just a tad....ssshh. Seriously, we had a blast exploring Starved Rock; climbing stairs and paths and simply hiking around.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When we were walking the path along the Illinois River, Robert looked up and said, "Hey, that's the make-out ledge". We went to the ledge. He looked up again and said,"There's the make-love ledge." We did not go up.


We had a beyond fabulous and awesome time at Starved Rock. It was absolutly beautiful to connect with one another without interruptions. We still have two more days together before we both go back to work; love this time with him, and when we also spend it with the kids.
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