Monthly Archives: May 2018

Books to Help the Grieving Process in the Death of a Loved One (with help from Anne Riley) Part 1 of 2

Friends!  Anyone besides me ever feel helpless when your friends lose loved ones?  Sorry to say I’m the babbling fool at visitations where the bereaved has to comfort me.

I know.

Good news!  I have a few remedies up my sleeve I’d like to share in the form of a children’s book this week, and several other books for us grown-ups next week.

John and I were blessed to have dinner with old and new friends in Lexington this past April.  We learned about a book where a family lost two of their children. I immediately thought of Nancy Guthrie in Nashville who experienced such. (We’ll talk about her books next week.)

To my surprise, Nancy was not who our friends were talking about.  Surely there’s not another family who’s also lost two of their children? Sadly, there is, and a family friend has written a beautiful children’s book to help families cope with losing a child.

The book?  Voyage to the Star Kingdom

Author Anne Riley was so moved by her friends’ story, she and her cousin, Amy Grimes (who’s also friends with the family), put this beautiful book together.  Anne wrote the story (www.annerileybooks.com ) while Amy created the beautifully charming illustrations. (www.storypaintings.net ) Anne says Amy came up with the “essential story elements” and God wove the rest of it together.

When Anne first heard of Frazer and Dana Gieselmann and their plight to fight Batten Disease, she was so moved she literally couldn’t move.  She kept praying about how or what she could do.  It was in church the Holy Spirit convinced her to use her gift of writing to tell their story.

Blessed with three beautiful daughters, Frazer and Dana were completely thrown off guard when their daughter, Milla, began having seizures in August of 2013.  By October of 2014, Milla was diagnosed with a disease that’s very rare, and so far, incurable. It attacks the brain, causing loss of sight, mental impairment, worsening seizures, and a decline in motor skills. The dreaded disease is known as Batten Disease. Milla passed away November 26, 2016, just three weeks after her 6th birthday.

Unbelievably, Batten Disease possesses a genetic nature, thus docs suggested Frazer and Dana have their other two daughters tested.  Soon afterward, they learned their youngest daughter, Elle, also has the disease. Elle began having seizures not long after the discovery. You see now why Annie felt compelled to do something. (Miraculously, their eldest daughter, Ann Carlyle, does not have the disease.)

Thanks to extensive research at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, Elle is receiving new treatments, infusions, and surgeries. Their long, hard, ongoing fight is explained in detail on their blog:  www.thegieselmann5.blogspot.com

Warning:  The family’s daily battle will tear your heart out, however the book is so well done, you’ll want to share it with your friends. Huge favor:  Please pray for this precious family.

The Gieselmann’s live in Memphis, Tennessee, so upon discovering Milla was treated at Le Bonheur Hospital, I immediately reached out to a friend of our kiddos who went thru’ an excruciating ordeal, also at LeBonheur, when their baby boy only lived two months.  I told her about this book and she said her NICU nurse gave her a copy. She and her husband, like the Gieselmanns, thankfully live with an eternal perspective. (See Revelation 21:1-5)

The grandest news of these sad stories comes as a reminder from Anne: “Milla and Elle will receive their prize early. Yes, we will suffer greatly in their absence. But this life is so short compared with eternity, and one day very soon, Frazer, Dana, and Ann Carlyle will be with Milla and Elle forever.”

My other favorite aspect of this book is it speaks matter-of-factly about real-life issues.  You’ll see the family undergoing multiple storms.  Two of their three daughters have to leave their family on earth, per the request of the Star King. Anne emphasizes, “The rest of the family will follow soon, but for now, they must say a temporary farewell.”

A beautiful angelfish escorts the girls to Heaven. (Don’t miss the part where they learn about how to fight evil on their journey.) Upon their approach, they see a man coming out of the Radiant Palace, waiting for them.  “Are you the Star King?” the youngest girl asked.

He smiled and said, “I have many names: Elohim, Jehovah, the Alpha and the Omega, the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd. And yes, the Star King.

Oh, my beloved children, I am so glad you’re here.”

The story gets even better as the King shows them He’s set a table for five. You must read this book to witness something beautiful!

One hint arrives from the Angelfish: “You will be together again sooner than you think. The Star King is not bound by time.”

This is a beautiful picture of 2 Peter 3:8 in the NIV that says,

That verse reminds me of a time when I read about a young Mom who knew she was dying of cancer. She asked her pastor to verify the above Scripture, promptly proceeding to do some mind-blowing math.

She said, “I figure if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like an hour. I’ll be leaving my husband and children soon. He may live another forty years, but that’ll be just like an hour to me in heaven.

…My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that’ll be like two hours to me.” Just before she died, she told her husband, “I love you. Take care of our children and I’ll see you in an hour.” (from One Month to Live:  30 Days to a No-Regrets Life by Kerry and Chris Shook.) Now that’s some sweet eternal perspective!

Soak in 2 Peter 3:8, and you will sleep well tonight. And every other night.

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons

Let’s Get to Know Marlon Bundo (Best Discovery Ever, Thanks to Charlotte Pence!)

Friends!  How many of you know there’s a real-live rabbit living at the home of our Vice President, Mike Pence?

Today we shall meet a handsome, black and white rabbit named Marlon Bundo, a/k/a BOTUS (Bunny of the United States). The story gets more fun by the minute.

I recently heard an interview (check it out via www.metaxastalk.com from 3/27/18) of our Vice President’s daughter, Charlotte, and her mother, Karen, our Second Lady, about Charlotte’s newest book, Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President.  Charlotte penned the prose while Karen created the illustrations.

Charlotte got Marlon for a school project when she was in college, but Marlon still lives with the Pences in their residence, along with Harley and Hazel, a puppy and a kitten, and we mustn’t forget about Saphira, their pet snake.  You think I’m kidding.

Equally astonishing, Marlon Bundo has his own Instagram account with a mere 33,000+ followers as of this writing. (@marlonbundo) The pictures are adorable.  I’m a fan, clearly.

Oh, but the book!  Yes, I’ve bought one for our little Claire even tho’ she’s not quite old enough, yet.  I also got one for our daughter-in-love, Lauren, who’s a second-grade teacher.  Second graders are exactly the age group this book is geared toward. (However, every single adult I’ve shared this with has become quite enamored with it.)

Remember the Where’s Waldo books?  Charlotte’s book reminds me of finding Waldo as you try to find Marlon on each page, also thanks to Karen’s engaging watercolors.

We get to accompany Marlon and Vice President Pence to see what a day holds for them in Washington, D.C.  We go to the West Wing of the White House, the Oval Office (where Marlon’s found munching on a carrot on the carpet!), the Capitol, and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

I love that Charlotte includes a shout out to artist, T.C. Steele, who also hails from Indiana.  Marlon looks at the painting while perched on Vice President Pence’s shoulder.

We learn the Pence’s residence is right by the Naval Observatory where we get to see a special telescope. The Pences actually live at the Naval Observatory Base. The back of the book shares many additional fun facts you’ll love learning.

My favorite part of the book happens to be the last page of the story.  Marlon and Vice President Pence are finally home after a very long day:

Karen’s illustration on this page is so endearing with Marlon’s paws on Vice President Pence’s hand, which is on top of an open Bible.  He’s reading in the Book of Jeremiah and my guess is he’ll land on Jeremiah 29:11:

Spread the word about this wonderful book!

Proceeds go to two super endeavors:  1 – to a pediatric art therapy project, Tracy’s Kids,  and 2 – to www.A21.org , which Christine Caine started, working to end slavery and human trafficking.

Since school’s nearly out, for the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about a couple more children’s books as well as books for adults filled with suggested reading.  Think summer reading potential!

‘Til next time!

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When You Flunk Generosity 101… (Inspirational Antidote from Sherry C. Leavell)

Friends! Have you ever been the recipient of a pay-it-forward scenario?  Or perhaps you started a giving chain in a McDonald’s drive-thru…

One very cold Monday morning, sportin’ a severe attitude, I had to haul myself way out east for a mole check with my dermatologist. Who wants to do that, much less on a cold Monday morning?

Further aggravating the situation, my rushing around left me no time to eat breakfast.  Horrors.

Appointment finished, I hightailed it to McDonald’s for a not-so-nutritious-but-oh-so-good bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.  Surely the unsweet tea canceled the biscuit’s calories?

Fishing a five-dollar bill out of my wallet, I pulled up to pay.

The drive-thru employee said, “The car ahead of you paid for your meal, ma’am. Have a nice day!”

Stunned, I could barely articulate, “Wow! Thank you.”

Still holding my five-dollar bill, I grabbed my breakfast and drove on.

Oh dear.  Why didn’t I give the guy my five and offer to pay for the person behind me?  I’m ashamed to say it never crossed my mind…until I pulled out of the parking lot.

I blew it.  Period.

I rationalized, “That has never happened to me before.  No wonder I couldn’t think on my feet.” Oh brother.

Later that day I picked up dinner for our friends Liz and Bill.  As I sat down at their table, I relayed my gaffe. Bill confirmed my act, “Wow, you broke the chain!”  Yes, well, that helped tremendously. We all laughed in spite of ourselves.

Oh, but then I rationalized again, “Well, at least I’m taking dinner to friends.”

Bottom line?

Grace wins.

Guilt loses.

Shame evaporates.

Lesson learned.

Enough of my saga, allow me to introduce you to the perfect antidote for when you flunk generosity 101.  My dear friend, Sherry Leavell, has just written a marvelous little book that packs a punch.  The book?

Grateful Living:  30 Days to GRATITUDE

Sherry’s written thirty short devotionals which offer help via God’s Word along with excellent questions and ideas on how to apply these Scriptures to our daily lives.  I’ve highlighted, underlined, and dog-eared many a page.

Pictured here left to right are: Yours Truly, Sherry Leavell, and Judy Russell. This was a fun rendezvous for lunch in Fort Myers, FL one day in January while our hubbies played golf.

Sherry shows us the longer we walk with the Lord, the more our gratitude grows.  She takes us on a thirty-day adventure causing us to consider, “Because Jesus paid it all, and all to Him we owe (like the hymn says), what is the best way to live that out?”

Grateful Living also includes a gratitude journal in the back with thirty spots to record small or big things you’re grateful for.  Sherry’s own experience, from a challenge thanks to Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, profoundly impacted her gratefulness.

I’ll share a few of my favorite entries, and pray you run as fast as you can to The Living Word Bookstore ( www.livingword.org ) or call the gals there to order: (502) 253-8220. You may also contact Sherry via her email:  Sherry.Leavell@gmail.com .

My first favorite entry is #16:  Life as a Bouquet. Scripture given is Psalm 86:12:

Sherry tells a story about Corrie Ten Boom and how Corrie handled receiving accolades for her books and speaking engagements. She accepted these “as if they were flowers. She would present all these compliments (flowers) to the Lord as His bouquet at the end of each day.”

I love that visual! Sherry adds, “Each success, victory and compliment can be accepted as a flower to be arranged in a lovely bouquet and handed to Jesus on a daily basis…sharing it’s Christ’s love which compels us to love others.”

I didn’t expect my toes to be stepped on, but after my faux pas at McDonald’s, clearly I still have much to learn.  In entry #17, Sherry has the gall to suggest (kidding, sorta) we are ALL missionaries.  Yikes.

She proves this by giving us Matthew 28:19,

We readers learn about a young missionary named Val who said, “I keep thinking about what you said that many folks have never met a missionary before. I feel honored and privileged that the Lord has called us to this and then provided, so it can happen. But I hope we all realize that we are all missionaries.” (Please take a moment to pray for our dear friends, Val, Clark, and Hannah Sleeth who are serving at Tenwek Hospital in Africa. www.wgm.org )

Sherry gently reminds us, “As followers of Christ, we’re ambassadors for Him…missionaries who are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ every day, everywhere, with everyone we meet.”

Not only does each entry begin with a Scripture, it also ends with a prayer.  These are so helpful as many times I can’t come up with the best take-away from a devotional and Sherry helps us do just that.

Entry #17 is the perfect example of applying the Word to our life:

Three more of my favorite entries are:  #20 – Walking Like Jesus (Glean helpful ideas to take with you the next time you walk with a friend), #22 – Seeking Answers (You won’t believe how specifically God answered one of Sherry’s prayer requests. Discover Liz Curtis Higgs’ connection in this entry. Liz is also who challenged Sherry only a year ago to write this book!), and #28 – Living the Life That is Truly Life (Uncover Sherry’s incredible bad timing with her first job, you won’t believe it! Plus grab lifelong advice from Jess and Angela Correll. www.angelacorrell.com )

Finally, here are 3 of a gazillion pearls Sherry equips us with:

Grab your own copy of Grateful Living and see which entry is your favorite!  May all of our eyes be opened to grateful living, passing Generosity 101 with flying colors.

’Til next time!

P.S.  Sherry’s first book is one you moms don’t want to miss:  A Mother’s Mission:  Thirty Thoughts for Thirty Days.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Friends

How to Be Mom Strong for Mother’s Day and Every Other Day (with help from author Heidi St. John)

Friends! Cheers to all you Moms, Grandmoms, Aunts, and Neighbor-like-practically-Moms this Mother’s Day week. I pray you’ll all feel super celebrated on Sunday.

While we may not always feel celebrated, much less strong and eager to tackle each day, author Heidi St. John has a book and a Bible study to help us do exactly that:  Becoming Mom Strong:  How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith.

Here’s the book:

 

And here’s the Bible study, Becoming Mom Strong: A Six-Week Journey to Discover Your God-given Calling:

You may be saying, “Yeah, right.  I may be a strong Mom if one were grading on the curve, but I’m certainly not a strong Mom every single day!” To which I’ll strongly suggest you grab this book ASAP, because if Heidi can do this while raising her seven children (all the while homeschooling them!), we’d do quite well by listening to her. I only wish she lived in my neighborhood.

You also don’t want to miss Heidi’s blog, www.thebusymom.com

Right or wrong, I generally judge a book not only by its cover, but also by its take-home value. I’m delighted to report Heidi’s book and Bible study are loaded with excellent take-home material and are well worth your time. Each chapter ends with a succinct summary/challenge.

Right after the summary, Heidi includes prayer points with Scripture to back them up. Each and every one of these is excellent. Multiply that by fifteen chapters, and you’ve got a valuable resource I predict you’ll return to time and time again.

Right from the get-go Heidi reminds us we as parents (or grandparents) are, “preparing warriors.” She adds, “You are preparing warriors who at some point will be asked to choose between following God’s law and following the culture. And in order to prepare warriors, YOU have to become a warrior yourself.”

Heidi is brutally honest, telling on herself. She makes us readers feel better for our own faux pas.  In fact, I felt 100% better after learning she, too, forgot to be the tooth fairy for one of her children.  (Sorry again, Woody.) You will laugh out loud in each chapter.

Additionally, Heidi equips us with powerful Scripture. When Heidi gently tells us we can’t make warriors or hope for our kids to have a deep relationship with the Lord unless we ourselves have that, she reminds us to keep our faces planted in the Word daily as well as keep a continual conversation/prayer going with Him.  This verse was new to me from the New Living Translation:

 

Surely that verse will encourage us in our prayer lives!

All throughout the book neat little quotes are set apart for further encouragement.  This is one of my favorites:

“Bad days do not make bad moms.” 

I so wish I’d had this book when we were raising our boys, but glory be we now have a granddaughter to love on and show her how to love the Lord and her friends.

Heidi closes her book with 3 John 1:4. May it be a goal for each and every one of us:

“I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” 3 John 1:4 (NLT)

Finally, I’d like to share a snippet about Heidi’s accompanying Bible study, Becoming Mom Strong: A Six-Week Journey to Discover Your God-Given Calling.  Each week’s lesson has “A Voice from the Bible” section where you get to learn from someone in the Bible, i.e. Ruth, Elizabeth, Rahab, Hagar, Mary and Priscilla. I also love the titles of each week:

Becoming Brave and Wise,
Becoming a Mom with a Mission,
Becoming Free,
Becoming Emotionally Strong,
Becoming Beautiful and
Becoming Unshakable.

Each week’s lesson also concludes with a prayer.  This one is my favorite:

Obviously, I recommend Heidi’s book as well as the Bible study.  I hope and pray many young Moms will take this study and take it to heart with their little ones. The potential effect could be wildly powerful!

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Holidays