Monday, April 1, 2013

Invisible [a book review]

Generally, the emails to review books for Handlebar Publishing announce books I would like to read, but I usually don't respond quickly enough to get my hands on them. Then I got the email for Invisible, by Ginny L. Yttrup. I wanted this book so badly after I read the description that I was sure I would not get a copy. But I did! After I found out they were mailing me the book, I decided that since I was actually receiving the book and so looking forward to it, it must be a book I would struggle to read. My, was I struggling with trusting God, eh? ;^)

Okay, so the book comes in the mail. I'm thrilled, I tell ya! I'm also 3/4 of the way through a mystery novel and no way am I stopping before I find out Whodunnit.... So. I wait. I scramble through the mystery, discover the killer (What?!?! That crazy lady did it!?!?), and sigh with satisfaction as I exchange that book for Invisible, which was patiently awaiting me upon my nightstand.

From the very first page, I'm hooked. Seriously. the. first. paragraph. Maybe, the first sentence. Hard to say. Love at first sight.... hard to analyze, but there it was. And I drank in this book. This book became my favorite part of the day, my excuse to go to bed right after the kids instead of playing on Facebook or washing the dishes, and my joy when the kids wanted to play outside (I get to sit in a chair in the sun and read!!).

The characters were amazing. Deep. Flawed. Focused. Beautiful. And somehow, different. I've read books before in which the author has more than one main character, and it is generally written in such similar style that the characters have similar idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. This actually drives me crazy because people are so unique, but I always let it go because I realize an author has a "voice" when she writes and it must be difficult to create a different "voice" for each character. You know? But Ginny does it. She nails it. Each of the three main characters are unique, but spectacular.

Okay, now I could give you the digest version of the storyline, but you can read that on the back of the book or on or when you go to buy it (and you really should buy this book!). Instead I will tell you that I only have one favorite book, and I read it years ago. It will forever be my favorite book because of all God taught me personally as I was reading it. However, Invisible is my new, close runner-up for favorite book. Ever. And I've never even had a second favorite! This book will help you - if you let it. This book will direct you to God - if you let it. This book will help you discover who God IS and who God IS NOT when it comes to the way you look at yourself.... if. you. let. it. I pray you open yourself and let this book in....

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Egg

I'm not generally an idiot. Okay, that's not entirely accurate, but follow me here... This year, as we were dying Easter eggs, i had a couple of first-time thoughts, and i feel a bit, well, dull-witted for not thinking about these things before now.

First, our outside can be full of stains and mistakes, but when Jesus peels away our sins through His ultimate sacrifice for us, He leaves us pure and white inside, almost as if the old, cracked, mottled outside was never there in the first place. Perhaps this is why the dyed eggs have become a recognizable icon and family tradition at Easter? If so, i am obviously one of the last to figure it out, but i have made the connection. Finally.

Second, we spend a ridiculous amount of time working hard to get the external appearance of our eggs to be unique, colorful, and sometimes sparkly, yet it is so temporary! We crack, peel, and toss the external shell to get to the good stuff, and the beautiful decorations are discarded in crumpled, brittle bits and pieces. Do we do this in our lives, as well? Are we so focused on our external appearances that we fail to really understand that this body, this shell that houses our eternal soul, is merely a temporary home? Furthermore, how many of us understand the technique to the perfect hard-boiled egg? With all this attention given to the outside, are we losing sight of what matters: the quality of the food we are left with? How like our lives that is, too! We spend more time on external trappings than on the condition of our hearts and mind and soul.

So, this Easter, while i had quite the epiphany about eggs, i was in constant awareness of the work i have yet to do and the beauty of God's grace. I am still here, breathing and typing up blog posts, so i am obviously not done yet. And until God calls me Home, i will keep stretching, growing, and pressing on toward the goal, so that no act of forgiveness or grace on the part of my Maker will ever go unappreciated. I could never deserve it; but i can acknowledge and appreciate it.

Happy Easter, y'all!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My First Mission Trip: Lynch, KY

Finally taking time to update my blog about my mission trip to Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains. We had a marvelous time, if you can classify working your tail off, sleeping just enough to stay alive, and enduring frigid temperatures "marvelous." I know i do.

We drove into the mountains at just below 50 degrees. When we left it was about 40 degrees. From our first morning to our last night there, it snowed. The high temperature was 32 degrees. For 3 days. The above photo is the morning the snow started, and the picture below was the view on the highway coming out of Kentucky, after much of the snow had melted.

Once we arrived, we threw a giant Block Party for the townspeople. That was really fun! I met some great people, and they were so welcoming of all us strangers! 

We got to attend church in a neighboring town, where our worship team actually took over the worship for the day to give the locals a taste of the more contemporary worship styles. That was neat, too. The little kids seemed really excited!

Then we had two days of work. I was assigned 4 girls and an apartment to gut. We hauled away stuff and furniture, shlepped it to the basement for storage, then ripped out carpet and swept out the entire unit. There was no electricity in the building, so we had no lights and no heat. We only had one mild frost-nip incident, and that was due to repeated trips through the snow to the basement with all that stuff. Then a hot dinner, some music, and some sleep. End Day 1.


On the second work day, we were ready to paint. I taught each teenager to paint, both with a roller and with a trim brush, and it was with immense satisfaction that i watched them cover the orange walls with taupe paint ... and greater and greater skill.

I do have more photos, but in the interest of privacy for the girls who were working, as well as courtesy to the ones who used to live in the apartments we were revamping, i will keep them to myself.

I must say, though, that God was with us on our journey. I didn't have any thyroid flare-ups, stomach upsets, or blood sugar issues. And my body allowed me to eat what they served me and work hard without complaining (much). We traveled a distance, but God met us there, and He multiplied our energies and efforts.

I am definitely looking forward to doing something like this again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Mission Field

Okay, i've posted before about longing for mission work while in the midst of the mission field God has given me. Now, though, i get to travel with my church on a real mission trip! So many kids being raised in the Christian church in America have this experience before their 18th birthday. But this is a big deal to me!!

My eldest child and i will be traveling to eastern Kentucky to help renovate a dilapidated building in need of some TLC... and elbow grease. ;) We're visiting a small mining town, and we'll both be enjoying our time together and our first actual mission trip.

We are both so excited! Yet, as i begin this post, i realize this is not our first mission trip.... When we delivered food, toys, and household items to the East Nashville residents after the horrible Nashville Flood, we were on a mission. When we washed disgusting laundry for the volunteers that same week, we were on a mission. When we worked in the Graceworks food pantry, we were on a mission. When we planted trees for our city to reduce erosion in a creekbed, we were on a mission. When we fed the homeless on New Year's Eve, we were on a mission.

Seriously, everything we do can be a mission straight from God.... if we are open to it. It we listen and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Although, i'm still excited about this particular trip.... :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Learning to Love Writing

I love to write. Obviously. ;)
My children love to create in their own ways, too, but they have never enjoyed writing. It saddens me, not just because it is a joy to me that they do not share, but because i know writing can pave the way to so many things later in life from college to career (not to mention a positive outlet for the soul!).

Anyway, we wrote a story for Dr Seuss's birthday last Friday, and today my oldest and i read an Emily Dickinson poem "Hope Is A Thing With Feathers" and wrote a poem in the same style and rhythm.

Here is the poem (we are still wanting to finish pictures for the book):
[copyright Angela Varela - do not steal anything on this blog to publish as your own]

Happy is a Wagging Tail

"Happy is a wagging tail
That greets you at the door
It drools and licks and wags its tail
And rolls over on the floor

It whines and whimpers when you leave
It home alone all day
And when you come back home again
It greets you the same way

It loves and lavishes attention on
Its master, owner, friend
And though it is a simple creature
It’s adoration knows no end."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Catching Up

Over the past week, we have determined to live life every day. We are trying not to get caught up in the humdrum, same-old-same-old attitudes, making sure to see each day as a gift and not a repeat of the day before. If you homeschool and stay home full time with your children, you understand the challenge this can be!

So, we have had an eventful week! And because of that, i have not been diligent in updating. So, here's our "week in review."

Taking Tests! Fun! ;)
Valentine's Day Gluten-Free Cupcakes for a dear friend.
Nom nom nom...
Drama Queen makes Valentine's Fondant!
"It's like taffy!"
Valentine's Day Gluten-Free chocolate cake with Drama Queen's fondant.
Visited the War Memorials in Nashville.

Korean War Memorial
All in all, we have tried to engage outside of our house more. It has been fun, and since the youngest is now capable of handling being busy out of the house, we will be doing more of it!
What fun things are you doing to keep things lively this winter?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Epic Fail!

Okay, i know i am not the only one who has found myself struggling with some task/responsibility longer than necessary. I know i am not the only person on the planet who has ever failed to accomplish something i set out to accomplish. And i know i am not the only woman alive who has ever hung her head in utter dejection.

So i was thinking about something recently in a visit with a friend, and i thought, "i wonder how many people realize this?" Which, naturally, meant i had to blog about it! All 3 of my followers (just kidding) might need this word from the Lord today! ;)

It took God several years to teach this particular nugget of wisdom to me. Not because He is not a gifted teacher, but because i was a stubborn student. It took God many varied-yet-similar situations to get through to me. Not because He didn't provide just the right opportunity, but because i was blinded by my own self-reliance. And it took God far too many people to express His truth than can be considered reasonable. Not because He isn't a focused communicator, but because i was deaf to His words.

The wisdom is simple, yet profound....
You ready?
You sure?
It'll rock your world....
It will change your life if you let it....

Here it is: if you are beating your head against a wall, gnashing your teeth over a problem you just cannot seem to solve, or working on something that is just not going well, there is a strong likelihood that God is not asking YOU to handle it.

Whew! Did you catch that?
Here's another way God told me this truth: if i am carrying a burden that feels too heavy to bear, a) it is not mine to bear, b) i am not leaning on God, or c) some combination of a & b.

God is not interested in equipping ME to carry someone else's load. Now, i'm not talking about helping a suffering friend/neighbor. I am talking about getting involved where you are not meant to be, taking over a problem that is not yours to solve, or making something your problem that is really someone else's. Sometimes, God needs us to go through something in order for us to learn a specific truth/lesson. And if someone steps in and takes our struggles upon himself, we cannot learn the lesson, so God will have to allow another circumstance.

I certainly understand that all matters of the earthly realm are not simple, straightforward, easy-to-deal-with issues, but i challenge you to really evaluate that ridiculously heavy burden you are toting.... Is it truly yours to bear? If so, have you asked God for help? And have you leaned on His guidance when He offered it?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Our Project, a Little Late

I got so caught up in trying to restructure my day and get us back to enjoying our learning that i forgot to post our project pictures from last week! Whoops!

It took 2 days of building, gluing, drying, and building, but they got it done with only materials laying around the house and recycling supplies.

First we have the Man-Child working on the recyclables at his workbench, preparing them for his sisters inside....

Now we have the inside operation: gluing strips of cardboard to represent planks of wood on the houses and stripping sticks to resemble the logs the original colonists would have been shipping back to England.

And the next day, the little one had to play with the toys while she was waiting for her big brother and big sister to get the scene finished....


 Then we had to make the SNOW!!! :)

Once they made the snow, they dumped Winter Weather on the poor, unsuspecting colonists....

Hee hee.
Here's the finished "colony":

Probably shouldn't have taken us 2 days for this project, but the oldest was determined to paint hers when the glue dried... she abandoned that idea the next day. ;) We also made gluten-free cupcakes the day we started the project and again on the day of completion, so we still spent lots of time together doing fun stuff!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Taking Things For Granted

Up until recently, i surveyed my life from a very stagnant point of view. It was the same old, same one, new day, same schedule of events. Over the past week, however, i have been taught not to take anything for granted. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, and all you have thought about your future can be questioned.

So i am embarking on a new journey: Daily Appreciation of Life as it Happens.

To do this, i am going to be blogging about our day and what i appreciated about it. This is going to have the side benefit of being something my children and i can look back on for years to come, a reminder of life as we experienced it... the life that was well-lived and not taken for granted.

Today, we began a project with recyclables, little historical action figures, some craft supplies, the woodworking tools, and some fake snow. This project grew in detail over the course of my children's imaginings, so it will likely be days-long. I promise to post pictures. That will help us remember what we've done... where our imaginations took us... and the fun we have together.

Life is not a series of schedules that blend into each other. But it can sure feel that way sometimes! I hope you will consider your own circumstances... do you take things for granted? Do you get ho-hum about certain areas of your life? Are there things you fail to appreciate?

Have a beautiful day, full of joy (because joy is a choice!), appreciation (better than whining, no?), and a life lived to the fullest.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Within the Gray

I've understood that i live within the gray areas of life for some time now. I've even begun to say that out loud in several circumstances. And today, as i am emotionally dealing with a lot of things in my life, i am aware of yet another way i live within the gray: my sick kids.

Okay, so my children don't have cancer. Or leukemia. Or diabetes. Or autism. Or cerebral palsy. And for that, i truly am thankful.

However, my children (and i) are still sick. We are just not overtly sick. We live with inflammation, headaches, nausea, bloody stools, hyperactivity, vaccine intolerance, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities. My kids live with food sensitivities, dietary restrictions, and many issues surrounding food. (And in case you haven't noticed, you can't really cut food out of your life.)

So, while i am not the least bit sad that we are not facing some terminal illness like cancer or some debilitating condition like cerebral palsy, it is sometimes frustrating that the things we are dealing with are invisible to the rest of the world.  Example: if you feed my youngest child commercially available fruit-flavored candy, she will behave like a lunatic who has zero self-control for at least 30 minutes. Another? If my middle child eats too much cheese, he'll not only swell until he looks like he's gained 5 pounds, but he'll poop enough blood to resemble a crime scene. And that is the little stuff!

And this is not a pity party; not in the least! I am just determined that we get the word out in this country that our current food producers are killing us. And the government is standing guard - not over us, though, but over the businesses feeding us the crap that is killing us.

We have GOT to take back control over our health in this country. And it starts with EACH of us. I, for one, and going to grow more of my own food than ever before. And i live in a suburb with a mere 1/4 acre of land!

I really believe that 2013 is the year we take back our health. There is more and more coming out about our food, and we have a choice to make: ignore it all and keep getting sick, or take charge and demand change. But be willing to change what you buy and what you eat if you think you are going to demand change - money talks!

And remember: choices are rich with opportunity, and while change can be frightening, it also brings with it the perfect opportunity for positive growth.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Free Book" [a review]

As a member of BookSneeze, I received a copy of Free Book, written by Brian Tome, to read and review. I liked the idea of the book because I believe we Americans have a lot of freedoms other countries don't, and I also believe that we Christians are free from things other religions are not... yet we too often live as if we are bound by rules and stipulations rather than free in Christ.

Overall, I must proclaim that Christ came to set us free, and that is definitely Tome's point. He starts by breaking the ties to "religion" and establishing our "New Identity" in Christ Jesus. With that out of the way, he proceeds through a couple of things that might be hurdles to feeling free: forgiveness and strongholds. These issues are bigger than most people understand fully, even in the Christian world, and he does a good job of breaking them down.

Then he proceeds into the spirit realm, and he talks about all the ways we allow the enemy to muddle our thoughts and plant seeds of destruction with his lies. This was my favorite part of the book. I've long been the victim of toxic thoughts and lies fed to me by the enemy, and with my newfound identity in Christ, it is encouraging to see that it a) is fairly normal, and b) can be overcome!

Finally, the author concludes that God allows our freedom, though consequences exist in response to our choices. He doesn't deny that there are things that will mess up a person's life, but he challenges us to see past the worry, fear, bitterness, anger, resentment, and tangle of rules we live by. To evict the shame and sin that hold us captive. And just be free.

Disclosure: I received this book for free from BookSneeze with the understanding that I would review it honestly. A positive review was not expected or required, just deserved.