Friday, August 31

Book Review: The Story



I knew little about the book or the author before I received it in the mail...Story: Our Journey of Heartache and Grace From Eden to Evermore, by author Steven James.

A book that "recaptures the mystery of the ancient scriptures," read one description.  "James (the author] leads readers to (re) experience the greatest story ever told."

I have heard the "story" in all of its varying versions since I was a small child in Sunday School. The Christmas story, the Easter story and everything in between. But, while I have heard it all of my life, it seems that sometimes, as we become adults, and parents and professionals-- people living out our own stories here on earth and all of the busyness that accompanies them, that sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the bigger story-- the story of Christ's entering into our stories by arriving as a baby and then ultimately giving his life as a sacrifice for our sins. It can be so easy to end up in a place where we take our salvation, and the significance of what Christ did for, us for granted and forget that none of this is really our story after all. 

It was for all of those reasons that I was interested to read James' Story.

Through 30 short chapters, James retells key elements of the Christian story-- from Adam and Eve to the Garden, to the Israelites plea for freedom and the love/hate struggles between humans and God in the Old Testament. Story illuminates Jesus miraculous birth and daring ministry on earth, building to the "rising terror" of the crucifixion and rediscovery of freedom following the resurrection.

To me, it was as if James took Biblical passages that many of us have heard throughout our lives and added the grit and blood and dirt back to them. His emotive writing style prompts you to emotionally experience many of the Bible's key stories; the Israelites gratitude for their freedom and how quickly they turn back to their sinful behaviors, the gratefulness of the bride who experiences a miracle of water turned into wine at her own wedding, the Christmas story, which James describes this way...

         "And then the child grew and the word spread. He was different. So much like us,  yet so different from us. We have both light and darkness threaded into our hearts. We can see both dawn and dusk in our souls, but he was light with no shadow, illumination with no night. 
         "That first Christmas God sent a light so strong we would never have to be afraid of the dark again. 
          "Daddy, will you smile at me?" the children of Israel asked. 
          "Yeah," said God, climbing into the manger.
Interwoven at the beginning and throughout the chapters are poems written by James. When asked in an interview why he included poetry in the book  he says, "Because a poem is a way of saying something that cannot be said any other way. Some truths can't be explained, they have to be experienced."

This is very true in general and in particular to the scope of what James tried to accomplish in this book.

As a whole I would say the book is incredibly poetic. I will admit that while I appreciate poetry, it can be inherently challenging for me to read at times (ahh, the short attention span of a busy mom with young children...so very far from my days of studying British literature and Shakespeare in college!) and I would say that that is the case here...The book requires focus and attention. It is not a quick and easy read, but something that needs to be worked through at times (a bit like salvation I suppose!). I would say it is not a book that you should expect to pick up and read through like a novel, but more as a devotional...bit by bit.

And as you read through it bit by bit you will find all of these little nuggets of truth told in surprising and refreshing ways.

This book is a wonderful resource to add to your collection of theology and devotional reading. It is a book that I will look forward to pulling out, particularly during the seasons of advent and lent, when I'm looking for something to really do the work of helping me to meditate on Christ's life here and his death on the cross. It's a book that helps the reader to see those moments and re experience them on a deeply spiritual level.

I'll leave you with two short poems from the chapter titled "Mystery":

#1

mystery of mysteries,
truth of all truths,
finder of the lost.

here i am.
unriddle me.


#2

i don't name you, you name me.
i don't understand you, you understand me
and the paradox of this love is that you uncover me as you unveil youself

the mystery of this discovery swallows all of who i am.
that's the esssence of faith.
if I could understand faith it would cease to be faith.
i only know the mystery
because the mystery knows me.


About the Author
Critically acclaimed author Steven James has written more than thirty books including Flirting with the Forbidden and the bestselling Patrick Bowers thriller series. He has taught creative writing and storytelling on three continents and is a contributing editor to Writer's Digest. Steven lives in Tennessee with his wife and three daughters.



(*This is an honest review given in exchange for a copy of the book from Revell Publishing Group. A good deal for an avid reader!)


Available August 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Click here to read more about it on Amazon. 









Wednesday, August 29

Favorite Summer Moments (Whatever Wednesdays)

(This post is part of a Wednesday link-up called "Whatever Wednesdays"...I write about whatever is on my mind and hope that you will join me in creating a little bit of community by linking up whatever is on your mind this week! My blogging time is limited these days, so I figure I'd use the one day I am blogging to connect with as many of you as possible! Please jump in! )


I had considered making this a "Top 10" list, but couldn't narrow it down, so here we go with this year's favorite summer moments in pictures! 


Let me tell you, if you're feeling like the summer just flew right by and there are still many items on your to-do list that you never got around too (aren't we all feeling that way?!), go back through the photos saved on your cell phone or your camera and will find yourself impressed and feeling a little more at ease at all you DID DO this summer (see what I mean about those "did do" lists!).  
What we did do this summer...

A 5th birthday celebration fit for a princess...

or a dozen princesses! 

My all time favorite photo of the summer...this picture epitomizes my daughter's carefree and silly spirit fully and accurately. 

Always love celebrating my birthday with the girls...even though they usually end up fighting over who gets to blow out which candles. 

Meeting Mickey was definitely a highlight, though I must admit I did not have an answer when the girls demanded to know why he didn't talk...hmmm....why not Mickey?! 

More princess encounters...

4th of July is always memorable...

We made s'mores. Lots of them. Daddy's s'mores are a HUGE part of our summers! 

We went to parks and packed lunches. Here is one picnic on the bleachers at a local park. 

Some of our favorite friends visiting from MA...We had 4 adults and 5 children in the house for 4 1/2 days! It's always good, chaotic fun and full of memorable moments! 

We played lots of "Go Fish", the girl's new favorite game! It is fun to be at a stage where we can all play a game together.

We picked up MANY shares of vegetables from our local organic crop share. This was my first year in a crop share and while I was really impressed by the farm and all of the food we ended up with, I found it challenging to keep up with the cleaning, cutting and preparation of all of the vegetables, particularly some that we got a lot of that I don't typically use (cabbage, kohlrabi, garlic scapes). It's funny, we eat a LOT of veggies, but the produce we buy at the store is already cleaned and prepared to a certain degree...We also buy what we know we will use, rather than my trying to use things that don't quite fit into my meal plans...

 Would I do it again? Not sure...it's a 30 minute drive from our house and I'm not sure I have the time at this season of life to do all of that food preparation every week...


We traveled to Maine and stayed in a really big house with 17 other family members (my husband's family!). There is great-grandpa, whose 90th birthday we celebrated, sitting in the middle!

And the girls with Scott's cousin Anne from California. She was like the girls mini camp counselor for the week...they loved it! 

Ava and I in front of the LL Bean boot at their flagship store in Freeport, ME. 

Ava zipped into a jacket at the North Face outlet, also in Freeport. 

And the best part of the summer...Cordelia got a new liver!!! She is recovering beautifully!! So beautifully it is truly miraculous...the doctor's did not expect her to be doing quite to well! They were released from the hospital yesterday and are now staying at the Ronald McDonald House next door for the next 4-6 weeks! (You can read more about that here if you haven't been following her story). 



We did many other things this summer and I am sad to see it end and for my big girl to go to kindergarten!! (Ack!). 

I uploaded several other photos that all just deleted themselves inadvertently after I spent an hour writing captions and formatting them (sigh...)...So you get what's left here! 

)ther things we did this summer included picking flowers (many of them), creating chalk murals on the sidewalk, playing on the swing set, attending other 5 year old birthday parties, picking blueberries, strawberries and tomatoes by hand, and eating many, many dinners on our patio in the backyard. 


How about you, what have some of your favorite summer moments been?











Wednesday, August 22

On Vacation!

Hi Friends,

We're on vacation in Maine this week!!!

My husband's family rented this BEAUTIFUL house on the Southern coast of Maine...


This is our view 24/7...


So, in that vein, I'm taking a "vacation" from blogging this week too...

Back to "Whatever Wednesdays" next week!!!

Hugs. 

Lisa

Wednesday, August 15

Do You Believe in Miracles? (Whatever Wednesdays--A Link Up)


   


  I've been thinking a lot about miracles this week. 

Wondering what a miracle would look like in our family's situation. Considering the idea that little miracles have been happening all along the journey for my brother and his wife and their daughter...Being moved to tears by how gracious our God is to answer prayer, even prayers as small as mustard seeds (admittedly mine sometimes) and how I KNOW He is moving behind the scenes, orchestrating all of this in His own beautiful way even though sometimes we do not see those things. 

      Many of you have seen the button on the side of my page and have read about my brother's baby girl and the health struggles they are going through right now-- in summary, little Cordelia was born on March 15th of this year with a very rare liver condition called Biliary Atresia and was discovered to need a liver transplant as soon as possible. In some cases a corrective surgery can be done which can sometimes (though rarely) correct the condition, but almost always allows at least some more time for the child to grow and develop. That was not an option in Cordelia's case-- her liver was too badly damaged.

    So, after many months of waiting for a donated liver the doctors decided they would use her mother's liver and performed surgery yesterday... The whole thing is a miracle. That doctors can perform such an intricate and delicate surgery with accuracy and success. That a baby who 60 years ago would have had few options for healing, has the ability to be given this incredible gift of life today. That, more specifically, a mother can donate a piece of her own liver to her daughter and that it will restart itself in her daughter's body and then regenerate itself in hers....MIRACLES. 

    And these are only the things we have seen. I trust that, in this entire process, God has been moving His hand in unseen ways to protect Cordelia and to orchestrate the pieces of this story. 

   So, while I didn't have time to compose a lengthier post about this, I wanted to use this space today to remind you that miracles do still happen. That God calls us to trust Him and that His word says that if we have "faith as small as a mustard seed" mountains can be moved!  

   I will confess that my faith was littered with fear and anxiety as I prayed for my brother and his wife and Cordelia over the weekend on particularly on Monday. Despite my littered faith and prayers, I felt God's grace saying, "Lisa, I didn't say your faith had to be perfect, only that it needed be present."

   And, at the end of the day, while none of this is about me or my measly prayers...I think God uses the stories of people in our lives to stretch our own faith. 

   So, today, I leave you with a couple of quotes about miracles...
    

Miracles are events that make us feel there is more to life than what we see. Whether we perceive miracles in the beauty of nature, in the amazing fact of life itself, in remarkable healings from disease or despair, or in small acts of kindness, the miraculous is still with us today. (From Belief.net)

“A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand.”  Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”  C.S. Lewis

If you have a story about miracles or faith in particular this week that are posted ANYWHERE on your blog (even a post from 2 years ago or as part of your bio), link up that page this week. I'd love this string of posts to point to God's faith and miracles in the lives of His people collectively...

Blessings to you all!

Happy Whatever Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 8

Tutus and Pony Tails-- Whatever Wednesdays: A Link UP!





"Mom, could you pleeeaaasssee curl my hair."

"Oh...Ava. Right now?"

"Yes mom, right now."

I didn't want to curl my daughter's hair.

It was 10:10. The girls were due at their last summer dance class (a six week session and at this last class they were allowed to dress up in anything they wanted) at 11 a.m. Earlier that morning, when I awoke at 7:15, I had aspirations of fixing breakfast, getting everyone dressed and being in the car driving towards Wal-Mart by 10 a.m. so that we could be efficient with our time-- we'd make it to Wal-Mart to gather a few schools supplies, Michaels if time allowed, and still promptly arrive ready to tip toe and chasse across the small studio floor on time.

Until, that is, Ava caught sight of my curing iron and visions of delicately spiraled tendrils passed through her mind.

If I don't curl the girls hair we might still make it to at least one store before dance class.

The thought ran briefly through my mind and then the realization that Ava is going off to kindergarten in 3 1/2 weeks, and that the last 5 years have already passed in a flurry, and that she would feel incredibly special if I spent 5 minutes curing her hair. I stopped and asked myself the question I often ask in these situations...

"Lisa, 5, 10, 15 years from now, if you were to think back to this day, will you remember rushing out the door to buy school and craft supplies or will you remember pausing to curl your daughter's hair?"

I'm sure you can guess how I answered that question.

"Absolutely babe. Get over here."

"I want my hair curled too!!!!" her sister hollered from the hallway.

"Absolutely."

And so we stood in our tattered, incomplete bathroom, the one with primer and two different colors of yellow paint splashed on the wall five months ago and never looked at again and I curled the girls hair. It wasn't super professional grade curling (I'm not that great at all the fancy girl hair stuff!), but there were a lot of oohs and ahhs and then some picture posing to complete the moment.

We made it to dance in tutus and curled hair to boot...We never made it to Wal-Mart, but the school supplies will be there another day.

And such is the day to day life of motherhood-- laying aside our expectations to more fully engage in the moments that our children beckon us into. Admittedly moments we are grateful for when all is said and done.













Join Us for Whatever Wednesdays! 

I would love for you to join in by linking Whatever post you'd like from this week. 

Two rules:
1. If you would be so kind to click on at least one other person's post, read it and leave a comment...that's what we call a little "link love"! 

2. If you'd be so kind as to write one short line at the end of your post that says something to the degree of "Linking up with Little Writer Momma for Whatever Wednesdays" with a hyperlink here, that would be SUPER cool. 

Can't wait to hear what ya'll have been up to this week...See you next Wednesday!



P.S. Also, thank you to those who have been praying for my 4 month old niece Cordelia. We would love your continued prayers. Surgery is being scheduled for next Tuesday the 14th. If they do not receive a donated liver by then my sister in law will undergo surgery to donate part of her own liver. My brother, sister in law and niece NEED your prayers.

Click here to read more of their story...

Button created by Bethi Goss



Monday, August 6

Praying for Miracles

Hi Friends,

My brother and his wife are in need of a MIRACLE this week. We are a family who believes in the power of prayer and believes that miracles DO happen. Their little girl needs a liver (she's 4 months old) and she needs it SOON.

So, while most of my posting as of late has been over Cordelia Faith.blogspot.com I thought I'd use this space to catch the few of you who might be checking in here this week.

Please read their story...And mostly, please pray. Here is a link to the most recent post about what is going on for them.

Also, if you have the space and time would you do us a favor and post this button on your blog for the next week and ask people to join us in prayer.


You should be able to copy the picture and then add a hyperlink to the Cordelia Faith blog site (so that people can read her story). If you'd like code I can send that as well, just shoot me a message @ lisa.littlewood@gmail.com. 

Wednesday, August 1

Writing Life (Whatever Wednesdays-- A Link Up!)



     As I wrote the title of this post I realized it had two distinct bits of relevance for my life. First, when I consider the words together it is a title for the type of life I hope to lead, a writing life; a life where one sees the world and feels compelled to share their thoughts through words, hoping along the way to connect with others, to help others see something in a way they may not have considered it before, to encourage,  to communicate universal truths and find camaraderie through sharing them and receiving others reactions to your shared thoughts.

     The other way the title speaks volumes of truth about is when you read the word "writing" as a verb rather than part of a noun phrase..that we are in fact "writing" life...We live, learn, experience and write about it. We see, watch, hope and write about it.

     The product of this desire is different for everyone and sometimes it is not what we thought it would be.    I love that verse in Proverbs that says, "In his heart a [woman] plans her course, but the Lord determines [her] steps" (16:9).


     This could be my life's theme verse...and not because I have been gracious and devout and completely faithful to trust that God is in complete control. No, quite the opposite sometimes....

     I plan and plan and plan and plan....I create big ideas in my head about where I want to go with my writing and how I would like to connect to others with it (While I could relate this verse to other areas in my life, for the purpose of this post I'm just going to talk about how it has related to my journey as a writer). The bigger the plans get, the bigger the frustration that follows when... the stuff of life comes along and asks for more time and energy than I was expecting.

     I am learning (I'm a slow learner sometimes!) that we may have big plans but that sometimes God is asking us to take small steps. For a season (most likely!). For a  reason-- perhaps because He is teaching you about other things, perhaps because your bigger role is to be teaching your little ones about life.

     I have a confession to make here-- this has been one of the hardest things for me to accept in becoming a mother. Accepting that there are limitations to what I can do, about the time I can devote to an interest (dare I say a "passion") such as writing while raising my little munchkins the way I would like to raise them, and more importantly the way I feel God would call me to raise them.

     And so there is a pretty regular tension that I carry around in my inner thoughts. It goes something like this...
"Lis, what about that blog post you were going to write?" 
"Sigh. The week got too busy with the house and swimming and taking walks and bike rides and grocery shopping...all good stuff...but no blog post." 
"Lis, what about those magazine queries you were going to send out. You know if you EVER want to be a freelance journalist on a bigger scale you need to start querying."  
"Grr. I know...Shoot...I'll get right on that." 
"Lis, what about that book proposal you had considered putting together? When are you going to start that."  
"Right. Right. Right after I put the laundry away again...maybe after we go school shopping for Ava. Mostly after I clean up my office and am organized enough to start.
Then the voice gets downright mean...
"What's your problem lady? Why can't you get more done? Why don't you stay up till 1 a.m. like some other women can do and then get up with your kids in the morning? Why don't you find a more efficient way to fit this all into your schedule? You will NEVER be a consistent writer!" 
Ever been there?

     That's about the time that I have to stop looking in front of me and I really need to focus on looking ABOVE me...upwards rather than outwards. Upwards to a heavenly father who graciously says He's got it all figured out...That while I may be trying to plan my course that I just need to listen for directives as He continues to plan my steps. ONE. AT. A. TIME. And small ones for now.

     And so I try to write my one blog post a week (for now...until the season changes), which is this one.

     I've been keeping up a blog for my brother and his wife as they wait for a liver transplant for their daughter. This has been the most important "writing" in my life right now. My prayer is that by helping them to communicate their story that they will be blessed with wide reaching support and prayer. You can click on the "Praying for Cordelia" button on the side of my blog (and post the button on your blog!) to read more about their story (please do if you don't know it already!). They need BIG prayers!

     I write an average of one article every 4-6 weeks for small local publications (mostly the over 50 magazine, Forever Young, here in Buffalo, which is kind of funny because you all know I'm in my 30's! I LOVE interviewing that age group though!). Click here to read a recent profile about a very passionate woman in her 80's!

     And I submit where I can to online communities...I had an article about...no surprises here..."Pursuing Your Passions in the Midst of Motherhood" on a site earlier this week...pop over and leave a comment if you have a minute or two!

     So YAY for the small steps. And YAY that I have the immense privledge of getting to be home with my girls. Truly, as much as I miss working more consistently in a more out of the house, "professional" way, I would not give up this time at home with my girls (Like the 3 year old who is standing next to me right now asking me to help her make stamp art for our babysitter who is coming over in an hour!).

     Would love to hear about how God is directing your steps as a writer...

     If that's not what is on your heart and mind this week though, would also love to hear about WHATEVER you have been up to this week.

     Link up below. PLEASE! If I'm only going to eek out one post a week I figure I may as well connect with as many of you in the process as I can.

HUGS!