5.17.2018

What's On My Nightstand (Summer Reads Edition)

Well hello there! It seems that I haven't written a WOMNS post on the blog in several weeks. For that matter, it appears that I haven't actually written ANY post on the blog in over a month. Oops. Apparently typing it up as a post on Facebook is just easier, and with limited time, I'm all about easy!

That being said, I recently read two books that I had a hard time putting down. The first was One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. I've read several of his other books and enjoyed most of them (his book on Australia was probably my favorite - before I read One Summer), but this one really hooked me. If you're a fan of history, random facts, and learning about people that don't necessarily make it into the history books in school (as well as some who do), and if you're not afraid of humor and sarcasm as a writing style, then I'd highly recommend adding One Summer to YOUR summer reading list.


As much as I thoroughly enjoyed One Summer, it was blown out of the water (no pun intended) by Unbroken - the incredible life story of rebel, runner, Olympian, and WWII POW Louis Zamperini. I'm probably one of the last people to read this book, but just in case I'm not, let me tell you why YOU should stop reading whatever you're currently reading and find this book. I read half of it either with my mouth (literally) hanging open, or my hand over my mouth. Starting with his troubled youth where he ran from the police, stole incessantly, and was a general superstar at getting into trouble, we move into his teen years when his older brother, Pete, got him hooked on running. Zamperini excelled at it, smashing the competition in the 1500 and getting himself to the infamous 1936 Olympics in Berlin to run the 5000 (after having only competed in it twice before). Although he didn't win, his ability to dig deep and find an extra measure of strength and energy made his last lap memorable to all who saw it (including Adolf Hitler).

After his Olympic debut (which, at 19, he assumed would be just a preview to his real goal of attending the 1940 Olympics in Japan), he attended college, ran a 4:08 mile, and then joined the air force in 1941 after the war broke out. He soon found himself on the crew of a B-24 that took part in the bombing of Nauru and flew back to base with hundreds of holes - so many, in fact, that the plane (called, Super Man) had to be scrapped - only to have their base bombed later that night. Louie survived, as did his friend - and pilot - Phil. A few weeks later, Louie and Phil, along with a new crew, were directed to take a derelict B-24 (The Green Hornet) up on a search and rescue mission that soon resulted in an ocean crash that would kill all but three of the crew. For the next 47 days, Louie (with broken ribs from the crash), Phil (who never flew again), and Mac (who died on day 33) drifted over 2,000 miles in a tiny rubber life raft, fighting off sharks (including a great white), delirium, and hopelessness. Without food or potable water, they lost over half their body weight while surviving on the occasional fish or hapless bird that came their way, and praying for it to rain so they would have something to drink.

Just when you think it can get no worse, they arrive in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands where they are taken prisoner and thus begins 2.5 years of living hell. I seriously could not even begin to fathom what they went through - the daily beatings, the mental torture, the lack of food, adequate clothing, and medical care. It was, truly, beyond description, especially when it came to one particular guard called, simply, The Bird. Facing imminent death as a result of the Japanese "kill all" order for POW camps, Louie believed that this was it - but then the Emperor signed the surrender of Japan and suddenly Louie was free. After his return to the U.S., he was hailed as a national hero - the Olympic champion who was declared dead came back to life. He married Cynthia Applewhite in 1946 and all seemed to be going well - but the mental anguish was just beginning. With the Bird appearing in his nightmares every night, Louie began to spiral out of control, drinking heavily, driving Cynthia and his daughter away, and fixating on one day returning to Japan to kill the Bird.

Hitting bottom, Cynthia finally argued him into the Billy Graham tent revival in Los Angeles in 1949. From that day on, Louie was a new man. After giving his heart to Christ, Louie never had another nightmare about the Bird. By October of 1950, he was back in Japan - not to kill those who had treated him so inhumanly, but to offer them forgiveness and share the love of God with them. Zamperini spent the rest of his life working with boys who - like him - had hit bottom and had no where else to go. Although he never participated in another Olympic games as an athlete, he carried the torch multiple times, including at the 1998 Nagano games where he ran past his final POW prison camp. To the end of his life (he passed away in 2014 at the age of 97), Zamperini desired to give his forgiveness to the Bird, but the Bird (real name Mutsuhiro Watanabe) refused to see him, holding to his deluded belief that he had done nothing wrong.

*   *   *  

The older I get, the more I find myself drawn to the jaw-dropping stories of WWII, both on the European and Pacific fronts. Louie Zamperini's inspiring will to press on through whatever life holds and his determination in the face of certain death are certainly reasons to read this book, but the story in Unbroken is made all the sweeter because of the dramatic life change brought about by being born again. His faith in Jesus turned his life #rightsideup - and that's something that resonates with me.

One Summer and Unbroken are definitely books that should be added to your summer reading list, but if you're only going to try one - pick the latter.


What's on YOUR Summer Nightstand?

4.02.2018

Be Anxious For Nothing (Part 3)

If you missed the first two posts about this, you can find them HERE.

When I got into the car after coming out of the doctor's office with the information that I was, in fact, having panic attacks, I felt a sense of relief. I wasn't dying, I wasn't going crazy, and there was actually something I could do about it. As an INTJ, I needed to know those things in order to begin the process of "fixing" it - in this case, the "it" being me. 

My doctor had offered to refer me to a counselor, and although I refused that offer for myself, I want to clearly state that I am not against counseling as a way of learning how to cope with stress and panic and anxiety. In fact, we sent a couple of our kids to counseling after we brought them home, because it can be very beneficial to have someone else lead you through it, to see yourself in it, and figure out how to come out on the other side. That being said, it was not something that I chose to do for myself, nor is that a decision that I regret making. As an INTJ, introspection is something that comes easily to me, it's part of who I am, so with God at the helm, I spent the next few months digging into His Word and seeking His guidance as I walked through this season of anxiety and darkness.

For me, my panic attacks were completely and utterly irrational, and that really annoyed me! On an almost nightly basis, I would find myself huddled on the couch, sobbing, and begging God to help me, while the Hubs sat next to me, helpless to do anything more than pray - which he did a lot of. Over the Christmas season, it got to the point to where I didn't really want to leave the house, because when I did, I would panic. We turned around and went home a lot that month, or sat in a parking lot while I tried not to hyperventilate. It was - without a doubt - one of the craziest seasons that I have ever experienced. But here's the good news: I made it through and I came out of it with a much bigger view of God.

On the nights when the Hubs didn't have an answer to my question, "Am I ever going to feel happy again?"... God was there. 

In the moments when I woke up in terror, heart pounding, terrified that I was dying... God was there. 

When it felt like everything I had ever been certain of was slipping away... God was there. 

In my moments and hours of panic, I turned to God's Word, meditating on passages of Scripture like I had never done before. The Psalms came alive to me, and I suddenly felt like I could identify with David when he was crying out for God to save him. My daily battle cry came directly from Psalm 18:2, which says:


In the moments when it was all I could do to whisper His name, I began to add, "my Rock, my Refuge, my Fortress" to my prayer. When Satan would swoop in and attack, my defense was to cry out to God as my stronghold. When the fears would overwhelm me, I trusted in the One who is my Deliverer - even as He was King David's. What became more real to me than my fear was the fact that our God never changes. He is the same today as He was yesterday, the same for me as He was for David. God revealed Himself to me in those times of terror in ways that I had never before experienced, and I began to count my panic attacks as blessings, for the way they drew me closer to my Savior.

It was during these months that God also began to use the works of A.W. Tozer to convict me about my small view of Him, and I look forward to sharing about that in the next post.

Remember: every person, every case, is different. If you are feeling lost and alone, please, by all means, find a qualified - preferably Biblical - counselor to help you walk through this time! 

3.29.2018

The Grass Won't Mow Itself

Working in front of a fireplace on Monday... working with the windows open on Thursday. This is spring in East Tennessee! 


In other news, today at 3:30, Spring Break (Part Deux) began, with the kids home for the next 4 days as we celebrate Easter. It will be a different celebration this year as they are all Christians (which they weren't last year), and we have been reading through the Gospels so that they have a better idea of why we celebrate. In the words of one child when she realized what Jesus did for her, "Wow. That was really nice of Him!" Now there's an understatement, but it's an improvement on last year! And while the older four are beginning to get it, the youngest asked when we were going to do that "egg thing". She's 5... we'll get there. 

My reading has slowed down a bit the last couple of weeks (thus the lack of WOMNS posts), but I'm currently reading an early readers version of The Lost Vintage that I won from a Goodreads giveaway. Every once in a while it pays to fill those forms out! Anyway, I read both of Ann's previous books, including Mastering the Art of French Eating (which I loved), and so far I'm really enjoying her foray into novels. I try to read a few pages every night, but honestly, most nights I find myself nodding off and wake up only when the book falls out of my hands and hits my head. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. I'm officially old now. 

And speaking of old... over the last year, my pants have become increasingly tight, much to my dismay. As I recently told a friend, most women who complain about the weight they've put on have biological kids to point at and blame for it. And while I have 5 children, I can hardly point at them as the cause of my weight gain...unless I try to chalk it up to stress eating (which I really don't do). Sadly, this new phase of life appears to be tied to heading downhill to 40 and my family genes finally catching up to me, but I'm not going down (or rather - up) without a fight. 

Which is why, last week, I informed the Hubs that he needed to drag the mower out of mothballs because I was going to kill two birds with one stone - save money by not paying someone else to mow our acre (as we have for the last few years), and get some much needed exercise in. On Sunday afternoon he showed up with a new self-propelled mower (as our old mower had finally given up the ghost), and I spent about 2 hours pushing it up and down our hill. I only got about 1/4 of the yard done. Why did I think this was a good idea?? At any rate, it's scheduled to rain tomorrow, so I guess that means that I need to change my clothes and hit it again while he makes dinner. That grass isn't going to mow itself... sadly

Leave me a comment below and let me know what's new in your world! And for those who are celebrating - Happy Easter! 

He is Risen!

3.17.2018

Not Lucky, But Blessed

As we wrap up spring break 2018, I've been thinking a lot about the difference a year can make. One year ago, I was stressed to the max, trying desperately to get some sense of the new normal of our lives with 5 new people taking up a large portion of each day. Most days I collapsed into bed either completely exhausted or feeling like a failure... or sometimes both. I lived for the minutes between their bedtime and mine, and wondered how I was going to make it through the next day. We have a photo of my mom with the kids during spring break 2017 when my dad sent her over to help me after I called in tears. She brought lunch, helped them with a craft, and loved on me as only a mom can. 

As only a mom can... it's something I'm still learning how to be. I want to give our 5 the same sense of peace and calm that my mom still brings to me - even at 36 years of age. The way her hugs make me feel like I am loved, no matter how much I screw up, and that everything is going to be okay. I want to be able to do that for our kids, who started out life on the wrong foot, with everything against them, fighting to stay together and finally moving to a new country with people they had known for just 8 weeks, learning a new language, and trying to find their space in this new life. 

There have been many, many times in the last 18 months that I have not been the mom that they needed. The mom that God wants me to be. But I am a work in progress... always have been, always will be. I know I can do better - with God's help. This week I called my mom again, to see about getting together, but this time I did so because my kids wanted to spend time with their grandmother, and we all enjoy being together as a family. What a difference a year makes. 

Not lucky, but blessed.


3.14.2018

Thoughts from My Desk

Spring break week for the work-from-home mom looks something like this...


While the kids take over the house, I am earbuds-in, door closed, and working away in my bedroom home office. One thing I never anticipated when I started freelancing six years ago was the freedom that it would give me to continue to use another section of my brain if we ever had kids. In fact, at the time of taking that leap from traditional employment to self-employed, the Hubs and I were happily kid-free by choice (and had been for 12 years) with absolutely no plans on changing that. Unbeknownst to us - GOD did.

Now here I sit with Mozart cranked in my ears, attempting to focus on the writing job that I need to complete by tomorrow while our five (yes, 5!!) adopted kids are hanging out in the basement movie room (directly below my office - and no insulation) cackling over the antics of Cliff and Claire Huxtable and their 5 television children. My, how life has changed. 

As I was saying, the freedom that comes from knowing that if life gets a little too crazy (or boring or mundane, "do I really need to answer the same question five times, or can you not all listen at the same time?!"), I know that I have a way of escape through the work that I do, with the bonus that this sanity saver is also putting some much needed extra change in our savings.

Because I chose to continue to work from home, I can say "yes" to the kids trying new things: taekwondo, ballet, gymnastics, summer camps. Because I use the skills that God gives me, I can model the idea to my girls that being a wife and mom - willingly or not-so-willingly - doesn't mean that they are limited to one or two roles, if God opens a door for them to use their talents in other ways. Because I set aside a few hours each week to write, edit and consult, I can view the ever-growing grocery receipt without blanching because I know God's already provided for it.

When we were about to leave to go get the kids, I took an indefinite leave of absence from the company that had been my primary bread and butter for freelance work, not knowing if I would have the time or energy to work once we had the kids, nor whether they would still have work to offer me if I did. I'd been home about a month when the woman who took me on the first time contacted me a second time and asked if I'd be willing to come back a few hours a week - as needed - in a revised role. You wouldn't believe how fast I jumped at the chance. I needed the normal. I needed the distraction from the chaos that was my life at the time. I needed to be able to zone out from everything that was making me feel completely incompetent and be able to competently contribute to a project. I needed to be someone besides "mom".

It's not always easy - like the juggling that occurs during spring and summer breaks - but I'm still grateful for the opportunity to play multiple roles - wife, mother, daughter, sister, editor, writer, consultant, co-worker. I didn't think I'd be a mom, let alone a working mom (those were rather taboo in the Christian community when I was growing up), but here I am, and I thank God daily for the way He continues to orchestrate every aspect of my story. 

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