Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Giveaway | Rescue by Candy Gibbs

It sounded old when my parents said it.  It sounds old when I say it.  But it's still true.  The world is a different place than when I was growing up.  It is a harder, colder and more dangerous environment.  The challenges of raising our children, particularly young adults, in this caustic culture can often seem overwhelming and insurmountable.  But it doesn't have to be.

Everyone, even Christian parents, assume there must be trials, conflict, rebellion and drama through the teen years.  Most anyone will tell you it is not a job for the weak and if we merely survive it then we should count ourselves lucky.  But I disagree.  With two grown children and two teenagers in the family, I am here to tell you this is not inevitable stage of child rearing.  With the right foundation and some good tools this season in our parenthood need not be a war zone and in fact can be a time of great blessing. 

Allen and I have safely seen two of our children through the teen years and have two more there right now.  Our teen years have been full of fun and laughter as we purpose to tie heartstrings with our young adults whom we count as our very best friends.  Granted we have a few more kids to get to the other side... and there is no telling what might happen between now and then...  Just the same, because our adult children equal the total number of kids in most families... and because I spend countless hours counseling parents on these issues...  I feel  I can speak with a little bit of authority.  To date, we have never faced any of what is considered "normal" or "typical" teenage behavior.  We have skipped the drama, hysterics, rebellion, mouthy attitude, eye rolling, etc.  In fact, we have managed to get our kids to adulthood without any scars on either side.  Indeed, we count both our grown daughters as well adjusted, happy adults who spend their lives fully committed to serving the Lord and ministering to those around them.  They are in high demand as workers, babysitters, mentors and friends.  This makes me think others agree with our assessment. 

How did that happen?  Well, it wasn't by accident!

I get so annoyed when people meet our kids and say, "You are so lucky you got good kids."  There is no luck to it.  My kids are imperfect sinners just like your kids.  Another annoying statement is, "You must be saints to raise such good kids."  Wrong again.  Allen and I are sinners just like the rest of the parents out there.  And yet another popular comment, "Well, God sure blessed you."  Well, that's true.  He has blessed us immensely.   But guess what, he's blessed us all who have a child to raise for His glory.  We didn't get an extra helping of blessing that happens to make our kids better than any other children. 

Nope, there is nothing amazing or special or particularly blessed about us, our kids or our family that makes our young people turn out the way they do.  The magic is in the fact that we decided early on, as God entrusted these children to us, we would fully and completely dedicate our lives to raising them.  We were certain we would not allow the schools or government to do the job for us.  Nor would we would hand the baton off to the church, babysitters or anyone other than ourselves.  We asserted we would not let any of our authority or responsibility be usurped by individual or any organization. 

We knew it was the two of us who would be completely and fully held accountable for whatever became of these lives and as such we set out to intentionally raise them for the Lord.  We made decisions about what our life would look like.  And we never accepted what anyone said would or should happen.  We never believed that anything had to look any one way or that any behavior or outcome was normal or inevitable outside of what the Lord has laid out in His word. 

We never wanted adult children who were mouthy, disrespectful or rebellious and therefor my toddlers were not permitted to be mouthy, disrespectful or rebellious.  And because my young children were not allowed to behave in such ways and I don't believe well adjusted adults behave in such ways we certainly did not accept the idea that all of a sudden our children would start carrying on in such ways simply because they entered the "teen" years. 

We didn't want adult children who couldn't hold a job therefore we started teaching our children to work, and to love work and to love responsibility and take it seriously from the time they could crawl.  Since that was expected of our preschoolers and that's what we hoped for our children when they are adults we didn't accept socks lying on the floor or chores left undone in the teen years simply because some worldly expectation said it was "normal" for teenagers to behave in such ways.

That's intentional parenting.

Add to that well established lines of communication and by the time our children were faced with the time of transitioning from a parent's authority to independence and autonomy the hard part was already done. 

An important key to intentional parenting in this very difficult environment is to have your tool box stocked leave no move or decision to chance.  No!  Parenting is not a task which should be undertaken by the seat of your pants.  But rather with a humble spirit, a prayerful heart and a plan in hand. 

For those who  are looking for a good resource to help create a plan or make some of these hard decisions I am thrilled to introduce a new book by Candy Gibbs, Executive Director of a major Crisis Pregnancy Center in Amarillo, TX called CareNet Pregnancy Center. She has an amazing story of redemption.


In Rescue Raising Teens in a Drowning Culture, Mrs. Gibbs shares much hard earned insight gained from her own trials, helping her children through some hard times and from her work with families and young adults.  Candy uses the analogy of a Coast Guard Rescue swimmer to depict the tumultuous culture, our drowning young people and the parents who are trying to rescue them.
Together with a team of young adults the author addresses some of the toughest issues facing young people today from dating, drugs and homosexuality to abortion and higher education.  On every page you will find personal accounts and concrete suggestions to help parents win the hearts of their teens and help them safely through the difficult decisions and transitions which come with the journey into adulthood.  For those who have fallen into hard times there is good information to help your child through the consequences of bad decisions to rise victorious in a society that seeks to destroy.

Some of my favorite points in Rescue was when Candy was sharing about the importance of communication.  I feel as if most people are missing the boat when it comes to communication and all kinds of relationships are hurting because of it.  In no other relationship is communication more important than when trying to reach and guide the hearts of our young people.  Mrs. Gibbs says,

"Communication isn't easy... Yet, communicating in any circumstance-having the nerve to stand face to face with another and take time out of our busy lives to address what is going on in this relationship, says, 'I love you enough.  You matter to me.' "   

I had a big old aha moment on the topic of homosexuality and the Christian.  Even though I believe this is a choice people make, not just the way God creates people, it is still something that must be addressed by Christians.    Candy offered the perspective that all Christians are called to sexual purity.  In it's simplest form that means not having sexual relations outside of the guidelines God has laid out for marriage.  To the heterosexual that means we do not have sex if we choose to remain single.  For the homosexual that means since God has defined marriage as one man and one woman they can not be married and therefore must choose a life of abstinence.

Candy Gibbs
One more area I found delightful and which I believe can be helpful to many parents was creative ways to communicate with our young people.  Top on the list was inviting your teen to have nachos at 2 am and taking turns writing to each other in a journal.  This were ideas I could really relate to.  Allen and I have often shared how we never missed a night's sleep with our newborns.  They were always trained to sleep through the night from day one.  However, since our kids entered the teen years we never get any sleep.  It's not, as many parents share, because they are out until all hours of the night.  Nor is it because we are up arguing or worrying over what trouble our kids are into.  It is simply this, they want to talk.  And usually about the time we are ready to go to sleep.  And they want to hang out with us.  Which we LOVE.  But that means sacrificing a lot of sleep.  And, that typically means some kind of junk food.  Because our three oldest are young ladies this time in our house is called girl time.  Only now some of our young guys want in on the deal.   And Addison is usually there.  I imagine we will have to come up with a new name soon.     It is not uncommon for me or one of the kids to get an email or text from other young people saying they wished they were at our house for girl time tonight or asking what we are eating for girl time.  Parents, your kids want and need this time as much as you do.  Make it happen.

You can check out Candy's blog and ministry at her blog.  And you can buy Rescue at Amazon

Thanks to Candy Gibbs and Brigette at the Fedd Agency for giving me an opportunity to review Rescue.  The publisher has given me an extra copy to offer to my readers.  If you would like a chance to win Rescue leave a comment with some thoughts on raising young people.  Advice from your parents, advice from raising your own young people, a trial you have faced, maybe some thoughts on what you think is the greatest difficulty you will face when your children reach the teen years, or an anecdote from your teen years or when your kids were teenagers.  Drawing will be Friday November 21st. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester

Shortly before Addison was born, one of the publishers I review for sent me a copy of Steven Manchester's Novel, Goodnight, Brian.  This was an entertaining and inspiring story of a child with a disability whose life was touched and changed by the love of his family.  A few short weeks later our Addison was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.  There were many dark and gloomy diagnosis and prognosis in those first few days.  We cried a lot as we considered all the horrible things we were being told.  And then one evening, when Addison was a few days old, I was crying and trying to feed him and the words of Steven's book came back to me.  I was encouraged and inspired as I determined "won't" and "can't" are not going to be part of Addison's existent.  I was sure from that moment on God sent Goodnight, Brian to prepare us for the journey we were going to walk with Henry. 
A few days later I got an email from Steven asking me to review his soon to be released book, The Rocking chair.  When I wrote Mr. Manchester back I had to tell him what his novel had meant to us.  Steven wrote back asking if he could use Addison as a character in the novel he was currently working on.  Pressed Pennies arrived in the mail the first week of March. 
These days I scarcely have time to read a book.  In fact, I have completely abandoned reviews for the time being. When I do read, it has something to do with therapy or down syndrome.  For all those months now Pressed Pennies has been calling me from the top of my summer vacation reading stack under the night table.  Once or twice I picked it up and read a page or two before feeling guilty and putting it away.  
But now school is finished.  Summer is here.  And I have given myself off.  No research.  No obligatory reading.  A lovely 3 month sabbatical to read just what I want.  With the Memorial Day weekend kick off to summer I pulled Pressed Pennies out with no guilt and spent three lovely afternoons in the hammock lost in the world of Rick, Abby, Paige and Addison "Henry". 
As Steven has demonstrated time and again, in Pressed Pennies we see his gift for defining the vulnerability and strength of human relationships in a way which touches your heart and inspires you to find a life you want to reach out to.  This was a fun love story of how God takes us from the rubble of life to restore love and redeem the time.  As someone who was in Abby's very place a long time ago, this was a fun read and a good chance to remember all God has done in my life. 
As an added bonus, it was neat to see how Steven would develop the character of "Henry".  I intend to ask him if he had already written Henry or if the character was developed after he "met" our precious son.  Regardless, I could clearly see the character of Henry as our Henry in ten years. 
There were two neat things that jumped right out to me about Henry and Pressed Pennies.  Before publication, Steven sent me a passage where Henry was first introduced to the story.  There was a note which said, "I hope you don't mind me making him a Red Sox fan."  Well, first we chuckled because we've always been Yankee fans.  For those of you who don't follow much baseball, Yankee Fans and Red Sox fans are pretty big rivals.  But there was more to it than that.  Unbeknownst to Steven, or most anyone, Addison's name came from Addison Park, which is now known as Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs.  
The other thing which stuck out at me was that riding a bicycle is a key element for the character of Henry.  One of our specific prayers since Addison was a newborn was for him to one day ride a bicycle.  It is estimated that only about 5% of people with Down Syndrome ever learn to ride a bicycle.  This seems like a trivial thing and it is certainly something most parents take for granted.  However, as we contemplated what we needed to do to help our Henry gain independence (even less people with Down Syndrome ever pass the test to become licensed drivers) we knew this was something very important to us.  In fact, our family, and specifically Kaitlin, have put a lot of time and effort into raising money to bring Camp I Can Shine to our area to teach children with Down Syndrome how to ride a bike this summer.   
Whenever my mom read a good book she would say it was like eating peanuts.  You know, you have to keep popping more and more in your mouth because one is never enough. And when the bowl is empty you are kind of bummed.  That is the perfect description for Steven Manchester's books.
Pressed Pennies is a fun, easy going story perfect for a breezy summer afternoon.  Get your copy at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle Instant Download.  
(Please note:  There are two listings for Pressed Pennies at Amazon.com.  The link I have included is the book I am reviewing here.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Raising Henry by Rachel Adams

When we received Henry's diagnosis of Down Syndrome I started searching for books on the topic.  I was certainly immersing myself in therapy and teaching books.  But I wanted something more.  I wanted to read about real people, their struggles and their victories.  Of course, my first stop was my favorite book store, Amazon.com.  I typed Down Syndrome into the search bar.  After clicking on a few items here and there I arrived at a book entitled Raising Henry:  A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery.  Of course this caught my eye right away because it was about Down Syndrome and a boy named Henry.  My excitement quickly turned to disappointment as I realized this book was not yet released.  I added it to my wish list and completely forgot all about it.  Until Emma presented me with a present.

In the meantime, I have compiled a huge library of books on the topic.  But quite frankly, they are all more than a little disappointing.  Oh, I might have gleaned a little something from here or there but overall when I am finished reading these books I feel 1- discouraged 2- overwhelmed 3- angry.  Truly, it seems like one book after another is about moms who can't make up their minds.  On one hand they tell us how we should choose life for people with Down Syndrome.  While on the other hand they are telling us how horrible everything is.  I reviewed one book last year in which a mother wrote of the horrid image doctors gave of down syndrome and how terrible the stance of the medical field is.  But interwoven with her daughters biography was her own story of alcoholism and severe depression that resulted from raising a child with down syndrome.  I have never been able to reconcile those two ideas.  And I admit that is probably in large part due to the fact that I am not a merciful person.  In all things I believe there is a point where you get up, brush yourself off and move on... no matter what the circumstances may be.  Is this easy?  No.  But you do it.

At any rate, while reading these sorts of stories I always end up asking myself the same question.  How can the world view Down Syndrome in a positive light when the books written by the mothers of people with down syndrome are so full of dread?  I am not saying there are not difficult things to face in T21, that's what trials are, duh.  I am saying we need to deal less with the negative and more with the positive.  We need to put a positive, and yet honest, foot forward for the world to see.

Rachel Adam's and Family
And that is what Rachel Adams book, Raising Henry:  A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability and Discovery does.  Ms. Adams is completely transparent.  She openly shares her emotions and thought processes in her journey of Ds.  She shares her honest emotions, not in a "pity party this is what I thought and this is what you should think" sort of way but rather in a self evaluating, growing, changing and learning way.  She uses the sum of her life experiences as a professor, writer, literary critic and mother to consider her positions on disability, abortion, early intervention and life raising a son with down syndrome.  Rachel is not afraid to say she doesn't know what the right answer is or even what I thought was the answer is indeed wrong.  As I was reading Raising Henry, there were times when I could sense Rachel working and weeding through things to figure out where she herself stood.

And where she stands is rarely where I stand.  For example, the Adams family live in the world of Academia in Manhattan.  Her husband is a lawyer and she a professor at Columbia University.  Where all of life is about choice and personal decision.  They are surrounded by the intellectually elite.  There is no room left for God or imperfection.  Rachel boldly speaks of how she arrived at this realization when her second son was diagnosed with down syndrome.  She seems to have a conflict with these beliefs which permeate every corner of her life, and yet she continues to choose to live in that world.  A world that questions how she, someone with multiple PHD's, could possibly forgo prenatal testing and risk her life being hampered by a child with a disability.

One of the contradictions that struck me was Rachel's stance on abortion.  Early in the book she shares the story of her sister's decision to abort her baby prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 13.  She shares the ongoing haunting dreams of the nephew she never knew because of this choice.  She explains how she once believed abortion was the answer to children with down syndrome and her how she now realizes this was a mistaken position.  She works endlessly to educate the world and make it a better place for people with disability.  And yet she still clearly states women should have the choice to abort the unborn for any reason.  
This confounds me.  And yet, I am encouraged as I see Rachel taking the lessons she has learned from Henry and using the inroads she has gained through this world so foreign to me to enact positive change in the medical field and world of higher education and to change the way the world views people with disabilities.
Rachel and Henry Adams
But that is not all.  Ms. Adams shares a wealth of information surrounding the history of individuals with disabilities covering laws, education, medical care and the history of institutionalization and mainstreaming.  While she shares a lot of details and specifics, it is not too technical to read in the mountains on a snowy afternoon.  She speaks clearly in layman's terms in such a way to educate the parent with a new diagnosis but not to overwhelm or confuse.

Woven throughout the book are anecdotes of life with Rachel, Henry and his big brother Noah.  And this is probably my favorite part.  Not only does Henry Adams look an awful lot like my Henry, but he seems like someone I would like to know.  As different as Rachel and I seem, it is through the stories of her life with Henry, such as her persistence in making him a gluten free cake, that I am reminded we are both mothers with the same hopes and dreams for our children.  

Congratulation, Rachel, on writing the first book about life with Down Syndrome that is everything I hoped it would be.  Part memoir, part instruction manual, and part encyclopedia Raising Henry is a great read for anyone who wants to know more about down syndrome, or loves someone with down syndrome, or loves to read a memoir or just wants to gawk at the beautiful baby on the cover.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Vicar's Wife by Katherine Swartz

Click here to buy on Amazon.com
What do a modern New-York working mother and a young woman from Cambridge have in common? Well, they've both acclimated to living the same vicarage, in the middle of nowhere. Both Jane (modern era) and Alice (circa 1930's) find themselves alone and unhappy. Jane's decided to re-paint the centuries-old pantry, and comes across a shopping list, supposed to be written by Alice James, a previous resident, the local vicar's wife. As the tales of Alice's life unfold, Jane forms a strange attachment to this woman she's never met, and learns a few life-lessons along the way.

3 of 5 ***