Wednesday 22 July 2015

Book Review ~ Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

James O’Leary is a tyrannical, wealthy, Irish immigrant who owns a horse farm in Long Island New York in 1911. His two oldest daughters Brianna and Colleen are beautiful, and he is certain he can find them rich husbands who will protect their struggling business, as well as keep their family in the right circles of “society”.  Both the girls have other ideas, Brianna wants more than anything to go to college and Colleen, being a shallow and selfish girl just wants to have fun flirting and going to parties. Their father thinks a woman going to college is a waste of time and money, why after all do they need an education to be a wife and mother? Years earlier the O’Leary family had taken an orphaned stable hand Gilbert, and welcomed him into their family as a son. Gilbert returns to the farm after college to assist James through a financial rough patch. Sparks fly between Brianna and her old friend, Gilbert, and things get complicated from there. James attempts to use his daughters and Gilbert as pawns in his attempt to save himself from financial ruin by trying to control their lives. Meanwhile, a distant relative, Rylan comes to stay at the farm to continue his seminary training and begins a friendship with Colleen that changes her life.
This was a light, entertaining read with lots of family intrigue and engaging characters that kept me interested. I enjoyed that is was written from the main characters perspectives, I like having insight into the thought process of all the characters. I did find that the character of Colleen who started out as bratty, selfish, vindictive and extremely shallow had a complete turnaround that changed her overnight into a completely different person, it was totally unrealistic and far fetched.  I find it disappointing with Christian novels where the main characters are physically, perfectly beautiful. There is not one physical flaw on any of them. Beautiful hair, large stunning eyes, the women have perfect figures and the men all have broad shoulders, tall, gorgeous hair, strong jaw lines and all of them have a cleft in their chin?
I find those characters, even though they may have an interesting story, unrealistic.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group

Book Review - Hope Harbour by Irene Hannon

Hope Harbour is set in a small town of the same name on the northwest coast of the states. There we find three characters who are needing some hope in their lives as they deal with grief and regret. Michael, a widowed businessman from Chicago comes to Hope Harbour to get away, grieve, as well as assuage his guilt from mistakes made in his marriage to his late wife. Tracy, a 3rd generation cranberry farm owner who is trying to keep her family farm afloat as well as trying to deal with the death of her husband and some secrets surrounding the tragedy.  Tracy and Michael literally run into each other but neither of them have romance on their mind. Anna is an grumpy, elderly lady who has closed herself off from the community she has spent most of her life in and she is dealing with more regret and hurt of her own. All three have closed themselves off to God but find themselves and their lives being intertwined and end up finding healing, forgiveness and restoration in their broken lives, and well….lets not forget romance.
The story was a nice light read, but even though they dealt with some darker issues, I found it to still be a bit shallow. I liked of course that they all ended up turning to God and all of their lives torn pieces all came together at the end…..not how God always works, but nice I guess.
Again, like most romance novels, Michael and Tracy were both physically beautiful, “slender’
“big, piercing jade eyes” “ long golden hair” and his “strong jaw line” “well built”, “broad shoulders”. I don’t know, maybe people wouldn’t read books about people who needed to lose 15 lbs or with receding hairlines that aren’t over 6 ft tall and well built. It could be part of the escape of reading, to lose yourself in another’s life that you wish could be you? Personally I think I would like to read about more complex, real characters and give the perfect body,hair and eyes storyline a break.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group

Thursday 9 August 2012

He Sees Me

There have been some good things happening with Caleb lately and I really wanted to share them. Its kind of a long story, so its hard to know where to begin and what details to give and leave out so that this doesn’t end up being a novel, I'll try to make this the condensed version.

A little over a year ago, I was stuck. I was in a state of complete hopelessness. I know I touched on it in some posts over the last few months. It had been building for years and I came to my breaking point. I had asked God many times to help me, I wasn’t sure what else to ask for though because I saw no way out, I didn’t see there were any solutions. Well, in answer to my prayer for help I started meeting with an incredible life coach ~ Cheryl Molenaar at Inspire Life Coaching  ~

There are so many things I have learned with Cheryl but the thing that really started to change things was when I realised that in my 'stuckness' I just stopped expecting anything to change, stopped looking for it and stopped asking. Through persistent nudging and encouragement from Cheryl, I began asking God for specific things. This involved asking the government agencies and programs that Caleb has been involved with for more help. This was uncomfortable for me, I was already getting some help and I felt bad asking for more, but I did, and you know what? I got more help. All of the sudden we had more respite care available to us so we could get some more breaks. During this time I also found it necessary to quit my part time job, which also took some pressure and stress off.

I also asked for favour with an organisation that provides a day program for low functioning/high needs children with autism. They give the kids tons of support and attention (there are only 4 kids in the class) and intensive therapy for behavioural issues ( like toilet training!!) as well as focusing on communication, being able to function out in public and basic life skills. The problem was there was a waiting list, the class is so small (4 kids!) and they usually take children who are in even worse shape than Caleb. We have a caseworker with this organisation and he really fought for us, in meetings he would keep bringing Caleb up and pushing for him to get the spot that was opening up in this class. He got in!! This September Caleb starts with this new day program called TRE-Add and I am so excited. Its an absolute miracle, because, like I said, Caleb is not the kind of child they normally take, but they said they thought Caleb was very ‘teachable’! The people who run this program are fantastic, the best of the best. I know that this is the answer to my prayer that Caleb would be able to reach his full potential....whatever that may be. I just need to know that he has received all the help he requires to even see what the possibilities for him are and what he is capable of.

So, I have learned that there is power in asking. Maybe its because when you ask, there is hope attached to it, and there is power in hope. Asking was difficult for me because the thing that came to mind was a kid at a grocery store crying in the checkout line asking for candy, and it gave me the feeling of being a whiny or bratty, spoiled kid. Its not the kind of asking you do like “Oh God, please give me a BMW”  or  “God, make me rich!” I think it’s about where your motives lie.
Does it mean I get everything I ask for? Absolutely not, God is not like Santa Claus or a genie in a bottle that grants wishes or gives us everything we want. Its a mystery why God answers some prayers and not others, but like a loving parent He knows what’s best for us and I am learning to trust Him in that. Sometimes God is silent for a long time and doesn’t seem to hear, that can be such a difficult time because you question whether He is really there, if He cares at all.....if He sees you.

I named this blog “Choosing Hope” because I didn’t have any on my own, it was a conscience effort, a choice of my will but I decided was going to start looking for it. I had to really dig for it when I first started this process, It didn’t come easy to hope, I had to scrounge for it and had to work it up.

The first stirrings of it at the beginning was just the desire to hope again, then asking for help caused it to grow, but seeing God answer has been especially significant.
Not because I got what I wanted but because it made me realise that God sees me. He sees me. He sees Caleb. Understanding the reality of that, when I actually came to understand the truth of God seeing me, hope came. The God of the universe knew me, all my failings and weakness and He loved me anyway. Hope came and trust was just naturally there when I understood the truth of that. I didn’t have to search for hope or work it up, it became completely unforced. Does the hope I have now make everything perfect? Hardly, I think I’ve just taken an important first step in a very long journey.

So, I have hope, the real thing! The amazing thing is that I can have it regardless of what the future holds, because He sees me and I can trust Him.....He sees you too.

Tuesday 8 May 2012


Have you ever known something with your head, like intellectually, you comprehend an idea or a truth? Then something happens, its like a light goes on, or your eyes are opened and all of the sudden you really “get” it? It becomes something that goes from your head to your heart, a different kind of knowing and understanding. I’m not sure what the process is to get there, and I’m not sure it something we even control. It could be that God decides its time to open our eyes and understanding to a truth, it’s a mystery that God controls. I have had that happen to me recently in a very life changing way. I hope I can articulate it in a way that does it justice.

You only have to read a few of my previous blogs to know that I have been having a hard time, not coping well with being a full time caregiver to Caleb. I have been fighting depression, I have felt frustrated, I have felt hopeless. There is a story in the bible I heard at church a few weeks ago about three men who served God with their whole hearts. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In the story the king made up a law that everyone had to worship an idol - like a golden statue - that was the kings god. The king wanted the whole nation to bow down to this god. If you broke this law you were punished by being tossed in a blazing furnace and burned to death. To make a long story short, these three men refused to bow to this other god. They said “ the God we serve is able to save us from it ….. But even if He does not, we still will not bow.” Daniel 3:17  Now, I have heard this story in great detail countless times in my life but when I heard it this time, something changed, the lights went on for me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then the next day I was reading and saw a verse in Psalms 33:4 that says “....He is faithful in all He does”. Immediately those two facts came together for me. I thought I already knew that God is able to rescue me and that He is faithful....I really did know my head. All of the sudden my heart understood it, I really thought it did already, but then I saw it, understood it and believed it in a way I never have before.

It hit me ~ in light of God being able to save me and choosing to, or not to....He reminded me He is faithful in all He does. Everything that has happened and happens in my life, all that God has allowed or given me is ALL filtered through His faithfulness. He is faithful in all He does. Really though, sometimes life can be so painful. If my goal really is to glorify God with my life, who says it has to be or will be easy? Suffering is universal, it’s part of life. Everyone experiences it in one way, at one time or another. So I am submitting to the pain, frustration, exhaustion, and lack of control, I'm praying and believing that God and His faithfulness and grace will somehow be made big through it. I don’t see  how it will unfold and don’t understand how that will happen but that’s not up to me I guess. He is writing my story.....He is writing Caleb’s story, He isn't finished the story yet, I don't know what comes next but I trust Him with the pen. More than that I submit it to Him. Not that He didn’t have it before....He did, I was just fighting it, being frustrated and angry because I didn’t have any say or control. I had the arrogance to actually question and be unsatisfied with God’s plan. I don’t think God is shocked or offended by our questions and anger though, He has been so patient with me and has gently walked me through it.

I didn’t finish the story about the three men, it’s an incredible story really. God does rescue them, they are thrown into the fire and do not die, in fact they aren’t even burned or smell of smoke, they walk right out of the furnace. There are many stories through history and even today of people who have been tortured and killed for their faith. The thing is, like the story of the three men, God sometimes rescues us, and other times He doesn’t. It doesn’t make sense to me but God is God. He sees the whole picture of my life and yours and we see just a small tiny fraction at a time, and “...He is faithful in all He does.”

So I either trust Him or I don’t, it’s my choice....I chose to trust. Does that mean that everything is easy now? No, things have never been more difficult with Caleb. Does it mean that I will never have days of doubt and anger, that I won’t feel the grief and ache that has followed me for years? No, of course not, I am human, weak and will have bad days I’m sure, but I just feel like I’ve got something to use against the dark times now. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest....its peace. I am finding that there is so much peace in trusting. I have a peace now that I have never had before because I am choosing to believe that “...He is faithful in all He does.”

Tuesday 17 April 2012

No Resolve

I know I have been very quiet over the last little while. I really thought I needed to spare you all from my ranting though. I had come to think that maybe my blog was kind of negative, filled with all my angst, me going on about how I’m trying to cope all the time. I guess I became embarrassed at how I sounded or was coming across. It has not been a very good couple of months, I wasn't sure how I was going to communicate that without being "negative" and I have been trying to find the balance between being honest and real about my life and how hard it has been but also not wanting to be a complainer.

I was reminded yesterday by some wonderful friends who were encouraging me to blog again, that writing it really is about it being an outlet and therapeutic for me, and not about who was reading it or what people took from it. It was not about me imparting my wisdom to the masses or trying to impress you all with deep intellectual thoughts. I needed to be reminded that it was me on a journey of trying to learn to cope with the stress of being a full time caregiver....that's all.

I grew up in a church community that gave me the impression that they really only wanted to know about your struggles and pain once they were resolved, they wanted victory stories, answers, life all tied up in a pretty bow. That really left most people alone to fend for themselves through their difficult times and left them feeling like something must be wrong with them if they couldn’t get through it or that they were the only one dealing with a particular issue. It’s not like I don’t like it when people get healed or come through grief and heartache on the other side with more wisdom, depth and character than before, that’s amazing and encouraging and we need to hear all of that....but guess what? There are some things that don’t resolve, some things we will never have answers for, pain that will not be pretty and presentable. I had recognised that a long time ago and was always bothered by the one sidedness of it all. My friend Karen (who knows me very well) had pointed out to me that she thought I wasn’t writing anymore because I didn’t have resolve.....If it didn’t resolve, it was just complaining in my mind, so I stopped.....but I also realised I was buying into what I didn’t agree with, that it needed to be presentable before I wrote about it or spoke about it.....if it was messy, ugly or there wasn’t a “lesson” in it, I should just keep quiet.

So here I am again.
If things weren’t stressful enough, Caleb has now begun a whole new stage in life but out of respect for him, I will keep the details vague. He has started a lot of new behaviours in the last couple of months that have redefined frustration on a whole new level for me. It has required a lot of extra hours and energy, not to mention lots of laundry. At least once a day I think I really don’t know how to manage him anymore. He is so beautiful in so many ways, he absolutely lights up our home with his excitement, smiles and sweetness, but his needs are unrelenting and an exhausting 24/7, 365 days a year...every year.  I have been really trying to just keep my head above water, trying to hold onto some sanity.

So, can I ask what the difference is between someone honestly and openly sharing their grief, pain and struggling to cope compared with someone who is whiny, grumbling and complaining? Is it an attitude thing? A spirit thing? Is there even a difference?
You see, I feel so very grateful about so many things in my life, honestly, I am so thankful for health and a home, a great marriage, an employed husband, kids I’m bursting with pride over, the most wonderful family and deep can someone who feels and knows she is so incredibly blessed still have a hard time keeping her head above water, still struggle to manage day to day? What am I missing? Where is the disconnect? That's my question......
See? I did it...this resolve :)

Tuesday 14 February 2012

The Most Valuable Thing

I thought in honour of Valentines Day it would be a great opportunity to tell you about a very special person, my husband Randy. I wanted to take the time to honour him and let you know what a wonderful guy he is.

Before I start I wanted to say that the thing about writing a blog is it may give the impression that the person writing has some kind of expertise in the subjects written about. There are plenty of educated people who are experts and have important things to say about faith, marriage, parenting and life in general....but I am not one of those experts. I am simply fumbling my way through, learning some things along the way, usually the hard way, and writing it down as I go. I wanted to say that before I brought up the subject of marriage..... I am no expert.

Marriage is a complicated thing isn’t it? A good marriage can be the most life giving, absolute source of joy. Is there anything more wonderful than being genuinely known...all the really good stuff, and the really bad stuff and being loved unconditionally anyway? A bad marriage can be the complete opposite, destructive, crushing, debilitating, life draining. What makes a marriage good? What makes one bad? I hear people asking all the time what the secret to a great marriage is. I’ve heard many answers like, good communication, not going to bed angry, being quick to forgive. These are all great things but I just don’t think you can boil it down to a formula, there are not 5 easy steps to a great marriage. I believe there are principles for sure, but every individual is so different, every marriage is so unique there just can’t be a formula. Its like saying “have faith is 5 easy steps”, or “follow this formula to understand grace”. Marriage, like faith and grace is simple yet complicated, there is a mystery, an intangible, illusive kind of quality to it that can’t be easily put into words.

The divorce rate for couples with special needs kids is really high....I’ve heard several different statistics, 65%,80%, 90%, I’m not sure which is the most accurate but regardless of what the number is, its just too high. The incredible stress it puts on people and marriages really can take its toll. There are countless women and some men too who have been left to raise their special child on their own. I simply can’t imagine being left to carry the load by myself, but it is done every day by some very brave people.

I have been so blessed to be able to share 22 years of my life with one of best men there is. Randy has loved me through some very dark days. He has been the love of God to me when I couldn’t see it, when I was unable to, he tangibly was Gods love. When I was struggling with the darkness of depression, trying to cope with life in some destructive ways, Randy honestly, unselfishly and patiently loved me through them. He didn’t give up on me when it would have been really easy to. He has been an example of patience, serving and unconditional love. Parenting our special needs son has certainly increased our stress but we have also grown together through the challenges.

I know I am making him sound just too perfect, of course he isn’t (sorry honey).....our marriage certainly isn’t perfect either. I think that's where a lot of people get tripped up, the expectation of a perfect, fairytale marriage. Think about it though, when you take two very flawed individuals with lots of baggage and issues (we all have them) and put them together in the same house to live together, you think there aren’t going to be issues?? It has taken alot of hard work, and investment. We are all a work in progress and so is marriage. I just thought I would share with you, the reason why I’m functioning today is because of a very special man that I am so blessed to share my life with.

I love that the most valuable thing in the world ~ relationships ~ real ones, can’t be bought, you can’t put a price on them. They take work, effort and invested time, but the payoff is priceless.
Ask yourself what you can do today for the people you are in relationship with ~ marriage, parents, children, friends ~ to make their day brighter, their load lighter. 

                                                               My sweet husband and I

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Exceptionally Ordinary

Happy New Year! I know I’m a bit late, but I think its still acceptable to say that until at least the middle of January right?? Well with the holidays ~ baking, shopping, parties, family gatherings, baking some more, having a houseful of people AND having Caleb out of school for 2 weeks, I found it a bit difficult to sit down long enough to post anything.

I love bringing in a new year, a clean fresh beginning with no marks or mistakes. January also causes me to get very reflective, I like to look back on the past year to see how I did. Was it a good one? Did I have more ups than downs? Am I closer to being who I want to be? What did I learn? How have I grown and changed....or have I grown and changed at all? Looking forward, I have decisions to make this year…..will I make the right ones? There are transitions and changes coming for my will they handle them? How will I handle them? I know we get a chance at a new beginning each and every new day, 365 days a year, but there is just something about the New Year that challenges me to take stock of my life.  When I did that this year  there were a few things that were clear to me 1) I have SO much to be thankful for and  2) that my life is a bit mundane and ordinary. Lets face it, unless your some wealthy celebrity, everyone has some part of their life that's mundane. We all have house work and chores that can seem tedious and monotonous. I was reminded of a really great quote that I wrote on a slip of paper and stuck in the back of a book....I found it not long ago..

“It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God -- but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life..." ~ Oswald Chambers


Isn’t that a great quote? I think the question though is how to be exceptional in the ordinary, that’s the kicker ……no one really spells out how….. I kind of wish there was a list of instructions on that one. I happen to be the ordinary queen, a large majority of my time is taken up doing laundry, lots of laundry, changing diapers, lots of diapers, work, cleaning, meals, shopping, appointments and on and on. I would love to be exceptional in all of it, rise above the mundane-ness (is that a word?) and be able to focus on the special people I’m serving.
I’m working on that.....its one of those things that you understand and “get” but when your not looking routine and mundane-ness steal away your focus again.
Its this quote by Mother Teresa that has really helped me with this ~  "Do small things with great love”.
There’s the secret, its doing all the ordinary and mundane things with love, it puts your focus on the people you are serving instead of the task. That is how we become exceptional, a life filled with love. Mother Teresa certainly was a stunning example of that. There can be really beautiful moments in ordinary life, if we are looking for them.

So that's my resolution for 2012 ~ to be intentional in focusing on serving and loving people instead of the monotony of the daily grind. So here’s to 2012, and serving our families, friends and community with exceptional, great love!