Posted in faith, foster care

What Jesus Feeding the 5,000 Taught Me About Fostering

We haven’t been fostering for very long. Our first placement came to stay with us in December 2017 and left the following November.

Of course, that’s the goal of foster care – to help keep families together by providing the guidance and resources necessary to make that happen…

But it doesn’t make life any easier or hurt any less when the children who’ve become a part of your family are no longer there. It almost killed me to say goodbye.

Time to grieve.

We decided to take some time to heal and mourn our loss after that first placement left.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stop workers from contacting us to take in another placement. I couldn’t get upset or blame them. In our state (and many others) there is a severe shortage of foster families willing to take in foster children.

As hard as it was to say no, we just couldn’t open up our hearts and our home to another set of kids. We were still too broken.

The emotional roller coaster I went through during that time is incredibly hard to describe…

I deeply desired to take in every child they asked us about.

I missed having a house full of children running around all the time. It was way too quiet and the silence sometimes felt as if it would swallow me whole. I’d heard that phrase before, but it was the first time I actually understood it.

At the same time, I couldn’t imagine other children sleeping in the kids’ beds, playing with their toys, wearing the clothes they’d outgrown. And I knew I’d be comparing the “new” kids to the “old” ones, which wouldn’t be fair to any of us.

So we continued to turn down placements, convinced we were “doing the right thing.” And that saying no was “for the best.”

WWJD?

Our logic seemed infallible.

But as I sat alone one day, having my quiet time and reading the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew, something changed. I saw something there I’d never noticed before…

If you’re not familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, it goes as follows:

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Matthew 14:13-21
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® 

I’ve read this story more times than I can count. I’ve heard it preached on Sunday mornings, listened to podcasts, and watched videos on it.

To be honest, I’ve read and heard it so much I tend to gloss over the miracle part of it. Like, yeah, Jesus fed a bunch of people with just a little bit of food… it’s Jesus. He could do things like that.

But this story has never really hit me in a way that I could relate to. As a disciple, it’s not one I’ve drawn strength from or looked to for guidance — at least, not until now.

If you notice, the beginning of this story starts with “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” That’s important as to what took place in my heart that day reading this story and having it hit me like it was the first time I’d ever heard it…

What was it Jesus had heard happened? John the Baptist had just been killed. He was Jesus’ cousin and friend. He was the one who’d baptized him! Jesus loved him deeply and fiercely.

Jesus was in mourning.

He took a short time to grieve and pray, but he didn’t shut down or shut people out. He could’ve turned the crowd away. Everyone would’ve understood if he had.

But he didn’t.

He took care if them, providing for their physical and spiritual needs despite his grief. If it was me, I wouldn’t have had any desire to care for the twelve apostles, much less some huge crowd I knew was gonna turn on me soon!

I wasn’t doing the same. I was wallowing in my own pain and grief and not willing to be Jesus’s hands and feet here on earth in the way He called me to be.

But were we “ready”?

I was already feeling the urge to take in more kids despite my heartache by this time. I felt a little lost and incomplete. Fostering is the one thing I’ve known, without doubt, that God has called me to. I felt selfish taking a break before my “WWJD” revelation.

But my husband didn’t feel the same. Neither did our kids.

Each time a call or text would come through, I’d start preparing in my head for new arrivals. Then I’d talk with the rest of the family about it and realize…it’s just too soon. Not only were we still dealing with loss, we had other issues we were also dealing with and taking in more kids during this time just didn’t make sense.

I think there are certain moments that the Lord just puts everything in place and softens hearts to bring him glory. The day I had the above heart change, He did just that.

I talked to my husband when he got home from work about accepting the next foster placement…and he agreed! This might not sound significant to you, but believe me, it was!!!

And the rest, as they say, is history.

We’re currently blessed with a new foster child in our home. She’s been here for about 3 months now and we’re enjoying every minute of having her here (even during the late night screaming parties).

I wanted to share this because I found it funny when I thought about it later. Jesus providing for 5,000 over 2,000 years ago led me to see past my own pain and provide for someone in need now. And out of all the passages in the bible about caring for orphans, widows, the least of these, etc., the one that pierced my heart never mentions them.

What do you think? Have you ever been surprised by what you’ve gotten from a seemingly random piece of scripture? Let me know your thoughts below!

Posted in book reviews

Remarkable Hope

Remarkable HopeRemarkable Hope: When Jesus Revived Hope in Disappointed People by Shauna Letellier
Published by FaithWords on March 5, 2019
ISBN: 1455571717
Genres: Christian Non-fiction, Inspirational
Pages: 224
Source: FirstWords Bloggers
Goodreads
five-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

Rediscover eight people in the Bible whose hopes and expectations went from disappointment to life-changing transformation through Jesus.

Remarkable Hope reveals a pattern of hope where individuals were surprised by Jesus in drastic ways after they placed their hope in him and were--at first--disappointed. Their stories show his work was rarely what they anticipated.

As we observe Christ's faithful commitment to these Biblical characters who hoped in him, we are wowed by his unseen plan. We are comforted by his orchestration of circumstances and revived by his enduring presence. Remarkable Hope helps us gladly declare, like the apostle Paul, that "our hope does not disappoint us."

I received this book for free from FirstWords Bloggers. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository

My Thoughts on Remarkable Hope:

I feel like I’ve said this a lot lately, but I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

Like many others, I’ve had times in my life where I’ve questioned whether my hope in Jesus was misplaced. It’s seemed as if I’d never get past the pain and felt as if every day brought a new set of troubles. Remarkable Hope is a wonderful book for anyone who has ever felt that way in the past, or is going through hard times right now.

It’s filled with stories about fairly well-known biblical characters. The way they’re told makes their stories feel so much more real, and gave so much more meaning to them, that I found myself amazed I’d never seen such insight into them before! The chapter about Jairus and his daughter was particularly moving. It had me weeping uncontrollably!

As the introduction chapter, “Steadfast Hope” states,

…chapters are biblical vignettes: short retellings of times when people placed their hope in Christ and appeared – at first – to be disappointed by him. …

As we observe his faithful commitment to those who hope in him, we will be wowed by his unseen plan, comforted by his words, and revived by his presence.

excerpts from the Steadfast Hope chapter, Remarkable Hope

The set up:

I particularly enjoyed the way the book was set up/organized.

Each chapter begins with the bible verses featuring the character the chapter is about. It then moves into a fictionalized account of the same time period/scene in that biblical figure’s life. The stories themselves are incredibly moving and prove Letellier’s point on their own. But she then goes on to give a further reflection on the person and the type of hope they had. Each chapter then ends with a prayer.

Final Thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book. As I already said, I think it’s perfect for just about anyone! Whether you’re a believer in Christ, or just need a ray of hope to shine in your life, this book is going to lift your spirits and help pull you up and through!

What do you think? Have you read Remarkable Hope? Could you use a book like this? Have a similar book suggestion for me? Leave me a comment below and thanks for visiting Combing Through the Pages!

five-stars
Posted in book reviews

Dead Sea Rising by Jerry B. Jenkins

Dead Sea Rising by Jerry B. JenkinsDead Sea Rising (Dead Sea Chronicles #1) by Jerry B. Jenkins
Published by Worthy Books on November 13, 2018
ISBN: 1617950092
Genres: Christian Fiction
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

FROM #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR JERRY B. JENKINS COMES A HEART-STOPPING ADVENTURE OF HISTORICAL PROPORTIONS

Nicole Berman is an archaeologist on the brink of a world-changing discovery. During her first dig in Jordan, she believes she has found concrete evidence of a biblical patriarch that could change history books forever. But someone doesn’t want the truth revealed. While urgently trying to connect pieces of an ancient puzzle, a dangerous enemy is out to stop her.

“From a criminal investigation in Manhattan to the birth of Abram in ancient Ur, Jerry Jenkins weaves together a tale of drama and suspense that will draw you into the lives of two families separated by 4,000 years of history yet sharing remarkably similar struggles of faith. Dead Sea Rising combines the thrill of a whodunit with the moral and political intrigue of the ancient, and modern, Middle East. But be prepared. Once you begin, you won’t be able to stop until you reach the final page!” —DR. CHARLIE DYER, PROFESSOR-AT-LARGE OF BIBLE, AND HOST OF THE LAND AND THE BOOK RADIO PROGRAM

“If you love history—especially biblical history—this is a fun and fascinating read!” —JONI EARECKSON TADA, JONI AND FRIENDS INTERNATIONAL DISABILITY CENTER

 “Jerry Jenkins’ dialogue is equal to the best of Nelson DeMille, his storylines equal to the best of John Grisham. And now Dead Sea Rising . . . this book may be Jerry’s best.” —ANDY ANDREWS, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE TRAVELER’S GIFT AND THE NOTICER

“Jumping back and forth in time at a breakneck pace, Dead Sea Rising is a thriller as only Jerry B. Jenkins can tell it. Biblical history combines with gripping contemporary mystery. Just be aware—you’ll be hooked.” —JAMES SCOTT BELL, INTERNATIONAL THRILLER WRITERS AWARD WINNER

Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository

WHAT DID I JUST READ?!?!?

So let me begin by telling you guys, this book just completely and totally messed me up!! Though whether in a good way or a bad way remains to be seen…

First off, let me just give you a warning… this is the first book in a series!!! 

I didn’t realize that. 

So as I raced through the pages, desperate to know what happens next, who is behind everything happening to the Berman family, and what’s going to happen with Terah and the King – I expected it all to be wrapped up in a nice little bow…

BUT IT WASN’T!!!

And now I have to wait for the next book!!! And to be honest, I’m not sure my heart can withstand the suspense…

So if I disappear from the internets and you never hear from me again – Dead Sea Rising by Jerry B. Jenkins did it!

My Thoughts on Dead Sea Rising:

The story starts in Manhattan, New York, with Nicole Berman being informed her mother has tripped and broken her hip. Her father is too far away to get there before surgery, and Nicole rushes to the hospital to be with her mother.

The scene laid out on these first two pages had me hooked and ready to support Nicole through whatever was about to come…

But from there, we’re transported from a present-day hospital in Manhattan to Mesopotamia, 2000 B.C., during the reign of King Nimrod, and we’re in Ur with Terah and enthusiastically awaiting the birth of his unborn child.

Then we’re back to the present day where it turns out, Nicole’s mom’s fall wasn’t an accident…

And in the past, Terah and his unborn child are in danger…

AND THAT’S THE FIRST 10 PAGES!!!

The Characters:

I loved pretty much every character in this book!

The main character, Nicole, was a strong and smart female who’s waiting to hear back on whether or not Saudi Arabia is going to let her lead a dig there (she’s an archeologist). Nicole and her mother, Ginny, are close and so Nicole is incredibly heartbroken to learn that her mother is in the hospital.

Nicole and her father, Ben, aren’t as close as she and her mother are, and we quickly discover there may be a reason he stays so guarded… what secrets has Nicole’s father been keeping??

And while I truly enjoyed this book immensely (and without giving away any spoilers)

Did Jenkins HAVE to kill off one of my favorite characters? Maybe it’s the lack of sleep I’ve been getting with our newest placement, but I bawled my eyes out over a character that’s barely even in the book! I won’t say the name or even gender, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I loved them and now they’re gone and I’m broken hearted!!!

The Story:

I’ve already said it, but I was pulled into this story from the very beginning!

The author, Jerry B. Jenkins, was one of the authors for the Left Behind series, which I absolutely LOVED (and what got me interested in actually studying the bible and not just reading it for the good stories), so I should have known this was going to be one of those books I wasn’t going to want to put down.

But I was unprepared for the level of unchecked emotional turmoil I was going to experience by the time I finished reading Dead Sea Rising! This is one of those books I started that life forced me to put down for a little while, and it was torture every day that went by without me being able to pick it back up and find out what happened next…

And then I finally reached “the end,” only to discover…

IT’S NOT THE END!!! There’s another book coming out soon.

I was left with so many questions my head may explode!!!

So all in all, I loved Dead Sea Rising and I recommend it to EVERYONE!!! But I’m super upset I can’t read the next part of the story already… My only complaint is that it ended so abruptly and I’m without the next book.

Have you also read or planning to read Dead Sea Rising? What do you think? Leave me a comment below!

four-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

The Books That Got Me Through 2018

We’re coming up on the end of 2018 and I’ve been thinking a lot about all that’s happened this year…

My oldest daughter graduated from high school in May and went away to university in August.

My youngest daughter moved in with her father in August.

My husband and I had our first foster placement come into our home on December 1, 2017, and we said goodbye to them almost a year later, in November 2018. So I went from daily caring for 5 children in our home to 0, in what felt like overnight.

Throughout the year, my blood pressure continued to do what it does… go crazy high for no reason and make my husband (and sometimes the doctors) start preparing for my inevitable stroke.

And during all that, I thought the stress occurring both inside and outside our home was causing physical symptoms (my right arm would get weak, I couldn’t turn my head, a lot of pain). Last week, I found out that it’s not some sort of weird stress thing, it’s arthritis along with protrusions hitting my spinal nerves and cord. (We’ve already got a ton of medical bills so this was disturbing on multiple levels).

Basically, 2018 has been a crazy heavy year.

Friends, family and acquaintances are always asking how my husband and I are holding up. And while I really don’t mind them asking how we’re doing, my mom actually shared this with me on Facebook today, which I found hilarious…

Capture
I’m actually not sure which is funnier though… the above FB post, or what happened the day the foster kids left…

I have red, puffy eyes and am wiping my nose (so it’s obvious I’ve been crying), when my husband asks “Are you okay?”

I looked at him like he had 4 heads. “Did you just ask me that?”

“Uh, yeah. Are you okay?”

To which I responded with something like “No, I’m not okay. I’m not going to be okay for a really long time and if you ask me if I’m okay again, you’re not going to be okay either.”

Now, any normal man with self-preservation skills would have seen the “You can’t win here, walk away or I’m gonna murder kill you” look in my eyes and given up. But not my husband. He’s a fixer. After 6 years together, he still hasn’t figured out that there are some things that can’t be fixed and he has to just let me be upset for a while… so he says… “Yeah, I know, but I can I get you anything?”

giphy
A lot of violent responses went through my head at that moment…

Thankfully, I went with the only one that wouldn’t require bail money.

“A box of wine.”

“I was gonna go to the store anyway. I’ll get you a bottle while I’m out.”

“No, a box. I’ve decided to give alcoholism a try and it’s going to require an entire box of wine to get a good start at it.”

Something you should know at this point… I’m not really a drinker and haven’t been since I was in my 20’s. The box of wine comment has been a joke between my husband and I for years now. I never actually want a box of wine, nor could I drink a box of wine on my own, but ya’ll…

He got me a BOX of wine to drink with dinner that evening!!

Anyway…

While I didn’t turn to a box of wine, I did turn to the one thing I’ve always counted on to deal with the real world – the fictional world!

So here are the books I read in 2018 that helped me escape, laugh, cry, and deal with all the feelings of this past year:
(You can click the titles of books I’ve reviewed to read my complete thoughts)
  1. The Bible.
    Yeah, I know, some of you just rolled your eyes and others are scrolling on down to the next book on the list, but it’s true. I’ve poured over more scripture in the last year than I have during any other year of my life, and it’s definitely been the most beneficial book to help me get through the year. It’s easy to blame God and get angry when we hurt, but I learned a lot about suffering, love, acceptance, and how to grieve without falling down my normal rabbit hole of despair. I also did a lot of reading plans through the YouVersion bible app, which was great. I recommend checking them out!
  2. Beneath the Same Heaven37795839-_sy180_You would think that as emotionally wrecked as this book left me I’d be upset that I chose 2018 to read it in, but no… I’m saying the opposite. Sometimes, escaping into a familiar world filled with pain, heartache, confusion, etc. of other people is just what the doctor ordered when you’re going through all that in your own life. Beneath the Same Heaven is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I wish everyone would read it!
  3. Auschwitz Lullaby 36576005
    This book was also incredibly emotional and had me crying so hard my husband tried to take it away from me! Seriously, I was an emotional mess the entire time I was reading it!
  4. Edge of the Known Bus Line
    Okay, you definitely have to have a certain kind of twisted humor to enjoy a book like this… Cannibalism, murder, cults – what’s not to find humorous, right?? Yeah, I probably laughed a little too much during this one, but it was needed. It’s a short and disturbing read that had me looking at the bus with fresh, slightly fearful eyes!
  5. the_irrationalist_coverThe Irrationalist.
    Just when you thought I only listed depressing, emotional, dark on this list, I give you… The Irrationalist! It’s comical in both it’s dry and not-so-dry humor. The main character, Adrien Baillet bumbles his way through much of the investigation into the murder of René Descartes and his suspects pretty much do the investigating for him. He learns a lot though and comes out a different person at the end, but it had me laughing through the whole book. (Plus, it taught me the word defenestrate… which I threaten to do all the time now!)
  6. Mammoth
    Another lighter, happier book got me through 2018 was Mammoth. It’s a young adult book about a girl with dreams of becoming a paleontologist who’s hero turns out to be someone completely different from who she thought he was. It’s a super fun read!

So those are the books that helped me get through some tough times in 2018. What was 2018 like for you? Do you have a “go-to” book (or 10) for when you’re having a hard time? Let me know in the comments section below!

Posted in book reviews

Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference by CJ Casciotta – BOOK REVIEW

40947713Title: Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference
Author: CJ Casciotta
Publication Date & Publisher: September 11, 2018, Faith Words
Genre(s): Christian Living/Practical Life/Personal Growth
Length: 217 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5460-3191-8
My Rating: 3.5/5.0
 
Description (from Goodreads):
Most of us grow up believing it’s more important to fit in than to stand out. But there’s something different about you…and it matters.
What if your weirdness was the key to changing everything? What if the outrageous, imaginative, crazy ideas that live inside your wildest dreams are actually there on purpose, divinely preinstalled to help others?
Knowing what makes you weird is the best thing you can offer your art, your business, your friends, your family, and yourself. It’s the essence of creativity, the stuff of movements, and the hope for humanity. It’s time to quit painting by numbers, conforming to patterns, and checking off boxes. It’s time to GET WEIRD.
My review:
I enjoyed reading Get Weird, and CJ Casciotta definitely knows how to inspire people to be their truest, weirdest selves!
While the book is a Christian Living title, it doesn’t read as such. Casciotta includes references to scripture and Christian beliefs, but also includes plenty of other references. To be honest, about halfway through the book I had to go back and double check that what I was reading was actually something I’d consider a “Christian Living” title. The flow of Casciotta’s writing and the way he weaves words just isn’t what you’d expect from a book like this… you aren’t going to find scripture on every page or a how-to explanation on how to increase your faith.
What you will find in this book is a lot of inspiration to be the weirdly wonderful you you were made to be! As a person that’s always had a hard time fitting in, this was a really great read for me. I definitely felt a little more comfortable with my “weirdness” after reading Get Weird. I recommend it to anyone else that struggles to accept their uniqueness in a world constantly encouraging them to embrace sameness.

Thank you to FaithWords for providing me with a free review copy of this book. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of my review of Get Weird? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
Are you planning on purchasing Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference? Please consider using one of these affiliate links: Amazon, Book Depository
 

Posted in book reviews

When God Made You – a review

When God Made You – a reviewWhen God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, David Catrow
Published by Waterbrook Press on February 28, 2017
ISBN: 1601429185
Pages: 48
Goodreads
Synopsis

YOU, you... God thinks about you.God was thinking of you long before your debut.

From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved and a unique creation in our big universe is certain to help them spread their wings and fly.

Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God's divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves.

'Cause when God made YOU, somehow God knewThat the world needed someone exactly like you!

Now that my girls are older, I rarely get the opportunity to read children’s books.
Okay, that’s a lie…

5987326059_67794e6ba2_m
Image found on Flickr, Linda Jordon

On occasion (aka not so occasionally), you can find me sitting in my library/sewing/writing/soon-to-be-bed room reading Dr. Seuss — out loud.  (Not sure what it says about me that there’s a room in my house with an identity crisis) (Also, in case you weren’t aware…  out loud is the ONLY acceptable way to read a Dr. Seuss book!)
Since my girls are now 17 and 12, there aren’t many children’s books that I’m even willing to read, let alone take the time to re-read over and over again.  (Other than Seuss, obviously.)
For a book to achieve such an honor in my currently WAY overloaded schedule, it has got to be phenomenal.  To be honest, I would have told you such a book did not exist.
Turns out, I was wrong (again). Continue reading “When God Made You – a review”