Posted in about me, family, foster care, Note to Self

And then there were EIGHT!?!?

This year has been FULL of surprises! Big ones, small ones, happy ones, sad ones, and even strange and almost unbelievable ones (possums in the toilet?). Now, here we are. It’s almost November and I have no idea where the year has gone. But when I look back, it seems like too much has happened for less than a year to have gone by. (Such is life, I guess.)

Unfortunately, I’m a super goal-oriented person. I LOVE setting both small and big goals for myself and the feeling I get when I meet or exceed those goals! So far this year, with all the unexpected happenings, I’ve failed to hit almost every goal I’ve had, especially blogging goals. 

I’ve tried so hard to keep up with blogging but it’s been nearly impossible. So my new goal (as far as blogging is concerned) is to get used to using my phone to write and post and get caught up on reviews. Using my phone, in theory,  I “should” be able to stitch together some posts in short bursts of free time throughout my days.  So say a prayer, wish me luck, and sacrifice a chicken under the light of a full moon that this is one goal I’ll be able to stick to!

Actually, maybe don’t do that last one?

No… Definitely don’t do the last one.

Seriously, DON’T DO IT! If you have a chicken, I need the eggs!!!

It takes a whole dozen eggs just to make enough for everyone at breakfast now because one of those unexpected happenings that’s occurred this year was a previous foster placement coming back into care and back into our home, bringing our current family size to eight!!! (Note to self: you need to Google when it becomes cheaper to just raise chickens and dairy cows.)

Having 6 kids, my studio time has been cut short, but I’m finally get a bit set aside most days to work. I should get my audiobook page updated this weekend so please be sure to check that out and use the links found there to view & purchase from Audible! (As always, reviewers can contact me for promo codes.)

I’m also getting some quilting and crochet time in so I’ll try to post about those projects soon.

And, of course, I’ll be posting reviews!

I pre-apologize for any funky fonts, misspellings, or other craziness that occurs as I figure out this whole WordPress phone posting thing and appreciate any suggestions on how to keep my blog going and staying connected with the blogging community with small children! Leave me a comment below or shoot me a message through the Contact Me page. Thanks for visiting!

~Jess

Posted in Thing 1 Rants

Thing 1 Introduces a (hopefully) Semi-regular New Segment: Thing 1’s Thoughts and Rants

Hello readers of Combing Through the Pages, it is I, Thing 1, the eldest of my mother’s children.

Wow. That was more dramatic than I thought it would be.

Anyway… I’m here to introduce a new segment of posts that I will be doing this summer that are just going to be me ranting about things that I feel strongly about or about some random thought that I recently had.

These posts will hopefully be posted on a semi-regular basis on Friday. I make no promises on that though cause I’m a procrastinator at heart and it’s hard to keep that in check when it’s summer. So apologies in advance if this segment ends up not happening that often, but I will try my best.

I do hope that you all will enjoy the rants and thoughts that I do end up posting about. And I hope that you’ll find them as entertaining as me and my mom do.

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

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonaldThe Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald
Published by Gallery Books on February 5, 2019
ISBN: 1501184008
Genres: General (Adult) Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 368
Source: NetGalley
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

In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.

A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?

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

Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository

My Thoughts on The Night Olivia Fell:

The love I have for my daughters exceeds anything else found on this earth. If you ask Thing 1, she’d tell you I love my children more than most other parents love theirs… to the point that it gets annoying and suffocating at times!

Thing 1 and I are especially close and she knows my biggest fear is to get “the call.” Even if you’re the type of parent that spends 20 hours of your 24 hour day complaining about your teenager, you know and fear “the call.” It’s the one that causes your stomach to drop before you even pick up the line, the one that changes your life forever, the one where a complete stranger tells you your child is seriously injured — or dead.

It’s every parent’s worst fear.

Thanks to some past events in my life, I suffer from PTSD. My particular trauma involves harm to my children and so this fear is even more magnified for me (probably why I get all suffocate-y sometimes).

It’s probably also why The Night Olivia Fell was such an emotionally gut-wrenching, roller-coaster ride of a story for me!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it… But it was hard to get through. I saw so many similarities between Olivia and Abi’s relationship to my relationship with Thing 1 that it all felt way too personal and real!

Abi and her daughter are obviously super close and Abi loves Olivia fiercely. But then comes the night Olivia falls… suddenly, Abi has to come to terms with the fact that maybe she didn’t really know her daughter at all.

Not only does she have to keep processing that bit of life-altering, earth-shattering news, but her daughter’s pregnant, the police refuse to believe the fall wasn’t an accident, and Abi’s life is just all around spinning out of control! She’s built her entire adult life around Olivia and now she’s gone. Even if she does find out what happened that night, how does she go on???

Final Thoughts:

I’ve got to tell you, this book gave me chills! (And nightmares.) I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a good suspense novel featuring relatable characters and a totally believable plot!

What do you think? Have you read The Night Olivia Fell? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

four-half-stars
Posted in keto diet

4 Surprises from My First Month on Keto

I normally wouldn’t share a post like this, but I’m kinda amazed and want to tell anyone who will listen about it…

I’ve mentioned in some previous posts about the problems with my neck/ arm but haven’t really given a lot of details about what it’s meant for my daily life.

One if the hardest and most challenging things has been my inability to exercise. I went from running half-marathons and 15-mile races on whim to nothing. Running was my “therapy.” It cleared my mind and helped me process all my anxious and overloaded thoughts.

In addition to not getting the exercise I needed for both my physical and mental health, I quit eating healthy. To be honest, I was never a super healthy eater, but I definitely got worse over the last year or so.

I started feeling really bad. It wasn’t just that I’d put on weight and was self- conscious about it, but I physically felt awful. I struggled to breathe walking up the stairs and sometimes got winded just walking around my house. I was becoming more and more miserable everyday.

My husband’s constant suggestion to exercise was super unhelpful because there wasn’t much I could do. And when I found that yoga helped me to feel better and eased my neck/shoulder/arm pain, he didn’t like it and so I quit. (Yeah, I’m aware how stupid that is. We’ve discussed and worked through the stupidity & stubbornness on both sides of that one… You can still feel free to harass me in the comments though if so desire.)

Then, one month ago today, I started following a ketogenic diet.

Well, I kinda started a month ago…? Actually, I’d researched it for a month before that and started lowering my carb intake because I’m a big baby and was scared off the “keto flu.”

Anyway… I’m super excited about my weight loss so far, but what I really wanted to share is the side-effects I’ve experienced in addition to the loss of pounds!

So here are the 4 biggest surprises/bonuses I’ve experienced on keto so far:

  1. Going without sleep thanks to foster babies and teenage babies, I’ve been in a constant brain fog for what feels like forever! But after the first week of keto, I noticed I was thinking more clearly and didn’t feel nearly as stupid as I have been!
  2. I have almost no desire to snack anymore. I was snacking all day long before keto. I also ate a bag of microwave popcorn every night before bed and then got up in the middle of the night craving chips. It only took about 3 days for those cravings to disappear completely! Not only that, but I don’t eat or require as much food to feel full and I hardly even get hungry during the day.
  3. The food!!! I’m not saying I never miss bread (I’ve found some great keto bread recipes), but I am loving the meals I get to eat! What other diet makes you feel this good and still allows you to eat things like bacon cheeseburger casserole???
  4. The health benefits!!! I have high blood pressure that’s incredibly hard to control. I also suffer from intense migraines. Both would plague me for days every single week. In the last month, I’ve had one migraine and one fight with my bp. Since the change in my diet is the only thing different, I’ve got to assume keto is the reason!

So those were the big surprises for me on keto so far that I wanted to share with everyone.

For those who are interested to know what my 1 month weight loss results have been:

Pounds lost: 13.1

Inches from waist: 3.0

Inches from hips: 2.75

I’m interested in others stories… Have you tried keto or been shocked by other diets? Leave me a comment below!

Posted in book reviews

When Jesus Answers by Loren Loving

This may be one of the most personally rewarding books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing!

When Jesus Answers by Loren LovingWhen Jesus Answers: Returning to the Healing Mercies of God's Presence by Loren Loving
Published by Boyle & Dalton on January 19, 2018
ISBN: 1633371913
Genres: Christian Non-fiction
Pages: 256
Source: the author
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

God’s voice is the essential secret to healing and happiness. It is the answer to our every dilemma and despair.

When Jesus Answers will open your heart to hear God speak His words of truth and love so that you can truly live the life you were created to live—within the intimate embrace of His presence. With an engaging collection of personal testimony, Biblical scripture, allegory and powerful songs of hope, Loren Loving clears the path back to our faithful, and most gracious Heavenly Father.

We all need the great news of a Messiah who heals our brokenness and frees us from our bondage. In Him alone we find healing, transformation, and the refuge of eternal peace and love.

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

Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository

 

My Thoughts on When Jesus Answers:


The very first story Loren Loving shares in When Jesus Answers had me in tears. My husband and I began reading the book together while we processed the pain of my youngest daughter choosing to move to her dad’s, and the pain of our first foster placement leaving around the same time. Dealing with our own pain and reading Loving’s words was incredibly moving and touched my heart deeply.

By the end of the second chapter, my husband and I were both already recommending When Jesus Answers to almost everyone we talked to. We wanted to share our experience we were having reading and singing our way through the book because it was so encouraging and uplifting for us!

The most unique quality of this book is the way it uses music to connect heart and mind on the healing journey. To be honest, at first, I found it rather odd that as you read through the chapters you come across song suggestions to listen to and sing with. It didn’t take me long though to start looking forward to the next song.

Please know that the journey you are on must include music. You will miss the point, purpose, and effectiveness of this book if you do not also follow its musical path. God said we are to enter into His Presence, fight every battle, and communicate to others with songs about Him.



I only have one real complaint about the book. Most of the songs recommended in the book are supposed to be found on YouTube, where you can pull up the lyrics and sing along.  Unfortunately, there were a couple songs we had a hard time finding and it kinda pulled us out of the headspace we were in while reading.

I would recommend this book for anyone trying to make sense of a painful time in their life, or who might be struggling to see God through all their pain. I’d also recommend it for anyone who’s already made it through to the other side… so I guess I’d really recommend it for anyone!

four-half-stars