Friday, February 5, 2016

Ashes to Ashes { A Review}





Once again we are taken back to the 14th century and another  murder mystery adventure in the life of Hugh de Singleton in the ongoing series from Mel Starr. 

Ashes to Ashes * is the eighth book in the series and let me just say that  Mr. Starr’s books are never boring! Far from it! The story and characters draw you in from the beginning!

The plot and storyline are superb and the author’s ability to share authentic history in the story is excellent! I love history especially middle ages history! There is a glossary in the beginning of the book which is quite helpful if you are unfamiliar with some of the terms used during this time period!

Hugh is called on to help solve a murder mystery after a skeleton is discovered in the remains of a bonfire during a mid-summers eve celebration in the village of Bampton. Hugh is the village surgeon and bailiff.  His job is to solve the mystery!
I just love these stories and own all 8 of them! Ashes to Ashes can be read as a stand alone book, but if you are like me you will want to read the entire series!

*Affiliate links used

disclosure: I was given the book Ashes to Ashes from Kregal Publications in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.




Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas after loss: The Second Year

So it’s Christmas week. Our house is decorated, cards are being mailed out, baking has started, gifts have  been purchased and wrapping has begun.

But there is something missing…my husband, Larry. This is our second Christmas without him. I have had some people tell me that the second year is easier. It is not. It’s a lie.  If anything, this year is much harder than last. Why? I have asked myself that several times. Last year was our first Christmas without Larry. He had been gone for two short months. He passed away on October 24th.  Everything happened so fast. And there were people. Lots of family and friends a constant flow of people who checked on us, brought us meals, invited us over for a meal, sat with us, cried with us. Kept us busy.

That busyness filled the time.  There were gifts and cards and food.  Folks wanted to give the boys a nice Christmas and there were a massive amount of gifts…they wanted to do something, anything to help ease or burden. Such an outpouring of love and caring. I was grateful, (I still am) and so thankful that so many cared for me and the boys, especially the boys.

But none of those gestures of love and kindness could bring Larry back. Or ease the constant burden of his loss.  The burden that fills our hearts every. single. day. The longing, the loneliness. It never goes away. 

This Christmas season it is more glaringly obvious…the silence is deafening. There is no one to distract us. Everyone has moved on…as it should be. Everyone has their own lives and struggles of their own to deal with.  Don’t get me wrong  I have wonderful friends who would come over at the drop of a hat if I asked them to. I’ve made new friends this year and learned to appreciate, really appreciate the friends and family I have. I don’t expect them to always hold my hand. We have to learn what our new normal is. How to cope and live with our loss each and every day.

This is also the first Christmas without my dad and the boys’ pop pop. I know my siblings and their families feel it too, that loss that nothing can fill.

We have been busy this Christmas season. We have not closed ourselves up at home.  We have attend church regularly, last Saturday we participated in our first Kids fun day at our church and had a great day. We have pulled out our Christmas movies and music, have laughed together and felt moved to worship. On Sunday evening we went caroling. We even put  up a second tree this year. Something I always wanted to do so my snowmen ornaments could have their own space. We like it, but you know what. It’s just a tree.  We are attending Christmas eve services and having family here on Christmas day.  But there is an emptiness. I guess there always will be. It is something no one can make go away. It is just always there, unrelenting.

The traditions we have always done, we are still doing, but they don’t have the same meaning as they did before.  They feel empty, incomplete and even superficial. We’re still doing them. But we are gradually changing them. Because the things that seemed to mean so much, have lost their meaning without Larry here.

I know that we are not the only family who is grieving who keenly feels loss. We have said goodbye to a lot of family this year. Attended many funerals. Too many. In addition to Larry and my dad, we have lost two cousins. I know those family members are also feeling a great loss this Christmas season, my heart cries for them.  We seem to encounter more people than I thought possible who have suffered great loss or are fighting a hard battle.  I guess they have always been there, but having experienced our own loss perhaps we are just more aware of it than we were before. We are all carrying our heavy burdens, that some days are so much heavier than we can bare.  

 One thing that has helped us is to serve others.  This year we decided that we would not just buy gifts for our friends and family and ourselves, but to surprise some folks we know who were not expecting it. Who are struggling themselves. It is helping us to help others. It is a way to help take our minds off ourselves, our grief (not that it ever goes away) and do something nice for someone else who is dealing with difficulty in their own lives.

I tell the boys often that regardless of our circumstances, we are very blessed. With family, with friends, with the opportunity to serve others and share the love of Jesus.  It does not stop the pain of loss, but it gives us purpose. I think that Larry would like that we are trying to serve others. It is what he did all his life. Serve others. I could sure learn some lessons there. (now there is a post for another day)

I realize that the true meaning of Christmas is not about our loss, but the long awaited birth of Jesus. Our Savior, Our Redeemer. It is His birth we are celebrating and thinking of His glorious birth, I wonder how could God allow His son to be sacrificed for us? How? I know how I feel with my loss and pain, I cannot imagine knowingly sacrificing my child.  But He did and we are celebrating Jesus’ birth in just a couple of days.  I know that He is the only one who can help me carry my burden when I cannot go one more step. There have been many days I can’t. He carries my burden for me. He loves me when I can’t love myself.

I would like wish everyone who has taken the time to read this a very blessed Christmas. Enjoy the time with your loved ones, as the cliché  goes time is short. It truly is.  I am looking forward to spending time with my family and friends celebrating in spite of my sadness. Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ishtar’s Odyssey {A Review}

 

 

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I am so excited to be sharing this review of the newest book in the Jotham’s Journey series by Adnold Ytreeide, Ishtar’s Odyssey! Oh my! When I was given the opportunity to review this book I jumped!  Our family just loves these books. They are so good!

We have read quite a few books for Advent over the years that were very good, but hands down these books are our favorite!

Ishtar is a ten-year-old son of a Persian wise man. He is part of a caravan that is trekking across the desert following a bright star.  Ishtar is a bit of a spoiled boy.  He soon finds out that there is much adventure and danger on this trip through the desert.  Ishtar has much to learn about life and finds that some lessons are only learned by experience.

As with the other books in this series Ishtar’s Odyssey, readings begin  on the first Sunday of Advent (November 29th for 2015) and concludes on Christmas morning. Each days reading ends in a cliff hanger-where you have your children begging you to continue reading and asking you if you read ahead!

After each days reading there is also commentary on what happened that day and the lesson or point that is being taught. 

Before beginning the the actual story, Mr. Ytreeide has shared some wonderful information about Advent and the customs of Advent and a section called Making Connections where you can learn and even create some of the food that Ishtar would have eaten.   You will also find a pronunciation guide for the cast of characters in the story.

In addition to these resources there is a website you can go to see maps of the holy land and map out Ishtar’s journey.

Each of the books in this series are stand alone stories, but are all intertwined, so you do not have to read these stories in order.  They are truly a wonderful way to observe Advent as a family and prepare our hearts for the birth of our Savoir, Jesus.

 

 

**Contains affiliate links**

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review from Kregel Publications. No other compensation was received.  All opinions are my own in this post and on this blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Celebrating Thankfulness. Waiting on Christmas.

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So this has been in my mind. Listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies before Thanksgiving. Before anyone gets defensive hear me out. I have seen various friends online posting how they are listening to Christmas music and watching a Christmas movie well before Thanksgiving. Just today a friend of mine mentioned it and I replied in a kind in joking way, I hope. I poked fun at my own rules about not watching Christmas movies before Thanksgiving.


In our house, even way before the boys were even thought of Larry and I never listened to Christmas music or watched a movie until Thanksgiving night. After we come home from being with family, sharing a meal and enjoying the day, we were always excited to watch our first Christmas movie of the season-usually National Lampoon's Christmas vacation. I still keep that tradition and I admit that last year I wanted to change that tradition and watch a Christmas movie well before Christmas. My boys were having none of that. I was breaking the rules!


You see I believe there is that wonderful feeling of anticipation, you know like getting ready to go on that special date or do something you have been really been looking forward to doing. In our area our local Hobby Lobby has had a full section of Christmas decor out since the beginning of August! I readily admit that I bought a Christmas tree back in August. I have been wanting a pencil tree for many years and they were on sale and I bought one. I knew that they would be difficult to find once November rolled around.

In early October I read an article that basically stated that those who were complaining about Christmas decor being out earlier and earlier were missing the big picture. By decorating early and pulling out the Christmas music and movies earlier gave us Christians that much more time to spread the word about Jesus. Point taken. But are we? Spreading the word about Jesus I mean? Or are we just pushing for things to be earlier and earlier. I sometimes wonder.

You are free to decorate your house inside and out, listen to Christmas music and watch your favorite Christmas movies well before Christmas. Who am I to say you shouldn't. But I have to wonder whatever happened to savoring the holiday that is before us? Thanksgiving? I know that putting up your Christmas decorations does not mean you are not thankful, I get that. I just wonder if we aren't loosing something in pushing ahead so quickly to the next holiday.

I love Christmas music and I want to watch every Christmas movie I own (more than once!) and I own a lot of them! But I also want to stop and appreciate being thankful without the distraction of another holiday mixed in the to the current one.  Yes I said it. Christmas decorations are a distraction.  Just so you know I love Christmas decorations too! I am not convinced that all the décor of Christmas is really sharing Jesus.   Remembering why I am thankful and thanking the Lord for all I have been blessed with is. Showing thankfulness to others shares Jesus with those around me.  I have had a lot happen to me in the last year and my losses are not exclusive just to me. I know many people who have had losses as hard as mine. Some may be harder. I don’t know, I am only walking in my shoes.

Maybe it is that I am getting older. I just told the boys today that the coming Christmas season feels very different. It’s not just because Larry is not here. There is something different. Or maybe I feel different. Maybe it is only me who feels this way. Time seems to be going at light speed and one day seems to blur into the next.  Our local radio station was saying this evening while I was fixing dinner that Black Friday is going to be a thing of the past. Black Friday or whatever they were calling it is starting this weekend through the end of November. It just makes me wonder if we are on the right track. I feel we are not. For Christmas this year the boys and I have decided to do something different. To keep it very simple. But that is another post for another day.  I want to focus on being Thankful. 

Christmas is coming. I want to anticipate it and prepare my heart.  I don’t want to blend it in with Thanksgiving. I want to savor this feeling of thankfulness, embrace it, enjoy it. Share with others what my Heavenly Father has done for me. Has given me. My life, my two loves, my family, my friends. 

You can put up your Christmas décor, I won’t try stop you or try to convince you that you should not. But for me, I want to wait,  to look forward with anticipation to that time that will come shortly, the greatest birth ever celebrated. For today though I am focusing on what Thanksgiving truly means. Listening to beautiful worship songs of Thanksgiving, using this 30 day scripture writing plan and just being thankful.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October 24, 2014 {The day my life changed forever}

 

 

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(just a little warning this is long and probably a bit rambling)

 

One year ago today we had a change in our lives that will effect the boys and I forever. We lost Larry. My husband. Their father.  It is a day that will live in me and them always.

There have been several times in my life that a major change has occurred in my life. Several come to mind. Some were joyous and some were sad.  Our wedding day: May 19th, my brother passing in 1990 at the age of 17, November 2001 the day Justin joined our family, August 2005 the day Kaden joined our family. My grandmother’s passing a few years ago and more recently December 2014 my cousin passed and June 2015 my dad passed.  I know you all have significant dates in your lives both happy and sad that mark changes in your own lives.  It changes us. It makes up who we are.  It breaks us and gives us great challenges.

October 24, 2014 though was the day that just came crashing down around me in such an unexpected way. I felt like I was blind-sided by a bus. I truly didn’t see what was coming.  The results were devastating and far reaching.  I felt as though someone pushed me off a very high cliff and there was no one to catch me.

Sometimes I go back to that day.  I try not to, but my mind has a will of its own and there are some days when I head back there. Back to that Friday. We had just celebrated Larry’s birthday the Saturday before.  I had not spent the entire day with him on his birthday. I was at a bazaar sitting mostly by myself. He had encouraged me to go. I thought maybe I shouldn’t since it was his birthday and he was off from work. (I wish I hadn’t) but he was always my encourager.   He ended up spending the day with the boys and they went out to eat breakfast together and then stopped at the local flea market. In the afternoon they came to the bazaar and stayed until it was over and time to pack up. Then we headed to  our church hayride.  We went on that same hayride tonight. Without Larry.

On that Friday, Oct 24, the boys and I had just finished taking  my dad to his first week of radiation for the cancer in his lungs and brain, that had been discovered just a couple of weeks prior.  As we left the hospital, little did we know that at about that same time the EMS was bringing Larry to the very hospital we were leaving. As we were driving home Justin commented from the back seat “wouldn’t it be great to know the future?” My answer was no. How ironic was his comment in that moment.

Not knowing what was happening with Larry we came home, dropped dad off and mom and the boys and I went to the grocery store. In the meantime dad received a call from Larry’s co-worker saying that he had had a massive heart attack.  Dad was distraught and upset that he could not remember where we had gone. When we returned I honestly thought that dad was mixed up. This could not be happening, could it? For some reason unbeknownst to me, my cell phone was off. They had been trying to reach me for an hour. 

I was taken to the hospital by our friend and fire chief.   When I arrived I knew it was very bad. They took me right back.  The ER doctor would not let me see Larry while they we were working on him.  Then the doctor came out and told me they were were so sorry. They had done everything they could.  He didn’t even finish his sentence and I knew.  I knew he was gone.  I didn’t get to say goodbye. The boys didn’t get to see their daddy again.  I know everyone on that floor could hear my cries of anguish.  I could not believe he was gone. I still can’t.

The rest of my time there was surreal.  I was brought home by my pastor and her husband ( I love them) I had to tell  my boys that their dad was gone. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  EVER.

You know I have such regret that I was not there when Larry needed me the most. I have had a difficult time with that. I SHOULD have been there. My phone should have been on. I wonder sometimes if he wondered where I  was and why I was not there with him. I regret it oh so very, very much. I try not to dwell on that very often, but it is there reminding me. I know it was not my fault, but my heart hurts so much knowing he was alone and I was not there. I know that he had very good care from the doctor and nurses that attended him. I have no doubt about that, but it still does not help me much.

I also realize that had my phone been on I would have had my parents and my boys with me. I know my dad could not have handled being there in person. He was so devastated when I told him Larry was gone. I know too that I could not have handled my boys and myself. But still I regret not being there for him. I know God’s plan is so much better than mine. But you know what I still regret it.

My grandma died a few years ago and she was so special to me. She was someone I looked up to and loved deeply. ( I  still miss her and wish I could talk to her) I asked her one time how she managed to go on after my grandfather died. She said she did what she had to do.

You see my grandfather died when my grandma was 55. I was 52 when Larry died.  I never in a million years would have ever thought I would be in the same position as my grandma. I never thought I would be here without Larry. But here I am.  Sometimes in a deep pit of despair.  I have family and I have friends who love me. But sometimes I feel so utterly alone.

Now here we are today October 24, 2015. An entire year without Larry. It has  been the longest year of my life. Without his smile, his laugh, his love. Just emptiness and loneliness and a deep, deep longing to see him again.

I do go forward. I get up each morning and do (mostly) what I need to do. What’s expected of me. But I don’t want to. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed.  I want to cry and I do. A good friend shared with me about crying in the shower. No one can hear me in there. I cry myself to sleep some nights. Some days I don’t think I can do it. Face what I need to face. Raise these wonderful boys who God felt I was capable of raising. I worry I am not doing a good enough job. I don’t say that for you to praise me. I get told all the time what wonderful boys I have (and it is true I do and I mean that sincerely) Not because of me, but because of God. Just tonight at the hayride someone kindly told me how wonderful the boys are. I thank God that they are in spite of me. Because I know I make mistakes. 

But I am thankful too. Thankful for all the years I did have with Larry. I am so sad for my boys that they got cheated out of time with him.  I’m not sure what the point of my writing is tonight, but I feel I need to say these things. I hope that in some small way, it helps someone else.

Loss is hard. Grief is hard. It never goes away. Ever. It is always there. Lurking and waiting. I never know when something will trigger a memory or feeling. The fall weather makes me keenly aware that Larry is gone. It reminds me of him.  I don’t know why. I miss him. I will always miss him. I wish he were here. I know he is not and I know I need to move forward. I try. But some days are so hard.

Sometimes what the world sees on the surface is not what is really happening on the inside. Take the picture at the beginning of my post. It is a lovely picture of an early  fall morning. It was taken on October 30th of last year while we were waiting for the fire company to bring Larry past our house on his last ride on the way to the church service to celebrate his life.

It gives the picture an entirely new meaning doesn’t it?  Some days when I feel I cannot go another step, I am reminded of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me and I go forward. Some days I may have to crawl but I’m moving.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;   My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)

 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Celebrating Larry

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So how do I start this? Today October 18th is Larry’s birthday. He would be 55. He is celebrating in heaven. We are here.  Missing him.  With all of our hearts.  We were not sure how to celebrate this day? There is no guide book on how we are supposed to do it.

The boys and I have gone back in forth on what to do? How do you celebrate without the guest of honor’ the one you love, present? How do we navigate this oh so hard road of celebrating his life while we are missing him so deeply. Celebrations are happy and uplifting. With fun and laughter.   I’m not sure? I’ve never done this before. I wish I didn’t have to do it now. I wish my boys didn’t have to celebrate their dad without him! I wish he were here. But no amount of wishing will change our circumstances…this journey we are on.  It’s a long road that seems to have no end.

One thing I do know is that I want to celebrate. I want Larry to be remembered.  Always in all ways.  I want his memory to live on in the boy’s lives and my life. I want him to be remembered for the wonderful dad he was. For the great husband he was. For the friend he was.   It’s important we don’t forget.  Ever. So today we are going to celebrate his life.   With a visit to the cemetery, with flowers and maybe a balloon or two.  With a meal out.  With laughter and  tears.  With sadness. With JOY. With memories that will live on in us.  With the hope that someday when Jesus comes there will be no more tears and no more sadness. Only JOY and LOVE.

We love you Larry.

Each and every day. Always….we will never forget. Ever.

Happy Birthday!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Fatherless Father’s Day

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So here we are June 21, 2015. Our first Father’s Day without Larry. Our first Father’s Day with out my dad.

There is silence.  Do you hear it? It looms over me every day. The silence of these men who were such an integral part of my life is deafening.

There is emptiness. An aching and deep, deep loneliness. A vast empty space that cannot be filled.

There are tears.  Tears that I barely allow to be shed, because if I give them free reign, I will completely fall apart.  But they are there lurking at the surface just waiting for an opportunity to make an appearance. 

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Father’s Day is a day to honor the men in our lives who love us and whom we love. Who have nurtured us and taught us helped to mold us into the people are today or will soon become. 

My boys have been cheated of their dad. Cheated of time they should have had with him. Time with him to grow and learn and become the men they are meant to be.  I cannot fill Larry’s shoes, although I will try and help my boys to the best of my ability to be good men, Godly men, gentlemen.  I remind them that their dad taught them so much even in the short time they had with him. He taught them to love, to laugh, to mourn, to show respect, to love and help others.  To love Jesus.  Larry was truly a great guy and a gentlemen through and through.

I can only hope that the men in their lives will step in and help to fill that place that Larry left behind in teaching them what I cannot.  That has already started to happen. I see it in the support system I have in church, the fire company and friends and family. I am thankful and blessed that I have such support. Words can never express my deep love and appreciation I have for these men.

My own dad taught me many things as I shared here. I MISS him.

I do know that while the boys and I no longer have an earthly father, here with us, we do have a heavenly father who loves us more than even our earthly fathers could.  That seems hard to believe but I know it is true. He gave up HIS son so we could have an eternal relationship with Him. That is love.  

Sing praises to God and to his name!
Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.
His name is the Lord—
rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

Psalm 68: 4&5