Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19th 1984

(I know it has been a long time since I wrote here at My Blessings From Above if you are still here and reading, thank you. There have been big changes  in my life in the past 7 months. My plan is to get back to posting regularly. Probably not daily, but maybe once or twice a week..I hope you’ll stick around)

You read the year right….May 19th 1984. The day two young people stood before God, family and friends and vowed  to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.

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I was almost 22 and Larry was 23…we were young and looking back did not have a clue about what those vows truly meant. On the surface we understood them, but you know being young and in love and ready to conquer the world we knew everything and had it all together. Ahem…..not quite!However you could never have convinced my almost 22 year old self of that! Fast forward to today 31 years later and here I am alone on what would have been our 31st wedding anniversary.

A little bit of back story for those of you who may not know. Almost 7 months ago on October 24th, Larry had a massive heart attack and passed away.  Just like that. He went to work early that morning and by 3 pm I was at the hospital listening to the emergency room doctor utter the words no one ever wants to hear. “I’m sorry Mrs. Gerrells we have done all we can for your husband”. NO! NO! NO! This was not happening to me.  I didn’t get to say goodbye! We have two boys to raise! They were 13 and 9! They needed their dad! I needed my husband! I’m only 52. How could this happen? It was all very surreal. I had just earlier that afternoon returned from taking my dad to his first week of radiation for his recent diagnosed lung and brain cancer just a week prior.  This just could not be happening! But it was and it did. There was nothing I could do to stop it. It was like being blindsided by a bus. I did not see that coming! We were parted by death.

Oh that I could reverse time….go back just a little bit. Just for a minute.  So I could say goodbye, tell Larry that I loved him just one more time give the boys just a little more time with their dad. But it was not to be.

So here I am in 2015 on May 19th remembering my wedding day and wondering how I got here. My situation is not unique…I am sure there are many widows my age and I am certainly not the first woman to become a widow.

Still…it seems a bit unfair…but God never promised fairness or an easy life. I’m no different than you are. I’m not so special that bad things should never happen to me. But still…it is unfair. Unfair to my boys who need their dad. Unfair that I don’t have my husband…..however life goes on….as I have seen in my own life. We have been moving forward, each day just a few little steps at a time.

Let’s go back to 1984 for a minute to our wedding day. It rained in the morning, but by noon the sun was shining. (the wedding was at 1) I got dressed at our church parsonage along with my bridesmaids. My in-laws were separated at the time and my mother-in-law swore she would not attend the wedding. She did and between her and my father-in-law we had an interesting couple of minutes at the church.  At one point during the ceremony the entire wedding party sat down. I went to sit down and could not. Larry was standing on my train of  my gown and I said as much in what I thought was a quiet voice and the entire church heard me announce that he was standing on my train! There was some laughter over that!

The car we used was my Uncle Sam and Aunt Elaine’s. When they dropped my cousin off at the church (she was my maid of honor) the car would not shut off. So when they returned later for the wedding the car ran during the entire service!

During reception my mother-in-law caught the bouquet and Larry was kind enough to shove cake in my face! I wore cowboy boots with gold boot tips under my gown and my grandma made sure everyone in attendance knew it! I spent quite a bit of time showing guests my boots!

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After the reception we stayed and helped my parents clean up the hall we had rented as there was an event there the next day. There is a picture somewhere of me in my wedding gown pushing a broom! Don’t all new brides sweep up after their reception?  After we left the hall we spent a romantic evening at the grocery store getting some items to take with us on our honeymoon. We were poor and in love and had a frugal honeymoon planned! We spent our honeymoon at the beach in Wildwood, NJ. It rained while we were there…we didn’t care. We walked the boardwalk with umbrella’s which of course I got my hair caught in.

We had a great marriage. Was it perfect? NO did we fight? YES! But you know what I married a great man. I really did. He was flawed just like me. We loved each other in spite of our flaws or maybe because of them. I told him numerous times that I don’t know why he put up with me because there were times I could not put up with myself. But Larry did. Always. He always told me he loved me.  Even when I didn’t deserve it.

Larry was kind and giving, generous and faithful. He would help anyone in need and always took time for people.  He left me a note just about every morning of our married life. He was a pure romantic and  loved happy endings, especially those sappy predictable ones.  He was also very stubborn-I don’t want you to think he was perfect, but he was perfect for me. I like to think our personalities complimented each other. He put up with my crazy sense of humor.

There are so many things I miss about him. He laugh, his smile, his sense of humor. His yelling at hockey and football games on television. (I tried explaining to him many times that they could not hear him, but he seemed to think they could?) His unfailing love for me, in spite of me. He was quick to forgive (I can’t always say that about myself) and quick to compliment. He always complimented and encouraged me. I swear I could have worn a bag over my head or cooked a horrible meal (I can recall a really bad meatloaf I made!) and he would always say it was wonderful!  Larry was a hand holder. I miss that. Oh how I miss that! One thing I thought about the other day was that he never called me Michele, he always called me Shell. I miss that so much and no one calls me Shell much these days. Isn’t it funny the things you think about and remember.

Larry was an awesome dad. He loved his boys so much. He was worse than I was the day both of them came home.  He sure loved a happy ending!! And Justin and Kaden made his life complete!

I think of him a thousand times a day. Remembering…..

We were married for 17 years before we started our family, that in itself is a story but I’ll save that for another time. I think of things I want to tell him. What I have learned, what the boys are doing and what is going on in our lives. I miss his comforting presence.  I do journal and write down my memories and current feelings.

We had 30 years together, that is a long marriage. I thought we would see our kids grow up and see those milestones so many families have. Their children graduating from grammar, high school and college, seeing them get married and start their own families. Growing old together. It was not meant to be. I don’t know why. Only God knows that.

So here I am today, May 19th. 2015….we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Kaden’s 10th birthday.  Justin is graduating 8th grade and summer is coming….so many milestones we have celebrated with out Larry, in just about 7 short months. My beautiful cousin Carolyn passed away 2 months to the day that Larry did on Christmas Eve and my dad is fading away in a nursing home from this cancer that is taking his life. My boys have suffered so much loss in these short months since last October, with more suffering to come, and the changes in the world since Larry’s passing are staggering. 

My boys are learning to live life without their dad and I am learning that I can do things I never thought I could do.  My heart is broken for myself, but especially for my boys.  They need their dad. But life does not stop for my wants…it goes on. 

I am so thankful for the continued support of many dear friends, my church and fire company families, I could not do this without that support.  There have been some men who have placed themselves in my boys lives to give them what I cannot and for that I am more thankful than they will ever know.

So I celebrate alone. Remembering a good marriage and a wonderful man. I won’t forget him or our time together. Even though I wanted much more I am blessed with the time I had. Many people don’t get 30 years or decide their marriage is not worth it anymore. I will do everything in my power to help my boys remember their dad and to teach them what he wanted them to know.

I have to admit that when I see a couple together young or old I am envious of their relationship, their obvious love for one another. I miss that so much. But I try to remember that I was (and still am) so blessed to have had a wonderful marriage.

One last thing, I do have hope…hope in Jesus that someday I will see Larry again. We will be together again in heaven. In the meantime I guess my work here not done. I have boys to raise and God to trust in.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Evangelism Study Bible NJJV {Kregel Review}

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I really enjoy reading multiple Bible translations when I am studying God’s word, so when the opportunity to review The Evangelism Study Bible New King James I gladly accepted.

I find that reading more than one translation of the Bible helps me to understand the Bible more clearly. Using this Bible was no exception.

Some of the features of The Evangelism Study Bible:

  • An introduction at the beginning of each book of the Bible.
  • over 2600 study notes about evangelism
  • 125 articles on crucial issues
  • 45 devotions throughout
  • color maps
  • concordance
  • lays flat when open

I found the commentaries and articles in this Bible informative and thought provoking with a heavy focus on evangelism.  This Bible gives lots of cross references that help you find other key verses in the Bible that relate to a verse that is currently being read.

This would be an ideal Bible for someone who is wanting to have more understanding on witnessing to others whether it be around the world or in your own neighborhood.

disclosure: I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Homeschool Planet-{Home & School Mosaics Review}

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When I was given the opportunity through Home & School Mosaics to review Homeschool Planet online Calendar/Planner created by The Homeschool Buyers Co-op I was very excited! I love The Homeschool Buyers Co-op and have gotten several great deals from them and thought this would be something that would help me get organized!

I have tried various planners in the past and one problem I personally have had is getting everything coordinated onto one calendar. Perhaps this is a problem you have as well.

It seems we all have busy schedules these days whether we work outside the home, are work-at-home moms or stay-at-home moms, our lives tend to get busy!  Trying to keep everything on the calendar and keep up with everyone’s schedule can be a challenge!

In our home we homeschool, serve on several committees in our church, attend a weekly Bible study. I am also the President of our local fire company auxiliary and serve as secretary of our homeschool support group. So having a place where I can list all of our activities and the boys school assignments in one place was something that certainly appealed to me!

I found that Homeschool Planet is very user friendly! Within minutes of logging in I had our calendar, schedule and school assignments up and running! This is not just a planner but a calendar and schedule all in one. And it is all online! It does not matter which operating system you use. You can access it with your laptop, tablet or smart phone!  If you prefer using a paper calendar or planner no worries you have the option to print it out as well!

I really love the features of this online planner! You can add anything you can think of that you would want on a calendar, birthdays, important activities, meetings and events as well as your children’s assignments! I love that I can color code so each of us has our own color and can easily see at a glance who is doing what!

I also love that it can be set up for my children have separate login information and to receive emails about their assignments! My oldest just got his first computer and it is going to be so handy to email his assignments to him. Using this planner will also teach him time management. Something he is going to need in the coming years.

You have the opportunity to have different views. You can have calendar view or planner view.

There are so many other features at your finger tips.

  • text messages-you have to option utilize text messaging if you would rather not use email.
  • Keep track of days and hours schooled
  • easily access grades and transcripts
  • Widgets! There are some awesome widgets included with this planner-Bible verse, weather, daily quote
  • The ability to look at the planner for the entire family or just one person. I love this feature!
  • to-do lists. You can create to-do lists for each person in your family!
  • Shopping list-I always have an ongoing shopping list and this helps me keep everything in ONE place!

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Above is just a small sample of our planner!

I really love this online planner! There are helpful tutorials that walk you though setting your planner up!

Currently you can get a 30 day FREE trial of Homeschool Planet! If you decide to continue your subscription, your cost is only $6.95 per month or $65.00 for the entire year!

 

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Keepers of the Covenant {Review}

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

About the book:

The Old Testament Comes to Thrilling Life in the Latest from Lynn Austin

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king's palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra's brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude's widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple---but the fight to keep God's Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges . . . this one for the survival of God's covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.

My Thoughts

I love Christian fiction, especially good Christian fiction! Lynn Austin delivers! If you have read my blog and some of my reviews you know I am a huge Lynn Austin fan! In Keepers of the Covenant Lynn brings to life the story of Ezra! Starting in Esther and the proclamation of the King to execute all of the Jews. Many of us are very familiar with the story of Queen Esther. However the story is told from the prospective of the Jewish people and the prophet Ezra. The devastation of that proclamation and the meaning it had for the Jewish people.

Keepers of the Covenant is a beautiful story! Lynn Austin brings the old testament to life in a way that will make you want to pick up your Bible and read the story of Ezra! God is always in control even when it seems like a hopeless situation!

Be sure to visit the Litfuse website to learn more about Keepers of the Covenant!

About the Author:


Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.

Find Lynn online: website, Facebook

Lynn Austin is back with the next book in The Restoration Chronicles series, Keepers of the Covenant. Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God's unwavering love for His people.

Lynn is celebrating with a Kindle HDX giveaway and a live author chat webcast on October 21st.
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One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 21st. Winner will be announced at the Keepers of the Covenant LIVE webcast event on October 21st. Connect with Lynn for a fascinating evening centered around God's unwavering love for His people. She'll be hosting a Biblical fiction book club discussion, giving away prizes, answering your questions, offering an exclusive peek at the next book in The Restoration Chronicles, and much more!

So grab your copy of Keepers of the Covenant and join Lynn and friends on the evening of October 21st for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)
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Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Litfuse in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Odyssey Adventure Club iPad Mini Giveaway!

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 The end of summer is in sight, and OAC is giving away an iPad Mini back-to-school bundle! It might seem like summer just began for your kids, so if they need some added motivation to get their homework done, remind them they can jump on the Odyssey Adventure Club after their papers are written and their math problems are solved.

As members, your kids can also listen to Album 58 before the album is released to the public! Sign up today for just $5!

Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):
It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive. Plus, here's a sneak peek of a new episode called "The Lone Lawman"!
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Jason, Whit, Red and the gang rustle up herds of fun while performing a new Kids’ Radio show set in the Old West. “The Lone Lawman” features a confused boy getting mixed up with a shifty band of bank robbers. Can a hero on horseback set things right? See just how wild the West can get in this action-packed send-up of old-time radio dramas.

NOW . . . on to the iPad Mini back-to-school bundle. One grand prize winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
Hurry, the giveaway ends on August 27th. All winners will be announced August 28th on the widget on this page.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit this page again on the 28th to see if you won! (You'll see the winner's name in the widget.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Odyssey Adventure Club – join today for just $5!

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Have you had a chance to join the Odyssey Adventure Club? We have been listening over the summer and we just love these stories! We really do! Even my 13 year old loves them!  The are wonderful wholesome stories that share Biblical lessons we apply to our everyday life! It is really a fantastic series!

For a limited time, you can listen to a new episode of Adventures in Odyssey for FREE! Album 58, The Ties that Bind, will be available this fall for digital download and CD purchase, but if you join the Odyssey Adventures Club, you can listen to the full album now! Guess what? The $5 special held last month was extended through the end of July, too, so you can join in the fun for only $5! Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):

It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive. One way families can carry out God's design for families is by serving their community—right where God has planted them, being His hands and feet together. Want to serve your community with your family, maybe make a day of out it? Here are some fantastic ideas from some Adventures in Odyssey bloggers and club members:
  • Make scarves through the year and deliver them to your local homeless shelter at the start of winter, or regularly donate food to your local food bank. —Shirley 
  • Our family likes to help with Meals on Wheels. We also do reenactments of the Civil War and WWII to help educate people on history. I like to show my kids that we should be servers and givers by taking meals to people who need them (i.e. baby just born, someone died, someone had surgery, etc.). —Erin 
  • We have been visiting a nursing home with friends once a month. The kids just sing and then we fellowship, but the ladies love it! —Lisa 
  • We make lap blankets for nursing home residents and take the time to visit with them. We also collect food for the local food pantry. —Donna 
  • We make blessing bags to give to the homeless when we encounter them. We also donate clothes and food to a local shelter. —Amy 
  • Our MOPs (Mothers of Prechoolers) group supports our local Pregnancy Support Services with donations, gifts, and notes. We also supports the Durham Rescue Mission, which helps people break free from addictions and restore families. —Melissa 
  • We live in a very rural area. Our church serves two of the poorest zip codes in the state, and about a decade ago, they started operating a food pantry out of a closet. It has expanded since then, so we now use the closet for storage, but the pantry is basically a classroom. The kids and I serve over there a lot. My 17-year-old and I go to Care & Share (50 miles away) to get food to bring back to the pantry. All of us help unload and stock shelves. On pantry days, everyone can get involved with helping people go through the line, playing with the kids, carrying boxes out to cars, etc. There are so many hungry folks, especially in the summer when school breakfasts and lunches aren't available, and helping a bit to put food on some tables is such a blessing for us all. —Debra 
  • We pack food bags each month for the homeless and needy through a thrift store that offers an outreach to the community. We also help clean our church and our Sunday school. —Michele 
  • We work through our AHG troop to do several service activities a year. My girls just recently made bracelets they are selling, which 100% of the profits goes to Hope House in Africa to help young girls. —Sarah 
  • Our church works with a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We cook food ahead of time, and when our schedules allow we ride down with the group to serve the food. My son always reminds me when we haven't been for awhile, so it's something he looks forward to. —Maria 
  • We do lots of random acts of kindnesses within our community: pay for others' meals, leave change at a vending machine, hand out Gatorade/granola bars to people on the side of the road asking for food. We also love to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes. —Kathryn
Did that provide some ideas to give your family service activity the kick-start it needs? What other ideas do you have for serving your community? Share in the comments!
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disclosure: I received a 3 month membership to Odyssey adventure Club in exchange for posting my honest thoughts. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Butterfly and the Violin {review}

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

 

About the book

A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz---and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl---a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

My Thoughts

When I saw the topic of this book I knew I wanted to review it! I have always been fascinated with anything related to World War II. The Butterfly and the Violin is two stories-one from the past and one from the present intertwined. I was fascinated to learn that the prisioners in the death camps were forced to perform their music and had created art work while in captivity. I sometimes think we don’t put a face to the name or stop to realize that the prisoners in the death camps had real lives, real talent, be it doctor, or housewife, banker or musician or artist.

The story while sad and heartbreaking in places also portrays hope were there seems to be none, finding God when he seems unreachable in the depths of despair.

The Butterfly and the Violin is an exceptional story that you will not want to put down!

 

You can learn more about The Butterfly and the Violin by visiting the Litfuse website!

About the author

Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her grandfather's stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.

Find Kristy online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Welcome to the launch campaign for debut novelist Kristy Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin. Romantic Times had this to say: "Alternating points of view skillfully blend contemporary and historical fiction in this debut novel that is almost impossible to put down. Well-researched yet heartbreaking. . . ."

Kristy is celebrating the release of the first book in her series, A Hidden Masterpiece, with a fun Kindle Fire giveaway and meeting her readers during an August 7th Facebook author chat party.

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 One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 7th. Winner will be announced at The Butterfly and the Violin Author Chat Party. Kristy will be connecting with readers and answering questions, sharing some of the fascinating research behind the book, hosting a fun book chat, and giving away some GREAT prizes. She will also be giving an exclusive look at the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin!

So grab your copy of The Butterfly and the Violin and join Kristy on the evening of August 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

disclosure: I received a copy of this book from LitFuse in exchange for my honest opinion. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.