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Thursday, December 17

Reason for the Season

Sometimes, we get so caught up in life that we forget why we're living!  It's times like these that I like to choose a good book (it's my media of choice) and re-center.  These are some of the best, new books I've recently discovered, and how they have helped with that process.  I hope you find something that helps re-focus, too...

The Five Times I Met Myself  (James L. Rubart)
What if you met your twenty-three-year-old self in a dream? What would you say?  Brock Matthews’ once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage.  So when he discovers his vivid dreams—where he encounters his younger self—might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing.  Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn’t know how to let go . . . and his greatest fear is that it’s already too late.

This is a spiritual science fiction book, and it works!!  I don’t think there is a person alive that wouldn’t change some of their life choices, if given an opportunity to view the outcome through the lens of long term consequences. As the cover says, "If you think fiction can't change your life and challenge you to be a better person, you need to read The Five Times I Met Myself."  It's true...I'm still thinking about it days after finishing it.  This is a story of redemption.  It's a story of acceptance.  You'll want to stay up all night long just to see what happens!  A must-read for anyone who feels twinges of regret, or who just needs to learn to let go and give it to God.

Kristen Welch knows firsthand it’s not that easy. In fact, she’s found out that when you say yes too often, it’s not only hard on your peace of mind and your wallet―it actually puts your kids at long-term risk. In Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen shares the ups and downs in her own family’s journey of discovering why it’s healthiest not to give their kids everything. Teaching them the difference between “want” and “need” is the first step in the right direction. With many practical tips and anecdotes, she shares how to help kids become hardworking, fulfilled, and successful adults.  It’s never too late to raise grateful kids. Get ready to cultivate a spirit of genuine appreciation in your family and create a home in which your kids don’t just say―but mean!―“thank you” for everything they have.

“Society has shifted truth by bombarding us with an idea until it’s normalized.”  That's true.  Look at our culture now versus fifty years ago...not just fashion, but the way that people act.  We're a nation of divas!!  (And yes, I mean that in a bad way.)  This book has several suggestions for balancing grace and discipline when raising our children, and the author is very real-world.  Her wit and candor kept me from feeling too much like a parent-failure, and the suggestions are very do-able.  The chapter on technology is something we all need to consider, especially since we have no modeling from our own parents on how to handle that one.  I feel like this book is perfect for new parents and experienced parents alike. There is something to be learned by everybody in here, and I plan to re-read this one in the future.

Mountain Midwife  (Laurie Alice Eakes)
Ashley Tolliver has tended to the women of her small Appalachian community for years. As their midwife, she thinks she has seen it all. Until a young woman gives birth at Ashley’s home and is abducted just as Ashley tries to take the dangerously bleeding mother to the nearest hospital. Now Ashley is on a mission to find the woman and her newborn baby . . . before it’s too late.  Hunter McDermott is on a quest—to track down his birth mother. After receiving more media attention than he could ever want for being in the right place at the right time, he receives a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to be his mother. Hunter seeks out the aid of the local midwife in the mountain town where the phone call originated—surely she can shed some light on his own family background.  Ashley isn’t prepared for the way Hunter’s entrance into her world affects her heart and her future. He reignites dreams of having her own family that she has long put aside in favor of earning her medical degree and being able to do even more for her community. But is it commitment to her calling or fear of the unknown that keeps her feet firmly planted in the Appalachian soil? Or is it something more—fear of her growing feelings for Hunter—that makes her hesitant to explore the world beyond the mountains?

My heart lies in the Appalachians, so I was drawn to this book.  The descriptions tugged at something deep within me, and the characters embodied all my Appalachian memories.  I was impressed with how the author conveyed spirituality in a very natural way. It makes me much more willing to pick up more stories from her in the future.  I loved the mystery and romance aspects, but really did not like how the book ended so quickly.  It felt as though the publisher said "wrap it up!"  Maybe, though, it was being set up for a second book?

Midwife's Choice  (Delia Parr)
In a time when the traditional ways of medicine are constantly being questioned by new doctors fresh from medical school, midwife Martha Cade tries to balance her life's calling with the demands of her family. Recently reunited with her estranged seventeen-year-old daughter, Martha finds herself torn between guiding her child and allowing her to be an adult. At the same time, she must decide whether she'll risk reopening the heart she'd long closed off to love.  Though a small town, Trinity, Pennsylvania, is fraught with secrets, and as a midwife, Martha moves among its people. She knows which homes are filled with light and love, which families have slipped into grief, which wives are unhappy, and which husbands dare to cross lines...As Martha struggles with the conflicts of being a mother, a midwife, and a woman, she learns the greatest lessons of all--that hope can shine even in the darkest hours, and that faith has a way of making the impossible possible.

This was a well-written book that wasn't overtly 'religion-pushing,' like some novels are.  The lessons learned (including humility, faith, judgment of character, trust in God's plans, letting go, and embracing change) all came about naturally over the course of the book.  In the end, she learns that her burdens were unnecessary...which is a lesson most of us could use.  Worry is a daily issue for most moms that I know!   She learns to open up to others, and shares her load, which ultimately strengthens those relationships.  My only 'problem' was that this isn't the first book in the series  I wish I had started with the first in this series!

Home & Away  (Dean Hughes)
A historical fiction novel told from the perspective of a son fighting on the battlefields of Europe during World War II and his mother, struggling with worry and uncertainty about her soldier son while she tries to keep a semblance of a normal, happy Christmas holiday back on the homefront. Norma Hayes has always tried to make Christmas special for her family, but 1944 will make that more difficult with money being tight and wartime rationing making everything hard to come by. Aware of his mother's hardships and the worry from having her eldest son at war, second son, Dennis, is determined to buy his mother a special gift this Christmas, a lavender blue dress he hopes will bring her comfort as a symbol of special times gone by and the hope of a brighter future with the family reunited at war's end. Meantime, on a battlefield far from home in Holland with his 101st Airborne battalion, her soldier son catches a familiar scent of lavender which briefly transports him back to the homefront to the perfume scent his mother wore, giving him a short respite and reuniting the family once again if only in his imagination.

I love reading about the WWII time period...it's such a simpler time.  It was difficult, for sure, but people stuck together and community was central.  This is a great Christmas story for readers who love this era.  We see the story through the eyes of a sixteen year old, torn between childhood fears and adult decisions.  I cannot imagine some of the trials teens must have experienced during this time...with families torn apart, siblings gone, being on the cusp of war yourself.  We see character growth, through maturity, experience, and love.  The twists and turns will make you want to stay up all night, finishing the book, and dreaming of happier Christmases to come!

I received most of these books at a discount in exchange for an honest review.
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