I’ve learned the easiest way to blog is to steal the best blogs on the planet, and re-post them. It’s even better when the best blog is written by your daughter.
“Once I finally held a positive pregnancy test, I felt elated… but what shocked me, is that I also felt disappointed. We’d tried to conceive for four years. I’d just returned from one of my many volunteer trips to Haiti and was excited to start nursing clinicals in a few months, but I always wanted to be a mom. A week later my husband’s best friend passed away. He was devastated. When we found out we were having a boy, we decided to name him Memphis (abode of the good) and Matthew (gift of God), after my husband’s friend.
After Memphis’ birth on April 5, I experienced intense postpartum anxiety and self-doubt. I was convinced I would unwittingly hurt or fail my son. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t ready. I also felt guilt that I missed my old life and freedom. I grieved it. Surely, this meant that I shouldn’t be a mom. This doubt and guilt delayed our bonding for three months.
Now, I am so in love with this boy. In time, God has shown me Memphis was meant to be born. He was meant to be waited for. He was meant to be mine. He is worth every bit of sacrifice. I know women who regret choosing abortion. I have never known a women who regrets choosing LIFE.” – Megan #StandforLIFE
I liked this book so much I read the endnotes. And I NEVER read endnotes. It brings you into the lives of the French resistance so that you want to know more – I just didn’t want it to end. So when you are reading it you don’t want the war to end because that will mean the book will end, which is pretty sick when you think about it.
The subtitle gives a fine overview – A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris – good enough.
Avenue of Spies is a page turner, but not a thriller. It’s gritty, and tells the truth in a blunt way, but stopped short of being graphic, which I appreciated. I want to know what happened, but I’d rather not relive it in my mind. It was more like watching a train wreck than being in one.
The Gestapo, the Milice, the SS, the deportations especially of the women and children just as freedom and the end of the war was knocking at the door, the torture, the French citizens that didn’t join the resistance…
The ugliest part of this story, for me, was the end of the war. Both the story of the ship Thielbek, and the lack of guilt of some of the Gestapo and SS officers. Some of the jerks lived to a ripe old age. Although I believe the Bible and in the doctrine of Hell, I’m ordinarily surprised that a loving God would have such a place. Not so much anymore.
I was given this book to review it, otherwise I wouldn’t have read it. I thought I knew about WWII and the French resistance. I didn’t. I’ll now be loaning this book out and recommending it to others. My review is honest, in spite of getting the book for free – I don’t want to end up with the SS in the afterlife.
I often write about the hardships of being Jon’s wife but nothing compares to our wedding. On September 8, Jon and I celebrated 9 years of marriage. I remember saying to my husband “I just want to marry you. As long as we’re married at the end of the day, I don’t care if guests are eating pizza off paper plates on the floor.”
This almost came to fruition. Here’s what I learned.
Pick a Mantra and Stick to It
Repeat it over and over. It keeps you calm when you feel the world of cake and taffeta closing in. Mine was, “As long as I’m married at the end of the day…“
Small Wedding = Destination Wedding
For me, minimal spotlight means minimal stress. I’m a recluse and hate being the center of attention. I wanted to get married in the church I grew up in. I thought…
The Good: I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I should have read the subtitle, “A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview.” That is what this book is all about. If you enjoy military stories and difficult philosophical questions, you are weird. You’ll also enjoy this book.
The stories sucked me in, and the worldview issues Jason Ladd deals with are well-covered. In both instances he defines his terms well, so even without a military or college background you call follow along without any issues. Thankfully he also used Harry Potter illustrations, so I could relate. Jason is extremely well-studied; some terrific quotes are included. If you are wondering what to read next, simply going to his bibliography would be a good place to start looking.
He also has some great quotes of his own. One from early on, talking about growing up he said, “The wrecking ball of divorce has no less momentum when the children it smashes are grown.” He seems to me to write like I would expect a marine to write – in your face. It was refreshing.
The Bad: The only “bad” part of the book I could find was when some of the stories didn’t seem to fit the truth he was illustrating. Sometimes it felt like a stretch to me. I would enjoy the story – be convinced of the truth – but didn’t always see the connection.
In the book, our modern world, media, and culture come out looking foul. The emasculation of men, lies about religion, the promotion of porn – Jason helped me see through the fog and realize just how bad our culture really is.
The Ugly: Here is my only real complaint. 99% of the book is honest, clear, in-your-face marine stories and truth-telling. Then, just a few times, Jason switches into preaching mode. Leave out the sermons and it gets 5 stars. As it is, it gets 4.5, a high recommendation, but 20 fewer pages and it would be tops. I just hope Jason the Marine isn’t mad at me.
I received One of the Few for free, in exchange for my honest review. It did save me the $16.99 Amazon new price, but I still told the truth. It would have to be a free $20.00 book for me to lie about it.
This was an unexpectedly beneficial read. I was expecting horror stories of fist-fights in the foyer, worship wars over the contemporary bagpipe harmonica band, or maybe pastors become crack addicts to make it through board meetings. Admittedly, that would have been a fun read, but less helpful. Bride(Zilla) did give plenty of honest stories, enough to know the authors had been on the receiving side of plenty of church hurt. But, the book offers hope for the church and ourselves, pushing back hard at the idea that all the hurt is caused by others, leaving us off the hook. Other than being convicted (how dare they), I loved the book.
I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more practical help for “What to Do When God’s People Hurt God’s People,” (the subtitle). Gluck and Martin did emphasize that the gospel has the power to reconcile severed relationships, and pushed back hard on the idea to simply run away to solve our problems.
The book also jumps around a bit, hitting on some tangents that seem to be big issues for the authors. The church not focusing on singles is one. And the idea that that the church has become a place of entitlement for spoiled believers is another. It was a bit of a tangent, but the chapter on entitlement was one of my favorites, helping to me to think through why we do what we do, and how we might unintentionally be enabling the entitlement mentality at our church. Here are some quotes from that section. . .
“There’s a lot of talk these days about entitlement…. The disease of entitlement has historically had just as much of a hold on the church as anywhere else… Let me get straight to the gist of this chapter: the overflow of an ungrateful heart is consumerism… We attend church to be served, not to serve. We attend church to be won over, not to worship. We attend church to complain, not to confess… we simply attend, and we believe the church should attend to the space that we’re paying tithes to fill… The problem, of course, is that consumerism in the church creates causalities.”
As a pastor, I can say with some experience that there are times when church sucks – and times when it is the most wonderful, powerful, life-changing place on the planet. This book had to focus on the ugly side of church, but somehow, for me, it ended up being medicine for healing some of the old hurts, and helped me realize how I was part of the problem.
I loved this encouraging line: “The hurt is not the deepest thing. Grace is deeper still.”
I was hoping I’d get a new car for writing this review. Had that been the case, I might have lied. However, all I got was a book free from the Blogging for Books Blogger Review Program. As a result, I was honest. Dang it.
Susan Weagant has updated her book, Essentials of the Heart. I was asked to write an endorsement. Here’s what I think.
Don’t buy this book. It will make you think about where you are, and where you would like to be, and give steps to change – you don’t want that. You’ll get engrossed in the stories, and then hit in the heart by the scripture woven in. The next thing you know you will want to make the changes suggested, and you will start down the path to a life of fulfillment. Trust me, it’s much easier to stay stuck. Put the book back.
I always wondered why God chose the church. We petty, anxious, selfish people can make a mess of His message. A supernatural “Jesus Saves” written with mountains floating in the air would cause less drama. Assuming God knows what He is doing, we need a way to work together in this family called church. For that, Steinke’s book is priceless.
The Good: This book was great – fun to read, immensely practical, convicting and encouraging. I can’t recommend it highly enough – especially to those in ministry. I especially liked the “7 Responses to Promote Health: Self not others, strength not weakness; process not content; challenge not comfort, integrity not unity; system not symptom; direction not condition.” OK, you need definitions to apply, but trust me they are good.
I also was helped by the idea of Triangles. “When A is at odds with B, the most anxious of the pair introduces C (third party) to reduce anxiety between A and B. For example, God confronts Adam about his disobedience. Anxious Adam shifts the burden to Eve. When she encounters God, Eve blames the snake.” So glad I’ve never done that.
And my favorite quote: “Anxiety creates its own disaster.” Gregory Bateson.
The Bad: The first half is more theoretical; the second half has more stories to illustrate the truths. And graphs. So, the second half is way more interesting. The bad thing is, you can’t really understand the second half without reading through from the beginning. Trust me on this one. To Steinke’s credit, even the first half is a good read.
The Ugly: I’ve been in church work for about 30 years, and now this book comes out. I’d have handled a lot of ugly in a more redemption fashion, had Steinke written this and I applied it sooner. So, it’s all Steinke’s fault. Thanks Steinke, now no more anxiety between me A and them B.
I’m about to do something I vowed never to do – write a mom blog. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. This I promise you:
I promise never to describe the color, quantity or consistency of my child’s poop.
I promise never to describe the color, quantity or consistency of my child’s spit up.
Like, seriously mom bloggers, stop it and leave that to webmd.
Proverbs 21:19 Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
I was 4 months pregnant when my husband said, “I’ve been reading a lot about natural child birth.”
“Hippie, no! Stop right there. When YOU have the next baby, we’ll talk about it.”
“Hear me out. I’ve read a lot about the effects of medication in labor…”
“Oh really? Read anything about the success rate of marriages afterwards?”
This article was posted by Sue, who went to Haiti with us for her second time this year. She gave one of the best descriptions of what a day in Haiti is like – it’s like being there. Happy reading…
So…this morning i am overwhelmed with emotion. Those who have been to Haiti (or any other 3rd world country) will understand what i am feeling. But this post is for those of you who may never feel called or have the opportunity to experience this level of poverty and devastating living conditions. Last year when i returned i wrote a sweet little poem about the beauty of Haiti and the enormous pride of the Haitian people…i wrote about the lovely mangos and the wind in the palms at night. I wrote about the sacrifices of the missionaries and their families. I wrote about the delicious meals we ate and the sweetness of the children we teach. I wrote about how my heart was broken for this tiny island forever.
But today…i must tell you…i painted a picture that is only half of the story.
There is GREAT tragedy that i neglected. Emotional whiplash that is hard to explain…but it is laid on my heart to try… So…here is a day in Haiti: We wake up at 7…quickly take cold showers…shake the cockroaches out of our beds and clothes..and dress for a day at the beach. We struggle to put our clothes on because the humidity is so high our clothes stick to us like glue. 17 plus people are in the kitchen making various breakfasts and the chatter and laughter is loud and chaotic. We will leave the kitchen in a horrific mess that the Haitian ladies will clean up after we leave. Some will thank them..most of us will not.
We are transporting 33 people to the beach so we pile into several vehicles…where we experience the only air conditioning available. As we drive through Port au Prince…all of our senses are overwhelmed..the smells and sights and noise are extreme. There are wonderful smells of cooking chickens and bread and rice..mixed with burning garbage and sewage and exhaust. I say it all smells like roasting chilis in October…everyone thinks im crazy…they say it smells like burning trash. There are people EVERYWHERE…but you do not see any white American tourists walking the streets of Haiti. Its too dangerous? Every building has a gate…and an armed guard…EVERY building is behind a wall…except those that are hollowed out from the earthquake and within those crumbling walls … laundry hangs and children play on concrete steps that go nowhere anymore.
Everyone is selling something. Virtually EVERY square foot of the roadsides are filled with Haitian people making a living. Dan calls it a drive through Walmart..I call it a drive through flea market. And the things they sell are American…things we….often times missionaries…have brought to this island. Pampers and Coca Cola and Snickers and Cell phones and lingerie and vacuum cleaners (VACUUM CLEANERS!!?) And next to and behind and amongst all of these things is the garbage…pampers and cocacola cans and discarded cell phones and lingerie and broken vacuum cleaners…. Piles and piles and piles of garbage…everywhere. But no garbage truck ever comes to collect…so the garbage is piled into the streets and burned…toxic fumes mix with the smells of exhaust and fresh bread. All this up against the most beautiful artwork i have ever seen.
Everything and everyone dressed in loud brilliant colors. Everyone carrying heavy items on their heads…chickens, bananas, car batteries…Everyone walking somewhere..down he middle of he street…cars…motorcycles…ap taps….all swerving and inching and negotiating their way through streets that are seemingly impassable. No road rage…just an unspoken rule of navigation communicated through hand gestures and taps on car horns. Next to a large dumping of garbage…a playground…on a busy corner…with tons of traffic…i am worried because the playground has no fence.
And then we are at the beach.
Gorgeous resort! Turquoise waters. People serving me fresh pineapple or coconut water while i snorkle and sunbathe on the beautiful beach. Two of our missionaries are not feeling well. They get sicker and sicker as the after noon goes by. They are running high fevers…could be anyone of a host of diseases…we put them in the shade…i order another coca cola….and ask for extra ice please. And finally it is time to go home. We help the sick to the vans..load our bargain souvenirs in the trunk and head home.
Along the way we see a crowd of people gathered near the side of the road. I remember last time driving this route and seeing the body on the side of the road of a young girl… this time it is a young man and I am aware that I am not nearly as upset this time at the site of a body on the side of the road as I was last time… but I can’t get the picture of the bright red blood up against the grayness of the street and the colorful people dressed in their Sunday best gathered around as they wait for the makeshift ambulance to arrive to carry the body away.
And… again back through the streets of Haiti and home again where we prepare to have a wonderful meal prepared with love and care by our amazing family of missionaries who spend every day ..living this day …and I wonder to myself….. how? And after worship and amazing music…and inspirational words from Byron, we go to bed to the sounds of pastors on loudspeakers preaching to the people of the street… long into the night. The next morning I will get up and teach babies…. some who live in makeshift huts along a dirty River piled high with garbage …and when I pick up one such child in the morning and hold her close to me I find myself overwhelmed at how wonderful her sweet tiny shirt smells like soap…and milk.
1: You get to rock the Caribbean! Don’t you think Heaven may be a bit like the Caribbean, only with gold streets and no sea and… just go with me here. Yesterday I was rocking in a chair on a front porch, sipping some chilled and talking smack with my good friend Bill. Admittedly it was between installing a washing machine using a gas valve – and cleaning out the house drain. But still, we were rocking in the Caribbean!
2. You connect with believers from around the world. At the English-speaking church you meet believers from other mission’s trips from almost anywhere. Here at Maranatha Children’s home we have close to 40 workers from different backgrounds and churches. The High School and college aged kids who give up a summer of fun in the states for months of service to others in Haiti are amazing. Byron and Shelley, who chose to leave their dairy farm in Idaho and move their family down here to sacrifice with and for others, are a helpful reminder to examine my own life and motives.
3: You can eat whatever you like. At home I’m stuck with a mostly vegan diet consisting of natural peanut butter you have to mix, chia that sticks in your teeth, and enough red rice yeast to gag Goliath. On a mission’s trip you are, as the Blues Brothers so wisely deduced, on a mission from God. Therefore, you can eat whatever you want?! For the first time since my last trip to Haiti I’ve had red meat, hotdogs, coke, cheese, brownies, heavy cream in dark coffee – mercy this stuff tastes GREAT. It’s even better knowing it won’t affect my cholesterol since it’s a mission trip. However I may need to buy larger pants when I get home.
4: Heavenly Music. If you have not heard the Haitian women singing hymns in harmony or the kids singing in the opening ceremony on Facebook, you really should check it out. It is, truly, heavenly.
5. Beautiful Faces. How can you not love these kids? I’m hoping my glorified body will have a face like the kids who come to English Camp. The best for me is seeing our group love the kids, and seeing some make the decision to follow Christ. That’s tough to beat, and, I think, as close to heaven as you can get on earth.
6: You may get to witness a resurrection. Every year the 1998 Isuzu Trooper Diesel is waiting it’s rebirth for English Camp. It tends to run from the time we fix it until about Christmas, when it dies yet again. It’s so cool to hear it come back to life after six months of deep death. Well, it is for me anyway. Truly, it is a picture of God’s grace how He continues to give this ministry mcmhaiti.org what it needs to keep moving forward.
7. It’s the closest thing to the Acts 2 church on Earth – which may have been the church that best brought heaven to earth. There may be a better example of the Acts 2 church than what we see in Haiti, but it’s the closest that I’ve witnessed. 40 of us eat out of the same kitchen. We serve another 400+ two meals a day because they are in need and we were sent here with food and money from other believers in another country to meet that need. We’ve built homes and drilled wells through the sacrifice of others – in this way we are having all things in common. We share in the apostles teaching” see miraculous answers to prayer, and are having favor with the people. Now, if we can just import some of this to the spiritually impoverished USA, then we can bring some heaven to earth in Rio Rancho.
But, until then, you will just have to come to Haiti to experience Heaven on earth.