Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday's Fave Five #559

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five!

1.  Long weekend.  This past weekend was a long weekend here in Canada, Monday being Remembrance Day where we remember our veterans who have fought to keep our country free.  Both Hubby and I had not been feeling a hundred percent so we took Sunday off of church and pretty much stayed home the whole weekend.  Saturday I forced myself to get a few chores done that couldn't be ignored but Sunday was just for resting up.  I'm grateful for the long weekend, for pausing to remember and honor those who have served or are serving now and being thankful for their sacrifice and I'm also thankful for the extra rest it provided.

2.  Sweet words from a child.  One of my dayhome families went on vacation this week but before they left their sweet little one so genuinely asked me to come on the airplane and boat too with them!  It was such a precious moment and just warmed me from the inside out.  Love my dayhome kids.

3.  New floor being installed.  We decided to replace our kitchen flooring.   With the heavy traffic and extra punishment it takes with so many little ones all the time,  the laminate we had just was not holding up well.  I'm very thankful for a hubby who knows about all sorts of aspects of renovating so he is installing the new floor himself.  It's a lot of hard work and it always takes longer than what we first imagine but it's coming along great and we both love it and him doing all the labor is saving us lots of money.  It's going to hold up way better than what was there before.

4.  Co-leader.  This year I am sharing the lead of my ladies small group at church.  The lady who is co-leading with me is a friend and I've known her for many years.  It was a learning curve at first but boy I do appreciate her insight and strength.  She has a huge heart filled with compassion and we mesh well together.  Where I have a weakness she is stronger and visa versa so we compliment each other well.  It has been a huge blessing to me this year.

5.  Hubby who keeps my gas tank filled.  I am super blessed that I have a hubby who keeps his eye on my gas tank and fills it up when he notices it getting down.  Very rarely does it ever get near empty.  I was reminded of the fact of how spoiled I am in this regard, when my gas warning bell actually went off last night.  He has not been feeling well all week and has been super busy trying to get the floor finished and he wasn't in my car to drive to church on the weekend so he didn't see it was getting low.  I must remember to thank him more for doing this for me.

I saw this picture on FB and thought it very much reflected my FFF post this week.  Nothing huge or extraordinary, but just things that were right in front of me, that I needed to intentionally notice.  Practicing gratitude helps me to notice the hand of God in the little things in my life.

What were your favorite blessings this week?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena ~ Book Review

Anne and Marco Conti are a seemingly happy couple that live in a duplex in a good neighborhood.  They have a beautiful 6 month old baby girl named Cora and Marco's business is doing well.  Everything seems to be going well for the young couple.  They are friends with their next door neighbors and have been invited for a private, "no kids" dinner party for the husband's birthday.  Unfortunately, their babysitter has canceled and now they are in a dilemma.  Marco came up with the idea, because they live next to each other in a duplex, that Cora can just stay in her crib asleep while they take the monitor with them to the dinner and then they would take turns every half hour checking on Cora.  Anne is not in agreement with this idea but finally gives in to Marco.   As the evening progresses, the baby checks seem to be going okay but by midnight Anne has had enough and wants to go home but Marco is having a good time, too good of a time enjoying the attention of their female host.  When Anne finally gets him to leave the party, Anne's greatest fear is realized as they discover that Cora is missing.  Immediately they are under suspicion, who leaves their baby alone and goes to a dinner party even with a monitor?  The whole neighborhood is shocked.  But as Detective Rasbach unfolds the layers of what actually happened, it becomes apparent that both parents have been hiding secrets from each other but is that enough to make the jump to commit a horrendous crime?  Or has this just been a horrible act against an innocent couple who made one bad decision?  And what about all the neighbors who have their own secrets?

For the most part, I enjoyed this book, however it did have it's ups and downs for me and some were insurmountable.  It is definitely filled with twists and turns throughout that keep you turning the pages.  Some of the twists I figured out but then another would come along that surprised me.  The thing that I found difficult with the read, however, was that there was not one likeable character to root for.  As more and more is revealed and the suspicion of everyone deepens, my dislike for them all grew.  The writing suffered from a bit of clunkiness in parts and repetition at times that kind of broke up the flow.  And there is one character that is prone to dropping f-bombs and in one instance coupled it with the Lord's name at which point I almost quit the book for that reason.  I HATE when  that is done and in my point of view there is NEVER a reason for it.  It's never done with any other historical/religious leader and I am highly offended that this author thought it is ok to do it with Christianity's Son of God.  Had it happened again, I would not have continued on no matter how good the story was.  The rating from me most definitely reflects my deep offense at that.  And I will probably not read another from her if that is the "surprise" I will be getting.

I gave it a 6/10

Monday, November 11, 2019

Operation Christmas Child Costa Rica 2019 - Part IV

Sorry these posts about my trip are so far between.  Life, you know, just got in the way, and I got a bit overwhelmed with going through the thousand plus pictures and doing up the posts.

Participating in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift distribution is truly a life changing experience.  And that is not only for the children involved.   Along with playing with the children, we were privileged to be able to participate in sharing the gospel story with them.  If you missed the story of what happened up to this point you can catch up here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

And to restate:  some of these pictures may be from other team members.  We all shared our pictures and I didn't think to mark down which set came from whom, so if a team member happens to stumble upon this post please let me know so I can credit your picture to you.

After play time the kids are all brought in to the main area whether it be a porch, a classroom or a church.  While we had been playing with them, a couple of the team members as inconspicuously as possible had starting setting up the shoe boxes at the front of the area where the children would be seated.  They were set out in groupings of how they would be given out.  The stacks of shoebox gifts were then covered with a big, colorful parachute or fabric of some kind so that the children couldn't see the boxes. Then the children were seated in rows according to age and gender in order to make the distributing of the boxes less chaotic.

Once all the children are in their rows, they sing some familiar songs.  Then they are asked to be seated and are given a short, fun gospel presentation.  Because Costa Rica is mainly Catholic, the gospel is still allowed in the schools so this was totally acceptable to do if we were in a school setting.  And because it is all organized through a participating local church all school officials know what is going on and have been contacted before hand by the church.  Nothing is done in secret or by surprise or under handed.  It was so good working with an organization that is so above board and organized with all that they do.

The participating local churches are trained by Samaritan's Purse and all materials are provided by them so that there is consistency to how the gospel is presented.  It is beautifully done in a fun, easy to understand way.  And in all locations that distributions are done the parents are invited so, again, everything is transparent and above board.  We got to participate in some locations by holding up the pictures as they told the story of creation, man's fall and the story of Jesus life and His saving mankind.  Then the children and parents, if they want to, are led in a short prayer of thankfulness and salvation.

Then small booklets of the Greatest Journey are given out so that the children can take them home, and reread the story and color in it and the parents can also read it.  

The leader will now talk about how Jesus was the greatest gift of all and start talking about gifts and how fun it is to get a gift.  Then they are asked if they would like a gift.  Some of the children don't quite know how to respond.  Some are wary as they have never received a gift.  Others are excited for that very reason and in anticipation of where this is leading. In most of the distributions we did the children were now asked to close their eyes and put out their hands and keep them like that and were told "No peeking".   Now our team would quickly place age and gender appropiate boxes into their outstretched little hands.  At this point some of them just couldn't contain themselves and take a quick peek at what could be in their hands.  When everyone has one they get to open their eyes.  To build the excitement even further they do fun things like get the kids to place the boxes on their heads, drum on the boxes, all sorts of fun things to build and build the tension and make it fun and memorable.

The anticipation is high!  The boxes are taped so they can't open them yet and they start a big countdown to where everyone can open them.  They make it so fun and build the excitement by stopping the countdown for silly things like the pretense of tying their shoe or something.  But finally the countdown reaches "go" and then the opening begins.   If the children can't rip the tape themselves our team members help.  It is loud and it is exciting.  Some of the children are quite overwhelmed.  Some will take one thing out of the box and try to pass the box on.  They don't quite understand the whole box is for them.  Some are so overwhelmed when they open the box they look at the things on top and then close the box not quite sure what to make of it.  And others are going through the box as fast as they can.  

One incredibly meaningful thing that Operation Christmas Child does for the team members is that if you want you can bring a packed box in your luggage to personally give to a child.  They divide up the personally packed boxes amongst the different distributions so there is some in each one.  You get to choose the child you want to give it to so while you play with all the kids you are praying and asking God to direct you to just the right child for your gift.  Then when they are seated on the floor and you go and sit with them.  Your box is in a bag so they don't know what's going on.  They just assume adults are sitting down with the kids.  Then when they start distributing the gifts you get to give your child the box you packed for them.  It is so deeply moving knowing all the prayer that I did for just the right things in the box and for that box to go to just the right child so that they would know Jesus loved them and that I packed the box lovingly and prayerfully just for them.  And then being able to hand them the box and watch them open it?  Pure joy!!!   

(face blurred on purpose)

At this point, the children are then invited to join a 12 week Greatest Journey course in their community.  More coming on that in the next post.  Now we just spent time showing how some games or gadgets in their boxes worked if they didn't know and the grand party was over.  As we walked towards our waiting bus, the children would run up to gates or fences to wave us off.  In one location a little boy ran up to me and gave me a great big hug as I was waiting by the bus.  This started a chain reaction of kids running up and giving us hugs and thank yous.  Not one team member left with dry eyes.  And as we were driving away we would catch glimpses of them walking home with their boxes, happy and excited.

I wish I could share all the pictures of the whole thing with you.  It is truly am amazing thing to be a part of.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Friday's Fave Five #558

Hi everyone.  Welcome to Friday and Friday's Fave Five.  Time to pause and look for blessings from the last week.  What lifted your spirits, made you smile, made your day, helped you to keep going or just plain blessed you?  What are you thankful for from the last week?

1.  A word in season.  Sunday in church, a lady who is an acquaintance came to say hello.  In chatting with her and sharing something that was going on in my life, she started to just encourage me in that area.  It was like words right from the Lord.  It was exactly what I needed to hear and totally lifted me up and gave me hope.  I'm thankful for her boldness and her compassion towards me.  I left church feeling totally encouraged.

2.  An answer to prayer.  Something that I'd been praying about for awhile and it didn't look like I was going to get the answer that I had my heart set on but in the 11th hour God answered in a amazing way.  When I finally released the thing and let it go, the answer finally came.

3.  Great time of visiting and getting to know a family better.  I love when there is an opportunity to get to know another family.  This family has been coming to our church for a long time and we chat at church but never really had opportunity to spend quality time with them and get to really know them better.  Sunday we finally made a point of it.  It was spur of the moment and it was a wonderful time.

4.  An absolutely gorgeous hoar frost morning.  The other day it snowed all day long and the next morning we woke up to a foggy kind of morning.  When darkness lifted we were left with an absolutely gorgeous hoar frost and blue skies.  While I'm so sad that autumn has basically passed us by this was a visual feast and blessing.

So pretty.  God is truly an artist!

5.  Warm mugs of tea.  Come fall and winter we tend to kick into tea mode in the evenings.  Nothing like a nice cup of hot tea to warm one up and relax.

What have been your favorite blessings this past week?

Monday, November 04, 2019

Secret Daughter: A Novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda ~ book review

In a small remote village in India, Kavita gives birth to her second daughter.  After her first was taken away from her because the baby was not a son, Kavita begs the old woman helping her not to tell her husband.  Deciding to save the baby's life by giving her away to an orphanage in Mumbai, Kavita and her sister set out on foot to the big city.  It kills Kavita to hand her beautiful daughter over to the orphanage but she hopes this decision will bring her a good life.  But everyday for the rest of her life, Kavita wonders.

In America, Somer and her Indian husband, struggle to get pregnant.  Both are doctors and have access to the best of care.  But now that care has shown that she will never have children.  Her husband, Krishnan, talks her into going to Mumbai and adopting an Indian child from an orphanage there.  They pack up and go live with his family while they navigate the sometimes insanity of an international adoption from India.  Somer struggles with the Indian culture and can't wait to get home. But the baby girl with the incredible eyes has captured their hearts and they feel that their love for her will carry them all through any hard times.  But Somer carries a fear with her that starts to control that love and when their daughter wins a scholarship to intern in India her greatest fears just may be realized.

What to say about this beautiful book?  I've had it in my to read pile for 2 years!  Two whole years of not realizing the reading treasure sitting there.    It was the cover that drew me to it and the fact that it is written by an Canadian/Indian author.  At it's core it's a beautiful story of mothers' love that interweaves two totally different cultures.  It's emotional and a beautifully written story.  Forgiveness, family, adoption, assumptions, perceptions and perspective, and hope are just some of the topics it delves into.  It showed the two sides of India, the ultra lavishly wealthy and the incredibly poor and showed how the massively huge slum in Mumbai got it's beginnings.   I learned so much about the Indian culture and the theme of "everything is more complicated than it seems" really flowed throughout the story, both from the American character's and the Indian characters.  It's writing is captivating  with really great character development and it made me feel all the emotions.  Loved this story and will definitely be looking for her other books.

Rating :  definite 10/10

Friday, November 01, 2019

Friday's Fave Five #557

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  It's a time to pause in our everyday and look for the blessings God has brought into our lives in the past week and take a moment to be grateful for them.  Won't you join us?

This was a really busy week for me so it's especially important for me to take this time to look for blessings.  During busy weeks the chaos and frenzy scream loudly and those moments of blessing can sometimes slip quietly by without being noticed and then I wonder why I am frazzled and grumpy.  Being intentional in looking for blessings and being thankful for them refocuses me and centers my soul.  Instead of being a whirling dervish, it brings calm.  I need this!

1.  BookOutlet order savings of $89! Every year BookOutlet (Canada)   (U.S.) has a great sale in October.  All in stock books, brand new books, are already deeply discounted and then they put them on sale for another 15% off.  Then if you're order is $45 or more (in Canada, not sure what it is in the U.S.) you get free shipping.  Then on top of that I had a $5 off coupon from my last order!  I always order the books I give the dayhome kids for Christmas at this time along with any other books I'm planning on giving for gifts.  I even splurged on this series because I got the whole series for the price I would have paid for one book at my local Chapt*rs/Indig* store.  All in all my savings came in at $89!  That is amazing and I'm so very thankful to have found this online discount store!

2.  Treated to Sunday lunch.  My mom treated us to lunch on Sunday and left the choice to us so we took her to a favorite Sunday brunch buffet place.  There is something delicious for everyone there.  Hubby does different things for her and shovels her walks for her in the winter.  He won't take the payment she wants to give him so she takes us to lunch once in awhile.   A really nice treat.

3.  Texts or phone calls from my kids that ask how I made this or that dish that they loved when they lived at home. It's so nice to know that they are now making for themselves and their loved ones.

4.  Fall scented hand soaps.  With a dayhome for kids we go through TONS of hand soap.  I always stock up on the foaming hand soaps at Bath and Body Works when they go on a great sale.  I especially like the fall scents and have been enjoying them all.

5.  Warm, comfy sweaters.  I'm a sweater and cardigan kind of gal so I'm loving fall when I can unpack them and start wearing them.  Comfy and cozy is the way to go.

What have been your favorite blessings this week?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday's Fave Five #556

Hi everyone.  Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  Join us as we take time and pause in our busy days, our mundane days, our overwhelmed days and look for the holy.  For the blessings of God in our lives.

1.  Operation Shoebox 2019 kickoff  Sunday was our church's kickoff the the 2019 campaign.  It was so much fun putting together the shoeboxes with my ladies group the Tuesday before and reminiscing a bit for them about my trip with OCC in the spring.  The kick off went well.  The video I chose was very touching and motivating, it makes me cry everytime I see it.  I've included it below.  I'm so excited to finish packing my boxes.  I can envision every distribution I was a part of and the excitement and joy of the gifts, the children's faces as they listened to the gospel story and the parents gratefulness for loving their children.   Are you packing a box this year?

2.  Voters taking boxes.  Monday was voting day in Canada.  Our church is a polling station and every time that happens I order some extra boxes so voters can take them, fill them and bring them back.  And though this year's election results were a huge disappointment to Albertans in general, the good news about the night was that voters took more than half of our boxes leaving me with about a dozen boxes.  I had to go to the Regional Logistics director and ask for more!  How exciting and what a great problem to have to solve!

3.  Spot on the team.  While talking to the Logistics Director, she offered me a few spots on the team she is taking to Calgary to volunteer at the warehouse.  This is where shoebox gifts from all across Canada will come and be processed and packaged for shipping to the countries.  This is a step in the shoebox journey I haven't done yet.  I've always wanted to but have just never got around to it and in recent years it has become a very popular thing.  You have to apply and it's really difficult to get a spot.  This invite was a huge blessing and opportunity.  I can hardly wait.  The first time I saw the warehouse, the boxes had not arrived yet from the collections week and they were just getting ready for them.  We had stopped there to pick something up for my son going on a "water filter mission trip" with Samaritan's Purse and the lady there gave me a tour of the warehouse.  As soon as I walked into that massive place, I burst into tears at just the sheer magnitude of what they do from there.  It was overwhelming.  I'm sure there will be some tears again when I go to actually work this time.  And bonus:  one of my daughters and a friend from my small group are going with me.

4.  Wonderful stories.  I love all sorts of stories but some just get me in the heart with their writing and story telling and subject matter.  I just finished a great book that I've had sitting in my pile for years.  Don't know what took me so long to get to it but I sure am glad I finally did.  Review to come.

5.  Laughter with kids.  Kids are so funny especially when they don't even try to be.  There was few times in dayhome this week that something the kids said or did had me in stitches.  Laughter with small children lifts my soul!  They are awesome.

What were your favorite blessings from the week?