Be Healed

When I tell people about this book by Bob Schuchts, I have the hardest time explaining why I think they should read it.  All I seem to be able to say is, “I wish every person on the planet could read this book.”  That sounds so goofy, but I mean it.  Schuchts opened my eyes to how much God loves each and every one of us.  That means you, and it means me.  Yes, me, the 42-year-old woman who still feels like a scared, shy little girl inside.  Me, even though I don’t always stand up for what’s right because I’m so scared.  Me, who makes so many selfish choices every single day.  He loves me, and, get this, He wants to heal me.  He wants to heal me of my sinfulness and my anxiety and maybe even my restless leg syndrome.  He doesn’t want me to feel tired and discouraged all the time.  Jesus is a healer.  In the Gospels He heals people everywhere he goes:  blind people, paralytics, lepers.  They open themselves up to Him in faith, and he heals them.  We all know the stories, but how many of us believe that this kind of healing is available to us?

So, how does Schuchts open his reader’s eyes?  He shares his own weakness and failures and his own story of healing.  He shares stories of healing in his clients (he’s a licensed marriage and family therapist) and miracles he has witnessed on mission trips.  He points us toward Scripture passages we may have read dozens of times without considering what they mean for us.  He asks his readers to pause and think about the questions he poses to us.

The first time I read this book, I rushed straight through it in about a week.  I didn’t want to put it down because I had such a beautiful, warm feeling inside as if someone who loves me more than I know were hugging me the whole time I was reading.  Now I am slowly working my way through it again so that I can take time to write out my answers to the reflection questions Schuchts poses throughout the book.  I am almost done, but I feel as if I am still missing something in my experience with this book.  And that is someone, or lots of someones, to share it with.  I want my husband to read it, and I want to buy copies for my parents and my mother-in-law.  And I want all of you who are reading this blog post to find a copy.  If I had the money, I would buy lots of copies and spread them around, give them as gifts for every occasion, leave them in Little Free Libraries around my community, do whatever I could to get this book into the hands of as many people as possible.  Because the healing that it offers can change the world.  One person at a time.  You can find Be Healed here.

So, I hope you’ve already clicked on the link and ordered your copy, but I realize some of you out there might click on it and read the description, and say to yourselves, “Oh, this is a Catholic book.  I’m not Catholic, so it’s not for me.”  You’d be wrong.  I am convinced that any Christian would benefit greatly from this book and if you’re not Christian, I would still recommend reading it.  This is a book that points you toward a God who loves you and wants you to have peace in your soul.  I don’t think you have to be Christian to be drawn toward that God.

I can also imagine another group of people who might hesitate to read this book.  These are people of faith who have prayed sincerely for healing for themselves or someone they love, but the healing didn’t come.  I can imagine all different kinds of hurt a person would feel in this situation. If that’s you, I think you might need this book most of all.  Schuchts has been in your place.  He prayed for healing for his brother who ultimately died of AIDS.  Read his story and know that God loves you as much as he loves the people who receive miraculous physical healings.

In my post about Something Other Than God I wrote about my mission to guide my family on the path to heaven.  I also feel as if God is calling me to spread the word about Be Healed.  Schuchts recognizes that we are all wounded, and he believes that true healing comes from treating the whole person – body, mind, and soul.  Here’s the link again so you can read for yourself what he has to say.

 

Subverted

Subverted is another book I’ve read recently that has made a deep impression on me.  The subtitle of this book is “How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement.”  How’s that for  provocative?  The author, Sue Ellen Browder, earned her degree from the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1969.  This book is a combination of investigative journalism and memoir.  She lived through the women’s movement, and she believes that in her career as a magazine writer she helped create propaganda that derailed it.  For this book she thoroughly researched historical records, such as the minutes of early meetings of the National Organization for Women, to understand how the women’s movement turned away from a focus on educational and economic opportunities and toward a focus on contraception and abortion.

Browder knows from personal experience how much women needed a movement to demand equal rights with men.  She married her husband, Walter, while they were both still in college, and she was fired from her first job when she became pregnant.  Not long after that, she lost out on a job at Baby Talk magazine (of all places!) because she mentioned in the interview that she had a baby at home.

Ultimately, she landed a job at Cosmopolitan and felt her dream of writing for a significant magazine had come true.  She soon learned that she was expected to write stories that promoted the editor’s philosophy and imitated her writing style.  Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmo, had published her book, Sex and the Single Girl, one year before Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique.  Browder sums up the difference between them:  “Whereas Betty Friedan’s message to women was ‘Creative work of your own will set you free,’ Helen Gurley Brown’s message to the single woman was ‘Hard work and sex will set you free (as long as you don’t have children).'”

Brown had a vision in her mind of a sexually free single woman with a successful career, and she used her magazine to sell that image to her audience.  Browder explains that Brown “had even written a set of guidelines suggesting it was fine for us to make up ‘experts’ to quote and to invent anecdotes about ordinary single women.”  After about ten years, she says, it was no longer necessary to invent the anecdotes because so many women had started living the “Cosmo lifestyle.”  The propaganda had been successful.

It is interesting to note that while writing articles like “When He Doesn’t Want Sex,” “What to Do about Those Ubiquitous Vaginal Infections,” and “Just How Neurotic Are You?”, Browder was blissfully married to her beloved Walter and delighting in her young children.  That’s not to say that her personal life was easy.  She and Walter, who dreamed of being a novelist, often struggled to make ends meet, and they did face tragedy together, but they loved each other, and they loved their family life.

This book opened my eyes to the struggles of women today.  Why is it still so hard for women to have children and a career?  Why do women still earn less than men?  Why don’t we have paid maternity leave?  Why is it often hard to find quality, affordable childcare?  Browder makes it clear that all of the passion of the women’s movement turned toward a focus on avoiding motherhood instead of making it easier to raise a family and pursue a career.  Browder’s book contains a heaping platter of food for thought, and I recommend it to everyone:  women and men, liberals and conservatives, agnostics and people of faith.  No matter who you are or what you believe about women’s rights and the sexual revolution, Browder has worked hard to provide accurate historical research and to open up her wounded soul in an effort to bring us all together to see how we can truly improve the lives of women.

Here’s a link if you’re interested in reading more.

 

Something Other Than God

This week my goal is to publish three posts, each about a different book I’ve read in the past few months that has left a deep impression on me.  I am starting with Something Other Than God.  Last fall I read this incredible memoir by Jennifer Fulwiler.  She chronicles her journey to Christianity after growing up in an atheist family.  Her story is fascinating, and her humor and humility come through in her writing.  It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.

Her story is so different from my own, but we do have a few things in common.  We both moved frequently as children because of our dads’ jobs, and we are both college-educated American women.  Actually, I guess that’s about all we have in common until we reach the point in her story when she becomes a mother.  Having a baby was a turning point for her.  She had struggled to face her own mortality; the thought of her child’s mortality was more than she could handle.  Yet, heaven was one of that last pieces of the puzzle that she fit into place as she opened her eyes, her mind, and her heart to God.

Her journey is far from smooth, and her husband shows little interest in her search even though he has always considered himself a Christian.  He seems to be too busy starting his own law firm to help his wife find answers to life’s biggest questions, until one day he unexpectedly jumps into an online discussion she’s having and suddenly becomes more enthusiastic than she is to learn more about the history of Christianity and to ponder moral issues.  His turning point is one of my favorite moments in the book, so I don’t want to reveal what prompts it.

The title comes from C.S. Lewis, who once wrote, “All that we call human history . . . [is] the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”  Fulwiler spent about 20 years of her life trying to have as much fun as possible in an effort to forget that she would one day die, that someday there would be nothing left of her.  Ultimately, she learns that true happiness comes from service to God and others.  There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but lasting happiness only comes from opening ourselves to God’s plan for our lives.

Fulwiler has helped me see that God has a mission for me, too.  Really, I should have been more aware of it all along.  I have a husband and three children, and I’m supposed to be caring for them and teaching my little ones and helping them all follow the path to heaven.  That means I need to turn off Facebook and go fold the laundry in service to my family.  Or better yet, I need to encourage my seven-year-old and five-year-old to sit down with me and learn how to fold the laundry because I need to teach them about serving others as well.  Most importantly, it means nurturing the spiritual life of my family so that we can each grow closer to God and hear His voice in our hearts, inviting each of us to live out His plan for us.

Fulwiler’s next book will be out in 2018.  The title is One Beautiful Dream:  The Rollicking Tale of Personal Passions, Family Chaos, and Saying Yes to Them Both.  I can’t wait to read it!  In the meantime, I’ll probably be rereading  Something Other Than God, and I highly recommend that you pick it up as well.

 

 

Little House

When I discovered that it was the 150th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birth last week, I knew I had to write a post about her.  When I was in elementary school, I often watched reruns of “Little House on the Prairie” in the afternoon.  Then one day my mother mentioned that there were books about Laura Ingalls and her family.  What?!  How did I not know this?  I already loved reading, but discovering the Little House books made me a lifelong reader.

I found the books at our public library, and they were all I wanted to read.  I didn’t start with Little House in the Big Woods and read them in order.  I didn’t have any preconceived notions about reading a series of books in chronological order, so I would look them over and choose the one that interested me the most to read next.  I put the story together like a jigsaw puzzle as I read about little Laura and almost-grown-up Laura and in-between Laura. I saved Farmer Boy for last because I thought it would probably be boring since it was about a boy.  I was wrong.  Little Town on the Prairie became my favorite as I grew a little older because I enjoyed reading about Laura and Almanzo’s courtship and about Laura’s experiences as a teacher.  (I already knew that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.) 

After reflecting for the last few days, I believe that the Little House books helped me discover what I like to read.  Still today I love historical fiction.  I love reading about people who are just like me on the inside but who live in much different circumstances from mine.  For this reason, I also enjoy well-written fantasy, and my deepest love is nineteenth century British literature.  As an adult, I discovered Willa Cather and felt like I had hit the jackpot with pioneer fiction for grown-ups.

Over the last few days I reread Little House on the Prairie because I wanted to remember some of the details before I wrote this post.  I was instantly struck by Wilder’s beautiful storytelling and enthralled by the many life-or-death experiences the Ingalls family faced as they set out for Kansas and established their homestead.  For instance, one night a pack of 50 wolves surrounds their log cabin that doesn’t have door on it yet.  They have a quilt over the doorway, and they have Jack their bulldog and Pa with his rifle.  Imagine yourself as a young child facing a night like that.

Of course, the story is told from Laura’s perspective, but reading the book as an adult I found myself fascinated by Ma.  What did she really think about leaving her extended family behind and setting out for Indian Territory?  What was her relationship like with her husband?  How did she raise her girls?  I was delighted by the little details that revealed how much Charles and Caroline Ingalls wanted to please each other and the gratitude they expressed for each other’s simple offerings of love.  Ma’s concern for teaching her girls manners amused me because it’s such typical mom behavior even though they are living in isolation.

My children noticed me reading a book with pictures in it, and four-year-old Daniel was particularly curious about it.  He asked me to read it to him.  We’ve read five chapters together so far, and he loves it.  Two days ago I mentioned that the story is about real people, and his jaw dropped.  I explained that they’re all in heaven now, but, yes, the Ingalls family is real.  “You mean, when I go to heaven, I can meet them?” he asked.  I just loved that question because I specifically remember asking my mom one day, “When we go to heaven, do you think we’ll be able to talk to other people about their lives on Earth?”  She thought we could, and I was very excited because it meant I would be able to talk to Laura Ingalls Wilder and ask her all the questions I had about her experiences.  Imagine leaving behind a legacy that makes generations of children eager to meet you in heaven!

Parenting Books

Since I started this blog last spring, I’ve been wanting to write about the books that have made the deepest impressions on me, but I’ve struggled to come up with a place to start.  After all, I’m an English teacher, and books have always been a huge part of my life.  Then it occurred to me that I could begin not with Jane Eyre or Man’s Search for Meaning but instead with a few of the books that have had the strongest influence on my parenting.  It’s a lot easier to write about practical advice that has guided me in my day-to-day life than it is to put into words everything that my favorite novel has meant in the way I see literature and the world around me.  So, here are my four favorite parenting books and one honorable mention.

  1.  The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp:  When you bring your first baby home from the hospital, what do you do next?  Of course, you feed her and change her diaper.  But what do you do if she is fed and dry, not too warm and not too cold, but she won’t stop crying, let alone go to sleep?  You could try Dr. Karp’s 5S’s.  The advice in this book worked so well for all three of my babies!  Dr. Karp theorizes that because human babies have such large heads to accommodate their highly evolved human brains, they are forced to make their arrival in the outside world before they’re ready.  The best way to care for them during the first four months after birth is to recreate the experience of the womb.  We swaddled our babies to help them feel snug and secure, shushed them with white noise, gave them pacifiers to suck on, swung or bounced them to
    Newborn Rose fell asleep swaddled and sucking on her pacifier while I held her on her side. Photo Credit: Emily Laing

    the tempo of “Hard Day’s Night,” and held them on their side or stomach.  (Just to be clear, babies need to be put down to sleep on their backs, but we can hold them in a position that puts a little soothing pressure on their tummies.)  Combining all 5 of these at the same time was guaranteed to calm our fussy babies.

  2.   The Sleepeasy Solution by Jennifer Waldburger, LCSW, and Jill Spivak, LCSW :  Once we got through “the fourth trimester,” we were ready for our babies to have a regular routine and learn to go to sleep without so much assistance from us.  Kathleen was a tough case, our fussiest baby who had the most trouble sleeping well.  I read a few books about babies and sleep, but this one is far and away my favorite.  I love the authors’ approach, which balances the needs of babies and parents.  They know that parents don’t want to listen to their babies crying for long stretches without being able to comfort them (and babies probably don’t like that too much either!).  They also know that after the sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn, each member of the family needs more rest.  They call their system the “least cry” method, and it worked wonders with all three of our children.  Additionally, this book provides lots of useful information about age-appropriate nap schedules, sleep issues like nightmares and fear of the dark that come up with toddlers and preschoolers, and milestones like potty training or the birth of a new sibling that can affect sleep.  I’ll be holding onto my copy at least until Rose is in kindergarten!
  3. Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker: I mentioned this book previously in my post on decluttering.  It introduced me to the concept of minimalism and changed my perspective on the life I want for my children.  Instead of piles of material possessions in cluttered rooms, I would like to give them happy memories of fun family experiences.  That does not necessarily mean trips to Disney World and other expensive vacations.  Instead, it could mean baking cookies together, playing a board game, or planting a garden.  Without all the clutter that consumes our time and adds stress to our lives, we could have the time and energy for more fun.  Unfortunately, I’m still working on selling this to the rest of my family.  My children haven’t noticed yet that their interest in a new toy lasts about three days at the most.  I have become quite concerned by their lack of gratitude for their many blessings, which leads me to . . .
  4. The Gift of Enough by Marianne Miller:  Marianne Miller is the mother of four boys, all teenagers now, a middle school teacher, and a financial counselor with Crown Financial Ministries.  She knows kids; she knows the world of their peers, and she knows how to manage money.  Her advice about teaching kids gratitude and money management never comes across as preachy because she tells plenty of funny stories about her own family and some of the mistakes they’ve made.   Some of the strategies she used with her own boys seem a bit extreme to me (asking the four of them to share two ice cream cones, for example), but I love all the practical wisdom she offers on dealing with school book fairs, grab-claw machines, check-out aisles, gift-giving holidays, and other danger zones where children seem to get the “gimmes.”  Ultimately, Miller wants children and their parents to recognize when they have enough, whether it’s M&Ms, sweatshirts, or stuffed animals, so that they can appreciate their blessings and delight in occasional treats.  (Hey, let’s each get our own ice cream cone today!)

Honorable Mention:  Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman:  When this book was published in 2012, it was marketed as a parenting manual that would show Americans how the French are better than we are at one more thing.  I would actually call it a memoir.  An American woman, married to a British man, is raising her children in Paris.  She discovers that the French parent quite differently than Anglophones, and often she recognizes the wisdom in this different approach, but she also sees clearly that different is not always better.  For instance, she is not comfortable with sending a first grader away on a week-long class camping trip.  (I wouldn’t be either!)  On the other hand, she does find that the French are really good at developing sophisticated palates in small children (no surprise there) and believe in setting firm limits and then giving the children lots of freedom within those limits.  For example, bedtime might be set strictly at 8 o’clock every night, but the child is allowed to play quietly in his room until he is sleepy as long as he stays there.  The parent will not read one more story or get another drink of water after 8 o’clock.  I found this book entertaining, and it helped me realize that there isn’t one right way to parent.

The next parenting book I’m hoping to read is The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D.  It comes highly recommended by my sister and has 4 1/2 stars on Amazon.  Dr. Mogel applies Jewish teachings to everyday parenting problems such as chores, dinner battles, and over-scheduling.  I’ve been meaning to read this one for several years now.

In the comments let me know about books that have provided you with valuable advice or guidance – about parenting or anything else!