Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Book Review: The War I Finally Won

The War I Finally Won by [Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker]

"The War I Finally Won" by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is a fantastic sequel to "The War That Saved My Life."

Once again, Ada endears herself to the reader with her vulnerability. World War II continues to rage and the aftermath is horrendous. Homes are lost, friends are lost, comforts are lost, lives are lost. Even hope is lost. 

But new friends come, in the form of Ruth, a Jewish German. No one is welcoming or accepting of her at first but soon a sweet friendship grows as well as a new understanding.

I love how this book introduces complex situations and emotions to young children, challenging them to explore and consider situations they may never be in themselves. Things like learning to accept someone different than you. Challenges of living without normal necessary comforts. Loss and death. Loneliness. Emotional and mental frailty. It is through reading books like this that children learn empathy for people and situations that foreign, scary and untouchable.

Another strong part of this book is the historical aspect. I love viewing the war from this perspective. I don't think it is one that is used very often, especially from a child's point of view. 

A couple of my favorite parts are:

example #1:
(Ada is at the top of the church in the middle of the night with Susan looking for fires)
"...I don't believe you're in danger up here, not any more than anywhere else. Think about it. You don't have to feel safe to actually be safe.'
I supposed. I'd never felt safe, so how would I know?"
I love that concept - You don't have to feel safe to actually be safe. That is something that Ada struggles with from the first novel and throughout this one. It demonstrates the power of the story we tell ourselves, what we allow ourselves to believe. Sometimes we are safe, or worthwhile, or beautiful, or whatever else, even though we don't see or believe it. 

example #2:
Mrs. Thornton has the most difficult time accepting Ruth. But in the end, she learns to look at the individual and open herself to understanding.
"I knew about the part of the world I grew up in,' Lady Thorton said, looking directly at me. 'You knew about the part you grew up in. Now we both know more."

This is one of the most valuable lessons of the whole book and why I think young people should read it

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gospel Doctrine OT C11: Joseph sold into slavery

Gospel Doctrine OT c11
Joseph sold to slavery/Potiphar’s wife

Leah               Zilpah             Bilhah                        Rachel
1.Reuben      7. Gad            5. Dan                      11. Joseph    Ephraim/Mannaseh
2.Simeon      8.Asher         6.Nephtali                 12.Benjamin
4. Judah
9. Issachar

Genesis 37 Joseph Sold Into Slavery
Scan over Gen 37
???What do you learn from/about the brothers?
            Downfall of favoritism and jealousy
Joseph is obedient and diligent: He is asked to check on his brothers. He
travels 45+12 miles and wanders in fields to find them
Reuben tried to save Joseph
Judah has the idea to sell Joseph to the Middianites

Speaking of Judah, Gen 38 is about him and it is not favorable. It seems like it is set up as a contrast to the Joseph’s experience with Potiphar’s wife.

Genesis 39 Potiphar’s wife
Scan over Gen 39
Joseph was approx.. 17 yrs old when he was sold. He served approx. 13 yrs in Potiphar’s house (3-4 in prison)
???What do you learn? What stands out?

???What do you think about Temptation?
???Can we avoid it? Is it as easy as running away?
Will-power can be depleted. No matter how good you are, if you keep putting yourself in tempting situations, you will be depleted.
1 Cor. 10:12 – “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

"The temptation itself created a cost. Imagine that your morning is full of temptation: muffin, croissant, Facebook, YouTube, saying something nasty to your boss (or kids, in my case), the morning is just full of temptation. And you've been able to resist all of that, good for you, but by the time you've resisted all of them, you've already paid the price. And the price you've paid is the price of depletion."

“The kids who resist temptation don't just sit there and stare at the marshmallow. They do things. They sit on their hands, they watch the ceiling, they sing a song, they turn around, they do things. That, I think, suggests that... there is training. And Walter Mischel did this very nice experiment in which he asked the kids to think about the marshmallows as clouds, and that basically eliminated the temptation to a large degree." (Dan Ariely)

Morality was Joseph’s temptation in this particular story.
Immorality vs Amorality
How do you stay virtuous? How do you teach your children?

God stayed with Joseph . Gen 39:2-3; 39:21-23
Why? What did Joseph do to keep God with him?
Where did Joseph find the strength to stay moral?

"The Lord needs to know if he can trust us to do the right thing in every situation. Joseph of Egypt had a fine position as Potiphar’s principal steward. Then the wife of Potiphar attempted to entice him to sin. Joseph was far from home and family. He was a trusted slave, but still a slave nonetheless. No one would know or care about his morals. To spurn the woman would certainly bring severe complications to his life, but he was true to his noble character. He fled sin, was caught, and imprisoned. He paid a price for his purity; yet to have done otherwise would have been a tragic flaw in his character. Nephi’s strength of character led him to obey a commandment. He could easily have been slain by the wicked Laban. Yet to not obey, when he had the testimony that the Lord would open the way for him to obtain the plates, would have been a flaw in his character. The Lord could trust Joseph and Nephi." (The Cs of Spirituality, Robert E Wells, Oct. 1978)

What do Nephi and Joseph have in common? The testimony that the Lord would open the way.
The bigger picture.

"Clearly the brothers, and apparently also Jacob, had misunderstood the nature of their bowing to Joseph. They understandably, but incorrectly took that to mean they would worship Joseph, or took it as some kind of measure of their relative value of worth. Wonderfully we learn that Joseph was elevated to his position in order to serve them. And, their bowing was an act of receiving their brother’s help, not meant to establish some kind of family pecking order." (Phillip Allred, LDSLiving Mag, Mar 4, 2014) 

Servitude vs. Submission/ willingness to serve
Can this apply to parenthood?

Serving others:
"In this way – the same as Joseph had done during his lifetime – Joseph’s progeny are to become saviors to their brethren of Israel (and by extension the rest of Father’s children). During this last dispensation, Joseph’s descendants are charged with providing the covenants, ordinances, and saving truths of the gospel for the rest of the family. With this in mind, it is exciting to see our modern Temples as veritable spiritual granaries or storehouses where souls are literally delivered and saved while all around a famine seeks to lay waste precious mortal opportunities." (Phillip Allred)

Good quote on Morality, Immorality, Amorality:
It’s not immorality that we hate in movies, it’s amorality. Immorality, accurately portrayed complete with consequences, is a part of many good stories, including those from the scriptures.
But amorality, depicted without context or consequence, is an insidious evil that drags down all of society, particularly its younger members.
When dishonesty or violence or especially jumping into bed together on first acquaintance is depicted as the norm — portrayed as what everybody does — it can lead kids thoughtlessly into the same behaviors.

“Our Love-Hate Relationship with Movies” Richard & Linda Eyre, DesNews, Tues March 4, 2014

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Why write?

I enjoy writing. I really do. 
But sometimes I get burned out. 
I lose inspiration
and direction
and confidence.

Getting started again is the hardest!
But I've had some stones in my shoe, 
spurs in my boot, 
kicks in the rear.

For starters, I've decided to create a special writing space for myself. 

Here is what it currently looks like:

Its going to take a litte lot of work. :)
But look at all those books!

Another motivation is this cute poster my daughter and her friend put together for me. 
"For the MOTHER" 

I just love that they recap the writing process for me and then tell me "Mom your AWESOME Believe in YOURSELF!!!!!"
I needed to hear that. Thank you!

Motivation #3:
Bryce wrote this awesome story in class. 
"Jack was in his bed. The doll had blue and red cracks all over. A bucket of blood and it was from people. The dolls eyes turned blood red. the doll started running at Jack. He raced out of his room. He saw blood eyes, red and blue..." (I took a little editorial privilege)

Ok, so maybe weaving a tale runs in the family and maybe someone wants to hear it. 

And that brings me to my final motivation - 
hoping that people want to hear what I write.

Whether its fiction or nonfiction, I write because I want to tell a story, but I also write because I want to be heard. 

I love the song "You Matter To Me" from the broadway show "Waitress." 

"Its addictive the minute you let yourself think,
the things that I say just might matter to someone."

So, its time to get serious about writing again. I need to clear thoughts and experiences from my mind so I can make sense of them, grow from them and be heard. I also need to finished a couple of middle-grade stories for my children before they aren't children anymore. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Book Review: Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River by [Enger, Leif]

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger, is one of the most beautiful books written. It is very poetic and a little slow to begin and for some in my book club, it was hard to get into. But for me, its like swimming in a beautiful ocean of words. 

If you give yourself a little time to immerse into the story, you will fall in love with 11-year-old Reuben and his family. Beginning with severe bullying and a drastic reaction by taking things into their own hands, the family is propelled into a cross-country trip to save their family. 

One of the best parts of this book for me, besides the beautiful writing, was the religious undercurrent throughout the entire novel. I just loved it. Miracles and prophets and the drive to do the right. Also, the character development and family development were so deep and meaningful. The relationships between Reuben and his sister and brother. And the role of his father as the bedrock of the family. Heart-breaking at times but always real and honest. 

Also, the setting is almost a character in and of itself. From the long stretches of road, to the snow, to the fiery crevasse. And the characters that come on scene to help and to hinder are drawn with distinct characterization. 

This is a wonderful book for young adult/adult. If you find it hard to get into, don't give up. It is worth reading! 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Gospel Doctrine OT C9: Provide a Lamb

Gospel Doctrine Old Testament C9
God Will Provide Himself a Lamb (Gen 15-17, 21-22)

History: Abraham 1:5-7 Evil times
                                1:15 Abraham is saved
                                1:16-19 Jehovah speaks to Abraham
                                1:20 altar and evil priest are destroyed

??What is learned when Jehovah speaks to Abraham?
                -God will deliver him from his evil surroundings v16
-Sometimes deliverance takes us to strange lands v16
-People are evil because they turn their hearts away from the true God. If we want to be delivered and not destroyed, we need to keep our hearts turned toward God v17
        -God will lead him by the hand, give him the priesthood and power v18
??How might Abraham’s experience on the altar of the false priests have helped prepare him for future trials? How can our trials help us prepare for future difficulties?

History: ??What promise did the Lord give Abraham regarding children? That they would be as numerous as the stars in the heaven.

??What was the problem? Sarah was barren. Gen 16:1-2.
She gave Hagar to her husband to bear children. Hagar bore Ishmael.
Abraham has a vision. Gen 17:15-17, 19. Sarah will bear a son a name him Isaac.

??What can the revelation that Abraham and Sarah would have a son teach us about how God fulfills his promises? God will fulfill his promises, though not necessarily in the way or at the tie we might expect. We are often asked to wait by the Lord.

We can look at what Abraham has learned, just in the readings of this lesson, (not taking into consideration the visions he had of the creation and worlds without number), and we see great mercy, love and attention from the Lord. It supports my personal Old Testament theme:
Moroni 10:3 “Remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.”

And then comes this. Video: Akedah (The Binding)

??What Christ-type do you see in the offering of Isaac?
                Abraham as the father, Isaac as the son
                Isaac as us, the ram in the thicket as Christ

Elder Dallin H Oaks said: “This story … shows the goodness of God in protecting Isaac and in providing a substitute so he would not have to die. Because of our sins and our mortality, we, like Isaac, are condemned to death. When all other hope is gone, our Father in Heaven provides the Lamb of God, and we are saved by his sacrifice” (Ensign, Nov 1992)

Of course the sacrifice of Isaac would be difficult on so many levels.
??What are some specific reasons it would be so hard for Abraham?
                -he had to wait for so long for a son. Isaac was his miracle
                -God had promised that the Abrahamic covenant would continue through Isaac and his descendants
                -Abraham’s personal history of almost being offered a sacrifice himself. We talked earlier about how that experience could prepare him? Do you think it did?

Our trials are all different, but can be no less difficult than what others are called to bear.

??What are things you or people you know struggle with?
It may be health issues, depression, work and employment, family issues, struggling with testimony and doubts. The thing that is the same is that we all have trials and we all are asked to sacrifice.

FOR ME: Take it for what it’s worth:  It made a different kind of sense to me to realize, these are not just trials. I’m not just muddling through and trying to come out the best I can. These are trials that require sacrifices in which I prove my faithfulness and obedience; my willingness to sacrifice. (Sterling misses passing the sacrament to his children)

??What have you been asked to give up? Ideal health? Can’t eat what you want? A big home? Extravagant vacations? Family relationships? The need to have concrete answers to spiritual questions? 

Elder Spencer W. Kimball: “Exceeding faith was shown by Abraham when the superhuman test was applied to him His young ‘child of promise,’ destined to be the father of empires, must now be offered upon the sacrificial altar. It was God’s command, but it seemed so contradictory! How could his son, Isaac, be the father of an uncountable posterity if in his youth his mortal life was to be terminated? Why should he, Abraham, be called upon to do this revolting deed? It was irreconcilable, impossible! And yet he believed God. His undaunted faith carried him with breaking heart toward the land of Moriah with this young son who little suspected the agonies through which his father must have been passing.” (Conf Report, Oct. 1952)

FOR ME: Taking it one step further:  Sometimes God’s commands may seem contradictory or too difficult to accomplish. I’m thinking of social issues in and out of the church that are difficult to understand. Same gender issues, women and the priesthood to name a few. We must follow the example of Abraham and live with exceeding faith.

President Hugh B. Brown said that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac because “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham” (in Truman G. Madsen, The Highest in Us [1978], 49).

D&C 101:4 – “Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.”

Henry B Eyring: “We need strength beyond ourselves to keep the commandments in whatever circumstance life brings to us. For some it may be poverty, but for others it may be prosperity. It may be the ravages of age or the exuberance of youth. The combination of trials and their duration are as varied as are the children of our Heavenly Father. No two are alike. But what is being tested is the same, at all times in our lives and for every person: will we do whatsoever the Lord our God will command us? (Conf Rep Apr 2004)

I don’t think we will ever be asked to sacrifice a child but we WILL be asked to sacrifice. The response either way should be faithful obedience. Will we do whatsoever the Lord our God will command us? That is the goal, the measure of our faith

Spencer W. Kimball: “How often do Church members arise early in the morning to do the will of the Lord? How often do we say, “Yes, I will have home evening with my family, but the children are so young now; I will start when they are older”? How often do we say, “Yes, I will obey the commandment to store food and to help others, but just now I have neither the time nor the money to spare; I will obey later”? Oh, foolish people! While we procrastinate, the harvest will be over and we will not be saved. Now is the time to follow Abraham’s example; now is the time to repent; now is the time for prompt obedience to God’s will.” (“The Example of Abraham,” Ensign, June 1975).

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: The Third

The Third (Ransom Lawe Book 1) by [Keogh, Abel]

Isn't this the craziest cover. I sort of love it and am creeped out by it at the same time. 

The Third is a fantastic book written by Abel Keogh. The story starts by immediately immersing you in the setting of a not-too-distant future that is focused on recycling and saving the earth. Laws of rule and order are passed and families are granted only two credits for children. Having a third or more is against the law. 

Right off the bat, Ransom saves a woman and her child from impending violence on a bus and in the process puts his own life in danger. This would be enough to keep you reading but when the twists and turns start flying, I couldn't put the book down. 

The best part of Keogh's writing is the way he envisions the future and puts his characters in impossible positions where the line between right and wrong is blurred. He does a good job of exploring the issues from every angle. I even found myself agreeing with a character that was in opposition to my own opinion. 

The plot is tight and intriguing and the characters are spot on. I couldn't stop reading and when the book ended.... well, I just can't wait for the next book to come out. 

This is a great book I highly recommend for new adult/adult readers. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Book Review: Finding Beauty in the Best

Image result for Finding Beauty in the Beast"Finding Beauty in the Beast" is a beautiful fairy tale re-telling. Author Jessilyn Peaslee borrows characters from her first novel, Ella (and its companion book, Ella's Will) and turns the fairy tale on its head. In the best way possible. Princess Rose is a monster. Some call her a beast. Corbin escapes heartbreak at home and finds himself in Rose's kingdom and forced to present himself as a suitor. Every suitor is required to present a gift and his, though simple, is the one Rose picks. And so begins the tale of transformation, for both of them.  Certainly the best part of this book is the character development. Peaslee does a wonderful job of bringing Corbin and Rose to life and making them completely relatable. Corbin is kind yet still flawed in his interaction with difficult Rose. And Rose is difficult yet vulnerable at the same time. Their love grows at a slow simmer until it can't be denied.I also appreciated the sweet poetic word-smithing that is so fitting for a fairytale. Peaslee is a master at understanding the workings of the heart and the intricate complications of relationships. You can't help but learn something about yourself when you read one of Peaslee's book. This is a sweet fairy tale I would recommend for any age.