Monthly Archives: January 2010

Book Review: Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me the book Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain by Paul Meier and David Henderson for review purposes. I actually received this book about a month before my dad died. It has taken me awhile to read it because I haven’t felt like reading books with weighty themes lately. However, I specifically chose this book to review because I was interested to see what the authors had to say about pain and its influence on our lives.

The authors, both psychiatrists, divided the book into seven sections, detailing what they deem to be the “seven universal struggles”: injustice, rejection, loneliness, loss, discipline, failure, and death. I had never thought about subdividing pain into specific categories, but those headings seem to be pretty all-encompassing. On the one hand, a reader looking for answers about a specific life circumstance could readily turn to the section that most applied to him or her. Conversely, a book divided into seven situation-specific categories gives a broad summation of the subject rather than a detailed treatise.

The authors use anecdotes from their own psychiatric practices and biblical examples throughout the book to serve as examples. The book gives sound, grounded advice, but again, it was written in very general terms. Rather than gleaning new insight or different ideas from this book I was reminded of the sound truth that comes from the foundation of  my faith. It isn’t harmful to be reminded of what I know but don’t always put into practice; however, I was  hoping for a different perspective and deeper discussion.

This book would be helpful for anyone looking for a general overview of pain. Someone who wants a quick answer about a specific painful circumstance would also appreciate this book. For those looking for a more detailed examination, Randy Alcorn’s If God is Good is more research-driven and weightier. Certainly, anyone wrestling with this subject would also  be advised to read C.S. Lewis’s classics The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. I think I’ll be revisiting those books in the next few months.



Filed under Books, Review

Silly Reindeer Games

I didn’t really want to tell this story. But this is Ralph’s Favorite Stories week at Snoodlings and I’d already vetoed one of his choices. Plus, I told Carpoolqueen I’d tell this story as a sign of solidarity and support for the tough choice she had to make at her dental appointment yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago, I was upstairs getting ready for the day when I remembered that the garbage collectors would be coming very soon to pick up our trash. Simultaneously I remembered that K and I had cleaned out my minivan the previous evening and since then, I hadn’t seen the Starbucks gift card that had been sitting in my van’s console. These two facts go together because my husband employs the scoop method of household maintenance. When he was single and did his own laundry, he’d scoop up a pile of dirty clothes and throw them in the washing machine, regardless of the colors or make of the clothing. When I married him, he didn’t have any white clothing, only khaki. When he is dealing with paper clutter and he sees that the paper on top is trash, he is likely to scoop up the whole pile and throw it away. He threw away three debit cards in the first three months that we were married. I’m not judging him. He is probably the only reason we haven’t been featured in an episode of “Hoarders”…..yet.

So as I’m remembering that the trash guys are coming I get a mental image of K scooping up trash from the car and wondered if my Starbucks card had mistakenly found its way into the scoop. I ran downstairs in my hot pink fuzzy pajama pants, threw on the red polar fleece I had hanging in the coat closet, and hurried to the dumpsters in the back yard. It was a Starbucks gift card! Plastic gold!

I live on a military base. My neighbors and I share a long driveway behind our houses so my backyard opens into the backyards of several other families. As I was digging through our trash, I became uncomfortably aware that I was not alone in the back common area. Maintenance crews were working on a water main two doors down from me. It was mid-morning and the neighborhood was bustling with activity.  And I was rummaging through the trash can wearing crazy people clothes…and a headband.

I had forgotten all about the headband.

My daughter has a headband addiction. She probably has 75 headbands that she keeps scattered throughout our house.  I can almost always find one in my bathroom and sometimes I’ll slip one on while I’m putting on my makeup to keep my hair out of my face. I just grab the closest headband I can find and the one I’d found that morning just happened to be a Christmas one. But not just any Christmas headband. No, this is the headband I was wearing that morning:

In broad daylight.

With mismatched pajamas.

While I dug through the garbage.

And I didn’t find the gift card.

So, google me. Maybe someone was quick enough to take a cellphone picture and post it in his or her blog. Entertaining the neighbors….Just another service I’m happy to provide for my neighborhood.

And thus concludes Ralph’s Favorite Stories week.  It’s been real, it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun. Just so that no one can say I didn’t write anything of substance all week, I’m posting the chicken and dumplings recipe that I was talking about on Twitter last night. It’s real, it’s good and it’s really good. I’ll also be back at some point this weekend with another book review and an update on my Bible reading plan. Plan your schedule accordingly. Until then, enjoy your Friday!


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I’ll Give You the Shirt Right Off My Son’s Back

Before I tell you anything else, I wanted to let you know that God’s Will’s cat scans (or as my youngest son mistakenly prayed about yesterday, his “scat cans”) were CLEAR!! Woo hoo! Not today, cancer. Not today.

It’s my friend Ralph’s Favorite Stories Week here at Snoodlings. This is another story that doesn’t paint in me in the best possible light, which is why, most likely, it’s one of Ralph’s favorites.

Besides the one and only Ruby Jane, Ralph and his wife have two other children. Their youngest, Jesse, is  a couple of years younger than my youngest. He’s going to be an astronaut when he grows up and he’s almost as precious as my own kids. When my youngest son outgrows his clothes, I pass them on to Jesse. This may sound weird, but I am emotionally attached to many outfits that my children have worn over the years. Getting rid of their clothes that are too small is very emotional for me. I attach memories to certain things they wore. When they can’t wear a special shirt anymore, I mourn the loss of an age they’ll never be again. But when I pass clothes on to Jesse, it’s like the clothes get new life. When I see him wearing something that my boys wore, I feel happy and relive the good memories. Again, let’s not dwell on the fact that I may have issues that need addressing.

Jesse loves getting the clothes from his friends, “the big boys,” so it’s a win-win situation for everyone. In fact, he expects to get clothes from our family on a fairly regular basis. One day his mom and I were talking and she told me that during a recent cold snap, Jesse was wearing a coat that I’d passed down to him last year and he was wearing a bulky sweater under it. He was uncomfortable because the coat felt a little snug across his shoulders and through his arms. He looked at his mom with disgust and said, “We need to tell Ms. Amy (he doesn’t call me Whimzie) I need a new coat!” We laughed, but his story reminded me that I had another coat one size larger that my boys couldn’t wear anymore. I told Tanya that I’d get the coat to her when our girls had ballet practice that week. I pulled it out of the attic and put it in our coat closet, which is also the receptacle for all the things that need to leave our house (library books, purchases that need to be returned, Jesse’s coat).

Since I had the coat where I should remember to take it with me, I of course  walked out the door and went to ballet practice without it. When I saw Jesse wearing last year’s coat, I remembered that I had forgotten to bring the coat like I’d promised.

“Oh, Jesse, I’m sorry! I forgot to bring the coat.” And just as the words were coming out of my mouth, I happened to look over and realized that my youngest son was wearing the coat that I’d pulled out to give to Jesse.

You need to understand that my youngest son doesn’t really like to wear socks, shoes or outerwear. When I make the “everyone-put-on-your-socks-shoes-and-coat-call” before we walk out the door, he will almost always wait until the second that the rest of us are getting into the car to decide that he will participate in that group activity. In his rush, he will grab whatever shoes and wrap he happens to find in the coat closet. He has been seen in public wearing his big brother’s shoes that are at least three sizes too big. He has tried to use his favorite blanket in place of an actual jacket. He has even attempted to wear my shoes, but I was alerted to his choice  by the sound of him tripping down the stairs on the way out of the house and was therefore able to force him to go back and find his own shoes.

So, yes, the coat he had on at ballet practice was too small, but without thinking of how it might appear to the others in the room who didn’t know that my son had another coat at home that fit him perfectly, I called my son over to me and said, “Hey, take off your coat so I can give it to Jesse.” I think he gave one “But, Mom,” but I was already pulling the coat off of his body to give it to my friend’s child. And because my son has a flair for the dramatic at times, he shivered and slunk into a corner as if he were being punished. Like we were doing a production of Oliver Twist and he had the lead.

In my defense, we live in the South. It wasn’t that cold outside. And I’d parked directly in front of the studio’s entrance so he wasn’t going to have to trudge through the frozen tundra to get to our car. But I guess it looked a little strange. And perhaps cruel. But I really didn’t think about how it must have looked until I was talking to Tanya on the phone later and Ralph asked for the phone so he could ask me, “So you really just made your kid take off his coat and hand it over to my son and your kid walked out with nothing?”

Well, when you put it like that. But it’s not like he was wearing his swimsuit, for crying out loud!

My friend Ralph. Making me feel like a failure as a mom and a person since 2004. I can’t wait to hear what he has planned for me to tell you tomorrow.


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Another One of Ralph’s Favorites: The Treasure Box Story

Ever have one of those days that’s just one errand after another? A few months ago, I had one of those days. My youngest two kids don’t have school on Tuesdays or Thursdays so I try to get all of my personal business taken care of on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday….because I don’t enjoy grocery shopping with “assistance.” On the day of this story  I made returns, dropped things off, picked things up, had things refilled, and worked on my list right up to time to pick up the Snoodles at school.

This particular Friday was my youngest son’s day to be the leader in his class. (Which just reminded me that today is my daughter’s day to be leader and I don’t have a snack to bring. That changes my morning quite a bit. Okay, everyone, read faster.) When you’re the leader you get to bring a favorite picture to display, a favorite book to read, a special item to show (and tell, I guess), and a snack to share (!!! I can’t believe I forgot!!!). Fridays are also Treasure Box Day for the kindergarten set. If you’re in kindergarten and you haven’t had any major behavior infractions all week, you get to pick a treasure (aka cheap Happy Meal toy just like the one your mom finally was able to sneak from your room and throw away while you weren’t looking) from the special box of plastic Made-In-Chinas. Every Friday afternoon, the youngest Snoodles pile into the car with a little more speed and enthusiasm, anxious to show me the loot they’ve liberated from their teachers’ stashes.

As B was preparing for his moment in the spotlight as leader, I packed his snack and procured his picture and book, but I allowed him to select his show-and-tell item. The morning was crazy, as they always seem to be around here, so I never got around to asking him what he’d chosen to take to class. I remembered that I hadn’t seen his show-and-tell item when, as he entered the car that afternoon, he handed me a small silver package across the seat and with all the nonchalance I’ve ever heard in a statement said, “Here, Mom.”

This is what he handed me:

What did I do? Well, I did what every seasoned, veteran mom would do. I panicked.

Is THAT what he brought for Show-and-Tell?!?! I could see him passing the packet around giving all his friends a chance to try to pop the little “candies” out of the back of the dispenser. No, he knows that’s special medicine “for moms only” and I keep it on a high shelf in my bathroom. Plus his teacher is one of my best friends. Surely she would have called me the second that special item came into her view. Then where did he get that?!

Wait! Treasure Box Day! In my panic, and for maybe half a second, I actually wondered if he’d somehow found those somewhere and claimed them as his treasure for the day! Was this a sick joke? Or a message from his teacher? Where did he get those pills?!?!

In a moment of clarity I remembered that one of my errands for the day had been to get  a refill of “Mom’s special medicine.”  I had placed several of my shopping bags in the backseat and my newly acquired 3-month-supply of medicine must have fallen out as  B was getting in the car. Of course, then my panic escalated once again when I realized the rest of my refill could be fluttering across the pickup line of school.  With none of the nonchalance of my son, I unbuckled and almost broke my neck trying to run to the other side of the car to make sure all of my packages were secure. Thankfully, they were.

That night we went to dinner with Ralph and his wife and I was retelling the story. I don’t know why, but I was. I’m sure it had relevance at the moment. Ralph decided that he liked the idea that B had been given the pills for his Treasure Box selection and that they were our school’s subtle way of making sure that they didn’t have to deal with any more little Snoodles down the road. Ralph finds the very thought of that simply hilarious. He thinks you’d find this funny, too. If you don’t, I’m sure he’ll just say it’s because I didn’t tell the story correctly. But for what it’s worth, I told another one of your favorite stories, Ralph. Now you only have to think of two more to make Ralph’s Story Week complete.

By the way, I wonder if Ramen noodles would be considered an appropriate snack for the leader to bring. No? Instant oatmeal? Sigh. I think I just added another errand to my morning list.

P.S. And more important than anything else I’ve written today, my friend God’s Will is at St. Jude’s today for a checkup. He’s having a scan today and will get the results some time this afternoon.  Also, our friend Mike visited with my mom for a little while yesterday afternoon. The new medicine is making him sick but he was full of encouragement and wisdom and positivity, as usual. And finally, a new friend who is on the Daniel Safari Bible study with me was just diagnosed with cancer. She’ll be finding out more details in the days to come. I’d appreciate your prayers for all of these precious people.


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Why Kids Get to Name Their Pets and Not Their Siblings

I don’t know who decided this would be “Ralph’s Favorite Stories” week here at Snoodlings. I guess I did, since I write the blog. (Anyone else hear Barry Manilow right there? Just a quick verse of “I Write the Blogs That Make the Whole World Sing”? Or as a result of a couple of posts last week maybe that should be “The Blogs That Make the Whole World Sick.”) To be honest, my brain hurts. I don’t mean that I have a headache, I mean that my brain is just a little irritable this week and seems to be rebelling against making thoughts of any real import. So I’m just telling Ralph’s favorite stories instead. Here goes:

When we found out we were having twins we were very surprised. You see, I’d just spent over three months convincing myself that I was NOT having twins. I knew something was different about that pregnancy from the very beginning. I asked all my friends who had multiples what their pregnancy was like. I googled symptoms. I was convinced that I had more than one baby in there. But everyone I talked to convinced me that I was having a girl, not more than one baby. And the nurse practitioner only heard one set of heartbeats, so I also became sure that I was only having one baby. So sure, in fact, that even several years after they were born, whenever anyone said something about me being the mother of twins, I felt surprised all over again. I still have “Good grief! I have twins!” moments from time to time, six years later.

After the initial surprise, we realized that we now had to have two names ready instead of just one. We knew that we didn’t want “twinny” sounding names like Fred and Ted or Millie and Molly. We did want their names to have significance and to be connected in some way but without the rhyming or too much alliteration. Which is weird because we both grew up Baptist and Baptists are generally known for their love of all things alliterative. I’ll blame it on the fact that we weren’t attending a Baptist church at the time.

We didn’t know the gender of the babies initially so we tried to think of combinations of boy names, girl names, and boy and girl names. If the babies were boys we considered naming them after our fathers. What a tribute, right? Sounds great until you realize that my dad’s name was Jerry and my husband’s name was Benjamin. We thought asking our boys to go through life as Ben and Jerry would be too much to ask. Plus, I was afraid that I would constantly be craving Cherry Garcia and would never be able to lose my baby weight. (I’m a suggestible eater.)

We were almost relieved when the ultrasound revealed that we were going to have a boy and a girl so we could put our ice cream names aside. On the way home from one of our appointments I asked our oldest, who was two years old, what he thought we should name our babies. We were trying to help him understand the big brother role he would soon have and wanted to involve him in as much of the changes our family was experiencing as we could. He thought about it for a minute and said with great certainty that he thought we should name his little brother “Jesus” and his little sister “Bubbles.”

That night at drama practice I told my friends that my son had decided to name his siblings after the Messiah and a stripper. They thought the names were hilarious and for the rest of my pregnancy, that’s what they called the little people growing in my stomach. My friend Alex still calls them Bubbles and Jesus and I guess she always will.

I’m not sure why this is one of Ralph’s favorite stories. It doesn’t even really have an ending. Maybe you all should hope my brain feels better very soon. Who knows what Ralph will want to hear next. Ralph, any more requests?


Filed under Family

You Ought to Be in Pictures…Just Maybe Not So Many

My computer has an application called Photo Booth. It allows you to take pictures from the computer’s camera and add special effects. You can also record short videos. My kids call it “Face Game.” My dad introduced them to it. They used to love to hang out with him in his office and make weird faces that he would let them print out to bring home. They were so excited when we bought this computer and they discovered that they could play Face Game at home!

I didn’t realize just how much they loved it until I opened the application recently and discovered that they have taken 543 photos of themselves and have recorded 197 movies. I decided to watch a few of the movies and was amazed to find that I may be raising the next John Hughes, Steven Spielberg, and Sofia Coppola (I only know one female director). I would happily show you a movie or two that they created, but I haven’t taught myself how to insert my own videos into my blog posts yet. Maybe I should see if my kids know how. It’s too bad I can’t show them to you. They’re hilarious and maybe even a little disturbing.

I can show you a few pictures that I found:

I had to laugh when I saw this picture. I had no idea they’d talked Kentucky Granny into playing:
All three of these little Snoodles are hams. I have no idea where they get it.
I don’t care if they are my kids, they’re pretty cute little Snoodles. Which reminds me of one of my friend “Ralph’s” favorite stories. Let’s call it “How Not to Tell A Mom She Has a Cute Kid.” I was talking to someone at a church event one evening and the conversation went something like this:
FRIEND: Your daughter is such a doll.
ME: Well, thank you.
FRIEND: No, really. Every time I see her I’m struck by what a pretty little girl she is.
ME: That’s sweet of you to say.
FRIEND: So, does she like K’s baby pictures?
ME: No, not really. Her brother does, but she really doesn’t.
FRIEND: Does she look like someone else in his family?
ME: I don’t think so.
FRIEND: Does she look like your baby pictures?
ME: I think she does a little. Our eyes are different colors, but I think I see a resemblance in pictures.
FRIEND: Or maybe she looks like someone in your family?
ME: We think she looks like my mom’s baby pictures.
FRIEND: I’ve just been trying to figure it out. Because she looks nothing like you. (pause) She’s absolutely beautiful.
ME: (pause) Thanks (?)
And now that I’ve made Ralph’s day, I’d like to wish a very happy birthday to the most definite better half of that couple, his precious wife and one of my very best friends AND the mother of the great Ruby Jane. Happy birthday, Tanya. I hope this is your best year yet! I consider it an honor and a privilege to call you friend.


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Theology and Doctrine aka Easy, Breezy, Weekend Chitchat

Waterbrook Multnomah sent me a copy of Joshua Harris’s newest book to review. I’d heard of Josh Harris and know plenty of people who have read his other books, but this was my first time to read one of his works. I asked to participate in this blog book tour because I was interested in the subject matter. It’s a book about theology and doctrine, which at first blush sounds like dry reading, but I’m at a place in my spiritual walk where I’m not satisfied with shallow, surface facts. I need and want more.

What better book than one titled Dug Down Deep to help me “dig deeper” into the meat of what Christianity is truly about. Don’t let the words scare you. Theology? Harris explains that’s ” the study of God.” Doctrine is “the meaning of the story God is writing in the world, the explanation. It’s the explanation of what He’s done and why He’s done it and why it matters to you and me.” Chapter by chapter, Josh Harris writes a clear, easy-to-understand explanation of the basic tenets of the Christian belief. I love some of the chapter titles: “Near But Not in My Pocket” is about the doctrine of God, who He is and what He’s like. “Ripping, Burning, Eating” is about the Bible. “God with a Bellybutton” (that’s my favorite one) is about Jesus.

This is book is great for new Christians, but it’s also great for those of us who have been in a relationship with Christ for awhile but haven’t thought about the “whats” and “whys” of our faith in a long time, if ever.  I love that Josh gives his story of his quest for a deeper knowledge and understanding of theology and doctrine. He even discusses specific books he read that helped him understand difficult concepts. This book would be a great starting point and a reader who wanted to dig even deeper could continue with some of the classic works that he mentions.

The chapter that affected me the most was the one that discussed the sovereignty of God. Josh talked about looking out the windows of the coffee shop where he goes to write. The people outside the window have to focus intently to see inside. With just a cursory glance, they only see their own reflections and the window is more like a mirror. Josh explained that many people view themselves as “the starting point of life and reality.” This man-centered view makes their own thoughts and goals supreme. The work of the Cross becomes more about them than God. A biblical mind-set is completely opposite. God’s “rights and goals define reality.” The Cross is about God’s glory and His perfect love.

Why is this important? Well, for me, it helped me to realize that I’ve viewed the events of the last year through a self-centered mind-set. When I don’t like the events of my life, I feel hurt and betrayed. I haven’t spent much time thinking about my life from God’s perspective. It seems like a small adjustment, but it’s given me a lot to think about.

Is this the most detailed and in-depth book about theology and doctrine available? No.  Could Josh have dug even deeper in his subject matter? Certainly.  But this is a great book to get the conversations and questions started. It would be an excellent resource for Christian teenagers. I think it would be fun to read as a family and discuss together. So many people go to church week after week and leave without a real knowledge of what they truly believe. This book is an introduction to theology that even the newest Christian could understand.

If you’d like more information about how to purchase this book, you can click this link.  For more information about Josh Harris, check out his blog.


Filed under Books, Review