Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I loved Nourished by Lia Huber

This book drew me in right from the get go. Fresh ingredients showing love at an open table. I'm in. The great part is that we get to follow Lia around to all of the tables she held on her many adventures. Look at that book cover. Don't you want to sit right in the middle of that table and eat?

She had me right off the bat describing eating homemade food in Greece. I followed her through her journey to finding love and losing her uterus to wondering what God had in store for her family. I don't want to issue any spoiler alerts so you'll have to read the book to find out what happens. I do want to share this that stuck me.
He very much intended me to bear things of beauty and worth.

There's more to love, people. One thing is how she spoke about the food industry. Much of her early writing and attending food conferences included people who attempted to make food and elitist thing. Knowing how to do or cook something somehow made these critics feel superior. I can understand. I have been lectured on coconut oil and essential oil and everything under the sun. Lia made a beautiful point by saying that good food and rich tradition is meant to be a point of connection rather than a point of contention. I agree. Come to the table.

Lastly, I was reading this book after leaving a homeless center in downtown Austin and came across this great section. It goes with what Jimmy Dorrell, founder of Church Under the Bridge, says about compassion not being about bending low from a place of superiority. It's about sitting among the broken. 
Y'all. Read it. It will make you want to eat good food and love people better. Amen.
This book was graciously given by Convergent Books Publishing for review.
Somebody come cook with me. love, Steph

Monday, November 13, 2017

Stones of Remembrance by Daniel G. Amen

I originally found interest in this book because all year long I keep hearing and seeing the word "remember" every where I go. Remember. I have been on a mission to remember the things God has done for me and those I love. I did not initially realize that this little is a companion to a book entitled Memory Rescue. The timing of me reading this book hit me pretty hard as I sat in the neurologist's office with my dad for his dementia that is progressing. It is truly one of the hardest things I have dealt with. It's hard loving someone so much and being able to do nothing to help them. If my help involves change for him of any kind, he doesn't want my help at all. It's a deep ache to miss people who are not missing from you physically.

As this disease progresses, I feel like I need to read everything I can to help me transition to this next phase of life. It seems like that angst of having your first child. I have no idea what I am stepping into and want to be prepared as possible. I'm thankful for all of the people who have gone before me into this wild unknown. I am grateful for those who have left guidebooks so that the journey does not feel so lonely.

This book is small. It has just a few simple pages on the brain and a lot of scripture to deal with what our brain throws at us. As I read through the pages, I felt conviction and great hope. It's something I could easily see myself tucking in my purse or at my bedside table to read again and again.

I have not read the book that this is a companion to, but this book was encouraging and gave battle verses for life in the unknown. Memory Rescue is on my wish list. I recently ordered another book that the Neurologist recommended called 36 Hour Day. It's about caring for people with Alzheimer's and Dementia.

This book was graciously provided by Tyndale House Publishing for Review.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Miscarriage | Infertility | Hope : My Story

I was recently asked to write a story of my journey through miscarriage and infertility for the Trying Collective. I thought I would share it here as well for anyone who might be hurting.
I encountered Jesus as a young child in a church pew in the balcony of an old country church. Through a lifetime of trial, I knew he was there. I did not always know or understand what he wanted of me, but I knew I was wanted. We could go through all of the pain and abuse of my life and unpack each tiny detail, but that is not what this is really about. I love what Frederick Buechner said, “Pain is not the biggest thing that has ever happened to you.” That is true. I have beheld far greater glory. As I clung to his word through all of this, I knew he was there.

My story about trying begins long before I began trying to have children. I tell you this because almost half of the population has been abused in some way. The attack on my uterus began when I was four-years-old. I spent most of my life believing that I was broken and I was crippled by shame. I carried that shame into every relationship I had. As I encountered people in the church, I never felt safe enough to ask for prayer or help. I could hear in their words shame heaped upon shame, even when they were trying to seem compassionate. I simply could not bear even one more ounce of shame.

Through all of this, I had a relationship with Jesus. I knew and understood that he cared for me. I could hear the Sunday School answers to all of the questions I had raging in my heart. The problem was that I did not see one single person working this out practically. I did not trust people with what I was carrying in my heart. I had seen a terrible counselor and tried to share, but it honestly left me feeling worse. So there I was, feeling damaged.

The first person I really confided all of my past hurt to was my future husband. I was sure he would think less of me because of all of this. Fortunately, we went on to get married and he gave a safe place for my heart to heal. He gave me support in every way that he could so that I could sit with Jesus and heal. For the first few months of our marriage I was on birth control. Then I became personally convicted about telling God when to give me a baby. I thought I would become pregnant right away. Years went by. I began to believe I was failing the man that had taken my shattered heart in.

After several years of trying to get pregnant, I finally had a positive test. At my three-month check up, there was no heartbeat. They did a blood test just to make sure and called to tell me that I had lost the baby. That tore me to the core. I could not handle the shame of my failure at motherhood. The hardest part of losing a child was all the other people that knew. The ache of sharing pain like that was beyond anything I can explain. I did not want those people in this with me. People say horrendous things in situations like this. People will try to make your pain about them. It makes something awful that much worse.

To process through all of this, my husband and I painted our kitchen a Tuscan yellow. Jesus spoke something to me in there. Listen with grace. People are trying to communicate pain or hope that they have no words for.  As I have quit being incensed about what people say to me, I have heard much more of the heart of others. I quit demanding that their story be like mine or their words be perfectly spoken and I heard them. 

Miscarriage would go on to bring pain to my life five more times. I have lost a baby in a tragic accident, lost twins that I had to labor to deliver, lost a baby on a road trip to see my husband’s family in North Carolina. Waking up to gushing blood at a family reunion is one of the worst things I can remember. I did not want to ruin my husband’s time with his family and so I just tucked it away in my heart until I could grieve. I have these memories of being in labor and delivery and going home empty-handed. I have held a dead fetus that I miscarried early as it came out during a shower. I have been told that regular cancer screenings were needed to be sure that what hurt my children would not hurt me. There are things you cannot shake from your memory.

There are things I am grateful for through it all. I am not Catholic, but I am grateful for Catholic hospitals that believe in the sanctity of life. In the one hospital that I had a D&C for the twins, they bury your babies instead of putting them in a jar or the medical waste bin. There is also a memorial garden there where you can sit and pray. So often when you miscarry, you feel as though you made the whole thing up because you never held a baby. Someone offering you a place to grieve makes you feel like you do not need to pretend it did not happen or hide under shame. I am grateful for those who champion life.

During all of this trying, we also tried to adopt four times. We had one woman have her child taken by CPS, one had an abortion, one had a miscarriage, and the last kept her baby. It’s a completely different grief trying to adopt and failing, but it is grief nonetheless. We had made room in our hearts and our home to bring someone new into our family come what may.  

Out of my nine pregnancies, six were miscarriages. My husband and I did end up having three girls. There has been some pretty significant damage done to my liver, but I am thankful. I am also humbled to share my journey with others. There are many beautiful women who are crippled in shame from trying and seemingly failing.

The thing I have come to learn is that we must tell our stories no matter how they turn out. One person’s story of trying is not more valuable that someone else’s. We simply need to learn to listen with grace, keep unwise comments to ourselves, and learn from each other. We are good together and must not let anger isolate us any further. God designed us as women to nurture those around us. Often, it doesn’t look like we think it will.

I look back at my stubborn approach to how God would give me my motherhood and I realize how I tried to usurp his lordship in my life. I have been arrogant in how I dealt with what people have said. The “how dare they speak to me like that” approach to life doesn’t honor anyone. It refuses to listen or care for the burdens of others. I learned how to kindly share with people what to say and let them mature in Christ. I learned to accept care how it was given.

Humility and trust in God will make you a spectacular steward of your pain. Decades of agony in the hands of Christ gave me a gift. I learned to care more about others than myself. That gift helped me lift the laser eye I had on my deficiency and shame and pour out the love of God on anyone God entrusts us with.

Thank you for listening with ears of grace to my story. I pray that you can have hope no matter what mile marker you are on in your journey. In reading scripture, I could see how one person’s story was really a gift to someone else. The gospel went out. So does what we carry in our hearts. “Choose wisely,” I would tell myself. What is the legacy you want to leave to the people around you? We could have had it all on our timeline and according to our agenda, but we wouldn’t be the people we are. We wouldn’t have been humbled to offer mercy and we wouldn’t know that God is truly there even in the darkest moments.

God promises that he is there with the broken hearted. I can tell you from experience that his presence gets more palpable the darker it gets. Sometimes, I want to sit among the broken just so I can feel that nearness again. Honestly, the gift of having the nearness of God far overshadows the pain of it all. Lean in to Christ. Weep through the Psalms. Read every ounce of God’s word, every story and you will see that their greatest hurt was a launch pad of redemption when they took it to Christ. Grieve when you need to, but hold fast to hope. There is more to our story than this moment. There is more beauty and glory to behold. Take heart. You are seen and loved by a beautiful God.

If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:9-10

"EVEN THERE"  painting by Stephanie Cherry

Saturday, November 04, 2017

When Did Everybody Else Get So Old by Jennifer Grant

Y'all know I am forty. I often forget that this age is middle-aged. I picked this book out of the review queue and thought it would be interesting to prepare for the future. As I was reading, I realized that I have or am living all of the things in this book. In many ways it was helpful and encouraging. In many ways I thought it was WEIRD and preached capital T Terrible doctrine. Here's my two cents.

Jennifer talks about why teenagers make fun of us, rebel against us, and detach from us. That is always helpful to remember because it helps us to engage the issue instead of reacting to it. She didn't give much help in the engaging area however. She also dealt with how our kids make fun of us as a way to build their independence and prove themselves separate from us.That can be helpful in affirming our children's individualism. 

Really this was a strange group of essays that formed a memoir. She went from wearing glasses that her kids said look like Elton John, to losing her addict sister, to being cremated, to being Episcopalian. The part about her sister was interesting. She shares a little list of what not to say to people who are grieving. When someone loses a family member that is an addict they also grieve their life and loss of relationship. It's a grief doubled.

At the very last chapter, she lost me completely. She went on this strange rant about verses used in the Bible to clobber others. Ones that preached repentance and justice. She said that she thought everyone gets to go to heaven. Honestly, I think she took those "clobber verses" and hit people who believe in repentance and our need to be forgiven by a Holy God with them. It was some of the worst theology I've read in a while. 

That leaves me to tell you that I do not recommend this book. 

This book was graciously provided by Herald Press for review.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

I read A Crazy, Holy Grace by Frederick Buechner

This was the second book in a set of previously unpublished lectures by Frederick Buechner. The first one I read I loved the whole way through. It spoke to me page after page. This one was good and thought provoking until the middle. Then It lost me.

You can read about the other things I loved in this book here: http://www.stephaniecherry.com/2017/10/off-book-stack-remarkable-ordinary-by.html

The first part was all about remembering. That hit me because that's a bit of a buzz word in my prayer life. I think often of the stones of remembrance in Joshua. I often go back through prayer journals to remember what God has done for me and ask him to do it again. He told a story about a dream he had where he was in a hotel. He wanted to find his way back to the room he was in the night before and couldn't. He asked to front desk clerk how to get to that room and the clerk told him that he only needed to know the name to return there. The name of the room was "remember."

Now, the second half lost me altogether. These lectures were originally spoken so I don't know if they lost something without the emphasis of human voice. Perhaps I was reading it wrong. It seemed to me like he was saying he was summoning his dead grandmother to have a conversation with. I couldn't figure out if this was real or he was imagining it. All I know is that it came across incredibly weird.

That leaves me to not want to recommend this book to you. If you read it, perhaps you can share your thoughts on the latter half with me.

Miscarriage | Infertility | Hope

I encountered Jesus as a young child in a church pew in the balcony of an old country church. Through a lifetime of trial, I knew he was the...