Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member

Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member: Discover the Path to Hope and HealingExperiencing the Loss of a Family Member: Discover the Path to Hope and Healing by H. Norman Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hate that this book applies to me this year.  My parents owned a gravestone business when I was growing up, so I was often around when there were others dealing with their grief, many of my childhood photos took place in cemeteries because we often made a trip Dad needed to make for work into a family trip, and I even met my best friend in elementary school when her family stopped in to buy a monument for her brother.  But as much as I had been around grief, it's another story when it hits home.  This year I lost my mother, my grand-father-in-law, and several family friends.

When my mother died, it felt like my world stopped.  She had been going downhill, but it was still a surprise.  There seemed nothing different about that day than any other, but that day will be engrained in my memory, down to the clothes I was wearing.

Life has to go on for the living, even if we don't want it to.  There are fears and losses.   I'm dealing right now about how I plan my wedding since both of my parents have passed away.  Milestones bring back memories.  Holidays are no different.  Things change even when we don't want them to.

This book, Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member helps work through that grief and emotion.  It reminds you that what you are feeling is okay.  There are questions to help you think about why you are feeling the way you are.  Examples are "I am afraid of ______.  What can I do about it? ______"

This book is difficult to read.  Yet, I'm so glad I did.  There are different chapters, and not all relate to me, but each one had something worthwhile in it.  The chapters are:

The World of Grief
The Loss of a Spouse
The Loss of a Child
Helping Children in Grief
The Death of a Parent
Parent Loss
The Loss of a Sibling
The Loss of a Friend
The Loss of a Pet
The Questions of Life
Helping Others

There are Bible verses in this book that help give hope.  Hope is something that is so difficult to see when the sun has set on someone's life, but this book helped me go on.  It helped me think about my own mortality, and that I want to be important enough in others' lives that they will need a book like this when it's my time to go.

This book encourages you to seek out others.  Be it in a group setting of a grief support group, or calling up a friend.  Life is a journey, and we need one another.  If we didn't then we wouldn't be grieving.

I remember seeing a quote somewhere on line recently that I should be thankful for grief, it means I loved someone so much I miss them.  That's true, but there's more heartbrokenness for me   There is pain, but I get up every morning.  I go on.  And this book helped me start looking to the future instead of the past.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

You can purchase this book here:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Victory in Jesus

I posted this on my Facebook status yesterday:

Went to church at the  Church of the Nazarene this morning. Opening song was Number 434 in the old Nazarene hymnals -- and I didn't look at the hymnal once for that song. When I was a kid going to church there, we sang that song almost every week. Victory in Jesus. That church brought back so many memories. There was cake and ice cream for birthdays after church, and we were able to visit with some people for a while. Yet, I remembered some special people who have passed on from that church. Bob and Dean were so special. I would pick on Dean and she'd always say "I'm telling you!" Gayle is why I started going to church there back in the 1980s. I'm so thankful for her influence in my life. A good day day remembering as well as knowing the future holds good things in store.

I neglected to mention my friend Shelly who went to church there as well.  Shelly passed away this summer. 

It feels like so much has been ripped from me this year.  Nothing feels normal.  Nothing feels even remotely the same.

But going to church where I spent many an hour, hearing 434 being called -- the hymnal fell open to it yesterday, and the strains of "I heard an old, old story" -- a song so familiar I hadn't heard it in years and yet I remembered every word.

I remember the time the we were coming home from a church picnic about 25 years ago, and a kindergartner started singing Victory in Jesus.  Only he sang ONLY the words "Victory in Jesus", on repeat.  I saw his name in the church directory yesterday.

I remembered the time my friend Dean was decorating the Christmas tree and had a strand of Christmas lights that were plugged in at her feet.  She asked, "What hymn am I?"  (Answer "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning".)  Corny, but her laugh was so infectious that we laughed until we almost cried.

I remembered the time after revival we all gathered around the piano and Angie played a number of hymns and we sang until we were hoarse.   

I remembered the time I met the principal of the Christian high school from which I graduated.  My parents and I didn't even know it existed until I greeted her after the service and she told me she was there to give someone information on the school.

And my precious Gayle.  She invited me (no pestered me) to go to church with her, and I got connected in that church.  She passed away a couple years later.   I was an awkward teen, and she reached out, and in so doing honestly changed the course of my life.  Her brother told me on my Facebook page:

What terrific memories and testimony of our sweet Gayle. Thank you Jenn for remaining true to Jesus and honoring my sister by dong so. May the Lord richly bless your marriage!

I feel humbled that he would say such.  My life was made much more full for having known her.

There are others who have passed on from that church, but I've had a rare two days.  Instead of looking at the grief around me and feeling sad, I'm hopeful.  I heard about a mansion he built for me in glory. . . and some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of Victory.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rare Bird Book Review

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and LoveRare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know why I have been seeking out memoirs of loss.  I have lost my mother, grandfather-in-law, as well as three family friends this year.  Reading about loss should be the last thing I want to do, but when I was offered a chance of an advance reading copy of Rare Bird, I accepted it.

This book is beautifully written, tragic, and yet filled with hope.  The only thing I disliked about the book was the foul language used.  Yes, it would be (insert expletive of your choice here) to lose a son, but with this being a Christian book, I was surprised at the language and that would keep me from recommending this book to some people.   I do appreciate her honesty though, and I am not saying I didn't use language like that after some of the losses I experienced this year, I just didn't feel it was appropriate for a Christian book.

The author takes you into her journey of loss.   Being there for her daughter.  Dealing with the loss of a son.  Finding a new normal.  Grief popping up at unexpected times.  Others not knowing what to say or how to help.  Learning about herself.   Learning about others.  Living with loss, heartache, and sorrow.  I admired the support system she had.  When my mother died, I felt lost as I was her primary care giver for years.  I lost a bit of my identity as I did not have a job outside of that.  The day of the funeral a couple desserts, a meat and cheese tray, and some bread arrived at the house.  Then it seemed like silence.

Death is a part of life, but it shouldn't happen too young.  The author's son was in 7th grade.   It was a freak accident during a flood.  Children shouldn't die.  Yet they do.  Life comes with no guarantees.  Picking up this book is like taking a walk with the author in her painful journey of everything being fine one moment -- her last Facebook photo before the accident was of her children and candlelight because of the power outage.  The next day her life was changed forever.

While I have lost family members before, I have never lost a child, an hope I never do.  But this is a glimpse into the horrible pain that those who have lost a child must feel.   Read this book hug your children tighter, and cherish each day because this moment is all we are guaranteed.   Make the most of it.

FTC disclosure:   I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  

Watch the trailer:

You can purchase a copy here:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

U.S. Cellular's Shark Tank Sweepstakes

I love entering contests and sweepstakes!  Who doesn't love to win a prize?   Well, did you know that U.S. Cellular is sponsoring a new sweepstakes in conjunction with ABC's show Shark Tank.

Last year U.S. Cellular launched the contest called "Spotlight on America's Backbone" in which they asked for small businesses to enter to win a prize of free advertising and free wireless for a year.  This year, U.S. Cellular expanded on the idea and gave consumers access to more tools and support to grow their business.

First, there were casting calls that were held giving small businesses a chance to appear on national TV on the show Shark Tank.  U.S. Cellular worked with the show to make it possible for some entrepreneurs to be able to give the casting call a try!

Now, it's time for the second phase of the sweepstakes (and you'll want to be sure and enter!)  This time one person who lives within the U.S. Cellular footprint will be given a trip to to Los Angeles.  The winner will receive a VIP seat during the entire pitch process in California, lunch with the casting team, and an opportunity to interact with the "sharks" during the day to ask any business questions if the winner is a small business owner.

U.S. Cellular is committed to those who live within their marketing area in a way that other wireless providers are not.   This is just one example of their commitment to communities that U.S. Cellular services.   (Think no one ever wins these things?   Think again!  Our local high school won a $100,000 grant from U.S. Cellular in 2009!)

In addition to schools, U.S. Cellular champions small business owners and wanted to give access to some tools that would make them successful.  By operating these casting calls, it was an unprecedented way for U.S. Cellular to provide people in local communities an opportunity to pitch their ideas and hopefully see their business grow.

You can enter daily through October 31 if you are in the U.S. Cellular marketing area.    Just go to  to enter.

Also, if you haven't already, please visit this link to download your free parent / child cellphone agreement compliments of U.S. Cellular.

FTC disclosure:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular blogger brigade and this is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.