Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Living a Charmed Life

On the 4th of July, as we sat on a blanket on our front lawn and watched the fireworks explode directly overhead I looked at my two girls and thought about how lucky they are.  They are living a charmed life - a life of experiences and privileges that I can't imagine having enjoyed at their young age.    I always loved to see the fireworks, but we either had to go downtown long before the sky began to darken or accept a more distant view that still filled me with awe.    I remember one year when we did experience the explosion of lights directly overhead.  I was thrilled, amazed, and more than a little afraid, sure that the sparks would fall before the fire was out.  My girls have no such fear since that is what they're used to.

Just this past weekend Doc and I took the girls to the local amusement park.  A short boat or car ride away, that was our fourth visit this summer.   With season passes (that Doc's parents get us each year for Christmas), we are able to go whenever the mood strikes.  Whether it is hot, cold, or just right.  Whether we have a few hours or all day.  Whether the sky is cloudy, rainy or sunny.  No matter the reason, if we want to go, we can.   As a child I remember taking two trips to this same amusement park.  Not two trips each year, but two trips over the course of 18 years (though we lived much further away).  Each trip was special, fun, and has its own unique memories.  I don't know if my girls will have the same types of memories from their trips.

Each week during the summer the girls and I meet a friend and her daughter to travel to a nearby island.  We take a ferry over, eat lunch, and attend a mini nature camp program.  The girls are able to dissect fish, hold snakes, feed frogs, see and learn about bald eagles, owls, bats, plants and more.   How lucky are they to be able to learn about our local flora and fauna in such a hands-on setting?   Do they have any idea that there are some people that have never seen a bald eagle at all, much less from 5 feet away?  

While I LOVE that my children are able to experience all these wonderful activities, I also worry.  Am I setting them up for disappointment in the future?   Or is each generation just different?  I don't feel as if I was deprived of anything as a child even though my experiences were so different than those of my children.  I grew up in a city.  We had theaters, malls, roller rinks, bowling alleys, sidewalks where we could ride our bikes, and the opportunity to take any type of lesson we might want.  My children are growing up in a "vacation community" with unique shops, beaches, amusement parks, water parks, lakes, boats, and open space.  When my girls grow up and have their own children will they live in the city?  Will they worry that they are spoiling their children by taking them to the museum, theater, concerts, performances, and five star restaurants? 

Though Peanut and Pumpkin might not realize exactly how good their lives are, I think they are appreciative.  They always thank us for taking them to the amusement park.  They told us how much they loved the fireworks.  They get excited each week for our island trip.   Whether you're living a city life, a country life, a vacation life, or something else, the important thing is that you appreciate what you do have.  No matter how much you have or where you are, I think everyone has the potential to live a charmed life.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer

When I think of summer, I think of reading.   Apparently I'm not the only one.  From summer reading programs to lists of great beach reads, everywhere you look you'll find encouragement and motivation to read during these sunny months.   As I've mentioned before, while I love to read,  I won't finish a book if I don't enjoy it.   Life is just too short.  Luckily, so far this summer, I've been pretty fortunate with my book selections.  My most recent read, Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer, was a quick, easy read that left me wondering what will happen in book #2.
From the back cover:
On the night Marianna Sommers was born, a freak accident shattered her family.  Even as she came into the world, her two sisters left it for  heaven.  She's spent her life making up for that loss., being to her family and their Indiana Amish community all that her sisters would have been.  Her only dream:  a simple life married to Aaron Zook, the one she's loved since childhood.  Then her father says they are moving--to Montana, of all places!  Of course it's to keep her younger siblings far from their oldest brother Levi, who left the Amish way of life, but the move will destroy Marianna's dream.  She pleads to stay, to no avail.  As Marianna leaves her home--and Aaron--she's sure her heart will never heal.

But Montana holds surprises.

The mountains, trees and still waters open Marianna's heart of God as never before.  Still it troubles her that the small Amish community is so interwoven with their Englisch neighbors.  especially woodworker, Ben Stone.  If only Ben didn't do everything right!  He's there in times of need, and his love for God is so clear.  But giving in to the feelings he stirs in her would carry a terrible cost...

Everything she believes in and loves.
Generally not a Christian fiction reader, this book really took me by surprise.   I found myself relating to the characters and the message of acceptance that is shown throughout this book in a way that I hadn't expected.  As an individual rather unfamiliar with the Amish belief system and way of life, I found the story very interesting.  I don't know how accurate the descriptions were, but I felt as if they gave me a good basis of understanding where each of the characters came from.

Marianna is a young woman in a state of transition.  Not quite ready to live on her own, but no longer a child, she must find her own way.  Not wanting to disappoint her family, she lives her life "by the book".  She is fairly certain that she knows what is right and wants to follow the path that has been set before her.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), life gets in the way of her plans and she is forced to re-evaluate all that she has learned and believes to be true.   She meets and interacts with several important people during this time of self-evaluation, not the least of which is Ben Stone - a young man that defies the stereotypes she has spent her life believing.

Throughout our lives, I think most of us will encounter someone or something unexpected.  Whether positive or negative,  these experiences force us to take a moment to reflect on what we believe.  Sometimes we choose to file the experience away as an anomaly that needs no further contemplation.  Other times, the experience will alter our entire structure and belief system.   This book leads you through that entire process for one character, Marianna.  I think that anyone that has experienced a moment of questioning any aspect of your belief system will appreciate this book.  The author does a good job of allowing the reader to feel the dichotomy of what Marianna has been told and what she is seeing and feeling for herself.   For me, a good read is one that allows me to feel personally invested in the outcome.  Tricia Goyer definitely did that in this book, Beside Still Waters.

*Disclaimer:  I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of the Beside Still Waters Campaign and received a copy of the book and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.