Archives For Melanie’s Book Reviews

Breaking the Silence

Melanie —  February 16, 2014

We apologise for the silence on our blog over the past few weeks.  It’s time to break the silence with an honest post.   After a month of battling a nasty virus, I am grateful to be back on my feet.  I continue to struggle with sleep but have had some better nights recently.  On the joyful side, we are in the midst of birthday season for our girls – two over and two still to come.  We praise God for the girls, soon to be 13, 11, 9 and 2.  Church and Cor Deo continue to be encouraging and we thank God for the work He has been doing.  We will share more soon in an email update.

The last month has been one of great heartache for our family.  A few weeks ago, we lost a baby through miscarriage.  I was quite early on in my pregnancy but this little baby was very much loved and wanted by our whole family and we are grieving the loss of this little person.  Peter will never forget the scan image he saw on the screen of our tiny baby with no heartbeat.  I have had friends and family members who have had miscarriages.  Watching them suffer, I knew this kind of loss must hurt very much.  But we never knew just how much until we lost a baby of our own.  In describing her own miscarriage, a friend recently shared with me, “There seemed no end for the tears.”  This captures it really well for me.  While the tears have slowed down a bit now for me, they still come easily and unpredictably at times.

Although I am grateful to be physically much stronger now, I am struggling to do “normal” life again when so much is not normal for me inside my heart.  Miscarriage is a strange grief – a silent one in a way.  You’ve lost someone you never got to know, someone you were longing to know and hold and embrace into your family.  Someone other people never saw and therefore may not acknowledge.  But very much a real person who really did exist inside you.  Someone who was knitted together so carefully by the Creator.  Someone who will always be missing from your family.  I realise we are incredibly blessed to have five healthy children.  They are truly precious gifts from our Father.  But as one doctor told us, “Because you have have five children, some may think this miscarriage is not a big deal.  But every child is precious.”

God has been so gracious to us in many ways.  Peter and I have been able to grieve together.  I am so grateful for a husband who is willing to talk, listen and share his feelings.  And give me permission to find this tough.  Our hearts have been even more bonded together during the past few weeks and I am so thankful for that.  Our church family has been so supportive and kind.  And I’ve been blessed with several friends I can really bare my heart with.  This really does help to ease the pain.  The questions have swirled and yes, doubts and fears too.  But I am clinging on to our Father who I know watches over us so tenderly.  He knows when every tiny sparrow falls and surely He sees our pain from losing our own tiny child.  His Word has been a comfort to me every day, even when it’s just hanging on for dear life to one verse.  Recently, I have found much solace in pouring out my feelings to God in my journal.  And worship music of various types has also been a huge comfort. I find that music sometimes puts into words what I am finding hard to articulate.  And it brings me back to the cross, to our loving Lord and His love for me which seems hard to grasp sometimes. I need the reminders.  However, I am learning that grief is a journey.  God is the great Healer of hearts but this healing takes time.  I am trying to trust His timing and allow myself the grace to take the time I need.

In God’s providence, I read a book about grief at the end of last year (Let Me Grieve But Not Forever by Verdell Davis).  The author writes about her journey through grief after the sudden death of her husband but I think it could be helpful for anyone going through any kind of, what she describes as, a “life storm.”  I have been dipping back into it, along with a few other books specifically about miscarriage (Silent Grief by Clara Hinton and Losing Sammy by Valerie Theng).  These books have helped me so much in my ponderings and processing of all the emotions.  Both of these books would be helpful reads for anyone wanting to understand the pain of miscarriage or become equipped to help a friend going through it.  Silent Grief covers miscarriage as well as infant and child loss.  I have found it very comforting as it describes so accurately the feelings I have experienced.  Losing Sammy is a shorter, but very poignant book in the form of letters written to a mum experiencing miscarriage.  Both books were given to me by dear friends who have suffered through miscarriages themselves.  I pray that having lost our baby, God may use me in the future to be more sensitive and caring to those who are suffering this type or other types of loss.

Some things will remain mysteries this side of heaven.  We know that in this life we walk by faith and not by sight.  Someday God’s grand plan will be plain and clear and we’ll all fall down and worship Him.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that mountain in Italy we went up in October when we were there.  At the top, in the midst of all the clouds, we couldn’t see a thing.  Then, later on, the clouds cleared and the majestic mountains were all around us.  We knew they were there all the time, we just couldn’t see them. “Lord, teach us to trust you when the mists of pain and sadness cloud our vision.  We know you are there and you love us so much.”

Thank you for reading this and for your prayers for our family.  They mean so much to us and we know they have been carrying us through this difficult time.


The Promise of His Presence

Melanie —  November 14, 2013

I love how God uses music to speak to my spirit.  I can look back at various times of difficulty in my life and remember songs with words and music that have encouraged me and helped me keep my eyes on Jesus.  The other day I took the kids to their swimming lessons and we put a cd on that my sister had made for me awhile back.  It’s a cd I’ve enjoyed for a couple years, but I felt I I was hearing the words to one Steven Curtis Chapman song for the first time . . . “Jesus Will Meet You There.”  Here are just a few of the words:

When you think you’ve hit the bottom
And the bottom gives way
And you fall into a darkness
No words can explain
You don’t know how you’ll make it out alive
Jesus will meet you there

And when the doctor says “ I’m sorry, we don’t know what else to do”
And you’re looking at your family
Wondering how they’ll make it through
Whatever road this life takes you down
Jesus will meet you there

He knows the way to wherever you are
He knows the way to the depths of your heart
He knows the way cause He’s already been where you’re going
Jesus will meet you there

We got stuck in a traffic jam on the way home from swimming so we had lots of time to listen to this song and the other beautiful songs on the cd.  The kids asked me at one point why “Jesus Will Meet You There” kept on repeating!  (It was me putting it on over and over as I felt like it was really speaking to me.) I don’t claim to be going through anything nearly as hard as some of the descriptions in the song, but it hasn’t been an easy time for us recently.  I am thankful that He knows the way to “where I am” right now.  He also knows where we are going and we know has incredible plans for us.  In the moments of struggle, He is there with us.  What an amazing Saviour.  I think the reason the song comforted me so much was the promise of His presence in whatever place I am, whatever I am feeling or facing.  As Christians we go through all the same stuff (and sometimes more?) as people who don’t know Jesus.  But we have Him with us. And that makes all the difference.

I haven’t done much reading over the past few weeks.  I haven’t had the time or the concentration, but a friend sent me an amazing book called, “Kisses From Katie” which is rocking my world.  It’s about a young American woman who went to Uganda and is making an incredible difference in the lives of the poor and needy, especially children.  Her heart for Jesus is inspirational.  I think I am going to have us read it out loud as a family.  I think God knew I needed to hear the messages in this book right now. I just set it down a few minutes ago and keep thinking of these words that I read:

“When I have a rough day, or several rough days in a row . . . I can easily forget why I do what I do.  I used to repeat to myself, ‘Do not forget in the darkness what you have been promised in the light.’  When my days are dark and difficult, I am tempted to look around and think, Why? Why do I do this? . . . Why did I leave family and friends to go to a land of strangers?   What am I doing here?  I do not usually forget the answer to all these questions: ‘For Jesus. Because He called me to this and because He gave His life for me.’ This means that it has been granted to me, it is my privilege, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for Him (see Philippians 1:29).  That suffering is not alone, but is with Him, and oh, what a privilege it is just to be in His presence, to share that with my sweet Savior.  This is what it means when I say I do it for Jesus.  He loved me first.  I love Him back.  And sometimes it hurts.  But even then it is pure joy to even be considered worthy to share in His suffering.  That is the promise; not that He is sorry that it hurts, but that He sees; that He knows; that He is here with us.”

The challenges that Peter and I face are nothing compared to what Katie has gone through or what many others have sacrificed for Jesus.  I don’t want to give the impression that life is totally dark for us right now.  But pain is pain and all pain is painful.  However, we do count it a huge privilege to pour ourselves out for Him in response to His amazing pouring out of Himself for us.  And we thank Him for the fact that He meets us in all our struggles.  Even before we face them, He is already right there with us.

We continue to have much to be thankful for in life and ministry.  Peter had a very encouraging and fruitful trip to Oregon and this week’s Cor Deo preacher’s intensive is going very well so far.  Our new church group is growing in love for one another and the spirit among us is so encouraging as we look to the future.  We are getting ready to send out an email update so you should be receiving that very soon.  As always, thank you for your prayers and encouragement.

I just finished a fantastic book!  I got to read it mostly in smallish snatches while feeding Kaylah. But God has used it to nourish my soul.  Last year, A Praying Life, was probably the most transformational book of the year for me.  I think Grace For the Good Girl might just get the prize for 2012.  Where do I start sharing about this book?  It’s so full of truth and wisdom from God’s Word.  In fact, I am just about to print out some of the verses and put them up around the house so the Holy Spirit can remind me of God’s amazing grace towards me.

I think I’ve been a “good girl” most of my life – trying hard to maintain a good reputation, perform well and practice the spiritual disciplines, while making sure not to fail and being strong and responsible. The first half of the book identifies these typical behaviours of “good girls” as masks that we hide behind to convince others around us that we are “good.”  These masks keep us living a lie and living lives characterized by fear and shame.  As I was reading about these masks, I couldn’t believe how accurately the author was writing about the exact things I do (although often subconsciously) to try to be acceptable to God and others.  We trust Christ for salvation by faith, but then we try to live the Christian life by works, by our own fleshly efforts.  The author quotes a ton from the book of Galatians and other parts of the Bible to make the case that we are free in Christ, not under the law.  We are not just saved from sin, but we are new creatures, filled with the Spirit and we are free to let go of the “try-hard” life and embrace the amazing grace that He offers us.  I am fully accepted by Jesus and I can admit my failures and weaknesses and let His life fill me.

I would recommend that every woman read this book! I think in some way, we are all “good girls,” trying hard to maintain an image or filled with guilt over real or perceived failures.  This book is a breath of fresh air, filled with God’s truth to combat the lies we often believe.  It would be an excellent book for a ladies’ group as it has a wonderful study guide at the back.

So much more I could write . . . as a good girl, I am never satisfied with how well I have reviewed a book! But I hope this whets your appetite and you spend some time reading and savouring this book this year.