September is kind of a crazy month for us Hoelsemas. We have a couple of birthdays, a week-long summer vacation, and I usually start school with the kiddos at some point in the month. This year I happened to realize something that got my mind spinning in many directions.

Back in 2007 (well, technically very end of 2006), my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child. We were delighted as we really didn’t know if it would happen for us. (I’ve shared parts of my story here, as well as on Facebook. I’ve even written a book on infertility because we faced that disease head on. You can find it HERE!)

Unfortunately, however, that child wasn’t meant to be. God called that angel home in February 2007. My due date was in September 2007, though. Another reason September is just a tad *crazier* around here.

So this is what I realized this year. If my husband and I had never miscarried that child, we would have a 10 year old!! That makes my jaw drop, people! I mean, it’s already hard enough that my oldest is going to be seven in November, and my baby is already four, but a 10 year old!!?!?!? I’m not that old, am I? It’s just really hard to believe.

Time really does fly the older you get. I feel like every time I blink my children are just that much older. So then I got to thinking about parenting. I pray almost every day that my children will grow up making wise choices, having the right people surrounding them, and turning out to be successful, smart, hard-working, honest, loving, et cetera.

I believe heavily that Proverbs 22:6 holds true. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Thus, I try to train my boys in the way of the Lord. I don’t always do what’s right, but I hope I’m doing good enough. I hope I’m a good mom.

Then I came across something that spoke volumes to me. The following post is from 21st Century SAHM on Facebook. You can see their page HERE!

Girlfriends, I got to get something off my chest.

My house is never clean. Like ever. I have friends (with kids) whose houses are spotless. Are they better mothers than me? Nope. Am I a better mother than them? Nope.

I work out every day. I have mom friends who don’t exercise. (I mean other than running around like crazy people after their kids). Does that make either of us a better mom? Nope.

I have a friend who gave birth in a pool in her living room. I pushed mine out in a hospital bed after receiving a gift from the epidural fairy. Both of us are good moms.

I drink a beer or glass of wine (sometimes in front of my kids!) on occasion. I’m a good mom. My neighbor and good friend doesn’t drink. Also a good mom.

I’m a yeller. I have a good friend who is quiet and extremely patient. I envy her. But we are both good moms.

I have friends who are super organic, chemical free, and dye free. My kids sometimes eat popsicles for breakfast. The cheap kind that are 50 for $2.00. Are either of us better than the other? Nope.

I swear, but not in front of my kids. Are you a bad mom if you do? Hell no.

I’m involved with my kids’ school but I don’t volunteer and live there every day. Are the moms who volunteer daily any better than those who never do? No. Am I incredibly grateful for the moms who volunteer every day and help the teachers? YES.

Are stay-at-home moms better than working moms? NO.

Are working moms better than stay-at-home moms? NO.

Are married moms better than single moms? NO.

Are you a better mom if you take your kids on exotic vacations? NO.

Can you be a good mom if you the closest thing you get to a vacation is the park? YES.

Can you be a good mom and have a super scheduled summer with lots of planned activities? Yep.

What about if your summer is lazy with no plans? Yep.

Do good moms let their kids watch TV? Yes.

Play video games? Yes.

What about if you say no? Also fine. Your choice. You’re the mom. And a good one.

I’m a Christian. My friend and neighbor is Muslim. Another friend practices no religion at all. WE ARE ALL GOOD MOTHERS.

My other friend is gay. Her kids have TWO mothers. They are both good moms.

I breastfed. My kids barely had any formula. Am I better than moms who give their kids formula? NO.

So how about this? Can we all climb down off judgmental mountain for a second? And just support one another? And just say, Hey, motherhood is hard. You’re doing a good job. Raising kids can knock the wind out of a person. You got this.

How awesome would that be? Just a thought.

There is a lot of judgment going around, and I know at times it seems easy to think we’re doing better than or worse than other parents just based on situations, appearances, provisions, et cetera. But really I think we’re all just doing the best we can.

So in a day and age where there are a lot of paths to take (vaccines, schooling, foods, technology, chemicals, and the list goes on), the best we can do is research and decide what’s best for our family and/or just choose what fits our budget, morals, conscience, lifestyle, et cetera.

And then pray. Pray it all goes well. Pray our children grow up right. Just pray. Let God take care of the rest.

And, finally, don’t worry about what others think (yes, easier said then done). Just rest in the knowledge that you’re doing the best you can do, and that no one will love your kids better than you do.

So this September, I will take all these words to heart, and continue to be the best mom I can to these two precious boys (and one angel in heaven).

How can a book be big and small at the same time? Big and small are opposites of one another so it surely can’t be real, can it? I’m so glad you asked these questions because I am willing to explain what I mean in this book review.

Yes, this book is big and small at the same time. When I say small, I mean that it’s technically a short story. I was able to read it within 20 minutes. This would be a perfect read for those on break, waiting in line, and/or just short on time.

Now, when I say big, I mean that even though it’s such a short story, it packs a big message. Actually, there are two big themes present in this book that are relevant to today’s day and age, making for an excellent read.

What is this book, you ask? Here it is!

It’s called Faith is the Victory, and it’s by Faith Blum. That name shows up a lot within my blog posts, mostly because she orchestrates blog tours that I participate in.

This, however, is the first time I got a taste of her writing. I was not disappointed! And for FREE, you can also get a taste of her writing! This short story is permanently FREE – you can find it HERE!

To give you an idea of what makes this book pack such a big punch, here is the blurb, and then following that will be my own little remarks that share what I rated it and why.

BLURB

I don’t like change. I know most people get used to it, but I have never been able to. When Dad announced their move and I couldn’t go with them, I didn’t handle it well. Would I ever find the faith to be victorious?

REVIEW

That’s not a lot information to know if you want to read it or not, is it? Let me give you a little bit more. This short story is about a teen who is going through a rough time in life. What makes it so much worse is the constant bullying he gets from school. We all know that bullying is a huge problem in today’s schools, right? Totally not cool.

The second big topic discussed in this short story is suicide. The main character, with all his struggles and bullying, feels he isn’t worth going on. He takes it upon himself to end his life, or at least try to. Attempted suicide and successful suicide is no laughing matter. But it’s very real. It affects many, and not just those actually trying to go through it.

In comes faith. Just at the brink of committing suicide, memory verses flood the teen’s mind, reminding him God is there. Slowly, but surely, he decides to live and becomes victorious over his life situations.

I gave this short read four stars. Here’s why. I love the reality behind it. I love how faith was the victor here. I love how memory verses popped up, and I love how it was written in first person point of view. It was excellently written. It held my attention.

I think the issue of why I didn’t give it all five stars, though, is two-fold. First, I don’t have a lot of experience with suicide. I do have experience with being bullied, though. Never fun. But it was a different type of bullying so with not fully connecting on those two big topics, I felt overall my connection to the story was not as deep. And these two topics can be a little tough to read in general. And second, being as short as it is, there’s just not much of a chance to get much out of it. And really I don’t mean any of this negatively. I’d recommend the book for sure. And who doesn’t like a book where faith reigns?!? That message is crucial!

For FREE, you can’t go wrong. So give it a try! Maybe it’ll be the type of book that can help you or someone you love!

And as a side note, if you or someone you know is dealing with bullying or suicide, please seek the appropriate help you need!

For Christmas last year I asked for wind chimes. We had just recently moved into a new house, one we consider to be our permanent (forever) home. I’ve always liked wind chimes, especially the ones that are bigger and deeper sounding. So when it came time to make a Christmas list for my in laws (the only people I have to make a list for), I knew this is what I’d put on it. Which I finally had to breathe a sigh of relief because I never know what to have on my Christmas list!

As Christmas came last year, it was my turn to open one of my gifts. It was a box. But it wasn’t a heavy box so I was a little clueless as to what was inside. When it was opened, there was a note. The note talked about how my in laws wanted to get me a wind chime, but instead of picking out something they thought I’d like, they wanted me to pick out my own. Now, as if that wasn’t cool enough, what made it sweeter was that they wanted to make a trip out of getting a wind chime. They wanted to treat me and the family to Shipshewana (a heavily Amish town) for the day. Shipshewana and the Amish are well known for great, handmade products so I knew that a wind chime from there would be perfect!

I share all of this because we finally got our trip to Shipshewana done! Actually we got it done back in June, but since then I’ve been super busy that I didn’t have time to create a post.

The day was fun! It started out a little crazy because my husband decided to follow his GPS from his iPhone. Most of the time GPS’ work well. This time, we made it to our destination, but we were taken way out in the boonies first! It made for quite the interesting experience!

While there we visited some unique shops, got some Amish goodies, did a buggy ride, and ate a healthy lunch. What is so cool about the place is that I feel like I’m back in time, although cars are still heavily present. I also find it fascinating how many flowers there are. It’s so beautiful. The place is truly magical, and if you ever get the chance to visit, I’d recommend it.

This is the wind chime that I came home with!

It is called Song of Solomon. I never knew wind chimes had their names, but apparently they do. And this name holds a special place in my heart. At our wedding, the passage read was from Song of Solomon.  So I just think that’s cool that the one I ended up liking the most had that name.

It’s deep reds and blacks, colors that match our new home perfectly. And the sound is so beautiful. I wish that pictures had sound with them so that I could share with you all the melodic noise they make. One bonus is that this beauty comes with a lifetime guarantee! Can’t get better than that.

Every time I look out my window and see my wind chimes dangling in the breeze or each time I hear the chimes ringing, I don’t just see/hear wind chimes. My in laws gave me something more than that. They gave me memories of the day that we went to get the wind chimes. I won’t forget about petting the huge Clydesdale, or meandering through specialty stores, or feeling like I’m in the middle of nowhere as we traveled south, or the many other things I got to experience that day like riding in an Amish buggy for the first time!!!! In fact, here’s a pic of our horse and driver!

It’ll also serve as a reminder of my marriage ceremony! It’s neat how God orchestrates certain events and things to bring up pleasant memories of things long ago. I can actually see it being sort of like a wedding ring…a visual to symbolize a vow that was made.

Have you ever had an experience like this? Has something ever reiterated something from your past? Or how has God done something really cool in your life?

 

I am so excited to announce today that my first non-fiction piece is now available! The writing process started in mid-January, and now six months later, my baby is published! What an exciting time! So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the book…

This book provides information and inspiration for those going through infertility. But more specifically, here is what the back of the book says:

Have you been actively trying to conceive for the past 12 months or more to no avail? If you answered yes, then welcome to infertility. It’s a journey like no other. It’s one you never wanted to embark on, and it’s definitely one you don’t want to stay on for very long. But since you’re here, let this book be your traveling companion!

In What to Expect When You’re NOT Expecting: Navigating Infertility, Frances Hoelsema uses her own personal experiences, as well as those of many other women, to guide and inspire you on this ultra-frustrating, highly-emotional, and what feels like an extremely-lonely journey.

If you’ve got questions…there are answers!
If you need tips…plenty are provided!
If you need someone to understand…these women do!
If you’re feeling alone…be assured you’re not!

Whether you’ve just begun your infertility journey, or have been on it for quite some time, there is something for everyone. From astounding statistics, to real life examples, to concrete sources of hope, this is one book you won’t want to be without.

So sit tight and buckle up! The journey will be bumpy, but with What to Expect When You’re NOT Expecting: Navigating Infertility by your side, you’ve got this! 

Compared to other books in this market, it’s set at a great price, too! The book is available on paperback through Amazon or CreateSpace for just $12.99 OR in eBook format on Kindle for just $4.99!

Now that the basics are out of the way, let me give you some background. This all started, honestly, in June of 2006. This is when my husband and I believed we were ready to get pregnant. We had been married a few months, had stable income, loved babies. Why not, right? However, the process wasn’t easy. Through treatments and one miscarriage, we thought our baby would never come. Almost four years later, thankfully, God answered our prayers.

Since going through the heartache of trying to conceive, I’ve had a passion to come alongside women in the same shoes I was once in. Therefore, it was only natural for me to want to write something about it. First, however, I wanted to get done with my Neighbors series. The final book in that series was published in December, and immediately, I began formulating what I wanted this infertility book to be about. With the help of so many other women, it became what it is today.

Up above is the cover of my book. And if you go to one of the retailer sites you can get a glimpse of the inside. Here, however, is something you won’t see, but here…my notes!

This is only a couple pages of the many I scribbled all over. You probably wonder how in the world I could make anything out of all this mess, but this is just how my brain works! I must admit, though, I am grateful it all came together and now is ready to share with the world.

Please do me a favor and spread the word! I truly believe that this book will help those in the midst of this dark and oftentimes lonely tunnel. Thank you so much!

 

Can love trump faith?
Seventeen year old, South Floridian Trina Weber has the world at her feet: beautiful, part of the in-crowd, and with almost enough college credits to earn her AA while only a junior at Stonehaven High.
With her whole life planned, all she needs to complete her perfect world is a boyfriend.
But not any guy will do.
This boyfriend must accept her goals to become a family doctor.
When the gorgeous, equally ambitious college freshman Stuart Grant blazes into her world, he fits right in. He’s everything she dreamed of and more…except he doesn’t agree with the most important part of who she is.

 

www.amazon.com/dp/B071F9L2Y3/

 

In Thinking About Love we follow a girl who is crushing badly on a lifeguard. Good news for her is that he likes her, too. We see the relationship blossom. Only one thing is getting in the way, however. It’s the most important thing to Trina, but not even on Stuart’s radar. I’ll let you in on a little secret as to what that “thing” is…it’s faith. In Part 1 of Thinking About Love, we see what happens in regard to this hurdle.

There were many things that I loved about this book. The first was that right at the beginning of it, the scene is set on a beach. I could actually picture myself hanging out with the girls, the wind blowing through our hair, and the sun shining down on us. I could picture the waves. Audrey Rich did such a good job describing each scene that I felt like I was actually there. And I love being at the beach!

Another thing that Audrey did well at was developing each character. Not just the main character, but all the supporting roles as well. And they were believable! It was neat to see how all the personalities came out in each person.

I love that this was a clean, Christian, young adult love story. I would highly recommend it to those who are interested in this genre. And remember, Part 2 is coming so that’ll be something I will watch for.

One slight, slight, slight, slight, teeniest possible downfall, however. So much of the first part of the book is all around the beach and following day or so. Towards the end of the book it seems like much more time passes on. Nothing was confusing. I’m just simply stating that the pacing wasn’t equal from beginning to end. For me, not a problem. For others, maybe.

Overall, 4 stars!!!

 

Sacred Marriage happens to be one of the titles of a book by Gary Thomas. For those who do not know who Gary Thomas is, he is a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry focuses on bringing people closer to Christ and closer to one another. In this book, Sacred Marriage, the general idea is to get closer to your spouse by becoming more like Christ.

I have to admit that I would not have read something like this on my own. I am not a huge fan of self-help or non-fiction in general. Yes, this coming from someone who is working on her first non-fiction piece, lol. It’s not like I don’t get much out of them or don’t like them, it’s just that I’d rather be reading a fictional piece that transports me to someone else’s world.

Anyway, back to why I said all of that. Though I wouldn’t have chosen to read something like this on my own, I did end up reading it because of a men’s group my husband is a part of. One of the homework assignments was for him to read Sacred Marriage, as well as for me, too. Then a little while ago we had a meeting where all of us, husbands and wives, discussed it.

The first thing I want to say is Continue reading “Sacred Marriage”

In Western Michigan, springtime brings a lot of things. Mostly rain and thunderstorms, but if it wasn’t for them, it would never bring out the beautiful flowers and green grass. Springtime is a time of hope and things coming back to life. It’s also a time for the birds to grace us with their presence. Anyone who knows me knows that I love birds!

Well, one very early morning (I’m talking about before the sun rises) not too long ago, it was storming. I have a very tough time sleeping in storms so it came as a surprise to me that I was able to sleep through most of it.

However, and this is a big HOWEVER, the storms won when I was rudely awakened by this massive noise that sounded like it was literally right in my room. Of course the house shook a little bit, and I remember my first thought being, “Great. Now the boys will be up and will want to come lay by me.” I have no problem with them being scared and coming to me for comfort, but I also know that it means they aren’t getting a good night’s rest and that they might be a handful come time to get up. A few moments passed and nothing. More time passed and still nothing. Hallelujah! The boys slept through it. I’m not sure how they did, though. Like I said, it was loud!

Anyway, as I lay there, trying hopelessly to fall back asleep, I got a beautiful gift. In the midst of the rain and now lower rumbles of thunder, a bird was chirping! The song was gorgeous! It calmed me, and believe it or not, I fell back to sleep smiling!

This experience just reminds me of God in so many ways. Not just His character (being strong and mighty like the thunder, yet also sweet, comforting, and beautiful like the bird), but also His presents. It was a gift for me to hear that bird chirping away in the midst of a storm. It was a gift I got to sleep some more. It was a gift that we were all kept safe!

I am just so thankful for the springtime. I may not always like the rougher weather, but I see God in it. Same way with life. Storms will come and go; there’s no doubt about that. But I can still see God in them. Like that bird, He is there!

Empty tomb

Faith Blum has a new book! She wrote, edited, and published a short story in just three short days and you can now get it for free! Read on to learn more about it.

About the Book

3D ChristArose

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

No longer could I say I was lonely. But oh, how I wish I could! Who could have done such a thing to the Creator of the world? Who had so much hatred for Him?

Available for free on all eBook vendors: http://books2read.com/christ-arose

About the Author

Author Picture 2015-2016 cropped

Faith Blum is a 20-something author of multiple books in various genres. She loves to write, read, play piano, knit, crochet, sew, watch movies, and play games with her family. She lives in Wisconsin with her family on a small family farm where they raise goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and have 2 dogs and a varying number of cats.

Faith’s goal in her writing is to encourage Christians in their walk with Christ. If you enjoyed this book, go to her website to sign up for her Monthly Newsletter so you can get an email with fun facts, giveaways, and so much more every month. You will also find links to her other Social Media sites on her website. She loves to hear from her readers so feel free to contact her.

Giveaway

Christ Arose Giveaway.png

Faith is offering a really neat giveaway for this tour. The ParLaGrace etsy seller has an April special right now for a really beautifully made block that says ‘He Lives’. Isn’t it pretty? You can enter the giveaway here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Excerpt

As the day slowly drags on, more men approach. Are they here to lend aid or to harm the body of my Creator? Oh, Creator! Give me a way to defend Your Son’s body if need be!

The Jewish guards come near and take some wax and put a Roman seal on the stone. Doubly safe. No one could take my Creator’s body without facing whatever penalty the Roman’s gave. I should never have doubted You, Creator and Provider!

Two of the guards stay behind and stand on either side of the rock. As the day creeps by again, every few hours, new guards replace the ones already there.

Tour Schedule

April 22
Bookish Orchestrations-Intro Post
Letters from Annie Douglass Lima-Book Spotlight
Written Rest-Book Spotlight and Review

April 24
Leila Tualla-Book Spotlight
God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae-Book Spotlight

April 25
With a Joyful Noise-Book Spotlight and Review
Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections-Book Spotlight

April 26
Frances Hoelsma-Book Spotlight
Perpetual Indie Perspective-Book Spotlight and Review

April 27
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

I can’t tell you how many times I misspell the word “exercise” – even when typing in this title, I tend to put a “C” after the “X”. It’s horrible!

 

Anyway, this is not what the article is about so let’s just move on.

 

My husband, Jeremy, is part of this men’s group at our church where they get together at least once a month, discuss a book they were required to read, share their memory work, and encourage one another to grow spiritually. This past month Jeremy had to read “See Yourself As God Sees You” by Josh McDowell. He really enjoyed it, and highly recommends it by the way. I know I’ll be reading that in the near future.

 

Part of the “homework” that went along with this book was he had to make a list of 10 ways he sees himself and 10 ways he feels God sees him. Then came my part. I had to review the lists and see where I agree or disagree, as well as help him figure out ways in which he can always see himself as God sees him. I thought that was a pretty cool exercise! I even went on to make my own list of 10 ways I see Jeremy.

 

This got me curious. What would my list look like? How did I think Jeremy viewed me? So I asked him if he would be willing to do the same for me as I just did for him. He was totally for it! So without further ado…here is my list of 10 ways I see myself and 10 ways I feel God sees me: Continue reading “A Marriage Exercise”