Mommy Memoir Mondays: THEIR NAME IS TODAY by Johann Christoph Arnold (Book Review and Giveaway)

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My husband’s been having a particularly difficult time lately dealing with the children. Don’t get me wrong – he’s an excellent father. I mean, he works long hours at a day job while I stay with the children during the day. But, when he gets home, he has to take charge of the household duties (including the children) while I get my writing and editing work done in the evenings. So, his days are even longer. He gets tired. And children are demanding (ours, especially, because they’re only 3 and 5). I know they’re demanding. I’m with them, basically, 24/7 (except for the time, now, that the oldest one is at school).

One early, quiet morning (he’d already gone off to work, the oldest was at school, and the youngest was still in bed sleeping) I read a passage from this book – THEIR NAME IS TODAY by Johann Christoph Arnold.

When I think about it, it is much easier to live with children who fear you than it is to live with children who love you, because if your children fear you, when you come home they’re gone. They scatter. …But if you have children who love you, you can’t get them out of your hair! They’re hanging on to your legs, they’re pulling on your pants, you come home and they want your attention. You sit down, they’re all over your lap. You feel like a walking jungle gym. You also feel loved.

I cried when I read those words, feeling the truth of them for both my husband and myself. Our kids love us, and they know that we love them. I called him immediately and read that passage to him, and I think it did exactly what I meant for it to – it encouraged him in the knowledge that we may not be doing everything right as parents, but we are doing SOMETHING right. We’re teaching our children about real love…and letting them know that they always have a safe, welcoming, accepting place to come back to with Mommy and Daddy.

It was just the right message at just the right time, and I’m grateful I got the chance to read this powerful little book.

There were some things I didn’t like. The author’s political ideologies were a bit too liberal at times, especially for someone who is a pastor. Also, there was too much (I thought) “bleeding heart” sentiment – this idea that children are born completely innocent. I don’t buy that. I can’t, as a Christian, because I believe in Original Sin and in the fact that we are all tainted by it (except for Jesus) at birth. I do, however, believe that children are closer to God than those of us who are older because they have not yet had as much time to act on their inherent sinful natures.

I agree with much of this book. Children are oversexualized, overmedicated, and objectified and are basically not allowed to be children anymore because it makes it easier for the parents to “handle” them…or, in other words, to not love them or raise them properly. This, I think, needs to stop. And this is the one main point of Arnold’s book. All parents should read it…and most educators could benefit from reading it too, although often (as Arnold mentions) their hands are tied by the system that continues to keep children from being children.

Wise words from a wise man that are well worth a read. And you have the chance to win your very own copy of this thought-provoking book right here on this blog. Just leave me a comment before 11:59 PM (EST) on Wednesday, October 29, 2014, and you’ll be entered in the giveaway.

TheirNameIsToday

About the book:

Softcover / 192 pages 
 
“If you want to glean insights into how to raise and influence children to be more compassionate and considerate, more courageous and confident, more independent, secure, and unselfish; if you want your children to be more loving and joy-filled, then get reading!” —excerpt from Mark K. Shriver’s Foreword (President of Save the Children Action Network)
 
Despite a perfect storm of hostile forces that threaten to deny children a healthy, happy childhood, courageous parents and teachers can turn the tide. Yes, we can reclaim childhood, says Johann Christoph Arnold, whose books have helped more than a million readers through the challenges of education and family life. In Their Name Is Today, he highlights drastic changes in the way our society treats children. But he also brings together the voices of dedicated parents and educators who are finding creative ways to give children the time and space they need to grow. Cutting through the noise of conflicting opinions, Arnold takes us to the heart of education and parenting by defending every child’s right to the joy and wonder of childhood.
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About the author: Johann Christoph Arnold
A noted speaker and writer on marriage, parenting, and end-of-life issues, Arnold is a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities. With his wife, Verena, he has counseled thousands of individuals and families over the last forty years, as well as serving as an advisor at several innovative private schools. Arnold’s message has been shaped by encounters with great peacemakers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Cėsar Chavez, and John Paul II. Born in Great Britain in 1940 to German refugees, Arnold spent his boyhood years in South America, where his parents found asylum during the war; he immigrated to the US in 1955. He and his wife have eight children, forty-four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. They live in upstate New York.
Acclaim for the author:
 
“A much-needed message not only for South Africa, but for the whole world.” -Nelson Mandela, on Why Forgive (one of Arnold’s books)
“In this book we find a message needed today in every part of the world.” -Mother Teresa, from her foreword to Sex, God, & Marriage (one of Arnold’s books)
“Written in a way that is easy to grasp…indeed, very beautifully.” – Pope Benedict XVI, on A Little Child Shall Lead Them (one of Arnold’s books)
 

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Thriller Thursdays: Author Interview with Sylvia Stein

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Although not a thriller in the traditional sense of the word, Sylvia Stein’s newly released novella, CLOSURE, has elements of the psychological thriller contained within its pages. In any case, it explores the darker side of human nature…with elements of hope sprinkled throughout – just the kind of story I love reading, so I’m thrilled to feature it here today.

Closure-Amazon

Sara James was an only child who loved the world and life. Sadly, her world came to a screeching halt upon the news of her mother’s tragic death.

Devastated by the loss of his wife, Garrison neglects his daughter and turns to the bottle for solace.

Desperate to feel loved and wanted, Sara tries to pickup the pieces of what was left of her family. Sadly, no matter how hard she tries, her father continues with his lust for the bottle and spirals down a dark and abusive path.

Once removed from her home, Sara tries to pick up what was left of her life and begins to live again. She becomes a successful caterer and fights to maintain her promise to never look back.

However, what Sara does not realize it that once she leaves his side, Garrison is forced to recognize what he has done and begins to work on himself. 

Slowly, with the help of others and by his own will, he begins to try to mend his past mistakes. 

In the meantime, a phone call threatens to end Sara’s promise.

Garrison is on his deathbed, and he is asking for his daughter. Will Sara face her father? Will she reject his request, or will she finally fight back and tell him what she really thinks of him?  Will Garrison be able to make amends with his estranged daughter?  

This is one story of a daughter who is trying to move away from her past in order to move forward and a father who is trying to go back and admit his regrets.

Hi, Sylvia. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. How would you describe your book to someone who has not yet read it?

CLOSURE is a journey of heartbreak and inspiration seen through the eyes of Sara James and her father, Garrison.

Is there a message in your book that you want your readers to grasp?

The message is to always strive for faith, which leads to hope and that you can always choose to turn things around even when life places many obstacles in your path. 

If Oprah invited you onto her show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?

The theme would be the effects of losing a loved one and the grief it causes when it leads them to a path of destruction in the addiction to alcohol, abuse, neglect.

How much of the book is based on real life (either yours or someone you know)?

This is a fictional story that was based, in part, on people I know. One being me, since I grew up in a family that was destroyed by alcohol.  My parents got divorced, and that made me and my siblings very sad.  We had always been close to our parents, but the drinking got in the way of that and my mother was fed up. 

Although my father never abused us mentally or physically, his drinking caused him to lose many jobs, and that left my mother with the burden of worrying about how we would make ends meet.  He eventually got sober, but we went to live with my grandparents, although we got to see my dad and spent time with him.  My mother and he were better friends later in life. 

How did you get the idea for the novel?

The idea came to me in my Creative Writing Class at Southern New Hampshire.

Which came first, the title or the novel?

The novel came first, but as I said it began as a short story in class. Then, the title came right after that. 

What scene or bit of dialogue in the book are you most proud of, and why?

I really like the scene in the beginning because it sets the tone of the story, and then the moment when Sara confronts her father years later.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about your book?

No, I think I would not change anything.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I have always loved to write, and then I wrote short stories with my Writers 750 group on LinkedIn, but I had always wanted to write my own book.

Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

I think for me it is that you can never give up on your writing if that is something you want to do, and always pay it forward to other writers and your readers, as well as yourself.

Considering a book from the first word you write to the moment you see it on a bookstore shelf, what’s your favorite part of the process? What’s your least favorite?

My favorite part is writing it and finishing it. My least favorite part is editing because I tend to go back and rewrite and rewrite. LOL!

What genre have you not yet written but really want to try?

I have never written a psychological thriller, and I am working on one now.

Great! I’d be thrilled to feature that book on my Thriller Thursdays when it’s done. What book are you reading right now?

I just finished reading PIECES OF ME by my talented writer friend Elle Henry.

What’s up next for you?

I am working on my National Novel Writing Month book called CHASING CLARITY.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never give up, and keep working on your writing always. 

Is there anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I just wanted to thank them for all the support and also for inspiring me to create stories they will enjoy and love.

I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and introduce us all to CLOSURE, Sylvia, and I really hope all my readers will check it out.

Author Sylvia Stein began her path to writing when she joined the Writers 750 group on LinkedIn in 2012.

Photo on 8-21-14 at 4.21 PM #3She continued her journey by creating short stories, which were published, in the Giant tales Anthology series.

While obtaining her Masters degree at Southern New Hampshire University online author Stein built a solid foundation with her colleagues who encouraged her to continue on her writing. That’s when CLOSURE was born.

With the help of her editor, CLOSURE grew from a short story to a full novella author Stein is excited to share.

CLOSURE is her debut book as a solo writer. To quote author Stein, “This is the first of many to come.”

Visit her Amazon author page to learn more about Sylvia and her writing.

Tuesdays with Yeshua: OVERRATED by Eugene Cho (Book Review and Giveaway)

tuesdays with yeshua jesus

I’ve been reading since I was a very young child. Since I’m 37 years old now, that means I’ve read a lot of books…but not one (with the great exception, of course, as THE BIBLE) has affected me quite so much as Eugene Cho’s book, OVERRATED. Well, C.S. Lewis’s MERE CHRISTIANITY did, as did T.W. Hunt’s THE MIND OF CHRIST…but this one ranks right up there. Seriously.

This book WILL change the way you think about things – maybe a few things; maybe a lot of things…but it will make you THINK. And PRAY. And SEEK GOD’S FACE. I love books that do that. It’s a must-read for any Christian, certainly, but I think everyone would benefit from reading this book…and maybe those who aren’t believers would benefit more than those of us who are.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. FlyBy Promotions has allowed me to host a giveaway for one free copy of this amazing book. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by 11:59 PM EST on October 10, 2014. I’ll notify the winner that weekend. When you comment, make sure you at least leave me your email, so that I can contact you if you win. (I will NOT contact you about anything unrelated to this giveaway. I don’t do spam).  

Here’s a bit about the book:

overrated cover

We all want to change the world, but as pastor Eugene Cho found out, it takes more than just desire. It takes action. In this personal confession, he encourages readers to discover a practical discipleship that begins with the recognition that changing the world starts with changing ourselves.

Many people today talk about justice, but are they living justly? They want to change the world, but are they being changed themselves? Eugene Cho shares his story, a messy, painful story of being more in love with the ideas behind the actions than counting the cost and being a world-changer in action. Because everyone loves justice and compassion, but few have taken it upon themselves to truly live it out in their own lives. Cho is still on that journey to discover what it means, and he invites readers to join him.

About the author:
Eugene is the founder and visionary of One Day’s Wagesa grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty. He is the founder and senior pastor of Quest Church, an urban, multicultural, and multigenerational church in Seattle, Washington. Eugene and his wife, Minhee, have three children.
Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Tuesdays with Yeshua: Treasury of Bible Stories (Book Review)

tuesdays with yeshua jesus

As a Christian mother, I’m always on the lookout for good tools to help me teach my children about Christ – you know, things that will help build and grow their faith. I recently had the opportunity to read and review a fabulous book that does just that. It’s the TREASURY OF BIBLE STORIES: RHYTHMICAL RHYMES OF BIBLICAL TIMES from the Magnificent Tales series by Kelly Pulley, published by David C. Cook.

Treasury of Bible Stories one sheet (1)You can check out the book trailer on YouTube.

There are so many things I love about this book. The rhymes are fantastic. The pictures are amazing. And this book really does a fabulous job engaging its target audience – four- to eight-year-olds. My own girls are three and five, and they both love hearing the stories from this book. My five-year-old wants to read it every night before she goes to bed, and I’m more than happy to oblige her. Even my husband enjoys reading this book, and he’s not nearly as big a reader as I am. That, I think, says a lot about this charming book’s wide appeal!

treasury of bible stories review

This book has done exactly what the author and the publisher intended. It’s instilled a keen interest in God’s Word in my own little girl’s heart, and I’m praying that seed grows massively over time. I’m so thankful I was fortunate enough to receive a free review copy of this book.

But you know what’s even better? I’ve been given permission to give away ANOTHER copy to ONE LUCKY WINNER on this blog. And I’m making it super easy for you to enter. All you have to do is leave me a comment on this blog post. That’s it! The winner will be chosen and notified no later than 11:59 PM, Friday, September 26th..

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Friday Free-for-All: Music Review: THE IDENTICAL Motion Picture Soundtrack Sampler

Friday Free-for-All

 

I’m taking a break from talking about books this week to discuss something a little different – still fun, but really different. I recently signed up to be part of the FlyBy Promotions Blogger Network, and as such I get access to some fabulous faith- and family-based DVDs, books, Christian music, and more.

One of their most recent offerings was a CD sampler of soundtrack music from the new movie, THE IDENTICAL, which comes out next Friday, September 5th (the CD of the full soundtrack also becomes available on that date).

The IDENTICAL tells the compelling story of twin brothers unknowingly separated at birth during the Great Depression. DREXEL HEMSLEY becomes an iconic 50’s rock ’n’ roll star, while RYAN WADE (Blake Rayne) struggles to balance his love for music and pleasing his father. The Reverend Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd) are sure their adopted son has been gifted and called by God to be a preacher. But Ryan challenges his parent’s vision for his life, and unflinchingly chooses to launch his own music career with his best friend (Seth Green). Encouraged by his wife (Erin Cottrell) and employer (Joe Pantoliano), Ryan embarks on an unpredictable, provocative path – performing the legendary music of Drecel Hemsley in sold out venues all across the country. As the brothers’ destinies tragically collide, Ryan discovers that Drexel is his identical twin, which leads him to question everything he’s ever believed about God, family, and his own identity.

Click here to go to the official movie website or its Facebook page.

And check out the official movie trailer.

I got a free review copy of the soundtrack sampler, and one lucky winner of my Rafflecopter giveaway (click on the picture below to enter) will receive their very own copy.

G L A D S W O O D  C N R  -  D R I N K S

 

 

 

About the soundtrack sampler:

THE IDENTICAL ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK SAMPLER features 12 of the 20 original songs by Jerry Marcellino and Yochanan Marcellino from the film. Including “Your Love’s Keepin’ Me Tonight,” “City Lights,” “Angel of Mine,” “Everybody Knows It” and “Nashville Tonight.”

Here are my thoughts on the CD:

Honestly, at first, I wanted to turn off the CD as soon as I started it. It didn’t give me a good first impression, but that’s because I was expecting something completely different, based on the 50’s-inspired poster image. I was expecting young, cool Elvis, but the CD starts off with “City Lights,” which is more representative of old, fat Elvis.

However, this CD quickly grew on me, and the second time I listened to it, I loved it even more. “City Lights,” for all its “Fat Elvis” vibe, has a VERY catchy tune, and I sing it to myself often. :-)

There are some real gems on this CD – “Your Love’s Keeping Me Tonight,” with its haunting melody, is one of the CD’s best songs. And I LOVED the bluegrass number “Burnin’ Rubber.” I listened to that song a few times in a row, I loved it so much. The updated soul version of Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” was fairly well executed, and the song itself is solid. “Angel of Mine” was another one of my favorites. It has a nice melody and some great harmonies, but it has a funky, metallic-sounding background to it that I didn’t really care for much. Still, it was easy enough to focus on the vocals and ignore the background. And the last song, the instrumental “One Child,” was simply gorgeous! A perfect way to end the CD on just the right note.

Do I recommend this CD? Yes, I definitely do. And the movie looks like it will be very good too. Check it out when it hits theaters next week. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to win your own copy of the sampler. Click the image above, or you can visit my Facebook page and enter there (look for the “Giveaway” tab).  Leave a comment on this blog post, and you automatically earn three entries. I love it when you guys interact with me. :-)

And don’t forget to share this post with your friends to let them in on all the fun too!

 
Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for a giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Wedding Planner Wednesdays: Benedictine Sandwiches

Wedding Planner Wednesdays

When I was about 10 years old, my grandmother introduced me to something called benedictine. She said it was made from cucumbers and cream cheese. I tried it and instantly fell in love with it, and it’s still one of my favorite foods today. 

It turns out, benedictine is a local concoction (local to me, that is). It was created at the beginning of the 20th century by Ms. Jennie Carter Benedict, a Louisville caterer and cookbook author. Here, in town, we can buy it pre-made in most grocery stores, but I hear this isn’t the case in many other places.

So, since we’re getting ready for the big release of our SAN FRANCISCO WEDDING PLANNER SERIES II tomorrow, I have my character, Skye (and her obsession with cucumbers) on the brain, so this seems like the perfect time to present this benedictine recipe.

This would make a delicious sandwich spread for an elegant afternoon wedding reception, and it could even be served as an appetizing dip at an evening reception. This recipe makes enough for 24 full sandwiches (or 96 finger sandwiches), so you might have to tweak the ingredient amounts a bit for a larger or smaller affair.

This recipe is slightly different from Ms. Benedict’s original recipe, but it’s still delicious.

ky benedictine sandwich

Here’s what you’ll need to make this  

  • 2 (8-oz.) packages Philadelphia Whipped Chive Cream Cheese
  • 1 medium seeded, finely chopped or grated cucumber (makes up about 1 cup prepared) 
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp dill seed
  • 2 tbsps mayonnaise 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 drops green food coloring
  • 48 white, wheat, or rye bread slices

Here’s what you’ll need to do to make this

Blend the first 9 ingredients together. Spread the mixture on 1 side of 24 bread slices. Then, top with the remaining 24 bread slices. If desired, trim the crusts off the sandwiches (I usually don’t do this because I like the crusts), and cut each sandwich into 4 pieces, either diagonally or horizontally/vertically. These can be served immediately, but they can also be refrigerated (in aluminum foil) for 8 to 12 hours.

Cucumber, cucumbers, and more cucumbers

Did my early attraction to benedictine inspire me to give my character, Skye, a cucumber obsession? Not consciously, but maybe it did on a subconscious level. It’s funny how our brains work sometimes, even when we don’t really know that they are. 

If you’re as interested in cucumbers as I am (or even half as interested), and you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think of it, so leave me a comment. And, if you want to learn more about THE SAN FRANCISCO WEDDING PLANNER, check out the awesome new series tab at the Helping Hands Press website. We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday Free-for-All: God’s Sense of Timing

Friday Free-for-All

I found out yesterday that another story I submitted to CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL was rejected (because one of my Facebook friends posted about her acceptance notification). So far, with them, I’m batting 0 for 5. My point? Don’t come to me asking for advice about how to break into that series of books. I obviously don’t have the answers. ;-)

Last night (as I was driving home in my car with the low gas light blaring at me with a bag full of Pull-Ups for my girls that I took from my mother because we didn’t have the money in the bank to get any at the store), I thought about that story. I’d written about how my husband and I always count the bunnies we see as a sort of good omen…but “omen” isn’t really the right word. It’s more like a little love note from God, saying, “Hey. I love you. I’ve got your back. Don’t worry.” Around our house, if it’s a “bunny day,” it’s a good day.

So, I’m driving and complaining to God about how there STILL doesn’t seem to be money coming in, and I’m STILL not getting accepted by CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, when everyone else I know is… blah blah blah. (What did they have against my bunny story, anyway? You DO want me to be a writer, right? Where’s the pay-off?) Boo-hoo. Wah! BLECH!

At that precise moment, there, on the side of the road, I see a HUGE bunny rabbit. Not like “Harvey” huge, but bigger than the ones I normally see. And I smiled…and then I got angry at myself…and then I cried tears of brokenness and repentance. I’m fussing and complaining and doubting God, and there He is…dropping me yet another little “love note”: Hey. Speaking of bunnies…Remember Me? I love you. I’ve still got your back. I’m not going to let go. Stop doubting and worrying. Believe Me.

And I started thinking: Maybe millions of people weren’t meant to read that bunny story. Maybe it’s only meant for me and my husband. But, since this is my blog, I thought: Hey. Why not post it here, so at least someone can read it. Not that I’m expecting fame and fortune from it…but I want others to be blessed. I want to point others to God, more than anything else. And, maybe I’m wrong, but I think this little story does that pretty well. So, here’s my latest CSFTS reject:

Counting the Bunnies

The call came in just before 9 PM, jarring me out of an exhausted slumber. Groggily wiping the sleep from my eyes, I glanced at the caller ID. If I didn’t recognize this number, no way was I answering the call.

My father’s cell phone number glared back at me. I sighed and tapped on the cordless handset’s “Talk” button. “Hello?”

“I hate to ask you to do this, but do you think you can go over to the house and let Carrie out to go to the bathroom?”

“Right now?” I asked, half-asleep.

“Yes. I’m still up here at the hospital, and it’s been hours since I was home. She really needs to go out.”

I nodded, knowing how pointless it was because he couldn’t see it. “Okay, sure. I’ll go right over.” What else could I say? I grabbed my car keys and purse, kissed my husband, gave him last-minute instructions for getting the girls into bed, and rushed out the door.

Driving for once without the distraction of two screaming kids in the backseat, I decided to use the time to voice my frustrations to the one person (besides my husband) who would let me express myself honestly without judging me. “I don’t understand why this is happening. I can’t do this anymore. I’m tired, and I want things to get back to normal!” I prayed out loud, punctuating each phrase by slamming my palms against the steering wheel.

As rough as the day had been, the previous weeks had been even harder. Just nine days after my mother had major heart surgery—valve repair and a double bypass—that only improved her heart’s functioning to 40%, instead of the 60% they were hoping for, her mother had a stroke, rendering her incapable of even answering her phone. My mother and I were the ones who found her and called 911.

Mom was still unable to drive and my father had to go in to work very early, so I was the one who had to make sure Mom got to the hospital, and then later to the rehab facility, every morning so she could be with Grammy. And then I went back to Mom’s house and made sure I let her dog out to go to the bathroom and ensured that her cats had enough food and clean litter pans—every day, all while trying to take care of my four-year-old and two-year-old daughters.

I was tired—physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, to be honest, my spiritual life was suffering as well, my time with God having been reduced to these screaming, crying temper-tantrum diatribes in the car on the way to my next responsibility. There was no “quiet time” for me anymore; only chaos and cacophony.

That Saturday night, though, a wonderful thing happened as I drove toward my parents’ house to let the dog out yet again. A rabbit hopped across the path in front of me, far enough away that there was no danger of me hitting it, but close enough that I saw it definitely was a bunny rabbit.

I gasped and sighed in relief. The bunny was safe. Smiling, I glanced up into the darkened sky, tears streaming down my cheeks. “Thank You, God.” It was a “bunny day”.

I’m not sure when I first started noticing bunnies in yards, or on the street, and equating this with “having a good day”. It was certainly before I was married, maybe even before my husband and I started dating. I know it was part of our normal dating routine—counting the bunnies we saw as we drove.

He was working as an over-the-road truck driver when we first started dating, so any time we got to spend together was precious. For this reason, he’d drive me to work and pick me up, giving us some extra time each day he was in town to talk and get to know each other better. It was on one of these trips that I told him about the “bunny days”. I think I caught a glimpse of two together in the same yard. Pretty soon, he was looking for them too. He’d pick me up from work and proudly announce with a big smile on his face, “I saw three bunnies today, so it’s definitely a very good day!”

Where we live, squirrels are all over the place, but rabbits are much less common and, because of that, they’re much more special. My husband and I are both animal lovers, so it’s natural we would get excited about seeing these cute little furry critters at either the start or end of every day. Each one of those bunnies we counted was even more thrilling than the previous one, and because we were doing this together, it became one of “our things”—and it still is today, ten years later.

During that decade, a lot of good things have happened to us—we got married (obviously), we both got higher-paying jobs, we bought a bigger house, and we had two beautiful, healthy baby girls. A lot of bad things have happened to us too, though—I had a miscarriage, my mother-in-law died eight months after we were married, my husband also lost both an aunt and an uncle, my job was eliminated, we were foreclosed on twice, forcing us into bankruptcy, and then my mother and grandmother got seriously ill at the same time, so now we’re coping with that. But, through it all, I keep seeing bunnies and counting them, and so does my husband.

Those bunnies have become bigger symbols to us over the years. More than just cute, furry little animals, they’re emblems of God’s provision and blessing. Bad things creep in, sometimes daily, but so do the “bunnies”. By counting physical bunnies every day for so long, my husband and I were training ourselves (without really knowing it) to count the figurative bunnies, the blessings that come with each new day that help to ease the pain of the trials. They’re there—always—you just have to learn to look for them.

And you know what I’ve discovered? The more you search for them, the more you’re going to find. Even in the midst of heartache, agony, and earth-shattering loss, the “bunnies” are there, just as God reminded me by having the physical bunny cross my path that Saturday night as I drove to my parents’ house. I saw it. I counted it, and it reminded me that God is always with me, and His blessings are always available to me, no matter what’s going on around me. All I have to do is look for them, count them, and thank Him.