LIFE: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

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It’s always a little exciting when someone you know writes a book AND gets it published. A longtime friend of mine, Steve Lange, is that person. I was given the amazing privilege of getting to read his novel, Breathing Room, even before it was released. Ultimately, when the Breathing Room Three-Part E-book Series was released on Amazon Kindle last year, all three became #1 bestsellers!

Breathing Room follows Jack and Patricia Christopher and their six sons over the course of two decades. It is the tale of a family searching for a haven that will provide relief from the seemingly unending struggles that oppress them. Intermixed with the tragedies, their story is woven together with moments of humor and tenderness. This novel is loosely based on the author’s own experiences growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

By the second chapter I was hooked and found myself in a perpetual state of wondering what would happen next. This book is real and raw and the experience of reading it leaves you feeling sympathetic toward each and every character. Whereas most stories tend to have a clear distinction between those who are “good” and those who are “evil,” Breathing Room portrays a family of flawed, yet utterly human individuals that the reader easily identifies with. I came to care for the Christopher family as I joined them in their quest for a place to breathe, an end to the tragedies that seemed to wash over them with the predictability of the ocean tides.

There are certain books that, as you read them, you can envision the film version. Breathing Room is one of those books, not an action packed blockbuster, but a slow moving, family drama that draws you in and leaves you with a sense of loss when it is over.

At times while I was reading Breathing Room I gasped as I remembered my own eleven year ordeal searching for a place to breathe, waiting for the feeling of imminent disaster to pass. I recall experiencing something akin to a feeling of relief when disaster did occur because the stress of wondering when it would come was finally over. For anyone who has experienced that longing for a place of shelter from the storms raging around them, or who has ever hoped for something more than limping cautiously through every day, Breathing Room is for you.

Breathing Room reminds us even in our darkest moments, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that  Hope is not dead.

Hope is never dead.

Breathing Room is releasing today (June 20, 2015) in print. I hope you will take a moment to explore whether Breathing Room is a book you might enjoy. Here are all the Breathing Room links you will ever need.

Links to Breathing Room the Book/Ebook

Facebook Page

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Email: Stevenlangebooks@gmail.com

Mailing Address: PO Box 3254 Harvey Cedars NJ, 08008

I was in no way, shape or form compensated for this review. All opinions are most assuredly my own. 🙂

This post was originally posted in April 2014. I have updated it with the news of the release of the print book.

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Turn It Up!

One of my greatest delights is standing between my children in church and hearing their sweet voices join mine in worship. Now before you get the wrong idea, my two little ones are experts at disturbing these idyllic moments.

The truth is, it’s not unusual for me to lose a child during the worship time. Eventually, I notice one is missing and start glancing around; someone behind me usually catches my searching eye and points under a seat somewhere down the row. I smile my thanks and bend over to remove my child from under the seat and return to singing only to get tapped on the arm by the seven year old asking what does that or this word mean, you know, weird words like “hosanna” and “worthy.” It’s delightful that she wants to know, but this is like the seventh time she’s asked. I once again return to singing and soon realize the five year old is now lying in the middle of the aisle, I whisper loudly to her, “someone’s going to step on your head.” I silently blame myself for forgetting to bring a coloring page and crayon packet once again. At last I hand the little one the pen and “welcome card” from the pocket in the seat in front of her to entertain her.

I wouldn’t change it.

singingNo, mine are most definitely not the perfectly dressed in their Sunday best little girls with white tights and bows in their hair. Mine are the children who look like they dressed themselves (they did) and I am the mom licking my thumb to remove dried icing from the little one’s cheek before she exits for Sunday School – and yes she got it on there by clandestinely licking the icing off her big sister’s cinnamon roll before church. This child seriously needs Jesus.

But it is those brief moments of unified voices in praise with my girls beside me that I cherish. A combined 120 seconds of that? I’ll take it. Joyfully.

Three years ago my daughters and I stepped onto a plane with nothing but the clothes on our backs. We flew across oceans and continents from one country to another. The first six months in the US are still a blur. The girls were not yet in school. The younger two children did not even speak English and the older two were barely bi-lingual. They could not read. They could not write.

But they could listen.

Almost from our first day in the US we listened to a Christian radio station and we learned every song. I consider it the number one most healing influence in our life at that time. Even today, it is all we listen to in the car.

The other day I borrowed my dad’s car to drive my daughter to the dentist. His car’s dial is set to Sports Radio. That, of course, was unacceptable. As I was driving I scanned through the channels, trying to find something a ten year old might like. After about ten minutes of skipping from song to song she said, “Mom, can we put on our regular station?” Gladly.

We might not have a wide variety of songs in our repertoire but there are few things in this life that give me as much pleasure as listening to the sound of my children singing worship songs in the car and hearing them say,

“Turn it up, Mom, this is my favorite one.”

Copyright © Rebecca Onkar, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved

This post was originally written for Moms of Faith®.

What I Found At The End

I have a confession to make. For years I avoided reading the Psalms in my personal devotion time. I think that somewhere in my prideful heart I assumed that the Psalms were for people who couldn’t handle the rest of the Bible. In my mind they had become a kind of “Bible Lite.”

This attitude was full of pride, obviously, and since I’m confessing this to you, you’ve probably guessed that at some point I must have had a change of heart – and you’d be right. It wasn’t many years ago that I reached the end of myself.

Have you been there? The uttermost, absolute end of yourself?

While I stood there at the end–the end of me, the end of me knowing where my life was heading, what my purpose was, what to do and not to do, say and not to say, it was there, in that place of utter desperation and brokenness that I discovered The Psalms.

Oh where had they been all my life? How could I have possibly disdained them? Why did I never devour them before? What a prideful fool I had been.

So there at the end I opened the psalms and I read.

I read one after another and each spoke volumes to my shattered heart. When my prayers had dried and my pain was too deep to find the words to speak I read the Psalms aloud to God, my Savior. The Psalms themselves became my very own words spoken from my heart and through my tears. They were my cries for help. They were my cries of pain. They were my cries of confession. And at last, they were my cries of Hope.

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It saddens me that I had to reach the end of myself to discover the beauty and significance of the Psalms. I love the entire Word of God and every verse is precious to me, but no matter what else I read each day in the Word, I always first open to the Psalms.

If you have not yet discovered the joy of reading the Psalms or if your heart is hard, or broken or maybe you’ve run out of words to cry out to God, there is hope. It’s not too late. I encourage you to take the Bible in your hands, open up to Psalm 1 and start reading.

Read day after day until you reach the last one, and when the final verse of Psalm 150 is read, flip back and begin again.

Copyright © Rebecca Onkar, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved

This post was originally written for Moms of Faith®

Not Awesome

Everything is not always awesome. If you’ve been a mother for any amount of time you’ve probably experienced your child being hurt. Not physically hurt, although that happens often enough, but hurt emotionally. Recently my teenage daughter texted me and asked to be picked up early from a school event. Once home she asked me for a hug and cried in my arms for a while.

Feelings were hurt. Kids were mean. My heart breaks.

On those less than awesome days I’ve found that the best thing is to just hug, be there for her, and not try to fix. Can I be real honest here? My flesh urges me to tell her to go upstairs, get a bowl of ice cream and relax in front of the TV, as if that would make it all better. But that is the response of my flesh and the ice cream will provide no real comfort. In these moments, a bowl of ice cream teaches my daughter to find her comfort in something other than the True Comforter.

So while we hug, I pray.

God knows, He saw, His heart breaks too.

I was recently reading the passage in Luke 18 where Jesus told His disciples to let the little children come to Him. How many times have I read that, seen it, heard it? Yet on this particular day I understood something new about our Heavenly Father. Honestly, who among us doesn’t melt at the sight of a newborn or enjoy making a nine month old laugh? Whose heart doesn’t fill with joy while watching the freedom a four year old feels to pirouette through a parking lot or at a ten year old’s excitement and anticipation over the one line she gets to say in the school play?

Our hearts swell with love, often for no other reason than because these precious creatures are children. I forget that God looks at our children and that He also experiences that same warmness and joy that we feel in their presence – but He experiences it in perfection – even better. Then, even so, when our hearts break with our children, it is only natural that we turn to the One whose heart is breaking with us. He is the True Comforter, not just for me in my sorrow, but my child’s Comforter in her own sorrow.

Her sadness is not too insignificant for Him to care.

I must constantly remind myself that my children’s faith journeys are their own to traverse and I am here to guide. The God who comforts the downcast is as much their Father as He is mine. And as I have personally experienced His comfort time and time again, the greatest response I can give to my daughter in her own moment of sorrow is to lead her to The Source of all comfort and The Healer of all wounds, so that when the day comes that I am no longer with her, she can find her way to Him.

Then after a little while, when the tears subside, she and I can share another hug, and maybe a bowl of ice cream.

not awesome

Copyright © Rebecca Onkar, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved

This post was originally written for Moms of Faith®

Call Me Homeless

I spent part of my Friday night with the homeless.

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Don’t get me wrong, the purpose of this post is not to toot my own horn, but rather, to toot the horn of the men and women I met on this cold and snowy night who just happen to not know where they will be sleeping in a few hours.

Let me back up; when there have been several severely cold (read: below freezing) nights in a row, a local ministry I volunteer with fills a van with a large thermal dispenser of hot chocolate, packets of peanut butter crackers and some bins of hats, gloves, scarves and blankets and drives to the transportation center downtown.

There were three of us tonight who bundled ourselves up and stepped out of the van into the swirling whiteness of an unforeseen snow storm. While we unloaded the van men and women already covered in a dusting of snow gathered and asked us for gloves, or hats or blankets. Two of us took the hot chocolate a little ways away and offered steaming cups and crackers and conversation to passersby.

The first time someone thought I was homeless, they saw me walking toward the van and got my attention to inform me that there was free hot chocolate behind me. The second time was when I asked our van volunteer for another bulk pack of crackers by saying, “Do you have anymore crackers?” and a man standing in line for some gloves overheard me and immediately reached into his pocket and handed me his very own packet of crackers that he had received with his hot chocolate.

I was stunned into silence.

I am still stunned into silence.

The third time I was mistaken for homeless (sad to say this is not the first time in my life this has happened, surely it won’t be the last) a man standing in line by the van started advocating to the other volunteer on my behalf because he was certain my coat wasn’t warm enough. He insisted I ask for a coat and warm weather clothes and stand in line before him.

Stranger caring for stranger. Friend caring for friend. I’ve heard of the compassion and generosity of the destitute and downtrodden; the gentleness of the hearts of those laying down this very night wrapped in sheets of plastic and newspaper, and covering their tired feet with four pairs of socks that they got from a red van and some random people handing out hot chocolate on a snowy winter’s night.

Call me homeless. I’ll take it as a compliment.

For more follow me on Bloglovin and find more thoughts on this topic here and here.

Orphan, Widow, Single Mother – Still Alive

Forty years ago in South India there was a girl who was born the second of three sisters. When she was very young her father became ill and died. The mother could not bear the thought of raising three girls alone and since she had a history of mental illness, the girl’s mother also took her life. That day the girl became an orphan.

The girl and her older sister were sent to live with an Aunt in Mumbai and there they were treated slightly better than household servants. When they were old enough, they traveled to Rajasthan to attend Bible College. The middle sister was sickly and worry-prone from childhood so she was soon married to a relative of her older sister’s husband to relieve her family of the burden of caring for her. Unbeknownst to her, her new husband was also sickly and on top of that, terribly unkind to the girl. Nevertheless, she soon became pregnant and bore a daughter of her own. Not long after, her terrible husband died. That day the girl, who was now a woman, became a widow.

While I lived in India the woman and her child came to live near her older sister who was married to a member of my staff. The woman, who was a true orphan and a true widow and a true single mother was also one of the most annoying people I have ever met. That sounds mean, doesn’t it? But it’s true. The crazy part is, I loved her. I loved her in spite of her annoying and pushy ways. I loved her through all her (many) physical ailments and doctor’s appointments when the doctor would scold her for not taking her medicine or doing what she was told to get well. For some reason, God had given me an abundance of grace and love toward her, it surely was not from myself.

Over three years ago I left India and have not returned. I have not seen or heard from the woman, my friend, since then. She has no access to computers and would not be able to type even if she did.

Last night I saw I had a Facebook message from an old staff member in India – the brother-in-law of my friend. When I opened Messenger there were five words: Hi from Princy and Justy.”

My first thought was, Wow, she’s still alive.

justyc

5minutefridayThis post was written for Five Minute Fridays where many many lovely people link up to write for just five minutes inspired by a single word. Today’s word: Messenger. Find link here.

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A Smooth Sea Never Made a…

Stormy-Seas-A-Smooth-Sea-Never-Made-a-Skilled-Sailor

A sailor. A woman. A human being.

The truth is – I like quiet seas. But a smooth sea will only make me a mediocre sailor in this journey of life. The storms and rough patches of my past have taught me much and I cannot regret them.

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

Find the complete article here: Stormy Seas

 

Find me writing twice a week over at Moms of Faith.

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I Need Grace

“Just as the sinner’s despair of any hope from himself is the first prerequisite of a sound conversion, so the loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace.” ~ A. W. Pink

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I am a person who hates messing up. I mean, who actually likes making mistakes? But I really hate it. Messing up is way up there on my “things I just cant stand” list.

As much as I hate it and strive to avoid it, it still happens to me. I mess up. Those times remind me of grace, and how much I desperately need it. 

I write for Moms of Faith a couple times a week. Find this entire article about my faults and failings and need of grace here: In Need of Grace.

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Dana’s Story

The following was written by my dear cousin and life-long friend Dana. She shared it yesterday on Facebook and I asked her if she wouldn’t mind me sharing it here at Clothed with Joy. She agreed.

Dana embodies being clothed with joy more than anyone I have ever met.

When you read this brief summary of her story you will catch a glimpse of what I mean. I came into Dana’s life three years after she was born, but from my early teen years we were always together (except for the brief period of time when she stole the love of my life at my thirteenth birthday party – but whatever. I’m over it. 😉 )  I can tell you from the point of view of a first hand account that she has sugarcoated much of the agony (yes agony – I was there, I saw it on her face) she experienced during her first 21 years.

Here is her story:

This morning, as I was praying with my kids on the way to school, I was convicted by the shallowness of my own prayer even before the final “Amen.” Here’s a recap. Help my kids to be nice. Help them to pass their tests. Help my husband and kids to be healthy. Help us all to be happy. I used fancier words, but the message was clear. God, I want everything to be neat and tidy; no struggles, please. Seriously?

42 years ago, I was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that usually hits kids under the age of 5. Devastating news for my parents at the time? Absolutely. Over the next 17 years, my mom and I spent countless hours together in doctors offices and hospitals. The end result? A genuine, honest, real relationship between me and my mom right smack through my teenage years and into adulthood. What mom doesn’t want that?

At age 14, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and was the proud owner of big ugly back brace. Some of the perks? I got to shop in the boys department at JC Penneys and wear hideous baggy pants with elastic waists. Despite the brace, the curve continued to get worse and I had back surgery at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia. The hospital was full of girls with scoliosis and boys with broken necks. It would make for a cool love story if that was where Dennis and I met, but it wasn’t. The whole experience did, however, give me a real life look into the lives of these other kids. They were kids just like me. Many of them confined to wheelchairs, but their hopes and dreams were often just the same as mine.

That big clunky back brace may have made guys run in the opposite direction, but it little by little prepared my heart to one day run into Dennis’ arms, paralyzed or not. The cancer may have taken away my ability to get pregnant, but it carved a space in my heart for adoption and two precious children the Lord knew would one day call me “Mom.” So here’s to the end of praying for a struggle-free life and a renewed desire to pray for the Lord to use whatever struggles He allows to touch our family, for our good and His glory!

I love you my beautiful friend. I'm so thankful for the example you are.

I love you my beautiful friend. I’m so thankful for the example you are.