Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

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Ten year old Ha and her family have to flee Saigon during the Vietnam war. They are one of the lucky ones who make it out before their home is destroyed. In America though, Ha considers herself the unluckiest girl in the world. Tormented by bullies and missing the familiar of her home she struggles to find her place.

Pros: Again. Beautiful cover. Full of so much life and really speaks to the core of the story. This book is about a ten year old but the subject matter gripped me and I’m sure it would any teen. It’s written in free form poetry so it is a quick easy read but it’s full of so much to ponder and chew on. Ha and her family are very real and deal with very serious situations but it’s presented in a very gentle way.

Cons: There is a church scene where Ha and her family are required to be baptized in order to be accepted into the community. It is not judgemental. It is from the viewpoint of a child that does not know why getting dunked in water makes her acceptable. The Lord’s name is used in vain once in response to the student’s mocking her about “Boo-dah” over and over again.

Rating: I would rate this PG 13 as it does deal with real emotional topics and there is the use of the Lord’s name in vain. Although, I think the way it’s presented in the book is a great springboard to discuss other religions with a teen.

Personal Opinion: I really liked this book. Got teary near the end as Ha dealt with one obstacle after another. It’s also great to see the other side of the Vietnam war. A side that included real people who lost their homes and families. It is an easy read but there is so much packed in there that I’m certain this is a book that I will read again and again to peel back another layer of the onion.

Discussion points for parents & teachers:

  1. Vietnam war
  2. Belonging
  3. Bullying
  4. Loss
  5. Being different/accepting people who are different

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Black, White, Other : In Search of Nina Armstrong by Joan Steinau Lester

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Nina Armstrong is a biracial teen whose mother is white and her father black. Fifteen is already a tough age but now her parents have divorced. Nina struggles to find her place in her family, school and a world where having dark skin labels you as “different”. Can the stories her father tell her about her great-great grandmother’s escape from slavery help her find own identity in a world that has gone crazy?

Pros: First of all, can we not just take a moment to speak of how wonderful this cover is?? Love it! I really like how this book tackles difficult topics without crossing a line for a younger audience. Nina is a very believable character and the layers of different points in history help to make it a rich read.

Cons: There are people who steal and shoplift but it is not condoned. Realistic (and pertinent) violence in the stories of slavery. Suggestion of sexual misconduct by slave owner.

Rating: PG 13 due to the sensetive topic and the realistic portrayal of slave life.

Personal Opinion: This is a well written book that I would recommend to tweens. Because it is written for younger teens those readers who are more mature may not find the tension high enough in this novel. However, this is a great springboard for discussion for those young teens who have questions regarding black history and racial tension today.

Discussion points for parents & teachers: 

  1. Black history
  2. Slavery
  3. Judging someone by how they look
  4. Self Identity (finding out who they are as a person)
  5. Speaking up

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The Forgotten

 

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I remember it like it was yesterday…
the heavy scent of lemons,
squeeky floors,
hallways of gleaming lockers.

I had finally made it to grade 9!

I was soooooo nervcited. Image result for nervous emoticon

But as exciting and new as it was,
there was also a scary not so cool side too…
girls snickering at my “uncool” clothing,
dropping my books in the classroom,
getting lost in the maze of hallways.

And, of course, I knew no one…
I had no friends.

Now, I did eventually meet my “group”,
and although we weren’t the most popular we made memories,
watching out for each other,
getting in trouble together,
discovering what it means to be a true friend

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This year, my oldest stepped into highschool,
from homeschooling.

He knows no one.
He’s a gentle giant,
and doesn’t understand teenage social structures.

I feel like every day I’m throwing him to the wolves.

Maybe if I locked him in his room,
kept him at home until he is thirty,
He wouldn’t have to go through this…
I wouldn’t have to go through this.

But we do.
And the school bus picks him up each morning.
And I lay awake at night.

My son.

Not bullied,
but forgotten.

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Why do I tell you this?

Perhaps you know someone who is going to your school,
sitting by themselves for lunch
say hello
sit beside them
you’d be surprised at what you learn from a gentle giant.

Or you are the teacher and there is one in your class,
playing by themselves at recess,
nose stuck in a book because they are safe
find out their interests
help them interact with others.

Maybe it’s you,
at school,
at church,
at work,
take a chance,
find your tribe.

It may involve pain and discomfort,
but it’s worth it.

I challenge you to keep an eye out for not only the bullied, but the forgotten in your life. You know who they are…the ones your eyes pass over almost involuntarily.

If you like what I write I’m revamping my blog,
and will be discussing tons of my most embarassing teenage moments. :/

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I can do it myself!

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The sun is shining on me,
a cool drink is at my side,
and an open book on my lap–
what more could I want?

As I sit here my mind switches gears.
Part of being on this vacation is preparing myself for a busy year:
Meal plans.
Kid schedules.
Exercise regimes.
Diet plans.
Blog rebuilding.
Word counts.

My pulse quickens at the thought,
and a headache percolates behind my left ear.
So much stuff,
but I have to plan it now.
I have to gain control.

If I can control it all,
than everything will be perfect.

My mouth falls open,
and my eyes widen a bit…

What did I just say?

The logical part of my brain answers.

Easy.
You just stated if you could control everything,
peace would reign.
Life wouldn’t be as hard.

Instantly my perfect “Christian-I-show-in-public” side chimes in.

Of course not!
God should control everything.
That is the only way to peace.
Even children know that.

*hums “Peace like a River”*

I want to dismiss it.
Quickly.
Before I have time to analyse it any more.

Too late.

My mind is already unfolding my thought,
with trembling fingers.

It is with reluctance that I read the writing on the page:

You do not trust Me.

Of course I do.

No, you won’t give Me everything.

Well, there are some things that are best managed by me…

Trust Me.

But…

Trust.

But…how?

Just give it to Me. And trust.

So I close my eyes.
Focus on the sun warming my legs.
Cool drink by my side.
Sound of waves on the beach.
And pray for the strength to give all my plans to the Lord…

and gain His peace.

I know that it is a conversation I will have over and over again…
but that is OK.

Is there anything you really struggle to give to God? Let us keep each other accountable! Share your struggles in the comment section. And if you enjoy the posts on this site be sure to like and click the follow button on the right hand side. Thanks!

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

Mislabeled

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The word “Superstar” was stamped across her bum,
the “A” a multi-coloured, glittery star.

The little dictator yelled her list of demands to the other girls in her class,
her face firetruck red with fury.
She couldn’t have been older than eight.

I soon noticed she wasn’t the only one mislabeled.
A boy with “Awesome” stamped across his chest pushed another boy off the swing.
A girl with an angel hat had thrown herself on the ground in a full tantrum.

It got me thinking about Labels.

Not the ones that others give to us:
Jock, Stupid, Braniac…
But the ones we give ourselves:

Mother, Wife, Teacher, Employee.

Oh yes, they are all very functional labels.
And as humans we love to put things into boxes.
It makes us feel safe.

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But how often do we use labels,
to keep ourselves safe?

I can’t do that I’m a “Busy Mother.”
I’m “Not A Public Speaker.”
Me? I am “Not A Leader.”

Labeling is not a bad thing in and of itself.

But when it keeps us from moving outside of our box,
keeps us from trusting that God knows best.
Then it is a problem.

So be careful that your self-labels aren’t keeping you from being obedient to God.

After all, when it comes to labels God knows best.
Beloved.
Treasure.

Mine…

Do you have a label that keeps you from fulfilling the grand plan God has for your life? Share it in the comment box. I love to hear from you!

 

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

A Rainbow Kind of Day

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It’s been a rainbow kind of day.
Not the kind that have been splattered across social media of late.
No.

You know what I speak of:
a spring day when a fine mist falls from the sky,
the clouds are dark and menacing,
yet the sun is still out.
A perfect day for a stunning rainbow.

I am at home in bed due to a brutal cold,
sadly missing my friend from high school’s wedding. 😦

This day is filled with a deep sadness,
crammed into the nooks and crannies,
hiding in the shadows.
My church is packed to say goodbye to Walt Hartholt after a year and a half fight with cancer.
Thankfully the church is streaming the service so I can still partake.

Walt was active in the community,
father, husband, principal, teacher and mentor.
He touched so many peoples lives  there is now a hole where he used to be.
There is a deep sadness at his passing.
But as I hear his family and close friends speak about his faith.
About his conviction that “God is good” even through this season.
I am struck by God’s faithfulness.

Through the sorrow and rain of today,
God’s rainbow, His faithfulness, stretches across generations.

Lately,
I’ve felt like my life has been filled with bad news:
friends losing a child,
parents dying before they see their children grown,
families splitting.

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It is enough to make me only see the dark clouds,
to feel the weight of the world and all its sin on my shoulders.

When I heard how Walt, even through the pain,
remembered God’s goodness and faithfulness.
This reminder filled my heart with joy.

Thank you Walt for this final gift.
That even through the trials and pains of this world,
as Christians our joy through it all remains like bedrock.

Like a rainbow,
more beautiful for the dark clouds behind.

“God is good…
it is well with my soul.”

Please feel free to share your “dark clouds” in the comment section below or just ask for prayer. I’d love to pray for you!

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

Don’t Wanna

 

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“Don’t Wanna.”

The two words made everyone in the grocery line freeze in terror.
The three-year old stood,
feet planted apart,
hands clenched at her side,
head lifted in defiance.

This was a temper tantrum.

As a mother myself I knew the signs:
there was no stopping this train.
It had already left the station.

I was oh, so glad that it wasn’t my child.

But when I read my Bible the next morning a phrase hit me:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14)

My train of thought went something like this:

I am a child of God.
What a comforting thought.
Father/daughter images of post bathtub snuggles,
and bedtime story reading fill my head.

How wonderful…
*smiling all proud like*

But wait…
*furrowed brow of confusion*
the Bible refers to me as a child...

A defiant,
hand clenching,
anger filled child!

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Hadn’t my own children just interrupted me that morning,
after I’d gotten knee deep into my work?

I had a plan,
a carefully laid out plan.
It was what I wanted to do.

But God said no.

And what was my first reaction?

Don’t Wanna.

In fact, that was my default setting.

My child, this direction.
Defiance.
But this will make you smile.
Hands clenched.
This will hurt for now,
but it will bless you later.

Feet planted.
I know that path is well worn,
but it’s not the one I want you to take.
Full. Blown. Temper. Tantrum.

How many gifts have I missed?
How many blessings have I ignored?
Because I didn’t want His way,
I wanted my own.

No matter that his gifts are good and perfect.
I’d much rather sit playing with my broken crayons,
then see the jewelled miracles and blessings he offers in the everyday interruptions.

Tonight my youngest comes running.
Tears marring her cheeks.
No physical marks,
only a battered heart.

On the tip of my tongue are the words:

Not now.
Too busy.
You’re fine.

Instead, I close my laptop,
and take her into my lap.
Yes, Lord.

Her feet nearly touch the floor.
A head covered in soft ringlets rests on my shoulder,
instead of under my chin.
How long until…

My child, this is a moment to take ahold of,
too soon it will pass.

I hold her close to comfort her,
just as my Father does for me.
Yes.

It’s Good.

No.
Perfect.

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When has an annoying “Don’t Wanna” moment turned into a blessing? Try to find moments in your day to transform your “Don’t Wanna” into “Yes”. I’d love to hear your thoughts!