Monday, April 29, 2013

The Hunt for a Great (Kids) Book

Last week,  a book arrived in our mailbox that my girls were both very excited to read.  They knew it was on its way and eagerly looked forward to its arrival.  The book was the newest in the Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Station chapter book series.  The series has been fun for my girls to read.  It's basically a Christian version of the Magic Treehouse Books.  I asked my daughter to write a review and here it is...

          Hunt for the  Devil's Dragon is a book I would  highly recommend for
children that are reading chapter books. When I read it, it was so detailed that I felt as if I was right there, watching it all happen. 
The style of the writing is very nice . My sister said, "It taught me to stand up for my friends." 
Besides its style, it also teaches a lesson, like most of  the Imagination Station books. The Imagination
Station books are one of my favorite series.  Check it out today!

This book is written at a 2nd/3rd grade reading level and is very age appropriate for that level.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Tyndale Publishing.

A few thoughts...

A month ago, I wrote this passage and thought I'd share it here.  I wrote this reflection after reading a book that really encouraged me.  The book was about suffering within a particular context, but I considered how what the author was talking about might apply to me and these were the thoughts I wrote down at the time...

I think that we go through something similar to grief when we realize that our lives, families, or marriages differ significantly from what we expected and/or desired.  So, how do we deal with disappointed expectations?  Can we deal with them the same way that we deal with grief?

First, we’re confused.  Why isn’t life the way I expected it to be?
Next, we’re hurt.  Either our spouse, family, or God isn’t loving us the way we hoped to be loved.  Or they aren’t loving each other the way we hoped for. 
Then, anger.  It has to be someone’s fault.  So, who’s is it?
Then on to guilt.  It’s all my fault.  I am doing everything wrong.  Otherwise we’d all get along and life would be peaceful.
Next, fatigue sets in when we try to be perfect.  The problem is we can’t be perfect enough—which leads into the next step.
Fear.  Will things ever change?  Will I ever feel like I’m good enough?  Will I ever feel like I am loveable?  Will I ever feel well loved or valued for who I am?  Will things get better?
Finally, acceptance.  This is the way life is, so I need to stop trying to change it.  I need to accept it and move on. 

But, there’s another side to all of this.  What if it looked like this:
Stage 1:  Yuck.  This isn’t what I’d hoped for and dreamed of.
Stage 2:  Anger.  We vent to God and a close confidante who’ll point you back to your family and to God.
Stage 3:  Forgiveness.  Seek to understand the depth of God’s forgiveness of us, that we might then forgive the ones we love when they wrong us and hurt our feelings—intentionally or unintentionally.
Stage 4:  Love as He has loved us.  Realize that we all have strengths and weaknesses.  We may not always be the easiest people to live with and love.  We are all sinners.   So, love.  Overlook faults.  Overlook not picking up.  Overlook and show grace.
Stage 5:  Accept God’s Plan A.  It may seem sometimes like Plan B, but God’s in control and everything is really His Plan A. He wants to grow us.  Sometimes it’s also not all about us, but about the people we love and that God has purposefully brought into our lives. 
Stage 6:  So, what now?  Live, accept, grow.  If there’s a problem, I start with me.    

The hard part is that there’s all sorts of books that will tell you if you do this, then your life will look like xyz.  If you love your husband or wife just so, then they’ll love you the way you want to be loved.  But, people aren’t robots.  We can’t just change people.  There’s no guarantees in life.  

God just tells us in Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  He doesn’t promise what it’s going to look like.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Homeschooling Benchmarks

There is no scope and sequence or benchmarks that homeschoolers must achieve the way public schoolers must.  But, I believe it is often helpful to understand what a first grader should know, what a second grader should know, etc.  It can be helpful to look at if life circumstances compel us to prepare them to enter formal schooling.  It can also be helpful if they are on track to go to college or plan to go to a public or private high school.  But, where can you find benchmarks or a scope and sequence?

World Book has a general one that I like for grade K-12.  You can find it here:

I did find a link to the National Core Standards here:
If you look at these, I think they can seem a bit daunting, but if you are trying to develop your own curriculum, they may be very important to understand.  All states have standards for education--goals for what skills children are to learn and achieve competency in.  There has been a movement among educators to develop one set of national standards.  That is what these national core standards are.  

On Bright Hub Education, I found that there is a set of curriculum guidelines for several grades.
Here is the first set for first grade. for third grade.  for fifth grade...  I also liked this list they included for high school.

Lastly, I found this one that I actually think might be really helpful.  It also covers what children should/could/can learn about God at various grades.  I think this can be helpful because it is often difficult for very young children to understand certain concepts about faith.  Also, it can be a list of helpful reminders of what we need to intentionally teach our children about concepts we assume they will learn about in church or that we might assume they already understand.  The scope and sequence also does cover all of the core subjects that students learn.  

I do look at these once in a while.  But, this is one reason I choose a math textbook over writing my own math curriculum for my kids.  I want to make sure everything is covered.  But, as I plan my US History curriculum for next year (and am putting it together on my own), I will be looking over these sites to make sure I cover the essentials.  These sites will help me by giving me a basic outline of what we need to study.  
I use the World Book Scope and Sequence for Preschool to help me remember all the basic concepts I need to teach my children.  Every 6 months I read through the list and check off what they've learned.  So, those are some of the ways I have used lists like these and continue to!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Being a nobody

In the world of blogging, I'm a nobody.  Nobody at all.  I chuckled when I received a publicity email this week that offered me a book for review.  I responded that I'd be glad to review it.  Then, I got an email asking for my credentials.  What groups am I associated with?  How many readers do I have?  I just had to chuckle.  Our world is so focused on who you know now because of social networking.  It is strange at times to be on the outside since I deleted my facebook account last year.  

My husband commented to me that because I even let it bother me or question my worth for a second that some part of me believed it.  

Hmm... Do I?

When I was growing up, one's worth was determined by whether they were popular and well liked at school.  The number of Facebook friends and "likes", twitter readers, pins on pinterest, and blog readers...  That's what our society now determines whether someone is popular, and thus of more or less worth knowing.

I was at a dinner a few weeks ago, where we all played a game.  We went around the circle and shared things that at least a few people in the room wouldn't know about us.  It was a get to know you, ice beaker type of game.  As the circle went around, several people said "I met..."  or "I saw..."  When my turn, I couldn't say anyone's name.  I've never actually met anyone our world would say is famous.  I don't know anyone famous.  I'm a nobody.

Now, I know I'm not really a nobody.  
John 3:16 tells me that  16 “For God so loved ithe world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

I know that I am loved by God and I am thankful.  He created me--just as he created you.  And he loves us.  

It's easy for me to get caught listening to the voices I perceive coming from the world about what makes me valuable when I get on the web.  "When I get on the web..."  is an interesting thing to think about as well.

What do we go to the internet looking for?  What are we seeking?  Are we really just wanting to catch up with friends?  Is it stealing our breath and time away from our real lives--the people in front of us?  

I was reading a blog recently in which I read a comment on someone's post that they loved hearing the blogger's story.  It seemed idyllic.  The reader stated that she was living vicariously through the blogger's story.  But, what if the blogger's story wasn't as idyllic as it is written?  I've known of cases on the web when the blogged story is very different than the real story.  If this is the case, is the reader looking for something that isn't real on the web?  What am I looking for?  What are you looking for?  Escape?  Encouragement?  Hope?  Are we looking in the right place?  

Probably not.  At least, I've realized that I'm not a lot of times.  This is something for me to take to the Lord and leave at His feet.  

Oh, as for the email--I did respond, explaining that I'm a nobody.  A few days later, I was offered an electronic copy of the book.  I replied politely, "Thank you, but I'm going to decline your offer.  I don't review PDFs.  Please take me off your mailing list."  Why endure rejection that only tempts me to place my value in who I know?  

The irony is that my value is ultimately because of who I know--our Lord, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for my sins.  This is what I need to remember and keep my eyes focused on.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Helping Struggling Readers, Part 2

I understood a little more, but I was still faced with the question of how does one help a child who is struggling to learn to read?

I found this document online:  that gives all sorts of ideas for different reading struggles.  The strategies there are for struggling readers that don't have diagnosed learning disabilities.

My suspicion is that reading disabilities run a wide gamut--from very mild to profound.  Students with very mild disabilities would likely be able to "get by" in class and find strategies to cover up or cope with their difficulties.  I'm learning that it is difficult to get a child tested early.  One mom told me last week that she had to pay independently to have her first grader tested.  I know that if you are a homeschooler where I live, the county will test your child, but you have to go through a ton (!) of red tape to get it done.  This mom's story agreed with what other moms have told me in the past.  The hard part is that the state or your health care provider will pay for testing, but not until they are 8 years old or so usually.  And by this point, the child is often already far behind his/her peers in class.  There has to be a significant enough gap for them to justify testing.  But, there are organizations out there who will test.  The one I learned about in our area last week is Loyola Clincal Services.  They do test for central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) and though they do not specify that they can test for dyslexia, I suspect that they can if they can test for CAPD.  

If your child has been diagnosed then what?  What if they don't qualify for services, but do have struggles?  I recently met with a mom who had been search for a diagnosis for two years and finally received the diagnosis of dyslexia for her second grade son.  She was relieved, but also explained to me that her work has just begun.  How does she teach him?  They found a part-time homeschool program that teaches him in the mornings five days a week.  This is an option many families have chosen--special reading tutors.  This is quite an expensive option, ranging from a hundred dollars a week to thousands of dollars (upwards of thirteen)  per year for additional schooling.  

What if your family doesn't have such financial resources?  That is the question I've been pondering.  I think the answer is that parents fill in the gap.  Every time I meet a parent who has a child who has a language-based learning disorder, I have questions.  They can observe and understand their children in a way that I cannot as an outside observer.  My heart has always been to connect to people, to connect people with each other, and in this blog to discuss resources that might be helpful to someone somewhere...  

So, I've begun searching for books that are affordable and helpful.  My search has been very limited so far.  I began by reading Walter E. Dunson's book, School Success for Kids with Dyslexia and Other Reading Difficulties.  My husband disagreed with Mr. Dunson's explanation of how children acquire language skills and that is his field of study.  But, beyond that, I learned from this book the difference between Dyslexia (visual processing disorder) and Central Auditory Processing Disorder.  This book is more for classroom teachers than homeschool parents.  Why?  Because as a homeschooling parent, I have learned you have less time to plan and write your own curriculum than classroom teachers do.  This book gives a very thorough outlines of all the syllabication rules, phonics, and word construction rules that children should learn.  If a homeschool or classroom teacher is comfortable making their own manipulatives, worksheets, detailed daily/weekly/monthly lesson plans, and can take a lesson goal and turn it into a lesson, then they will likely feel comfortable with this book.  Also, if a parent is a natural teacher, rather than a learned teacher, this kind of book would work very well.  I am a learned teacher.  I need an outline and a few illustrations (which this book doesn't have) and then I can run with it.  But, the state standards overwhelm me.  They are too nebulous.  I have many friends who homeschool who are natural teachers.  They have this amazing understanding of a subject's content without having to dig in and get a big picture scope and sequence like I do of where we've been and where we're going.  

The second book I read is Why Can't My Daughter Read? by Ellen Burns Hurst.  I have to say from the beginning that for most of my friends, the first part of this book would rub them the wrong way--as it did me.   
For this reason, I'd recommend reading pages 6-14, which explain what Dyslexia is and what to watch for.  Then, skip to the middle, Chapter 6 and read to the end.  The second half of the book is very helpful, but I disagree ideologically with the first half.  I want to explain.  Ms. Burns makes her case for why girls are overlooked more than boys when it comes to dyslexia in these pages.  Statistically, more boys are diagnosed with dyslexia than girls.  Ms. Burns explains that girls tend to be more people pleasers and find ways to cover up their reading difficulties than boys.  I agree with this assertion.  So, it is true that we need to be more watchful.  But, I believe we need to be more watchful of all children--girls and boys and whether they are struggling to learn to read and why.  Ms. Burns focuses on girls and how our culture is biased against them.  But, truth is I think teachers overlook the reading difficulties of many children--both boys and girls!  I am coming to realize how blind I was when I taught in the classroom and how ignorant I was!  I simply didn't recognize the signs.  I could only pay attention to so much during a school day.  Parents who homeschool have so much more opportunity to observe and help their children than a regular classroom teacher can.  Reading specialists and special education teachers have very small classrooms and have the opportunity to work one on one with children, so they are able to observe more closely and assess students difficulties more accurately than classroom teachers.  I don't agree with Ms. Burns' premise that girls are slighted because of male teachers.  The percentage of elementary teachers who are men has dropped from 18% in 1981 to 9% in 2006 (see here).  I couldn't find any statistics about the percentage of male education grad school instructors who are male.  But, from my one personal experience... I had 2.  Two in my two and a half years at CU Denver.  Two out of fifteen.  I do not see how they could have biased the teachers they were training against the girls in their future classrooms.  I think the reason girls are getting overlooked is because teachers are overlooking a lot of students, but boys (who have a higher percentage of ADD/ADHD) get noticed more often and then their reading struggles also get noticed.  I suspect a lot of boys are being overlooked as well.

Aside from this point, the second half of this book is very helpful.  This book comes packed with a lot more easily accessible ideas for how parents can supplement and modify their reading instruction.  I would highly recommend it to parents who are looking for ways to help their children at home or over the summer if their children are in school.  I'd also recommend parents who have older children who have struggled with learning disabilities with younger siblings who are now learning to read.  If you just discovered that your child is dyslexic, though, I don't think I'd start with this book first.  Instead, I'd start with a more straightforward basic book.  I'm going to look for one I'd recommend and will review it here if I find one.  Back to the book at hand... One thing that I particularly liked about this book is that many of the suggestions can be implemented in kindergarten and preschool--when parents have suspicions, but not confirmed diagnoses that their children are struggling to make the connections that they need to.  I also appreciate that the author talked about several reading programs available.  The author's descriptions, unfortunately, didn't help me distinguish a lot between them, but at least I had names of programs to look at and research.  

The more I have learned, the more I have realized that language processing disorders are very complicated.  Parents and teachers have to become true students of their children. Can children be helped?  Yes.  I have read story after story of parents working hard to help their children and succeeding.

I think children CAN be helped and CAN learn to read.  It can often be a very long uphill road, but as one mom told me last week, she was so encouraged because just in the last month she's seeing improvement in her middle school son's reading.  Another mom emailed me a few weeks ago and said that vision therapy has finally helped her son be able to focus and now read.  I'm learning that it's a complicated path and there's so much information out their parents and teachers.  

*Please note that I realized how often I referred to "Homeschooling parents" as different than teachers.  The reason for this is that homeschooling parents take on two roles--parent and teacher.  Teachers only have one--teacher.  This causes their approaches, motivations, and time to be very different.  Homeschooling parents are not teachers any less than classroom teachers --in fact I always tell people that I have learned more about how children learn from homeschooling than I did from my classroom teacher.  

Please note that I receieved complimentary copies of Why Can't My Daughter Read? and School Success for kids with Dyslexia from Prufrock Press for review.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Helping Struggling Readers, Part 1

I have loved watching Eli begin to read.  I noticed early on that he reversed a lot of his letters.  He has always been left handed and so I began watching for signs of difficulties with learning letters and their sounds, because a higher percentage of left handers have dyslexia than right handers.  He is making progress in learning to read, but he continues to make letter and number reversals when he writes.  B and D are also hard for him.  As Eli has been working on his letters and reading this year, I have had a growing desire to understand how children learn to read and how to help them when they struggle.  So, I've set out to try and understand reading difficulties better.  I began, of course, with books.

The first was a college reading assessment textbook that I read last summer.  I wouldn't recommend it, so I'm not going to mention it by name.  It gave me a good, thorough review of educational theories, though.  It also explained the current theories about how children read.  Here is a link to an explanation of one of the models explained in that book:  If you click on the white illustration, you can view a larger version of the picture that is readable.

After reading that book, I contemplated how our educational system views children and reading.  I called a local private school that helps children specifically with reading difficulties.  It was interesting to learn that they don't use any of the assessments mentioned in the books.  The director I spoke with explained that those tests are all for statistical purposes.  As I thought about it more, I realized that our educational system has turned kids into statistics--in more ways than one.

State standardized tests turn kids into group statistics.  But, reading assessments also do this in their own way.  It is as if a child's difficulty with processing alphabetic symbols in particular sequences can be given a number or group of identifying symbols will tell everyone exactly what's wrong and how to fix it.  The problem with approaching reading this way is that every child is unique.  God made them that way.  There are commonalities in their difficulties, but I suspect that no two children are exactly alike.  But, even if they were, should we treat them that way?  Probably not.  Their personalities are different as well as how their brains work.  So, what can we do instead?

I read a book a few years back that theorized that rather than diagnosing kids, we need to identify their weaknesses and help them learn to cope--to focus in on teaching them the skills they needed.  That book was in regard to mental illness.  But, I think the same might be said of helping a child learn to read.  As I read two different books about dyslexia, I realized that dyslexia covers a wide range of processing disorders.  I even spoke to a dyslexia tutor and she told me that there was no standard program for all of the students the agency she worked for used.  Every tutoring regimen was different based on the needs and struggles of the individual student.

So, where to then?  I realized after I began writing this that my introduction to auditory and visual processing disorders actually came from Melinda Boring's book Heads Up Helping.  I love this book.  I'd highly recommend it to anyone who's child lives with ADD, ADHD, or who struggles with focusing.  Her book taught me that a parent can be the best teacher of a child.  I had thought special education teachers were the best ones to do that.  I'd been indoctrinated by my grad school and public schools about this.  I'd also never known anyone personally who homeschooled a child with a learning disability.  I learned through my conversations with Ms. Boring that you can.  My belief is that God gives us the children who needs us and who we need.  After reading that book, I realized how little I understood about visual and auditory processing disorders when I was teaching and how little I learned in master's program.  I wanted to learn more. 

I found two helpful documents online that discuss learning disabilities.
The first can be found HERE.  I like this paper because it explains learning disabilities plain and simple.  It also lists some strategies and tools to help children (or adults).  The second document HERE, focuses specifically on working memory.  I found this document when I was trying to help a friend of mine articulate where the struggles in reading and math are for her daughter.  

End of Part 1.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Difficult book to review

When I disagree with a book, it is always difficult for me to review it.  That is the case this morning.  I began reading a devotional by April Yamasaki, Sacred Pauses.  

This book is a thorough exposition about how to spend time with God.  It's written clearly and succinctly.  There are a few personal stories scattered through the book, but not an abundance.  This book would be a good choice if this is what you're looking for. If it isn't, I'd recommend Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire instead, or one of his devotional books.  

So, how would you know if this book is for you? 
1)  What is your church's view of Scripture?
2)  Is your church's denomination open to women pastors? 
3)  Do you view Jesus as your high priest, going before you to God?  Do you see yourself as having a relationship with Jesus or do you view him as an example of how to have a relationship with God? 

I grew up in Quaker church in Southern California.  After leaving home for college, I realized that I'd heard a lot about God growing up, but not about Jesus.  I also learned a lot about Quaker history.  During college, I happened to work at an evangelical Quaker summer camp and I came to understand what it meant to have faith in Christ.  It also changed my perspective on the theology of the church I grew up attending.  We talked a lot about walking with God and how we could do that.  I learned a lot.  But, I also missed Jesus Christ. 

That is what, or rather who, is missing in this book.  Like another reviewer on Amazon, I realized quickly after I started reading this book that the author is a woman pastor.  I wasn't sure what to think about that, because also like the other reviewer, women aren't pastors in the denomination of the church I attend.  I tried to set it aside.  As I read the book, the author made a lot of great solid and biblical points about spending time with God.  She even mentioned Jesus.  But, I realized as the book went on that she refers to Jesus as an example of how to have a relationship with God, not as our Savior.  I began to see what I realized about the church I grew up in.  Jesus is missing from the relationship.  Jesus is our high priest.  (see Hebrews 4:14) I did go to Ms. Yamasaki's church's website and the church does seem to grasp what Christ did for us.  But, there are some nuances in how Jesus is presented in this book that still make him seem like more of an example and not a savior in my reading of this book.

If you read this book and keep in mind what you know about Christ dying for your sins and that he is our high priest, then there is some solid encouragement about how to have good quiet times with the Lord.

I know that this book would really encourage a lot of people.  And I tried to keep that in mind as I wrote this review.  The author's theology is quite different from mine and I am particularly sensitive because of my Quaker upbringing.  I think this book would be very encouraging to many members of Quaker and Mennonite churches like the one I grew up in.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Herald Press.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Looking Back

Life is painful.  For the past few days, I've felt tears at the back of my eyes begging to be released.  I felt a sadness creeping in.  I wanted to curl up and cry.  God has given me peace about much of the suffering that I've walked through in life, but sometimes it comes back up to haunt me.  My heart hurts.  

I know we all walk through suffering.  Suffering is a part of this life.  So, what do we do with it when it comes back up?  That is the question I began to ponder.

1. Sometimes there are lies deeply embedded in our thinking that have to be rooted out so that we can walk forward.  
2. Sometimes we find ourselves dwelling in and reliving the pain of the past.
3. Sometimes we look back and see how God has carried us through the trials of our lives.

Last night, my husband pointed out to me that Satan would like us to focus on #2.  He wants us to dwell there and feel the pain again.  To hold onto it so that God's love and grace will be crowded out.  I think he recognized this because we've already gone over #1 before and had many #1 type discussions over the years.

He encouraged me focus on #3 and to not let myself get stuck in the past.  He's right.  When I look back, I need to look for and see what God did and has done.  I need to look for the reminders God has given me of His faithfulness.  I need to remember my past so that I will remember Him and who HE is.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Invisible Eating

After I survived my teen and college years, I came to realize that it was only by the grace of God that I did not have an eating disorder or disordered eating habits.  I fit all the classic markers of someone who could be anorexic.  I'm a perfectionist with very high standards for myself.  I fall into the trap of seeing weakness as worthless and failure as a sign of such worthlessness.  I was ladened with guilt as a teen and anger.  I desired control over my life and had a hard time submitting to God's authority.  I held onto my anger and grudges.  as a means of feeling into control.  Mercifully, God has brought me out of so much of that, but I still see how my thinking could have gotten very easily twisted and unhealthy quickly.  

I recognize now that young and old women alike seek control in their lives in the area of their eating habits.  I read an interesting article in the Baltimore Sun a few years ago that explained what disordered eating was.  This is a definition I found on the website "disordered eating means having an unhealthy relationship with food and/or your body, one that diminishes the quality of your life and affects your overall health – physical, mental, and/or emotional"  In my mind, disordered eating describes eating that doesn't fit under bulemia or anorexia, but is still characterized by abonormal eating habits which are practiced in order to control a part of one's life.  By abnormal, I do include things like my habit of working out immediately if I had dessert in my early twenties.  I had a fixation on staying the same weight and watched everything I ate.  I diligently avoided fats in my cooking.  My definition may not be scientific, but it's the definition that I've come to after reading a lot and observing how people live.  
Eating disorders are types of disordered eating.

When I worked with a high school group in Colorado in my early twenties, I used to ask the girls that I met with these questions:  "Did you eat today?", "What did you eat today?", and "Have you been eating?"  Out of a group of twenty girls, I knew three to four who had significant issues with eating and not eating.  Eating is an issue we struggle with as women.  

It is a struggle on both ends of the spectrum--overeating and not eating.  I remember eating out with my grandmother one time when I was twenty at a buffet.  I looked at her and asked her if she stopped eating when she was full.  She'd been going to a weight loss group for years.  She said plain and simple, "No.  I eat until I want to stop.  Don't you?"  I was surprised.  I replied that I ate until I was full.  That meal made a huge impression on me.  The older I've gotten, I've come to realize that for me, it gets harder to resist a food I love when I'm full.  

I know this is an issue that we need to support each other in, encourage one another in, and have compassion for each other.  Recently, I read a fiction book that intrigued me.  I knew before reading it that it was going to address these issues.  I wondered if it would be formulaic, corny, unbelievable, true to my story and the stories of women I've known?  What I found was that it was one of the better Christian fiction books I've read in a while.  The ending isn't quite a perfect happy ending, but it is in the ways the reader hopes for the most.  

The book is Invisible by Ginny L. Yttrup.  The title is very apt because women
control their eating often because they either feel invisible or want to become invisible.  There are three main characters in the story:  Ellyn, Sabina, and Twila.  They each have difficult, but different emotional struggles that they need to deal with.  Ellyn is overweight and struggles with overeating.  Sabina is dealing with some difficult pain that has begun to consume her.  Twila is recovering from treatment for anorexia.  She is walking day by day and continues to see a counselor as she recovers her health and life.  

I enjoyed the plot and couldn't put the book down until I'd finished (in two days).  I did read every word and didn't skip pages or sentences, which is always an indication to me that I genuinely like a book and I'm engaged in what I'm reading.

I was most curious about how she dealt with anorexia and portrayed Twila's character.  From the stories my friends who live with eating disorders have shared with me, Twila's story seemed very realistic to me.  Ms. Yttrup tells this character's story with compassion.  

Ellyn's emotional struggle is essentially the same as Twila's, but her response and actions have been different.  Ellyn overeats so that she can hide behind her weight.  She is a chef, so it seems reasonable for her to eat high caloric foods regularly.  Both women are responding to deep pain that they experienced growing up and not feeling like they measured up.  

Sabina's wounds are different, but equally painful.  I liked that the author doesn't portray one character's struggles as worse or harder than another's.  

There were several other facets of the story that I appreciated.  One is that Sabina is African American and Ellyn and Twila are caucasian.  I liked that they all had different upbringings.  I also appreciated how the author addressed the faith, or lack of faith, of the three characters.  How the author handled the walking "through the valley of the shadow of death" times for each character revealed her understanding and compassion.  

Most of all, I appreciated how the author explained the struggles Twila and Ellyn faced with their eating.  It was well handled and I hope many women will be able to hear the message in the book.  Struggles with eating are ongoing.  They don't end, but they can lessen and be tackled day by day.  It is God and God alone who can heal the deep hurts in our hearts.  Food, or controlling its place in our lives, turns it into a destructive idol.  The characters in this book come to realize this.  

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It isn't the best book I've ever read. The author's writing is good, but it will still fall under good Christian fiction and not good secular fiction that will hold its own.  Even so, I think it is very encouraging and hopeful, which is something that good secular books often miss.  It is worth reading and is better than most Christian fiction I've read.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy from B&H publishing for review.