Alongside by Sarah Beckman Book Review and Giveaway

AlongsideRead to the end to find out how you can win a free copy of this book!

“The friend who loves their neighbor well in trial will continue to come alongside after the initial hardship is over”—Sara Beckham, Alongside

Most of us have experienced the desire to help someone during a time of medical diagnosis, loss, or grief.  What are we to do? Sending over a meal is important, but how can we love others beyond taking them a meal? Alongside, is a practical guide of helpful suggestions complied by personal testimonies of the author and others in their time of crisis.

Author, Sarah Beckman, has been on both the giving and receiving end of help. Within a span of six years, Beckman lived through eleven weeks of bedrest prior the birth of her third child and four back surgeries.  In her book, Alongside, Beckman incorporates her experiences with the advice of others to provide the byline of the book, “A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in the Time of Trial.” Alongside, features three parts, “First Things First, Taking Action, and Special Circumstances.”

Part 1

In the first part Beckman, explains that at the heart of this book is the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40, NLT).  “Reaching out to help others is more than ‘just doing the right thing.’ It is our God-given responsibility” (page 5).

“It’s Not About You” is the title of chapter two and a reoccurring theme throughout the book. In this chapter Beckman, reminds the giver not to focus on their personal feelings, but the feelings of the one they desire to help.  This concept sounds simple, put as Beckman references throughout the book; often people unintentionally make hurtful statements to those they are trying to help.

In chapter three, “In the Know,” Beckman illustrates a tier system of relationship:Sarah Beckman Alongside

Tier 1: caregiver/close friend

Tier 2: friend/neighbor/co-worker/church member/sports team/shared organizations

Tier 3: acquaintance/friend or friend-of-the-family

Tier 4: infrequent interaction

I found this tier system to be golden. “Knowing your place in the life of the person in crisis will help you know how to respond” (page 15).

Part 2

The second part of Alongside, features a variety of ways to love thy neighbor by taking action. I suffer from a chronic illness and I found this section exceptionally valuable. The first year of my diagnosis was the most difficult. Those who reached out, who made themselves present, those who took the time to visit, those who invited me to normal activities and didn’t always talk about my condition, and those who continued to remember my struggle are the ones I appreciate the most.

Part 3

In the third part of Alongside, author Sarah Beckman shares five chapters of special circumstances such as in the case of a terminal illness, a messy situation, or when faith isn’t shared.  Regardless of the difficult situation, being present is the truest gift of friendship. My favorite quote in the entire book is found in Chapter 7 “Be Present.” It reads, “The friend who loves their neighbor well in trial will continue to come alongside after the initial hardship is over” (page 60).

Sarah Beckman AlongsideMost of us have experienced the desire to help someone during a time of medical diagnosis, loss, or grief.  What are we to do? We are to be a present friend who walks alongside them in their journey.

Meet Sarah Beckman

Sarah Beckman shares on her website, “I love coffee and green chile and golf and my Wisconsin Badgers. I love the water, but also the mountains. And I love traveling to Haiti…maybe because they have both.” To learn more about first time author, Sarah Beckman visit SaraBeckman.org.

Book Giveaway

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Giveaways are open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada only.

I will announce the winner February 28, 2017.

DISCLOSURE (IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FTC’S 16 CFR, PART 255: “GUIDES CONCERNING THE USE OF ENDORSEMENTS AND TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING”): MANY THANKS TO Morgan James Publisher FOR GIVING ME TWO COPIES of Alongside IN EXCHANGE FOR MY HONEST OPINION.

P.S. If you are interested in reading more of my thoughts on chronic illness and friendship, read Four Lessons Chronic Illness Taught Me about Friendship.

©2017 April Dawn White

Staring in the Eyes of a Zebra: Encouragement in Desert Wandering

Confessions of zebraEyes of a zebra penetrated my desert heart and helped me find strength in God.

In the 1940’s Dr. Theodore Woodward coined the term “zebra” for any rare medical condition. I first shared about this in the article, Confession of a Zebra. Last week, I sat across another zebra and for the first time, I knew someone truly understood me.

Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis affects one per 100,000 people.[1]  It is isolating and lonely to possess a disease so rare that no one around me understands the paralysis, the pain, the impaired cognitive functioning, and sudden muscle weakness.

When I discovered a Texas zebra was attending a meeting in my area, we scheduled an afternoon together before her return flight home.  Over the past year, we have texted and spoken via phone, but I savored this rare moment to spend face time with her.

As she spoke, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast our lives.  She, a Texas zebra, whose diagnosis of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis, was confirmed at the young age of six. There was no need for extensive genetic testing, since her father and her sister already possessed this rare neuromuscular disease.  Texas zebra is around my age and our daughters are the same age too. Unfortunately, her daughter (and nephew) was diagnosed this summer.DNA

On the other hand, I was clinically diagnosed at age forty, based on my extensive journaling of symptoms and the adverse effect of certain foods, exercise, stress, etc. Unlike, Texas zebra, I am waiting on the results of genetic testing.

Texas zebra grew up with the rare condition and has assimilated well into adulthood; I was diagnosed as an adult.

I feel like Dorothy, who woke up in Oz, desperately clicking my red heels together to go back home to my previous life.

 

The morning after our meeting, I read these words “Jonathan went to David [in the desert] and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). David was a man on the run, hiding out from the insane King Saul. Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s best friend, came to him in the desert to provide encouragement and strength in God.

This Texas zebra was the Jonathan to my David. She met me in my desert place and provided my weary heart with encouragement and strength in God. We are relational people, not created to live in isolation. This was on Paul’s mind when he wrote, “that you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).

God doesn’t call us to fix other peoples problems, but to walk with them. Click To Tweet

children-542104_1920 teddy bears friends PixabaySo often, we want to fix other people’s problems and if their problem is too big, we feel overwhelmed by their need. God doesn’t call us to fix other peoples problems, but to walk with them. Notice, Jonathan did not remove David from the desert; rather he spent time with him there and provided strength in God.

Are you in a desert place? God sees you and He cares for you. Seek refuge in Him and find comfort in the words penned by David (perhaps when he was in the desert), “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).

Have you been through the desert? I challenge you to reach out to someone in a desert place. Be their Jonathan and provide encouragement and strength in the Lord during this dry and weary season.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

[1] http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1171678-overview#a6

Backyard Bouquet

Backyard bouquet with logoI amble to the mailbox, praising God for the strength to walk this far. Two doors down, I catch a glimpse of my neighbor returning home from his afternoon walk. Usually his wife of over sixty years accompanies him, but she is recuperating from a recent surgery.

Thinking I should visit soon, a verse I’ve been studying resurfaces, “Go in this strength you have” (Judges 6:14).

Southern hospitality dictates, I deliver a meal, but I’m not up for cooking these days. My mind replays my mother’s mantra, “April Dawn, sometimes you gotta make due with what you have until you can do better.”

Don’t overlook the greatest gift you have, the gift of yourself. Click To Tweet

Armed with a pair of scissors and a canning jar, I take inventory of my backyard blooms. I snip crimson roses, mint, magenta butterfly blossoms, and sunny yellow African lilies. My simple homegrown backyard bouquet was all I had to offer.

Go in this strength you have” (Judges 6:14).

Armed in the strength I have, I carefully walked two doors down, holding onto the glass jar with both hands, gravel crunched underfoot. My nerve endings buzzed and crackled as the peripheral neuropathy caused my hands to go numb.

Ever joyful, Mrs. M was thrilled for the surprise visit and humble backyard bouquet. Initially, I was hesitant to visit because I had nothing special to offer. I had no grand meal prepared, no cookies baked, not even a card. All I could offer was a canning jar backyard bouquet and myself.

Hands just meEver since my chronic illness began, I have struggled with feelings of uselessness and inadequacy. I thought all I had to offer was a humble backyard bouquet, but walking home, I realized I often overlook the greatest gift I have-the gift of myself.

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” –Henry David Thoreau

Don’t overlook the greatest gift you have, the gift of yourself.

Do you have someone around you that could a ray of sunshine? How can you use what you already have to bless someone today?

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of author and Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

I Refuse to Sink

Medical signThe task of ordering a medical alert bracelet, is something I’ve been avoiding.  Some days I shake my head in disbelief. A classic case of denial.

I am strong willed, independent, and down right stubborn. Ordering this bracelet is not merely an indicator of a disease state, but an indicator that I am not in control. The latter being the bigger issue.

I am thankful my beloved found the website LaurensHope.com.  If I must wear a bracelet it ought be beautiful. I select a rose gold and teal beaded bracelet and click “ORDER.”  Fighting an unexpected wave of emotion, I ponder what information to engrave on the plate. I’m angry! I don’t want this this bracelet nor this disease.

April Dawn White

Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis

ICE: Husband’s cell number, ICE: Parent’s home phone

Hours later the kids crash through the door. Rachel produces a gift from a family at school. I am deeply touched by their generosity. I gasp as I open the small box to find a leather wrap bracelet with the words “I REFUSE TO SINK” engraved on the metal plate. An anchor serves as the clasp.

Only God! Only God knew that earlier today I would struggle with what words to have permanently engraved on a medicaMedical Id bracelet CROPPEDl alert bracelet. Only my Jehovah Jireh, which means “The LORD Will Provide,” could orchestrate this specific gift for me on this specific day.

The medical alert bracelet reminds me I am not in control.

However, the leather anchor bracelet reminds me that I REFUSE TO SINK. I refuse to allow the Enemy to control my thoughts and take advantage of  my weakened state.

I refuse to allow this disease state, which paralysis my muscles and freezes my face, to paralyze my spirit and my ability to praise the LORD.

God wove strength and hope into the my DNA long before this disease began to unravel my muscle strength.

My verse for 2015 was this:

“We have this HOPE and an ANCHOR for our soul, FIRM and SECURE.”

(Hebrews 6:19, NIV emphasis mine)

I have periodic paralysis and daily weaknI refuse to sink CROPPEDess. But God is my anchor. He is my hope. He will keep me steady and firm. I refuse to allow this disease to paralyze my spirit and my praise. Furthermore, I refuse to sink  making  “It is well with my soul.”

~April Dawn White

 

Photos courtsey of author and Pixabay.com

One less Problem

motorway-driving PIxabayRachel and I zoom down the road, music blasting, and heads be-bopping to the rhythm. I love these days, just the two of us. Rachel, my ten-and-a-half-year-old disc jockey carefully selects another song. I’m not surprised when she chooses Pentatonix’s cover song Problem, by Ariana Grande.

 If you’re not familiar with the song click here to listen.

The chorus of this song replays in my mind like a broken record.  But today, I hear this song in a whole new light. Rather than focusing on the song’s intended meaning, I hear this song as a warrior in God’s army looking Satan squarely in the eye and repeating the famous chorus.

I’m battling more than my health. When will I gain strength to return to work? What about our finances? Will need to move? Do I need a single story wheelchair accessible home?Me and Rachel 2015

What I don’t need is the Enemy getting all up in my business. The Enemy is trying to pry into my head, confuse theology, and warp truth.

I ask Rachel to reply the song. “Really?” her face brightens.

“Yes please.” I say. “Rachel, think of this song not as a boyfriend bugging you, but as the Enemy bugging you. Look at it from that perspective. This is not a Christian song, but it has significant spiritual application.”

Rachel drops her head and peers at me over top her glasses. “Mom, are you going to blog about this?”

A Cheshire cat grin spreads across my face. “You betcha!”cheshire-cat-CROPPED Pixabay

I tune out the lies of the Enemy and I tune into the voice of God, thus giving me one less problem to worry about.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:7-8, NIV)

Even though my troubles are many, I listen to God’s voice and “It is well with my soul.”

~April Dawn White

Photos courtesy of Author and Pixabay.com

 

 

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis image PixabayI’ve been battling an identity crisis.

My phone buzzes with a Google notification. I am irked by the reminder that I should be working 8-5 pm today.  I’m on a medical leave of absence. Daily paralysis and muscle weakness prevents me from working.

I am annoyed and frustrated. I have worked since I was fifteen years old. I am a first born, type-A personality. I am wired to work and to be productive.

My job is measured in productivity. As a pharmacist, I’m evaluated on how many prescriptions I’ve filled, how many immunizations I’ve administered, and how many MTM’s I’ve completed. All of this is wrapped around providing the best pharmaceutical and patient care. I enjoy my occupation.

Not working is driving me crazy.

Recently, I traveled with a friend to visit another friend in prison. During the drive, I shared, “Feeling unproductive is driving me crazy.”

Sara responded,  “April, you don’t have to be active to be productive.”mortar-pharmacy pixabay

I realize what’s wrong with me. I am having an identity crisis. I’ve wrapped my identity around my occupation. I’ve always known my career is not who I am, however….. has always been wrapped up with my occupation and who I am and what I’m doing.

With the You Tube Bethel Music Station playing in the background, I cried out to the Lord for help.

“Lord, I’m not working, but what do you want me to do?”

Moments later I hear these words “You don’t have to do a thing, just simply be with me…” Jenn Johnson’s song “A Little Longer” was God’s response to my plea.

My identity crisis occurred because my identity has been wrapped around the wrong who and what.  My identity is not who I am or what I do, but rather who He is and what He has done, what He is doing, and He will do.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV)

I am expectant and hopeful to return to work as soon as possible.Letter

But until then I will act upon Sara’s words. “You don’t have to be active to be productive.”

It doesn’t take great physical activity to send encouragement. I can phone a friend, mail a card, text a song, post a promise from God’s Word on Facebook, or to invite someone over for coffee. How can you encourage someone today? Encouragement is contagious. Pass it along.

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT)

My identity crisis occurred because my identity has been wrapped around the wrong who and what.  My identity is not who I am or what I do, but rather who He is and what He has done, what He is doing, and He will do. Understanding who I am in Christ makes “it well with my soul.”

~April Dawn White

Images courtesy of author and Pixabay.com

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