Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Books? Yes, Please.

So... I must love reading. I mean, I know that, and you probably know that, but in case you didn't, it really is true. I love reading. When I move to a new place, one of the first things I do is find the library and get a library card as soon as I can. Barnes & Noble is a very dangerous store. I believe I have only walked out of there with no new book in my hand maybe a handful of times in the past 10 years. So I don't go unless I have money to spend or a specific gift to get for someone else - then I get out as fast as I can before I splurge!

This year, I tracked the books I've been reading for myself - both here on this blog and on Goodreads. I wrote a post about it back in March. I have really enjoyed doing it, too. I have heard many people talk about trying to read 50 or 100 books in a year. I still can't quite fathom 100 if you're someone who works outside writing book reviews... but to be honest, even 50 sounded impossible. That's about a book a week. And while I read fairly quickly, and more than one at a time as well, I just imagined I'd make it to about 30. By September, I'd read 25 books, and I felt pretty good about that. I thought I might be able to get to even 35 by the end of the year.

As of today, I've read 42 books. That's only 8 books shy of the impossible. I've set up 2015's list and can't wait to see how far I get in the new year. I'd like to see if I can hit 50 next year. The interesting thing - at least to me - is that out of 42 books read this year, only 4 (FOUR!) of them are re-reads. People, I re-read books all the time. But there have been so many good books that were new, or that I just hadn't read before that I finally got around to, that the re-reads have taken a backseat. Even my common re-reads (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, the Harry Potter series, the Narnia series) didn't get read this year. You can bet they'll be part of next year's goal. :)

So, on with the books. As always, feel free to let me know if there's one you think I should read. I'm always on the lookout for more to add to my "to read" list (because 104 isn't enough)!

Monday, December 29, 2014


Today, both of my parents are having surgery. In fact, my mom's in hers as I type this. They'll both be fine, and I shouldn't really be worried, but that's the part of me that is my mother's daughter. But I'm also my father's daughter, so I find myself in this detached worrying state. If I think about it too much, I start to freak myself out - but I'm not so far gone that I can't recognize what's happening and stop it. It's sort of like part of my brain is saying "freak out! your parents are in SURgEry! you can't do anything! and your mom insists she doesn't want help once she's home even though that sounds crazy! yOU HAVE to be there for the next 2 weeks to be sure they're ok!!" and the other part of my brain is saying "seriously? chill out man. help 'em out tomorrow, but good grief, calm down. they're fine. the doctors are good and your dad doesn't seem worried so just quit it. and your mom's not even as worried as you'd expect so just cut it out. drive them home tomorrow and then go on with life." Yeah, ok brain. Whatever you say (that's the first part breaking in again).

Because of this, I have found myself researching thyroids and gall bladders over the past few days and I know the symptoms related to problems, and the expected recovery time after surgery. I (thankfully) did not dig to deep, so I don't know complications or weird stories that have happened to the 1 in a thousand or whatever. And I feel confident that they'll be fine. I really do - but sometimes your emotions start to try to convince you otherwise. I mean, it's my parents!

Of course, I start thinking I should distract myself. Read a book, watch tv, do something crafty, whatever. Just get busy. I started thinking about posting about the books I've read this year. But as I even thought through that post (which I'll likely post tomorrow instead), I realized I should address what I'm really thinking about so I can let it go and not over do the stress on myself, which really isn't necessary. My youngest brother is with them today, my other brother and his family are praying warriors, and I'll be there to get them and help them tomorrow.

So what do I do now? Well, I'm with one of my dearest friends, and we both need rest today, so we plan to get some decongestant medicine and such from the store and then chill and watch Doctor Who for most of the day. I will also be knitting. We'll likely take some time to read as well. But you can bet I'll have my phone beside me all day, waiting to hear from my brother (who's with them) or until I can call them myself.

Then, tomorrow, I'll be the one to pick them up and take them home. I know they've already had friends dropping off meals and offering to help, which is encouraging. I will hang out there until we all feel comfortable with me leaving - could be same day, could be longer. Good thing I like reading and quiet, huh? Of course, I have movies to watch as well. :)

So if you're the praying-to-Jesus type, please join me in praying for them. For peace, for steady hands of the doctors and nurses, for quick and full healing, for little pain and good pain control, and for rest. Pray for low stress levels. Pray for the rest of my family not to be worried more than we should. And praise Him for the blessings - both surgeries are fairly common, my parents convinced the hospital to put them in the same recovery room, and my brothers and I have all been available to help.

At the end of the day, and all throughout it, actually, despite surgery, worry, and stress, God is good. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Part of a Promise

I have finally had (read: taken) the time to process some of the Christmas/spiritual life thoughts I've been having lately. Because of that, what began as a short post on Facebook became this blog post. And as I wrote, it kept lengthening. But it's so good to think through these things - for me it helps them sink in better...and I need that!

I've been reading a daily devotional I received (thanks, Mom) that is designed to prepare you for the arrival of the Son of God through the month of December (Advent) through January 6 (Ephiphany). The reading from yesterday has stuck with me, especially as part of this past weekend's sermon echoed these thoughts as well.

WE are part of the story! WE are still receiving the blessing that resulted from the faith of those in the story we read. WE should be amazed and awed at the wonder God has shared with us and sing praises giving thanks to Him. For unto US a child was given, and He is our Savior and the Prince of Peace (paraphrased Isa. 9:6). Because of His birth, and our part in the prophecies foretold (which, incidentally is also because of His birth and our salvation through His death), WE (should) celebrate the glorious arrival of Jesus and His infinite wisdom, power, and love.

How can we just sit still? I mean, we don't really, but we do where it matters. I do! I am so tired from all the running around, the planning, the trying to be sure I haven't somehow left someone out or hurt them (how ridiculously far I over think this, few of you have any idea).

How do we not shout the news like the shepherds, or make the journey like the wise men? (This still makes me think of little Gladys Herdman: "Hey! Hey! Unto you a child is born!" When you haven't heard it before, it really means something, and it's worth shouting! People gotta know!)

How do we not trust like Joseph or wonder like Mary? I get so caught up in what I need to get done, or planning who to see and when (which is good, I grant you, but not enough), that I completely forget to TRUST God with the things that are stressing me out (today. this happened MULTIPLE TIMES - TODAY.) and I forget to wonder at the amazing story that He has given us, and made me part of when He made me His child!

I have always loved Christmas - just ask my mom. I love the seasons, the change, the beauty of each one, but winter is my favorite, and I know a lot of that is because of Christmas. The joy in the air, the family (both biological and chosen), time with friends, activities, and demonstrations of love through food, fun, gifts, laughter, and shared craziness - it is a wonderful thing. But often, I let the stress society (and myself) puts on it seep into my enjoyment. I let the stress of preparing to be away from work for a few days overshadow the joy and celebration of the season.

Then, today's reading spoke of mercy. The author describes mercy as "that which fulfills our heart's desire, that which gives purpose to our lives, that which also allows us not only to be loved, but also to love completely." While I'm not sure I agree with this definition 100%, I do love the perspective it gives and the direction it looks. Mercy from God is something that "always astonishes us." Or it should. Have you become accustomed to the mercy God grants? I pray it is not so! I pray you are always awestruck by the grace of God in granting His mercy to us. I hope that we are all astonished by the things God puts into our lives as He shows us His plan.

Lastly, the sermons at my church this month (first 3 weeks of December, anyway) have been about the 3 great blessings that are ours because of Christmas: Joy, Peace, and Hope (you can listen to the sermons here). I cannot tell you how much a blessing these have been to me these past couple weekends, and how much I am looking forward to this coming one! What gifts. Joy inexplicable! Peace that calms the soul. Hope that looks up and out and forward. Glorious Savior indeed!

Now, go enjoy your Christmas, and don't let the stress in - let HIM in!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Who are we, really?

I've had a strange couple of weeks. I feel overwhelmed, stressed out. I know that some of it is from lack of sleep which comes from lack of exercise and... stress. Work has been busy, but not really much more than normal. I have found I have less time for God, less time for friends, and less motivation in both departments. I have only really stayed on top of work because of my ridiculous sense of responsibility, but that just makes everything all the more draining.

The problem is, I'm having a really hard time identifying the source of this unrest. It has caused no less than 6 mild migraines, which doesn't help either. I feel simultaneously terrified of making a change, and completely stuck in almost every way. It's very strange. I don't like it.

I pray constantly, but have not had a dedicated time of prayer due to the schedule I'm keeping. Except as I try to fall asleep at night (or go back to sleep in the middle of it), and then, I'm usually praying that I can stop thinking about everything for long enough to fall asleep and be rested enough to do tomorrow. God has been good, gracious and faithful, and I keep getting through each day, each night, each week - He truly is awesome and I don't deserve what He gives me. And still... I feel this way.

So yesterday, and again this morning, it has had me thinking about my capital 'P' Purpose, and about who I really am. What am I doing here on this earth? Why am I still here instead of in heaven celebrating and worshiping my great God? I know that everything I attempt to do, if done with the right heart attitude and work ethic is glorifying to Him and gives purpose to my life. I know that there are many people who value me not just for what I can do but for the relationships we share, or have shared. I am grateful for them and for the work God has allowed me to be part of, but now, I am feeling like a change is in order... I just don't know what that means.

I also realized (today) that I seem to have 'holed up' internally, so to speak. I am a fairly emotional person. Most of you already know that. I'm not good at hiding how I feel, and even if I manage it, it does not last for very long. I get teary at movies, I cry reading books, and at the thought of people I care about moving away I sob. I am still tearing up at books, but that's it, and has become rare. What's wrong with me? Who have I become? I'm tempted to watch the saddest movie ever just to see if it upsets me, but then, part of me doesn't want to do that... we'll see what the week holds. The potential of a couple of friends moving away saddens me, but emotionally I feel like "oh well, I'll miss them, but it's whatever." WHAT?? Maybe once/if they actually go, I'll find the emotion that is lacking, but for someone who can't usually keep it hidden, I'm shocked. Not to say i burst into tears during the day all the time, but often it'll come out on my pillow, and that's not happening either. I just feel sort of lethargic and like I'm going through the motions more than anything else. Maybe I'm having too many emotions, so they're stuck and they just won't come out.

So, if you're the praying type, please be praying for me. Pray that God would show me His clear direction, His clear guidance for my life, and in the mean time, that I don't get discouraged taking step after step on faith. I trust Him, I do, and yet, I wish He would give me a break and shed a little more light on the path ahead. And if you see me, please encourage me - but please, don't patronize me. I do that enough to myself.

NOTE: I also realize I should say: I completely recognize that there are people struggling with much worse in the world - even people in my life - and I do not discount that fact. I think you can see in what I've written above that I fully know that God has and is taking care of me. Many things are good and well for me. But this feeling of ... whatever it is is beginning to feel like it will never go away, and that's not good, which I also recognize. So, I ask for prayer, I write to get it out, and I trust that God will, as He always does, follow through with me - because I am not forsaken. I am special, I am loved, and I am His. And He protects and guides His own. I just wish it was a little more clearly and quickly. So, for me, right now, this is my struggle. I continue to pray for those others to help keep my perspective, and trust that He will lead me out when He sees fit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Therapy, in written form

I've been reading a lot lately. I made a goal this year, not for how many books to read, but to track them. So far, I've read 25, and I'm already in the midst of 5 more. (Yay.) It has been wonderful to come home and relax with a book, and still have a sense of moving toward completing a goal!

I have not, however, been writing much - here, or anywhere else. I have about 5 "starters" in my files of novels and short stories, and even one of poems. I have shared pieces here and there over the past couple years, but short of a couple poems and 2 short stories, I haven't finished anything else. One of my dear friends has read most of what I've written, and she keeps encouraging me to finish the one she likes best - the one I've got the shortest start on! ;) I have many ideas, and while I admit that some of those starters will never be finished, and will never see the light of day, a couple of them have real promise if I can convince myself to keep working on them. Even as I type this, there are ideas filling up my mind for turning the one short story into a novel (or a novella, at least), and for moving forward in two of the other starters.

This evening, I wrote over 1300 words without pausing to think. The story (yes, a new one) just flowed out of my brain into my fingers onto the keyboard, and into the document. I am so excited about it. It has potential. It felt so good to be writing again. And honestly, I don't even care if it doesn't get finished. Oh, I have plans to continue working on it. And it even sparked the juices to write this post - once you start writing, it's hard to stop sometimes. But as I wrote, I was reminded that sometimes what we write (those of us who do) isn't so we can complete something. It's because we need to get something out - something happy, something sad, something confusing...whatever it is, it must come out in some creative way. I don't mean creative like you might think. It's not artwork - not yet. But it could be, someday. Even if its just for me.

So, today, I engaged in writing therapy. And I know I'm better tonight for it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

To the lake: the post vacation post

First, presented without words:

That was my day of driving, and the first walk with my mom the next morning. I was there for 2 glorious weeks. I rested, I read, I walked, I took tons of pictures (see Facebook or Instagram), and I helped around the yard a bit too. I enjoyed a week with my parents and a week alone. Both had ups and downs, but were wonderful.

I read (or finished) 3 books and got so far through 3 more that I'll finish them before the week is out. I put together a beautiful Ravensburger 1000 piece Cinderella puzzle (with some help from my dad). I tried out a few new recipies, and made a couple favorites. I went to the best fast food joint on earth, Happy's, twice. I listened to loons, watched birds, fish, turtles, ducks, and frogs.

I was able to get some much needed rest, and didn't want to leave (as is always true). Taking the time to make the video above was a fun way to keep a memory of this year - and my favorite part is my mom and I laughing at whatever we were talking about. This is the reason we go. New memories, but often, ones that remind us of past ones, and always bring us together.

Here's hoping the rest doesn't wear off too soon! ;)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Something I rarely do: A movie review

The Fault in Our Stars.
You knew it because it's still less than a week since the release. There is too much (but don't worry, I'll share it anyway; and it's link-full). To sum up: It was amazing.

If you have been around me in the last 2 years, I have told you to read this book. If you haven't yet, what the heck are you waiting for? Get it here. Or here. Or here. Or from your local library. JUST READ IT, OKAY?

Okay. So the movie started production a while back, and since I follow the author (one John Green) on Twitter and such, I saw updates, pictures, and stories from set for quite some time. And I heard how much the cast and crew loved not just the book, but the story. They weren't just trying to make a good movie, but to lovingly tell the story they had been given. After the premiere last Monday, John made very clear in this video that he is no longer being paid and if he hated the movie, he'd let us  all know - but he can't say that because he loves it. I went with very, very high expectations. I was not disappointed. In my estimation, it could not have been done better.

The book was inspired by Esther Earl. There have been many tweets about her in the last week. She was pretty awesome from what I know, and I didn't even really know much about her until the last few years. One of her dying wishes? That more people would tell those around them that they are loved (like Valentine's Day for family and friends). Thus, Esther Day is celebrated by the Green brothers' community (Nerdfighteria) on August 3rd each year (her birthday). There are cards and everything. It's inspiring and wonderful.

Then the response from the rest of the world to this movie. Wow. John sums it up pretty well in this series of tweets: one, two, three, four, five. And it did sweep the box office this past weekend. The funny thing is, I didn't even realize this was a smaller movie. I had told so many about it, and so many people I knew had read or heard of the book that we were all stupid excited to watch the movie when it FINALLY came out. And I also felt like it was big because: website! But, in hindsight, I guess anyone can make a website for a movie, no matter how small - not like the 90's, folks. ;)

Anyway, it was fantastic, and I highly encourage you to see it. You will laugh, you will tear up (if not ball like a baby like many others in the theater with me), you will get warm fuzzies, and you will also be inspired by cancer kids who refuse to give in and play the sick card. Most folks I've ever met with cancer kick that stereotype in the butt, but I feel like this is yet another fabulous insight into how awesome people are. It will be worth both the money you pay for the ticket, and the time you spend in the theater. Honestly.

So, go see this movie. And if you haven't yet, then you should read the book, too.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hey, June.

June is one of the busiest times for us at work. Ok, every month is because there are four seasons: get ready for fall, get ready for Christmas, get ready for Easter, get ready for Summer Camp, and it cycles back again (and again). But June is usually when I'm also trying to prep for going on vacation in the summer so it's a bit of a double-whammy.

Summer camp starts here in a week and a half, and I have so much to do yet that I really shouldn't even take the (less than) 5 minutes it is taking me to jot down these thoughts. But here we are. I can't abandon you for too long... but likely will until I'm on vacation in July.

It has been making me thing through priorities and why I work the way I do. I'm currently going through highs and lows of DO ALL THE THINGS! until super late at night and then suddenly I'm more like, meh-I-just-don't-care-enough-to-do-much-of-anything especially not more than is possible in an 8 hour day (or maybe a little less). So of course I then evaluate myself and wonder what is wrong with me and why I can't seem to regulate to something between the two.

And I don't have it figured out yet, so that's where we stop. At least for now.

As I move forward the next (several) weeks, I will be praying and evaluating day-by-day (and sometimes moment-by-moment) and just trying to make it through. And I will make it through.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lessons on Happiness

(it's long, guys. read it anyway.)

A couple weeks ago, I went to Target for some groceries. It was a quick trip with a short list, and I was pleased with myself that I stuck to it. When I went to the check out lanes they were, as usual, fairly busy, but not crazy like they sometimes are. I found a lane in which the cashier was coming around to stand at the end and invite people into his line - but I beat him to it. He said hello, and asked how I was doing. I replied with the common "I'm good, thanks." He replied, "You're welcome."

How many people do you know who respond that way? When someone tells me they're fine, thanks, I usually move on in the conversation, or let it drop there. He did not. He also seemed to be someone who has some difference in interactions - social cues are not something he picks up on well. Because of this, he has honest responses that come out because of the situation he is in, and the conversation being given to him. When a person says thanks to you, the proper response is to say, "You're welcome," back to them. But we often let it drop.

I then asked him how he was doing and we had a very nice little conversation while he scanned and bagged my items. He was excited to see a cd (I can't remember which) and went on to tell me how good that music was and that he thought I'd enjoy it. As I left the store, I thought about how much my day had been improved by his genuine, kind interaction with me, and by his excitement for something that is in my world and outside of his. He was thrilled that I'd be listening to something we both liked later that day. How different would our lives be if we rejoiced more in the small things - even if they were things that were going to benefit someone else more than ourselves?

A couple days later, I decided to pick up breakfast at the McDonald's by work. I'm not there too often, but often enough to recognize a few of the employees who work the drive-through window. This particular day, I recognized the woman in the 2nd window, and smiled as she handed me my food. I have no idea if she recognized me, or if she just talks this way to everyone, but she called me honey (as in, "Here you are, honey") and when I said thanks, she said, "You have a good weekend, honey," with a smile. It was Thursday. She new I'd not be back on Friday. So, "have a good weekend." That day, a Thursday, about 3 or 4 weeks later, she told me the same thing. It is a tiny thing, and it may be for everyone, but it brightens my day every time.

I also stopped for a coffee from Starbucks this morning. The line was longer than I usually see at this particular location, but I was running early, so I decided to wait it out. I had money on a Starbucks card I'd been given, and needed the caffeine boost at the end of a long week. When I got up to the window, I was told by the barista that the car in front of me had paid for my drink. I have done that a few times at various drive-throughs, but have never had it done for me. I believe I said, "Oh, wow!" and then promptly asked how much the total was for the car behind me. It was about $10, which was 2x what I had planned to pay for my coffee - and I hesitated. I didn't have enough on my card to cover it. Then, I realized that that was ridiculous. I felt God whispering, "Really? You're not willing to give up an extra $5? It's really not that big of a deal!" $10 is still very cheap to "pay it forward" and I had $10 cash in my wallet. So I told her I wanted to pay for the car behind me as I reached for my money. She told me, "It's really ok," and I assured her it was what I wanted to do. She laughed, shocked, and told me it was like a line - 5 cars in front of me had been doing this. Wow!

Something someone decided to do 5 cars ahead of me had been blessing people far beyond what they expected. They expected to do a small nice thing for the car behind them. And that person decided to continue it, regardless of what happened next. I have no way of knowing who paid for my coffee this morning, and no way of knowing who I paid for behind me. I have no idea if it kept going after me, or if so, for how long. The point is, it was a small thing I was able to do - and I obeyed. I know it brightened my day, and hope it did for whomever was behind me.

It was this event at Starbucks that reminded me of the others in the last few weeks. Sometimes little things that are easily passed by or overlooked because they aren't big enough gestures, or are small but take a little effort, are the things that really can change the direction of someone's day. I am tired, I am super busy at work, and I have felt fairly overwhelmed several times in the last few weeks. But these small acts of kindness and genuine care shown in small simple ways over the last few weeks made today a good one - even as busy as it was.

The funniest part is that when I got in and changed my daily calendar over to Friday, May 16th, this is what I saw:

God has a great sense of humor, doesn't He?

It just cemented what I'd been mulling over the past half hour and reminded me that these are the things that create happiness. It is a choice - which I hate to admit - but the choice sometimes isn't in how you feel, but in how you react to how you feel. When you choose to give, to share, to be kind, you change your perspective and your trajectory. Sometimes you see the reaction and the impact your action gives, and sometimes you don't. Either way, we are to give
and love not because it is good for us, but because it is good for them. The amazing thing about our great God is that He knows we need a pick me up too. He knows that the joy we can experience from obeying in these small moments is truly what makes the difference in a life.

I want my life to be one marked by giving and loving. I can only do it because He enables me to do so, but I so desire that to be how people perceive me. I have been so frustrated lately, and my circumstances have not changed - and I don't expect them to any time soon - but today I choose to do a better job not complaining (even internally) and not putting on a fake front, but choosing to do and act out of love and caring and giving rather than the frustration or tiredness I feel.

Because of that, today, I'm really good.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

drip-drip-drop, little april shower

For some reason this song has been running through my mind since Tuesday evening, so when I came out of youth group and felt and heard the lovely little rain tonight, I couldn't help but post it (even though it has stopped -at least for now - as I type this).

Things like this are the reason I love Disney so much.

drip,drip,drop,little april shower
beating a tune as you fall all around
drip,drip,drop little april shower
what can compare with your beautiful sound
beautiful sound
beautiful sound

drip,drip,drop,when the sky is cloudy
your pretty music will brighten the day
drip,drip,drop,when the sky is cloudy
you come along with a song right away
come with your beautiful music

drip,drip,drop,little april shower
beating a tune as you fall all around
drip,drip,drop little april shower
what can compare with your beautiful sound

drip,drip,drop,when the sky is cloudy
you come along with your pretty little song
drip,drip,drop,when the sky is cloudy
you come along with your pretty little song
gay little roundelay
(gay little roundelay)
song of the rainy day
(song of the rainy day)
how i love to hear your patter
pretty little pitter patter
helter skelter when you pelter
troubles always seem to scatter

drip,drip,drop,little april shower
beating a tune as you fall all around
drip,drip,drop little april shower
what can compare with your beautiful sound

drip,drip,drop,little april shower
beating a tune as you fall all around
drip,drip,drop little april shower
what can compare with your beautiful sound
beautiful sound, mmm

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Because of Christ, I live.

This morning, I think of this verse in one of my favorite books of the Bible:

Philippians 3:8-12 (ESV)
"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own."

Because of Christ, I can be made whole. Because of Christ, I can be righteous. There is power in the resurrection. There is peace. There is joy.

In the quiet this morning, I feel the exhaustion of a week spent doing extra, thinking extra, and sleeping less. I feel the weight of responsibility for what we will do at church again this morning. I
am tired from a busy week, and even more tired thinking of the things that have yet to be done today.  I look forward to serving the families that attend our church this morning. I look forward to celebrating with my family later today. I look forward to resting tomorrow.

BUT, more than all that, I am thankful that my Savior defeated death once for all, and because of that I can and will rejoice for all eternity in His presence. That is truly amazing. 

So now, this morning, as I rush off to a busy Easter day serving and celebrating, I leave you with these words from Ephesians...

Ephesians 1:3-10 (ESV)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Good" Friday

I work at a church. I have heard and had several conversations about Good Friday in this week before Easter. A few have heard it called Black Friday, and our conversations have all centered around WHY this Friday is good. In other countries like Moldova and Romania, it's always called Black or Grey Friday from what my international friends have told me. Calling it "good" gives them another reason to think we Americans are crazy. They understand why it's good, but it still isn't Good - it's Black.

I tend to agree with them.

I always hear myself saying "... well, I sort of hate Good Friday. I mean, I am grateful for it, immensely so, but I don't like it." Between my first comment and the rest of my explanation, I get a momentary look of terror from whomever I'm speaking with, that relaxes as they understand what I mean. I really am not a fan of this day.

I am so thankful that Jesus died for my sin so I could live with Him and for Him eternally. But I really hate WHY He had to do that. I hate that my sin exists. I hate the struggle, I hate the pain, I hate the suffering - and not just of myself, but of those around me. On the occasions I let myself really sit still and think about that, I can hardly bear the fact that MY sin, MY mistakes, MY selfishness put the Person who loves me more than I can ever fathom through the most horrific pain and death. And all because He loves me that much. He loves me SO much, He willingly went to the cross, was beaten, was stabbed with a spear, was mocked, was spit on, and died suffocating while hanging by nails. And He'd never, ever, in His entire existence done anything remotely wrong. He was perfect. And He dealt with all that in quiet and patience because He wanted to save me from myself and from separation from Himself.

No one else loves you like that.
So, for that, though I hate the reason, I am overwhelmed by gratitude, grace, peace, and love.
And that makes this Black Friday good.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Excess & Minimalism

(fair warning, this is one of those "longer than I expected" posts.)

I have been fascinated by minimalism for about 3 years now. Fascinated, but not committed. If you were to ask me how much I have minimized my life in those 3 years, I'd readily admit that I have a very long way to go. I have taken a couple of steps, but no more. Yet (or so I keep telling myself).

But if you ask me what my plan is to make those couple of steps into more and more, I don't have a solid answer. And when I realize that, I feel guilty, because I know I am very comfortable, despite the things I'd still like to have in my life. This applies both to relationships, job and life aspirations, and actual tangible "things."I don't know that I'd say I live in excess... but I certainly don't live a minimal life, and just knowing that I don't quantify myself as "in excess" probably means that's exactly where I am.

The new small group I'm in with some friends is reading a book on "...mutiny against excess." (7, by Jen Hatmaker). Talk about timing. I just finished a group focused on keeping goals and striving to live better. Throughout those 3 months of our goal keeping challenges, one of the girls shared many pertinent articles from a blog I've come across a few times in the past years: Becoming Minimalist. The author has a family, so sometimes it's how to do family life minimalistically, and sometimes it's for you as an individual (which of course has ripples for those around you). It has been a good jumping off point for many thoughts and discoveries these past few months.

I have only started the introduction to 7. Already, I can tell it will make me think very thoroughly about what I believe ,and what God is saying to me. It has already challenged me to make sure I'm not just sitting back and thinking about these things, but rather making changes to glorify the God I say I serve.

In the intro, Jen mentions that most of us in the US are super rich, especially when compared to people almost anywhere else in the world. The majority of the people on this planet live for $2 per DAY, and we here complain that we don't have enough, and pray for more. She states that if you make 35k per year, you are in the top 4% in the world. Woah.

Now, I hear my defenses rear up immediately... "I make less than that! At least I'm not in that top percent...oh. Wait." Though I make less, I'm still in the top 10%, I bet (I haven't actually checked). I know I'm in the top 50%, and am likely in the top 80% or more. $2 per day?! It's unfathomable in so many ways.

Of course, I also hear my defenses saying, "yeah, but things are more expensive here than in a lot of those places... so if you right-size I bet it's not as horrible in statistics." Seriously, girl? Knock it off. You live in the richest, safest country in the world. Shut up.

I strive to live with what I need, and not much more, but I KNOW I have more books than I need (it pains me to say that. I love books). I have movies, tv shows on dvd. I have plenty of clothes - and not just an outfit or two to rotate and wash. I have a surplus of blankets, toiletries, towels, even. And that's just the beginning.

While I don't think it wise to swallow anything we read without thinking about it and processing it, even if it's from people we know and/or trust, I think it worth saying that we must must MUST not write things off either; even if it's written by people we're not sure about or don't trust. I have a few friends who have read this book and have been challenged and changed by its contents. I don't know what that will look like for me, but to be only a few pages in and be compelled and challenged enough to write about it bodes well, I think. I don't know that I'll ever be truly a minimalist in the most specific sense, but I do think there are many practices and philosophies that line up well with what God calls us to be.

I don't know how often I'll write about it, but you can bet I'll be thinking much over the next several weeks (and beyond). Here's hoping the challenges don't paralyze me, but rather motivate me to action, and to positive change.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Goal: Complete! (Well, sort of...)

Back in January, I posted about how I hate goals.
And how I was...
...part of a wonderful group of ladies who is setting goals for 3 months - Jan-Mar 2014 to stick by. Many of us are setting goals for the year, but knowing that the accountability is to see it through to March. ...we are all on the same page....

We have all had ups and downs. But I can hardly believe it's been 3 months! Today I congratulated us all on making it - and doing well in our challenges. I know this couldn't have happened without each other. One of the girls even said that this was really encouraging to her (she did it last year alone, and invited us to join her this year).

On Day 30, I posted an update to our group - goals #2 & #3 were vague as ever and it was super frustrating. Thanks for the (continued) lesson on patience, God. I think. Anyway, it was not less than I expected, but not what I hoped for either. However, on my #1 goal, I had made progress (yay!) but needed to make an adjustment so I wouldn't quit because I felt like I'd failed already.I decided (through prayer and conversation) that it would be best to not make a daily reading goal, but a weekly one. I made my goal 75 minutes per week, and moved forward with that, to great encouragement from the girls.

Today is the last day of our 3 month challenge. While I didn't always hit my 75 minute goal, my #1 Goal has been met - my time spent Bible reading is more consistent - though (of course) I still have things to tweak. I am more in the Word than I have been in the last year, and I can already see the effects of His changing hand in my outlook and my attitude (not to say I still don't have bad days!). I have also seen a decline in how much time I've spent on media as well - sometimes with my Bible, sometimes with a lesser book, but I'd say seeing that down without it being an express goal is kinda cool. 

As far as goal #2, I have found peace and lost the guilt that was hanging over me regarding things past and even things current. God has given me the gift of grace and peace in that situation - and I could not be more grateful! I know that only God knows what will come in the future, but God is so good, and I am excited to see how He uses me in that situation, rather than fearing htat I'm failing Him.

Goal #3 still needs some work, and is still adding to the stress in my life. But. I know now that I need to find a way to change the situation - and I am praying more diligently and more directly for a clear, direct answer from God. It involves some change, which may terrify me, but I can't just let it go on this one. And the bonus is, I know I have a group of ladies praying for me still!

I LOVED being part of this group this past 3 months. Even on days or weeks I didn't have much to contribute, just keeping up with and encouraging and praying for them was hugely beneficial and encouraging to me. I thank God for the opportunity He gave me to "meet" them and connect with them.

Here's to the next 9 months!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Books and Lists

I have been in love with books for my entire life (thanks Mom & Dad). 

In 2010, on recommendation from a friend, I decided to join Goodreads. I was thrilled to find that it was, as she described, a site that is one (small) part social, one part lists and list making, and one part sharing the love of reading and books. In 2011 I began tracking my reading, and have been doing so off and on ever since. I love being able to see when I last read a book - and knowing that it is, indeed, time to pick it up again.

I added books to my "read" list only if it was current enough that I could give you several more details than you'd want on the plot and the characters. Otherwise, I'd add it to "to read" and give it a rating based on what I did remember (if anything). There are several I've read since that I simply haven't kept track of on there.

One of the things I love is going through my friends' lists, and the other lists Goodreads has made available such as books-turned-into-movies, and so forth. There are online book clubs, discussion groups, honest reviews (mostly - much better than most sites including Barnes & Noble and Amazon). Many books have been added to my "to read" list from browsing others. When I am finding myself running out of things to read, or bored with what I have on my shelves at home, I can easily look at my "to read" list and get them at the library (or put a hold on them to pick up when they're back in). It is a wonderous thing. :)

I have also been in love with lists since before I can remember. 

I think it has to do with school and liking organization. Anyway.

In light of this, I thought it would be fun (if for no one else, that's ok) to have some lists of books I've read on this blog. So today I spent some time putting pages on this blog starting in 2011 that have the lists of books I know I read each year according to my Goodreads profile. Last year I tracked pretty good, and this year I've started to keep better track. I'm excited to see how many books I'll read this year - and how many will be repeats and how many new gems I'll discover.

One note I feel I must make: the yearly lists don't say if I like these books or not - you can check what rating I gave them on Goodreads if you like. Also, a friendly reminder that just because I like it doesn't mean you will (of course)! 

Join me on the journey - and if you read something, let me know! I'm always looking for more titles.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hope and Praise

All will turn to silver glass. 
a light on the water, all souls pass into the west. 
hope fades...

I know this is a song, from a movie, from a novel. But. It struck me today. Hope never fades until there's no reason for hope anymore - which is to say, when Christ returns and the world is truly over, and the new is now and we are in the beyond we cannot yet fathom to imagine.

Because of this, I choose to cling in the midst of this world, at the end of this crazy busy week to Psalm 112:7-8a,
"He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady..."
and Romans 8:28 & 31,
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.... What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" 

My God is bigger, the biggest, the strongest - because He is REAL. He IS truth.
And that means He is really and truly ALL I need.

To the praise of His glorious grace. All praise to His wonderful name.

Monday, March 10, 2014


I went to bed at 10p tonight with the intention of being asleep by 10:30/11p. I finished checking my social media sites for the night (hadn't seen much this weekend - busy!) and snuggled in. Obviously, my plan didn't pan out. It's now nearly 3:30a as I type this, and I'm so tired but awake. I figured I'd get out some of my thoughts and try for sleep again. 6:30a is coming REALLY soon.

The thing is, I can't figure out what my issue is. I am a night owl, but usually by 12:30a at the latest, I'm done in - I can't keep my eyes open. So, I started to wonder if this is beginning stages of insomnia (does that even exist?) or if it's just a bad sleep pattern. I began thinking through my weekend.

I was up late Friday with a friend, but not ridiculously so. Saturday was a busy day. Then, I was up late Saturday because I couldn't sleep, despite going to bed at a pretty normal hour. I got 4 hours of sleep before waking up (late) for work. I ran around all morning, but had a relaxing afternoon and evening. And I'm still awake.

Is it just a weird weekend? Is it the time change? Is it stress? I have tons going on at work, but this week will likely be actually manageable, and less stressful than normal, but certainly not more stressful. So I can't imagine that's it. Is it residual effects of the stress that is happening now that there's the tiniest of lulls?

I suppose it could also be partly just needing more fresh air. This winter has been a long one, and I can't rightly express to you how glad I am that the high tomorrow (today) is 53 degrees. Even if I'll be in my windowless office for most of it. It could just be spring fever. I rearranged my desk space at work last Friday because I needed a manageable change - and have no real space/way to do that at home right now.

Whatever it is, I can't think of anymore options. And since I really do have to be up in 3 hours, I'm gonna let that be it (unfinished as it is... let's hope that doesn't keep me awake) and try to get some sleep so I can make it through tomorrow.


Monday, February 3, 2014


Just be thankful.
an exercise in thankfulness.

1. I have been saved by grace.
2. I have been loved first by God, and chosen as His own.
3. I have been loved as unconditionally as humanly possible by my parents.
4. I have 2 brothers who love me.
5. I have a sister who loves me. 
6. I have a niece and 3 nephews who I adore. 
7. I have best friends who love me.
8. I have several other "inner circle" friends who love me.
9. I have grandparents who love me and pray for me daily.
10. My close friends and family challenge me when necessary.
11. These people comfort and encourage me when necessary.
12. I have so many prayer warriors that I really cannot fathom being so lucky.
13. I have a job which I was clearly directed to by God.
14. I have a home, and a great roommate.
15. I have many material blessings - both necessities and non-necessities.
16. I can escape into many amazing worlds through reading and writing.
17. I can use my talents and my gifts for God's glory, and try to do so often.
18. I am capable of learning new information and skills.
19. I am able to give back to the Lord because He has given so much to me.
20. God provides for me every day, even when I don't realize it or recognize it.
21. God chose me, so I can be part of his Kingdom.
22. God loves me, so I can be His vessel to love others as well.
23. God gifted me, so I can be His instrument here on earth.
24. God created me, and He doesn't make mistakes.
25. God allows me to experience suffering, because I learn to trust Him more, and am a witness for His strength and goodness through my experiences.
26. God gives me time of renewal so I don't give up.
27. God is the reason I exist. Glorifying Him is the purpose of my life.
28. God is good.
29. God is just.
30. God is patient.
31. God is faithful.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Poetry

A friend of mine decided to do a poetry challenge on Facebook, which is that someone gives you a poet and you share a poem you love/like by them. She was given Silverstein, and posted “Hug O’ War.” I liked her post and so she gave me a poet to post. Now, I know some poetry, but nearly as much as I would like. I like some Thoreau, Cummings, Whitman, Dickinson. And I know Poe, Frost, and Shakespeare, of course, along with others we had to learn/read in school. And I love Shel Silverstein, as most who’ve been children in this recent era do.

I have a book of Dickinson and a book of Thoreau at home, and love occasionally taking time to just sit and slowly read through some of their pages, letting the words seep in. I have, of course, read much Shakespeare thanks to school and being part of drama departments.

For the challenge, I was given E.E. Cummings.

I thought it’d be hard to find one I liked, and I even started to search Google to read through some and pick one out. Then I remembered I keep this one on me most of the time. I saw it about a year ago somewhere online, and it is so perfect. It is a redirect, a prayer of thanksgiving, a recognition of the amazing world around me, and a reminder of how amazing each day is. It is my favorite by him. Even though I haven't read all there is from him, I find it hard to imagine this one being displaced.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Even if you don't love it like I do, don't you find it encouraging?

I think poetry is one of the best things for expressing emotion. Not that other types of writing can't or don't do that, but poetry seems to capture the way my mind thinks in lines that sometimes seem (or are) disconnected while still communicating an overall direction of emotion(s). I love that each line can be an independent thought, or that it can intersect with others to make a larger thought, depending on how it's written and how you're thinking. In the poem above I love the parenthetical phrases that are like the unspoken thoughts in the mind of the writer. I love how it flows and includes questions and an epiphany. The honesty, and wonder, and amazement.

Inspiring and uplifting.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

I hate goals.

I don't really go in for Goals for the Year. The years I've thought about it, I only take on a couple and most of them deal with physical appearance, or personal Bible study. These are not bad things - but I put so much pressure on myself that I paralyze myself and the goal sputters out. I fail every time. I don't fail completely - I meet the goal for a while, or to a certain extent, but I never reach the entire goal I set for myself.

With that in mind, last year, I set NOT ONE GOAL. It was really nice. That's not to say I don't have goals in my life, but I didn't have a "new years resolution" or anything that resembled it.

This year, I'm part of a wonderful group of ladies who is setting goals for 3 months - Jan-Mar 2014 to stick by. Many of us are setting goals for the year, but knowing that the accountability is to see it through to March. Some are about activities, some are about not watching TV, some are about doing more things intentionally with their kids. It's seriously awesome to be part of this group - I've only met one of them IRL, and we are all in different life stages for one reason or another, but I feel like we are all on the same page. It's wonderful.

I have a few goals, but my number one goal is this: Bible reading/study. To be more diligent (much more). I plan to just READ the Word. To let God speak to me and not expect anything. My goal is to read (at minimum)15 minutes per day. I refuse to pressure myself into the goal of how much of the Bible to read this year, but ONLY because I know how it effects my sustainability and my focus, as well as the feeling that it's daunting. I've read the whole Bible in a year, and I think if I focus differently (at least 15 min per day), it'll get me further.

I read so much outside the Bible. Anyone who talks to me for very long at all knows that I LOVE books. They are more than an escape, they are... rejuvenating, educational, encouraging, an emotional outlet, friends. When I have free time, it's one of the very first things I can't wait to do. I will stay up far too late reading, easily, and often.

Why don't I read the stories God has given me the same way?

They are far more uplifting, educational, rejuvenating, emotional, and filled to the absolute top with the Love of my Creator.

That's why my main goal, which will inform and help the others succeed is to spend more time just reading the words my amazing God has given me freely.

Goal: set. Bring it on.