A Scriptural Stream of Consciousness Based on Psalm 23

19 01 2015

First, I take absolutely no credit for this; it is the work of my husband.  One night when he couldn’t sleep he got up, and in the wee hours of stillness and darkness, he wrote this.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall want for nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.

He restores my soul

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entirely, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

He restores my soul

The God of all grace, who called you by Christ Jesus to his eternal glory, will restore you, establish you, strengthen you, and support you.  (1 Peter 5:10)

He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)

You are with me

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20)

He is with us

God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and he has given us a place beside Christ in heaven.  (Ephesians 2:6)

He is with us

In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:22)

He is with us

He says “Here I am, with the children God has given me.”  (Hebrews 2:13, Isaiah 8:18)

He is with us

The mystery which has been hidden for ages and generations but has now been manifested to his saints, to whom God was pleased to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  (Colossians 1:26-27)

I will fear no evil, for you are with me
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You prepare a table before me

“And I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred a kingdom on me,  so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit down on thrones to govern the twelve tribes of Israel.”  (Luke 22:29-30)

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

You anoint my head with oil

(a sign of sanctification, dedication, coronation)

You anoint my head with oil

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee of what is to come.  (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

You anoint my head with oil

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  (1 Peter 2:9)

You anoint my head with oil

You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  (1 Corinthians 6:11)

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever

There are many rooms in my Father’s house. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going away to prepare a place for you?  (John 14:2)

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever

We know that if the earthly tent we live in is torn down, we have a building in heaven that comes from God, an eternal house not built by human hands.  (2 Corinthians 5:1)

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever

You, too, as living stones, are building yourselves up into a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, so that you may offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus, the Messiah.  (1 Peter 2:5)

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever

“For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said: “I will live and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  (2 Corinthians 6:16)

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever

I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.  I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See, the tent of God is among humans! He will make his home with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There won’t be death anymore.  There won’t be any grief, crying, or pain, because the old order of things has disappeared.”  The one sitting on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  (Revelation 21:2-5)

Lord God, restore our souls we pray, for you are with us at this table you have prepared for us.  Anoint us with your Spirit as you join us together, building your temple, your dwelling place, that will last forever.





2014 Reading List

17 01 2015

Not much to offer this year as most of my reading was from textbooks for my MBA work.  That is one of the things I miss the most about life not in grad school mode–reading books of my own choosing from which I will NOT be quizzed or tested or have to cite in research papers.  Less than seven months, and I’ll be able to start tackling my growing book list with fervor. 

  1. Essentials of Economics, 3rd Edition by Stanley Brue, Campbell McConnell, Sean Flynn
  2. Corporate Information Strategy and Management by Lynda Applegate, Robert Austin, Deborah Soule
  3. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  4. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  5. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  6. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  7. Learning to Walk in the Dark y Barbara Brown Taylor
  8. Leaders, Fools, and Impostors by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries
  9. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima
  10. Organizational Ethics: A Practical Approach by Craig E. Johnson
  11. Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
  12. Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
  13. Falling Into the Face of God by William Elliott
  14. You Had Me at Woof by Julie Klam
  15. The Agile Pocket Guide by Peter Saddington
  16. Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
  17. Coffee with Jesus by David Wilkie
  18. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling by Harold Kerzner
  19. The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd
  20. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni
  21. Human Resource Management by Robert L. Mathis and John H. Jackson
  22. Business: Its Legal, Ethical, and Global Environment by Marianne M. Jennings
  23. Holy Bible

Holy Bible
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list.  This marks year five of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it.  In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more.  It’s a wonderful circle.  I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
I’ve read this book numerous times, but I felt I needed to revisit it this year.  Even though I know what’s coming, I’m still in tears throughout this historical fiction retelling of the book of Hosea.

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima
This was a Christian approach to becoming an effective leader by confronting potential failures—the dark side of our personality.  Though it was required reading for one of my MBA classes on Ethics and Culture, it was an insightful book that I would recommend to anyone in any kind of leadership position, Christian or not.

Go:  A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
Kidd takes the beginning graphic designer through the basics of form, typography, content, and concept of graphic design.

I wish I had read this a decade ago.  This is by far the best “how to” for beginning graphic designers that I’ve yet to read.  Absolutely everything about this book is an example of incredible graphic design.  I will be using this as a text book in the Digital Media & Graphic Design class I teach for my high school.

Coffee with Jesus  by David Wilkie
This is a collection of the popular online comic strip, Coffee with Jesus.  The characters are selfish, judgmental, childish, bitter, angry, and jealous.  Sound like anyone you know?  I saw a little bit of myself in each of them.  Jesus’ words are that still, small voice we hear and too often ignore, but spelled out in print gives it a little bit more edge.  I will probably be reading through this book frequently.

The Advantage:  Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni
Lencioni argues that rather than become smarter or having a better strategy, the one thing that organizations need to focus on first and foremost is their organizational health:  leadership, communication, behaviors, etc.

Even though this is a business book, Lencioni’s style is incredibly approachable, and his writing is filled with plain old common sense.  His advice works just as well in family relationships as it does in organizational relationships.

Falling Into the Face of God by William Elliott
This memoir chronicles Elliott’s adventure in the Judean desert—spending 40 days and 40 nights there to draw nearer to God.

Despite the monotony of living in a desert in a tent where it’s too hot to do much of anything, this was still quite a fascinating story.  For several years now, I’ve longed to go on an extended silent retreat—not 40 days and not in a desert—but now I realize this is something I must do at some point in my life.

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
Lena Scott/Abra Matthews is a young girl who runs away from home with the proverbial “bad boy” to find her life turned upside down in an instant.  Abused, ridiculed, unloved, she turns to the one man who can make a star out of her, but at what cost?

Rivers tells the story of Ezekiel 16 in this amazing novel set in the 1950s.  Unconditional love, redemption, and forgiveness are the main themes.

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
Brown reflects on why we have been taught “the dark” is a scary place or is synonymous with sin.  Brown takes the reader on a journey explaining how our lives do not always work in the light; like the moon, it waxes and wanes and disappears altogether.

There were some incredible gems in this book.  “One of the hardest things to decide during a dark night is whether to surrender or resist.  The choice often comes down to what you believe about God and how God acts, which means that every dark night of the soul involves wrestling with belief.”

Leaders, Fools, and Impostors by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries
This was another required reading for my MBA class on Ethics and Culture, and it, too, dealt with the dark side of our personalities and the problems it creates for leaders.  While not quite as practical as Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, Kets de Vries still gives numerous real examples of the dangers leaders face when they give in to the psychological traps of their personalities.

Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
World-renowned psychologist, Dweck explains her idea of fixed- versus growth-mindests and how, with the right, mindset, anyone can achieve most anything.

This was required summer reading for my job—because, really, who needs a real vacation?  The main idea is more common sense than some ground-breaking concept, and the book could have been drilled down to just a couple of chapters.  Instead, it seemed like Dweck was repeating the same premise 100 different ways with 100 different examples, but all said the same thing:  a growth-mindset is better than a fixed-mindset.  Growth mindsets allow us to accept criticism, acknowledge our faults or weaknesses and seek to improve and continually grow and mature in how we handle setbacks and disappointments.

You Had Me at Woof by Julie Klam
Klam describes her life transition into becoming a “dog person” and working with a dog rescue organization in New York City.  I appreciated Klam’s humor and realism in describing life with a dog.  It was a quick, easy read and one I would recommend for dog lovers, especially those who have a heart for rescue and adoption.

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
Considering these were not text books, they automatically move to the top of my reading list for the year.  I read through all three of them in a week, and they reminded me a lot of the Hunger Games trilogy.  If you liked the one, you will probably enjoy the other.

The only disappointment was the very ending of the book.  No spoilers, but I was MAD.  I don’t remember ever finishing a really good book or series, and feeling mad.  I’m still not over it.

The Agile Pocket Guide by Peter Saddington
Only Project Managers will understand this:  this book was a “quick start to making your business Agile using Scrum and beyond.”  It was actually a fairly easy, quick, interesting read once I got used to the terminology.  I admit this little book got me interested in pursuing my CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) certification.

The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd
Dodd explains the eight core emotions of the heart:  anger, fear, guilt, hurt, loneliness, sadness, shame, and gladness.  I don’t agree with everything Dodd believes, but there were some gems buried within.

Project Management:  A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling by Harold Kerzner
1200+ pages of All.  Things.  Project.  Management.  At least I’ve been told this is really the only text I need to study for the CAPM certification exam.

Human Resource Management by Robert L. Mathis and John H. Jackson
This was a textbook about . . . wait for it . . . human resource management!  Surprise!

Corporate Information Strategy and Management by Lynda Applegate, Robert Austin, Deborah Soule
This was a text book about corporate IT strategy and management.  For a text book, it was one of the better ones I’ve read so far.  But still, it was a text book.

Business:  Its Legal, Ethical, and Global Environment by Marianne M. Jennings
This was a textbook about business law.  Other than the chapter on securities law, I enjoyed a lot of this.  I’ve always contended I’d have made a good lawyer.

Organizational Ethics:  A Practical Approach by Craig E. Johnson
This was a textbook about ethics in organizations.  The case studies presented in each chapter were interesting, but not so much the rest of the text.

Essentials of Economics, 3rd Edition by Stanley Brue, Campbell McConnell, Sean Flynn
This was a text book about economics.  That is all.





12

28 11 2014

Dear Caleb,

I can’t believe you’re 12.  How did you grow up so quickly?  You are still my miracle.  Every day, I look at you and smile at the young man you are becoming.  I am so thankful for so many things about who you are and who you are turning into.

You love your daddy and me well.  I am really thankful you feel loved and safe enough to come to us with any problem you are facing.  I know far too many families for whom that is not the case.  Their parents are the last people they want to talk to.  I pray you will always trust us and know that we will love you no matter what.

You love your brother well.  I love to watch you and your brother play your silly games.  You can certainly push each other’s buttons with the skill and ease of an expert, but I pray you grown into being each other’s best friend.

You love your Maga and Papa well.  You will do anything they ask, and you will do it without complaining.  Of course, I wish you’d exhibit the same eagerness to help at home, but what a blessing it is to me to observe your love for your grandparents.  You have a very special relationship with them, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

You love your friends well.  Your desire to help your friends do better in school, your efforts to hold them accountable for their work, and your fight to not get sucked into their idiocy make me proud.  Oh, I know you make mistakes and go along with the crowd sometimes, but even then, I know your heart, and your heart is good.

You love Christ.  You are generous.  You are kind.  You are polite and respectful.  You work hard.  You are studious and conscientious.  You do your best.  You care.

I am thankful you still let me give you hugs and kisses, even at school.  I am thankful you still let me snuggle with you occasionally at bedtime.  I am thankful you are growing taller and stronger, but I’m also thankful you haven’t overtaken me yet on that front.  I know time will pass quicker than I want it to, but for now, you are still mine, and for that, I am thankful.

To my Lego loving, Minecraft creating, brother bothering and brother loving, iPad charging, phone begging, Facebook not wanting, piano playing, Gravity Falls obsessing, Shark Tank watching, mail scanning, 9:00 p.m. snack wanting, raspberry Nutrigrain bar eating, free samples taking, Honors Choir making, joke telling son . . . I love you with all of my heart, dear one.

Mommy

From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Psalm 22:10 





On Turning 6

28 03 2014

Jason

Jason (kindergarten photo)

To my favorite littlest boy,

I don’t know where to begin with you. There are times when I look at you and see myself–your stubbornness, your headstrong nature and your fierce loyalty, your creative imagination and love of reading and learning. Then there are times when I look at you and wonder how you are my child, especially with such astute observations such as, “My poop smells like ham.”

However I look at you, I see the sparkle in your eyes and goofy smile on your face, and you bring me such joy and peace (except when you are fighting with your brother.)

I am awed by your unwavering faith in God, knowing that He is good and loves you always. For one so young, that, too, brings me such joy and peace.

So what do I remember from your fifth year of life?
•You learned to read, and you love it!
•You sing All. The. Time. Seriously. Your favorite time to sing or hum is during meals. Of course, this makes a meal last for a couple of hours with you, but I love that you love music.
•You are quite the negotiator, especially when it comes to getting snacks, treats, and desserts.
•Every rock is a precious stone, and every stick is a light saber, sword, or gun.
•”Will you sing and pray and rub my back?” Every. Night.
•You can’t imagine a day when you don’t want me to snuggle with you at bedtime. I assure that day will come, but I’m selfishly glad that day is not here yet.

To my Lego lover, Star Wars padawan, pancake maniac, booty dancer, giggly joke teller, excited reader, burgeoning erudite, midnight snuggler, and master compromiser, I pray that you will always love God with a steadfast faith. I pray you will always love reading and learning and exploring. I pray you will always be allowed to let your imagination soar and your creativity run wild. I pray you will always want to sing. Always.

I love you with every fiber of my being.
Mommy





2013 Reading List

6 01 2014

The first list is the order in which I read, and the second list is the order of importance to me along with a brief synopsis and my thoughts on the book.

1. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
2. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
3. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
4. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
5. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
6. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
7. Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick
8. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
9. Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth
10. Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of You Common Cold By Jennifer Ackerman
11. Brain Surgeon by Dr. Keith Black
12. Death to the Dictator by Afsaneh Moqadam
13. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
14. Spectral Relapse (Walking Ghost Phase book 2) by David Daugherty
15. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
16. Ms. Understood by Jen Hatmaker
17. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
18. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
19. Fit2Fat2Fit by Drew Manning
20. The Watchmaker’s Daughter by Sonia Taitz
21. Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
22. Unbroken: A War World II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
23. Dwarf: A Memoir by Tiffanie DiDonato
24. Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Davis
25. A Century of Wisdom: Lessons From Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger
26. Honest Advice for Teachers by Susan Eubanks Stepp
27. The Silver Hand (Song of Albion book #2) by Stephen Lawhead
28. The Endless Knot (Song of Albion book #3) by Stephen Lawhead
29. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
30. Glorious Holy Spirit by Fr. Cedric Pisegna
31. The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Vol. 8 ed. by Lavinia Spaulding
32. Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) by Cheryl Strayed
33. The Servant by James Hunter
34. Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey
35. Leading Leaders by Jeswald Salacuse
36. Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: On Communication
37. Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: On Teams
38. Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
39. Holy Bible

Holy Bible
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list. This marks year five of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it. In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more. It’s a wonderful circle. I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.

Parenting: Illustrated in Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick
Dusick is my new favorite blogger, talking about the typical goings-on in a house with a young child and a toddler. Oh, and she draws crappy pictures to illustrate these goings-on. Not only can I relate to EVERYTHING she writes, her illustrations are hilarious.

If you are a parent, grandparent, or hope to be a parent, you need to read this book and check out Dusick’s blog at http://www.crappypictures.com. This is my new go-to gift for baby showers.

Unbroken: A War World II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken details the life of Louis Zampereli, an Olympic runner who enlisted during WWII, became a bombardier, was hot down during combat, survived 40+ days and drifting over 2,000 miles into enemy hands, was beaten and tortured and starved in a Japanese POW camp, and later became a Christian, forgiving his tormentors.

Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, tells a riveting story of Zamperili’s life and trials as a POW during WWII. To read it is to be in awe of how much cruelty humans can endure as well as their compassion and ability to forgive. I cannot wait till this is made into a movie.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
As the title implies, Cain explores the powers of introverts in a very extroverted culture in America. The research is stunning and often counter-intuitive as to the benefits introverts can bring to the workforce, leadership positions, parenting, and teaching.

Considering almost half of mankind is introverted, whether you are an introvert or extrovert, this book is a must read.

Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey
This is Yancey’s tribute to 13 remarkable men and women from around the world who helped transform his life and his work, rescuing him from “the Church.” Some were Christian, some were not. All lived profound lives that impacted Yancey deeply, demonstrating for him a life-enhancing rather than a life-constricting faith.

While I had heard of several of Yancey’s mentors: Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and C. Everett Koop, others were unfamiliar: Dr. Paul Brand, Dr. Robert Coles, and Henri Nouwen, but nonetheless inspiring. Yancey provided such riveting mini-biographies of these individuals, I find myself coming back to his words time and again.

The Servant by James Hunter
Billed as “a simple story about the true essence of leadership,” it is a quick, easy read that will rock your world as a leader—whether you are a leader of multi-national corporation or just the leader of your family.

The most thought-provoking discussion from this novella has to do with love as a verb. Too often, love is equated with an emotion, a feeling, but loving people is so much more than how we “feel” about them. To love another person is to treat them with respect and dignity, that which is due all humankind. I can dislike someone and not trust someone, but I can still love them.

Honest Advice for Teachers by Susan Eubanks Stepp
This is a collection of letters Eubanks Stepp received and answered for her weekly education column in some media outlet that I never got around to checking on. Hilarious and truthful, this should be a must read for all educators, students, administrators, and parents.

Fit2Fat2Fit by Drew Manning
Manning chronicles his one-year journey from being a physically fit personal trainer to gaining 75 pounds after six months of eating the typical American diet and withdrawing from all physical exercise to losing it again over the next six months. He came up with this experiment after realizing he seemed to be missing something with his overweight clients.

Manning’s insights into the struggles the overweight and obese face, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, we’re fascinating. Though I’ve never been overweight, I especially appreciated his chapter on overcoming the “final 15.” Even I can relate to the struggles of wanting to she’d just a few more pounds or break through the “wall” when running or training for a race.

Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth
Convicted one day that “something is very wrong with the way we spend our time,” Sleeth set out on a course to simplify life and slow down. What she discovered were core tenants of how the Amish live.

Almost Amish is filled with practical, common sense principles, that sadly are overlooked in today’s world of being plugged in 24/7.
1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.
2. Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.
3. Saving more and spending less bring financial peace.
4. Spending time in God’s creation reveals the face of God.
5. Small and local leads to saner lives.
6. Service to others reduces loneliness and isolation.
7. The only true security comes from God.
8. Knowing neighbors and supporting local businesses build community.
9. Family ties are lifelong; they change but never cease.
10. Faith life and way of life are inseparable.

Harvard Business Reviews’ 10 Must Reads: On Communication
This is simply a compilation of the 10 most important articles on communication published in the Harvard Business Review in 2013. I had to read for an MBA class on organizational behavior and leadership, but the principles found within will cross over into all areas of my life, personally and professionally.

Leading Leaders by Jeswald Salacuse
Another MBA course text, Salacuse discusses strategies on how to lead “elites”—how to manage smart, talented, rich, and powerful people. The chapters on “The Art of the Strategic Conversation,” “Leading One-on-One,” Integration” were particularly interesting and helpful in my current position.

Harvard Business Reviews’ 10 Must Reads: On Teams
This is simply a compilation of the 10 most important articles on teams published in the Harvard Business Review in 2013. I had to read for an MBA class on organizational behavior and leadership, but the principles found within will cross over into all areas of my life, personally and professionally.

Glorious Holy Spirit by Fr. Cedric Pisegna
Father Cedric’s book on the Holy Spirit is directed mainly toward Catholics, but is certainly applicable to any Christian from any denomination. He presents the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Holy Trinity, as a real person who dwells within each of us, and through his power can we unlock our potential as God’s children.

This was a very quick and easy read, however, the style was a little disjointed. The one phrase I have really latched on to and ponder quite a bit is, “Face it, Embrace it, and God will grace it.”

The Watchmaker’s Daughter by Sonia Taitz
Sonia chronicles her life growing up as a immigrant’s daughter in New York City, post WWII. Her parents both survived German death camps during the war which had a tremendous impact on her life, though she was a generation and thousands of miles removed from those horrors. Humorous, insightful, and very well written, Taitz tells a remarkable story.

A Game of Thrones, books 1-5 by George R. R. Martin
This epic saga tells the story of the fight for the throne of Westeros. Many families claim the kingdom, but who will win the throne?

With each book weighing in at about 1,000 pages, I devoured the entire series in about two months. Intriguing and clever, I recommend this series to anyone with a lot of time to read. I really want to watch the series now.

Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed details her months-long hike of 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Mostly alone. As a woman. Carrying a pack that weighed over half her body weight. More than what any other hiker who she met carried. Through deserts. And snow.

Hiking the PCT and Appalachian Trail are on my bucket list so this was a fascinating read for me.

Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
Anderson tells the story of how at 17, she attempted suicide by laying down on the train tracks near her home as a train approached. Miracle after miracle followed, and she lived, even after losing 8 pints of blood, and both her legs were severed. After the attempt, anderson shares her struggles with learning to live without legs and how it ultimately brought her to follow Christ.

This was a very quick, easy read though the material was at times disturbing. I appreciated Anderson’s honesty which lends itself to a remarkable testimony that is her faith today.

Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold by Jennifer Ackerman
Ackerman takes us through how colds are transmitted from one to another, how our bodies respond to the cold virus, cures, and more.

This was a very easy read for a non-medical person. Ackerman did a thorough job explaining the life cycle of a cold as well supporting and debunking common myths and cures. She included sections specific to asthmatics—what we should/should not do and take—which was particularly interesting and helpful to me, being an asthmatic. I will probably be referencing this book time and again when I or anyone in my family suffers a cold.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Based on a true story, this dual narrative follows two young Sundanese children: Nya walks eight hours every day to fetch water for her family. Salva is a “lost boy” refugee searching for his family and wondering how he can bring blessings to his war-torn native home.
This was a quick, easy, gripping read.

Ms. Understood by Jen Hatmaker
Hatmaker takes us on a spiritual journey of rediscovering biblical femininity through the stories of the five woman mentioned in Jesus’ lineage outlined in Matthew 1.

Hatmaker, author of one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, is spot on and deliciously funny in her writing and presentation of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. My husband and I even had a good conversation on whether Bathsheba was merely naive or purposefully manipulative when going to Solomon with Adonijah’s request to marry Abishag.

A Century of Wisdom: Lessons From Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger
Stoessinger shares the stories of Herz-Sommer’s life growing up in Czechoslovakia and then surviving tereseinstadt Camp during WWII. That she was an accomplished concert pianist saved her life. After the war, she emigrated to Israel and then England where she sill lives at — years old.

While some of the stories were interesting, I was expecting more tidbits of wisdom. Instead it was mainly recollections of all the people who knew Alice throughout her life and all the different pieces of music she played.

Spectral Relapse (Walking Ghost Phase book 2) by David Daugherty
Four teens report to Arlington for their compulsory one-month of defense training before heading off to college. Very quickly, things take a turn for the worse, and an event from 25 years ago intersects with the present in a deadly fashion.

Written by a co-worker of mine, I’m really impressed with this series. I enjoyed this book even more than the first, Walking Ghost Phase, and I finished it in less than 48 hours. Great cliff-hanger ending (thanks David!), but now I can’t wait for the next book.

Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Book number four of L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series, tells the story of Sandy and Dennys, the Murray twins, as they find themselves in a foreign land in a different time—in the middle of the story of Noah and the Ark.

This has always been my favorite of L’Engle’s books. Perhaps because it’s based on a Bible story, with great artistic liberties thrown in, but I think this is her best writing.

Brain Surgeon by Dr. Keith Black
Black, a world-renowned neuro-surgeon, describes his life battling brain tumors from researching the causes as well as new cures and everything in between.

This was a quick, easy, not-too-technical book to read. Not only were Black’s adventures in the operating room interesting to read, the prejudice he encountered growing up as a black teen in the south in the 50s and 60s was inspiring. I was particularly moved reading about how Black’s father, an educator himself, went above and beyond in providing remarkable opportunities for his son as well as the remarkable opportunities Black sought out for himself in his youth.

The Silver Hand and the Endless Knot (Song of Albion books #2 and 3) by Stephen Lawhead
I read the first book, The Paradise War, last year and finally finished the trilogy. In the time-between-times, men from our world end up in an “other world” and must learn to live, fight, and ultimately reign or the both worlds could come to destruction.

The stories were interesting. My only criticism of Lawhead is that his descriptions are quite verbose. I can only read so much description of a forest or ocean before it gets boring. I also skipped most of the songs the bard sang, and it didn’t make a difference to the overall plot not having read them.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Alex and Conner are magically transported into “The Land of Stories” book, and thus begins the adventure of their life. In a land where fairy tales live, the twins must find the eight treasured items to make the Wishing Spell work so they can get home.

Colfer, better known as Kurt Hummel from “Glee” did a fine job on his first young adult novel. It was a fun easy read, and I look forward to reading the others he’s working on.

Dwarf: A Memoir by Tiffanie DiDonato
DiDonato wrote of her experiences growing up as a dwarf and the bone-lengthening surgeries she endured to add some 14 inches to her stature.

Reading about the bone-lengthening procedure was interesting. After her story made national news, she received a bit of flack from the dwarf community, but I appreciate her desire to simply be more independent. I’m not all that tall, but I never realized how many things I can do like reach a faucet and turn door knobs easily that shorter people cannot.

The Best Women’s Travel Writing ed. 8 Lavinia Spaulding
This book consisted of short stories by about two dozen women chronicling their worldly travels. Some were interesting, but more were largely forgettable.

Death to the Dictator by Afsaneh Moqadam
Moqadam, a pseudonym as are the identities of the others in the book, presents the devastating price a young man, Mohsen, paid after casting a vote for Mousavi during the 2009 Iranian presidential elections. Ahmadinejad declared himself winner, and the world protested, often in violence.

I honestly hardly consider what goes on in the Middle East, but this book opened my eyes a little wider to the threat and fear of persecution the common people endure on a daily basis living under such a dictatorship.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
This is a story of two women whose lives collide in a remarkable and fateful event one afternoon on a beach in Nigeria. Years later, their worlds collide again in England.

I can’t tell much more without giving away a huge chunk of the plot. It was a rather ho-hum book for me, but it was a quick easy read between the heavier and more intense books I’ve been reading.

Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Davis
This is Davis’ memoir of a period of time she lived with a former Hasidic Jew turned jujitsu master, pot-smoking, bacon-eating atheist. Davis had just broken up with boyfriend of four years when she found this apartment via Craigslist.

Her stories of living with Cosmo, the Jew, were mostly interesting and sometimes humorous. However, her recollections of her promiscuity, drug use, partying, and her knocks against God left much to be desired.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
Lamott describes how these three simple prayers have changed how she communicates with God. This book, thankfully short, left much to be desired. Lamott basically listed all the ways you can pray–help my friend with cancer, help my son with his financial problems, help the tornado victims, etc. That’s pretty much all it was for the other sections as well.

Besides the simplicity and redundancy, Lamott, in what I assume was an attempt to not offend anyone, kept referring to “your higher power” even though she professes to follow Christ. Call it what is is, and don’t tip toe around the Truth.

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Price family heads to the Congo in the 60s as missionaries. The mother and four daughters just hope to survive the year while the dad is on a crusade to baptize everyone. Things don’t work out well.

Being to a man whose family really were missionaries in the Congo (formerly Zaire) in near the same area Kingsolver put the Price family, I’m not impressed with Kingsolver’s portrayal of missionaries, and her description of the flora and fauna of the area was quite flawed as well. The only thing I really liked about the book was the writing style, but other than that, it was a disappointment.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Mr. Fairbrother dies suddenly of an aneurysm in the sleepy little English town of Pagford, leaving a vacancy on the town’s council. This highly coveted spot leads to the undoing of many town-folk.

This book was a big disappointment coming from the Harry Potter genius. It was painfully slow in setting the scene and character development, only getting interesting for the last 10% of the novel. I would not recommend this to anyone. Save your money and your time.





On Turning 11

28 11 2013

Dearest Caleb,

Eleven years ago at this time, also on Thanksgiving Day, I was in the hospital waiting for you arrive. Daddy first watched the Macy’s Day Parade followed by the Westminster Dog Show. I was worrying about the turkey we had to leave in the oven half-baked because I didn’t want to leave it on while we were gone, and Maga and Papa hadn’t arrived in town yet. You are the best Thanksgiving Day present EVER!

I can’t believe how you are growing! Taller. Wiser. Smarter. Funnier. You make me smile every day. This past year has been marked by some fantastic moments.
•Singing Weird Al Yankovic for the fourth grade talent show.
•Earning the family a free pizza at Papa Murphy’s on April 1 by jumping up and down so the clerk could hear the water sloshing in your stomach.
•Singing the Beatles during Grandparents Day.
•Achieving Annual Heads List (and all the free Krispy Kreme donuts you earned as a result of all those As.)
•Attending your first rock concert . . . Weird Al, of course.
•Starting middle school

My prayers for you in the coming year are many.
•I pray your wife will love you well. It may seem odd for me to pray this now considering marriage is over a decade away for you. But this woman will someday be the most important person in your life. She will have more power over you than anyone else. I pray she blesses you abundantly and doesn’t curse you. I pray her love for you is only second to her love for the Lord. It’s never too early for a mama to pray this for her son.
•I pray you will always hear God’s voice when you call to Him. I know how deeply you desire to feel His presence in you . . . Jesus Christ in YOU, the hope of glory! May He show up in your dreams. May He be ever present in your thoughts. May He shine forth in your speech and actions. May you always feel His arms wrapped around your heart.
•I pray you will cultivate an attitude of thankfulness. I know I’m responsible for a lot of your struggles with this. I pray you and I can work together to see the good in everything, rather than the frustrations and irritations and to turn those frustrations and irritations into opportunities to show grace and mercy and forgiveness.
•I pray you will always love learning and reading and being creative and music. Whether it’s through making comics or building a working Lego flashlight from scratch or creating a new world in Minecraft with a luxury hotel and water park, your mind is one of your biggest assets in life. Keep it active. Challenge it. Treat it well.
•I pray you will continue to mature in financial wisdom. Earning money is only half of the equation. You have a pretty good grasp of spending, saving, and investing for an 11-year-old, but money matters will be a part of your life forever. Learning positive financial management practices now will serve you well in the future.

Lastly, I pray you will never be too big or feel too embarrassed to give your mommy a hug every day and to let me hug you back and pray with you before you head off to class. You are my first-born, my miracle baby, and one of my greatest blessings. I am so proud to watch you grow and to call you my son. I love you more than you will ever know.
Mommy

Caleb

Caleb





Lessons of a PR

23 10 2013

I finally did it. After nine years of running, I finally broke a 30-minute official 5K (official results), and actually wound up winning my division (female 40-44 years old). I can check another item off my 40 Things list, and I’m getting closer to checking off item #14 on my life-long bucket list, running an 8-minute mile for an entire 5K.

So how did this happen? I would love to say it was the result of hard work, determination, and endurance. While those attributes played into this accomplishment, the other factors that helped were:
1. This was an inaugural 5K supporting our local YMCA. For you runners out there, you know what “inaugural” means: low turn-out. There were only 21 ladies in my age group, and 188 total participants. I finished 45th overall.
2. The course was ridiculously flat. Flat = good.

My official time was 29:12.6, but my running time was 28:22. I had a “wardrobe malfunction” at mile two which involved me trying to take my jacket off while running. I’ve done this numerous times so I know how to do it efficiently. However, I forgot that I put my GPS watch on TOP of my jacket. In trying to figure out why my sleeve wouldn’t come off, I got my jacket tangled up around me and had to stop. Completely stop. When you are trying to PR, stopping completely is not a good thing. That little snafu cost me about 50 seconds. But, really, who cares? (besides me) I still PRed and won! (PR stands for Personal Record, and in running it can be used as a noun or verb.)

On the podium (I promise you, there were more than two us in the division!)

On the podium (I promise you, there were more than two us in the division!)

Matthew on the podium

Matthew on the podium


My husband also ran and placed second in his division (male 40-44), missing first by about four seconds. His time was 23:18.9. He can run that fast without training. Ever.

Oh my word!  I cry from laughing every time I look at this photo.

Oh my word! I cry from laughing every time I look at this photo.


There are so many things wrong with this picture. It might have made it on to our Christmas cards this year if we were doing Christmas cards. (Why are we not doing Christmas cards?) My mom looks like she saw a ghost, and Jason is . . . missing. If you look carefully, you can barely see the top of his head where the “professional” photographers cut him off. I look sunburned despite the 50° temps. Thank goodness Matthew and Caleb look normal.

Caleb and Jason also did the kid’s one-mile race. Caleb walked, but Jason had it in his head he was going to WIN! He took off like lightning . . . at least as fast as his little legs could carry him. He wanted to hold Matthew’s hand the whole way, but once other kids began passing him, he stopped completely, threw his hands up in frustration, and sat down. In the middle of the path. I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did. He eventually got up and started walking, pouting the whole way. Only a balloon sword at the finish line could bring about a smile again.

Jason and Matthew on the kid's mile

Jason and Matthew on the kid’s mile

Jason and mommy pre-race

Jason and mommy pre-race


I love this photo, taken by a random staff member at the Y. I love that 1) Jason is so stinking cute, 2) I can still lift him for a snuggle hug, and 3) you can see my hair is long enough to put in a ponytail. I’ve waited 15 years for that!

Whenever I run alone, I always have an amazing time visiting my thoughts unencumbered—no kids asking questions, no phone ringing, no doorbell dinging. Just me and whatever is flittering around in my head. On race day, this is what was on my mind.

•I’m so thankful. Thankful I have two legs that work well together to be able to run. Thankful that my asthma has much improved and my cardiovascular system is in great shape after three decades of getting winded walking up a flight of stairs. Thankful that I have the leisure time to be able to run. Thankful that I have the finances to be able to participate in races/fundraisers like this. Most of the world does not have the money, time, or health that I enjoy.

•God’s creation is breathtaking. Leaves changing colors in autumn. Green grass against a blue sky. Sunlight filtering through a forest. When I’m running I get to escape the iPads and iPhones, the fluorescent lights and artificial heat, and I am transported to God’s creation in its purest form.

•I need to push myself A LOT harder when I train. I usually train 3-5 miles, 3-4x a week. My first mile is usually just over a 10-minute mile, mile 2 is a 10-minute mile, and for mile 3 I increase the speed 0.1 mph every tenth of a mile until I’ve only got a ¼ mile left. Then I up the speed to 7-8 miles per hour. I do like pushing myself hard at the end, but I definitely need to start at a faster pace. I just proved I could run a sub 9-minute mile for an entire 5K. I should not be such a wimp (most days).








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