Sunday, February 09, 2014

In which I go on and on about books

When I was in 6th grade I read an entire book on a Saturday morning...

I had checked it out from our school library.  It doesn't look like something a typical 6th grade girl would read, right?  I know.  Weird.  I'm really not sure what attracted me to it.  Maybe a friend told me it was a good book.  Or maybe it was some lingering effects of my brief insignificant identity crisis from my earlier elementary years? Who knows...but I did love the book and couldn't put it down until I was done.  I wonder now if the people who made Fear Factor read it as a child (and then went horribly astray).  I can't stand that show, so it really makes no sense why I would have liked this book.  But I did.  

And after that I remember reading a couple Judy Bloom books, which I also loved:

Oh Judy Blume.  How I loved thee!  I wish I could say that these books launched me into a love of reading that spawned years and years and dozens of wonderful literary works!  But alas, it did not.  At that time in my life anyway, reading probably could have been added to my list of things that I liked the idea of, but didn't actually like.  

I don't remember reading much after those books - except for what I was required to read in high school lit classes, which was usually just the Cliffs Notes of the things I was required to read in high school lit classes.

I did give some romance novels a try in high school, only because some of my girlfriends were reading them. I tried what's her name...oh good grief she was a really popular....Daniel Steele!  But I just couldn't get past the first few pages.  When it comes to novels, I'm more of a "visual" reader...meaning I need to see the story played out on a screen in front of me with actors and props and music and the story spoon fed to me.  I'm not good at visualizing the characters and the scenes and keeping track of the story lines when it's just on paper.  

I started reading a little more in my college years.  I gave up on novels and started reading non-fiction. Things that would move me and inspire me and help me grow...yes!  That interested me!  I remember reading a few books during college, and there probably weren't many more than that because of all the reading college required (when Cliff just wouldn't cut it anymore).  And, well, the socializing may have had something to do with it as well.


Vince and I just finished the 2 day task of giving our bedroom a makeover.  Well, not exactly a makeover, because we didn't purchase anything.  Mostly we dusted.  And that was enough.  We cleaned everything from floor to ceiling fan and oh my dear, I had no idea the amount of dust that would collect under one's bed when you haven't moved it or vacuumed under it for, oh I don't know, 5 YEARS!!  Yikes!  That was scary. 

Anyhoo, the last thing to be cleaned was our bookshelf and in the process I weeded out the books...and got rid of exactly none.  I love my books!  Vince has his favorites too that he wants to hold on to.  He reads mostly novels...sci fi and ones with knights and dragons and such.  Mine are all books on life...parenting, spiritual growth, mawaage, health.  The ones I liked enough to keep are underlined and hi-lighted and exclamation pointed and written in with the page corners folded over and maybe some coffee stains.  They are well loved and well worn and I like to page through them now and again to read my notes and get all re-inspired!  It's kind of hard to do that with my Nook, though.  It does have a hi-light feature, but it's just not the same.  I usually carry my Nook with me (thus necessitating a bigger purse) and I love the convenience of being able to carry multiple "books" and "magazines" at all times.  

At the bottom of my blog I have a "Shelfari", which is a virtual bookshelf that holds all of my favorite books.  If you scroll over a book it pops up and tells you more about it.  Pretty cool (you can make one too, and you don't have to have a blog).  The ones I have on my "shelf" are all of my favorites, but just in case you are wondering, here are my favoritest books ever...ones I'd recommend as "must reads" because they are seriously that good - in my opinion of course, and I can do that 'cause it's my blog :)  

For all women everywhere, you simply must read this just have to.  Go buy/download/checkout/borrow this book right now and read and savor it, and let God tell you how beautiful and cherished you are.  Because you are.  Amen.

If you are married, get this book.  Go directly to this book.  Do not pass go and do not collect $200.  It will transform your relationship.  Crazy good.

For parents, this one is a goldmine.  I first read the adult version of "The Five Love Languages", and recently learned that they make one for teens, and it is on my "to read next" list...

And if you are going through a tough time, and even if you are not, this is probably my all-time favorite book. It reads like a novel, but the imagery and symbolism is so rich with meaning.  I have read it twice and will again, no doubt. 

The sequel is just as good...

And finally, these are my most recent reads...and they have literally MESSED ME UP!!!  I talked about the first book "7" here, and just recently finished Interrupted.  Seriously, I can't say enough about these books. The author, Jen Hatmaker, is hilarious and amazing and real and I love her.  She doesn't know it yet, tho.

Friday, February 07, 2014

More things I don't believe (and some that I do)

4)  You can be anything you want to be.  Isn't that what good parents tell their kids, to help them believe in themselves and have confidence?  What's wrong with that?  Lots, in my opinion.  All you have to do is watch a few American Idol try-outs to see the danger in giving a kid unbalanced praise.  Oh dear.  It's painful to watch, and makes us shake our heads in disbelief and wonder why no one told that poor kid the truth.  Sometime before they were humiliated on national television would have been nice. 

Praising our kids' efforts and successes is wonderful, we all need it.  But giving unbalanced praise is not loving.  It's deceptive and I think it creates a false sense of confidence.  It doesn't teach them to try harder.  If someone feels like everything they do is amazing, and that they can (or should be able to) do anything they want to, what happens to their sense of self worth when they face rejection, and failure in life?  They are crushed and disillusioned. 

I DO however believe that we can do anything GOD wants us to do!  If He calls us to it, He will equip us for it.  David didn't have the confidence to face the giant because he knew that he was because he knew that God could.  THAT, kids, is how I want you to believe in yourselves...not in what you can do in your own strength, but in what God can do through you!!  There are truly no limits.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." - John 15:5

5)  God helps those who help themselves.  I have heard this given as a bible quote, as if it were in Proverbs or something.  But it's not in the bible at all.  In fact, over and over again the bible says that God wants us to depend on Him.  To wait on Him for direction, and to surrender (my new word for this year).   The truth is that we cannot help ourselves.  We need a Savior, who does not withhold rescue from those who have failed at "helping themselves".  In fact, it is in them that He does His most beautiful work.

"For You have been a strong-place for those who could not help themselves and for those in need because of much trouble. You have been a safe place from the storm and a shadow from the heat." - Isaiah 25:4

6)  Time heals all wounds.  I think it is true that time is necessary in the healing process.   And the deeper the wound, the longer it takes.  But just the passing of time doesn't bring about true healing.  I know some people who have been carrying around some serious wounds for years, decades even.  Time has passed and life has gone on and the wound has been hiding, but real healing hasn't taken place at all.  The hurt, the loss, the disappointment or betrayal has merely been buried.  It's much less visible than it was at first, but yet it remains. 

I once heard Beth Moore explain how to tell if a wound has healed or not...does it still hurt?  If it still hurts, it's a wound not a scar, because scars don't hurt.  Can you talk about it without the anger welling up inside?  Or the sadness, or the fear?  Maybe you know someone like this.  (Maybe it's you.)  The walking wounded...they are all around us, I am one of them.  I know there are some hurts that I have not healed from.  One in particular involves my deep desire to be home with my children.  It began while I was first pregnant with Nick, intensified the moment I watched my husband bring my baby boy into daycare and put him in her arms as I watched from the car, in tears, because I couldn't bring myself to do it.  And all the days and years since that moment, the ache remains.  My prayers have gone unanswered and I don't know why.  I really don't, and I try not to think about it or question God, but it's hard.  I want to be there for my kids.  I feel they need me at home just as much now in their teen years as when they were little.  I have prayed and I have cried and I have tried to put it out of my mind, yet our lives necessitate two incomes.  At least for now.  And the longer this wound goes unhealed, the more prone I am to bitterness.  The harder it is to hope and ask...again.  Time is running out and in a few years it won't matter anymore.  And I'll always wonder why. 

But God...

Even when dreams go unfulfilled...even when prayers seem to be unheard...I will remain true to the God who holds my life in His hands.  The One who knows the desires of my heart and works all things out for good.  ALL things.  For good.  He's the better judge of good than I am, by far.  What feels right to me may not be what's best at all. 

So, with trembling hands I release this hurt to my Healer, again.  What choice do I have?  Hold onto it and allow it to continue to fester and grow roots of bitterness in my heart?  No.  I choose healing and the freedom that it brings...from the only source of healing there is.  Time itself cannot heal, and we cannot heal ourselves.  Only God can truly heal a broken heart, a broken dream, a broken life.  IF I surrender. 

There's that word again...surrender.  He can't heal what we refuse to let go.  It's not an easy process...allowing Him to remove the bandage that is covering up that ugly thing that we have nursed or neglected for so long.  Allowing the light to expose it is the first step.  Sometimes it's the most painful, but the deepest of wounds may take much more than that.  There may be lots of gunk to remove (anger, sadness, fear) before new, healthy flesh can grow and true healing can take place.  Take it from someone who has gone through this process with God a number of times in my life, I can tell you it's worth it.  In the end, it is.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Some things I don't believe, and my new word for the year

1)  Everything happens for a reason.  "Didn't get the job?  Got dumped?  Haven't been able to get pregnant for six years and now the adoption fell through?  Awe, I'm sorry.  Just remember, everything happens for a reason."  It's meant to encourage, and help us make sense of something that just doesn't.  We are afraid that they are losing hope, and we are uncomfortable with grief, so we try and make it better by implying that there must be a good reason why bad things happen.  But I have a different perspective...sometimes things just suck because they do. Life doesn't always go our way, we screw up, and so do others.  Bad things happen.  It's not always God's will or His plan.  Sometimes it is, and I believe that sometimes He purposefully allows challenge and tragedy to touch our lives because he does have a reason for it.  He has something to teach us that is best learned in the valley, that we won't learn on the mountain top. Sometimes after the fact we do see God's hand at work.  But not always, and not every situation.  Don't tell me that it's God's will for a husband to leave his family.  Don't tell me God "wants" a young mother to get cancer.  Don't tell me that our son has rejected his faith, or that my best friend lost her child "for a reason" orchestrated by God.  It doesn't fit into the character of the God of the bible, the God I love and know.  He only wants good things for us, but when bad things do happen (and He promised that they would), He is there to help us through hold us when it hurts so bad we don't think we can bear it.  And He ALWAYS provides the path through it and offers the strength to walk it out.  (We don't always accept the path or the strength that He offers, but it is there for everyone).  He will teach us something through every situation, if we allow it.  Even if the only lesson to be learned is that He is faithful.

"When you go through deep waters,     I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty,     you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression,     you will not be burned up;     the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." - Isaiah 43:2

2)  Listen to your heart.  What a great idea!  I think I'll do that because my heart is always honest and true and wise and not ever led astray by my fickle emotions.

Except, not.

It is a beautiful concept tho, and it would be a reliable way to discern our decisions if our hearts weren't so stupid sometimes.  "Yes I know he's (fill in the blank), but I LOVE HIM!!"  Mmm, k. How'd that work for ya? (Shut up, Dr. Phil!)

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things"! - Jeremiah 17:9

3)  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  I've known some people, and I bet you have too, who have been through crappy stuff, who have been punched square in the face by life, and while they may be "tougher" for it, I wouldn't call it strength.

Sometimes "strength" looks suspiciously like bitterness.  When you've been betrayed and hurt again and again and (really?) takes strength to forgive.

Sometimes it is paraded around as cynicism.  When you've lost something you had hoped for and dreamed for and lived for, something irreplaceable and takes strength to hope again.

And sometimes it can look a lot like control.  When you're just not going to let it happen again, when you're done with the empty promises and the failing and the takes strength to trust, to let go of the fear and surrender that broken dream to God.

Oooooh, it can be hard, can't it?  I get it, I so get it.  I've been in that place where I desperately wanted to forgive, to hope, and to trust...but it was just so tempting to give up, to put another brick or three on that wall, and tell everyone to just shove it because you are "done".  I've SO been there.  I'll most likely be there again at some point or two.  But what I am learning is that true strength comes only from surrender.  In human terms, that makes absolutely no sense at all.  Surrender means to give up, doesn't it?  It means weakness, not strength!  Well, call me crazy, but I've seen this concept at work enough times in my life to believe it.

Surrender.  Surrendering to nothing, is the end.  Surrendering to God is the beginning.  It's the fertile ground needed for God to begin to do His work in our lives.  When we take the posture of surrender, when we let go of trying to control, when we give up our defenses and our misguided attempts at forging our own way through...when we drop to our knees and open our hearts in true surrender...that's when hope breaks through.  Trust builds one day at a time, and forgiveness lightens our load as we begin to heal.  And strength blooms.

Surrender.  It's my new word for this year.

"Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” - 2 Corinthians 12:8

Saturday, February 01, 2014

More things I like the idea of but don't actually like

You can read the first "Things I like the idea of but don't actually like" here, because you know I wouldn't want you to miss anything.

Here goes 7 more...

8.  Having dogs.
Puppies are so stinkin' adorable.  I know this, so I just shouldn't look at them at all. Because when they are all curled up in my arms and I smell their puppy smell, I begin to have all these visions of playing fetch and happy children and snuggling by the fire. But then they come home, and the reality soon weighs quite heavily in the other direction:  They poop.  Yes I knew it came with the dog, but for some reason I underestimated how much, how smelly, and how annoying it is to have in the yard (and occasionally the house).  Then there's the whining, drooling, peeing on the carpet, chewing things, shedding, needing to be let out, and back in...and back out, and back in...and the chasing deer into the woods and tracking mud on the carpet and running (uninvited) into the neighbor's house (ok, that was funny) and the constant wondering where are the dogs?  What are they doing?  Do they need to be let out?  Fed?  Bathed?  Walked?  It's very distracting from the life of the peoples, which have enough troubles of their own.  And then there's the unfortunate event of coming home to find your dog has died, which was my experience last week, and was equally sad and disturbing.

9.  Setting up my Christmas Village.
I adore my Christmas Village!!  Oh how I look forward to it every year!  It's the first thing I want to see when Thanksgiving is over, and sometimes even before, and I must say a dozen times "I can't wait to set up my villaaaaaage!!!"'s actually time to set up my village.  In the midst of digging out a bajilion boxes from under the basement steps, my village amnesia begins to reverse itself and I remember how much it sucks.  Unpacking every single house and store and tree and little people takes hours and hours and makes me crazy, but by the time it's done and all the buildings are lit up and we are sprinkling the snowflakes all around it, all is well and nostalgic and I truly do enjoy it.

10.  Going on a cruise.

The idea of it is so romantic and relaxing!  I LOVE the ocean, and vacations, but there is just something about severe motion sickness and the accompanying dizziness and puking that kind of ruins the experience for me.  Take Dramamine, you say?  Sure, if I want to take a $2,000 nap. Sigh.

11. Riding in a convertible.
Soooo exciting!  With the sunshine and LRB cranked and the wind blowing through your hair, no? That's what I thought, until my college boyfriend (and future husband #1) got a convertible and I realized that the laws of motion are somehow reversed in a convertible.  One would assume that when your car is moving forward, and your body which is sitting in the car is also moving forward, that your long blonde hair would fly all sexy-like behind you like in the movies, right?  Except not. What actually happens is your hair flies forward and whips you in the face the ENTIRE TIME.  A few miles of that bliss and you turn into Melissa McCarthy parked between two cop cars trying to get out, and you may or may not censor your commentary.

12.  Self Check-outs.  I have written about this before (here) and unfortunately things haven't changed much.

13.  Hot tubs.  I do love hot tubs, actually!  Private ones - with bubbles and candles that only me and (maybe) my husband enter.  Public hotel or resort hot tubs, no thank you.  I shall not partake in that sort of marinade with others of possibly questionable hygiene.  YUCK!

14. Skiing.  What I imagine:  Gracefully slaloming down a white, snowy hill wearing one of those cute stocking caps with the tails and matching mittens, and oopsie!  Falling into a soft pile of snow, laughing as Mr. Cute helps me stand back up and brush the snow off my pants, as we make our way to the lodge to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa by the fire.  What it's actually like:  Panic and terror.  Going down the bunny hill with the tips of my skis pointed together (which some genius told me would help me slow down) and falling on ice chunks thinly veiled in snow.  After about 3 attempts at this, I will be sitting all crabby in the lodge, knees throbbing in pain, wanting to go home.   Fun, fun.

So there we go.  It's Sunday afternoon and I am happy to announce that I am 1/2 way through the 3rd season of Downton Abbey.  I have been marathoning it for the past couple weeks to try and catch up with the current season, and thus be able to watch it with the rest of the world and perhaps some friends.  Mr. W is on his way to the grocery store to pick up party supplies for the Super Bowl game today, which my sons will be watching at our house with friends.  It's about to get crazy here.  Happy Sunday!