Monthly Archives: February 2018

Five Minute Friday: Why

It’s the Friday after another tragic school shooting.

Closer to home, another week of trying to keep plates spinning.  Good news and bad news all around us.  Trying to keep our emotional balance in the midst of it all.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday Community. Today’s word is why.

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It’s the question we ask God when we don’t understand.

It’s the question that tortures us when we can’t make sense of life.

It’s the question that haunts us when our world turns upside down and we can’t catch our breath.

Because trying to understand, trying to make sense of the unknowable is as human as the quest for air to breathe.

We grasp at it.  We struggle at it. We wrestle and fight and cry.

Until peace comes.  Or acceptance.  That we will never know for sure.  That we will never understand.  But it’s still okay.

God is still God.  He is still loving.  In spite of the circumstances.  He grieves with us as a broken world tears at our soul.

Even if we don’t know why.

We can still sit in the cleft of His hand.

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What I’m Reading, February 2018

Indiana weather is living up to it’s reputation this winter: unpredictable.

The past twenty-four hours have been foggy as snow from last week melts and evaporates.

I’m grateful to be feeling better physically than other winters, but I’ll be happy to see Spring.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site. )

In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee

Buy now from Amazon

Highly recommended!

Light-hearted stories that highlight deep truths.

I liked the way her faith was real and scripture informed her decisions and changed her life.

I loved her emphasis on grace. I loved her views on traditional values.

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

Buy now from Amazon

A doctor running from his past.  An endearing little girl fighting for her life.

Masterfully written.

Traditional values.

Unpredictable.

Just when you thought you had it figured out, you didn’t.

One of the best inspirational fiction I’ve read in years.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Buy now from Amazon

The orphans on the island follow the rules.  There’s a set way of doing things.  How and when they arrive, what they learn, how they live, how they live. Their survival depends on it.

I understand that this is a parable about childhood rather than a literary novel.

For me, it didn’t really accomplish either.

Maybe I’m missing the implications and parallels, but the story didn’t land for me.

A Spiritual Heritage: Connecting Kids and Grandkids to God and Family by Glen and Ellen Schunnecht

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It has been a long time since I read a parenting book.  Even longer since I liked one.

I liked the multi-generational approach in this book.  I liked the stories.  Realistic approaches to the challenges of parenting from a Christian perspective.

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

Buy now from Amazon

I’ve had trouble getting my hands on a copy of this book.

The first book in a trilogy, The Green Ember tells the story of a kingdom of rabbits.

Heather and Picket, brother and sister rabbit, are the main characters.  Lots of intrigue. Lots of action.

I can see boys really liking this book.

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It’s been a good month for reading and for my first foray into fiction.  Check it out here.

 

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Anna’s Story, Part 1

Anna stared out the window at the snow falling, wearing a nightgown she’d had on for three days.

On the kitchen counter, next to a sink full of unwashed dishes sat a plate with a half-eaten piece of toast smeared with peanut butter, a piece of banana and a half cup of yogurt.

There seemed to be no reason to finish the food that could hardly be classified as a meal.

In fact, she was beginning to wonder if there was a reason to finish anything. Or get dressed. Of course, eventually, she would run out of groceries. But, with snow on the ground and the wind howling, who could even think about going to the grocery store?

She started to wonder why she got out of bed.

She did some mental calculations and figured she had spent 15 of the last 24 hours in bed.

There just wasn’t any compelling reason to get up.

The snow had stopped.

The only thing that penetrated the blanket of quiet was the scrape of an occasional snow plow on the road.

Anna hadn’t shoveled the driveway or the walk. There was no need. She had enough food to last two weeks or longer.

The house was warm. Her bills were paid. There was no one to meet for lunch.

She hadn’t realized during the seventeen years she cared for her mother that her best friends were the nurses. They had become her lifeline to the outside world. Now that her mother was gone, the nurses were, too.

Along with her reason for living.

She hadn’t dressed for three days. Why bother?

What if I didn’t wake up tomorrow? Who would know? Who would care? How long would it take for anyone to notice?

Maybe this was it.

The end of the line.

It wasn’t a terrible thought.

She wondered if she had enough pills in her medicine cabinet to do the job.

After all, she felt confident she had a heavenly home waiting for her.

It had been decades since she attended church, but she and God were on good terms. She’d never had a problem with God. It was just his followers that she couldn’t abide.

Nevertheless, as a creature of habit every morning she read a chapter from Proverbs (that corresponded to the day of the month) and she recited a prayer from the Common Book of Prayer.

She felt sure God would reward her faithfulness.

So, dying wasn’t a problem.

It was living that she couldn’t handle.

In the four months since her mother died, Anna’s life spun in slower and slower circles until it came to a grinding halt.

For most of seventeen years, her energy and attention had been focused on caring for her mother.

When they originally moved to Kansas to care for her mother, Ralph had taken early retirement.

In the beginning, he had helped, too. But, for the the past eight and half years, she carried the weight alone.

Mother was lucid and cheerful almost to the very end. That helped.

And the nurses were kind and chatty. She missed their voices now. The house was so silent.

The commercials on TV were driving her up the wall. She couldn’t stand to have it on any more.

She used to love to read, and her mother’s house was filled with books, but she couldn’t concentrate for more than a page or two before her mind wandered off.

She used to love to bake: cookies, bread, pies, and cinnamon rolls. But, what was the point now? There was no one to eat it. She couldn’t finish a slice of toast spread with peanut butter before her apetite deserted her.

She watched the darkness creep over the Kansas country side and thought about going to bed.

But the thought of waking up to one more purposeless day was too much.

She sat in the dark and felt the silent tears drip from her chin.

And she whispered a prayer, “God help me. I can’t take it anymore.”

*********************

She woke up with a list in her head.

It was a short list.

She used to be a crazy list maker. Back when there was too much to do and life was noisy.

This list only had three things on it.

She got up, found a spiral notebook and wrote down:

1) Shower and dress.
2) Get the mail.
3) Make dinner.

She felt better.

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Two out of three wasn’t bad.

She crossed number one and three off the list: shower and dress and make dinner.

Dinner consisted of a hamburger and a salad. Not a feast, but better than toast, bananas and yogurt.

The only thing left was to get the mail.

As simple as her list had been and as easy as the tasks had been, she felt an enormous sense of accomplishment to have completed two thirds of her list.

Maybe she would wait till tomorrow to get the mail.

But that line that wasn’t crossed off haunted her.

It had stopped snowing. She had no inclination to shovel the walk or the driveway. She would wade through the snow to the mailbox.

She dug out her boots and hat and scarf and heavy coat and trudged through the unblemished snow.

Inside she peeled off her extra garments and sat down to sift through the stack.

It was almost always a fool’s errand. The mail was full of advertisements sprinkled with an ocassional bill.

But today was different.

There was a letter from Anna.

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She said she had seven grandchildren, and had lost one. She had been retired in Florida for 12 years. She lost Bill two years ago and was still struggling to cope.

She had recently re-read The Hiding Place and it strangely gave her hope that she could endure her present reality.

Anna stopped reading and looked over at her mother’s bookshelves. She thought she remembered seeing a book called the The Hiding Place.

Yes, there it was.

She pulled it out and started reading.

She could use some hope, too.

Before she realized it, the room was getting dark.

That night, lying in bed, she thought about Betsy and Corrie in the concentration camp being thankful for the fleas.

Amazing. When they were in such horrific circumstances.

She decided in the morning she would start a list of everything she was grateful for.

And she would make another to do list with four things on it.

There was a lot to be grateful for.

The house her mother left her was paid for, free and clear. Her husband’s pension and retirement funds were more than adequate to meet her needs, as long as she stayed healthy.

That was another thing. She had good health for 72. Except for some arthritis pain in her fingers and toes, her health was good. At least as far as she knew. It has been years since she had been to the doctor.

Her mother had died peacefully in her sleep. That was something to be thankful for.

She just had the house re-roofed last summer.

She had Anna. One friend who cared enough to write a hand-written letter.

She had enough food to last two weeks. Surely the snow would melt by then. If not, she could shovel. Or spread salt. Why hadn’t she thought of that sooner? Surely there was some ice melt salt in the garage.

She lived in a beautiful place.

At least, it had some beauty.

The land was flat, but it posessed some charm.

The barn was the only eyesore on the property: a two-story barn in poor condition that hadn’t been used for more than twenty years.

But, the cost to tear it down couldn’t be justified in an effort for a better view.

She started a letter to Anna.

She was beginning to believe her life could be different. That she could re-write the ending to her story. It wasn’t over. Not yet.

**********************

They were known around school as the two Annas. Anna Barry and Anna Jones. People started calling Anna Jones “AJ”to distinguish them. They had most of their classes together, plus they were roommates and siamese twins when school was out.

They had an easy friendship that found the same things funny. That could talk for hours without realizing any time had passed. That daydreamed and built castles in the air for a rosy future.

They would marry brothers and live next door to each other and watch each other’s kids and make movies that the whole world would watch.

They would learn how to sail and take a trip around the world, sampling exotic food at every port.
They would penetrate an unreached people group and live in huts and fly little planes that landed on the water and start a church growth movement.

Anything was possible. The world was their oyster.

*************

Anna’s letter echoed in her head.

“Believe that you can change your life. Believe that you can create a new ending to your story. You can change the trajectory of your life. Even at 72. It’s not too late.”

Did she believe that?

Could she really create a new life for herself? Here? Where she had no family and no friends to speak of?

What possibilities were there for her? Where would she even start?

She did know something had to change. She couldn’t go on like this.

She thought about her prayer of desperation.

She thought about how she woke with a list in her head. On that list was get the mail.

Anna’s letter had been there, waiting for her.

**********

She slipped into a back row, grateful the service had started. She would leave during the last few minutes and avoid any conversation. Interacting with people was not was she was here for.

The songs were unfamiliar. There was a lot of standing and sitting.

The emcee laughed and joked through the transitions in the show.

It was hard to focus on the lecture. Her mind wandered. But, occasionally the word “hope” drifted in and she thought about that. Hope. Just what she needed.
If it wasn’t too late.

She slipped out during the final prayer.

She might come back again. She might not.

 

 

***********

 

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

 

The digital revolution had passed her by. She had no internet. The ancient computer on the desk in the corner wouldn’t even boot up any more. She couldn’t remember when that happened.

There was always doctor’s appointments and medicine, so much medicine to organize. And the special diet, and occasional stints in the hospital and nursing home.

Survival– keeping her head above water was a way of life. There was no energy for learning technology. There was no one to hand hold her way through the murky waters. So she didn’t learn and was left behind.

Now Anna was talking about Facebook and Skype. She didn’t know where to start.

Jerry always bought their computers. He knew what he was looking for. He understood memory and RAM and hard drives. She was lost.

****************

Anna had mentioned The Hiding Place. She thought her mom had a copy. Yes, there it was. It had been so long, but she wanted to immerse herself in that story again. To feel the inspiration and draw courage from the lives of Corrie and Betsy TenBoom.

Because, after all, story is the door.

She believed she could reimagine her own story. She could re-write the ending. She didn’t have to stay stuck where she was. She could move forward.

She had much to be grateful for.

 

Another letter from Anna.

Short and to the point.

“I have a huge favor to ask, if you would be so kind.”

 

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Five Minute Friday: Privilege

Winter is in full force this weekend.  Cold is a pervasive enemy.

See what’s saving my life this winter.

Linking up again with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday Community.

This week’s word is privilege.

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I admit it.

I don’t always count it a privilege to serve.

It’s easy to romanticize Mother Teresa’s work, but the reality is, serving is often tiring, uncomfortable and thankless.

Compassion propels you on, an empathy and sympathy for someone in need.

Rather than seek your own comfort, you seek theirs.

And, in the end, all that is needed is perspective.

Because He will give strength to the weary.

And when the journey is complete, the truth will be known.

It’s a privilege to serve.

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My Favorite Best of 17 Book Lists

For the third year in a row, I’m publishing a round up of top books read in the previous year.

Best selling lists are interesting and fascinating, but aren’t as helpful as a curated list from someone you admire, know or trust.

Modern Mrs Darcy

Beautiful Hope

Sarah from Orthodox Motherhood

Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom

I have not kept up with 800CEORead this year.  I even had some trouble digging up this year’s list. Their short list includes their eight top books of the year in each category.

Sarah from Read Aloud Revival posted her list.

And a list posted on facebook by my friend, Karla, with her commentary.

1. Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. Ok, this is first because I love Potok, so I guess this one is in particular order. I first read this just after college, long before I knew we would live in Spain. Upon rereading it, I discovered that this book about a young girl growing up in a Jewish community in New York is full of connections to the Spanish Civil War, making it even more meaningful to me this time round. Potok is a treasure.

2. Miss U: Angel of the Underground. Autobiography of an American nurse in the Philippines during World War 2 who helped smuggle goods to men in prison camps. Couldn’t put it down. Contains graphic war violence and torture.

3. Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas. Story of growing up in American in an Iranian family. Full of cross-cultural humor.

4. Sky Unwashed by Irene Zabytko. Moving novel set around the Chernobyl disaster about old women and their little town.

5. Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg. Well-written true family story from the states of Georgia and Alabama during the depression years.

6. Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither by Sara Baume. A book about an outcast man who takes in a one-eyed dog. Beautifully written, a bit quirky, and downright sad. I didn’t want it to end.

7. In the Land of Invisible Women by Ahmed Qanta. This fascinating look inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was written by a Muslim woman doctor who grew up in the UK, trained in the US, and spends 2 years practicing medicine in Saudi (pre-9/11). Intriguing.

8. Telling Room by Michael Paterniti. This is the story of a small village in northern Spain and a feud over cheese.

9. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. This spy novel from World War 1 is also a mystery book. It was riveting and based on real women. Be warned, there are some pretty graphic torture scenes.

10. Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. I first saw the miniseries, then went looking for the books. There 11 books in three trilogies (I know, that leaves 2 books – they are brief linkage books that aren’t technically in the trilogies.) I fell down the Galsworthy rabbit hole and read them all. Period literature, family saga, the self-destruction of an obsessed man – I really enjoyed them.

11. Pearls of Great Price by Yazz. This collection of women’s stories of faith was written by a friend of mine. Lovely book. Great to hand to a friend who is searching spiritually. Unfortunately at the moment it seems to be only available on Amazon.co.uk and not Amazon.com, but it has just been released, so hopefully you will all have access to it soon.

Honorable mention:
East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Push Not the River is the first of a trilogy of historical novels by James Conroyd Martin. I enjoyed all 3.

Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg is the first in a series of Swedish immigrants to the US. I hope to read the rest of them.

Check out last year’s round up.

And the Best of 15.

What were your favorite books from 2017?

 

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Five Minute Friday: Agree

It’s Friday!

Time for the brain-stretching challenge of writing on a one word prompt for five minutes.

Time to find the courage to post unpolished work.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the FMF community.

This week’s word is agree.

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There’s a few different arenas where it’s critical to agree.

One is on a team or partnership or marriage.

Another is in relationship with God.

To agree is to become of the same mind.  To disagree is to hold a different opinion or belief.

On a team, it might take a lot of work to become of the same mind.  It might involve compromise. Or seeing things from a different point of view.  Or giving up the right to have your own way.

Doing the hard work to come to a good agreement pays off.

It’s easier to take short cuts.  To not do the hard work.

Stay the course.  Respectfully explore the issues.  Delve in deep.

Craft an agreement that everyone can endorse whole heartedly.

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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Winter challenges are real.  Cold is a pervasive enemy.

I need all the help I can get.

Linking up at Modern Mrs. Darcy to share what’s saving my life right now.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a portion of your purchase goes to support this site.)

   

Couch to 5K app

I’ve fallen off the exercise bandwagon countless times and climbed back on again countless times.

It always helps me to have a plan.

This program is new for me and, also new, is the goal to run a 5K in March.

I paid $2.99 to get this app for my phone.  It’s a 3 times a week workout plan for 9 weeks.

It starts slow, alternating a minute or two of running and walking.

And just like a rocket overcoming gravity, getting started was harder than I imagined.

Now, in the messy middle, the novelty has worn off and the end is not in sight.

But I’m still hopeful about staying the course and finishing strong.

The Pillars in My Week

Knowing I can count on certain events every week gives my life a stability I need.

Posting weekly on the Five Minute Friday page.

Mom’s prayer group on Tuesdays.

Family night on Wednesdays.

Worship on Sundays.

I need the structure and predictability that these anchors in my life provide.

It’s hard for me not to know what’s happening next. I love going to conferences and seeing a printed schedule to know ahead of time what I’ll be doing for every hour of the conference.

I don’t do well with unpredictability in life. I love it in my novels, though.

So, yeah, the pillars in my week are comforting.

Daily Keyboard Therapy

Always the therapy.

Tapping out words on the computer every day is critical to my survival.

There are days when everything goes backwards and I can’t pair the laptop with 30 minutes of peace and quiet in order to get my 500 words in.

Sometimes, those days leave me restless and anxious. Itching to get to the keyboard. Feeling like a druggie needing a fix.

Other days when it happens, I’m able to let go. I’ve done some serious tweaking to my morning routine the past few years. Little changes make a huge difference for me. So, it can be hard to handle when things don’t go as planned, but I’m working on it.

  

Jesus Always 

Buy now from Amazon

Just like Sarah Young’s first daily devotional, Jesus Calling, Jesus Always is written as if Jesus were speaking to you directly.

This volume focuses on joy. Who couldn’t use more joy?

For me, pausing deliberately for gratitude makes a world of difference.

So often, it’s just perspective. Nothing changes in our circumstances except our attitude.

I’m glad I went with the large print edition this time because you don’t have to look up the Bible verses .  They are printed out after each daily reading.

What’s saving your life right now?

 

 

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