Sunday, October 16, 2016

Books by Tessa and Ginny

This past month my evenings were spent curled up on the couch with a book.  We are down to one TV show and reading seemed much more relaxing.  It was a month of finishing up series that I started but never got around to reading the next book.  Luckily my library had most of the books I was looking for.  In the midst of my series finishing binge, I read two books that stood out.  They were not part of a series but written by authors I have enjoyed in the past.  Both ladies have a talent for putting words together to create a story that the reader doesn't want to put down.  The story they write not only inspires but challenges.

Here are my short reviews as I link up again with Modern Ms. Darcy Quick Lit.

1. Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

Tessa Afshar takes the biblical story of the woman with the bleeding who was healed by touching Jesus's cloak and weaves a story of what her life might have been like?  Did she have a  family?  What was it like to use all your money to find healing yet find no relief?  What happens after the woman is healed?  It was a great story of healing both inside and out.

My favorite quote: 
I've been spending more time in prayer.  I am learning that obedience to God means that you do not put your eyes on your longings, but instead, you simply place one foot ahead of the other into the space that the Lord opens. Tired, wounded, overwhelmed.  It does not matter.  You merely keep moving where God directs and stop focusing on what you wish you had.  It's teaching me patience.

2. Lost and Found by Ginny Yttrup

Ginny writes a story of one woman's struggle in finding herself as she seeks God and feels trapped in an abusive relationship.  Each chapter is told from different perspectives as the characters develop-some for the better as others digress.  It is a story of healing, redemption, and taking care of your soul.

My favorite quote:
Reality.  Reality is a place I've avoided.  It's stark. Uncomfortable.  Painful.  If I live there, I have to feel, and stretch, and grow.  I've preferred the land of Denial. It's a dark, furtive place.  Yet a place of seeming ease.  But, I was wooed to Reality.  My ticket paid for, at a great price, by another. One whose call I could no longer resist.  And Reality isn't a place one visits.  No. Reality is a place of no return.  But within its borders lies every good and perfect gift.
What have you been reading this month?  Any recommendations? 

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

What I Learned in September (2016 Edition)

This morning, I sit in my cozy, new chair listening to the rain crashing down on our roof.   I am thankful that the rain waited until after my morning walk especially since it is now thundering and lightning.  September has been a nonstop month for me, and it feels so good to just sit down.  I went from having too much margin to not enough.  Hopefully this month, life will balance out.   In a few minutes, our team will join us for a worship time.  Our house has been filled with music all week as my husband has been preparing.  It is so good to take time in the middle of the craziness to just worship. 

We finally moved into the house where we will be for a while now.  It is wonderful to be settling and making this new place our home.  The wall are a warm, suede color, and the floors are all tile.  The house is  spacious and connected to my one room school.   The view outside my front room windows is the beach and ocean.  Truthfully, this house is too big for just my husband and I, but already we hosted one guest.  I am also using one of the extra bedrooms for a quiet space for students taking tests or who need some time by themselves.  The students want to call it the "isolation" room but maybe the "quiet" room would be better.

Once again, I am taking time to look back on the month to see what I have learned.  Some lessons are just fun.  Other lessons are hopefully making me more like Jesus.  

1. Your washer won’t work if it is not plugged in, and your dryer will not work if you vent hose is crunched up or too long. 

When we moved, we basically just moved our kitchen stuff, our clothes, and personal items.  We inherited the furniture and appliances from the last family.  It was a blessing to only have to buy a new stove and bed.

Last weekend I was going to use the washer and dryer at the new house.  It wouldn’t work.  I tried making sure the water was turned on. It still didn't work.  I was just about ready to quit and wait on my husband to get home when I noticed that the electric socket had nothing plugged in.  What an easy fix!!  I am so glad I figured it out without my husband’s help.  So next time something doesn't work make sure it is on and plugged in.

My husband did figure out the dryer problem.  It was taking twice as long to dry our clothes.  He looked and found that the ventilation hose was too curved.  After making the hose shorter and unkinked, my dryer did much better. 

2. I am finally settling

This new place feels like home already.  It has been wonderful making it ours with personal touches here and there.  I loved the duplex we were in, but we always knew we would be moving which made it difficult to decorate or do anything permanent. 

This house is also great for hosting people.  On Wednesday, my students had a mom’s day out for the kids in the neighborhood.   The mom’s came inside for coffee and goodies that students had made.  It was wonderful to have a place where the ladies could sit and talk and just be without having to worry about their children for an hour or so.  

One of the things that makes a place a home for me is to have a chair.  A chair where I can sit and read or write.  My own little place in the house.  Last week Noel surprised me with this chair.  I am enjoying spending time here praying and reading and hopefully soon doing more writing.

3. Sadness and joy can coexist.

This year has had so many ups and downs along with much laughter and tears.  This month I have really missed my children but then I have also really enjoyed my students. I have also been lonely but have felt connection with others.   One doesn’t take away from the other.  Both are part of me and the season that I am in.   God is taking all these things and weaving them with his grace.  For me, it is a good place to be.

4. It is good and bad having the school attached to my house.

My one room school is attached to my house.  It is nice when it is raining or I forgot something.  Being close is also helpful when doing science experiments that need extra supplies or need to use the stove.  Last week it was great using my wii fit as an indoor PE option since it was pouring down rain outside.

The downside of being so close is that I work more.  I see the door to the classroom at night or on the weekends and think of just one more thing I need to do.  I will just do this one thing and then be done.  An hour later, my husband comes looking for me to find out where I have disappeared to.   This month my goal is to find a good balance between work and home while still giving the students the education they need.  It is so easy to let the job consume me but I want to be more than my job.  I need time to be the me that is not a teacher.

5.  Just because the food tastes delicious doesn’t  mean you might not get sick later.

A friend took me to this yummy Thai restaurant for my birthday.  It was a delightful time full of good conversation and being away from our compound.  We shared a beef dish and some spring rolls as well as some dessert.   Both of us ended up sick that night.  Luckily. I was still able to do school the next day.  I think I am finally rested from the loss of sleep, and my stomach is pretty much back to normal.   Even thought I became sick, it was still worth it to have that quality time with my friend.  

6.  God’s Word Never Gets Old

This month I have been reading through I and II Corinthians with the First 5 app.  The truths are what I need for each day.  I love that God’s word is always new yet in many ways familiar.  I pray I never lose a hunger and thirst for God’s word.  I pray that same thing for my children and students.  This month is Deuteronomy.  Already I am reminded to remember all that God has done for me so that I don't forget and fall away. 

What have you learned this month? 

Tuesday, September 06, 2016


Sometimes you need to put into words what you are feeling.

Sometimes you don't. What if you can't handle what you are feeling?

Sometimes you need to stop running and figure out what is really going on.

Sometimes you don't.  You need to get through just this one more thing.

Sometimes you need to step back and see the situation from another point of view.

Sometimes you don't...

This week Big D left for school.  I found myself filling the empty space with binge reading and working in my classroom.  One afternoon I came home to our empty house and suddenly had an urge to go for an afternoon walk.  As I walked  I finally took the time to think about what I was feeling.   The words "I am lonely" came into my mind.  Now as I sit here typing on a Saturday morning, I think a better statement is that I feel loss.  Even though I miss Big D, it wasn't necessarily loss from his leaving.  It was the accumulation of loss from the past year- the moving, the leaving, the good byes, the what could have beens.  Some of that loss was brought back this past week as a university where some of my former students attend was attacked.  My heart still hurts every time I hear about another attack.  

I don't want to be a person who is always talking about loss.  I have so much.  My husband and I love our new jobs in West Africa.  Our children are in schools that allow them to grow and blossom.  We have friends and family who love and support us.  There is so much to celebrate.  That is why I appreciate what Emily Freeman said in her book Simply Tuesday..

We like to talk about celebrating the gifts we have been given, but facing the losses is important too.  Not to wallow, but to keep company with them long enough to recognize what part they play in our story, to name them, and eventually release them in the presence of Christ.  Before we move too quickly to hope, it's important to grieve the losses, to handle them, face them, and let disappointment do its deep work. (p. 178)

So this morning I am taking the time to grieve the loss- to remember and put into words what I am feeling.  King David did that in the Psalms.  He put his loss into words.  Of course his words are much more poetic than mine but I think the important thing is not the wording but who the words are directed too.  It is only when I acknowledge my feelings to God and give those feelings to Him that they can be dealt with.   I love how so many of the Psalms begin with "woe is me" and "everyone is after me" and end with "my hope is in God" and a declaration of who God is.  At the beginning of the summer I took the time to process and then I just didn't. The thing is grief is not just a one time thing and then it is done.  Grief is a process.  In the same way,  my relationship with God is not just one morning of journaling but a daily remembering of who God is.   In that daily remembering, I acknowledge who I am and what I am feeling so that I am free to once again remember who God is and that He alone can fill those empty spaces.

I love the story of Elijah meeting God on the mountain.  Elijah just came off a victory in a showdown with the prophets of Baal and just a few days later ran due to a threat from Jezebel.   In I Kings 19, Elijah who was on the run was cared for by ravens next to a brook and then sent by God to the mountain of God.  Upon arriving at the mountain, Elijah experienced a strong wind then an earthquake followed by fire, but God was not in any of these.   Instead God was in the small voice that asked Elijah what he was doing there.   Elijah's response didn't match God's question.  Elijah proceeded to tell God how faithful he had been and recited all his losses.  But then again God's response to Elijah didn't seem to match Elijah's answer either.   God refocused Elijah by giving him a task and part of that task would be training the prophet who would take his place.  Then as an afterthought, God told Elijah that there were 7000 in Israel who had stayed faithful to Him.   It almost seems like God didn't hear Elijah.  Shouldn't God have said something like, "I am sorry you feel that way," or "What you are saying is not really true."    The great thing about God is that he sees all of us inside and out.  On that day, Elijah didn't need a pep talk, Elijah needed a task.  God knew that.  Just like God knew when David poured out his heart in the Psalms that David needed to be reminded of who God was and where David's true hope rested.

Sometimes I need to just sit and write and wait and listen.  I need to take time to see how the losses as well as the celebrations are a part of my story.   By putting words to the loss, I make a way for hope to grow.  By recognizing my loss,  I see my weakness but also have the opportunity to see God in a new way.   By seeing where I have been and God's faithfulness in all things, I am made ready for what He has next.