Sunday, April 14, 2019

First Quarter Reads 2019

I almost feel guilty saying this but I would rather read on my kindle than a physical book. Being an avid reader, I feel like I should be a purist and love reading from actual paper books, but I don't.  My husband bought me my first kindle when we moved overseas over ten years ago.  I wasn't too excited about it at the time, but soon embraced it when I found out it was the best way for me to keep a good supply of books coming.   A few years later, I was able to use my library card to check out books digitally which solidified my love for my kindle.

When I travel, my library comes with me.  When I move, my library just slips in my bag.  I can read at night without waking up my husband because of the built in backlight.  I can increase the size of the font when I want to read at lunch time but forgot my reading glasses.  I love being able to switch between books with a click of a button or that I can easily find a highlight even from a book that has been returned to the library.  For me, the kindle has been a blessing.   Who knows if I move back to the states, I might change my mind.  (I do have a list of books that I would love to have physical copy of for my future bookshelf.)

This time of the month, many bloggers put out reviews on the books they have read and liked or read and hated.  This month, I thought I would add in my reviews of books I have enjoyed so far this year-kind of like a quarterly report.  Here are my reviews.


Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength by April Yamasaki

This was a great book to start off my year especially a year with so many transitions.  I loved how she sectioned the book into heart, soul, mind and strength and had practical ideas to go with each one.   What stood out to me the most was how we often think of self care as what we do for ourselves but her challenge is that serving others is a form of self care.   Self care is about loving God by loving ourselves and others.  

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

This one was a recommendation from reading other bloggers' reviews.  In her book, Barbara examines darkness-both physical and spiritual.  How do we view it? What are our misconceptions?  Is all darkness evil?  How does God use darkness? Even though I might not have agreed with everything that Barbara wrote, I feel like she did a good job of exploring this topic, and it gave me a lot fo think about it.  It also gave me a different outlook as each morning I step out into the darkness for my morning walk as the sun is slowing coming up.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin

This books was both encouraging and challenging.  My husband and I enjoyed talking about the topics in this book on our evening walk as we both read through the pages.  I liked how she talked about the smaller her footprint, the more she felt grounded in God's kingdom.  I can totally relate as my foot print is a circle that is literally 2 miles in circumference.  The question is how can I best love those around me in this time and this place.   But I appreciated the most her words on obedience and faithfulness even when you don't see any fruit in what you are doing. 


Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar

Tessa Afshar is one of my favorite authors, and I am always quick to buy one of her books.  I wasn't sure about this one, but the plot quickly engaged me and I had to keep reading.  The story was set in Corinth in the time of Paul's ministry.  The plot centered around a family whose dad is a thief with the daughter following in his footsteps and helping him.  The story dealt with tough family situations, the power of Christ to save, and doing the right thing even when it is hard.

The Mystic Series by Ted Dekker

I read this series on a recommendation from my husband.  The two book series centers on a girl named Rachel who lives in a secluded community called Eden and is born blind.  When she dreams, she is transported to another time and place, a place where Elyon is worshipped and the Horde is out to eliminate all who worship Him.  Rachel soon finds out that she is the 49th Mystic and must find the 5 seals before it is too late.  The plot goes back and forth between these two worlds.  As she dreams and lives in one world, she is asleep in the other.  

If you read the Circle trilogy, you will enjoy seeing some characters from that series in this story such as the Roush and Thomas Hunter. The plot had many twists and turns but also gave me lots to think about in terms of my spiritual walk and what I believe.  

What books have you enjoyed this month or this year? Do you like paper books or digital books better and why?  I would love to hear about it in the comments.

(Affiliate links are included in this post.)

Sunday, April 07, 2019

A Word for Transition Insecurities

Yesterday my husband and I listened online as our home pastor talked about his future transition into retirement and the new vision God has for him.  In October, he will pass the baton of Senior paster to an associate pastor that he has worked with and mentored for over 10 years. They are both ready for this new season, but also aware of the dangers.  Two things stood out to me from his talk that I think apply to all of us who are going through a transition.

1. Encouragement to One of Them Is Not Criticism of the Other.

Have you ever heard someone else praised and somehow it seemed like something personal against you?  For example, your husband gives your friend a complement about her brownies, but what you hear is that he doesn't like your brownies.  In the same way, our pastor said that both pastors would need lots of encouragement during this transition time.  They would both try to never take personal affront to a compliment or word of praise given to the other person.  Because most of the time, it is encouragement to that person and not a criticism of someone else.  Even if it was a criticism of us, wouldn't this world be so much better if we were not offended by these small things.

2.  A New Season Requires New Strengths

Our pastor pointed out that the new guy was more focused on one or two ideas and better able to relate to the younger generation.  He would have ideas and a vision that would be what the church needed for this next season.  Whereas, the old pastor was older making it harder to relate to a younger generation and was easily distracted by lots of great ideas.

This past month, we transitioned in a new helicopter family.  The old and new family overlapped for two weeks as the old pilot trained the new one on our procedures here.  Our team loves to have a time of encouragement and prayer to send off those who are leaving.  As our team praised the old wife about her listening skills, sense of humor, and baking skills, I glanced over at the new wife wondering what was going through her head.  I remembered my insecurities of replacing someone who was amazing or at least that is how I translated all that was said about her.  Later that week, I spoke with the new wife about the party and how I felt when I first came.  I reminded her that our team didn't need someone just like the old family.  We need their family and the gifts that God have given them.  They are just what we need for this season.   I don't know if she needed those words or not, but they were a good reminder for me.

Transitions often bring up insecurities, but they also remind us that our security is in Christ alone.  It is always great to have a reminder to stay focused on Him who gave all things for us.

Have you ever replaced someone whose shoes seemed hard to fill?  How did you deal with the situation? What was God's word to you during that season?  I would love to hear about it in the comments. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Helping Those in Transition

When I was trying to come up with a word to describe 2019 (which I never did), all I could think of was "transition".  We are transitioning people on and off our team in the next month.  Our family is transitioning into a new season as our daughter weds in May. Our son started college in the fall.  Not to forget, I transitioned two new students into my school in January with another one starting tomorrow.  

Transitions freak me out.  I don't like change.  In Central Asia, the transitions often brought out fear and tears.  Somehow this time is different.  The transitions are a good and natural changing of the guard.  I am also in a better place emotionally and spiritually.  Most of all, my role is different.  I am in a position to help those who are also transitioning to transition well.  

So how do I do that?  Here are a few ideas that I came up with but I would also love ideas of how you helped transition someone or something that helped you transition well.

1. Be a Tree Planted By the Water

Jeremiah writes
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.
I don't want to be just any tree.  I want to be a tree that is grounded in who God is and who He made me to be.  I want to be a tree that trusts in the Lord and not my own strength.  I want to provide a place of love and grace but also truth.   If I am not doing well, I will not have the capacity to help others do well.

A tree is available to provide shade and rest.  The tree in Jeremiah could even handle the drought- a time when things were hard.  Transition is hard and comes with lots of emotions.  I need to be willing to be there in the good, bad, and hopefully not ugly.  It is also great to remember to not take it personal if someone doesn't like something.  The deep roots provide stability.  Trusting in the Lord means we are not in this alone.

2. Food!

Whether it is baked goods or a meal, food is always good.  It also gives you an excuse to check in and see how they are doing as you deliver the goodies.  Remember it doesn't have to be fancy.  When I had kids in the house, I always invited people over on Taco Tuesday since it was so easy to just make extra.  Now I often invite people over on a soup night or when my husband is available to help with the cooking.  It is easy to make a double batch of muffins or bread and my husband always enjoys eating my baking now and then.

3.  Choices and Balance

This one is hard to explain and is not black and white.  Sometimes it is good to help, but sometimes it is good for a person in transition to figure out a few things for themselves.  It gives them confidence and helps them make their own way.  The challenge is knowing when to help and when to step back.  Another challenge is knowing when to be proactive with advice and when to wait until the subject comes up.  My rule of thumb is what would I have wanted to know before hand and what did I like figuring out on my own.  It is also a matter of figuring out the personality of those you are helping.

As to choices, it is good to give options.  As we have been in discussion with a new family coming, our conversations often include "we do it this way but another family does it another way".  This way the new family can figure out what works for them and even maybe find another new way to do something.  For an example, what do people do for church?  Some have home church alone or with others.  Others go to a church in town that is more contemporary.  Still others go to a local church closer to where we live.  The key is figuring out what fits your family and what will help you serve the best long term.

What would you add to the list?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.