Monday, October 15, 2018

October Reads (2018 Edition)

This past week I read you can tell a lot about a person by the books on his or her bookshelf.  In my case, it would be the books on my kindle.  What would you find?  First of all, you would notice the Christian Living section but probably not realize that many still have not been opened. Then you might gravitate to the young adult section that has a lot of fantasy/sci fi we have been read by our whole family.  Next would be more fiction such as mysteries, chick lit, and even political thrillers.  I don't even have a favorite section.  I like them all.   What I read depends on the day, my mood, and what's available.

Here is a sampling of the books I read this month.

1.  Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Big D was assigned this book for his Design class this semester.  My husband and I, both intrigued by the title, decided to read it.  Each night before bed, we read a little bit of this short book.  The ideas were practical and great for getting the creative juices growing.   

My favorite idea was how having limits actually increases our creativity.  Living in a country where we don't have access to a lot of things, I love this.  I could wait until I have exactly what I need, or I can choose to try to make it work with what I do have.  

2. The Side Roads Series by Sally John

This three novel series is about relationships especially marriage relationships where the past gets in the way of the future.  The stories start with the main characters having a triggering event that sends them on a journey of self discovery or in many ways a journey of God-discovery and forgiveness.  The author does not shy away from the hard or have easy answers which I liked.  

In the first book, Ransomed Dreams,  I  cheered for the priest as he pushed the husband to start to find healing.  In the second, Desert Gifts, I mourned for a couple who had lost their way, and I wasn't sure that a happy ending was possible.  In the third, Heart Echoes, I made a note to myself to talk to my kids about earthquakes as I read about forgiveness and facing your past.  Great reads but lots of emotion.

A quote from Ransomed Dreams,
"We no longer have to make every decision based on fear.  It's time to move forward, to make decisions based on hope.  Don't you think?"

3. The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

This YA book plus its sequel, Reclaiming Shilo Snow are fast paced with fun characters.  The books are about a love between a sister and brother, dealing with broken relationships, and learning to forgive.  But they are also about aliens wanting to take over earth and some really cool virtual technology.  

4.  The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel Rosenberg

This modern day political thriller asks what if a Russian leader decided he wanted more--- more land, more power..  The book is told from two viewpoints.  The first is from Oleg, the son-in-law of the Russian leader.  The second is from Marcus, a Marine and Secret Service agent.  As you read, you might notice similarities to today's news which is kind of scary but also intriguing.   I am looking forward to the next book in this series.

5. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

Some people on our team read this book and were talking about it as well as what their enneagram number was.  Out of curiosity, I decided to check it out.  The Enneagram has 9 types labeled by a number.   It sounds simple but can get confusing when they add in wings and what it looks like if you are healthy or if you are stressed.  It was an interesting read and would certainly be helpful if you had a person in your life that clearly fit one of the numbers. 

I figured out I am probably a 5 and my husband a 1.  As I read about being a 5 (an investigator), it did help me understand some things about myself and that I am not the only one who does certain things.  On the other hand, my husband read that section and thought only part of it fit me.   It is good to remember that things like this are tools to help us better love and relate to those around us.  They are not meant to stereotype or label.  I love towards the end this quote from Thomas Merton.
The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our image.  If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

What kind of books are on your bookshelves or kindle?  Do they describe you?  Any good suggestions on what I should read this month?

Blessings, TJ
PS Affiliate links are included.   

Tuesday, October 02, 2018


As I enter my fifties, I am hoping this decade will be different.  At first I thought I wanted to be fearless.  Maybe it was all the super hero movies this past year like Wonder Woman or Tomb Raider.  Or maybe it was the awesome women on my team who have battled in dark and hard places and who are as tough as nails.  The problem with being fearless is that it sounds like I want to jump out of airplanes or take on the world all by myself.   What I really want is to fear less.  

Fear can be a paralyzing thing whether it is caused by health issues, the world going to pieces, or your own insecurities.  For me, my fear has centered on the last one.  Do I measure up?  Am I a good mom?  Should I have done something different?  Should I make that phone call?  What if they don't want to get to know me better?  Am I reaching out enough to those around me?  Do I talk too much?  The questions and analysis can be exhausting especially when fear is behind them.

The trouble is that I look horizontally when I need to look vertically.   Stacey Thacker, a favorite author of mine, says we are having the wrong conversation when we focus on ourselves instead of focusing on God.  In her new book, When Grace In, she writes "The answer to the question Who am I? isn't bound up in you at all: it's a treasure buried within the heart of your father."

According to some sources, there are 365 "fear not" verses in the Bible.  I need to "fear not" but it doesn't come naturally.  I can't do it on my own.  The good news is that God doesn't expect me to do it on my own.  In Exodus, Moses tells the people to not fear because God will fight for them.  It isn't a matter of being brave, but of trusting in the God who just brought them out of Egypt.  In Joshua, the Lord tells Joshua to not tremble or be dismayed.   Is it because he was a leader now and needed to act like one?  No it is because the Lord would be with him wherever he went.  Jesus in Revelation 1 even tells John to not be afraid because He (Jesus) is the first and the last.  

How would my life look different if I lived remembering that God goes before me, is with me, and lives in me?  What would it look like to abide in Christ daily?  I may not be fearless but I would fear less.  

Friday, September 21, 2018

Thoughts on Turning 50

Today I turn 50 years old.  Ten years ago today, my family and I did our first presentations as we raised money to move overseas.  Nine months later, we were on a plane heading to Central Asia   This past decade we have lived in four different countries, learned a new language, made deep friendships, had our hearts broken, and grew closer as a family.  In the midst of it all these two words stand out: Faithfulness and Formation.  So today before I move on, I remember...


He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.  I Thess. 5:24 ESV
 For most of the past 10 years, we lived off of financial support from family and friends.  The amount we needed to raise at times felt daunting and impossible.  God was faithful to bring us partners to make our work possible.  Some had never even supported work like ours before.  Every need was met.  When the kids needed clothes, someone would give us hand me downs.  When we needed vaccines, a church stepped in and covered the bill.  When on home leave, churches and friends provided lodging.  

It wasn't only financial.  I don't know how many times, I had people tell me that they prayed for us as we lived in our war torn country.  God not only heard those prayers but answered them.  He gave us strength and resilience as we dealt with security threats, flight permission issues, and friends dying.  He gave us a great team and a love for the people we served.  He gave us grace in our low times when we wanted to give up.  Most of all, he gave us friends to walk with as we labored.

His faithfulness extended to providing my children with a good school and friends.  He gave them a team and teachers who loved and mentored them.  He watered the planted seeds allowing their roots to go deep and their love for him to grow high.

His faithfulness reached down in our marriage.  I won't lie to you.  There were years that were hard, but God just kept pushing us toward him and each other.  Now in our 26th year of marriage, my favorite part of my day is spending time with my husband and best friend.

We saw God's faithfulness in our friends' stories as some started new ministries and others adopted older children.  

But most of all, we saw his faithfulness in his presence in the good times and bad.  He was there when we heard gunshots in the distance.  He was there as tears ran down my face as I prepared to leave Central Asia.  He was there when I dropped my son off at boarding school.  He was always there.

Now his faithfulness continues these past two years with a new team in a new place in a ministry that fits us well. 


I love the metaphor in the OT of God being the potter and us being the clay.  The picture of a potter making something beautiful out of a lump of clay with the clay being moldable in the hands of its maker.  I wish I could say I was the clay, but actually I was more like a piece of marble with God being the sculptor.  Chip by chip these past years, God has been working on me to make me more like Him.  In fact, I am still a work in progress which is why I like this verse in Philippians where Paul writes,

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to competition at the day of Jesus Christ.  (Phil 1:6)
 Language learning took off the first few chips.  I would work and work to still have the locals not understand me unless I was asking how much something cost.  God taught me graciousness and humor in those moments and most of all not to give up. My identity couldn't be in how well I spoke the language or I would have been a mess.  I learned that my identity had to be in Christ.  God had called me to this place, and he knew ahead of time how great or not so great I would be at the language.  

Other chips came off as the pressures of living in a different culture brought out the not so flattering parts of me.  When I wanted to blame my husband for something, God reminded me of my need to respect him and how my attitude was all about me.   Living so closely with other people I found the need to apologize more than once for hastily said words and started to work on better conflict resolution skills.  Electricity issues and crazy neighbors worked on my flexibility.  Challenging students tested my calling to teach even when it was hard.  But I think the biggest chip came as God taught me to trust even when it didn't make sense.  Did I trust him with my life and that of my family?  Did I trust him with my future?  Was He really good? 

So now as I enter this next decade, I hope to take these lessons with me.  I want to be clay this time and not marble.  I want to be fearless as I continue on knowing that God still has more work to do in me and through me. (More on this in a future post.)