Monday, August 24, 2015

One Thousand Wells by Jena Lee Nardella




One Thousand Wells is the birth story of Blood: Water. You may be familiar with the organization that has been championed by Jars of Clay. If not, this is an excellent introduction to their mission and their work.

The majority of the book is how Jena came to be a part of Blood: Water, a testimony of sorts. It's how God spoke to her from the very beginning to bring her to help Africa with not only clean water sources but with the fight against AIDS as well.

My favorite part of the book though was the end. I enjoyed reading about her change in thought in regards to mission work. She went from a bright eyed naive "I'm going to help save Africa!" to a mature understanding of "I'm going to walk alongside Africa, even if the road is tough." The transformation she experienced through heartache and missteps is one that we can all come to when it involves helping others. As she points out, humanity can not save itself, but it can be with one another in the midst of trials.

If you're interested in learning more about the beginnings of Blood:Water, then I can highly recommend this book.

I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of review from Howard Books via NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Girl in the Song by Chrissy Cymbala Toledo



Girl in the Song recently came out and I won a copy through the promotion festivities. I was very excited to start reading this book. I remember reading about Chrissy's father's perspective in the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. It was something that I had wondered in regards to what she struggled with. I had assumed that she was a junky after reading the book at that she was coming clean from drugs, that was not the case.

Chrissy takes the opportunity to share what happened during her youth in Girl in the Song. She struggled from a very early age with being good enough. It became an obsession that played out in her relationships with young men, one young man in particular.

I enjoyed reading her story, as painful as it was. She was honest about her personal struggle and about her breaking of relationship with her family. Fortunately, this particular story ends in redemption. Chrissy was part of a church community that not only loved her but was committed to seeking the best for her. It is always encouraging to read stories about how someone that was lost becomes found and that is exactly the story that Chrissy shares in this book.

The best part about it is that I know that there are some folks in my life that could be blessed by hearing her story and I can't wait to share the book with them.

This was a personal decision to review the book. I did receive a free copy as a prize, but writing about it was not required. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Faithgirlz Bible, NIV




You know me, I'm a sucker for a new Bible, especially if it's one that I can share with my daughter. H has had several bibles over the years, including the Hands On Bible (a personal favorite especially for helping prepare for youth lessons) and The Jesus StoryBook Bible (she fell asleep many nights listening to that cd). This one is a little bit more feminine than her other Bibles and appears to be quite sturdy. I'm personally not the biggest fan of hardback bibles, they never seem to last as long as I want them too, but they're better than paperback most any day. This particular bible has a cute magnetic closure flap, which is more novelty than anything else. The inside is full of not just the most recent version of the NIV, it has devotionals, quizzes and challenges.
H has enjoyed reading the "other" parts of the bible and she also seems to be connecting with the NIV text. We've been doing bible study the past few years using the ESV, so the NIV is probably a breath of fresh air to her.
Overall, it's a great bible for girls and moms, too, for that matter. The additional content is engaging and easy to find without being overwhelming.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I run

Well, I guess I should say that I run about as well as I garden. I can call myself a runner because I try the same way that I can call myself a gardener because of the number of hours I've spent pulling out weeds. Neither titles are related to a quality end product, just from the actual grind that occurs day to day.
I say that I run. I put on running clothes, tie up my running shoes and head out the door. I start running and in the back of my head I wonder if anyone is drinking their morning coffee, looking out the window and upon seeing me wonder if there's something wrong with me. Kind of like that bird that has a funny wing at the park pond, that's me running.
The question that I have is why are labels so important. I've clearly shown with my exercise and my yard that a person label does not necessarily get you an end product that you desire. Even though I'm a runner, I don't like how slow I run. And even though I'm a gardener, I can't stand my garden beds.
I recently read an article about crafting your skills, it's lost in the bowels of the internet at this point, but the idea was that you have good taste and that's why you know that right now, while you're learning how to do something that what you're doing sucks.
That's right, my work right now is not anything worthy of flaunting or displaying or showing off in anyway. In a lot of ways it should be done in the dark, away from human consumption. I don't have that luxury, and I doubt that you have that luxury, too. We have to make our way in the light. We have to work out what we're striving for in the light of day in the presence of others. Sometimes lots of others. Sometimes, we sneak by with just a few random strangers witnessing our feeble attempts.
Our salvation is a lot like my running and gardening. We know that we aren't living the life that shows perfection. We might have moments to be proud of, but overall, when we look at the big picture we can see that as far as we've come, there's still a lot of room for improvement. And we don't get to do that improving in a dark alley somewhere, in most cases, we are center stage (and we should be center stage in our own life but that's another thought for another day). All of our stumbles, missteps, babbled lines are being witnessed. Sometimes it's by those that care for us and encourage us to keep going; other times not so much.
I have the title of Christian. And if I'm brutally honest with myself, it doesn't mean much in the daily grind, because I'm not spending my every day living out the Christian ideal. Or at least not the one created by humanity. You know the one I'm talking about. The one that sounds an awful lot like a Mother Theresa biography, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, housing the orphan and widow. I just don't have access to that population on a daily basis. I could change my life, give up everything that I have an go find it. That's not what God has asked me to do though and like I said, that life is created by humanity as being the penultimate Christian. So what does it mean for me to wear that label. It's in my opinion a much more difficult road to walk. I have to love and care for people that feel secure and safe in their lives.
I have been placed in a location where families have been providing for themselves and caring for themselves for several generation. Poverty and physical need are not a recent part of their family history. They still need though. It's more difficult to recognize that need and even more so to admit that need openly out in the public square. So the majority of my ministry as Christian doesn't look so fancy as that human ideal. I don't get to the end of the day and say "I got to feed 100 people and gave clothes to 42 and tonight 5 people are not on the street because of my work today." I get to the end of the day and I have information. Prayer fodder really. I spend my ministry praying. Praying for all those silent quiet needs that we don't share with one another in public. The moments together one on one, even if they're occurring in the midst of large crowds. So that work that I do doesn't look fancy, it doesn't always have a tangible "saved" count at the end of the day, but it's how I'm working out my label with Christ.
When you go about your day today and you start to think about all your labels, especially the ones that you haven't perfected, just remember that sometimes work doesn't always resemble results.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Gypsy Blood

When I was a little girl, we moved once. It was from the city to the country. We had friends that moved much more often. In fact, they had more homes than I can remember during my childhood, though I think they may have all settled down at this point. I always thought that they had Gypsy Blood, an urge that required them to pack up all their stuff and move to a new spot. Turns out, I'm probably the one that has that syndrome.

Once I left my parents home for college, I spent one summer back home but the rest were either in the mountains or in my college town, working. And then after college, I moved to Texas, where I spent my summers either in school, working in the mountains or getting married. Then Joel and I got married and we moved, a lot, a lot a lot. Before moving last year, five years was the longest that we've ever spent in any one home. And now that we've finished up our one year in this home, I can feel that gypsy blood acting up.

Part of me wants to throw a few things in the car and just make a fresh start of everything. Leave behind the furniture and junk that I have to pack when we move and just start over from scratch. Maybe move to Hawaii or some exotic location and be a beach bum. I'd like to think that my pride wouldn't keep me from dumpster diving if it meant that I could just hang out with the family all day on a shady beach somewhere. It might though.

Lately, I've also been toying with the idea of buying a home much too large for us and filling it with people. Either a retreat center or a bed and breakfast in the mountains somewhere close to a swimming hole. That could be caused by reading too many Deep Haven books from Susan May Warren.

Then another part says to flee the country, go to someplace that has a simpler life, where you can be with people and come along side them in their work. And maybe that's part of the core of the gypsy blood. Something inside me wants to come alongside others and have them come alongside me, but the in this time and place, it's almost impossible.

I remember my mom's gypsy friend would come over and help with cleaning our home. She would fold the towels different and she would clean my room, THE HORROR! I hated seeing that she had been there and touched myself. But because I was a kid, I didn't quite get the beauty of what what going on between her and my mom, they were sharing. They were coming alongside one another and sharing the burden of their common work. Today, so many of my circle do jobs that require them to perform the task and they have to be responsible for it solely or with their workforce. Very few things in our life are common with our friends.

Yes we come alongside each other for worship, but sometimes even that feels intensely singular. And then if you're coming over to my house, all the work I could potentially share with you has to be completed before I can even think about inviting you over. Even in the act of asking you to be with me, I've once again isolated myself from the work that we could share.

Not that you want to come over and help me clean, but we shouldn't be so shocked at the concept, people used to do that, I saw it with my own two eyes.  What work does that leave for us to share with each other? Grief? No, that's to personal. Celebration? Yes, we're happy to do that as long as we get to just show up and bring a present. Childrearing? No, I'll just sit over here and tell my friends everything that you're doing wrong. Marriage? Only if I get to complain about my spouse with no accountability on your part to be a better spouse myself.

And so maybe that's what my Gypsy Blood is actually ready to throw away all this that I've created to go looking for. It's longing for a community to work alongside, one that encourages me and you to be together in the mire of life and finding footholds and reaching out hands to one another as we take the journey together.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The beginning of nothing much

As the spring came to a close and a lot my personal commitments to classes and clubs closed down for the summer, something happened. I was praying about what that commitment level should be in the fall. I prayed about all the opportunities that I had before me and God said "No." It was a pretty clear no, He's generally pretty good at saying that and I can often times hear it. Well, my lack of commitment immediately had me wondering if that meant that something else was on the way. Of course my mind wondered if it meant that we were going to spend the coming fall and winter pregnant, but that has not happened.
As the summer went along, God told me a few more no's. To things that I had been a part of pretty much since we moved to our current area. I just took it as a one year thing in my mind. And then Hannah's things started getting no's, too. Well, hers started around the same time as mine. We dwindled down to just one last commitment in our lives that was outside of our home. When that request finally came in as to whether or not we would be a part of it, it came back no, too.
I'm not sure what God has in store for all this un scheduled time and space, but I would say that we have been enjoying not having any where to go or anything to do.
I'm looking forward to enjoying this space that God has created. It's not always the easiest thing to reduce commitments, sometimes, people get upset and try to lay a guilt trip down, but this time, we haven't had that happen. We've just been able to step away and be. And maybe that's exactly what God needs for us to do for a little while, just be.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mind of Her Own by Brandmeyer



Mind of Her Own by Diana Leslie Bandmeyer was a delight to read. In fact, once I really got started in it, I finished in a day or two. The style of writing is easy to follow and descriptive. I enjoyed the story of Louisa/Jazz, even though some parts of the plot were a easy to see coming.

Louisa is the picture of perfection in regards to being a stay at home mom. She has a tidy home with tidy children. She is struggling with her relationship with husband who is busy trying to obtain partnership at his law firm. Very quickly in the story, Louisa receives a bonk on the noggin and forgets who she is. When she does remember herself it turns out her name is Jazz Sweet, a novelist living single and fancy free in Florida.
Jazz tries her best to live up to the standards that Louisa has created for herself, but fails over and over. Jazz and her family begin to struggle with how much they enjoy each other more than they enjoyed Louisa. Brandmeyer does a good job of expressing that struggle.
 The story encouraged me to think about my own personal life decisions. Am I letting the past dictate whether or not I enjoy my family and home today? Should I let go of events that have hurt me in order to become more of my true self?
Overall, Mind of Her Own is a great book. I wish that it would have taken a little longer to wrap up. It felt a little too tidy at the end or maybe compressed. The struggle was resolved a bit too quickly for me. But as I said, it was a fun, fast read and it really got me thinking about my own choices in life.

A copy of this book was provided to me by Tyndale House Publishing. The opinions expressed are my own and are never required to be positive or negative, they just are.