Sunday, June 29, 2008

Heavy Heart

I need a moment to vent because my heart is heavy today.

I confess that I wasn’t thrilled when it became clear 4 ½ years ago that we were moving to South Carolina. I grew up in Florida, and not the small town parts of Florida, either, but in an area where there were always new people moving in and out from many different places. Then I went to the University of Florida, where my husband and I met, and later Drew and I moved to the greater Tampa area once we were both finished with our school work in Gainesville. Obviously, Brandon, FL was not a small, southern town, either. Though Florida may be geographically south, I don’t really consider it a southern state, at least, not where I lived, if you understand what I mean.

Anyway, I confess that I had some stereotypes about southern living, and most of them were negative. Especially did I have those stereotypes about the type of old southern town where we now find ourselves living. And, let me tell you, this is one proud little town. Proud of its southern heritage. Proud of its location. Proud of its land – don’t get me started on the unreal cost of living here. Please don’t hate me, southern friends! I know it’s wrong to stereotype, that’s the whole point of this post…..

What concerned me the most, and I’m being very honest with you all here, is that we have tried really hard to shield our children and protect them from developing racist attitudes. We truly want them to understand that all people are really ‘one blood’ – that we all are created in the image of God, that we all are descended from Adam and Eve and from Noah’s family, and that we are not to judge anyone by what they look like. We don’t allow that kind of jokes or unkind things said in our home, and it does seem that our kids have been protected, as much as we were able, from some of those horrible prejudices. One thing I really appreciate about Answers in Genesis, by the way is how that organization stresses that we are really one race – the human race.

Before I go on, I am aware that racism is not just a southern thing. My chief editor, also known as my loving and very patient husband, mentioned that while proofreading this post. It’s something that can affect anyone from anywhere, and it is evil, no matter who is espousing it. Period. But when we moved here originally, I was concerned that we might find it to be more of a problem than where we had been before. This is one reason we were so thrilled to find the church where we are now members. Imagine a church, in the deep south, no less, where black and white and Hispanic and many other backgrounds are sitting together in the seats and in the choir and serving alongside each other as family members in the Body of Christ. I love this about my church. This is how it should be, friends. Because those of us who belong to Christ should be worshiping together with no regard to the color of our skin.

This is why something that happened today in Sunday School grieved my heart so much. Drew and I have finished up the Discovery Class, which is a basic class that is a good entry point into the church and is a good thing to brush up on even when you’ve been a Christian for a long time. We have been going to a new class for a few weeks, and we ended up sitting near the back today and in front of someone we had not met yet. This older gentleman began talking with us and we had a nice little conversation until he let slip a very unkind and disgusting comment about “the blacks.” And he didn’t stop there, but proceeded to single out other groups, too. Drew and I both had our jaws drop in astonishment that he would say what he said like it was nothing, and we ended that conversation quickly and turned around. What bothered me most is that this man didn’t even seem to see how incongruous his words were. He slurred several whole groups of people just by the color of their skin, not even seeming to care that there are dear brothers and sisters in that very class with him who would have been deeply hurt by what he’d said. I do know absolutely that this man does not speak for the majority of the people of this church and that his prejudice is preached against forcefully, and the fact that he would feel okay about voicing it so loudly left both Drew and me dumbfounded.

My stomach churned all through Sunday School, and when we got into church before the service started, Drew and I were talking about how awful we felt about that whole episode and how we were so flabbergasted we didn’t even know what to say to him. As we sang worship songs this morning, I was crying because I kept thinking of how evil it is to despise those God has made in His image because we’re blinded by the pride and sin of racism. I kept thinking about how precious it is that Jesus shed His blood to reconcile men and women from every tribe and tongue and people to Himself, and how ugly and dirty I felt just for having heard that man say those hateful things. I don’t understand how anyone can sit under the kind of preaching we do and sing the glorious songs about Jesus’ blood being shed for our redemption and harbor the kind of hate we heard there in that comment and not even realize there is something vastly wrong with his thinking. As we sang this morning, I kept thinking how that must be a real stench to God, to sing praise out of one side of our mouth and cut down people for whom Jesus died out of the other side – or to sit quietly when it is said, as we did, not knowing what to say being so appalled that he would say such things at all so openly and so without concern.

Friends, there is no call or place for the sin of racism in the Body of Christ. We must love our neighbor and serve together to bring the gospel to a lost world. Our pastor has been preaching through the book of Acts for a long time now. A few weeks ago, he got to Chapter 21, when Paul was in Jerusalem and was arrested in the Temple when a mob broke out. In Chapter 22, Paul asks the Roman commander who is taking him away if he can speak to the crowd. He allows him to do so, and the crowd hears him until he gets to the part of his testimony where he tells them that the Lord has sent him to preach to the Gentiles. At that, they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” The very hope on which I stand, that even I, a Gentile sinner, could be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus Christ, they saw as hateful. They did not understand the vastness of God’s grace. In Ephesians 3, Paul wrote about the mystery that the Gentiles should be made fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel. Friends, the Gentiles who are to be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel come from every race and tongue and tribe and people! We dare not despise those whom Christ would save! We have no right to be racists. None. John 3:16 says that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus commanded us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth – to everyone! Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” One day there will be people from every tribe and tongue worshiping together at the very throne of God. Praise His glorious Name! What amazing, matchless grace! That should change how we view everyone, not just those who look exactly like us.

Revelation 5:8-10
“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.’”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

VBS Update

Thought maybe I should check in at the Sweet Tea front porch here and write a quick post to say that we have been having a blast learning about the 7 C’s of history at our Amazon Expedition VBS this week. The 7 C’s are: Creation, Corruption (Adam and Eve and the Fall), Catastrophe (The Great Flood), Confusion (The Tower of Babel), Christ, Cross and Consummation. The songs are fun and exciting and the Bible lessons have been very well taught – I have a lot of respect for the ladies who do the teaching session because the groups of K-2nd graders that meet together at our session can be a little rambunctious when we come in from the game time, but those ladies are really good with them and get the message told! J and M are having a great time and even Boo’s little class of two-year-olds get to participate in the opening session and clap and sing the songs and watch the drama and have their own lesson and crafts and snack, too. From where I was standing yesterday morning, I could see her and her little class up front, and she was so cute clapping along with Mr. Matt, the music leader. She loves going to “Bible Church” as she calls it. I’m working with a sweet group of K-2nd graders, one of whom is Tic Tac, and it is such a blessing the way this VBS is so organized and well done. Our children’s directors and leaders do an extremely wonderful job all year long, and VBS is always done well at our church, too. I am supremely blessed to be a part of this church where things are done well and for God’s glory, but not overdone and overly flashy, just done well. I love how seriously we take the call to teach the children, too – no time that we meet is ever seen as just babysitting, and for that I am thankful. I am thankful that even the workers’ children who are too young to be at the regular VBS are experiencing their own VBS on their level, too. I really, really love how the boys are excited to go back each day and excited to talk about what they learned each morning. In fact, one the things I absolutely love about our church is how involved the boys are and how much they love going to church, and when they get there they are exposed to such good teaching, not just fluff. That is such a blessing. As I said, I need to write a whole blog post one day soon….

Part of the excitement this week is a drawing contest for the children. They were to take one of the 7 C’s and draw what we’ve been learning about this week. Tomorrow afternoon the pictures will be judged and the winners announced at our Evening in the Amazon event tomorrow evening as we celebrate and close out our VBS week. Here are the boys showing off their drawings before we took them in this morning. They both chose to illustrate “Confusion” and the Tower of Babel, which we learned about today.

Monday, June 23, 2008


VBS starts this week! Tomorrow morning, to be exact. The boys are really excited, and so am I. This is the first year I get to work at VBS at our current church. The boys have attended VBS here in previous years, even when we were members at our old church, but I didn't realize last summer that we'd be members here this year. Have I mentioned how much I love our church and am so thankful we got to join with the believers there? I may have to blog about that soon.....

Until then, blogging may be a little sparse this week. Like it hasn't been for a while now or something. Still working my way through a blog slump. Back to better posting soon, I hope. Please pray for the children who will come this week that those who do not know the Lord will hear the gospel clearly and that those who do know Christ will be strengthened in Him this week. And please pray for the workers that we will show Christ's love to the children and honor our Savior this week.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Practical Mom's Dictionary, Installment #4 and Status Report

Utter failure: What I felt like yesterday. Words fail me now to describe how pathetic and fleshly and self-centered my attempt at mothering is too often. 1 John 1:9 is my comfort and I had to humbly confess to my God and also to my boys that I was not a good example of how to deal with frustration yesterday. I could try to excuse away my foolishness in losing my temper and failing to provide a proper tone in our home by describing the several sleepless nights recently and general tired-of-being-single-mom-while-Drew’s-away malaise, but that would be just excuses and such a waste of time. Really, it is sin, pure and simple. Proverbs 29:11 tells me I acted like a fool. And I have confessed it. With grateful tears I thank God that His mercies are new every morning. Today I have new faults to confess, but I thank God for His mercy and His grace in revealing the heart issues and hurtful ways in me as He searches my heart and graciously leads me to cast aside the weights which so easily entangle as I strive to run the marathon and finish well.

Frustrating: The fighting and one-uping and tattling and on and on and on. Constantly. I feel so woefully inadequate to mother these boys some days, and much of it stems from mistakes I’ve made in not disciplining correctly when they were younger, which I see now and am working to correct, but wish I’d recognized sooner. And even more of it stems from the fact that we are a houseful of sinners.

Humbled, repentant and tearfully grateful: I am woefully inadequate, but my Savior is more than a conqueror. He is my Rock and my fortress, in Him I will trust. Again, with tears, I thank God for His grace and mercy and salvation. Apart from Christ, I can do nothing, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He has clothed me in His righteousness by His grace through faith in Jesus alone. Positionally I am right with God, what amazing grace! Experientially I desperately want to live out the calling to run the race well, submitted to the conviction of the Holy Spirit as He teaches my heart.

Sharper than a two-edged sword: God’s Word. What I’m praying for myself and my children is that God would do heart work in us. Just changing the outward behaviors is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to have hearts that are surrendered to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit uses His Word to convict us and teach us. I’m learning to use scripture when disciplining and teaching the children – and myself - and trying to teach them (and myself) to apply what we learn from the Bible to everyday life. Had I focused more on that yesterday and less on my selfish indulgence of my tiredness, things would have been different.

Thankful: M has not had to take asthma medicine since his surgery last week. And with that, I feel like I have my son back. The medicine makes him hyper and just not himself, but these past few days, it’s been a joy to have my boy back.

Sweet: Hearing a seven-year-old singing along in the back seat as “Lifesong” plays in the car.

Proof: Anyone who doesn’t think that we are born with a sin nature and in desperate need of God’s grace and salvation ought to spend a little time with a two-year-old who is angry that she’s not getting her way at the moment. Just sayin’ is all…..

Done: with this post. Lord willing, I will learn from my failures and daily submit my own selfish heart to Christ. What a glorious, kind, merciful Savior!

Monday, June 16, 2008

For My Parents

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

My mom and dad have been married 40 years today. In a day and age when many of my peers grew up in broken homes and even more of my children’s peers are doing so, I think it is wonderful to rejoice with couples who have honored the covenant of marriage for better or worse, for richer or poorer and in sickness and in health. I am so thankful for my mom and dad. I am thankful for the way they taught my brother and me about the Lord and His word as we were growing up and how they introduced me to Jesus. I am thankful for the home I grew up in and what a safe haven it always seemed to me as I was growing up. I am thankful, too, that my parents raised me in such a way that when I became an adult and got married, I was able to leave their authority and cleave to my own husband. I am thankful that my parents are also my friends now that I am grown. I am thankful for their commitment to God and His word and their love for Jesus, and how they enjoy discussing God’s word with me, their daughter. That is a precious legacy.

I love you, Mom and Dad.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Snapshot Photo Essay

These are some of the bulbs that Drew planted. I'm not sure exactly what these are, but the flowers are going to be so pretty when those buds finally open!

This one is nice - the first of the bulbs to bloom.

Must be time to mow.....the weeds are almost taller than the baby. (By the way, that little t-shirt came from Carla Rolfe's Reflections store, in case you were wondering!)

Long story here......these are bones Drew brought back from Annual Training somewhere up North once. They now live by our front porch. The one in front is a very large vertebra. For the longest time Boo would go over to that part of the porch and say, "Cat. Cat! Cat, cat, cat." She has a way of repeating herself. A lot. Until we acknowledge her. Then she'll repeat it some more. Anyway, I was so confused because I could not figure out what was making her think of cats every day. Then I looked closely, and sure enough, that bone does actually look like a cat's face. Boo must have an eye for the abstract. I never would have seen a cat there had she not pointed it out to me. It's all in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

Did I mention that it is hot? These are crayons that Boo left in her "Baby Car" this morning. One of them is already a liquid puddle and the other two are well on their way. It's just plain hot here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Prayer Request Update

M's surgery went very well and very quickly this morning. He was a little weepy and disoriented as he woke up from the anesthesia and really, really wanted that thing out of his hand and had a raging sore throat, but when they called me back and let him sit in my lap while he ate a popsicle, he was ready to go home. He's been recuperating nicely today and seems to be feeling pretty good right now, though I've been warned he'll probably be hurting some tomorrow.

Last night he was a little scared about today, but we got to pray together and talk and share some scripture and I was able to leave a message for Drew to call home, and he got to talk to M also, and M was able to sleep well and didn't seem too worried this morning. He did tell me on the way home this morning, while still feeling puny, that he never wants to have surgery again. I told him I certainly hope he won't have to.

Thank you for praying for him. I am so thankful God was pleased to grant M peace last night to calm his fears (and mine, too.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Prayer Request

Tomorrow morning is M's surgery - adenoids taken out and tubes put in his ears. May I ask you, my blog friends, to pray for him? Thank you!


Look what arrived at my house today!!

We have been awaiting this arrival with much anticipation. When M came in and told me there was a package by the garage door this morning and brought it to me, we all started jumping up and down when I saw the Focus on the Family return address. The boys are listening to the first disc right now. Love it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

First Week of Summer Break

The boys are enjoying being off from school this week. They also have an almost uncanny and very annoying ability to turn the slightest, smallest, stupidest thing into World War III. Sigh. But, overall they are getting along well and having fun. It's HOT, though. Unusually hot. The AC is having trouble keeping up - I'm wondering if we need to check it out or if it's just HOT, HOT, HOT here in the South. I took the kids to the pool at the Y yesterday afternoon, and that was a huge hit. The inside pool's pump is broken, so J has not been having swim practice, but, oh, the outside pool! It has a rather large wading area that is under two feet deep throughout with big sprinkler shower things that the kids love. Boo had a blast yesterday for her first venture into that pool. I, however, found it exhausting chasing her around. At first it was fun, because she loved being in the water, but then she decided one of the lifeguards was her new best friend and kept climbing out of the pool to go talk to her. When she decided it was great fun to climb out and run straight for the door to the inside pool, and continued doing that over and over while I kept chasing her and putting her back in the wading pool and then when she kept trying to wiggle over the wall into the deep section, I finally said, "That's enough. We're done." The boys were good sports about it, though. They got an hour to swim during the hot afternoon.

Here are a few pictures of the kids enjoying their first week of summer break:

J loves reading to his little sister almost as much as she likes being read to. M enjoys it, too.

Trying to stay cool in "Boo's Lagoon" and eating popsicles.

Another cool down time. They come by a love of reading honestly. They are definitely my children. M has discovered the Magic Treehouse books, and my somewhat reluctant reader has become an avid reader at last. He's already on his second book, and he just started over the weekend.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hiding God's Word in My Heart

Proverbs 29:11
A fool always loses his temper,
But a wise man holds it back.

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

I Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Psalm 27:4
One thing I have asked of the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Galatians 5:22-25
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Just reminding myself......

Friday, June 06, 2008

Last Day of School

The boys are so excited they can hardly stand themselves. Not sure how much of this excitement I can stand, either. :-) This morning was wild. You know how boys are when excited, right? Well, then you can probably picture it then.

There’s always something a little bittersweet about the last few days of school. That and the fact that once the standardized testing is over, the last two weeks are kind of meaningless, but we’ll save that discussion for another day. I’ll also spare you discussion of my normal end-of-the-school-year nightmares (yes, I’m quite tired today). But seeing all the writing and artwork come down off the walls and all the name tags and workbooks coming home in book bags and the general winding down feeling is kind of sad, I think. But it also has that exhilarating feeling that summer break is upon us and the two and half months of summer stretching before us with all their potential. I hope my boys can keep their excitement and remember that they like being home together come Monday morning, because I’ve already told them they will NOT be fighting in the house. It’s awfully hot outside! We are working diligently to learn 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and talking daily about what real love looks like and that it is a choice, not a feeling. We’re also memorizing Proverbs 29:11 “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” And we are talking about how we can’t love that way on our own and I’m teaching the boys to pray that God will help them to have hearts that will love each other. I don’t want to give the wrong impression. J and M actually get along very well, but too much togetherness is sometimes, well, challenging for them, and I want to be a wise mom and teach them, using God’s word.

Back to the bittersweet, this year has a little more of that for me as the mom. J’s teacher was also his second grade teacher who looped up to third, and she also goes to our church and we’ve become friends, too, so we’ll really miss her next year, though we’ll still see her at church. M’s teacher is retiring this year, and I’m so glad he got to have her during her last year. She was a great teacher. Plus, thinking too hard about this being J’s last day of 3rd grade and M’s last day of 1st really reminds me how fast time is going and how quickly they are growing.

I’ve got fun stuff planned to celebrate this afternoon, though. School gets out at noon today – pretty wise planning if you ask me. I’m taking them to Chick-fil-A for lunch and then when we get home they can have some of the homemade cookies that I am baking right now with milk. And tonight I am making pizza (the boys love it when we make homemade pizza with Chef Boyardee mix), then we’re going to watch National Treasure together with real, Orville Redenbacher, on-the-stove-with butter-flavored-popping-oil popcorn. They’ve been wanting to watch National Treasure for a while, and Drew and I think it’s probably okay. I’ve already told the Question King he needs to have a notebook and pencil in hand and write his questions down and keep his mouth quiet during the movie. He can ask them at the end if he doesn’t feel he got the answer during the movie. Just thinking ahead.

So, in our house summer is officially beginning today. Hooray!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Since You Asked....

Because it was my blog buddy Lisa who asked in the comments to the last post(hi, Lisa!), today I am going to go out on a little bit of a limb and mention some fiction books I have liked recently, and some not so recently. I don’t often do that on the blog, in fact I am a little hesitant to do this, simply because we all have different views about what is good or even proper to read and I am sure there will be people who don’t approve of some of the books or authors I list. While reading around Christian blogs I have at times seen it blow up on bloggers sometimes when they mention a book or movie that other bloggers don’t think is a good or proper one to read or see. I guess my advice on that topic, if asked, would be to keep in mind that your reading choices are a matter of conscience, don’t violate your own conscience, but also, be careful about being too quick about judging others based solely on their book choices, too.

I try to exercise some discernment when choosing fiction to read, but that doesn’t mean I only read ‘Christian’ fiction, either. I try to stay away from books with lots of filthy language or occult and/or horror or goriness. I have been known to put down a book that has a very intriguing story if the language is so horrible or if there is such objectionable content that it bothers my conscience to keep reading. That’s a shame, too, because the story usually would have benefited greatly not to have so much of the stuff I found objectionable. Basically, if it bothers my conscience to read it or if it makes it difficult for me to have clean thoughts, I stay away. And, truth be told, I am much more bothered by a book that purports to be Christian fiction but subtly espouses bad theology than I am by a secular fiction book that may have a few bad words in it. I can read over the bad words, but bad theology can shape my thinking in ways I don't want it to. Best advice, be discerning. You know where your own stumbling blocks are. Most likely, not everyone will agree with the suggestions I have below.

I have always found that I can learn a lot from stories even when they are not written from a Christian view. I, the reader, do bring a Christian view as I read and filter the characters and situations and story through that worldview, and it is often interesting to look at characters and think about how their worldview (and the worldview of the author) shapes the directions they take and the decisions they make, but the characters don’t have to be people I would necessarily want to be anything like for me to enjoy a book or be able to take away something valuable from reading it, but sometimes whatever value might have been is too obscured by what is objectionable, too, so I try to be careful about what I read.

Okay, with that caveat in mind, I’m wading into the pool with some suggestions of books or authors I have enjoyed. Keep in mind, please, that these are secular books, read for entertainment, so I’m not saying I’ve always agreed with everything in them or that they are perfectly clear of all material that everyone might find objectionable or that every single one is recommended free of any caution, just that I enjoyed reading them. This is also not an exhaustive list nor are they in any particular order. Take it for what it’s worth.

Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. This is about a family of Egyptologists in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s. They are kind of wacky, fun adventure/mystery stories. They are best read in order.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. These are about a woman detective in Botswana. I have not read all of them, but the ones I read were interesting in a gentle sort of way and I really liked them and would like to read more from the series.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. I really, really liked this one. I found out about it from Lisa Writes.

David Baldacci. I pretty much like everything I’ve read by him.

Sharyn McCrumb. She has some eerie Appalachian ghost stories that were intriguing, though I typically don’t really like ghost story type books. Though eerie, they were not nightmare inducing, if that makes sense. She also has a mystery series, the name of the heroine is escaping me at the moment, but I liked it fairly well, too.

Fiona Buckley has a series about a woman named Ursula Blanchard in Queen Elizabeth I’s court. They are sort of Elizabethan era mysteries. I can’t remember the names of the books at the moment, sorry…

Tony Hillerman’s books about Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, Navajo policemen on the Navajo reservation.

Ruth Rendell – also writes as Barbara Vine. She tends to deal with kind of the darker side of people’s psyche. She writes a lot about characters who are alienated from others for one reason or another and many of her characters are on the verge of madness. But I have found her stories intriguing and quite insightful about fallen human nature.

I also really liked Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley books, but caution that her villains are sometimes involved in quite awful things. But I liked following the story of Lynley and his friends. I guess I would put a fairly strong caution on this series, but her writing is very well-crafted and I did like the depth of the characterization of the main characters, and these are also best read in order.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I read this when I was a teenager, and read it several times. It’s a coming of age kind of novel, but be warned that it does not have a happy ending.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This was the first time I ever had a school assigned book that I absolutely could not put down. I loved this book, and have read it again since that assigned reading in ninth grade.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein. Need I say more?

A few children’s books I remember really liking were Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Oh, and Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, which has a beautiful Christian worldview and is a very good book. I've read it several times, and would like to read it again.

I also like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen (though it has been a long time since I’ve read anything by her and I want to read Pride and Prejudice again now that I’m older), Thomas Hardy, Agatha Christie and the Sherlock Holmes books.

There are plenty of other books I’ve liked, too, but I’ll stop for now. Oh, and if anyone has some good suggestions for books I could read aloud to the boys, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I love to read. If I am still for any amount of time, I have a compulsion to have a book in my hands. I read everywhere. I mean it – everywhere. If I have something that takes a while to stir on the stove, nine times out of ten I’ll have a book on the counter that I at least try to read while I stir. On the treadmill when I actually get to exercise at the Y – a good book makes the time go faster and seem much less mind-numbingly boring. In car line while waiting to pick up the boys from school. In the bathroom – where else do I have an excuse for at least a moment of uninterrupted quiet? Not that the bathroom door being closed actually stops any of the little people in my house from trying to have a conversation with me, mind you, but, theoretically.

Between my husband and me, and now the kids, too, we have a lot of books in our house. We've given a bunch of them away, but still we don't have enough shelves for them all. Drew finally built some shelves out in the garage and we've got to go through the piles and get rid of some more. When we still lived in Brandon, FL, we moved into a new apartment once, and a friend who was helping us move boxes could not get over how many boxes of books there were. And they were heavy. He teased us about that for the longest time after. My brother can attest to that, too. He helped us move into our third floor apartment when we first moved to Tampa, and I think we about killed him hauling those heavy boxes of books up three flights of stairs, remember, T?

I have a bad habit of starting more than one book at a time, too, and it is not uncommon for me to have several books with bookmarks in them at any given time. This bad habit has escalated on me of late. I’m starting to feel like I’m swamped in books. I pretty much have enough going at the moment for every room of the house. I think I need to put some away and read one at a time, perhaps. Of course, reading this way means that it can take months to finish a book, though I actually read very fast. It’s not like I have hours and hours each day to while away the time reading. Most of my reading actually does take place in the bathroom – when I take bubble baths in the evening after the kids are all in bed, or sitting on the porch while Boo diddles around in the yard. I have been known to have three books on the table outside while the kids are playing. My Bible and two others so I can read a little here and a little there while keeping one eye on my wandering two year old to make sure she’s not getting into anything she shouldn’t.

Here’s what I am reading these days:

My Bible, of course. I try to make sure I read the Bible before I read anything else, and most days I am able to at least start my daily reading and pray before the kids get up. This has been a habit for a long time now, and I find that the day doesn’t seem complete without it, and that my attitude is so much better on the days when I do read my Bible and pray before taking on the rest of the day.

The New Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, with updated text by Judith E. Markham and notes by Warren W. Wiersbe. This is a version of the classic by John Bunyan with updated, modernized language, but retaining the original story and flavor. Faithful and Christian are just about to enter Vanity Fair. I can’t wait to get back to them. Speaking of Pilgrim’s Progress, we read Little Pilgrim’s Progress, by Helen L. Taylor to the boys not too long ago, and they loved it! It’s a children’s version of the classic.

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. I'm reading that to the boys in the evening before bed. They absolutely love our reading time at night. I have to decode the old-fashioned language at times, but they are loving the pirate story. That's not surprising, at all - M's favorite restaurant ever is The Pirate House in Savannah, GA. We have read quite a few books together in the evenings. They are requesting we read all of The Chronicles of Narnia again when we finish Treasure Island.

The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace. Well, anyone who’s been reading here at all knows I’m reading this one. I am keeping up with the group and reading the weekly chapters, but I am not sure I will continue to blog about it each week anymore, though I do continue to be challenged and encouraged by it, but I don’t know that I have the energy to keep up with the weekly posts about it. Those posts tend to take a lot of time to write.

Because the Time is Near, by John MacArthur. This is an in depth look at the book of Revelation. I’ve got a few potential blog posts simmering. This book needs more attention than I’ve been giving it. I may need to put it on hold until I finish some of the others and I can focus on it better.

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy, by John Piper. This one I have actually put it on hold, though I move it around the house occasionally, thinking I’ll get back to it. I want to finish it.

A Tale of Two Sons, by John MacArthur. This one arrived in the mail just today. I love the thrill of seeing a box in the mailbox when I know it's the book I've been waiting for. I fought and fought the urge to open it, because I’ve already got too many books started, but I lost the fight and read the first few pages this afternoon. I can’t wait to read this one.

And I have three novels from the library that are sitting on my desk. I just finished one by David Baldacci that I liked and I just started another book that was on the 14 day loan shelf at the library. I won’t say what yet, though, because I’m not far enough into it to know if it’s one I would want to be endorsing on the blog. So far it’s pretty good, though. I tend to like mysteries and detective fiction, but I have to choose somewhat carefully. I’m not as ADD with my novel reading style – I tend to read one at a time with novels just because I can’t keep more than one story straight if I have too many of them going at once.

And I wonder why I’m having writer’s block……

Monday, June 02, 2008

At Blockbuster Today

I ran into Blockbuster today to return an online movie and redeem it for another one. Boo and I were the only customers in there and I knew exactly which movie I was going for so I grabbed it and walked up to the front, but there was no one at the register. I noticed someone was behind a shelf behind the register, so I went up and put my movies down and kind of shuffled Boo to my other hip, hoping I’d be noticed. I always feel a little uncomfortable in those situations, not knowing what to say to get her attention, but then I had to cough anyway, and she noticed me.

When she came up to the register and said, “Hi,” I noticed her eyes were red and I said, “How are you doing?” like I usually do.

She said, “Okay. I guess.” And then she gave a watery little smile and said, “It’s just one of those days when you just feel like crying all day, you know?”

I smiled sympathetically, thinking that I really wanted to say something comforting, but didn’t know what to say. Then she looked at me sheepishly while ringing up my movie and said, “I’m sorry.”

And I said, “It’s okay, we all have those kinds of days.”

“I just really didn’t want to have one here,” she explained, then handed me my movie and told me when it was due back.

I wanted so much to share Jesus with her. But all I managed to do was to stop as I picked up the movie and looking right at her I said, “I’ll pray for you today.”

She looked up and said softly, “Thank you.”

And I choked out a reply and left.

I wish I had said more to her. I wish I had shared with her that though I don’t know what she’s facing today, Jesus does. I wish I had shared with her that Jesus is the answer to our deepest need, to be made right with God. But I failed to give her a reason for the hope that is in me. I failed to share that light with her.

But I am praying for her. Her name is Mary. I don't know if she knows Jesus or not, but I should have tried to find out and once again I was silent when I should have spoken. Won’t you pray for her, too? I’m praying that God will bring someone who will be bolder in compassion and faith than I proved to be this afternoon into that store today to encourage her in Jesus’ Name. And I am praying that I will be better prepared next time to do the same as I confess my lack of boldness today.