Thursday, December 30, 2021

My Year in Books - 2021

 As we are winding down 2021, a year which has admittedly held a lot of challenges for my family and me, I am ending one of my slowest blogging years, also, with only nine posts counting this one, with my traditional book list rounding it out for the year. I barely made my Goodreads goal of 50, and didn't think until today that I would (There are only 49 on this list because I read Delighting in the Trinity a second time to prepare for a book club at our new church). With all the challenges this year held, and with deciding to read ten of the Wheel of Time books, all of which had over 1,000 pages each, I almost didn't reach my arbitrary goal.  As it is my kids think I'm cheating to add the Christmas devotional I read each morning this month, but it is a book(let), and I did read it, so, in my opinion it counts. I could count the Bible, too, since I read it entirely again this year, but I don't typically include it in my list, since it is a given that I'll be reading it each year. Anyway, some of these I liked, some I loved, some I didn't like all that much.  Here is my list, with commentary on a few of them.  As always, just because I read a book and listed it here doesn't necessarily mean I would recommend it.  Some I would, some I wouldn't. I will say I LOVED the Andrew Peterson book, Adorning the Dark very much. And I really do hope for the coming year to take some of his advice about not waiting until I feel like it or until everything is just right before writing but to just write. Looking at the sad state of my blog and the fact that I've wanted to write that fiction story since high school, I really do need to take his advice and attempt to adorn the dark in my little corner of the world and just write.  May it be so. So, without further ado, here is what I was reading in 2021.  Happy reading, friends. 

January 2021

  • Faith Alone - R.C. Sproul (NF).
  • The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time Series, #5) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • Simple Genius - David Baldacci (F).
  • Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity - and Why This Harms Everybody - Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay (NF). Overall, I found this a helpful and critical look at Critical Theory and Postmodernism. Aside from the authors' rather obvious bias against deeply held religious belief, I even found much to appreciate in their proposed solution of a more liberal (in the classical sense of liberalism) approach to scholarship and discourse.  I wouldn't have lumped all people who hold a strong religious faith quite as solidly with other ideas they attribute to the far right (like white supremacy, for example), but I can overlook the bias and appreciate such a sentiment very well could stem from their own experiences, and I appreciate the intent, knowing my own beliefs and community as I do. And I have to think liberal-minded authors like these would appreciate the nuance and willingness to discuss and accept discussion on that. Overall I would recommend this book. 
February 2021
  • The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene (F).
  • The Green Ember - S.D. Smith. Another great middle/high school book find! This was recommended by our pastor on The Cripplegate blog, the first of a four book series, and once again, I loved this.  Pretty much if Pastor Jesse recommends a book, I usually find that it's one I want to read.  We've found several good new book series in the past year that my daughter and I have thoroughly enjoyed, and I had bought this one for her for Christmas upon reading the recommendation. She has been so busy reading for school she hasn't had a chance yet to read it, but having just finished the first book, I know she's going to love this. I bought the second in the series last night at the church bookstore before choir practice, and I'll probably get the next two as well. I was hesitant at first, because it's about rabbits and I wasn't so sure about that, but, as I've heard it described it's not so much like Watership Down, but  more like the Narnia books or the Wingfeather Saga, which I'm still emotional about. Definitely an engaging adventure story and I'm looking forward to finding out what is next in the ongoing adventure with Picket and Heather. 
  • This Tender Land - William Kent Krueger (F). This is one of those novels that is so well-written you kind of lose yourself in the story.  I liked this very much.
  • The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution - Carl Truman (NF).
March 2021
  • Lord of Chaos (The Wheel of Time, Book #6) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • A Children's Bible - Lydia Millet (F).  After waiting quite a few weeks for this on library hold, it was disappointing, but I really did not like this one. At least it didn't take long to read, so I didn't waste too much time with it.
  • The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity - Douglas Murray (NF).
  • The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer (NF).
April 2021
  • A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, Book #7) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • Unmasked: Inside Antifa's Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy - Andy Ngo (NF).
  • The Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time, Book #8) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith - Michael Reeves (NF).  I loved this book. I am so glad one of our pastors recommended it.  I needed to read this today, and it is really good.  I will be pondering and leaning into the love of God for a long time after reading this.
May 2021
  • The Whole Truth - David Baldacci (F).
  • Anxious People - Fredrik Backman (F).  This is the third book I've read by this author and I just really like the way he writes. He has so much insight into the anxieties and insecurities we all can struggle with and such a compelling way of depicting relationships and friendship and the kindnesses that follow when we attempt to look beyond the surface to the things we want to say but can't always express, and start attempting to see people for who they really are, in the way he spins out the story.  I'm looking forward to reading more of his novels. 
  • Winter's Heart (The Wheel of Time, Book #9) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • The New Reformation: Finding Hope in the Fight for Ethnic Unity - Shai Linne (NF).
June 2021
  • Panic Attack: Playing Politics With Science in the Fights Against COVID-19 - Nicole Saphier, MD (NF).
  • Crossroads of Twilight (The Wheel of Time, Book #10) - Robert Jordan (F).  The last couple of books in the series I've only given 3 stars (and the last one I almost gave 2 stars it was that boring and frustrating) because they've just been so slow-going in terms of moving the plot forward.  These really could have stood for some editing and making them move along a bit faster with less words, and in the last book there was a major character and plot development I really don't like and which has made me not like certain characters nearly as much as I would have,  but I've read far enough into the series that I want to know how it will end, so I guess I'm committed at this point.  The last half of this one did pick up the pace a bit to where I actually wanted to start the next book right away when I finished it (though I need to read a library book that I've had on hold for weeks and which finally came available first), and from reviews I've read, it seems that the next books will be better, especially the last three when Brandon Sanderson took over to finish the series after Robert Jordan passed away, so I'm not giving up yet.  
  • Ordinary Grace - William Kent Krueger (F).  Beautifully written. I very much liked this one.
  • Ember Falls (The Green Ember, Book 2) - S. D. Smith (F).
  • Ember Rising (The Green Ember, Book 3) - S. D. Smith (F).
  • Ember's End (The Green Ember, Book 4) - S.D. Smith (F).  I loved this series.  To think I would cry real tears over rabbits.  It's a beautiful story and truly engaging.  I would highly recommend these books. 
July 2021
  • How Lucky - Will Leitch (F).
  • A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman (F). Backman is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. Another good one.
  • Hope…the Best of Things - Joni Eareckson Tada (NF).
  • The Nightwatchman - Louise Erdrich (F).
August 2021
  • Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, Book #11) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time, Book #12) - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (F).  As I've read in many reviews, this was indeed better than the last several books in the series as Brandon Sanderson took over the writing. He seems to focus less on the minutiae and unimportant details that took up too much of those last few books and gets down to moving the story along better, and I'm looking forward to reading the last several books in the series to see how it all wraps up. One of my sons keeps asking if it's worth starting the series, and I'm conflicted on how to answer. On the one hand, I've enjoyed the story, but it's a pretty big time investment - the books are all very long and there are 14 of them, and those middle books do drag quite a bit and all the other things I've not liked about the treatment of women, along with the disturbing overall worldview. However, Sanderson does a better job of toning some of the things I hated in the last book down and actually succeeds in subtly making a character I knew we were supposed to like but who I had a hard time liking as written by Jordan much more likable without drastically changing her character finally, and I'm glad for that. So, yeah, if you're willing to spend as much time as it takes and wade through several books that needed better editing to get to the good part, it's worth it, but not if you don't want to spend all that time on one series. There are so many good books out there to read - it's hard to justify it, in a way. As my other son and I were discussing, the problem with these epic fantasy series is that while the world-building and story may be interesting, they're just so long and there is so much else out there to read besides fantasy that it would be sad to limit yourself just to this genre. You miss out on so much other very beautiful and well-written literature if all you read are these long, epic fantasies. That's why I'm hesitating to read the next one he keeps telling me to read. I'll finish this series and then take a break to read some other things for a bit, I think, before I decide to take on another long fantasy series. 
September 2021
  • The Plot - Jean Hanff Korelitz (F).
  • Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time, Book #13) - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (F).
October 2021
  • A Memory of Light (The Wheel of Time, Book #14) - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (F).  I think overall I liked this series ok, but it was just so long and drawn out that by the end I was too exhausted by it to be as emotionally impacted as I usually am at the end of a good series.  It was a satisfying ending for the world that the author created, but the overarching worldview of that world was one I didn't care for - too much like Eastern philosophy for my taste, with the idea of the need for the darkness balanced with the light and the idea that mankind will ultimately choose honor and light and good. The Creator/Light was much too impersonal and uninvolved with the outcome for the creation, though characters would often pray for the Light or the Creator to shelter someone, there was NO indication that there was any sort of loving or even involved creator to do that. It all hinged on the relentless turning of the Wheel of Time and endless cycles of rebirth similar to the concept of reincarnation and Eastern thought,  and blind spinning of the pattern by the wheel, kind of like the impersonal idea of fate, and the hope that people would choose the light over the darkness. Anyway. I'm glad to have finished it. Not sure I'd give it a hearty recommendation since I don't really feel all that much enduring love for any of the characters or the story now that I've spent all this time reading it. So that's that. 
  • Britt-Marie Was Here - Fredrik Backman (F).
November 2021
  • Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (The Grantchester Mysteries, Book 1) - James Runcie (F).
  • The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity With the Gospel - Dean Inserra (NF). Of the books I've read so far this year, this is one I very much recommend. It's an important message, convicting and challenging and necessary, especially as someone who lives and grew up in the so-called Bible-belt.  Highly recommended.
  • The Means - Douglas Brunt (F).
  • Pathway to Freedom: How God's Laws Guide Our Lives - Alistair Begg (NF).
December 2021
  • One Faith No Longer: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America - George Yancey and Ashlee Quosigk (NF).   In his book Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen made the argument that liberalism and Christianity are actually two different religions.  This study pretty well bears that out, making a convincing case that the differences in Progressive Christianity and Conservative Christianity are so profound that we are probably witnessing the divergence of the two into separate religious categories.  Interesting read, though if we have been paying attention in recent years, sadly it is not terribly surprising in its findings, to be honest.
  • Mystic River - Dennis Lehane (F).
  • My Last Name - Eric Schumacher (F).  This was a beautiful little story. I finished it in one afternoon, but it left me in sweet tears. 
  • Jack - Marilynne Robinson (F).
  • Cry, The Beloved Country - Alan Paton (F).
  • Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane (F).
  • Christians Get Depressed Too - David P. Murray (NF). Recommended.  This should probably be recommended reading for all Christians, especially if you know someone struggling with depression, or you are experiencing it yourself.  This short book is easy to read and very compassionate and practical, a realistic and helpful look at the complexity of depression.
  • Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making - Andrew Peterson (NF).  I really loved this book. Andrew Peterson is one of my very favorite singer/songwriter/authors, and this book is beautiful.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
  • Gospel Meditations for Christmas - Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, & Michael Barrett (NF).

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Feel Good Songs

 Do you have any songs that whenever they come on your playlist, they just make you feel good or transport you back to another time? For me, one of those songs is Rod Stewart's "Forever Young." 

For me, whenever I hear this song, it's senior year in high school, band friends meeting at my house after football games so we could change out of those impossibly hot wool uniforms (wool uniforms in Florida, what were they thinking?) and go meet our friends at Jungle Jim's for a late football Friday night dinner, boombox on the beach or by the pool, windows down freedom enjoying my new drivers license, tables pushed together at Pizza Hut with lots of friends and laughter after church on a Sunday night, the excitement of the acceptance letter from the University of Florida, endless sunshine and a simpler time, and all the good memories and emotions that go with that season of life. 

It's funny how songs can convey so much emotion, and though this certainly isn't the only one like that for me, it is one of my favorites. Whenever I hear it in the car, I just want to play it loud with windows down and drive. It's such a feel good song and when it played on my way home from taking my daughter to band practice on this crisp cool morning, that's what I was thinking about.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Memory of a Smile

One of the most perfect movie moments I’ve ever seen is near the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King when Frodo boards the ship to sail to the Gray Havens after his tearful farewell with Merry, Pippin, and most of all, Sam.  That moment when he pauses and then he turns and smiles at them and his face is truly happy and he all of sudden has color in his cheeks and you realize that you hadn’t noticed how pale and sad and wan he had become and how tinged with sadness and weariness his smiles had been until right at that moment when he suddenly looks like the sweet, carefree Frodo he had been at the beginning, and you sigh as the tears are streaming and think, “Oh. He’s whole again.”

This evening I was making grilled cheese sandwiches and thinking about my mom, specifically thinking about one of the last times I saw her and how she smiled at me while I was making a grilled cheese sandwich for her when she asked for one after she came home from the hospital when we were there in January. Grief is a strange thing, how it hits at unexpected times, but tonight I got to thinking about that scene from The Lord of the Rings and how sweet that unguarded, loving smile from my mom was, and how sick she actually was then and how sick and exhausted she’d really been for a long time even though we didn't realize it and she faithfully kept on and kept on, and I thought how if I were to be able to see her today and she were to smile at me, she would be whole in a way I’ve never known her. 

I know Tolkien didn't mean The Lord of the Rings to be an allegory or anything, but I think that scene and how Peter Jackson chose to portray it in the movie perfectly captures the emotions surrounding the death of the believer in Christ. There is the grief those who are left behind feel so tangibly, there is the sadness the one who is dying feels at leaving, yet there is that sense of relief and joy and wholeness in knowing they go to be with the Lord and enter into a joy that this world can only hint at. And there is also that sense of letting go and moving forward for those who now have to live with the grief of the separation from their loved one and that emptiness we feel when we miss seeing their smile, but also to live the life we still have to live and to live it in joy, even while we often ache with the missing of our loved one and are so often reminded by little things - even things as ordinary and simple as a grilled cheese sandwich.   

Tuesday, August 03, 2021



Romans 8:18-25

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Proverbs 14:13

“Even in laughter the heart may ache,

and the end of joy may be grief.”

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers, For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” - C.S. Lewis

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how in this fallen world how tangled and intertwined joy and grief, contentment and longing, laughing and weeping are in just about everything we do and all that we hold dear.  With my mom passing into glory earlier this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the strange mingling of joy and grief. On the one hand there is the joy of knowing her, having gotten to be her daughter and have her in my life for as long as I did, and also the ache in knowing how many of the years of her life were marked by some form of suffering through which she grew mightily in her faith, but it wasn’t an easy walk. Even in death there is the grief of separation, those moments when I think, “I wish I could talk to Mom about this, I wish she could have seen or heard this, I wish I could ask what she would think about this,” but then there is the sweet joy of knowing her physical exhaustion and pain are over, her faith is sight, she is in the presence of the Lord.

Another way I’ve been pondering some of these deep thoughts is in the very nature of friendships and relationships. When you have to move as often as we do, you come face to face with the grief of goodbyes. You also come face to face with both the joys and the difficulties of new hellos. It takes time to build up the kind of closeness that breeds deep and intimate friendships. It seems that for many of my adult years I have found myself finally finding people I could grow to have that kind of friendship with, only to have to pack up and move and say goodbye before really getting the chance to let those friendships fully blossom further. It seems that most of my adult life I’ve been torn between missing people we have known, looking forward to knowing new people, and learning to plant quickly in the place where we are at the moment. I told my husband the other day, I haven’t really, truly felt like we are ‘home’ in a long time.  Even when we are settled, in the backs of our minds, we know we most likely will be moving again in a few years, and though we try to plug in and form bonds and bloom where we’re planted, blooming and blossoming takes time, forming real community and trust and friendship doesn’t happen overnight.

Even when we have time, I find that real, deep friendship is a hard thing to come by. I think part of what we lost in the Fall back in Genesis is the ability to truly be open and truly vulnerable with others. Even in the best of friendships, often we are holding ourselves back, there is just something missing. This is why marriage and family are such a unique and beautiful blessing. On earth in our fallenness, marriage and family should be the relationships that come closest to being able to truly just be ourselves.  This is also why brokenness in marriages and families hurt so very deeply. When the people who should be the most able to be open and vulnerable and know everything about us are a safe place, it is a glorious glimpse of some of what we lost in the fall, but when they are not a safe place, it mars the gospel picture in a really ugly and deeply painful way. 

Another place where we ought to be able to find a glimpse of what is being restored for those who trust in Christ and have been joined to Him is in the Church. When people genuinely love Jesus and are seeking Him and His brilliant beauty above all else, it ought to bond them to others who also genuinely love and belong to Jesus. And I have found in all of our moving that if I’m going to find those kindred spirit kinds of friendships that I think we all desperately long for, it is within the local church families we’ve joined. 

But part of the cost of living on this side of eternity is that in loving well, we are also at risk of grieving hard. When a loved one passes away, or we have to pack up and leave cherished friends or friends who would have been kindred spirits had we had more time to develop the friendship, it hurts deeply. Life is hard.  There is so much wrong in the world that we long to see restored and made right. And the real hope for the believer in Christ is the knowing that He is making all things new.  He is sovereign and wrong will not win.  Jesus wins. He has conquered sin and death and He is where our hope finds rest, even as we live with the tension of the now and the not yet of that fulfillment on this side of eternity.

As I told a friend recently when we were expressing sadness that we hadn’t had time to know each other better, one day we will have all of eternity to develop friendships that won’t ever have to end as we worship Jesus together, no more marred by the sin that entangles us here. 

Something else that feeds these thoughts is that as I see the news and how divided people are, how much we can’t trust the voices we should be able to trust, how bad things seem to be in the world, I just feel a sense of homesickness, even when we are settled somewhere. It’s not like I’m wanting to be in some specific place that I’m missing, it’s more that I just don’t feel like it’s home in the deepest sense. I think what I’m longing for is not so much a place, but a Person. I’m longing to know Christ more and to find my security and rest and HOME in Him. This desire grows the longer I walk with Him and realize that the only hope for all of these things I’m pondering about is Jesus. He is the something better which my heart yearns for. It is in Him that we can be freed from the sin and discontent and lack of ability to let go of my self-centeredness and rest in Him and be free to love others and truly enjoy the portion He has granted with all its joys and sorrows combined. 

So, while we sojourn here on this side of eternity, let us seek to pursue Christ wholeheartedly, love others deeply and hold back less and less so we can give more and more of ourselves and make the best use of the time we’ve been given to share glimpses of eternity with others and moments of light in the darkness as we love well. I feel like I’m rambling a bit and not adequately saying what I’m trying to say here, but it’s a start. I’m speaking to myself.  I have such a tendency to hold back, to be shy, to live like a hermit, and then complain because of the ache of loneliness that I often don’t know how to break. Whatever the circumstances, I want to see Jesus for how precious and beautiful He is, and I want to live so full of that grace that I can reach out to kindred spirits and point them to His glory and together to live the life He has given us and enjoy the portion He has for us well, to purpose to fully enjoy the joys while not hiding from the griefs, to join in fully rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep until He calls us home.

“The term is over; the holidays have begun. The dream is ended; this is the morning. “ - C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Revelation 21:1-8

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall here be mourning, nor crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and  the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’”

Revelation 22:1-5

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”


Thursday, April 08, 2021

Music and Prayer


Sometimes I find myself struggling to focus my thoughts and settle down enough to really pray. Often in our Wednesday small group Bible study we will end the study by singing a hymn together, so today I thought, why not try singing to get my heart tuned to pray this morning? 

Recently our church produced a hymnal just for our congregation, full of old and new hymns that our congregation use for worship.  It's divided into four sections: Call to Worship, Confession, Christ, and Gospel Response.  This morning I took one from each section and sang through them and between that and my morning Bible reading I found it a refreshing way to spur me on to pray richly. 

I was struck this morning by how many of our hymns point us toward the fact that death has lost its victory and sting, how many of them talk about how life will not end our song, we will get to sing for eternity, singing forevermore. That, my friends, was a beautiful thought, especially as I'm missing my mother but finding joy in thinking about the fact that she's getting to hear the music of Heaven now. 

There is something deeply powerful about music, don't you think? It moves us on a level much deeper than merely our intellect, but down in the depths of us. When coupled with beautiful words that point us toward Christ and are full of biblical truth, there is something truly mysterious and wonderful about music.  

When I think about beauty, I am mindful of just how beautiful our God is.  He could have given us a world that was merely functional, but he didn't stop at that.  He made a world that is gloriously beautiful, full of light, and brilliance, and color, and music, that help us to contemplate the immense greatness of the God who would create such beauty. And all the beauty we behold is shadow, seen through a glass dimly for now.  Imagine the beauty of the new heaven and new earth and the music that will be there. I don't think we can even comprehend it….yet. 

So, today I'm thankful for rich hymns. Even sung alone, a cappella, they drew my attention to my Savior and helped me to pray, at a time when I'm feeling so mentally scattered. What a gift music is, and what a gift godly hymn writers have been to the Church through the ages. God is abundantly good to His people. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A Life Well Lived

“Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his saints.”

Psalm 116:15

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,

and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

the sun shall not strike them,

nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 7:15-17

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me 

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Psalm 23:1-6

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 

1 Corinthians 13:12

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Philippians 1:21

My dear mother went home to be with the LORD yesterday. I cannot quite wrap my mind around it yet. I am thankful my dad was with her, and I am thankful her suffering is now complete and her faith is sight as she gets to see Jesus face to face. One moment she was having devotions with my dad in her hospital room, and the next she was opening her eyes in Heaven. As I type this my eyes are filling again with tears, but in all that transpired over the past few days, my dad and brother and I can see the merciful hand of God’s Providence and care for my mom and for us. I cannot even comprehend how much we are going to miss her, but I rejoice in knowing her faith is now sight and we will see her again, whole and rejoicing. As a friend of mine said, what a special week for her to run into the arms of Jesus, as we who are still here are celebrating the Resurrection. 

She is one of the strongest women I know.  Her faith grew ever stronger even as she faced severe health challenges for many years. As a tribute to the legacy she leaves, I’m sharing what I wrote in the forward to the books my brother compiled for my parents’ 50th anniversary a couple of years ago. I love my Mom, and I’m grateful for our family. 

The righteous who walks in his integrity - 
blessed are his children after Him!
Proverbs 20:7 

When my brother, Tim, first suggested this project as we were discussing our parents’ upcoming 50th wedding anniversary and what we could do to honor them, it seemed like a great idea.  As I’ve thought about it, what could be more fitting a tribute to what has been a driving and most important theme throughout their marriage than to honor their love for learning and teaching God’s Word? Yes, this project is my dad’s notes from the many months (years!) he spent teaching through the book of John with his adult Sunday School class at Faith Presbyterian Church. We have these notes because of his love for my brother and me and his wanting to share the truths he was learning and teaching with us, but the legacy of my and my brother’s lives is to have grown up with TWO gifted Bible teachers for parents. 

When my parents were a young married couple, they moved to the Space Coast of Florida as my dad began working at the Kennedy Space Center (my husband likes to tell people that his father-in-law is a real rocket scientist). Not only did that begin my dad’s professional career, but they quickly found First Baptist Church of Merritt Island, FL, where a dynamic preacher by the name of Adrian Rogers taught the Bible every week in a way my parents had never heard before. They loved it. They began growing spiritually and learning to study God’s Word and understand it better, and eventually to teach it. I remember my mom teaching children’s Sunday School and VBS for many years, and some of my earliest memories of that church were going over to the old Job building where my dad taught a couples class, and if I close my eyes, I can still smell that building and see some of those faces that I haven’t seen in years. My mom’s love for GA’s led her to teach it for a while when I was at the age to be in her group, and summer GA camp gave me some of my very first tastes of what it means to study the Bible and have my own quiet time in the Word. Later my mom went on to teach a women’s class, and even when I would come home on college breaks, I preferred going to her class than back to the youth and college class. I still remember her taking one lesson to diagram the first sentence of the book of Hebrews - ever the English teacher, as well.

Growing up in our home, my brother and I knew how important the Bible was to my parents because they talked about what they were learning all the time. I used to like to say it was part of the warp and woof of our life. It’s not so much that we had tons of ‘formal’ Bible training times, but that as they learned and grew, they talked about it - either to each other and around us, or directly to us, but always we knew how precious the truths of God’s Word were to them. So much of what I know about the Bible was caught just by growing up in a home where these things were not just something we heard on Sunday then put up on a shelf until the next week, but they were life to my parents. And believe, me, children notice these things. For my mom and dad, the Christian faith is everything. They love Jesus and they love His word, and they talk about what matters. 

When my parents discovered the doctrines of grace as they studied the Bible and prepared to teach, it brought them, eventually, great peace. Though the journey eventually led them away from the church that had been home for so many years, God graciously brought them to a new home at Faith Presbyterian, where my brother and I have watched them bloom. As my mom said, finally the pieces fit and she had been given the key for which she had been looking. God is so kind to His people! 

How thankful I am to have that legacy. The older I get, the more people I meet, the more thankful I am that God placed me in a home where my parents were real. They are not perfect people, there are no perfect families, but they are real and they love the Lord and His Word, and He has granted them both the gift to teach it well, and they have loved my brother and me through all of our ups and downs, and I’m so grateful God gave us these parents and this family. How thankful I am to have heard the gospel early and young and to have the example of two people who weren’t merely nominally interested, but invested in His Word. It is an immense blessing to a child to grow up in a home where Jesus is Lord and her parents are seeking to honor Him, where the faith is a part of who we are, not just an add on or something we do on Sundays. To this day, when I have biblical questions, I know I can go to my mom and dad and they will either be able to answer them or know how to search it out. They have modeled this since we were children, and their counsel and advice was biblical and practical.  For this I am grateful.

With these volumes we get to share the notes my dad shared with my brother and me as he was teaching the rich book of John. John is the book we often counsel new believers to read first, as it is so rich and such a glorious portrait of the Deity and majesty of Christ. My dad was excited to share his notes with us since we were far away raising our own families and couldn’t sit in on his classes except for the rare times we got to visit, and now, my brother has labored in love to set them into a bound series of volumes that we can present as a gift to honor my parents as they celebrate 50 years of marriage. We also felt that a fitting tribute would be to print some of my mother’s paintings on the bindings of these volumes, and for that we chose three that seemed fitting for John, “The Word” with the Greek LOGOS, “The Last Trumpet,” and “Faith Station Church” from her series of church paintings. 

Mom and Dad, from both Tim and me, thank you for loving us and always being ‘on our side,’ and for modeling faithfulness in marriage, and most importantly, thank you for pointing us to Jesus. That is the greatest gift any parent can give their children, and you have done it well, continuing on to your grandchildren, who share in this wonderful legacy.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Long Days, Short Years

 When I started this blog in 2006, I had three littles running around, our youngest not even a year old yet.  Back in those early days of blogging I wrote more about my kids, but as they grew older, I wrote about them less and less, beginning to come to understand that the older they grew, the more their stories weren't mine to tell on my blog. The focus of the blog, such as it is, changed over the years.  Back when blogging was a new thing, we formed little communities of similar interests and we shared each others' posts and encouraged each other, 'meeting' people in our blogging communities we might never have otherwise known.  Sometimes I kind of miss those days, but you really can't "go home again." Things changed, we changed, the world changed, our kids grew up, the nature of blogging drifted into more of developing your brand and specific focuses rather than the lonely musings of Christian moms seeking community and connection, we drifted away to more personal social media platforms or left the blogging world all together and let the younger, hipper, more brand-conscious influencers have at it. 

I've kept my little blog-journal open through the years, not because I think anyone is still reading, and not that I even want to build that kind of platform anymore, but because I still find it a useful place to hash out thoughts, and share them, just not as often, and not for nearly as many people - if anyone besides my parents and a few Facebook friends even see it anymore.  That's been freeing, too. No pressure to post often, and now it's mostly a place for me to keep track of what I'm reading. The downside is that with the change in the way we blog, I've also dropped off from making very interesting content, hardly ever. 

Anyway, the thing I got to thinking about today is that in a few days one of those children who was little when I started this blog, what doesn't feel all that long ago, but when you look at the dates is longer ago than I can wrap my head around, is turning 20. As of Friday, I will have two who are no longer teenagers.

That little cliche you hear all the time has truth to it: The days are long, but the years are short. Back when I was a lonely stay-home mom starting this blog, there were plenty of days I couldn't imagine anything other than those long days, and I even got a little bit irritated with people who constantly said things like, "Enjoy every day, every moment, they just go so fast." I knew that was true, but it felt burdensome to be constantly asking, "Am I really enjoying this moment as much as I should? Will I regret that I didn't do more?" And yes, there are things I regret.  There are many more things I'm thankful for, though. I've learned through the years not to beat myself up about wondering if I'm making the most of every little thing, and just learning to live and to love Jesus and know Him more, whatever comes that day. And most of all, I'm thankful for the grace God has lavished on our life as I look back and see how He guided me through all those long days and short years. 

I can honestly say that I've enjoyed my kids, all along the way. And I really and truly enjoy them immensely today, now that two of them are adults and the youngest is quickly catching up to them. I may look back and lose my breath at how quickly these years have slipped away, but I will never say they weren't full. And what a blessing it is to have children who are growing into really cool adults, who are just plain fun to talk to now. 

I've shared this song before, but I just love it. I think of it whenever I think of my boys who are no longer my littles, but who have grown to be my friends. 

God has been so very kind, and I am grateful. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Perspective and Hope

 This poster hangs in our basement.  Today while exercising and facing this poster, a thought hovered and landed, "I wish this were true." I wish I didn't have this pessimism, but lately and increasingly,  I'm sad to say sometimes I do. In this day when an aggressive and vicious from of cancel culture is rising, people seem so prone to view others who think differently and have different opinions as 'the enemy' rather than 'my neighbor.' It seems that with the rise of social media culture, we are becoming people who are so quick to assume the worst rather than the best, to put the worst construction on others' actions rather than trying to assume the best construction, with a growing unwillingness to put ourselves in others' shoes and try to see other perspectives. Take a moment to read through the shaming posts on your local Next Door app and you see so much of this thinking the worst, assuming the worst.  These tools that supposedly are meant to bring us together are doing more to divide and isolate, in my opinion.  

It is a sad day when a neighbor can do something kind and helpful for another neighbor, but that neighbor cannot see beyond the first neighbor's politics and chooses to spurn the kindness and see it as a cynical move for false unity rather than simply a neighborly kindness.  How sad we become as a people, as a culture, if we are going to reduce everyone down to identity politics, and because of that choose to view anyone who doesn't toe the line we set for what is acceptable politically as, not just someone I disagree with, but as a dangerous and immoral enemy I can't cross the aisle to find any common ground with at all.  We are so ugly when we worship at the altar of politics. How is a community supposed to function in this way? How are we supposed to function as a community when we lump people together and make broad assumptions based on who they vote for, or what they look like, or where they are from and refuse to look at people as valuable individuals who have varying and valuable opinions, beliefs, talents, etc.? We have lost the ability to hear an opinion we dislike and just agree to disagree.  Instead of saying, "I don't like what you think, so therefore I don't like you, so you're cancelled and I cannot have any common ground or empathy for you at all," why can't we say, "I don't like your opinion, but could you help me to understand why you think that way and where you're coming from, and we can be friends, or at the least friendly, even if we don't end up agreeing?" Is this the culture we want to promote? 

There is so much more I could say on this topic and a blog post isn't really the format for filling in all the gaps, but that's where my thoughts went as I stared at that poster this morning. 

But that isn't where my thoughts stopped.  You see, I'm not really a pessimist at heart, ultimately.  I love America, don't get me wrong.  Healthy patriotism is ok when kept in proper perspective, and I am thankful for the good things we've had in our country.  It is true that the founding fathers who wrote the constitution and formed our union were flawed men. I have to admit the discomfort and even anger I have felt when I've toured the homes of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, George Mason, and the various sites around Washington, D.C. as we've lived here this past year and a half and contemplated the complexities of those flaws mingled with the brilliance of the government they dreamed up.  For all its flaws, however, this country had and has so much potential. We have seen progress over the years of our existence as a nation, and I hope we refuse to squander that, and I hope we can celebrate it and continue to hope for better. 

But all that said, I have to continue and say that ultimately, my hope is not in America.  When our leaders do what is just and righteous and generally good for the people, I pray they succeed, and when they govern wickedly, I pray for God's mercy.  America is one of the nations, special in its way, yes, but finally just another of the nations, of whom Psalm 46:6 says, "The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts." Ultimately my citizenship is in Heaven.  I am a Christian first and foremost.  No matter what happens to America, whether it stands or falls, my hope is in Christ.  No matter what I see around me, no matter how many difficult days I suspect may lie ahead, my hope, my joy, my stability, security, and peace come from Christ.  I will not fret when the wicked act wickedly. Though I may feel great sadness in seeing what looks to me like a spiral into foolish thinking all around me, I do not fret myself because of evildoers.  (Psalm 37)  I trust in the LORD, delight myself in Him. He is sovereign over the nations.  He is not surprised when sinners act like sinners.  They act they way they do because they are lost.  And this causes me to respond in compassion and to pray for those who would see themselves as my enemy, and to go ahead and do good, act kindly, even when I know it won't be received well or appreciated or even understood.

Anyway, this is where my thoughts went as I stared at that poster this morning. As Kingdom citizens, living as ambassadors for Christ in the country where we've been placed, let us remember to love our neighbors, even when they seem to be unable to love us back or to assume the best of us, and let us live justly and do mercy, pray for them, pray for our leaders, and then resolve ourselves to rejoice in the Lord always, be anxious about nothing, praying with thanksgiving, and may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7) Let us resolve to focus our attention on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let us think about these things. (Philippians 4:8) And keep in mind, too, that our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21) Let us resolve to make sure that we take every thought captive to Christ, walk in Him, and guard our hearts and minds so as not to be captivated by worldly philosophies and empty deceits, but rooted and established in Christ and view the world through that lens as we choose to love our neighbors well. Let us remember that we who have trusted in Christ are His ambassadors, ambassadors of His light in the midst of a dark and crooked generation and let us so live that the fragrance of Christ is evident in our thoughts, speech, and actions. 


Friday, January 29, 2021


 I can’t believe I will be turning 50 in a few months.  That just doesn’t seem real. I don’t feel like an almost 50-year-old. In my head I think I sort of stopped aging at around 30-35 or so, so it’s surreal to all of a sudden think about attaching the number 50 to myself. I’m not upset about it, mind you, I’m just trying to explain how weird it is to think of myself as middle aged. Whoa.  I should not have typed that.  That is too weird. Side note: we've been watching Cobra Kai on Netflix, and it is so weird seeing these guys who were total teen heartthrobs when I was a teenager looking like middle aged men. We like the show for the most part, and they've definitely aged well, but still. This is what I'm saying.  Ok. This isn’t what I meant to be writing about in this post at all. Moving on. 

So, with being in the last few months of my 40’s, I’ve realized that strange things are going on with my metabolism.  I’ve always been a little sluggish there, but I’m finding lately that losing weight is way more difficult than it used to be.  Like almost impossible.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I do or what I eat or don’t eat, it just doesn’t budge much.  However, I’m trying to rethink how I look at this.  It’s not really the number on the scale I need to worry about, it’s healthy choices and lifestyle I need to aim for. So, I’m trying to make healthier choices and get into better shape.  A few months ago, when I realized I probably wouldn’t keep walking as much as I should when the weather was bad or turned colder, we bought an elliptical for the basement.  I’ve been using it, trying to be more regular about it. Also, I’ve started doing the 16:8 goal for intermittent fasting most days of the week.  What I like about it is it has effectively made us more aware of the bad habit of evening snacking that we’d slipped into, and with this app I’m using, I basically tell it to start my fast not too long after dinner - no later than 7:30 pm, but earlier most days - and then I don’t end the fast until at least 11:30am the next day, pretty much nixing evening snacks and that oh, so tempting bowl of ice cream while we watch TV. This isn’t for everyone, I know, but it’s working for me. The key, however, is not to overdo it during the time you can eat - that defeats the purpose.

Anyway, with all that, I’ve been a little discouraged that the weight isn’t just melting off, but I have noticed some subtle changes, even if my scale isn’t budging much yet. I have started feeling a lot better, more energy, somewhat, and I’m looking forward to the day when my clothes really feel like they're fitting better, knees and joints feel a bit better, and, hopefully, the scale will move the correct direction, too. 

And now to get to the point I meant to be writing about when I started this post.  I find the elliptical to be a great source of cardiovascular exercise, but, frankly, it’s boring down there in the basement.  For a while, I would listen to podcasts, which are quite entertaining when I take walks outside, but for some reason in the basement on the elliptical, they seem less engaging and I’m watching that timer and it’s super slow going. So, I’ve been looking for something else.  And, y’all, I found it.  

Here’s where I share my nerdliness with you. My daughter and I often find ourselves bonding over certain pieces of music when they come on the playlist. I’m talking epic movie music, for lack of a better way of describing it.  When we’re in the kitchen together making dinner and The Chronicles of Narnia music, the Theme from Jurassic Park, music from The Lion King, the Halo theme (yeah, I know, it’s a video game, not a movie, work with me here), or ANYTHING from The Greatest Showman comes on, we geek out and have a music moment together.  So, I was looking for something like that to pump up my workout playlist, and I remembered a friend when we lived in San Antonio had mentioned a group her girls were enjoying. She was so funny, too, when she told me you have to kind of ignore that the name of the group is Two Steps From Hell, which she almost didn’t even want to say, but the music is like movie music and it’s really good. And I get that, it feels weird linking to a band with that name. When you look them up, they've written trailer music for a whole bunch of movies and video games you have probably heard of.  

Anyway, I looked them up and found some of their most popular downloads and I LOVE this music.  We were joking yesterday when I was listening to some of it in the kitchen after dinner. My husband said, “Man even washing dishes is epic when you’ve got that in the background.” Haha.  Truth.  Have you ever thought you’d like to have a movie soundtrack for your life? This stuff would be good.  

So, today I made myself a new playlist and called it “Epic” after I worked out this morning and listened to some of my new music.  What I’ve found works for me is to cover up the timer on the elliptical with a towel so I’m not tempted to look at it, pump up the volume with some good music and before you know it, I’ve done a pretty decent workout and enjoyed it, too. I started with the Epic music and ended with some Worship music at the end and I think I’ve found the push-through-it formula for doing something I have traditionally hated to do. 

Ok. That’s it for this post.  No serious thoughts today, just writing to keep the blog alive.

Here’s a sample of my new find: 

Happy Friday!