Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Off My Bookshelf: January 2015 Books

Looking back over my book choices for January leaves me scratching my head. The three books have no connection: one fiction, one memoir and one self help. In regard to subject matter, they have nothing in common. So see if you can figure my brain out by what I read.

1. Us by David Nicholls  

I heard about "Us" from a podcast, "The Readers," and found it irresistible. So I bought it....last year. This year my goal is to read off my bookcase instead of buying books on a whim...which is what I've always done. So I picked this as my first book off my bookshelf this year. It was a interesting read, but not one many of my friends would enjoy. There was alcohol use, drugs, premarital sex, family discord, just to name a few reasons for a mature audience. It's the story of a man's quest to save his family from breaking apart. And he's totally inadequate to the job. His wife tells him she's leaving him after their final family vacation. His son can't stand the sight of him. How can one win a family back in such circumstances? Vacations tend to place stress on family dynamics, at least that's been my experience. I can't say I would have handled the situation in the same way, but then I have different values. Values that involve being Christlike as much as possible in my flawed human body.

Jackie is a missionary to Hong Kong, inside the Walled City. She has done amazing work with the drug addicts. Actually, it was and is God doing the work. Jackie is the vessel. What an amazing story...God is still at work! I'd recommend this book to everyone with one caveat. It is written by Jackie; and that being said, it's not the best writing. Or the easiest to follow. Sometimes it's as if she wrote whatever came to mind without regard to structure or transition. You just have to follow her the best you can. But it's worth it. The biggest lesson I learned from Jackie is the value of commitment. She spent years loving and serving the unlovable and because of that commitment she was love back, protected and trusted. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

""...'What is sin?'...'That's simple. Sin is walking your own road.'"

"The disadvantage of short-term missions is a wrong perspective based on this generation's need for instant results."

"What is important is that we have loved in a real way - not preached in an impassioned way."

"Stay for the party. The fleeting volunteer sometimes catches a course - sweet and sour - but no one savers the whole menu like me."

"And so much of the rest of the Church was engaged in discovering their gifting a rather than giving."

My Suggested Wardrobe Colors
So, then to some light reading....and I kind of skimmed it. But I found nuggets of advice here and there. One is that you should have a basic wardrobe, and many of the items I already own. Check. Also, everything you wear should be a "10". It should fit perfectly and make you feel great while wearing it. Check. Finally, Brescia listed colors that should be in your wardrobe based on hair color. And surprise...I'm wearing the right colors without even knowing it! Check. So I'm basically set, except that now I'm off to buy a trench coat for my basic wardrobe...and some hoop earring. Just kidding about the earrings. They're not my thing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Off My Bookshelf: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Who is beautiful? Who is ugly? Is beauty found on the face or in the heart? What about ugliness? Isn't ugliness of the heart much worse than any physical deformity?

Wonder takes us through the fifth grade year of a severely deformed boy, August. It is his first year not being home-schooled, and the adjustment is torturous for him and those who love him. He encounters those who fear him and those who hate him simply because of how he looks. Yet August finds strength from within himself and from the friendships of others.

How do we relate to the unlovely? Reading Wonder caused me to take a hard, deep look into my own heart. What have been my reactions to those with special needs or those who are not "normal"? I have to say I have not been proud of what has been revealed to me about my heart and my behavior.

A few of my favorite quotes from Wonder:

"Jack, sometimes you don't have to mean to hurt someone to hurt someone." pg.137

"You don't need your eyes to love, right? You just feel it inside you. That's how it is in heaven. It's just love, and no one forgets who they love." pg.227

"And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God." pg.301

"'Greatness,' wrote Beecher, (Henry Ward Beecher), 'lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength... He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts...'" pg.304

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Off My Bookshelf: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

First, let me say this is one of the most important books I have ever read. I worried at the start because the foreword was written the well-known atheist by Christopher Hitchens. I wondered what I, a Christ loving woman, would think of Ayaan's story. I thought, because of the foreword, that it was to be a story of movement from the Muslim faith to atheism. It is that story, but so much more. I have read "Half the Sky" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, and know about the atrocities toward women around the world. And frankly, I'm still trying to figure out my role, my reaction, toward female genital mutilation, arranged marriages, rape, human trafficking, etc., after having read that book. Now I have read the story of a real life woman having lived though some of those horrific practices. It has become personal to me. While in the line to pick up my independent, strong-willed daughter, I see girls exciting the high school covered in their hidjab. I pass women in the grocery store and see only their eyes. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? What is their life like? Is it the same as Ayaan's? I have a completely different thought process now. I don't know what I as one woman in the Midwest can do to help woman in bondage, but it is time to give serious thought and action to the matter.

If you are looking for a book you just can't stop reading despite the horrific subject matter and the fact that the Kindle version is 851 pages, I recommend "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But be warned, it will do more than bruise your heart. It will scrap the innocent cataracts from your eyes.

In Ayaan Hirsi Ali's words,

"The message of this book, if it must have a message, is that we in the West would be wrong to prolong the pain of that transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life." Pg.823

"When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn't so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so." pg. 825

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rain Equals Cat Brains

This week has rained and rained and rained. That means no work happened. For my husband, literally, works stops. You can't pick corn when it's raining. For me, it's all emotional. It's gloomy, wet, cold, wet, dreary, wet, wet, wet. Who can get motivated with weather that makes you want to crawl back under the sheets and turn on the heating pad?! 

So instead of doing my Bible study homework, writing, blogging, cleaning, cooking and all the 101 other things I needed to do.... I've knit and listened to podcasts, read and wrote down quotes that struck my fancy. I've been to the library twice and made three trips to local bookstores.

Good news though, I finished another Barley baby hat and made good progress on a sock.

Here's the best quote of the week,

"I'd rather do sit-ups for an hour than try to locate a string of words in my mind. I want to believe that our brains are machines you turn on and off like cars, but when it comes down to it, I think they're a lot more like cats or toddlers; you sometimes have to trick them or turn your back just for a second, allowing them to believe your not watching." -"Bittersweet" by Shauna Niequist, pages 205-206

My brain has definitely been a cat this week. It's hidden under the bed most of the week and hissed when I tried to coax it out!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Watching Them Worship

God is in the midst of her;
she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
(Psalm 46:5 ESV)

As a mom, one of the most important goals of my life is to know my daughters' faith is their own.

This weekend I saw that goal is being accomplished. At the last minute we were able to go to the Michael W. Smith concert at Indiana Wesleyan University Saturday evening where my oldest sat behind the band in the chorale backing up Michael. I cried as I watched her worshiping. And then next to me another daughter's hand went up in praise.

Our children grow up, and it's a scary thing. I want them to be babies again, always reaching to me for help. But the older they get, the less they need my help. Knowing they are turning to God for their help makes the pain of letting go so much easier.

I am a blessed mom!

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Small Gift

I visited my Dad this week and he sent me home with two roses, one zucchini and four tomatoes. I love that man!

The roses smelled so sweet and filled my heart with feelings of being loved. It reminded me of a quote from a book I'm reading by Mark and Lisa Scandrette entitled, "Free: Spending Your Money and Time on What Matters Most."

"I've learned new ways to give, and that a small gift is often appreciated as much as a lavish one." -pg. 35

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Off My Needles: Clapo-Ktus Shawl

Recently I finished this shawl for a friend. As I knit it I prayed for her and her mom who is battling cancer. I bought this special yarn at my local knitting shop, River Knits, not knowing what to do with it. But after a few days, it came to me. This is the perfect colorway for a dear friend.

It's a yarn from a promotion that Dream in Color Yarn is doing. Every month they send out special Club colorway skeins to o participating shops  to sell. The color combination is brilliant. Pinks, green, yellow, orange. It vibrant, cheerful, yet somehow fallish.

When you buy a skein, you receive a free pattern. I ditched the pattern for the Clapo-Ktus.

Years ago I knit the Capotis shawl and last year, the Baktus shawl. This pattern is a combination of the two - pure genius!
It was so much fun to knit, and I'm not a big shawl knitter. I get bored with them. But not this one because just when I started to get bored, the decrease section began. And with the decreases came the dropped stitch. How fun to let all those purl stitched fall off the needle and watch the shawl open up. I couldn't stop knitting. I wanted to watch the magic happen over and over again.