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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Off My Needles: Barley Baby Hat

I'm officially old. Not only do I have one great-nephew, but I have three great-nieces. The newest is a few weeks old. I love these little ones, but I wish they didn't come with the title, Great-Aunt.

Anyway, despite my annoyance at what this newest one will call me, I knit her a teeny, tiny hat from the Barley Hat pattern. This is a super, simple pattern to knit up, but looks adorable. Try it, and you will fall in love with the pattern too.

Now, if I can just remember to mail it!

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I'm starting to say and do things I never thought I would say or do. Such as....

I'm running. I'm a runner.

I've hated running all my life. In high school I ran just enough to get permission to head down to the high jump mat. I have mocked those who say they are joggers as crazy people. Why would anyone want to go outside and purposely run if they weren't being chased by rabid dogs?

But one day I just had this inexplicable urge to feel the wind through my hair, to run like a child, free. So I started running. And I haven't stopped. Every other day I go for a run down my country road.

And every run, I pick up a rock. It's something to hold onto, to rub with my thumb with every step. It's a physical reminder of my desire to take care of my body, to become a stronger woman physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I'm in my 40's, and it's time to get serious about this life of mine. It's time to take care of my body. It's time to be able to run more than 10 yards without getting winded.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Doing the Little Things

A family friend died this week. Even though he was in his 80's, Carl's death came unexpectedly, tragically. He was cutting a tree alone in the woods. No one knows exactly what happened. Did the tree fall on him, hit him? All we know is that he is gone. I sat on his porch during the viewing to discourage possible burglars. It was a small thing, even a pleasant chore. The weather was perfect. A breeze blew through. The sun shone through the trees. My mother-in-law and I had a pleasant talk. It didn't seem like a sacrifice at all. But it was my little way of showing I care. His new widow gave me a hug, and it warmed my saddened heart.

The same day I watched the house, I took a meal to a young mother and her family. She had a new baby in her arms, another toddler freshly woken from a nap and a preschooler playing next door with the neighbor girls. This mom had dark circles under her eyes and wore the look of the frazzled. I felt so much empathy for her. It seems like years, it has been years, since my girls were 4, 2 and newborn, but the feeling of exhaustion I saw in her came back like it was just yesterday. After I left, I worried that I hadn’t given enough food. Before I left home, I had paired down the amount for a small family. But as I left I wished I packaged up it all so she had two meals out of what I’d given her.

There are days, in every mom’s life when she wonders if she will make it to the end of the day. There are seasons in life that are dark and may be incredibly long. I’m thankful for friends through the years who have supported me. I hope my one small meal and an afternoon on a neighbor's porch will add a little encouragement and light to their difficult days.

Sometimes God asks us to do things that seem small to us, maybe even insignificant. But I think He is pleased when we think beyond ourselves, no matter how big or small the gift.