Showing posts with label Musings of a Bookworm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Musings of a Bookworm. Show all posts

Books That Help Me Find Joy In The Small


This whole week has been a difficult one for me - nothing big, just a lot of little struggles and failures that have thrown off my whole mood.  

As I was sitting in my room this afternoon, trying to decide whether to write anything today, or what I could write, or whether to scrap this whole project, I was reminded of a book I read once that encouraged me to see the small things in life that truly matter.  And when I started to think about that book, and a few others, I was also convicted again of my rotten attitude that has been adding to my troubles this week.  

The attitude of the heart - such a small thing, it seems, but it really is everything.  I can do the "right" things, the things I am supposed to do as a wife and mom for my family, but if my attitude is terrible that will sour everything.  And is my service to my family really of value in God's sight if I do it with a grumbling heart?  I can say with confidence that's a hard no.

Anyway, as I work on an attitude adjustment, I think the first book I need to go to to refocus is God's Word - verses and principles I've learned from my Bible is what the Holy Spirit was using to convict me this afternoon.  

Maybe I need to read the story of the Israelites grumbling in the wilderness again, or just remember that in everything I am supposed to give thanks - especially in those moments when I am tempted to grumble instead of recognizing the blessing it is to have a family to take care of, a house to clean, children to teach. And I know I need to remember to turn to Jesus with my struggles and sinful heart attitudes, because He is the one who saved me and can help me overcome those sins now.

As I am working on an attitude adjustment today though, I thought I'd also share a few of those other books that I remembered, the ones that have made me appreciate the value of small things - especially the small thing of choosing to serve my family with love and joy and gratitude, with my eyes fixed on the glory of God.  Have you read any of these?

936 Pennies: Discovering The Joy Of Intentional Parenting by Erin Lynum – This book is all about how the author filled a jar with 936 pennies to remind her how quickly the weeks with her children were going by. This book was a good reminder to make the most of every little moment that you have with your kids. 

Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jancovic – I read this book when my kids were babies, and it was very impactful on me at the time. It has been years since I read it, but I know it made me appreciate those small years so much more. I think it’s time for re-read! 

Roots And Sky by Christie Purifoy – This book made me appreciate little things in my life because the writing in it was just so beautiful! That’s the main thing I remember about this book. I don’t remember the points the author made so much, and it’s been a few years since I read it so I don’t know if I would still think the same way about it.  But I still recall the gratitude I felt when I first read her beautiful words.

You Who? by Rachel Jancovic - This book was a case of reading the right book at the right time for me. At a time when I felt very discouraged, this book made me think about my work in the home in a new way, and the value of serving others, even when it’s not something the world tells you is important.

Beyond Bathtime by Erin Davis - I read this book when I had just one very little baby, but I still remember how this book elevates motherhood.  I need to re-read this one too, because I'm sure it would still have encouragement on the importance of the work of raising kids.

Teaching From Rest by Sarah McKenzie - This is actually a homeschool book, but I am 90% sure this is where I first read the cathedral illustration that I mention in this post I wrote about when wiping faces doesn't feel satisfying (maybe I need to re-read my own words here).  McKenzie has a way of making you realize how the things that seem small can make a big impact.

Glory In The Ordinary by Courtney Reissig - I read this book in the year or two after I quit working as a hygienist, and I love how Reissig emphasizes the ways in which work of all kinds is glorifying to the Lord!  This is on my re-read list too.

If you have any good book recommendations along the same vein, send them my way!

A Case For Choosing A Personal Study Project

In January, my husband and I went on a rare date night.  Even though we rarely go out, most of the time we do the cliche thing and go see a movie.  We enjoy watching movies together and talking about them afterwards, and many movies we have seen sparked some great conversations.

Anyway, in January we saw 1917, and I came to a shocking realization.

I didn't really know what World War One was about.

I had a basic set of knowledge about it - I remembered when it was, which countries were involved, who won.  I remembered an assassination kicked things off, but I didn't remember who was assasinated, or why, or how exactly that led to a World War.

After watching a whole movie based off of one soldier's experience in World War One, I felt a sudden conviction that I should know these things.  And so my 2020 World War One personal project was born.

I've been casually picking "themes" for some of my historical reading the past several years, but this is the first year that I decided to formally pick an area of study and give it a strong effort.  It ended up being a really timely topic choice for this year.  Those men in WW1 truly suffered.  As much as 2020 has been hard for so many people, with stressful moments for me too - having that perspective of the intensity with which some of our forebears suffered has helped keep things in perspective.  People often say "things have never been this bad" - well, probably somewhere in history, they have.  

Anyway, I've been enjoying my WW1 project so much, that I am now going to take it upon myself to convince you that you need a personal study project for 2021!  Here are the reasons why.

You have educational gaps.

Oh, the dreaded educational gap.  We are embarrassed when we realize we have them.  We do everything in our power to help our kids avoid them.  We tremble at the mere thought of them...yes, I"m exaggerating.  But guess what, guys.  Everyone has gaps in their education.  I guarantee you do, and if you don't think you do, you probably just don't realize what you don't know.  It doesn’t matter how great your  education was. It doesn’t matter if you are the smartest person in the world - there will always be things that you don’t know.  I love Sarah McKenzie’s mindset that gaps are really just gifts.  For our kids, and ourselves, gaps mean that we will always have to learn something new, to pause and marvel over something that we never realized before. The gap itself isn’t the gift, but the exploration of a new subject is. Don’t leave the gift unopened! (Okay, sorry, that was a little cheesy...)

Choosing a personal study project is modeling lifelong learning for our kids.

How many times do we moms opine about wanting our kids to have a “love of learning”, to cultivate “lifelong learners”? I figure if we truly want that, it’s a good idea to model it! Just like it’s a good thing for our kids to see their parents reading if we want them to read, seeing us get interested and excited over something new we learned has a similar effect, I’m convinced.  

There are alot of ways we can do this - and your personal study project doesn't have to look like mine.  I've been focusing on history, but you also could pick a science subject, classic literature you never read, a skill you want to learn.  There are so many options!

A personal study project makes you a more interesting person. 

I think learning more about a variety of subjects, or deep-diving into one subject, will obviously make you a more interesting person to talk to. When the subject of what ACTUALLY caused WW1 comes up at a party, as it inevitably will, you’ll have something to say and can dazzle your listeners with your knowledge! 

I’m kidding, guys.

The truth is, the causes of WW1, or the name of that one kind of orchid that looks like a bee, or the biochemistry of gut flora, or how to make the perfect lemon meringue - those subjects are not going to come up at any party ever (well, probably not). But learning new skills or diving into new subjects does give you a wider perspective on the world, gives you more topics and experiences on which to draw in a conversation, adds to who you are as a person - and yes, it makes you more interesting.

Diving deep into a subject can help you to understand the world better. 

This is a Captain Obvious sort of statement, but I’m speaking from my experience diving into WW1 this year. I didn’t realize, before I started looking into it, just how much World War 1 affected everything that came after it. I’m convinced if you don’t understand WW1, you don’t have the full picture of anything else that happened in the 20th century. This could probably be said of everything.  as human beings, we aren’t even capable of understanding it all, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile to learn what we can. Which leads me to my next point...

We will never know it all - and realizing that can draw us closer to the One who knows everything.

Maybe this is a continuation of point number one, but isn’t it kind of amazing to think that you can never know everything there is to know? The only Person who knows everything is God, and we are not Him. We weren’t made to know everything, but we were made to bring glory to Him. I think one way we, as believers, can do that is to study His power in His creation, the story He is creating through history, or a creative skill that we know in our heart pales in comparison to the creative power of our awesome God - all while recognizing and thanking Him for all the ways He is greater than us. Learning more about this world, and realizing all the more how little we really truly know - if we are doing it all to the glory of God, we can’t help but be a little more amazed at Him. That’s what truly makes learning a worthwhile pursuit.

Did I convince you?

Over the last year, I've become invested in the idea of periodically choosing a personal area of study as an adult, and diving in deep.  It doesn't have to be a forever project - figure out something you want to learn more about, and dig in until you feel you've accomplished what you set out to learn.  Then see if a new subject piques your interest!  I've been really enjoying my World War One project, and I'm already thinking ahead to what subjects could be possibilities for 2021!

Have you ever started a personal study project as an adult?

Post-Apocalyptic Books To Read During A Pandemic

What should one read in the middle of a pandemic? That is the question.

I won't tell you all what to read, but I will say that over the last week, with hysteria over the coronavirus and social distancing protocols in place, I have really been enjoying books with a post-apocalyptic vibe.  That might seem a little morbid, but it's not really.  At a time when so many people are scared, it's comforting in a weird way to think of how much worse things could be.

You could be on an outer space mission and come back to an earth that has no people left on it.  You could be in a traveling orchestra that is being chased by vigilantes after 90% of the people on the planet have been wiped out.  All the electricity in the world could suddenly fail.  You could find yourself unable to provide for your family while a dust cloud fills your lungs and covers your car (that one actually happened).

There, now don't you feel a little better about this whole coronovirus thing?  No?  I'm the only weirdo here?

All joking aside, a little escapist reading never hurt anyone, and people need a break from coronavirus news.  Turn off the TV and try one of these! (My post-apocalyptic reading is limited, so I welcome your suggestions in the comments!  I'll also add to this post as I read more.)

Books I've Read

Last Light by Terri Blackstock

It's been...possibly a decade since I read this book, but I do remember being pretty into the story.  An electromagnetic catastrophe knocks out the world's electrical systems, cars, etc, basically plunging everyone back into the 1800's when it comes to technology.  This book is a murder mystery/thriller type book that takes place with that backdrop.  I remember enjoying it, and maybe it's time to pick up the rest of the series.

Content Notes:  This is Christian fiction, it was clean!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Probably alot of you have already read this, but this book follows a traveling orchestra after a virus wipes out...somewhere in the ball park of 90% of the population (worst estimates for the coronavirus are around 3%, so keep that in mind lest you get anxious!).  It's less about the apocalyptic event, and more about how people might keep art and music alive after something like that happens.  I really was taken by the characters in this book and enjoyed it alot.

Content Notes: Definitely some cussing and some crude/inappropriate sexual references, but not too densely if I remember right.

Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

I just read this one, and it ended so sadly.  I still have a book hangover from it.  This book is about a man who is stranded in the arctic, and a crew who is stranded in space, when the radio waves of the world suddenly go silent.  No one knows why.  This is very much a character-driven book, and the characters aren't necessarily likable, but I thought it was an interesting portrayal of loneliness and finding the things that really matter.

Content Notes: Some cussing and crude/inapropriate sexual references, not too dense, the characters are atheistic and that comes through.

The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I read this one a few years back, and it really resonated with me for some reason.  The earth is slowing it's rotation, just as the protagonist is coming of age.  I'm kind of a sucker for coming of age novels, so I liked it, but I also remember it ending rather sadly.  But the scientific speculation of what would happen if the earth slowed it's rotation was also fascinating.

Content Notes: Some language and sexual references.

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Note: Free to read if you have Amazon Prime!

I mentioned this book in my post yesterday, and I'm still reading it now.  This is the only non-fiction book on this list, about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and what it was like to live through that. People can't afford to feed their families, farmers can't sell their crops, and enormous dust clouds sweep across millions of acres, destroying homes and whatever livelihoods were left.  I'm finding it really compelling, and interesting on a personal level since I had some relatives not too far from the Dust Bowl around this time in history.  I am finding this book particularly encouraging in times of uncertainty.  Those people went through so much, way more hardship than you and I will probably ever face.  There is a reason these people gave rise to and/or are called the Greatest Generation.

Content Notes: Some cussing and references related to prostitutes.

Other Suggestions Via My Online Buddies

I put the word out about this post on social media, and a couple of my Instagram buddies offered some additional suggestions!  I haven't read these, but they sound interesting.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

A middle grade historical fiction that follows a girl through the yellow fever that hit Philadelphia in the 1700's.  This one sounds really interesting to me, and I love middle grade!  Thanks to Brittney for this suggestion.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

The world has mostly been destroyed through nuclear disaster, and survivors in a small town in Florida band together to survive.  Also sounds interesting! This on is $3 on Kindle.  Also suggested by Brittney, thanks friend!

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I haven't read this one in years, but it would be very appropriate with the way we're all stuck at home right now!  Might try this one with the kids.  Only $1 on Kindle right now!  Thanks to Anna for reminding me of this one!

Also on my reading list?  The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (didn't like his last book, so we'll see what I think of this one), and Unbroken by Laura Hilderbrand (catastrophe on an individual scale, but I expect to be inspired).

Keep In Mind

None of these novels end particularly happily (with the exception of the Dust Bowl book - haven't finished it yet, but humanity obviously survives).  Most are bittersweet.  Keep that in mind if you don't like that kind of book, or can't handle anything but a happy ending right now.

Also keep in mind that as believers in Jesus, we know the world isn't going to end any of these ways!  Someday Christ will return and put everything to right.  He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4).  Maybe that's why I don't mind post-apocalyptic stories.  I can appreciate the imagination of them without fear, because I already know the end of the story for those of us who have put our trust in Christ to save us - and it's a good one.  I hope all my sisters in Christ who are reading this will remember that too in these uncertain days, and not let news stories or silly books bring any anxiety.  No matter what, we are safely in His hands.

Ways To Read When The Libraries Are Closed

I highly encourage you to see if your library participates in any digital services, because you can get ebooks and audiobooks that way!  My favorite library apps in the past have been Overdrive, Axis 360, and Hoopla.  Download the apps and check to see if your library is listed!  You can also apply for library card numbers for libraries in surrounding counties and check to see if any of those libraries participate in these app services.

If you are a Prime member, you should be aware that you can read some books for free on Kindle through Prime Reading!  The Worst Hard Time is available that way, if that one sounded good to you.

What post-apocalyptic-y books would you add to the list?

My Favorite Books From Last Year

Is it too late to write a post about my favorite books in 2019?

I have been slacking quite a bit on recording the books that I'm reading, ever since...well, our vacation, which was in August.  I met my goal of 52 books for 2019, but I didn't record many of them on Goodreads.  But I wanted to at least share a few of the books that stood out to me on here!

Non Fiction

I read a lot of non-fiction books that I really liked, so it was hard to leave some of them out.  These were the ones that stood out - I especially read some great Christian non-fiction, so if you are looking for some Christian encouragement-type books, read on!

Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham

I bought this book when Voddie Baucham visited our local homeschool conference a few years ago, and I finally finished it.  Wow, if you want to be challenged in your parenting and in training your kids up to know the Lord, this is one you should pick up!  I was convicted to re-think a lot about my parenting and refocus on what is really important because of this book.  In fact, it's probably time I read it again.

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

This book is about the smaller sins that aren't mentioned much in Christian circles - we brush over these sins in ourselves and others, we tolerate them.  Bridges challenges us in this book to root those sins out of our lives.  This book is soundly rooted in the Gospel, and I found it not just convicting but very uplifting as well.  I highly recommend it!

None Like Him by Jen Wilkins

I feel like I've mentioned this book a million times between my blog and Instagram, but it was really good.  Wilkins looks at ten attributes of God, but these are not attributes that we can reflect (such as love, grace, etc), but attributes that belong to Him alone.  I found this book insightful and inspiring, and it was biblically sound and very readable.  It's a great book to start with if you are just beginning to dip your toes into theology.  Even though I was somewhat familiar with alot of the attributes she discusses, there were terms I learned and specific points that made me think more deeply about the ways that God is set apart from us.

Devoted: Great Men And Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies

If you've ever wondered if the little things you do for your kids are making a difference, pick up this book!  It's short and sweet, and would be perfect for Mother's Day.  I found it both convicting as I read about different godly moms through history and how they impacted their sons, and encouraging because of the little things they did that made such a big difference.  Highly recommend.

What Wondrous Love Is This by Joni Eareckson Tada

This is a book about hymns, and I used it as an addition to my morning Bible time.  Each chapter covers a different hymn, it's history, the theological breakdown, and it's personal impact on the authors.  I didn't even know half of the hymns in this book, but I would read a chapter and then look up the hymn on Spotify, and it was such an uplifting addition to my morning routine.  I'd recommend it if you also love hymns and are up for learning some new ones!

You Who? Why You Matter And How To Deal With It by Rachel Jankovic

I liked Jankovic's Loving The Little Years, which I read years ago, and finally remembered her as an author this year when I saw this book.  She discusses the "self help" culture, and why it is not the way we should approach life as Christians.  I think I need to read this book again, because I flew through it so fast the first time.  I read it during a discouraging period, and it was exactly what I needed to break me out of my doldrums, but I can't remember everything about it.  I inhaled it the first time, and I'd like to read it more thoughtfully a second time.  But anyway, it was good.

Them: Why We Hate Each Other And How To Heal by Ben Sasse

This book was timely for the current political climate, and the epidemic of loneliness in our culture.  We are more connected than ever, via the internet, but less rooted and less likely to actually know the names of our neighbors.  Sasse discusses why this is, what's really dividing us as Americans, and little ways that we can start to fix it.  I thought his view of why our culture is changing in our level of connection to one another was interesting, and in the end I was so encouraged by this book.  Though Sasse is a Republican senator, the information in this book and the points he makes are bipartisan, so I'd recommend it no matter your political leanings.

Chasing New Horizons by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

I started several space books last year after our visit to NASA, and I'm still working through most of my space books, but I shot through this book on audio!  It gives the history of Pluto, and how we finally sent a spacecraft to that distant planet.  What I found really interesting about this book was how involved it is to fund and plan an unmanned space mission, and all the logistics of sending a spacecraft to such a distant planet (even going as fast as 52,000 mph at times, and traveling almost a million miles per day, it still took 9.5 years for it to arrive at Pluto!).  I listened to it on audio, and I'd recommend reading it that way, I think it could be a little dry if read in print.  But it was a fascinating book to me.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

This book was so timely, since I read it after I decided to go on a Facebook break in December.  It challenged me to think more carefully about social media and how I wanted to be using it.  Highly recommend this book if you struggle, like I do, to put down your phone!


As I was looking over my list, I did not have as good of luck with fiction books last year.  I'm going to list the books I really liked first, and then do some "honorable mentions".

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have to be honest, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book.  I have seen the movie before and the characters weren't exactly likable, and there was alot of debauchery, cheating, etc.  But what made this book worthwhile for me was reading while also listening to the Close Reads discussion of The Great Gatsby.  Because of reading the book while listening to that podcast, I noticed so many things that I wouldn't have otherwise, and I realized the message of the book is completely different than what I originally thought it was.  I ended up really liking it!  You can bet that if I ever have my kids read this for school, it will be assigned WITH the podcast.  Here are the links to the episodes if you're interested:

Chapters 1-3
Chapters 4-5
Chapters 6-7
Last Chapters

1984 by George Orwell

Does anyone really like 1984?  I'm not sure that's quite the right word, but I did get alot out of this book.  Some of it was creepily similar to aspects of our political environment today.  It's not like any book I would normally enjoy (more sexual aspects of the plot than I expected, and the ending was NOT uplifting), but I have to include it here because I think every adult should read it.  Very interesting.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

The first book I've read by Montgomery that wasn't an Anne book, and I loved every second of it.  It was completely delightful.  I especially liked the nature writing and the ending.  This book didn't feel anything like Anne Of Green Gables to me, but the writing was the same ol' Montgomery-style that I loved from the Anne series.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

I love every Schmidt book I've read, and this is no exception.  A boy opens the door one day, and finds out his family has "inherited" a butler from his grandfather.  The butler starts putting the family in order and teaching Carter about cricket.  Really fun and delightful while also wrestling with some deeper subjects.  If you haven't read Gary D. Schmidt, you just should.  I usually recommend The Wednesday Wars first, but I loved this book because it had the same feel.

Honorable Mentions

A couple more books I read and enjoyed alot...

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

All the "book celebrities" (ie. Anne Bogel and booktubers) mention this book all the time, and I finally read it.  It didn't completely blow me away, but I did thoroughly enjoy it.  It's a post-apocalyptic book, but it imagines how art might survive in a post-apocalyptic world through following a traveling orchestra.  I think I enjoyed it even more because I've never quite read another book like this, so it was something new.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

I listened to this book, and I'd recommend it in that format, because I think it would get slow in print (and also, the narrator was very good).  Whoever recommended this book to me said I should go into it without reading the synopsis, and I'm glad I did.  But let's just say if you are into time travel plots, you might like this one.  It's more character-driven than plot-driven.  Even though it's a slower-paced book, I still really enjoyed it.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Horror books aren't really my speed, but this one is a classic, and I'm glad I read it.  I understand vampire references in pop culture so much better now.  That Gilligan's Island episode where Gilligan is bitten by a bat?  Makes so much more sense.

There we go, my favorite books from 2019!

What did you all read last year?  Any stand-outs?

Book Questions

So I was browsing Twitter the other day, and I stumbled across a link-up about books! Yes!

I don't think you all realize how much of a bookworm I really am. I love to read. There something very satisfying about turning the last page in a book. I love the smell of books. I love fiction. I love non-fiction. I like mysteries, suspense, romances, historical fiction, science-fiction, parenting books, marriage books, classic books, political books, Christian-living books. I just like books! So much so that I usually buy them faster than I can read them. Hence the ridiculous stack on my nightstand.

My mom instilled this love of reading in me, and I'm hoping to turn my kids into readers too (as much as I can, because I think there's a genetic component). I'm well on my way with Wyatt - I'm always catching him reading something, and when he sees me reading he'll grab one of his picture books and sit on the couch to read with me.

Needless to say, this linkup was right up my alley, so I thought I'd participate this month!


What are you currently reading?

Right now I'm reading Outbound Flight by Timothy Zhan, which is a Star Wars book! You are probably laughing at me, but if you knew how deeply Star Wars runs in the blood on both sides of our family (mainly through my brother and Derek's brother, and my dad who introduced us to Star Wars), you would understand that reading the books is not unusual. This is the second Star Wars book I have read this year, and I have to say they are really interesting books (at least the two I've read), and they are easy to read.

What is your favorite book character, and why?

Anne of Green Gables comes to mind, and Emma from Jane Austen's book. Why? Because they are so not perfect (one of my pet peeves are characters that are too perfect), but they have good hearts, and they learn from their mistakes. I like my book characters to show growth. If they don't grow at all its just boring.

What would the title of your memoir be?

Um...this would be a lot easier if I had some crazy life story, but I don't. Not yet anyway. Um...sheesh, I think I just want to hear all of your answers to this question! Comment below if you have a good one. Maybe it'll give me an idea.

You be the director! Cast your favorite book characters for the movie version that has not yet been made.

So I tried to think of an answer to this question, guys, I really did - but I only know the names of a handful of actors, so I have a very limited mental inventory from which to draw. This is why I am not a movie director!

Plus I'm struggling because most of my favorite books have already been made into movies, and I have a hard time thinking outside the box once a character has already been cast . . . I also form pictures in my head of what I think the characters look like, and unless I see someone who looks exactly like the picture in my head I have a hard time seeing it.

I will say that I think the actors they got to play Bilbo Baggins in LOTR and The Hobbit looked pretty much exactly how I pictured him. But every other book-turned-movie character I've ever seen has taken some mental adjusting. There's a reason I wasn't meant for the movie business.

What book or series do you remember reading in elementary or middle school?

There was this series I read that was called the American Adventures series. It was basically a kid's series about kids who lived in different periods of American history and their stories, but it was generational - so the kids in one book were the parents in the next book. It was really interesting, and I loved those books!

They were $4 each, and every time I came into a little extra money I'd head down to the bookstore and buy the next one. I was determined to buy them all, but about halfway through someone loaned me the rest of the series. I told myself I would still make sure to complete my collection, but I never did. Now I think I need to go back and buy the rest for my kids! It was really an interesting way to learn American history, and I think it'd be a good tool for homeschooling in the future too.

Pink Heels Pink Truck

Thirty-Six Books

I read thirty-five books last year!  I far exceeded my expectations as far as how many books I would read in 2012 - I thought for sure it would be a slow reading year with a toddler and being pregnant and all.  But after reading eighteen in 2011 and nineteen in 2010, I'm pretty impressed with myself!
I like to keep a record of the books I read and my thoughts on them, so I'm just going to do a few words on each book - like a super-brief mini review.  If you want more of my thoughts on any of these books, just let me know!  Here we go.  In no particular order...

Miss Billy by Eleanor H. Porter - The same author that wrote Pollyanna.  Loved it!

Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission by Ronnie Floyd - Very good, read my full review here.

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lillian Jackson Braun - I liked it!

Decorating Schemes by Ginny Aiken - Pretty good, liked it.

Last Light by Terri Blackstock - Intense plot, I liked it.  I want to read the next book.

Kisses From Katie: A Story Of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis - Very good, inspiring!

When The Cradle Is Empty: Coping WIth Infertility by John Van Regenmorter - Very good, I'd recommend it to anyone struggling to get pregnant.

Simple Secrets to A Happy Life by Luci Swindoll - Loved it, lots of good wisdom, read my full review here.

Scrapping Plans by Rebecca Seitz - Didn't like it, wasn't well written or researched - read my review here.

One Thousand Gifts A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp - Overall I thought it was good and thought-provoking.  Didn't like the way she put certain things, but the poetry of her writing was inspiring.

Misconception: One Couple's Journey from Embryo Mix-Up to Miracle Baby by Paul and Shannon Morell - Wow, I can't imagine going through this - very interesting read.  I just read "Inconceivable" by Sean and Carolyn Savage, the other couple involved in the mix-up, and I couldn't put it down.  I'd recommend reading both books if you read this one, it was interesting to read both sides of the story.

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam (not pictures because I remembered this one later) - A few situations that I didn't quite want to read about in the book, but overall I really enjoyed it.

Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings - Liked it.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Meh.  Read my review here.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (audiobook) - Obviously it was good.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - Excellent, a must-read.  I love C.S. Lewis's writing.  He was such a deep-thinker.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine - Classic.  You can't review American classics.  It was good!

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne - Read it to Wyatt, loved it!

Take Three by Karen Kingsbury - First let me say that thesis the third book in the series, and I did not like the first two books in this series which I read a couple years ago.  I didn't like reading how one of the characters falls into sinful relationships, and though Karen Kingsbury can write about these topics tastefully most of the time, I felt her descriptions in the first two books were bordering on inappropriate, for me.  But I picked up the series again this year, and I thought this book was appropriate, and her books are always hard to put down.

Take Four by Karen Kingsbury - It was good.

Leaving, Learning, Longing, and Loving (Four books, Bailey Flannigan series) by Karen Kingsbury - This series builds off of the previous series, which is the whole reason I read the two books above.  I wanted to find out what happened to Bailey Flannigan.  This series did not end like I expected, but I enjoyed it, and after I got used to the idea that it was not going to go the way I thought, I was very happy with the story.

The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch - Note: There is  language, descriptive violence, and a couple other things in this book that I wanted to include a warning on.  Just be aware.  Not sure I would recommend it because of the above warning, but the plot had me on the edge of my seat, and it was well-written.  I think if they cleaned it up a bit it would make a great movie.

Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble - Kind of slow-moving, but it was good, read my review here.

Dreaming In Black and White by Laura Jensen Walker - Christian Chic-lit, I enjoyed it.

Fatal Distractions: Conquering Destructive Temptations by Kay Arthur - Bible study, very good, read my review here.

Blind Dates Can Be Murder by Mindy Starns Clark - I love this series, good book.

Elementary, My Dear Watkins by Mindy Starns Clark - Same series, last book, I liked it!

Covenant Child: A Story Of Promises Kept by Terri Blackstock - Good, but one of those stories where you get really frustrated with the characters until the end of the book when they come to their senses!

Beyond the Farthest Star by Brock and Bodie Theone - Okay, kind of depressing, I thought.

Miss Match by Erynn Mangum - Christian chic-lit. I enjoyed it, though I wasn't quite sure if the author was trying to send a message about predestination through some of the book . . . which is a completely different topic, but if you might get frustrated by that, be aware.  But I thought it was humorous and fun!

Bringing Up Girls: Practical Advice and Encouragement For Those Shaping the Next Generation Of Women by James Dobson - It was very good!  Definitely would recommend it to moms of girls.

Parenting Isn't For Cowards by James Dobson - Excellent parenting book, easy to read, I'd recommend it.

How My Soul Yearns by Ashley Wells - An Infertility story by a fellow blogger, I enjoyed it, though my heart broke for her too.  However, I tracked down her blog, and the story has a happy ending - she is now the foster (and hopefully soon, adoptive) mother of four precious children!

And that's it!  Once again, if you want to know a more detailed opinion from me on any particular book, let me know!

Rewards For Obedience

I finished the book "Love and Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs today. In case you didn't read my last couple of posts, there are three cycles discussed in the book: the first was the Crazy Cycle, the second was the Energizing Cycle. If you missed these posts, please check them out, because this post is building on those previous posts! The final cycle discussed was the Rewarded Cycle.

When I started this section I thought it was going to re-visit the idea that if the husband loves the wife it makes her want to respect him more and he is rewarded through that, and if the wife respects her husband he'll want to love her more and she'll be rewarded through that. But I was wrong. This chapter was not about what happens when a husband and wife are both loving and respecting each other and the related rewards - it talked about the rewards a husband or wife will receive if they love or respect the other and are not getting a positive response from their spouse.

Part of the chapter encouraged you to hang in there and keep respecting your husband, because it was likely that your husband is experiencing changes internally where you just can't see them yet. But the main point was that even if your husband never shows love to you, if you continue to respect him you are doing what the Lord has told you to do. You are acting in obedience to God, and you will be rewarded in different ways for that.

By obeying the Lord in this (and in any commandment of God's), you are storing up rewards for yourself in heaven. Respecting your husband or loving your wife should not be done solely in order to produce a change of behaviour or an improvement in the marriage, but our sole motivation should be to obey the Lord. And the Lord has commanded us to do this. If we focus on pleasing the Lord it will help us to respond in a proper way to our spouses, even when they are not responding in a proper way to us. And if we do it unto the Lord, He will reward us for our faithfulness someday.

The second reward is in providing a good example to your children by acting in a godly manner toward your spouse. They learn from the way you behave toward your spouse, and if you can behave in a godly way it doesn't matter what your spouse does - your children will see the way you do what is right, and they will remember you well for it and try to do the same thing in their lives. Obeying God in this is a way to leave a legacy.

And the final way to be rewarded is in eventually winning over your spouse through your obedience to God - this is the reward that was discussed previously.

I thought this section was a good reminder that it doesn't matter what others do - we are called to act in obedience to God in every area of our life, not because we'll get anything out of it, but because it will please the Lord. And that is the most important reason to work on respecting our husbands (or loving your wives).

I really enjoyed this book, and through reading it I have learned alot of ways that I can try to improve my marriage, even though I've only been married eight months! As I was reading the book I was remembering alot of my arguments with Derek so far - and I realized most of our arguments started because of a lack of love or respect. And I will admit, I think i's mostly been a lack of respect on my part - if I had reacted in a more respectful way, the argument probably wouldn't have escalated, or may not even have happened at all.

The only way I can improve in this is with the Lord's help, and I'm counting on Him to help me in this area!

Once again, if you are married or hope to be married one day, I highly recommend this book! Go buy or rent it from the library ASAP! I think it's important to learn as much as you can about how to have a good marriage while it's still early on in our marriages - it will help us to prepare for a lifetime of married bliss, and make a happy marriage much more likely, not only now but for years in the future.

C.H.A.I.R.S. - Advice For Wives

The next cycle in the book I'm reading ("Love and Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs) is called the "Energizing Cycle". The firt cycle, if you'll remember, was the "Crazy Cycle" - please see my previous post on the Crazy Cycle.

The Energizing Cycle can start with just one spouse following the command in the Bible to either love their wife or respect their husband. If one person in the relationship does this then it's more likely to bring about a loving or respectful reaction from the other spouse. The book calls it the energizing cycle because it says if the wife is respecting her husband it "energizes" him to treat her in a more loving way, or if the husband is loving his wife it will "energize" her to react in a more respectful way.

What I liked about this chapter is that it actually gave practical advice to husbands and wives on how to get on the Energizing Cycle in the form of acronyms. I kind of skipped through the section for husbands on loving their wives (though I may go back through and actually read it), but I was more interested in reading the chapters written for wives on how to respect their husbands.

The acronym for wives is C.H.A.I.R.S.

The "C" stands for Conquest, because a man is wired to work and achieve. We ladies aren't wired exactly the same way, but this chapter talked about how a man's job is very important to him. Derek once made a comment to me about how he wouldn't understand it if we didn't have any kids and I didn't want to work at all. At the time I felt a little unsupported - I'm the type that I would want to work just to have something to do, but I wanted his hypothetical support if I would someday decide that I didn't want to work. He kept saying that he would support me, but he wouldn't understand it. Looking back on that discussion of ours I realize perhaps why he wouldn't understand that. Working and achieving and "conquering" are so tied into who men are at their core, that I'm understanding a little better why he would have a hard time with me not wanting to work (if we have no kids at home - he totally understands me not wanting to work when we have kids).

The chapter also emphasized how crushing it is to a man if you even indirectly belittle his work. And it gave practical advice about how to be supportive - I can't tell you everything though, you'll just have to read the book yourself.

The "H" stands for heirarchy and it discussed how we women need to appreciate our men's desire to protect and provide for us. Men are called to be the "head" in the relationship. That doesn't sit well with the feminist idea of the world we see most today, but it's what the Bible teaches. One line that I appreciated in this chapter was "The problem many women have today - including Christian wives - is that they want to be treated like a princess, but deep down they resist treating their husbands like the king." And apparently one does follow the other - when we treat our husbands with the respect they deserve as the head of our households, they are more likely to respnd by treating us like princesses. And what wife doesn't want that?

The "A" stands for authority. This chapter also talks about how a man is to be the leader of his household and serve his family by leading them. We women need to respect their authority - there needs to be a distinct leader within any organization, and according to God's Word, in the family the husband is it. We women are called "to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (Titus 2:5).

"I" stands for insight, and this chapter talks about how our husbands desire to help us by analyzing and giving us counsel. And we need to be willing to take their advice to heart - they look at the world from a different perspective, and they often react to situations in a less emotional way. They are able to give us wise advice from a man's perspective, and we would be wise to heed their advice, and not belittle their thoughts or counsel. Once again, this is easy to do inadvertantly, so we wives need to constantly be on our guard and look at how something will come across to our husbands from their point of view.

The "R" is for relationship. This chapter talks about how men and women are different in ow they form meaningful relationships. Women like to talk and discuss what they think about this and that, and talking makes us feel closer to our friends. But men are different - they don't form bonds through talking so much as through shared experiences.

Has your husband ever asked you to just sit with him and not talk? This is a question the book addresses, and at first I didn't think Derek had ever wanted me to just sit there with him. But then as I thought about it I realized that he did once suggest that I come downstairs and watch him work on the desk he's making me. But I didn't really want to because there were other things I wanted to do. I realized that when Derek suggested that he wanted to build that "shoulder to shoulder" friendship with me.

The book talked about how your husband will feel closer to you if you have some "shoulder to shoulder" time without talking. I decided to test this concept, so I tried it yesterday and here's what happened.

Derek had gone outside to chop some firewood for us. I let him be out there for a couple minutes alone, then I grabbed a chair and took it outside. I plopped the chair down close to where he was chopping and sat on it. Derek smiled at me and asked if I was coming out to read, and I said "Yep, and to watch you." He joked about being nervous at being critiqued, and I told him I wasn't going to critique him, I just wanted to watch.
He proceeded chopping wood, occasionally grinning at me - I smiled back. You have no idea how many times I wanted to say something, or comment, or ask a question, but I exhibited amazing self-control and kept my lips sealed. After about ten minutes he looked at me and said "Are you sure you aren't bored just watching me?" I said no, because I really wasn't. He grinned and said "Well, good. I would just think it would be boring." He chopped for a couple more minutes, then set his ax down and walked over to where I was sitting. Without a word he bent down and kissed me. Then he went back to work for a few more minutes, then turned and grinned again and said "well, I'm glad you like watching me." I nodded and smiled, saying as little as possible (it was so hard). He came over and gave me another kiss a few minutes later. After a while he said he needed a break and came over to sit next to me. Then he just started talking about how we should go to the museum (he knows I love the museum, even though he isn't as crazy about it) or at least we should go out to my favorite restaurant for dinner and a movie!

I could really tell that Derek just really enjoyed having me sit there and watch him, and just be with him. Not only did my watching him fulfill that shoulder to shoulder friendship need, but I think it also showed him that I still admire him, and I'm interested in what he's doing. That's a big part of showing him respect - and it resulted in him showing me love by suggesting we go on a date!

Finally the "S" stands for sexuality. I never thought this would come up in a post (my cheeks are turning red as I type)! This chapter talked about how we wives need to appreciate our husband's desire for sexual intimacy and not withhold that blessing from them because we're just "not in the mood" or whatever other excuses come up. I never really had a problem in this area, at least not so far, because my mom advised me before we were married that it was important to fulfill that need of your husband's. If they want to, do it with a cheerful attitude (even if you're tired), and they will often respond by showing love to you. Being the wise daughter that I am, I took my mother's advice, and I've found that she was right!

Like I said, I didn't really read the acronym for the husbands, but I'm sure if I go back to it later there will be many pieces of wisdom there too. But as I'm lady, and I'm writing this series of posts to all you ladies out there, I'm just going to cover what we women need to focus on mostly.

The next post will be on the last cycle it discusses in the book. I was tempted just to do posts on the first two cycles, but when I read the first part of the last section it said the third cycle was very important, so I figured I better not skip it! I'll read the rest of the book and report back as soon as I can!

Please, Stop the Craziness! (To Be Continued . . .)

It has been quite a week. I feel like I've had hardly any time at home the last few days, and I'm so glad I don't work this much regularly. I'm telling you, dental hygiene is a difficult job, because your entire day is crazy - there are no slow moments. That can be a good thing, but sometimes those slow moments can be nice; so don't take them for granted!

Lately I've ben reading a book called "Love and Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs. It's a marriage book that Derek and I got for our wedding. I'm sure you've heard of it! If you are married and haven't read it, you should go buy it and read it ASAP.

I'm still in the middle of the book, but I've learned alot from it. The basic premise of the book is that a man's basic need in the marriage is to be respected, and a woman's basic need in the marriage is to feel love. It seems so simple, right? Before I read the book I had heard that men value respect over love, and I tried to show my husband respect, but I wasn't really sure how that works in a marriage, besides obviously trying to respect and love each other.

The book breaks it down very nicely.

I think I'm going to do three posts within the next few days on the three "cycles" that married couples go through, according to the book. I'm doing it this way mainly because I haven't read about the last cycle yet, and I don't have time over my lunch break here to read the rest of the book and post. So the first cycle is aptly named:

The Crazy Cycle

Basically the crazy cycle is when things are going crazy in the marriage. He doesn't feel respect which is what he wants most - he knows his wife loves him, but he needs to know that she respects him. Likesise she's not feeling as if her husband really loves her. The clincher in this section is how they explain that the wife feeling unloved and the husband feeling disrespected are interconnected. If the husband isn't feeling respect from his wife, he'll shut down and not talk, or perhaps yell, or react in any number of unloving ways. The wife feels unloved, which in turn may cause her to criticize her husband, perhaps yell, nag, or react in other disrespectful ways, which makes the husband feel even more disrespected. And round and round it goes!

The first part of the book may feel like the author is coming down hard on us women, but try to look past that. I don't think that's what he's trying to do, I think he's just trying to emphasize how almost every marriage talk you hear focuses on how you need to love each other more and in better ways, etc. Let's face it, these messages are mostly for men - we women may not always act in loving ways, but we are wired that way, so it comes easier to us. But there are not very many messages out there about wives showing respect to their husbands - and I think the author is trying to establish that this lack in instruction for us in this area is a major reason why marriages today have gone crazy and are breaking up all over the place. He'll make you feel guilty, but I don't think he's trying to, so bear through this because the book gets better.
As I read, to my astonishment I realized that Derek and I have already had a few revolutions on the Crazy Cycle! What, I thought, shouldn't newlyweds be exempt? It should take at least five years to get to the craziness, right? Ah, wrong! In the process of living with our husband for a few months, we wives realize that our husbands are not perfect. They leave toothpaste in the sink. They don't wipe their dishes off before putting them in the dishwasher. They unwittingly leave the house a mess. And what do we do? We ask them to please clean this, put that away, etc. At least that's what I did. I thought I asked very nicely, but I recently realized I was pointing out the things that he wasn't doing too much, and Derek was starting to feel disrespected, because I wasn't appreciating the things he was doing (and he does alot for me! I don't deserve that man).

That was just for every day life - our arguments were a completely different story. When we were in the middle of an argument I realized some of the things I had been saying - and as I tried to look at them from Derek's point of view, I realized how disrespectful that sounded. Sure, I was feeling unloved, but did that give me the right to disobey God's word and react in a way that showed disrespect for my husband? Here is where the guilt from the book comes in.

Yes, I guess it is possible to be in the Crazy Cycle this early in our marriage. We had one week that we argued practically every time we were together, and I started to realize just how much of that was my own fault (I can get rather self-righteous during an argument - does anyone else out there struggle with that?). Because of my sporadic reading of this book I was trying to show him more respect in ways that made sense to me - like sending him notes telling him why I respected him. It was a good idea, a good start, but I needed to not just say "I respect you". I needed to show it in my everyday manner, and especially in our arguments. Ah, the epiphany! I've been trying, but it ain't easy.

So I've been reading this book more lately. Thankfully the next section gave solid advice on which areas Derek needed to feel respected in, and how I can do that! Thank goodness, there was finally a solution!! I'll cover that in my next post.

"Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband."
-Ephesians 5:33 (NASB)

By The Things That Are Made

I recently read the book “Case For A Creator” by Lee Strobel. I tend to be a science geek anyway, so this book was very interesting to me. Our God's imagination and power just amaze me, and studying science has always reminded me of that. This book allowed me to read about many more ways that our God has shown just how amazing He is through His creation. It consisted mostly of interviews with various scientists who are experts in their given fields and who are inclined to lean toward intelligent design as a viable theory of how the world originated.
Reading this book put me in my “science geek” mode, and inspired this post. These are some interesting quotes that I found not only in the book but through my own searches as well, and I’ve compiled them according to basic topic for you here. Please take time to read through them – these kinds of quotes are always encouraging and inspiring to me, and I hope they are to you as well.

“Exquisite Order”

“It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in numbers, has been rather carefully thought out . . . The seemingly miraculous concurrence of these numerical values must remain the most compelling evidence for cosmic design.”
- Paul Davies, Physicist

“The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”
- Vera Kistiakowski, Physicist

“Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as brute fact . . . I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic drama.”
- Paul Davies, Physicist

“A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”
-Sir Fred Hoyle

“Created For Man to Live In”

“Would it not be strange it a universe without purpose accidentally created humans who are so obsessed with purpose?”
-Sir John Templeton

“All the seemingly arbitrary and unrelated constants in physics have one strange thing in common – these are precisely the values you need if you want to have a universe capable of producing life.”
-Patrick Glynn

“If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate that universe was created for man to live in.”
-John A. O’Keefe, Astrophysicist, NASA

Designed To Do Science

“What intrigued me was that the very time and place where perfect solar eclipses appear in our universe also corresponds to the one time and place where that are observers to see them . . .What’s more, perfect solar eclipses have resulted in important scientific discoveries that would have been difficult if not impossible elsewhere, where eclipses don’t happen.”
-Guillermo Gonzales, PHD

“Our main point is that there’s no obvious reason to assume that the very same rare properties that allow for our existence would also provide the best overall setting to make discoveries about the world around us. In fact, we believe that the conditions for making scientific discoveries on earth are so fine-tuned that you would need a great amount of faith to attribute them to mere chance.”
-Jay Wesley Richards, PHD

“One purpose for which we were designed is to do science itself.”
-Lee Strobel in Case For A Creator

Fanaticism of Evolutionists

“It has been my experience . . . that the ones who oppose the theory of design most vociferously do so for religious reasons.”
-Michael Behe, Biochemist

“Scientists propose hypotheses all the time. No big deal. But if I say ‘I don’t think natural selection is the driving force for the development of life; I think it was intelligent design,’ people don’t just disagree; many of them jump up and down and get red in the face. When you talk to them about it, invariably they’re not excited because they disagree with the science; it’s because they see the extra-scientific implications of intelligent design and they don’t like where it’s leading.”
-Michael Behe, Biochemist

"I wish I were younger. What inclines me now to think you may be right in regarding [evolution] as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders."
-C.S. Lewis

A Sure Path to God

“It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion.”
-Paul Davies, Physicist

“Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God.”
-James Tour, Nanoscientist

“Nothing we learn about the universe threatens our faith. It only enriches it.”
-George Coyne, Astrophysicist

" I became exposed to the law and order of the universe, I was literally humbled by its unerring perfection. I became convinced that there must be a divine intent behind it all... My experiences with science led me to God. They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun?"
-Wernher von Braun.

"Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere." -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Beyond Those Stars”

“Many have found that the awesome sight of the star-studded heavens evoke a sense of wonder, and awareness of transcendence, that is charged with spiritual significance. Yet the distant shimmering of stars does not itself create this sense of longing; it merely exposes what’s already there. They are catalysts for our spiritual insights, revealing our emptiness and compelling us to ask whether and how this void can be filled.
Might our true origins and destiny somehow lie beyond those stars? Might there not be a homeland, from which we are presently exiled and to which we secretly long to return? Might not our accumulation of discontentment and disillusionment with our present existence be a pointer to another land where our true destiny lies and which is able to make its presence felt now in this haunting way?
Suppose that this is not where we are meant to be but that a better land is at hand? We don’t belong here. We have somehow lost our way. Would not this make our present existence both strange and splendid? Strange, because it is not where our true destiny lies; splendid, because it points ahead to where that real hope might be found. The beauty of the night skies or a glorious sunset are important pointers to the origins and ultimate fulfillment of our heart’s deepest desires. But if we mistake the signpost for what is signposted, we will attach all our hopes and longing to lesser goals, which cannot finally quench our thirst for meaning.”
-Allister McGrath

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse . . ."
-Romans 1:20

Musings of a Bookworm - Salty and Shiney

I love getting new books for Christmas. I think it's because I tend to be a bookworm anyway, but it's just the best thing to get new books.

This Christmas my mom and dad got my a new series called "The Mark of the Lion" series, by Francine Rivers. It takes place in Rome about 70 A.D. If you are going on vacation or break, and you want a book series that captures your attention and won't let it go, I definitely recommend these books. I can hardly put them down. I'm on the second book right now entitled "An Echo in the Darkness", and I can hardly wait to find out what happens to the characters.

One thing that has particularaly struck me while I've been reading these books is the complete moral depravity of Rome during this time period. The books are fiction, but I have no doubt that the author really did her research. She includes many Roman terms and rituals in the books, and I have confidence that these books are a pretty accurate representation of the culture of that time.

The sins discussed in this book are truly appalling. Any disgusting and perverted thing you can think of seems to have been considered normal in the Roman empire, and not just normal, but encouraged. The moral darkness that is discussed in the book is somewhat disturbing.

It occurred to me as I read that our world today is in no better shape than the world I've been reading about in these books. I tend to be somewhat naive and sheltered (by choice - I shelter myself from alot that goes on in the world) when it comes to the sins in our society today. The world is just as disgusting and perverted today as it was in A.D. Rome, and is quickly getting worse.

Thankfully Francine Rivers does not leave the story in complete darkness - one bright light shines through in the form of a young slave girl named Hadassah who is a Christian. Hadassah strives to reflect her Lord and longs for the courage to tell others about her Savior.

I can relate to Hadassah. I want to tell those around me about my Savior, but something often holds me back from speaking plainly. Fear?

I always think back on those conversations with unbelieving friends and think of the perfect thing to say. Why I can't think of something to say at the time I don't know. It's frustrating, and I often feel like a failure when it comes to sharing the Good News of Jesus. Somehow I think if I'm supposed to speak the Lord will give me the words - but I think that may just be an excuse. How can the Lord tell me what to say if I won't even open my mouth?

I'm encouraged when I think that in "The Mark of the Lion" series Hadassah doesn't just share the Lord with others through her words; often it's through her actions. I don't feel like such a failure when I think that the Lord can still use my example, even when words escape me.

I know that my spiritual gift is not evangalism, but it's still something that I want to work on, that I long to get better at. With the Lord's help I think someday I will.

In these books, those around Hadassah could see that something was different about her. The Lord reflects through every Christian - the Lord uses us as the salt that keeps the world from rotting, the light that shines through the darkness. I'm going to try my best to be as salty and shiney as I can this year, and I give you all permission to remind me of that whenever necessary; and of course, to be salty and shiney with me!

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:13-16
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