Sunday, January 29, 2017

Oh the possibilities!

So it is Sunday night and not Friday. Oops. But I'll get a post in this week. And what a week it has been!

Photo Credit: zach Mccarthy

Drew and I were both down with a stomach bug this week. Drew's car was down with a bad transmission until late this week. And I was piled under a mountain of to do lists at school. But we made it through.

As Monday approaches, my mind is filled with a whole world of possibilities. My school schedule for next year looks as if it will include English 3. The possibility alternately terrifies me and invigorates me. I want to share a love of reading. language, and writing with them. But how do I fit all the amazing authors(not already covered) into one year? Oh the possibilities! For success and for failure.

I have also been asked to help at with a women's retreat at a local Spanish church. I have never had a Bible study at church in Spanish. I have only been to a church service a few times in Spanish. But I can speak Spanish in conversation fluently. Again, oh the possibilities! For success and for failure.

This morning I was asked to use my Spanish for church purposes at some point in time if things fall into the right order. I'm obviously being vague because I don't know how much I should or should not say. But trust me, it is out of my comfort zone. It provides a wealth of opportunities for success and for failure.

So the next handful of months will be full of possibilities. It is going to make me uncomfortable. It is going to make me excited. It is going to make depend on God. I have no clue how I will accomplish any of these things. I suppose because it won't be me accomplishing these things. It will be God accomplishing them through me. I certainly don't have the abilities all by myself.

Letting God use me is a scary thing, but without fear, nothing great will be accomplished. So I will move forward in fear and in confidence because God is with me and before me. In the end, I will be a better person, a stronger Christian, and closer to God.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Restorative Chick Lit

As a general rule,  I default to cozy mysteries. Mostly I default to this because I know what I am getting. I know how much violence, sex, and emotional trauma to expect. I know how much character stupidity to expect. When I venture outside of cozy mysteries, I sometimes find too much violence, too much emotional trauma, or too much character stupidity. But sometimes I get lucky and find a deeply refreshing book. A book that faces pain and characters that are determined to become better. There are people who are willing to give a hug or a shoulder to cry on or a boot to the backside. In my head,  I call these restorative chick lit. In recent memory, I can think of 3.

The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee. This one grew on me with age.  I don't know that I was so in love with it right after reading it. Actually, listening to it.  A small Southern town is in danger of losing its library, so the librarian and an unusual group of book lovers set out to save it.

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus  by Beth Moore. Some might consider this to be a murder mystery.  I don't.  The characters are loveable and so honest. They are figuring out who they are and who they want to be and how to  get there.

Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella Cohen. I'm actually on page 10 of this one,  but I've already taken taken a deep breath and settled in to enjoy these people.

Friday, January 20, 2017

It won't be easy

It is nearing the end of January and many new years resolutions are being broken and going by the wayside. I am among those failing to keep their resolutions. I don't really do resolutions. I do One Word, so there aren't a list of rules for me to remember. It is one word to remember that will guide me through the year. This year my word is abide. I took a circuitous route, but I got to the right word. It has already challenged me. I have no clue how time has flown so quickly over the last two weeks. As such my journal writing, Bible studying, and quiet moments, have slowed down. They aren't gone, but they aren't as frequent either.

I posted last week about the things that spoke to me to help reel me back in. It was good. This week I wasn't so emotional strung out, but I wasn't very focused on abiding or on joy. I did fall into complaining more than I would like. Mentally I recognized it sooner than last week, but verbally, I wasn't so quick. I still sounded like a whiny baby. I still have some things to work on.

I plan on getting a couple new pieces of jewelry. One that says 'abide' and one that says 'joy.' So I can remind myself all the time that I need to work on abide and joy. I have changed the wallpaper on my phone with the word 'abide' and with 'joy'. I don't think I have been quite as flustered with the stress of this week. So I am making progress at stopping before I get too far. I would really like to get to the place where I don't start down the road of stress, frustration, and complaining. Mostly the complaining. I don't want to be that kind of a person that is always complaining when situations get stressful. I don't want to be the emotionally draining friend, relative, or co-worker. I want to be one that encourages. I want to be one that lifts people up and helps them see the unforeseen as a new opportunity.

Becoming a better person is hard, but it is worth it.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Why I Need To Abide

Photo Credit: Joe Shlabotnik

This past week I have felt myself get upset about various issues at school. It all basically amounts to the end of the semester stress and making poor decisions. The students were making poor decisions based on their stress and I was making poor decisions by being drawn into it. My kids have also been really emotional the last couple weeks as well. So emotions are running high all around me! And I keep getting sucked into it.

However, God has been speaking to me about it this week in multiple ways. I've even been listening a little as well. Wednesday there were SO many emotions running around and through me. I knew I didn't like it, but I couldn't figure out how to get out of it. It spilled over into Thursday as well. Then a real actual issue came up that sobered me. I have also been writing in my journal fairly regularly. I caught myself being dragged back into the emotions on Wednesday night when I was writing. So I stopped and focused on something good. I did that again on Thursday.

Another help has been The Book of Common Prayer. I am not Episcopalian or Anglican. However, I have been looking for a book full of prayers and such that are in an older writing style that really makes me think hard. I got the book for Christmas. There are many things in there that aren't what I'm looking for. So I'm skipping past those pages. I'm focusing on the pages that are what I want. So far, I've been looking at Venite (Psalms 95:1-7; 96:9,13). Several of the phrases there have been sticking with me. They keep reminding me how big God is. He is in control of everything and that is a good thing. I can be happy because he is in control. More than I can be happy, I should be happy. "Heartily rejoice in the strength of my salvation."

Then today I was catching up on podcasts and listened to a message from Chip Ingram from Friday just reinforced the whole thing. "If I'm wise I won't compromise my integrity." "You don't allow your behavior, relationships, finances, or speech to tell a different story than what you know is right." "Be at peace in one's relationships with others." "Issues are resolved and forgiven with others and with God." That was in the first 3 minutes of the podcast. Some hard hitting stuff there. My behavior and my words this week are telling a different story than what I know is right. I have not been living in peace. I have been all over the place emotionally and that is not peace.

There are things I need to work on. I have started the work, but I need to continue. I need to change my thought process and the words coming out of my mouth. I need to find peace within myself, so I can help others find that peace as well. Writing in my journal, prayer, and Bible reading are my plan. I think that's God's plan as well. Prayer and Bible reading is always God's plan. Feel free to check up on me and call me out when you hear me complaining or you see me in the broken record of emotional chaos.

More Jesus, less me. More abide, less chaos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Authors and Series' from 2016

There were several other books I wanted to mention in my top list, but they fell below the top 10. When I noticed that the books had authors and series' in common, I decided to do a separate post about them. So the following are authors I discovered or series' I discovered in 2016.


New Authors I Found in 2016

Sarah Addison Allen
Southern stories with a touch of magic realism. I didn't realize how much I like magic realism until I read a couple of her books. I knew I loved 100 years of Solitude and I knew that book is full of magic realism. I just didn't realize that was a primary reason why I loved the book.
I read The Peach Keeper and Sugar Queen this year. By read, I'm pretty sure that I listened to them on audiobook. And that added to the wonderful Southern atmosphere of the books. There is lots about friendship as well as romantic relationships. The characters learn and grow. They are wonderful.

Susana Kearsley
I read Mariana and The Shadowy Horses from her this year and bought another ebook, Named of the Dragon. History, a strong sense of place, light romance, and a little bit of magic make for some great books. I liked The Shadowy Horses better, but I will definitely be reading more from her.

Joe R. Landsdale
I only read one of his books, The Bottoms, but I heard an interview with him on a podcast as well. So there are a few other of his books that I have an eye on. There is mystery, a bit of suspense, some growing up to do, and a bit of danger. I was all over the place with my emotions as I read it. So I have to be in the right mood for this one, but I will be coming back to him.

Sarah Rayne
I was only able to get my hands on one of her books this year, but there are a couple others that I have my eyes on. There is mystery, history, and danger in The Bell Tower. It's good stuff.

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Cozy Mystery Series 

Coffeehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle. I read my first one of these in 2015, but then in 2016 I read about 3 more. So it is definitely one of my favorites. I love the setting of a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. I get frustrated with the romantic issues that seem to come up regularly in these cozy mystery series'. This series is no exception, but I will deal with the silly romance because the mystery and characters are worth it.

A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs.  I've read 2 or 3 of this series. Theodosia and Charleston, South Carolina are a great pairing. There is generally less romantic silliness in this series and there is so much to learn about tea as well. This series has convinced me to start drinking tea!

Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery  by Jane K. Cleland.  I think I also started this series in 2015 and continued it in 2016. I love learning about the antiques business. The premise for investigating in this series is strong. The romantic silliness is average in this series. The setting of New Hampshire and the characters are great. This is a series that I started with book number 8, I think. And I'm glad I did. If I had started with #1, I might not have continued so lovingly.

The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley. This is not a cozy mystery series, but it is a series that I discovered in 2016 and I love it. The premise being that these sisters are descendants of the Brothers Grimm and learning to be in charge of the balance between the Everafters, fairytale creatures, and regular humans. Along the way, they are hoping to find and release their parents.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Rethinking my One Word 2017

A bit of business...New year, new plan for the blog. Not really for the blog, but for me. I plan to post here on Fridays and on my other blog, Books and Pens, on Tuesday. At one time I had a schedule and it worked. Then I was writing crappy posts just because there was a schedule. So I moved away from the schedule to wait until I had a good post to share. Then life got crazy and I stopped observing it, so then I didn't have anything to write. So I am going to try a small schedule. Hopefully that will help me be more observant.

For the last several years, I have not made New Years Resolutions. I have picked a word to focus on. This year I said I was going to keep my word from last year, Still. Then this morning I was reading my devotional and Scriptures that go with it. I came across the word Abide and it spoke to me deep down. Still, for me, is the absence of noise or movement. It was about creating quiet space for me to stop and God to start. I did need that. I do need that, but maybe I need more. Maybe I need a word that reaches deeper. Abide, for me, is the quiet space, but there is an additional layer of peace and comfort. It is the stopping, but it is also being okay with stopping.

I like this word. I am constantly amazed at how these words come to me. I don't really sit and think a lot. I go to church, read my devotionals and Scriptures, and let the words come to me. So far God has been okay with this plan because he just keeps giving me words.

So this year I will abide. And I will remember John 15:9. "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Top Reads of 2016

2016 was a great reading year. I read about 110 books. It was not a great writing year. Looking at the scarcity of posts on here that is obvious. I hope to do better this year. We'll see.

There were a couple that I didn't finish. However with 110 to choose from, it was difficult to narrow it down. So this post will be my top 10. The next post I will post a few new favorite authors, a few new cozy mystery series, and a couple honorable mentions.

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore

The sense of place in this one is amazing. I could see the places and felt like I was walking the streets. The religious aspects of this were not pushy, but a natural outgrowth of the story. The characters are people that I want to sit down and talk to them. They grew as people throughout the book and it was great to see what happened. There is a bit of a mystery in the story as well and I always love this. I finished this one and had a happy sigh.

The Dead House

Oh my goodness! This book! It is told through emails, journal entries, and transcription of video. I listened to this one and the narrator was fabulous. The narrator is possibly unreliable and you know it. She seems to be a criminal as well, but how did this happen? That's what we discover. Is she mentally ill or possessed? Or both? This one still has me thinking about what really happened.  

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A man who owns a book store falls in love and becomes a dad in an unexpected way and then they keep on living. This is another one that I finished with a contented sigh. 

Vinegar Girl (Hogarth Shakespeare)

A girl needs to marry to help her dad's favorite assistant stay in the country. Sounds like a marriage of convenience, but is it? Kate and Pytor are just fabulous people. Just a story of a rather regular life made better by the people in it. Le sigh. Gorgeous.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

This one made me huff in anger, close it because I just couldn't handle the amazingness, and sigh contentedly at the end. I loved how it wove the Brontë stories into this one. It really was hard to decide the order of #3, #4 and #5. Even thinking about it now, I want to rearrange them at least 2 other ways. All 3 left me happy at the end and didn't get me too upset throughout the novel. 
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

I finished a couple series' and started a couple others. This is one that I finished and I'm so glad I did. I read book one in this series when it came out and then left it sitting. I was burned by a couple series that will remain nameless. I started them and couldn't stand to finish them because they just didn't turn out very good. I had a student who encouraged me to pick up this series again. And I'm so glad I did. It is so amazing! And don't even bother with the movies. There is no way they could live up to this and they change important part for no good reason. Just read these and use your imagination. There is lots of imagining to do with these.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I have heard several people didn't like this series, but I am not one of them! I love the mix of futuristic science and fairy tales. I like more science fiction than I thought I did.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Again a mix of science and well-known stories. In this case the Island of Dr. Moreau and other classic novels in this series. I am in love with the Juliet, Edward, and Montgomery. Be still my heart!

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny  Lawson

I laughed out loud multiple times while reading this. I actually shed tears while laughing at this book. And I don't laugh out loud about much. (I have an odd sense of humor.)


Imagination!!! Again a good book, but the imagination is off the charts in this one. Oh so amazing.

Look for future posts about cozy mysteries, new authors, and more.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

One Word: 2016 Review and 2017 Reveal

So I got 11 days out of 31 in October, that's more than any other month this year, so I'll consider it a success. My desire for blogging has not diminished, but my time is limited. My teaching schedule is not as crazy as last year, but it is still crazy. Ben is not focusing real well in his class right now, so we are working on some new routines as well as keeping up with homework. I'm trying to spend enough time with Lily and Drew. And I'm reading quite a bit. So my life is full of things that I'm can't or won't give up.

That all leaves me tried and stressed. It leaves me going all the time. It leaves me the opposite of still. I have been taking some time to read about prayer and stillness, but I haven't enacted any of those things yet. But I'm thinking about it. So maybe that's a start. So as 2016 ends, I started thinking about being still.

So my One Word was a failure. In an effort to be still, I tried journaling and failed. I tried reading a devotional and failed.  I tried reading a book about listening, which requires stillness, and haven't finished it. I didn't even start it the book until October or November. I tried the YouVersion app reading plans and failed to read daily. I tried sitting down each evening with a cup of tea amd failed. I got a week at most of each of these things and then got busy with something else or forgot.

For Christmas I got a Book of Common Prayer with the idea that those words will make me think hard when I pray over them. So I have another plan of how to be still. I am going to try again at journaling.  I will keep up with the Bible reading plans even if I get a few days behind. Each of those things will require some stillnesss from me. I also got a Fitbit and have it set to alert me 30 minutes before bedtime. So I will have time to do these things. It might also alert me at the time to wake up. So I will have a few extra minutes in the morning as well. I hope those extra minutes will provide me with time to post on here a little more often.

So I believe I will keep the word Still and try again this year. Stillness in the presence of God is important and I need to get hold of it. So I will try again.