Guess what this envelope contains!
Just so you won’t waste your best guess, it does not contain orders telling us for certain where we’re moving next month, although that would be nifty.
I take my reading very seriously. That’s not to say that I don’t read funny books. In fact, I love funny books. By “funny books,” I don’t necessarily mean comic books. Although I will read comic books.
Reading isn’t merely a hobby for me. You might say it’s more of a compulsion. I can not NOT read. If it has words and is in front of my eyes, I must read it. Signs, posters, directions, cereal boxes, shampoo bottles…I read them all. I read the preface and the introduction as well as the author’s notes. It has taken me years to be able to skim through a newspaper without reading every single word. Watching news channels drives me to distraction because I can’t listen to the newscasters for reading the news crawl at the bottom of the screen. Whenever there’s a storm in the area and they run the crawl at the bottom alerting viewers, I have to read it. Every time. Even if the information doesn’t change.
But I also read for pleasure. I really like to read fiction best. It takes me a lot longer to read a nonfiction book than it does a fiction book. My theory is that it’s a holdover from my years as a student. I read nonfiction as if I’ll be tested on the material at the end of the book. With fiction books, I feel more at liberty to let my mind wander a little and come back to the story whenever I feel like it.
That said, I’m going to start my list of books you should read if we’re going to be friends with my nonfiction demands. I probably chose them first because there aren’t as many to list. You know how I am about making lists of favorites, right? You understand that this will be a very fluid list. It’s my list so I can add or subtract whatever and whenever I want. I know I’ll add to this list because just sitting here making my list I’ve thought of three more books that should be here. We’ll do this again, I promise, but we have to start somewhere. So, in no particular order, because that’s very important to someone who doesn’t like to show favoritism, here are the nonfiction books I think you should read:
My friend Sammi told me I should read Same Kind of Different As Me. She told me I should read this book every single time I saw her. I read this book so she would quit telling me to read this book. (Funny aside: I was actually drawn to this book in the bookstore months before she recommended it because I loved the cover. I read the inside flap and knew I wanted to read it but I was just browsing, not buying that day. I didn’t recognize the title when Sammi told me to get it, but I was so excited that this was the book she was driving me crazy telling me about.)
This was one of those books that kept me up all night. And after I was finished, I wanted all my friends to read it so we could talk about it. I even bought an extra copy so that I could loan it out without losing my copy. (As a matter of fact, I’ve done that with every book on this list.) So what’s it about? It’s the story of “a modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together.” This book turned me upside down about so many different things. I don’t want to ruin any of it by telling you anything else, but this is an amazing story. When you read it, you have to email me so we can talk favorite parts and how you’re different because of this book. You’ll be different if you read it, I promise.
Have you ever seen the show “Intervention” on A&E? Jeff VanVonderen is one of the interventionists on that show. I knew Mimi was going to be a friend the first time I ever visited her blog and saw this book on her favorite book list. This book helped me to understand that the only person’s behavior that I could control in my family is my own. Jeff starts by showing what a healthy grace-full marriage looks like and builds on that relationship to show a beautiful picture of grace-full relationships with our children. I had never heard anyone explain Ephesians 4 the way Jeff did and it made a big impact on my understanding of what a Christian family should be.
I wish I had read this book when I was younger. So many years I thought I was the only woman who felt like she was “too much and not enough” at the same time. I’m not sure I agree with everything John and Stasi wrote, but even the parts that weren’t consistent with my own views made me examine my heart and my basis for why I believe what I believe. I like books that make me think outside the box. This book deepened my passion for my Savior and gave me cause to celebrate that he had created me to be a woman.
It may seem strange to include a book on this list that I haven’t finished reading yet, but this one is special. I first heard about this book when my college friend Jeff wrote a review of it on his blog (Jeff’s also the first person who ever suggested that I have my own blog. I think maybe he did that so I would quit leaving novellas in his comment section.) Jeff writes great book reviews and I can almost always tell if I’m going to like a book or not by what he says about it. I knew when I read that review that I wanted to read this book. But I also had made a resolution after our last move that for our next move, I would have an equal or smaller number of books than I brought to Massachusetts. My dad’s birthday was around the corner so I decided to buy the book for him and read it while I was home. Like re-gifting in reverse, maybe. Dad always has a book or two on his nightstand that he’s reading so I thought I’d be able to finish it before he was ready to begin it.
We arrived at my parents’ home on December 18th. When I gave Dad the book he said, “Oh, good! I had just finished the book I was reading and was looking for something new.” So much for my great plan. Little did I know that God had another plan for this little book. Dad started reading it that Thursday night. He read a little more on Friday and Saturday night. We had no idea that on Sunday he would start vomiting and be admitted to the hospital. We most certainly didn’t know that on Monday he would have a malignant brain tumor removed. God knew. And he used this book to plant a few seeds that took root over the next few days. This book is about how to survive and thrive when opportunities roar.
I ended up buying my own copy. I told you I read nonfiction more slowly, but this is a snail’s pace even for me. I’m taking my time through this book because I don’t want to miss a thing. Oh, my goodness….this book is full of good stuff. One of the phrases in the book has become one of my Dad’s favorite things to say when he talks about the road he’s on right now. He says that what’s happening in his life right now is just “God building his resume’.” This book has helped me to understand that I don’t need to passively let life happen to me, especially when I’m in the midst of hard stuff. These challenges we’re facing? They’re opportunities for God’s glory. Feel like you’re being chased by lions lately? Shake things up. Turn around and start chasing those lions that are breathing down your neck. They’ll never see it coming.
By the way, the author of this book, Mark Batterson, is a pastor of an incredible fellowship in Washington, D.C. His blog is one of my favorites. His posts are never long, but they’re almost always full of food that I can chew on for the rest of the day.
Of course, it’s probably unnecessary, but I still feel the need to issue a reader’s warning: No nonfiction book on any list trumps the authority of the best nonfiction book you’ll ever read. As wonderful as I’m sure each of the above authors is, none of them are infallible. The only book that I know is error-free is The Bible. Check anything you read here to make sure it lines up with what God says. And if you want, you can join me as I jump into a 90-Day Bible Reading Challenge with my friend Lori. (Hey, Lori, I hope it’s okay if I invited my friends to come, too.) Click on her name for the post with the details. We’re starting June 1, so you’re not too late and actually have a few days to prepare.
Whew! Man, I’m wordy. If you made it to the end of this post, I bet you feel like you’ve read a book just now! Today I just felt like talking about something I love to talk about for awhile. Thanks for letting me. Now which of these books are you going to read first?
We have friends and family scattered hither and yon (Hither, South Carolina and Yon, Kentucky) and we have about a dozen different ways that we stay connected with them all. Between the phone and the computer, we usually stay informed and keep everyone apprised of the latest. Since my dad’s surgery this past December, we’ve been so very grateful for CaringBridge, a website that helps us keep family and friends informed about the most recent news about my dad’s condition. I don’t talk about a lot of his medical stuff here because when I talk it about it, I do it there. But we have talked about it here and you have been so faithful to pray for my dad and my family. When I realized that some of my blog friends didn’t know the very latest news, I thought I’d give you a quick update here.
I communicate with several of you via several different avenues so some of you have already received this information at least twice today (some of you more). I apologize for repeating myself.
My dad had an MRI last Thursday and he received the results today. I was sure that everything would be fine. I’m generally an optimistic person, but I consider myself an optimistic realist. There’s a difference. I think some people who call themselves optimists are simply in denial. It’s easy to look on the bright side of things if you don’t even acknowledge there’s a dark side. It’s much more difficult to have all of the facts but to still choose to be hopeful about the outcome. (For more riveting semantics analysis, ask me why I feel that I possess dry wit but am NOT sarcastic. But don’t ask me today. I’m not going there with you today.) That said, I also tend to have spot-on intuition. My husband calls it my Spidey sense and he’s learned to trust it because I’m rarely wrong about my “hunches.” And going into today, I really truly felt like we were going to get a good report. I just knew it. I don’t know what will be happening six months from now, but I was sure that Dad’s MRI today would be good news.
The MRI showed growth in the spot where Dad had his resection. And new spots can be seen near the place of the old spot. Didn’t see that coming.
So how am I? I’m not doing well and overwhelmingly fine at the very same time. Numb and in shock? Probably. But also I know that I know that I know that I know that God DID see that report coming. It didn’t catch Him off guard for even a second. He’s not working on Plan B. He’s already finished the last chapter of this story. Will I read it here or in heaven? I don’t know and He’s not saying. God’s got my back. And my front. And my sides. He goes before me and behind me, so yeah, I’m okay.
But I’m not doing well. At prayer time tonight my baby boy told me that he was going to pray for Papa twice tonight so that God would doubly make Papa better. And that’s just what he prayed. And I felt like screaming, “God, how can you not do what my precious baby asks you to do?” Tonight they prayed earnestly for their Papa and I just had to say “Ditto” in my heart because my prayers are jumbled right now. Nights like tonight make me grateful for an Intercessor who can interpret what I’m trying to say to the only One who really needs to hear it. “What he just said, Lord. Please help Papa. Please help Papa. Just do what he said, please.”
K took the kids to swim lessons and I sat and listened to some songs that speak for my heart right now. That’s what I do when I’m just not ready to pray on my own yet. The words for my own prayers will come. I’m not worried about that. They’ll probably come when I put my head on the pillow tonight. Until then I’ll let the music do my talking and praying.
K’s having a sleep study done tonight so he’s not here. I’m hoping they find out what makes him sound like he’s being sucked into a gigantic vortex every night the minute his head hits the pillow. He’s pretty sure I have a sleep disorder. I’m pretty sure he’s my sleep disorder. But I’m okay being alone tonight. I know it seems weird, but I rather like the silence for now.
So tomorrow is a new day. With new mercies. Another chance. Like I just emailed a friend, “I’m just going to do the stuff I do on a daily basis and deal with what I’m feeling as I’m feeling it, I guess. Lately I’ve seen that God doesn’t usually let my feelings go places without His guidance and supervision, so I’m guessing I’m where I need to be now and I’ll go where I need to go when the time is right.” So tomorrow, I’ll get up and “do the next thing” and trust my God and the plan He has for me and my family.
That’s the plan, and I’m sticking to it.
Thanks, you guys, for your comments on my last post and for the emails some of you sent to me. I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who struggles with brokenness, busyness, boundaries and another “B” word that I couldn’t remember until my sweet friend Gretchen reminded me, “balance.” Yeah, that’s what I’m needing! Some balance! Thanks, Gladitude Gretchen who keeps me Grounded. (I don’t know what the deal is with all the alliteration lately. Just ride it out, if you can. It shouldn’t last much longer.)
We spent most of Memorial Day in the garage. You’re jealous, I know. Every move I try to take less stuff with us than we brought or at the very least, the same amount. That means I have to sort and toss and give away and reorganize. I tend to start with great energy and enthusiasm with very decisive movements. I was telling Gretchen that apparently halfway through the process, my body releases some sort of paralyzing chemical that makes me incapable of making simple decisions about random pieces of junk. At the beginning of the day, I have to exercise great restraint not to throw away our birth certificates. (How often do we actually need those things anyway?) By lunchtime, I’m having second thoughts about that smocked outfit that I put in the giveaway pile. (Shouldn’t I at least try to consign it somewhere? Or should I try to save it for my children’s children to wear?) By early afternoon, I’m in tears over whether I should keep a smiley face that one of the Littles drew on a used Applebee’s napkin. (I’m pretty sure it might have been the first face that one of them drew. When they become famous I’ll wish I had that napkin for their museum exhibits.) By late afternoon, I’m walking around random piles I’ve created, high on Sharpie fumes, trying to remember who I am and how I ended up in this garage surrounded by all this garbage. So now my garage looks as upside down as the inside of my house. Oh, how I love moving!
I did find a scrap of paper today that turned out to be quite a treasure. On it I had written part of a Bible verse. I remember writing it down after Bible Study one morning. I had the most incredible privilege to lead the most amazing group of ladies in Bible study when we lived in Louisiana. I’ll have to tell you more about them later because I don’t have time right now, so remind me. My friend Kim had shared this verse with us and I just had to write it down because it really made me stop to think. Today when I found it, it made me stop and think again. It fits in perfectly with where I am in my walk right now. I looked it up in several different translations/paraphrases and I liked what it said in all of them!
The verse is Psalm 101:2b:
“I will walk in my house with blameless heart.” (NIV)
“I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.” (NASB)
“I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” (NKJV)
“I’m doing the very best I can, and I’m doing it at home, where it counts.” (The Message)
That’s what I want. That’s what I’m working toward in my life. I especially love the way The Message interprets this verse. It doesn’t matter how I live my life where the world sees me if I’m not living it with excellence in my own home. If you’re a frustrated perfectionist like me, that “perfect” word that the NKJV uses could throw you for a loop. Fear not (she said biblically)! The word for perfect means “whole and complete.” Like just about everything else in this life, it’s a process. A daily decision, if you will. Today I choose to walk with integrity in my home. Today I choose to do my very best here with my family, where it counts.
My dad has been a Southern Baptist minister for over forty years. One of my favorite things about him is that he is the same man at home that he is standing at the podium on Sunday mornings. He doesn’t lead us in hymns or praise choruses at the breakfast table, but other than that, he’s the same man on Tuesday afternoon as he is on Sunday morning. He walks with integrity in his home. I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s had close to 42,000 entries in his CaringBridge guestbook. People love and respect him. They know he’s the real deal.
So what does it look like when I walk in integrity in my own home? For one thing, I think it means that I don’t use a tone of voice in my house that I wouldn’t use if company were here. I try to ask myself how I would feel if another adult spoke to my child the way I am speaking to him/her. If I wouldn’t allow anyone else to talk to my child that way, why is it okay for me to speak to my child that way? The same is true about the way I speak to my husband. I want my words to encourage him, not wound him.
Another way I can walk with integrity at home is to make the best use of my time. Since my last post, several of us have talked about how we sometimes treat the computer as if it were our favorite child. I was glad to know I’m not alone, but having company in my faults doesn’t excuse me from them. I’m embarrassed that I’ve lost count of the times my children had to take a back seat to Mom’s computer time. A friend of mine was telling me that her kids have asked her to do something for them when she’s finished “working.”Working? I’m not working, I’m socializing…or looking at decorating/homeschool stuff,” she said to me. I knew all too well what she was saying. I need to remember that this blog and my emails are not my job. They’re a fun distraction, but they’re dangerous if they distract me from what’s most important in my life: my faith, my family, and my friends.
I’m realizing that I need a plan. I’m not a “schedule every minute” kind of girl. I literally threw the book Babywise across the room after I read it because I knew it would never work for my temperament. I need some flexibility. That said, I also need stronger boundaries so that my computer time doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. I’m curious as to how you all have settled this in your own lives. I know that some of you have regular unplugged days. Do you have other ways to keep yourself from spending too much time in front of the computer? I’d love to hear your ideas.
I have a few more ideas about how to walk with integrity within my house, but I need to make best use of the rest of my time that I’ve allowed myself for the computer this morning. That means I have to go now. I’d love to know what you first thought about when you read Psalm 101:2b. How do you best “walk the walk” in your home? I’d like to come back to this idea and add some more ideas and I’d love to know some of your suggestions.
So you have two assignments: How you keep yourself from sitting in front of the computer today and how you walk with integrity in your home. Now stop reading, start thinking and typing! I’ll be back later to check your work. I have to go see if I’ve left a Little somewhere in the garage piles.
What a week! Have you ever had a week where one minute you’re having major deep thoughts that would be over Socrates’s head and the next minute you can’t think of enough words to make a complete sentence (less Socrates, more Bill and Ted)? That would be my week.
The word “broken” has played over and over in my mind (like a broken record, I guess). I’m still working through what I’m supposed to take away practically from those thoughts, but in the meantime, I can just tell you that my heart has been broken for friends and friends of friends who are hurting right now. Did the world have this much hurt a few months ago or am I just more in tune with what other people are feeling these days?
We don’t use the word “hate” that often at our house, but I truly hate cancer. I hate that it is hurting my family, the Simmons’ family, my friend’s sister, my friend’s father, my friend’s son…..I could keep going, but there’s no need. You have your own list, I’m sure. Add to that the people who are hurting for reasons other than cancer, and I honestly think I could start praying for a different hurting friend the minute I wake up and not run out of prayer concerns by the end of the day. Life is brutal, man. So I feel a little broken this week.
I’m also approaching a big season of busyness. We’re moving somewhere in just over a month. As much as I don’t want to do it, it’s time to start going through all the stuff we’ve accumulated and begin the “weeding out” process. We also have quite a few items on our “Things to Do in Boston” list. So, life is speeding up a little over the next few weeks.
Finally, I’ve decided I need to be a little more present in my own life. I read a blog post just over a week ago that stepped on my toes just a little bit. It was just what my toes needed. I’ve been thinking about the boundaries I’ve set in my own life. Unfortunately, I have a tendency toward addiction. I have to be very proactive and diligent about setting limits for myself. When left to my own devices, I can sit in front of this computer for hours on end. That’s not healthy and I can miss out on my own life in the process. This is the last summer my children will ever be five and eight years old. This will be the last summer that I’ll be 39 years old. This will be the last summer that my husband and I will have been married for thirteen years. I don’t want to miss one minute of it.
But I also believe that God has given me some amazing friendships through this crazy little blog. This was a totally unexpected gift. Although it’s hard to explain to people who have never experienced it (the ones who look at me like I just joined a Dungeon and Dragons group or met my new best friends through eHarmony.com), I can honestly say that I am experiencing some blessedly special friendships that I would not trade as a result of my entry into Blogburg. We pray for each other, encourage each other, cry with each other, laugh with each other, meal plan with each other, and spur one another towards love and good deeds…I’m thankful. And I will still be around. I just won’t be around as much as I have been.
I’m curious and would like to discuss this further with you all over the next few weeks: How do your family and closest friends feel about the time you spend in the blog world? Are they indifferent? Supportive? Does your husband read your blog? What does the think about the friendships you’ve made here? I think K understands that writing here has been very therapeutic for me and he is supportive of what I do and the friendships I’ve made. I take them seriously so he does, too. I do think, however, that I could easily reach a point where he would not understand the amount of time I was spending in front of the computer, especially if it began to take away from my role as a wife and mother and the keeper of our home. I’d really love to hear what you all have to say on this topic.
I was manically posting for a few weeks, I think maybe to distract myself from my own life. I’ll still be posting, I’ll just probably pause before I hit the publish button. My friends here may not even be able to notice a major difference. Hopefully I will.
Thank you all so much for providing ears for my voice. I like it here. I like getting to know you and do this thing called “life” with you all. I just want to do it a little better than I have been lately.
And now hopefully I’ll have more time to work on my silly walk:
Want some Coldplay?
In other news,
Jillian Michaels hates all people. I did my first day of the 30 Day Dead Shred yesterday. I have muscles hurting where I didn’t even know I had muscles….and I wasn’t even able to do everything she asked me nicely yelled at me to do for as long as she asked told me to do it. I don’t know about what she says to any of you on your DVD, but she all but called me a wimp yesterday. Does she talk like that to the rest of you? I bought Sweatin’ to the Oldies on eBay last summer because Princess Diva loves to dance and I was feeling nostalgic. Richard Simmons NEVER talked to me the way Jillian does. Never. And you can actually sing along to his music. But Jillian has better abs than Richard Simmons does (and much better hair), so I guess I’ll try for Day #2. My knees just found out I typed that, and I kid you not, they are crying now. Why did I have to pick now to be a follower? Why don’t any of you pick something fun for your new obsession? I need a new bandwagon to jump on; this one is painful.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep I give myself “mental projects to think about.” The hope is that instead of obsessing about how I’m not sleeping, I’ll distract my brain and trick it into chasing rabbits right into Dreamland. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I quiz myself: name the fifty states in alphabetical order; list the Brady kids from youngest to oldest. Other times, I replay favorite memories that I don’t want to forget. I try to visualize the scenes like I’m watching a movie of my life.
A few nights ago, I gave myself an assignment that may seem a little strange. I tried to make myself remember exactly what we were like just before my dad went in the hospital on December 21st, 2008. Those memories automatically led into memories of the days that followed: the brain surgery, the diagnosis, the beginning of radiation and chemotherapy. Then I pushed myself to remember further back in time, back to my parents’ visit here last August. In my mind I could see the pictures Dad and I took during that time. Dad and I aren’t in many of those pictures because we were mostly behind the camera. I wish I’d known to take more pictures of all of us during that time. I just didn’t know that in a few short months we all would be forever changed. Regardless of how God chooses to use my dad’s illness in our family’s life and in our lives as individuals, regardless of which side of heaven my dad receives his healing, we will never be the same as we were before any of this happened.
Sometimes the heaviness of this journey hits me like a ton of bricks and I feel like I can’t even get a good, deep breath. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of the blog post that Beth Moore wrote on Good Friday this year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated Melissa’s statement myself: “Life is brutal, man.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried over, clung to, and found comfort in what Melissa said after that: “He (Jesus) knows it’s scary to be us.”
Sunday, Curtis (my pastor), preached from John 11 about Jesus and Lazarus. I could camp out and ponder huge chunks of that passage from now until I get to ask Jesus and Lazarus all my questions in person. Also this weekend, I watched a video of Rachel Barkey, a 38-year-old mom who is living with terminal cancer, and many of the points she made paralleled what Curtis said in his sermon. I was sitting in church Sunday thinking about how death and pain and suffering entered the perfect world God made for us because of man’s sin. Curtis wondered if perhaps that’s why Jesus wept when he was told that Lazarus had died. Jesus certainly wasn’t surprised by that news and He knew that He could take death away from Lazarus. But Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters and as he looked around and saw his friends struggling with the after-effects of Lazarus’s death, he saw the terrible, ugly scar that death had left on His Father’s world and maybe he wept at what sin had caused.
All of a sudden as I sat there thinking about the ugly effects of sin, this thought popped into my head: “You see how brutal life is as a result of sin entering the world. You know firsthand the ugliness it causes. Then why don’t you take your own sin more seriously?”
Ouch. I didn’t see that coming. But I couldn’t let go of that thought. I now see that just as when sin entered the world and God’s relationship with man was damaged, my relationship with God has been damaged by my own unconfessed sin. My time alone with God has been practically nonexistent lately. I haven’t taken my responsibilities at home or with my children as seriously as I’ve needed to. I’ve given myself leeway and made excuses for my behavior. After all, the past few months have been tough, right? But this weekend, I realized I need to be honest and call it what it is: It’s sin and it’s affecting my closeness with God at the time I need Him more than I ever have before. I just can’t afford not to be right smack in the middle of His plan for me right now.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that my dad’s cancer was due to something he did wrong or didn’t do right. I know there are some that believe that sickness is a direct punishment to an individual for his or her sin. I believe that when we mess up, we have consequences, but I’m speaking more generally about how none of us are immune to the overall consequence for all of us when sin entered the world though Adam.
If what we’re going through as a family is going to change me, I want it to change me for the better. I can already see ways that it has. One of the ways that I hope this has changed me, even this weekend, is that I see sin for what it is and for what it does and I hope that I take it more seriously in my own life.
This is drastically different from my Jazzercise, orange balls, ping pong ball bouncing posts of late, I know. But this is also a pretty accurate picture of what my life feels like right now. When I have a chance to laugh, I laugh until my sides hurt. When I think, I think until my head hurts. When something makes me feel, I feel until my heart hurts. And then I just take all those hurts to Jesus and He laughs with me, cries with me, forgives me, and helps me make it through whatever the next minute brings. Because He knows it’s scary to be me.
On a much lighter note, guess what came in the mail yesterday?