Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What I Read in June

I always longingly look forward to summer break, as it gives me a chance to dig into my TBR piles of books, scattered throughout my house.
At the beginning of 2020, I set a goal to read 150 books... an average of around 13 books per month. I was on target until Corona and online work took over my life. At the end of June, I've read 66.

June was a month of tumult in the United States. As with most things, I process through the written word. As I watched history being made on my newsfeed, I was unsure of who or what was wrong... at the beginning of June, I decided that as a white person in a very rural, homogenous community, what I could do is vow to do the best I can for my world, for others. And in order to do that, I had to be informed... so I dived into books.

As I processed the books I read, I thought about how often we look for books, especially fiction, where the characters are somewhat like we are. We long to relate, and because of that we are sometimes selective about the words we read. I often try to picture characters in my mind, I found that often I picture those characters as white... because that is most often what I see in my everyday life. I also picture those authors as white.

So I made a conscious effort to try to broaden my worldview.

Some of that is reflected in my June reads, and also things that I'm reading into July.

Here's what I finished in June.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
This is one of my favorite books, and I try to read it every couple of years. Scout and Jem seem like old friends. Atticus, with his integrity and empathy, remind me that it is important to stand up for what we believe in.
As I read through those familiar pages, laughing at some of the scenes and finding my eyes well up at others, the words seemed new on the page. As I thought of the injustices so many were sharing, as I thought of posts I had read about the fear many face every day because of their skin color... I read those words in a new light. How was it possible that 60 years later we still have black people who are scared just because they are black? That injustices like an innocent man being accused still result in death?
If you've never read this book... what are you waiting for? Pick it up. Read it thinking about what is going on in today's world.

2. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
This book was hard for me to get into, but worth the effort. It takes place in two different time periods... modern day, and the Russian Revolution. Meredith and Nina are sisters. One of them is settled, steady. The other is an international photographer whose work is her passion. When their father dies, it leaves them unmoored, struggling to stay together as a family, especially since their mother was often cold and unreachable. In this tale, though, they discover their mother's history and in the process learn what the love of a family truly is. I was not prepared for the ending of the story but it was beautifully written. The characters are rich and relatable. Part of it is written as a fairy tale, though... taking you back to the past... and sometimes that is hard to follow... but if you like family drama this is a great read.

3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates writes this in a letter form to his son. As an African-American man, he wants to try to explain the world to his son from the eyes of a black body. He talks about the American Dream and what its perception is from a black perspective. He addresses racial injustice and inequality and if I'm honest it was hard for me to read. Remember, my perspective comes from that of a white, college graduate... the very definition of white privilege many are denying exist. Before June of this year, I myself did not understand white privilege. Coates's words, his stories, the examples he uses, were hard for me to face because I had never thought that way before. I'm still not sure I understand. Still not sure I relate... no, I know I don't relate, and I'll never be able to fully do so... but the fact that the book made me think of things I had never thought of before and see things in a new light means that it was a good book. Coates poses difficult questions to his son, and in that, difficult questions to the reader. These are complex issues that can't simply be explained away... and that is why it is a good book. Because even now, almost a month after finishing, I'm trying to process what his words mean to me, someone with white privilege, who he was not considering as he wrote the book, but who needed the message in a desperate way, because I no longer want to use ignorance as an excuse for not being better. If you're interested in seeing things in a new light, I'd recommend you read this, too... and keep reading, even if it is hard. Allow yourself to get uncomfortable... because that's how we grow.

4. Hardcore Twentyfour by Janet Evanovich
This series, featuring Stephanie Plum, bondswoman extraordinaire, is a light-hearted read that I didn't have to think much about. Stephanie is looking for zombies in this one. There's a totaled car, a mishap with Granny, and lots of donuts consumed. Not much change in Stephanie, or the plot, but it's familiar and it's fun and I'm a fan.

5. The Color of a Christmas Miracle by Julianne Maclean
This is another book in a "series", except that the books are stand-alone. I know it seems funny that I finished a Christmas book in June, but this one was next and I'm working my way through the series I've started. This miracle involves an infertile couple whose infertility push them apart, the miracle of forgiveness, and a little Christmas magic thrown in. This was another light read that I'd recommend if you're looking for a feel-good story.

6. Eden Hills by Bill Higgs
This book was set in Kentucky, in small town USA, in the mid-1900s. I loved that it talked about Lexington and rolling hills and fishing. I loved the small church and the Pastor. I could even see and imagine the excitement of a new gas station moving in... for everyone except the owner of the current station. This was a delightful read, with no foul language, a wholesome story line, and characters that I felt like I had grown up with. Again, I found myself laughing and crying. I was especially delighted to learn that the author is married to another one of my favorite writers, Liz Curtis Higgs. I can't recommend this read enough!

7. Star Rising by Janet Ferguson
I have read every book written by Janet Ferguson except one, and I'm not sure how I missed it. She also writes stand-alone series books. This one finds Star, a recovering drug addict, caring for her older neighbor who has health issues. Paul, the neighbor's son, isn't appreciative of her help... but his mother is stubborn and insists that Star is her friend. As Mrs. Kelley faces her health issues, she is determined to go on a once in a lifetime trip to Ireland. She wants Star to go. Paul doesn't, so he somehow manages to crash the trip. What follows is a forged friendship and a lesson in faithfulness, hope, grace, and love. Again, I've loved everything written by this author and I highly recommend this book!

8. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I had wanted to see this movie for several months but was determined to read the book first. It follows the story of Walter Mcmillan, a Black man in the South framed for killing a white woman. McMillan was sentenced to death row. Stevenson was his council, and he dictates that story as well as other cases he fought for justice. I was amazed by the numbers cited by Stevenson- of innocent men. Of kids being sentenced to death. Of injustice after injustice. Highly recommend this book. Highly recommend this movie.

9. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Caleb loved this book and recommended it for me. I never really cared for the Obama Presidency, honestly, so I wasn't sure what I would think of this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. This book details Michelle's youth in South Side Chicago, her college education, the decision that law maybe wasn't the career for her, learning to balance work and motherhood, the campaign trail, and her life in the White House. Her message of "not feeling good enough" is one I can relate to, and her passion to empower young people is a message I can get behind. I enjoyed the behind the scenes stories and found myself a fan at the end of the book.

What I'm Reading in July
-What LIES Between Us by Lucretia Berry- I'm actually going through a webinar series based on this book through Berry's organization, Brownicity. This book is about race/ism and our perspectives, and I've found the book and the supplemental resources very helpful.
-Go Set a Watchman- The "sequel" to To Kill a Mockingbird- Jean Louise is all grown up. I fought reading this one for a while, and I've really only just now started it. I actually prayed before I started that it wouldn't affect my love for the original. Isn't that silly?
-Be the Bridge by Latoshia Morrison- Another book on race relations. I'm reading this one for a book club with other volunteers through Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies. It has been very eye-opening. (There are common themes in the books that I've been reading, and many of the perspectives brought forth are things I never thought about. White washed culture. How we can be offensive without meaning to be. Things I take for granted).
-Unoffended- because I want to live unoffended... and that's hard in our world today. There's so much we can choose to take offense to... but I want to be love. I don't want to be bitter.
-The Fiery Cross- the 5th book in the Outlander series
-The Bungalow Mystery- Nancy Drew
-These Happy Golden Years- Little House series
-Shopaholic to the Stars
-The Crown: The Official Companion to season One- if you like the Netflix show the Crown this is a must read. It goes into detail for each episode regarding historical content. I've been reading about the episode before watching it so that the scenes make sense. Love it!
And, of course, making my way through my Bible and reading a few daily devotion books.

What are you reading?

Friday, June 5, 2020

Stay

This space has been pretty quiet this year. Was silent for almost six months, until last Friday. I felt compelled to write then, and since then, I've been out of words.

Or, maybe, I've been reflecting that maybe my words aren't right.

As I noted the word for the FMF linkup this week, stay, I thought of how this word has been on the forefront for many in our country this season.

We've been forced to stay-

stay at home.
stay away from church.
stay in our own worlds.

Stay- in one place.

But stay can also mean something else, and as the world has seemed to explode and protestors pour out into the street in droves, I was reminded of it's more literary meaning.

To curb, or check.

And that has been what this week has been for me.

For many of us.

A gut check.

Who am I in relation to my neighbor? And how do I relate to them?

What biases do I have without realizing them? And how do those biases impact my actions?

I've been trying to learn. I've downloaded books. I've read articles. I've followed some people on Twitter, and unfollowed some others. I've noted movies to watch. I've talked with Caleb, who is much more educated than I am.

But I keep asking myself, "What can I really do? How can I make a difference, a real difference, in Eastern Kentucky, where most people look like me and talk like me, even if they don't necessarily look like me?"

I'd like to have conversations... but there isn't really anyone to have those conversations with. And I know it's my responsibility. Nobody owes me any explanations...

So I'll keep digging. I"ll keep allowing myself to be uncomfortable, because growth can't happen when we stay in our comfort zone.

And I'll keep praying... because that's the most important thing I can do.

"They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay."- Psalm 18:18

The Lord will be our stay. Our support. Our protector.

May you feel it tonight, and know Him.

And may we not allow our hearts to stay as they have been. May we not let ourselves grow calloused. May we stay uncomfortable.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Born For This

My last post was on my 40th birthday.

Fitting, because today I'm joining in on a FMF party with the focus word as "born".

Over 40 years ago, I was born into a loving family. My Mom and Dad had been married for a couple of years. They had a home. They both had college educations. They had jobs... maybe not the best jobs, but jobs nonetheless.

Over 17 years ago, my son, Caleb, was born into a loving family. His Mom and Dad had been married for a couple of years. We had a home. We had college educations. We both had jobs.

Tonight, as I'm sitting in my home, built in my parent's backyard, I've been thinking a lot about the word born.

Not just because it was this week's prompt, and I've been determined to get back into writing and Five Minute Friday gives me a good way to do that...

but because as I'm sitting in the safety of my home I'm thinking about how the word born signifies a dividing line.

I was born for such a time as this... just like Esther. God had a purpose and plan for me...

but I was also born into a privilege that a lot of people aren't.

And while I don't question God, or His purposes, I can't help but think about how the dividing line seems to be chance.

Where we are born... the circumstances which greet us when we first come out of the womb and blink in the bright lights... it can determine the entire trajectory of our life.

Somewhere, on the other side of the world, somebody is being born into abject poverty. Somewhere, in America, there is someone being born who won't be loved. Somewhere, in a land far, far away, or nearer than I can even imagine, there is a baby being born in a seemingly hopeless situation.

I don't know why it's like that. I don't know why good things happen for "bad" people or why bad things happen to "good" people or even how we sometimes distinguish between the two... but I do know this.

I was born in 1979. I was raised in church. I grew up wading in the creek and feeling the dirt in between my toes and learned to lose myself in a good story. I was born with the ability to take words and sometimes make them make sense, sometimes make somebody feel good. I was born into a family that is slightly crazy, that loves to laugh and sometimes cares to fight, and lives a legacy of seeking how to serve others.

I was given the opportunity to go to school. I was blessed to go to college. I can read. I have a Bible in my living room, access to His Word on my Kindle, my phone, my computer... not just one Bible, actually, but three in my living room. I am in the top 95% of the American population regarding educational status.

Yes, I worked hard for that degree... I work hard in my job...

but I was also born with the opportunity and the family who pushed me to pursue it. They believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself.

Please don't think that I say any of this proudly. I have been proud in the past... but sitting here tonight I am humble when I say that I realize that some of this is by chance... because of where I was born.

And I don't take it lightly.

If you are reading this, you are more well off than most of the people in the world.

Read that again. Even in our severe poverty in Appalachia...

Almost 1/2 of the world's population lives on less than $6 dollars a day.

With great privilege comes great responsibility.

Yes, it's a Spiderman quote, but the Bible says something similar.

"To whom much is given, much will be required."

Think on that... and may we allow God to use us for what we were born to do.

Love Him.

Love each other.

In word... but also in action.

Born... for such a time as this.

Even when it's hard.

Especially so, perhaps...

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Next 40 Years

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a little morbid. I've cited it several times in blog posts and eulogies, because it fits the end of life.

It also fits the beginning, and the middle, or wherever you may be... because we take our first breath in light of eternity.

Psalm 90: 9-11, 12: "...we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away...So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

Three score and ten, or perhaps four score. 

This is why turning 40 is such a milestone, I guess... because if you live to be three score and ten (70), you're on the down hill slope. 

If by some reason of strength of body or strength of mind or by the grace of God you make it to four score, those years are full of sorrow...

But we fly away. 

I wanted to write this post last night, and title it something grand, like, "On the Eve of Turning 40"... 

but I was too tired after a 12 hour shift at the hospital. 

 And as always, I'm not really sure how to put into words how I feel. 

I guess every milestone must include some type of reflection, and all the self-help books from all the experts cite the importance of self-reflection. 

You have to know where you've been to know where you are. You have to know where you are to know where you're going. You have to know where you're going to know how to get there...

except sometimes you think you know where you are, only to find out that you can only see part of the landscape. 

Sometimes you don't like to remember where you've been, because it's full of shame and fear and self-doubt. Besides, you aren't that person anymore, anyway...

Sometimes you think you know where you're going, but God has different plans. 

Maybe this is why so many go through what we title mid-life crises. 

We don't like where we've been, or where we are, and the trajectory to where we are going doesn't look so great, either. 

At 40, it's easy to look back at your life and feel discouraged. 40 is a lot of years to do nothing...

but most of the time what the world views as success isn't really success at all. 

Success at the cost of everything you love is much too expensive and overrated, and often the price of success isn't visible to the outer eye. 

As I reflect over my first 40 years, I'd like to think I've been successful. If you measured my success by some standards, I'd definitely fall short.... but I do have a decent job, I've been married almost half my life (not without many ups and downs and battles to stay that way, with a lot of grace and forgiveness). I have a son who is going to be a world-changer, and in many ways already is. I have a doctorate degree, a terminal degree in my profession...

and while I'm proud of those things, those aren't truly success to me. The older I get, the more I see things differently, I guess, and that is mostly a good thing. I'm so far from perfect, but I truly desire an eternal lens, one that is reminded that the "successes" of this world are temporal... and that one day, even if I'm not a success, I'll fly away.

So, to borrow and slightly edit the phrase from Tim McGraw, "in my next 40 years", should God grace me with those... 

May God bless me with success...

Success that means that I have  positively impacted those around me through my words and deeds. 
Success that means that I have learned to accept myself, not because I am perfect, but because I am a masterpiece that He is still working on, and because He is faithful to finish what He started. 
Success that means that I see the good in others. 
Success that means that I live in the moment, appreciating all that I have. 
Success that means I am a hard worker, even though I am notoriously lazy. 
Success that means that I love well, live fully, and laugh often... at myself, at the joys of the day to day, and the simplicity of the mundane. 
Success that means I cry with others, and always have tissues available. 
Success that means I am full of grace, so that it spills out to those around me. 
Success that means that I seek Him first, knowing that if I do, everything else will fall in place. 

May God bless me with adventure...

new places. New faces. New experiences... as well as enjoyment of some old favorites. May I embrace the natural beauty around me and move to change that which is ugly in the world. 

May God bless me with some really good books =) but also help me write my own beautiful story, a tale that is told for others to "read" and smile and sigh at the ending...

May God allow no individual to leave an encounter with me unchanged for the better, but especially may no individual leave me changed for the worse... 

May His Word be a lamp and a light... and may I not be too stubborn to try new paths, even if they are hilly and grown over because they aren't well-traveled. 

Here's to 40!  May it be the best time of my life... until next year =)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

To My Incoming Junior

Tonight on the way home I heard Mercy Me's "Dear Younger Me" and it brought tears to my eyes.

I've been in a melancholy mood all week. Big changes, milestones, tend to make me reflect, and I realized that you are my younger me...

but different, obviously.

But some parents make their kids their redemption. I hope I've not been too bad at doing that to you. I hope that you feel as though you have freedom to make some of your own choices.

As I was thinking of what I would say to 16 year old Lauren, I mostly thought of what I'd want to say to 16 year old you... because that me is long gone, and even if I could change things I don't think I would, because it's got me where I am now.

But you...

The world is at your fingertips.

Tomorrow you'll get in your jeep and drive to school on the first day by yourself. I know you were driving yourself at the end of the school year, but there's something symbolic about driving that first day. New beginnings and all...

I think of you in preschool, so little and unable to speak perfectly plain, crying as I left.

Those glasses on your nose and that chip in your front tooth.. so full of personality.

You don't need me to hold your hand anymore. You don't need me to speak up for you anymore. You don't need me to fill out those forms (thank goodness).  You don't need me to help you with homework much.

This year you'll have a college account and take college classes. You'll continue to plan for your future, which is closer by the minute.

You'll stress some... a lot, if I know you.

You come by it honest.

But what I want for you this year is simple.

 I wish time would stand still...

not because I want you to stay where you are...

but because I want you to appreciate it.

I want you to fully live it, not just look forward to the next big thing.

I want you to know that if you fail it's ok. If you struggle in a class, it's ok. Sometimes it's those classes that are the hardest that teach you the most, because you have to learn to work for it.

I want you to know that you are smart and so much more than any score on the ACT or any other standardized test.

I want you to know that you are special, because nobody is quite like you.

I want you to practice independence but know that you can always count on me to help you make decisions. I also want you to remember that you are only 16.

I want you to know that it's better to be the nice kid than the kid with everything.

I want you to be the kid that the teacher likes, not because you are a suck-up, but because you respect them. 

I want everyone to see your smile and hear your laugh, because it's special.

I hope you succeed in making others feel as special as you. I'm not perfect, but I hope that I've instilled kindness in you enough that you can share it with someone else.

I want you to enjoy these teenage years, even as they are hard. 

Dream big. Chase those dreams. Work hard. Don't be afraid.

And know that I'll always love you more than mint chocolate chip ice cream.

You're going to have a great year... because you're a great kid. Thank you for being you, and as Thank God that He chose me to be your Mama. I'm so very blessed.


Monday, August 5, 2019

What I Read in July

1. The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia) by CS Lewis
Eustace and Jill are the heroes of this story, as they battle a different witch for the glory of Aslan. This is the 4th or 5th book in this series I've read and each have a good moral behind them.

2. Everyday Holy by Melanie Shankle
Shankle is one of my favorite authors and I love everything I've ever read by her. This book is a seris of short devotions that would be good to read each day. I read several in a day. They include a scripture and a devotion, and each are relatable. Highly recommend!

3. The Basic Steps of Bible Study by Kay Arthur
This is a basic overview of inductive Bible study, a way to dig into the Scriptures to get more out of what you read. There are other books that go deeper into the process, but this is a good introduction into a more thorough way of reading the Bible.

4. Stretched Too Thin by Jessica Turner
Turner is a working Mom who has a passion for helping other working moms. This book centers on the myth that today's moms have to do it all. Each chapter focuses on an area where a mom may feel like she is stretched too thin, and gives ideas for moms (working or otherwise) on how they can prioritize what really matters.

5. Wreck My Life by Mo Isom
I heard Mo speak at Southland Christian Church earlier this year and she was so inspirational. This book tells of how she fought back after a wreck in which she should have been killed. It's a delightful read and a good reminder of how when we think we are in control we really aren't.

The next four books were read with Melody at the library while waiting for Mamaw Karen to get finished with business. They were favorites of mine, or Caleb's, or Kami's. 
6. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie- This whole series was a favorite of Caleb's.
7. Blueberries for Sal- I loved this book when I was at LBJ.
8. Are You My Mother- Not sure why I like this book so much, but it was a childhood favorite.
9. Madeline- Kami used to love this one.

10. A Girl with No Name by Diney Costeloe
This book was set in England during WWII. The main character is a young German girl who had been evacuated to London from Germany because she was a Jew. She was injured in a bombing and suffered from amnesia. The rest of the book is about how she finds herself, comes to term with being German in a foreign country, and finds who she can trust.  I felt like this book moved a little slow but overall had a good plot.

11. Voyager (Outlander series) by Diana Gabaldon
This was the third in the series and in my opinion the best book so far. Claire finds herself back in Scotland with Jamie, and must come to terms with his life while she was absent. They find themselves heading across the ocean for high-sea adventures. Loved this one!

12. Anne of Avolea
This is the second book in the Anne of Green Gables series and is delightful as the first. Anne finds herself a teacher and works to better her community. A quick read, and pleasant! 
13. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
I had read this years ago but rediscovered it, and it really makes sense. It made me think about why we often misunderstand each other in family and other relationships. Each of us have a prominent love language. You can give someone a million gifts and it does nothing, but if you put your phone down and actually listen to them it makes them feel like a million dollars. It's not that you don't love them... you just don't love them in away which they understand. I highly recommend this one for anyone who wants to do "better" in their relationships.

14. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
I can't say enough good about this book. I had seen it for years and had never read it, and then the film popped up on Netflix. Y'all know how I am about reading before I watch a movie, so I got this one and was delighted. It's written in a series of letters from different characters describing their experience in WWII. Funny, light-hearted, with just enough tragedy to pull at your heart strings.... so good. And the movie was great as well.

15. A Time to Love by Barbara Cameron
Set in Lancaster county, this novel centers on an Englisher who comes home to her Amish grandmother to heal from wounds she obtained as a war correspondent. She finds that she needs to heal physically and emotionally, and the novel follows her along that process. I love Amish novels, and this one is no exception.

16. Color Tour by Aaron Stander
Ray Elkins is investigating the death of a private school teacher and her friend, leading him on an adventure full of murder and mayhem. This book was slow to start, but picked up and I enjoyed it. The ending was definitely not what I expected. A great thriller to read by the pool!


As of the end of July, I had read 70 books. My goal for the year is 150. I'm behind and with school starting back I'm not sure how close I'll get to my goal, but I'll just keep reading in my free time and hope for the best. I'm currently reading 54 books. Yes, 54! I start one, then start another, and some of them are devotions or Bible study books that I read a little at a time. Some books are ones that I add to my reading list that I haven't really started.  I write that so that if you ever look at my goodreads list and see that it has taken me months to read a book, chances are I haven't really started reading it. I usually will read a chapter at a time, unless a book really grabs ahold and then I'll read more. I have stacks and stacks of books... but my stacks make me happy, and I find great pleasure in selecting what I'm reading next... so if you've got a good read let me know! 


Sunday, July 14, 2019

What I Read in June

1. The 7.5 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
This was a suggestion from a Goodreads challenge, and one I probably never would have read otherwise. The category was a book that involved a game of sorts... and this game wasn't one I would have considered. It reminded me of the game Clue in a way... several people in a mansion, somebody gets murdered, somebody's trying to figure out who the murderer was... only the person telling the story is given 8 days in the body/mind of 8 different characters to collect the clues, and it's a race against other people. It was hard for me to follow at times, but if you like a good mystery with a surprising ending, this is a book for you. 

2. Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake
This book was free on Kindle Unlimited, and I tried to listen to it as an audiobook first but just didn't get into it. The story is great, featuring a young Southern girl, Turtle, who comes of age in the late 1970s, a time when civil rights was thought to be over... except in the South. Turtle spends her summer days carefree at the local watering hole with her brother, her cousin, and their friends, until she befriends the new girl from Sri Lanka. They are faced with the ugliness of racial division, including visits by the KKK and a tragedy that makes them look deep inside to discover who they are. This was a great read with well-developed characters, and it made me ponder just how far we have come but how far we still have to go. 

3. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabladon
This is the second book in the series with Claire and Jamie Frazier. Claire, in modern times, has a daughter and reveals the truth of her parentage. Jamie, in the 1700s in Scotland, battles for his freedom. Separated by years but not in their hearts, the two long for each other. I struggled with this one... but have to say the next in the series is much better (I'm currently reading it). Full of language and some sexual content.

4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I saw on Goodreads where this is the best selling book so far this year and I can see why. It's beautifully written. As you read the description of the marshes, you can almost taste the salt water and hear the waves lap against the shore. The main character, Kya, is heartwrenching. The mix of a love story and a murder mystery keeps you guessing. And the ending is not what you'd expect at all... the best way for books to end. Highly recommend this one!

5. Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach Us About the  Nature of God and His Love for Us by Matthew Sleeth
I got this book as a member of a launch team.  The topic fascinated me because in the last couple of years I have fallen in love with hiking and nature (except for bugs and snakes and also really hot weather...). This book takes the topic of trees and traces it through the Bible. It talks about how God uses trees in so many of the major events. It pointed out how our respiratory system mimics the root system of a tree. The author is a medical doctor and writes in a way that is easy to follow, backing up his statements with scripture. It made me think about trees in a way I never had before, and I now find myself noticing them as I read my Bible each day. A good read!

6. Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers
This is the second book in the Mary Poppins series and it was just as delightful as the first. I have to say, I can't remember really watching the movie. I did read the book about PL Travers that came out a few years ago, and found her an interesting individual. The Mary Poppins in these books wasn't quite what I had pictured in my mind from my knowledge of "Supercalifragilicous"  of "Spoonful of Sugar". I think I'll finish the series before I watch any of the movies.

I'm pitifully behind my goal for the year to finish 150 books... but I'll keep persevering!

Keep reading, friends!