Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hanging up the Whistle

The summer before my Senior year one of the greatest men I ever knew gave me some advice.

We were at the city pool at a church pool party, and I was complaining about being bored.

He told me to enjoy my time, every minute, because it flew by, and that those were the best days of my life.

Dr. Todd was wrong, though. As good as my Senior year was, it wasn't the best days of my life.

I'm slowly coming to the realization that the best days of my life are right now.

This moment.

It's taken me a while to realize it... and time really does fly.

And if you blink... well, you've missed it.

And who wants to miss out...

Miss out on middle schoolers whose uniforms were mismatched and whose shorts were so big they had to be doubleknotted? Of tournaments played when we walked in the gym and the other coach said, "I'll take it easy on you" and we went on to win the whole shebang? Of mean little boys trying to act like men?

Miss out on sleepovers at the Bates house when we won freshman districts... when I stayed at Mom's because there was literally no room in our single wide. Popcorn and movies and Papa John's, stories of time outs and laughter and a coach who may or may not have acted as mature as the players?

And then... somehow... it all changed.

"I don't know how to coach girls. You yell at them and they cry... and there is so much drama!"

But there was also big sisters for Caleb. Hugs and laughter.  Thinking we needed to whip a couple of boyfriends who were treating our girls mean.

Cries of "Don't wake the Bull" and Wallace sleeping on the floor of the bus and "Bates, make him quit touching me!!!" 

Memories of a little boy, glasses brand new, peering down at the middle of the gym floor  and saying, "Mommy, why is Daddy in the middle of the floor?" (Because that's where he always is. He doesn't believe in a coach's box). Of cars lined up all the way down a bleacher and  of little legs hurrying down the steps and sprinting across the floor so he could be in the middle of the huddle to say "1-2-3 team!"

Memories of slip n slides in college dorms and firetrucks and net cutting. Memories of looking in the stands to see girls writing Caleb's spelling words.  Too many memories to put into words... so I'll just share a few glimpses...







Almost my entire married life I've been a coach's wife. I've often said it's part of my calling. Over the years, I'd like to think we have both mellowed out. I have a whole lot more Jesus than I did when we started, although there have been times when I could  have used more! I've truly been blessed to have gotten to know hundreds of kids... kids who have gone on to become teachers, physical therapists, nurses, social workers, doctors... kids who have had kids of their own and are raising them with a love for the game... kids who impact our society in a positive way on a daily basis.

Coaching is a labor of love. Being a coach's wife, I'd like to think, is even more so... but it's been my honor to do so. I love high school sports... if you go back through my archives you'll see I write about them often. There's a beauty to the game at this age... it's often pure heart and soul. My love won't change, because it's something that has been passed down throughout generations... from my Papaw to my Mom to me.

In closing, as my last post as a coach's wife (for this season  of life... who knows what a few years will bring... we've done this break thing and it only lasted a couple of years, but we ARE getting older... but I'll NEVER SAY NEVER because the last time I did we ended up right back in a gym...)

To MY kids... my Owls and Lady Owls and Lady Tigers and Lady Cats...

Thank  you for sharing your lives with us. Thank you for loving Caleb. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for tolerating Wallace.

Thank you for smiles and hugs and sometimes tears. Thank you for these memories that I will hold dear in my heart... when Wallace and I are old, sitting at home on our front porch watching the sunset (ok... that will NEVER happen. Wallace can't sit still!) we'll be talking of you. Laughing at memories of practices and games and things you said and did...

Thank you for giving me hope... being around teenagers, while at times full of drama and totally exasperating... also keeps us young.

To all those other kids... kids like Savannah Noe, Natalie Watterson and Hannah Cash from Lee Co., Katie Moore and Shelby Sparks from Leslie, Maci Gibson from Owsley, Whitney Creech from Jenkins, Kayla Rankin from Perry Central, Kristin Waugh from Knott, Lydia, Edith, Haley, and Desiree from Wolfe, Haley Badarack from Riverside... (and, of course, my Kendall Marie... whose Dad has inspired my thinking so much over the last 20 years since he said those words to me as you and Kami and the gang were in the kiddy section...)

too many to name over the years...

Thank you for allowing me to enjoy watching you play basketball. Though I may have cheered against you in tournaments, I will always remember your grace, finesse, hustle, and heart... and you (along with MY GIRLS) just cemented my love for the sport.

Thank you to all of our media who cover the Ladycats with due diligence.

Thank you to  our fans, the parents who have shared your kids with us, the band and the cheerleaders...

And to steal from one of my favorite authors, Thank you, God, for these you have given me for this season. May they be as blessed as they have made me feel. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I Read in January and Thoughts on Reading Challenges

This year I set a lofty goal of reading 130 books.

I don't think I need to tell you that this is a goal that I do not mind working toward achieving.

I do, however, recognize that at times I'd like to live in a virtual world, and have been making a real effort to PUT THE BOOK/KINDLE UP... but there's just sometimes I really need to read a good book.

In January, I read 12 books. Some of them were great, some were ok. Some I already blogged about, and I'll share the links for those reviews. Most of these (or maybe all of them) I had started before the year had ended, but I finished them in January. 

1. Tough as They Come- Loved this book. Absolutely loved it. Click on the title for my review.

2. A Bee in Her Bonnet- I reviewed all three of the books in this series way back in 2016, but didn't entirely finish the books. Here's the link to my review for those. I finally finished the last couple of chapters of A Bee In Her Bonnet and if you're a fan of lighthearted reading, this is a series for you. I'm finishing up the third book right now. 

3. The Couple Next Door- This was a selection for my sister's book club, and though it's been a few months since I've actually attended (Because: Basketball season), I always try to read their recommendations. (I may just be late finishing them). This book was awesome. Suspenseful. And I was totally surprised at the end. The couple's newborn baby goes missing, and of course they are the primary suspects because they've left her at home alone. What follows is harassment by the police, compounding the depression she's already feeling. He's desperate for money but doesn't want her to know, and add in the controlling, rich and powerful in-laws... and you've got a recipe for a who dun it that will leave you shaking your head. Highly recommend this read!!

4. Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado- I actually finished the book part of this before Christmas, but found that it had questions in the back that I had to answer (Remember I'm the kind that has to finish reading ALL the book!) I really liked this book. Lucado is a great writer, and he brought home points of the Nativity story to make them apply to my real-life, over 2000 years later. Great read for Christmas time!

5. The Angel's Story by Max Lucado-  This is a fictional book that came as a bonus at the end of Because of Bethelehem (and I have to read ALL the book!) It is a story that tells of the battle that may have went on in Heaven before Jesus is born. It tells the story of the angel who delivered the news to Mary, and Joseph, and then how they protected Jesus as they prepared for  his birth. Great read when we think of the spiritual warfare that may be going on and we aren't even aware!

6. Sewn with Joy- This was the third installment of Tricia Goyer's Pinecraft Pie Shoppe series, and my only regret is that there isn't more!  This series follows an Amish family in Florida, with each book focusing on a different sister. The characters are great, and this last one was especially captivating, as it combined Hollywood with Amish living. Highly recommend!

7. The Wedding Shop- I love this author. I love this series. Seriously.
I reviewed this book all the way back in September, but put the last couple of chapters on hold as I worked my way through other books to review. Lovely read. A poignant story of redemption, following two generations... if you've not read a Rachel Hauck book,  you're missing out. Start with the first of this series (even though this one can be read stand alone).

8. Breathe by Priscilla Shirer- This is a 5 session Bible study about the Sabbath. I started it way back in the first part of 2016, then got distracted and busy (I know, ironic!) but it is beautifully written. The video sessions (not mandatory) were filmed in Freedom Hall in Louisville. I did enjoy looking at the Sabbath and how we can simplify, and I'm hoping I'll take this message into the rest of this year and beyond.

9. Hillbilly Elegy- This book is a must read. Based in my hometown, it brought tears to my eyes and really made me think about life. For more, read- My Take on Hillbilly Elegy: A Call to Action

10. Wait and See by Wendy Pope- I was in a small group for Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible studies, and didn't finish this one on schedule, but it was worth the wait =) Seriously, Pope writes about disappointments, feeling stuck, and wondering if God even cares in this book. She brings in Scripture to show that He is always with us, even when we don't see Him, and her digging deeper components with Psalm and David get you in the Scripture. She gives real-life accounts of people who have been forced to wait, and encourages the reader to look into their own individual waits.

11. The Color of Memory- This is a part of a series I've been reading for over a year. The series focuses on family, hope, and how we are all connected. This book follows the story of a heart transplant recipient who longs to meet the family of the man who made it possible to live. It's a beautiful story of the ultimate gift- life- and how we can benefit others even after we pass on.

12. Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet- This book was a delightful read. Katie heads back to Partonville after her aunt passes away, bringing along her teenage son, Josh. There they meet a cast of characters led by Dorothy. Dorothy is struggling with a decision, Katie is struggling with life, and surprisingly the two find just what they need through their new friendship. This is a the first book in a series and I downloaded the second book as soon as this one was finished.

I challenge myself to read. I recently read a blog post by somebody explaining why they didn't do challenges. Basically, they said it put a lot of pressure on them and took the fun out of reading. I can see how that would be true, so even though I've challenged myself to read a certain number of books this year, and signed up for the Goodreads Ultimate Popsugar Challenge, I'm not going to let it take the fun out of my reading. Instead, I'm seeing it as a way to read new books that I otherwise wouldn't have read, and get some great suggestions from the Goodreads community. I'll update my read list each month.

2017 Popsugar Ultimate Reading ChallengeA book recommended by a librarian
A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long
A book of letters
An audiobook
A book by a person of color
A book with one of the four seasons in the title
A book that is a story within a story
A book with multiple authors
An espionage thriller
A book with a cat on the cover
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read
A book by or about a person who has a disability- Tough as They Come
A book involving travel
A book with a subtitle
A book that's published in 2017
A book involving a mythical creature
A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile
A book about food
A book with career advice
A book from a nonhuman perspective
A steampunk novel
A book with a red spine
A book seet in the wilderness
A book you loved as a child
A book by an author from a country you've never visited
A book with a title that's a character's name- Dearest Dorothy...
A novel set during wartime
A book with an unreliable narrator
A book with pictures
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
A book about an interesting woman
A book set in two different time periods
A book with a month or day of the week in the title
A book set in a hotel
A book written by someone you admire
A book that's becoming a movie in 2017
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas
The first book in a series you haven't read before
A book you bought on a trip

A book recommended by an author you love
A bestseller from 2016- Hillbilly Elegy
A book with a family member term in the title
A book that takes place over a character's life span
A book about an immigrant or refugee
A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
A book with an eccentric character
A book that's more than 800 pages
A book you got from a used book sale
A book that's been mentioned in another book
A book about a difficult topic
A book based on mythology    

Monday, February 6, 2017

Angels Unaware: A Review and a Giveaway

You just never know what somebody is going through. Your next door neighbor who may not be friendly? She may be battling some kind of deep-rooted insecurity.

That's exactly what happens to Mark... his initial efforts to get to know his next-door neighbor Jasmine are pushed aside, and he's unable to get over the fence she seems to have built around herself. Gradually, though, Jasmine starts to give in and goes to church with him. At church, she meets Jesus at the altar and sees a change in her everyday life. She struggles with forgiveness, and Mark is there to help her...

but he has his own deep-rooted issues, and he can't forgive himself. Tragedy hit him hard, and leaves him reluctant to love again.

This story is a story of redemption, forgiveness, and grace at it's finest. The characters are likeable and mid-way through the novella I wished that I could give them a hug and encourage them. Learning to forgive ourselves and moving on is one of the most difficult things we can learn to do, but this story shows God's love and how we can sometimes overlook it because it comes in the form of humans... angels unaware.

I highly recommend  this book!!

About the Book

Book: Angels Unaware
Author: Rachel J. Good
Genre: Inspirational Romance; novella

Release Date: November 22
Sometimes God sends angels into our lives…

Chocolate chip cookies are the perfect way to make friends. At least, Mark Daniels thinks they are. He hopes to forget his painful past and start over in new neighborhood. Everyone is warm and welcoming—everyone that is, but the dragon lady next door. She rebuffs all overtures of friendship and declines Mark’s invitations to church.

Jasmine Avery doesn’t trust men, especially not handsome ones who come bearing gifts. She’s been badly hurt and has walled herself off from love. Reluctantly, she agrees to attend church with Mark on Easter Sunday, not realizing how it will change her life and her future. But soon after she discovers the secret to a happy life, her whole world turns upside-down. Will these unexpected changes prove Mark can’t be trusted either? Or can she and Mark overcome their past heartbreaks to forge a new life together?

About the Author

Inspirational author Rachel J. Good writes life-changing, heart-tugging novels of faith, hope, and forgiveness.She is also the author of the Sisters & Friends Amish series and the Amish Quilts Coloring Book. A former teacher and librarian, she has more than 2300 articles and 30 books in print or forthcoming under several pen names. Rachel also juggles freelance editing and illustration careers. She loves reading (of course!), traveling, and spending time with her five children and three grandchildren.

Guest Post from Rachel J. Good

One of the important lessons in ANGELS UNAWARE is looking beyond the surface, seeing with new eyes. In the story, Mark has many opportunities to do this. When he first approaches Jasmine with a plate of chocolate chip cookies, she’s unwelcoming and prickly:

The door opened a crack. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Mark turned. The woman’s narrowed eyes and belligerent stance made him quake. He took a step back. “I…um…here…” He held out the plate of cookies.
“What’s that?”
Mark took a deep breath and regained his composure. He smiled and started his usual spiel. “Hi, I’m Mark Daniels, and I just moved into the neighborhood—”
“I know.” She didn’t sound too pleased. “That’s not what I asked. What’s that in your hands?”
“Oh, these? I baked chocolate chip cookies and thought I’d share some with you.”
“Do you know what sugar does to your system?” she demanded. “I never touch sugar.”
That explained why she was so thin. So much for cookies then. Mark wracked his brain for another offering. “A meal perhaps? I make great spaghetti and meatballs.”
She drew back. “A meat eater? It figures.”
Oh, terrific. Mark cringed at the acid in her tone. He’d just offered a meat dish to a vegetarian. So much for his diplomacy mission.

After a start like that, many people would have given up. But Mark feels led to share God’s love with this neighbor, and he tries again and again. Eventually he discovers she’s hiding some deep personal pain. His persistence brings unexpected rewards to both of them.

I wanted to write this story because we usually avoid people who criticize us or hurt our feelings. Yet, often those who are unkind are actually aching inside. And they need God’s unconditional love and forgiveness, because only God can heal their pain and suffering.

After God touches Jasmine’s heart, Mark can see her softer, kinder side. And she’s proof of that saying, “An angel resides in every heart.”

Could your grouchy neighbor or critical boss be an angel in disguise? Maybe these annoying people have been sent into our lives to help build our character or to teach us a lesson. The Bible warns us to be hospitable to everyone, because we never know when we’ll come upon an angel “unawares.”

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Heb. 13:2 KJV

Each person you meet has been sent into your life for a reason. Sometimes these angels come into our lives in unlikely disguises. We don’t always realize their purpose until much later. Looking back, though, we can see God’s hand in the encounters.

Other times, we discover – like Mark did – that we’re supposed to be angels to those who are unkind to us. We may be the only ones who have ever touched their lives with God’s light.

Who in your life needs God’s love? Can you be an angel to that person?

Blog Stops

January 25: autism mom
January 27: Moments Dipped in Ink
January 28: A Greater Yes
January 29: Carpe Diem
January 30: Petra’s Hope
February 1: Christian Bookaholic
February 2: Karen Sue Hadley
February 3: Quiet Quilter
February 4: Daysong Reflections


To celebrate her tour, Rachel is giving away:
Grand Prize:
  • Angel bookmark
  • Battenberg lace angel pin
  • Trio of jade angels
  • Prayer angel with a “Worry” poem to remind you to pray about your problems
  • Newest AMISH QUILTS COLORING BOOK (large print edition)
2nd – 4th Prize:
One copy of the ANGELS UNAWARE ebook
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post to earn 9 extra entries in the giveaway!