Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ten Things I Learned in 2015: A Reflection on My "Goals"

I love the week between Christmas and the New Year. There's so much hustle and bustle with Christmas. I'm usually last minute shopping and last minute wrapping and then there's the going back and forth between our house and the grandparents and my parents and my in-laws... by the end of Christmas Day, I'm ready for a nap... but it's a good kind of tired.

After all the gifts are open and the boxes are piled up and the junk food has been consumed and I'm in a sugar coma, there's the potential for the let down. As a young kid, I can remember being surrounded with presents, not knowing which one to play with first, but still looking ahead to the next stop. Never satisfied.

I'm not much better as an adult.

Not that I care about presents... but it seems like too often the anticipation of an event is greater than the reality... because we build things up in our mind.

But the New Year... it is glittery and shiny and full of newness.  Full of potential. Full of expectations that have not yet been unrealized.

So I plot and scheme and plan and look ahead... but I look back first, because I have to look at where I was and how far I've come (even if it is just an inch). 

And so that brings us to this blog post... what I've learned in 2015. 

1. I learned a lot about love.
The first goal I had was to focus on my one word, love. This is probably the hardest goal I could have set for myself, because love is so hard to define. As I looked at life through love, I realized that love means different things to different people, and that it would be true that I could never learn to love as God does without His power within me.

I also learned that love means forgiveness. It means action. It means being willing to admit when you were wrong and being willing to look past when the other person is wrong.

I also learned (or was reminded) that loving is hard. It's not always fun... but it is always worth it.

2.  I learned that discipline is not my forte. I truly wanted to write 365 posts on this blog, and I fell way short. I also learned that falling short is ok. I'm not a loser because I didn't blog as much as I wanted. I'm human.

3. I learned that exercise can be fun. I've lost around 40 pounds this year (give or take a couple... because I don't really know what I truly weighed at the beginning of the year, because the scales were not my friends.) I learned that pushing through when you don't feel like it really is worth it. While I'm still not a runner, I was much more consistent. I exercised three or more days every week this year, with the exception of a week in May when I had a stomach bug.

4. I learned that fellowship with God is about more than just checking something off on your to read list. I failed at reading my Bible through, but I found that when I was spending time in His Word, it was often just what I needed to read. I did complete a few in-depth Bible studies. Karen Kingsbury's The Family of Jesus made me consider those important characters in the nativity story. I cried when I thought of Joseph and his gentleness. I was overwhelmed when I thought of Mary's humble obedience. Mostly, though, I learned that God uses ordinary, everyday people to accomplish His Will- we just have to be willing, and He will make us able. Kelly Minter's What Love Is helped me hone in on my one word for the year. Seamless by Angie Smith taught me that the Bible doesn't have to be as complicated as we tend to make it. It's really just a love letter from God to us, drawing us to Him. And Beth Moore's The Inheritance, a video only session, made me think of Who I am in Christ. I learned that I am His portion. That amazes me. And through participating in ladies Bible studies at both Jackson Church of God and Providence Pentecostal, I learned that Christian friendship is essential, and sometimes we just need someone to be afraid with us, or to listen to us as we whine about the craziness of this world.

5. By not crossing something off of my bucket list, I learned that there's still plenty of excitement in the mundane. Several books I read this year were about appreciating every moment for what it is worth, even if it doesn't seem like it's all that great. I didn't have any outstanding adventures this year, but I did have a lot of absolutely fabulous small moments.

6. I learned that gratitude really does affect your mood. You can't complain and have a heart full of joy and gratefulness. Every since I read 1000 Gifts a couple of years ago, I've tried to keep my eyes open to the small, everyday gifts... again, appreciating the mundane. I also learned that at times you have to choose to be grateful. It's all too easy to get overwhelmed with life and not count those gifts.

7. To go along with number one, I learned that love in action really does affect people. I tried to perform several random acts of kindness this year, and also made some deliberate decisions to help others out. Some things were small, some were large. I tried to teach Caleb the importance of helping others, too, and how it was better to give than to receive. Thank you notes and messages and even the smile on recipients faces taught me that it's not always about how much or what you give... rather, it's just that you ACT on something.

8. I learned that if you set a goal for doing something that you love, it will be much easier for you to reach. I wanted to read at least 125 books this year, and because I love to read, I did just that. (You'll note that I did not do as well on my exercise goal!)

9. I learned that a goal you have to think about is difficult as well. I wanted to memorize 24 Bible verses along with Beth Moore's Siesta Scripture Memory Team.  I fizzled out in the third month. I would write the verse down, note it in my Bible, put it on a post it note... but then forget to look at it again. Memorization takes concentration, folks.

10. I learned that life is short. I saw the deaths of some young people this year. I had some family members receive scary diagnoses. I saw an aunt healed from a stroke and an unlikely x-ray turn into a cancer diagnosis that was corrected with surgery. Through it all, the mantra life is too short continues to run through my head, because while cliché, it is true. We only have this moment. While it's fun to plan in the new year, we never know what the new year holds. It could be infinite possibility, or undeniable sadness. We must be ready to embrace whatever life sends us. As I look to the New year, I'd like to encourage you to join me in embracing a life is too short perspective.

Life is too short to stay on a diet, so make sure whatever you decide to do to get rid of those extra pounds is something you can commit to. Life is also too short to never have chocolate cake ever again, so splurge every now and then.
Life is too short not to use your body as God created, so move. Every day. (Says the girl who still sometimes hates to exercise... But this time last year always hated to exercise.).
Life is too short not to laugh every day. Laugh until your belly hurts and tears run down your cheeks. We can't take it too seriously. Nobody gets out of here alive.
Life is too short not to appreciate who you have. Pursue people rather than possessions. We were made for relationships.
Life is too short not to be grateful. You're breathing. That's enough to be thankful for.
Mostly, life is too short to set yourself up for failure. Forget about the past and look to new opportunities. If you choose, this new year is gonna be great!!! Live in the moment and you will truly live.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

These Are the Days of...

Recently I read a book by Emily Freeman called Simply Tuesday, about embracing the mundane and fully living day to day. She chose Tuesday because it is the one day of the week that goes unnoticed. We all hate Monday, Wednesday we're halfway through, Thursday we're looking forward to Friday... you get the drift.

I've been reminded over and over these past couple of weeks of a quote "The days are long but the years are short." I've read various twists on this quote, most recently in the work of Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home; check back for my review of Better Than Before in a couple of weeks).  As I've gotten older, I'm finding that sometimes my days are very long, but just as often my days, months, and years are all short!!! As we get sucked into the mundane, time seems to fly but stand still at the same time,  which is confusing and at times overwhelming.

Embracing the mundane, learning to appreciate the here and now, helps us to freeze every moment so that even though our days and months and years are short, we're fully living them. Freeman talks about living in a season and fully appreciating it, even if it seems small and ordinary, because life is lived in the ordinary. One thing she suggests doing is to create a "these are the days of" list... to help one chronicle just what the days consist of.

When I read that, my mind immediately drifted back to when Caleb was three years old. Dr. Plumb led the worship at our church, and his favorite song for her to sing was "These Are the Days of Elijah." We had that song on a CD and we'd play it over and over in the car. My little one would say, "Ok, Mommy. Raise your hands and pretend you're Dr. Plumb."

It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it, but also reminds me of just how short the years are, because that seems like yesterday. Those were days of car seats and Dora the Explorer and bedtime stories and cars lined up on bleachers and pews and goldfish crackers in ziplock baggies and sippy cups full of koolaid or juice.

Today, those days have been replaced with:
- Laundry piling up faster than I can put it away.
-The bouncing of basketballs on hard wood floors, and the sound of whistles blowing and "Go! Go!"
-Gray skies with just a hint of blue peeking through as the wind whips through my hair on the top of Papaw's ridge.
-Text messages going unanswered but facebook posts that make a Mama proud.
-Just as many moments of drama as jackets are lost and pops are spilt and early mornings are rough.
-Melody's laugh/cry because she doesn't really know what she wants
-Lecture notes and creating exams and rewriting curriculum
-Trying to figure out who I am... and what that even means.
-Putting off time in God's Word because it's something that I look forward to and I can count it as a reward when I put up a basket of laundry.
-Forcing myself to get on the treadmill and then finding I almost enjoy it about a mile in.
-Fighting the urge to get mad at myself as I step on the scale and see the number go up a little, even though subconsciously I know the next day it will probably balance back out.
-Will playing in McDonald's play place
-Looking at Kami across Mom and Dad's living room as I think back to yesterday and imagine her graduating college in a few months.
-Lots of Diet Coke
-Cereal for supper
-Dreading the spring coming because January means I have to start working on my research project for my DNP... while at the same time knowing that I shouldn't dread it.
-Learning to love long and give grace... even to myself
-Thinking ahead to the coming year
-Reflecting on the past year and what I've learned... what I've experienced and how that has shaped me today
-Messy cars and messy houses and messy lives because we are living, and running, and experiencing, and doing
-Trying to balance all that doing with just being

Tomorrow I'll ride on a bus with a bunch of high school girls to Northern Kentucky. I'm betting the bus ride there will be quiet, because like their coach's wife, most of them don't like to get up early in the morning. I'll listen to them laugh and talk and sing. We'll stop and eat and then I'll hear those basketballs bouncing and tennis shoes squeaking on that hardwood floor. I'll sit with a book next to me and read during timeouts and half time.

The day will be long, two games and many miles traveled.

But the years... they are short. Before we know it, this season will be over and we'll be looking ahead to summer break. This group of seniors will graduate and time will just keep marching on...

And if I don't soak it all in, it'll be gone.



May we always cling to the realization that today will never come again, so we should make the most of it. May we always love those around us hard, and make sure they know that we love them. And may we always appreciate these days for what they are... precious gifts.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Just Another Southern Town: A Review

I love to read. I love history.

Any book combining the two is usually a winner in my book.

I especially like books about American history that bring to life interesting characters or events that may be new to me.

As a self-professed Southern girl, I thought I knew a lot about the Civil Rights movement and segregation. While it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the events of those days, and the rationalizations that many people used during those times, it is interesting to read about the differences between here and now and there and then... and also to consider how things may not have changed as much as we would like.

I am familiar with the stories of Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. As a sports fan, I loved the story lines behind Remember the Titans and Woodlawn.

The courage that those young Americans faced is astounding.

But I had never heard of Mary Church Terrell.  I recently read Just Another Southern Town by Joan Quigley, which chronicles the impact that Terrell had on the Civil Rights movement in Washington, D.C.

Terrell made strides in racial equality before many of the Southern movements that are more well-known. An educated individual, she influenced policy stemming from reactions within the political climate for her day.

I had never thought of Washington D.C. as being a place of racial tension. I had never considered its proximity to Southern states and how that might influence the emotional response to desegregation. Quigley does a good job of explaining why our nation's capital may have initially put up such a fight against integration, specifically chronicled through the battle waged by Terrell against segregated restaurants.

Quigley follows the life of Terrell from her birth to her death. Her book is well-researched, including excerpts from personal documentation of Terrell's. She depicts both personal struggles faced by Terrell and those that were more public, and ends the story with how Terrell's death impacted a nation that honored her by almost forgetting her story.

I would recommend this book to others who are interested in how our nation responded to the Civil Rights movement and integration. It is especially enlightening for those readers who may not be as familiar with the response of Washington D.C. and other cities not in the deep south to issues during this time period.

I give this book 3 stars. My only fault is that at times the story seems a little slow, and the cast of characters included can be overwhelming. The chapters are long and cover more than one event, so it can be confusing... but short chapters are just a preference of this reader.

I received free access to this book through and am posting this review on their website.
Professional Reader

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What I'm Reading in December

This year I set a goal to read 125 books, and I need 12 more books to reach my goal. I'm looking forward to a Christmas break with some reading time, in between ballgames and laundry and family time, of course.

With that being said, here's what's currently on my Kindle and my nightstand and in my living room and my bathroom that I'm reading. (Note: I'm including Amazon links or Lifeway links to these books, just so if you're like me, you can add them to your wishlist.  I received no compensation for these links nor do I receive compensation if you use them to purchase a book; just thought it'd be helpful.)

I'm finishing up Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers. It's five short books in one, each telling the story of a woman who is listed in the lineage of Jesus. I've been reading this one for a couple of months, because each individual book has study questions at the end. How fitting that the last book is about Mary, and I've started it during this time of year. Rivers writes with a fresh perspective on Bible characters that I have loved for years, and her love for the Scripture comes through as she interweaves these into the story.

I've also been reading Fault Lines by Anne Rivers Siddon for a while. It was my drive-thru read (I leave a book in the car and read while I'm sitting in line) but then I kept on finding myself reading books on my Kindle, so I've brought it into the house and am reading it more. It's about a Mom, a daughter, and an aunt who are trying to find their relationship in the midst of turmoil. Isn't that how most books about women relationships start? I've not really gotten far enough into this one to decide how I like it yet.

I bought The Martian because I had heard great things about the movie and it looked like a movie Wallace would enjoy. Y'all know I can't watch a movie without reading the book, so even though it didn't look like my kind of book I got it and started in... and it was pretty good. Alas, somehow the book must have gotten knocked into the bathtub with water in it, because I found it the next morning soaking wet. I let it dry out for a week (and it's still a little damp) and just started back on it tonight. I'm liking it, even if it is a little on the tech side talking about science type stuff.

In the leadership academy I've been attending, we've been challenged to read a leadership book a month.  The first actual leadership book I selected was based on the recommendation of one of our guest speakers in November, about convictional leadership. It has a Christian background and is an easy read. The Conviction to Lead has made me think about what conviction is.  In today's world, we must be aware of our own convictions.

Because it's football season and I love Steelers football, I'm reading About Three Bricks Shy of a Load by Roy Blount, who followed the Steelers and got the inside story behind the 1973 season. I read about this book in Dan Rooney's autobiography. Just getting started on this one, but it's the Steelers so it has to be good... and this was the time of legends!

Because it's Advent, I'm reading Louie Giglio's Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope. It has a daily devotion for each day of December (actually started with a couple of days in November). They are short readings, so it's something I can read on the go but get a little pick me up. I love this time of year!!!

I'm still reading Lisa Harper's Hebrews Bible study. I read Hebrews through a couple of years ago when Wendy Blight talked about it on her blog, but it is such a rich book of the Bible. I'm on week 3 of this study (out of 7).  Harper is an awesome writer whose humor comes out in her words, even when discussing difficult topics!

Another book that I'm reading is Hoodwinked by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk.  I've loved every book I've read by Ehman for Provebs 31 Online Bible Studies, and Candace Cameron Bure (of Full House fame) has been leading a Bible study of this book on her blog.  It's all about the misperceptions we have about motherhood. There is no such thing as a perfect Mama!!! Good read, easy to follow, and some great truths about running your own race and not judging others.

Last year (I think) I read a book called The Happiness Project, where Gretchen Rubin completed resolutions based on making her life happier. It was a good book with some good ideas, and she's followed it by Happier at Home, resolutions to make her home a more joyful place to be. In the first chapter, she talked about possessions and I know that's an area I need to tackle. It's full of statistics and research to back up some of the changes she's making, so even if there are things that I'd never consider doing, it's an interesting read. And we could all stand to be a little happier.

Because it's Christmas time, I like to read Christmas books. Christmas in Good Hope is a lighthearted read centered around a small town, which is always fun to read.

I get one free book a month from my Kindle loaning library and this month I'm reading The Memory Child. It's about a woman who has just had a baby, and her struggle to adapt in light of the fear that she will be like her mother and suffer from post-partum psychosis.  I feel like there is more to the story than what I'm reading, and that there will be a surprise at the end.

A friend recently told me about, a site where you can request free access to books to preview if you write a review about them. The first book (and I'll be writing a review soon!) that I've had access to is Just Another Southern Town. This book chronicles the Civil Rights battle in Washington D.C., focusing on Mary Church Terrill. A very captivating story. Check back for my full review!

So... if I can finish all these books by the end of this month I'll have reached my yearly goal =)  I've got so many more books on my Kindle and on my nightstand to read...

Night Comes to the Cumberland and Audacious and Fervent and The Secret Garden and The Matchmaker and The Girl on the Train and The Nightingale and Vince Lombardi's Rules...

The anticipation is almost more than I can stand.

What do I want for Christmas, you ask?

Books.  Or an Amazon or Lifeway gift card.

Happy reading!

Friday, December 4, 2015

My Twenty Words

One of my favorite assignments when I'm teaching culture is to have students think about where they are from, some of the things that make them or their family unique.

I'm pretty sure we all have these things... family traditions or folklore or favorite foods or memories that we can close our eyes and relive again and again.

Tonight, I thought again about what makes me me... about my life as I know it.

I just finished reading Kentucky Boy: My Life in Twenty Words, a memoir by a friend of my Mom's, Jerry Deaton.  My Mom moved to Quicksand Road with her family in her adolescent years, and the neighborhood was close-knit. There were several families who had kids around the same age, and Jerry's aunt Ollie was one  of these.  While Ollie, Opal, and their children and grandchildren are no blood relation to me, I feel as if they are.  Close kin, even. Our histories are interwoven.  When my Grandma died, they were there to mourn with us. As we went through pictures to put in the slide show at the funeral, it was hard to find any from the time my Mom and her siblings were growing up that didn't include some of these neighborhood kids.  Growing up, we had Christmas parties and get-togethers, and while we aren't able to get together nearly as much, my Mom's neighborhood gang still feel like family. (As a matter of fact, my Mom, her four sisters, and one of those neighborhood girls are braving Lexington and doing some Christmas shopping during their annual December weekend right at this moment).

So as I read Jerry's memoir, I felt right at home. As he described his Mamaw Sophie's house, I could close my eyes and picture it.  Every time I go to Buckhorn I look over at that homeplace and think of the fine people I associate with that house.

I laughed out loud as he described the mischief he got in with his cousin Wade.  Wade was probably one of my Grandma's favorite neighborhood kids (him and Tim). 

In one chapter, Jerry described the road from where he lived at on Long's Creek to Jackson. I'm pretty familiar with it, too... part of that road is Hwy 30.  As he went through the landmarks, I smiled as I tried to picture them. I'm sure a lot of it has changed, but the names were familiar.

He mentioned individuals he associated with his childhood. It warmed my heart when he talked of Norma Turner giving him credit at their store. Norma was one of my favorite people ever when I worked at the hospital. She was the most patient unit secretary ever, and it was a sad day for all of us when she passed.

At one point, he talked about how he found himself thinking about how there will always be  a last time that we will be doing something, and how most of the time we never even realize it. While a sobering thought, it is a good reminder to appreciate every moment, to pause and appreciate what is around you.

As I closed the book, I thought of those memories his words had stirred in me.  I thought of my own family get-togethers, with kids piled on couches.  Of swinging on my Grandma's porch swing counting the cars that went by on Quicksand Road. Of cheering in the old football stadium on Friday nights.  Of my school days at LBJ and SMS and BHS, and of stories my Mom has told me about Little Red.

What would be my twenty words?

Family. Cousins. Detective. Pond. Log  Houses. Flowers and mudpies. Fried apple pies. Football. Cheerleading. Reading. Church. School. Creeks. Influences. Music.


(I'd highly recommend this book, by the way. You can check his work out at