Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Feeling With My Fingers"

We each live a life, a tale to be told.  I've always thought about whether my story is worth reading or not.  Some people just have that kind of life, the one you want to know more about.  They seem superhuman, almost, or at least have that something special.  As my sister Holly said, magical.

Papaw has always looked like Santa Clause.  A head full of white hair, a bearded face, rosy red cheeks, twinkling blue eyes.  I never will forget when my Great grandpa Barlow passed away.  I was in the 8th grade, and a couple of my younger cousins (on the Clemons side) looked up reverently as Papaw Paul walked into the funeral home. "Wow!" one of them exclaimed.  "Papaw Barlow must have been special. Santa Clause came to his funeral."

No, he's not Santa Clause, but his generosity can match Santa's.   Raised poor, he worked hard to help support his younger brothers and sisters.  He graduated from high school with honors and went to Michigan to work hours a day to provide for my dad, uncle, and aunt.  He came home and on the weekends worked on his farm and fed his fish and built in his basement. As Holly said, he was a creative genius. He could fix anything and he could make anything work the "right way". If you were to peak into his basement you would see so many "inventions", machines and gadgets that he had taken apart and put back together in a more efficient way. The smell of sawdust still brings back memories of Papaw downstairs, making me homemade microphone stands. I spent a lot of time there, and there was nothing like Papaw's cornbread crumbled up in a glass of milk. 

My sister Holly talked about his generosity, too. He embodied a self-sacrificial love. He was the person that when you were visiting him in ICU, kept trying to give you this new lotion they were using on him, because your 30 year old skin needed it worse. We say all the time that someone would "give you the shirt off of their back", but with him, that was true. If he thought you needed it, he would give it to you. And if you thought you didn't need it, he would hand it to you and say, "hush up and take it". 

As I got older, Papaw was always there for me.  He had his own "bank" and the reserve never ran out.  I'd sign an IOU, and every year at Christmas, Papaw would give me a notecard saying someone had paid off my balance.  He told me that it was his pleasure to help me out, but it was my responsibility to help out my younger sisters in the same way. 

Papaw is the smartest person I know.  He can figure out anything, can think outside of the box better than anyone I know.  A few years ago, his ice sculptures (made out of trees, branches, and water through water hoses) amazed everyone who drove by Hollybush.  He even was mentioned in the Herald Leader and was featured in the book Kentucky: Off the Beaten Path.  Holly said, "He could turn a tree into an ice sculpture, and a pair of panty hose into a rubber band. Matter of fact, I often wondered where Mamaw must be hiding them from him, in order for her to have any left to wear. wear. He could tell you the name of every plant on his farm and he is the only person I've ever known to correct Jeopardy and be right about it. He was truly the wisest man I have ever known. "

He has a wicked sense of humor.  I will always remember Wallace's first Christmas with us.  Papaw got a hot pepper and dipped a toothpick in it. He was the one laughing the hardest when Wallace realized just how hot Papaw's hot peppers were.
He was funny. Now because he was so quick witted his jokes sometimes came so fast you didn't even realize he was joking. Just like when you asked him how he was feeling and he would respond, "with my fingers". 

Holly remembers him as a master storyteller. Looking back on it, his love of Louis Lamoure must have inspired all of those Western Themed stories he mesmerized me with so much when I was younger. I was so mesmerized in fact that when I was asked during my kindergarten graduation what I wanted to be when I grew up I responded, "an Indian".  Speaking of Louis L'amour, he's the only guy I know who paid to get into Disney World to read a western and peoplewatch... but he had fun doing it.

Holly also remembered how trustworthy he was. She said, "It didn't matter if the passenger side wheel of that beat up old truck was hanging slightly off the edge of the road on top of the mountain, I knew we would be just fine, because after all it was papaw that was driving.  I can remember him letting me sit in the bucket of his tractor then raising it up in the air so that I could help him trim branches off of the trees. It didn't even register to me that this might be dangerous until Grandma Bert came outside and immediately started yelling for him to "put her down before you get her killed". I always knew that no matter where we were and what was going on it would be ok as long as he was there.

Probably the most important of all, was his demonstration of utter and complete humility. He would do things for you, simply and solely because he loved you. His only priority was for him to not get any credit. When Holly was a very young child, she got choked on a cherry pit. He saved her life that day, by getting that thing out of her throat. The thing is, she never would have known that, had someone not told her  about it later. She laughed, "I always wondered why he didn't want me around those cherry trees. I learned later that it was because I could apparently not be trusted around them. "
Holly summed it up like this. "I guess I would just say that he was MAGICAL. He was just magical to me. And as I think about it, it wasn't just because he was always so wise, humorous and creative. It was because of how he made you feel when you were around him. Not only could he turn a tree into an ice sculpture, he could turn a bad day into a smile. All I needed was an "Aww Honey" for it to all be better. He loved you and you knew it. You could just feel it emanating from him. You could see it in his soft eyes and hear it in is his voice. It was like he hugged you with that voice sometimes. As I think about the world now, honestly it feels a little less magical. But I realize that it doesn't have to. Because his "magic" was really just pure and simple love. Love like the Bible teaches us. And that is something that doesn't die with him. When I think of him I can still feel his love, and I can remember that he taught me to love other people. When I would protest his offering me help when I got older saying, "really papaw I don't need anything", we would always tell me to "pass it on". He wasn't just talking about passing on a few dollars, he was talking about passing on that love. So when I think about that it gives me a new mission, to always remember his love and do my utmost to "pass it on"."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hold Me Close: A Review (And a Giveaway!)

I love historical fiction.

Love it...

But I tend to read more Civil War era fiction.

Hold Me Close, by author Marguerite Martin Gray, was a fresh new read for me.

Set in pre-Revolutionary Charlestown, this novel focuses on finding one's way and figuring out what one believes in. Louis arrives in Charlestown from France with the intent to make his own way in life. He has no true allegiances, but finds himself in a tug of war between the Loyalists and the Sons of Liberty. Along the way, he meets Elizabeth, a beautiful society maiden who has her own ideas about where the country should be headed.

Gray describes her character in a delightful manner so that you can picture them in your head. Her vivid writing allows the reader to feel a part of the scenery. The characters are extremely likeable.

The book centers on faith. Louis finds himself confronted with God in a way that he has not considered before, and as he attempts to create himself in this "New world" he must determine not only his beliefs about the new land, but must confront how he sees God.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical, Christian fiction. I did receive a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. For more reviews on this novel, visit other Celebrate Lit websites:

Blog Stops

June 20: Proverbial Reads
June 21: Lane Hill House
June 22: Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses
June 23: A Northern Belle
June 23: Cassandra M’s Place
June 24: History, Mystery, and Faith
June 25: Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner
June 26: His Grace is Sufficient
June 27: Big Reader Site
June 27: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations
June 28: Splashes of Joy
June 28: Mary Hake
June 29: Pause for Tales
June 30: Red Headed Book Lady
June 30: Bows and Basketballs
July 1: Just the Write Escape
July 2: Jeanette’s Thoughts

And the author is holding a giveaway!

Visit here:

About the Book
Louis Lestarjette, a Frenchman, arrives in Charles Town, South Carolina, in 1772 without purpose or plans. He encounters a society on the brink of revolution and is forced to make decisions that include finding meaning and direction in his carefree life. Who can he trust in his endeavors to prosper? Will he be able to stay neutral in a battle for independence? When decisive events confront him, will he stay or leave? Running from God and commitment is a constant option.
Elizabeth Elliott, daughter of a prominent British citizen, believes God will hold her close in uncertain and changing times. Faced with making difficult decisions about her loyalties, she finds comfort in close friends, a devout sister, and her music. When the mysterious Frenchman with no commitment to God or Charles Town enters her life, her role in the political battle is challenged. Can she trust her heart in volatile situations?
Set in pre-revolution Charles Town, Hold Me Close takes the reader into the lives of immigrants, ordinary citizens, and prominent historical figures at a time in which decisions are made that will change the world.
About the Author
Marguerite Martin Gray enjoys the study of history, especially when combined with fiction. An avid traveler and reader, she teaches French and has degrees in French, Spanish, and Journalism from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Recently, she received a MA in English from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. She has two grown children and currently lives with her husband and Cleo, her cat, in Abilene, Texas.
From the Author:
I’m very happy to be a part of Celebrate Lit! Thank you for the opportunity to present my book Hold Me Close and to share a little about my journey. It has been a journey of faith, a very exciting one for me. Hold Me Close is Book One in the Revolutionary Faith series. The book’s journey is my journey.
Six years ago I finally put on paper some of the stories forming and rambling in my imagination. My grown children left me some time to let God lead me into a writing career, well part-time. My husband and I decided I could work part-time and write part-time. During this period I wrote six novels. The next part of the trek took me to American Christion Fiction Writers (ACFW). I joined and have been an active student for six years. I attended three conferences and loved every minute, even the harsh criticism and “helpful” words of encouragement. Also, I became a contributing member of several critique groups within the organization. Needless to say, Hold Me Close went through many changes before it was published. My growth in faith expanded as much as my book. I thank all who had a role in the needed transformation.
I went back to work full-time after a three year sabbatical and pondered over the future of my novels. Where did God want the books to find a home? Or did they remain my little hobby? The journey was not over for Hold Me Close. The book was published by Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan in December 2015.
Quickly, I landed far outside my comfort zone in a world of social media and personal appearances. Even though I am a teacher and stand in front of 120 students every day, there is something intimidating about audiences of professionals and my peers. Rotary Clubs, Book Clubs, Writers’ Guilds, Church Groups! What a journey….and it hasn’t stopped.
My tagline is “Entertain. Educate. Encourage.” I entertain through fiction. I educate through the historical genre. I encourage through faith journeys of my characters. It’s exciting and I hope you will enjoy the journey as much as I have.

Join us at the FB Party to celebrate Marguerite Gray’s Hold Me Close. RSVP here.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What I'm Reading in June

My goal of 125 books a year means that I need to read roughly 10-11 books a month. I'm right on target for this goal, as I've read at least 10 books most months.
But how on earth did I become the girl that reads 20 books at a time????

My favorite thing about summertime is to lounge by the pool or at the lake or on the hammock and immerse myself in another world. Sometimes I'm guilty of doing this too much!
So, here's what I'm reading in June:

I started a Bible Study by Courtney Joseph on Ecclesiastes. I've never studied Ecclesiastes and it has been interesting so far.

Still reading The Last Long Night, the 5th book in the Bregdan Chronicles, a series set during the Civil War. Each book in this series spans a different year or period of years, and it's a great read if you love historical fiction or Gone with the Wind (my favorite!).  The main character, Carrie, is a positive role model for women everywhere regardless of the time period, and there are enough supporting characters with different storylines to keep the series interesting.  There are eight books in the series and they are all fairly long, so this series will probably be in my reading list all year.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy is another book set during Civil War times. This book focuses on four women who really lived during the Civil War and the roles that they had during that time. It is interesting to see how women contributed during a time when they were not considered contributing members of society. Another thing that I like is how the two books I'm reading about the Civil War match up. Both have discussed the same battles and some of the characters in the fiction book remind me of the four women discussed in this one.

One More Day is a book I got from netgalley, so I'm be doing a review on it later. It's a great book about a Mom whose little boy was stolen from her vehicle, and then is returned... just as he was. Easy read, likeable characters.

Another book I got through netgalley is Home to Cedar Branch. I read the first book in this series and loved it. I think they could be stand-alone, but they center around the Quaker Café. In this book, the main character has been caught having an affair and her abusive husband kills her lover.  She's forced to move back home with her kids, and attempt to pick up the pieces. A very good read. (See blog at later date for a full review).

One book I'm reading for a facebook group,  So Fair a Lady is set during Colonial times, and involves a young lady who is in love with a British soldier who discovers after her father dies that her father was a member of the Sons of Liberty. I'm just now getting started with it, but it is a good read thus far.

Another book relating to Colonial times is Hold Me Close. I'll actually be reviewing this book on the blog on the 26th... but as with the Civil War books, it is fun to see how they are interwoven and have similar characters.

This one will come as a shock to many, because I'm not sure how I could go this long without reading it... but since JK Rowling is coming out with a new Harry Potter book this summer, I decided to jump on board and started Harry Pott. I'm currently reading  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth in the series. I understand what all the fuss is about. They are easy reads, entertaining, and the characters are true to life... well, as true to life as you can get to be wizards and other Nonmuggles. Once I finish the series, I plan to catch up on the movies.

Another series I'm reading is the Color of Heaven by Juliane Macleane. I'm currently reading the third book, The Color of Hope. It's revolves around twin sisters separated at birth and how their lives mirror each others in some ways but in others are drastically different. As they discover who each other is, they also find themselves reflecting inwardly.

Outlander is another series that people have raved about to me that I'm just now starting. I'm still reading book one from last month, because it is fairly thick, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it! 

Sweet Baklava is a fun read that I got free on Kindle a long time ago. In this one, Paula has forgotten about her high school honey Nick until he comes home on a leave from the military. His pushy family tries to get them together but she struggles with the possibility of instability. The characters are likeable and it has a good storyline.

The 5th Wave is a book that was recommended to me last year but I never started it, and then I saw it had been made into a movie. It kind of reminds me of The Walking Dead with the survival tactics, only there isn't as much killing right now (I'm just about nine chapters in). I really want to see the movie, though, and am enjoying the book. It's an easy read, and the chapters are short.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins centers on finding one's purpose, which I thought was fitting for 2016 for me. It's basically about doing the best at anything you do, and looking for your calling where you least expect it. I'm almost finished with this one and I've enjoyed it.

Be a People Person by John Maxwell is one that I chose because y'all know I'm not a people person, but I have been reflecting on how to do better with this, and it was also suggested through the leadership academy that I attended. It's a good read, with good suggestions and real-life examples, and it gives you a chance to reflect at the end of each chapter.

Ready or Not by Chautona Havig is a book I got free from kindle a while back. I'm going to be reviewing the fourth book in this series, so I started with this one, the first, because the beginning is a very good place to start (channeling my inner Sound of Music). This book is about a young lady who inherited her sister's eight children. She's funny, smart, and I'm loving it so far! The only thing I don't like about it is the typeset for my Kindle, which is smaller, so it's hard to read at night, which is when I do most of my reading... but that's workable!

My sister's book club introduced me to Joanna Fluke's  Hannah Swenson series and I am in love. I'm currently reading the fourth book, A Lemon Meringue Pie Murder. I love this series. These books are lighthearted, easy to read, and laughable. I'd highly recommend for anyone who loves a good mystery with a little romance thrown in.

In July it's my turn to host book club, and I chose The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Set in France in WWII, it is everything that everyone had told me that it was. Believable characters, drama, hard times... a truly beautiful read thus far.

Still rotating between two devotions on my Kindle- One Year Alone with God and Love is A Verb, two devotionals. Love is a Verb has yearlong devotions and I am doing one a day so I'll be writing about this one in December. One Year Alone with God goes into some of the names and characteristics of God, and has three short devotions on each topic, so I usually read all three together.

Wendy Blight's I Know His Name goes into the names of God as well. I started this book for the P31 OBS Bible class, but fell behind (surprise!) It's an indepth study that takes more than just five or ten minutes a day... but it is so good. I love Wendy's infectious personality. Her desire to dig in deep in the Scriptures inspires me! The book links the names from the Old Testament to how they can be seen in the new, and encourages real life application.

Tricia Goyer's Made with Love is another facebook book club read. This one is about a young girl who wants to open her own pie shop. There's a touch of possible romance as well... and I was able to get the next book in the series for free to review! (Yay! Love free books!!!)

And, because it's summertime, Elin Hildebrand's  Barefoot. I love her books. She makes me feel like I'm at the beach. This one is about two sisters and a friend who travel to their Nantucket summer home in the midst of difficult situations. One sister is facing a medical crisis, the other is facing a professional crisis, and the friend (who one sister doesn't seem to like) is pregnant but her cheating husband doesn't know it. Y'all.... drama at it's best. (Note: I also have two more Hildebrand books in my bedroom stacks, because it's summer, and if I'm not going to the beach I might as well read about it from my hammock/poolside/boat on the lake/ ATV).

I've started Uncle Tom's Cabin as well.

 One of the suggestions on the reading challenge was to read a commentary, so I'm still reading Matthew Henry's Commentary on Jeremiah slowly. I've enjoyed reading the commentaries, but it's sometimes been hard to find time to sit down with my Bible and go line by line, which is what I've been doing. It does give you a new perspective on what you're reading.

Books I've Read this Year for my reading challenge:
A Book about Christian living: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer... a book on prayer. I haven't always had the best prayer life, and this book gives Scripture suggestions to help guide prayers. It goes along well with Armor of God, which I just finished.
A biography: Off Balance by Olympic Gold medalist  Dominique Moceanu.
A children's book: The Secret Garden
A book published in 2016: Unashamed by Christine Caine

And books I plan to read for the reading challenge suggestions, which are currently on my Kindle or my bedside table:
A classic novel: My Antonia
A book someone tells you changed their life: Sun Stand Still
A book about theology: Probably Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
A book with "gospel" in the title
A book your pastor recommends: The Balanced Church
A book 100 years old: Uncle Tom's Cabin
A mystery or detective novel: Sherlock Holmes
A book about a current issue- not sure yet

And I have two books on my nightstand that are movies (y'all know I have to read the book before the movie) :  Room, and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. And also Girl on a Train, which will be coming out as a movie.
And stacks and stacks of other books. Too many to count.
And since it's summertime, lots of beach-themed books and, of course, Gone with the Wind.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Reflections on Purpose: May

Ok, I'm slacking again, y'all.

But it's not because I've not been intentional. I have been. I've really been pondering on purpose, and trying not to waste time...

Except it's hard not to waste time.

But really, I don't think swimming with Will and swinging with Melody and laughing with Caleb and hiking with Wallace is wasting time. It may not necessarily be productive, but I'm considering one assignment for this summer. It may not fully embrace living purposefully, but then again, it may...

My assignment for the summer (and maybe for the rest of the year? Not that I'm changing my word for the year... just choosing to reflect on it a little differently...)

Choose happy... and make memories.

And June has flown by but we've had fun.

But here's a reflection back on May (and maybe I'll actually do this earlier in the month next month. Except it's dead period so I'm pretty sure I'll be taking my assignment seriously until at least July 15th).
My 16 for 2016:
1. Live with Purpose- intentionally. Well, my planner must feel neglected, because I haven't been using it much. Have barely even opened it. And haven't really done the best about living intentional, either. Have spent a lot of time scrolling down the feeds on my phone... even thought I sat out to put the phone down.

But I have been living, if that makes sense, and not just finding myself thinking what something will look like if I post it on social media, which I think we can get in the habit of doing. Guess that means this is still a work in progress... and isn't all of life?

2. Exercise- Goal: At least five days a week, 30 minutes a day, and at least 10,000 steps 26/30 days or 27/31 days of each month (24/28 days in February). (Because nobody is perfect).

May was much better on the exercise front. Still gained a little weight, but exercised 26/31 days and averaged over 12,000 steps a day.
3. 1,000 Gifts- Gratitude Journal
I don't do this every day, but I do make a conscious effort when I sit down to journal to think back over the previous days and list as many gifts as I can. I'm up to 600. Blessings are easy to find when you are looking!
4. Scripture-
Finished May, even though I stayed behind most of the month. Love writing His Word out... just need to be more intentional about making time to do it.

5. 365 Day Challenges- One picture a day and writing at least 10 minutes each day. One of my facebook friends developed a challenge and we even have our own hashtag- #write365.
Nope. Not even close. Am not even using the hashtags whenever I post. But I am writing some. aNd I am taking pics some. So...

6. Reading Challenge-
Well of course I'm excelling  in this one... except the challenge link part attached. I read 9 books in May so am a little behind on meeting my overall goal. (More on what I'm reading in another post).

7. Chronological Bible-  Still struggling but I am determined.  I WILL read the Bible all the way through this year.

8. Y'all. I love this daily email. The words they send are a hoot. While I'm not memorizing them, I'm definitely being exposed to new vocabulary.

9. Random/Unrandom Acts of Kindness- Yep. And sometimes it's small things that mean the most. It truly doesn't take a lot of time to make somebody's day.

10. Presence- I am so enjoying my family. In the month of May, Papaw Paul was in the hospital and I stayed all night with him and we had such a sweet time. Listening to Melody "quarrel" and Will talk and hiking with Wallace and Caleb. I'm trying to listen and just take it all in... because these are days I'll never get again.

11. Cross something off of my bucket list. Nothing off my bucket list yet but I am continuing work toward that DNP. Slowly but surely. Prayers, please!

12. Be more organized. Procrastinate less. Fold the laundry as I get it out of the dryer and actually put it away =)
I've done a little better. Still haven't got everything accomplished that I would like to.
13. Laugh. Everyday.  Hard.
Because laughter is truly good for the soul.
Yes!!!! I've laughed a lot! And it's great!
14. Keep a Sabbath day of rest.
Done well with this one. Been spending a lot of Sundays reading and on the lake and hiking, which is refreshing and allows me to reflect on nature.

15. Make new friends. Make time for old ones.
Still a struggle for me. I am trying to make conversation. Show myself friendly. Need to continue to work. Caleb and I have made a goal this summer to get to Lexington to meet up with my childhood friend. Too often I let being busy be an excuse.

16. Continue to love. Love Jesus. Love myself. Love others.
Living out my values: Be Yourself. Laugh Often. Live well. Love long. Just breathe. Work it out. Finish Strong. Hope always. Give grace. Positive Thinking. Jeremiah 29:11. Romans 8
Thanking God that He put these in my heart his year. Reflecting on giving grace and positive thinking and living well can't lead me wrong. And, as always, thanking God that His grace is sufficient.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ever Learning...

Every morning for years, my Grandma Bert does the same thing. It's usually before daylight. She gets up, fixes herself a cup of coffee, gets a donut stick out, and sits down with a book.

She reads at least three chapters, every single day of her life.

Because of this, she's read the Bible through more times than she can count.

My Grandma Na was the same way. I don't think she ever had a reading plan. I think she just looked forward to time in God's Word. She didn't own a TV and didn't rely on a computer.... just lots of those whispering pages underneath her fingertips.

There is truly something powerful about the Word of God. I find that when I devote time in His Word, I am generally calmer, more settled, if you will.

And it's like a Lays potato chip (only better!) because once I get in His Word, I find myself hating that I have to stop.

It's the making time that I struggle with.

And it's crazy, because I KNOW the power that it has. And there are so many other things I do that are complete time wasters.

Last night at Bible study we were talking about meditating... really thinking about His Word, and then we talked about the verses from 2 Timothy that so describe our time... a time when His Word won't matter to others.

A time when they won't endure sound doctrine... when they will search for someone to tell them what they want to hear.

And a portion of that passage made me stop and pause.

2 Timothy 3:7, "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Ever learning. To learn, you have to be actively seeking something.

Y'all... we have His Word at the click of our fingertips. You go into a bookstore and the number of Bible studies is tremendous. We could never do them all, or never learn everything there is to know about His Word.

I recently joined an online Bible study of a book that has over 40,000 women signed up.


And there are Bible apps and reading plans and church apps and accountability groups...

because deep down, we all have a God-shaped hole in our heart and we are searching for some way to fill it.

I can't help but think, that in what I believe truly are the last days, we have so many options to choose from because it's a means of causing us to avoid the subject.

And I'm not saying that Bible studies are bad, or that books are bad, or that apps and reading plans are bad...

because we have to first get into the Word of God to get it into us.

But sometimes I think we (and I'm guilty) are so busy reading the latest publication or trying that new reading plan that we forget why we wanted to be involved in the first place.

His Word is like living water, refreshing... if we'll drink of it.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

And here we are, the blind leading the blind, sometimes...

On the way home last night Caleb and I were talking about knowing God, and knowing God is real.

It's a struggle in today's world, I believe.

Especially for a teenager who is seeing changes in the world around him, in a world that is "denying the power thereof."

I told Caleb that knowing God is just like knowing someone he wants to have a relationship with...

You have to spend time with Him.

Talking to Him (Praying)...

and listening to Him.

And the best way to hear from Him?

By opening up His Word... God-breathed and inspired and good for doctrine and instruction and rebuke (even though we hate rebuke).

I think we tend to overcomplicate it.

No reading plan required, even though they are nice.

No Bible study required, even though they can be very helpful.

All you need is the Bible, and to open it up and soak it up.

Pick a chapter and read. Look up the word you don't understand. Reflect on what you think it is saying. Ask God to show you how it applies to you.

And allow it to change you...

May I not be one ever learning but never coming to the truth...

because the truth sets us free.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When Timeout Wasn't Right and Neither was Arguing

So yesterday I tried to put my 13 year old in timeout.

Yes, the same thirteen year old who is a head taller than me.

He and his cousin were wrestling in the pool and I had just had enough of the squealing from the 3 year old...

so my crazy Mom voice came out and I demanded that he "Get out of the pool. Now. And sit down. Right here."

So, he did.

Much more calmly than he did when time out actually worked.

And as I lectured him while realizing the ridiculousness of the situation, he simply nodded and said, "Ok, Mom."

I'd like to think this was because of my stellar parenting skills, but I know better.

But it sure got me thinking.

I totally reacted in the wrong way to that situation. My screaming doesn't make the squealing stop... it just adds to the noise.

And that's how we are in many events today.

We see something/read something/ hear something and we react with that crazy "Mama" instinct.

So we have to spew our own version of the facts...

And then that just leads to more noise... more chaos... more confusion.

I found myself wondering this week as I pondered on what went on in Orlando with the shooting and the backlash on Muslims and the discussion on gun control and then the rhetoric about Christian hate about how it's hard to know what to do. I've said before, I'm reminded to love my neighbor and my enemy and not to judge... but what about tough love? And going into the world and preaching the gospel?

Isn't part of that gospel that to be saved you have to stop sinning?

And doesn't the Bible clearly state that there are things that are sins?

It's a balancing act and to be quiet frank balancing can be tiresome.

It can leave one feeling topsy-turvy.

Here's the thing, though...  God is not the author of confusion, and all of these events and the discussion coming from everyone being offended about everything else just leads to more chaos.

I am a Christian. I support Christian companies like Chik Fil A and Hobby Lobby.

I guess I struggle with why it seems as though everyone's beliefs are ok, and it's ok for everyone to state their opinion... except someone who comes from a fundamentally Christian background.

Verses pop up in my mind about how people will only desire words that tickle their ears and that they will have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof and how Christians will be hated because of His name.

And here I am... wanting to love people but not knowing exactly how I'm supposed to do that in a world that seems to have the very essence of love confused.

Love isn't about my wants or needs. It isn't even about me being loved, or me feeling accepted.

Despite what our world preaches, love is not even really a feel good emotion.

Because love is hard. It endures... y'all. That means it puts up with a lot.

It's longsuffering and boasts not and is not prideful...

All the things that I'm pretty sure go against my very nature. In fact, I am absolutely sure of it.

And just like that moment where I decided that timeout would be an effective discipline strategy, I mess up in this love thing. I struggle with conflict, and in all honesty don't want to offend people...

but that's not love.

And I'm pretty sure that loving someone is admitting that even though we disagree about a viewpoint, I can still care about you and your feelings... but you can't get mad at me for my feelings if I respect yours.

And I think that's what bothers me the most about this chaos... because I'm not supposed to get offended but it's ok for everyone else to.

So, now that I got that off my chest, can we all just gather around the swimming pool and listen to little boy squeals and sing Kumbaya?

And I'll just keep thinking how I don't belong in this world and that's a good thing...

And Heaven's going to make this crazy world with all this hate and hard feelings be a distant memory...

I'm not going to miss it. And I don't want you to miss it, either.

Let's just cling to Jesus, people.

Just keep looking to Him, and when all else fails, try to love like He did.

Even if it is hard.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Five Days at Memorial: A Review

I can still remember watching the aerial footage.

Families huddled together on rooftops, surrounded by muddy water, waving at the helicopters.

The stuff of movies... except it was real life.

And there, in the middle of it all, was Memorial Hospital.

As a nurse, I struggled to comprehend the stories from the media.

How do you provide for the basics human needs of individuals when you are overwhelmed and unsure you have the needed resources to do so?

How do you stare death in the eyes and make those important decisions?

In her book Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink takes us to Katrina- ravaged New Orleans and walks us through the hallways of the hospital. Through extensive research, she describes the crisis at its worst and then breaks down the aftermath of the critical decisions that were second-guessed and rehashed, not just by those individuals who lived them, but by a nation forced to look bioethics square in the face and determine just how close to the gray areas they are willing to live.

Fink's objective presentation of the facts of those five days, of the fear and uncertainty and decisions the medical staff were forced to make, truly allows the reader to experience the dilemma and analyze their own personal views on medical advances, disaster preparedness, and the value of life. For the past couple of years, I have required my fundamentals class to read an article Fink written, and I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that she was the author of this book. I've now dog-eared the pages that will serve as prompts for discussion on abandonment, negligence, legalities of prescriptions, death and dying and dignity, and providing for the basic human needs of all patients.

I would give this book 5 stars because even though it is a heavy topic, it is well-presented and easy to read. This book is an excellent read for anyone in the medical field, as well as individuals who remember Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Labor of Love

This morning I set my alarm for earlier than I had to and went outside on the balcony. Most of the kids were still sound asleep, and as I munched on Captain Crunch I inhaled the greatness of God and thought about just how small I am.

Then I thought of how the God that I serve created this whole earth. A verse Dana had read to us came to my mind again, staring out at those majestic mountains. "The heaven declares the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands."

And while I seem tiny against that huge backdrop of blue skies and towering mountains, I was reminded by God that as humans, we are the only part of the creation that bears His image. What an honor! What a responsibility!

As I drove home today, I was reflecting on the body of Christ and how we all have our own parts. Each of us in uniquely made, with a specific purpose. Too often I think we make that purpose complicated. It's easy to look at someone else and see how they are contributing in a big way, while we sit on the back pew each Sunday and occasionally go up front to sing with the Pastor calls on us.

And y'all... God spoke to me. Not like in an audible way, because He probably knew that since I was driving I didn't need to be startled... but in that still small voice that made tears prick my eyes.

Sometimes, the very thing that seems so small to us (or even to others) is a big deal to God because He desires obedience.

See, I don't like to drive.

In fact, I detest it. I wrecked a car when I was four and failed my drivers test not once but twice (And yes, I'm still friends with my insurance agent!) and get nervous when I have to merge. So as we set off to Tennesee Tuesday morning, I was a little bit nervous. I dreaded going through Knoxville because switching on the interstate, but told myself I had to learn because what if Kami needed me sometime??? No time like the present, right?

So as we neared one of the trickier places I told the three tween/teenage boys chatting about video games and energy drinks that I needed them to be quiet for just a few minutes, and Deacon said, "Don't you like to drive?"

"No, she doesn't." Caleb answered emphatically. "Last year she cried."

I went on to tell Deacon that it was a labor of love for me to drive that car to Tennessee. "If I didn't love y'all, I'd gladly stay home."

But you know how God has a way of taking how you're trying to be a blessing and giving it back to you?

Well, if I hadn't performed that "labor of love" I would have missed out.

I would have missed out on riding a water slide with Caleb three times in a row, each time screaming my head off while he laughed behind me.

I would have missed out on Deacon's grace, "God, we've got some Pizza Hut and it's going to taste good, so bless it for our nourishment."

I would have missed out on holding Audrey Jones while her Mama rode some of those slides, playing "this little piggy" and almost coaxing a smile from around her pacifier. At one point, she almost forgot that she didn't really know the person holding her and leaned back in my arms for just a moment, and those little curls rubbed against my cheek, and I thought about how close little children are to angels.

I would have missed out on smiles from Braylee.

I would have missed out on seeing how caring my Caleb is around younger kids.

I would have missed out on listening to splashing in the pool and laughing and "Marco Polo".

I would have missed out on hiking up to Clingman's Dome, taking in the awesome view at the top and being reminded of how great God is, and reflecting on His miracle working as I watched Lisa Gross hike back down the hill.

I would have missed out on Lily rolling her eyes at me and Haley saying, "Why do we have to take so many pictures???"

I would have missed out on whizzing through the hills at night on the Coaster, listening to Deacon scream in front of me and seeing him at the bottom proclaim that "That was awesome!", and hearing how Brittany kept hers wide open so that Amber could have the ride of her life.

I would have missed out on stuffing marshmallows and chocolate and Reeses pieces and caramel sauce into waffle cones, and getting marshmallow in my hair, and seeing bright eyes glimmer as they bit into that gooey concoction. (And I would have missed out on my own waffle cone s'more, which would have been a tragedy!)

I would have missed out on laughing so hard my belly hurt as Deacon told us how he fell off the float on the Storm Chaser.

I would have missed out on sitting on the bed and talking with Sophie and Sabrina while their Mom got ready for bed, and telling Sabrina she better not snore too loud, and having her come right back at me with ,"You better not, either!"

By staying in our comfort zone, we miss the fear and anxiety of the unknown... but we also miss those blessings.

And too often we can let Satan convince us that it's not good enough, or it's not that big of a deal...

But then I thought of my Mamaw Na (which I do a lot). I thought of how many church trips she'd made to the Smoky Mountains, and how many lives she touched just through those simple, small things.

All because she made herself available, and served her part in the Body.

(And also because she had a trusty van driver, but we each have our part. His just seemed to be what Naomi told him to do a lot of the time.)

And I'm pretty sure she'd join me in saying that every trip she took blessed her more than she blessed...

Because our God's like that.

And I'm reminded that it's a cycle, that we're told to tell our children of the greatness of God and His many blessings, and how we all have a little bit of the generations before us that make us who we are...

And we have Christ in us.

Who helps us perform those labors of love even when we think they are impossible.

Because His grace is sufficient. Always.

And also I made it back through Knoxville to live to tell the tale!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Giddyup, Eunice: A Review

Kentucky was officially a border state in the Civil War, but I still consider myself Southern.

I say y'all.  A lot.

But I've never really had a hankering for sweet tea... Diet Coke is just fine with me.

I do, however, love SEC sports, and I love small towns and bargain shopping and good manners.

I'm pretty sure Sophie Hudson and I could be close personal friends...

and that's why I was so stinkin' excited to get to serve on her launch team for her new book, Giddy Up, Eunice.

I'm a faithful reader of her blog and devoured her first two books, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet (Because it has bacon in its subtitle!  Bacon!! I love me some bacon!!!) and Home is Where My People Are.

And by devoured, I mean sat down and pretty much read them in one sitting, all while laughing and crying and staining the pages with Doritos as I ate.

Giddy Up Eunice is written with that same sweet Southern flair, but really hit home with me. If y'all follow my blog much, you know my hubby coaches girls basketball and volleyball, and I consider those girls my own. Hudson's message of cross-generational commonalities really made me think of my self-proclaimed mission field.

Using three pairs of women from the Old and New Testament of the Bible, Hudson discusses how women need each other. As she described the relationships between these women, throwing in splashes of real-life from the Hudson house, I thought about how women today face so many complications. We've got it rough, ladies... and often make each other our own worst enemies.

Hudson is funny but poignant, and the theme of how we affect all of those around us can be lifechanging. When we choose to stop judging one another, and instead come along and encourage, we can change the culture around us.

As a Mama of a 13 year old, Hudson's chapters about legacy and teaching our children were especially dear to me. Us Mamas and Daddies...we've got a tough job. Our only chance is to live it out. Live it so they can see Him... Jesus... the author and finisher of our stories.

"Life is infinitely richer when people are our priority... women need each other..."

Amen and amen, Ms. Sophie. And thank you for pouring out your heart and being vulnerable to us.

Five stars all the way... a must read for any Mama, grandma, woman... because we are privileged with the honor to get to do life alongside one another.

Now go by the book! Available today!!!

I did receive a free advanced reader's copy for my honest review as a member of the launch team, but I would highly recommend this book and it would definitely have been one I would have purchased!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ponderings on Life

This week, with Kami headed to a new job in a new city, I've been pondering many of life's deepest issues. (Like how I missed eating a donut on National Donut Day...)
But seriously, combine that move with some of the books I've been reading, and I've once again been dwelling on the meaning of life. And I have to say that at the ripe ol' age of 37, I still don't have much more figured out than I did when I was Kami's age...

But I can't help but think that is what life is all about. Not that we're put here to blindly wonder along until we find our eternal home...

But Jesus said He was the Way, and even His disciples weren't sure of where they were going... even after spending hours in His presence!

So I'm beginning to realize that while life is ALWAYS about the destination (because Heaven is the ultimate goal I'm striving for), it's a lot about the journey and what you make of it along the way...

The journey is where we form relationships (which we were created for) and where we learn to trust Him in the curvy, rocky, hilly parts, and where we point other travelers His way.

It's long and often uncomfortable, often filled with mosquito bites and thorny bushes...

But it's also beautiful along the way. 

So, with all that being said, here's what I've really been pondering these past few days:
1. If you are going to the movies at Regal Cinema in Lexington, make sure you order your tickets in advance. Kami and I watched Me Before You yesterday from the front row, which basically meant that in the previews I was nauseated from the fast moving action shots. Also, you could see the pores in the actor's faces. But the reclining chairs were nice and we both agreed that once the movie started it wasn't all that bad.
Except for the crying, which I was fully prepared for, because I had read the book. And why wouldn't we choose a movie with lots of crying on this weekend she is moving away? (Because as I sat there with my head leaned back, I thought of her with pigtails and a huge bucket of popcorn propped between her legs that didn't touch the floor and the seat that wouldn't even hardly stay down because she was so little bitty... but I DID NOT mention those thoughts because she'd just say, "Stop it right now". Ok, melodramatic, much??)
And the topic of the book/movie (and of course I read the book first!) , assisted suicide in a paraplegic, was heavy. An ethical dilemma for sure. Because if you love someone, do you support them to the end? How can you just let someone go? Much too heavy of a discussion for this blog...
Except one thing, the hashtag of the movie (I love me some hashtags!).
That goes along with my year of purpose perfectly...
Live well in all of your circumstances...
2. We all live a legacy. Yes, we leave a legacy... but we live one, as well... a legacy that comes from all of those that come before us. (I told y'all I was thinking deep!)
In the last chapters of Giddy Up, Eunice, Hudson talks about the legacy Timothy received from his mother and grandmother. As I read about Sophie's grandma, and "visited" her grandparents Southern farm through her word pictures, I couldn't help but look down at the thumb on my right hand. That thumb is a reminder of my own legacy. When I was in third or fourth grade, my Grandma Na was playing around with me. I was in her hallway, moving my arms and pretending to introduce someone famous. Grandma had a pair of scissors in her hand and was snipping them through the air, pretending like she was going to cut something around me... except she accidentally sliced the tip of my thumb. It hurt, it bled, I missed a softball game and piano lessons because of it... but there's not a moment that I look down at that thumb and don't think of her. Of her grace and love and how she prayed for each of us.  Sometimes, in tense moments, I'll find myself rubbing that thumb against my forefinger.
3. In thinking about that legacy, I have also been thinking of what people would say about me. What kind of legacy am I passing on? How will people remember me?
4. Along the same lines, I'm thinking of how unkind we can be. I recently read a story from the Today show about a woman who left a note for three teenage girls who were being catty in their conversation. I can remember being those teenage girls. And as much as I love the movie Mean Girls, I think it is sad that in all honesty, that's what our society has come to. If you follow my blog much, you know that I've been focusing on purpose this year, living more intentionally, and intentionally trying to be kind. I find myself looking at people and thinking, "What do they need today? How can I help them meet that need?"
5. But thinking and doing isn't the same thing. It's easy to think... ponder... but acting is much more difficult.
6. And this type of thinking can be a reverse stereotype.  Too often we look at people and think we know what they are going through, what their thoughts are. We try to make decisions for other people... when maybe we just need to simply be present (another recurring theme of mine this year... I'm a slow learner, y'all...) and accept them.
7. Not accept them to leave them that way... but to accept them so that they'll trust us enough to follow us...
8.. Another pondering I've had the last couple of weeks is how we all seem to be experts on everything. Following the incident in the gorilla cage at the Cincinatti Zoo, a whole slew of child experts and animal rights activists popped up on social media. I know nothing about animal control, and I can't pretend to know what that Mama's situation was that day... but I know that every human needs compassion, and while it is sad that an "innocent" animal was killed, the tragedy could have been much worse. In our society, though, we fail to value the sacredness of human life. We are callused and have little empathy, and it is far easier to point fingers and become outraged that the poor gorilla was killed (because he was endangered!) than to find ourselves admitting that maybe if we were that Mama, we could have turned our back, too... (or whatever happened...)
9. And speaking of endangered, I can't help but think that the human race is the most endangered one... not necessarily in numbers, because we know that the population just keeps growing and growing. But as that number grows, so do we grow out of touch with one another. This topic circles back to my comments on empathy and kindness... in a world full of technology, when we can facetime and have conversations from around the globe, we have never been more distant. We're too busy trying to save the world and know what is going on that we often fail to recognize the troubles in our own living room...
or maybe that's just being naïve, because we don't want to admit that bad things can happen to us, too.
I wish I had all the answers, but I don't. I don't know how to increase empathy and kindness and save the world... I don't know how to ensure that one leaves an untarnished legacy. I don't know whether it was the right thing for the gorilla to have to die. I don't know how to convince people that the only way to save our endangered species is for us to let go and stop trying to control everything, and give it over to the One who created it all...
But I do know to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. To love God and to love my neighbors. To let my light shine. To allow Him to direct my path.
And somehow, in stumbling on that path, maybe I'll leave a footprint for those following behind.
And I won't have to crane my neck in a front row seat in the process.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What I Learned in May

1. Triage- I had never thought of the meaning of triage. It was always something that I just knew to do... in some cases, take care of the sickest, first. In cases of mass casualties, take care of those who you believe have the best prognosis first... and mark the other ones. I learned when reading Five Days of Memorial that the term for triage came from the French, and was actually used to talk about sorting coffee beans. Napoleon started using the term to describe the sorting of casualties, and it is now a common practice in the healthcare field today.

2. May always brings graduation, and with graduation, often, the pinning ceremony. This usually corresponds with National Nurses Week, which centers around Florence Nightingale's birthday. It's fitting that new graduates often recite the Nightingale Pledge. This year, as I listened to the words of the pledge, I am reminded again what a great honor it is to be a nurse. I also learned a new word (because, as you know if you read my blog, I'm all about learning a new word this year!) Deleterious, as in deleterious- "I will abstain from whatever is deleterious", which means harmful or injurious.

3. The University of Kentucky trains service dogs. As we sat through Kami's graduation ceremony, some students brought their dogs with them. They were often dressed in caps and gowns, and ac couple even accepted the diploma in their mouth and shook the President's hand. I couldn't help but think that was a lot of service dogs, and thought about the uses for these dogs. When I mentioned it to Kami, she laughed and said, "No, those dogs are service dogs that will go to someone. Those are their student trainers."  Just precious, and a huge thank you to those trainers and their trainees!!!

4. Life is better when surrounded by family. Sunshine. Laughter. Smores. Hiking up the hill even though you're short of breath. Keeping on the next day even when your muscles ache. Memorial Day Weekend with some of my Arrowood cousins was delightful; Robinson Forest, the horses at the Elk View (well, off road at the Elk View), smores around an open fire... and then the lake and Natural Bridge with Wallace, Caleb, and Lauren Green, and Nana and Papaw and Will and Greg and Regina.

5. The climb can be rough... but the view at the end is worth it. Even if the fire tower does shake a little when you're going up...

Linking up with Emily Freeman at today.