Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1, Edition 10)

Here it is, Tuesday again, and I can't hardly believe that. I also can't believe that tomorrow is the halfway point of September.  I've settled into a routine with school, but it's still overwhelming. Life in general is overwhelming. I'm sorry if you're tired of hearing that. 

With that being said, I am DETERMINED to learn to live in a way that is not an emergency. Life is too short to survive, and while I know it will never be pinterest perfect, I also know that we were made to experience life. 

Friday night I went to Billy Joel and introduced Caleb to some of the music of my childhood. Saturday I took a trip to Prestonsburg with him and ate at a Tex-Mex restaurant. I'm not a huge Tex-Mex fan, but the burrito Caleb had was as round as my arm, and it was nice to sit outside and eat while watching the sun set behind some Eastern Kentucky mountains. 

Books I've Read This Week: 


A full review at the end of this month but I'll leave you with this inspiration: 

 "My heart's deepest desire is that Kin will open the floodgates for dozens, even hundreds of memoirs from rural-born women who have spent years of their lives in churches and kitchens, who daily rise to the impossible task of negotiating their identity, power, and freedom. I pray for an embarrassment these riches, a deafening chorus of gorgeous, complicated voices loud enough to drown out the stereotypes and shame that have haunted our lives."- Kin, Shawna Kay Rodenberg

Let's tell our stories, friends! Especially those that others try to tell for us! <3

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Psalm 23: Lesson From Sunday School (Volume 1, Edition 6)

 Today my cousin Jordan brought the message at church. He spoke from Psalm 23, one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. 

Sometimes, the familiar loses its power. 

We become almost immune to the words. 

He talked about how these words were depicted on cross-stitches and in paintings, of a meek and mild Jesus cradling a lamb, with a piteous look on His face. 

As He read through the passage from the KJV, I had the NIT pulled up on my phone. 

I quickly grabbed my journal I use for notetaking on Sunday mornings and jotted down the comparisons. I'll share below. 

Jordan spoke about the role of a shepherd and how he served a specific need. He reminded us that David wrote from an area of experience, as he was a shepherd. 

Sheep are not the smartest animals. They often wander off, they try to go places they are physically unable to reach, they can't even find their way in their own pen at night, for goodness sake! They are prone to attack by predators because they are so easily fooled. 

But the Shepherd is there to lead them, guide them, feed them, provide for them, protect them. 

He then specifically talked about how God made a table for us in the presence of our enemies. If you want to think in terms of sheep, it's like a sheep is grazing in a green pasture, and there's a wolf standing there salivating on the other side of a see-through fence. He's there, but he can't get to the sheep. Most likely, in the case of the sheep, they aren't even aware that the wolf is there, because they are in the presence of their protector, the Shepherd. so they can graze peacefully. 

We aren't quite like that. A lot of times I focus on my "enemy" (the obstacles in my way) and can't even enjoy all of the blessings God has provided. Jordan likened it to us actually inviting our enemy to pull up a the table and have a seat. I've been guilty of that. Too often, I allow my peace to be snatched away because I'm focusing on all that is wrong with my situation. Jordan reminded us that Jesus has never said, "I don't know." The enemy of our souls comes to our table prepared with lies- lies like the other table looks better, or we aren't good enough to sit at the table, or we aren't going to make it (how often have I felt that one in recent years???)... but our situation does not change God's promises, and He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He goes before, protects from behind, and covers us under His wings. In this world we will have trouble but we are to take heart, because He has overcome the world. 

Read that again. YOUR SITUATION DOES NOT CHANGE GOD. There is nothing too big or small, nothing too hard, nothing too stupid, nothing too challenging. (See Romans 8)

He works all things for our good (Romans 8:28) for His glory. I forget that. I get focused on how bad the hard thing feels, and the next thing I know I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place, just like a sheep that has wondered off.

How often have I been like a sheep gone astray! If you, like me, need a refreshing, take a few minutes to soak up these promises. And remember this. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, left the fold of 99 to save 1. That's you. That's me. 

Psalm 23- listen here to hear my favorite podcasters share Psalm 23. Or click here for a previous blog post on Psalm 23... but take a few minutes to read through my notes of the KJV and the NLT. Soak in His words. His promises. 

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want (I have all that I need). 

He maketh me to lie down (lets me rest) in green pastures (meadows). 

He leads (guides) me beside still waters (peaceful streams)

He restoreth my soul (renews my strength)

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness (He guides me along right paths)

for His Names sake (bringing honor to His name)

yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (even when I walk in the darkest valley)

I will fear no evil (I will not be afraid)

Thou art with me (You are close beside me)

Your rod and staff, they comfort (protect) me

You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies

You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over (overflows with blessings). 

Surely your goodness and mercy (unfailing love) will follow me (pursue me) all the days of my life

and I will dwell (live) in the house of the Lord forever. 

(Picture is from my HCSB translation Bible. I especially like the verse "He renews my life.")

Blessings to you, friend. <3

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1, Edition 9)

 I almost forgot today was Tuesday. 

Yesterday was the perfect Labor Day, other than I did have to work some on an exam... and I have my first quiz in Advanced Assessment this week, and a quiz in Advanced Pharmacology next week, and I feel so behind...

but I left it all at the house and went hiking at the Gorge with my best boys and Ellie. It had been far too long since I had stood under a blue sky gazing at a vast overlook... at least vast for these parts... and I was reminded why so many say that it's easier to breathe in the wide open. I question why I allow myself to go so long without it. 

When I went to bed last night I had good intentions. I  knew I'd have a meeting and I wouldn't get to exercise in the evening, so I set my alarm to get up early in the morning. 

And then I reset it when I got up at 5 to go to the bathroom. 

And then hit the snooze button. 

I started the day with good intentions... but somehow they didn't stay that way. 

As I've reflected all day about my life, I am thankful for the blessings I have, but I also know for whatever reason I am still struggling. This is a season of discontent. It's been that way for a while now, and the harder that I strive, the more uncomfortable I feel in my own skin. I feel like I'm shouting at the sky sometimes, but the truth is, I have stopped even whispering. 

None of this makes logical sense... except that it is all about what you put in, what you feed yourself, and for far too long my diet has been social media crap. 

Excuse my language... but I've realized that the nastiness affects me. 

It has made me question my faith. It has made me question who I am and what I believe. I see the posts that some people callously make, and I hope that they aren't the only Jesus somebody sees... and then I realize that the same could probably be said for myself. 

I don't profess to have all the answers, but I also know that we are each put on this earth for a purpose. I've not figured out exactly what mine is... but I think it has to do with words. I feel in my heart that I'm a writer, and that God means for me to write... but I keep on saying "yes" to things I have no business saying yes to. 

And that makes me ask what I want to say yes to...

Yes to spending more time with the most important people. 

Yes to fostering real life friendships (I need some help with this one!)

Yes to taking care of myself (my blood pressure was up everytime a student took it today during physical assessment. I weigh more now than I ever have... and some of it is physical weight.)

Yes to doing things that I enjoy. 

I want to start saying no to things that make me feel inferior, things that I feel like I "should" do for whatever reason. 

I started asking myself today "What do you know that is true?" in preparation for a sappy facebook post and I realized that honestly, I don't know much that is true. 

Our society feels like one fat lie. 

I know that God is truth, but honestly what I'm seeing out of some people in His church doesn't feel like truth to me, and that's a huge struggle for me right now. 

I do know that He says if we seek Him, He shall be found. I just think maybe that for the last few years, I've been seeking Him in the wrong way. 

Seeking Him by trying to prove how good I am. 

Seeking Him by reading the Bible to just get through it. 

And, if I'm honest, I've been seeking Him after I've been seeking everything else. 

So... as I begin this next year of Lauren's story, I'm recommitting... again. 

I'll still get it wrong. I'll still miss the point. I'll still be selfish. I'll still hit the snooze button...

but I'm learning that no mater what I do, I can't be perfect, and that's ok. 

There is truth in being who you  are, all the glorious mess...

So, happy birthday to me. 

Sorry this tidbit was a little heavier than normal. Thanks for being there to help me process through. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1, Edition 8)

 Been quiet around here the last couple of weeks as I've been adjusting to a new job, new classes, and trying to just keep my head on straight. There has been so much "heavy" stuff in our world, and my heart has been struggling. Due to that, I've decided to take a facebook break this week, and when I log back in, I'm only going to get on one day a week. I know it seems presumptuous of me to think that anyone even cares about that, but I do love my facebook friends. I've just got to learn to start loving my mental health more. 

Hurricane Ida has made landfall and we are getting rain, rain, and more rain here in Eastern Kentucky. Last night as I drifted off to sleep to the sound of rain on my tin roof I thought of all those still rebuilding from our flooding in March. I used to find rain peaceful at night, but now, as I empathize with those who spent nightime hours terrified, I can also see the sinister side. It's funny how our perspective can change. 

Speaking of perspectives, this weekend I spend a couple of days wallowing and honestly today I'm not feeling much better, but I know that it's all in perspective. I have decided (tonight, anyway) that I'm not going to get all caught up in what I DO. I'm just going to do my best everyday, minute by minute, hour by hour. I've been listening to The Next Right Thing podcast by Emily P. Freeman, and that's her premise.... what is my next right thing? So, starting tomorrow, that's going to be my focus as I go through the day... what is right in front of me. Not tracking. Not trying to be better than before. Not worrying if I meet a step goal or a writing goal or a reading goal... just doing it for what it is. 

But... I still have to track some things.. so... 

Books I've Read since the last time I wrote

1. Still Life by Louise Penny

A whopping 3 books for the month of August...

but new job. New courses. New classes for me. Reading for advanced pharmacology and advanced health assessment... so... grace. 

Give yourself some grace, too, friend. <3

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1, Edition 7)

Drink More Water

I have never been a water drinker, but I'm trying to do better. I've read that dehydration may cause migraines to be worse, and I drink way too much caffeine. I'm also trying to be a little bit more environmentally friendly, so when I helped Kami move I saw a water pitcher with a filter in her fridge and decided that's just what I need... so we purchased a Brita water filter pitcher and I have to say I love it! I fill up my water bottle before I leave, and then refill on campus at a water station. I've increased my water intake from 0 ounces to usually at least 32 a day (I know it's not great, but it's better than none). And I'm not drinking as much pop, either... 

Auto-save is REALLY the enemy- Technology is great, until it isn't. We use one-drive at work, and it has an auto-save feature, which you think would be great... but last week I was working on unit outlines using one as a template and when I came back in the next day they were all blank but one because it had autosaved as the last one that I had been working on. I learned my lesson, though... and turn auto-save off and also copy/paste the document into a new document before I start. 

If you're not talking to yourself, are you even being productive at work? 

I'm convinced the answer to this is a resounding NO! While I was updating the above outlines, correcting my mistake from the day when I erased them all, I had a full-blown conversation with myself... even providing answers. 

This week is the first day of classes for students. I have entered all of my teaching dates in to my calendar, and also all of my assignments for my NP courses. I'm a little overwhelmed, but one day at a time. I'm excited to be learning! 

What I Read This Week

This post is late getting written because I was determined to have something to put here. I just finished (literally ten minutes ago) the only book I've read this week- the second of August. 

1. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

A lot of heavy stuff going on in our world right now. Saying a little prayer for you, my friend. Thanks for reading. <3

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School (Little Heavier Version Volume 1 Edition 5)

 Today I had a roomful for Children's Church. Aged 6 to 18, it's sometimes hard to come up with a lesson that meets all of their developmental levels. My heart is with the middle schoolers and high schoolers, I guess because middle school was such a hard time for me and then for the majority of my adult life I was tagging along behind buses full of high school girls. 

Today I taught from John 16:33, Romans 8, and Genesis 50:20. It's not your usual Sunday School lesson, but I want to share the main points with you today. 

We are living in what many consider to be a unique time, but we're told in Ecclesiastes that "there is nothing new under the heavens", so really we are probably going through the same things that generations before us went through; now we just have the technology and ease of information to take on the weight of the world instead of just our own little pocket. I do honestly believe we are living in "end day", because it seems the labor pains are growing closer and closer. More tragedy. More heartaches. More confusion. 

When I was young, I didn't want to think about living in the "end times". I can remember having a dream when I was in high school and waking up so scared. I had dreamed about the rapture, and saw people going up in the air, and I was left behind... but I also had conflicting feelings. I wasn't "homesick". I had things I wanted to do, and I didn't want to think about those things not coming to fruition because I was in Heaven. Selfish, hmm? Remember that's natural for a teenager... 

I also don't remember feeling overwhelmed like so many of our kids are today. Oh, sure, I was full of teenage angst, and was insecure, but I didn't obsess about worries. 

We are a worrying society. 

Jesus tells in John 16::, "In this world you will have trouble." Not too promising there, when you think about it. 

The heartache you're facing. The sickness you're loved one has just been diagnosed with. Your confusion about your life situation. 

You should have seen them coming.. but even though we KNOW we will have trouble, it doesn't mean we should allow these troubles to overcome us. 

Jesus goes on to say, "Take heart. I have overcome the world."

Before I was born, before any troubles came my way, Jesus overcame the world. And because He overcame the world, He allows me to be victorious in my battles. That doesn't mean that things will always work out as I want them to. It just means that I can have peace when I am troubled because He is my peace. 

I had everyone write down things that made them sad on a piece of paper. We then talked about how God can use those things for good, and how Joseph had many trials but it was for the saving of "many lives". I told them that they may not be able to imagine it now, but that all those things that made them sad can be worked for good if they love Jesus. 

Friend, you may need to hear that, too. Life is hard, and unfair, and we don't understand why bad things happen to good people. I don't understand the tension that is present when I think of God being in control but bad things still happening. Our world is reeling right now and I know it makes Him just as sad as it does me, but He has given us free will. We can't explain it, and it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I am trying to trust Him more. 

Romans 8:18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Your sorrow, your troubles and trials, are temporary. As I type this, I'm reminded of an old spiritual we sang once in chorus, "Soon Ah I will be done with my troubles... going home to live with God. No more weepin' and a wailin'"'

I'm not going to tell you to make lemons out of lemonade or to make the most out of whatever you are facing. I'm not going to offer platitudes, because some of you are going through some heavy stuff. I am just going to tell you that Jesus knows. He loves you. And may you find peace in Him. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Five Minute Friday (A Day Late): Accountability

 This summer, I started writing again. 

I joined a writing group online, then participated in a peer group, and have joined several additional writing groups. I've been listening to podcasts on writing and have been talking myself through the steps needed to write the Great American Novel... or maybe just a non-fiction book centered around my travels around the Bluegrass State.... or then there's that thought that a book discussing primitive healthcare and midwifery in Eastern Kentucky would be fun to research..

While I'm not completely settled on WHAT I plan to write, I've been focusing on the habit of, well, getting in the habit of writing. If you follow me here, on this blog, you know I've been publishing at least on Tuesdays and Sundays. I've been "writing" more on Instagram, journaling my thoughts more intentionally there. I've also been starting my day "journaling" for 10 minutes, and closing it out with getting some words down toward said novel above. In July, I had a goal of 750 words a day, and while I didn't write every day, I did write some. In August, I increased it to 1000 words and joined a couple of accountability groups on Facebook. Knowing I needed to go log on and post my word count, or my progress, did give me some inspiration...

Until this week. Thursday and Friday I slept late, so no morning journaling. Thursday night I was exhausted, and last night I started working on editing some questions for a textbook company that I do as a job on the side (I decided that it did, in fact, count as writing). 

When I saw the Five Minute Friday word was accountability, I thought, "Well this is perfect." I lack self-discipline. It's one reason why it's so much easier for me to sit on the couch than to walk my 2 miles every day, even though I usually enjoy the walk once I get started. 

I don't usually do this kind of thing with my writing and I'm not sure I'll get a response but that's ok. If you enjoy what you read here, could you leave me a comment? Either here on the blog or on my Facebook page, and would you partner with me by asking me about my writing every now and again? It's greatly appreciated! 

What do you need an accountability partner for? How might I help you with that? 

Linking up for Five Minute Friday, a community that writes for five minutes on one topic and shares. I may have cheated this week because a. it's Saturday and b. I wrote for longer than five minutes. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1 Edition 6)

 School Times

This week my newsfeed on FB and Instagram is full of going back to school pictures. I have to admit it's one of my favorite times of the year on social media, because even those kids dreading going back force smiling faces for one day of the year. I'm not going to say it, referring instead to it as Harry Potter referred to him who shall  not be named, but there's a lot of trepidation and uncertainty circling this school year. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the debates so I'm not going to deliberate here. Just know that I'm praying for you and yours. Will you join me in praying for our kiddos, their teachers and administrators and coaches and bus drivers and cooks and janitors and everyone else that makes a school system go round? It takes a village, y'all. 

Speaking of individuals in the school system, this is Caleb's first year as an employee of the Breathitt County School System. He'll be helping with intervention strategies at HTS and also is going to be a bus monitor. The "kid" never rode a bus except for ballgames, but he's excited. 


Yesterday I heard this quote on a podcast, "We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don't do, and more in light of what they suffer.”― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It really resonated with me. It is far too easy to make assumptions based on a person's action (or inaction), but everything that we do is a direct result of an experience that we have had. Often, the saying 'hurt people hurt people" is so true. I encourage you to reflect on why a person may be behaving the way they are, without making assumptions, of course. Let's learn to err on the side of grace.

Speaking of kindness, in the last book I read by Karen Kingsbury she talked about her "You Were Seen" movement. You can order little cards to leave when you leave a good tip or notice something that a cashier, etc. has done. It gives them a little recognition and also gives them the message of Jesus. I love this. I've read before that Sunday after church are often the worst tip times and also when some of the rudest customers come into restaurants. Let me encourage you to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are all just trying to hang on here.. Again, err on the side of grace.

AM Routine/PM Routine

I am not a morning person, but I've been trying to set some habits to help my days go better. I've been drinking water as soon as I get up, listening to my Bible on audio, noting three things I'm thankful for, journaling for 10 minutes because I'm a writer and writers write, and stretching for 10 minutes.

Because failure to plan is planning to fail, I've started looking ahead to the next day and making out my to do list before I go to bed. I also write, again, for 10 minutes, and make a note of three things I've been grateful for that day.

I'm trying to get back into good habits at work. I've never been the most organized, but I have started taking the last few minutes of the day before I head out to straighten up my desk and make a list of what needs to be done the next day. I think I'll also start organizing any files and emails before I head out the door. 

What I've Read

I was afraid I'd have to record a zero in this category but I stayed up Sunday night until after 1 AM to finish Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. It was worth the late bedtime, but I had to take an hour long nap yesterday after work! 

Be blessed, friends. Do something special for someone this week. It doesn't have to be anything big. Just be a blessing! <3

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School: Samson (Volume 1, Edition 4)

 Today's sermon was about a very abstract concept: Hope. 

My daily Bible reading was the complete opposite- Jeremiah, not the chapter 29 that we all love to think about with the promise of hope, but rather what comes before that... the prophecy that they will be captive and in exile. 

Heavy stuff for a Sunday School story... so I decided to draw some inspiration from my Facebook friends who got me thinking about their favorite Sunday School stories. 

Today, let's talk about Samson. If you'd like to turn to your Bible, which I hope you will... and I hope the sound of those onion-thin pages take you back... 

we'll be in Judges 13-

Samson was born during a period of Israelite history known as the Judges, because God sent a series of judges to help them figure out what they were supposed to do. These weren't judges in black robes with powdered wigs sitting behind large wooden tables with a gavel in their hand. Some of them traveled and one even sat and held court under a tree. The type of court they held isn't really what we are used to, either, although they did offer guidance and help settle disputes. The moral of the story of Judges, though, is just that. There was little morality in Israel. In fact, the very last line of Judges is (my paraphrase, depending on the translation that you use, "And there was no King in Israel, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes."

Anyway, this period sets up a cycle in the history of the Israelite. As a child we wouldn't have grasped that, but it's something I can relate to, because even though I love God and do my best to serve Him, I can understand sometimes falling away. The people would do wrong. God would send a judge to help them do better. They would, for a while, and there would be peace, but then they would "do evil again in the sight of the Lord." (But, they weren't really thinking about what was evil in God's sight. They were only concerned about their own vision, remember, doing what was right in their own eyes.)

Samson is born during this time frame. His parents received a visit from an angel with the promise of a son. His mother was barren, a fate nearly worse than death, so the news was astonishing and hopeful, but also scary, as they had never seen an angel before.  The angel came first to Samson's mom, telling her not to drink strong drink and to follow all that he said, that her son would be a Nazarite from birth. She told her husband, who wasn't sure that all she said could be believed, so God again sent an angel, who relayed the same message, and disappeared in the fire as they offered a sacrifice. Did this mean they would die? 

Samson was born and he was blessed and he grew as young men do. Being the only child of a couple who were sure they were barren, and also being a promise of God, I get the feeling he was a little spoiled. When he was of marrying age, he saw a young woman who was not from his tribe, but a Philistine, the dreaded enemy of the Israelite. You remember David and Goliath? Goliath was the great Philistine? This woman was of that people... but Samson had to have her. 

Lesson number one: Listen to your parents. 

They didn't like her, but Samson was young and in lust (which we don't understand in Sunday School) so marry her he did. We are also told that he killed a lion with his bare hands, and then ate honey from the lion's carcass, which meant he was unclean. Samson was a jokester, telling a riddle relating to honey in the carcass, and we've got some drama from the young woman (just read Judges 14 for the full story). Samson makes the Philistines mad as he taunts them over not being able to solve his riddle, and we see the beginning of the unraveling of his glory. I mean, when you call your woman a heifer, it all has to go down from there... (I'm not making it up. He says, "If you had not ploughed with my heifer...")

Lesson number two: Don't call your wife a heifer. 

These events led to a strong dislike for the Philistines. Samson returned to his father's house, and his wife became somebody else's wife. Samson's anger grew, and he destroyed the fields of the Philistines, catching them afire with torches tied to fox tails. A pretty creative way to seek revenge. The Philistines fight back, and seek to fight the tribe of Judah. The leaders come to Samson and ask him what he's done. He says, "I've only done what they did to me."

Lesson number three: Follow the Golden Rule- do unto others as you would have them do unto you, not as they have done to you. 

The leaders tie him up and hand him over to the Philistines, only to have him break free and kill everyone with the jawbone of a donkey. 

Lesson number four: Be resourceful. Use what you have. 

Young, headstrong Samson became the leader of the Israelites. 

One thing we don't learn about Samson in Sunday School is that he sounds like a little bit of a womanizer. The Timmonite woman that he married, a prostitute, and then Delilah... and those are the women we know about. 

Oh, Delilah... Samson fell in love. He was smitten. She had him wrapped around her little finger. You've heard the story.... she asks him where his strength comes from, and he lies, and lies, and lies again... but she finally gets it out of him. The Philistines cut his long locks and Samson loses his power. He lies, sleeping like a baby in her lap... I can't help but wonder if she had given him something to knock him out or what because I sure don't sleep soundly enough to let someone cut my hair off. 

He wakes when they try to subdue him, trying to fight without realizing he has lost his strength, which came from the power of God. 

Lesson number five, that was far too subtle for Sunday School: Sometimes we can think we are in God's presence, with His power, and not realize we have strayed. This is sobering to me... that Samson didn't realize the Spirit had departed from him. It makes me think of times when I maybe have thought I was being led by the Spirit, only to have been following my flesh. 

Samson is captured, blinded, and made to grind grain at a millhouse. He is taken from being a leader to being a servant. 

But this, lesson number six, might be the greatest lesson of them all. Our God is a God of redemption. As Samson was humbled, grinding at the millstone in prison, his hair began to grow back. I know this is a symbol of God's power. I can't help but think that as he blindly went about his day, he was crying out to the One who could save him, who could comfort him. And God was with him. 

Samson's final act is one that is so sad to me. The Philistines brought him forward in their arena to make fun of him. "Let's let Samson entertain him." Here's this great man of God who has been stripped of everything. He asks the person who led him in to put him between two pillars. He felt God's strength one last time as he pushed against those pillars, bringing down the arena and killing everyone inside. 

As a child, I didn't understand this ending, and as an adult I still think it could have been better. Just yesterday Wallace and I watched a movie with a very abrupt ending, and today, as I'm considering Samson, I thought of how the Hollywood of my growing up would have ended with Samson being rescued from the rubble, falling in love with a chaste young woman who would prove to cure him of the heartbreak of Delilah's deception, because we like things to be tied up in fancy bows...

but that doesn't always happen. Samson's story isn't a happy ending, but we see God's redemptive plan. He doesn't give up on us. And that, my friend is a happy ending in and of itself. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1, Edition 5)

Sorry, friends, I'm short on thoughts this week. There's a meme circling the internet (or it has been for a while) that says, "This week has been exhausting, says me, on a Tuesday" and that's where I am tonight. 

New "old" job- 

Yesterday I started at HCTC, where I went to school and started my teaching career. It's home, but obviously there have been some changes in four years. I'm teaching LPN, which is new, and it's been a tad bit overwhelming trying to figure out what exactly I need to be doing... but I keep telling myself it's fine. 

"It's fine. It will all be fine." or "It's ok. Everything is ok." 

This quote has been the story of my life for the past year and a half, and even though we were stressed out this weekend I couldn't help but get a little tickled when my sister Kami said this a couple of times as we were moving her. Here are my thoughts on moving: 

It stinks. 

I'm sore. 

It stinks even more when the apartment is on the 3rd floor and there is no elevator, and the new apartment in the new city is on the 2nd floor, also with no elevator. 

My calf muscles are still on fire. 

What I Read This Week: 

Zero. Zilch. Nada. See thoughts on new job and on moving Kami. 

What I'm Listening To: 

Thank You Lord by Chris Tomlin. Go listen. There's a couple of surprise guests in there. I was listening to K-Love in my car the other day and thought, "Well that sounds just like Thomas Rhett..." so I looked it up on you-tube and sure enough... 

What I'm Needing: 

Since it's the beginning of the semester, I'd love to hear your most inspirational quote! I love quotes, and love to share them. 

Be like a sunflower- keep your face to the sun. Snapped this pic on my walk earlier this week and just thought you could use some almost mid-week cheering up, too. I love the brightness of sunflowers. May you shine just as brightly. 

Be blessed, friends! Thanks for reading! 

Monday, August 2, 2021

What I Read in July

I had a pretty good summer of reading. I'm recognizing that most likely I won't meet my yearly goal of 150 books by the end of the year, but I'll keep trying. I was happy to attend a book club meeting tonight. It's good to talk books! (Even if we talked about life, too!)

1.  C is For Corpse by Sue Grafton
This is the third of a series featuring detective Kinsie Millhone. I love mindless mysteries, especially in the summertime, and this is one of those that is a quick read, suspenseful, and with enough of a plot to keep the reader interested but not overthinking. Sometimes I like a good summer read that doesn't cause me to think much. This one involves Kinsie investigating the death of Bobby Callahan, a young man she meets at the gym. His is a tragic story, with dysfunctional family drama making life even more complicated. If you enjoy a good mystery, you'll like this series. 

2. Whitethorn Woods  by Maeve Binchy
St. Ann's Well works miracles; at least to those who believe. When a new road threatens the existence of Rossmore, Whitethorn Woods, and specifically the well, Father Flynn finds himself in the middle of the debate against progress and tradition. Through the telling of community member's interwoven stories, Binchy shares the beauty of a community with the complexity of individuals. A great read! 

3. Someone Like You by Karen Kingsbury
I have loved every Karen Kingsbury book that I have read. The Baxter family feels like... well... family. This book centers around a family secret, discovering who you are, and an emphasis that family is more than being blood related. Kingsbury takes on the topic of frozen embryos and infertility, and handles the complexity of family with grace. Written in simple prose, it's an easy read that flows well and left me wanting more. Good thing there are other Baxter books!

4. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Danny and Maeve are affluent siblings raised by a dad with rags to riches story. Their world is turned upside down when tragedy strikes, and the subsequent events follow them for the remainder of their lives. While not explicitly discussed by the author, this book made me think of how we define success. It also centers around relationships and feelings of responsibility. This is one of the better books I've read this year. 

5. The Characters of Christmas 
A Christmas book fits in July, right? I actually started this one in December as a devotional and then got sidetracked. Darling provides character analysis of people who were involved in the Christmas story: Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, even Simeon awaiting the Messiah. Retellings of the Biblical story show us how ordinary people were important to the Christmas story. Reflection questions help the reader apply the readings to their own life. 

6. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
This is one of my favorite new books. Set in Eastern Kentucky, Moyes tells the story of a pack-horse librarian who came to the mountains from England. The writing was lyrical, descriptions of the mountains made me feel right at home, and there was enough romance and suspense to keep me engrossed. Highly recommend! (I have seen some reviews that compare to the Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which I am reading now. I don't know about the similarities, but I can say that Moyes had to have done her research because I truly felt like she was in my backyard.)

7. The Island House by Nancy Thayer
I have never been to Nantucket but I love reading books set there, especially in the summer. This book centers around the Vickerey family, following them into adulthood. Courtney is a "summer child", one of several kids who calls the island house home during the summer because of a friendship with one of the Vickerey siblings. Courtney tells the family story through flashbacks, and then we are brought back to the present time, when the family must face their own struggles. This book draws the reader into thinking about relationships (sense a theme here?) but is light-hearted enough to be a good beach read. 

8. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
Giffin is another author that I enjoy. In this novel, she introduces us to two sisters who have grown up in the shadows of the death of a brother. One sister strives to be the responsible. One is known to be more flighty. Both fall into their roles momentarily, until they are forced to admit that these roles may be a facade. As the anniversary of their brother's death draws closer, and the two sisters find themselves looking inward, family drama surfaces, bringing their relationship to the breaking point. I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. There is some inappropriate language. 

9. The Goodbye Quilt by Susan Wigg
Loved this book!!! It chronicles the road trip by a mom and her 18 year old daughter who is heading off to college. The book details a quilt the mom is making from keepsakes fabric from her daughter's childhood. It may have hit a little too close to home, even though Caleb isn't actually going away from school, but it was a delightful read with an ending I didn't suspect. 

10. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
This book details the stories of two young men sent to a reform school in Florida at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Describing the lives of those housed in the reform school, it is a difficult read at times. What makes it even more difficult to read is that it is based on a real place, even though the characters are fictional, but I feel like it is an important read, because it made me think. 

11. First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies
I enjoyed this book, which gave inside glances of the women in the White House in modern times. Beginning with Jackie Kennedy and ending with Michelle Obama, with an afterword briefly introducing Melania Trump (it was written as Trump took over the Presidency), it showed the beauty and grace of those women behind our Commander in Chief. It includes quotes from letters and the author also interviewed key members of administrations and a couple of the first ladies themselves. Great read to show another side of American politics. 

What are you reading? I'd love to hear from you! 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School: A Whopper of a Fishing Story (Volume 1, Edition 3)

 Today my Bible reading was from Nahum 1, which was a warning to Ninevah.

Wait... a prophet preaching to Ninevah? 

We learned about that in Sunday School... but it wasn't a prophet named Nahum!

(Or at least I didn't remember it!)

Picture this: God wants you to do something that you don't want to do... so you run in the complete opposite direction.

Kind of sounds familiar to me... and that's just what Jonah, the prophet we may be more familiar with, does. 

Jonah knows Ninevah is evil, and he wants God's wrath to come on them, so he decided he'll hide from God and ignore his instructions. 

He hops on a boat and heads to Tarshish... which may mean "far away"... and thinks he is good to go. 

This isn't some Carnival Cruise, though, and we all know you can't hide from God, so sooner rather than later there's a storm that brews. 

If you've ever been at the ocean when a storm is brewing off the shorelines, you know the power of the wind and the waves... the angry tide crashing against the shoreline... 

even on a lake, which is normally relatively still, it doesn't take long for the wind to whip up a pretty strong current which can push a boat against the shoreline. 

So the winds are howling, the rain is pouring, and Jonah.... is snoring. 

Yes, that's right. He's sleeping as the boat is tossed to and fro. The captain comes to him and says, "Are you crazy? How can you sleep like that? We are looking at death! Get up and pray to whatever God you believe in!"

So Jonah gets up and goes above deck, where he joins in the casting of lots to determine whose fault it is that the storm has brewed. I'm reminded here about how so much of Biblical life is different. If it storms today, we don't automatically blame each other... we understand weather patterns. In fact, I can sometimes predict storms because the humidity triggers migraines... but in this case... we know it was God. 

And the lots prove that. Jonah explained that he was on the run from his responsibilities. Jonah tells them to throw him overboard, but the sailors value life too much, so they try to take things in their own hands and keep trying to row to shore. 

Does that remind anyone of anything in their own lives? Not us, grasping at the wheel, white-knuckled, just trying to keep it between the lines as all hell breaks lose around us. Nope, we've got it under control...

but the sailors soon become exhausted, so they realize they will have no choice but to throw Jonah overboard. Here's the part I never got from Sunday School. Even though they did not serve God, they prayed to Him that He wouldn't hold them accountable for being the means of death for Jonah. This tells me they respected the Hebrew God. 

So they threw Jonah overboard, and the sea became calm... the end. 


God wasn't done yet. He still needed Ninevah to hear a redemptive message, and for whatever reason, He wanted Jonah to be the one to preach it. Hear this, friend. It doesn't matter what you have done. How you have ran. God has a purpose for you. He has a plan for you. And He'll use whatever means it takes to get your attention and get you on the right road to where you are supposed to be. 

In Jonah's case, it was a gigantic fish. (Cue the Sunday School teacher with the flannel board with the gray whale bobbing in the blue sea). Swallowed Jonah right up... I wonder if it was in one gulp. 

And there he stayed for three days and three nights... that sounds familiar, too? Maybe some foreshadowing of death being defeated? 

So Jonah doesn't just lay there in the belly of the fish. He cries out to God. Can you even imagine? I'm pretty sure that, knowing my disposition, I'd be a little angry, even though I asked for it.  We can read  part of Jonah's prayer in Chapter 2, but 3 days is a long time to say just a few words. I'm thinking that there were some things Jonah had to say to God... and God had to say to Jonah... that we just don't need to know. 

At the end of the prayer, Jonah is praising God and recognizing his salvation. The fish spewed him out of his mouth onto dry land... and Jonah went on his merry way. Straight to Ninevah. Where he preached a fire and brimstone message, doom and gloom and destruction, so passionately that he convinced the king, who declared a fast and a time of repentance. God saw the city citizens turn their heart away from evil and decided not to destroy them. 

And then, chapter 4. My favorite part of the story that I never focused on when I was young, probably because my mind was trying to work around the whole logistics of living in the belly of a whale and also because a eight year old only pouts at their parents. 

Jonah gets mad. He sees the good God has done and it displeases him. "See! I knew you'd save them! That's why I didn't want to come here!" 

Not because he was afraid that when he was preaching a negative message that he'd be in danger. 

Nope, but because he KNEW God was good and KNEW Ninevah didn't deserve grace... but that grace is who God is. He was so mad he wished that he would die! 

So he went and sat and pouted, just as I probably would, because our flesh likes the thought of karma and people getting what they deserve until it is us that deserves punishment. God sent a little tree or vine to cover up his head when he got hot, and used it as an illustration of how God cares about all living things, and says, "Shouldn't I have spared Ninevah, and the residents?"

And then it ends, y'all. We don't see Jonah's response. Did he sit and stew or did he realize that we all need grace? 

What I learned in recapping this story

-You can't run from God. 

-God has a plan for each of us. He wants to use us in His story.

-Nobody deserves grace, but God is so very merciful that He longs to give it to all. 

I'd love to hear your takeaways!

"Who did, who did, who did, who did swallow Jonah?" Jonah and the Whale song - YouTube (I don't own rights to this song but I sure did sing it when I was little in the basement of the church, probably wearing a frilly polyester dress with patent leather shoes and itchy tights, dancing along and looking forward to cherry koolaid!) 

And, going back to my reading today... well, Ninevah didn't learn it's lesson, kind of like the people of Israel and also kind of like me, sometimes, so 150 or so years later Nahum is telling them the same message, and this time, the great city does see destruction... 

So let's keep looking for lessons in our lives and not make the same mistake twice (it's not a mistake if you learn something). 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1, Edition 4)

 Swing your partner- Caleb recently went to an event sponsored by the Applachian Arts Alliance in downtown Hazard and came home with plenty of tales regarding all things Appalachian... well, some things Appalachian, anyway. His description of squaredancing took me back to LBJ and the Virginia Reel and Heel Toe Polka (I think is the name of it). There is such a thing as muscle memory and even thirty years later I can close my eyes and see myself "right right right". I wanted to dance right then! 

The Olympics came a year late and I've been so excited. 

Last week I watched the Opening Ceremony and the Parade of Nations made me a little teary-eyed. Thinking of what so many in the world have gone through in the past year... what so many are going through. Some athletes exuded joy, some appeared so solemn... I thought of what it must mean to represent your country. I loved the unique costumes during the Parade, how each one symbolizes something about their country. My favorites:  Aruba (that bluish-green is just what I picture the water to look like!), Uganda's dresses on their women, the orange of the Netherlands, the flowers of Krgystan (spellling?), Haiti's patchwork dresses, Luxembourg's shiny silver coats... and it always amazes me that I forget there are so many countries! 

When I was growing up, I always imagined being an Olympian. Not because I was particularly athletic, but I loved to pretend to walk the balance beam and any motel swimming pool was an Olympic lane. One time my aunt Lisa E. took me to UK's Aquatic Center where there really was an Olympic size pool with lanes and everything and I was in awe. I guess that's why I've always loved the Olympics... but as kids we don't think of the pressure that comes with carrying your country on your shoulders. 

Today I watched as Simone Biles has been debated across social media channels for opting out of team competition. Simone's life story is one of resiliency, and she stood up in the face of sexual exploitation of a whole slew of girls... went on to form her own gym and embrace pouring confidence into younger athletes. Today, she decided enough was enough. For whatever reason, she felt she needed to step out of the competition. I found myself thinking how we all cheered on Kerri in 1996 when she landed a vault in Atlanta on a badly hurt ankle. The picture of Bela holding her as she waved to the audience went viral for that time period... but as I've sat and thought about that, I see the sadness in it, as well. Today, I'm applauding Simone for recognizing that sometimes, admitting you are weak is really the greatest strength. 

There has to be a balance between just giving up because you are afraid and recognizing when you've had enough, but this is a conversation that we need to be having, and mental health matters! 

Looking to the future- Cheerleading is an Olympic sport! Cheerleaders everywhere are cheering! 

I've been thinking a lot about cats and dogs lately. I automatically think of cats as females and dogs as males. I'm not sure why... anyone else? 

What I Read This Week

1. The Goodbye Quilt by Susan Wiggs

2. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

3. First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Bower

Speaking of books...Tonight I went to a book signing with Caleb in Hazard. The book was Twilight in Hazard. I haven't read it but will be doing so. As I sat and listened to the author interact with the audience, I was reminded of the importance of using our own voices to tell our own stories. Try to do that sometime... don't let others define you! 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School- Double Trouble (Volume 1 Edition 2)

 Today our sermon was from Genesis 25-27.... the story of Jacob and Esau. 

There are certain themes that run through God's Word. As a child, we may miss them, because our teachers focus on the stories and we can't often recognize the undercurrent... but as an adult, when thinking of application, we begin to see them emerge. 

The Bible is a love letter to each of us, yes. It's a roadmap for direction, and a source of comfort in difficult times. But recently as I have attempted to get back into a habit of reading His Word daily, I have been reminded by others that ultimately, the Bible points to God... and to Christ. It is a redemption story that allows us to come to know our Redeemer intimately. It shows us and teaches us about God, because He desires a relationship with His children, and before you can truly have a relationship, you have to know the other individual. 

I write all that to say this- one of the themes that is interwoven through Scripture is that the first will be last. What we see about God's character, what we come to know about Him, is that He loves us with no respect of person or status. 

The simple story you may  have heard as a child: 

Rebekkah is married to Isaac. Isaac is the son of promise, but that may be too complicated for you to understand, except maybe it makes you remember, "I am a promise. I am a possibility. I am a promise, with a capital P..." Rebekkah wants to have a baby. As a child, you don't understand the significance of children, that it is only through the children that women find their worth in this society... so Rebekkah is hopeless when she can't have a baby. 

Chances are, depending on when you grew up, you didn't even really get into that whole conversation, because pregnancy and babies weren't something that you talked about in polite companies. 

Anyhow, Rebekkah is going to have not one baby... but two... and they struggle in her womb. You probably didn't hear that part of the story, either... but the grown-up in me thinks this is a perfect picture of how we all act in tight spaces. Stuck somewhere with someone else that is different than you? There's going to be a struggle. 

Chances are, as a child, you probably started the story with two babies. Two twins. Not identical. In fact, as different from one another as they could be. They grow up with different interests. The older, Esau, is a hunter. The younger, Jacob, sticks to the tent. One is a Mama's boy... and it isn't the masculine hunter. 

So, one day, Esau comes in from working outside and is famished. Surely you can relate. He's not just hungry. He's HANGRY. He demands that Jacob gives him some of that red pottage like he did before, only Jacob sees his desperation and decides that he needs something from him. 

Because Esau is the firstborn, he's slated to get the birthright. The blessing. The inheritance. 

But Jacob knows Esau. He's grown up with him, and he knows his impulsive personality. He tells him he will only share his food if Esau gives him his birthright. 

For a child, you may not know what a birthright is... but your teacher may have compared it to your mom or dad's baseball card collection, only on a much grander scale. 

Esau, in his desperation, says, "I'm so hungry I'm going to die anyway, so what good will it do me?" The Bible doesn't tell us, but I'm pretty sure that Esau is a teenager, because I can hear that statement in a surly teenage voice, cracking from hormones. 

And that one decision... an impulsive one that he doesn't even consider... sets the ball in motion. This is a good time to point out that we shouldn't make impulsive decisions. We should prayerfully consider each action and avoid making a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Isaac is on his deathbed. He is preparing to give the blessing, a blessing that Esau should receive... but remember how I said that theme about the first being last? In this family lineage, the younger brother tends to get the blessing. This story involves some trickery. Isaac wants some venison. Esau goes to hunt it. Rebekkah dresses Jacob up in a goatskin (can you even imagine??) and cooks Isaac a tasty food. Isaac, who can't see, says, "It smells like Jacob, but it feels like Esau"... so he blesses him. 

In our adult application, this is a good time to point out that how we feel or what we feel can be deceiving... 

So Jacob gets the birthright through Esau's impulsive action, the blessing through his own deception, and Isaac dies. Jacob goes on the run because Esau is an angry man, and no amount of pottage is going to satisfy his anger... 

And Jacob, the deceiver, is a patriarch, a key member in the lineage of Jesus, because he goes on to become known as Israel and have 12 sons who birth a nation. 

God can take our mistakes and redeem them. 

God sees past our deceptions and uses all things for good. 

This story shows us that God's character is full of mercy, forgiveness, and redemption. 

We don't always understand that as kids, but as adults, when we mess up on the daily, we can appreciate it fully. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Five Minute Friday: Order

 It's Friday! Fri-yay!!! If you're a regular around this page, you know I'm a nursing educator, so sometimes during the summer I don't know what the day is... but I saw a meme yesterday on Facebook that made me chuckle. It said, "The closer to August it gets, the more likely I am to know what day of the week it is." 

During the semester, my theme song should be "Everybody's workin' for the weekend." This summer, though, I have really tried to be intentional about my time, and I hope to continue that once I start back to work. I don't want to be that person who wastes their life wishing for another day...

With that being said, I hope your Friday is fabulous, your weekend feels long, and you do one thing that makes you smile. 

Around here, for the past few weeks, at least, since I've dipped my toes back into the writing water, Fridays also mean Five Minute Fridays, where I link up with other writers to write on a one-word prompt. I set a timer for 5 minutes and write... without editing (except I can't help but backspace if I see a spelling error), without overthinking, and then hit publish at the end of the five minutes. This week's prompt is: ORDER. 

and... GO...

My office, if you want to call it that, is a den of chaos. I have piles upon piles of books spilling out of bookshelves. There are three tubs of things I moved out of my office from Morehead... pictures and collectibles and conference notes. There's my yoga mat and my pound sticks. Bible study books, half finished. 

As I start focusing on what I want to do in the future, with school and work and writing, I know I need a designated space, so some sort of semblance of order needs to be created. The funny thing about order and organization is that what is "in order" for one person may not be "in order" for another. 

Case in point: every time I have ever attempted to organize an office, I lose something. Not permanently lose it, but when I start needing a form or notes I've taken on something, when it's "organized" it disappears. 

Order in my office and living space often occurs in stacks. Stacks of folders. Stacks of papers. Stacks of books. 

But is is ordered chaos, because when in stacks, I generally know which pile something is in. I can put my hand on it fairly quickly, depending on where it is in the stack. 

My "order" would drive somebody else crazy, but it works for me. 

I work best when I am surrounded by what appears to be disorder... I can picture back to when I was working on my research project for my doctorate. I would be sitting in my bed with piles of paper all around me, notes and journal articles and postits... 

and then, somehow, all those would be merged into one finished product. 

With a logical, recognizable order. 

So, with organization, if you aren't a pinterest perfectionist, don't despair. Figure out  a system and go with it. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so, too, is order. 

Check out other writers and their thoughts on order here

And share... how do you "put things in order?' 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1 Edition 3)

 You are the expert on your life. This epiphany, if you want to call it that, came to me on one of my evening walks (as epiphanies often do).  Click the link to read my thoughts on gathering experts, and just deciding that you have to put in the work. 

It's Ok Not to Finish a Book-

Yes, I wrote that down. I have always been the kind of reader that feels guilty putting a book aside, but recently I was reading a book where some of the content just honestly made me uncomfortable, so I stopped it. I took it off my Goodreads list and told myself life is too short to spend it reading things that my conscious says I shouldn't... so now if only I could convince myself life is too short to read bad books. How about you? Do you finish every book you start? 

The Olympics!!! 

Y'all... I have loved the Olympics since I was little. I can remember going on vacation and pretending to be an Olympic swimmer in the larger pools, racing from one side to the other. Now I'll be the first to admit that I really know next to nothing about a lot of the events, and don't have one athletic bone in my body, but the excitement of competition makes me want to watch ALL the events. I was thrilled last week when I learned that our Peacock subscription allowed us to record the events. My favorites are gymnastics, swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, and I like the fast track and field events. None of those watching marathons for me... but I am not above acting like I know everything about every event. I especially love the opening and closing ceremonies. I'm sure I'll have some thoughts next week! 

School Supplies

I'm trying not to be too sad that summer is almost over, but one thing that I do get excited about are school supplies. I love pens and notebooks. I discovered Sharpie S-Gel pens earlier this year and if you're looking for a good ink pen, it's a safe bet. It comes in a variety of colors (I like purple), and can be fine or medium point. Highly recommend! 


Am I the only person who uses this to compare different things? Like if I'm trying to see if something is similar I'll snap a pic of the two things and put them side by side. Also, am I the only person that zooms in on stacks of books to see what other people are reading? 

Shout out to Small Businesses

Over the last year we all saw the importance of shopping local, and though I don't always do the best at it I'd like to encourage you to support your local businesses and restaurants. If you're in the Jackson area, stop by and see my friends at the Sno-zone (in the Walmart shopping center). They recently had a fundraiser for Aspire Appalachia and the cherry snocone I got hit the spot. They have a variety of flavors to choose from! 

Books I Read this Week (come back at the end of the month for full reviews)

1. The Island House by Nancy Thayer

2. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School (Volume 1, Edition 1): It's Hot In Here

Today I had Children's Church. We take turns doing one Sunday a month, and since COVID and the flood we've had one group for ages 5-18. When I say that children's church isn't my calling, I'm being honest. I struggle with relating with little ones sometimes, but I can honestly say that I learn something from them each day. 


Last night I still hadn't determined what I was going to teach about, so I turned to facebook for inspiration. So many of my friends shared their favorite Bible stories, and I thought back to my own childhood Sunday School lessons. I can still remember cherry Kool-aid in styrofoam cups, vanilla cookies on white napkins, stories told on the flannel board, and coloring sheets depicting the Red Sea and Moses in a basket. 

I recognize that not everyone was raised in church, and even those who were go through a period of reconciling their own faith. Religion vs. relationship is something that we all must come to terms with, and sometimes we find that what we were taught isn't necessarily exactly how we see things, but that's ok. I watched a Bible study today and the author said, "Before we can preach truth to ourselves, we have to know it," and that's why it is so important that we continue to study the Bible... in-depth, so we know what it says. 

With that being said, we can still learn a lot from those Bible stories that we learned growing up. As an adult, it's good to go back and revisit them, because we see things from a different perspective, with different experiences.


Today, I taught from Daniel 1 and Daniel 3, the story of The Fiery Furnace. We meet the three young Hebrew boys and their friend Daniel in the first chapter. They are captive in Babylon, a foreign land. Some commentaries that I have read said that the Babylon king brought the finest young men to serve as captive, and left others who may not have had as much potential behind. We don't know their exact ages, but they were most likely teenagers. Imagine you are taken into a strange land as a teenager. We don't know if their parents have gone with them. All we know is they are in a foreign land, at an impressionable age. 

Early in their captivity, they are faced with decisions that must be made. The King entices them with choice food. I don't know about you, but I like to eat good stuff. Daniel, who seems to be the leader of the bunch, felt convicted that the King's food wasn't what they should partake of, and "purposed in his heart..."

I don't know about you, but as a teenager, I didn't purpose much in my heart. I might have refused food, but it would have been more about fitting into a smaller size of blue jeans than making a stand. We are told that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (formerly known as Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah... their names had been changed from names focused on the One True God to names that focused on Babylonian gods) follow suit. Instead of the king being upset, they found favor in his sight. And because of their resolve, and because God is faithful, He gave them wisdom and knowledge and understanding. 

Fast forward to a period of time, and the king gets the great idea to make a huge golden statue for everyone to worship. Remember the 10 Commandments that all Hebrew kids grew up reciting? Thou shalt have no other gods... thou shalt make no graven images? Well, ol' King Neb surely hadn't heard that story. He made a decree that everyone in the land should fall down and worship the statue. Cue the music.. 

And everyone fell to their knees... except three Hebrew boys. 

Here's the thing. Those "boys" had wisdom and knowledge and understanding... so they also would have known about the King's decree that anyone who did not worship would be thrown in the fiery furnace "that very hour".


The King heard they had refused to worship, and he was outraged. After all, these had been some his chosen captives! No doubt they had even received special treatment... and then they made him look like a fool. 

He called them in. "Is it true? Did you not follow my instructions? Did you refuse to worship?" 

The KJV says, as he is questioning them, he says, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" 

One of the points I made today was that we have to be ready to answer regarding who our God is. I asked the kids who God was, and they said, "good" and "love" and I also added "faithful and just". 

The Hebrew boys stood tall in front of the King and were ready with their answer. They knew the fiery furnace was waiting, and they had to be afraid, but they were unrelenting. 

Daniel 3: 17-18, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

They basically said, "If God saves us, so be it, and if we die, so be that as well." I thought of Paul, who said, "To live is Christ, to die is gain."

So the King was outraged, and he ordered that the fiery furnace be made even hotter. They were bound by the strongest men to ensure they wouldn't be able to get loose, and they were thrown into a furnace so hot that the men who threw them in the fire were killed.

And then...

There was a fourth man in the fire. They were loose, walking around, and one like unto the Son of Man was walking with them.

Ever sat in front of a campfire for an hour or so? You come in and smell like smoke...

but these men weren't singed and they didn't even smell like smoke.

Friend, I don't know what kind of fire you are going through tonight, but I know we've all gone through some fire. You aren't there alone. You may not know what the ending is going to be, but God does, and He's there.

And you'll bring Him glory. When you stand firm, He stands with you. Ol' King Neb pulled those Hebrew boys out of the fire and immediately changed his decree, pointing that there was no other god like the Hebrew God, and declaring that all should worship Him.

Lots of lessons in just a few simple verses.

Hope you enjoyed this little retelling. What did I miss?

Also, I'm hoping to do these every Sunday, because there are so many great stories in the Bible. You can read this on your own at Bible Gateway. It's in Daniel Chapters 1 and the Fiery Furnace is in Chapter 3. You can choose a translation there, or switch back and forth like I like to.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Five Minute Friday: STRONG

 Linking up with Five Minute Friday for this post, where we free-write for five minutes on a topic, no edits, no second-guessing. This week's word is STRONG. 

And... go...

Some prompts automatically trigger words. 

Today, when I read strong... I thought, "I've got nothing."

The only thing I could think about is the verse "My grace is sufficient"... which just happens to be the name I chose for my blog several years ago. His grace is sufficient. 

The rest of that verse, and I'm paraphrasing here, says, "I'll glory in my weakness, for when I am weak ou are strong."

We are told in another verse that He is our strongtower. 

We don't have to be strong... because He is. 

However, that doesn't mean that we get a free pass. Even when we are weak, we have to rely on Him, and sometimes admitting that you need help and don't have it all together is the biggest sign of being strong. 

Most people who are strong physically aren't that way naturally... like anything, there may be some element of natural ability, but they also have to put in some work. They have to train physically. They have to do things sometimes that they don't want to. 

And that's how it is with us. Even in our weakness, we have to work to let go and let God. We have to give in and surrender, which can be incredibly hard. 

But in that, when we recognize that we aren't strong but He is, there's a peace that passes all understanding. 

Lean into that today. 

You don't have to be strong... 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1, Edition 2)

 Different Perspectives and Opinions are Okay

I recently saw a post made by an author I enjoy on her social media page. The picture was of her grand-daughter, holding a copy of Becoming by Michelle Obama, smiling, after a visit to a bookstore. 

The comments on that post made me so very sad. I am not a political person, and I obviously don't know Obama personally, but I devoured her book last summer. I even went into hesitantly because I will admit I was not the greatest fan of the Obama administration. This book is all about empowering young women. Yes, she speaks of race relations, because it is from her perspective. It would be like me trying to tell my story without referring to the mountains I love so much. 

I'm not defending the book, though. What really bothered me was that the author was attacked because her readers had different views. It saddens me to think that we live in a world where we feel like it's ok to attack somebody we've never met, just for a different opinion. If I've learned anything this last year (and I've learned a lot), it is that we often learn the most when we are uncomfortable, and usually it is from someone who has had a different experience than us. I'm not speaking solely on race here. It could be someone from a different socioeconomic background, a different generation, a different religion. As an individual who lives in an area where a lot of the people look and sound like me, I want to explore the perspectives of people who may not think like me and who may not experience life like I do. I'd like to challenge you, if you are reading this, to do the same. 

Stress in Our Kids

Mental health awareness is increasingly important. Mental health disorders occur across the lifespan, in all ethnicities, regardless of gender and socioeconomic status. Historically, a stigma made mental health taboo to talk about, and I think it is something that we must confront. It is often a difficult conversation, but one that is needed. We must learn to be vulnerable with one another. 

With that being said, I snapped this pic on vacation recently at Myrtle Beach. Mel and Caleb had stopped to look at the pop-it toys.. but the words "stress relief toys" caught my eye. I just think it's sad that we need to market stress relief toys. I hope that if you have a little one you will teach them about their emotions and model positive coping strategies, especially if you see anxiety, which is increasingly more common in our kids. And also, give grace! To them! To yourself! To the person who just cut you off in traffic!

Also... I never thought of a slinky as a stress related toy... but I must admit it is pretty relaxing to sit and watch one slink down a set of stairs...

Life Hack- Sunscreen on makeup brushes

My sister Holly shared a video of this life hack and it honestly was genius. I can remember Caleb HATING sunscreen, and I know that he isn't alone. I don't know if it is because they have to stand still, or they are just dying to get in the water, but I've never seen a kid who doesn't squirm and whine and cry as you try to rub in the sunscreen. Use the spray on and it may or may not cover as it should, or gets in their eyes. 

So this genius hack showed a Mom putting the sunscreen on a makeup brush and then using the brush to rub it in. The kid seemed a little more agreeable, but maybe just because she was on video? Anyway, may be worth a try if you have littles. 

I'll also make a statement here about sunscreen. I never used sunscreen until a couple of years ago, but when I turned 40 I knew I needed to start being smart because I'd be aging. I use Neutrogena on my face and I discovered (thanks to several recommendations on Facebook by my friends) Sunbum. I love the smell of it, and it doesn't feel gritty. I'm sharing a link from Amazon, which surprisingly has both the body sunscreen and the Neutrogena I use on my face, just as if they knew what I just typed =)

Click here to protect your skin! 

What I Read this Week

No pic of a book stack this week because one book was on my Kindle and one had to be returned to the library. Come back at the beginning of next month to get reviews on: 1. The Dutch House 2. Characters of Christmas (yes, a Christmas in July read!) 3. Giver of the Stars (I can't wait to review this one!) 

Have a blessed week, friends! Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear what's going on in your neck of the woods in the comments. What are you pondering about? What are you loving right now? And as always, what are you reading? 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Book People are my People

 Book people are my people. There's a kindred spirit with someone else who loves words. 

Words on a page, that bring meaning to our emotions and experiences. Words that unite. Words that make you think. Words that help you process. Words that transport you to another world, another culture, another place, another time. 

Just as airports are gateways to an adventure. the door of a bookstore can do that in your own community. Owning a bookstore has always been my dream job, but Wallace assured me I'd read away all the profits. 

I love my Kindle. I love being able to download ten books and have them at my fingertips at anytime. I am never alone or bored because I have my books with me. I can read in the dark and change the font. 

But it's not a book. 

There's something about a new, uncracked spine... and if you are a reader like me, a spine that shows some wear and tear. 

The feel of pages turning underneath your fingers, of peeking ahead to see how many pages you have left, of holding the heaviness of a book and feeling the sustenance it gives to the soul. 

Book people understand...

the thrill of unread stacks of books. 

Zooming in on a pic of a book stack on social media to see if there's anything you haven't read... or a book that you particularly love. 

The anticipation when you walk in a bookstore and see those shelves of unopened books... a world of possibility at your fingertips. 

There's something intimate about a bookstore, as well, as your selections often bare your soul to those around you. Your title choice, the topic about which you are learning, the hurt you're looking to drown, the curiosity related to something new, the need to escape...

it can all be found by a book. 

Now I love Half-Price books. I love Barnes and Noble. 

But there's something about a bookstore that has your roots. 

Today, I talked local books with Mandy at Read Spotted Newts and I think I've found a little piece of home. 

I'll still be on my Kindle and still be visiting the library that I've rediscovered, but you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be treating myself to some special titles from her store. She's got a good selection of local authors, which is one of the things I'm loving right now- exploring Ky through the words of her people. 

As Anne Bogel, one of my favorite podcasters, always quotes on her podcast (originally quote attributed to Rainer Rilke), "Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading."

Check out Read Spotted Newt on Facebook or Instagram or stop by in person if you're in Hazard! 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Five MInute Friday: Summer

 I'll admit I cheated on this one. I actually typed this up for an Instagram caption on July 5th, as I was reflecting on what summer meant to me, and figured since that was the topic for the week, it'd be fine for me to share it again, here. This is a little longer because what I originally wrote was too long for a caption (I've been typing up captions in word and then copy/pasting so that I can fully collect my thoughts. And also I have fat fingers and blind eyes so I can't see typing on my phone the best...) 

This actually did only take me about five minutes to type up as I was formulating it in my head the whole trip home from Buckhorn. Sharing now with the Five Minute Friday linkup.

There is something about the 5th of July that signifies the beginning of the end. I’m not sure why, exactly, except we’ve anticipated the celebration of the 4th and we usually take our vacation in June. Walmart starts putting school supplies out, and suddenly my mind is thinking of all of the organization I didn’t do and how I’m still overweight and still sleeping in every morning.

Summer means different things to different people. It’s my favorite time of the year, even though I don’t like the humidity and the bugs… but I know that others anticipate fall, winter, and spring just as much. To me, summer is a season of slowing down. As a daughter of a school teacher (even one who coached cheerleading and therefore worked most of the summer), we slept in and made trips to the city pool and the library and stopped for Cherry Coke at the Dairy Bar. I can still feel the uneven concrete, bright blue, under my feet as I waded up from the kiddy end of the pool.  Days at home were a mixture of reading and laundry and lounging outside listening to mix tapes.

Summer means the lake, too… on Sunday mornings I would sometimes slide out the back door after children’s church and make my way down the road to climb in my Uncle Mike’s truck. He’d haul Jen and I to Cave Run, where we would sometimes swim and tube and sometimes sit and watch him fish and complain (because I never was a fisherman).

There is no better taste than bologna when you are dripping wet, swim suit stuck to you like crazy glue, wild hair dripping down your back, or sticky popsicles running down your fingers in the dog days.

Today, on what I usually imagine as the beginning of the end, we took the boat to the lake for the first time this summer. Caleb has been working full time, and the days are shorter than they used to be, as seems to happen when you get older. The water felt fine, a clear green; the sky was perfectly overcast. No tubing for us, just a few hours swimming (or floating, really), and then a run up and down the lake to dry off… And as I sat in the back of that boat, sweet Mel Belle next to me and Caleb in the front, I snapped a picture in my mind of their laughter, their smiles… sweet summer time… because it won’t last long.

Hope you’re enjoying your summer, friends! What does it mean to you?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits Volume 1 Edition 1 Whatever 1 (It's the First. It May be the Last).

 "Your life is your last week."- Brian Dixon, Hope*writers

This quote was on an episode of a podcast I listened  and it really made me think. The podcast was about using Instagram to increase your platform if you're a writer (did you know I was a writer? Well... I'm not published but I'm striving to be a writer so I'm listening to and reading all the things about writing). I can remember when Caleb was younger and he would delete all of his Instagram posts every few days because it wasn't his "aesthetic". Apparently, that's a real thing. (Not deleting your posts. Having an aesthetic, a certain look to your Instagram). 

Anyhow, Dixon was talking about how if you wanted to know what was important to anyone who posts on Instagram in a snapshot of time, you can look back at their last nine pictures. We post about what we care about, so if you only post a pic a day to Instagram, your top nine pictures (which usually show up on the screen when you access through your phone) tell your followers what is important to you. Obviously, we don't all live on Instagram... or we shouldn't... and we also know that we post through the filter of trying to make ourselves look better, but... 

In using that as an analogy for life, what we do in the past week makes up our life... because each week builds upon the next. On thinking about that quote, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Is this a reflection of my life? A TRUE reflection of what I'd like my priorities to be? Did I spend my time the way I wanted? If not, how can I change that?"

This summer I've been trying to establish a routine. I'm doing some freelance work with a textbook company, so I don't really have the summer completely off, plus I'm finishing up a Pathophysiology class (prayers, please! I have a final tomorrow!). I figure a routine will help ensure I get done what needs to get done, while still giving me plenty of time to read, write, float in the pool, spend time with family, and other things that I really do want to be my priorities for self-care. 

Challenge: Look at your schedule/planner/Instagram feed and see if it reflects what you want to be a priority. If not, what do you need to remove or add? 

Quote I read on a post on Facebook- not sure of the source- "Imagine how dark the sky would be if there was only one star"

I've seen a lot of talk recently about comparison and encouraging each other. I'm a cheerleader at heart, so I want to be your biggest cheerleader! It's important that we spur one another along. It's even Biblical... there's a verse in Ecclesiastes about two being better than one so that if one falls there is somebody to help them up. I thought this quote was a beautiful example of that.  Too often we feel that if somebody is doing somhething, it may negate what we are doing, but that is so far from the truth.  We need each other... each one of us unique! 

Just to Make You Smile

Let me preface this by saying that I am not an animal lover. 

This cute, adorable face is Ellie. She causes me to have a crick in my neck most mornings because she likes to sleep on my head She also likes to read my Kindle when I reading in the dark. She wakes up at 1 AM and wants to play with her toys and is afraid of thunderstorms. It's like having a baby in the house again... but gosh how I love this dog. 

What I Read This Week

Come back at the beginning of August to get my reviews. 

The beginning of August... school supplies. Syllabi. Actual work clothes....

Oh my!