Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What I Read In February

Not as much as I read in January to be sure!

February was a slow reading month for me for several reasons:
  1. We are halfway through our current Bible study, Experiencing God.  That takes some evening reading time away from me to complete the daily homework and prepare for class.  But y'all, I am loving it!  Though it wasn't planned this way, I am leading three beautiful ladies through the weekly discussion and it has been so RICH!  Last time I went through this material I sensed the Lord calling me into Women's ministry so I am eager to see where He is leading now.
  2. Meagan and Derrick are still staying with us.  Their house should be finished today and they plan to move this weekend.  In the meantime, we spend much more time gathered around the dinner table talking in the evenings and giving 'goodnight' hugs and kisses.  It has been a sweet time for Jim and I...and it has given us the opportunity to really get to know our little people on another level.  We will miss them when they are gone.
So, what have I read this month besides my Experiencing God: Units 1-7?

I finished Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk on February 2.  I updated January's page with my final thoughts on that one.  Lillian was not a woman to easily fit in anyone's mold, not even her own.

It took me a few days but I finally picked my next book from my TBR shelf.

A Gentleman In Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles

Imagine living in a luxury hotel.  Makes you smile, right?  I can just imagine living in the Warwick on 54th and 6th in New York City in the 1920's.  The Warwick is my all-time favorite hotel because of it's history and the architecture is timeless.

Now imagine being told that you will can never leave said luxury hotel or you will face a firing squad.  All of the sudden the beauty and grandeur can seem small and insignificant as compared with the rest of the world.  This is the world where we meet Count Alexander Rostov, just as he is receiving his sentence and finding that he is further being moved from his grand suites at the hotel to the abandoned servants quarters of long ago.

From Amazon:
Chosen as a best book of the year by NPR, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The same gorgeous, layered richness that marked Towles’ debut, Rules of Civility, shapes [A Gentleman in Moscow]” –Entertainment Weekly

“’The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘Eloise’ meets all the Bond villains.” –TheSkimm

“Irresistible. . .[an] elegant period piece. . .as lavishly filigreed as a Faberge egg.”
 –O, the Oprah Magazine

He can’t leave his hotel. You won’t want to.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

“And the intrigue! … [A Gentleman in Moscow] is laced with sparkling threads (they will tie up) and tokens (they will matter): special keys, secret compartments, gold coins, vials of coveted liquid, old-fashioned pistols, duels and scars, hidden assignations (discreet and smoky), stolen passports, a ruby necklace, mysterious letters on elegant hotel stationery… a luscious stage set, backdrop for a downright Casablanca-like drama.” –The San Francisco Chronicle

I had to put this one to the side about halfway through in order to read our next Book Club pick:

Romantic Times Book Reviews - “Another stellar novel from Martin. His fabulous gift for characterization is evident on each page. Layers of the story are peeled back to show the spiritual truth underneath the gripping plot. This is a reimagining of the prodigal son story from the Bible, and the reader's faith can't help but be enriched and encouraged after completing the book. Cooper is an intricate character with an amazing story to tell, and the supporting cast is just as important to provide additional depth and understanding. This novel should be on everyone's must-purchase list.”

“No matter where you go, no matter whether you succeed or fail, stand or fall, no gone is too far gone. You can always come home.”

At the age of eighteen, musician and songwriter Cooper O’Connor took everything his father held dear and drove 1,200 miles from home to Nashville, his life riding on a six-string guitar and the bold wager that he had talent. But his wager soon proved foolish.

Five years after losing everything, he falls in love with Daley Cross, an angelic voice in need of a song. But just as he realizes his love for Daley, Cooper faces a tragedy that threatens his life as well as his career. With nowhere else to go, he returns home to the remote Colorado mountains, searching for answers about his father and his faith.

When Daley shows up on his street corner twenty years later, he wonders if it’s too late to tell her the truth about his past—and if he is ready to face it himself.

A radical retelling of the prodigal son story, Long Way Gone takes us from tent revivals to the Ryman Auditorium to the tender relationship between a broken man and the father who never stopped calling him home.

Charles Martin wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Chasing Fireflies.  When I saw that he had a new novel coming out, I suggested it for our February Book Club.  It is a modern retelling of the prodigal son with a twist.  It is beautifully told by starting with 'the present', flashing back to the history and how Cooper and Daley ended up here, then picks up their stories again.  Very well done.  Beautiful prose that transports you vividly right into the story.  This one had so many layers that I felt I could relate to all of the characters in some way or another. 

My two favorite quotes from this one:

I used to think the same thing. Thought that by keeping it to myself, I was protecting you.  Truth is –“ He shook his head and spat again.  “The truth is the only thing that doesn’t hurt.  The truth is a giant hand.  It both cuts us free and holds us tight.

Said more simply: I wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it, the way I wanted it, because I wanted it.  Period.

That last one really resonated with me because I know that I have thought that many, many times in my life.
We had a great discussion and even better visit. 
I think this weekend I'll get back to my Gentleman in Moscow.  I'll update here when I finish!
What have you been reading lately?  Anything I just NEED to add to my TBR?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Totally Random Musings

It's been over a week since I logged on to share.  We've been fighting illnesses again.  I was down last week, finally feeling a little better by Sunday evening.  But then Jim started feeling bad on Sunday afternoon.  He's still home with a low grade fever and just overall tired feeling.  If you think of him in the next few days, please say a little prayer for his healing.  He has been running on fumes for months and I think it has all just caught up with him.

I was wondering what to post today, even whether to post today, and then I remembered a 'note' I started on my phone last week of just random quotes and things that piqued my interest.  I thought I would share some of those here in this space.

We were talking around the dinner table last weekend about shopping at Big Box Stores and which were our favorites.  We were specifically talking about our preferences for Lowe's or Home Depot.  Jim and I both prefer Lowe's.  Derrick and Josh both looked at us baffled and said they preferred Home Depot.  On Monday I saw an online article titled "When Do You Outgrow IKEA?"  On a whim, I clicked over to read it.  One reason is that Jim and I just replaced our Ikea bedroom (purchased in 2007) with a 'real bed' from Rooms To Go.  In that article they reported the peak customer age for several Big Box Stores including Home Depot (age 48) and Lowe's (age 54).  Now we know why they prefer the one we stay out of if at all possible!    It was an interesting read, and I found that Jim and I should have bought our bedroom suit from Ashley Furniture (age 54) instead of Rooms to Go (age 47).  Wait, I'm not 54 yet so we are still good!  [By the way, we were way past the IKEA age of 24 when we purchased our last bedroom set -- but I attribute it to the fact that we were also buying three other beds for the kids rooms.]

Kelli, Matt, Bri, Josh and their families came over last Friday to celebrate the February birthdays.  This birthday boy turned 8 the next day.
Maddux enjoying the last bite of his mostly melted by then ice cream cake! Silly boy!
Kelli brought Meagan a delicious 'no added sugar' strawberry cheesecake.  Yum. 

I heard an interesting little 'blurb' on the Happier podcast (#103) last week that perked up my ears and made me think.  Mostly because I am highly susceptible to this in my own life.  They were answering a question from a listener who wanted to know how to avoid the pang she feels when she is around babies or pregnant women while she is battling fertility issues.  One of them referred to the 'compare and despair cycle.'  This struck a chord with me as I realized that so often my comparing myself to others really does lead me to despair.  Yes, I sometimes compare to feel better about myself (not proud of that admission, just keeping it real) but 85% of the time it is a comparison that I am going to lose.  There are always people who are better at things than I am.  I especially struggle with women who are thinner than I am, who are better educated, who are better at keeping a home/decorating/making meals than I am, or who never seem to struggle with keeping balance in their lives like I do.  Compare & despair are certainly a cycle with me.  Now that it's been named, I need the Lord to do some healing in this area. 

I was catching up on podcasts last week and came across this quote from Revive Our Hearts dated January 25.  Karen Loritts shared this while talking about forgiveness among girlfriends.  "Forgiveness takes one, reconciliation takes two."  I often have people ask me how they can forgive and let others back into their lives after some real hurts.  This was such a succinct way of remembering that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.  We are commanded to forgive.  Believe me, I've struggled with this often in my life but the truth is that Jesus commands it (Luke 17, Mark 11 and others).  And yes, 'as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.' (Romans 12:18)  But sometimes it doesn't just depend on us.  We can forgive, but the reconciliation doesn't always come.

In light of a New Members Class that I'm involved in, I saw a short poem on Pinterest that led me to investigate whether or not it is true that a group of alligators is called a congregation.  It was!  I find it kind of funny in light of that class which we will repeat once a quarter.  I may use this for our opening session in April as an icebreaker.  "A congregation of alligators - a congregation refers to a group of alligators, where the smaller alligators are compliant to the biggest, most dominant alligator."  That just makes me smile a little bit.

And finally, just a sweet reminder from another Revive Our Hearts podcast:
We, as women, need heart connections. 
I need you.  I enjoy hearing from you.  I am thankful for your friendships.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings today!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

An Unexpected Gift

I had a surprise when I walked into my office this morning. A white nondescript plastic mailer addressed to me. I wasn't expecting anything from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, so I had no idea what it might be. Imagine my surprise to open it and find this.
A gift copy of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth's new book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together

From the book jacket:
The Titus 2 model of older women living out the gospel and training younger women to do the same is vital.  It's how we all thrive, how we are adorned, and how we adorn the gospel...together. 

Imagine older women investing themselves in the lives of younger women, blessing whole families and churches.  Imagine younger women widening their circle to include women who've walked further down the road.  Imagine women of all ages and seasons being transformed by the gospel, displaying its beauty, and making it believable to those around them. 

This rich study of the instructions to women in Titus 2 provides a roadmap to help you experience the kind of community and influence God designed you to have in the church and the world. 

This is my heart's cry...the passion that the Lord has stirred in me for years and is even now stirring anew as He lays younger and younger women on my heart.  As the back cover says so beautifully:

Woman To Woman.
Older And Younger.
Side By Side.
Life On Life.
This is God's good and beautiful plan.

I can hardly wait to start reading!

Monday, February 6, 2017

What's Making Me Happy Right Now?

1. Tyler Candle Company's Fine Laundry Detergent for my linens.

Seriously, this stuff smells amazing.  I purchased a sampler package from Tyler Candle that included a small candle, a car freshener and a very small bottle of this 'Glamorous Wash".  One day on a whim I used it to wash the sofa throws.  What a difference it made.  Now I use it on my sheets and towels too.  I love crawling into bed and catching that waft of pleasantness that you only get the first day or two after using regular detergent.

2. Cozy Dearform Slippers

In January, I was rushing to make it to our annual Popcorn and Pajamas Movie Night with the ladies at church.  I wasn't going to make it home to change into my pajamas, so I ran by the store and picked up a pair.  I decided to grab some slippers to complete the ensemble and I love them.  I have Dearform lightweight ones that I usually wear all year long...but on our few cold evenings in 2017, these have felt so snuggly and warm that I think I'll keep them out until the temps get above 90 again.  LOL!

3. 'Not-a-meal-plan' meal planning.

Three weeks ago I desperately needed to make a grocery store run.  We were out of everything after all the holiday festivities and the large meals that came with them.  I also knew that I could make a big shopping run but then I wouldn't know what to cook.  So, I pinned a few recipes in Pinterest, added the items needed to my list and made a makeshift plan that could easily be adapted to cover last minute guests or to allow for a quick throw together when you've had a hard day at work.  I cooked three nights in the first week.  That's a record for me lately!  When I get stuck I can look on this list, pull up a pin and within an hour (usually less), voila, we have dinner!  It's working for me right now.

4. Discipleship small group.

I joined a 4 woman small group back in November.  It is a one year commitment to work through the 25 lesson Discipleship Essentials curriculum.  The lady who organized the group is a friend of mine, I had participated in a previous study with one of the other ladies but didn't really know her, and the youngest lady in our group I could only refer to as an acquaintance when we began.  This has been a pure delight as I get to know these women on a deeper and more intimate level than just attending church would allow us to do.  It's a twice a month commitment that gets me up and out of the house earlier than my normal.  It challenges me to share beyond what I normally would in a larger group.  And, even though much of what we are covering I have been exposed to for years, it is challenging me to rethink the importance of the basics of Scripture.  I've really never understood the 'small group' appeal, as I was already in a smaller Bible study and attending Sunday School.  But this is different.  Always the same four people, always focusing on what we are doing with the truths revealed, and an opportunity to truly do life (the good-the bad-the ugly) with one another.

5. Book Club!!!

I've always wanted to be in a book club.  I would be so jealous listening to others talk about their gatherings.  I talked about how it all started with a holiday gathering here.  After our first meeting, we decided to do it again in January and now we have a book picked out for February too!  I'm loving it and last week when we met Meagan decided to join us.  That is just the whipped cream on top!

6. Goodnight kisses from the grands.

Meagan, Derrick and the kiddoes are staying with us for a couple of weeks as they renovate their house.  It's a change for Jim and I but we decided to just enjoy the snuggles and goodnight kisses while we could because we already know that 'the days are long but the years are short!'

7.  'This Is Us' on NBC.

I'm not a big television watcher.  Don't get me wrong.  If I sit down in front of it, it can be hours later before I get up again.  BUT I don't intentionally sit down to watch much television other than for the purpose of spending time with Jim. (Who told me last week, "I prefer my books on television." He cracks me up, y'all!) We accidentally stumbled upon this series during the 4th episode after hearing a little bit of buzz about it the week before.  Y'all, we were HOOKED! Thankfully, we were given the opportunity to catch up on what we had missed between the episodes still on the Prime Time DVR recordings and repeats over Christmas hiatus. This show is done so well.  I love the characters, I love the ensemble cast, I love the storylines, I love the mystery of what happened to Jack and when, but most of all I love the hope of a family that doesn't have it all together, but who still loves one another, warts and all.  I don't remember being so in love with a new series since the beginning of Game of Thrones...which I can no longer watch even though I loved so many of the characters and storylines. I'm looking forward to so much about this show.