August 28, 2009

Back-to-School Fiction

I haven't been able to read as much lately as I'd like, but I have read a couple of fun books lately:

(from the publisher)- Even in a sleepy, southern town like Sweetgum , Tennessee , love isn’t easy. The Knit Lit ladies learn they can find strength and guidance in the novels they read, the love of their family, their community–and especially in each other.

I enjoyed this book. It was a light, fun read. I generally adore books about reading, and I want to learn to it was right up my alley. I may even go back to read the first book in this series.

Rose House (La Rosaleda Series #2) by Tina Ann Forkner:

(from the publisher) - A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting, and one woman’s search for hope. Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms. She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.

This was certainly not a light read. Lillian's pain is real and deep. I enjoy reading a romance surrounded by a little mystery, and Rose House was a good combination. (This is totally random, but for some strange reason I kept picturing Truman as Stanley Tucci.)

Because I haven't been able to read much lately, I haven't made it to this one yet...but it does look like fun.

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper by Kathleen Y’Barbo:

(from the publisher) - The future is clearly mapped out for New York socialite Eugenia “Gennie” Cooper, but she secretly longs to slip into the boots of her favorite dime-novel heroine and experience just one adventure before settling down. When the opportunity arises, Gennie jumps at the chance to experience the Wild West, but her plans go awry when she is drawn into the lives of silver baron Daniel Beck and his daughter and finds herself caring for them more than is prudent–especially as she’s supposed to go back to New York and marry another man. As Gennie adapts to the rough-and-tumble world of 1880s, she must decide whether her future lies with the enigmatic Daniel Beck or back home with the life planned for her since birth. The question is whether Daniel’s past–and disgruntled miners bent on revenge–will take that choice away from her.

Happy reading!

August 27, 2009

Hard Things

In fourth grade, I talked my parents into letting me take piano lessons. Two of my older cousins played beautifully, and I wanted to be like them. My parents rented a piano and found me a teacher. They even bought me a nifty book by Liberace that color-coded the keys (anyone else remember that one?). I was all set to achieve musical greatness.

Then I learned that to play well, I'd have to practice.

It was too much, too hard. Less than two years after I started lessons (and just a few months after my parents broke down and bought the piano), I quit. I didn't like the effort involved. It was easier to walk away than continue with something that didn't come easily.

It was the first of many times.

Now (much) older and (not so much) wiser, I realize that quitting is for...well, quitters. I don't want CJ to be a quitter. I want her to learn that life is full of hard things, that hard things aren't always bad things, and that the satisfaction of looking a hard thing in the eye and not flinching is priceless.

It's a tough battle, friends. But one that I can't quit. Because this time, quitting means I'd be teaching my girl to take the easy way out. She deserves more than that.

More to come...

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again - Proverbs 24:16 (NASB)

August 25, 2009

What's on My Nightstand

There's some good reading coming up in the Breath of Life household!

Currently Reading:

~Feeling For Bones. A novel about a teenage girl struggling with anorexia that's both insightful and alarming.

~A Young Woman's Guide to Making Right Choices: Your Life God's Way with CJ. She's starting middle school in two weeks. We need this!

What's in Store:

~The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for the 5 Minutes for Books Bookclub. I get the privilege of hosting this one, and I cannot wait. I love, LOVE, L.O.V.E. this book!

~William Henry is a Fine Name

~I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires

~First Things First: The Rules of Being a Warner because the real football season starts in just a couple of weeks. Even though Kurt Warner doesn't play for my beloved Steelers, I respect and admire him. I'm itching to get into this one!

What about you? What are you reading these days? Click over to 5 Minutes for Books and let us know what's on your nightstand.

August 24, 2009

What Lies Beneath

Thanks to my wonderful (not to mention handsome!) man, I can now open my bathroom door without having to fight back the urge to burst into tears. I can't see the ground anymore! Let me tell you, particle board has never looked so beautiful!

A subfloor is something we take for granted...or at least I did. It's just there, hidden under the surface of the pretty tile, carpet or hardwood. We don't think about it or its purpose. We don't notice it.

Unless a shower leak causes you to rip out the laminate flooring in your bathroom.

When the demolition contractor showed me the pictures of our bathroom after all the fixtures and the flooring were removed, I couldn't believe my eyes. Black mildew covered the subfloor. The boards (which were eventually pulled up and thrown into the dumpster in my front yard) were warped and disgusting. I'm not exaggerating when I say I nearly got sick at the sight of it. I think if I'd actually been in the room to see it, I would have.

For months, there was only a thin decorative surface between my family and this toxic fungus.

Honestly, the same thing happens when I'm not growing in the Lord. A couple of days with no prayer or Bible study seems harmless enough at the time, but can soon result in an unloving, impatient attitude. I snap at people. I don't keep my word. I don't reach out to others. I gossip. I wallow. I judge.

All while wearing my church face.

The laminate flooring hid the problem, but all three of us dealt with the effects of the destruction going on in our home. Especially CJ, who suffered her worst allergy season yet. (No wonder every time I took her off the medication she got sick again! She's been much better since we got that mess out of our house.) And as pretty as the flooring was, it couldn't protect us from the damage being done to the very structure of our home.

No matter how much I try to look like a faithful and godly woman, the decorative facade won't protect those around me when my heart isn't right with the Lord. The church face might look good, but it's only as solid as what lies beneath.

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. - 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)

August 18, 2009

Tuesday Thoughts

Thoughts jostling around in my head lately:

~I need to speak less and say more.

~If my pre-teen years were anything like CJ's have been so far, I owe my parents a HUGE, GINORMOUS apology.

~Perfectionism, may be adorable in me (ahem). In my daughter? Not so much.

~I'm ready for football season.

~Ditto for cooler weather.

~Weekends away are fun, but weekends at home are a gift from God.

~I don't thank my man enough for all he does for us.

~Discipline isn't always painful. It is always good.

~How much longer til the bathroom's finished?

~What needs to stay, and what needs to go (at home and in my heart)?

~Why did I let menu planning slide? It makes life so much easier!

~Am I spending and investing well (time, money, gifts, relationships)?

~Will we survive middle school?

~What does God want from me right

I'm certainly pre-occupied these days! What's going through your mind?

August 17, 2009


In case you missed it, my first post for our church blog.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime invitation...the opportunity to actually participate in a parajump training on a Peruvian military base. Never, in my wildest imagination, did I expect that a small town gal like me would have a chance to do something like this.

I am a roller-coaster fanatic. Front row. In the dark. Bring it on. Still, my excitement was tempered with a little bit of nervousness at the prospect of bungee jumping from a 5-story tower and depending on the zip-line to catch me and take me to safety. I waited my turn for the soldier to help me gear up for the jump. My stomach was all jittery. As it turned out, I was to be in the last group. I watched my friends jump. I waited patiently.

Climbing to the top of the tower, I started to wonder about my decision. Was I really going to do this? Really? What had I been thinking? With each step, a new wave of doubt crashed over me. Then I got to the top. It was too late to back out.

I stood at the edge of the tower, ready to face the unknown. Encouraged by close friends beside me and many more on the ground below, I yelled my name (as we were instructed to do) and jumped. The free-fall was a rush unlike any I've experienced. I was flying. Floating through the air with no boundaries. Three stories later, the zip line caught me with a jerk and I slowly made my way back to earth.

It was over.

For an entire year, I planned my trip to Peru. I prayed about it, cried about it, looked forward to it, and prepared for it. I was anxious, nervous, excited, apprehensive, giddy, and just plain scared. As it got closer, doubt started creeping in. Then, encouraged by those around me, I jumped out on that limb and took the ride of my life.

After seeing God do such amazing things and finding myself so totally dependent on Him, my feet are back on the ground. The reality of work, laundry, parenting, bills and, oh yeah, a completely gutted bathroom, have set in.

It's over.

For the past six weeks, I've been at a a fog, I guess. Caught between giving everything that makes up my life the proper perspective and realizing that so many things I thought mattered just don't. And, in the midst of all that figuring, being out of sorts with God for bringing me back to earth. Because, truly, will anything I do from here on out be as monumental?

And yet I know, deep down, that it can be. That God has even bigger works for me to be a part of. In my own church, community, and home. Different, yes, but just as valuable. Because in His Kingdom, it's all important.

Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
~Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)

August 14, 2009

Back to School Giveaway

As you know, I love to read. I also love free books. (Who doesn't, right?) Now's your chance to win free books and some other nifty "Mom" on the button and go over to the 5 Minutes for Books Back to School Giveaway!

August 13, 2009

The Friends We Keep/40 Minute Bible Studies Blog Tour

During a particularly painful time in her life, Sarah Zacharias Davis learned how delightful–and wounding–women can be in friendship. She saw how some friendships end badly, others die slow deaths, and how a chance acquaintance can become that enduring friend you need.

The Friends We Keep is Sarah’s thoughtful account of her own story and the stories of other women about navigating friendship. Her revealing discoveries tackle the questions every woman asks:

• Why do we long so for women friends?
• Do we need friends like we need air or food or water?
• What causes cattiness, competition, and co-dependency in too many friendships?
• Why do some friendships last forever and others only a season?
• How do I foster friendship?
• When is it time to let a friend go, and how do I do so?

With heartfelt, intelligent writing, Sarah explores these questions and more with personal stories, cultural references and history, faith, and grace. In the process, she delivers wisdom for navigating the challenges, mysteries, and delights of friendship: why we need friendships with other women, what it means to be safe in relationship, and how to embrace what a friend has to offer, whether meager or generous.


The 40 Minute Bible Study series from beloved Bible teacher Kay Arthur and the teaching staff of Precept Ministries tackles important issues in brief, easy-to-grasp lessons you can use personally or for small-group discussion. Each book in the series includes six 40-minute studies designed to draw you into God’s Word through basic inductive Bible study. There are 16 titles in the series, with topics ranging from fasting and forgiveness to prayer and worship. With no homework required, everyone in the group can work through the lesson together at the same time. Let these respected Bible teachers lead you in a study that will transform your thinking—and your life.

Titles Include:

•The Essentials of Effective Prayer
•Being a Disciple: Counting the Cost
•Building a Marriage That Really Works
•Discovering What the Future Holds
•Forgiveness: Breaking the Power of the Past
•Having a Real Relationship with God
•How Do You Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk?
•Living a Life of Real Worship
•How to Make Choices You Won’t Regret
•Living Victoriously in Difficult Times
•Money & Possessions: The Quest for Contentment
•Rising to the Call of Leadership
•How Do You Know God’s Your Father?
•Key Principles of Biblical Fasting
•A Man’s Strategy for Conquering Temptation
•What Does the Bible Say About Sex?

Visit Random House for more info.

August 12, 2009

A New Venture

I've recently mentioned a new ministry opportunity, but I haven't been able to give more information. Now I can.

It's a church blog, and you can read my first post here.

This has come as a surprise. We don't have all the details worked out, but I'm genuinely excited about sharing my journey of faith with my church family.

August 11, 2009

Womanly Dominion: Introduction

Recently I learned that the Girltalk gang had chosen Womanly Dominion: more than a gentle and quiet spirit for the latest book club selection. This post by Carolyn Mahaney piqued my interest, so I ordered the book.

We're starting with the Introduction and Chapter 1 this week.

I've read many Christian books on being a godly woman. Most tell us that we need to be little more than doormats for the men in our lives. The submissive wife is seen as meek and weak. Author Mark Chanski disagrees:

He insists that the Bible teaches a woman to take dominion of her God-assigned role as wife, mother, and church helper. No, not in a feminist way, but in a God-glorifying way that speaks volumes about who she is and why God created her. (back cover).
As Chanski points out, Scripture encourages women to be strong and dignified (see Proverbs 31:25). Yet clearly we are do exercise those traits within the boundaries of our God-given roles as women. Chanski uses his mantra for his girls' soccer team, "Play your postition!" and "Win it!"

Play your position means just that - stick to your assignment. God has certain expectations for me as a woman, wife, mother, daughter and sister. I am not to try and fill my husband's shoes or usurp his roles. Likewise, I don't need to concern myself with what God has for other people to do. I am to focus on what He wants for me, and stay in that position. Am I the only woman who has trouble in this area?

Godly women, made in the image of God, must repeatedly remind themselves, "Play your postiion!" They must loyally resolve to stay at their God-assigned posts, to the glory of God, despite the shouts from the misguided cultural sidelines.(pp. 22-23)
Win it is Chanski's code for going after it (whatever it may be) full throttle. Play to win. Don't sit back and be a doormat. Put forth the effort to actually accomplish what you set out to do. Stake your claim for Christ, and don't give in. We are to run the race to win the prize (see 1 Corinthians 9:24). We can't do that if we don't have a win it attitude.

Interested in finding out more? You can click here to read the Girltalk post, and here to order the book. There's still time to join us, so come on!

August 6, 2009

Around the House: August

In the middle of:

~One of the crazier weeks of my life. Spent one evening in the children's hospital an hour away visiting our niece who has meningitis and my best friend's 3-month old daughter who's got a terribly high fever. The rest have been filled with Vacation Bible School. It's been good, but exhausting.

~The demolition that just doesn't seem to be moving as fast as I want it to! After the tear-out, we found more damage than we originally expected. I'm grateful that R has the gifts to handle it.

Looking forward to:

~A long weekend at the beach with friends we don't see nearly enough.

~Getting off the treadmill for a while. Summer has not been as quiet as I had hoped. The next couple of weeks should offer a short-lived reprieve before school starts.

~Putting some organization back in my life. This demolition has given me the motivation to finally tackle some home projects that we've been avoiding. PLUS the amount of things I had to take to my attic when we hurriedly emptied the closet made me realize that I need to do a LOT more purging!

~How beautiful my new bathroom's going to look. We've decided to make some changes to the layout and put in a new type of flooring and shower.

~The Girl Talk Bookclub

~Teaching the Sr. High Girls' Sunday School class come September.

~Getting back into the choir. CJ is old enough to sit by herself now, so I'm joining R in the choir again.

~A new ministry opportunity that I can't share about quite yet (but I promise, I will!)


~Vacation Bible School. Even though it's tiring, we have some amazing youth and it's my privilege to be on the teaching team for them.

~Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream.

~Some much-needed quality time with my man lately.


~To get back in the blogging groove sometime

~That middle school will be better than I expect it to be

~To finish the Seeking Him study soon

August 4, 2009

Classics Bookclub: Rebecca

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

And so Rebecca begins. I'm not sure how I, a voracious reader, ever missed reading this classic. Now that I have, I'm so pleased that it was the selection for the latest Classics Bookclub at 5 Minutes for Books.

Classics Bookclub

My friend Lisa challenged us with many thoughtful discussion questions (this book is one of her favorites, after all!). I'll tackle a few.

Why do you think the heroine remains nameless? (did you notice she was never referred to by name?) Don’t you find it interesting that the novel is titled “Rebecca” yet our narrator is nameless? Why the contrast, do you think? Do you see her anonymity as indicative of some deeper meaning?
I have to say, it bothered me that we never learn the name of our heroine/narrator. I really don't like not knowing something. Still, I think the novel is aptly titled, since both the current Mrs. DeWinter and Maxim are haunted by Rebecca's memory (though for very different reasons). Our heroine is living within the confines of Rebecca's shadow, and so it suits that we are never told her name.

Rebecca has one of the more famous opening lines in literature. How do the opening lines set the tone of the novel?
From the opening line, I was hooked. Why does she want to return to Manderley? Why can't she return? I kept asking myself those questions through most of the novel. The answers weren't what I expected, which is the mark of a great story. I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that I feel that one of the tragedies of Rebecca is that just as our heroine is in a position to claim Manderley, this place that she has grown to love, as her own...she cannot.

I would be remiss if I wrote about this book without mentioning the creepy Mrs. Danvers. Every scene with her made my skin crawl, and kept my eyes glued to the pages long after they should've been closed for the night.

Have you read Rebecca? If not, I highly recommend it. Even if you have, it's worth another look.

You can read what everyone else is saying about this classic over at 5 Minutes for Books.

August 3, 2009

Have I Really Forgotten?

I've been back from Peru for one month. When I left, I swore I'd never forget the people, the miracles, the full and complete reliance on God. I vowed to carry it with me always.

One measly month later, it's gone. And that makes me incredibly sad.

If I truly remembered, I wouldn't be so upset at walking into my bathroom and seeing just floor joists and duct work. I'd think about how others live, and count my blessings.

If I truly remembered, I wouldn't be so overwhelmed by the laundry. I'd think about the modern conveniences I have, and count my blessings all over again.

If I truly remembered, I wouldn't dread cooking dinner for my family. I'd think about the ladies in the soup kitchens who volunteer to provide meals for their neighbors, and I'd be counting my blessings one more time.

If I truly remembered, I wouldn't grouse about the appearance of my home.

Or our school systems.

Or going to Wal-Mart.

Instead, I'd be thanking the Lord for Lucy, who asked if I could bring her home with me. This beautiful woman is knit to my heart.

And Luis, who wanted everyone in the States to see the Bibles we were distributing.

And these girls, with their contagious enthusiasm and giggles.

And this precious girl, who pleaded with me to take her picture.

I'd think about the honor of becoming a sister in flight - and in Christ- with members of the Peruvian Special Forces.

I'd praise Him for the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, which I'd never seen before.

And I'd be praying that He calls me back to this place and the people who have left an indelible mark on my life.

I've come to accept that I'll never be able to articulate my trip. I've struggled with sharing, not just on the blog but also with friends and family. I've realized that mere words would cheapen His work. So, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, That's all I have to say about that.