Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weeks Forty-Five and Forty-Six

I managed to not post a week in review last week.  Not sure what happened other than life. :-)  The last two weeks have been a bit crazy.  Between work and house stuff and packing, I've been up to my eyeballs in other stuff to do and the blog got the short end.  Since this coming week is Thanksgiving and next week is scheduled to be moving week, weekly blog posts may take a brief hiatus.  BUT, that means when I do come back, I'll have pictures of my new house to share.  Yippee!!!

In all the craziness, I'm still managing to enjoy my job - I'm working on several different projects so each day is different and there's always new stuff to learn.  I can really see that what we do matters to families in ATL and throughout Georgia.  I'm thankful God brought me to Children's.

Spiritually, I've moved through all four gospels and into Acts and Paul's letters.  What struck me so poignantly over the last few weeks is how God will accomplish His mission regardless of who tries to intervene and prevent His Word from spreading.  Acts is full of this theme.  Leaders were constantly trying to stop the spread of the gospel and the work of early Christians.  But, God moved pretty amazing ways - earthquakes, blindings, miraculous healing - you name it, God did it.  I think it's a great reminder for us in today's climate.  The post-election worry by Christians saddened me - if we know God is sovereign, we shouldn't be worrying.  Of course, we should be champions for biblical causes and fight against injustice but worry shouldn't move in.  Hopefully as time goes on, people will calm down and go back to focusing on what really matters - building relationships with people and sharing the gospel.

Okay, headed to the couch to chill for the rest of the evening.  I've been packing this afternoon so I'm ready to relax.  More next week (maybe)...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Week Forty-Four in Review

This was a crazy week.  I think I made up for all my calm weeks with this one.  We had our annual training conference on Monday and Tuesday.  I wasn't in charge (one of my employees was) but as the boss, you still want everything to work smoothly.  Fortunately, I have a great team and they pulled off the conference wonderfully well.  I've heard nothing but compliments and that thrills my heart as a boss.  This is still a new role for me so figuring out when/how to help and when to step back is tougher than it looks.  Another reason I'm thankful for CHOA and their investment in managers.  I can learn from others how to best manage in these situations.

I've begun the packing process - started with the easy stuff like CD's and DVD's and will move on to the more complicated/heavy stuff next.  Mom nicely volunteered to help me a little tomorrow while she's in ATL for a conference on Monday.  I'm trying to parcel it out a little at a time to avoid getting too overwhelmed or frustrated.  But, moving day will be here before I know it so I've got to keep plugging along.  Speaking of moving, I still have no more details about closing dates.  Hopefully now that we're inside 30 days, I'll hear something soon.  If I haven't heard anything by next Friday, I'm calling to inquire.  I am a planner and need to make plans - especially for movers, days off, etc.

Spiritually I've been in the gospels all week and focusing on the later portion of Jesus' ministry.  Most of the week was reading parables and it made me think about how Jesus communicated with His disciples and how they had to learn directly from Him since the parables often needed further explanation.  It reminded me how important it is for me to spend time in Scripture - learning from the source instead of depending on a book, pastor, or some other source.  I love how God's Word continues to come alive!

So this week will be election week.  I am so looking forward to the campaign being OVER!  I am so tired of the rhetoric, lies, and wasted money.  I am hopeful the voters of this country are smart enough to make a change but I'm not counting on it.  Regardless, I know God is sovereign over the situation no matter who wins.

I think that's all for this week.  I'm off to continue the relaxation this Saturday has blessed me with.  More next week...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Week Forty-Three in Review

So we're another week down.  This was another pretty calm week though work is picking up in intensity.  I'm definitely not complaining, I love the job, but we've entered into a project that we don't have a lot of control over so navigating the "politics" involved is interesting.  I am thankful most every day though that God put me in this position.  We are doing good work that is important to the overall health and well-being of children in GA.  I feel like I'm using my passions and professional skills to the best of my ability.  It's such a great place to be!

I've really started the sorting/cleaning/purging process that precedes packing.  I've gotten three bags of stuff together to donate and am attempting to really thin out my "stuff."  If I haven't used it or it doesn't have a sentimental story, it's going.  I'm hoping to really streamline before the move since I'm losing a bit of storage.  As far as I know, I am still on schedule to close on November 30th and hope to move December 1st.  Since there's construction involved, there's no guarantee closing will happen on time but I'm praying hard it does!

This has been a neat week spiritually.  Last Sunday, we had an event at church to get people connected to City Groups (our version of local discipleship).  I went to meet the people that are in my new City Group.  Changing City Groups has been my one "concern" in this whole move.  I've been in the same group since the beginning and hate the thought of moving away from them.  BUT, it turns out I know several of the couples in my new group and really like them.  I think it will be really neat to do life with these people.  Then today, I went to a brunch for people interested in serving with Renovation's Mercy and Justice ministry.  It was so neat to be in a room of people who are passionate about meeting needs in Atlanta AND sharing the gospel while meeting needs.  If we don't provide the gospel while meeting needs, we're no better than any other humanitarian group.  I can't wait to see how God is going to use this team to change this city!  So thankful He put me at Renovation!

I guess that's all for now.  I'm headed to the couch to watch the rest of GA/FL.  More next week...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week Forty-Two in Review

Can anyone else believe there are only 10 weeks left in 2012?  Where did the year go - it seems like just yesterday was New Year's Day and now Target has Christmas ads on TV.  Seriously, can we at least wait until November 1st before being inundated with the crazy, consumer-driven Christmas commercials.  I'm finding more and more reasons to appreciate my DVR. :-)

This post will be super-short because this week was quite boring and I didn't have anything "pop" out at me while reading Scripture this week.  I was reminded how much I love my Renovation family and my city groups.  I just love getting together with those folks both on Sundays and during the week.  It just nourishes my soul so much.

I did try two Pinterest recipes yesterday.  One was quite successful and a keeper and the other was a giant waste of time.  I didn't waste any food, the cauliflower is just mashed, not turned into pancakes.  I'm becoming quite domesticated and am actually making dishes where the main ingredient isn't sugar.  Who knew cooking could be so simple?! :-)

I think that's about all for the week.  I still have two book reviews to post and I hope to get that done tomorrow at some point.  Might be lunch hour activity.  I'm beginning the packing process so who knows what the coming weeks will bring.  More next week...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weeks Forty and Forty-One in Review

So somehow I managed to miss blogging last weekend.  Probably because I was out of town and just plain exhausted when I got home Sunday.  By the time I remembered, it was Tuesday or Wednesday and I said the heck with it. :-)  Both weeks were good weeks - found out this past Tuesday that I've cleared underwriting (Praise the Lord!) and we are set for closing.  Now the waiting and packing begins.  I'm so thankful for how smoothly this entire process has gone.

Sarah and I took a meandering trip through North Georgia last weekend.  We went up to the apple orchard we normally go to and we took the "back way" up and then meandered through other back roads to reach the outlet mall so we could run in one store.  On our way back to her house, we decided to go to the state park up there to check out the waterfall.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip.  I think it was more fun because it was outside our personalities.  We're both planners so to just randomly drive, off the interstate no less, was a nice change.  We both commented how much we enjoyed it.

This weekend she and I went to Macon to celebrate my mom's birthday.  I love being with my family and this weekend was no exception.  I'm so thankful to have family members that enjoy being with each other.  It makes going home such an enjoyable event.  Probably won't happen again for me until Thanksgiving so I enjoyed the weekend even more.

Spiritually these last two weeks have been spent in the New Testament, early in Christ's ministry.  Last week I was struck by how important it is to really know Scripture because Satan and the demons do. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, Satan was twisting Scripture to tempt Jesus.  It just struck me that if we don't know Scripture and have it imprinted on our hearts, we can easily go off course when temptation calls.  This week was totally different - I saw something new in the story of the woman at the well.  I've long been familiar with the story of how Jesus saw right through her and confronted her about her sinful behavior.  What I noticed this time was what happened after the encounter.  Scripture says she went and told everyone about her encounter and her tale prompted them to have their own encounter with Jesus.  How many lives were saved because she was excited about what happened to her and shared Jesus with others?  That got me thinking about whether or not I'm still excited about what Jesus did for me (and is still doing) and how often I share it.  It was definitely something I've been mulling over and will probably be mulling over for quite some time.

I guess that's about all I have for now.  Life is pretty calm around here and I'm liking that.  I do have two book reviews written, I just have to get them posted.  More to come next week...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Week Thirty-Nine in Review

So this week was a little different than most...I ended the week by putting an offer on a townhouse.  I'm still a little shell-shocked by how fast this has happened.  I had a meeting two-and-a-half weeks ago with my financial guy to update my retirement since I've changed jobs.  While we were talking, he encouraged me to look into qualifying for a mortgage.  I assumed my student loan debt was too high but he thought I could.  So, I followed his advice and am so glad I did.  Within a week, I'd looked online at over 50 places and narrowed my search.  On Monday of this week, I went with an agent and looked at three places.  My first choice turned out to be a bust - it needed way too much work.  But, my second choice turned out to be perfect.  It's about eight miles from where my new office will be, in a gated community, and best of all, is being completely renovated inside.  It will have new paint, appliances, floors, windows, water heater, HVAC, duct work, and carpet.  I'm pre-qualified for a mortgage and hope to clear underwriting by the end of this coming week.  Barring any strangeness, I should close the end of November.  Pictures won't come until it's officially "mine.'

Other than the house, the week was routine.  I'm still loving almost everything about my job.  I still have a few things I'm having to figure out and it's harder to do that in a large organization.  But, there are so many benefits to working for CHOA, the few little issues are easy to address.  I'm so thankful God has put me in this place.  I'm blessed beyond measure.

Spiritually this week, I've been focused on the renewal of the covenant between God and the Nation of Israel.  Reading passages in Ezra and Nehemiah remind me of the importance of relying on God in any circumstance.  While they were ready to immediately begin rebuilding the temple, God's directions required them to build the walls around the city first.  The plan may not have made sense on the surface but God's goal was to protect His children from danger.  He knew what they needed.  It's always interesting to read through Scripture and find new points of emphasis.  This year God has shown me elements of His sovereignty throughout my readings.  I've seen it in so many ways not recognized in previous readings through the Bible.  I'm so thankful Scripture continues to come alive in so many ways.

I guess that's all for now.  I have one more book review to get posted - hopefully early this week though I make no promises. :-)  Will keep you updated on the house.  More next week...

Nothing to Hide - A Book Review

From the Back:  The victim's head is missing, but what intrigues Detective Roland March is the hand.  The pointing finger must be a clue - but to what?  According to the FBI, the dead man was an undercover asset tracking the flow of illegal arms to the Mexican cartels.  To protect the operation, they want March to play along with the cover story.  With a little digging, though, he discovers the Feds are lying.  And they're not the only ones.  In an upside-down world of paranoia and conspiracy, March finds himself dogged by injury and haunted by a tragic failure.  Forced to take justice into his own hands, his twisting investigation leads him into the very heart of darkness, leaving March with nothing to lose - and Nothing to Hide.

Synopsis:  Roland March is a detective in Houston who's been assigned a strange case.  A headless victim whose body has been posed after death is an intriguing murder victim.  March begins investigating and discovers an undercurrent with the case.  His past dealings with the CIA appear to have some impact on this new case but why?  How do Mexican drug cartels and a paranoid veteran play into this mystery?  March's hunt eventually leads to a violent confrontation south of the border.

My Review:  Bertrand is a new author for me and one I'm thrilled to have found.  This is the third Roland March mystery and I'm planning to hunt for the first two.  March is an intriguing character.  He loves being a cop and isn't afraid to fight his superiors to solve a case.  There's a sense of justice that comes through in how March responds to the case he's fighting.  This book is a tight, fast-paced thriller.  I love political/crime thrillers and this one was quite enjoyable.  It was a quality story written without the foul language so common in today's fiction.  The plot moves quickly but not so fast you find yourself lost.  Bertrand has created a complex character you can easily relate to.  March has his flaws but you find yourself rooting for him to be successful in fighting his demons.  If you like crime novels, you'll find this one quite enjoyable.

Score:  4.0 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Bethany House Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week Thirty-Eight in Review

Wow, another week gone by.  I can't believe we are so far into 2012.  It seems like just yesterday we were talking about plans for the year and now planning for 2013 has begun in earnest.  This has been another week in what is becoming my new normal - work and then home.  I have to say I am settling into that routine quite nicely.  I didn't realize how tiring travel could be but having a set schedule is a blessing.  Work is busy but it's pretty consistent and there are always new challenges so I'm definitely not bored.

I've prayerfully decided to start looking for a house (well townhouse really) to purchase.  I was thinking that it wasn't possible because of my significant student loan debt.  But, when I met with my financial planner (wow, that's a grown-up statement!), he told me it was definitely doable and recommended I see if I could get pre-approved.  Well, lo and behold, I had mortgage companies falling over themselves to run the numbers and actually pre-qualified and got pre-approved.  So, I reached out to an agent friends had recently used and started the process.  I'm looking at places for the first time tomorrow.  I'm kind of nervous about it because I had a bad horrific time the last time I owned a home.  So horrific it ended up with lawyers, depositions and lots and lots of tears.  I have NO desire to relive that experience.  But, I'm in a fortunate place that I don't have to move right now; I have no real ending date on my lease.  I just feel like it might be a prudent move and want to take advantage of inexpensive real estate prices and low interest rates (yet another grown-up statement).  God is in control so we will see what He has in store.

I've been reading in Ezra this week and was just in awe of the sovereignty of God.  The temple was in the process of being rebuilt and of course the enemies of the Israelites were trying to thwart that at every turn.  Edicts were issued and people ran to King Darius to try and stop things.  What blew me away was that not only did Darius allow for the rebuilding after he found it in the chronicles, he insisted that the money come from the royal treasury.  Not only did they get permission, they got payment too.  Talk about a sovereign God!  It just amazes me how God can take Scriptures written thousands of years ago and still make them applicable to our lives today.  Not so much about building temples but seeing that if God wants something in our lives, it's going to happen no matter the worldly interference.

I guess that's really all I have to say this week.  I do have two book reviews that I need to post.  Hopefully I can knock that out either Monday or Tuesday.  More next week...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Week Thirty-Seven in Review

Another week down and this was a not-so-boring week.  I spent Tuesday dealing with car issues.  I was so thrilled to be ready early and had psyched myself up for the travel up to Scottish Rite. Since this is an hour-long, frustrating trip through ATL traffic, psyching up is needed. :-)  I head out to my car, turn the key and nothing happens.  Oh the radio came on, the air came on, but the engine was having none of it.  I went back inside and called my daddy.  Of course that was my first thought - daddy could fix anything, right?  Since he was over 80 miles away, all he could do was give advice.  I followed it and called roadside assistance.  They sent a wonderful tow truck driver who jumped my car and I headed to the Ford dealership nearest to me.  One battery change later and I discovered I needed new brakes.  I was down to 3% of brake life and critical is 2%.  I see the battery dying as a blessing in disguise.  I could have easily lost my breaks and ended up in a crash and either hurt or killed someone else or myself.  While my plans for this week didn't include spending over $350 on car repairs, I'm thankful I found it before doing extreme damage and that God had provided the money for me to be able to pay cash.

Fortunately the rest of the week was fairly uneventful.  I'm still really enjoying my job and continue to see that although the need for our office is horrible and no child should have to see us, we are necessary and people value the work we do.  Being appreciated makes the work so much easier to endure.  I'm continuing to figure out what my role is and how to be the best manager I can be.  So, so thankful God has placed me here.

I spent part of yesterday volunteering at Garden of Eatin', the taste of Decatur event that serves as a fundraiser for Decatur Cooperative Ministries.  I volunteer with DCM through my church and was thrilled to be able to volunteer for Garden of Eatin'.  It was so fun - lots of yummy food, fun items in the silent auction along with games and live music.  Don't know how much money ended up being raised but based on the crowds, it must have been pretty good.

Spiritually, I've been thinking a lot about wisdom and knowledge this week.  My reading has been in Daniel and early in the book (1:4), Daniel and his friends are described as "skillful in wisdom" and "endowed with knowledge."  That got me thinking about the importance of both wisdom AND knowledge.  It can be easy to develop spiritual knowledge but that doesn't always lead to wisdom.  It is so easy to gain head knowledge but never apply it to my heart and have wisdom in dealing with situations.  Daniel and his friends had both and both were crucial to surviving captivity under both Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar.  Sanctification is such a journey and I'm thankful God continues to guide me in developing wisdom.  I pray I never lose sight of its importance.

I just posted a book review - one of the best I've read this year - and have one more to post.  I'm praying for another quiet week where I can get one more posted.  Incidentally, I don't think I hit 500 pages, probably closer to 250.  Oh well, at least I got those 250 in.  More next week...

Full Disclosure - A Book Review

Synopsis:  Full Disclosure is a combination of police procedural and love story.  It tells the story of Ann Silver and Paul Falcon.  Ann is the Midwest Homicide Investigator and Paul is a Chicago FBI agent.  Ann comes to Paul with a case that ends up breaking one of his cold cases wide open.  Ann is a mysterious figure who Paul decides he must get to know better.  He and Ann begin to build a long distance relationship via video chat.  As Paul begins to earnestly work the case Ann delivered him and discovers Ann is mixed up in the background of the case.  This only furthers Paul's desire to get to know Ann better.  The case gets more complex as the novel proceeds and Ann and Paul's relationship follows the same pattern.  Ann resists developing a deeper relationship and the more Ann resists, the more Paul continues his pursuit.  The book climaxes in a way that you will never see coming.

My Review:  This is one of the best books I've read this year if not the best.  Circle the October 2, 2012 release date on your calendar and GO GET THIS BOOK.  You won't be disappointed.  This is a wonderfully complex story with lots of twists and turns and wonderfully complex characters.  I loved both Ann Silver and Paul Falcon.  Both characters were so intricately developed - Henderson obviously took great care to create characters who her readers would come to love.  This book has a great mixture of police procedural, political intrigue, and romance but all the story lines intermingle easily.  There are references to characters from previous Henderson novels but the mentions don't take away from the current novel.  I love books with complex plots and this one is no different.  Just when I thought I had the book figured out, another twist popped up.  It made me want to keep reading.  But, I liked it so much I actually put off finishing the novel because I didn't want it to end.  Trust me, this is a book worth getting your hands on as soon as it comes out!

Score:  5 bookmarks out of 5

Bethany House Publishers gave me a free advanced reader copy in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Week Thirty-Six in Review

So, I didn't get a post done this weekend.  I was otherwise occupied on Saturday and just too dadgum lazy yesterday after worship to do it.  So, it got pushed to Monday.  Week 36 was quite similar to the last several.  I'm settling in to a nice routine at work and really enjoying what I do.  It's obvious people appreciate the work we do and it's important for Georgia's children.  That makes getting up and coming to work each day a pleasure.  It's also nice to work for an organization that values its employees and wants to make us better in our roles.  I'm in a seven-month management course and our first real class was Friday.  The entire focus of the class was making sure your managing style matches where your employee is with a particular project - avoiding over-managing or under-managing.  It was great to hear from other new managers on the struggles they are facing - I know I'm not alone in the "what have I gotten myself into" thoughts that creep in on occasion.  So thankful for the opportunities - these are classes that would cost hundreds if not thousands in the outside world.

Sarah and I had a wonderful time at The King and I on Saturday evening.  We began the evening with wonderful traditional, authentic Mexican food at Escorpion down near the Fox.  It wasn't your typical tacos, enchiladas and grease special.  These were small taco plates that were amazing combinations of meats and spices.  I had one that was a beef concoction that was simply amazing and one that was grilled fish.  It was a bit spicy for my taste but still really, really good.  We both enjoyed the performance at the Fox though people need to learn you stay seated after the show has begun (you don't NEED popcorn and coke) and you stay through the curtain calls.  It's RUDE to leave the show while the audience is still showing its appreciation to the actors on stage.  Traffic's not going anywhere, stay in your seats!  Okay, rant over. :-)

I've been thinking a lot this week about contentment.  It's funny how God brings you thoughts in bunches.  Contentment was what yesterday's sermon was on too.  I say I'm content with my life but what does that really, REALLY mean?  I do find times (probably more often than I even realize) when I compare my life to someone else's.  I'm not as pretty as they are, why am I not married/don't have kids, why don't I have a house, etc.  The list is endless quite honestly.  My pastor yesterday brought it home by highlighting the fact that being discontent and comparing yourself to someone else means you don't trust the sovereignty of God.  Whoa, talk about a perspective change!  I've been chewing on that comment now for almost 24 hours and still am not 100% sure how to fully apply it to my life.  Definitely food for thought.

In other news, I finished one of the best fiction books I've read in a long time, Dee Henderson's newest, Full Disclosure.  I think I put off finishing it because I didn't want it to end.  It's that good.  Look for the review in the next day or two.  I'm reminded when I come across good books how much I love to read.  I've had a library card since I was two and I wear mine out each year.  It's such a joy to lose yourself in a book. Sadly, not everyone can read or read with any proficiency.  My friend Brooke over at iblog4books listed these statistics as part of Literacy Week:
  • Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write.
  • One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.
  • 43% of adults at Level 1 literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5
  • 3 out of 4 food stamp recipients perform in the lowest 2 literacy levels
  • 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts
  • 16 to 19 year old girls at the poverty level and below, with below average skills, are 6 times more likely to have out-of-wedlock children than their reading counterparts.
  • Low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs. A recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher. 
Celebrate Literacy Week by picking up a book.  I know I plan to!  I'm not as ambitious as Brooke and her 1,000 page goal but I plan to aim for 500.

Two book reviews to come and more next week!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Week Thirty-Five in Review

I've about decided I like boring work weeks.  I feel more relaxed and am more productive when there is no outside travel or drama complicating things.  I got told again this week that I look so relaxed - it's amazing what job security and no drama will do for someone. :-)  I am thrilled beyond words that God has placed me where He has.  I'm able to use my public health knowledge and in turn, use my "work knowledge" to educate my circle of influence.

I also had an orientation to a management essentials program that CHOA provides for new managers.  It's a really neat program full of information designed to help me be a better manager.  Management at CHOA has based the program on current, top-notch leadership programs from the business world but has tweaked it for use in the health care setting.  The program is a huge asset to me and I'm looking forward to the next seven months.  Lots to learn but lots of great information that will help me be a better manager.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my weekend this weekend and have one more day to enjoy!  I am reading a great new book from Dee Henderson (review to come).  It's probably one of the best I've read this year and one of the top five from the last several years.  Can't wait to review it for people.

Spiritually this week I've been in Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel.  I started doing something my mom mentioned in passing once while we were talking.  I've made notes in my Bible every time I've seen God mention the remnant.  It's so obvious all over Jeremiah and Ezekiel - God was punishing the nation of Israel but He had a plan to save His covenant people.  It's a beautiful picture of His love for His people.  Even in the face of extreme disobedience, He had a plan to save.  And then He promises something as beautiful as Ezekiel 11:19-20 "And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them.  And they shall be my people, and I will be their God."  What a beautiful picture of how God treats us in salvation - He gives us a new heart!  Just like the Israelites, God has a plan for us and promises that He will be our God.  What a promise to rest in.

I think I'm signing off now - I have a book to read.  I'm putting off the consulting work I need to do until tomorrow.  I have a whole day to fill and no plans so reading is the plan for tonight.  More next week.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Call of a Coward - A Book Review

From the Back:  Moses never wanted to be a leader.  Jonah ran away from his missions call.  And when Marcia Moston's husband came home with a call to foreign missions, she was sure God had the wrong number.  His call conflicted with her own dreams, demanded credentials she didn't have, and required courage she couldn't seem to find. She promised to follow where God led, but she never thought the road would lead to a Mayan village on a Guatemalan mountainside.  From the treacherous road trip to their new village home, to learn to navigate a new culture, to a stateside mission field in Vermont, Moston's journey reveals that God leads just as clearly today as he did in biblical times.  Her candid account tells a story of learning to trust and obey when faithfulness seems foolish.

Synopsis:  The book opens with Marcia, her husband Bob and daughter Lily waking up in a motel in Mexico waiting to cross the border into Guatemala.  Marcia and Bob Moston had become convinced God called them to serve in Guatemala.  The book chronicles the ups and downs of their time in Guatemala.  Moston intersperses stories from their time with questions she asked God.  The couple gave up a comfortable life in the states to move into another context that was filled with unique challenges.  From corrupt governments, villager distrust, to primitive living conditions, Moston details it all. 

My Review:  This was an odd little book to me.  I didn't expect that it would chronicle only one year.  I admit I was a bit perplexed at the beginning - there wasn't a lot of overt talk about ministry or the gospel.  But, I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.  About midway through, the book almost "morphed' and became a beautiful story of God working in Moston's life as much or more so than He was working in the village.  I really began to feel Moston's love for the community she was serving.  This isn't your typical missionary book - the Mostons didn't move to Guatemala never to return.  They were only there a short time but it was a powerful time in their lives.  What this book does show is that God uses the obedient - often in ways that are unexpected.  The Mostons gave themselves over to God's call and never looked back.  I loved the storytelling style of the book.  In parts, I felt like I was having coffee with the author.  I just wish I'd had more back story (pre-Guatemala) and more details about their life in Vermont after returning from Guatemala.

Score:  4 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Thomas Nelson Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week Thirty-Four in Review

This is going to be a short week in review because I'm tired and don't have that much to share.  I started the week in Washington, DC for a meeting with my old job.  I had two bumpy flights but was proud of myself for flying without medication.  For those of you who know me, that's a BIG step for me.  I haven't flown without some sort of prescription relaxant in years.  I decided to just make the jump and I'm thankful I did - I had a really, really bumpy flight home on Tuesday but prevailed and came out stronger.  Yay me! :-)

I did find an amazing tapas place in DC and supposedly the chef/owner shares his recipes online.  I certainly hope so because the carrot dish I had was simply amazing.  And that's an understatement.  I'm not a huge cooked carrot fan (love, love, love raw) but these were simply a divine take on carrots.  If there was a carrot version of manna in the wilderness in OT times, this was it. Hope to find his recipe online soon and will try to replicate it.

Other than the quick trip to DC, the week was fairly boring.  I went to work, came home, went to bed, repeated the process.  I do have to say, I like the boring aspects.  There is a lot of work to do so I'm not "bored" at work - there's just no drama and for that I am immensely thankful.  I enjoy what I do and I'm beginning to feel like I know what I'm doing and can speak with some authority as to situations that come up during the course of a day.  It is hard to know the ins and outs of what my clinic treats on a daily basis but there is a need for our services and I'm glad God has put me there.

I guess that's really all for the week - I don't have much insight into what God showed me this week - I finished Jeremiah but don't have any thoughts I haven't already expounded on.  Maybe next week will be more profound. :-)

Until next week...

Love in Disguise - A Book Review

From the Back:  Jobless and down to her last dime, Ellie Moore hears about a position with the Pinkerton Detective Agency and believes it's the perfect chance to put her acting skills and costumes to use.  Reluctantly, the agency agrees to give her one assignment, one chance to prove herself.  Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie travels to Arizona to begin her investigation.  When the need arises, she also transforms into the dazzling Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk.  Mine owner Steven Pierce is going to lose his business if he can't figure out who's stealing his silver shipments.  In his wildest dreams, he never expected to receive help from a gray-haired widow...or to fall in love with her beautiful niece.  Then the thieves come after Lavinia and Jessie.  Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays!  Should she give up and reveal her true identity?  What will Steven do when he realizes the woman he's falling in love with doesn't really exist?

Synopsis:  Ellie Moore is an actress wannabe and a personal assistant until her boss fires her and heads to Europe.  Frustrated, Ellie happens to overhear a need for a female detective to work for the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  Using her unique skill set, Ellie convinces the agency to give her the job in Arizona.  Initially, Ellie is partnered with another female agent but that falls through before Ellie even boards the train.  By the time she arrives in Arizona, Ellie is playing two roles, the older Lavinia Stewart and the young, beautiful Jessie Monroe.  Her task is to blend in around town and discover who is responsible for stealing silver from the town silver mines.  Ellie introduces herself to the town (and the mine owners) as Lavinia and introduces Jessie a few weeks later.  She easily begins to build a relationship with various people from the town as both Lavinia and Jessie.  She also begins to collect information about the silver thefts.  It's enough information to lead the thieves to threaten Lavinia.  What Ellie doesn't expect is to fall in love with one of the owners.  Can the relationship survive Ellie's multiple personalities?

My Review:  I'm not overly familiar with Carol Cox's work but this was a good introduction.  I liked the spunk in Ellie's character - she saw a potential solution to her problems and acted on it.  She wasn't willing to take no for an answer.  The story itself moved along at a nice pace.  There is mystery, suspense and romance all wrapped into a nice, neat little story.  I will say that the story is a bit far-fetched but doesn't go so far as to be annoying.  This is a quick, fun read that has enjoyable characters (both good characters and "bad guys") and a good plot.  I'll definitely be checking out more of Cox's work.

Score:  3.5 bookmarks out of 5.

Bethany House Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Week Thirty-Three in Review

Another week down and I can't believe it.  I think this year is flying by.  Of course, since I love fall and winter, I'm happy about that!  I can't wait until the weather is cool - I just love the cool temperatures and of course, having college football doesn't hurt either.

This has been a relatively calm week - just work and then home.  I am settling in to the new job, I've been there now five full weeks, three on my own.  I have handled a few issues that have popped up and feel pretty knowledgeable about my position.  It's neat to be a manager, I've quickly grown to have a "mama bear" mentality about the two women who I supervise.  They are both younger than I am so that plays a role but I really want to see them succeed both at work and in their personal lives.  I'm so thankful God has placed me where He has.

I've spent the week reading in Jeremiah and I'm just so amazed at God's love for His people.  He repeatedly tried to protect them from destruction and they repeatedly ignored Him.  BUT, even though they had turned their backs on Him, He hadn't turned His back.  He set up ways to protect the remnant of His people.  It lead to me to think about how blessed I am that He calls me His child.  Regardless of how I behave or fail, He won't turn His back on me.  I think that is one of the most important parts of the gospel we can share with people.  Once we have experienced salvation, we are His.  There's nothing we do to deserve it and nothing we can do to lose it.  That is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions on earth.  And that's what we should be sharing with other people.  My prayer continues to be that God will provide me opportunities to share with people.

This week is slated to be a bit crazy.  I leave tomorrow for my second favorite city in the US, Washington, DC.  I'm there for the last meeting of the project I used to coordinate.  It's a fast trip, I'll be back on Tuesday so there's no time for site-seeing. :-(  I do realize though that I am happy to be in a job where there isn't a lot of travel.  This is my only planned trip out of town other than to visit my parents. After that, I've got three days in the office to cram in five days of work.  But, it's a job I love for an organization I am growing to love.

Of to write some reviews on post two reviews on here sometime this week.  I've got at least one more to come soon - I'm about halfway through the book now.  More next week...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Week Thirty-Two in Review

This has been a wonderful week.  I have finished my fourth week at CHOA and my first week on my own as the supervisor.  And, so far, so good.  I've had a few issues come up and I've been able to address them either on my own or by going to the appropriate person for help.  Since my boss is now out on maternity leave until November, it was great to meet her boss this week.  I don't think I've ever been on a job where I've been so warmly welcomed by people.  It was also reaffirmed this week that CHOA is a wonderful place to work and it is the place for me.  I learned about the work/life benefits CHOA offers and they are significant.  While I have to pay for part of my health insurance, the discounts I can get on other services (cell phone, tickets to events, movie tickets, etc.) makes up for it.  It's just nice to be in a place where the employer wants healthy, happy employees and puts their money where their sentiment is.

I ate mostly healthy this week.  I've been planning out my meals and that has helped me know up front what was for dinner.  Haven't make 100% healthy choices this week but I'm working on it.  I scoured Pintrest today for some additional recipe ideas and made one with some fresh chicken.  I have a beef dish I'm doing tomorrow that will make a nice change of pace.  It's actually fairly healthy too so that's a bonus.  Mix that with plenty of veggies and fruit and I'm good to go.

Today has been a wonderful day.  I was able to sleep in and had nowhere to go.  This is the first Saturday without some sort of plans since the end of June.  I have completely enjoyed not having anywhere to go.  I also utilized Pintrest to find a great bathroom cleaner (Dawn dish soap and warm vinegar), a great stain remover (water and vinegar) and a yummy egg-less chocolate chip cookie dough recipe.  I feel so domestic! :-)  I have also spent time writing a book review (to be posted soon) and rearranging my Pintrest boards.  I feel so rested and other than church, plan to do much of the same tomorrow.  Such a great way to revitalize before a busy week.  Thankful for periods of rest.

I moved into Jeremiah this week in my Bible reading and have been struck by Jeremiah's emotion over the disobedience of the nation of Israel.  God had routinely laid out what His children were to do and they were incredibly disobedient.  Jeremiah tried to warn but was routinely ignored.  What I've been thinking about is Jeremiah's reaction and whether or not mine mirrors his.  Sadly, it often doesn't.  I don't weep over the non-Christians in my life.  I don't intercede with God on their behalf.  I don't worry about their eternal destiny.  And that's sinful on my part.  I should be more like Jeremiah - praying for them, building on my relationships with them and when possible, sharing the gospel.  My prayer as I move into the last third of the year is that God will continue to prompt me to pray for those around me (coworkers, friends, former coworkers) and will provide me with opportunities to share and the boldness to share when those opportunities arise.

Now I'm off to organize Pintrest and chill until time for bed.  More next week...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Travelers Rest - A Book Review

From the Back:  Jane Morrow has a dilemma and love alone may not solve it.  Her faith has never been been strong yet somehow she hopes God will answer her prayers and tell her what to do.  The answer she finds may not be at all what she expected...

Synopsis:  Jane Morrow and Seth Ballentine are engaged when Seth is paralyzed by a sniper while serving in Iraq.  The novel opens with Jane visiting Seth for the first time in the North Carolina VA rehab hospital where he is recuperating.  Seth is understandably depressed and works to convince Jane to break off the engagement.  While at the hospital, Jane meets Dr. Truman Rockaway, a retired doctor who still serves his country by visiting recovering soldiers.  Truman and Jane get to know each other and Jane gets glimpses into Truman's painful past.  Jane also meets Jon-Paul Pearcy, a blind disability lawyer who offers his services to the soldiers.  As the story develops, Jane's relationship with Seth continues to deteriorate.  To avoid spoiling this great story, I'm stopping here. :-)

My Review: This is the second of Tatlock's books I have read and reviewed and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I absolutely love her story-telling style.  Like her other book, reviewed here, her characters are interesting and enjoyable and Tatlock expertly weaves their stories together.  In Travelers Rest, the plot isn't pretty - Seth is struggling and his pain is real.  Jane isn't sure how to help and that uncertainty comes through eloquently.  You can feel the emotions the two are struggling with.  The subplot with Truman just adds to that emotional complexity.  I love that although the book ends happily, the story takes twists and turns that kept me guessing.  I finished this book in less than a day.  While I was at the beach and not distracted by work and life, this still should be fair warning that you will be sucked in by this story.  I'm definitely going on a hunt for more of Tatlock's books.

Score: 4.5 bookmarks out of 5

Note:  Bethany House Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Week Thirty-One in Review

I can't believe we are finished with another week.  This week seemed to fly past.  I had my last two days with the woman I've replaced at CHOA.  We had two packed days and then I was on my own.  Even though it's only been three days, I've already had a couple things come up that I had to handle and I knew what to do and felt confident doing it.  There's still a pretty big learning curve but it's a great position to be in.  I have a great team, great support in my supervisors and the job is challenging.  I'm still getting used to working on children's issues and what we discuss every day is difficult but I'm getting there.  I know I'm right where God wants me so that's an added bonus.

Spiritually, this has been an interesting week.  I've had lots of thoughts running bouncing around in my head.  Some of it has centered on the Chick-Fil-A "controversy" and some of them are convictions for me on what I've been reading this week.  I'm not rehashing the controversy here - that's been done to death.  What I will say is that the Cathy family is standing on biblical principles and as a private company are free to give their money to whatever groups they wish.  While I don't agree with the tactics of all the organizations they support, as long as Chick isn't discriminating against people in their restaurants, I'm satisfied.  What I've been thinking about is how leaders (both Christian and governmental) have responded.  For the most part, Christian leaders urged support for Cathy and his company but I wonder if we as Christians went far enough.  We support Dan Cathy but did our response last week advance the gospel?  Did we pray for the leaders of Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago as much as we vilified them?  If you're like me, the answer to that is no.  Funny - Jesus commands us to pray for our leaders.  Just pray - not pray if you agree with them, just pray for them.  They responded the way a non-Christian would...and why would we expect differently?  Their hearts haven't been changed by the grace of the gospel.  And here's how this ties into what I read this 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, the writers outline how Manasseh and Josiah repented and followed after the heart of God.  God responded to their repentance and spared them destruction in their lifetimes.  What if we prayed consistently for our leaders to repent of their support of what God calls evil (homosexuality, abortion, etc.)?  What could happen if powerful leaders in this country repented and turned from their "wicked ways?"  What if we as Christians modeled this behavior?  What changes could we possibly see?  I don't claim to know all the answers but I'm going to continue to pray for my leaders - and pray for God to move.

Long story short, we as Christians can't totally insulate ourselves from the world and we shouldn't try to.  Sure, we should stand up when someone is attacked BUT, we should also stand up when someone is taken advantage of, discriminated against because of their skin color or ethnicity, abused, neglected or abandoned. If we want to make a difference, we have to be known as much (or more) for what we are FOR (justice, freedom from oppression, advancement of the gospel) than what we are against.  Sadly, we aren't there yet.

Officially off my soapbox. :-) Highlight of the week, I got a new (well, new to me) couch this week.  Yay for me!  My old one was from 1995 and had been lovingly used for 10 years before I got it and I've had it and loved it HARD for six.  It was way past its prime. The woman I replaced at CHOA was looking to sell hers so she didn't have to move it to Chicago.  So, I got a two-year old couch for REALLY cheap.  It's so comfy and easily adds space for someone to sleep on since it's almost the width of a twin bed when the back cushions are removed.  I love it because I can sit on it and work on my laptop much more comfortably than before. Again, yay for me!   

Don't have too much on the agenda for this week.  That's a good thing - the last two weekends have been a bit crazy so I can use a slow workweek to recover.  I do have at least one more book review to post and one to write and post.  Hopefully that will also happen this week.  More next time.

The Harvest of Grace - A Book Review

From the Back:  Although Sylvia Fisher recognizes that most Old Order Amish women her age spend their hours managing a household and raising babies, she has just one focus - tending and nurturing the herd on her family's dairy farm.  But when a dangerous connections with an old beau forces her to move far from home, she must concentrate on a new start and pour her energy into reviving a debt-ridden farm.  After months in rehab, Aaron Black returns home to sell his Daed's failing farm and move his parents into an easier lifestyle.  Two things stand in his way: the father who stubbornly refuses to recognize that Aaron has changed and the determined new farmhand his parents love like a daughter.  Her influences on Aaron's parents could ruin his plans to escape the burdens of farming and build a new life.  Can Aaron and Sylvia find common ground?  Or will their unflinching efforts toward opposite goals blur the bigger picture - one revealing the path to forgiveness, glimpses of grace, and the promise of love?

Synopsis: Sylvia Fisher is an Amish woman who wants nothing more than to be respected by her father as a dairy farmer.  She is betrothed to Elam but wants to wait to get married.  Elam isn't interested in waiting and marries her sister instead.  An unethical situation arises and Sylvia flees to a new town to escape the temptation.  She is warmly welcomed as a farmhand by the Black family.  In quite a humorous scene, she meets Aaron Black, the recovering alcoholic son of the family who employs her.  It quickly becomes obvious that Sylvia and Aaron have different goals.  It is also quite apparent that both have feelings for each other.  Sylvia helps Aaron repair his relationship with his family.  Aaron works behind the scenes to help Sylvia repair her relationship with her family.  Both discover the power of love and forgiveness.

My Review:  I wish going in I had known this was the third in a series.  I hate coming in not knowing the full  back story.  There are two other stories in the Ada House series before this one and those stories are intermingled here.  This is a sweet story and I enjoyed reading how Woodsmall developed her characters.  Sylvia had plenty of doubts and struggles and seemed like someone you could relate to.  You could also feel Aaron's struggles to rebuild after nearly losing everything to alcoholism.  Woodsmall wove Christian principles into the novel without being overly "preachy."  This was my first "modern" Amish story so that element was an added interesting layer.  I was a bit put-off by the two other storylines that were woven in.  I felt confused several times - wondering what those particular storylines were discussing.  I wouldn't have selected it to review had I known - it's too distracting to the reader.  It's a good story but too many distractions to score really high.  Even if you've read the other two, if you are a big reader like I am, you will confuse storylines.

Score:  3.0 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Week Thirty in Review

This week's theme is whirlwind.  I had a day of New Employee Orientation, went to Macon for less than 48 hours, did a training of trainers in Macon, drove back to ATL for two days of work, went to a meeting on Friday night and then yesterday drove to Cartersville to help Sarah unpack and set up her new place.  Then drove back this afternoon.  I am tired with a capital T.  I hope the cat doesn't mind an early to bed night.  This is one of those days I'm thankful to live alone...I can have a quick dinner, prep for tomorrow and then go to bed.  Who cares if it's only 9:00 when I go to bed?

In all seriousness though, this has been a really amazing week.  The more I get into my new job, the more I like it.  We do some really, really neat stuff as an office and people really respect the work we do. I'm also coming to realize how much respect the community has for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.  People are impressed when I tell them where I work and are quick to tell me about their child/grandchild/neighbor/family friend who was treated at Children's and how much they love/appreciate CHOA.  Makes me feel good even if I didn't have a dad gum thing to do with it. :-)

This week was also amazing from a spiritual side.  I got to watch God continue to work in my sister's life.  She found a new teaching position in Cartersville but that necessitated moving about 150 miles north on I-75.  She had to find a new place, book movers, pack, move, unpack and get settled.  All in five days or less!  God continued to work miracles.  She and mom found a new place last Monday (the 23rd), booked movers to come on Friday, got everything packed and moved by Friday.  We got the last of the boxes unpacked after church this morning and she is ready to start her new job tomorrow.  It has been so amazingly evident that God wants her in Cartersville and He has worked everything out in His perfect timing.  It's weeks/months like my family has had lately that always make me wonder why I doubt and worry.  I've seen God show up and show off repeatedly but I still find myself doubtful when things get stormy.  Sanctification really is a never-ending process.

I'm closing here to go round up the aforementioned quick dinner.  More next week...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Week Twenty-Nine in Review

I think the theme for this week could have been "can I be excused?  My brain is full."  I began my new job this week as a program manager in the Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.  It's a long title but an amazing group of people.  We basically serve as a child abuse and neglect center for the Atlanta area.  The clinic side sees patients who are victims of child sexual abuse and the pediatricians and social workers see suspected physical abuse and neglect patients in the three hospitals in our system.  My side handles prevention and education work around child abuse, child sexual abuse, and commercial sexual exploitation of children.  My team works to train healthcare professionals and community members on how to recognize abuse signs, how to intervene and ways to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.  There is A LOT to learn but it is critically important work and I'm surrounded by amazing, passionate people who are helping me adjust.  I've learned a great deal already and will continue to learn as I go. While it felt a bit like drinking from a fire hose, it's been great to work with the person I'm replacing.

I've been so tired this week that I fell behind in my Bible reading.  I should finish catching up tomorrow and can start week 30 on Monday.  I did read about Hezekiah this week and noticed this time through what was so different about his reign.  While other kings had been "good" kings, they didn't go all the way and destroy the idols in the high places.  Hezekiah did - he wanted to force the nation back to following the Lord and destroying those idols was the only way to do that.  I got to thinking about whether or not I completely destroy idols in my life when I recognize them.  All too often, the answer is no.  I recognize God's sovereignty and am secure in my salvation but I still want to hold on to some measure of control and the idol that goes with that.  It's a constant process to tear down that idol.  Sanctification ain't easy y'all.

It has also been a neat week to watch God work.  I got a call in the middle of the week from the person at the other job I was offered.  She was calling about another project but in our conversation, she told me I had made the right decision turning the job down.  The funder eliminated the funding and I would have been without a job after 2013!  Praise the Lord for the other job and His timing!!  I also got to see Sarah get a new job in Cartersville, GA.  She's been so faithful in her job search - looking for teaching positions from border to border in GA, applying and interviewing in lots of places.  The interview for this one was a month ago and she hadn't heard anything.  But, they called last week and offered her the job.  Of course, now we have to find her a place to live in 10 DAYS!  But, God's brought her this far, He has that covered too.  I'm beyond excited she's going to be so much closer to me.  There are lots of times I want to attend cultural events in ATL but haven't had anyone to go with me.  Since we both enjoy classical concerts and more "cultural" events, we'll have plenty to keep us busy.  Yay!!

This week is busy - I have one day of New Employee Orientation at Children's and will then head to Macon for a 1 and a 1/2 day training for GCADV.  This one had been scheduled well before I knew about the Children's position and they were gracious enough to let me fulfill the obligation.  Then it's two more days of learning about the new job.  Exciting times and definitely not boring.

I have three book reviews I need to get posted - I've got two of them written, just need to post and then one to write.  Stay tuned.  More next week...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weeks Twenty-Seven and Twenty-Eight in Review

So I missed a week on my weekly recaps.  At least I had a good excuse...vacation on the beach.  And while I had Internet access, I had better things to do than blog. :-)

Week Twenty-Seven was a week of endings.  My last day with GCADV was July 6th.  It was a good two-year experience and I am proud of the work we were able to do in less than ideal circumstances.  Georgia is a tough state to do public health work in.  With 159 counties, you have 159 little fiefdoms and they don't like to do things the easy way.  But, we persevered and once the grant officially ends in November, the project will be looked on as a success.  I value the wonderful people I met.  The organization is made up of women who are true champions for women and work tirelessly to make sure their needs are met.  It's not easy work by any stretch and the people who work in the field are true heroes.

Last week was all about relaxation and vacation.  I had a couple of days that I went from PJ's to swimsuit back to PJ's.  That's the mark of a truly relaxing vacation.  I played by the pool, ate great seafood, read until my eyes couldn't stay open, walked on the beach and just simply relaxed.  It was so nice to spend time with my family just enjoying each other's company without an agenda.  I was sad to see it end but am looking forward to my new adventure that begins tomorrow.

Food-wise, the last two weeks haven't been great (vacations will do that).  Hopefully this week won't be too bad. I am actually going to be doing a good bit of research into gluten-free eating.  I know I am not gluten-sensitive and don't have celiac disease but I've been hearing lots about the benefits to going gluten-free so I'm going to do some additional research (I'm a big nerd) and then going to see what I can come up with.  I've seen tons of recipes on Pintrest so hopefully I can find things that fit my criteria...healthy, easy, and tasty.  I'll keep you posted.

It was neat spiritually to be at the beach with my mom last week.  She is my spiritual mentor and we are on the same Bible reading plan.  It was neat to get to talk with her about the book of Isaiah and the different things we found that spoke to us.  I love the book of Isaiah and every time I read it, I find something new.  I've never seen many of the cautionary tales before.  I've always focused on the prophesies related to Christ's coming - I've glossed over the others in the past.  I absolutely love how Scripture comes alive each time it's read.  I love that God thinks enough of us as His children that He wants to continue teaching us new things.

I think it's off to bed now.  My new job has created the need for a new schedule.  I will now be leaving the house at the time I used to get up.  That's going to take some adjusting.  :-)  Until next time...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

no greater LOVE - A Book Review

From the Back: California businessman Levi Benkert was playing with his children in the park when he received an urgent phone call from a friend asking him to drop everything and fly to Ethiopia to help organize a rescue orphanage for children destined to be murdered as part of a tribal superstition know as "mingi."  In tribal culture, children and infants with even the slightest defect are considered "cursed" and are killed by their own parents, who fear allowing the children to live will cause bad luck to descend on the village.  Moved by his friend's story, Levi packed his bags and left for what he thought would be a short two-week trip.  Once he arrived in Ethiopia and met the children, however, Levi knew there was no turning back.  Six weeks later Levi, his wife Jessie, and their three young children sold their home and all their belongings and relocated to Ethiopia indefinitely.  What followed was the adventure of a lifetime.  From the challenges of establishing and running the orphanage and finding adoptive homes for the rescued children to his continued efforts to work with tribal leaders and bring an end to "mingi killings" once and for all, No Greater Love is a gripping and poignant story of one man's quest to make a difference - no matter the cost.

Synopsis: Levi Benkert was a businessman in California who was seemingly on top of the world until the recession hits and everything falls apart.  As he is searching for what to do, a friend reaches out and asks him to go to Ethiopia to see about opening an orphanage to save children.  Benkert agrees to go and what he sees changes his life forever.  He comes back to the states, packs up his family and moves to Ethiopia.  the book chronicles the early days of his ministry, the ups and downs and highlights God's hands through it all.  Benkert goes through the trials of working with local leaders, the distrust, the language barriers and the difficulties of living in such harsh conditions.

My Review: This is a small book but packs quite a punch.  Benkert gives up a great deal to follow God's call on his life.  He does not sugarcoat the difficulties of working in such harsh conditions.  He was honest about the process - the detractors he heard from (and there were many) - the bureaucratic difficulties - the loneliness his family faced.  The writing style lets the reader feel the horror of children killed because of tribal superstitions, feel the weight of mistakes made, and feel the triumph of the small victories.  I appreciated Benkert's honesty.  He could have glossed over their mistakes but he chose instead to share them with the world.  He was open with the raw emotions he and his wife Jessie felt as they dealt with all the issues work in a developing country can bring.  It was also refreshing to see that while Benkert knows God is guiding the process, he still has questions and struggles with his call.  Too many times, Christian writers seem to gloss over their struggles and appear "super-Christian" instead of focusing on how God made everything happen.  This book is not that - this is an honest and raw look at the difficulties in adoption, and in serving God in the hard places.  Keep the Kleenex handy; you'll need them.

Score: 4.5 bookmarks out of 5

Note About the Book:  At the end, there is a website:  This website is the personal site for the ministry in Ethiopia.  You can check it out for more information.  They are planning a US tour starting week after next.  Lots of locations on the calendar though not many in the Southeast.

Note:  Tyndale House Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Week Twenty-Six in Review

Can you believe the year is officially half over?  Where have the first six months gone?  You can definitely tell from the temperatures outside that it is not winter!  100+ temps for three days in a row is nuts.  I don't live in Phoenix for a reason!  I guess it's God's way of letting me feel a little of what my friend Lisa is experiencing in West Africa this summer.

This was a pretty low-key week.  I am finishing up some projects at work but I can definitely tell my time is ending - I view things differently and it's getting harder and harder to get out of bed in the mornings.  Of course, my upcoming beach trip might have something to do with that. :-)  I will look back fondly on my time at GCADV but it is time to move on.  I am quite thankful God brought me the new position at Children's Healthcare and I'm looking forward to whatever my next adventure is.

I had a couple of thoughts spiritually this week while I was reading.  First, I was struck by Naaman's response in 2 Kings 5 when Elisha gave him a cure for leprosy.  He was upset because it wasn't a bold enough plan and Elisha sent the cure by messenger instead of coming himself.  I couldn't believe he was willing to give up a cure for leprosy because the cure wasn't big enough.  While calmer heads did prevail, I pondered how often my response to God's provision is similar.  The answer doesn't come soon enough, isn't exactly what I wanted or how I wanted it.  It just proves that we all have a hard time being content with how God provides.

The second thought pertained to the evilness that shows up in the lineage of the Kings and how God continued to be faithful in spite of the evilness.  In 2 Kings 8, the writer is detailing how evil Jehoram was but highlighted that God did not destroy Judah because of the promise He made to David - promising a continued kingdom through his line.  I was just reminded that our God is a God of promises - He keeps His even when we break ours.  My heart was so thankful for that this week.  While I don't think grace is a license to sin freely, I'm thankful we are given grace for those times when we do sin.

I ended the week with a wonderful visit from my mom and sister.  We did our annual girls' weekend more low-key this year.  Instead of traveling somewhere, they came up here and we went to the Braves game on Friday night, outlet shopping yesterday and then church and lunch today.  The Braves game was hot as you know where and they lost but we still had a great time together.  We had great seats and since it was so hot, the crowds weren't ridiculously big.  Yesterday we went up to Dawsonville to outlet shop.  I managed to find some great deals to add to my "professional" wardrobe.  Since all my jobs since college have been for non-profits or churches or required scrubs, I haven't needed the most professional looking wardrobe.  Well, Children's is a little different.  While I don't have to wear suits every day (Praise the Lord!), I do have to dress above business casual.  No capris, no denim, no flip flops.  So, I had to add clothes and shoes.  Fortunately, Sarah has FABULOUS taste and helped me pick some things out and then last night, she helped me organize outfits.  I have at least 60 outfits cataloged on my phone and there are probably more than 20 that we didn't catalog because I could figure them out on my own.  So, so thankful for a fashionista sister.  And we get to do it all over again in the fall when we add winter tops.

I guess that's it for now.  I'm planning to try and stay in one place the rest of the night.  It's cooler that way.  More next week from the beach...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Week Twenty-Five in Review

Wow, this week flew by.  It was a pretty low-key week compared to the last few weeks in my life.  In fact, it was so low-key, I don't remember much to blog about. :-)  I am finishing projects up at work and it's a bit surreal at work - I'm still working for GCADV and have things to do but it feels weird since I know my last day is two weeks away.  I imagine the feeling is only going to get weirder.  I am slowly checking off the things I need to do for my new job.  I think the only thing I have left is to get my employee ID badge made. That was supposed to happen last week but the system was freaking out so I couldn't do it when I had my pre-employment physical.  I do have to say, Children's Healthcare is on top of things when it comes to getting employees ready to work there.  The process has been so smooth and they have been there to answer any questions that might come up.  If working for them is as smooth, I can see why they are one of the city's top employers!

On my eating plan, it wasn't the best of weeks and I don't know why.  I really, really struggle with the willpower to avoid foods I know are bad for me.  I'm trying to come up with ways around it but I'm at a loss.  I'm continuing to try and eat healthier foods, it's just a struggle.  Also struggling to get back into an exercise routine.  I'm hoping and praying that having access to exercise equipment on-site at my new job will help motivate me to exercise.  Children's provides that free of charge to employees (and provides free access to a trainer and nutritionist).  Gotta love that!  I'm making plans to make a whole new start when my new job starts - new job, new outlook, new attitude towards food and exercise.  I'm spending the time between now and then doing the best I can, making plans and preparing.  We'll see how that works.

Spiritually this week, it's been more in the Chronicles and Kings.  I will say I am enjoying them much more this year than I have in years past.  I think the way the reading plan breaks them up makes them more story-like and you read the same story at the same time.  I'm amazed at the parallels I see in the way some of the kings of Judah acted and the way I have a tendency to act.  While they often followed God, they didn't necessarily give over 100% of their lives to Him.  Many of the kings left the high places built and that left the door open for idol worship.  I think about how that is reflected in my own life.  I leave access to sin open in my life and it can separate me from God's presence.  I pray that I recognize those times and work to pull down those idols.  For me, they change quite often - food, money, and worry are my three biggies but others sometimes creep in.  As much as I used to question the Israelites for their actions against God, I see clearly now how my own life is so similar.  I'm thankful God continues to work on my heart to make me more like Him.

This week promises to be more of the same as last week - finishing projects at work and preparing to move on to the next phase in my journey.  Topping of the workweek with a Braves game on Friday night with mom and Sarah.  Definitely looking forward to that!  More next week...

Chasing the Sun - A Book Review

From the Back:  When her father disappears in war-torn Mississippi, Hannah Dandridge finds herself responsible not only for her younger siblings but also for the Texas ranch her father recently acquired.  A marriage of convenience could ease her predicament...but is it the true desire of her heart?  Wounded soldier William Barnett returns home only to find out that his family's ranch has been seized.  Though angered at this turn of events, he's surprised to discover that it is a beautiful young woman with amazing fortitude who is struggling to keep the place running.  Despite these circumstances, Hannah and William form and uneasy truce...and an undeniable attraction builds between them.  In a land where loyalties are divided in a country ravaged by war, is there any home that the first blush of love can survive?

Synopsis:  Hannah has moved with her family to Texas to escape the Civil War hardships of Mississippi.  Her dad has supposedly gone back to Mississippi and left Hannah alone to maintain the ranch.  According to her father's business partner, Mr. Lockhart, Hannah's dad has been taken prisoner by the Yankee army.  Unbeknownst to Hannah, Mr. Lockhart has had Hannah's father killed so he could move in on the ranch land and marry Hannah.  At the same time, William Blake, the son of the ranch's original owner returns to Texas after being injured in the war.  William is angered to know that the ranch has been seized and given to Hannah's father as a reward for helping the Confederacy.  Hannah is overwhelmed trying to maintain the ranch, take care of her younger siblings, fend off Mr. Lockhart's advances, and deal with William Blake.  She agrees to let Mr. Blake live on the ranch to help out.  As the story builds, Hannah discovers she has feelings for William but forces herself to hide those feelings.  The tension continues to build to the final climax when all the secrets are revealed.

Review:  I wasn't familiar with Tracie Peterson before but I'm glad I took the chance on this book.  While this is probably billed as a historical romance, there is much more to this book that the relationship between Hannah and William.  There is a mystery (Mr. Lockhart's scheming) and an adventure (problems with Indians) that weave into the plot.  You definitely won't get bored reading this book.  I also appreciate the development Peterson did with her characters.  I loved the independent streak in Hannah.  She knows what she wants and goes after it.  I also loved her heart.  She truly cares for those she encounters, going so far as to share with gospel with the so-called savage Indians.  On the other side, I quickly came to despise Mr. Lockhart.  He is an evil, smarmy character that you will despise within the first couple of chapters.  I found myself hoping something bad would happen to him.  I don't usually have that kind of reaction to "bad" characters in novels so I'm chalking it up to Peterson's character development.  Overall, this was a really good book.  It kept my interest very easily and eventually got to the "keep me up at night to finish" point.  You won't regret picking this one up!

Score:  4.0 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Bethany House Publishing gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week Twenty-Four in Review

So, I'm a little late with this week's update too.  But, I have a good excuse...I went home to celebrate Sarah's birthday (and all about her day) and Father's Day.  Mom and Sarah and I had a great time getting pedicures, having lunch together, shopping and then having Japanese food for dinner.  During our shopping trip, I got the benefit of Sarah's fashion expertise (and mom's $$) to add new tops to my wardrobe.  Sarah has an uncanny ability to put outfits together and I love, love, love getting to take advantage of that skill.  I have NO fashion sense - she keeps me from looking like a hobo. :-)

Last week was a little eventful.  On Tuesday, the recruiter from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta called and offered me the Program Manager position at the Child Protection Center and I accepted.  This was my first-choice position and I am thrilled to be joining a strong organization and a great team.  I will be managing a team that focuses on prevention and education around the issues of child abuse and neglect, child sexual abuse and child sex exploitation.  While it is sensitive work, the opportunity to stay in prevention and advocacy is wonderful for me professionally.  It is also a step up for me in terms of responsibility.  I will be supervising people and budgets for the first time.  I am excited about the new journey God is taking me on.

Healthy eating-wise last week during the week was up and down.  Sarah and I had a wonderful, healthy Sarah-created meal on Monday night.  (She has great fashion sense AND she cooks.  What more could a sister ask for?)  Tuesday night we celebrated my new job. The meal wasn't too unhealthy but the dessert certainly was. ;-) The rest of the week was up and down - some healthy, some not-so.  I am still trying to focus (and doing well) on eating more fresh fruits and veggies and drinking more water. This week should be better since I have no out of the office meetings and got stocked up on leftovers from mom and dad's.  The leftovers make it MUCH easier to add a quick side or salad and have a healthy lunch or dinner without much thought.  Love, love, love getting that added bonus from a visit to mom and dad's!

My spiritual thoughts this week have been centered around where Solomon went so wrong.  He spent much of his life following in his father's footsteps, following God's commands and walking with God.  Then he veered off course.  While Scripture doesn't explicitly state this, I think it was a pride issue.  Scripture does tell us that Solomon had tons of people, including the Queen of Sheba, telling him how great he was.  I think after a while, he did what we are  I am so prone to do...he listened to his own press and forgot all about God.  I used to be so judgmental of Old Testament characters, wondering how they could forget about God.  Then I realized I do the same dadgum thing repeatedly.  Of course, my sin doesn't lead to the splitting of a kingdom like Solomon's did but it's critically important anyway.  My prayer through this week is that God would help me put aside my worldly pride and always remember that He is the only one due any glory and anything and everything I have is because of His work in my life.

On a lighter note, I have two book reviews to get posted in the coming days.  One fiction, one non-fiction, both great reads.  More later...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Week Twenty-Three in Review

Oops, didn't get the update in before the next week started.  Oh least I have a good excuse.  I have company in town and I would rather spend time with my sister than update my blog.

This past week was a good week - I had a great second interview with my #1 choice.  I still haven't heard anything but am praying something happens soon.  I'm not exactly the most patient person in the world.  I know God has everything in control and something will happen in His timing, I just have to keep reminding myself of that fact.

I did eat better this past week - planning ahead worked tremendously.  It really does make a difference when I can be at home most nights.  I am planning on a repeat in week 24.  Still working on adding in the exercise but I'll get there.

Spiritually, it's been a quiet week.  I've been reading about Solomon's reign over the nation of Israel and through Proverbs.  I love the wisdom in the Proverbs but nothing fully stood out this week.  I will say this reading plan has made it MUCH easier to get through Kings and Chronicles!  These have been the bane of my existence each time I read through the Bible in a year.  Fortunately, this plan breaks them up to where you aren't stuck reading huge passages of the same thing multiple days in a row.

Okay, that's the short and sweet update from last week.  I do have a book review to complete so hopefully will get that update posted soon.  More next week...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Week Twenty-Two in Review

This has been a pretty boring week aside from two job interviews and a job offer.  I know, not boring for most people but since there was no travel involved, it's pretty boring. :-)  I have another interview (a second interview) coming up on Tuesday so we'll see what God has in store.  Either job would be good positions - both would be more money and less travel.  I do have a favorite but I'm keeping that to myself for now.  If you would like more details, email me and I'll share.  I'm just being careful what's shared publicly for now.

Food-wise, I ate better this week - planned ahead and used my Memorial Day holiday to prepare meat for use over the week and beyond.  Hope to keep it up this week.  Having only one class to teach has helped.  I am home in the evenings and can eat properly.  Being AT HOME instead of on the road helps too.  It's just difficult to make the healthiest eating choices when on the road.

Spiritually, this was an interesting week. Spent the week in Song of Solomon and Proverbs.  Proverbs is always so interesting to read.  I'm always struck by different things.  This week, two things stood out: God's view on how the poor should be treated and the importance of fighting against seduction.  I have started underlining how often the poor are mentioned and you can tell quite quickly how seriously God takes our treatment of the poor.  He calls for destruction for those who would mistreat the poor.  I think that serves as a warning for us in today's society.  I know that many of my trips around ATL bring me into contact with those society would view as "poor."  I've been thinking about how often I ignore them or try to pretend I don't see them.  That's my sinful side coming out big-time.  God commands us to love the poor.  I should be looking for ways to engage the people around me.  Even if I can't do something to meet an immediate need, I can at least be encouraging to them - offering a smile or a handshake.

The second thought was about seduction.  The question was raised in my Bible study book, what are you seduced by?  That question got me to pondering.  I think we all too often hear the word seduction and immediately think sex.  Maybe it's just me but I doubt it.  We are all seduced by something in this, fortune, success, fame - the list is endless.  Proverbs warns about being seduced and how to avoid that seduction.  Often it means fleeing from the temptation.  I'll admit, sometimes, that's just hard.  That piece of cake looks so yummy...I could do so much good if I just had more money...I'd be happier if I was more popular, etc.  I am easily swayed by the things of this world and have to focus day-by-day, sometimes minute-by-minute on Christ to overcome the seductions of the world.  It's just been on my mind ever since I read that question.  I'm not sure I have any mind-blowing answers; I was just reminded during the week how important it is to keep my focus on Christ and Christ alone.

I'm now off to enjoy the rest of my evening.  Have a healthy dinner planned and then will hopefully go to bed early.  Busy week ahead - lots of stuff to do in the office.  More next week...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Blue Moon Bay - A Book Review

About the Book:  Heather Hampton returns to Moses Lake, Texas, to help facilitate the sale of a family farm as part of a planned industrial plant that will provide the area with much-needed jobs. Heather's future fiance has brokered the deal, and Heather is in line to do her first large-scale architectural design--if the deal goes through.

But the currents of Moses Lake have a way of taking visitors on unexpected journeys. What was intended to be a quick trip suddenly morphs into Valentine's week--with Blaine Underhill, the handsome banker who just happens to be opposing Heather's project. Spending the holiday in an ex-funeral parlor seems like a nightmare, but Heather slowly finds herself being drawn into the area's history, hope, and heart.

Synopsis:  Heather Hampton is an architect from Seattle who returns to Texas to try and seal a deal that will lead to a major promotion for her at work.  Unfortunately for Heather, this little town in Texas holds horrible memories for her and she dreads the trip.  Her trip to Moses Lake goes horribly wrong and when she arrives in Moses Lake, things are not what they seem and her family seems to be keeping major secrets.  Heather presses on and begins to investigate what's really going on to prevent the deal from being completed.  Her simple trip thwarted, she begins to look inward and question her life and what changes she needs to make.  By the end of the book, questions are answered and Heather has made major decisions about her life.

Review:  I'm not really sure how to describe my feelings about the book.  While it was a good book, I found myself getting annoyed with the main character quite often.  At points she came across as a whining, spoiled brat and I wanted to reach into the pages and shake her.  I usually don't like books where I don't like the main character.  But, for this novel, Wingate has enough intrigue in the book, I wanted to keep reading even though Heather drove me crazy.  I liked the fact there were twists and turns throughout the novel that kept the story moving.  While the book itself took a bit of time to get started, I finished it quite quickly once I got going.  Overall, it's not a great book but it was a decent read.

Score:  3 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Week Twenty-One in Review

Interesting week to say the least...started the week in Minneapolis, MN.  It was an interesting trip and Minneapolis is a neat city.  More on that later.

Other than the trip, this week had a job interview in it.  I would love to work for this organization and really liked the person I interviewed with (she would be my direct supervisor).  I can't say 100% how it went - I think it went well but it's so hard to tell.  I don't meet all their criteria 100% and she was a little concerned about the focus of my current work (it doesn't directly match up with their focus).  I was hoping to hear something on Friday about a second interview but I didn't.  Maybe Tuesday.  Speaking of Tuesday, I also have a second interview with another place on Tuesday.  That's a positive.  If I make it to the final round there, that interview would be on Thursday.  This coming week might be/hopefully will be a week of interviews. :-)

Spiritually I've been thinking a great deal about God's provision.  It's not really in line with my reading this week but it's been on my heart.  I have a sense of peace about my job search and I think it's because I'm just resting in the idea that God has taken care of me so visibly the last couple of years.  I have seen His provision over and over and over and in the strangest of ways.  Of course my bills are always met but even when there are extra expenses I didn't expect, the money is there.  I like to think it's my own "loaves and fishes" moment.  I'm not always this calm about things; I can worry with the best of them, but I really think God is maturing me in my walk.  Worry isn't my first emotion anymore.

On to Minneapolis...this was an interesting trip.  The conference was for work and it focused on meeting the needs of abused Asian/Pacific Islander women.  I learned a great deal about culture, the differences between interpreters and translators and the needs of deaf women.  And, the city of Minneapolis is a great small city.  They have kept so much green space in the city - there was a great park area right behind my hotel.  It is also incredibly clean and easy to navigate.  I did take their light rail system to the Mall of America.  It is overwhelming - I constantly needed the map to know where I was headed.  It would have been much more fun with other people.  I would love to go back to explore the city and surrounding area.   Here are some pictures from the trip.
Welcome to the Mall of America

Kids' Area inside MoA

Beautiful Church in Downtown

View of Park from My Hotel

Entry to Downtown Park

Target Field (Where Twins Play)

I had a great trip and would love to go back but I am completely happy that I have no travel scheduled for work until late July.  I do have two trips scheduled but one is home for Father's Day/Sarah's birthday celebrations and the other is a trip to the beach.  That's my kind of traveling.

This week I hope to refocus on healthy eating and exercising.  I'm planning to cook a little bit tomorrow so I have some meals planned out to schedule around my evening plans this week.  I really want to get back to the focus I had earlier in the year.  I got off track; now I need to get back on track.  More next week...