Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pintrest Craft One

So I found a craft on Pintrest that I wanted to try because I thought it was attractive and the Bible verse on it was my all-time favorite.  I decided to try my hand at it.  Here's a step-by-step if you'd like to try to make one of your own.

Step 1:  Get your supplies together.  I chose to use a plain canvas from Joanne's.  If I was doing it again, I'd go with colored canvas but Joanne's didn't have it so white was my option.

Step 2:  Pick your paint colors.  I went with brown and light blue.

Step 3:  Paint the canvas the base color you choose.  I needed two coats on some spots on the canvas.

Step 4:  In your alternate color, add footprints.  I did mine in the kitchen, painting the bottom of each foot then washing it before painting the bottom of the other foot.  Be careful, don't step too hard on the canvas.

Step 5:  Add the heart in the middle above the footprints.  If you are artistically challenged like I am, find a heart somewhere (I used Microsoft ClipArt) and trace it lightly onto the canvas.  Then you can paint the heart without having to freehand it.

Step 6:  Add the handprints, I painted one hand, put the handprint on the canvas, washed my hands, and then repeated the process.

Step 7:  Write the chosen words on the canvas with a paint pen. I took the picture with it standing but I wrote it with the canvas laying flat.  I went with an extrafine, silver paint pen.  If I was doing it again, I'd go with a broader tipped pen.  You can't see the words as well as I would have liked.

Step 8:  Hang on the wall of your choice. 

I am amazed at how this turned out considerig I have no artistic talent whatsoever.  There are imperfections here and there but that's true about my life so it's a great reflection. :-)  I also like the fact that it's my footprints and handprints that make up the artwork.  This works with Micah 6:8 but I imagine there are other verses that could easily work in a similar fashion.

Week Four in Review

So far in 2012, this was the toughest week I've encountered - quiet time wise and food/exercise wise.  I was out of town for four days and not really able to select where we ended up for dinner.  I also couldn't control lunch.  Then our dinners ended up being Asian, Italian and Mexican.  Strangely enough, the Mexican was probably the healthiest of all the choices.  It just isn't easy to eat out and make healthy, WW friendly choices.  I still ended the week with extra "bonus" points, I just wasn't able to keep up the weight loss. I also wasn't able to exercise.  While the hotel had an exercise room, treadmills where the only option and those make my knees hurt too badly to exercise effectively.  So, I ended up gaining a bit but I'm still down overall from where I started 2012.  Now I'll get back to correct eating and exercising this week.  Hopefully next week will be a better week.

Spiritually, I've moved into Job during my quiet times.  It was hard staying on task when stuck in a hotel but I did manage to read each day and spent time considering what I was reading.  Job is an interesting book to say the least.  This week I've been reading the back and forth between Job and his so-called friends.  Reading his friends' responses has challenged me to think about how I offer support to my friends when they are going through crisis.  Job's friends all twisted theology to fit their understanding and offered what ended up being judgmental, unhelpful responses.  I can't bring examples of where I've done something similar to mind but I'm sure it has happened.  I am hoping and praying the next time I am confronted with this situation, I can respond more like Christ than like Job's friends.

I've been thinking a lot about racism this week too.  We've been undertaking an undoing racism project at work and our monthly meeting was this past Monday.  Often, these are tough conversations that leave me sitting with thoughts and feelings for a while.  This was a very productive conversation but I still feel like we aren't really getting anywhere.  Of course, we aren't going to get all that far because there's not been a heart change in any of my co-workers.  They are still coming at this from a secular, world perspective.  We are making steps to think about race and privilege in all of our work (hiring, policies, trainings, etc.) but as for deep, long-lasting change, I'm not convinced it comes about without the lens of the gospel.  Obviously, I'm still processing my thoughts...

I have finished my first full week with my iPhone and if you could be in love with inanimate objects, I would be in love with my iPhone.  Of course, not having my email accounts deleted is a help but the phone is just more functional than my Droid was.  I got all my music transferred over and loaded onto the iPod app on my phone.  I discovered it will work in a docking station (hotel had one) so that will be my next "techie" addition. :-)  I have also discovered a new app that will change my world while traveling.  I had a noisy neighbor at the hotel this week and my co-worker recommended I download a white noise app.  Who knew these even existed?  I quickly searched for one, found a free one and downloaded that bad boy.  I spent the next two nights blissfully sleeping to the sounds of rainfall.  Couldn't hear the noisy neighbor or noisy hotel doors banging closed.  This has changed my travelling life forever!  Yay for iPhone apps!

I have almost finished my first Pintrest craft project and hope to have a pictures and details post up later tonight or tomorrow.  I also have the book review I promised last week coming. More next week.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week Three in Review

I somehow managed to not get the book review posted that I meant to post but oh well.  That's what being out of town and teaching twice plus working will do to you.  Speaking of teaching, I picked up a third round of Princeton Review student on Thursday night and these guys are going to give me a run for my money.  All of my PR students are smart, they're mostly Emory and GA Tech students.  This bunch though is another kind of smart.  Problem is, they want to argue everything and I do mean EVERYTHING!  Hopefully as the class progresses, they will see less need to argue and just accept that I know what I'm talking about.

Eating went really well this week.  I planned ahead for my two nights out and that made all the difference.  I was able to eat healthy and follow my Weight Watchers routine.  I'm really doing more of a modified WW since I'm not paying them or going to meetings. I'm using my mom's knowledge of their system and the tools she is getting for me and making it work.  I have had points left over most every night even having a cookie for dessert a couple of nights.  This week is my first big test since I'm out of town three nights and not picking the restaurants.  But, mom gave me some good eating out tips so hopefully I'll be able to make that work too.  Not sure of weight change yet since I'm waiting on my scale to arrive.  The scale on my Wii is a little wonky so I'm not relying on it.  I know what I weighed at the doctor on 1/4 and what I weighed at my parent's house last week (6 pounds less) but I'll be glad when I have a consistent scale to use once a week.

Spiritually, it's been more learning about God's display of sovereignty in the lives of the patriarchs.  I finished Genesis today and I'm really amazed at the way God's sovereignty is displayed over and over.  He also works things to our benefit even when we are conniving to try and work things out on our own.  I see so often how I mirror Abraham, Rebecca, and the sons of Jacob in trying to "fix" my situations on my own.  Fortunately God is smarter than I am.  This week we move into Job so there are bound to be lessons there.

Totally unrelated to anything spiritual, I got a new cellphone yesterday, upgrading to an iPhone.  My phone freaked out this week.  Again.  This time I told Verizon I was done with the Android platform, what else could they offer me.  Lo and behold, they came back with a FREE refurbished 16G iPhone4.  Woo-hoo, sold!  I got it all set up yesterday and have been downloading various apps for it since then.  If you happen to know of any good ones, leave a comment.  I'm open for suggestions.  Free is best but I'm not averse to paying if it's worth it.

I've started two projects I saw on Pintrest.  Both are initially for me but if one project works, I'll hopefully be able to do more and sell them as a fundraiser for my mission trip in November.  I'm not the world's most crafty person so we'll see what happens.  Pictures will come, I promise.

Book review to come, hopefully tomorrow or Monday.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Week Two in Review

So week two of 2012 is in the books.  Crazy week for me - working on a major project at work that is due Monday.  Spent time creating and re-creating graphs when my boss and I decided to re-do things.  We're both detail-oriented perfectionists so obsessing over the details is a given.  Fortunately I finished my portion yesterday about 4:30 so I am off the hook until she sends me the draft to read and comment on.   This week is another short week (yea for Monday holidays) but my to-do list is still a mile long so I'll be busy.

Food choices went well this week - switching lunches and dinners seems to be working.  I also added exercise to the routine so that should help things along.  I've seen small movements downward on the scale and that always adds inspiration.  I've been really working towards planning ahead for nights I'm teaching and nights I'm just too tired so I make good food choices instead of falling into the habit of driving through a fast-food place.  Should help the weight loss efforts and help the bottom line.

Spiritually, I've been thinking about a couple things this week.  I've been reading through the middle sections of Genesis and have seen several instances of the patriarchs (and others) conniving to either get their way or "protect themselves."  It really made me think about how I do the same thing repeatedly.  I've seen God work in my life over and over but still find myself telling Him "I've got this."  How foolish is that?  I'm praying about being more aware of this and repenting of it when I encounter it instead of letting it languish.  I also finished reading "Kisses from Katie" this week and came away feeling a strong desire to go back out on the mission field in a global context.  I'm praying about signing on for a trip with One Way Ministries to Guatemala to serve alongside the Browns for a week.  There is a significant cost involved but if God has laid this on my heart, He will make it happen.  I'll keep you posted.

One update from last week...tried the homemade coffee creamer, it's wonderful and a fantastic money saver.  I also tried the egg muffins.  They need less time in the oven but otherwise, were a great way to get a serving of protein in the morning without having to spend the time scrambling the egg (and washing the dishes) in the morning.

At least one book review coming soon.  Hopefully more than one.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Daily Gifts of Grace - Book Review

Daily Gifts of Grace is a little devotional book of writings from the women behind the "Women of Faith" tour.  It includes devotionals from Patsy Clairmont, Lucy Swindoll, Lisa Whelchel, Joni Eareckson Tada and more.  I haven't finished the book entirely since I want to use it throughout the year.  But, I selected a few dates at random so I could get a sense of the "meatiness" of the devotions.  What I found was an entirely mixed bag.  Some, maybe even the majority of those I read, were "fluffy" and didn't do much for me.  A few were deeper and gave me something to think about.  I'll be interested to see how my opinion changes from day to day.  One thing that concerns me a little is the price.  Close to $20 for daily devotional is a little pricey in my opinion.  I know from the way the outer cover is designed that it is being marketed as a gift book.  It would be a great gift for a new female believer but because of the cost, that isn't really practical (at least for my budget).  Maybe the publisher would consider a cheaper, paperback version.

All in all, it's a nice little devotional book for a new believer but it's not really going to do much for anyone looking for a deep, thought-provoking devotional.  I am going to use it at work during 2012 but after that, will probably give it away.

Note:  Thomas Nelson Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Score:  2.5 bookmarks out of 5.

Monday, January 9, 2012

To Serve or Not to Serve,That is the Question

You may be thinking I've lost my mind.  The title seems like a silly question to ask; of course we're supposed to serve, Jesus commanded it.  But, what does serving really mean?

This stream of consciousness post is coming from some of the thoughts rattling around in my head during yesterday's sermon. Yesterday was week two of my church's series, Resolutions.  In the sermon from Luke 22:24-27, Pastor Leonce talked about the disciples questioning of Jesus and their definition of greatness vs. His definition of greatness.  In it, Leonce talked about the use of the word serve in verse 27.  This isn't really the run of the mill serving; it's the down and dirty, thankless, behind the scenes, nobody sees, washing nasty feet serving.  And that's what got me thinking.

How many times when I'm serving am I really doing it out of a desire to be more like Jesus and how many times do I want people to like me, think I'm a good Christian, win "jewels in my crown, etc."?  Sadly, I think for me, serving has become more of the latter in my life.  I've lost sight of WHY I'm supposed to be serving and am caught up in the task of serving.  I also have been guilty of preventing others from serving because I think I know the best way to pack coffee supplies on Sundays after a service.  Really?!  I can't just show someone and step away and trust they can do it just as well as I can?  What's really driving that?  Yesterday during the sermon and in a conversation right after the service, I hit on the answer.  It's pride.  My sinful, prideful nature managed to rear it's ugly head and pervert something biblical into something worldly.   We talked after the service that it's a function of being a church plant and having been around since the beginning but I think that was just a prideful excuse to avoid dealing with the issue.  At least for me it was. 

I am repenting of that sin of pride and resolving to focus on why I'm supposed to be serving - to show Christ to whomever walks in our doors on Sunday.  It doesn't matter what people think of me, it matters that they see Christ in my actions.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Week One in Review

We'll see how updating once per week on life in general goes for a while.  I'll try to update each Saturday evening unless the unlikely (a date with a guy) happens.  If that happens, you'll probably get a breaking blog update. :-)

Week one of my new eating system seemed to work pretty well.  Of course, having leftovers from mom and dad's house helped but it was quite helpful to already know what was for dinner.  I'm also following Weight Watchers points (not going to meetings cause it's pricey) and I've done very well with my choices this week.  Hopefully tracking what I'm eating and planning ahead will help when life picks up the pace this week.  I haven't weighed myself yet since I was weighed at the doctor on Wednesday.  That weight was about where I was the last time I weighed so I have a pretty good idea where I'm starting.  Fortunately, based on my blood work results and my blood pressure, I'm healthy except for my weight.  Hopefully by this time next year, the weight will be significantly different too.

On another note, I found Pintrest and so far, it is definitely worth the time. I have found multiple recipes that are quite useful and I've tried three of them so far. One, the mug brownies, were wonderful and since it only makes one serving, can be made without feeling guilty. The second, homemade coffee creamer will be tried in the morning. The third, egg "muffins" will be tried on Monday. I'll definitely keep you posted. If you are interested in an invite and we're friends on FB, let me know and I'll invite you. Be warned though, you can lose track of time quite quickly. :-)

Week one was also a good week in terms of Bible reading.  I'm constantly amazed how re-reading Scripture, even those well-known stories, almost always reveals something new.  This week, while reading the account of the flood, I was amazed at the thought of how Noah got all the animals rounded up and onto the ark.  I wonder how exactly it happened...did God bring them to Noah, did Noah and his sons have to go animal hunting, God prompt the animals to just show up at the appointed time?  I know, you're probably thinking I'm nuts but on a certain level, it reminded me of God's sovereignty over the smallest details.  Those animals HAD to get on the boat and God in His infinite wisdom had a plan.  Scripture may not record it but you can count on the fact there was a plan.  I think that's a parallel to our lives.  We can't always see the recorded plan when life gets crazy but because God is God, we can be confident there is a plan.  Great revelations to start out the new year.
I'll end with what I'm making my New Year's resolution:  (1) God is God (2) I am not God (3) All my problems come from getting 1 & 2 reversed (4) All my solutions come from getting 1 & 2 back in the right order!

A Wedding Invitation - Book Review

Book Description:  After returning home from teaching English at a refugee camp in the Philippines, Samantha Bravencourt enjoys her quiet life working at her mother's clothing boutique in Falls Church, Virginia. When she receives an invitation to a wedding in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she looks forward to reconnecting with her college friend. Instead her life collides with Carson, a fellow teacher and the man who broke her heart, and a young Amerasian refugee named Lien who needs Samantha and Carson's help to find her mother before Lien's own wedding. When the search for Lien's mother reveals surprising secrets from the past, Samantha must reevaluate her own memories and decide whether to continue to play it safe or take a risk that could change her life.

Synopsis:  Samantha Bravencourt is a thirty-something living in the D.C. area working at her mother's boutique.  She gets a wedding invitation from who she thinks is a college friend and she makes plans to head to North Carolina for the wedding.  In reality, the wedding invitation is for a complete stranger who happens to have the same name as Samantha's friend.  The time at the wedding and reception isn't wasted as Samantha meets a guy, Taylor, who she is attracted to.  Taylor continues to pop up throughout the novel and plays a significant role in the ending of the book.  Her time in NC also leads to a reunion between Samantha and her former refugee students and a former co-teacher, Carson, who broke Samantha's heart.  The book follow Samantha as she processes her feelings for Carson and tries to help a former student reunite with her mother.

Review:  This was a quick, fun read with a fun main character.  In fact, I got it read all in one day (gotta love vacations).  The back-and-forth between Samantha's time in the Philippines and the main time period of the book is a little quirky but not too difficult to follow.  I liked that Samantha had "issues" but wasn't a whiny character.  She took risks, argued with God and then reveled when things worked out like the prayed they would.   The quirky cast of characters Wisler included were an interesting lot but they seemed oddly placed.  I wasn't really sure of the purpose behind them.  Dovie, Samantha's aunt, could have played the same role by herself.  I also thought the relationship development with Carson, while enjoyable, wasn't exactly realistic, even for a fiction novel.  All in all, it was a fun read but not necessarily something to get overly excited about.

Score:  3.5 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.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Crossing - Book Review

Product Description:  Imprisoned by memories, Claudia Campbell lives each day in the shadow of a ten-year-old murder. Who can set her free?  On the way home from a football game, a decade earlier, a masked gunman opened fire on a Texas school bus. Cheerleading coach B.J. Remington was killed, but her murderer was never found. Claudia, who had a close friendship with the young, spirited teacher, constantly relives the anguish of that day, caught in one moment in time. When her husband, the assistant district attorney, becomes determined to uncover the mystery of that tragedy, the secrets buried over the years threaten to tear their family apart.  Officer Casio Hightower will never forget the day his dreams were destroyed. A star quarterback with a promising future, Casio was on top of the world—until one bullet changed everything. He is eager to help Victor Campbell find B.J.’s killer, the man who shot him. Maybe solving the case will help silence the demons driving Casio to hurt the woman he loves.As the Campbells and Casio teeter on the brink of losing everything, will they be able to discover that what begins at the crossing ends at the cross?

Synopsis:  The Crossing is the story of Claudia Campbell, a young wife and mother who lived through a shooting on her school bus 10 years ago.  She has a life anyone would envy, successful husband and cute daughter.  Unfortunately, she's still dealing with the trauma of watching her friend and teacher die.  Claudia's husband Victor, the local assistant district attorney, decides to re-open the case in hopes of erasing some of Claudia's demons.  He's assisted by a local policeman, Casio Hightower who was also on the bus and fighting demons of his own.  As the book progresses, Claudia's mental state continues to unravel leading her to separate from her husband and parents.  Secrets are divulged that threaten to tear multiple families apart. 

Review:  I have to admit up-front that I had some preconceived notions I had to overcome while reading this book.  I won't go into them in detail here (it's not the time or place) but they did impact my review of this book to a certain extent.  As a book, it's not too bad - not my favorite but not the worst I've ever read by a long shot.  The action is fast-paced and once I got started, I wanted to keep reading.  A couple of things bothered me though.  One, Casio is a jerk of a character, an abuser who is never forced to take responsibility for his actions.  (Sidebar:  The whole issue of domestic violence is never dealt with anywhere.  Jakes misses an opportunity to do something powerful for domestic violence.  She's a powerful voice, if only she'd used it.)  Two, you read/hear the voice of the teacher who was shot as she was dying.  Seeing as how she had been dead for10 years, it just seemed strange to me.  I know it was how Jakes decided to tell the story of the shooting and the back story of the shooting, it just seemed strange to me.  I did think Jakes did a good job developing believable characters and her dialogue was solid so that's a positive.  Overall, it's not a horrible book by any stretch, it's just not one of my favorites.

Score:  3.0 bookmarks out of 5

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

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Book Rating System

After two years of book reviewing, I've decided I need some sort of ranking system to help keep my thoughts straight.  Of course, these are subject to change when I feel the need but it might help keep my reviews consistent.  So, here goes...

1 Bookmark - horrible book, couldn't/wouldn't finish, book was boring, poorly written, etc.  (RARE)

2 Bookmarks - so-so book, not something worth a lot of praise but worth finishing, not a subject matter I enjoy, has characters I can't identify with, poor writing, etc.

3 Bookmarks - good book but hard to get into, slow/complicated plot, good but not great, doesn't keep me up at night

4 Bookmarks - really good book, solid character or subject development, quality plot development, pace moves quickly, keeps me wanting more, etc.

5 Bookmarks - truly fantastic book, would purchase the book myself, highly recommend to others, re-read worthy (RARE)

Notes About the System

1.  This rating system is entirely subjective.  These are my opinions only but since it's my blog, my opinions are the ones that matter.
2.  Half-points are an option and will usually be used in relation to outside factors like price, availability, etc.
3.  Suggested pricing listed on a book may impact the rating of a book.  If it's a great book but isn't affordable, what good is it?  As a Christian, I am cautious about how I spend my money and how I make referrals about products.  I've seen several great books lately that are just too expensive to rate highly.  For the record, this would probably only make a 4 book a 3.5.
4.  Don't take my word for it - READ and THINK for yourself.  The important thing is to read.

Happy New Year!!

I can't believe it's already 2012!  Where did 2011 go?  I hope to be more consistent in my blogging this year.  I often have thoughts I think are worth sharing, they just somehow end up not making their way into the blog.  Hopefully, my plans for getting healthier in 2012 and blogging about that will help spur me into more blogging.  My plans are to eat healthier and exercise consistently.  Since I'm not travelling much early this year like I did last year, I hope I can get into good habits early in the year.  I'm changing up the way I eat lunch and dinner to try and overcome the temptation to get cheap take out food when I'm tired.  I'm planning to bring a meat/veggie plate to work instead of my sandwich and fruit and have the sandwich/fruit for dinner instead.  Makes things quick and simple and gives me no excuses.  Also helps to save money. :-)  We shall see how that goes.

I also hope to blog more about what God shows me as I read through the Bible again this year.  I'm using the same plan I used in 2010 when Brook Hills did it.  This time though, I have the book that goes along with the plan we were trial running.  I'm excited about all God will show me this time.

2011 was a good year from my perspective and I look forward to what 2012 will bring!