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.