Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Re-entry Drama and Humor, post 1

Coming back to the US after so much time away has led to its own set of drama, and often humorous situations.  A couple of times a month I hope to record some of those times.  Mostly this is for our own sense of remembering later, but it also might help someone else who is encountering a "new-old" situation. I'll start with humor.

If you have traveled in Europe you will know that there are no light switches inside bathrooms in Europe (and only shaver plugs, no electric outlets). 

So for sixteen years, I have turned on the light before entering the bathroom.  It is second nature.

Our hall happens to have a light switch for the hall just outside the bathroom door. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have switched on the hall light, walked into the bathroom and wondered why the light was off. At least two or three times a week!  I am not sure I will ever again get used to the idea that I can turn on the light in the bathroom.

Little things that I must re-learn.  And it helps to be able to laugh at myself.  Especially as I stand perplexed in a dark bathroom.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Setting Goals for January and Beyond

As always, I am much more apt to meet my goals if I write them down.  So, I've gone back to see how well I did in achieving my 2017 goals.  I am mostly pleased with the results.
Master 2017 list:
Books:  Read 100 books (including those used for school)--YES
             Read books set in at least 30 distinct countries--Only Read 20 Countries
             Complete PopSugar Reading Challenge and Advanced Challenge (52 books)--YES

Cross-Stitch/Quilting:  Complete stitching A Mind Independent and Free--YES

                                      Complete Neighbourhood Round Robin 2--It is at 75%
                                      Complete Bride's Tree Ornament sets--no
                                      Start/Finish Autumn and Spring Garden--no
                                      Participate in Ornament Exchange--YES

                                      Stitch Ornaments for each of the children--YES

                                      Make baby quilt for godson and his wife (June)--YES

                                      Organise and participate in Round Robin with CSC--no
    (plus I stitched and finished 2 pillows for gifts, started Bookshelf cross stitch and quilted a Christmas banner from a previous cross stitch project and framed a large cross stitch project)
Other: Eat healthy and lose some weight--Lost 15 pounds, was doing great until move
           Blog 3x per month minimum--not even close
           Memorize 24 verses--only 10
           Decrease paperwork saved in household by 50%--I don't know the percentage but I made great progress on this

So, here are my 2018 goals, many are similar:
Master 2018 list:
Books:  Read 100 books (including those used for school)
             Read books set in at least 40 distinct countries (have actually planned 30 countries already)
             Complete PopSugar Reading Challenge and Advanced Challenge (50 books)

Cross-Stitch/Quilting:  Complete stitching Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow
                                      Complete Neighbourhood Round Robin 2
                                      Complete Bride's Tree Ornament sets
                                      Complete Bookshelf cross stitch
                                      Start/Finish Autumn or Spring Garden
                                      Participate in Ornament Exchange
                                      Stitch Ornaments for each of the children
                                      Organise and participate in Round Robin with CSC or a stitching gathering
                                      Frame another project

Other: Eat healthy and lose some weight
           Post something on social media 4x per month minimum
           Memorize Job 26:5-14
           Decrease paperwork saved in household by 3 boxes in the attic

Personal goals regarding family have been written down and shared with family and will be reviewed at end of year with them.

In order to achieve these goals, here are my January plans:
1. Read 4 books that are not school related, set in at least one country that is not UK or US, and that meets at least 3 prompts on my reading challenge.
2. Post on social media 5 times
3. Finish block 4 on Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow
4. Finish Romania block for Neighbourhood Round Robin
5. Scan Jewel's school workbooks (1/2 box in attic)
6. No chips for snacks--replace with carrot and cucumber sticks
7. Research volunteer opportunities through church or local outreach center

Monday, January 01, 2018


    Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
    and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
    But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
    Job 26:14

The pastor read these words two weeks ago.  He was encouraging us that the goodness we see of God is only the very edges of what God has in store.

And I agreed. There is so much more that God has in store than what our finite minds can understand.

But one word echoed in my head.


Yes, we are on the outskirts of his ways, of his power, of his goodness.
But we are also on the outskirts of his justice.
And if we are not reaching out to those on the outskirts of society, then how will that justice, that power look when it falls on us?

And, then, some of us feel like we are on the outskirts of the society that gave us birth because it has become....too....much.
And some of us feel like we are on the outskirts of the evangelical church because it has become...dogmatic, closed.
And some of us have come from situations that forced us to the outskirts of who was welcomed. Thus we are drawn to those who are also forced to the outskirts.

Yes, the word has bounced in and around my thoughts for a couple of weeks.  It speaks some of the feelings that have not found words.  It speaks the desires of my heart to be with those who feel marginalized. It reminds me that God is sovereign and that his justice and his power and his love will all come to fruition in his timing and that I should be in awe of that, and working for that, and watching for that. It makes me want to see more than the outskirts of his plan and simultaneously be grateful that I am but on the outskirts of his awesome justice. It moves me to action and drops me to my knees.  

It is a place of  community. It is a place of reflection. It is a place of conviction, and also a place of hope. It is the next step in my journey of less. It takes me to the outskirts of stuff that others may deem as necessary but I feel a need to leave. It causes me to want to identify with others who are finding 'more' in the 'less'. It draws me to groups of people who can encourage me and for whom, hopefully, I can be an encouragement. It is my word of reflection for 2018.

What will it look like at the end of 2018? I don't know.  It will start with memorizing the passage from Job 26. It will continue with looking for places to volunteer or come alongside others on the journey.  It will mean speaking out more and being silent less. I live in a community where there must be Dreamers, and I'd like to know them and understand more the ambiguity in which they find themselves. I live in a University town that must have international students. I'd like to hear their stories. What can I learn of their home countries, of their experiences, of their hopes and their dreams? This journey is about broadening my vision of who feels on the outskirts of society--whether they look like they live on the outskirts or not. This year will be about continuing to read on  difficult topics, and maybe finding a community with whom to discuss those things. It will be about listening to God's whispers and sharing that hope with others.

There may not be a single, tangible thing upon which I can reflect the last week of December 2018. But I know that there will be a change in me if I focus on the outskirts. So that is what I will do.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflecting on Less

Last January I wrote,

"... I read Falling Free by Shannan Martin about how they had left their life of abundance for a life that was based on much less but gave them so much more (my description here). I was challenged. I was awe-struck. And that little voice that was telling me that I did not care about 'more' got louder. It was not telling me to sell the house and move somewhere else. It was telling me that maybe I could find "more" in my life by dealing with a lot less.

Various things over the last two months have sung this song.  Reminders that stuff is not what makes anyone happy. Sermons reminding of caring for the least of these. A Bible study of Proverbs that warns about accepting wealth and status quo without balancing it with the wisdom of God. By the middle of November I knew what my word for 2017 was to be, and it was daunting. It was........LESS"

It was a daunting word, and I really did not know what would happen during the year.  But I knew that it was a journey I had to start. Some of the dreams I had materialised. Others did not. Major changes happened that highlighted even more my desire for less. I came away changed, but maybe not as materially changed as I had hoped. Internally I am more minimal, and that is determining decisions and actions. It is a slow journey, but one that I will continue for a long time. Some of my dreams were:

"Less accumulation of paper and materials that are not needed."  I did continue to digitilize a lot of paper and then get rid of it. I finished the early homeschool portfolios. I was not in a head space to deal with the last box of my mother's papers, so it still sits in my attic. My high school pictures are gone except for a few that were actually good or special.  We did move this year, and it was a huge move.  I moved less than it would have been two years before, but we still moved a lot of things that I have no reason to keep.  So this is an ongoing battle.
" Less time spent worrying what others think of the life I am called to live". I gave a lot less head space to worrying about this right up until we moved back to the US. So many people have questioned why we do things, or why I don't want to just do things the 'American way' that I've become paranoid and defensive.  I need to get back to trusting God with the life he called me to lead and ignore the pundits.
"Less time doing things that do not build me up." I have read hard things this year that have made me think and grow. I've not read popular books that would not be good for me. I've stopped watching 'must-see' tv that was not healthy for me. And I've stopped apologizing for that. I'm happy with how this goal has proceeded.
"Less voiced negativity and more thankfulness need to be in my daily conversations." In general, I do believe that some of the negativity has curbed. It has been a tough year.  There is much in the world to be negative about--and finding ways to express disagreement without it only being perceived as negativity is tough. This is especially true when many of those around me do not agree with the stance I feel called to take. I am extremely grateful for the things God has done in our lives this year, for the places he has offered us protection and even for the conviction and dismay that accompanies confrontation of long-held prejudices and traditions. But it has been tough. I've said LESS than I would have liked in order to not be negative, and I'm not sure that has been totally healthy. I'll still work on this goal.
"Less half-hearted rituals and more focus on what God is saying." I cannot give examples of this, but I know that this is pruning that God has definitely started and continues in my life.
"Less unhealthy things entering my life. Whether it is junk food or junk TV or toxic people, I want to be more diligent to let in healthy and exclude the unhealthy." I've cut out almost all TV (except DIY or science shows for noise, and even the DIY shows make me get frustrated about topics of gentrification and privilege so they may go) and I have not missed it at all. For most of the year, junk food was cut out---then a move happened. I will get back to this. Recognizing toxic people has happened, but I am not always very good at protecting myself from their influence.  More of this in 2018.
"Less holding on to people." Oh, this has been hard.  Moving from England after sixteen+ years has been heart-wrenching. I miss my old life, my old friends, my old routines.  But God has taught me immense trust in the last three months. I did not have any clue when I wrote this, how much this one would hurt.

My life in 2017 was filled with much MORE than I ever dreamed when I began a journey to LESS. I'm more content. I'm more self-aware and I'm more other-aware. It is a journey I'm not willing to end. It will continue to feed my focus for 2018. But, more on that later.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review 2017

In 2017 I read (so far) 98 books, about half of which was reading for me and half of which was reading alongside home education of a kindergartner, eighth grader and sophomore.  To say my reading is slightly varied is an understatement.  At the end of the post is the full list of what I read.  But, first, here are my top five, in no particular order.

*The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey by Gabrielle Zevin made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time! Full of reminders of other books and characters that grew throughout the story.  Loved it!
*Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans could have been written from glimpses of my growing up years.  This book undid me, made me laugh, made me nod in agreement, made me angry and made me cry.  An amazing reflection on what it meant to grow up evangelical and learning to make sense of it all. I'll read it again and again.
*The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas made me angry, made me sad and made me more aware. This is probably the most important book I've read in the last 3 years (at least). It highlights so much of what is wrong in our society but still manages to find hope.  Recommended by my 15 year old daughter and must reading for teens and up.
*Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber was recommended on an edition of "What Should I Read Next" and intrigued me.  The book surprised me in its writing, its depth and its sensitivity. 
*Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was a school book for my then Freshman which we read aloud together. Rich language, strong story and believable characters.  I can't believe I waited so long to read it!

There you have it.  My favorite books of the year.  What have you read that I should add to my ever-growing To-Be-Read list.  My goal for next year is another 100 books set in at least 40 countries.  Do you have reading goals?  Happy Reading!

The full list:

Reading for Me:
The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Moore, Beth
The Wedding Dress by Hauck, Rachel
Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Bogel, Anne
The St. Louis 12 Days of Christmas by Nusbickel, Ryan
Cloudy With A Chance Of Toasted Rav by Nusbickel, Ryan
"Who Moved My Gooey Butter Cake?!" by Nusbickel, Ryan
Surprised by Oxford by Weber, Carolyn
I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame by Brown, Brené
The Night Parade by Tanquary, Kathryn
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself by Alda, Alan
Once Was a Time by Sales, Leila
Maude by Mabry, Donna
Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Martin, Jamie C.
Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School, #1) by Calonita, Jen
Book Scavenger (Book Scavenger, #1) Bertman, Jennifer Chambliss
The Hate U Give by Thomas, Angie
The Little School: Tales of Disappearance & Survival in Argentina by Partnoy, Alicia
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life's Biggest Yes by Welch, Kristen
Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food by Berry, Wendell
March: Book Three (March, #3) by Lewis, John Robert
We Should All Be Feminists by Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross by Laferton, Carl
The Seventh Wish by Messner, Kate *
In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Ahmed, Qanta A.
The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos by Leigh Fermor, Patrick
The Case of the Girl in Grey (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, #2) by Stratford, Jordan *
Mother-Daughter Book Camp (The Mother-Daughter Book Club, #7) by Frederick, Heather Vogel
Gods in Alabama by Jackson, Joshilyn
Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by Mayfield, D. L.
Daddy-Long-Legs (Daddy-Long-Legs, #1) by Webster, Jean
Winter Solstice by Pilcher, Rosamunde
Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Roberts, Cokie
Ishtar's Odyssey: A Storybook for Advent by Ytreeide, Arnold
El Deafo by Bell, Cece
Born with Teeth by Mulgrew, Kate
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Dunn, Mark
The Traveller's Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands by Leigh Fermor, Patrick
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Strout, Elizabeth
Wonder by Palacio, R.J.
A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope by Brokaw, Tom
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Evans, Rachel Held
Five Children on the Western Front by Saunders, Kate
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Zevin, Gabrielle
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Chiaverini, Jennifer
Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History by David, Saul
The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 by Johnson, Paul
Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love by Sobel, Dava
Between Shades of Gray by Sepetys, Ruta
Kidnap in Crete: The True Story of the Abduction of a Nazi General by Stroud, Rick
The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Mathematics, from One to Infinity by Strogatz, Steven H.
All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir by Manning, Brennan
Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Oxenreider, Tsh
Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Haines, Seth
Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home by Haines, Amber C.
Kindred by Butler, Octavia E.
The Princess Bride by Goldman, William
The African Trilogy by Achebe, Chinua
The Accident by Pavone, Chris
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Rushdie, Salman
The 19th Wife by Ebershoff, David
Dubliners by Joyce, James
The Secret Scripture by Barry, Sebastian
Touch by Zentner, Alexi
The Book Thief by Zusak, Markus
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Elwes, Cary
The Sacred Romance Drawing Closer To The Heart Of God by Eldredge, John
Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North by Maconie, Stuart
Chronicle in Stone by Kadare, Ismail

Read Alouds or Read Ahead for School
Tadpoles and Frogs by Milbourne, Anna
Only the Names Remain: The Cherokees and The Trail of Tears by Bealer, Alex W.
Eggs and Chicks by Patchett, Fiona
Adventures in Ancient Greece by Bailey, Linda
Here's a Penny by Haywood, Carolyn
Danny and the Dinosaur by Hoff, Syd
I Can Read It! (I Can Read It, #1) by Holzmann, John
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn (Samurai Detective, #1) by Hoobler, Dorothy
Till We Have Faces by Lewis, C.S.
God spoke Tibetan; the epic story of the men who gave the Bible to Tibet, the forbidden land by Maberly, Allan
Outliers: The Story of Success by Gladwell, Malcolm
The Monk Who Shook the World: The Story of Martin Luther by Davey, Cyril J.
The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, John
American Tall Tales by Productions, Greathall
101 Favorite Stories from the Bible by Miller, Ura
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Twain, Mark
A Grain of Rice by Pittman, Helena Clare
Mary Jones and Her Bible - An Adventure Book by Wright, Chris
Winnie-the-Pooh by Milne, A.A.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee, Harper
100 Best-Loved Poems by Smith, Philip
A History of Us: Ten-Volume Set: Ten-Volume Set by Hakim, Joy
Uncle Wiggily's Story Book by Garis, Howard R.
Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit by Borgenicht, David
The Second Mrs. Gioconda by Konigsburg, E.L.
Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds by Gallo, Carmine
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston, Zora Neale
A Single Shard by Park, Linda Sue
The Silver Branch by Sutcliff, Rosemary

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Back onto the Blogging Horse??

Obviously, I fell off the blogging wagon mid-year.  In my defense, that was about the time we begin to realise that a move to the US was going to happen.  But more than that, I just didn't have words that were not frustrated, political and not necessarily edifying.

We did make a move to the US in September. We are settling into our new home and routine. We are dealing with all kinds of re-entry culture shock. I'm still frustrated and political, but maybe I can be edifying in the midst of it.  I miss writing.  I miss the community of people who once blogged, and now do not.  I don't know for certain if my new year will find me blogging, or tweeting, or maybe dipping my toes into instagram.  I do know that I will be present somewhere.

For now, know that if you read this, I have missed you.  I'll be back to do a recap of a year of LESS, and I'll be introducing my 2018 word as well.  I'll be back with some goals, and maybe some progress.  Maybe I'll even be able to articulate what sixteen years in Europe has done to me and for me.  But, in Texas-words, I need to get back up on this horse and see where we go next.

Enjoy the end of your 2017.  New things are in store for all of us in 2018.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Siesta Verse 9

Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house. God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom, but leaves rebels to rot in hell.
Psalm 68:5-6
The Message