Monday, January 29, 2007

2007 Prayer for Growth

It’s late in January. Most people have completed their 2007 resolutions by now. I’ve not done this in several years, mostly because my goals and resolutions usually seem to end up unreached, a source of discouragement instead of challenge.

This year I feel a bit differently. A bit braver. I feel God's been at work in my heart and leading me to grow in some specific areas. Instead of making a long list of resolutions (which ends up being just a list Satan uses to remind me of my shortcomings), I’m making commitments to growth, with God's help, in just four areas. I’ve always loved that verse in Luke where it talks about Jesus’ growth as a young man and so am basing these ideas on that verse (Luke 2: 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.)

To make it easy to remember, I focused on the four aspects of our being (and limited myself to just one goal for each area, although I listed several to give you an example of what I mean):
  • Physical (health, diet, exercise, homemaking, etc.)
  • Mental (career, education, reading, etc.)
  • Spiritual (our relationship with God)
  • Social (relationships with others, community commitments etc.)

To solidify these commitments, I’m making them matters of prayer, hence the title 2007 Prayer for Growth. I've written these out in a prayer format in a Word document which I'll keep with my Bible journal.

I'm not going to share these prayers in detail here, but I will say I've been challenged by those of you who have shared your resolutions or meditations for the year. I didn't want this year to just roll on by and not be able to look back and see how God has worked in specific areas.

If you're not a resolution person, perhaps this idea is something that would work for you too. That's the cool thing about God - January 31 is as important to him as January 1st! It's never too late!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Over the Back Fence

I think if I had to choose another name for my blog, that's what it would be - "Over the Back Fence." Because that's part of what I love about blogging. It's chatting over the backyard fence with the neighbor lady (that'd by you, dear reader). It's a place where we share our smallest of victories, and remind one another that we're not alone in our journey. In my mind, that's what a neighborhood should be.

I have this vision of neat little bungalows with tidy backyards, divided by a white picket fence that exists solely for the purpose of keeping my dog from digging in your yard. It's not a six foot privacy fence, just a three foot little thing that still allows for plenty of friendly hellos and interesting conversation. It'd make hanging the laundry so much easier, to be able to chat with you while I'm doing it. If we're having a barbecue, you'd know you were invited. If we had kids, our kids would play together. When we have time, we enjoy a cup of coffee together in my kitchen. If you were ill, I'd be sure to pop over with some homemade chicken noodle soup. The mailman knows to leave my packages with you if I'm out of town, and thank you for checking our mail, by the way. My dog likes to annoy your cat at times, but then your cat kind of asks for it, by walking along the fence rail, just out of Fido's reach. Our husbands are always borrowing each others tools but hey, we're okay with that - right?

Okay, I know I'm being a bit idealistic here, but growing up in the country, where homes are up to a quarter mile apart, I always envisioned that cozy little neighborhood. I think it's a longing for connection that is a part of all of us. Instead of wiping my hands on my apron and rushing out to the backyard in hopes of sharing a bit of my day, it's just as nice to sit down and chat with you a bit. I appreciate all your great homemaking tips, and enjoy hearing about your kids. I love talking about books with you, and sharing little silly things, like how happy I am that I cleaned out two closets today. I love knowing what's cooking at your house, and I love when you share what God's doing in your life.

So that's a big part of what blogging is for me - sometimes a friendly conversation over the back fence, sometimes a heart-to-heart over a cup of tea. It's a neighborhood I'm glad to be part of. Thanks for being there!

More Library Treasures!

A while back I mentioned some benefits of my local library. I'm pretty pleased with my efforts to become a library reader; it sure is cutting down on all the money I used to spend on books. Pretty much, I borrow fiction and buy non-fiction. Most of the fiction that I do buy I end up giving away, which I'm happy to do!

Anyways, I just discovered some new perks at my local library:

  • I can download audiobooks for free. I don't even have to go to the library to do this! So I think that justifies this little MP3 player which will be a mere $29.99 after $40 rebate. Looks like I'll need to pick up earbuds for it, but for $30, it looks like a pretty good deal.
  • The Shopping Cart - the library's website allows me to keep a list of "to-be-read" books in a "shopping cart." When I'm ready to check them out, all I need to do is check the box and hit "Request."
  • Access to a gazillion databases and useful reference sites
  • Free wireless internet access
Just a few more reasons to love my local library. I know some of you mentioned that your local library is rather small and doesn't offer much but I encourage you to check and see if they offer some of these online options, and if they don't - why not suggest it?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Slow Cooker Thursday: Lazy Potato Soup

This is one of my favorite things to make in the crockpot. It's something I threw together in a pinch once and voila! He (dear hubby) liked it!

Scrub 4-6 large potatoes. Leave the peels on unless you really hate them! Cut potatoes into 1-1/2 in. cubes. Put in crockpot along with 1 large onion, quartered, 2-3 cans of chicken broth, and some smoked sausage (Eckrich or Hillshire farms), cut into 1" chunks. Add a bit of dill weed, salt and pepper. Heat on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Mash potatoes slightly, trying not to mash the sausage but don't worry if it happens. Add 1/2 to a cup of half & half. That's it! The amount of ingredients can be adjusted to the size of your crockpot or the needs of your family. The goal is to have the potatoes and sausage just covered by the broth, not swimming in it. This will ensure a nice consistency.


Monday, January 22, 2007

The Blog Meme

Do you like the look and content of your blog? Pretty much so. I love the warm colors of fall, and the picture I chose seems to go along with my theme. As far as the content goes, sometimes I read other blogs and think they're so interesting and mine seems kind of blah. But it is me and that's all I can be.
Does your family know about your blog? My sister and mother both read it.
Can you tell your friends about your blog? Nope. I'm not really good about promoting my blog. If one of them came across it somehow, it would be okay with me. But I'm just not one to tell someone "hey, wanna read my blog?" I do keep in mind the fact that you never know who will come across your blog, so that keeps me accountable.
Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog? No. For one thing, I don't get a whole lot of comments. I do visit the blogs of those who comment, but about once a week, I try to branch out and visit new blogs. That's why I appreciate when people keep a blogroll - it's a way to introduce each other to new blogs.
Does your blog positively affect your mind? For the most part, yes. It's an outlet for me to express myself in an organized fashion. I can wander around in my thoughts forever, if you know what I mean. Blogging forces me to organize my thoughts and get to the point, even in my own life. That's why I enjoy writing devotional type entries - it kind of solidifies in my mind what I think God is trying to teach me.
What does the number of visitors to your blog mean?
I struggled with this one for a while and so I signed up for a stat counter, just to see if anyone really read it. What amazed me most was seeing how my blog was visited as a result of people googling a topic. I don't really check the stats much at all, but it made me realize you never know who you might influence.
Do you imagine what other bloggers look like? Not really. I'm not curious in that way. Well, one person I'd like to see a picture of is Susanne, because I'm sure she really looks nothing like the cartoon on her blog!
Do you think that blogging has any real benefit? I think it's been a great way to connect with other women, and as someone who enjoys writing, it provides a place to hone that craft. The best thing about it is that there are no real rules, other than the unspoken ones of common courtesy. There's a place for the busy blogs that provide a bedrock for the blogging community, as well as the blogs (like mine) that are really just a place to tie down those random thoughts bumping around in your head.
Do you think that the blogosphere is a stand-alone community separated from the real world? In a way, it is. It's not for everyone.
Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them? Yep, like the plague. I'm not the least bit controversial, so I really don't have any use for those blogs that feed on debate and controversy.
Do you think criticizing your blog is useful? I'm critical of it enough, thank you very much. If someone had a constructive comment for me, and offered it privately, I would probably give it some thought. But to criticize someone else's blog is like criticizing someone else's home - we're all different. If I need your help (which I'm sure I do!), I'll ask!
Have you ever thought what would happen to your blog if you died? Nope, I really can't think that far ahead!
Which blogger has had the greatest impression on you? Hmmm. That's hard to say. I think I keep going back to Robin Lee Hatcher's blog. I'm always pleasantly surprised there because she has such a balanced mix of posts - from devotional type entries, to writing thoughts, to interesting insights on the current culture. Hers was really the first blog I started following faithfully, so you could say it was my intro to blogging.
Which blogger do you think is the most similar to you? Well, she's way more advanced as far as the technicalities of blogging go, but I'd have to say my friend Katrina is most similar to me. I think she's WYSIWYG, which basically means "what you see is what you get." Now I know her better than most, because she's a FIRL (friend in real life). But she's just herself, and that's how I hope I come across on my blog - it's just me.
Name a song you want to listen to. Oh I'll probably pop in Escape by Jim Brickman when I get to work today. This question confused me as well.

Like the others, I'll leave this as an open tag. As a bonus though, I've listed all the questions below so that you can easily copy and paste your answers on your own blog. If you participate, I'd love to come check out your answers.

Do you like the look and content of your blog?

Does your family know about your blog?
Can you tell your friends about your blog?
Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog?
Does your blog positively affect your mind?
What does the number of visitors to your blog mean?

Do you imagine what other bloggers look like?
Do you think that blogging has any real benefit?
Do you think that the blogosphere is a stand-alone community separated from the real world?
Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?
Do you think criticizing your blog is useful?
Have you ever thought what would happen to your blog if you died?
Which blogger has had the greatest impression on you?
Which blogger do you think is the most similar to you?
Name a song you want to listen to.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Craving Red Meat

So about four times a year I really, really want a piece of red meat. Steak, lamb, veal . . . today I had a hankering for pot roast. Good succulent, melt-in-your-mouth, falling apart, tender pot roast. Now my husband hates red meat. In fact, it's safe to say if he has to chew it - he hates it. His tastes run towards pasta and ground meat dishes. Your basic soups and sandwiches easily satisfy him. Heck, he loves hospital cafeteria food. So pot roast is very low on his toleration list. I think I've made it about four times in the ten years we've been married. THAT probably factored into the results tonight.

I got home from the store with that precious piece of promised to be tender chuck roast. In my hurry to start the feast, I totally forgot to sear the meat. And it was just the biggest piece of shoe leather you ever tasted. I wouldn't even let my husband near it, for fear he'd never try it again . . . not even when I finally make that knock-your-socks off roast. I called my sister and she confirmed - there's no hurrying pot roast. Gotta cook it in the crock pot or three hours on the stove top.

So that's the story of my red meat craving. Now what should I do about this chocolate craving?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

I just tried this a few months ago and it is awesome. It's become my new favorite soup! IMO, you can't beat when you're looking for a certain recipe. I love Q'doba's tortilla soup and have been looking for something similar to make at home. I think I found it. The only thing I did differently is add 1/2 small can of tomato paste. Keeping diced cooked chicken breast in the freezer makes this a snap to throw together. You might like to kick the heat up a notch; my husband prefers it mild. We topped ours with shredded cheese and tortilla chips instead of tortilla strips.


  • 1 pound shredded, cooked chicken (make sure you shred the chicken breast!)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 7 corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  3. Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut tortillas into strips, then spread on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, sprinkle tortilla strips over soup.
P.S. This is a great "take and make" recipe if you need to take something to work.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Great Quotes from my current read

I'm reading Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Phillip Yancey right now. I have to admit, I was pleased when I opened it for the first time and saw that it was by no means going to be a light-hearted treatment of the subject. This being my first Yancy title, I was also immediately impressed by his humility. He writes, not as a studied authority (although it's obvious he has studied) but rather as a student, or as he calls himself, a pilgrim on the same journey.

Anyways, it's chock full of one-liners that make me grab my pencil and underline things. I've only just finished Chapter 3, but I thought I'd give you sneak preview in the form of a few snippets. In these first few chapters, Yancey establishes the ideas that 1) God is in control, and 2) prayer is much about coming to God just as we are.

  1. In prayer I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. (p. 29)
  2. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God's point of view. (p.29)
  3. I begin with confession not in order to feel miserable, rather to call to mind a reality I often ignore. . . Confession simply establishes the ground rules of creatures relating to their creator. (p. 31)
  4. Truth hurts. Yet I cannot receive healing unless I accept God's diagnosis of my wounded state. (p. 32)
  5. . . . humbling was no end to itself, but a necessary step to the healing. (p. 33)
  6. Asking for help lies at the root of prayer: the Lord's prayer itself consists of a string of such requests. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God. (p. 34)
  7. Humility . . . means rather, that in the presence of God I gain a glimpse of my true state in the universe, which exposes my smallness at the same time it reveals God's greatness. (p. 37)
  8. Prayer allows a place for me to bring my doubts and complaints - in sum, my ignorance - and subject them to the blinding light of a reality I cannot comprehend but can haltingly learn to trust. (p. 40)
  9. More than anything, God wants your authentic self. (p. 41)
  10. "We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us," wrote C.S. Lewis. To put it another way, we must trust God with what God already knows. (p. 42)
  11. Prayer invites me to bring my whole life into God's presence for cleansing and restoration. (p. 42)
  12. Self-exposure is never easy, but when I do it I learn that underneath the layers of grime lies a damaged work of art that God longs to repair. (p. 42)
  13. Foolishly, I hide myself in fear that God will be displeased, though in fact the hiding may be what displeases God most.
I'm looking forward to future chapters (19 more!) with titles such as Ask, Seek and Knock; Tongue-Tied, and What to Pray For. If you're lingering between books right now, I highly recommend this one.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who's With Whom?

I went out with a group of friends after work recently, and we found ourselves in an awkward situation. Due to tight seating, I ended up sitting across from my friend and next to her husband. The girl catty-corner from me was going to be on my check. Needless to say, the waitress was more than a little confused when we tried to explain who was with whom.

Later that night, while outside staring up at the night sky (as I waited for one stubborn Boston Terrier to perform his duties) and pondering the magificence of God's creation, I wondered the same thing - "who's with whom?" I mean, how can I enter into his presence if he's already with me? At times the scriptures tell me to enter into his presence; other times, it reminds me that God is not only with me, but he will never leave me nor forsake me.

I thought about how at times I sit in the same room as my husband, engrossed in my own little realm of the book I'm reading or the Internet. I'm with him, but I'm not. Sometimes I need to get up out of my chair and plop myself down on the couch next to him and just get into his world. And those are the sweetest times. It's like that with God, I realized. I'm in the palm of God's hand but I can be so oblivious to that fact at times. He's with me . . . but am I with him? Am I engaged in acknowledging his presence? Do I sense his working in my life? Am I sensitive to his word?

Who's with whom? It's supposed to be I with him and he with me. I just have to keep up my end of the bargain. I'm extremely thankful however that, no matter what, he is always with me. That keeps me coming back for more!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Step Away From the Painting

Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, reminds me "I am not my words." They are but an expression of myself at a particular time and place, but if I’m always growing and changing, I can’t be my words. They are not me.

Yet so often it’s like I’m married to my words. Sometimes I spend so much time working on something that when it’s said and done – be it published on my blog or submitted to an editor for review or emailed back to a client - (not that #2 and #3 have happened much lately), it’s all I can do not to stand there gazing at it. Imagine an artist who hangs around the gallery all day, staring at his work and watching people looking at his work. He quits seeing what could be. He ceases to look for the next sunset. He misses the next antic of a precious child. By focusing on what was, captured in his art, he misses what could be.

I face the same temptation with writing. I tend to hang around the gallery, a little awestruck by my work, watching others’ reactions. I need to walk away, back to the very blank canvas that awaits me in the privacy of my own thoughts, and once again look for the next sunset or smiling child.

I need to do this whether or not the work was a flop. Disengage my soul from it. On to new business.

I’m trying to do this with life as well. Only in life, I tend to fixate on the flops. The mistakes at work and the glitches in relationships. And I walk away with visions of the mistake on the canvas of my mind, and not surprisingly, the next act is often tainted with error as well.

If we want to be growing and changing, we have to be willing to walk away. Christ didn’t stay on the cross. He’s about the business of transforming lives – yours and mine. He’s on to new business – I want to be too.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Meme: 6 Weird Things About Me

Okay, since I continue to labor over my yet-to-be finished streak of worthwhile posts in draft, I give you this meme: 6 Weird Things About Me, brought to you compliments of Katrina at Callapidder Days! The funny thing about reading this meme is realizing everyone has their hangups. It's fun to see what everyone has to say about themselves.

1. I don't like to make decisions, especially on mundane things like where to eat. Really, I don't. If we're going out to dinner, I will tell you what I absolutely don't like, and that's not saying much. I don't know if it's because I really don't have a preference or because I don't want to offend someone. I'm pretty sure it's the first. I mean - there's sure to be something on some menu somewhere I'm sure to like. And if I absolutely hate the place - well, what'd I lose - $15 bucks maybe? And most likely there's sure to be another meal tomorrow so it's not like each dining experience has to be "the one." Therefore it's not something I want to waste my energy on. You decide. I'll be there!
2. I love to watch football. I watched all four playoff games this past weekend. I've love watching football, both college and pro, since I was a little girl. The one rule at our house was only ask questions during commercials. But during commercials, I plied my dad with questions and learned much about the game. I've followed some players since their college days when I was in high school and college and now they're coaches and announcers! I used to be able to tell you who was coaching every NFL team. I've only been to one NFL game though and that's fine with me - I'd much rather watch it on TV.
3. I think I've mentioned this on my 100 Things About Me post which I'm sure you've all memorized by now. Nevertheless, it's worth nothing again here - I've never been in the hospital or even broken a bone. Therefore I'm extremely afraid of such an experience. My husband would think it wonderful though, because he loves hospital cafeteria food. So my being in the hospital would be a blessing to him? Well not really, but he'd probably enjoy the food nevertheless!
4. I don't know if it's weird or not but I read really fast. I took a speed-reading course in college for the easy credit and on the first day, read 1200 words per minute. By the end of the course, I was reading 1800-2000 words per minute. It came in handy for all the history classes I took. I guess I was retaining it well enough because I usually got A's.
5. I hate underwater life. Little pretty tropical fish in aquariums are the exception. When I was a senior we went to Sea World in Florida on our senior trip and one show was a movie where you needed to wear those 3-D glasses. I closed my eyes and crumpled those cardboard glasses in my hands and tried to think of happier things like painting and Ireland and what pranks we were going to play on the boys that night. I hate pictures of octupus, eels, squid - all that stuff. Absolutely freaks me out. Oh and those ugly fish in pet stores that stare at you with eyes on either side of their body while they move those weird jaws.
6. I never saw the Wizard of Oz until I was 21 years old. And to this day, I hate that movie. Which is unfortunate, because it's my husband's favorite. That and Starship Troopers. I bought him the Wizard of Oz for Christmas this year and like a good wife, will probably watch it with him. You couldn't pay me to pay good money for Starship Troopers though. Ugh.
That's it. Not too weird, huh? But what about you? So I'm tagging Stacy, Gail, Kelli at A Spacious Place, and whoever else wants to reveal their foibles and idiosyncrasies! And like everyone else said, if you don't have time or want to participate - no pressure here!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Calendar Consternation

So I've got a plan, an organized plan, for Bible journaling. So tell me why I can't get a plan for scheduling and keeping a calendar? Grrr. I swear I go through calendars like candy! I buy one, use it for a few months and then trash it. Seriously folks, this is a problem. Last year I bought the 2007 Franklin Covey pages for my planner, only to find out that I'd purchased the 1-page per day version and I absolutely hated it. I simply refuse to mix my work life with my personal life, and my personal life does not have enough going on to fill up a whole entire page for each day! Besides that, I really need to see an overview of the week. So I bought a pack of 2-pages per week at the local office supply store, ditched the 1-page per day pages, and slipped the weekly pages in behind the old tabs. Only problem - and this is a problem for me - they don't match. The calendar pages do not match the tabs. Ones blue and tight and very official looking. The other's maroon on grey and rather plain and boring. We've got narrow ruled and wide ruled in the same mix. Ugh. I can't go out of the house if my socks don't match perfectly. I can't sleep if the quilt on my bed isn't perfectly perpendicular. So you can see how this would be playing with my mind. And it's only January 8th! What to do, what to do?

Book tag

Gail tagged me for a different meme and so I decided to play along. I actually had no books within arms reach when I read this yesterday.  By the way, Gail is a gifted seamstress; I'm sure you'd agree if you're ever luck enough to catch a picture of some of her work on her blog!

Here are the rules/requirements:
1. Grab the book closest to you.
2. Open to page 123, go down to the fourth sentence.
3. Post the text of the following 3 sentences on your blog.
4. Name of the author and book.
5. Tag three people of your own.

The first book I picked up did not have 123 pages - how do you like that? I'm trying anxiously to finish this other book so I can return it to the person who lent it to me, so I'll use this one..

"He is the only one who can do that. No one will ever seek after God unless God is at work in his life. Many people who have begun applying this understanding to their witnessing have found great freedom."
Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King.

I'll make this an open tag too. If you're having a hard time coming up with something to post, why not share a bit from something you're reading?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tell Me What You Think Meme

I've been double-teamed by Stacy and her sister Gail for a few memes, which suits me just fine because I don't have any posts finished right now. Stacy tagged me for this one: Tell Me What You Think!

1. As a child, what did you always say you wanted to be when you grew up? I can't remember thinking that far ahead as an early elementary student. From about 5th grade on, I always said I wanted to be a teacher. There was a time when nursing, for some reason, appealed to me but that didn't last long.

2. If you had to choose one thing that you've always dreamed of doing, what would it be? What is stopping you? Getting another degree. Laziness is probably my biggest obstacle, not to mention money.

3. Who is your biggest fan? Hmmm, I have to go with my sis on this one. My sister was not only biggest fan as a kid, she was also my greatest defender when other kids picked on me. Gotta love a little sister who shows up to beat the neighborhood bully on your way home from school! She continues to be a great encouragement to me.

4. What bible study or book (besides the obvious-the Bible) has most impacted your life to date? I'd have to say neither. It was a magazine, Discipleship Journal , which I've subscribed to now for over six years. When I started subscribing, we were between churches and I really wasn't growing at all in my spiritual life. Subscribing to that magazine was like having my own personal pastor or teacher, right in my own home. Even today, I still look forward to each issue.

5. When are you the happiest? When my household is organized and I have the time to do things I really enjoy doing, like cooking and being creative. That usually happens to some extent when I'm off work, so is it fair to say I'm happiest when I'm not working? Ha!

I won't tag anyone specifically but if you'd like to play along, I'd love to come check out your answers on your blog.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Question of the Year

Every year I face the same question: what direction do I go in my Bible reading? Used to be, I'd start again in Genesis like a good Christian girl should. After a while, I knew what would happen - I'd peter out by March. Each new start required a new journal, which of course, would end up mostly blank and sometimes in the trash.

Several years ago, I discovered a method that I have been able to maintain for several years now. I blogged about this method in detail several months ago, but thought that at the beginning of a new year, others might benefit from this again. The secret, in my opinion, is the use of a table of contents in the front of my journal. The notebook I just finished spanned a couple of years, but looking back over it helps me to recall what God was teaching me at certain periods of my life. (You can't read them but the column headings are: Date, Scripture, Title and Page. Each journal entry begins with the date, Scripture passage and a title as well. If you do this, be sure to leave at least 3-4 pages front and back in the front of your journal for the TOC. If you run out of room as I did before your journal is filled, you can always continue the TOC in the very back)

Others have blogged about similar methods recently. Chris at Come to the Table explains a similar journaling method in a recent post and even links to a resource for journals. Plain old notebooks work fine for me, but I concur with her thinking: this is not something to do for a year but for a life! It really puts your walk with God in proper perspective, instead of viewing it as a series of starts and stops.

While I still ponder the question of "what to read" at the beginning of each new year, it's with anticipation and expectation. Sometimes I do topical studies; other times I get involved in book studies or follow my church's Spiritual Life journal reading plan which coincides with the sermon series. Some days I haven't even done any reading but just journaled a prayer instead. Sometimes I read the same chapter or short epistle several days in a row. I try to be sensitive to God's leading as far as what to read, but the framework of the journal helps keep me motivated. If I miss a few days, it helps to look at it prayerfully and recall what was going on in my life at that time.

If you're looking for a new beginning in your Bible reading, I'd encourage you to consider giving this method a try. I've done it for 4 years now and it has been one of the greatest spiritual blessings in my life.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Who Am I, Anyways?

I recently finished one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I debated about posting a review on this book; nevertheless, I feel selfish not sharing a book that has so greatly impacted me.

In The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery, David G. Benner approaches a topic considered by some Christians to be off-limits. A book on the topic of self-discovery seems to contradict the biblical teachings of dying to self and being crucified with Christ. Rather than promote teachings on self-esteem or an unbalanced idea of self-image however, Benner seeks to help us see ourselves as God sees us. Whether we realize it or not, our image of ourselves is often formed by what we do, or how we feel others view us. Our image of ourselves is just that, an image. Whether we view ourselves through the validation we get from what we do, or through the eyes of others, this image is not the same as who we are. And yet I think so often we are afraid of facing who we really are.

I need to see myself as God sees me. And how does God see me? As an employee? A wife? As a former teacher or wannabe writer? Since reading this book, I’ve come to understand that those are just roles. God sees me, not through these roles, but as an utterly depraved, yet beloved creation of his. I always viewed my sins as separating me from God, but that which I do is merely a manifestation of the real problem – my sinful nature. I feel like even since becoming a Christian, I still try to prove myself to God. That can’t be done because no amount of righteous living can negate the fact that my very nature is flawed.

Understanding this has revolutionized my confidence in approaching God. I don’t have anything to hide. He already knows the ugly side of me. The thoughts I shouldn’t have. The negative attitudes. My shortcomings. The stuff I can manage to hide so well from others. His mercy and grace are so much sweeter. And being real with God is helping me learn to be real with others.

I came away from reading this book with the impression that it’s not “who I am,” but rather “who I am in Christ” that matters. I don’t think it’s possible to deny myself when the only self I know is that which I view through skewed mirrors. When I look into God’s word and see through his eyes who I really am, well, the whole denying self and dying to self begins to make sense.

I’m the kind of person who can approach a book much like I do a smorgasbord; I’m not offended by the foods I don’t like. I didn’t agree with every single idea in this book, but the author has a lot of good things to say and I found it a worthwhile read.

Monday, January 01, 2007

She's Making a List, Checking It Twice . . . "

Okay, this is the year I'm finally going to do it. I'm going to keep track of what I'm reading - right here on my blog. There's a link on my sidebar and I hope you'll check in from time to time to see what I'm reading. Inspired by Stacy's and Susie's lists, I think this is something I can do. I absolutely love when other bloggers keep book lists on their blogs and am hoping others find this helpful as well.

Along with this list making comes a few other resolutions and observations:

  1. No more B&N membership. I just can't see that's it's worth the $25 I spent this past year, when Amazon's prices are often better than B&N membership prices. Then there's the discrepancy between the store prices and the prices online - sometimes one is better, sometimes it's not. I'll still shop there and will most definitely enjoy a Starbucks coffee there from time to time; I'm just not renewing my membership. So there! (I feel much better now!)
  2. I will continue to borrow most of the fiction I read from my local library. I do believe in supporting authors though, so I'll probably splurge on a few fiction books.
  3. I hope to do more book reviews this year.
  4. I'm not in competition with anyone. For someone who's very competitive, this is important for me to decide right at the start! If I read 20-30 books, fine. If I read 50 books - great.
  5. I tend to read non-fiction books through several times - does that rereading count as another book? I know, I'm not counting - just curious. Often I borrow a book that turns out to be such a good read that I'll end up buying it so I can read it again and mark it up.
  6. I never used to be much for non-fiction. I'd say the ratio was something like 6-7 fiction titles to one non-fiction that would take me months to read, and I might not even finish it. Something happened to me over this past year that whetted my appetite for non-fiction, specifically Christian living books. I still read plenty of fiction but perhaps I'm becoming more balanced in that area.
  7. My semi-goal for reading this year is to have four books going at all times: one devotional, one non-fiction Christian living, one non-fiction on the craft of writing, and one fiction title. I think that's doable and I really need to get out of the habit of having seven or eight books going at once. That's a little crazy!
  8. Oh yeah - I almost forgot. My favorite Christmas gift this year was one I picked out for myself: a personalized book stamp! I got it a few days after Christmas and promptly set to marking some of my favorite books. I hope to organize and stamp all my books during the month of January! This is something I've wanted to do for years; now I have absolutely no excuse.