Thursday, June 16, 2016

Giddy Up, Eunice!

I'd never read a book authored by Sophie Hudson, even though I follow her on all the socials.  She seems like a fun, southern gal who loves the Lord, and who doesn't need more of that in your life?  A few months ago, she announced a new book being released in June and was recruiting for her launch team.  I was in the midst of my first two launch teams ever - Looking for Lovely, and The Gospel of Mark Bible study - and thought, "yeah, let's do this again!"  

Entering into this journey, I had no idea the topic of the book. With a name like "Giddy Up, Eunice" I assumed it was some sort of Toy Story spin-off where Woody and Buzz rescued Grandma Eunice from the jaws of a Lego crane.  But the sub-title, "Because women need each other" was intriguing and indicated it was more than a toy search and rescue thriller.  

Sophie takes three teams of women from Scripture - Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, and Lois and Eunice (there's Eunice!) - to show the biblical evidence of why women need women.  Each dynamic duo is used to show how God used each one for the other and how that applies to our lives today in our fast-paced, hashtag, social media world. #imexhausted  Now, if you pick up this book and expect an expositional retelling of each of their stories, it's not.  And, that's completely ok!  I believe there is a time for deep, Scriptural study and a time when we look at the biblical story, draw out the truths, and well, Giddy Up!  

As a woman who works at a high school with many young girls, Sophie adds her own spice of life experiences and how they apply to ministering to women.  The most endearing part of the book, to me though, are the stories of her Mom, her Mother-in-Law, Martha, and her Mamaw.  We visualize the legacy of her Mamaw as we tour her farm and Sophie retells her experiences.  Through her stories, we fall in love with those that have invested in Sophie's life and it causes the reader to begin to reflect on their own legacy and those that have played a part in the development.

My Mom passed away in September 2000...one day after my 35th birthday. I really couldn't fathom losing one of my best friends so early in my life.  I remember sitting in her hospital room on my birthday thinking back on all that she taught me. How to trust God when you are married 18 years without conceiving to finally have your one and only child.  How to love a husband till death do you part.  How to stand for the truth even when it isn't popular.  How to live with a chronic illness and still go on.  How to walk gracefully through the valley of the shadow of death.  All that I was reflecting upon couldn't be absorbed in those moments.  But in the sixteen years following, I've reflected much.  She was and is my hero.

After my Mom passed, it hit me that I was blessed with a godly mother for 35 years, but oh so many more woman have not had that privilege.  In that moment, God ignited a passion in me to invest and disciple women.  The blessings I've experienced on that journey since my Mom's death are too numerous to recount in one blog post.  What I would give to have a few hours with my Mom to catch her up on the last sixteen years of my life and get her wise counsel on so many more things.  

During the time I began reading Eunice, my pastor's wife and I had met to discuss all things women's ministry and discussed our need to train others to invest in women.  That's what I call a God-incidence when His Plan pops up everywhere and all in a beautiful, syncopated symphony.  Giddy Up, Eunice, was a good kickstart to get me back on the horse (pun intended) and get serious about investing in women.  

The world is hurting.  In the last week we've had massacres, shootings and political ramblings and it all wears me down.  The world needs hope.  The world needs Jesus.  Women carry a huge burden of trying to fix everything, and in the midst of what is swirling around us today, we are frustrated and sometimes helpless we can do anything.  It's time to stop navel gazing and start looking outward to those women in our lives who need encouragement, who need a hug, and who need us to walk alongside them through life.  Giddy Up, Eunice will be just the book to light your fire and get you on the road to investing in other women.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Podcast Obsession, Red Lights and Green Lights

One of my latest obsessions is listening to podcasts.  You'd think the phenomenon that is podcasts is a bit outdated given it's really nothing more than streaming talk radio, but sometimes that which is old can be reborn.

I listened to the first and second season of Serial Podcast, which was most likely the podcast that made this whole thing cool again.  But what really got me hooked was the introduction of West Wing Weekly, a podcast that recapped each episode of this iconic show from Episode 1, Season 1.  I absolutely loved this television show, and the thought of reliving it with commentary from other folks who loved the show - and appeared on the show - was like a dream come true.  It was then I begun subscribing to oodles of podcasts.

It's hard to pick my favorite, so I'll mention a couple of my recent favorites.  "What Should I Read Next" is hosted by a local gal here in Louisville, Anne Bogel.  She has guests on the show from all walks of life - many are authors - and asks them three simple questions: 1.  What are your three favorite books?  2. What is a book you hate?  3. What would you change in your reading habits today?  From those answers, Anne suggests a couple of books for the guest to read that fit their demographic.  I find this podcast fascinating!  Not only do I garner more books for my "to-read" list (like I need to expand that monster), but I learn about how to discern my tastes and choose books myself that would fall into my sweet spot. 

My other new favorite is "The Popcast."  Oh my cow, I binged listened to this one day last week and was hooked!  Jamie Golden and Knox McCoy host this weekly show all about pop culture.  I'm so #teamjamie, but I love the banter between the two of them.  And, the fact that it is an hour-long broadcast, which is long for most podcasts, doesn't bother me a bit.  In fact, I wish it was longer.  In most every episode, they list a "red light" and "green light" each.  A red light is something they are super disappointed about and a green light is the ultimate thumbs up award from these pop culture gurus.  I think I want to adopt this in real life.  Since my blog is real life, I plan on periodically calling out my Red Light and Green Light for the week.  To kick it off, I'm going to start with this post.  And I'll start with my Red Light, because I'm positive and I prefer to get that negative nonsense over with and focus on the good.

Red Light:  The Cincinnati Zoo Gorilla-Gate.  Ok, I'm pretty much over the discussion of this incident.  In case you are living under a rock, last week, a three-year old slipped into the Gorilla habitat and a 400-pound gorilla drug him around until they took the gorilla down.  The little boy was fine, and the gorilla dead.  You've got people who are upset about killing the gorilla.  Really, people!?  I love animals as much as the next person, but in the creation of the world, a child trumps a gorilla.  Nobody knows what the gorilla could do and zoo spokespeople said these gorillas can crush a coconut with one hand, so the chance of that happening to the child was a possibility.  Yes it's sad a gorilla had to be taken down.  But move on.  People on the other side of the issue want the Mom to be punished somehow.  How could she let her child get away like that?  I'm not a Mom, but I know enough (and know enough Moms) to know that keeping your eye on your child every step and breath they take is close to impossible.  I believe she had multiple children with her, so that increases the odds that one second her head is turned, off a three-year-old goes.  I also know enough three-year-olds to know they are pretty doggone independent.  I'm an only child and my Mom took her eye off me for one second in a department store and I went hiding in the clothes.  So, back off the Mom.  She's been traumatized enough.   The zoo is taking a look at more secure barriers to the habitat.  But, let's move on people.  We have a presidential election that gets us riled up enough.

Green Light:  Kroger Click-List.  A few weeks ago the Kroger grocery chain introduced Click-List online ordering and pick-up at one of our local stores.  You go online under your Kroger Account (with all that Kroger Plus card goodness) and place your order.  You can see the weekly ad for the best sales, price compare, and even add coupons to your card for further savings.  You choose a pick-up time, and then you drive to the store to pick up your groceries.  I thought this sounded too good to be true.  But it wasn't.  Yes, Virginia, it was that heavenly.  I placed my first order (free for the first three trips, then $4.95 after) on a Friday night and scheduled a pickup for Monday after work.  The cool thing was I could edit and add to my order by midnight Sunday - which I did.  I pulled up to the marked location for ClickList customers and called the number posted to let them know I had arrived.  They came out, reviewed my list while another person loaded my groceries.  I paid my bill and then off I went.  In about 10 minutes.  There were a few things out of stock, but nothing drastic.  And they even provided a substitute for one out-of-stock item for free!  When I asked them how it was being received, the associate laughed and said "we haven't had an open slot yet."  Another location was added last week and more to be added soon.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Reading, Writing and Teaching

Lately, I've been ruminating on three things - reading, writing and teaching.  It sounds like the old schoolhouse rhyme, but it's not.  It's more my thought processes on these various activities that have me in a pondering mood.

Reading.  I've been a reader from way back.  My Mom taught me to be a veracious reader at a young age, and I spent my summers checking out as many books as I could and soaking them in like water to a sponge.  In my pre-teen years, I could read as many as five books at one time.  As I got into high school, reading became more for homework than pleasure, and my desire waned.  Then came college, which also included tons of hours reading about things I was studying, not escapes into other's stories.  In 2009, I joined a book club in hopes to regain my passion for reading and it worked.  Then I went back to school and there was barely enough time to read my book for club, aside from anything else.  I've been out of school since last summer and my reading passion has grown.  I can't get enough of it.  So far I've read 12 books this year, almost halfway to my year goal of 25.  Any time I have down time, my nose wants to be in a book.  

Writing.  Last month, I celebrated my eleventh year blogging.  Wow.  That's longer than any dating relationship I've ever had and longer than most of the jobs I've held.  I've been a fierce writer cranking out posts left and right, and then a not so fierce writer struggling to post an article.  I've kept a goal of at least two blogposts per month, so I feel accomplished.  This leads me to my real reason for ruminating on writing.  I'm back to the thought of whether I should write a book.  My friend, Paige, and I have no less than 4 or 5 ideas of books we'd like to author together, so once she gets her tenure, that is on.  But, as I've participated in a few book launch teams lately, the fire is back to write a book.  Most of the authors I'm helping launch started out as bloggers.  My mind reels on how to even begin.  I have lots of ideas, but no clear path to get there, and like Mr. Holland's Opus, life and other ministry takes priority.  Nonetheless, it is occupying my head space right now.  

Teaching.  Part of the motivation of getting my MBA was to have the ability to do some adjunct teaching someday.  Of late, this has also been taking up a lot of my head space.  I'm far from ready to begin the process of seeing what's out there, but to be ready, I need to have a CV prepared so if and when the right teaching position pops up I can apply.  I love my current job, but I've always wanted to do this on a part-time basis to see if I even like it.  Given the first two items - specifically writing - I can't do both.  Herein lies the conundrum.  

All my life I've always had bigger goals than I had time or resources, but I'm so Type A, it's hard to not act on some of these dreams.  At this posting, I'm contemplating doing what I did when I was praying about getting my MBA...I decided to take some steps and see if doors opened, and if they did, that was the way I would go.  My MBA decision was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I'm hoping the same outcome as I ponder these wonderful opportunities all around me. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Looking for Lovely

Early this year, I applied to be on a launch team for a new Lifeway Book releasing by Annie F. Downs - Looking for Lovely.  I'd never participated in a launch team before and figured I'd have little chance to make it...but I did!  And there began my journey of lovely. 

I'd followed Annie on the socials and knew she'd written other books (of which I haven't read...yet), and that she was single, which is always something that endears me to a godly woman.  Those of us never marrieds that follow Christ have a desire to marry.  But, we're not going to settle for Mr. Maybe.  Some choose singleness.  Others follow God's choice for a season, however long that season lasts. 

I anxiously awaited my advance copy and it came with all the pomp and circumstance of a glorious royal entry full of glittery confetti!  Party started!

I paced my reading of this book because it would be a little over two months before it hit the market on April 5 and I wanted to savor every word.  And it didn't disappoint.  

Annie shared (quite vulnerably, I might add) about a season of life when she dealt with her "broken crazy."  A time in her life when her resilience was non-existent and she struggled to focus on the good in things; lovely was not a word in her vocabulary.  

The journey through this book of Annie's search for lovely takes you so many places - to the Holy Land, the Ryman Auditorium, a beautiful sunrise, a farmer's market and Monet's House.  Each chapter unveils the lovely Annie found in the midst of the ordinary things of life and packaging it up like putting lightning bugs in a jar in hopes they would blink forever.  At the end of each chapter after Annie had visually walked us through her lovely experience, she challenged us with our own assignment.  Get up early and watch a sunrise.  Paint your nails.  Whatever that challenge was, Annie encouraged us to find lovely in our lives.  

When I ruminated over this blog post review of the book, I wanted to share a lovely in my life.  There are so many in my life that I often overlook.  Earlier this week I was at dinner with a longtime friend.  As we ate, a man who was in the restaurant making balloon animals in return for donations for a mission trip walked up and gave us each our own animal.  I got a turtle that is cute as a button.  He said they'd probably last about two weeks.  Now I have a "lovely" sitting in my home to remind me of that dinner with a cherished friend.

To pick a lovely I could really share in depth, I wanted something that, even to this day, I recall and smile.  It was last May, the first Saturday in May, which for us in Louisville, Kentucky, is Derby Day.  I have a standing date with a sweet lady from my church, Martha, the first Saturday of every month.  Martha has known me since before I was born.  She and my Mom were dear friends.  She is a pillar of our church and when you look up hospitality in the dictionary her picture is there.  Recently, her two best friends have slipped from her life - one has gone on to Heaven and the other one is trapped in a world of dementia.  We started this standing date when I realized how I would feel in her shoes.  And, selfishly, because she is a connection to my Mom and Dad, who are both now gone.  Even more than that, she is so wise and special to me.

On every other first Saturday we would head somewhere for brunch or lunch in town, with Cracker Barrel as one of our favorite places (talk about lovely!)  But on that first Saturday in May, Derby Day, I suggested someplace special.  I made reservations at the Science Hill Inn just outside of Louisville in Shelbyville, Kentucky.  This historic building was a preparatory school for girls from 1825 to 1939.  It still stands today and houses a quaint dining room serving Kentucky delicacies.  For Derby Day, there was a lovely brunch and we headed there for our special day.

As we entered the building, you could feel the historic presence of girls who had dreams of being anything they wanted to be.  We made our way to the dining room and it felt like I walked into the 1800s.  The tables were colonial style and draped with bright, white tablecloths.  The serving staff was all adorned with tuxes or black and white attire and you could tell all of them had worked there for years and knew the regulars by name.  We were seated by a lovely window overlooking the gardens.  It was perfect.  It was lovely.  

We talked and shared and didn't feel rushed to leave. (Unlike the time they threw us out of Cracker Barrel...but I digress)  While sitting there, a sweet teenager came to our table and asked if she could pray for us.  Simply lovely.  Our server shared her Dad was a pastor in the area and they were a great family.  If the day wasn't lovely enough, this made it lovelier.  The weather was picture perfect and the company even better.  

As I mentioned, Martha and I do this every month, never fail, save one month when it just didn't work out.  And I look forward to it every month.  But this Derby Day 2015 will be a lovely I'll never forget.  

If you are expecting an exegetical thesis on the book of Ezekial, it's not this book.  But, if you've ever had a problem finding lovely in your life....in this world....and tired of being the strong one or adulting, this is a must read.  All of the lovely points to the One who is the Loveliest of all.  

"This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." - Romans 5:5

"Hope is an expensive commodity, not easily fought for, and the result of a process that will take some time." - Annie F. Downs

Friday, April 01, 2016

Non-April Fool's Funny

It's April Fool's Day and I've already had an attempted prank played on me.  One of my employees tried to tell me they were rebooting West Wing.  On any other day I would have "SQUEEEEEED!" for joy, but I knew it was merely his poor attempt to doop me.  In honor of this fun day (which is on a Friday this year!), I'm sharing one of my all-time favorite video moments.  It's from The Ballinger Family, who vlog daily and have three of the cutest children ever.  The youngest, Parker, at age 3 experiences candy for the first time in this video.  His reaction is my favorite.  When I get excited about something, this is really how I feel.  Enjoy!