Thursday, August 31, 2017

Table Topic: Summer 2017

This summer is flying by as we are fast approaching the Labor Day weekend.  Where has the summer gone?  Literally I think I have whiplash from the flipping of the calendar.  My blog can tell that given I've been a one-post-per-month this summer.  In an effort to remedy that for August, I'm posting a Table Topic for the day....

What was the highlight(s) of your Summer 2017?

Given my busy summer, you'd think I'd have a flurry of highlights, but it's been full but nothing super spectacular...except my one highlight....The PopCast Live Show.  Probably my favorite podcast of all time is The PopCast.  I've been listening for more than a year, and literally laugh profusely at every episode.  Knox and Jamie are a tremendous duo.  This summer, they kicked off their live summer tour in Louisville!  I couldn't believe all my dreams were coming true!  The PopCast Live Louisville...and with special guest, Anne Bogel, the host of the What Should I Read Next podcast....which I was a guest on Episode 34.  The cherry on top was my submission to Celebrity Death Panel.  Even though the venue had no air and it was 135 degrees, I would do it all over again.  

What is your Summer 2017 highlight?

Let your sun shine...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

All in All Journaling Devotional: A Review

I was privileged to be a part of the launch team for Sophie Hudson's newest book, "All in All Journaling Devotional: Loving God Wherever You Are."  I was added to the team later in the process, so I've been working through the 100 days presented in this devotional in order to give you my complete and honest review.  This devotional came out on August 1, so you can get your own copy right now!

It's hard for me to simply write a review like I would normally do for a traditional book. I could say, "If you know a teenage or college-aged girl, go buy this for them right now!"  Or I could say, "If you are a teenage or college-aged girl, go buy this right now!"  Shoot, I could really say, "Everyone go buy this right now!" But, I'm going to summarize it in one of my favorite formats.  The Top 5 Reasons you need to buy this devotional, from the home office of B&H Publishing in Nashville, TN.  (That's who published this you can keep up)

5.  The theology is sound - One of the things I look for in Christian books, especially those targeted to young souls, is the soundness of the theology.  Heaven knows I hear enough heresy to keep me on my toes, I don't want to recommend a book to tender girls who could be blown around by the wind.  Sophie is sound in her doctrine.  She hits that straight on in her own wonderful way.  Salvation is through grace alone, and not from works.  She doesn't dive deep into exegetical dissection, but she explains the Scriptures in an easy way that I believe the Lord meant it to be so we understand His grace and merciful gift of salvation.

4.  Sophie Hudson - Ok, so I'm not personal friends with Sophie, though I have to admit I fangirl quite often and might pee my pants if I ever met her, but she is the real deal.  There is nothing "put on" about her.  She has the southern humor and charm that makes reading her words feel like she's sitting across the table from you.  To add to that, Sophie spent years teaching high school English, and is now a mentor of sorts for girls at the high school where she taught.  Folks, she's on the front lines.  She knows first hand what this age group is dealing with on a daily basis.  You can tell that in the topics she covers.

3. You can do this with your daughter or a girl you mentor - I'm not the mother of a young daughter.  But if I were, I would buy two copies - one for me and one for her, and I'd suggest we go through this study together and talk about it together.  The daily devotions won't take more than 15 minutes or so, depending on how much you want to journal, so it shouldn't be tough for anyone to do.  It's 100 days, which, I'll tell you, go by fast!  And even though the target is for young girls, you'll grow in Christ too.  It seemed her lessons hit me right where I needed them even in my life as a bit (cough) older woman.  

2.  The topics covered are relevant - I applaud Sophie on presenting the challenges of social media and it's impact on these young girls.  She doesn't tell them to get off social media, which I appreciate, because, you know what, they won't.  But she does shoot very straight about the dangers that come from being too entangled in the world wide web.  Sophie presents very practical advice.  For example, if you struggle with posting things inappropriately on SnapChat, have your grandmother connected to your account and she'll see everything.  When you know your grandmother will see it, you'll think twice about what you post.  Technology isn't going away, and it does serve good purposes.  What's Instagram today will be another platform in five years to pull and tug at our young people.  Sophie really navigates those waters well.

1.  You have a young woman you just can't reach - Maybe your the Mom, or teacher, or mentor of a young girl in your life and she is going through a stage that no matter what you say to her, she won't listen.  For whatever reason, she's battling hearing the truth.  Sometimes, we don't learn to back away and pray like we've never prayed before, but we want to march right into that land mine and cause it to blow up and then we've created more division.  Let me give you some advice.  Buy this devotional.  Wrap it up in a beautiful package (or put it in a snappy gift bag, like I would because...I'm a better rapper than a wrapper), add a handwritten note to this young woman and give it to her.  Then walk away.  Start praying.  Let the words from His Word penetrate her heart through the vehicle Sophie has created.  Then, if God does some big stuff (which He's often likely to do in those areas we feel are long beyond anyone's help), let Sophie know.  Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @boomama and give her an update.    I'm gonna tell you right now, there is nothing more that will bless her heart - and cause the tears to flow - than to hear that testimony.  

Jesus is our All in All and when we remember that, life always can be viewed in the right perspective.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Tale of Two Gardens

I have never successfully grown a plant.  Ever.  I've tried growing houseplants, miniature indoor rose plants, African Violets (yes, I know those are tough), and even succulents...SUCCULENTS.  The plant that NOBODY can kill, but I can.  My one and only succulent did last about 3 months, which is a longer life than my other attempts at green thumbing.

I'm not an outdoor girl, so I don't even want to attempt to try and keep a garden alive.  That's like spinning plates, right?  I can't keep one potted something alive, how in the world would I keep three or four different plants growing.  The one thing I've had success growing is butterflies, so I'll give myself the moniker of crazy butterfly lady because I won't be a crazy cat lady...I don't like cats.

Even though I can't grow those beautiful flowers or budding plants, I do love flowers. They are so fragrant and colorful.  The other night I was walking down the sidewalk of a local outdoor shopping center and noticed the large urns of flowers they had planted along the way.  Man, I wanted to just go "snip, snip" and take a bouquet home, but I figured if there would be anyone that would get caught stealing fresh flowers, it would be me. 

Recently I was asked to be on the launch team for Sophie Hudson's newest book, "All in All: A Journaling Devotional."  If you've never read her work, let me stop a moment and tell you to go order all her books.  She writes like she talks and she's southern through and through, but most importantly she loves Jesus.  This new devotional journal is targeted to youth and college age girls but as I'm going through each of the 100 days, I'm enjoying her perspective on how Jesus truly is our All in All.

She mentioned how perfectly God has placed us in this world with the glory of sunrises and the calming beauty of sunsets.  God could have decided to just turn the lights off and on, but He didn't.  Sophie reminded me that He chose to place us in this beautiful garden on Earth.  That got me looking around for the uniqueness of His Creation.  I really did stop and smell the roses - or gardenias or whatever was in that large shopping center urn.  

That got me thinking about the first garden...Eden.  We really blew that one.  Adam and Eve had it perfect...truly perfect.  But the desire to be like God and not be obedient, caused them to be cast out of that perfect place.  And they lived with a list of other things God told them as consequences for their sin.  

We focus a lot on how we live in a broken world - and we do.  And how we won't experience that perfection again until Jesus returns to bring the world back in order - and that's true.  But think about this.  We live in a garden.  Oh, it has sinful people, horrid tragedies, and brokenness at every corner.  But really look around.  We DO live in a garden.  God could have place us in a dark and dreary place.  But we have gorgeous sunsets, white sandy beaches, fragrant flowers, a bright sun that rises majestically, and even caterpillars that turn to butterflies.  We are blessed.  How much does God love us that He would place us in just a smidgen of the wonderfulness of His Creation to prepare us for that day when we'll live in a New Earth that is beyond our imagination?  One garden that's perfect.  One garden that's broken.  One Rescuer to come again to restore us to perfection.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

You Lyft Me Up

Last week I traveled to the Bay Area of California to spend the week at my company's headquarters.  I hadn't been out west for probably two and a half years, so I was overdue for a visit.  In the past, I normally rented a car since I had the free time to meet other friends for dinner or travel out to the ocean.  This trip wasn't going to afford that luxury, so I opted to go a different route.  Uber or Lyft.

Because of my Type A/OCD tendencies, I did thorough research on each.  Who has the best ratings?  What issues have come up in the past?  Essentially, I wanted to choose the best option for my needs.  After all my research, I decided to go with Lyft.  

My first ride was from the airport to the hotel.  I ordered my Lyft through the handy dandy app and once my ride was claimed, I received a picture of the driver, the model of their car and license plate number.  In exchange, the driver received my name and picture.  Valerie was my driver and not long after she claimed my ride, she called me to confirm my location.  Good thing she did, because I entered it incorrectly.  All ride share apps like Uber and Lyft pick up from the Departures level.  Knowing you are on that level is one thing, but what Terminal and what door is vital for them to find you.  Valerie pulled up, hopped out of the car, and was super nice.  She loaded my bags and off we went.  I even sat in the front seat!  We had a great conversation on the way to the hotel and I told her she made my first ride the best!  

The remainder of the week I was a Lyft Pro.  All the drivers were nice - I did have one that didn't speak English.  I had to quickly say "No hablo espanol" so he knew I was not going to be a great communicator, although I did say "Gracias" when I exited the car.  This service was a game changer.  I never had to wait more than 4 minutes for a ride and it always took me door to door.  And, the cost was so much cheaper than a rental car.  I realize my company pays for these things while I travel, but I try to be a frugal employee.  

Even though I didn't use Uber, many of the drivers I had with Lyft also work for Uber.  The downside of Uber is you can't tip in the app.  Now, many resources tell you that you don't need to tip these drivers, but I like to, especially when they are quick to load up my luggage.  If you are traveling, and especially in large cities, I can't recommend Lyft and Uber enough.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Butterfly Love Shack

As mentioned in my last blog post, I received a butterfly garden to raise my own butterflies through the miraculous wonder of metamorphosis.  I'm happy to report that three of the five butterflies made it out and released to the world on Memorial Day - celebrating the land of the free!

I received my cup of caterpillars on May 10 and released them on May 29.  That means in just 19 days I saw this transformation first hand.  To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement.  Aside from my 8-year-old tendencies at times, this seemed to satisfy my longing for a pet (even though you can't cuddle a caterpillar or butterfly) and was low maintenance.  Plus, I feel like I contributed to nature by releasing them to do what they do for perfect balance in the way God created them.

Once the butterflies emerge from the cocoon, you have four days to nurture them and feed them sugar water, which is about the easiest thing to provide.  I was so glad that all this happened over a long weekend because that meant I could watch them flutter in their habitat and feed them more often.  After this experience, I think I'm going to do this all summer and just order more caterpillars.  I'm not becoming old and a cat lady but old and a lepidopterist.  

One small surprise during this process occurred Sunday evening.  I went to refill the sugar water feeder and found a butterfly clung to the top of the habitat.  Normally when I unzip it, they fly to the bottom.  This time, they didn't.  And I was missing a butterfly when I counted.  I first thought this poor butterfly clinging to the roof of the netted habitat was dead.  And then I looked closer.  It appeared two butterflies had become one.  And, were mating.  Yep.  Seriously.  My butterfly garden had turned into the Love Shack.  I googled "Butterflies mating" to ensure my guess was correct.  And it was.  I had already planned to release them the next day, but I really needed to do it the next day now because the next step in that parade is the female butterfly nesting and laying her 100 eggs.  I enjoy raising butterflies...but not 100.  

Not only have I become a lover of raising butterflies, I've become a butterfly matchmaker.  My insects are getting more action than I am.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Musings of the Week: Butterflies, PhDs, and Summertime!

Butterflies - I received a butterfly garden from Amazon last week to take my first stab at raising butterflies.  Yes, I'm way beyond the age range on the package, but I've watched YouTube families do this and found it so fascinating I wanted to try it myself.  For just $27, you get everything you need (including caterpillars) to raise Painted Lady Butterflies.  After 3-4 weeks, when they are ready for release, the habitat and feeding tray can be used again and again....all I need to do is buy the cup 'o caterpillars.  I decided to do this for a couple of reasons...ok three, if you count YOLO.  First, this time of year brings back memories of my Dad's passing (May 4), and my Mom's passing with Mother's Day also in May.  On the flip side, May 12 is the day I decided to follow Christ 43 years ago.  With loss of life comes new life.  Wanting to celebrate life, I thought what better way than to watch life in the making.  Second, I've contemplated having a dog.  I don't have the time nor am I home enough to care for a dog, but butterflies, oh yeah!  Plus, I've kept a succulent alive since the end of March, so surely I can do this.  

PhD - During the last class of my MBA, the professor of my capstone class asked me if I ever considered getting my PhD.  She commented on this due to my final capstone research paper.  The answer to that question is, "of course," but the thought of doing it makes my stomach turn.  My friend, Paige, has always told me I'd get my PhD eventually and I normally smile and change the subject.  I'd love to "retire" in to teaching, but given I haven't taught at the college level yet to determine if I'd like it, I'm hesitant to invest in something that would only benefit me in academia.  Last week, said professor contacted me that my Alma mater, Campbellsville, is being accredited for a PhD program in Management, to start in Fall 2017 or January 2018.  In my life, there are more dreams I want to chase than there is time or resources.  I told my professor I'd pray about it.  Nothing like a random offering like that to get your mind whirling.  

Summertime! - You gotta say that word with an exclamation point!  I love summertime, even though I'm working and not a student any more - or teacher -  that gets to enjoy three months of leisure time.  As part of my online book club, we get a first look at the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide.  Think the summer reading program at the library for kids, but someone has already read a ton of books and selected 30 for the summer.  We received it last night - the rest of the world gets it on Wednesday - and I was reminded of those days when school was out and I couldn't wait to get to the library to sign up for the summer reading program.  Ah, summer.  Sipping on a Coke Zero, or Frappucchino and reading in the summer breeze.  People, that is Heaven on earth.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What I'm Reading - April 2017

I've become obsessed with books and reading.  I've always enjoyed reading, but in the past few months, I've really looked to reading as my release, outlet, and vehicle to wind down.  Lately I've watched less television and aside from listening to podcasts, books fill up most of my down time.  As I said when I was a guest on What Should I Read Next, I feel like I'm dating books!

What is to follow is a recap of what I read this month and what I'm reading.  I recently joined Litsy, an app for bookish people - think Instagram for bookworms.  My username is RosieBoo65, so look me up there as I'll be charting my course of reading on that app.

What I Read

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon 
Judge Joe Crater goes missing in August 1930, never to be heard from again.  Yes, this is a true story.  This historical fiction novel focuses on the three women who had a connection with Judge Crater - his wife, maid, and mistress.  I love historical fiction, and add the layer of female protagonists and you've got a winner for me.  I enjoyed this book, but wasn't enthralled by the story.  I felt like it was a bit slow in the beginning, and eventually picked up pace.  I don't regret reading this book as I learned a lot about a historical disappearance I'd never known about before.  I read this as part of my online book club and participated in an author chat.  Ariel was so interesting to listen to as she explained how she wrote this, her first book, over 18 months only on Saturdays.  And she got contacted by a real life relative of a character in the book!  After hearing her interview, I want to read her other works.

The Measure of Success: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women, Work, and the Home by Carolyn McCulley and Nora Shank
Being a career woman, and not a wife or mother, I often question what that looks like in light of the role of women in Scripture.  This book is solid look at how God ordains work for all of us - whether working inside or outside the home - and to have a purpose in fulfilling that role.  If you are a working woman, you'll benefit from reading this book to get affirmation that being a successful businesswoman isn't of the devil.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Lauren Willig, and Beatriz Williams
You never know when three authors write a novel what you are going to get.  This book surpassed my expectations.  The story of three women spanning three generations and how they are connected make up the tapestry of this book.  It felt like piecing together a puzzle and I had a hard time putting this book down.  I'm assuming each author wrote each of the three main characters, but you'd think all of it was written by the same author.  These ladies write in perfect harmony.

What I'm Currently Reading

A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2) by Deanna Raybourn
A second in the series of a lepidopterist who has an amazing lineage and solves crimes.

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov
The book based in Russia in the 1930s and 2008 is segmented into different segments of "Books."  It was slow starting, but now about halfway in, I'm hooked.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This is a small book, but with a heavy theme.  This book won many awards in 2016 and I know the epilogue was written by his wife after the author's death, so I'm moving slow as I know the outcome will be heart wrenching.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Day in Between

Good Friday and Easter are the focal days that we Christians celebrate each year.  Good Friday is the remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the cross and His brutal, unthinkable crucifixion.  Easter celebrates (spoiler alert!) His Resurrection and hope for all of us who believe to have eternal life.  This Easter season, I've been doing a Lent study through Sacred Holidays, focusing on the final days of Jesus.  This is the first time I've done a specific study during Lent and it has been amazing.  I've read the various accounts of Scripture in a new and fresh way, and although I've heard the resurrection story my whole life, it continues to present itself anew.  

What we don't always focus on is the day in between Good Friday and Easter.  Jesus is dead.  In the tomb.  Hopeless.  We scurry about filling Easter baskets, hiding Easter eggs, and choosing our Easter outfits on that day now.  But this day 2000 years ago wasn't as joyful.  You see, the end of the story hadn't happened.  We can celebrate this day in between because we know Easter is coming.  But I've reflected today on the people present on the first day in between and what they could have been thinking.

The disciples.  "It's over.  All that Jesus talked about, what does it mean now?  We didn't always understand what He was telling us, but now, He's dead.  What do we make of this?  Maybe we followed a Man who wasn't telling us the truth.  Could He not have been the Messiah?  We followed Him for three years, gave up our livelihoods.  Now what?"

The Pharisees.  "We won.  Thank goodness that distraction is dead and buried in the tomb.  I don't know who He thought He was to have tried to challenge what we know to have been true forever.  A new covenant?  What's wrong with the old one?  At least our teachings and leadership can go on now without that pesky Jesus trying to persuade our followers of His unbelievable message."

Pilate.  "What have I done?  I allowed a persuaded crowd to encourage me to let a criminal go and crucify an innocent man.  I've made a lot of decisions and many I regret.  But this one.  This one seems more dire than any of the past decisions I questioned.  It's over now.  Nothing I can do about it.  Time to move on with my life."

Mary, Mother of Jesus.  "This can't be real.  I know what the angel told me when I conceived Him.  I know His purpose in coming was to die.  But this way?  I'll never get over seeing my baby on that cross.  Suffering for me.  How is this all going to work out?  I know what the prophets said.  I know what Jesus said during His short 33 years here on earth.  But did I believe a lie?  No.  Surely not.  I love my Son.  He was the Son of God.  My tears may never end, but I simply can't lose hope." 

These people lived between hopelessness and hopefulness.  There was a time - the day in between - when Jesus was dead.  The emotions, the questions were surely endless.  I can't even fathom dealing with that mourning and grief, not knowing how God was going to respond the next day.  But we know the end of the story.  Resurrection is coming.  Hope is on its way.  Mourning is turned into joy.  And we don't have to grieve as those did at the cross because we know Jesus is alive.

I live each day with the hope of eternal life as my security.  Do you?  If not, you are living in an endless "day in between" without hope, only the end.  By choosing to follow Christ, and turning from your sinful lifestyle, you can have this hope too.  If you don't know how to do that, contact me.  I want you to live life everyday like it's Resurrection Day.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast

The newest trend in Disney productions is to take what was animated and make it new again with live-action films.  With the technology available today, this is nothing like live-action has seen before.  The latest in their live-action portfolio was released earlier this month - Beauty and the Beast. 

The animated version that debuted in the early 90s became one of pantheons of Disney princess movies, and started a trend in that decade for an onslaught of Disney princesses.  I loved that movie. Even though I was way beyond the age of the target audience, I went to the theater with my Mom to see it and fell in love with the story.  The last theatrical stage production I took my Mom to see was Beauty and the Beast, so it holds a special place in my heart.

A few weeks before this movie release, news hit of a an openly homosexual character being portrayed by Josh Gad.  He plays the sidekick of Gaston, LeFou, and it was reported - though not seen in film yet - that Disney had made this character so overtly homosexual that they've now gone down a path of no return.  I'm often skeptical of the media (Trump is, right?) and don't believe everything I see or read until I see or read it for myself.  Journalists live for the hype, so I withheld my judgment until seeing the movie, which, I was fortunate to see on opening night.  

First off, before I provide any commentary on the movie itself, let me say a few things.  I don't go to Disney for my theology.  Do I believe that homosexuality is a sin according to what the Bible teaches?  Yes.  Do I expect Disney to withhold Christian values?  No.  I'm also not a mother of children, but I have many friends who are, so I'm sensitive to that as well.  As I was growing up, my Mom and Dad didn't shield me from the things of this world.  They raised me in a godly home, with godly principles, and anything they felt on the fence about, they would watch with me or before me.  Then we'd discuss it.  In my early teen years, Judy Blume was a hot Young Adult writer who produced some steamy fiction that many of my friends couldn't read or her books were being banned from school libraries.  Shock alert:  I read them, and at the approval of my Mom.  Why?  Because she read them too and we talked through what we read.  How did the character in this story respond to situations?  Is this how I would respond as a godly young woman?  Instead of throwing me in a Christian bubble, my parents walked into the world with me.  Saying I'm forever grateful for them isn't really enough.  

The live-action movie was exquisite.  Many people know my affinity for Cinderella, but Beauty and the Beast comes in a close second, but her live-action film wins over Cinderella's version.  The way the story was expanded to bring out more depth was amazing.  It's definitely one to watch again and again.  And for LeFou?  His actions could be interpreted as simply the loony character we saw in the animated film or homosexual, but for someone of a young age, unless they followed social media on the hype, they wouldn't automatically assume he was homosexual.  It definitely didn't hurt the movie at the box office...and honestly, might have helped it, which is why when these types of things get blown out of proportion, we need to be wiser in how we react.  

Was Disney's intent to shroud a homosexual character in the form of LeFou even if it wasn't overt?  Doesn't matter if they did or didn't.  I'm sure every media I take in - books, movies, television shows - all have a back story from the producers and directors I may never know, but only be a subtle appearance.  I don't expect anything in Hollywood that is not based in biblical values to be something to tout the Truth from the Word of God.  Simultaneously a movie based on the book, The Shack, was released, yet I heard very little from Christians on the damaging message that movie presented, under the guise of a "christian" movie.  That would take another blog post, but the Bible teaches us to beware of false teachers who take the Truth of God's Word and twist it even a smidge to make us feel good and accept what is false for truth.  If you want to get in an uproar about something, wave the flag on The Shack.  

The messages that should outshine the rest in Beauty and the Beast is the sacrificial love that Belle showed when she took the place of her Dad being locked up at the castle. (spoiler alert)  This comes straight from John 15:13, "No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends."  Even Belle's love for the Beast speaks to a Scripture that described how God views man, "Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)  

The world is never going to give us the love story that is pure and true.  We can only write stories that can maybe have a whiff of what true love is.  The greatest love story of all time is about The One who gave His life for me and loves me beyond all my outward faults and appearances and covers me with His Righteousness.  Now, that is a tale as old as time.   

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Why I Love This is Us

Last night I watched the season finale of the new NBC drama, "This is Us."  For the first time in, oh, forever, I'm actually watching a show in real-time.  That never happens.  Never.  Even the handful of reality shows I watch are watched on demand.  Yet this show captivated me so much I don't want to miss it as soon as it airs.  And, I watch the episode again, maybe more than once, because I love it so much.  

I'm not the only one in love with this show. My social media feed fills up on Tuesday nights when this show is on.  It's been a long time since a drama like this one has drawn so many people into its fold.  It's this observation that made me examine why I love this show so much.  

There are a lot of things to point out - the acceptance of an interracial adoption at a time when it wasn't so much the norm, a woman battling weight issues, the challenges of the every day life of a normal American family, the realism found within this family.  But I can narrow it down to one major thing.  The men on the show. Specifically Jack Pearson, played by Milo Ventimiglia. If you haven't watched the show and intend to, spoiler alert ahead.

Jack is the father of the children who star in the show.  In this first season, we've seen the birth - and adoption - of his children, the love he has for his wife, the struggle with alcohol that is becoming more evident, and the way he parents his children.  In the season finale, we learned even more about his family background that was hinted to before. The refreshing thing about Jack is the writers aren't portraying him - or any of the men for that matter - as weak, meager men like most dramas and sitcoms do these days.  Jack is strong.  He fights for his family.  He fights for his marriage.  Yes, he has his faults, but he admits to them.  He's not perfect. And we know that Jack has passed on, though we don't know details.  

We've seen Jack proclaim he doesn't want to be like his father, who was abusive to his mother.  We learn in the season finale that he was a Vietnam Veteran and didn't come back angry at the world and his country.  And we see how his parenting is being played out in the lives of his children.  So many touching scenes to represent that, but one comes to mind.  His son, Randall, suffered from panic attacks, and Jack knew how to calm him down in a way no one else could.  Now in adulthood, with his father gone, Randall's brother, Kevin, comes to the rescue of Randall's latest breakdown.  Just like his father, Jack, would.  There are some many more examples, but are beautifully written in a tapestry-like way that make the most impact when watched on the screen.  This is one of the most exquisitely-written shows I've watched in a long time.

Thank you, NBC, for allowing a show where men are portrayed in a way we rarely see in today's television shows.  Thank you, Hollywood, for producing a show that doesn't push agendas every week.  I'm worn out over everyone - on both sides - pushing agendas in my face.  You've brought a show to the screen that is so well written and pricks the heart of the viewer in a way few shows do.  We need more of those kinds of shows.  And more Jack Pearsons in our lives.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Table Topic: Childhood Playtime

I recently began reading the book, "The Measure of Success" by Carolyn McCulley and Nora Shank.  This book provides a biblical perspective on work and what that means for women.  Carolyn is a never-married single woman and Nora is a married mom who works.  So far, this has been a very insightful book, affirming my love of career.  

Would I rather be CEO of a home and raising a family?  Sure, but that isn't where God has me.  This book helps me see what Scripture says about the importance of working - inside and outside the home - for women.  It's freeing to dig into this topic since, on some days, being a single woman can be discouraging.  All women, no matter where they work, have important roles.  Carolyn shared an interesting story about her childhood that has stayed with me.  She never played house.  Looking back on that realization made her evaluate where she is in her life and if that was by design in some way.  I found that tidbit fascinating!  

Reflecting on my childhood, I played house in church nursery (probably) and in least until Jimmie Walker made me mad and I quit playing.  But when I was home playing, I played one of three things - teacher, store owner, or prairie woman.  I would sit up my stuffed animals and teach them, and make up stories.  I had a cash register from Fisher Price that I LOVED and would play general store all.the.time.  And, when I'd play outside (when I wasn't swinging so high my swing set almost overturned) I'd play "Little Woman on the Prairie" trying to survive.  I would collect leaves and nuts and decide how I was feeding myself.  

Granted, I was an only child, so I played a lot by myself, but I could have just as easily played house (I had a kitchen set) as the next girl.  But, I'd grow weary of that and head to my cash register.  Could that have been my desires playing out (pun intended) of where my strengths would lie?  Maybe.  

That brings us to today's Table Topic:  What did you love to play as a child and is it a reflection of what you enjoy doing today?

Ready, Set, Play!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lessons Learned for a Lifetime

The recent appointment of a new Department of Education head and the move of the governor of my state to research the public school system in my county has caused me to think much about my education.  I have a lot of friends who are public school teachers and friends who teach at private schools and even at higher educational institutions.  It's not an easy job but every teacher is shaping the future of every student they teach.  Heavy weight to carry around for one person.  

As I've ruminated on this, I've come up with five teachers throughout my educational career that have impacted me for a lifetime.  Let me say there have been many more, but these were the first to come to mind, and span my education from kindergarten to MBA.  Most of them don't know the impact they made and some are no longer on this earth for me to tell them.  But I hope this post encourages you to share with a former teacher of yours the impact they've made.  Or, if you are a teacher, you'll read this and say "You know, this day stinks, but I may have just changed a life today."  Without further ado, here is my five featured teachers...

Mrs. Juanita Gass - Mrs. Gass was one of my Kindergarten teachers along with Mrs. Jacobson.  You really do learn a lot in Kindergarten and I have to admit, I did.  I remember distinctly on election day going into a cardboard voting booth to vote for what Kool-Aid flavor we'd have for snack time and my flavor won! (It was grape)  It instilled in me that my vote really does count!  The lesson learned from Mrs. Gass was unconditional love and how she wouldn't keep any child from being included.  It wasn't until I was 28 that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but even as a 5-year-old, I would wear out after walking a distance.  One day we took a field trip to the Zoo and I couldn't walk the entire way.  Mrs. Gass carried me on her shoulders the remainder of the Zoo trip.  She didn't have to do that, but she did.  I'll never forget that.

Mrs. Lily Kruetzman - Mrs. Kruetzman was my 3rd grade teacher.  She was one of the most jovial people I knew.  She'd laugh and we always had fun in her class.  One day, I came to school and my jacket's zipper was stuck.  I couldn't get out of my coat.  Mrs. Kruetzman saw me struggling and being the independent soul I wouldn't ask for help.  She came over and said, "I can get you out of that jacket!"  She quickly pulled it over my head, which clearly I hadn't thought of.  Her next phrase was, "There's more than one way to skin a cat."  She taught me that when you can't do something, or are in a pickle, there is always a way to get out of it, or make it work.

Miss Kathy Leonard - Miss Leonard was my 7th and 8th grade Core teacher.  In Junior High, Core Class was where you spent a good chunk of your day and I was thrilled to spend it with Miss Leonard!  I almost lost it when I found out I had her again in 8th grade!  Miss Leonard was another fun-loving teacher and was single.  I thought she was the coolest.  In 8th grade, she was working on additional education and used us as her guinea pigs for creative teaching techniques.  We did some of the most innovative activities to teach concepts.  We even held our own courtroom one day.  The lesson I learned from Miss Leonard is that you can do anything and don't have to be married to do it.  I don't think this was her main intent, and I didn't realize that lesson until I was older.  And even today as I'm still single and a career woman, I think of Miss Leonard and her inspiration of having fun and being successful being single.  

Mr. Lance Springs - Mr. Springs was my Junior English teacher.  During that year, we had to write a pretty extensive research paper - 25-30 pages on a topic of our choice, but we had to use 3 book references, 20 periodicals, and 1 special source, such as a newspaper or personal interview.  Now, keep in mind this was WAY before the Internet, so this was no easy task.  I presented him my topic choice, which was the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.  He said to me, "I'll approve this, but I doubt you'll be able to find the adequate sources."  You never tell me "can't" and I was on a mission.  Not only did I keep that topic, I received a 96 on the paper.  During my Senior year, I was his Teacher's Aide, so I felt like I reached a new level by proving my abilities to him.  The lesson I learned from him was "you can do anything you really put your mind to."  I don't know if that was his intent in his comment to me, but somehow I think he knew my personality and knew I would put forth my best work when challenged.  To this day, I still take a challenge as serious as I did that research paper.

Dr. Karen Rush - Dr Rush was my last professor during my MBA studies.  She was the professor of my last class before graduation - the capstone class.  Our biggest assignment was an analysis of a company using everything we'd learned in our MBA studies.  When I got my paper back, she said, "Have you ever considered getting your PhD?  This is great work and you'd do well in PhD studies."  Now, my PhD friend, Paige, is praying me in that direction, but for now, pursuing my PhD isn't on my radar.  But hearing those words encourage me to never close the door on any possibility.  I said at one time I'd never get my MBA and - boom - I have it.  I'd love to teach as an adjunct one day to see if it's something I'd enjoy and Dr. Rush has offered to help me in any way she can.  

I'm thankful for my education and for all the teachers who invested in me.  Hug a teacher today.  You are where you are, in part, because of them.  

Monday, January 30, 2017

The One That Got Away

As we traverse through life, we always seem to reflect back and wonder "what would life be like if things had taken a different path?"  Or, "what if I had married that person instead of the one I'm married to now?"  It's human nature to ask these questions.  I don't often spend time ruminating on things like this because I believe in the sovereignty of God, so what happens is His Plan A for my life.  Even if that Plan isn't the plan I'd have chosen.

Spoiler alert:  If you haven't seen La La Land, I'd suggest you stop reading now if you plan to see it, as spoilers are to come.  

On Saturday, I saw La La Land as part of my annual Oscar challenge to see as many of the nominees as possible.  I'm behind this year because at the time of the nominees' announcement, I'd only seen one of the Best Picture nominees.  I had seen three at that point last year.  I've got a lot of ground to make up and not much available time to do it, but I'm Type A, so off I go.  

I went into watching this movie thinking it was a new take on the old movie musicals, like Singin' in the Rain, with a modern-day twist.  But, it wasn't that at all.  Oh, there's music and dancing, but the plot is interestingly different and "heavy" causing much contemplation.  

Mia, played by Emma Stone, and Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, meet in the strangest of ways and you follow their relationship for a full year.  After that year is over, it appears their paths may go in different directions, and the movie picks up five years later.  I won't get into details on what happens, but let's just say the path you expected, didn't happen.  Then, you get a complete flashback of an alternate path chosen, wondering, "did this happen?"  And then, realize what you saw originally was reality.  These two people had dreams become reality, dreams they encouraged each other to achieve, but didn't get to reap the benefits together.  

I've thought about this movie a lot since Saturday.  I've gone from contemplative, to melancholy to bittersweet.  Maybe because this hit too close to home for me.  I've had people in my life that encouraged my dreams and though I may be living them now, they aren't part of my life to enjoy the benefits.  But maybe that's the point.  People are in your life for a season...and for a reason.  And they aren't in your life for the long haul.  

The one that got away maybe really didn't get away at all.  Maybe they were in your life to make you reach for your dreams, affirm you where you felt like you were lacking and you both are now living the life always meant to happen.  If you saw La La Land, I'd love your perspective.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017: Renewal

Each year I chose a word to focus on throughout the year.  I'm not a fan of resolutions - because I break them in about 30 days - nor am I the best goal setter in the world.  I'm an extreme Type A perfectionist, which means if I'm going to set goals, I best complete them, and in record time.

Last year's word was contentment and I can say that the year really proved out as a great learning ground for that word, especially the last three months.  As I prayed and thought about what my 2017 word would be, I decided upon the word Renewal.  The definition that rung true to me for this choice was "the replacing or repair of something that is run-down, worn out or broken."  See the last three months of 2016.  That was me.

Life is always busy, and with my full-time job, ministry roles at my church, and maintaining some semblance of a social life, this introvert gets a bit overwhelmed and overstimulated.  The word Renewal seemed to be the perfect word to focus on for 2017.  I need time to renew myself spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally.  If I don't do these things, then I'm of no good in all those roles I outlined at the beginning of this paragraph.

How would I accomplish this?  One of the things I've learned over time is saying "no" when it's hard and I want to say "yes."  Even when something is a good thing, it may not be the best thing for me.  I can easily get overextended and over-committed of my own doing.  When I was getting my MBA, I did a much better job of saying "no" because I set boundaries to be able to continue my life as normal as possible and still do school.  Now that I don't have an educational degree to help me keep that boundary, I've lost it.  In 2017, if I tell you "no" don't take it personal.  Remember that I'm looking to recharge and renew myself.

The other thing I wanted to do was declare a day of renewal each month.  I'd choose a day - preferably not one when I'm working my full-time job - where I'd only do things that renew my spirit.  I would also fast from all social media that day.  I have done this for January and may I say it was an absolutely glorious day.  I started the day off having breakfast with a sweet friend, Martha, who I adore.  Any time with her fills my heart with joy, so this in itself was a time of renewal.  The remainder of the day I listened to podcasts, colored (I'm an adult coloring book fan), read, and watched Netflix.  I started The Crown on Netflix and had no idea how much I'd love that series. I may need to write a post on that at a later date.  All the while, no matter what I did that day, my phone was used only to play podcasts, make/receive calls, and receive/respond to texts.  

What were the results of that day of renewal?  It was good to listen to sermons, and other spiritually-focused podcasts to refresh me.  Pulling away from social media honestly wasn't hard.  What I discovered was social media doesn't keep me focused on my here and now, but divides my attention to include others' goings on.  I may take daily social media breaks more often for the benefit it provided.  

I'm already excited about scheduling my day of renewal in February and looking forward to what God is going to teach me this year.  God can use a broken person, but He doesn't want us to be so broken down we're no good to others or ourselves.