Friday, April 17, 2015

What the Future Holds (FMF)

When I read a novel, I sometimes usually peek ahead.  I might not read the whole ending, but I'll look for the name of a particular character to find out whether a romance continued or someone survived a major illness.  I just want to know how it turns out.

And so it is with life.  I feel as though I can handle a difficult situation if I know what's going to happen or how it'll end.

I like to plan.  I plan not only appointments and meetings, but also housework, meal plans, and just about everything else.  I want to know what's going to happen.

Of course we can't always know what happens or how something with turn out.  Sometimes a surprise will require a change of plans, and I have to confess that I'm not a happy camper when that happens.  But we just have to walk by faith, a step at a time, and lean on God the whole way.  I may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but He can.  He hasn't promised me an easy life, but He has promised to be with me always.  What more can I ask?

This has been one of my favorite songs lately (Aaron Shust, "The One"):
For the one who holds tomorrow
Holds me in His hand
And I will not fear the future
I'll trust the Great I Am
Who has been and always will be
Reigning on His throne
For the One who holds me in His hand
Is the One who holds it all

Today I'm joining up with the wonderful group of writers at Five Minute Friday.  Click through to join us in this adventure of free writing!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stuff You Already Know ... And Everybody Should (Book Review)

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book, at no cost to me, for review purposes.

Stuff You Already Know ... And Everybody Should, by Gina DeLapa, is like an instruction book for life.   Think of it as All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten with a sharper edge.  It's a collection of advice in small doses, mostly single sentences but some longer than one page.

Here's the text from the back cover:
From new grads to savvy parents, whether you are climbing the corporate ladder or living out your legacy years, Stuff You Already Know… And Everybody Should is sure to provoke laughter, conversation, contemplation, and bold new action. 
A look at what’s inside:
Do right by your enemies—not to change them, but so they don’t change you. (#49) 
Beware the organization whose response to a burning building is to form a committee. (#322) 
Love those in your care with fierceness and gusto. As my dad once told me, “I’d kick a dragon’s a** for you.” (#420)
Part pep talk, part reflection, part friendly kick in the butt, Stuff You Already Know … And Everybody Should gives you 437 ways to make your life count. No matter what your season of life, these 437 nuggets and their accompanying stories will make you smile, make you think, and inspire you to live more fully than ever before.
The book has three overarching themes, as listed in the preface:
  1. Set yourself up for success.
  2. Take the high road.
  3. Glorify God with your life.
Don't let that third one turn you off if you're not a believer. The author writes,
"[H]owever you define yourself spiritually or otherwise, I invite you to filter these thoughts through the lens of your life, and to keep and pass along only what is helpful."

This can be a quick read, if you want to read straight through.  Or it can take longer if you choose to stop and consider some of the items.

Some of the items are thought-provoking, like "Beware the many faces of fear, including indecision, endless preparation, education, or information-gathering" (#2).

Some are well-known, such as "Don't grocery shop when you're hungry" (#64).  [I would add, Especially when the store displays the on-sale cookies just inside the entryway.]

Some are simply practical, like "Add the attachment before you write the email" (#206).  [How many times have I forgotten to attach a file?!]

Some are potentially life-saving:  "If you feel you can't go on, stop reading and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  In the U.S., their number is 1-800-273-8255" (#78).

One that has stuck in my mind is #266:  "Don't say, 'No problem' in response to something that was never understood to be a problem."  I hadn't realized just how often I use that expression, and this has made me very aware of it.

Just one caution.  The preface ends with this note:  "Please forgive the occasional Rated PG swear words.  Neither this book nor my life would be the same without them."  It's true that these words are PG and occasional.  I would still prefer the book without them.

For more information and to read an excerpt, go to

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Undone (Book Review)

Seasoned speaker for Women of Faith, Focus on the Family, Hearts at Home and others, Michele Cushatt is a storyteller at heart who will inspire readers of Undone with the warmth of her transparency about her journey to make peace with a complicated life.
Undone is author Michele Cushatt’s quest to make peace with a complicated life. It is an honest confession of a diagnosis of cancer and the joys and disappointments of motherhood and marriage, ripe with regret over what is and, yet, still hopeful for what could be.
With enough humor to ease the rawness of the story, Undone takes the reader on a roller coaster two-year journey through the unexpectedness of life. A look back makes Michele long for a do-over, the chance to make fewer mistakes and leave less of a mess to clean up. A look forward makes Michele wonder if all her attempts to control life have robbed her of the vibrancy of it. And, in the middle of this internal chaos, she finds her once-pristine house filled with the sights and sounds of three small, uncontainable children who just want to be loved.
In the end, Undone turns complication into a beautiful canvas, angst into joy, and the unknown into an adventure, revealing that sometimes life’s most colorful and courageous stories are written right in the middle of the mess.
"...her journey to make peace with a complicated life."  That's probably the phrase that got me to request a free review copy of Undone by Michele Cushatt from BookLookBloggers.

We all go through deep waters sometimes, but Michele Cushatt and her family have experienced deeper waters than some of us will ever see.  The story begins at the very start of the book:  On the first page of Chapter 1, the reader learns that, at age 39, the author was diagnosed with cancer.

I really like this quote, partially because it was my experience, as well:
The day cancer showed up in my life, God showed up bigger.  He served up a portion of his presence, enough for one day.  Enough to assure me I'm not alone.  He did the same a hundred times over in the days that followed.
Not too far into the book, it seems as though the crisis is over.  But, as happens so often, another crisis was on the horizon.  And another.  And another.

The central theme of Undone is God working through all of these trials to transform the author's heart.  She's transparent about her weaknesses and gives God the glory in triumph.  No airbrushing the rough parts, but also no prolonged whining.  (Let's be honest:  most of us whine sometimes when life is particularly difficult.)

I really enjoyed Undone.  It's a true story of a real woman who faced real challenges and, through them, leaned on the Lord and let Him change her in ways both real and significant.  In spite of the serious topic, the author manages to inject humor even as she shares the truths she has learned.  I'll give you two more quotes that I marked:
  • I'm convinced God has a sense of humor.  No doubt about it.  I told him he needed new material.
  • Where is my faith?  In myself, more often than not.  Which is why an unexpected squall--every last one of them over the span of two years--unraveled me.  A boat anchored to itself is not anchored at all.
I absolutely recommend Undone!

Links for more information:
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Disclosure:  I received this book, at no cost to me, for review purposes.  I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, April 3, 2015

My One Word Update: 3 Months

So my "One Word" for 2015 is Simplicity.  Now that we're three months into the year, I thought it would be good to post a status report.  This is just as much for my own accountability as to keep you up to date!

The first part of my plan was to declutter the house.  My husband is much better at this than I am!  Sorting things into Keep, Donate, and Toss piles would be at the bottom of any "Things I Feel Like Doing" list that I would make.  So how's it going?

It's going, but slowly.

This week I spent some time in the basement.  Over the years we've been quick to store things there, because we had the space.  We saved the egg tray from our refrigerator, even though we'll never use it.  Into the trash.  We had the opportunity to give away an old set of dishes to a young couple moving to the area.  Not everything has been so easy to let go.

One of the things I picked up this week was a basket of things from our dog, who's been gone for more than 15 years.  I found her first collar, the papers from when she was hospitalized, and some of her toys.  I pictured her shaking that rope toy.  I couldn't part with any of that.

While I keep working slowly on the basement, my next goal is to clean up our dining room.  For 14 years it has been our school room.  Now that our homeschooling journey is coming to an end, I need to organize the paperwork from this year.  I can discard the books that we'll never use again.  Besides having a clean room, the bonus will be space to work on crafting!

The second part of my plan was to eat more real food.  We were very good about that for a while, but it has faded.  We're still eating vegetables, though quite a few have been frozen.  We're eating more chicken and less beef (part of that is because the price of beef has increased so much!).  We use more beans--especially now that I've discovered how quickly and easily they can be cooked in the pressure cooker.  And we're buying whole-grain bread.

I personally have been making a serious effort to eat less junk food, in a way that I can sustain.  Instead of completely eliminating carbs (as if I could do that!) or taking some other drastic measure, I'm just cutting back.  I still eat ice cream when I want to, just a smaller portion.  I don't feel deprived at all.  I've also become very aware of how often I eat when I feel stressed.  Once I identified the connection, breaking that wasn't hard.

Anyway, since the beginning of January I have dropped 18 pounds.  I had to buy a new pair of jeans (plus a handbag and shoes, of course).  I found great bargains on all of that, too, so it's a win-win!  I can fit into some of my old dresses.  I'd need new navy shoes and a handbag if I want to wear them.  I don't know why I bought so many "Dry Clean Only" dresses.  (Well, that was before I was married.  Who thought about a few dollars here or there?)  And I'm not sure that coat dresses from the 90's are ready to be considered vintage.  But in any case, it's been encouraging to be able to wear some of the clothes that have been hanging in the back of my closet for years!
This one is black, but nearly all of the others are navy.
Did you choose "One Word" for 2015?  How's it going?