Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage . . . They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
~Psalm 84:5

Friday, October 01, 2010

Between a Rock and a Grace Place

Q&A from author Carol Kent 

Tell us about the Christmas gift you received. How did it help you to find grace in the middle of a seemingly hopeless situation?
Two weeks before Christmas our doorbell rang at 9:15 p.m. It was dark outside and by the time my husband, Gene, joined me at the front door, we were surprised to find no one there. It was already dark, but my eyes fell on a large, exquisitely wrapped gift. The card on top said, “Mom.” Initially, it felt like a bad joke. Nine years earlier our son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy had been arrested for murdering his wife’s first husband and he was in prison serving a life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence.
However, I am a “Mom” and the package was left on my doorstep, so I opened it. The note appeared to be in my son’s unique handwriting. The note expressed his deep love for me and his gratefulness for what I had done to help him since his arrest. He said a “friend” had helped him deliver the surprise. Opening the box, I discovered a gorgeous russet-colored silk jacket—and it fit me perfectly.
That night I discovered something new about God and something I had forgotten about myself. He loves to interject divine surprises into our lives. His timing is always perfect, but it had been a while since I had been surprised by joy, wonder, and grace in the middle of one of the tight spots of life. 

What are “grace places,” and how can hurting people in need find them?
All of us experience tight spots when life turns out differently from our dream. When we face the overwhelming obstacles of life, we can experience the last thing we ever expect—the sweet spot of grace. Grace places have a variety of forms, but some include:
  • Receiving love when we don’t deserve it
  • Finding safety in the middle of a fearful and uncertain experience
  • Being comforted by friends and family (people who are extensions of God’s love)
  • Experiencing the embrace of God when we have run out of strength and courage
“Grace means the free, unmerited, unexpected love of God, and all the benefits, delights, and comforts which flow from it.” (R.P.C. Hanson) 

How important are contentment and gratitude in finding grace and peace?
My son, Jason, is teaching me that I need to choose contentment and thanksgiving in all things. As an inmate in a maximum-security prison, all of his personal items must fit in one small one-foot-high and one-and a half-feet-deep and two-and-a half feet long steel lockbox. He has learned to live comfortably with very little, which brings him a surprising sense of peace.
When I was visiting him one weekend I asked how he holds on to hope in the middle of a life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence. He said, “Mom, I have a gratitude list. Whenever the clouds of depression try to discouragement, I get out a piece of paper and write down everything I have to be thankful for. I’m thankful I have two parents who will be my advocates for as long as they live. The average number of years a lifer gets visits is five years and then no one comes anymore. I’m also thankful I can be a missionary on a compound that houses up to 1,700 men.” I’m learning from Jason that I find contentment when I choose to be thankful and when I invest my time in helping other people. 

What are some unexpected gestures of kindness you’ve received in the past, and how did they help you through difficult times?
A couple of years ago Jason’s appendix ruptured and he was rushed from the prison to a civilian hospital. Gene and I were not allowed to know where he was and I prayed for someone to care for him as a mother would. He had two armed guards in his room at all times. Nurse Betty was assigned to Jason’s care. She treated him with respect and extraordinary care—and I knew she was a direct answer to my prayers.
A group of people who called themselves our “Stretcher Bearers” received an e-mailed monthly update on how to help with our needs. We were blessed with meals, cards, and financial gifts, often just before we needed extra funds for the next legal payment. These amazing people waited with us for two and a half years through seven postponements of the trial. 

How has your definition of adventure changed over the years, and why is it important to retain adventure in your life, despite your situation?
True adventure is seeing the potential of living for things that matter in the middle of your current circumstances. We had the adventure of launching a nonprofit organization that helps to empower our son to facilitate classes by having books and DVD teaching series sent to the prison. We also have the adventure of reaching out to other people who are in crisis, which brings purpose and deep meaning to our lives. 

There is a theme of surprise throughout the book. What is one of the greatest surprises you’ve had?
The powerful story of Tammy Wilson and Matthew Ben Rodriguez is in this book. Tammy contacted me after I spoke at an event she attended because my son is incarcerated in the same prison where Matt, the man who killed her mother thirteen years ago is incarcerated. She had been praying for someone to lead Matt to Christ and asked if Jason would try to meet him. It turned out that Jason and Matt were already friends and this amazing story is one of forgiveness, redemption, and restoration that can only be explained in the supernatural dimension. 

Between a Rock and a Grace Place releases 10 years after your son, Jason, was sentenced to life in a maximum security prison and includes excerpts from Jason’s letters. Can you tell us how he’s doing now?
He has just taken his 8th group of men through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course and he will be facilitating a biblical counseling class on marriage and family this fall. He has a prayer group of twelve inmates who fast and pray for the needs of each other and their families. Prison is a depressing, dark, and sad place, but Jason is living for things that will outlast him. 

When you received news about Jason’s clemency hearing being denied, how did you respond?
I wailed like a baby, sobbed, felt angry, hurt, and disappointed in God. Then we saw Jason a day after this devastating news. He was calm and very much at peace. He hugged me as I wept and said, “Mom, this case isn’t about having the best attorney or about having the favor of Florida’s top executive political leaders. If I am ever allowed to walk in freedom in this lifetime, it will be because God miraculously opened a door that was closed.” My son helps me to develop an eternal perspective and that day he comforted me.

What advice do you have for those who are stuck between a rock and a grace place?
In the middle of your own hurt reach out to someone else who needs help worse than you do. When you involve yourself in meeting the needs of others, you discover an unexpected freedom on the inside. Corrie ten Boom once said, “What did you do today that only a Christian would have done?” 

As a result of your journey, you and your husband have founded the nonprofit organization Speak Up for Hope. What are the goals of the organization, and how can people get involved?
Our vision: To help inmates and their families adjust to their new normal.
Our mission: We exist to provide hope to inmates and their families through encouragement and resources.
Please go to for a list of practical ways individuals, churches, and organizations can help with specific projects. Our goal is to live out the truth of Prov. 31:8-9: “Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice. Stand up for the poor and destitute!” 

Where may we connect with you further or to purchase a copy of Between a Rock and a Grace Place?
I would love for you to visit my web site at, browse through the various events and other resources available. You may also join me on my Facebook page, please click here.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by the Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at for more information about blog tour management services.
To enter to win a copy of the book for yourself please visit the CSS Blog or the CSS Virtual Blog Tour on Facebook

About the Author
Carol Kent is the bestselling author of When I Lay My Isaac Down and A New Kind of Normal. Carol is an expert on public speaking, writing, and on encouraging people to hold on to hope when life’s circumstances turn out differently from their dreams. She lives in Florida with her husband Gene.
Carol Kent is a popular international public speaker best known for being dynamic, humorous, encouraging, and biblical. She is a former radio show co-host and has often been a guest on Focus on the Family and a featured speaker at Time Out for Women and Heritage Keepers arena events. She has spoken at The Praise Gathering for Believers and at Vision New England’s Congress. She is also a frequent speaker at Women of Virtue events across the country.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

As good as Ninfas!

It's been months, if not years, since I posted any recipes or cooking experiments over here.  So, for your eating pleasure here's a recent adventure in cooking!

Last year I saw an episode of Rachael Ray during which she cooked Cuban-style beef tacos with green salsa.  She mentioned eating Ninfa's green salsa during a summer trip to Texas and she asked what all they put in their salsa and recreated it.  Well, this is my recreation of Rachael Ray's recreation of Ninfa's green salsa, or salsa verde if we're gonna be authentic.

I bought these tomatillos from the local $0.99 Only store.  It contains 1 1/2 lbs and I used roughly half the package.  So in the recipe below I put 1/2 lb of tomatillos but go ahead and use two or three more if you're not convinced that's enough.

Here's a close up of my sizzling veggies.  I put them all in there whole.  You can see some of the smaller tomatillos on the top left of the photo are starting to soften and brown.  You don't want to burn them, but it's okay if they get a little brown.  I coarsely chop the onion and place the whole wedge in there; it will break up as it cooks.

The finished product!
Salsa Verde
1/2 lb tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1-2 fresh OR canned jalapenos, stemmed; (optional: remove the seeds if you're worried about heat)
1/2 large yellow onion, quartered
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 T olive oil
Juice from 1 lime
1 ripe avocado, pitted
1 tsp cumin
2 small handfuls fresh cilantro (that's coriander, for you gringos!)
salt to taste (I use about 1 tsp)
Dash of chili powder & paprika optional

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, tomatillos, jalapenos (only if using fresh) and garlic WHOLE (all of these first 4 ingredients).  Cook, turning so that all sides are cooked through and start to brown.  The tomatillos will be soft and start to release their juices, the onions will be translucent, the jalapenos will soften and the skin will brown, and the garlic will soften.  (If you're worried some of the veggies will get overdone then go ahead and remove with a slotted spoon and place in blender.)
Once all veggies are finished add contents to a blender or food processor.  Add the remaining ingredients (this is where you add the jalepenos if using canned).
Blend until creamy and serve with tortilla chips or on tacos, taco salad, steak, chicken, etc.

 Hope y'all enjoy!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

No Girls Allowed

No Girls Allowed by Jayce O'Neal is a devotional geared towards boys ages 8-12.  An odd choice for this single mother of none, I know.  However, I AM a teacher and an aunt of two boys within this age bracket.

I specifically requested this book for my nephews.  As expected, the puzzles and secret codes were a hit (although the crosswords are probably a bit difficult for the younger boys since there is no answer bank and not all the questions are taken word-for-word from the text).  I particularly like the basic format of having a scripture to start with, a little story or scenario and then ending with a short prayer.  The puzzles and secret codes reinforce the theme and there's even an application section that gives the boys some suggestions for applying what they just read about to their lives at home and/or at school.  After the application section are a few scriptures to give more biblical backing to the theme.  I love that there are three quotes printed to the right of the scriptures at the end of each devotional selection; it makes my English major heart go pitter-patter!  The quotes are taken from famous authors, historical figures, christian intellectuals, superhero movies, athletes, etc.  I personally think it's good exposure for the kiddos.

Another thing I like about O'Neal's devotional is that he keeps it real.  In a gentle way he explains that life is not always ice cream and action figures; bad things happen, even when you did nothing wrong.  He encourages your child with the fact that God is still there and still loves him and will help him through the difficult times.

If you homeschool your children OR if they are particularly sheltered then this might not be the best fit for your child.  O'Neal makes references to classroom scenarios that homeschool kids have never been exposed to so may not connect with.  He also makes connections to movies and tv shows extremely sheltered kids may not be exposed to (SpongeBob, Batman, Star Trek, Hulk, Transformers, Starwars . . . just to name a few!).  Not to say that these show or references are bad, just that they might pique your child's interest before you are ready to show them those particular things.  But if you're willing to work through and discuss the book with your child then you both should be fine.

Overall, for content and ease of reading & understanding, I'll give this one a 4 out of 5 stars.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me by the Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting a review on my blog.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm a girl with glasses!

While scrolling through Facebook in the wee small hours of the morning I came across a link from a friend.  Following the link I found this sweet little blog post about a mom wanting to help her little one transition into the wonderful world of glasses.  The poor dear is only 5 years old and is worried about what the other kiddos might say about her new look.  So her wise mom put out a plea for "girls with glasses" to share their pics so her little pumpkin can see a variety of cool girls rocking their specs!  Besides my Blogger profile pic, here are a few others I dug up:

Fall '08: Kicking it outside of Big Ben w/ my friend Debs, a fellow "girl with glasses"

July, '10: My niece, Abby, trying to make me smile this summer (note the smiling mouth she drew and taped on me)

Abby loves wearing my glasses when she gets a chance...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Her Daughter's Dream

Q&A from author Francine Rivers
How has exploring the relationship between your mother and grandmother helped you understand yourself?
This is a question I would love readers to ask themselves at the end of Her Mother’s Hope. I realized early in the story that I have many of my grandmother and mother’s character traits, both good and bad. They both had tempers. So do I. They both had low self-esteem. I’m always striving to “measure up”. They both chose spouses who respected them. So did I. Both women had strong faith and servants’ hearts, something they encouraged in me. My mother extended grace to others -- a trait I want to cultivate to the end of my days. By holding onto her anger, Grandma lacked the peace and joy she could have had in her last years. I tend to relive past hurts. Writing about Marta made me decide to let go, forgive and move on. For whatever reason, Grandma couldn’t and missed out on so much joy in her last years. Sometimes people deeply hurt as children take offense where none was intended. Holding a grudge causes suffering, especially for the one who won’t let go. Jesus said to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. Forgiveness frees us, even if the other person refuses to join in the process of reconciliation. As I examine my own life, I see how much I’ve been forgiven. How can I not extend God’s grace to others? The best way to experience the fullness of God’s presence in my life is to surrender it to Him. And in that surrender, we are made more complete and joy-filled.

Mother-daughter relationships are often complicated and fraught with emotional land mines. What was your approach to exploring the complexity of those relationships in a fictional setting?
Questions, lots of questions! Every time I told someone I was working on a book about mother-daughter relationships, people wanted to share their family stories. As I wrote Her Mother’s Hope, I wanted readers to see through each woman’s eyes, and understand how the past shaped each in the way she responded to her mother. Hildemara doesn’t believe her mother loves her, but it is out of Marta’s pain and loss that tough-love techniques were forged. Marta wants to strengthen her daughter for whatever lies ahead. Sometimes what we view as rejection can actually be an act of sacrificial love. We seldom know the experiences that shaped our mothers, the deep hurts, traumatic events, broken relationships. I hope women who read this book will want to share those things with one another.

Writing a novel is not for the faint of heart. What was the most difficult part of writing this family saga? What came the most naturally to you?
The most difficult part of writing any novel is getting out of my own way. I have to get rid of preconceived notions about themes and characters and plot. The first draft of this novel came in at over 1000 pages and was too biographical. I wanted the story to shift back and forth from present to past, trying to show what happened to create the rifts and valleys between Hildemara, Carolyn and May Flower Dawn. I was too cautious, too afraid to harm to my grandmother and mother’s memory.
A wonderful editor wrote me an insightful letter in which she listed what she wanted to know about each the characters. Her letter got my creative juices flowing. She helped me look at the story in a new way. I set the first manuscript aside and started over. I found it better to move from one generation to the next in a linear story. This time the characters followed my grandmother and mother’s timeline, but took on a life of their own. They became unique individuals rather than the shadow of real people.

After readers finish this series what do you want them to remember? What questions and feelings do you want it to provoke on a spiritual and emotional level?
I hope and pray readers who have had difficult relationships with their mothers or daughters will let go of the pain and anger and allow God to work in their lives. God can work all things together for good for those who trust and love Him. Following Jesus’ example changes the way we see people. It changes the way we relate to one another. Even when the chasm is too deep to cross, we can decide to forgive. Some people wear grievances like a dirty coat. With God’s strength, we can strip it off and be free. When people finish reading Her Daughter’s Dream, I hope they will want to extend God’s grace and forgiveness. I hope they will tear down their walls and use their life experiences to begin building a bridge.

Who do you see as the audience for this story, and does that differ from your previous readership?
I am fortunate to work with Tyndale House. If a writer does well in one genre, publishers encourage the writer to continue in the same genre. Tyndale has given me the freedom to go wherever the story leads. I have done historical as well as contemporary. This two-part saga was intended to be one LONG book. Splitting the story into two parts made it more affordable for readers, and eliminated the need to delete entire sections. Hopefully, both women and men will enjoy Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream. Men play a strong role in the lives of all four primary characters: Marta, Hildemara Rose, Carolyn and May Flower Dawn. And both books have much to do with faith, how it presents itself, how it grows, often under difficult circumstances and in unexpected ways.

Where may we connect with you further or to purchase a copy of HER DAUGHTER'S DREAM?
I would love for you to visit my web site at, browse through the various events and other resources available, as well as sign up for my mailing list. You may also join me on my Facebook page, please click here

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by the Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at for more information about blog tour management services.

Book Description

Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers (Tyndale House Publishers, September 2010)

In the dramatic conclusion to the New York Times best seller Her Mother’s Hope, Francine Rivers delivers a rich and deeply moving story about the silent sorrows that can tear a family apart and the grace and forgiveness that can heal even the deepest wounds.
Growing up isn’t easy for little Carolyn Arundel. With her mother, Hildemara, quarantined to her room with tuberculosis, Carolyn forms a special bond with her oma Marta, who moves in to care for the household. But as tensions between Hildie and Marta escalate, Carolyn believes she is to blame. When Hildie returns to work and Marta leaves, Carolyn and her brother grow up as latchkey kids in a world gripped by the fear of the Cold War.
College offers Carolyn the chance to find herself, but a family tragedy shatters her newfound independence. Rather than return home, she cuts all ties and disappears into the heady counterculture of San Francisco. When she reemerges two years later, more lost than ever, she reluctantly turns to her family to help rebuild a life for her and her own daughter, May Flower Dawn.
Just like Carolyn, May Flower Dawn develops a closer bond with her grandmother, Hildie, than with her mother, causing yet another rift between generations. But as Dawn struggles to avoid the mistakes of those who went before her, she vows that somehow she will be a bridge between the women in her family rather than the wall that separates them forever.
Spanning from the 1950s to present day, Her Daughter’s Dream is the emotional final chapter of an unforgettable family saga about the sacrifices every mother makes for her daughter—and the very nature of unconditional love.

About the Author
Francine Rivers began her literary career at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English and journalism. From 1976 to 1985, she had a successful writing career in the general market, and her books were highly acclaimed by readers and reviewers. Although raised in a religious home, Francine did not truly encounter Christ until later in life, when she was already a wife, a mother of three, and an established romance novelist.
Shortly after becoming a born-again Christian in 1986, Francine wrote Redeeming Love as her statement of faith. First published by Bantam Books and then re-released by Multnomah Publishers in the mid-1990s, this retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea, set during the time of the California Gold Rush, is now considered by many to be a classic work of Christian fiction. Redeeming Love continues to be one of the Christian Booksellers Association's top-selling titles, and it has held a spot on the Christian best-seller list for nearly a decade.
Since Redeeming Love, Francine has published numerous novels with Christian themes—all best sellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, and the Holt Medallion in Honor of Outstanding Literary Talent. In 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame. Francine's novels have been translated into over 20 different languages, and she enjoys best-seller status in many foreign countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa.
Francine and her husband, Rick, live in northern California and enjoy time spent with their three grown children and taking every opportunity to spoil their grandchildren. Francine uses her writing to draw closer to the Lord, and she desires that through her work she might worship and praise Jesus for all He has done and is doing in her life.

Hello, my long-lost blog

Sorry to have neglected you for so long.  It's not for lack of words or time or life events.  (Well, perhaps a bit of the latter since I feel as though I've just been spinning my wheels the past few months...)

I suppose I just don't know how to communicate my thoughts these days.  Or rather, I'm not at complete liberty to communicate them all in such a public forum.

I don't intend to promise new posts; I'd like to, but how many times before have I made such empty promises? 

I'll do my best.

In the next few days there will be posts of book reviews.  Did you know that there are companies (publishers, advertisers, authors, etc) that send you FREE books in exchange for posting a review and book and author details?  Brilliant!  (I'll post buttons on the sidebar that will link to the various companies if you're interested.)

So, I'll see you later, my friend.  I'll try to write again soon.

But I make no promises . . .

Thursday, July 01, 2010

13 minutes 'til 30

Months ago I imagined myself spending hours blogging in my new decade of life, but life happened and blogging got pushed to the back burner.  So now, with 13 minutes left of my twenties I'm taking a few minutes to ponder the previous decade.  At some point I'd like to make a list of 30 things I may wish to do in my 30s, but tonight I'll make a list of 20 things I accomplished in my 20s.  So, in no particular order . . .

20 In My 20's
A not-so comprehensive list of 20 accomplishments from my 2nd decade 
  1. Earned a college degree (B.A. in English, minor in Studio Art).
  2. Earned a teaching certificate (in Early Childhood - 4th grade with an ESL endorsement).
  3. Paid off 1 student loan (only 2 more to go!  :o/ ) and 2 credit cards I got when I started college.
  4. Bought a house (with my parents, I must say).
  5. Bought TWO cars (one's paid off, the other not so much).
  6. Was a bridesmaid for dear friends 3x over.
  7. Became an international traveler by visiting places such as France, Italy, South Korea, China (these first 4 were technically in my late teens, but I'll tack them on to my 20s travels), Mexico (5x or more!), Uzbekistan & England (6x!).
  8. Lived in another country for the most part of a year.
  9. Volunteered in a night shelter for nearly a year.
  10. Became a big city driver (if you were there when I first learned to drive then you would know what a huge accomplishment this was!).
  11. Made numerous, dear life-long friends.
  12. Developed a deeper relationship with God.
  13. Became an aunt (4x!), although I technically didn't have anything to do with that . . .
  14. Developed a love for cooking.
  15. Became a grown-up with a real job and everything!
  16. Attended 2 U2 concerts w/ my brothers!
  17. Discovered a love for children and a passion for teaching.
  18. Conquered my fears and rode the Texas Cyclone at Astroworld before it was dismantled.
  19. Cut off and donated 11" of hair to Locks of Love.
  20. Developed a deeper love for reading and learning and read hundreds of thousands of beautifully written words!
  21. Began a blog!*
I'm sure there's more, but I'll leave it at that for now.  Here's to my new decade and whatever new adventures await me!

*This is my bonus one, so please pardon me for not keeping the list at 20 . . . but it's my birthday and I'll post what I want to!

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's only a week away now . . .

So June was supposed to be full of books and coffee shops and lazy days in the pool, but life had other plans.  As crazy, wild and stressful as this month has been, I almost wish it wasn't over!


Because in 7 short days I turn 30!!!  Holy moley!  How the heck did THAT happen???

And with the stressfulness of the month all the hopes and plans for a big 30's bash flew out the window.  (Well, that and the lack of funds due to partial unemployment for the summer.)  So I suppose if anything is happening I need to throw it together in the next 24 hrs so people have ample warning.  Oi!

The month was full of such horribleness (is that even a word?), that some of the good things got buried.  So let me recount the blessings:

First, my good friend Elaine is home for the summer from Seoul, South Korea.  I've had some fun hangouts with her and I'm sad to think she's got less than a month left before she leaves again.  Although, she's lobbying like mad to get me to go teach English in Korea for a year!

Second, my friend Aleen sent me an unexpected package nearly three weeks ago that contained two books I mentioned wanting in a previous post - Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea by Barbara Demick and My Life In France by Julia Child.  I was so surprised and happy I was practically in tears!  And I promptly shelved Eat, Pray Love so I could read Nothing to Envy (it's AMAZING and I promise to blog about it very soon!  I've already finished it but I'll leave it up on my sidebar for a little longer).

Third, my uncle gave me two free tickets to an Astros game and it was the first one I've been to in over two years!  It was a day game and I loved the laid back atmosphere.  We were even able to sit a lot closer than what was posted on the tics since not too many people attended.

Fourth, I signed up online to try Chick-fil-a's new spicy chicken sandwich the week before it was officially released.  I would've been happy with just the free sandwich, but when I went in and ordered a drink and fries to go along with it they gave it all to me for free! 

Fifth, we've had some awesome thunderstorms roll through town and thankfully no lightening struck our house/property (that happened two years ago and was no bueno!).

Sixth, the past week and a half I've had a little more time to enjoy the pool and with the 95+ degree weather it's been soooo deliciously refreshing!

Seventh, I've taken advantage of HEB's offer of a free container of hummus with the purchase of New York Style Pita Chips.  Mmmm . . . I couldn't tell ya the amount of pita chips and hummus I've consumed in the past 10 days!  Let's just say I work in the same shopping strip as HEB, so it's very easy to pop into the store for a quick buy.

Eighth, I've cut down on the amount of sugar, red meat and white bread products I was consuming - it was starting to get out of hand!  So, combined with the swimming, I'm feeling stronger and healthier.  Now if I could just adjust my sleeping hours I'll be all set!  But alas!  I come from a family of night owls!

Ninth, whatever little bugs were feasting on me in my own room are finally gone!  Actually, I'm fairly certain they were fleas and I have no clue where they came from!  I caught one and another one committed suicide by jumping into a glass of water.  But they weren't alone 'cause I still had some bites.  I washed everything possible, sprinkled borax all over the carpet and vacuumed every vacuumable surface in the room (floor, bed, drapes, chair, lampshade).  I still got one last bite after all that, but nothing since then.  That was two weeks ago.  Let's hope no new ones hatch . . .

Tenth, my bro got tics for my nephews, niece, me, my SIL and him to watch Toy Story 3.  Oh my, it was a great movie!  My nephew cried a little at the end.  So did I.

Eleventh, God is good.  And He's in control.  Nothing else matters.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


~ I'm about halfway through Stroud's God's Heart for the Poor.  It's almost like a how-to for those starting up their own project, so I mostly skim through those sections.  Still no image of the cover to be found, so it's not on my sidebar, and I'm having issues with the blogger elements not cooperating with my template, so I haven't worked it out to just list the details of the book yet.

~ I was craving something a bit more . . . literary, maybe? . . . so I also started reading Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I bought it at Half Priced books a few months ago and figured I might as well read it since the movie will soon be coming out.  Only a couple of chapters in, but I like it already.  I added it to my sidebar, as you can see.

~ Last weekend I finally saw the movie Julie and Julia.  I was excited to read the book last summer because the movie trailers piqued my interest.  However, I found the book a bit hard to follow with the author's stream of consciousness.  Plus the main character, Julie, annoyed me with her selfishness and self-absorption.  And I was left wishing there was more of the Julia Child scenes in the book.  All that to say, after reading the book I wasn't bothered about not watching the movie.  But I actually really enjoyed the movie!  Julie is more palatable in it and we definitely get a lot more of Julia.  I'd like to read Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France now (which I linked, in case any of you would like to buy it for me!  :o) ).

~ I just read my friend Aleen's blog and she mentioned a book she just finished: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick.  South Korea and China was the first ever mission trip to went on, and the organization we partnered with aimed to spread the gospel to N Koreans.  I had such amazing and life-changing experiences on that trip and stories from that country still stir my heart.  So the book sounds really good and I'd love to read it!  Of course I'll prob have to wait til it's in paperback and a tad bit cheaper . . .

~ I'll have a lot more time to read since my 2nd job just finished.  It's also a bit stressful 'cause it was my main source of income since it paid twice as much as my 1st job.  BUT I am basically all set up to substitute for the rest of the year, so I hope to do that at least two or three times a week . . . but there's only 3 wks left of school . . . *sigh*

~ I went to a job fair for an area district on Friday.  There were HUNDREDS, if not THOUSANDS, of people there looking for jobs.  It's not a good time to be an unemployed teacher, let me tell you!  I handed out all twenty copies of my resume, tho.  So hopefully I'll get some phone calls for interviews soon. 

~ I got crazy with our new vacuum yesterday -- I vacuumed my bed, my drapes, my mini-blinds, the window sills, all the shelves upstairs (using the attachments, of course), the floorboards, the walls and ceilings, the upholstered chairs, the bathroom floor, my bed again since all the dust from the other items got kicked up and resettled on it, the lamps, and the carpet.  And I slept soundly, with no mental images of thousands of microscopic dust mites crawling all over me during the night.  I suppose I could offer my vacuuming expertise for a small fee if no job prospects come up . . .

~ I'm in the last days of my 20's.  Haven't looked at the calendar to say for sure, but I'm guessing there's only about 6 wks left of 'em.  Scary!

~ I'm cooking carne guisada for dinner tonight.  Haven't made it in ages, so I'm looking forward to it!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Junkie Meets Jesus in a Trash Can

Last week I finished Colin Garnett's memoir, Junkie Meets Jesus in a Trash Can.  The BF gave me his copy when he came to visit in January.  Having come from a similar past as Garnett's, he thought it would give me some insight into the struggles and triumphs one encounters while trying to break free from addiction.  After reading this book I know one thing is for sure - it's nearly impossible to break the oppressive chains of addiction without the power of God.

That's actually a lesson I learned long ago, having invested so much over the past few years into the King's Arms Project.  There I met dozens of addicts who are eager to share their stories of heartache and pain, weeping over the tatters of their lives, vowing to give up the drugs or the drink or whatever else entangles them and holds them captive.  Yet the next day they turned up drunk again.  And the next, and the next.  An endless cycle of destructive addiction.  Most eventually lost their jobs and their families and their friends.  Some even lost their lives.  Somehow, the addiction was always stronger than their willpower and their love for their spouse or children; it was stronger than their self-respect and their dignity.  Yet, but by the grace of God, that could be me.  Or you.

I don't know what it's like to feel so hurt and hopeless that drugs are the only possible escape.  And I don't know what it's like to become so addicted to something that I'm unable to stop, even though I know it will cost me all I hold dearest to my heart.  In his book, Garnett gave me a glimpse of that.  His is an amazing story of how God can change one's life in an instant.  And it's a testimony of just how far He can pull you out of the pit, as long as you're willing to follow Him in obedience and faith.  I highly recommend you read this book.  I promise you'll love it so much you'll gladly overlook the various typos the editor missed in the last half of book and the occasional confusion caused by Garnett's stream of consciousness! 

Here's a excerpt that had me both laughing and crying:
Earl was baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and he was dunked into the water. The singing erupted once again and people were crying with Earl. I was in stunned silence. The Christians started to disperse back to their seats, and the preacher went back to his Bible. He threw a gauntlet down to me when he asked, 'Is there anyone else here tonight who feels the need to receive Jesus into their life as personal Lord and Saviour?'
The question had not completely left the minister's lips, and I was standing up and taking my jeans off. I heard myself saying, 'I do! That's exactly how I feel!'
The whole congregation turned to look at me and as they all looked at me, I felt an inner urge to turn it all into a joke and sit back down. But the truth was, I could no longer live my life under the influence of what other people thought of me. I looked at them, and in a moment's clarity of heart, I knew I could not allow these guys to define me any longer.
I said, 'I need to know this Jesus for myself.'
My jeans went one way, my shirt went another, and I climbed into this trash can of water and tearfully fell to my knees.
I hope I didn't give anything away, especially since the title basically says it all anyway, but I just love this scene!

I've been on a memoir kick over the last year.  It all started with a book a borrowed from my friend Elaine called, The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran.  Oh my, that is a hilarious book and I absolutely LOVED it!  I need to reread it and blog about it 'cause it is great!  Anywho, all that to say that the next book I've started is God's Heart for the Poor by Philippa Stroud.  It's really cool because it's basically the history of how King's Arms Project got started 20 years ago.  I love reading about familiar places, even though it makes me a bit homesick for Bedford.  The book is out of print, it's another one the BF lent me, and I'm having a hard time finding an image of the cover on google.  So I'll just have to post the title and author on the sidebar without the book image.  (Nevermind, I'll just have to leave the JMJINTC pic up for now 'cause I'm having element page issues . . . )  As for Junkie Meets Jesus in a Trash Can, I posted the link to the UK Amazon site since it gives slightly more info than the USA Amazon link, but I don't even think it's in print in the US.  But if you happen to come across a copy, read it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


If you live in Waco and feel the earth shaking, don't worry.  It's not an earthquake.  It's just thousands and thousands of baptists rolling over in their graves because there's dancing on the Baylor campus.  And to Michael Jackson, no less!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quote(s) of the Week

At job #1:

Daisy:  I like your earrings, Ms. Gayle!
Me:  Thank you!
Christopher:  Don't ever by cheap earrings, 'cause my sister bought cheap earrings and she got an infection in her ear.  (Short pause)  Are those cheap earrings?
Three quizzical faces turn in anticipation of my response.
Me, taking a moment to determine how I can spin the truth that they are, indeed, cheap earrings, but not wanting to admit it to 3 seven-yr-olds:  Well . . . they're from England!
Three incredulous faces turn towards each other and exclaim, almost in unison:  WOW!  Ms. Gayle is soooo cool!

At job #2:

Karli:  Ms. Deborah--wait, is it Ms. or Mrs.?
Me:  It's Ms.
Karli, a bit bewildered:  Wait.  You're not married???
Me:  Nope.
Karli, completely astonished:  Buy, WHY???  You're soooo pretty!

Moments like these remind me how much I love my jobs!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I was 10 minutes late to work this morning . . .

. . . because of this amazing interview:

First, watch the video and then come back and let's talk about how amazing it is!

Did ya watch it? Can you believe it???
What amazing faith does that man have! He waited on the Lord, heard His voice, and went out and found the girl who was LOST in the swamp for FOUR DAYS! Not only was that man's faith strong enough to believe God would lead him to Nadia, his faith held out despite the odds -- even though dozens of professionals had been searching for four, going on five days; even though there were doubts she was even still alive; even though it took him 2 hours of searching before he heard her response to his calls. His faith didn't waiver and God used him to show the world that His sheep hear His voice and that miracles still happen today!

Hearing this story reminds me of I Corinthians 1:18 & 28:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . . . . God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

What's more foolish to our society today than someone claiming that God told him where to go? And what's more weak than one man on his own accomplishing what dozens and dozens of others were incapable of?

All things really are possible through Christ.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Night Night . . .

Ok, I need sleep. I'd love to stay up reading all night, but I'm fading fast. I'll keep reading until I drift off to sleep, but I just wanted to post an official end of read-a-thon post 'cause I'll prob fall asleep soon!

I'll report back tomorrow with what I read these final hours and how much total reading I got done. Although it wasn't as much as I would've liked, it was definitely more than I would have otherwise read. So that's an accomplishment, eh?

Good night, all. Happy reading to those of you still going at it -- y'all are rockstars!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Good grief, can't believe that took nearly all day!!! But I definitely have the sense of accomplishment I always feel when I finish a book.

I began reading Lewis Carroll's tales of Alice's adventures over six months ago and picked it up here and there from time to time. The main reason I decided to finally read it is because it's probably the only major work of literature the bf had read and I had not. To be honest, I was not too concerned with reading it before because the Disney movie kind of freaked me out when I was a kid! So, no way was I going to willing read that thing!!! And the reason I was dragging my feet with finishing it is because after reading my friend Amy's tumblr post I realized Carroll just may have possibly had pedo tendencies! So every reference to Carroll's fondness for children, esp little girls, made me cringe. And how are people not more freaked out that he wrote these stories because of his obsession with a 7-year-old he was not directly related to?? And how do all these parents let their children go off with him and allow him to photograph them??? I don't know . . . perhaps the world was a different place back then . . .

Anywho, I did enjoy all the banter towards the end of the book. For example,
Here the Red Queen began again, Can you answer useful questions?" she said. "How is bread made?"
I know that!" Alice cried eagerly. "You take some flour--"
"Where do you pick the flower?" the White Queen asked. In a garden or in the hedges?"
"Well, it isn't picked at all," Alice explained: "it's ground--"
"How many acres of ground?" said the White Queen. "You mustn't leave out so many things."
Poor Alice!

Ok, onward I go. I need a break from the children's literature . . . I'm thinking I'll read a bit of Your Jesus Is Too Safe by Jared C. Wilson. I bought it back in July and have been picking at ever since (minus the 3 months I was out of the country, that is). I prob won't finish it tonight 'cause I need time to digest nonfiction. But I'll let you know how it goes!

Break #2

I braved the pollen and ventured outside in the sun to read a bit.

My snack of choice for this round:

Yup, water and left over Easter malt eggs! Yum!!!

I was only out there about an hour and 15 min and managed to read 30 pages. I would've kept on reading but it's time to Skype w/ the bf (he doesn't have a comp, so our online "dates" are far and few between). I'll hit the books again as soon as we finish, and I'm thinking I can totally stay up later than midnight reading -- at least til 2 if not later. Late at night is when I get most of my reading done anyway, so I should knock a lot of pages out in the wee small hours of the morning.

Ok, I'll update when I'm back at it! Thanks so much for all the encouragement so far!!!

Update: 8:35 p.m.
Holy cow! How the heck is it already so late???? We experienced some technical difficulties, so I just now finished my Skype date and am ready to dive back in. I have the popcorn and Pepsi One ready to get me through this next leg, so here it goes!

Break #1

I've been "reading" for about 2 hours, although I use that term lightly seeing as how I had many distractions and interruptions the first hour (phone calls, noisy yard work outside, an uncooperative camera, a daydreaming mind, etc). So I only got about 45 pages read and have about 60 more to go before finishing Through The Looking Glass.

It's not a difficult read, but I keep flipping back and forth from the text to the notes in the back, back to the text and then to the beginning diagram of the chessboard (which makes NO sense to me since I'm NOT a chess person) and back to the text. Stupid editor's notes and stupid English major habits that make it feel like it's a sin not to read the editor's notes! Thankfully, I still have some cherry limeade left to keep me going, even though all the crushed ice has sadly melted away . . .

Ok, off to check a few blogs and harvest my grapes on Farmville (yeah, I'm addicted to that as well!). I'll get back to reading soon . . .

Update: 4:10 p.m.
Well, I started reading again at 3:40, but then my grandma called 5 min later, so now I'm just barely getting back to it! Yikes! I was hoping to be on book #2 by now! Oh well, I guess that's life, eh?

Update: 4:15 p.m.
OK, as soon as I clicked Publish Post the house alarm low-battery indicator started going off and I had to run down to turn it off. Seriously? Am I ever going to finish this book??? Lol!

Ready . . . Set . . . GO!!!

Ok, just got home from work and am finishing lunch while I jump into Through The Looking Glass. I'll see ya in a few hours . . .

Friday, April 09, 2010

Let's Get Reading!


So, I finally decided to brush off the dust and clean up the cobwebs of my blog and figured participating in this read-a-thon is just the thing to help me do it! This way, I'm forced to update, if just for 24 hours.

I only just found out about the event through a link my virtual friend Leann posted on FB. I clicked over and decided I'd like to participate in the festivities, and 24 hours later, here I am! I have no game plan (i.e. what hours I'll be reading, how many breaks I'll take, what snacks I'll consume, etc), and I have no strategy for reading. I don't even know how many hours of the 24 I'll actually be participating in! All I know is that I spend waaaayyyyyy too much time on FB or watching TV during my down time and far too little time reading. Hopefully this will steer me back to reading a bit more than I have been.

So, without further ado, here's my stack of books:

From top to bottom:
*Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
*A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'engle
*Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
*The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
*Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
*Your Jesus Is Too Safe by Jared Wilson
*Dollar Store Crossword and Sudoku puzzles for breaks
*Blink Of An Eye by Ted Dekker

Not photographed is my Bible, which I'll read a little of as well. And I have other books that may replace some of the ones listed above. I've read Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, which is half of the above book, but haven't finished Through The Looking Glass. I'm fairly confident I'll finish that one at least. Not sure about the others . . .

No, I won't read ALL of these books, but I know how I am and if I get bored of one book I wanted to have plenty of options of what to read next.

I work from 9:30-11:30, so won't be able to start seriously reading til after noon, central time. I'll update regularly and be sure to keep track of just how long I read and how many pages. I'll also post about the individual books I'm reading and perhaps include fav quotes . . . or not . . . it depends how the day shapes up! I have tentative plans to meet up with some friends at Miller Outdoor Theatre to see Cats, but that hasn't been confirmed. If so, then I'll only be reading 'til 6:30. If not, I hope to keep it up 'til midnight at least.

Alrighty then, guess it's time to get ready for tomorrow! Hope to see ya then!

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