Category: Faith

Mission Possible: New Year’s Motto

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Tis the season for resolutions and if you are feeling burned out and uninspired by the traditional litany of: workout more, read more, eat less, etc., I welcome you to join me in a different approach to 2016. I’ve spent some time thinking about what habits, words, and mindsets I want to prioritize in the upcoming year and decided to create a personal motto/mission statement to keep myself focused and accountable.   In 2016 my alliterative mission is to be: productive, passionate, poised, prayerful, and present.

Productive: I easily fall into the trap of procrastination – my house is never cleaner than when I have 90 student essays to grade and I usually find the time to create an extra long blog post when dishes or laundry are stacked and waiting for attention. 

Passionate:  I love being a teacher, but I often find myself dwelling on the annoyances of my daily tasks…such as *ahem* grading 90 student essays.  I am restarting Seamless by Angie Smith and today’s lesson focused upon why God made the Israelites wander for 40 years in the desert before they were able to approach the promised land.  Moses’ followers were experiencing some serious highs and lows when it came to their gratitude and grumbling about the gifts and tests that God placed before them.  If complaining about eating only bread and wandering aimlessly in a hot, arid climate wasn’t looked upon with sympathy, I have a strong feeling that complaints about grading are pretty annoying to the Almighty too.  I’ve also been trying to get into a blogging rhythm for longer than I want to admit; in 2016 I want to truly dedicate myself to Smitten Mitten Living and hopefully achieve my vision. 

Poised:  Believe me this has nothing to do with standing up straight or gliding gracefully in high heels.  To this day I still remember one of the best compliments of my life from a boy who would become a good friend for years to come.  I fell into a great group of friends – two years my senior – when I was a sophomore in college.  When Brian discovered I was only 19, he uttered these memorable words, “wow, you carry yourself really well.”  I know that I’ve always acted older than my years, but having a relative stranger view it as a positive attribute makes me wonder if I would still get that compliment today.  I worry that I’m more jaded and likely to be negative, and I want my words, actions, and moods to reflect more of my gratitude for the wonderful life I am leading. 

Prayerful:  I’m just going to say it….I am an ADD Christian.  I often repeat the same requests, let my mind wander to unrelated tasks (such as… the 90 ungraded student essays that should be returned Monday), and fail to pray in the moment.  In 2016 I want to be more mindful of God’s hand in my daily life and pray to him so that our relationship is enriched.  I am hoping to follow this template initially until I find my own way.  I came across this acronym and hope it will guide me until a more natural rhythm of my own develops: P = praise God’s work, R = repent of my sins, A = ask for God to work in areas of need, and Yield = be quiet and let God’s presence provide guidance. 

Present:  When I watch TV I also play on Facebook, when I am talking on the phone the TV is usually on, when I drive I think my to do list…you get the idea.  This pattern leads me to not only shortchange my interactions with those around me, but I also notice that my mood is more cloudy when I check social media too much or watch TV rather than read at night.  By being mindful of who or what is in front of me at any given moment I hope to appreciate and recognize all of the amazing opportunities that I encounter each day.  

Thus, I pledge to be productive, passionate, poised, prayerful and present this year.

If you are suffering from a bad case of resolution writer’s block like I was these last few days, I hope you can also find your mission for 2016 and enjoy a happy and healthy new year.

 

 

July Bookshelf

July Bookshelf

 

While this post is dedicated to my July bookshelf I am writing and posting it at the end of August, which is stirring up both happy and humdrum feelings.  Part of me is excited and ready to return to the fall routine since I will officially report back to school next week for professional development and get to meet my kiddos after Labor Day.  Yet, I would be lying if I didn’t mention feeling blue that summer is ending.  (This blueness could be due to the fact that it’s 60ish degrees, rainy, and breezy in Michigan right now and I feel like my pool must be crying.)  It could also be that our schedule this summer was the fullest it’s ever been: seeing great friends, travelling to gorgeous spots here in Michigan, and enjoying our family time, making me both grateful and sad that it’s ending.

Okay, enough pity party, it’s time to rally.  Let’s talk about some books!

The Fortune Hunter is the second book from Daisy Goodwin and was another excellent read.  Many of the same qualities found in the American Heiress make The Fortune Hunter a compelling and engrossing read.  It’s not quite as Downton Abbey-esque, but still gives us a great glimpse into English (and Austro-Hungarian) aristocracy.  This book spoke to the History teacher in me because all three key figures–Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) of Austria, Captain Bay Middleton (a distant relative of Kate Middleton), and Charlotte Baird–actually lived, loved, and interacted with one another in the late nineteenth century.  Goodwin’s writing seems to be a hybrid of pure fiction and the novelish non-fiction writing style of Erik Larson who uses historical documents to construct compelling stories for lovers of both history and literature. Of the two Goodwin books I liked The American Heiress a bit more but I would highly recommend both.  Click here for my June Bookshelf post that includes a discussion of The American Heiress.  

The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst is great for any and all of us that feel overwhelmed by commitments to our careers, families, friends, churches…I could go on and on so I’ll stop there and not stress us all out before even talking about the book.  Lysa’s fundamental philosophy is that while it may feel Christ-like to say ‘yes’ to all who ask something of us, we may actually be clogging our schedules and not making time for the ‘best yeses’ that God is directing us toward.  As I read The Best Yes I found myself wholly subscribing to this philosophy and her chapters made the process of discerning best yeses seem practical.  My only critiques would be that some of her case studies seemed a little too simplistic at times and the book itself is about 40 or 50 pages too long.  However, I think it’s a helpful approach to reducing our commitments while not reducing our relationship with God.

The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills was our book club selection for the month of July and I feel obligated to admit that while I (and a handful of others) enjoyed it, the majority of my club was not impressed.  This memoir by a Chicago Tribune reporter chronicles her time spent with sisters Harper and Alice Lee.  Harper Lee seems to be a polarizing figure of late with the publication of Go Set a Watchman, which challenges our altruistic image of Atticus Finch.  While I’ve chosen not to read Watchman, I thoroughly enjoyed The Mockingbird Next Door.  It’s a slow-paced account of Mills’ time with the Lee sisters that left me with an endearing portrait of two extraordinarily accomplished women who reminded me of my own grandmother and her sister who we affectionately referred to as ‘Aunt Dutch.’  If you are a fan of memoirs or To Kill a Mockingbird I think you’ll enjoy it as I did, however my English teacher buddies were also not fans of Mills’s writing style.  I would say to be safe this is a good title to get from the library rather than Amazon.

I am still enjoying Savor by Shauna Niequist each morning and would highly recommend it to those of you looking for a daily devotional that also instills a sense of fellowship as you read.

As always, the foundation of my book pile this month is the First Century Study Bible with notes and articles by my teaching pastor at Mars Hill, Kent Dobson.

June Bookshelf

June Bookshelf

What are you reading this month?  In my other life I am a high school teacher which means I often don’t get a chance to read at the same pace that I do in the summer; although most of my non-teacher friends take more summer season vacations too, so I’m betting we all get more leisure reading accomplished in June, July, and August.  Last month I started or finished several books that I’d love to share with you if you’re looking for a good summer read to enjoy (hopefully on the beach or poolside!)

Savor is a great daily devotional that I got at the end of the school year.  In the past I began my day with Jesus Calling, but I must say I have thoroughly looked forward to starting my morning off with Shauna Niequist and a cup of coffee.  Her devotional gives me the expected dose of daily scripture, along with a nice bit of fellowship to also get my day rolling.  I first learned about Shauna watching the If Gathering this fall online.  If you haven’t seen or heard of If Equip, If Table, or If Gathering it is worth the Google search, you won’t be sorry.

The American Heiress was the perfect summer read that I was hoping to find this summer.  If you’re a Downton Abbey groupie like me, pick up this book and share the journeys of Cora Cash as she navigates high New York Society and stuffy British aristocracy in her pursuit to find a title to match her millions.

Dead Wake by Erik Larson is the best book I’ve read this year.  I first experienced his amazing nonfiction writing style in The Devil in the White City, which I devoured….but not as quickly as Dead Wake.  This newest book chronicles the final voyage of the Lusitania and all the geopolitics surrounding U.S. entrance into WWI that stemmed from her sinking.  Stay with me here….even if you’re not a 10th grade U.S. History teacher you will love this too.

Seamless by Angie Smith is an intriguing survey of the Bible as one complete story.  I am only in the second week of this study, so I’m going to hold off on a detailed discussion of it, but so far her writing style and videos are wonderfully thoughtful and relatable.  Plus she’s a Smith, so she must be fabulous.  (Abbreviated videos to accompany Seamless are available for free this summer if you’re looking for a study to do as a group or even on your own).  My best work buddy (and neighbor!) Ann and I are doing this one together, although we are a bit behind, but Angie does a nice job in her intro video of encouraging us all to go at our own pace, so really I’m just taking her advice.

And as always, the foundation of my book pile this month is the First Century Study Bible with notes and articles by my teaching pastor at Mars Hill, Kent Dobson.

Serving the Fruit with a Side of Bacon

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Fundamentally there are two types of bacon in this world.  If you’re my husband you refer to these bacon varieties as real and fake.  If you’re actually looking in the grocery store they are more commonly known as uncooked bacon and pre-cooked, microwavable bacon.

In the early part of my adult life the microwavable version was my go to bacon of choice.  I mean cooking real bacon involves grease spattering all over my stove, grease spilling as I drain it into a jar for “easy” disposal, and most importantly it takes a long stinking time and a watchful eye to make sure the fat melts and doesn’t burn the meat in the process.

It’s Saturday morning folks…the WEEKEND…this is too much work, am I right?  But when you fall in love with a tall, blue-eyed purist whom you vowed (literally) to place first in your life forever and ever it will suddenly hit you as it did me.  I have to make real bacon the rest of my life.

At this stage in my mental melodrama I considered objections ranging from “it’s so unhealthy, we should only eat bacon once a year” to “it’s 2015, not 1955, haven’t you read The Feminine Mystique?!”  Granted, none of these objections are actually verbalized, but I have nevertheless been a bit surly when the bacon starts to sizzle.

And then it hits me.  Serving the bacon, the real bacon is a weekly opportunity for me display great love.  “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  Mother Teresa’s quote always makes me immediately think of the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  

I’d been denying myself and my husband a weekly serving of fruit by grumbling over the silly bacon.  “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”  While I’m sure Galatians 5:13 was directed at other more monumental actions that do not include a modern housewife’s epiphany regarding a breakfast dish, it makes me realize that the seemingly small acts of love that I engage in at home, work, or anywhere are small acts that can reflect great love.

1 Peter 10 says “Each one should use whatever gift she has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  I can genuinely say that on most days, for most recipes I truly enjoy cooking for my husband, family and friends.  It’s not epic, it’s not earth-shattering, but it’s an act of love that I can use to reflect God’s grace to those most important to me.

I clearly recognize that my internal bacon temper tantrum may not be a big deal, but what makes me pause  is that I don’t just grumble about bacon.  I grumble about a lot of things.  How quickly I forget that the minor annoyances of life still come in my God-given life.  How many servings of fruit am I missing?  How many servings of fruit am I keeping from those I love?

Every act of love has a purpose, every act of love is a part of His plan.

I forgot to buy the bacon this week.  Jesse volunteered to go to the store and buy a package this morning while I prepped the pancakes and eggs.  Then a wonderfully small act of great love took place; my husband made the bacon and the fruit has never tasted so good.