Unstoppable Me

Somewhere deep inside I believe I can do anything.  That belief doesn’t always manifest itself in my day to day activities, but I really do believe it.  I’m naturally quite impulsive and also generally quite confident.  When you pair those things together, you have a bit of a strange combination.  When I watch doctor shows I imagine that I should go ahead and go to medical school so that I can fix all the people.  When I watch law & order type shows I imagine myself as a bad ass attorney sticking it to the bad guys.  Side note: I rarely imagine myself in law enforcement.  Mostly because I’m scared of the dark, but also because the idea of me carrying or shooting a gun is enough to make anyone who knows me shoot their drink straight out of their nose.  It really is just that hilarious.  But anyway.

I once tried for an entire hour to pick the lock of my mother-in-law’s front door because we had accidentally left her house key at my sister-in-law’s house and since I had watched seven straight seasons of Alias, I was the obvious choice to find a way in.  You know, because of all my super spy training.  In unrelated news, I wasn’t successful at picking the lock, but I did watch my husband laugh harder than I ever had before or ever have since.  The point is that I have a natural tendency to believe that nothing is beyond my reach – that I can do pretty much anything I want to.  If I’m being honest, I love that about myself.  I hope and pray that my four daughters will somehow pick that up from me.

The strange, and disappointing, thing about it, though, is that I rarely take that belief and actually try to make it reality.  Something happens to me somewhere between the believing and the doing that keeps me from the trying.  I can’t figure out what that is, but if I ever do I know I’ll be unstoppable.  

I believe that we are all made for so much more than we allow for ourselves.  So much more than we think we deserve or think we can achieve.  If I could follow through on that silly notion that I can do anything, I wonder if I would actually be able to do anything.

Dream With Me – A Book Review

John M. Perkins was born to sharecroppers in Mississippi in 1930.  His mother died when he was a baby and his father abandoned the family, so he was raised by his grandmother and other extended family members. At the age of 17, after his older brother was murdered by a town marshall, John ran away to California. About thirty years later his son, Spencer, led him to Christ and a short time later he returned to Mississippi with his wife, Vera Mae and their children in order to minister to the people there. They started a foundation called The John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation which they still lead today.

Dream With Me: Race, Love and the Struggle We Must Win is a memoir of struggle, hope and determination. It is a truly beautiful book by a remarkable man who made a significant impact on our nation’s history. Mr. Perkins interweaves his own personal story and struggle with wisdom he’s learned in his almost 60 years of ministry. In this book, his voice is firm yet tender and comes across as both authentic and impassioned. His insights into America’s racial divide are deep and powerful. Mr. Perkins paints a picture of a better future for those among the margins – not only racially, but financially. This book isn’t necessarily a roadmap about how to get to the reconciliation that desperately needs to happen, but it does make you believe that it is possible. In sharing story after story from his own life about enlightenment, change and reconciliation, Mr. Perkins gives us a wisdom that can only be gathered from years of mistakes and heartbreak. He pours out his own pain on the pages and allows the reader to learn from his journey in a way that is raw, real and truly beautiful.

I take from this book a desire to know more about John M. Perkins, a longing to see his dream become reality and a greater understanding of where we’ve come from as a country and where we might be able to go. This book is an inspiration for all who yearn for both justice and grace. There are so many lessons to be taken from this book and I highly recommend it!

My Favorite Quotables from Dream With Me By John M. Perkins:

“God’s love and justice come together in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and we can’t be about one and not the other. They’re inextricably connected.” p 29

“Love is the first, middle and final fight.” p 30

“Once you know their hurts and feel their pain, your neighbors’ issues become yours too.” p 75

“The oppressed already have a voice; the problem is that no one is listening.” p 75

“Our unity – our reconciliation – bears witness to the world of the surpassing love of God in Jesus Christ.” p 84

“Both sides are yelling too loudly to listen to one another. We have accommodated the racism and the segregation in society for so long that we have lost our ability to hear or understand one another.” p 105

“I believe in the inherent dignity of all human beings. The Bible states clearly that God created men and women in His image from the very beginning. No matter how damaged people become, they still bear that image. No matter how much people have been oppressed or how much they have oppressed others, the part of them made in His image is worth rescuing and restoring. Since we all inherently bear this image, we also inherently have dignity. We do not give people dignity; God gives it to them, but we must work to affirm it in others and ourselves.” p 129

“Dignity has always been part of the justice equation.” p 135

“Love is most powerful when it is unexpected – and when it does not come cheaply.” p 148

“A free society cannot exist for long if too many people in that society put their own image above that of their community.” p 167

“During my lifetime, I fear that more people have seen the church as a messy contradiction defined by division and hot-button issues than have seen it as a prophetic voice living out the gospel. Most people outside the church see it as estranged regarding issues of race, economics, sexuality, and so many other things. They see the church as a place that condemns, rather than loves. They hear the voice of the church speaking a language of hate, rather than a language of redemption and reconciliation. We have lost the fullness of the gospel.” p 188

“The fullness and adequacy of the gospel is a message of togetherness and love across ethnic barriers.” p 197

“In the midst of seeking and telling truth, we find God’s presence.” p 197

kim

 

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Baker Books Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

The Gatekeepers – A Book Review

As a political junkie, I absolutely loved The Gatekeepers. Chris Whipple takes you inside the white house of the last 50 or so years, giving you a rare look into how our executive branch functions.  With superior writing and incredible insight, The Gatekeepers is truly a must read for anyone with any interest in politics, government or even the occasional white house gossip. There are so many interesting insights into the exclusive group of men that served as White House Chief.

From Nixon and the Watergate scandal to the Obama years and everything in between, Chris Whipple gives us a glimpse into the minds and lives of the most powerful men in Washington’s more recent history.  Each chapter’s title is a quirky little nod to the chief (or chiefs) of staff represented in the chapter – nicknames, jokes, mistakes made – all memorable, all unique and special.

More than a simple history review, The Gatekeepers is filled with lessons of leadership, ego, humility, preparedness and so much more. The wisdom represented in these pages serve as a roadmap for future leaders – especially anyone who finds themselves leading from the second chair. There is an interesting perspective represented in this book that sheds light on what was, or was not, able to be accomplished throughout each president’s terms in office based on who held the office of chief of staff. It truly is remarkable the impact each of these men have had on American history.

I enjoyed this book even more than I expected to due to the tremendous quality of writing and the humor strewn throughout. It will whet your appetite and leave you wanting more. It is both informative and fascinating, an easy read and incredibly thorough – a political page turner that I enjoyed immensely and highly recommend.

 

kim

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from BloggingforBooks.com for the purposes of this review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own

A Timetable for Grief

jim and grandma

It’s been three and a half years since Jim died.  I haven’t really talked about it much because, well, what would I even say.  It’s all so tender and fragile and holy.  It’s been three and a half years since we all stood around his bed and said goodbye.  None of us wanted to, but we had no choice. So we did. I stood in the back of the room because I didn’t think I had a right to stand closer. He was my uncle.  Not my brother.  Not my partner.  My uncle.  I didn’t have a right to be up close as he took his last breaths so I stood in the back and held mine.  In that cold hospital room, with the stupid blue chair and the horrible view of the roof and the air conditioning units I watched him die.  And some of me died there too.

Parts of me that believed that life was good and right and real died that day when the most real person I ever knew stopped living and left us all there to figure out why the hell it happened.  Even now as I write these words I still have no idea.  You know how sometimes you look back on things that have happened and say, “so THAT’S why that happened.  I understand now.”  Three and a half years later I still can’t make sense of it.  And maybe that’s just it.  There isn’t a reason.  He died because he got sick.  That’s it.  End of story.  Maybe there’s no lesson there at all.

I don’t think I’ve taken a deep breath since that day.  I’ve been shallow breathing for nearly four years.  Filled with so much sadness and grief and anxiety that I can’t catch my breath.  I got an up close and personal view of how fragile life actually is and it wrecked me.  Jenny Simmons writes, “Life is so deathy.”  She’s right.  It is.  But here’s the thing…the deathy-ness of life can keep us from the living.  It’s kept me from living.  It just feels so horribly wrong that the sense of wrongness takes up residence inside us and prevents us from taking deep breaths and seeing the fleshy colors of life all around us.  The weight of death wrapped itself around my shoulders, refused to let me go, and I’ve been sinking underneath the heaviness of it.

I couldn’t accept it, so I didn’t.  My heart has stayed there in that room, frozen in time, because I haven’t been able to deal with it yet.  And I’m terribly embarrassed about that.  I feel ashamed that I’m still grieving.  Like, why can’t I just get over it already?  Everyone expected me to get over it years ago, so I put on my happy face and pretended.  But really, inside I’m just numb and angry and devastated.

I keep feeling the need to explain why I loved him the way I did, why his death has me so messed up.  I feel the need to validate my grief.  But I can’t figure out why.  Is there some rule about who we are allowed to grieve for and whose death we have to move right past?  I don’t feel like I have a right to be this sad.  But I am.  So where does that leave me?  Not only am I still, nearly four years later, filled with red hot grief – I’m also ashamed to admit it so I’m keeping it entirely to myself.  So add to the red hot grief a paralyzing loneliness that I didn’t even realize was there.

I was pregnant with my fifth child, our first boy, when my uncle died.  I was terrified I would lose that baby as I had lost one many years before. So as we buried Jim, I buried my feelings along with him.  I became numb, the feeling parts of me closed off as tightly as I could manage while still being able to hug and hold all of my sweet babies. Bittersweet living. A new baby came and new friends and opportunities and all along the way I showed up just enough to take a ton of pictures, laugh a little and then crawl back into my hidy hole.

As I begin to emerge from my little cocoon, I realize that I am certainly not the only one who’s been here. There are so many of us who struggle with sadness, depression, anxiety or grief and we never really talk about it. For me, it was mostly because I wouldn’t have known what to say. And I’m usually pretty in touch with my feelings. I generally understand myself pretty well. Grief changes all that self-awareness though, I think. At least it did for me. I suddenly had no idea how to deal, or even what exactly I was dealing with. I heard someone say once that sin takes you further than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay.  Well, I wonder if the same is true of grief – although I would never compare grief to sin.  Grief takes you hostage. It pulls you away from the living. And it cannot be interrupted, ignored or avoided no matter how hard you try. Grief has its own timetable and it will not be determined by those who grieve, we are simply along for the ride.

I wish that someone had told me that grief is different for every person. The timing will be different. The feelings will be different. The intensity and effects will be different. None of that means that anyone’s grief is more or less significant than anyone else’s – it simply means that grief (like anxiety and depression) is different for all of us. I wonder if we have to actually be present within the grief to ever come back out of it? I wonder if grief isn’t something to just get through, but rather something to experience freely and fully so that we can take from it even more memories of the people that we lost. I have memories of my grief that are entwined with my memories of and with my uncle. This may sound strange, but they are as precious to me as the memories I have with him living. They feel tender to me and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

I’m grateful for my season of grief and for however long it decides to last. I will fully participate in it. I will not try to push it down or away, but will listen to whatever it has to teach me.

I pray now for each of you who are traveling your own grief journey. Let us not be ashamed or discouraged. Let us be willing and ready to remember and be thankful that we have had the beautiful and enduring privilege of loving someone so deeply. May God bless you in your grief and me in mine. 

kim

Tranquility – A Book Review

Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal is filled with scripture, journaling prompts, inspirational thoughts and prayers and beautiful artwork.  There are over 100 pages that guide the reader in thoughtful reflection and provide an opportunity to journal prayers and thoughts. The majority of this journal is focused on finding peace, comfort and assurance – there are several verses focusing on fear, contentment, and many verses centering on peace.  There are also quite a few pages focusing on music or worship as a way to calm an anxious heart – which I particularly love.

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Tyndall’s Living Expressions Collection (www.livingexpressionscollection.com) also has another coloring journal, and several other lovely books and journals that are equally beautiful – including journaling Bibles with beautiful illustrations throughout.

I have reviewed two other coloring journals from this line.  You can check out those reviews below.

All is Bright – A Book Review

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal – A Book Review

 

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

The Way of Letting Go – A Book Review

Refreshingly authentic and vulnerable, The Way of Letting Go, by Wilma Derksen is a moving story of a woman, a mother, in the midst of unimaginable pain. The writing is superb. So superb that it often reads more like a chilling novel than a memoir. The wisdom and humility in the author’s words are both surprising and inspiring. To read the details of her daughter’s gruesome murder is difficult at times, but I found myself wanting to know what happened – not from some deprived curiosity, but because I found myself connecting to the heart of the mother so intensely that I wanted to hear her heart more fully – and to do that required a better understanding of her intense pain. As a mother, this book was difficult to read at times, but it was also surprisingly encouraging.

This book is about so much more than one woman’s story of grief. It’s about healing and forgiveness. It’s about self-discovery and faith. It’s about learning to live again after the unimaginable happens. I cannot tell you how deeply moved I was by this book – it created an intense emotional response that I was not expecting.  Anyone who has ever experienced grief can find some beautiful healing in these pages.  This is a book that speaks not only to the heart, but also to the soul.

Some of my favorite Quotables from The Way of Letting Go by Wilma Derksen:

“Finding our own words for what happened is our way of healing and becoming integrated again.” (p57)

“I had to let go of the need to find a happy ending to my story. I had to let go of my perfect story – and write the story that was happening to me.” (p60)

“Privileged are they who deliberately discard that panic of self-preservation and fear and dare to live life on the edge for others. Our souls will ultimately be saved if we risk it all for love.” (p67)

“The experience of violence or any kind of injustice reorders the sense of self. It devastate our identity. Our values, interests, lifestyle, attitudes, and habits can be so drastically altered that we almost become unrecognizable. … But for the most part, when something drastically changes our identity, whenever we find ourselves wondering “Who am I?” or “What are people thinking of me now?” we can lose confidence to move forward.  We become traumatized in a different way. It’s not easy to find ourselves again.” (p98)

“In the end, we are only responsible for our end of this victim-offender trauma bond. We can only control the end we are holding.” (p135)

“forgiveness doesn’t need to be defined to be lived and felt.” (p155)

“Gratitude is the last powerful light that drives away the darkness.” (p163)

“Letting go isn’t easy. It isn’t a one-time decision. It is a long process, and even though it is integral to forgiveness, it doesn’t end there. The process itself is the most important part of the pain of being wounded in the first place. It is the learning, growing, accepting of reality, of loss, of pain.” (p173)

“There are so many ways to tell our story, and the more ways we do it, the more we learn.” (p176)

“That’s forgiveness: when our hearts are more full than they are empty.” (p180)

“Forgiveness was something we did in the privacy of our hearts – letting go and choosing love.” (p186)

“Compassion is the essence of community.  Without it, we cannot heal ourselves or our relationships.” (p189)

“put love first, justice second.” (p193)

“When we move against the norm and reach for the counterintuitive lifestyle of forgiveness, we gain a powerful guide who is capable of doing miracles.” (p204)

“Forgiveness is an autonomous decision.  It is not dependent on the response of the other.  It is a lifestyle.” (p207)

kim

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Nothing to Fear – A Book Review

If I had read Nothing to Fear by Barry C Black about fifteen or twenty years ago I would have liked it quite a bit more than I did.  I simply have read too many amazing books since then, and this one just couldn’t compete.  It’s a simple book about a hundred different topics.  While there is nothing particularly remarkable about this book, it is well-written and easy to read and understand.  I did not, however, enjoy this book at this time.  I couldn’t figure out what the purpose of the book was.  The title is “Nothing to Fear”, but this didn’t feel like a book about fear.  It felt like a huge brain dump of everything Mr. Black feels or thinks about God, faith and prayer.  It’s very wide in scope, which can sometimes be a good thing.  In this case, however, it felt confusing and it was difficult for me to get engaged.

Structurally the book is laid out like a series of sermons including chapter headings such as “Prepare to Be Sent” or “Thrive in a Predatory World”.  Each chapter includes several of what Mr. Black calls “fearless principles” and each chapter ends with a “purposeful prayer”.  At the end of the book there is a discussion guide.

There’s nothing wrong with this book from my perspective.  I didn’t read anything that I didn’t agree with.  I simply didn’t read anything that made me want to say “YES!” or that made me want to share the information with anyone else.  I like to read books that make me think, help me with something I struggle with, grow my faith, help me to understand someone else’s perspective, or grow my understanding of a particular topic.  This book didn’t do any of that for me.

I can see how this book could be a great resource for new pastors looking for sermon material.  It could also be a great resource for newer Christians who want to know some of the basic ideas or beliefs of the Christian faith (although I would also say that this has a very significant Baptist slant in terms of theology).

Overall, it’s well-written but very basic.  I wish Mr. Black had chosen one main theme to write about rather than trying to cover everything all in one book.  This wasn’t my favorite book I’ve read, but definitely wasn’t the worst either – kind of middle of the road for me.

kim

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.