Find Your Strongest Life

Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham is my latest Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers pick.

I have enjoyed other books by Marcus Buckingham. He seems to speak realistically and practically about issues in our lives and the workplace. I also like how he focuses on building on your strengths, not trying to salvage your weaknesses. This book is consistent with what he has written before, but focuses on women and how we handle the many choices we have in today’s world. He encourages women to identify what they are strong at, acknowledge it, and incorporate that into a full life. This is better for all involved, rather than living up to some duty or life plan that seems reasonable or logical but leaves us mired in our weaknesses.

This is another great book that all women would benefit from reading. For some it will reinforce what they already do, but for most of us it will teach new skills and encourage a new and stronger way to live.

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Change in plans

As someone commented on SparkPeople – Life is what happens while we’re making plans.

Early in May we both signed up for the MSBike even in October. His plan was to ride 100 miles on Saturday and another 40 or 50 on Sunday. I figured I would try 40 on Saturday and see what I felt like on Sunday.

We got out for a ride in early June and it went pretty well. If we had kept to a real training schedule we would be in great shape for the MS ride. But training takes time and we kept running out of that.

I was still on track to do 40 miles on Saturday and then see if I did 35 or 20 on Sunday. After our last ride where DH called for a pick up at 50 miles I convinced him not to do the 100 miles for the MS Ride. He talked about the 80 mile but then was considering the 40 mile with me.

This week was very rushed but this morning between meetings and other stuff I did manage to lay out our clothes, bike clothes, shoes, helmets, towels, sleeping bags, etc… so we could pack this afternoon.

Work has been hectic all week with a review coming next week, but I thought we would be in good shape by today. Then they started pulling in last minute stuff that has to be done before Monday morning. Next thing I know I’m on the phone until 7:30 pm with more planned for Saturday morning.

I finally took a few minutes to talk to DH about the options and we decided it just made more sense for him to go on down to Greenville tonight and be ready for the bike ride tomorrow. I will stay here and do my work.

I’m kind of sad that I won’t be doing the ride after preparing for it and telling so many people about it. But it also solves some problems with other things that had to be covered this weekend. Now I can do those things and have some time to myself. For example – we needed to mow the yard, because we need to mow again this coming Thurs or Fri before traveling for 9 days. We have a friend staying the house, but she won’t be mowing our yard. Plus, my nephew called to chat for about 30 minutes Friday and I wouldn’t have been here for that. And the substitute to run the sound system at church is ill and shouldn’t be worrying about the sound system this weekend.

As my new favorite quote says “What should have happened did” so no regrets, just noticing how the best laid plans don’t always work out.

On the up side, I haven’t been for a run in a week and I was able to get out Saturday morning and enjoy being back on the road.

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Kabul24 by Ben Pearson and Henry Arnold is my latest Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers pick.


It tells the story of the aid workers kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The book begins with the story of one of the Afghan women, but quickly moves into the set-up and arrest of 8 foreigners and 16 Afghan workers with Shelter Now, an agency that provided care for Afghan orphans and sick and poor through a variety of programs. It is an honest story of the stresses and fears as well as the faith and faithfulness of God that kept them alive and sane through the 105 days of their captivity.

The book presents the Afghans in a realistic light – good people and bad people. It also conveys the love these people had for the Afghans and their fears and anger with the Taliban for what it did to them as well as what it did to the country and people of Afghanistan. The ordeal of the 16 Afghan workers is not told in detail, but the fate of those 16 is never forgotten through the story and the prayers of the 8 foreigners for the release of those 16 even before their own release was answered.

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Some thoughts

I was reading a book today (great book, check back 10/5 for the review!) and it referred to a poem by Max Ehrman called Desiderata.

Here is the portion quoted:

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

This fits in with the line I took away from Let Go by Sheila Walsh, a quote from Coach Bear Bryant after his team lost a game that should have been an easy win.

What should have happened did.

It is something I am learning. Not fatalistic giving up, but accepting that I am who I am and where I am and I can build on that and grow, but there is no need for or room for regrets and “should have beens” just peace and strength for now. This is a theme that is growing this year as God puts these across my path.


This weekend I read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It was an easy read and while it got very detailed I never skimmed or skipped sections because all of it told more about who the character was. SPOILER ALERT! I’m going to talk about the stories a bit, so if you don’t want to know anything at all about it before you read it, skip on down.

It is really two stories in one. The story of Anna and her affair and how she and that portion of society throw off the traditions and conventions in an attempt to be more free and (not honestly or even realistically) unencumbered by concerns about what others think or how others feel. Anna walks out of her marriage and abandons her son, but never truly trusts the love and commitment of her lover. Perhaps if they had been able to be married, but wouldn’t that have been a convention? Her story ends with a very detailed and moving description of depression and how debilitating it is. And the depression, in part, seems to be due to that loss of convention that would reassure her of who she is and where she is and what she can count on. Aided definitely by the fact that outside of her lover she had no identity or reassurance of what her purpose was. In short, no relationship with a Savior.

The other story is that of Levin, a land owner who is fascinated by trying to make farming work, with tools, techniques, and the native Russian workers. He deals with resistance to change (we’ve always done it this way) and laziness (it’s easier to do it this way and then sneak in a break) and ridicule from upper society that doesn’t understand why he would want to work, but also tries to impose idealistic solutions for improving the lower class.

Tolstoy was a Christian and Levin is also searching for God, even when he thinks he’s comfortable with no belief in a higher power. Many of the other characters are also searching or confronted with their empty faith. It is interesting to see how prevalent church attendance was in Russia once.


Next: I was getting ready for church Sunday and as I thought through a short prayer to God during the various things I had to remember to do here and the list of things I needed to get done when I got to church, I had the random thought that God knows my strengths and weaknesses, where my sins are. But I trust Him with them because when He disciplines me or criticizes me it is something that really needs work.

I guess where I was going with that thought was that often people point out some issue or defect as if it has to be fixed right now when it’s really just some trivial thing that I don’t do the same way that person would do it. But if God brings it to my attention He has my eternal salvation in view so I can trust that it needs to be addressed and turned over to Him. Plus, even while He’s persistent and serious, He’s also gentle and full of love.

Nothing specific going on, just that the thought crossed my mind.

That’s it for now!

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Fall Into Reading

FIR09small It’s a new season! For fall, Katrina at Callapidder Days is hosting Fall Into Reading 2009.

I love this kind of challenge for a few reasons. It is a great way to see what other people are reading. Katrina will have a linky where we’ll all link to our post. Then she’ll have a page where we’ll all post our reviews. That way not only do we get to see what folks are reading, but if they liked it or not and if it’s something we’d like or not. Not that I need any help building my to be read stack.

The other benefit is that I create a list and have some general accountability. It’s understood that I’ll change that list some, but at least I have a way to remember what my intentions were.

So, what will I be reading between Sept 22 and Dec 21? I plan to make great inroads on my 999 project. At the beginning of 2009 I selected 9 categories and have plans to read 9 books in each category. I have made great progress, with some changes to my original plan, but I have plenty more to read.

From this month’s nightstand:

  • St Thomas Aquinas – biography by G. K. Chesterton (a 999 book)
  • Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham (a 999 book)
  • Kabul24 by Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson
  • The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson

Then we’ll move on to:

  • The Aeneid by Virgil (since I’ve read The Iliad and The Odyssey and The Divine Comedy starring Virgil)
  • Selected Writings of Thomas Aquinas
  • Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns
  • The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery
  • The Story Girl by L. M. Montgomery
  • Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka
  • A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny
  • Wings of Fire by Charles Todd
  • The Confessions of Augustine

I’m enjoying the 999 challenge because it’s kept me focused on some of the more serious reading I wanted to get through. I’ve read plenty of fun stuff along the way, but made great progress on my list of works to read. I see 2010 shaping up differently though. A good list of authors rather than the wide range I’ve read this year.

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Nightstand Sept-Oct


Next up on the nightstand:

  • St Thomas Aquinas – biography by G. K. Chesterton
  • Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham
  • Kabul24 by Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson
  • The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson – current audio book

Progress on last month’s list? All done! And I finished these BEFORE embarking on other books that came my way. That makes 3 large multi-month books accomplished.

  • Finish John Adams by David McCullough for Book Club in September. I got through school thinking Washington, Adams, and Jefferson all got along really well and had similar goals. Now I find they may have had similar goals but they had very different ideas about how to get there. It was somewhat comforting and somewhat disturbing to see that politics haven’t changed much in 200+ years.
  • Finish Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. Very convicting book about what contentment is and why murmuring is a sin. I would say my murmuring is one aspect that is being worked on this year by events and readings. He ends with this advice – make a good interpretation of God’s ways towards you. Well put.
  • Fearless by Max Lucado for Thomas Nelson Bloggers. Good book, see my review here.
  • Let Go by Sheila Walsh for Thomas Nelson Bloggers
  • The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny – #3 in the Three Pines mysteries. Another great book with Inspector Gamache and the people of Three Pines. Very interesting and brings a few strands to closure.
  • Finished The Divine Comedy audio book from I find the concept of Purgatory fascinating and the levels in Paradise were also thought provoking. I did fine with the audio book, but I can see this taking a year to read with really good notes to catch all of the innuendos and track all of the many characters he meets.
  • Into the Looking Glass by John Ringo – borrowed from a relative – good science fiction with quirky humor. This was a good book. Lots of science and aliens, plus good humor and military action.

Other books read:

  • The autobiography of St. Frances of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton – Interesting writing style. Next up is St. Thomas Aquinas .
  • Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson – this was an audiobook freebie from June. I interrupted it to listen to Eat This Book and The Divine Comedy . It was a great book and I’m glad I got back to it.
  • Dante: A Life In Works was an interesting biography of Dante showing what we know of his life from what he wrote. And how we even know what he wrote due to others who preserved his writings.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – Interesting story, glad I read it, all 800+ pages.
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Yard project done

I promised photos but we got busy and it took all week to finish the project. He finally got out there Wednesday morning (9 days after we started) and finished cutting the pieces to fit in the holes. It looks very nice.

Half the photos are on his iPhone so I don’t have them yet, but these give you a good idea of the progress. The main thing I don’t have a picture of is the boys smiling (not!) while carrying the pavers to the back patio.

One thing we didn’t get was a picture of the area before we started. But I believe he has a picture of it before we removed all the grass.

ground prepped

Then the pavers on the patio.

the pavers

First day’s progress – we dug the trench for the foundation of the wall, cleared all the grass and leveled the area for the sand and pavers, got the wall put in and started putting down sand and pavers.

first day progress

Then we had to get the dirt moved so it wouldn’t kill the grass in the yard. A friend had a place for us to dump it so it got shoveled into the truck and then out of the truck. We’re tired of moving dirt.

the dirt

man with shovel

A few days later he finished laying all the pavers with holes where he needed to cut some to size/shape.

getting to the end

tamping the sand

Of course we had curious cats watching most of this every time we were outside.

Ray is watching you!

Finally – help from a circular saw with a diamond blade and he had it all done.


No more scraggly bushes, straw, or trimming around the area. We like it!

Final product

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What I did with my long weekend

A three day weekend is a great thing. And given that all my weekends seem to be booked lately, this was no exception.

I got up Saturday and drove off to the business park to run in my 6K. I did pretty well, coming in at about 41 minutes. Then I came home to find the rest of the folks in the house just getting up.

I doled out some assignments which resulted in nephew #2 mowing the yard while hubby edged and trimmed. Nephew #1 worked hard at … eating breakfast.

Then, I headed off to a baby shower at the Duke Mansion. Hubby took both nephews to Home Depot and had them help load some paver stones into the truck. Then, he dropped them off at a friends which means he had to unload the truck alone (not good planning) and drive some friends down to the hospital for visitation.

I got back from the shower and DH got back from the hospital in time to go to our friends’ for dinner. Yummy food and great company. Home in time for showers and bed.

Sunday started with church. Then lunch, change clothes, grocery shopping, and back over to my friend’s house to whip up a dish for the cul-de-sac party that night. DH spent most of the afternoon at the hospital again. Off to choir practice and prayer meeting, then back to eat the dregs left from the cul-de-sac party. Home in time for showers and bed.

Monday – need to catch up on laundry – the boys didn’t bring that many changes of clothes and with the mowing, etc, they’ve gone through most of it. While the boys were sleeping in, DH and I ran to Lowe’s to get sand and paver stones – seems we’re serious about the little yard project. Since the stones from Saturday are in my spot in the garage, we better get this done fast – I am paying a lot for that garage and I want my car in it!

He and I and a very nice assistant at Lowe’s got lots of paver stones loaded into the truck. Then we came home and started preparing the ground around the a/c units. The boys finally got up (after much prodding) so we assigned them the duty of emptying the stones out of the truck. That was a joyful task!

Then I ran off for more tools and lunch. Somehow after lunch the boys disappeared so DH and I kept working. I finally had to quit, make sure the boys had packed and cleaned their room, showered (finally), put the 3rd load in to wash, and drove the 1.5 hours to get the boys home. Hung around for a birthday party that was really burnt hamburgers and a very cool birthday cake. Then drove back home to find DH had made phenomenal progress while I was gone. We’re over 1/2 way there with this little project. Good thing we only do one of these every few years.

I’ll post pictures (before, during, and after) in another day or two. Today, I’ve finished 2 more loads of laundry, put clean sheets on the bed for Mom who comes home tonight, and soon I need to work through this stack of receipts on my desk.

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Fearless – Review

Fearless by Max Lucado is my latest Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers pick.

Review resources are available here.

This is a great book. Pastor Lucado brings our fears out into the light. He discusses our fears of insignificance, parenting failures, illness, financial disaster, worst-case scenarios, the evils of this world, and many more. For each, he reminds us gently but seriously how to take our fears to Jesus and respond in faith. He works humor and Scripture into a very serious topic. He recognizes the great space fear takes up in our lives, yet cuts it down to size in the light of the reality of God’s mercy.

About 8 years ago I was deep in the vice of fear and through resources like this and the grace of God I worked my way out of it. I need this book. It is a good reminder of very good truths, but we all suffer from spiritual amnesia when fear sets in.

The accompanying discussion guide is a good resource for private or group study of the concepts in the book, Scripture truths, and self-examination.

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Let Go – review

LetGo_80_140_Book.73.cover Let Go by Sheila Walsh is my latest Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers pick.

I read the first chapter and the question at the end of the chapter seemed to speak right to me. I think we all need to be reminded that God loves us, as we are, right now.

She continues with great news and deep questions through the whole book. She provides the good news of God’s grace through faith in Christ. Then she brings out into the open all the fears and burdens that women have. She does a good job of balancing between the very big and very hard issues and the daily and small items that we often think are somehow not part of the big plan. She brings out some serious hardcore sins and tragedies to make sure we understand that while it is very serious and painful it is also still within God’s sovereignty. She also does a good job of reminding us that the freedom that comes through God’s grace is also there for the fears or shame or frustrations that seem so small (at least to everyone else).

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