Category Archives: Books and Movies

Sounds of the Soul

Something’s missing.

That is how I have felt these past few weeks. I don’t have to embark on a search party to find what I am missing, because I feel it deep down. Deep in the soul. I know what it is: it is music.

I think the feeling of void came flooding back when I was making a short list of important songs for my parents before they left for their trip. One song being an old favorite by rock band Petra, I spent a few hours one evening between email replies singing to oldies by watching music videos. I admit–I even watched my boy band. Yes, this is extreme music voidness if you find yourself reliving those junior high obsession heart-throb days. But there was no turning back; Plus One’s hit is forever, “Written on My Heart.” ūüėČ

And so Easter morning arrives…yesterday was gorgeous. The sun shining as if radiating glory and proclaiming, “He’s Alive!” Not that Easter morning has to be sunny. Jesus is very much alive today as He was yesterday or will be tomorrow. That is the hope and joy of Easter. (Hebrews 13:8.) But the sun made it extra special to say the least and I was excited for worship that drive to church.

My excitement wore off as we started singing. I only knew two songs. Sure, I could read the lyrics on the power-point and could make-up tunes of how I thought the song sounded based on the tempo I was lip-reading (a bit fun, almost like imagining character voices in your head when reading books), but it is not the same. The void came crashing back and instead of Easter joys, my mind started meddling with self-pity.

The sermon starts and I am not getting much out of it, because there was no sermon notes left in the foyer, nor did they use the power-point unlike usual Sundays. My eyes are not lip-reading well that far from the pulpit, so I start thinking of music and my favorite Easter songs, such as “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco. Then in almost in demanding anger, I say in my head, “I want to hear music!” The music void.

I sit and think. Then it dawns on me, like the morning sunlight: My ears are dead and useless to me now, but one day, they will hear again. And what a sound it will be!!!

 

 

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Pride and Humility

“Oh, the things you used to complain about,” I tell myself as I rummage through a stack of folded clothes on my closet shelf trying to find a pair of cozy sweatpants. It was getting later in the evening and if I hadn’t already thought the rest of my day had been a frustrating one, I did even more so at that moment. The unexpected sick intestines always forces one to extreme humility. Learning humility is not a glorious experience. Yesterday was just one of those days.

My parents just returned Monday evening from their special anniversary trip. During their absence, I had an abundance of help, but also had times when I was alone. I thought I did pretty good for myself, considering everything. I even boasted, “I’m so proud of myself,” and would continue to tell why this was so.

Growing up, we sisters liked to watch the Kevin Sullivan televised movies, Anne of Green Gables¬†and¬†Anne of Avonlea. I am surprised those VHS tapes lasted (better still that my parents still have them!)¬†One of my favorite characters is Mrs. Rachel Lynde–always in the gossips and people’s business, or as Marilla Cuthbert would say, “meddling in other’s affairs.” This would draw a sharp gasp from Mrs. Lynde as if she were offended by such an accusation, though it never took her long to get right back to her normal self– “You know I pride myself in speaking my mind.” In her eyes she was never at total fault for her disputes with Anne and offered sound guidance to any ear listening, which usually was Marilla. “You know what they say Marilla: ‘Pride goes before the fall;'” Anne had just left for Diana’s pre-wedding b0nfire party, thus leaving the two old friends in the kitchen. Marilla is at the stove retrieving the water kettle, back turned to Mrs. Lynde, she semi-rolls her eyes before turning around and patiently replies to her friend. An act of humbleness.

I don’t think yesterday was an example of a “Pride goes before the fall” moment, rather, I believe God used it to show me Jesus. You see, as I was fumbling around trying to change clothes and make myself cozy, Mom was on her hands and knees cleaning up in my bathroom, because I physically can’t myself; even my “help” at the end didn’t account too much. When crisis happens, I am not abandoned, but surrounded with helping hands. Yesterday, though not a glorious day, was my humble reminder.

But Jesus, even after showing His Love to His disciple’s by getting down on His hands and knees to wash their feet, was abandoned by all in His greatest time of need.¬†Mocked, beaten, betrayed and death–it was then that his disciples, in confusion, thought they had been abandoned. Shocked and morning His death, they didn’t understand..not until later when the Truth appeared to them–Jesus was alive!¬†The Easter story is not about abandonment but salvation–surrounded by Christ’s Love and held in the nail-scarred hands.

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 

Galatians 6:14, NASB

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April Reads

I have decided for the month of April, I am going to engulf a portion of literary hours in Children and teenager titles. I had so many on both the “Unread” and “Reread” lists that it took me a while to eliminate to the bare minimum. None-the-less, I am pretty excited!!! ūüôā

Kindle_cartoon fluffylinks.com

Unread choices:

  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Reread:

  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

What about you? What are your favorite Children or teen books? Have any recommendations? ūüôā

PS. March reread was¬†Safely Home¬†by Randy Alcorn. I truly recommend it–Hebrews 13:3

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Climbing Mountaintops

Much of our dessert and decaf discussion tonight was about Colorado. Mom even pulled out a photo album and as more talk was being said, I sat side-gazing at the pictures as Marcia flipped through the pages. I felt flooded with emotion…suddenly I wanted to be there, a longing to be home.

C.S. Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” When I struggled in the late Fall 2013 with inner emotions about what God had in store for me, I had lost sight of His divine picture being painted especially for me. As the canvas continued to emerge with the colors of life, I started to live in hope rather than despair. But I still have a longing–a heavenly one.

Seasons change. Some view valleys as the struggles in life, but for me it is the ascension to the top of the mountains. One only reaches the top by climbing.

Who can possibly ascend the mountain of the Eternal?
    Who can stand before Him in sacred spaces?
Only those whose hands have been washed and hearts made pure,
    men and women who are not given to lies or deception.
The Eternal will stand close to them with blessing and mercy at hand,
    and the God who redeems will right what has been wrong.
These are the people who chase after Him;
    [like Jacob, they look for the face of God].

Psalm 24:3-6, The Voice

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Everything

When I first started figuring out how my new Nook tablet works, I–very cautiously as not to outspend myself–enjoyed uploading a few books to my personal library. I also subscribed to a year’s reading of the magazine,¬†Reader’s Digest,¬†and accessed a few apps for more readings and entertainment.

It was while reading the latest edition of the¬†Reader’s Digest¬†that I came across a single picture page titled, “Faces of America,” by Glenn Glasser. The picture is of an artist, Joe Beene. I know nothing of Joe Beene except for what the picture reveals–he is quadriplegic.

In a sun-room style area, the yellow walls are brightly lit from the many windows and glass door on the left. The center focus of the picture, you see the artist at work. Joe is not just any artist…he is a painter. And in the picture, he is painting by mouth. The picture is a side view, so you cannot see the painting straight forward, but even from the side angle…one can see an extraordinary, vibrantly-colored painting!

There is no article, no details, no explanations. There is one question:

What was the darkest time of your life?

Joe Beene: When I had everything.

(Reader’s Digest. April 2014. page 33.)

And I sat thinking about this simple statement again as I finished my morning coffee–Could I say the same?

This is the time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. Take time to bask in the Light of My Love. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into My care.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. Nashville: (Thomas Nelson, 2004.) March 24 entry.

 

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March 20th means Spring!!

I woke this morning with the tune “Spring, Spring, Spring,” from the classic musical¬†Seven Brides for Seven Brothers¬†in my head.¬†Indeed, Spring is here!

Happy First Day of Spring! ūüôā

DSCN3397

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Clumsy Me

Considering how clumsy my hands have been lately, yesterday morning I thought I was functioning pretty normal: no spilled coffee or dropped medicines, no broken dishes while unloading the dishwasher, efficient in time getting ready and typing (finger poke) a few quick emails. By noon, I was on my way down to the basement to start the top portion of a large painting.

I was having no problems getting my paint tubes from their assorted-by-color plastic containers on the floor and only had one jammed lid due to dry paint. The sole reason I forgo getting beauty nails at a salon is that I manage to paint my own nails (and hands for that matter) in a very festive way. I also chip my nails in a very festive way…and as such was my painting morning.

Somewhere along the way in the afternoon, the tides changed and my hands resumed their clumsy status. Of course the cold fingers could also be associated with part of the problem. I am very thankful that I have not done damage to assets like my laptop as I carry it from my room to the kitchen. I drop my cell phone repeatedly, but it has a protective cover–that is now cracked (time for a new one!)

Yesterday before dinner, I asked Mom to carry my laptop for me back to my room–a brilliant request as I was losing my grip on many other things during the evening…in particular, circular objects like my biscuit full of apricot jam and cylinder shaped objects like my Hazelnut creamer as I was pulling it from the refrigerator shelf. It fell to the floor, lid cracked, and about what I would blend in three cups of coffee spilled on the floor. It was the grand finale to my day.

I’ve written blog posts before about my hand history: how the muscle atrophy started, Occupational Therapy sessions, finger splints and other devices to help my function as my hands weaken, and my left ring finger resembling the appearance of a “Gonzo nose.”¬†And although my MRI results since November have reported back as a stable status, there is a continuing message coming from some tumor (unknown) to the brain that blocks the message to the muscles in my hands–specifically fingers and thumbs. Hence, since November, I have experienced a loss of hand function…which means more weakness, more numbness and 7 more fingers that now too are starting to resemble a “Gonzo nose.”

In moments of clumsyness (or flat-out frustration, embarrassment), I sometimes have a moment of humor–where I can smile contrast to grunts or tears. Enter: Yzma.

EP8aT0z http://i.imgur.com/EP8aT0z.png

In Disney’s¬†Emperor’s New Groove, Yzma goes from being Emperor Kuzco’s long-time guardian and advisor¬†to being fired after she plays “Empress” in his absence. In a fury, she devises a plan to rid the empire of Kuzco and reign in his place. All goes well and according to plan until her handyman, Kronk, burns his spinach puffs at a dinner they prepared for the Emperor. Kronk dashes to the kitchen leaving behind the freshly filled cups on the platter, in which one is intended for Emperor Kuzco with poison. Upon returning, Kronk realizes his mistake, takes the platter to the side, blends all the liquids together returning a portion into each cup, and then gestures to Yzma not to drink hers. She quickly throws hers in the plant beside her, turning it too into a llama (but looks more like a horse.)

At the end of the movie, Emperor Kuzco has had an adventure that leaves him with a changed heart and a new friend, Pacha. As these two enter Yzma’s secret lab to retrieve the bottle that would turn Kuzco back into human form, Yzma and Kronk are already there. As Pacha tries to quickly grab the potion, Yzma knocks the shelf so all the bottles land on the floor. “Oops! Clumsy me,” is what she says. ūüôā

My hands–as they continue in this weakening and clumsy state–are another part of my journey. I cannot lie that I have had many thoughts about what life will be like in the event I lose complete hand function. “What am I going to do when I can’t use these?” I cried a few months ago in the kitchen holding up my hands for Mom to see. Mom didn’t have any answers; I didn’t expect her to either. I know God holds the answers…to my prayers in all the uncertainties and fears, hopes and dreams. Unlike Yzma, I will never hear Him say, “Oops! Clumsy me.” Because He has promised me forever in the palms of His hands.

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My Latest Days

Oxymoron: (from the Greek),

an expression with contradictory words: a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are used together for special effect

(Bing Dictionary)

“Are you ready to sleep in and enjoy your first day of Spring break tomorrow?” It’s Friday night and we are driving home from a spur of the moment decision a few hours earlier to go out to eat as a family and attend a Nicole Noredeman concert. The fast food dinner, Piada: Italian Street Food, was a new experience and a most tasty one! My main reason for going out that evening was simply dinner with family; I had initial thoughts of not going, but quickly resolved that I could read a few chapters in my book when the others enjoyed the concert session. The concert being at a church, I sat reading in the foyer and got to text my sister, Megan, as well. An evening satisfactory to all.

My question on the drive home was at a red light; there was enough street lights glowing for me to lip read. Marcia slightly nods but adds, “I think I would rather have a full day of doing nothing than sleeping in all day.” I nod in agreement, but as the fullness of her sentence replays in my brain, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing! “Do you realize that what you just said is a huge oxymoron!!” I continue to rant in laughter about this sentence and we discuss it for a few more minutes until it is dark again. The rest of the drive home, I sit in silence.

“A full day of doing nothing.” Right now, my days sometimes feel like this. It is not that I am actually “doing nothing” all day–more what I am doing is nothing planned on my agenda. I am notorious for daily to do lists…there are days when I see great progress and check marks on the sheet of paper; other days, I simply cross off the current ‘day” and set the next in hopes to complete the projects then. I don’t think it is necessarily bad to make lists (I would forget important events/dates/details otherwise), but it has also taken me a few years to learn to become flexible. I am still learning to be flexible. And so, my latest days have been filled with being flexible and “doing nothing” on my to do lists.

Take today for example. I was hoping to get up early and have my usual breakfast with coffee/readings. My list entitled doing the dishes and getting my laundry done; making a phone call to my grandparents; finishing a painting; writing a blog post (different one than this); and finishing a book. Actual day included rising early–nothing like a Charlie horse cramp in your right leg for an alarm clock–and falling out of bed, because I had put my right foot forward in attempts to get to the bathroom. You hear people talk of starting your day by getting out on “the right side of bed” (figurative); since I already have that part complete (literally), I say, “Start your day with your best foot forward.” Obviously for me, it is my left foot.

I contemplated getting ready for the day and having my coffee time early. Instead, I crawled back in bed figuring I can read a little; if I fall asleep, I assumed that I would wake in an hour or so and be back on my feet around 9am, as that is pretty typical. I end up waking four hours later..bummed that I had wasted my morning hours, I get brunch and coffee anyway. I get ready for the day, type a few emails and run some errands in town with Mom in the mid-afternoon. When we returned, I had about an hour before I was to have a Skype session and so I started my laundry.

My Skype chat was to be with a group of girls from the University of Cincinnati DAAP about my artwork. A social worker from Children’s Hospital–who was the first person to initiate my paintings as part of an art viewing when I first moved here-had given my name and contact to this group, “Art for Survivors,” led by Jenny Ustick. Since I cannot make the actual class in physical presence, Jenny suggested Skype. ¬†I brought up some paintings from the basement to show and ask my questions. My session was set with three students of Jenny, who were familiar with my painting styles through my blog. It was a great conversation! I asked my questions on how to thicken my paint for texture, abstract ideas, different brush sizes for different techniques, and pricing artwork. They gave me some suggestions for new abstract techniques and¬†will gather some painting medium information for me as well. Towards the end, art shows were mentioned and I was invited to take part in their art viewing in April.

Suddenly, my “full day of doing nothing” turned into an evening of full possibilities! I am ready to restart my paintings–growing and learning in the process; living in flexibility.¬†“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

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Read to Re-read

Reading is an easy topic for me to discuss. Why? Because I love books; libraries; reading book reviews on other blogger’s websites and spending quality time writing my own; and of course, sharing: both what I have learned and what I consider a favorable or unfavorable read. I have a list of “to-reads” that never seems to end, because I continually find or hear about another book–the list goes on and I slowly mark a few as “read.” On GoodReads, you can make your lists and mark the books accordingly. I even have a shelf titled, “Abandoned;” there are some books you should never force yourself to finish.

However, there are others that are worth a re-read. I am not a person to re-read. In wanting to read all the books of my never-ending “to read” list, I don’t take time to go back and enjoy the books I have already claimed as a favorable good read. In fact, they sit on my bookshelf,¬†collecting dust.

It was only about a month ago that the topic of favorite childhood books was posted on Facebook in a discussion forum for a closed group gathering of¬†We Heart Books: a virtual book exchange. My cousin had mentioned this event back at Christmas, but I completely forgot about it until the week of the last sign up dates. Spontaneous decision, but I was really eager to participate. I filled out my own information sheet of what I like in books–genres, titles I have read or own, authors I don’t enjoy, and a wish list. After submitting my form, I was paired with Micaela from Everyday Encouragements. ¬†We shared some same book genre interests, such as historical fiction, and chatted a few times over email. A few weeks later, I received my surprise book in the mail:¬†Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II,¬†by Darlene Deibler Rose. It was on my wish list and after just finishing Jamie Ford’s,¬†Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,¬†I am very excited to read this book! I have always been a history fanatic, but this past month, I read a few historical fiction and non-fiction books about our country’s past events. Because I had just finished Peter Leavell’s debut book,¬†Gideon’s Call,¬†I was too excited NOT to share–so this is what I sent Micaela.

A few days ago, I had a Skype conversation with my sister. We got on the topic of books and she mentioned two tiles that she was going to re-read. Books she hadn’t read since school days. When we ended, I went to my room and started rummaging in my book basket and bookshelf, mentally taking note of favorite books from the past. It was time. It is a personal new reading goal to read one “re-read” each month. Being the month of February, I chose¬†The Great Gatsby¬†by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A classic American romance. ūüôā I haven’t read this since my sophomore year in high school. Although I know the main plot, in essence, it will be a fun, refreshing read.

Yesterday I finished¬†66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God that Invites You into His Story by Dr. Larry Crabb. There was no purposeful plan in ending on Valentne’s Day–it just happened. Having read all previous 65 love letter chapters, I found myself somewhat distracted in thought as I opened to the 66th: Revelation. I was excited to conclude, yet almost wishing not. Even though this book was written as a first person conversation between Crabb and God, it was almost as if I sat there at the table with them…listening and taking notes. After finishing both the book and the rest of my coffee, I set out to write a short synopsis of my review on Goodreads. My closing paragraph follows:

The book took me back to the Scriptures…especially in the Old Testament. I could relate to Dr. Crabb in some areas of confusion and frustration, but I continually re-read God’s hopeful message: Trust Him. He has a plan. Life will be hard, but the eternal party has already started and soon I will dance. Until then, persevere in steadfast faith. And Love like Jesus.

I have to be honest…some of the conversations, especially about the Old Testament love letters, had me feeling a bit embarrassed, as my memory of these passages of Scripture were blank. As I ventured back and stated re-reading a few, such as Exodus and Habakkuk, it was as if I were reading it for the first time, yet it was clear and the deeper message of God’s story made sense. This has happened before and I think it is what I love most about the Word: it “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

It’s the best book you could ever read to re-read.

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Carried in Love

“It happens every time,” I say in tears with a mouthful of a Fiber One bar. I take a drink of my re-heated coffee, then continue, “I do so well; then the week before my doctor appointments, I just don’t!” Of course, I also state in frustration that I think it’s a conspiracy. I am not sure what the case is (definitely not a conspiracy), but this situation does seem to happen most often around doctor appointments. ¬†Maybe it’s just ironic.

This morning was like any other Sunday: a rush getting ready, downing a small breakfast amid hoping to leave on time, but still needing to put on my socks and boots. In my hurriedness coming out of my room, carrying my winter coat and boots, my right leg locks at the knee as I round the corner in which throws me off-balance. I tumble-down backwards, dropping everything and hit my head on the floor. My parents were still here, and within a minute of falling, Dad came to the hallway and assisted in picking me up off the floor.

Just a few days earlier, I spent a whole day conquering my file box! (Also termed: The Twilight Zone!) After hours of organizing and sorting, the results are rewarding. All that was left to accomplish was shredding a stack of old bank statements. Dad un-jammed my shredder and I started happily shredding away! As it starts to fill, the shredder gets a slower speed and makes noises (unknown to me.) Dad comes in and tries to tell me this, but I defend my shredder saying it is able to shred up to so many pages and that it is just full. Not really implying that I need help emptying the bin, Dad makes his way to help me anyway. Sitting on a stool, I start to stand to get out of his way, but result in slipping…knocking the stool over, I too stumble backwards. It was like a crash-landing. I have never hit the floor backwards so hard ever before, and in a moment, I was in the worst pain and instant tears. But Dad was there, and helped pick me up.

As he helped me get comfortable on the couch, I started to feel bad for bickering in justification the few minutes before the fall. Seemed so silly; and Dad finished shredding my papers. This morning, after finally getting my boots on, I realize that I probably shouldn’t drive in the snow that was piling down. I text Dad and tell him I am just going to stay put, safe and sound. “After all that,” I mumble as I go ahead and just brew a new pot of coffee. But I am glad I stayed. My morning readings brought me to ponder God’s unfailing Love, as I thought about my Dad having been by my side after each fall. Truth: Dad won’t always be there, but God is ever-present in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

Missy [his daughter] could fall down and hurt herself, even if I’m walking right there beside her. That doesn’t mean that I allowed it to happen. She knows, as far as unconditional love, I’ll pick her up and I’ll carry her. I’ll try to heal her. I’ll cry when she cries. And I’ll rejoice when she is well. In all the moments of my life, God has been right there beside me. The truth of God’s love is not that he allows bad things to happen. It’s His promise that he’ll be there with us when they do.

–Clark’s response to Marty’s question: Why does God allows bad things to happen to decent people?

Love Comes Softly. 2003. Based on the book by Janette Oke.

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