Top Books of 2013

When I look back over the books I read this past year, it’s surprisingly easy to pick my top 3 favorites. They are…

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (historical fiction) I just finished reading this book and was very impressed. There is some language in the book, but otherwise I highly recommend it. Well written, unique narrator, and a beautiful story of a girl in Germany during WWII. I’m excited to see how the movie compares to the book.

2. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas (romantic era classic)

3. When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Christian living)

 

Of course I already have a long list of books to read in 2014. And I’m also thinking I need to build one of these with all my books…

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Happy New Year!

 

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Helpfulness

I love this quote by Bonhoeffer. It’s easy for me to get so caught up in my own agenda that I’m reluctant to help others. But I’ve found that when I do stop what I’m doing to spend time with others, that’s often when beautiful memories are made!

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Yeah, this happens

This happened to me recently…while reading Frankenstein. Not sure what that says about me. What can I say, I’m a book nerd!

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I’m glad heaven isn’t like grad school…

Don’t get me wrong: I am ridiculously excited for grad school (assuming I get in).

That disclaimer aside…

I’m glad heaven isn’t like grad school.

I’ve spent the past year studying for the GRE, taking the GRE, going to workshops on how to write a resume and personal statement, making a spreadsheet of possible schools, trying to decide where to apply, filling out online applications, ordering transcripts, asking people to write recommendation letters, putting together a resume, writing and editing 5 personal statements…I’m exhausted just thinking about all of it! Applying to grad school is not an easy, cut and dry process. Oh yeah, then there are all the application fees.

So all this made me ask myself, “What if this was how salvation worked?” Imagine having to take a test and prove you had earned the right to go to heaven someday.

That would suck.

I would fail the test and all the good things I could list on my resume would look like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

For the past 4 years, I’ve been in classes with students who work hard so they can go to grad school, but our university only accepts 30 out of 200 applicants. That’s why we have to apply to several different schools in hopes of somehow getting in. And each school has its own application process, making things even more complicated.

Thankfully, there’s only one way to heaven, eliminating the stress of choosing the best options and filling out multiple applications. And unlike grad school, heaven isn’t limited by the number of desks in a room.

With grad school, we all deserve to get in, but only a few do. With heaven, none of us deserve to get in, but we are all offered a place. Heaven is like receiving an acceptance letter to grad school before you even start kindergarten! God wrote us the best acceptance letter ever, telling us “Congratulations, I want you to come spend eternity learning more about me. I know you could never earn this, but Jesus has paid all your application fees and the Holy Spirit has given you a wonderful recommendation. All you have to do is accept this offer.”

How crazy is that?

So while I’m thankful for grad school and the opportunity to learn more about speech pathology, I’m even more thankful for heaven. There’s no application, no competition, and no prerequisites. All we have to do is say, “Yes, I’m coming!”

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For the fatherless

Almost 10 years ago, we were eating out with some family friends when they told us they were going to adopt. It’s one of my strangely crystal clear memories. I remember my initial reaction and how surprised I was. Let’s be honest: I thought they were a little crazy. At the time, I didn’t understand why they would want to adopt, but in that moment God began to reveal His heart for adoption to me.

I’m blown away by how God has worked in my life since then. I now have 2 beautiful sisters from China and have worked in orphanages in Mexico and China. God has made it painfully obvious that I have a passion for orphan care.

Since November is adoption awareness month, I’ve been reflecting on all God has taught me about orphan care and adoption (including my adoption into His family!) and thinking about what the next step is for me. When I went to China this summer to work in Maria’s Big House of Hope, I expected God to make it clear what my specific role is in orphan care. When that didn’t happen, it was hard to come back and focus on classes and work.

I have a heart for orphan care, but over the past 4 years I’ve also discovered a love for speech pathology. I didn’t understand how I could reconcile these 2 passions! Then this semester God has shown me that these things can go hand in hand. I’ve found myself applying what I’m learning in class to some of the kids I met in China.

It’s like God has this all planned out or something. 🙂

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Of course I still don’t know exactly what He has planned for my future (I’m hoping getting into grad school is part of it!), but I’m excited as I continue on this journey. I’m so thankful that God gives us certain passions and desires for a reason. He interweaves different aspects of our lives together in such a beautiful way!

All that to say, I’m excited to see how God works in peoples hearts this month as He calls people to care for orphans, whether that’s through prayer, financial support, missions trips, foster care, or adoption. Please join me in praying for orphans around the world and considering our role in caring for the fatherless. Also, I’d like to challenge you to take some time out of your busy schedules to read one book about adoption or orphan care. I did this last year (because reading is another one of my passions!), and it’s a great way to learn more about these children’s needs. For book suggestions, click here. Or if you’ve read a good book on this topic, I’d love to hear about it!

It can be overwhelming to hear statistics, like how there are an estimated 153 million orphans around the world, but there are also statistics that say if every Christian family cared for one orphan, there wouldn’t be any more orphans. For me, getting involved and putting faces to the numbers changed my perspective. We can’t change this broken world, but through God’s power we can change the world of a child.

What a blessing to share in God’s love for the fatherless!

john1418_blog2image from showhope.org

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Stories

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by C. S. Lewis that I didn’t like. He has so many amazing quotes! This quote is from the Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis. I wish I could write letters like this…

“I think the thrill of the Pagan stories and of romance may be due to the fact that they are mere beginnings—the first, faint whisper of the wind from beyond the world—while Christianity is the thing itself: and no thing, when you have really started on it, can have for you then and there just the same thrill as the first hint. For example, the experience of being married and bringing up a family cannot have the old bittersweet of first falling in love. But it is futile (and, I think, wicked) to go on trying to get the old thrill again: you must go forward and not backward. Any real advance will in its turn be ushered in by a new thrill, different from the old: doomed in its turn to disappear and to become in its turn a temptation to retrogression. Delight is a bell that rings as you set your foot on the first step of a new flight of stairs leading upwards. Once you have started climbing you will notice only the hard work: it is when you have reached the landing and catch sight of the new stair that you may expect the bell again. This is only an idea, and may be all rot: but it seems to fit in pretty well with the general law (thrills also must die to live) of autumn & spring, sleep and waking, death and resurrection, and ‘Whosoever loseth his life, shall save it.‘”

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Books Summer 2013

Books 2013 Summerimage made at wordle.net

Now that school has started, I guess summer reading is coming to a close. I only made it a fourth way through my reading list…oh well. I still enjoyed many hours sitting on the porch and reading.

My favorite book from the summer is definitely The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas. Simply brilliant! At the beginning, Dumas had me literally squirming in my seat from the heartbreaking gore, but soon I was bursting out laughing at a romance between a young girl and a tulip-obsessed prisoner. It was fun to read a classic that wasn’t inches thick. I think this book would be a great way to get a taste for 1800’s literature or Dumas’ writing without tackling a massive book. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I have to say that my favorite first-kiss scene is in this book.

Surprisingly my least favorite book was Mansfield Park. Usually I like Jane Austen, but in this case the main character, Fanny Price, just didn’t have enough guts for me. She was very timid and terrified of offending people.

Around the World in 80 Days was a fun book to read while actually traveling around the world. I read most of it on the way to China and finished it on the way back. I loved comparing my travels to the journey of even-keel Phileas Fogg and comical Passepartout. When I read the chapter entitled “In which a Slight Glimpse is had of San Francisco,” I had to laugh since a “slight glimpse” is exactly what I got of SF as I rushed through the airport! My 12 hour flight to China may have felt long, but reading this book made me thankful that it didn’t take weeks to get there!

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She read tirelessly

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When Helping Hurts & Finish the Mission

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I’m currently reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert and Finish the Mission by John Piper. They’re both great books! They cover similar topics (why/how to help others and share the gospel with them) so it’s been good to read them together and see how they compliment each other. I expected to feel guilty and convicted about missions work after reading Piper’s book, but instead it has been very encouraging. Corbett & Fikkert’s book looks at poverty and how there are right and wrong ways to help the poor. I highly recommend this book! So much great stuff in it, and I’m not even halfway through it. Both books explore Christ’s life and God’s sovereignty and encourage the reader to respond to God’s love and Christ’s example. Christ not only spoke the gospel to the people while he was on earth, he helped them by giving them physical healing. Learning more about the significance of Jesus’ ministry has been amazing. What a beautiful example for us to follow!

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Love for the Broken

As I’ve reflected on my time in China, God has reminded me of the great need to love. No matter where God has placed me, I’m called to make the most of the opportunity to love those around me. I keep coming back to Ephesians 3:14-21 where it talks about the glorious riches of the Father, the mighty power of the Spirit, and the incomprehensible love of Christ. We’re told to love as God first loved us, and His love is active and life-changing. He loved us so much that he adopted us as his sons and daughters! I’ve really loved the idea of being adopted into God’s family ever since my family first adopted, but this trip to Maria’s gave Romans 8:12-17 a whole new meaning to me.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:14-15)

In China, I realized that if we were adopted, we were once orphans.

During our orphan training on the trip, we explored what it means to be an orphan. An orphan is more than someone who has lost their parents. It’s someone who experiences utter brokenness in every area of their life. Children who are left without parents are impacted in their family life, social life, education, and every other aspect of life.

They live in a broken world.

And because of the fall, we’re all born into a broken world.

We’re all orphans, living a life filled with broken relationships.

But then God…

I love coming across that phrase in the Bible! After reading about man’s brokenness, it’s so encouraging to read “But God…”

“But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love.” (Titus 3:4)

How beautiful is that? In order to call us His sons and daughters, God sacrificed His blameless, holy Son on a cursed cross in the place of dirty, hate-filled sinners.

I like how Show Hope’s training book redefined orphan:

“An orphan is someone who has experienced profound brokenness in fundamental relationships and systems as a result of the loss of God’s intended parental relationships. The Fall has ripped from each of us God’s intended relationships in many ways, and nobody has an unspoiled relationship with their parents or their Heavenly Father.”

God is restoring our broken relationship with Him. Meanwhile, we can (and should) help bring restoration to the lives of the precious children around the world who don’t have families. I’ve seen more of their great need through this trip, and it’s heartbreaking! We can show God’s active and life-changing love to these kids. Whether it’s through prayer, donations, missions trips, foster care, or adoption, I believe we are all called to care for them. John Wesley puts it very bluntly:

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So my challenge for myself and for you is to love. Love in a way that changes the lives of those around you. Pray and ask God how He is asking you to care for orphans.

Through this trip, my perspective of others has changed. Everyone was or still is an orphan. But for the grace of God, we’re all broken. I’m so thankful for His beautiful plan of adoption!

If we’re willing, God can use us to help mend and love the people around us who are broken. He places us in people’s lives for a purpose.

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