8.31.2012

{Art} What I'm Working On

I don't have a huge post for you today... simply because I've been quite busy in my studio this week!

I've been...

1) Getting ready for Fine Art in the Park at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN - Mark your calendar for October 20-21!


2) Making some pretty decorations for a friend's wedding...

3) Teaching myself how to replace a broken zipper on jeans...

 
Sometime in the not-too-distant future, I'll be sharing tutorials for both the fancy-schmanzy-doily- Chinese-lantern thing, and for how to fix a broken zipper (which wound up being much easier than I expected). In the meantime, mark your calendar for Fine Art in the Park, and have a great weekend!

8.30.2012

{Worldview} Book Review: Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

For today's book review, I read Boundaries:When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I've heard various people recommend this book for years, so I decided to order it a few weeks ago. It was well worth it.

 
{I'm an Amazon Associate...blah blah blah,
but all opinions are my own.}
 
If you've ever struggled with saying "no," felt resentment towards an individual for trying to manipulate you through guilt or anger, or simply felt like your life is chaotic and out of control, then Boundaries is for you.
 
In this helpful and enlightening book, Cloud and Townsend establish the importance of creating healthy boundaries in your life. Not only do these boundaries keep your life sane and orderly, but they also help the people around you develop a healthy sense of personal responsibility. By creating healthy boundaries, you also free yourself up to be available for the specific ministries and activities for which you are responsible.
 
It seems like many Christians fall into the trap of being "people pleasers" and wind up taking on responsibilities that, in reality, they have no business taking on. By taking on the burdens that should belong to others, the people-pleasers wind up simply enabling irresponsibility and bad behavior in the person that they think they're "serving." While Cloud and Townsend do stress that it is important to help people with legitimate needs, they also emphasize the need to be discerning and realize when others are simply playing on your sense of guilt in order to manipulate you into doing what they should be doing themselves. As they put it, we all have a knapsack we are meant to carry - don't agree to carry someone else's knapsack. As my parents would say, "Don't let someone else put their monkey on your back."
 
As you're reading this book, the advice may seem almost selfish or insensitive at times. However, if you truly care for the other person, then helping them develop a healthy respect for your boundaries is actually a good thing for them. For example:
 
Say you have a relative who is constantly getting into financial trouble. He makes bad decisions, behaves irresponsibly, and has no work ethic. Whenever he gets into trouble, he comes to you for help.
 
While it may seem like the "Christ-like" thing to give him money and help him out of the jam that he's in, if you bail him out (yet again), you're simply enabling his bad behavior. You're shielding him from the consequences that might actually knock some sense into him and change him for the better. He never takes responsibility for his actions, because you step in and take it for him. He simply continues the behavior, because he knows that you will always bail him out and shield him from the unpleasant results that usually accompany such actions. By shielding him from his consequences, you keep him handicapped and prevent him from growing into a healthier, more mature person.
 
By learning to say "no" in situations like this, you not only keep your own life less stressful and chaotic, but also help the needy person to grow up and become a productive, responsible member of society.
 
Overall, the book has a lot of excellent advice, and Cloud and Townsend give a lot of practical tips for discerning between legitimate needs and manipulation and how to begin developing the ability to create boundaries and reinforce them with others.
 
As with most authors writing in the field of psychology, I disagreed with them on a few points. For instance, I didn't agree with how many freedoms they said small children should be allowed to have. I also found some of their scriptural illustrations of creating boundaries to be a bit of a stretch according to the context, although I didn't necessarily disagree with the points they were trying to make.
 
I'd definitely recommend reading the book. Personally, it helped me clarify some things in my own life. I'm sure it would be helpful to you as well, whether you're having boundary issues in your home, family, friendships, workplace, church, or self. With all apologies to Robert Frost, Boundaries makes a valid argument that good fences do make good neighbors, after all.
 

8.29.2012

{Work} Quotables: Austin Kleon

 
"Just as you have a familial genealogy, you also have a genealogy of ideas. You don't get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see.... You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, 'We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.'
 
The artist is a collector....You're only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with....
 
Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by."
 
- Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist


In other words, garbage in, garbage out. As Paul put it, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

Food for thought: What are you allowing to influence your life and work???

8.28.2012

{Home} Corralling Paper Clutter

If you're like most people, you probably find yourself dealing with an influx of paperwork on a daily basis. Whether it's sorting the mail, paying bills, filing important documents, or keeping track of appointments and RSVP cards, you may find that your paper piles are quickly getting out of control.
 
Today I'd like to share with you a simple solution for getting paperwork in order. I started this system a few years ago, and it's worked well for me so far. My bills and RSVPs get sent in on time, appointments are kept, and - best of all - my desk stays clutter-and-paper-pile free!
 
My first move was to purchase a desk organizer. It has two vertical slots for sorting things in the top, and a small drawer in the bottom. Depending on how much paper you deal with on a daily basis, you may need something larger or smaller than this. 
 
 
Secondly, you'll need several wooden clothespins. You can go all out decorating them with scrapbook paper, printed labels, or paint like these, or you can simply do what I did and use a Sharpie to label them.
 
Then you need to decide on your categories for sorting paperwork. Mine include:
 
Bills
To Do (Beth)
To Do (Josh)
To File
RSVP
Events/Appointments
Giving
Gifts to Buy
To Call
To Write
Thank You  
To Deposit
Receipts
Orders
IOU/UOME
 
I also have an "Urgent" clip that gets attached to anything that needs immediate attention... However, you should label yours based on the types of paperwork you find yourself dealing with on a regular basis.


 
When not in use, the clips go onto the back of the wooden organizer. When the mail comes in, it gets opened immediately, and then each item goes into the appropriate clip and is stuck into the rear section of the divider. Junk mail goes directly into the trash or shredder.
 
About once a week, I go through the organizer and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. The labeled clips allow me to see at a glance what's in there and keeps things from getting lost in a mass of papers. 
 
If I don't feel like filing bill or paycheck stubs right away, they simply go into the "To File" clip. When the organizer starts getting too full, I spend an afternoon filing the "to file" papers in my file drawer, writing letters that need to be written, paying bills, balancing checkbooks, or setting up appointments.
 
Wedding, baby shower, or birthday invitations go into either the "RSVP" clip or "gifts to buy" clip, or both. Once I've returned the RSVP and ordered the gift, the date of the event is marked in my desk calendar, and the invitation gets hung on the refrigerator next to my weekly whiteboard calendar.
 
Correspondence that needs to be answered goes into my "To Write" clip; cards that accompanied gifts received go into my "Thank You" clip so that I can be sure to remember to send a thank you note. Vet, dental, and doctor reminder cards go into the "Appointments" or "To Call" clips.
 
In addition to my paperwork, I keep some other items in the organizer as well. I have a small calculator, an address book, notepads, Gospel tracts to enclose with my bills (make sure you pay them on time if you're going to do that!), my business account checkbook, and any check registers that are full but haven't yet been reconciled.
 
In the little drawer I keep postage stamps, tape, rubber bands, a Wite-Out runner, and paper clips.
 
This system has kept my desk neat, papers from getting misplaced, and my life a little less chaotic since I've been using it. If you've been having trouble getting your piles of paperwork under control, you may want to try it yourself. Let me know if you do!
 
Happy organizing!
 
 

8.27.2012

The mouse is back...

...to tell you that the updates are here!

As you may have noticed if you've stopped by over the last few days, I've made some changes to the design of this blog. The sidebar's sporting some snazzy new buttons and is a little more streamlined, there's a new header, and there's also a handy new toolbar with quick links to different pages available on my site right up along the top.

If you're viewing this in a reader or on a mobile device, you might want to click over directly to the blog or web version to see what's new.

But the changes around here aren't purely cosmetic. I'm going to be doing some new things in the content as well. Beginning tomorrow, my posts will be centered around four different themes: {Art}, {Home}, {Work}, and {Worldview}. If you'd like to see what I have in mind for each of those topics, then please check out my updated About page - specifically the section entitled "A little about this blog..." It will give you an idea of what's in store for you here.

My main goal is to make this blog less about me and more about you. Rather than simply telling you what's going on in my life and showing you what I've been doing, I'd like to share things that will be useful, relevant, and encouraging to you, my fantastic readers!

So be sure to stop by tomorrow for the first {Home} installment: I'll be giving you some easy, practical ideas on how you can get paper clutter under control in your home office. See you then!

8.23.2012

A Public Service Announcement from a Tiny Mouse


Hi there.

Just wanted to let you know that things may be a little quiet here over the next few days.

I'm in the middle of a blog overhaul.... I'm excited about the changes that are coming - I hope you will be too!


8.15.2012

Quotables: Alfred Tennyson



...More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of.
Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God...

- Alfred Tennyson,
excerpt from "Morte D'Arthur"


8.14.2012

Book Review: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

Today's book review is 

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School:
How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed
Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks

by Kathleen Flinn


Part anecdotal, part cookbook, this is a hard one to categorize...
After a chance encounter with a stranger whose diet consisted primarily of highly processed foods, Flinn, a writer and graduate of the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, decided to gather a group of less-than-confident cooks for a crash course in the fundamentals of cooking. She found 9 women - all with different backgrounds - who had one thing in common: they were intimidated by cooking "real" food.

First, Flinn visited each participant in her home, went through her cabinets and refrigerator, discussed why she bought and ate what she did, and sampled a typical meal made by the participant. After analyzing the interviews, Flinn came up with a lesson plan to cover basic areas of cooking, such as chopping, braising, bread making, and making a simple vinaigrette. She rented a commercial kitchen, and, with the help of several other professional chefs, held a series of weekly classes for the volunteers. As the volunteers progressed through the fundamentals of cooking, their skills in the kitchen grew, along with their self-confidence.
 
 
Overall, I enjoyed the book, although there weren't a ton of "revelation" moments in it for me. I've been blessed to grow up around a number of excellent cooks, so I didn't relate much to the volunteers who had never spent much time with someone who knows her way around a kitchen. I've also never been intimidated by trying out new recipes or experimenting with creating my own dishes, so I didn't relate to their fears in those areas much either.

I did appreciate Flinn's advocacy of the "whole foods" principal of eating and shopping. That's generally the way I try to shop and cook, and I think it's one of the easiest ways to stay healthy and avoid packing on extra pounds. Fresh, whole foods also just taste better than the highly processed and unpronounceable ingredients you find in a box.
 
 
One thing that I did take away from the book, however, was that I could stand to do a little more planning ahead in order to eliminate food waste. I often find myself throwing out produce that I failed to use before it spoiled or leftovers that I fail to creatively incorporate into other meals. Flinn suggests buying fewer groceries more frequently, so that you'll be sure to use them while they're fresh. I'm always trying to "save time" by shopping for at least a week's worth of meals at once, but Flinn's arguments made me realize that that "saved time" often translates into "wasted money" instead.
 
 
I also enjoyed the recipes she gave at the end of each chapter, as well as the "flavor profiles" section in the appendix. Although I'm not sure I want to go so far as making my own chicken stock or "cream of ____" soups at this point in my life, it's nice to know how to do it. 
 
 
The only parts I didn't particularly enjoy were a couple of off-colour references (for instance, they host a community dinner and bring in a glorified stripper as the entertainment), and how she occasionally fetish-ized certain foods (I enjoy a good meal as much as anybody, but hearing it described ad nauseum is a pet peeve of mine... it might not bother you, though.)
 
 
In short, it's an interesting read, and both novice and experienced cooks can probably glean some useful information from it.

What are you reading?

8.09.2012

Needle Felted Nook Cover Tutorial

Well, after much kicking, screaming, and digging-in-of-the-heels, I have been dragged reluctantly onto the "e-reader" bandwagon.

My husband, a bit of a gadget geek, decided that we needed to get a Nook. He originally planned on getting a Kindle (my parents are huge fans of theirs), but the option of being able to use either the "E-Ink" screen (that looks like reading actual paper) OR the glowlight was the point that led him to choose the Nook Simple Touch. So now I can read in bed at night while he goes to sleep with the lights off, and everyone's happy.

(Disclosure: I'm an Amazon Associate, whatever that means. I've yet to see a check, but here's the link anyway.)

I must admit that, for all my protesting, it's actually pretty nice to have it. While I don't think I'll ever go entirely paperless (I love the smell, feel, and look of real books too much... Plus I'm a little suspicious of the "big brother" factor in having my library stored/managed in an online database that someone else controls....), it is a handy thing to have. The convenience of being able to instantly download and read a book is very nice, and it certainly makes traveling with a small library (as I tend to do) much....lighter. So, I do find myself using it.

Anyway.

Since we'll be taking the thing on trips and such, I decided that getting a protective case for it was in order. I looked at a few online and in stores, but most of the covers I saw were either terribly expensive, or they were designed to hold the reader while you're using it, with a "cover" that opened up like a book cover. To me, that sort of defeated the purpose of having an e-reader (which is super light and easy to hold since you're not straining your hand propping the cover open all the time), so I decided to make my own "sleeve" that I could pop it into when it's not in use. I took some pictures throughout the process, and I thought I'd share a little tutorial on how I made it in case you'd like to make something similar. The size could easily be adjusted to hold a Kindle, laptop, iPad, iPhone, iPod, small camera, or any number of other gadgets. So here you go....


Needle-Felted Nook Cover: A Tutorial

My first order of business was to raid my fabric bin. I found a few pieces of wool fabric that were large enough to do the trick, and I decided to go with this neutral khaki-colored piece. I simply folded it in half, placed the Nook on top of it, and "eyeballed" the approximate size I wanted it to be. In hindsight, I kind of wish I had factored in some extra fabric so that the "flap" section would be a double-thickness of fabric, but oh well... (You'll see why later.) Anyway, I cut out the shape (allowing for seams), and this was what I came up with....


Next, I pulled out my bag of batting scraps and found two fairly thick pieces that would add extra padding to the cover. I cut two rectangles that were slightly smaller than the wool to serve as the front and back padding for the Nook.


Next came the fun part! Always feeling the need to embellish things, I did a little needle felting on the front and back....

(If you're not familiar with the basics of needle felting, you might want to visit my tutorial video series or my simple description of needle felting, before you begin. You'll learn what tools you're going to need, basic safety tips, and a lot about technique.... which I won't go into much in this post.)

Here's how the front turned out, and I'll show you the step-by-step progress on the back.... I love birds!


As you can see below, I needle felted through both the wool AND the batting... this will help hold the batting in place once the thing's assembled. (Please note: you must do your needle felting before sewing up the sides of the pouch - if you try to do it once the pouch is assembled, you'll felt the front and back together, and you won't be able to slide your gadget inside....) Also, it's important to make sure that you're felting on top of something like a piece of thick Styrofoam or one of the special "brush" pads that they sell specifically for needle felting... You don't want to stab yourself or accidentally felt your pouch to a piece of furniture or something! You can see the block of Styrofoam I'm using peeking out in the photo below...


Here's a view of what it should look like on the "wrong side" so far.... Make sure you never do any felting with the two sides folded together, or you'll never get them apart!


And now, I'll show you how I go about felting a design like this.... First, I did a basic sketch with some chalk - you can kind of see it in the photo below, but I'll admit, it doesn't show up well on wool.

If you're not comfortable sketching a shape yourself, or don't feel confident about "free-handing" the design, there are several things you can try. I've seen people use cookie cutters as guides - simply place the cookie cutter shape you like in the correct spot, hold it down firmly, stuff some roving inside the cutter, and begin felting inside the cutter while holding it firmly in place. Push the roving up against all of the sides, and it will create the shape you want.... You could also get a copyright-free image online and transfer it to your fabric before felting.... I don't think I would use one of those "iron on" things though - they leave a "plastic-y" coating that would probably hinder the felting action.


You need to start with the "bottom" layer of color. I started with the bird's body color, which was green... Take a small wisp of your roving, and using your needle, "tack it down" in a few places along the edge of your design. Once you've gotten the basic outline established and locked in place, then you can go to town jabbing it down inside the design. This is where the "staying in the lines" coloring skills you learned in kindergarten will come in handy....


Jab away! Needle felting is a productive (and legal) way to work off some frustrations....

To save some time when felting larger, less-detailed areas, you can get a tool like the one below...


See all the needles inside? A tool like this comes in handy for large, less detailed areas, because it "jabs" the wool with five needles at once. It saves times, but it's certainly not necessary. A single needle will do the same thing and will give you more control over detail... it just takes longer.


After you get your base color down, you can start adding details over it. I decided to use some of this beautiful turquoise blue for the wing color... The same principle applies - guide the roving around the outline of the shape, tacking it down around the border. Once the shape is established, then you can start filling in the center... Incidentally, it's always better to start with too little roving than too much. It's a lot easier to add more than to try to remove some once you've started felting...


Make sure you plan your pattern placement so that they're both "right side up" when the pouch is sewn together.... the bottoms of both images should be towards where the fold of your fabric will be....


Continue adding details, working from back to front... To get small details like the eye, eye ring, and beak, you only need a tiny amount of roving....

Hello, birdie!


Continue adding to your design until you get all the elements in place. Just remember to work from back to front - the largest "base" areas go first, then add the smaller details on top. Be sure to felt each layer thoroughly so that it doesn't get pulled out...


For the mushroom, I started with the white stem, then added the khaki colored base layer for the underside of the top, then the dark brown "gills," then the red layer, then finally the white spots. You can get as detailed as you'd like... you can add shadows and highlights if you want to go all out....

It's starting to take shape....


On a side note, for my friends who believe I'm a total OCD freak, I've included a few pictures of what my house often looks like "mid-project."

Wool roving everywhere...


...and my studio room looks like a bomb went off in Hobby Lobby! Don't worry though... it's all cleaned up now. :o)


OK, so once you get your felting done, you can start assembling the cover... I chose some chipper red gingham to make the lining, then raided my button stash to find the perfect candidate for the closure.


For the lining, I simply created a small pouch with the right sides in. The opening on the top is hemmed, and the sides got zipped through my machine for a simple straight stitch. I also used a zigzag stitch to stitch up the sides of my exterior wool layer. You'll be sewing both pouches "right sides together," but only the outer pouch will be turned right side out. The lining you want to leave facing "in."

(On a side note, you could extend the back side of the lining to serve as a lining for the "flap" part, if you didn't double over the wool when you cut the flap section earlier.)

Before you sew in the lining, it's a good idea to make sure your Nook or other device will slide inside both the lining and the exterior shell...


Once you've tested the pockets for size, simply slide the lining into the pouch, and whip stitch around the top, attaching the lining to the exterior all the way around. (If you used the interior lining to extend up the flap area, you'd need to adjust your sewing to tack that part in...) I used a snazzy red wool yarn to do all of my visible stitching.

I sewed on my button, cut a button hole in the area of the flap that lined up with my button placement, then whipped around the raw edge of the button hole with the yarn. Then for some extra flair (and also to help anchor the batting around the inside edges), I did a blanket stitch around the edges of the pouch and the raw edges of the flap to finish it off....


And there it is - the finished Nook case!


And here's the back.... The birdies make me smile every time I look at it...


Here you can see a closer view of how I attached the lining, and finished off the edge of the flap and button hole.


And - yay! - my Nook fits snugly inside when I'm not using it!




I hope you've enjoyed this little tutorial and that maybe it has inspired you to try your hand at needle felting! This was an example of 2-dimensional needle felting, and it can be applied to just about any fabric item you'd like to use it on... (Hats, gloves, scarves, ... your couch??? I've even seen it done on jeans!).

If you'd like to learn a little more about 3-dimensional needle felting, please check out my tutorial video series on how to make a needle felted Teddy bear!

Thanks for reading!

8.08.2012

Quotables: Albert Einstein


"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

- Albert Einstein

8.07.2012

Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

A few weeks ago I finished a truly great book,

Unbroken:
A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand

(Disclosure: I'm an Amazon Associate. All opinions are my own. Blah blah blah.)


 
As I kept exclaiming to Josh while reading this book, the story is just simply unbelievable. It reminded me of the film, "Forest Gump." While watching that movie, you keep thinking, "There's no way so much crazy stuff could happen to one guy." And of course, in "Forest Gump," all of that stuff never did happen to one guy, because it's fictitious. However, in Unbroken, the events described truly happened in the life of one remarkable man, Louis Zamperini, and the story is even more remarkable.

(Warning: spoilers below. Do yourself a favor and read the book itself instead...)

As a child, Zamperini seemed unlikely to ever become an American hero or even a productive member of society. He spent most of his youth as a delinquent, hobo, and trouble maker. Running for his life eventually turned into a passion for running itself, an activity that probably kept him out of prison. He went on to set world records in track and even made it to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where his fast finish caught the attention of the world and also Adolf Hitler, of all people, who asked to meet him.

After returning home to adoring fans and more running and records, he eventually enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces, where he became a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator bomber known as "Super Man." He and his crew flew a number of successful and dangerous missions in the Pacific, the last of which damaged "Super Man" beyond repair. Zamperini and his crew were transferred to Hawaii, where they were assigned to a notoriously defective plane known as the "Green Hornet." Despite their reservations about flying on this lemon of a plane, they nevertheless flew it on a mission to search for survivors from another downed plane. That mission would prove to be the last flight for "Green Hornet." The plane crashed at sea, killing 8 of the 11 crew members. Three of the crew, including Zamperini, managed to escape the wreckage and climb aboard two small, poorly-provisioned life rafts that providentially surfaced along with the men.

The three men, Zamperini, pilot Russel Allen "Phil" Phillips and tail-gunner Francis "Mac" McNamara, survived for weeks in the life-raft, managing to stay alive on a few small fish and birds they caught and captured rain water. They faced threats from the elements, starvation, thirst, shark attacks, deflated rafts, storms, and strafing runs by Japanese planes. Mac died after thirty-three days at sea, but Louie and Phil hung on for two more weeks. On day 47, they spotted land, but were immediately captured by the Japanese Navy, who questioned them and then sent them both to POW camps, where they remained for the duration of the war.

In the camps, the prisoners faced cruel and dehumanizing abuse from many of the guards. One particularly sadistic guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, had it in for Louis and singled him out for constant beatings. Zamperini, as well as other survivors, share their accounts of brutality at the hands of their captors, but also express gratitude for a handful of guards and Japanese civilians who had compassion on them and did what they could to help the POWs, often at the risk of their own safety.

After the Japanese surrender, the POWs tell of their jubilation over the end of the war and of being rescued. After the initial celebrations were over and they went home to be with loved ones, the signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder began to set in for many of the former prisoners. Zamperini, who had returned to California and married after a whirlwind romance, was haunted by nightmares of his former captor Watanabe, "the Bird," and he eventually turned to alcohol to dull the memories. His drinking became more and more frequent, as did the nightmares and his thirst for revenge. When he wasn't drunk, he was plotting to return to Japan and murder the former guard whose cruelty had haunted Louie's dreams and earned Watanabe a place on Douglas MacArthur's 40 most wanted war criminals list.

On the verge of divorce and personal ruin, Zamperini was finally convinced by his wife and a neighbor to attend a revival being held in town by the evangelist, Billy Graham. On the second night of being dragged unwillingly to the meeting, Zamperini was convicted by the message and overwhelmed by a revelation of God's miraculous protection throughout all of his suffering. He remembered the long-forgotten promise he had made to God on the life raft: "If You get me out of this, I will serve You forever." He went down the aisle and surrendered his life to Christ.

When he got home, he poured all of his alcohol down the sink and threw away his cigarettes and girlie magazines he had hidden around his house. He and his wife reconciled, and their marriage and lives were transformed. His nightmares and flashbacks never returned.

The most astounding thing is his description of the transformation of his attitude towards his captors during the war. The power of the Gospel in his life gave him the ability to forgive the people who had treated him so cruelly - including his particular demon, "the Bird." He shares the moving story of returning to Japan to face the former camp guards, share the Gospel with them, and offer them forgiveness, much to their surprise. Watanabe, "the Bird," refused to meet with Zamperini in person, but Zamperini wrote him a letter offering him forgiveness for what he had done, and expressing his hope that he would also come to Christ for salvation.

Zamperini went on to create a camp for wayward boys and is still kicking around in his home in Hollywood, CA. He has received numerous honors and awards which included running a leg of the Olympic Torch relay in Nagano, Japan for his 81st birthday in 1998. The spunky 95-year-old took up skateboarding in his 70's and could still be seen snow skiing well into his tenth decade of life. You can't help but love the guy.

Unbroken is, without a doubt, one of the best books and most amazing stories I have ever read. It gives you an appreciation not only for the sacrifices made by so many of our heroic servicemen and women, but also for the power of the Gospel to transform hardened hearts and make forgiveness possible even in the most unforgivable of circumstances. It's been both encouraging and convicting to me to read it, and I'm sure it will be the same for you... So be sure to find yourself a copy, and make it the next book on your reading list... In the meantime, here's an interview with Louis himself:



Go check it out!

8.06.2012

The List that Never Ends...


"In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Hi there.

As many of you know, I've been keeping a list of things for which I am grateful, and up until now, I've been listing them here on my blog. 

However, due to a number of reasons, I've decided that it would be better for me to do it quietly and privately from now on.

One of the quirks of all of these new forms of social media is that we tend to see the "highlight reels" rather than the good, the bad, and the ugly of other people's lives.

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My intention in sharing my list here was simple: I wanted my life to be characterized by gratitude (even during difficult times), rather than by grumbling, complaining, or envying the blessings of others. Keeping track of what God has done for me has certainly helped me grow in that area.

However, I've also come to realize that there's a possibility for misinterpretation in sharing specifics like this in a public forum. Social media creates a skewed picture of reality, and it's easy to look at another person's "highlights" (in other words, their carefully edited and curated online image) and feel like your own life doesn't measure up.

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I've always disliked "narcissistic" blogs, and I certainly don't want this to turn into one. Therefore, I've decided to pull back a bit on the personal stuff I share here, and reshape this page into something a little different....and hopefully, a little more relevant and useful to you.

So, although I won't be publicly sharing my list here anymore, I do want you to know that I will still be counting my blessings. It's been a great discipline to make myself notice the ways God is working and the things He's done for me, and I have learned a lot about contentment in the process. I'd definitely recommend it... happy counting...