Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Reading from 2011

Way back in 2005 a friend mentioned that she read over 80 books a year.  I was really surprised by that number, but had no idea how many I read in a year.  So I started keeping track and I've done that ever since.  It is interesting to see how many I read in a year and to also be able to look back and know if I've already read a book or not.

So, I found that on average I read 25-26 books a year, which is about two a month. Another friend recently mentioned in a blog that she read over 80 books last year.  These friends must read a lot faster than I do!  It's not like either of them have more time in a day than I do.  What about you?  Do you think you're a fast reader or a slow reader?  How many books a month do you read?

Here are my books from 2011:
Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians by Stephen Haynes and Lori B. Hale.  I've heard a lot about Bonhoeffer, but was afraid of biting off more than I could chew. I was afraid he would be hard to read.  So I read this autobiography and became even more interested in Bonhoeffer and his writings.  I am currently reading one of Bonhoeffer's books....but that will be for next year's list!

Crisis by Robin Cook.  Cook writes medical thrillers that are always a good read!  If you like mysteries and medicine combined with a lot of suspense, you'll enjoy Cook's books.
The Missionary Wife and Her Work by Joy Turner Tuggy.  This was written in the 1960's, so is a bit out-dated.  Still, I think missionary women were some of the first "liberated" women who have always worked hard, not only at home, but also in their ministries.

Going Dutch in Beijing by Mark McCrum.  McCrum gives examples from around the world about mistakes one could make in the local culture. The example he titles his book from is that it would be a serious insult to your Chinese host if they offer to take you out for dinner and you said you'd pay for your own meal.  If they offer to take you out, they are honoring you and do not want you to pay for yourself.McCrum does make some generalizations, though.  Like he'll say, "In Niger, they have a practice called ______".  The word is clearly in one of the local languages and not ALL Nigeriens call it that and may not even have that practice.  So if he did that for Niger, he probably did it for other countries as well.  Still, it was a really interesting book about different cultural practices.

The Price of Guilt by Margaret Yorke. Margaret Yorke is a British writer and many Americans may not be familiar with her writings.  My dad put me on to them.  She writes psychological thrillers.  Her books are a little different than most mysteries, dealing more with the psychology of the perpetrator than with the crime itself.
Two Souls Indivisible by James S. Hirsch was an excellent book about two Viet Nam POWs.  One was a well-to-do southern boy and the other was African-American.  The Viet Kong put these two men together in the same cell.  At first they fought about everything and really disliked each other.  But as one became seriously ill, the other took care of him and fought to get him better health care.  The two became true brothers.  The book also describes many of the horrors of the Viet Kong POW camps.

The Brushstroke Legacy by Lauraine Snelling.  Well, if you really don't want to think, read this book.  It was ok, but not outstanding in any way.  Kind of a typical Christian romance novel.  I mean, really, they met and got married in about three weeks without knowing anything about each other.  Is this the kind of romance we want for our daughters?

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Adichie is a Nigerian author who writes masterfully about the Biafran War which took place in Nigeria in the 1960's.  Her characters are well developed, the story is compelling, and the setting is well-detailed.  It is graphic in places, both sexually and as to the horrors of war.  But it was an excellent read and I highly recommend it with the caveat that it is not always a pretty book.

The Runaway by Eleanor Rowe.  This was given to me by a personal friend who wrote it herself.  She did a good job with it, though there were places where it was sometimes confusing as to the characters.

The Cruelest Journey by Kira Salak.  Ms. Salak writes about a kayak trip she took down the Niger River in Mali, with Timbuktu as her final destination.  At times her fear seems a bit overdone, but then I've never taken a trip like she did, so maybe I'd be afraid, too.  I did enjoy her descriptions of the river, the villages, and local life as it was very similar to life here in Niger.

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith. Smith wrote the Ladies' Detective Agency books, which I liked better than this one.  He does write about three pages of what the person is of consciousness I call it....before he finally gets to the point.  He does have an engaging manner of writing and I found myself enjoy the book even though it did seem to go on and on a bit.
Critical by Robin Cook.  Another great Robin Cook read.

Her Mother's Hope and Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers.  Once again Francine Rivers has put together two excellent books. Her characters come alive and feel like personal friends.  She traces the lives of four generations of women, with their struggles, failures, and imperfections.  Of course each woman also has strengths and positive qualities.  But it is interesting to see how these traits and problems are passed on to the next generation.

A Common Life by Jan Karon.  If you've read any of the Mitford series, this is about the wedding of Father Tim.  This was a very light, easy, quick, but enjoyable read.

Radical:  Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt.  This is one I would highly recommend that every American read.  In fact, anybody in a materialistic society could benefit from it, though it is very American based.  Platt challenges us to lay aside the American dream and build lives of faith that live out what the Bible teaches.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  Stockett writes so well about life in the 1960's in the deep south.  The Help are the African-American women who work in the homes of the white people.  Some were treated as slaves, though they were technically free.  These women cleaned, cooked, and raised the children of these families.  This is the story of how one white woman and several of The Help write down their stories.  I highly recommend that you read this book before watching the movie, and I also recommend that you do both!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  I first read and fell in love with this book when I was in high school.  I've lost track of how many times I've read it!  Also, I was disappointed in the most recent Jane Eyre movie.  I just felt that it didn't do the book justice.

What Good Is God? by Philip Yancey.  Yancey writes in groups of two chapters.  In the first chapter he talks about a difficult situation, such as the shooting at Virginia Tech.  Then the second chapter is a talk that he gave at that place, addressing the situation that had taken place there.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  The book contained some graphic scenes and crude language, but the story itself was excellent, if a little bizarre, and Zafon is a talented writer.  It takes place in Spain.

The Missing by Beverly Lewis.  This is one of Lewis' Amish-based novels.  Again, there's not a lot of depth, but it's a good easy read for when you're too tired to read anything too deep.

The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser.  I enjoyed this book that took place in the 1930's about a girl who nearly loses her faith through a series of events that took her sister's life and nearly takes another sister's life.

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.  This was one of Bell's earlier books. I started his Love Wins book and didn't finish it because it belonged to Theo and I didn't have time to finish it before he had to take it back.  I did not find the writing style of Velvet Elvis to be nearly as annoying as that of Love Wins and I found little that I objected to in Velvet Elvis whereas there was much I disagreed with in Love Wins.  Apparently his thinking has changed over the years.

Dangerous to Know by Margaret Yorke.  Another psychological mystery by Margaret Yorke.

So, if I had to narrow it down to five books to recommend that you really should read, they would be:
Jane Eyre
Radical:  Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
The Help
Half of a Yellow Sun
Two Souls Indivisible

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daniel's Birthday

Dear Daniel,
23 years ago today you were born.  Your birth nearly cost me my life.  It was the hardest thing I've ever gone through and the best thing I've ever gone through.  

Early in the morning on February 22, 1989 we went to Gamkalle Clinic.  The amniotic sac in which you were floating had broken and while labor pains weren't strong, we decided to go in.  The contractions continued off and on all day, but never really progressed.  By then you were at least two weeks overdue, but apparently very comfortable where you were!

By evening the midwife decided to induce labor.  She started the drip and contractions started in earnest.  Dad was there the whole time, all through the night, helping me breathe through each contraction as they got stronger and stronger.  Finally the moment came when we were ready to go to the delivery room and that's when the excitement started.

First off, the midwife made me walk down the corridor, out through the breezeway, and into the delivery room.  Yes, there were wheelchairs, but apparently she thought real women should walk to the delivery room.  I had at least one strong contraction on the way.  I remember leaning on the wall, being held up my dad and our friend, Sarah, while the contraction passed.

I  worked hard to deliver you, but the contractions were not really strong enough.  The midwife decided I needed a little help and told the nurses to push down on my uterus to try to force you out.  That was extremely painful.  I also found out later that the uterus was already on the point of looking like it might rupture and what they were doing was putting both of our lives in jeopardy.  I yelled to Sarah to make them stop.  She told the midwife she was pretty sure that practise had been outlawed in England.  The midwife said it probably had been in France, too, but she continued on anyway.  Finally you were born, coming out sideways instead of the normal way.

I thought all was over and just wanted to hold you and get back to my room.  But now the placenta wouldn't deliver, which resulted in heavy bleeding.  NOW, they decided to try to get an IV going.  They must have started the inducement with an injection rather than a drip or I would already have had an IV started.  I can't remember that detail.  By that time I was going into shock and they couldn't get the needle in.  After about six tries, they finally succeeded.  They eventually got the bleeding stopped and got me back to my room.  Then I had to have two units of blood, one from Sarah, and one from Uncle Dean.  The next day a gynecologist came in and removed all the bits of placenta that had been left behind.  That was also extremely painful and none with no pain relievers!

For days I was so weak I could barely lift my head or turn over in bed.  They decided to not give me more blood than they did because of the risk of my getting malaria or something from the blood of somebody who may have been about to come down with malaria or hepatitis or something else.  For at least two months, all I could do was take care of you.  Just folding laundry was an exhausting chore.

But, was it worth it?  Absolutely!  I would do it again if I had to.  You have been a delight and a joy.  I am so glad to have been given the privilege by God to be your mother.  I know I haven't always done it right, but here you are, 23 years old, all grown up and about to get married!  I am so proud of you, of the man you've become.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Celebrating John's Birthday

Internet continues to be a struggle here.  During this past week I have probably averaged answering three emails a day before the internet dies.  I don't think we even got a connection on Thursday or Friday.  It always seems a little better on the weekend, though it isn't great.  So will it work tomorrow at the office?  If not, I always have quilting to do at home!  Thankfully we are in a slow time of year in the Personnel office!
John's birthday was January 29th and we had a three day celebration, of sorts.  Our small prayer group meets the last Friday of the month, so I took a carrot cake to share with the group in honor of John's birthday.  Then Saturday evening we had friends over to share John's birthday.  I can't remember what I made for supper, but it must have been one of John's favorites.  For his birthday "cake", I made a cheesecake. It was the first day I had seen strawberries for sale in the market (we have about a six week strawberry season), so I splurged and made a strawberry topping for the cheesecake.  The cheesecake turned out perfectly!  Then the 29th, Sunday, was his actual birthday.  So after church we had a nice dinner and I gave John his gifts.
I splurged and got John a handful of grapes I found in the market.  While cheaper out on the street than they would have been in the store, they were still a splurge at about $4.00 a pound!  He got a handful, not a pound of them!  I also bought him a really cool book called Niamey 360+ (that's supposed to be degrees). It is a book of aerial shots of Niamey.  Most of them are current, but thrown in are shots of Niamey from the 60's and 70's.  It's a fascinating book.  If you know John, you know how much he is enjoying looking through the book.

I'm so thankful for my husband and for all he does for me, for his faithfulness to the Lord and to our marriage, for his kindness, for his discipline, and so many other things.  Here is one of the things he's done for me recently.  He planted cilantro and parsley right outside our kitchen door.  All I need to do is step outside and pluck fresh herbs for when I'm cooking.  He also has tomatoes growing and we will soon have a bumper harvest of fresh, organic tomatoes!  

Celebrating John's birthday was just one small way of saying thanks to him for all he is and for all he does.  I am blessed.

Monday, February 06, 2012

How I Saw God Today

Every January all of our missionaries here in the country get together for Spiritual Life Conference.  We have a guest speaker who brings about two messages a day, except one day that is just a "down" day.  On that day we have a prayer breakfast, team reports, an open forum, sports, seminars, and in the evening a fun/skit night.

This year John was heavily involved with the worship sessions for conference.  He has been involved almost every year we've been here, but this year all of the planning and leading fell to him. He had a great worship team working with him and it was fantastic to see young people taking part in the worship. He did such a superb job and most of all God was glorified in the music.

The prayer breakfast was really nice, too.  Some of the ladies had made special decorations .... out of newspaper.  How creative is that?!   As one of the single guys said, "It looks like a wedding in here!"  The men have their own prayer breakfast and theirs is all about the food.  But we have food AND decorations!  We spent a good amount of time in prayer as well.
Skit night was probably not as funny as some years....but it was still pretty good.  Some of the younger missionaries talked many of the ladies into participating in a flash mob.  In the middle of some announcement the theme song on Slumdog started playing.  One lady stood up and looked around like, "What in the world is going on here?!"  Then two others stood up and started dancing and the first joined in.  Little by little we all stood up and started dancing.  It was a hoot and I think the men were left speechless.  I'm told one husband's response was simply, "Unbelievable". We're hoping that a missionary who just went on home assignment will be able to post the video on You Tube....the internet here has been so bad lately that there's no chance of doing it from here.  Check out the full story here.  And, no, I don't have any pictures.  I was too busy trying to get my moves right.

As I mentioned we had some great messages.  One day the speaker spoke about miracles.  His definition of miracle is something that only God could do.  We get so used to a miracle having to be something huge and amazing like a person being healed from a terrible disease, but in reality a miracle might be something we often pass off as a "coincidence".  How often does God orchestrate events in ways only He could do and we are not even aware of it.

After the message we met in small groups and discussed the message. Our group talked about how often God does something and we don't even see it.  It's not huge or "amazing" and we forget to look and we aren't even aware.  So one of the things I am trying to do this year is write in my journal each day (well, every day that I write) a way that I saw God today.  I call it "How I Saw God Today".  Some days it is something pretty big like using the current climate here to rearrange our plans for a certain missionary to put him in a different place, the place where, I believe, God wants him.  Other days it's something "small" like noticing the gorgeous bougainvillea that pour over many of the walls on our street in a profusion of pink, purple, white, yellow, and orange.
Our street on a very dusty day!

I would not base my theology on most country music,  but I love the words to one of George Strait's songs:
I saw God today.
I've been to church, I've read the Book,
I know He's here, but I don't look
Near as often as I should.
His fingerprints are everywhere
If I just slow down to stop and stare,
Open my eyes, and, man, I swear,
I saw God today.

How have you seen God today? 
Have you really looked?