My Year in Books
Ever wonder what an author reads? Well, I can't speak for other authors, but here's what I've tackled this last year. I'm actually over halfway through one more, so I might raise my number again before the year closes out.
I wanted to let you know how my reading challenge went this year, too. Most of the time, when I read, I just grab a fun Christian romance and snuggle in. But this year, I joined a group of friends who agreed to read a certain type of book each month. Here's what the requirements were and what book I picked to read to fill that category:
1) A biography, autobiography, or memoir -- Elizabeth the Queen
2) A book that pushes you outside your comfort zone -- The Koran
3) A classic you have never read -- The Great Gatsby
4) A book of poetry—or a play or short story collection if you hate poetry -- Solstice to Solstice to Solstice
5) A book about an event, time period, or figure(s) from history -- Dreadnought
6) A book about science -- Case for the Creator
7) A religious book—inspirational, apologetics, topical, etc. -- Mere Christianity
8) A book on a topic you know nothing about -- Before We Were Yours
9) A book about another culture or a book in translation -- The Neverending Story
10) A book recommended to you by someone else -- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
11) A book you have previously started and abandoned OR a book you should have read in school -- Alice in Wonderland
12) Wild Card! -- Just pick one of the dozens of books I devoured in the month of December!
I think I may do the reading challenge again this year. She's mixed up the categories and added new ones that intrigue me. It's definitely forced me to stretch outside of my comfort zone and find some books I probably wouldn't have grabbed otherwise.
I also read all the way through the Bible again. It's something I try to do every year, although I've missed a few. I always notice new things as I read, and I definitely notice that it helps me stay a bit more grounded as I go through life. I think next year I may try using a Chronological Bible to do it again. It's nice to alter the way I read through each year because it helps me look at it a bit differently.
Not included in the list of books I've read is at least one or two by friends who haven't had their work published yet, as well as working through my own manuscripts a few times.
Some people ask me how I find time to read so much. It's my downtime hobby of choice. It lets my mind relax, lets me push worries aside, helps me relax at night. I usually read a few chapters in the afternoon while my children nap, and read a few more before bed. On vacation days, or if I'm very wrapped up in the story and don't want to put it down, I tend to do more. ;-)
Here's a link to my goodreads page that shows the books I've read this year. Feel free to friend me on there and keep up with my reading progress. Did you read anything great this year? I'd love to hear about it!
The Dorcas Room
My sister's family and mine got together with my parents at my Grandmother's house one more time this Christmas. My niece asked my sister a question on the way: "Will my cousin and I get to sleep in the Dorcas room?"
It took my sister a minute to figure out what she was talking about. She meant the sewing room. Once my grandmother's children moved out, she took over the front bedroom and Grandpa built her fancy shelves to hold all her fabric and patterns and other needlework and crafting things. For as long as I can remember, she had several projects going, with pieces scattered all over the room. The couch under the front window made out into a bed that held lots of late night giggles between my cousins and me through the years. And in the recent past, my daughter has gotten to sleep in there whenever we visited. The picture above is from a few years ago when my mom and daughter were "sewing" together -- my daughter's machine is a pretend one that my mom found at a thrift store for 50 cents.
The congregation my sister worships with has a room in the building called "The Dorcas Room." It has sewing machines and fabric where the ladies make teddy bears to give to the hospital to pass out to families with sick babies. My sister has always taken my niece with her to Dorcas class where they basically do a ladies' Bible study and work on projects like that. My niece made the connection that if it was a room with a sewing machine, it must be a Dorcas room.
It's a neat assumption, huh? Can you remember the story of Dorcas? It's in Acts 9. Basically, she passes away, and Peter finds all the widows in the town distraught, holding up various pieces of clothing that Dorcas had sewn for them. We don't know much about her besides that. Peter sees what great works she was doing and brings her back to life. Can you imagine that? She was doing such a good work that God let her come back from death to continue doing it. That's the true spirit of it.
I don't have a room dedicated only to sewing right now, but I do have a corner set up in my bedroom where I have my machine and several other things stashed, usually an incomplete project nearby. And I think about it. When I am sitting at that machine, am I doing so with a heart like Dorcas? You know what? I know my Grandma did a lot of times. She was constantly doing for others, making sure people were taken care of, lovingly sewing items for people she cared about. I think my niece was right. It was a Dorcas room.
I hope mine can be, too.
Merry Christmas 2018
Merry Christmas from my home to yours. I hope your day is filled with great food, family time, and at least one new book. Have a great holiday!
Red Like a Poinsettia
We opened the door one evening recently to discover a huge poinsettia plant from our realtor, celebrating almost a whole year in our home. I love the idea of a poinsettia, but I'm probably going to kill it, too. I'm awful with houseplants.
How much do you know about these beauties? Did you know that the red is actually the leaves? The yellow is the flower, itself. To force the plant to continue having red leaves, you actually have to make sure it stays in a dark place for so many hours a day. No kidding. The care card that came with our plant says "after a week or two has passed, move your poinsettia to an area with no sunlight for about 12-15 hours every night and keep the plant at 60 degrees Fahrenheit." In other words, stick the plant in the closet.
Know what that makes me think of? The time we need to be spending in a closet.
No. Not an actual closet, in most of our cases. If you're like me, there's no room in your closet for anything else anyway. But quiet time. Time to reflect and commune with God. Time to refocus our lives on where they should be instead of where we've let them wander. Time to be still.
So, I may not be able to keep this plant alive, but I will let it be a reminder to me. Just like it, I need closet time. What about you?
Merry Christmas Cards
These boxes have been in the foyer at the church building for several weeks now. I couldn't get a picture that encompassed all of them, because they do cover the whole alphabet. What are they for? Well, they're for Christmas cards. What? Yes. If you'd like to send Christmas cards to someone at church, just drop them into the box with the letter that starts their last name. The teenagers will sort them all into bags with that family's name on it. They can be picked up starting next Sunday. Isn't this an amazing tradition? Even last year, when our family had only been members for about a month, we got a bag full of cards just for us.
I sent out a stack of Christmas cards all over, too. To aunts and uncles, an occasional cousin who stays closer than others, old college friends, and people we've moved away from. The list changes a bit each year, growing or shrinking. Some people are removed because they're no longer on this earth. Some drop off for other reasons. Others are added in their place. At the post office over the last few weeks, as I'm mailing packages, I see others dropping their cards in the slots, and it makes me happy. The tradition is not completely dead, even though we seem to receive less and less each year. Fewer newsy notes and updated pictures of children come our way, thanks to Facebook and other social media making them unnecessary. Yet, the romantic in me loves the tradition, so I'll keep it up as long as I can.
What about you? Is it worth it to order cards, buy special Christmas stamps, and take the time to address each envelope, just to know you made someone's day miles away? Have you given up and gone to simply keeping up electronically? What traditions do you keep holding on to even if they're not as necessary any more?
A Different Angel Tree
Every place has its own traditions. When my husband and I were "church shopping" last fall, trying to find the best place for our family to worship and work, we didn't know about all the traditions that went along with each place, all the different dinners and events and opportunities. But God was obviously guiding us well, because we have acclimated well this last year, and are loving all the ways we can serve and fellowship in our church family.
One thing this congregation does that I have never seen elsewhere is to have an angel tree. Now, I can almost hear you saying, "Amy, there are angel trees everywhere." Not like this one. On this tree, the names on the paper "angels" aren't people in need. Instead, this tree is covered with the names of loved ones who are now lost to us. Last year, we had an angel with my husband's mom on it. This year, my grandmother's name nestles among the branches.
In case you think that's terribly depressing, think again. This tree is there for those of us who are dealing with a first holiday without someone. We're going to be missing that person, no matter how good the holiday turns out to be. This tree gives us an opportunity to have our church family praying for us and our peace and comfort. It allows us to see that we're not the only ones dealing with grief during a normally happy time. It gives us one more chance to remember. And that's not always depressing.
What kinds of traditions does your congregation have that you love to participate in? Or that help people dealing with a hard time?
The Gift of Giving
This view is intriguing my daughter ... or maybe I should say driving her crazy. She's desperate to know how many packages are for her. And wishing it were Christmas already. I had hoped the advent calendar we're doing would help her see how far out we still are, but it hasn't really clicked yet. And to a four-year-old, two weeks may as well be eons.
I love giving gifts. It's one of my top love languages, which sometimes drives my husband crazy because it's not one of his (Even after 14 1/2 years, we're still learning how to speak each other's language). It is an absolute thrill to me to find the perfect gift for someone. When I hear an idea they drop during the year, and tuck it away to put under my tree later, then see the faces light up, that's one of the best gifts I could ask for.
I'm trying to teach my four-year-old that she needs to focus more on giving gifts than getting them, but it's a work in progress.
How about you? What's your favorite part of the gift-giving season? Do you get a thrill when you pick out a perfect present or are you one of those who longs for a wish list to pick from ... or even just gives cash or gift cards (my grandmother always said cash was the perfect gift because no one ever complained about the size or color)? Have you come up with a way to simplify things or are you rushing around like I am, trying to finish up some last-minute projects? Whatever you're doing about gifts, I hope you can take a moment to just enjoy this happy, busy time of year.
Home for the Holidays
I love Christmas. I imagine not many people don't. Christmas music is filling my car, the stores, and quite a few other places right now. My four-year-old doesn't always like the songs I like, but I am the grown up and I get the final say. Anyway, some of my favorite songs are "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," "Silver Bells," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "White Christmas," and "No Place Like Home for the Holidays." Can you tell I like the old ones? The funny thing is, I live in the south, and even though it was snowing yesterday morning, it didn't stick long. It's very unusual to actually have a white Christmas, and definitely not enough snow for a sleigh.
The other funny thing about my favorites is the theme of "home." I know I've talked about this quite a bit, because it really resonates with me. Home. Growing up the way I did, moving every few years, I had two constants. I had my grandparents in Tennessee. And I had my grandparents in Oklahoma. My last grandparent passed on back in May, and my parents have been getting that house ready to sell so they can move on from caregivers to taking care of each other instead. But they're still there, in Oklahoma, the place I consider home.
So, for a few days over the holidays, we'll load up our car and take off for one more visit. But I know it won't be the same. The house is still the same, no doubt. But most of the furniture is gone. And my grandparents are gone. And as we go through this holiday season this year, I'm really missing those who have gone before us. I'm excited about one more Oklahoma Christmas. And sad, too. It's bittersweet. And I guess, in years to come, we'll have to redefine "home" once again. Because there's no place like home for the holidays.
What about you? How do you handle the sad and happy that seem wrapped up together this time of year? Have you come up with new ways of being "home" for Christmas?
This is a place for me to share thoughts and ideas not just related to writing. Thoughts about what's going on in my life, about an idea I got that I thought shareworthy, or just a funny anecdote.