Chronological {in order} Week 2

I’ve already discovered why I will love reading the Chronological Bible reading plan.  A couple days into reading and I’m already in the book of Job. I think I get bogged down reading the same thing in the same order all the time and this mix up has done wonders for my mind.

And how do I like the Common English Bible so far?  It’s really not noticeable–which is a good thing!! When I start reading, I read straight through without having to re-read sentences or words, which means I don’t get distracted and I read and retain better.
If you’d like to try the Common English Bible, we’re giving away one a week in January.

Comment and tell me your preferred version of the Bible. I’ll pick a random reader (one per week) and the people behind the CEB will send you one.  If you’ve never had a Bible and would  like to start with this one, let me know in the comments and you’ll automatically be the chosen one 🙂

Alton Brown

Ok. So I might like living near Chicago.

Zane is not so much a city-boy. Chip off the old block. My fiercely independent ten year old boy, the one who chides me for saying “I have to go potty” because “potty” embarrasses him and can’t I just say bathroom or restroom like everyone else? The one who is starting to not want me to kiss him and hug him and love him when people are around (oh my heart.)

This boy clung for dear life to my hand while crossing Michigan Avenue. He grabbed my hand himself. No prompting. Grabbed it and then held it with both of his and said, “This is a lot of traffic.”

And now I want to take him back to Michigan Avenue to play in traffic. I’m only kidding a little. This boy who suckled my breast for his first three years of his life and wouldn’t go to anyone except me now thinks I’m uncool and I might need one of the pretty white jackets and a few strong martinis (lemon drop, thank you) to get through what comes next. Who are you to judge if I take him to play in traffic so he’ll hold on a tighter for awhile longer?

That’s what I thought.

Alton Brown has been a staple in our home for quite some time now. We all love Good Eats and Iron Chef America. When I heard Alton was going to be in Chicago doing a discussion and signing for his newest book <—see the picture and click to see the information at Amazon.com, I knew we had to go. Even though the wait was long and the line was longer, I’m really glad we went.
Dear Alton,
We canceled our trip to Legoland to come see you and it was all Zane’s decision. I think you should feel pretty good considering Zane has three billion Legos in his room and has been bugging me to go to Legoland. Borders bookstore is the suck though. They baited us with hope of hearing your discussion then told us if we weren’t in the first 100 we couldn’t listen. Some crazies waited in line from 1pm til 7pm to see you. Not that you’re not worth it, but, uhm, that’s a long time. So we got there at 6pm and we HAD to buy your current book, otherwise we couldn’t see you either. So we bought it, we would’ve anyway, but they were mean about it. So really, we probably won’t ever go back to Borders (those bullies.)
You, however, redeemed the evening, Mr. Brown.
We sat on the floor of Borders and waited in line, talking to the nicest couple. For hours. Now, Zane is 10 and he’s pretty patient, but he was about ready to bail. Good thing the line moved. It was nearing 10pm and he was getting nervous as we neared the front of the line. The way you stopped and took time to look Zane in the eyes and ask him questions made my heart swell. You are such and admirable man. Thank you.
And then you did something I didn’t expect. Zane was the first kid you signed a book for, I think. When you left your place behind your signing table and went out into the line to sign all the kid’s books so they could go home and get to bed…That was integrity.
Thank you for that display of your character. I’m glad I got to witness it.
~michelle

I wanted to tell the whole world what a good guy you are Alton Brown!

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Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, is releasing her second book, Her Fearful Symmetry September 29, 2009.

I was late on The Time Traveler’s Wife bandwagon. That shouldn’t be a surprise though, as I only read To Kill a Mockingbird two years ago and I still haven’t read anything Harry Potter related and I watched all of the Star Wars movies only because my son forced me (lest I be a bad mother.)

I read Time Traveler’s Wife last year and I remember laying in bed, crying over the ending image. I had replaced Clare with myself and my undying love for my own husband and pictured myself as Clare–waiting.

It is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever experienced.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a different kind of story. It is also a beautiful story, but in it’s own way. Please don’t expect a retelling of The Time Traveler’s Wife as you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a dark story about identity and breaking points. What defines each relationship we enter into? At what point am I, me and you, you and where do we intersect and converge? Whether you are born into a relationship or enter it willingly, is there a line drawn in the sand for each? Twins, sisters, mothers and daughters, lovers, married couples. The dynamic between each is so different, yet in this story, you understand that there’s an underlying familiarity.

Her Fearful Symmetry is about making concessions in relationships and ultimately, making decisions to not make those concessions any longer and the consequences of such. How can one remain entangled with another a yet be separate? It is impossible, though we fight it and the reality is much different than our imagined fantasy.

Her Fearful Symmetry is also about deception and love. In the beginning, we understand there’s a secret. Where there is a secret, there is deception. And oh the webs we weave. The story starts like OCD, with everything packed away in its place, tight and secure, double and triple-checked but you pull one string and the whole knitted garment you worked untold hours to create unravels stitch by stitch until there is nothing left.

* * *

There were a few things I didn’t respond well to in the beginning. I’m a bit of a point of view purist and it’s a good thing I set out with a trust in the author, otherwise I might not have been able to overcome my own OCD tendencies for they would have screamed with every italicized thought and point of view switch. I hushed the voices by chanting, trust her–she wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife. To my surprise, somewhere around part two, I considered there might have been a reason for the style and at the end, I admitted (albeit reluctantly) there was no other way to tell this story.

The big secret of the story was really no surprise at all to me. I might have been disappointed about that had the other big thing not have happened and that one–I didn’t see coming. But why I didn’t see it is beyond me. Maybe by that point I had become invested in the story and wanted it to work out my way.

The end though, surprised me in the darkest way possible and revealed my character, my dark side, and all the un-pleasantries that come along with such a discovery.

Her Fearful Symmetry, the perfect title for this book, is a complicated mess of a story that the reader is allowed to witness. It’s like a peek into the keyhole of The Eccentrics only to realize it’s a mirror you’re gazing into.

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Parting the Waters: Finding Beauty in Brokenness

I met Jeanne Damoff (pronounced DAM-off) a few years ago on a message board. Yep, she’s one of those friends. I have a lot of them, but Jeanne is a bit different.

At first, I thought she didn’t like me. She might not know that, but she does now. But seriously, now I understand it was my overactive imagination and nothing more.

We first met at the ACFW conference in Dallas in 2006. I remember laughing with her in the lobby, but what I remember most is feeling overwhelmingly sad when she got a call that someone close passed on. I felt the need to pray and she doesn’t know but I was praying silently when I hugged her. I had also signed up to take a shift in the prayer room, I prayed for her family then, as well.

I really got to “know” Jeanne reading her blog and her every-other-Thursday posts at The Master’s Artist. Then I found out she takes photographs (like really outanding ones!) And though Jeanne’s words are phenomenal, down to earth, and always seem to leave you with an unexpected sense of hope and peace, her photography spoke its silent language to my heart.

This picture of Natalie, Jacob, and baby Lawson Jacob touched me deeper than I realized at first. When I saw it, all I knew was that Jeanne was a great writer, a funny gal who gave points to people who made her laugh, a great photographer, and a woman who loved her family deeply. I sort of knew that Jacob had brain damage, but I didn’t know the story and I was didn’t want to appear rude by asking. Little by little, the pieces came together. Jacob had an accident, he nearly drowned. He lived. He has brain damage. The photos of him are always stunning, there’s so much in his eyes, they speak that silent language, too.

This was my first chapter in the story that is Jacob Damoff.

In August of 2007, I found out that Natalie was Jacob’s best friend. I found out she named her baby Lawson Jacob. Soon after, Relief published selections from Parting the Waters.

And this photo then meant more…look at Natalie. I know that feeling of–what do you call it? Blessed pain? Or as Jeanne appropriately called it: Beauty in Brokenness?

Those moments in life, we all have them, or maybe not everyone does?

I have had them. When my grandma died. It was so hard to watch her go, yet knowing she was finally in peace was peace for me. When my uncle committed suicide. The single most painful event in my life, yet knowing the demons no longer could taunt him and that he’s resting in Jesus now–overwhelming pain and relief simultaneously.

Is that a taste of what Jesus felt when he commanded His spirit to His Father?

My mind captures images and holds them, the first photo is one that comes to the forefront of my mind often. This is the other one.
There’s something in Jacob’s smile that commands attention.

I often find myself wondering what it’s like to be that happy. Then I remember I am, I have only let life drag me down.

Parting the Waters is so brutally honest. The reality of it all is bitter and heartbreaking, yet through it all there is a hope bigger than explanation.

My mind captured an image from the book and will not let go. Jeanne and George had just brought Jacob home after a lengthy period of rehabilitation. Jacob, at this point, was not able to speak. They were at a special chapel service and the pastor, “…at one point said ‘God,’ Jacob pointed first to his own heart and then straight up in the air. “

Imagine that.

Jeanne continues, “After that day, when someone mentioned the Lord, Jacob pointed. Always to his heart first, then to the sky. He hadn’t uttered a single word, but his actions preached a thousand sermons.”

* * *

Another aspect of Jacob’s story that I appreciate, one that helps me in my own life, is hearing everything the family and community did with Jacob while he was in a coma. I mentioned above that my grandma’s recent death has affected me. She was not conscious for a week or more towards the end. I posted the story of the last minutes I was blessed with sharing with her. As Jeanne put it, “What a precious memory you’ll always have of singing her into eternity.” I still struggle with the last breath she took, at such a meaningful moment. I feel like God gave me a piece of this Beauty in Brokenness we’re talking about.

My friend Elaina, said this to me, “Reading Parting the Waters reminded me that we understand so little of the way our brains work and to presume that someone doesn’t comprehend is not a good plan. Even in dementia and Alzheimer’s, they’re still themselves. They just have trouble piecing everything together. I believe she heard you, Michelle.”

Jacob has given me so many gifts, I can only imagine the crowns in heaven adorning his head, and I bet he’ll have that big smile each time another is placed for the blessing he’s been to a number so great, only God can know.

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Order Parting the Waters here.
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5 Minutes for Books
A Little Whine and Cheese
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A Spacious Place
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This is My Blood by David Niall Wilson

I’m actually having a hard time putting to words how I feel about this novel.

When I posted my review of Field of Blood by Eric Wilson, David N. Wilson–no relation that I’m aware of–let me know (via Twitter) that his novel, This is My Blood was also a vampire story, also an alternate history of Christ’s days on earth. He said it was ahead of its time, and I agree 100%.

In his own words, David tells us this novel started as a short story in the 1980’s entitled “A Candle Lit in Sunlight” which was published in The Year’s Best Horror edited by the late Karl Edward Wagner. This led him to expand his thoughts and eventually publish the book in 1999.

The reason I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts down is because this is really like no book I’ve ever read. But that’s not exactly true either.

Remember when I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and said I sorta liked it? That was October 2007. Now it’s one of my favorite books. I realized as the weeks and months passed by that I had an ongoing emotional reaction to The Road. Certain things would trigger my emotion. A gray, cloudy day would bring back all of the stark nothingness of The Road. A father and son in walking to their car would take me to The Road. After months of experiencing The Road, I realized there weren’t too many books that could accomplish such a thing.

That’s what it feels like is going on with This is My Blood.

I admit, I am very skeptical of stories like this, alternate histories of the Bible, and of course, one must have an open mind when reading any fiction as far as I’m concerned. With an open mind, I read David’s novel and discovered a hidden treasure.

I don’t want to retell the story, I think you, loved reader, need to get this one for yourself. I’m sure you can find a synopsis online, but that doesn’t do justice to this story. So just order the book.

Let me get what I didn’t like out of the way, because there wasn’t much. You know I have some pet peeves and that’s kind of what I picked at. There are some words that are overused. For some reason that bothers me. I probably do it in my own writing. And there’s a part at the end I didn’t like, but I can’t say it here because it would be a total spoiler. It was the one thing that strayed far enough from my theology that I really wish it would have been different. I understand how it benefits the story, but it seemed to me to make Jesus less God and less capable of His purpose. It, to me, gave power and authority to someone else, and for that, I was disappointed.

However…

It did not take away from the message I saw the story delivering.

This is My Blood is a love story. Jesus’ story for each and every one of us is a story, a reality, of unconditional love. We don’t deserve His sacrifice. We aren’t worthy of the spilling of His blood for our tainted and hardened hearts. It is what He came here for, though. To show us His love.

What about the angels that followed Lucifer in their fall? Are they worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice? Are they able to be reconciled to the Father? That’s a question I’ve often pondered. This is My Blood speaks to that.

One of the most striking elements of This is My Blood is David N. Wilson is writing from a woman’s point of view and it’s virtually flawless. I’ve read a few other things by this author and his writing has a natural, organic, sensual flow. There is a depth of character and emotion that most male writers have a hard time thinking of, let alone getting down seamlessly. For that, I praise David.

There were times I was completely devastated and other times, I could feel my hope mounting, waiting expectantly, as if it was my faith for Christ, my hope in Him, my love. It takes a lot to get me to that point, the point that I’m crossing boundaries of reality.

It is also a story of faith and hope.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

And it is impossible to please God without faith.

To my knowledge, I have yet to read a novel with a more stunning display of faith, hope, and love. This is My Blood is a phenomenal example of Jesus’ commitment to the condemned that walk this earth.

I understand now, why some readers of This is My Blood have told David that their faith was strengthened by this story. I will not forget this story.

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