Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On My Bookshelf from Mozambique until Now

One of the changes I’ve decided to make since our time in Moz is to ignore my book blog, “Over a Steaming Mug of Tea,” for a while. I’m not quite ready to shut it down, but I’m close.

While I was in Mozambique, I realized that for the few months I had been operating my book review blog, I felt under constant pressure to read: to read new books and lots of them. Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies, and I hadn’t expected that opening a book blog would turn one of my favorite hobbies into a chore, but that’s kind of what it did.

I would still like to share what I’m reading, however. I like to talk about books. But I’m kind of like a two-year-old in that I only like to do it when I don’t feel forced.

What I’ve Been Reading since Moz:

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
This is a delightful read. If you have an e-reader or are able and willing to read on your computer with a Kindle app, I would highly recommend clicking over to Amazon and purchasing this e-book right now. (It’s $0.99!) I was able to read this book in a couple sittings, and I highlighted a lot of it. Basically, Keller writes from the premise that in our society we are too concerned about our self-esteem. All we need to do is have a healthy self-esteem and life will be peachy. But, when we focus on our self-esteem so much, we’re really just putting it in the place of God. “And, of course, as we are often reminded, if you try to put anything in the middle of the place that was originally made for God, it is going to be too small. It is going to rattle around in there” (Location 134).

Keller writes that the apostle Paul had a different approach: he basked in the freedom of self-forgetfulness. I won’t go into any more detail here, but suffice it to say that Keller’s book really made an impact on how I view myself and on the importance I place on how I view myself. Read it! You’ll love it.

Digging to America by Anne Tyler
I hadn’t read anything by Anne Tyler before, but now I’m convinced that I need to read all her books. This is a story about immigration. And assimilation. And adoption. And having friends who are different from us. I won’t say this is a particularly fast-paced book. Two little girls are adopted from Korea by very different American families. They grow up, their parents become good friends. Their grandparents become good friends. The plot was fun, if not action-packed. But what really jarred me while reading this book was the vibrant and real way that Tyler writes about her characters. I got to know these characters, flaws and quirks and all, and I came to love the characters. This book impacted me in a unique way, in that I found myself quoting a character in conversations like I was quoting a friend, and only later realized I hadn’t been quoting a real person at all. That is the kind of impact that Tyler’s writing has. Mmm. Wonderful. 

The Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot
In all honesty, this book took me quite a while to get through. As much as I was inspired by Jim Elliot and his single-minded devotion, I did have a little trouble wading through all his journal entries. However, I did find myself sitting and thinking when I was done reading, and then praying that I would have even half as much devotion and determination in my relationship with God that Jim Elliot had. Even though missionary biographies are not the most exciting to me from a literary standpoint, they sure give me perspective on the small life I lead.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
I learned a ton about Japanese culture, particularly geisha culture, while reading this book. I found it all very fascinating, but the story was a little more risqué than I was expecting. Not sure if it makes my Top 100, but it was still very well written and very interesting. And I liked the book better than the movie. Surprise, surprise.

Monday, November 19, 2012

After Moz: The Big Picture (But it's really not that detailed so don't get excited.)

This is kind of like getting on the phone with a friend for the first time in months. I experience this quite regularly. I have a few very good friends from high school or college that I try to keep in touch with. Unfortunately, I am not a very good phone friend. I’m busy, they’re busy. And, well, we just don’t talk as much as we would like. So, when we get on the phone for the first time in three months, we always have a stutter of awkward uneasiness. What in the world should I ask this person about? And what should I tell them?

What should I tell you?

Not too much has changed yet as a result of our trip. (If you want a recap of our trip, check out our blog from our time in Mozambique.) Our perspective is a little wider. I’m perhaps a little more content with what I have. I’m also perhaps a little more easily irritated by petty complaints I hear.

One of my biggest prayer requests going into this trip was that Mark would come away from our time in Mozambique with a greater sense of calling in his life and career. He’s kind of floundered since college, not sure what he wants to do, not sure what he likes to do, not sure what God’s calling him to do.

While we were in Moz, Mark spent a lot of time in a recording studio helping record and edit a variety of pieces of music and the gospel of Mark in the Chuwabo language. He absolutely loved working in the studio. So, since we’ve been home, he’s begun to look for ways that he can begin working in a recording studio. Does he need additional schooling? If so, what kind? If not, what else can he do to gain experience in the recording industry? How can he build connections and get to know people already working in the recording industry? These are all questions he’s been asking himself.

And, though we haven’t made any major changes yet, I can feel that changes are coming. It’s exciting to see Mark excited. And it’s exciting to wonder what kinds of changes are coming down the pipe toward us.

That’s where we are in the ‘big picture,’ right now. Adoption is still looming (hopefully) near on the horizon. Other changes are looming as well, that I’m not quite ready to share here yet. But, as I say, it’s exciting.

OK. ‘Big Picture’ blog done. Maybe next time I’ll write about my newest granola recipe.