Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: Left at the Alter by Kimberly Kennedy

Kimberly Kennedy's Left at the Alter is based on the author's own experience of recovering from a lost relationship. The Atlanta-based television personality could not hide her own experience of a cancelled wedding from the public, and has chosen to share her recovery and restoration in this well-written piece. The underlying theme of the book - rejection - is not only applicable to those who find themselves in Kennedy's same situation, but has an impact on anyone and everyone. If you or someone you know is experiencing a lost relationship, or feels abandoned or rejected by God, this book is a great guide to move you toward healing.

Honesty is the best policy, so I'll be upfront – as a 31 year old single woman who has not even been near the alter, this is not a book I would have picked up on my own and read, but I am SO glad I did. This is certainly a book I will pick up again (and again) for reference and reminders.

Kennedy’s talent lies in the ability to tell the complete story while not dwelling on the negative aspects. She quickly moves to examining motives, thoughts, and feelings while focusing on the Biblical context. The stories of rejection from different perspectives, mixed with biblical truths make this book easy to read and incredibly thought provoking. I found myself putting it down to think through a particular piece, then quickly returning to read the next chapter. Anyone who has experienced any type of rejection will benefit from this piece. Ironically, the reason I would have not picked up the book is the very reason I am glad I have now read it.

Note: I recieved a complimentary copy of the book for review by

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An aside...

I have eleventy million thoughts going through my mind right now. I came in tonight from an extremely long (read: 13 hour) day at work, and I'm exhausted, but I wanted to write. When I finally got settled down to write (which, incidentally, was delayed because OSU went into overtime - and won! I digress...)....where was I? Oh, yeah, when I finally settled down to write tonight, I realized how all over the place my thoughts are.
So far, 2011 has been a great year. Easy to say 19 days in, huh? Let's just say, if the next 365-19 (I'm too tired to do the math!) days go as well as the past 19, I will feel immensely blessed. Oh, wait, I already do.
Almost three weeks ago, I rang in the new year among family in the middle of the country, and I had a lot of dreams and goals in mind. To be quite honest, I also had pretty low expectations. You see, 2009 and 2010 both held huge changes for me, and at the end of those years, I still found myself disappointed and down in the dumps so to speak. But this year? Yup, this year is going to be different. I can feel it. I believe it. I have complete and utter faith.
My goals for 2011 are off to a good start. I am excited about them, and can't wait to share more. I'm excited about what I'm reading - I just wish I had more time to read. Especially in this weather, I wish I could crawl up in front of the fire and read for hours on end. I think that hits on the only drawback I've found so far in 2011 - I want more time. Well, who doesn't, huh? I have found things I love and I am passionate about, now I want more hours to devote to all of them. I don't want to only pick one or two. I want to study, read, and soak up the Word. I want to pour over books and novels. I want to travel around the country and research different cities and locations. I want to run. I want to experience deep, true community with others. I want to serve. I want more....more and more of the good stuff.
The challenge has been presented - now a plan must be made. I'm ready!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To be Known.....

....this may be Part I of many posts to come, because this is what is really on my heart lately. My heart is really evolving, so no matter how/where I end this post, I know it will not do it justice.

Isaiah 52:12 - But you will not go out in haste, nor will you go as fugitives; for the Lord will go before you; the God of Israel will be your rear guard."

Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."

Last Sunday I did something that for most of my adult life (I include college in this) has been one of the hardest things for me to do. I went to church.

Yes, I know how that statement sounds. I also know how silly some people think this next statement will sound. - In my past experiences, church has been the loneliest place I have ever been.

I've eaten at restaurants alone, participated in 5K races with thousands of people alone, traveled alone, gone to movies alone, attended sporting events alone. I have done many things (and will do many more) alone....but the place I have felt the loneliest? Church.

The thing about it is, though, I could never figure out why. I've even been a member of a few churches during that time, participating in activities, attending 'Sunday school', volunteering in the nursery, singing in the choir....but I've always felt alone.
Isn't church supposed to be the place you go to find community? The place where everybody knows your name? (well, besides Cheers, of course)
Many times in college, especially early on, I would go to church and not know anyone there. The absolute loneliest I have ever felt - and I've had some pretty rough days and dark times - was/is sitting in a church pew (or those comfy individual chairs we all have now) alone - with no one to sit by or talk to. Oh, sure, there were some times, especially in college, where I would know people, but didn't feel comfortable asking if I could sit with them.
I would sit in bible studies - places my heart longed to be, a place I looked forward to all week long, and as I was listening and learning and soaking up as much of the Word as I could, I would feel so alone.
This pattern has repeated for....who knows how many years.
Well...after weeks and weeks (okay...months and months) of giving myself pep talks about going to church, I got up the nerve to go last Sunday.
I was scared. I was anxious. I was lonely. I was self-conscious. Funny thing is....once the preaching started....once the Word was being spoken, I bathed in it. Everything else faded away. It no longer mattered that I was sitting in a crowded, almost packed church - with no one around me. I no longer felt alone. I soaked in the words being spoken....I basked in the Father's love for me. The sermon? Classic case of God knowing where we are and meeting us there - the sermon was on being alone in church. Huh. Who would have thought?!?
WHAT A MIGHTY GO WE SERVE. He knows every person who has ever and will ever live on this planet. He knows every star in the sky and has numbered the grains of sand on the beaches. And this God....this God is not too busy to know ME. To know my needs and wants and fears and anxieties. He knows ALL of them. And when I acted in obedience and stepped outside of my comfort zone, he met me there. And he Blessed me - beyond measure.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bring on 2011

Ironically, I have typed this post four times keeps getting erased. That's what I get for trying to blog from my iPhone. Lesson learned (for now). Now, on to your regularly schedule post...

2011 has been here a long time now. 11 whole days. The focus of 2011 - - Goals...not resolutions. You heard it here first. (Well, unless you heard it somewhere else...but that's neither here nor there...)

New Year's resolutions are not for me. I prove that time and time again. I rarely stick to something very long. Sometimes I get bored with a 'resolution' other times I get distracted by other things I want to do or accomplish - things that at the time seem more interesting/exciting. I have a terrible habit of not finishing everything I start (case in point: my sewing table; case in point #2: my bookshelf; I have more, but I'll stop there for now). Heck, I have been known to not even start a new year's resolution...yup, I'm just cool like that.

So...this year, no New Year's Resolutions for me.

One of the things I am choosing to focus on during this time of being alone is goal setting. I am doing my best to focus on the positive aspects of being single - because it is so easy and natural to focus on the negative sides. Another post entirely.

There are a lot of things that I want to do in my life, places I want to see, things I want to accomplish, relationships I want to build, improvements I want to make. I have a l-o-n-g list of these things. So, starting late last year, I decided to
  1. Define and embrace what it means to 'Live Simply'
  2. Read 35 Books (we've already covered that...but I already have some uber-exciting changes to add!)
  3. Self-Imposed Spending Freeze (referencing back to #1)
  4. Complete 6 5Ks (first one - this Saturday...*burrrrr*)
  5. RUN an entire 5K (notice #4 said "complete" that just means survive...I want to run one - I'm horribly out of shape.)
  6. Get rid of these pesky 15 pounds
  7. Blog/document more
  8. Take more pictures of life (I'm really good at taking pictures of nature or other random things, but want to be better about documenting my life, exciting (or not) as it may be)
  9. Finish Projects
  10. Write more cards/letters/notes
  11. Appreciate beauty
  12. Take a vacation (or two!)
  13. Attend church regularly/find a community
  14. No regrets!!!

I could (and probably will) write paragraphs about each of those. I have a few more, but those are more personal and I prefer to be more guarded about them. I may (or may not) share them as they unfold. We'll see.

I have been thinking of my goals for a couple of months now, and I'm excited to have a direction to work toward. It is very interesting to me that I spend so much time teaching students about goals, harping on my friends/coworkers about goals, and setting goals for my program and office, yet I have never truly set goals for myself personally. I really don't think it has ever crossed my mind. Only after thinking about all of the regrets I have about things I have not done or opportunities I have missed did I decide that I needed to make some conscious goals.

And, for the record, I sure did use the word "goal" eight (now nine) times in this post - six in the last paragraph!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Great Book Challenge of 2011

I love to read. That has been the case for as long as I can remember. If my hands are idle, I have been known to read any obscure piece of writing - I just can't seem to help myself! I remember being so frustrated in graduate school that I never had time to 'read' - because I was too busy reading and studying for classes. Like most, I have preferences to what I read for 'fun' (I typically don't count reading for work as 'fun') - I enjoy murder mysteries, books about sports, romance novels (not the trashy kind - the ones with a plot), Christian-living books, and the occasional biography (although - the only biographies I typically read are sports biographies - haha)

(Complete side note - if you like to read sports biographies - I highly suggest Beyond Belief - Josh Hamilton's story, and Coming Back Stronger - Drew Brees's autobiography. I read each of them in a day - and re-read them both (I think I've read Josh's book three full times now). GREAT reads!)

Among my list of goals for the new year (more to come in a post by the end of the week), I have challenged myself to read 35 books. Like I said, I read all the time, and typically have at least two books going at a time; that being said, I am not really sure if I am overestimating my abilities or underestimating. I guess time will tell.

One of my *endearing* traits is that I love books. Bookstores are my kryptonite. I actually ban myself from Half-Price books because I walk in for one thing (which they usually don't have) and walk out with about 5 new books (or more) each time. Thus, I have a lot of books on my shelves at work and at home that I have yet to read. Go figure. I had planned to just read those, as well as a few I had picked up toward the end of December, and just go from there. My plan was to read whatever I found interesting at the time. Then....that plan changed. You see, I have gotten into the habit of reading a lot of mindless fiction. Books that I call 'bathtub books' (most of the world calls them "beach reads" but that term depresses me that I can't read them at the beach, so I renamed them!). While they are great, and have helped me establish a nightly routine that has eliminated the inability to fall asleep fast. pick 35 mindless books is not really a challenge, is it? And what would I have gained at the end of the year...not much. So....the plan is to mix it up. I have thus far picked 25 of the 35 (with the disclaimer that I may change a few) - 19 of which I already have on my bookshelves. I am completely open for suggestions on the other books of course - and hope to keep you posted on my progress and may even enlighten you with a book review or two (as long as I don't start having flashbacks of high school English!).
Oh, and the other kicker of the challenge? I will not be buying any books. Why, you might ask? Good question. It's not because I wanted to add another layer of the challenge - although that is certainly a result. The reason I will not be buying any books is that I have also challenged myself to a year long spending freeze. *Gasp!!* Yes, no spending money on books. I promise I'll write more about this in my "Goals of 2011" post. So...anyone wanting to buy me gift cards, just message me and I'll send you my address - haha! Just kidding. Kind of. Ok, yes, I'm kidding. I have this all figured out.....famous last words..... In actuality, I will need to come up with 16 books that I want to read that I do not currently own. I'm thinking that between the public library, the school library (cool perk of working for a college), my mom's church library, and beg/borrowing/stealing from friends, that finding 19 books won't be too hard. Both the public library and the school library have inter-library loan which means if they don't have what I'm looking for, they can usually get it from another library.'s to the first challenge of 2011, and the list of my intended:
Books currently on my shelf:
Plan B - Pete Wilson
Unspeakable - Sandra Brown
Women and Money - Suze Orman
Love Me, Never Leave Me - Marilyn Meberg
Crazy Love - Francis Chan
Forgotten God - Francis Chan
Between Sundays - Karen Kingsbury
The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
The Bullpen Gospels - Dirk Hayhurst
The Kite Runner - Khaled hosseini
His Brother's Keeper - Johathan Weiner
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
Hunting for Hope - Scott Russell Sanders
Why Good Things Happen to Good People - Stephen Post & Jill Neimark
Living a Life that Matters - Harold S. Kushner
The Dumbest Generation - Mark Bauerlein
Covering - Kenji Yoshino
Black Like Me - John Howard Griffin
Books I don't have yet -
Tick Tock - James Patterson (Michael Bennett series - out on Jan 24)
10th Anniversary - James Patterson (Women's Murder Club series - out on May 2)
Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
The Christian Atheist - Craig Groeschel
Do you have any fun challenges in mind for 2011 or any books you're planning on reading?