Parenting, Reading

Look at that — a new year

Hello, 2019!

Sorry for the neglect of the blog the last few weeks. I took a Christmas hiatus and it was delightful. A lot of family time, a lot of friends, and way too much food. Have y’all seen this meme?


I get it. I get it soooo much.

So naturally, with probably 99.99 percent of Americans, I am resolving to eat better this new year. I just want to fit back into my running sweatpants. It’s bad when even sweatpants are tight.

I don’t really do NY resolutions or goals. I make them and then forget them before Jan. 31. But this year, I have some new habits I want to adopt.

1) Instead of reading a set number of books, I just want to read. One of my favorite books is “Les Misérables.” Victor Hugo writes so beautifully, including the main characters and the world around them, and it’s magnificent. It’s so good, but it is about 1,400 pages. I read it when I was pregnant with The Artist, which was back in 2012. I haven’t read it since then, and I have missed the book. I need to read it again. However, if I endeavor to read it (and “The Devil’s Redemption,” which I ordered with Christmas money – it, too, is about 1,400 pages, but I cannot wait to explore the history and future of universalism), I may seriously only read those two books during the first six months of 2019. And that is okay. Instead of setting a goal to read x number of books, I just want to make sure I read at some point every day. Most days I meet this goal, but I want to enjoy the process of reading and not feel pressured to read a set number of books.

2) Be confident in my decisions, especially parenting ones. I’m the world’s worst in taking other people’s opinion as gospel when it’s an opinion – often not even fact. I worry that I’m not doing the right thing, especially by my kids. But I don’t want to focus on that this year. I know my kids. I may seek out advice, but I want to be confident in my decisions regarding their upbringing. Also – my kids have their moments – don’t ever hear me say they are perfect – but I want to remember that they’re kids. They’re young. They’re little. They’re not perfect. And I want to give them grace when they mess up, especially in public. That’s always so embarrassing – all parents know that feeling – but I want to remember that both The Artist and The Engineer are good kids. And I want them to know that about themselves.

And, as I mentioned before, of course, I want to drink more water, exercise more, sleep more hours – all the things that are good for our bodies. Because I’ve got to go to work again next week – and it’s going to be real embarrassing if I can’t fit into any clothes.



Top Books of 2018

Granted, I realize I have some time before the end of the year, and I do plan on finishing up a few books before the dawn of 2019, but if you’re like me, you ask for books (or Amazon gift cards) for Christmas. And you, like me, may have a Goodreads list with dozens of books listed there. Well, here’s some more you might want to add. Please note that few of these were published this year. I just grab books either because I notice them at the library or on Goodreads or someone passes them along to me. I have very little reason other than, “Hmm. Looks good.”

First off, let’s have a comprehensive look at the books I’ve read this year, not counting my top four.

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon (Fantastic post- apoplectic book, but too disturbing at times)

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory (Obviously I love Philippa Gregory; great historical fiction writer, always a satisfying read – but did not make my honorable mention or top book list)

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Great story, disappointing climax)

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Also, I hear she’s coming out with a sequel!)

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Dance, Stand, Run by Jess Connolly

Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Okay. I’m pretty satisfied with that list. With that list alone, you have variety with good writers of fiction and nonfiction. That list alone could get you through 2019. But now let’s go through honorable mentions, because I couldn’t pick just one:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Don’t roll your eyes, but, for real, the book is better than the series. I’ve watched the first season of the series, which covers the first book. It’s not that it’s not good, but I’m just not a fan of torture. That’s one of the reason why I gave up Game of Thrones. I’m not into that. Gabaldon does a better job conveying her story than Starz does.

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward
I mean, come on. It’s Bob Woodward. BOB WOODWARD. How could you not want to read this? But, in all seriousness, it was a fantastic book because Woodward does a great job being unbiased. It’s a good, solid piece of journalism here. My only complaint was the obscene use of profanity throughout the book. I understand he is quoting these individuals directly and that, as it was in a book format and not a newspaper, he has more than the necessary freedom to print those words. It was just a lot. A. Lot.

The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman
I actually took an online class with literary agent Rachelle Gardner over the spring, and I picked this book up at our library on a whim when I saw it. Good, solid advice that echoed Gardner’s classes.

Now, the part we’ve all been waiting for.

Drumroll, please.

My Top Four Books of 2018

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club. Oh, Chuck Palahniuk. I listened to this on audiobook on my way to New Orleans for a conference. It was a terrible travelling experience, but this audiobook made the trip worth it.


Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together by Kara Tippetts
I will buy this book for everyone because it is that good. So many times we want to help friends or loved ones who are dealing with a debilitating disease – but we don’t know how. This book offers practical, real-life advice through personal experience and testimony. Props to my cousin’s wife, Nikki, for recommending it on Instagram.


Faith and Doubt by John Ortberg
This is another one that I would buy for everyone – if it were readily available. I have had a hard time finding copies of this, but if you happen to see it, GET IT. Rachel Held Evans’ book “Searching for Sunday” talks about her disappointment in the church and wavering belief in God. This book is what her book wanted to be. It is real, it is honest, it is backed by Scripture, and it is good.


Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
If I had to pick a book of 2018, it is this one. I LOVED this book. I probably quoted the majority of it to Kyle. It has changed the way I parent my children for the better, and I am thankful to Kimmel for sharing his wisdom on this subject.


There you have it! My top books of 2018! I still have a couple more I’m finishing up, but I’ll talk more about them in January.

What books did you love this year? Did you read any from my list?


Jesus, Reading


I have mentioned before how hard it is for me to consistently study the Bible when I am not teaching for Sunday School or in a women’s Bible study. It’s awful, I know, and something I am trying to combat.

This month, I started what will probably be a yearlong study on Ecclesiastes. By myself.

So let me explain.

B. Moore

I have learned from several of Beth Moore’s Bible studies over the years – Esther, Daniel, James, Breaking Free – and there are so many more. I love Beth Moore. I am even writing and researching for a book chapter on her right now. I have a friend who calls her “Mama Beth” because even though we have never met her (though we have attended her conferences), we feel like we know her. We love her.

One of her frequent comments is how she believes all women – and all people for that matter, male or female – have the ability to study God’s word on their own. There’s no magic formula. There’s no special equipment needed – just good, old fashioned research.

And right there, my nerdy, scholarly heart just fluttered.

I do love to research (I should; it’s a chunk of my job!). I love theories and research and seeing how communication connects society. A friend of mine (yep, she’s a photographer) is leading Sunday school this month and has handouts for us to fill out every week. I love that.

So if I can study the Bible on my own…I should.

There’s a Biblical scholar who said that to get a good grasp of Scripture, you need to read it in its entirety 30 times. If it’s a large book, break it up into sections. Ecclesiastes is not necessarily long (12 chapters), but it does take some time to read (like 25-30 minutes). So I’ve been reading it every day this month, sometimes doubling up if I missed a day (like I did earlier this week).

What I’ve found:

  • My comprehension level of the book in its entirety is growing. I have questions I want to delve into further along in this study, but I’m remembering it so much more now.
  • I’m getting a better sense in the book’s entirety. With Ecclesiastes, people normally assume it’s a depressing, “everything is smoke” book. It’s not, though. It’s actually, at least to me, uplifting. It doesn’t try to make you feel better; it tells you how things are, but…while the world is sinful, God is good. And that’s the point.

Next month, I’ll start researching Chapter 1 and looking into commentary. Matthew Henry is my go-to, but I was very fortunate to have a former pastor who loved the Old Testament and loved Ecclesiastes in particular. I’m sure he has written scholarly articles on the book.

So much information is at our fingertips! All we have to do is open our eyes.

Bible study materials to use
Matthew Henry online commentary

Risen Motherhood study tools

Oxford Bible Studies

Dementia, media literacy, Reading, Social media, Writing

Student projects revealed

We are officially in finals week here at Tech. Crunch time is upon students and faculty members, who are busy grading, averaging, and even preparing for next quarter.

My copy editing students, as you may recall, worked on a project with Ruston Nursing Home. The students went out in pairs to interview residents at the facility and produced lengthy feature articles highlighting their assigned resident.

The students were a little anxious about the project – not only because it was a large portion of their final grade, but also because they were unaccustomed to having to interview individuals with dementia or other memory problems. Not all of the residents had those issues, of course, but many did.

The stories – y’all. I was blown away.

Here are just a few snippets I had:

“Like sisters do, they had arguments, but (name removed) made it clear that she loved her sister when she cried over not being able to see or talk to her again. When she tried to talk about her other siblings, her words got lost and jumbled because of her health issues combined with her overwhelming emotions.” 

“’He’s just a nice man; it’s as simple as that,’ she said. ‘He’s going to find me wherever I am, every day. And when I find him, I’m going to go over there and shake his hand, kiss him on his forehead and ask him how he’s doing. And he’ll say, “I’m doing beautiful.” And I’ll say, “You better be, because I love you.”’”

“She wouldn’t let the residents forget that it was her birthday, either. Her birthday request? Black-painted nails and a pack of cigarettes.”

They told stories – they told stories of individuals born in the 1920s, individuals who are in the nursing home because of physical injury, because of mental injury. They told the stories about babies being born, about marriages, about divorces, about careers and opportunities passed, about death and loss. These are real people they interviewed, real joy and sorrow they recorded, and real stories they told. This is the job of a journalist.

I did ask them about the project, if they liked it or didn’t like it, and they said they enjoyed it. They said they enjoyed talking with their resident and having the opportunity to flex their writing muscles with a lengthy paper instead of a shorter article, which they usually write.

I am proud of these students. They worked hard, they spent several hours talking with their residents, and they produced great work. This was a great class. They were smart and creative, but, then again, most of my students are.

So now, as we finish up the fall, I’m also preparing for winter – social media, media law, and introduction to mass media. And it’s going to be amazing.

For students wanting to prepare for one of these three classes, read/watch:
MV5BNzI2NDA3MTA4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjA5MzkzMDI@._V1_UY268_CR110,0,182,268_AL_“Freedom for the Thought that We Hate” by Anthony Lewis (Media Law)
“Content Analysis in Mass Communication” by Lombard, Snyder-Duch, and Bracken (Intro to Mass Media)
“Making a Murderer” – Netflix documentary (Media Law and Social Media)
“Nosedive,” “Black Mirror” Episode, Season 3, Episode 1 – Netflix (Social Media)

See you this winter!


Jesus, Reading, Writing

A thought about prayer journals

Last week, I posted about my goal to attempt to be wiser on my 36th birthday than I was on my 35th. One of the ways to accomplish this is through prayer.

I’ve prayed in a variety of ways – written them down, spoken them, quietly meditated on the words. Back in April 2016, I started a prayer challenge where I prayed 30 minutes a day. It was refreshment for my soul – and, more importantly, those hours in prayer over those weeks helped carry me through when my dad passed away at the end of that month. I wasn’t able to pray for a while after that, but because I had spent so much time in prayer, I still felt connected with God.

Prayer changes lives. I have experienced this in my own life; I have seen it magnified in others. I do not always lead by the best example, but I do experience joy when I am praying to and praising God.

I also like to write things down (who knew, right?). Over the years, I have used a variety of tools to help organize my prayers, but I have stuck to these two because I love the format, the quality, and the heart behind the creators of these two journals. Jonann Byargeon is a close friend who published her prayer journal last year, and Val Woerner is a Louisiana Tech journalism graduate like me (#hbtd). Both of these women have a passion to help others spend time with God.

Let me stop here and add this: you do not need anything to pray with God. Prayer, to me, is like running – there’s no special equipment you need, no certain time you have to do it. When I decide to run, I lace up my shoes and go run. I have some wick sweat shirts, some fancy running shoes, and even some cold weather head gear, but honestly, running is just running. I don’t need a gym, a treadmill, or the snazzy workout gear. I just need a path.

Same goes with prayer – I don’t need anything to spend time with God. I just need God. But I do like these prayer journals. They help me keep organized. They prompt me when I need prompting. They help me remember specific prayer requests.

Valerie’s prayer journal covers the whole year and offers space for answered prayers, burdens, and other various prayer requests. It’s big enough to write in but small enough to fit inside my purse. I have used variations of her prayer journal for years. In addition, she has other items that you may be interested in, including a family legacy journal, a men’s journal and kid’s journal, and journals for pregnancy and adoption.

Jonann and me with her newly-printed prayer guide

Jonann’s prayer guide is a more cost-effective option and offers the ability to add or remove pages. It’s easy to flip through and offers suggestions for prayer throughout the week. Jonann was our Sunday school teacher in the late 2000s, and she taught our class to pray using her guide’s outline. It was very helpful then when I didn’t pray more than an evening “thank You for this day” shout out.  It was a way to jump start my prayer life.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 states, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. “

Prayer journals are not necessary – but neither are fancy running shoes. But I do like having them on hand, being able to take them to church or to work, and being able to remember specific prayer requests or look through and see the answered prayers in my life.

Prayer really is a lot like running. A little effort makes a big difference.