I just finished reading The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs.
Now, typically I don't read non-fiction. No matter how often Ben "suggested" that I read something that was true, I frankly found it too nerdy and figured that couldn't be enjoyable at all. But, since this book was our pick for book club this month, and it did look interesting, I gave it a shot.
And interesting it was! It reads just like a year of daily blogs by A.J. (editor at large for the magazine Esquire and author of The Know it All). He spends a year trying to follow the bible as literally as possible, focusing on the Old Testament for 9 months and the New Testament for 3 months. He has a great sense of humor and the things he encounters trying to find the origin of traditions and examples of people following all the obscure rules and laws are beyond bizarre!
He's Jewish by heritage, but calls himself agnostic. His theory is that all people who follow the bible (there are so many names for these people besides "Christian" that I'll just say "people") are choosy about what parts they follow, picking only what fits their agenda. His experiences with all these people and their various beliefs, traditions and customs are proof that it may just be impossible to follow everything in the bible--at least literally.
I took away two things from reading this book...well, maybe three:
To follow the Bible, and essentially God, is difficult, complicated and mind-boggling to say the least. There are so many interpretations and perspectives on the meaning of nearly every verse in the bible, all (or most) with excellent arguments.
After reading this book and visiting a variety of different churches over the past two years, I have a much greater appreciation for God's grace. May he be merciful unto all of us who think we have Him figured out. I'm sure we don't, but we're doing our best and as far as I can tell, that's our mission--to do our best to follow Him. Somehow though, I get the feeling He's just shaking his head at us in Heaven because we are all so transfixed on the details and the little things that we were missing the big picture. I'm going to try and look at the big picture more in the future.
Second thing I took from the book: I'd like to be able to be dedicated and focused on a project like A.J. was for this book. Amazing commitment and in-depth research was essential to his success. I'm not sure what kind of project I'd like to do, but I like the idea of really focusing on something specific everyday to reach a long-term goal.
And finally, I'm going to read more non-fiction. I'll try for one a quarter next year and see how that goes.
Definitely a recommended read--it'll make you think--and laugh out loud, literally. The people in the cardio room at the rec think I'm the weird girl who laughs for no reason!
Is this weather for REAL???
I'm feeling all crafty and festive lately.
I spent this afternoon making handmade ornaments to give to our
neighbors and to the lovely ladies who watch Ayla every morning at the Rec. None of them read my blog so I can show you! :) I'm pretty happy with how they turned out:
Instructions: (for those interested in an inexpensive, crafty project)
- Stamp a large star onto chipboard.
- Cut out the stars from the chipboard.
- Cover the stars in mod podge and glue them to the back-side of your patterned paper of choice. Wait a few minutes for it to dry.
- Using an exacto knife, cut out the stars from the patterned paper.
- Next, cover the other side of the star with mod podge and glue them to the backside of a coordinating piece of patterned paper or cardstock. Wait a few minutes for it to try.
- Again, cut out the stars using an exacto knife.
- Punch a hole through the top of each star.
- Use sandpaper to sand the edges of the stars (optional).
- Add any text or handwriting.
- Cover the entire star with mod-podge to create a protective coat. (do both sides)
- Add a loop of ribbon with a knot at the top to finish them off!
I also baked a batch of Aunt Dora Cookies for our Steed Christmas celebration tomorrow afternoon. Those things are teeny tiny! They only take about 6 minutes to bake, so it keeps you hopping. I'm making them again next week for a Cookie Exchange, so I've got lots of dough rolls all ready in the freezer.
Finally, the last project of the day was on a whim, really. I've had these white candles in our bedroom forever (they looked great in our old red bedroom, but not so great in our new tan bedroom). I never light them, and I really would like to have RED candles instead, but I have trouble buying them when I have three perfectly good white candles. So, I decided to just decorate the white ones instead. Patterned paper, a little ribbon, and a metal alpha letter. They were done in about 3 minutes.
Tomorrow is Steed Christmas at Josh & Rachel's house. Looking forward to lots of good food and Christmas music and gift exchanging. Hope you all (not y'all) have a good weekend!
Today was gorgeous: 76 degrees, sunny, and perfect. Yes, that's right all you Minnesota folks, Ben was wearing shorts today! Hard to imagine, I'm sure, but it happened. Anyhow, since it was so gorgeous we decided to take Ayla to the zoo this afternoon. It was Ben's first visit, and we had a great time walking around, seeing the animals and enjoying the weather.
And next, we saw the evasive cheetah for the first time! According to my sister-in-law Janel, the cheetah is NEVER out where you can see it, and they had begun to think it wasn't even there at all. He was there today, sleeping right in the middle of his area, plainly visible. So I'm wondering if in the mornings (when Janel & the boys usually go to the zoo) if he's got a routine where he hides. We were there from about 1:30 - 3:30 in the afternoon today. Could be...in any case, we got to see him and we took a photo for proof that he was there:
It feels like September. Or maybe October, but definitely not November. I can't believe that Thanksgiving is next week. After living in Minnesota for the past five years, we're used to enjoying fall from about the second week of September until the middle of October. Then winter comes full-force. We've barely taken out our long-sleeved shirts this year.
So it's been a strange shock to our system when fall doesn't arrive until November here in Birmingham. But boy has it been beautiful. We were all worried that the leaves wouldn't be changing much since we've suffered from a serious drought all summer. Thankfully, God decided to bless us anyway with gorgeous fall colors. Since Birmingham is so hilly and mountainous, you get peeks of color across the horizon all the time when you're driving around.
I haven't been good about getting out and photographing it like I'd like to, but I did snatch a couple of pictures this week. One is from the plane as I was landing in Birmingham on Friday afternoon. I've never had the pleasure of flying into fall colors. After landing in a very very brown Arizona earlier in the week, this was quite a treat.
The other picture is from the top of the mountain at a little hot dog stand in Hoover where you can see the whole valley of colors. We stopped there briefly on Saturday while driving around with some friends. Richard and Jennifer took on a tour of Birmingham and showed us some great little shopping areas, museums, places to eat, and things to do. I highly recommend finding people like them who are willing to show you the sights--not each individual sight necessarily, but just to show you where everything is, and give you a taste of what you can enjoy in the city. It was really fun to hear all about the city and see some beautiful areas that we can go back and enjoy.
If you've noticed that it's been quiet for a few days on my blog, it's because I've been going NON-STOP for three days. On Wednesday morning at 5:15am, I left for the airport to take a quick trip out to Mesa, AZ to have a brainstorming session with Jill Davis (founder of Scrapbook.com).
From the moment I stepped off the plane and into her car, I was taken on a whirlwhind tour of all the scrapbook stores in the area, the Scrapbook.com offices and warehouse, and we made a pit-stop for a REALLY yummy authentic beef taco. Mmmm. And that was just Wednesday afternoon. Jill and I (and a few other wonderful SB.com employees) talked non-stop for 2 1/2 days, brainstorming, sharing, dreaming, analyzing, and confiding. It was awesome.
Jill amazed me with her unbelievable creative talents and shared all of her albums with me. She inspired me so much, I spent the entire travel time home today (the whole 9 hours) jotting down notes and sketching ideas. The last time I was this motivated to scrapbook, write and create was when we started working on Scrap Tutor One back in 2002.
Once again I was reminded of what a wonderful family and business the Davis' have. Scrapjazz.com couldn't have been put into better hands. I'll leave you with a photo of the view from Mesa...
I used to read all the time when I was younger. Then high school hit and we were TOLD to read, so I stopped reading for fun until after college. Lately I've been on a reading spree again. Since we moved to Birmingham, I've read close to 20 books. I'm a regular at the library. I read almost all fiction, and lately it's been mostly Christian fiction.
I thought I'd recommend one of my favorite authors, Lynn Austin. She writes historical Christian fiction and I haven't read a book of hers that I didn't love. I like that I feel like I'm learning all about another time in history in addition to enjoying a great story when I read her books.
- Refiner's Fire Series (3 books) - These three books surround the Civil War and are told from three primary perspectives: the North, the South, and a slave. All three books are so fantastic.
- Chronicles of the Kings Series (5 books) - This series fictionalizes the reign of King Hezekiah and his son Manessah. It has made studying these people in church classes and bible studies more relevant to me, because even though it is fiction, she uses scripture as a firm basis for the stories.
- A Woman's Place - This book is set during WWII and follows the lives of four women who work in a shipyard building war ships.
- All She Ever Wanted is a multi-generational story about the women in a family who all make the same choices to run away. The stories span time from current day to early 1900s (I think) in Ireland.
- Currently, I'm reading Hidden Places, which takes place during the Great Depression and follows a family that owns an orchard.
They're all just so good I had to share! :) I'm always open to recommendations if you have any favorite books or authors to share!
I just finished reading a book called The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold for my MOPS book club. I've never read anything like it. The narrator of the book was murdered and the whole story is told from "her heaven" while she watches her family and friend (and murderer) live their lives on Earth. It's an odd take on the afterlife, but I found it interesting.
This morning we visited The Birmingham Zoo (to which we have an annual pass) with Janel and the boys. I carried Ayla with the Baby Bjorn (yes, she's 16 months old and still fits in the Baby Bjorn) so she could see all the animals. Otherwise the stroller is too low to see many of them. I brought my zoom lens for the camera and had a great time getting some awesome animal photos.
One of my favorites is this one of the white tiger:
I've always been a big fan of tigers and other big cats. Ayla has seemed to follow suit. She greets tigers with the sign for "kitty" and a growl.
Fun fact: When I was little, my imaginary friends were tigers.