The Continuing Saga of the Broken Arm

imageOn the last Friday of my summer holiday in Vermont, my friend Dawn and I went hiking on Camel’s Hump, the iconic mountain just a few miles from our homes which we’ve hiked together several times in the past few years.  We planned to hike a new-to-me section of the mountain because I had never taken the trail that leads to an airplane wing left from a devastating plane crash in the 1940s.

imageWe had just started down that
part of the Long Trail when I slipped on a moss-covered rock and fell. I tried to catch myself, but as I had once broken my right arm in a fall doing the same thing, I immediately tried to release my left arm and let it extend straight out behind me. I felt a sharp pain in my wrist that hurt like the dickens and just sat there on the offending rock for a few minutes holding my arm and assessing the damage. After a few minutes, the pain eased up a bit, so we decided to hike back up to the main trail to call my mom, a nurse at a family practice doctors office, for help. I felt very Girl Scout-esque as we tried to put a splint on my arm and then tried to wrap my arm in my jacket as a sling, but those methods of support actually caused more pain. When we got to the clearing at the juncture of the trails, another hiker let us use his phone and we called my mom. At this point, it was hard to tell if I’d sprained my arm, broken it, or just hurt it from falling on it. So mom said we might as well finish the hike to the summit, since we were only .3 miles from the top, and then call her at the base if my arm felt worse and I needed to see a doctor.

So I learned that it is in fact possible to hike Camel’s Hump with only one hand. It’s a bit tricky, but possible.





By the time we got to the base of the mountain, my arm felt stiff but it wasn’t particularly painful. So I didn’t call my mom–my first mistake.

imageDawn and I went into Richmond and bought ice cream at a new restaurant–they serve maple ice cream with real bacon sprinkles! (For the record, my parents and I ate at Hatchet the next night, and it was fantastic.)

I started to realize that something more was wrong with my arm than I had thought when I dropped some of the sprinkles and tried to catch them with my left hand (my second mistake) and realized that I couldn’t turn or twist my arm. By the time I got home just a little later, there was an odd circular bump on my hand, my wrist was swollen and misshapened, and I couldn’t pull or grip anything. I also noticed a nasty bruise forming on the underside of my arm. (I didn’t take any pictures of the swelling, for some reason).image

When Mom got home she measured my wrist and it was 1 inch bigger than my right wrist. She said, “Why didn’t you call me?” She thought my arm was broken. Later when I couldn’t cut my meat at dinner, she said, “You really are in denial that something is wrong with your arm.”

Because  I was leaving for China on Sunday, I somehow managed to pack two suitcases that night while only using my right arm.

In the morning we went to Evergreen Family Health and saw the very kind Dr. Johnson. He felt up and down my arm and immediately knew that it was broken. Because I needed x-rays and don’t have insurance, he said “Let’s think outside of the box,” and he recommended that I go to an urgent care clinic that could do x-rays for a very inexpensive price ($50 as it turned out), while they would cost hundreds of dollars at the hospital. He gave me a splint, and my mom and I went to the clinic.

I found out at check-in that the visit would only cost a maximum of $250. I couldn’t believe it! I had to wait a while to see the doctor, but once I did everything went very quickly. The nurse did the x-rays for me, and I could tell by her expression that something was wrong. She said, “Yep, it’s fractured.” After taking the second x-ray she said, “You really did a number on that one.” They also x-rayed my elbow, because of how I fell and some lingering achiness, but it turned out there was nothing wrong with my elbow. The doctor said that I needed to wait 3 to 5 days to have my arm put in a cast because it was so swollen, and said that I was okay to fly back to China. He gave me copies of the x-rays to show the doctor in China and a prescription for pain medication.

imageI’m going to save the story about flying with a broken arm for a separate post, but for now here’s a picture of me packing while wearing a splint and headlamp, because as if it wasn’t hard enough to pack with one arm, the power went out during a thunderstorm, so I had to use the headlamp for light.

Other parts of the story coming soon: finding an orthopedic doctor to cast my arm, getting ready for school with a broken arm, and finding a doctor to take the cast off.




Chronicling Again

It’s been over a year since my last post and almost 4 years since I blogged regularly. You would have thought that I’d chronicle like crazy when I moved to China. And indeed, that was my plan. I just looked at my drafts folder and I have 37 posts started or planned–all from my first few months in China. image

So why didn’t I write?

Well, there are multiple reasons.

  1. Culture Shock: When I first moved to China, I was completely overwhelmed by everything that was happening to me. I didn’t realize how much I experienced culture shock until much later. And because everything was so new to me, I had a hard time processing it all in any sort of efficient or public manner. I was also overwhelmed by the sheer number of new things to write about. In a very short amount of time, I took hundreds of pictures and had so many new experiences, I got very far behind in writing and couldn’t keep up. And a closely related reason. . .
  2. Perfectionism: After I got so far behind in writing, I didn’t want to jump in with the current experiences. I was too much of a perfectionist. I should’ve just started writing about the things that I was experiencing at the time, but I kept thinking I should start at the beginning.
  3. Cultural Sensitivity: I didn’t want to say things that were culturally insensitive while dealing with culture shock. I  didn’t want to embarrass myself or others with what I wrote. I’ve read and heard–and probably said–horrendous things that foreigners say about China because of their culture shock. I want to be open-minded and accepting of the Chinese culture and people. As Chinese people often say, “China has a 5000 year history.” The American way is not the only way–or even the right way–to do things; while living in China, I want to learn more about the Chinese way of doing things. It’s extremely difficult to adapt to a new language, culture, job, and living situation; I don’t want to make it worse by approaching life in China from a proud, selfish, closed-minded, American-centric view point.  The whole reason I’m here in China is to show love and to help improve Chinese society, so I don’t want to set up barriers that will prevent me from having a good relationship with Chinese people.
  4. Un-originality: There are hundreds, if not thousands, of River Townblogs about moving to and teaching in China. I didn’t feel like I had anything new to add.  Indeed, when I read Peter Hessler’s River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze during my first year in China, I realized that many of my experiences as a new teacher in China were not unique.
  5.  Poor internet connections: In China, it is often difficult to access sites such as this. Internet speeds are slow, and many sites are blocked. Sometimes it is just impossible to access my blog.

So why am I going to start writing again now?

  1. Memories: I realized that by not writing down my experiences, I’m missing out on a valuable way of preserving memories. When I look back on my old posts, I’m reminded of the many places I’ve lived and visited, the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve learned. I’m afraid that I’ve already forgotten a lot of things that happened to me durging the first few years of living here in China, but as I look through pictures and write about things I experienced, I hope to recover and record some of those memories.
  2. Support: This summer, many friends and family members expressed an interest in hearing more about my life in China. I realized that my extremely infrequent status updates and pictures on Facebook and my completely non-existent blogs were keeping me from a valuable means of support. So because my friends are curious about China and want to know more about how to better support me, I’ve decided to write more frequently.
  3. Writing practice: Although I have written almost daily in my personal journals, I haven’t written anything for publication–even in such an informal venue as a blog–in a very long time. I want to become a better writer, and I know from my own experience and from a lot of research, that writing more will help me to improve my writing abilities.

So thank you for joining me as I begin chronicling my experiences in China.  I’ll focus on current events but I also plan on writing “flashbacks” of trips and experiences from my first four years here.

Is there something in particular you want to know about? Please leave a comment and I may write about that topic in the future.

Update #4 on my 40 before 40 list

On my 30th birthday I created this list of 40 things to do before I turn 40.

Some of these things seem like an impossibility, especially since I’m no longer living in the United States, but you never know what cool things you’ll be able to do that you didn’t plan on doing (moving to China, for example) or what things God will allow you to do that you didn’t really think would ever happen (like touring England).

I only crossed one thing off this list this year, but I already know I can cross 2 off in January! I’m going to see a musical on Broadway and see 2 operas at the Met!

I’m also learning Chinese, but I doubt I’ll ever feel like I’m fluent in the language. In addition, I’m working in a very unhurried way on the non-fiction book and book of poetry. It might take until I am 40 to finish those, but in this new year, I plan to put forth more effort on those projects.

  1. Write a non-fiction book
  2. Write a book of poetry
  3. Write a hymn
  4. Read through my list of “books I should read”
  5. Get another master’s degree or a Ph.d.
  6. Get out of debt and stay out of debt (with the exception of a mortgage—see below)
  7. Buy my own place to live
  8. Volunteer at a shelter for women and children or a rescue mission
  9. Visit missionary friends and work in an orphanage in Africa
  10. Support an orphan
  11. Support a missionary
  12. Become a mentor and/or foster parent
  13. Learn how to play the guitar [note: I started this, but I haven’t found a guitar that is small enough for my fingers.]
  14. Learn to speak a language fluently
  15. Run a 1/2 marathon [Completed in 2011: I ran two 1/2 marathons–the Hafa Marathon on Guam and the Lake Placid 1/2 Marathon!]
  16. Run a 5k in less than 28 minutes [Note from 2011: I ran a 5k in 28 minutes and some-odd seconds, but I didn’t get under 28 minutes. Note from 2012: I focused on long-distance running during the first part of this year. I have unofficially run a 5k in this time, but not during a race. Note from 2014: I got my 5k time to just under 29 minutes! Need to shave off one more minute in 2015 to meet this goal!]
  17. Run a marathon [Completed in 2012: I ran the Vermont City Marathon in May.]
  18. Visit the empty tomb, the Temple Mount, and see the Dead Sea Scrolls
  19. Visit Petra and Amman, Jordan
  20. Ride the Eurail across Europe (a 21 day pass is $900–anyone want to donate?)
  21. Visit my friend Jodi when she’s a missionary in Spain
  22. Visit Andorra (with Jodi) and Luxembourg
  23. Climb one of the Swiss Alps
  24. Visit the Sistine Chapel and ride a gondola in Venice
  25. Visit England with a literary-minded friend and visit Stratford-Upon-Avon, the Globe Theater (and see a play), the Brontes’ home, Oxford, Cambridge, and  a host of other sites [Note: partially completed in 2012. I was asked to chaperone the TBS senior trip and we visited missionaries in Darwen and visited some places in the Lake District and London that are not on this list. However, we did visit Stratford-Upon-Avon. I walked to the Globe Theater, but wasn’t able to see a play there.]
  26. See the Mona Lisa at the Louvre
  27. Drive on the autobahn
  28. Walk on the Great Wall of China [completed June 2014]
  29. Go on a safari in Africa
  30. Run across the Golden Gate Bridge and run up a hill in San Francisco [side note from 2011: I walked across part of the Golden Gate Bridge but my fear of heights got to me, so I didn’t make it very far.]
  31. Hike a 10,000+ foot mountain near Lake Tahoe (if I visit in the summer) or ski at a resort there (if I visit in the winter) [side note from 2011: I went to Lake Tahoe this year, but didn’t hike any mountains (it was still cold and snowy and since I visited mid-week, both my brother and sister-in-law had to work, so I guess I’ll have to visit again!]
  32. Take my mom to Colonial Williamsburg
  33. Visit the Grand Canyon
  34. Go on an Alaskan cruise
  35. See a Broadway musical
  36. See an opera at the Met (preferably one by Puccini)
  37. See Placido Domingo perform live (I hope he doesn’t completely retire before I get a chance to hear him!)
  38. See Evgeny Kissin perform live
  39. Skate in Rockefeller Park at Christmas time
  40. Learn how to use the manual settings on a nice camera (should do this before all the traveling) [Completed in 2012: I haven’t mastered them all yet, but I bought a Nikon D3100 and have been learning the manual settings.]

Reading Choices

A couple friends have asked me how I decide what to read. For the most part, it’s random and I read whatever appeals to me! I am forever making up reading lists for myself and then just picking up whatever looks interesting at the moment.

A few years ago, I made a list of Books Everyone Should Read; I based the list on recommendations from a variety of sources and also listed books that I loved or were influential in my life. While I was working on that list, I wrote a post about a meme that was going around (100 Books: A short rant and a long post) and referenced several book lists there. Then I made up my List of Books I Should Read, and updated the list last year.

I try to read a variety of classic and modern fiction and non-fiction in various disciplines (Christian living, theology, history, education, literary analysis, psychology, science). I generally read Christian living type books in the morning as devotional literature and fiction or light non-fiction in the evening before going to bed. I usually read the lengthier, more difficult non-fiction works throughout the day as I have time.

This year, I am going to try to be a little more organized in my book reading. I want to read more from my List of Books I Should Read, so I am going to bring some of those books back to China with me next semester. I am also going to focus on specific topics in my devotional reading (holiness, missions, emotions) and non-fiction reading (China, biography/autobiography, teaching), and I plan to read more poetry and drama.

Here’s a sample of some of the books on my reading list for this year. As usual, my list is too long to be feasible, but it reflects my goals for the year and my plans to read more strategically.


  • Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: Babylon Revisited
  • Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man
  • William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury
  • Robert Graves: I, Claudius
  • Joseph Heller: Catch-22
  • Earnest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day
  • Rudyard Kipling:  Jungle Book
  • C.S. Lewis: Till We Have Faces
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love In The Time Of Cholera
  • Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita
  • Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient
  • Erich Maria Remarque: All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses
  • John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
  • Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence

Drama and Poetry

  • Eugene O’Neill: Long Day’s Journey into Night
  • George Bernard Shaw: Pygmalion
  • Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Robert Frost
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • John Milton


  • Robert Alter: The Art of Biblical Narrative
  • George W. Bush: Decision Points
  • Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking
  • Li Cheng: Song of a Wanderer
  • Malcolm Gladwell: David and Goliath
  • George Marsden: Jonathan Edwards
  • Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Christian living

  • Jerry Bridges: Respectable Sins; The Disciplines of Grace; Pursuit of Holiness
  • D.A. Carson: The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story
  • Tim Challies: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment
  • Bryan Chapell: Holiness by Grace
  • Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Surrender; Holiness
  • Elisabeth Elliot: The Path of Loneliness (re-read)
  • Ronald Horton: Moodtides (re-read)
  • D. Martyn Lloyd Jones: Spiritual Depression
  • Tim Keller: The Reason for God; The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness
  • J.I. Packer: Knowing God
  • John Piper: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God; When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy; Let the Nations Be Glad! 

Resolution Kept: Read 52 Books this Year!

After a couple years of reading more blogs than books, I was starting to feel frustrated with how my brain processed information and with my inability to focus on extended arguments and think deeply for long periods of time. The first book I read this year was Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. This book confirmed my suspicions that skimming blogs and short articles was changing the way I thought. I decided to reclaim my brain’s ability to read long works and think more deeply, so I set the goal of reading a book a week this year. I had done that for 2-3 years a few years ago, but fell out of the habit. For a few months at the beginning of the year, I stopped reading blogs and just focused on reading books. I’ve started reading a select few blogs and websites again, but I’m continuing to focus on reading books for my main source of inspiration and instruction.

In July I wrote brief reviews of the books I read from January-June. I fully intended to write reviews every month so I wouldn’t fall so dreadfully far behind, but my focus this year was on reading, not writing. In the coming year, I plan to read an average of a book a week, but I also want to write more frequently to reflect on what I learn.

In the interest of full disclosure, I really read about 4 books a month, not truly a book a week. I generally take 2-4 weeks to read each book; since I read a devotional book in the mornings, fiction in the evenings, and non-fiction as I have time throughout the day, I read three books a month that way. About once a month, the stars align: I have the urge to rest and read, I have a compelling book, and I have the time to read. I can usually fit in a fourth book that way. During especially busy months (April and November, as you can see from the list below) I don’t read as much, but during school breaks (end of January-February, July-August) I am able to read more.

January – 9

  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
  • Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
  • 1776 by David McCullough
  • The Dubliners by James Joyce
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
  • Lit! by Tony Reinke
  • What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

February – 5

  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  • Is There Anybody Out There? by Mez McConnell
  • Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
  • What is the Mission of the Church?  by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
  • How People Change by Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane

March – 3

  • Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer: The Abduction by John Grisham
  • Within Arm’s Length: The Extraordinary Life and Career of a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service by Dan Emmett
  • Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology by Andrew Naselli

April – 2

  • Desiring God by John Piper
  • Hammer of God by Bo Giertz

May – 4

  • Shades of Gray by Jasper Fforde
  • Don’t Waste Your Sports by CJ Mahaney
  • Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred by Carolyn McCulley
  • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


  • Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper
  • Eyes Wide Open by Steve DeWitt
  • Fine China is for Single Women Too by Lydia Brownback
  • Writing Reminders by Jim Burke
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

July – 6

  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  • Multiply by Francis Chan and Mark Beuving
  • The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler and Jason Wilson
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

August – 4

  • Suncatchers by Jamie Langston Turner
  • Some Wildflower in my Heart by Jamie Langston Turner
  • By the Light of a Thousand Stars by Jamie Langston Turner
  • A Garden to Keep by Jamie Langston Turner

September – 5

  • No Dark Valley by Jamie Langston Turner
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
  • Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner
  • Sometimes a Light Surprises by Jamie Langston Turner
  • Brokenness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

October – 3

  • River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Ministries of Mercy by Tim Keller

November – 2

  • Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow by Carl Truman
  • Proverbs: Wisdom that Works by Ray Ortlund

December – 4

  • Young, Restless, and Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists by Collin Hansen
  • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
  • Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People  by Calvin R. Stapert
  • The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

Total = 52

Books I’ve Read: January-June

At the beginning of the year, I resolved to read one book each week, picking up a habit I had formed several years ago but had neglected in the past year or so. I became aware that I was reading a lot of blogs and news articles online, but I was not reading many books. I could tell that my attention span was shrinking and that the way I processed information was changing, and I wanted to reclaim the ability to read for long periods of time and think deeply about subjects.

I intended to write each month about the books I read, but I ended up devoting more time to reading than writing. I would like to write longer reviews of some of these books, but for now, here are some short summaries and recommendations.

I’m going to just list the books in the order that I read them and not worry about classifying them at all.

January – 9 books (Note: I was on winter holiday for part of this month.)

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The-ShallowsThis book explained why I felt like my brain was changing and how my reading was affected by the internet. I evaluated my online habits, cut back on the amount of time I was online, and increased the number of books I read. It’s not necessarily wrong to read blogs and articles online, but I value the long-term, in-depth reading and thinking skills more than the skimming skills that internet reading develops. I highly recommend this book; it was fascinating, enriching, and motivating.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian


I especially benefited from the first few chapters of this book, in which Tchividjian contrasts legalism and grace and exalts Christ as sufficient for all our needs; however, I thought the exposition of Colossians was a bit confusing in how he organized and explained the text. I also kept getting tripped up by some of the delineations he made between justification and sanctification, and I often didn’t quite agree with him. I’d have to re-read the book and take some more time to think through the doctrines to more clearly explain what I mean, but apparently I’m not the only one who had some concerns about this book.

1776 by David McCullough


McCullough expertly weaves details from primary sources into a gripping narrative of the people and events of this incredibly important year in America’s history.

The Dubliners by James Joyce


I taught Joyce’s story “Araby” in British Literature and remembered reading one of these stories (turned out to be “The Dead”) in a college-level class, so I was interested to read the entire collection. The stories can stand alone, as they were used in those survey classes, but they make much more sense in the context of the other stories. I understood the themes and appreciated the imagery more after reading them with the other stories. Joyce is a master at capturing a mood through vivid details and dialogue. That mood, however, is often melancholy, and the themes explore frustration and disillusionment with life, so don’t read this book if you’re already feeling a bit sad.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

the help

I watched the movie based on the book on the international flight home and promptly read the book as soon as I arrived. I loved the characters and dialogue in both the movie and the book, but of course, the characters are developed more in the book and I loved them even more for it. This book is about a particularly disturbing and evil time in America’s history, and the social and relational issues were not resolved neatly by the end of the book. One of my friends expressed disappointment that none of the story lines had happy endings, but I think the author intended this to be a book about life as it really is and not life as we wish it to be. I thought this was a tremendously moving book (I laughed and cried my way through it), and I highly recommend it (I’ll probably re-read it soon).

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is an amazing novel–beautifully crafted, challenging themes, engaging characters, dialogues, and descriptions. The target audience is young adult readers, but I absolutely loved this book.

The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung


At the end of last semester, Dave preached a series of sermons about God’s holiness. This was an excellent follow-up book and it reinforced those truths in my heart and mind. This was a readable, fairly short book with great exposition of Scripture and specific, relevant applications.

Lit! by Tony Reinke

Lit by Tony Reinke

This was a great follow-up book, for me, to The Shallows. It further confirmed that I needed to focus on reading and cut back on forms of online reading and entertainment. I appreciated Reinke’s theology of reading, his style of writing, and all his recommendations and advice about reading. Honestly, though, if I weren’t already a reader, I don’t think I would have liked this book and I can’t imagine giving a book about reading to someone who doesn’t like to read (despite the glowing testimonials to the contrary on the back cover). All the people who read and recommend this book love to read already.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell


I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books and this compilation of articles from The New Yorker was no disappointment. I could go on and on about all of the things I learned in this book (I wrote 2-3 pages in my reading journal about it) and it has provided much food for thought and conversation this year. Highly recommend it.

February – 5 books

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

forgotten_godI knew that we were going to be studying the doctrine of the Holy Spirit this semester, so during the holiday I read this book. While Chan addresses the major texts on the Holy Spirit and deals sufficiently with the theological study, the strength of this book is its warm pastoral tone and devotional encouragement to recognize the way the Spirit works in our lives and to pursue a relationship with Him.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield

Butterfield-The-secret-thoughts-of-an-unlikely-convertThis is a fantastic book that everyone should read! Rosaria Butterfield was a liberal, lesbian, tenured English professor in women’s studies, who through gracious interactions with a pastor and reading the Bible multiple times for a research project became a believer in Jesus Christ.

The first sentences of Marvin Olasky’s interview with Rosaria Butterfield are a good introduction to the author and provide a short summary of her book: “Rosaria Butterfield was a tenured professor at Syracuse University, until God used her desire to write a book on the religious right, and the friendship of a biblically orthodox pastor, to draw her to Christ. She became a voracious Bible reader, gradually saw that her new beliefs required her to upend her former life, and has now described what happened in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

Is There Anybody Out There by Mez McConnell

Is there anybody out thereMez McConnell, author of Is There Anybody Out There?, was a homeless drug addict and convict who was redeemed from his sins and now serves as a pastor of an inner-city church in Edinburgh. You can watch a short video of his testimony here.

What is the Mission of the Church?  by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert

mission-of-churchThis is a great book–clear logic, tons of Scripture references to support their points, and  straightforward explanations of the gospel, missions, and the debates in the Church about how to carry out that mission. While I haven’t been caught up in those trendy discussions about “missional living,” I have read a bit on the blogs about these things and, as a missionary, I am interested in how people support missionaries and carry out evangelism in their own churches. This book served to reinforce what I already believed about missions and further clarified and confirmed in my mind what the Bible says about missions. I really enjoyed the authors’ style and could easily follow the flow of the book; I actually read and listened to it twice this month.

How People Change by Timothy Lane and PAUL DAVID TRIPP


This is a fantastic book about the Biblical process of sanctification, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I have never worked through a book so slowly, so thoughtfully, or so deeply. I literally have 30 typed pages of notes and reflections on this book. And I still felt like I should re-read it as soon as I finished it.

I can’t begin to summarize the teaching in this book, because I just wanted to write short snip-its in this post, and I could go on for pages about it. But go out and buy this book and read it slowly and thoughtfully! God will change your life as you read this book and study His Word.

March – 3.5 books

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer: The Abduction by John Grisham

Theodore Boone The AbductionAfter all the deep reading I did in February, I was ready for a light novel. This was the second book in the Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer series that I have read. I love almost everything by John Grisham, but I have especially enjoyed the Theodore Boone stories. Theo is a realistic character with emotions, limitations, and personality. He’s obedient, intelligent, and thoughtful–the kind of kid you would want your preteen to be like. The story lines are also realistic; Theo is called “the kid lawyer,” but he’s only able to defend friends in animal court and help friends with investigations that his parents, actual lawyers, have to defend in court.

Within Arm’s Length: The Extraordinary Life and Career of a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service by Dan Emmett

Secret Service

A friend recommended this book because he enjoyed it, but honestly, I liked his enthusiastic summary of the book more than I liked the actual book. I thought Emmett’s writing style was dull and wordy, and he repeatedly built up the tension in a story only to say that danger was averted, which is a good thing when your job is to guard the president, but a bad thing when you’re telling a story. I did enjoy his behind-the-scenes accounts of working in the White House and his comparisons of the presidents he protected.

Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology by Andrew Naselli

let-go-and-let-god-a-survey-and-analysis-of-keswick-theologyThis was an extremely helpful book for me, but it’s a dissertation, so it’s not the kind of book everyone will want to pick up. I grew up with a church background similar to Andy Naselli’s and could identify with the salvation, assurance of salvation, dedication to Christian service kind of sermons and decisions that were emphasized in church, chapel, and camp services when I was growing up. I have also been influenced by Keswick authors and missionaries, such as Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, and Andrew Murray. This book greatly aided in my understanding of sanctification and holiness, and it righted some wrong ideas I had about how God works in believers.

If you don’t feel up to reading the book (though it is remarkably well-written and easy to follow for a dissertation), I recommend that you read this journal article that summarizes the history and theology of the early Keswick movement.

(Read from, but did not finish) The Cross of Christ by John Stott

the-cross-of-christI read this book during Lent (though I don’t officially observe Lent, I find it beneficial to focus my reading on the gospel and Christ during the weeks leading up to Easter). I didn’t finish it because I was also studying the gospel of Luke, and I read the book slowly and carefully, using the study guide and taking notes. It was a thought-provoking book, and I look forward to finishing it next year during Lent.

April – 2 books (April was a rough month for me)

Desiring God by John Piper


I don’t know why I didn’t read this book earlier. I loved it and it was extremely beneficial for me to read and think through each issue. Piper’s basic premise is “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” and he demonstrates from Scripture how that philosophy-theology touches each area of our lives. This is a comprehensive, philosophical, theological book that bears re-reading, thoughtful reflection, and careful application. I plan to read it again soon.

The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz

Hammer of GodOur group read the second of the three stories during our Wednesday night meetings. Each story in this book focuses on the pastor of a Lutheran church in Sweden. The stories are loosely connected, and each tells of the pastor’s coming to saving faith in Christ and of the implications that has on his ministry. Yes, you read that correctly. . . the pastor in each of these stories came to believe in Christ, after completing seminary and preaching in a church for several years. We had some great discussions as we compared the pastor’s situation to our own and talked about some common issues we have faced growing up in a Christian family, going to church, attending Bible college, and living with other believers. It can be very easy to just conform to expectations, and not make your parents’ or teachers’ faith your own.

May – 4 books

Shades of GrEy by Jasper Fforde

Shades of GrayThis book is in no way related to another book that has an unfortunately similar title. One of my friends said, “I thought it was rather bold of you to read that book out in public, but then I realized the title wasn’t the same.” First, I would never read That Other Book, and second, I hoped that people would know by my character that I wouldn’t read That Other Book. Alas . . .

I have read several of Jasper Fforde’s novels (all of the others are in the Thursday Next series, which I love!), and I love his style and humor and characters. This book is quite different from the Thursday Next series; it’s a distopia in which people can only see colors from one segment of the color spectrum and are known by that color family (the Reds, Yellows, Greys, etc). The families try to maneuver up to the coveted Violet end of the spectrum through arranged marriages and other political shenanigans. I was intrigued by the story, the distopian world, and the characters; however, in the last couple of chapters the story took a disappointing turn, and I’m not sure I’ll continue reading the series.

Don’t Waste Your Sports by CJ Mahaney

Don't Waste Your SportsI recently started to train for another half-marathon, so I decided to read this short book about a Christian philosophy of sports. It was a helpful, little book, but it only took a few minutes to read . . . literally, a few minutes. The audiobook is only 45 minutes, which is shorter than most sermons I listen to. I imagine the target audience is the stereotypical jock who doesn’t like to read, but I would have appreciated a little more depth (see Ryan Hall’s Running with Joy for a more in-depth Christian philosophy of sports); however it was a good reminder to do all to the glory of God, including running half-marathons.

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred by Carolyn McCulley (re-re-read)

Did I Kiss Marriage GoodbyeI’ve read this book several times–this time with the ladies for our Wednesday night Bible study. I enjoyed our discussions and this book has many practical, everyday applications.

This is the best book on singleness I’ve ever read. This is the best book on the Proverbs 31 woman I’ve ever read. If you are a woman, married or single, you need to read this book.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


I especially liked the first few chapters of this book, in which Bonhoeffer contrasts cheap and costly grace. The next few chapters on the 10 commandments were also helpful.

June – 5 books

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper

fifty-reasons-why-jesus-came-to-dieThis is a great overview of Christ’s atoning work for mankind, and Piper examines this marvelous work of grace from many (well, 50) perspectives. Like a jeweler slowly rotating a diamond to look at every sparkle and facet of the precious gem, Piper dazzles us with Christ’s love, mercy, and grace.

Eyes Wide Open by Steve DeWitt


This is a fantastic book about beauty and how a Christian can enjoy God’s beauty through Scripture, Jesus Christ, creation, art (of every genre and form), and relationships. I loved the thought-provoking study questions and the lovely reflections on true beauty.

Fine China is for Single Women Too by Lydia Brownback

fine-china-is-for-single-women-too-lydia-brownbackHaving just read Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? this book was a bit redundant; however, it met a need in my life. I read this book in one sitting one morning during my devotional time. I needed this timely reminder to be content in Christ.

Writing Reminders by Jim Burke

writing-reminders-jim-burkeI’m revising our writing curriculum and turned to master teacher Jim Burke for some guidance. I’ve benefited often from his English Teacher’s Companion and this book was equally as helpful to me. If you teach English, you need to read Burke’s books!

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I recently watched the new movie of the Hobbit (loved it!) and was inspired to re-read the book (loved it more!).

Total # of books read in 2013 thus far = 28

So, there you have it–all the books I’ve read so far this year! Overall, it’s been a good year of reading, and I’m looking forward to the next 25 books or so that I read this year.

Grace Upon Grace

Sometimes I am discouraged by how imperfect my offerings of service and worship are; I try my hardest and do my best and desperately want to offer something pure and faultless to God, but my work and worship are flawed with mistakes and often my motivations are suspect.

This week I was stunned by these verses: “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:5-6).

  • God has chosen me because of His grace.
  • God accepts me because of His grace.
  • God uses me in His work because of His grace.
  • God allows me to worship Him and use my talents for Him because of His grace.

I realized afresh that God doesn’t accept me because of the “perfect” work I offer up to Him as a sacrifice. God accepts me because of Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice on my behalf. My work will be flawed and my motivations suspect, but God accepts me anyway. 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus ChristThrough him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore,we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:1-11).

Today I read these paragraphs from Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed, and they captured beautifully some of the spiritual lessons I’ve learned this week:

Some are loath to do good because they feel their hearts rebelling, and duties turn out badly. We should not avoid good actions because of the infirmities attending them. Christ looks more at the good in them which he means to cherish than the ill in them which he means to abolish. . . . So, though sin cleaves to what we do, yet let us do it, since we have to deal with so good a Lord, and the more strife we meet with, the more acceptance we shall have. Christ loves to taste of the good fruits that come from us, even though they will always savor of our old nature. . . .

God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are his own children, and they come from his own Spirit; because they are according to his own will; and because they are offered in Christ’s mediation, and he takes them, and mingles them with his own incense (Rev. 8:3).

There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour. Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is his own.

Would Paul do nothing because he could not do the good that he would? No, he “pressed on toward the goal”.

Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious. There is a certain meekness of spirit whereby we yield thanks to God for any ability at all, and rest quiet with the measure of grace received, seeing it is God’s good pleasure it should be so, who gives the will and the deed, yet not so as to rest from further endeavors. But when, with faithful endeavor, we come short of what we would be, and short of what others are, then know for our comfort, Christ will not quench the smoking flax, and that sincerity and truth, with endeavor of growth, is our perfection.