Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: The Hiding Place

The Hiding PlaceThe Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's probably been almost 20 years since I first read this gem, and it remains one of the most powerful accounts of transformative, gospel-centred love I have ever encountered. Corrie's life is a testament to how the light of Christ really can and does penetrate even the deepest darkness. The wisdom found here has been formative in my own life and walk with God. One of my "desert island" books, so I give this beautiful memoir my highest recommendation. 5 shining stars!

View all my reviews

Favourite Quotes:

“We commented to Corrie about the practicalness of the things she recalled, how her memories seemed to throw a spotlight on problems and decisions we faced here and now. 'But,' she said, 'this is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for a future that only He can see.'”  -p.12 (Preface)

"And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, 'Father, what is sexsin?'  He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.  'Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?' he said.  I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.  'It's too heavy,' I said.  'Yes,' he said. 'And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.'  And I was satisfied. More than satisfied -- wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions -- for now I was content to leave them in my father's keeping." -p.42

“Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way.” -p.60

“Mama's love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket. But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before. She sat in her chair at the window and loved us. She loved the people she saw in the street-- and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world. And so I learned that love is larger than the walls which shut it in. ” -p.64

“There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety - Oh Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!” -p.84

“My job was simply to follow His leading one step at a time, holding every decision up to Him in prayer.” -p.99

“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” -p.248

Book Review: 13 Hours

It turns out you can't access full reviews on Goodreads unless you make an account, so as of today I'll be sharing mine here as well! One of my goals this month was to read a new book from the library (yay, Overdrive!) and this was the one I chose. I've been on a bit of an autobiography/biography/memoir kick lately, so this fits neatly into that category as well.

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story is compelling and the main characters (who are actual people, so "characters" might not be the best designation...) are real-life heroes who are at once easy to relate to and elite combat experts. This *should* make for a gripping, edge-of-your-seat, can't put down-able read, but I did not find the story-TELLING here to be particularly captivating. During the first few chapters I chalked this up to the necessity of quickly introducing a sizable quantity of history, key people, and geopolitical facts to set the scene, which is a legitimate writing challenge. I expected the pace to pick up and the intensity to heighten as I kept reading, though, and in this way the book definitely fell short of my expectations. I applaud the authors for wanting to keep this account completely factual, non-embellished, and as accurate as humanly possible (an expressly stated goal with which they bookend the account), but unfortunately that ended up making this read more like a textbook than a modern tale of heroism and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. My first thought after finishing this title was, "I'm pretty sure the movie was better." (Although I'm equally sure the movie would be way too violent and intense for me to watch.) 2.5 stars.

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Photo Update: Vacation Days 11-21

Since I have never been much good at keeping a journal (a sad fact for a writer, but there it is), I resolved this month to keep track of my vacation by taking at least one photo every day. This practice admittedly makes for lazy blogging, but has happily helped me remember in vivid detail much of what has transpired over the past ten days (an impressive feat for me at any time, let alone during a month of unstructured, unscheduled living, considering I routinely arrive at our Friday fellowship meeting unable to answer the classic, "How was your week?" with anything more than a blank stare and a hazy feeling of being busy but lacking concrete recollection of a single thing I have accomplished during said week). And so, without further ado or another long-winded aside, I present you with this photo update of the "middle third" of my vacation.

BBQ on the patio (July 11)
Quality time with out of town friends! (July 11)
Nothing says summer like being wrapped up in a blanket on the couch watching Netflix, LOL!  (July 12)
Homemade iced lemon mint courtesy of the lovely L (July 13)
The perfect low-key hangout day: swimming, movie night, nachos (July 13)
Summer treats - cooling off with an iced capp (July 15)
The requisite feet by the pool shot (July 15)
Friend dates ftw! Ending the best day ever with bubble tea! (July 16)
Because 48 goals didn't seem like enough, I added 2 more "official" goals and 8 "bonus" items, LOL! (July 18)
Milk and cookies :D (July 19)
Glorious late night sunsets (July 19)
Summer in a bowl (July 20)
Grow little buddy, grow! (July 21)
That light, those clouds (take 1)! (July 21)
That light, those clouds (take 2)! (July 21)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Thankfulness Project 3.0 + Yes, Another Pool Photo

Dramatic clouds about an hour before sunset

Sitting by (or, more often, but less photogenically, swimming in) the rooftop pool with condo towers rising to one side and church spires to the other as the final rays of sunlight transform the sky into a glowing backdrop, I have more than once this summer been powerfully reminded of how very much I have been given. God has provided this amazing place for us to live, and I still remember walking in the first day and thinking, "This apartment is amazing; I must never stop thanking God for it." That was over 8 years ago, and by God's grace I have been able to keep that promise. His provision has at times been miraculous and other times seemingly mundane, and through it all, I remain very aware of the privilege we have to live here. To have a comfortable home where we can extend hospitality to others (current record = 16 people in the living room), where we can sprawl out on the couch to unwind with Netflix (her) or the Food Network (him), where we can have a cool place to sleep in the summer so I don't end up with heat stroke (actually) - these are amazing comforts and gifts for which I am profoundly grateful. 

Perhaps, as an introverted homebody who usually prefers a night in to, well, pretty much anything else, it's easy for me to be thankful for these "comforts of home." Yet how easy it is for me to take so many other blessings for granted, be they little or big. The "Thankfulness Project" originally started as my answer to the celebrated concept of the "Life List." (Not that there's anything inherently wrong with a Life List, for the record!) I can't think of any better time to revive it than during my vacation month when I have been afforded so many quiet moments to remember that I have indeed been blessed beyond measure by the Giver of all good gifts.


P.S. The night I took this photo there was another resident enjoying the view from the terrace while I was swimming. He walked the entire perimeter of the pool deck, taking in the full panoramic vista from all sides, and after circling back to his starting point he could no longer contain his enthusiasm and joyfully exclaimed, "I think this is the nicest rooftop pool and patio in the whole of downtown! It's as if the entire city was built around us - and that view!" (Later on he came back with another gentleman, explaining to me that he just couldn't keep this view to himself and had to share it with his friend!) 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

On Beauty

It probably makes no sense to use hashtags in a blog (captions for my previous photo update notwithstanding), but for this week's #tbt I thought it would be fitting to share a piece I wrote for a student blog about a year and a half ago. This post still has a lot of personal resonance for me as I have continued to reflect on and sometimes wrestle with considerations of beauty and body image and what it means to be a Fat Person living in a skinny-obsessed society (but that's really a post for another day). 
I remember feeling a sense of release when I first committed these thoughts to paper, but there have admittedly been many times since then when I have not felt that same freedom from a worldly preoccupation with my physical appearance and the (self) criticism of "not ____ enough." While I still have work to do here, I hope the following words are an encouragement to you! And if you'd like to read something written by someone much wiser than I am, I recommend this great article.

Much love to you all,
K xx


on beauty

On Beauty

There are a lot of competing messages out there about beauty. Pass by any magazine rack at a checkout counter and they will be there, splashed across the glossy pages in all their designed-to-make-you-feel-inadequate, unrealistically-air-brushed glory. The media has no shortage of opportunities to remind us that if you're not young and sexy with flawless skin, voluminous lashes, and whatever bust-waist-hip ratio is currently considered desirable, life is barely worth living. Haven't we all internalized at least some aspects of this worldview? The Bible teaches us that “beauty is fleeting” (Prov. 31:30), but that doesn’t stop us from vainly struggling against that inevitability with special anti-aging serums, face creams, hair dye, and, in more extreme cases, elective plastic surgeries.

Doesn’t the world’s obsession with outer beauty feed our inner “comparison dragon” so that we get caught up from time to time (or maybe all the time?) in comparing ourselves to other women, usually those with a particular attribute we dislike in ourselves and covet in someone else? I can’t speak for you, but I know that is certainly true for me. Of course this blatantly flies in the face of godly wisdom which instructs us a) not to covet (Exodus 20:17), and b) that our beauty should come from our “inner sel[ves], the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:3-4). But I guess Vogue and MTV didn't get the memo on that and I must have missed that lesson in Sunday School...

On the other hand, in the #bodypositive/we are all beautiful/anti-airbrushing camp, a different segment of society preaches that we deserve to feel beautiful and that we should focus on loving ourselves. On the surface such messages about loving your body no matter whether or not it conforms to society’s current (fickle) standards of beauty sounds like a much-needed antidote. However, to be blunt, this message is simply not true either. The Bible has a lot to say about what we all deserve and, sorry ladies, it's not to feel and be treated like goddesses. Check out Romans 1:18-32, Romans 2:5-11, Ephesians2:3, and Matthew 13:40-42 if you don't believe me. And there's a word for what happens when you make self-love your highest aim; it starts (appropriately enough) with "I" and ends with "dolatry."

By the way, in case any of this makes it sounds like I have all this body image/self-esteem stuff worked out and don't have any insecurities of my own, let me just say this: I am a fat woman living at a time when the "obesity epidemic" is currently considered the scourge of North America. I have plenty of baggage when it comes to body image. Girl, you don't have to tell me that times are tough! But I am here to tell you that it doesn't have to be these two extremes.

We don't have to choose between self-love and self-loathing. Christ has provided us with a better way, a narrow path, and it leads directly to Himself. We need to get our eyes off the scale and fix our eyes on the One who died for us. If we are covered in His blood it has removed our weight of sin, which is the only weight that really matters. We have to stop staring at ourselves in the mirror and cataloguing our so-called flaws and spend more time fixing or eyes on the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Psalm 139 tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful, did you hear that? The way God designed you is wonderful. Don't you go denigrating His creation by despising your body! Then, as if to reinforce this point, David repeats himself and immediately says, "your [God’s] works are wonderful, I know that full well." Like, "in case you missed it the first time, ladies, I want to be clear that the proper description for the way God made you is WONDERFUL, not 'needs airbrushing' or ‘could stand to lose a few pounds’."

Do you want to know why you really are beautiful? It's because you were personally designed (or "knit together") by a beautiful God, and He made you in His image.
That's it, right there. It's actually not about you at all, it's about the One who created you, who ordered your DNA, who made you wonderfully unique in order to image and reflect Himself. And not only that - it gets better! When that beautiful image was marred by the ugliness of sin, as it is for all of us since Adam's rebellion, God still regarded you as so precious that He sent His own Son to die for you so that you could be made beautiful again by the righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:6-11, Ephesians 1:4-8).

So the next time you catch a glimpse of yourself or are struggling with feeling less than beautiful, I hope you can remember what really makes you beautiful. The world's definition of beauty is ever-changing, but God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His fingerprints are all over your beautiful self if you only have the eyes to see them. Less of us, more of Him. Less of me, oh Lord, and more of You. That’s where true beauty lies. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

13,000 Words

If a picture is worth a thousand words, do these thirteen pictures from the first ten days of my vacation make up for seventeen months' worth of non-existent posts? I'm pretty sure that's how this whole blogging thing works, right? (Nailing it!)

#poolsideproblems #toorelaxed (July 1)

#chanfamjam (July 2)

#vacationgoals (July 3)
#thatombresky (July 3)
#IKEAdates #favefroyo
(July 4)
#FindingDory #fishface #duckface
(July 5)
#clutterfreecubbies (at last!) (July 5)

#solitarysunsetswims (July 5)

#glamorousvaccinationgoals (July 7)
#specialdelivery #TraderJoe's (July 8)
#cottoncandyclouds (July 8)

#afternoontea (July 9)

#introverting (July 10)