Thursday, May 22, 2014

Summer Adventure Plans: Biking!

Ah, perhaps my title is too bold. :)

I don't have any BIG plans this summer. I'm still in school and we're still managing on one income, so there are no big vacations in the works or anything like that. But I've had years of practice making my own fun and this summer will prove to be no different.

For me, FUN=PROJECTS: some that I need to do and some that I create for myself.

These projects can be physical or cerebral or both, but I often choose something that will stretch me in some way, keeping life interesting and creative. Last year, for example, I blogged every day during the month of July. That was fun (though not every day) and challenging and pushed me to take photos and to think more structurally about my blog content.

So, for this summer, I have been thinking more seriously about biking. I love riding my bicycle, but more than just riding it, I love using it for transportation. What I mean is, while I like using my bike for recreation, I love using it instead of my car. This was one of the things I really wanted to do when we moved back home here to Minnesota. I wanted to ride my bike more and walk more and take advantage of public transportation. But we didn't move into as walkable an area as I would have liked. Also, our town is very hilly and our house is located right at the top! I joke sometimes, when we return home from walking into town, that I am Heidi heading home up the mountain. We do have public transportation nearby, but I have found that for most of the school year, as the homeschool co-op is a 30 minute car ride away, traveling by bus would be a trip amounting to over an hour one way and when I don't need to do this, it would just prove to be impractical.

Anyway, while we are at the top of the hill in our own town, the town on the other side of the highway from us - a mere mile away - is a relatively level destination. It is also highly commercialized, unlike our little downtown area (Maia works over there; it's about a 7 minute drive - seriously close!) and therefore, very busy. So, when we first moved here, I thought I wouldn't want to be riding my bike over there at all. But as we've lived here longer, I've become more familiar with back roads that are not as busy and over the winter I observed the wide shoulders and some paved foot/bike paths (that travel under the highway overpass) and regular, old sidewalks. I determined that when my schedule settled down for the season, I was going to do some experimenting and yesterday was the first day of my experiment!

Eve, my neighbor, Kim, and I rode to the library - the one in the other town, that is actually closer to me than my own town library, as we are located on the far-western edge of our town - and then tried out one of those back roads that gives access to all kinds of large, commercial businesses (chains like Aldi's, Target, Home Depot, Office Max... pretty much every large you've heard of and many smaller, local shops in between) away from the main drag. And you know what? It was SO easy and quick and safe! Yes, there was more traffic in some areas, but nothing that frightened me and the speed limits are much slower than the ones off of the main road in Florida where I'd wanted access to shopping by bike, but couldn't manage.

So, for the sake of saving money and keeping fit and for the sake of adventure, I am going to try to take my bike as often as I can while the weather cooperates this season. My big grocery runs at Mississippi Market (our local food cooperative) and Trader Joe's still take me too far away and I get too many groceries all at once anyway to fit in my bike trailer. But I always need to get a few more things at the big chain stores to fill in those things I can't find at MM or TJ's. Rainbow is one of the regional big grocery chains where I do just that and it is right on my bike route. But it will be closing likely this fall as it got bought out by a competitor. That competitor is still in biking distance for me, but not quite as close and up a hill and across that main drag. Aldi's, though, is closer, so I'm going to see if it can fill some of those gaps and I hope to do it by bike!

Other than specially arranged trips and the grocery runs, I don't have any regular destinations that ought to take me away from home/town. The volunteer work I do once-a-week at the assisted living is a mere mile and I biked and walked there often last summer. I'm also going to be volunteering at the library in town to gain some more hands-on library experience and I can bike there as well, even if it does mean a literal uphill climb on the way home. I'll just take the road with the long, slow incline, instead of the steeper one.

Building up my leg muscles is just going to have to happen too, because my bike is only ONE speed! That's right, no gears! That was one of the things that made me think I just couldn't bike much around these parts, but I've just decided that it's not going to stop me. I was thinking about getting a different bike with speeds, but I'm holding off right now. Now that I know that MOST of my errands can be accomplished away from all the hills, I'm encouraged. I still plan to patronize our little town as much as possible, but right now, unfortunately, there isn't much offered there that works for me. There is a coffee shop and the library, of course, but other than the gas station that I do support when driving, there isn't much that takes me down there commercially. We used to have a membership at the community center for fitness - and I hope to have one again perhaps in the fall- but since we don't right now, I'm not down there as often. So, the biking is going to be part of my fitness too, obviously, and I'm excited about that.

Scheduling is the one thing that has gotten in the way of me traveling by bike or foot. In the past I have not been as determined to stay out of the car and then just wouldn't have - or leave - enough time to travel alternatively. It's a big temptation when the car is just sitting there in the driveway, ready to go! But, I am hoping that I will make it work. Even when it's hot. I don't know if I'll ride in the rain yet. I get pretty freaked out being outside when there is a thunderstorm, so I don't know. If I can learn about and outfit myself with some proper gear, I may ride in the rain if there won't be any lightning. I just don't know yet. I'm at the very beginning of this and just hope to make myself choose biking on NICE days to start! We'll see how it goes from there.

I know I'll still be taking the girls places by car, but I've suggested to Maia that we could ride bikes together to her work (or she can obviously even go on her own, but I like riding!) and then I could pick her up in the van at night after she's done closing (I wouldn't want her riding home alone in the dark) and toss her bike in back. We'll see if she takes me up on my clever offer. :) If so, that would be even less driving, which I like to avoid when I can.

To me, this is a fine adventure! I will be doing something different, traveling and experiencing my days and town(s) in a whole, new way. That's discovery and that's adventure!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Catching Up to May

Spring is still mostly blooming indoors in Minnesota right now, so the girls and I took a "Beautiful Day" trip a week ago to the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory last week.  The zoo and gardens are free, so it is always pretty busy. School buses often line the avenues around the park and fill in the parking lots. They, however, are usually more interested in the zoo. We came for the plants and enjoyed a peaceful morning of sketching with sounds of trickling water and birdsong amidst heady flower fragrance.

Maia - yes, that's her on the right! - is now very blonde, and matches the pastel springtime palette quite nicely! :)

Years ago, when the girls were very small - I think Maia was 6 and Eve 3 1/2, I had the idea of a Beautiful Day in May. I remember it as May first, but I could be confusing things. If it was May 1st, it would have had to have been a very warm May. I may be combining it in my mind with delivering May baskets on May Day... In any event, whether it was the first or not, and whether we went from delivering baskets or on another day in May, we did take ourselves out of doors to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We dressed up in "beautiful" clothes and listened to "beautiful," classical music on our way to and from the arboretum. We had lunch and did our school lessons sitting by a stream at the base of a waterfall. As we were leaving, we passed by all the crab apple trees that were in bloom. People were enjoying picnics beneath the trees as petals floated down all around them. It was like something from a dream and is a day I'll never forget with my little girls.

I have long since thought of that day and decided that after our very long, cold winter, we definitely needed another Beautiful Day! Perhaps we'll make it a tradition! We didn't make it out to the Arboretum; it's a much longer drive from where we live now. But the Conservatory's gardens are wonderful. The Sunken Garden is the most colorful, as this is where they plant seasonal flowers. The lilies were HUGE and the foxgloves were amazing - my favorite there! I have not yet had success with foxgloves, but I plan to keep trying because they are stunning!

We toured the Japanese garden, but as hardly anything was blooming, the leaves weren't even yet on the trees, and the water features were still bare, it wasn't very exciting. Admittedly, we have a pretty high bar after visiting the incredible Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens when we lived in Florida. I had never heard of the Morikami, by the way, until we took our long weekend mini-vacation to the east coast of Florida. But I can tell you that it is not to be missed! Some things are more hype than anything else, but the Morikami was enchanting. If you're ever around the Ft. Lauderdale/ Boca Raton area, look it up!

Getting back to Minnesota, LOOK who was on MY vehicle when we got out of the park? We saw this handsome fellow on the way in and here he was on my car when we came out! First, I must tell you that bluebirds are my absolute favorite bird. And then I must tell you that this was only the second time in my life that I have seen one! They are primarily meadow dwellers and I've generally lived in more populated areas, so I don't get to see them very often. Paul and Eve built me some bluebird houses for our Florida house, but the only things that ever lived in them were tree frogs. :(

Como Park has its own house up surrounded by lots of open space (just like bluebirds like it) and it is appropriately occupied! Oh, he was so handsome and had such a beautiful song. Seeing him was the perfect touch to our second Beautiful Day.

Back home, the lawn is green as can be and the trees are just starting to leaf out. Green is the main color around these parts as perennials begin waking up in the garden beds. I added a small bed around the corner of the kitchen garden. Hollyhocks are coming up from last year!! I had no idea they survived; they were so pitiful looking last year, I was sure they were a failure. So imagine my surprise when I saw such nice-sized green leaves under a protective covering of fallen brown leaves leftover from last autumn! 

So I've planted the geraniums and some tall snapdragons in front of the hollyhocks. I also planted white morning glories and moon flower all along the fence too as well as more hollyhock seeds to see if I can get these biennials to alternate years with their blooms in order to have them every year. I definitely have a vision; I just wonder if it will come to fruition? And that is the plight of the gardener every year: waiting to see if the garden of their mind will become a reality!

I've got some flower boxes for my deck. They are new this year and look pretty lonely, but we've got some nasturtium seeds planted around those tall grasses that Eve diligently collected from last year's garden, so we should be seeing some sprouts in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the strawberries have spread the length of the box if not having filled all in yet. There's still chamomile in the middle there. The lavender didn't make it; I've planted some quinoa in its place. We'll see if it does anything!

Out front, things are mostly green yet, but I am pleased with the number of transplanted perennials from last year are coming back. I think I lost a hosta or two which is kind of surprising to me, but the ones that have returned seem healthy. I love to see them unfurl bit by bit every day. My neighbor, Kim, shared some lily-of-the-valley with me too and those are growing as though they were never moved from across the street!

We've wrapped up nearly all our school activities for the year. Eve still has a bit of science and math yet, but Maia is focused on graduation now. Endings and new beginnings all in one. It is springtime and we shall commence!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Not About the Snow...

... It's never been about the snow.

When I lived in Florida, people would ask me if I moved because of the snow. And my answer was always, "no."

I am actually okay with snow. I am pleased with it in the beginning of the season and I love to look at it - especially if I don't have to drive in it. Yes, it scares me to be on slippery, icy roads, but it also scared me to drive in blinding downpours that were a common occurrence during a Florida summer.

Generally, I like snow. And I'm fairly good at romancing the snow for the winter season. Winter is at the bottom of my season list, it is true, but I don't hate it. I think I used to, but I don't anymore. I have learned to appreciate it for what it is.

Most of the time, I don't even mind shoveling too much. Shoveling is no fun when you are in a hurry to get somewhere. It is also no fun when the snow is really wet. But most of the time it is okay. Most of the time, you don't get huge amounts and it is workable. But sometimes you do get dumped on and then you just have to deal.

No, it's not about the snow. But what it IS about is this. When the view above changes to the view below. When the snow is gone and the sun is shining. When the grass is greening and the strawberry plants are already beginning to take over the garden box. When the tulip leaves are emerging from the ground... it should NOT be 20 degrees outside.

THAT is what it's about and what it's always been about. No, it's not been 20 degrees for days. Yes, we've had delicious days in the 60's. But April always swings so! I want to stop dressing in layers! I want my house to stop feeling COLD. Yes, it is warmer and that means the heat doesn't come on as often. And my bedroom is in the basement and it's darn chilly down there. It has always been the length of the cold that has gotten to me. Today's high was 37. Next week promises to be warmer as April tends to do. But that's next week. I told my mom in a text message this morning that it was threatening to make me grumpy. This is the text message I got back:

"Don't give in to the GRUMP!"

Sage advice. I love my mom. :)

For the record, I did not give in to the grump. Instead I took pictures of the flowers we've got scattered around the house. And I wore a skirt with flowers and a spring green scarf. I wore my poppy red lipstick. And despite needing a jacket the sun was shining and it was a good day.

I'm hoping Easter Sunday will prove to be a nice day. I try to remind myself that 37 felt balmy just a few weeks ago. At least I know it won't snow. But it's never really been about that anyway. :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Favorite Quote Friday and Playing Tag

 "The French are able to live in the middle ground, because they don't go overboard in either direction. They are able to eat wonderful food and not gain weight, because they are not into the idea of feast or famine. They are into pleasure. They are not wearing lingerie because they're in love or wearing sweats because they are out of love, but rather they are a little sexy all the time."
- Jamie Cat Callan, Bonjour Happiness

As I think I may have mentioned, I am on a bit of a French kick lately, learning about French culture and style and I'm really enjoying it! That said, true Francophiles tend to wax poetic about their heart's desire and sometimes the French themselves seem to get a bit annoyed with it all, if Amazon reviews of some of the books I've been reading are any indication. Be that as it may, whether quintessentially French or not is beside the point for me. As my neighbor, Rob, might tell you, I am somewhat of an idealist and if joie de vivre means elevating even the mundane and getting the most out of life, I am all for it!

Remember when we played these games a number of years ago when Facebook was still young? The only thing constant is change, so I'm sure some of my answers will be new even to those of you who know me.

1. Are you named after someone?
Although my mother likes to suggest I was named after my great-grandfather, Nicholas, I think that is just a convenient tie-in, because she just loved the name, Nicole. Don't deny it, Mom! :)

2. When was the last time you cried?
On Monday. As a student with students, a graduation and all the mom duties, I got frustrated. Just when I think I'm at the end of my to-do list, another Monday rolls around and it all stacks up again. But my younger daughter, Eve stepped in and offered her help and really changed the tenor of my week by helping with suppers, putting away dishes (without being asked) and just generally making herself available to me. And hey, it's Friday and I've worked my way through another one, so I'm feeling pretty good right now!

3. Do you have kiddos?
  Two beautiful, teen girls, ages 14 & 17.

4. If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?
I think so. I would like to give myself some of the responsibility for the things I take care of, because I know I would do them! Plus, I'm a planner and I would love to have someone plan something for me! I would love to see what I dreamed up! :)

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Pintrest and blogs.
6. Do you like your handwriting?
Yes. I love writing all kinds of things by hand: my journals, notes, letters. Unless my hand gets tired, I like the way it looks.

7. What’s your favorite cereal?
 I'm not a huge cereal fan, generally. I do like granola and I like my homemade granola. And I like peanut butter flavored cereals.
8. What’s the first thing you notice about people?
What they are doing, I think. I like to people-watch and I especially like seeing stylishly or originally dressed people.
9. What is your eye color?
10. Scary movie or happy endings?
Definitely happy endings. I don't like scary movies.
11. Favorite TV show?
Hmm... Downton Abbey, I suppose. My husband and I are also enjoying watching through episodes of Parenthood on Amazon Prime.

12. Summer or Winter?
In order: Fall, spring, summer, winter.

13. Hugs or Kisses?
14. What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Isla Mujeres, Mexico for my honeymoon.
15. Do you have any special talents?
I knit and paint. I like the portraits I've painted of people and think I render them pretty well. I'm good at yoga. I have a nice singing voice; I'd never win American Idol, but I do well enough for church choir and some solos now and then. I have a very good sense of direction and I love to write.

16. Where were you born?
Clarion, Iowa.
17. What are your hobbies?
In addition to the things listed in the talents above, I like to journal and blog. I would love to travel more. And I love to read.

18. Do you have any pets?
Yes. Three cats and a parrot who thinks she's the boss of all of them.
19. Favorite movie?
I have a few: "Enchanted April," "Under the Tuscan Sun," "Chocolate," and "A Christmas Story." Oh, and "Nacho Libre" is so absurd and always makes me laugh.
20. What color is your car?
We have a gray minivan (that came with FLAME decals on it - oh, YEAH!... and which we proceeded to remove right away) and a white Mini with a black hardtop.
21. What do you want to be when you grow up?
Well, I'm in school to work in a library... so I'm hoping that's what it is. I have LOVED being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom and I have a few years left of that. But I'm on the hunt for my next starring role.

I'm tagging a few friends:

Marianna at Cardinal Acre

Shirley at Under an English Sky


Aimee at Living, Learning, and Loving Simply

 As you can see, I've only listed a very few here. If you'd like to play along, please do so by leaving a comment. Let me know when you plan to post your tagged post and I'll be sure to stop in and say hello!

Have a lovely weekend, all!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Things I Love Thursdays: Tea Party Edition!

I think I have loved tea parties all my life. I think I love them even more now than when I was a little girl, because they are so easy to do. Well, my tea parties are easy to do, anyway. And if you are lucky enough to have friends like mine who also love tea parties, then you can all pitch in and it very soon turns into something magnificent!

Tea parties are much easier to throw, in my opinion, than dinner parties. It's hard to go wrong when you have a table full of baked goods, sandwiches, and little desserts. And you don't have to be all "matchy, matchy" either! I mean, I suppose at really fancy tea rooms or restaurants or when attending a "high tea," you would expect many elegant pieces of fine china, glassware, etc. But for your home-grown tea party, the more tea cup designs the merrier. Plates and all the other trimmings don't have to match either. Of course, they're lovely if they do, but I have been to small tea rooms where even their dishes didn't match and it didn't matter one iota! 

I loved having tea parties for my girls when they were littler. One that we really enjoyed was a Dolly Tea Party where the girls and their dolls dressed up and we had tea for all of them. Part of the allure is in the preparation and the anticipation of the event to come! For the Dolly Tea Party, I made heart-shaped cookies and Maia (above, and now 17 years old and a graduating high school senior in a few short months!) and I made cookies for the dolls, cutting them out with thimbles! And there were portraits taken too, of course!

We had juice in the tea pot and fruit and that was it! The dollies got to use their own small tea set too.

I have found that children - like grown-ups - often put on their best behavior when they are presented with a lovely situation. Realistically, of course, you must consider that their dignified behavior will last only as long as their age will allow and plan accordingly. The tea cups in the photo, for example, were purchased from a thrift store. I still have them and they are still in use, but if one were to have broken, it would have been no cause of undo tension which might ruin an otherwise marvelous party.

Around the very same time these photos were taken, I was also in the habit of serving my girls breakfast on pretty plates too and I had purchased some inexpensive, cut glass, sturdy stemware that they thought was so beautiful to enjoy their juice in every morning. They felt very fancy and most often behaved that way too! They were children, of course, and allowed to be so, but tea parties and using "fancy" dishes is a delightful way to teach manners.

Presently my girls love tea and drink it nearly every day, as do I. Sometimes they will make their own, impromptu tea parties if they have a special treat and want to make it even more special.

But having tea with friends is the MOST fun. And while it is fun to be waited on from time to time, helping to set it all up is part of the fun of tea parties too - even if you, yourselves are the guests of honor!

One of my favorite tea parties we had was the "Snowflake Tea Party in the Magic Attic" we had in January 2013. It was really wonderful and, strangely enough, put me in mind of Disney World and haunted houses. Disney World and haunted houses? Whatever for, you might ask?

Well, Disney World and haunted houses are all about illusion and the illusion always works on the younger crowd the best! Our guests ranged in age from 4 years to 8 years old. I don't know how much they will all remember of the day, but we (ourselves and another homeschooling family) wanted to create a magical environment. We hung snowflakes all over the ceiling and had twinkly lights on the way up to the attic to set the mood. We all prepared treats with a "snow" theme and everyone wore blue and white. It was so much fun to do!

The big girls got to have fun too, as we decorated until 1 a.m., had a sleepover and then were up preparing the tea bright and early. My Eve, (above on the far right) even got a fancy hairdo before the guests arrived.

Do check out that post! There are many other photos that show just how beautiful it was, how hard the girls worked, and the little guests that enjoyed it! I think you'll enjoy reading about it!

Children are quite selective in what they notice, so the environment didn't have to be perfect. I hope what they will remember from that day will be the kind, teenage girls that waited on them and the pretty snowflakes that hung all around them as they enjoyed (too many!) treats with their friends high above the city in a magic attic!

And finally, I wrote about our most recent Christmas Tea Party in THIS post. This year, the same group of us decided not to host for little ones, but to treat ourselves instead and we had a wonderful, beautiful, memorable day that just may become a tradition.

And that is the beauty of tea parties. They make us feel special. Whether we have one for ourselves, or for our friends, or throw one for others, it is a little bit of pampering that elevates the day from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

I am participating this week with Mom's Small Victories linkup party. Be sure to stop by to find a bunch of fun blog writers profiling some of their old, favorite posts!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Task Overload!

Oh my. My own schoolwork, homeschooling, and chauffeuring duties are going to be pushing my blog posts to the back of the line. Enjoy the start of your week (we've got some warmer temps, open windows, and birds singing!!) and see you in a few days!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Favorite Quote Friday & A Week In Review

 One new panel each Sunday... Our Cross is growing toward Easter.

 April's Warm Greeting: Wind and Snow Blowing Across the Pavement

 My neighbor Margo and her son, Matt, brought us "brownies" for April Fools Day. :)

Creating our own warmth and sunshine inside...

And where is Maia? Either sleeping in due to late nights or at play practice! It's tech week this week and they premier today!

 Craving Color!

Thanks for stopping by and a blessed weekend to all of you!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Leopard Kittens: Thrift Store Fashion

Maia and I popped into Rewind when we were over in Northeast Minneapolis on Friday. I've never been an animal print person, but I'm thinking just a little goes a long way.

Inspired by this:

And this:


Embracing my inner French girl & thinking they're my spring neutral. And I'm getting these flats when I hit "publish" on this post! :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Dash of Desire: Praying Big, Stupid Prayers

The beginning of 2014 started out differently for me this year and it left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. See, for the past six years, I've picked a "Word of the Year." In 2008 it was, "Create." In '09 it was "Kingdom" and in 2010 it was "Indulge." In 2011 we were preparing madly for our move to Minnesota, enduring many changes, and so my word was, "Flow." Arriving in Minnesota in January 2012 was a whole new chapter in our lives and with it came the word, "Discover." In 2013, still recovering from the shock of the Connecticut shootings only weeks earlier, I chose the word, "Walk."

 I love the beginning of the new year for setting goals, choosing words, casting visions. But this year I felt I just couldn't. This year I am back to school for the first time in over 20 years. This year I am graduating my first child from our homeschool. This year that same child is in a time and labor-intensive play and opening night is THIS Friday!
I joked that my word might be, "Survive." But yech. What an awful word. I NEVER want that kind of word point the direction or cast the net to encapsulate the feeling of a year! I found that last year I didn't do as much with my word, "Walk" as I'd hoped I would and so this year I thought maybe I'd just let unfold in the way it wanted to. There's certainly nothing wrong with this and no, I still don't have a word. With so much on my plate - and some of it intrinsically tied to the fulfillment of a goal already with school - I just thought I didn't - or maybe shouldn't - want anything more.

But then I began to get restless. I felt left out of the fun somehow. I wasn't adding to any wish list and I began to feel a bit like I was just checking things off a to-do list, but I didn't have anything to dream about.

Plus, I had this kind of niggling feeling that maybe my wants were a bit selfish. Well, of course they're selfish, because they're all about me. But our church was reading Radical Together at the time and in that book people are giving up houses in posh neighborhoods to start community centers, they're adopting children, or they're becoming missionaries... and I don't feel called to do any of that. I mean, I may at some point; I never underestimate what God can do and if He wants to put that into my heart, He will. But how can you figure out what you want to aspire to or be or bring to the world if you're hesitant to even name it? I felt stuck, because honestly, one of my top desires is to travel to England someday. I mean, I really want to go. I get choked up just thinking about it for some reason.

I also knew that my thinking about it had to be wrong somehow, because I didn't have peace. I don't subscribe to ideas presented in books like The Secret, but I also know that everything we see that isn't created by God came first from an idea in the mind of a man or woman. The amazing mind of a man or woman. And I believe that a part of being created in God's image is that we are creators too. Creating is often a messy business, though, and so you often have to start with lots of ideas... stemming from desires... that will help form you into the person you are to become and the gifts you are going to bring to the world.

To that end I knew I needed to pick up a few books on the subject to gain some perspective. I'm about a third of the way into The Circle Maker and I'm enjoying it so far. Batterson's writing is a little bit glib for me sometimes, but I love his enthusiasm, optimism and stories of the way God has answered prayer in some pretty amazing ways. In reading reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, I noted that some people feel like Batterson leans - if not all the way in - pretty close to a "name it and claim it" philosophy. I'm reserving judgement however, as I move through the book. So far, what I'm really getting from the book is that Batterson is saying "pray about it." Yeah, circles or no circles (that's all part of a metaphor Batterson plays on throughout the book anyway), it's really just about praying. But what I like is that it's about praying BIG.

That's the part that I sometimes hesitate on, but I am trying to change that, because I learned something new this week - not from The Circle Maker - but from an old, familiar, story in the Bible.

Perhaps you remember the story about the request of James and John related in Mark chapter 10. I have read this story many times before and, as is so often with God's Word, it has multiple layers of meaning and taught me something completely different this time!

Jesus had just - and I mean just - finished telling them that He was going to be betrayed in Jerusalem, condemned to death, flogged and killed and that three days later He would rise. And it's like James and John (brothers) are not even hearing that part about the whole betrayal and flogging and death thing. They are incredibly bold and say to Jesus, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "'What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.'"

Um, wow. Now that's a big prayer. And I think we could all agree that it was somewhat misguided as well. But what I learned this week is that Jesus didn't walk away from them. He didn't get angry with them. He didn't shame or punish them for asking such a selfish, selfish request of Him. He just patiently replies, "You don't know what you are asking." And then He goes on to explain to them that His kingdom is an upside down kingdom where the greatest must serve. And guess what? He is still their friend. He still takes them along with Him and in the end they still did much for the kingdom of God.

I guess the main thing I learned is that God is okay with our stupid, selfish prayers too. He gets to decide what He'll do with them and won't shame me about it in the meantime. More likely, like Jesus, He'll tell me the truth and teach me something about His way and His vision that is so much bigger than mine. I"ll learn something more about Him and know Him even better and that's what it's really all about anyway.

So, I'm making new lists now. And yes, England is right at the top. Heaven knows if I ever get there, it'll be by God's grace and only if He says "yes." And if He does say yes, I can't wait to see what He'll do with that big, stupid, selfish prayer. :)

I'm linking up with Book Journey today. Lots of great books, so hop on over and find something new for your nightstand! Happy Monday, all!

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