Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What's On My Nightstand?

What's On Your Nightstand

My internet availability this week has been intermittent. Hubby says it's a miracle that my internet is working at all, that there is no reason why it works, and that it will probably disappear at any time. In the meantime, I'm grateful for the chance to write a blog post and join in on this month's Nightstand.

For the month of January, I challenged myself to read nothing but the Bible. So far I've stuck to that challenge! I wrote about week 1 and week 2 already.

In total, I've read:

Judges 12-21
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles 1-33

By the end of the month, I hope to finish 2 Chronicles and then read Ezra and Nehemiah.

I am very excited to dive back into fiction and nonfiction books during February. I've visited the library several times to pick up movies and some study materials for my husband. While there, I had way too much fun browsing the stacks. I brought home way more books than I could ever hope to read in a month! Here is my priority list...

December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World by Craig Shirley - A review copy. I wasn't able to read it in December and need to review it soon.

Everyday Life in Traditional Japan - I've had this book on my list for months but haven't finished it. I'm about halfway done and need to just buckle up and finish the rest.

Dry As Rain by Gina Holmes - I loved her first book and was excited when I found out another had been published. I put this book on hold at my library when they ordered it and I will be the first person to read it!

A Walk Across by the Sun by Corban Addison - This book was promoted in a recent Goodreads newsletter and sounds really intense. It's not my normal genre, but I'm looking forward to seeing why people are raving about it.

Happy February reading!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Leave of Absence

This morning my laptop's network card died. Sadly, it was a very sudden and unexpected death. The timing of things is very interesting.

Last week - my husband's desktop died (4 years old)
This week - my laptop's network card died (5 years old)
Ongoing - my cell phone is freezing up and I expect it to die at any time (3 years old)
Ongoing - our tv display is slowly dying, pixel by pixel (20 years old)

We still have a number of computers around the house, since my husband is an IT guy and seems to collect these things. I have a Dell Mini and an HP Tablet, but neither of them are my primary workhorse. My husband still has his work laptop, which is good because otherwise he wouldn't be able to work from home anymore.

We really, really want to replace some of the dying electronics. We shopped around for a television and blu-ray player at Christmas but decided to wait until we paid off our last credit card. Then the computers started dying. We wavered a bit on replacing them but decided that we are going to remain faithful to our financial plan of paying off the last credit card. Lord willing, provided the dentist appointment next week is routine, we should send in our last credit card payment in six weeks.

I am very excited that we are so close to being out of credit card debt! I am also mourning the loss of my primary laptop. The two emotions are conflicting but the desire to be out of debt is stronger.

However... I will be posting very little until I am able to replace my laptop. I love the Dell Mini's size, but it is a pain to type on. I have lost access to my RSS feeds and thus will not be able to keep up with everyone's posts. Productivity around the house should be very high without ready internet access and without the distraction of fiction books!

I'll be back as soon as I can. Until then, stay safe and have a wonderful January!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bible Alone - Week 2

I have remained faithful to my challenge of reading nothing but the Bible for 30 days. Earlier this week, though, I visited the library to pick up a few books for my sick husband. While I was there, I also picked up several books for me to read once February starts. If I had enough time, I would have curled up in the stacks with a library Bible and read for awhile. It's such a peaceful place!

Since last week, I've read:
2 Samuel 5-24
1 Kings
2 Kings 1-4

I've picked up on a few things this week. My biggest realization is that God doesn't fit into the box we like to cram Him into. Two specific stories made me pause and take notice.

The background: King Ahab (an evil king) was told by a prophet of God to soundly defeat the Syrians. Instead of killing the Syrian king like he should have, Ahab made a treaty with Syria and allowed the king to live.

The first story that made me take notice: 1 Kings 20:35-42. Here we have a prophet of God who instructed another man to strike him, but the man refused. The prophet told the man that he had disobeyed God's orders and that the man would immediately be killed by a lion. It happened. Then, the prophet of God, disguised, visits King Ahab and lies to him about a scene on a battlefield. King Ahab believes the story and condemns himself by ordering judgment on the disguised prophet. The prophet reveals his identity and passes on Ahab's judgment from God, the same judgment that Ahab had decreed on the prophet.

Why did this story strike me? First - The prophet of God ordered another man to hit him and pronounced a judgment when the man didn't comply. That is difficult to comprehend as I cannot picture someone today believing that God would order a man to hit another man. Second - The prophet of God went to King Ahab and lied in order to pronounce judgment on Ahab. God was behind all of this! It's not the way we would expect God to act unless we are open to God working in mysterious ways.

The second story that made me take notice: 1 Kings 22:19-23. In this passage, God's prophet Micaiah is telling King Ahab about a vision he had that took place at God's throne. God asks the host of heaven who will persuade Ahab to go into battle so that he will fall. Several voices make suggestions and then a spirit comes forward. This spirit tells God that he will be a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets (those that only told Ahab what he wanted to hear). God said that this plan will work and sends the lying spirit to speak through the false prophets.

Why did this story strike me? Well, is this a literal story or was Micaiah using an illustration? Does God send lying spirits to deceive people so that His plans will be fulfilled? I believe this is a supported possibility and one that we have to be open to. It doesn't fit the traditional picture of God! I was taught that God is loving, kind. While this is true, there is more to God than these attributes. The stories illustrate this but we have to be open to God being more than just a loving Father. Sometimes He does things we don't understand or that go against the character that we believe He possesses.

I am looking forward to reading more. I pray that God will keep my heart open to receiving the truth about Him, not just reinforce preconceived ideas. God is bigger than we think.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Scripture Memorization - How I do it

Mara Wildflower asked me last week how I go about memorizing my Scripture texts. I actually use the same flashcard program that I use for my Japanese studies. It took me awhile to realize that the program would work great for memorizing Scripture because I'm not used to thinking outside the box. HA!

Anki is a free program that is used as a substitute for physical flashcards. The program uses SRS, a Spaced Repetition System. This is a fancy way of saying the algorithm determines when you are about ready to forget the information on the card. As soon as you've almost forgotten, the program tells you it's time to review again. Studies have shown that this is the best method for inserting information into long term memory.

Joshua 1:9 flashcard - front

(Ignore that the card was due in three days. I didn't have any current cards and wanted to get this post up tonight.) This card is testing the section in blue that displays as [...]. When I think I know what part of the text is missing, I click "Show Answer." I have created one flashcard for each line in the Scripture, plus another flashcard testing the book, chapter, and verse where the text is found.

Joshua 1:9 flashcard - front and back

Now the answer is displayed in blue on the bottom card. Here I can choose several options - again (fail), hard, good, easy. I choose how difficult it was to recall the answer on the flashcard. Then, Anki uses the SRS algorithm to determine when I should study that card again.

My Anki decks

I'm done with my flashcards today. First thing in the morning, though, this page shows how many flashcards are due in each deck. As you can see, almost all of my decks are for learning Japanese and then there is one deck for memorizing Scripture. The "Due Today" column is how many cards are due that day. The "New Today" column shows how many cards I have not yet studied for the first time.

There are a lot more options within Anki but this is a basic overview of my study methods. Reviewing the Scripture deck only takes a couple minutes each day and I quickly become familiar with each verse that I've entered into the program. It takes longer to completely memorize a text but the program tells me when I need to review. Then each week I add a new verse to the cards and start learning the new text.

Hopefully this helps someone! It's free, it's convenient, and it's easy to use. It's a great way to memorize God's word!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - back in the saddle!


It has been ages since I've written up a menu plan and even longer since I've posted one. This week we're trying three new recipes, all linked below.

Brunch – Oat Waffles
Dinner – Green Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Roasted Mushrooms, Riblets

Breakfast – Green Smoothies
Lunch – Leftovers
Dinner – Pizza, Broccoli

Breakfast – Green Smoothies
Lunch – Tomato and Avocado Sandwiches, Spanish Yellow Rice
Dinner – Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast – Green Smoothies
Lunch – Salad, Hearty Vegetarian Chili
Dinner – Pasta, Broccoli, and Garlic Bread

Breakfast – Green Smoothies
Lunch – Brussels Sprouts and Shiitake Mushroom Soup, Cornbread
Dinner – Sushi, Gyoza, Curry Udon

Breakfast – Green Smoothies
Lunch – Tomato and Avocado Sandwiches
Dinner – Tamale Pie (Newstart cookbook)

Breakfast – Green Smoothies
Lunch – Leftovers
Dinner – Pizza!

Last night I made roasted mushrooms for the first time. Yum! I wish I had thought to take a picture. I found the recipe on a package of Bella mushrooms. The recipe sounded good so we decided to try it. I couldn't find the fresh herbs needed, so I used dried. Because I changed the recipe (therefore not violating copyright), I'm going to post it here for anyone else who wants to try them.

Roasted Mushrooms

8 oz package of bella mushrooms, mushrooms cut in half
2 Tbls olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Mix all ingredients.
Spread on a baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once after 7.5 minutes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This week's memory text - Zephaniah 3:17

The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing

Zephaniah 3:17.

I am really excited about this week's memory text. It is such a beautiful promise! I can't even imagine God, the Almighty One who created heaven and earth, rejoicing over me with singing. What an awesome thought!

Mara Wildflower had asked how I memorize these texts. Later this week I'll post screen shots of my flashcard system. It works great!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bible Alone - Week 1

For January's 30 day challenge, I decided that I wanted to spend the entire month reading only the Bible. No other books, whether they be fiction or nonfiction. I was very tempted to allow myself to read books about the Bible but I knew I would end up reading those instead of the Bible. That's not the point of the challenge... I wanted to spend the first month of the year immersing myself in God's word.

In the course of one week, I've read -
Judges 12-21
1 Samuel
2 Samuel 1-4

I like this pace of reading. It's not as fast as the Bible in 90 Days, so I don't feel like I'm just skimming. But I am reading fast enough that I'm getting entire stories in one sitting rather than disjointed chapters.

Unfortunately, I've been sick since Tuesday. This has seriously challenged my decision to read no books but the Bible. I have wanted so badly to curl up on the couch with a fluffy and entertaining fiction book. Thankfully, I've kept to my resolve! It has been a blessing this week and I look forward to three more weeks of the challenge.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Resolutions - Homemaking

This is my last post about resolutions/goals for 2012. Looking over last year's goals, I realized I didn't have any that specifically related to homemaking. I find that hilarious as homemaking is my full time job!

This year's goals
  • Continuously improve my relationship with my husband

    • Date Night - Implement a monthly date night.

    • Have fun working through The Love Dare. I've heard great things about this book!

    • Read Love and Respect again, taking time to implement some of the counsel. When I read this book the first time, I was amazed at the amount of truth it contained and realized that I definitely need to respect my husband more.

  • Recipe book - I've already started one, but it's gotten out of control. I think I have 20 loose recipes in the front that haven't been put in protector pages yet. I need to take everything out of the binder, figure out what we actually like, and reorganize the entire thing. Eventually, I also want to type all of the recipes out in OneNote and print them again. Right now I have recipes cut out from magazines, printed from the internet, and copied from cookbooks. It's a mess!

  • Daily schedule - This is the bane of my existence. I thrive on schedules, plans, and lists. However, my dear hubby works from home most of the time and his work center is set up in our living room. It is nearly impossible for me to stick to a schedule when he makes frequent calls to clients and coworkers. I won't complain because I love him being home! But maybe we need to discuss moving his "office" to our spare bedroom so that I can be more productive without worrying about interrupting his work.

  • My blog - It needs a major overhaul. I have a new domain set up but I wanted to set up a new blogging template before announcing the change and redirecting the site. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about blogging templates! I will embrace the challenge and try to come up with something new.

  • Finances

    • Pay off our last two credit cards. We paid off one last night and only have two more to go. If no emergencies arise, we will be done paying off credit cards by the end of February!

    • Save up six months of living expenses as a full emergency fund. Right now we have a baby emergency fund but it needs beefed up.

    • Start paying off our massive student loan debt. This goal will be around for years.

I really look forward to accomplishing these goals. I fully believe 2012 will be a wonderful year!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Resolutions - Personal

As I'm writing out my 2012 resolutions, sometimes I wonder if I'm overdoing it. Then I look at the types of goals I'm including and believe it's all doable. Personal goals are on the bottom of the list, though, so if I find myself floundering, it will be something on this list that gets dropped.

Last years goals
  • Complete my reading challenges - honestly, I have no idea how I did on this. After a couple months, I stopped choosing my books based on reading challenges and instead picked books that struck my interest at the time. I had a lot more fun being flexible with my reading than forcing myself to read specific titles or genres.

  • Continue learning Japanese. Sub goals:

    • Read 6 children's books in Japanese - I read one. This was much harder than I anticipated and it took me hours to read just that one book.

    • Study for 365+ hours total in 2011 - Success! I studied for 400.02 hours total. 11:50 on New Years Eve found me studying my vocab lists to push myself over that 400 hour mark. I am so happy with my total!

    • Study every single day. Monthly average of one hour/day - Partial success. I did study for an average of one hour/day but it wasn't a monthly success. Some months I only studied 15 hours whereas some I studied 45 hours.

This years goals

  • Participate in the Color Palette Challenge. Choosing fabric is the hardest part of quilting and I think this will help immensely.

  • Complete a quilt for me. I'm currently finishing up my fourth quilt and each one has been a gift. I really enjoying giving my projects away but I also really want my own quilt to cuddle under while reading a good book.

  • Take and pass the JLPT in December. This exam (Japanese Language Proficiency Exam) is offered once a year and I'm aiming for level N3, which will prove that I have intermediate level reading and listening skills. I am not ready for this exam yet but I have 11 months to prepare.

  • Start reading materials written for native speakers. Right now, almost all of my reading involves materials written for those learning Japanese. I need to start reading websites, books, articles, etc. that are written by native speakers for native speakers.

  • Maintain my 1+ hour/day average but with more day to day consistency.

  • No specific goals but to continue pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. More nonfiction, more classics, less mediocre fiction.

I have one more area of goals to blog about - homemaking. I'm still working on that list so it will be posted once finished. Overall, I think 2012 is going to be a great year!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Resolutions - Health

It's funny that I'm writing this post today as I'm sick. Thankfully, it's just a cold and I hope to be feeling better soon.

Last year's goals
  • Participate in the SOS Kitchen Challenge - failed.

  • Run a 5k - Success! Not only did I complete three 5k's, I also ran a 4 mile race! In October I ran my fastest 5k, just under 40 minutes.

  • Learn how to bake - I started this but got derailed over the summer.

This year's goals
  • Become more fit. This is a vague goal but I have a plan in place. Right now, I am progressing through week 7 (of 13) of the P90X fitness program. Once that program is complete, I am going to focus on my running again, ultimately aiming for a 10k race this fall.

  • Learn how to bake. One of my 30 day challenges early this year will be baking everything from scratch. I can't wait!

  • Increase the amount of local and organic produce in our diet. I have access to a lot of local produce and need to start taking advantage of it. Ideally, this will mean early Sunday morning trips to the farmers market.

  • Watch one documentary and read one book each month on health and wellness. We have a Netflix account and they have many documentaries available to watch online. There are also three libraries within 15 minutes of my house. Between Netflix and the libraries, I have access to plenty of material.

I am happy to say that last year I reached my weight goal, losing a total of 67 pounds. I know that weight alone is not an indicator of good health and I am hoping to improve both my fitness levels and my nutrition this year. Having better health will also allow me to be a better witness for God as it will improve mental clarity and honor my Creator.

I beseech you therefore, brethren,
by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable to God,
which is your reasonable service

Romans 12:1

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Resolutions - Spiritual

I love New Years. I love that we are gifted, all at once!, with a brand new year, month, week, and day. What a clean slate! I have a few goals in mind for this year, some specific and some general. I thought I'd separate each aspect of my life into individual posts and detail some of my hopes and plans. Of course, this is all dependent on the Lord's will. As James 4:15 says, "you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'"

Last year's goals
  • Study Genesis in depth - this goal was mostly met. I read all of Genesis in multiple translations but only completed the in-depth study on the first half.

  • Keep reading the Bible every single morning - success! I think I only missed 3 or 4 days all year. This morning time with God is vital.

  • Start a prayer journal - failed. Completely.

This year's goals
  • Start a prayer journal. I really need to put a priority on this as I think it will make a huge difference in my prayer life.

  • Memorize 52 verses. I want to memorize 52 different verses of Scripture this year, one each week. That is a doable goal, one that I only need to commit myself to.

  • Increase the amount of time I spend reading the Bible every morning. Most mornings, I read two chapters. This only takes 10 minutes or so. I need to read more each morning and spend more time contemplating God's word.

image courtesy of stockvault

My 30 day challenge this month relates to this last goal. I have committed to starting the year off with God's word, reading nothing but God's word. For the next 30 days, the Bible will be my only book. I really enjoyed my month of nonfiction last month, but I want to spend more time with God. When I start looking around the house for a book to read while I have a few minutes of downtime, I will pick up the Bible. When I read before going to sleep, I will pick up the Bible. I think this challenge will be both difficult and rewarding.

As today is Sunday, it's time to pick the verse I'll be memorizing this week.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and song

Isaiah 12:2

What are your spiritual goals for 2012?