How on Earth Did THAT Happen?

My kids can confirm this– I never win. I just don’t. It’s not something I’m bitter about, and I don’t feel sorry for myself. Someone has to lose, right? It might as well be me. It doesn’t generally matter what it is– Uno, Sorry, Monopoly, raffles, drawings, and any other competition. Oh, I’ll participate. But I know I’m not gonna walk away with a prize.

Until recently. I’m walking through uncharted territory these days. This past winter I beat out more than 700 other overweight folks for the chance to win a three-month YMCA membership and compete in a weight loss competition. I’m not even that overweight. But that competition opened doors to possibly help me get back to doing my other passion: radio. And I didn’t have to pay for our Y membership for three months, with was a huge blessing. There’s all this other good stuff, too– I finally scored a job interview, and landed the job on the spot. It’s only a part-time sales-type gig, but it’s something, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Lord uses this to help me grow. I was just accepted into USC Upstate to complete my Communications degree, AND they awarded me what they call an out-of-state scholarship, which means that even though I don’t meet the requirements for in-state tuition, they’re only going to charge me in-state tuition. Then there are these little legal victories as my husband fights for custody of our children, and tries to force me to put them in public school. Those seemingly little victories can seem so big when you’re not used to winning. 

And today came another big blessing. Another big win. And this is one that you get to share with me. Dusted Cover has been named the Upstate’s Worst Website. What does this mean? It means that a single, homeschooling mom might be able to earn a little extra income selling used books on-line with a top-notch website. And it means that you’ll have access to gently-read books and homeschool curriculum at a great price. So thank you, for supporting my little blog, for reading my musings about books, and I hope you’ll stick around for the long-haul as this little dream of mine moves closer toward fruition.

Cheering for YOU!

Jenna

 

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No Really– This is a Good Thing!

I received an e-mail today that I was NOT expecting– Dusted Cover is a finalist for the Upstate’s Worst Website contest! No, really– this is a good thing!

You see, I have this website at http://www.dustedcover.com. However, I am no web master. You might consider me a web poser. I thought I’d be able to get this website up and running, selling used books on-line. Oh, I know there are the amazon.coms and half.coms out there. But this would be a niche– used Christian fiction and non-fiction, as well as the classics and homeschool curriculum. But the darned page won’t work, and frankly, I’m frustrated with it the whole mess.

Then I heard about this contest from a web design company called Engenius, where they’re looking for the worst website in the Upstate of South Carolina so they can do an extreme, Engenius website makeover. The contest was featured on the local news, and I tossed my website into the ring, never actually expecting it to go any farther than that.

And then came today’s e-mail from Chris Manley, one of the co-founders of Engenius. DUSTED COVER IS A FINALIST!! How did THAT happen?? My first reaction was, well, there must be a bunch of “finalists”? Mmmm, no. Only three. Aaak!

So, here’s what I need you to do for me– click on the link and vote for Dusted Cover! You can vote every day, one vote per e-mail address (don’t worry, I haven’t received any spam or even confirmation e-mails from voting). Voting ends May 31, 2012, so vote every day if you can! And then we look forward to more great things from Dusted Cover and DustedCover.com! 

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A New Perspective

I had a dream. It plays into my perfection tendencies– this idea that in order to sit and read a book, I needed this ideal setting, sitting solitary in a sun-filled room, nursing a warm cup of coffee. As a homeschooling mom with three rambunctious boys, this was an unrealistic fantasy.
Now that my tweedles are all bonafide readers, reality has become even more amazing than that silly fantasy. We start our mornings with 20-30 minutes sitting in a sun-soaked room reading quietly, but together. I do sip a cup of coffee while I read, but I also get to listen to little fingers turning pages, or my youngest declaring, “I’m on chapter 5!”
Life is so much like a good book. You read the back cover and you have an idea of what it holds in store for you, but with every turn if the pages comes a new character you didn’t expect, a new twist you didn’t anticipate, or a character who behaves in a way that could never have imagined. You giggle, you cry, you may even get mad, but you keep going. Usually, by the time you get to that last page, you are satisfied that everything worked out the way it did. You are content with the author’s decisions because you realize that everything had to happen for a reason.
You can’t change the past, but you can realign your expectations, and that is exactly what I’ve had the pleasure of doing. This new chapter is different than what I wanted or expected, but I make the most of it. And in that new chapter are amazing little blessings– like sitting with my little loves reading together.

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The Sign of the Changing Times

When it actually happens, you’ll know it because angels will descend from the heavens and belt out the Hallelujah Chorus with great enthusiasm. Alas, I have not yet managed to get my 5, 7 and 9 year old boys to pick up after themselves. No matter how many times I remind, threaten, bribe and just about break down in tears, these little people can’t seem to remember to put their dirty clothes in the hamper, bring their cereal bowl into the kitchen when they’re done eating, or consistently flush the toilet. And I won’t even begin going into the frustration of getting them to clean their room.

Matt is a boy as well, but a boy from a very different time. He’s not quite 13 when Elizabeth George Speare begins telling his story in The Sign of the Beaver, but he must take on the responsibilities of a man twice his age when he travels with his father into homesteading territory in Maine to stake out some land and build a home. Once the small house is completed and the corn is planted, Matt’s father heads back to Massachusetts to collect Matt’s mother and sister. The trip is expected to take no more than seven weeks. SEVEN WEEKS! A 13 year old boy left alone in the woods for to fend for himself for 7 weeks! I can’t even leave my 10 year old for ten minutes to run to the store to get milk without worrying that he’ll burn the house down around himself!

Matt, however, lived in a very different time than do my boys. A 13 year old boy was expected to perform nearly the same duties as a grown man. He helped his father build their one-room homestead cabin, assisted in the planting of crops, and participated in the process of collecting food stores and wood. He not only had to wash his own dishes, he first had to make his dishes. I recently gave my oldest son the experience of not getting to use any dishes or utensils for an entire day when he pitched a fit about having to empty the dishwasher. I should have had him whittle his own plate and bowl.

Once alone, Matt did do some of the things I would expect my boys to do were they in his situation– like leaving the door of the cabin open when he went off to fish. The bear who intruded and got into some of his precious food stores certainly did appreciate it, though. And I pray that if any of my boys (it would mostly likely be my middle child) decided to climb up a tree to acquire some honey from a bee hive, someone might be watching out for him, as was the case with young Matt.

Matt’s silent guardian had been watching him from a distance for some time, and fortunately was keeping an eye on him at that fateful moment when Matt upset a bee hive and suffered an attack from an angry swarm. Had the Indian chief not been nearby, Matt would likely have died. The relationship fostered between the young homesteader and the grandson of the Indian chief make up the bulk of the story. It is a beautiful story– a great story for boys. It’s hard to find a really good boy story– one that is rich in life lessons and weak on flatulence.

The Sign of the Beaver is my new favorite book for boys, and I highly recommend it for any boy of any age, especially those that might think themselves too young for real responsibility. Okay, so my boys are no closer to voluntarily bringing their dishes in from the dinner table, or hanging up their flippin’ coats when they’re done with them. But I have hope that with some dilligent love and correction, I might someday at least have the peace of mind to leave them home alone when I run to the store to replenish the milk stores. Maybe.

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So Much for THAT Idea.

As I sit here, in the upper room of my parents’ house, listening to New Year’s revelers discharge what I hope are fireworks, I can’t help but recall last year’s reading intentions. Determined as I was to read two books a month, it just didn’t happen. Frankly, 2011 flew by far too quickly. I’m convinced that someone, somewhere prematurely ripped out a page or two of the calendar, because it just went too fast. And since we’re being frank, I can tell you that this year positively bit.

Without going into the sordid details, it’s likely enough to have pointed out that my three children and I are living with my parents. Why read about the broken hearts of Emma and Cleopatra when I have my own shattered life to mend once a divorce I don’t want is finalized? Two books a month was a daunting goal for a homeschooling mom of three boys. I did manage to read some great books, even if was primarily to my boys as part of their school work.

By far, my greatest literary achievements for 2011 revolved around my little men. Actually, it’s more their literary achievements I’m so proud of. My youngest started Kindergarten this year and is easily reading at a first or second grade level. My middle son, my most reluctant reader, is slowly overcoming his fear of reading. It’s a sad thing when a child is made to feel he is incapable of learning to read, but he’s making progress at a pace that is comfortable for him. My proudest accomplishment lies with my 4th grader. During the past several months he has become a reader. A real reader. He has found that he enjoys mysteries, and every week checks out Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and The 39 Clues books from the library to read, voluntarily, for recreation. He flies through them, and it makes my heart smile to hear him giggle over a passage he’s reading, and to see his eyes sparkle as he relates an interesting plot line to me. Boy of my heart!

Another intention I had for 2011 was to sell used books on-line, and I did manage to accomplish this. Not to the degree I had hoped. My webmaster skills are severely lacking, but I’ve managed to sell a few items on half.com.

I bit off more than I could chew. I could have done it. I could have read two books a month during 2011, if I hadn’t been overwhelmed with grief from watching my 13 year marriage disintegrate while trying to keep it together so I could effectively educate, enlighten, exercise and entertain my children. The good news is that I still have a GREAT list of books I intend to read, and books never get too old to pick up and read or re-read. It may take more than a year, but I’ll get through them. Just like I’ll get through everything else– one page at a time.

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Down with the Diva

Every little girl wants to be a princess. Just browse the little girl sections of your local department store and you’ll find apparel of all types adorned with tiaras and bling, usually with the word “Princess” emblazoned on them. But let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen– bling does not make a girl a princess.

Look at the princesses of our day– the Paris Hiltons, the Kardashians et al, and our newest obsession– The Duchess of Cambridge– who isn’t really a princess, but don’t tell that to the gazillions of folks who tuned in to watch her wed the world’s most eligible prince a few months ago. I like to think of myself as a princess– I am, after all, a daughter of the King of Kings. And yet, there are many, many times during the day that I fail to behave as a princess should.

Would that more little girls behaved like Sarah Crewe, the title character in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic tale of The Little Princess. Admittedly, my Star Wars-obsessed boys were none too thrilled when I pulled out this pink-covered book to begin reading to them. “That’s a girl book! We’re not girls!” my youngest protested.

“It’s cool,” I assured them. “There’s a monkey in it.”

Why I have not read these books myself before now is beyond me. I’ll confess that I  have all too often relied on the movie versions of some of these classics, knowing full well that the movie is never as good as the book. I hope I’m not alone in this. When we finished reading The Little Princess, we borrowed the Shirley Temple movie from the library. Even the boys were disappointed at how different the book was from the movie, though my oldest insists that the movie version of Lavinia is exactly what he had envisioned in his own creative little brain.

You’ll have to read the story for yourself to get the full scope of the differences. But let me point out to you the difference between today’s divas and the princess-like character traits depicted in Sarah Crewe’s character. It can be summed up in two words: self-control.

Little Sarah, spoiled by her doting, widowed father, was unaffected by the riches she was privy to. When praised for her even temper, she mused that any girl so well provided for should be well-behaved. She hoped that she might be as polite, thoughtful and generous if she were penniless. THAT, she reflected, would prove whether her character came from her money, or from her heart. Oh, the foreshadowing.

The inevitable happens when, in the midst of her birthday party no less, word arrives that Sarah’s father has died, leaving her an orphan and a pauper. In the midst of her sorrow, she refuses to cry. Refuses to let the changed circumstances affect her. The little princess, though she is poor, resolves to try, very hard, to continue to behave like a princess, even in her too-small clothes and inadequate shoes. Despite her circumstances, the abuse she suffers, and starvation she endures, Sarah lives up to her nickname. She bites her tongue when she is unfairly scolded, doesn’t complain when she is forced to skip meal after meal, and graciously does as she’s told even when treated with disdain by the same girls who used to be considered her equal. It isn’t easy. She struggles with her flesh, with her desire to lash out verbally and physically. She is human, after all. In the book we get to peek inside her heart and mind to find out just how hard it is to continue behaving like a princess. But it’s her determination to retain her dignity that sustains her.

Even when she is half-starved and happens to find a coin in a gutter– enough money to buy four warm rolls to fill her achingly empty stomach– she wears an invisible tiara. As she walks into the baker’s shop, she notices a street waif whom Sarah supposes is even hungrier than herself. The baker generously gives the malnourished Sarah six roles for the price of four, and is astonished when she watches the princess give five rolls to the starving child crouched beside the bakery, knowing full-well that Sarah could have easily eaten all six. The noble act inspires the baker woman to do something magnanimous as well, ultimately providing a stable home for the homeless orphan.

THAT is what a princess should do. You would be hard-pressed to find a modern day “princess” who isn’t more diva than dignified. Kids today think a hardship is not having the same cool gadgets as “everyone else,” or perhaps going without cable. I love giving my boys the opportunity to suppose what life would have been like for Sarah– and what it’s like for so many children today who perhaps are orphaned or living in foster care with no one to genuinely love them unconditionally. We are so blessed.

Despite the pink cover and talk of dolls, my boys really enjoyed The Little Princess– especially the few scenes with the monkey. My oldest even asked if there was a sequel we could read next. I’m glad they were able to put aside their prejudices and enjoy a story that has so timeless an application. Because I want them, too, to be Little Princes– children of the King, practicing self-control, and putting the needs of others ahead of their own. We need more princes and princesses like that.

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Before “The Donald,” There Was Arduino

Donald Trump coined the phrase, “You’re fired!” on his reality TV show, The Apprentice. But before the Donald reveled in the firing of well-meaning folks, a young painter’s apprentice exemplified the beauty of integrity and forgiveness.

Set in Sixteenth Century Florence, Italy, Pilar Molina Llorente’s The Apprentice is yet another one of those books that I looked at with the leery eye of a homeschooling mom with three active little boys much more interested in playing Star Wars than in reciting their math facts. The language of The Apprentice is formal and sometimes archaic, the time period is foreign and difficult to relate to, and the subject (painting) is less than exciting to those who wish for The Force to be with them. And yet again, the beauty of this well-told story of truth, forgiveness and heroism caught me off-guard.

You have to first understand that my boys are, well, boys. They are the rough-n-tumble, LEGO lovin’, Nerf-gun-yielding, sons of a military man. It has been a challenge to channel their energy and testosterone toward peaceful reactions to adversity. They are much more interested in striking back than turning the other cheek.

And so I relished this story of Arduino, a teenaged boy accepted as an apprentice to aging master painter, Maestro Cosimo di Forli. Not long after arriving at the Maestro’s studio, he discovers a strange secret that most of the other apprentices are unaware of– another apprentice is being held prisoner in the studio’s attic. Donato had proven too talented an apprentice for the aging Maestro, who imprisoned the orphan rather than risk turning the boy out. Torn between the desire to see his new friend freed, and the fear of being sent back to his father’s tailor shop, Arduino cautiously maintains a secret friendship with Donato, bringing him extra food, as well as painting and drawing supplies. In return, Donato taught Arduino everything he knew of the art about which they were both so passionate– everything a new apprentice couldn’t learn through the mundane tasks he was assigned in the studio.

When a local Duke commissions an important, well-paid painting project, the sickly Maestro fights to keep his hands steady enough to create the sketches necessary to secure the commission. Arduino offers a daring solution: Donato. For nearly two years, Donato had been held prisoner in the Maestro’s attic. The dying man rightfully feared for his life should Donato be released, and was uncertain that his former apprentice, so grossly misused, would ever agree to help out the aging man. But Donato had long since forgiven the old man for his cruelness, and after a meal and bath, sets to work clarifying the master artist’s attempted sketches.

The story is not labeled as a Christian one, but one could easily insert some beautiful Biblical principals in the story. The Bible tells us that we are to forgive those who abuse and mistreat us, to not hold grudges. Vengeance is the Lord’s, and all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to forgive such blatant mistreatment, but Donato does, and is rewarded for his loyalty when, through a bizarre serious of events, he is given command of Maestro Cosimo’s studio, and makes Arduino his lead apprentice.

I tell my boys to never judge a book by it’s cover, and yet have been so guilty of mistaking these ancient classics as being too boring and too irrelevant for my modern-day elementary-aged boys. But it’s opening their eyes to history in a way that no history book could ever enlighten them. Sure, they’re learning about ancient Cathay and Mesopotamia, the battles of Alexander the Great and the riches of Kublai Khan. But through these simple and beautiful stories of young boys and girls, not so unlike themselves, they’re seeing historical societies through the lives and eyes of young people they can relate to. They can compare the differences of a 16th century boy expected to do nothing more than follow in his father’s footsteps, to the limitless possibilities of their own futures.

I hope, too, that the concept of forgiveness is not lost on their little souls. It’s something of a lost concept in this tort-focused day and age. I think even The Donald could learn a thing or two about the success that can result from the compassion and empathy of a young apprentice.

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Gone with the Wind- If Melanie Approves, That Is.

There are those of us who LOVE to read, collecting books as a child might comb a shore looking for sea shells.. Then there are those who would rather do anything else in the world than voluntarily read a book, no matter how entertaining that book might be.

As a person who relates to the former group, I have a hard time understanding the latter. There is such treasure to be found in a book– and even more to be found in sharing the book.

One of my all-time favorites is Gone with the Wind. I loved the movie long before I ever cracked  open the book. I wanted to be Scarlet– beautiful, sophisticated, poised, and determined to get her way. And get her way she did, by george, no thanks to that mealy-mouthed Melanie Hamilton. Except, of course, in the end when Rhett didn’t give a damn that she really, truly loved him and not Ashley. Poor Scarlet. You really feel bad for her. So used to getting her way, and here she is, running after Rhett in the morning fog, to no avail. But then I read the book. Whoa! You get a completely different view of things when you read the book. I love the reaction I get when telling people that Gone with the Wind is my favorite movie– so many people have never actually watched the whole thing, but have a lot of assumptions about it. Even fewer have read the book, and so it’s fun to share with people my love of the story, and hope that my experience with the story will encourage them to take the time to either read the book or watch the movie (or both) and see if they agree with my perceptions.

So, why didn’t Scarlet get her way in the end? Because Melanie had died, and wasn’t able to make it happen. My big take-away after reading the novel was that Scarlet was not the one calling the shots. Pale-faced, meek and mild Melanie Hamilton-Wilkes was actually the puppet master of the story. Yes, she was frail and homely, but what she lacked in strength and beauty, she more than made up for in brains. I think about the scene where Ashley tells Scarlet he’s taking a banking job in New York, and Scarlet pretends to cry because she had hoped Ashley would help her run her lumber business. Melanie enters the room and sides with Scarlet– after all, Scarlet saved her and Ashely’s son’s lives! Scarlet wins! But did Melanie really want to leave the South and head North so soon after the Civil War? Leave her family and friends for the busy city life? Probably not. But the dutiful, meek Melanie would never assert herself and argue with her husband about his plans to provide for his family. Melanie capitalizes on Scarlet’s selfishness several times throughout the story. That’s not to say that Melanie is manipulative or disingenuous– quite the contrary. She is every bit the demure and thoughtful woman she is portrayed to be in the movie. But there is an intelligence and determination that seems to get lost behind the dramatics surrounding Scarlet. Remember that it was Melanie who shot the deserter. Melanie who was in charge of the women doing needlepoint while their men raided the miner’s camp– no one had even bothered to tell Scarlet what was going on, even though it was her stubbornness that led to the raid in the firsts place.

Melanie emphasizes the extreme importance of secondary characters in a story. I think it could be argued that Melanie and Scarlet are actually co-heroines of the story, though Scarlet receives all the fan-fare. Take out Melanie, and the story stalls and nose-dives. And that is why, in the end, Scarlet didn’t get her way. Oh, Melanie tried to grease the skids, so-to-speak, but without her physical presence and influence, it was not likely to proceed the way she hoped. That could very well be while the attempt to ghost-write a sequel to Gone with the Wind was not very successful– there was no Melanie, and no character to fill her role in such a way as to subtly move Scarlet in the direction she wished to go.

Can you think of another such story where a “secondary” character could actually be more important than the so-called main character?

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Move Over, Ya Wimp.

My oldest went to a public school for second grade, and one day came home with a book he had checked out from the school library. I get that boys like potty humor. I don’t like it, but I get it. But Super Diaper Baby went way beyond potty humor. Showing the birthing process via cartoon characters, and atrocious spelling with words like “enuff” rather than “enough,” is entirely inappropriate for emerging readers and spellers. I’m not about censorship at all, but a second grader should not have access to this crap.

It wasn’t long after that he brought home a Wimpy Kid book. It looks similar, in that it’s sort of comic book style and has that hand-written look. And there’s some potty humor. But it’s also written in proper English, and with correct spelling. It was intended for adult audiences, so it’s written to appeal to intelligent adults, and not dumbed-down for kids. And frankly, it’s downright funny. Irreverent. Embraces disobedience and rebellion, But it’s tasteful and relatively clean. We bought the entire series and read through them, and eagerly attended the movie on its opening weekend. That’s when tragedy struck via The Cheese Touch. The way The Cheese Touch was depicted in the movie was more than my sensitive 7 year old could handle. From that day forward, he still gets upset if he so much as sees a Wimpy Kid book.

But it’s okay. Because as we homeschool this year, we have been exposed to some WONDERFUL books for kids. Some were written a hundred years ago. The language can be a little out-dated. But the stories are amazing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to choke back a tear as we’ve read through tender moments in some of these books. We’ve just recently completed White Stallion of Lipizza. I have to admit that when I look at some of these books, I’m a little leery of whether the boys will understand some of the language, and most of these stories are set in very different times. White Stallions takes place in the early 1900s, as automobiles are emerging, and it’s not unusual for a 10 year old Viennese boy to daily ride a horse-drawn cart through town delivering baked goods from his family bakery. Alone. My kids are learning that there was a time when 25 cents could buy a brand new pair of pants, and that a 10 year old boy could work a paying job to buy his own store-bought pants.

This book, in particular, was an amazing story of success. In a day and age when a bakery boy was expected to grow up to become a baker, we find Hans, who adores the Lipizzaner stallions he sees parading down the street every morning during his deliveries. He decides that he wants to become a riding master, riding and training Lipizzaners. He first devours every bit of information he can find about the horses, scouring historic books, even spending his own money to take a train to the ranch where the horses are bread and born. Eventually, his research earns him an opportunity to take on a small job at the riding school, and ultimately this baker boy respectfully and diligently works his way into the riding school as an apprentice. It takes several years of training, but Hans achieves his dream of becoming a riding master.

It’s a beautiful story. There are some sad moments. Hans’s father at first discourages him from pursuing this impossible dream, then later supports and encourages his son. His father doesn’t live long enough to see Hans perform as a riding master. Hans’s faithful delivery cart mare, Rosie, passes away. But that’s part of life– people die, animals die, and hard work is rewarded with success.

I think that’s the one thing I hope my boys took away from the story– success is guaranteed to no one. Hans would never have been able to achieve his dream had he not dedicated himself to learning everything about it. Even when he started at the riding school, it was a long time before he got to start riding the horses and learning the acrobatic leaps the horses perform during their world-famous shows. And there were moments where he made mistakes, and owned up to them rather than make excuses. He grew into a young man of great character, always displaying incredible perseverance and patience– that is where greatness comes from.

There are humorous parts, too. But it’s actual humor– no toilets or underwear or farting noises are involved. I’ll admit that I miss the light-hearted humor of the Wimpy Kid. But title character in those books only aspires to sneak out his house to play video games that his parents don’t approve of.

Move over, Wimpy Kid. I’d rather my boys learn from kids like Hans– a boy of strong character.

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A Quality Craving

Drat those Red Vines.

I love having a freshly opened box of Red Vines next me as I sit at the computer designing and writing and doing nothing of any significance whatsoever. No  movie experience is quite complete without a $0.97 box of Red 40 and corn syrup, except that few movie theaters actually carry them anymore. I’m not talkin’ Twizzlers here, people. I’m talkin’ moist, red, chewy, sweet Red Vines.

And chocolate. Seriously never was a chocolate eater in my younger days. I even went more than a year without eating chocolate at all when I learned that it can contain cockroach bits. But lately I am obsessed with peanut M&Ms. I can say I buy them for the kids, but the reality is that one-third of the kids don’t like them, and two-thirds of them never see them.

In reality, the foods I crave would read more like that list of 2011 reading intentions. I have an overactive sweet tooth, crave carbs, and drool at the mere mention of Mexican food, which too often begins with a bowl of warm tortilla chips and queso dip. So, when I heard Lysa TerKeurst talking on a Focus on the Family broadcast about cravings, my ears perked up.

It’s the first book I have read solely on my iPhone Kindle app, which is why it’s also officially the first book on my list that I’ve actually completed, despite having started several others. It’s so convenient to be able to pull out my phone while sitting in the ER waiting to have my foot x-rayed, or while the boys are rough-housing at the park. I love the accessibility of an e-book. Going forward, however, I will reserve e-books for fiction and biographies only. While I did figure out how to highlight with the Kindle app, it just isn’t the same as with a paper book. I wanted to be able to go back and find passages to read to my parents, and I have to scroll past so many pages to find that one little relevant section that I was talking about, but the conversation had moved on by the time I finally tracked it down.  But for a fiction book or biography that are just a light read, I can fully see the benefit of the electronic version. It would be icing on the cake if hard-copy books would come with an e-version like so many DVDs nowadays, because I just went out and bought a hard-copy of Made to Crave so I can go through it again, with a highlighter pen, and answer the reflective questions at the end of each chapter.

But the message of Made to Crave was almost custom-made for me. I could have written this book, had I experienced the spiritual growth that TerKeurst had already experienced. Her insights into the heart of a woman who struggles with achieving (and maintaining) a healthy weight, and also struggles to be all that God wants her to be, were relate-able in an uncanny kind of way. TerKeurst says the struggle with weight is a direct link to our relationship with God, that becoming a woman of self-discipline, learning to tell myself “no” regardless of how loudly the Red Vines are begging to join my shopping cart, is actually opening myself up to allow the Holy Spirit to work on my self-control. The two are intimately connected. And as I focus on fulfilling my cravings with the Lord instead of Red Vines, I will grow into a woman who pleases God, rather than her belly.

Does God care if I have a little jiggle around my middle? YES! He absolutely cares about what I put in my mouth! TerKeurst points out the many, many, many references to food throughout the Bible. Right from the beginning, God tells Adam and Eve that there is a lot of beautiful food in the Garden of Eden, but that there is this one tree that they are not permitted to eat. It looks good, it smells good, but it’s not good for them. See for yourself, as you read through the Word, and you’ll suddenly start noticing the oh-so-many ways that the Lord uses food to illustrate spiritual truths. TerKeurst also points out that over-eating is a sin. Plain and simple. It’s gluttony. That realization really hurts. But the truth so often does.

Like I said, I need to read it again. I really rushed through the book the first time because it was so very good and I just wanted to devour it. Much like those little boxes of Red Vines that don’t last an hour once they enter the house, if they even make it back from the store. But I’m learning. I’m growing. And, I hope, shrinking at the same time.

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