All posts by kahawkinson

About kahawkinson

Karah Hawkinson is a wife, mother, and professional historian from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her passion is advocating on behalf of the world's hungry. She uses blogging, publications, and social media to help average Christians make informed decisions that have a positive, lasting impact on the world's hungry. Follow her blog at www.foodshelffriday.com

What I’ve Been Reading

What kind of reader are you? Do you pick up one book at a time and read it cover-to-cover, or are you eternally picking at a few books at the same time? I used to be the first type. I read one book at a time, and almost entirely fiction. Then I got further into my education and just didn’t have time for much leisure reading. At the same time I discovered audiobooks and got an e-reader, so my reading style evolved. For example, I am currently reading 3 books: I’m listening to a non-fiction book about the Great Depression while I commute, picking at a psychology/self-help book about my son’s Myers-Briggs type, and just starting an e-book about Vietnam. On top of that, I’m half done with a children’s book in French that I have picked at for a couple years, and I read half of a book on pioneers before I had to return it to the library. I’ve also been reading some (clean) fanfiction when I just need something fluffy in my downtime. I’ve completed 42 books so far in 2018. It’s a far cry from the 100 I was hoping to read this year, but there’s still time to squeeze in a few more. Here are a few of the highlights.

 

Fiction:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – I like classic novels. I have a big list of classic novels everyone should read, and I’ve been picking at it for years. I dreaded this one because I’ve seen at least parts of the movie, and I was afraid it would be creepy. It’s not, and Kesey’s use of language is evocative. I ended up really enjoying the book.

 

Dune by Frank Herbert – Another off the classic list. It reminded me a lot of Star Wars (or should I say Star Wars is reminiscent of this book, since it was published first). It’s sci-fi, but not in an over-the-top nerdy way. I plan on working my way through the rest of the series and watching the movie some time.

 

I also read/listen to a lot of John Grisham legal thrillers and Debbie Macomber romances (again, clean), and this year I had my first taste of the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming.

 

Non-fiction:

As an historian, naturally I read a lot of history and biography/memoirs. This year I’ve read about the Romanov family, the modern first ladies, and the power of creativity. There have been a number of psychology/self-help books on my list this year, too.

 

You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero – This was a fun one. Sincero spent years digging through self-help books and attending seminars, and this book is the concentrated knowledge of her experiences. It’s snarky and funny, and not at all pretentious. My one disappointment with this book is Sincero’s take on spirituality. Early in the book she says that the sooner we accept spirituality’s role in our lives, the sooner we can get past ourselves and start living the life we want. I thought, “yay! A funny, sarcastic self-help book that will also encourage my faith!” But alas, I was wrong. Sincero’s version of spirituality basically has God in the role of cosmic bartender, just waiting to open the tap for you once you have the right way of asking. It totally strips God of his power and all-knowing nature and makes us the authority in the universe. I just can’t devalue the creator of the universe like that.

But there was still so much good in this book. The most powerful part for me was the chapter on the things we say about ourselves. I came to realize that there were a number of things I said about who I was (I will never be a runner, I have bad knees, etc.) that once served a purpose. I started saying that I have bad knees to protect myself physically. But it also became an excuse in my life when it became part of my identity. I have been practicing a new identity. Now I tell myself, “I am a fit chick, and I’m getting stronger every day.” This reminds me that although I’m not where I want to be, I am making progress. It also helps me make good choices, because I identify as a fit chick, so I eat like a fit chick, read like a fit chick, and am committed to my workouts like a fit chick. It has been a very helpful part of my fitness transformation this year.

 

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg – After reading You are a Badass, this book came up as a recommendation. I listened to it on my library’s audio and ebook app, and I loved it so much that I bought a paper copy as well. If you’ve ever watched shows like Brain Games, where they explore the ways the human mind works, you will enjoy this book. Duhigg explores the physical/psychological workings of the human mind, specifically how we develop habits, and what we can do to alter our habits into practices that will be more beneficial.

There are fascinating stories in this book about advertising, retailers tracking spending habits, and what happens to people who lose their memories (spoiler alert: even when conscious memories are gone, habits and personality traits hold on and can be used to benefit the patients).

As far as practical application is concerned, this book taught me to look at my habits differently. When I feel stuck in a rut, I no longer just look at the behavior I want to change, but at what happens to trigger the behavior. Then I make a conscious decision to use that trigger to spark something different. It hasn’t revolutionized my world yet, but it certainly has created new awareness.

 

So that’s what I’ve been reading this year. How about you? Have you read anything great lately? Leave a comment with your recommendations!

The Lost Wallet: Pursuing God

43157226_10215898189221025_4163176722738446336_o.jpgNo offense to my dad or my pastor, but I have a new favorite preacher. This Wednesday I had the privilege of listening to my son preach at his youth group. As a parent there is nothing better than watching your child live for God and hunger to share his faith with others. This wasn’t J’s first sermon, but it was our first time hearing him. With a few under his belt he didn’t think we would make him nervous any more.

With his permission I want to share with you what he taught on Wednesday.

One day last year, while at school, Jacob reached into his pocket at lunch and realized that he didn’t have his wallet. Logically, he began retracing his steps. He asked his teacher if it was found in the classroom. He dug through every nook and cranny of his car. When he got home he looked all over the house. No wallet. We all know this feeling, don’t we? The only thing Jacob could think about all day is where his wallet was.

On the second day, J filed a report at school. In the report he had to list the contents of the missing wallet. It held his driver’s license, school IDs, a (frozen) debit card, his library card, and a whopping $12 in cash. As he put it, “twelve dollars is just twelve dollars, and a couple pieces of replaceable plastic,” yet the perceived value of IDs, bank access, and a little cash stayed on his mind. Like a pebble in his shoe, he just couldn’t think about anything else.

Jacob challenged his youth group to think about God the way we think about a lost wallet. If our faith was on the forefront of our thoughts every day, how amazing would our relationship with God be!?! And God is so much infinitely more valuable than a couple pieces of plastic and some cash. He is worth our pursuit!

  • God commands us to seek after Him – See Deuteronomy 6:5-9
  • Pursuing God will help you overcome temptation. – See Matthew 4:1-11
  • Staying close to God makes it easier to see the things he wants to show us. – See Proverbs 3:5-6

Jacob eventually found his wallet. It was in his backpack, crammed into the pages of his calculus book. When he found it, he rejoiced; he cheered and ran around the room! Finding his missing wallet brought so much joy and a sense that all was restored in his world. Imagine how much greater we’ll feel when we find closeness with God!

God is not a Sunday only God. He’s not an Easter and Christmas God. He’s not a Wednesday night youth service or bible camp God. He is an every day, every hour, every minute, there for you God who wants to have that kind of intimate relationship with you!

The pursuit of God is never in vain. Consider Jeremiah 29:13. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Go after Him, He’s waiting for you!

 

Documentary Film Review: Hunger in America

Hunger in America is a 2014 Emmy award-winning documentary written and directed by Zac Adams. As the title clearly explains, the 51-minute long film talks specifically about hunger issues here in the United States.

A common misconception that many Americans have is that hunger and poverty are problems that occur only in developing nations and in small pockets in inner cities. Hunger in America seeks to correct that misconception and reveal the true facts of food insecurity across the country.

Hunger and poverty often affect senior citizens, the disabled, and children. These people groups can’t do much to change their financial situations – seniors are often too old to work and are dependent on the fixed income provided by social security and/or their retirement savings, the disabled are physically or mentally unable to take on additional work and are dependent on their social security disability income, and kids are too young to legally work. Subsequently, when the cost of food goes up or systems around them break down, the old, disabled, and young are particularly vulnerable.

But it isn’t just these groups that experience hunger. As one interview subject stated in the film, “Someone you know is hungry today.” Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and are just one small disaster (minor illness, car repairs, etc.) away from financial setback, or one big disaster (major illness, house fire, natural disaster, etc.) away from going hungry.

And it’s not just resources and access to food. Lack of skills for preparing or storing fresh ingredients often leads to waste as fresh ingredients go uneaten until they rot. Without the skills to store and prepare fresh food, many people rely on prepackaged and processed junk to get their calories. People end up filling up on empty calories because they’re easier to store and prepare.

The upside of a documentary – quick overview – is also the downside. Documentaries don’t go deep, and they don’t cite their sources. Hunger in America doesn’t dig deep. It provides basic information to clear up misconceptions and encourage donating and volunteering. If that’s what you’re looking for, check it out. It’s well made and short enough to show in a classroom or small group.

Hunger History Lesson – Celebrity fundraising during the 1980s famine in Ethiopia

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a historian. Like an actual, two degrees in the subject, works at a museum historian. And I seriously never know what will come up in a given day at the museum. Once I had someone call to ask me what the phone number for the police was before 911 because he was restoring a vintage police car and wanted to put the original number on it. Once I spent an afternoon watching Nazi propaganda footage. Yesterday I spent time going over satellite images of a prison yard looking for an old cemetery. It’s always old, but it never gets boring…

So when I was thinking about a new topic to bring to Food Shelf Friday, I quickly thought of history. I love all the where did this come from and whatever happened to… Right away I thought of a hunger issue from my childhood – the 1980s famine in Africa and the celebrity fundraising response.

Check out this gem – We Are the World by USA for Africa, 1985. Just take the seven minutes and giggle at the ‘80s fashions, try to identify all the celebrities, and get this song firmly lodged in your head for the day (sorry not sorry).

Do you remember it? I do! I remember singing that song in school music class and seeing the video on TV. The famine in Ethiopia was all over the news from 1983-85. It was the worst famine in that region in a century, caused by drought and coupled with civil war and human rights violations, it resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. When the Ethiopian government failed to adequately respond to the crisis, international aid organizations and foreign governments began to pour into the region with funds, supplies, and aid workers to try and alleviate the crisis.

In 1984, after seeing a BBC story on the famine, a group of British and Irish musicians got together under the name Band Aid to record a song to raise money for the crisis. Do They Know it’s Christmas hit the airwaves in December of 1984 and raised millions for dollars for the cause.

Inspired by the Brits, a group of American musicians calling themselves USA (United Support of Artists) for Africa, recorded their own single, We Are the World (hyperlinked again because I KNOW you want to watch it again…). The song was released in March of 1985, and it also brought in millions of dollars.

Inspired by their success, the musicians decided to keep the momentum going and planned a huge, world-wide concert and telethon event called Live Aid. On July 13, 1985, concerts were held simultaneously in Philadelphia and London, while other performances went on in countries across the globe. Pulling it off involved satellite feeds, multiple media organizations, venues, performers – barely controlled chaos! But the publicity and fundraising stunt worked in spite of the big egos and technical chaos. Between the initial event, and the books and recordings sold later, Live Aid eventually raised over $125 million for famine relief in Africa. It also inspired musicians to hold similar events for other causes, including Farm Aid for American farmers losing their family farms, and Live 8 for global poverty relief.

I hope you enjoyed this blast from the past! Follow the hyperlinks to check out YouTube videos, org websites (yes, some of them are still around and raising money for today’s crises), and a History Channel article. If you love the celebrity gossip stuff, check out the Wikipedia pages, especially for Live Aid. Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable source, so I didn’t include it here, but if you want all the dirt and gossip of who was invited to perform, who was left out, who failed to show up, and who dropped the f-bomb on live TV, Wikipedia has all that. Share your memories of these star-studded relief efforts in the comments!

watw-album-cover

Run Your Race

I am NOT a runner. I used to make jokes about it, like calling Proverbs 28:1 (“A fool runs when no one is chasing him”) my “life verse,” or saying that if you ever see me running you should run too, because it means that something bad is chasing me. But my husband is a runner (3 marathons and counting, #ProudWife), and now so is our son. So as I recovered from knee surgery and started making progress on my personal fitness journey, I had a nagging thought that I wanted to know if I could run.

The short answer is no. The long answer starts with “well, kind of…” Back in February, in a burst of carb- and coffee-fueled enthusiasm, I registered for my first 5k. Then I jumped on a treadmill and told it to do a 5k. I took 54 minutes. So I set a goal to finish my first race in 45 minutes, and started training. I started a couch to 5k program and got sick with a nasty and lingering cold. Then we did some traveling. Then the weather turned full-on winter again. But I had paid for this race and committed to doing it, and I was going to do it come hell or high snowbanks…

In a last-minute attempt to derail we had a little “adventure” finding parking on race day. My husband hadn’t brought his wallet along, and after he dropped us off near the starting line, we realized that he was going to need me to pay for parking. My son and I walked well over a mile to where my husband was, paid for and found a parking spot, and walked back to the start line with only moments to spare. It was tense. I was more than a little crabby about walking a 5k before the race even began. You see, I had worked for this. I had trained in spite of everything. I studied the race map. I carefully planned my outfit. I created a custom playlist for the race. I had visualized myself crossing the finish line in under 45 minutes as I tried to fall asleep each night.

I was stubborn.

My sweet, contrite husband, experienced runner and veteran of many many races turned to me and said, “Do you want me to stay with you?”

Insert record scratch sound

Stay with me? No way. My training prepared me to do this at my pace, not at his pace. And even though I’m sure he would have dialed back to my level, I would have been so self-conscious the entire time. I would have pushed myself too hard in the beginning and run out of steam before the end. I would have spent every step agonizing over what my husband thought of my form when I ran and my lack of stamina when I walked (I’m still speed walking over half of my “runs”). The only way this was going to work was if I could lose myself in my music and do this my way. So I thanked him for his thoughtful offer but suggested that it would be best if we each ran our own race.

That’s a familiar phrase – run your own race. I always thought it meant that we should do what is set before us and not get caught up in comparison and trying to do what God intended others to do. But running the 5k, I realized that trying to run someone else’s race doesn’t just mess with you, it messes with them as well!

Hebrews 12:1-2 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  • Throw off those unexpected setbacks. The enemy wants you to fail. You will face challenges. But hold true. Stay firm. Persevere.
  • Stay in your lane. Don’t get in the way of the person God called to a certain role, and don’t get caught up comparing your role to anothers’. He needs us all, but He doesn’t need us tripping each other (or ourselves) up!
  • Fix your eyes on the goal, not the other runners.

At about mile two of my 5k, I was passed by the tuba section of the University marching band, instruments and all. At about 2 and a half miles I passed a toddler in a Spiderman costume (passing a toddler is obviously not the story here, the story is that he stayed in front of me for most of the race!). I rounded the corner and headed into the final stretch, crossing the finish line in 45 minutes and 6 seconds. My husband was at the finish line, waiting with his camera ready.

I threw off the setbacks. I ran my own race. I finished strong. And though I still don’t consider myself a runner, I’ve registered for a few more opportunities to get that time under 45 minutes…

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