Category Archives: Karah

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!

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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Filling up on Cotton Candy

Last week we went on the mother of all road trips. We were away from home for six days, and four of those days we spent driving at least 11 hours per day. The other two days we spent on a college visit and playing tourist in Seattle. It was exhausting, and I still feel off my schedule and behind on everything after four days back at home.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’ve been revamping my eating and exercise habits lately. But eating healthy and getting enough exercise when you’re sitting in the car all day, feasting on gas station snacks and fast food meals, is nearly impossible. One thing I noticed during this trip is that the more junk food was available to me, the less and less it satisfied me. At home, eating a clean diet and getting regular exercise, a rest day feels restful, and a treat is, well, a real treat. But a steady supply of laziness and junk stops satisfying.

On the way home I found myself standing in a truck stop in Montana, looking for a snack to tide me over so we could keep moving without a lunch break. I looked at the candy and chips, but nothing appealed to me. I looked at the beverages, but I just didn’t want another soda (or the ensuing potty break it would necessitate). I could have anything I wanted, and I just didn’t want any of it.

Since we’ve gotten home I have felt the same way about my behavior. I have so much that I need to do to get caught up – laundry, grocery shopping, getting back to the gym, etc., but as soon as I get a spare minute, I waste it playing games on my phone, drawing/coloring, or reading. The whole thing came to a head yesterday when I was praying about what to post this week. I confessed to the Lord that I just felt sluggish and out of touch with writing and with His heart. As soon as I confessed that, I began thinking of the ways I’ve wasted time lately. No wonder I’m unsatisfied, I’ve been filling up on cotton candy.

I’m not saying that you should strictly schedule every second of your day full of practical and efficient busyness. Down time and rest are imperative, and hobbies are wonderful and fulfilling. But it’s just like the treats I ate on the road. When it’s truly a treat, it’s fun and special. When you fill your life with fluff and junk, it stops satisfying.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Rest when you need rest. Engage in hobbies that allow you to have a creative outlet, physical exercise, or just a good laugh. But don’t fill up on the cotton candy. Fill your days with things that bring glory to God and bless others so your treats can be a treat.

Catching Up

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. Though I haven’t had technical difficulties, haven’t been sick or injured, and haven’t been busy (well, no more than usual), I just stopped blogging. For a few weeks I felt bad about it, but the longer I went between posts, the easier it got to let it slide. But if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to start up again. Since it’s been four months since my last post, I thought I’d start with a quickie to get us caught up with each other. So grab a cup of coffee and pretend we’re old friends catching up after months of saying “we should get together sometime” (or am I the only one who has to have that conversation six times before I actually get together with people?)

First of all, I am completely and totally healed up from last year’s knee surgery. And even better, my recovery and physical therapy were the catalysts I needed to start a regular exercise routine and to make some positive changes to my eating habits. I’m down 30 pounds, and for the first time I can remember, I actually accomplished my weight-related New Year’s resolution.

Speaking of resolutions, the other things I focused on in 2017 were committing to buying only Fair Trade clothing, shoes, and accessories for myself, and living out my word of the year, honor, by finding ways to serve, encourage, and love on others. If we’re grading this pass/fail, I’d say I passed on the honor goal, but failed on the Fair Trade resolution. I believe I made it 5-6 months before the need for things I couldn’t find Fair Trade tripped me up. And, typical Karah, when I slipped, I jumped right off the plan and gave up. But I think it’s a worthy goal, so I re-upped for 2018. Expect to see posts in the near future about Fair Trade and second-hand retailers. Mixing weight loss with ethical shopping is going to be an interesting challenge!

My word for 2018 is “warrior.” When I first started to feel attracted to this word, I was afraid. I still am, actually. I figure that God calls up warriors when there is a battle to fight, and I don’t really want to get into any battles, thank you very much. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we all face battles all the time. Each of us has to chose if we are going to be a warrior or a victim.

So here are the things I jotted down:
2018 – My word is “warrior”
I’m done wishing, done hoping
I’m ready to fight.
– Learn what the Bible says about being a “warrior.”
– Learn to take orders: to go when called, to act when called upon, to shut up and obey.
– Do no harm, but take no *crap*
– Put on the armor of God
– Stand up and Fight!

If that doesn’t fill you with a mixture of passion and terror, then you need more coffee!

So I hope you’re up for another year of inspiration and information sprinkled liberally with faith and humor. As always, I welcome comments, questions, and ideas of things I can research for us. Leave comments here in the blog, or on the Food Shelf Friday Facebook page. Thank you and welcome back!

Light it up!

Matthew 5:13-16 – You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Last weekend my family and I packed meals for Feed My Starving Children‘s #LoveSomalia mobile pack event here in the Twin Cities. Our first shift was on Sunday, so of course I came down with a migraine that afternoon. Some prescription meds and a nap later, I called on my faithful prayer warrior friends to pray that I would have “a supernatural burst of health and energy” for the event. God answered our prayers, and a burst of health and energy is exactly what I got! By the time the introduction/training portion of the event was done, I felt great. And as we developed a rhythm on the packing floor (I run a sealer and Jacob is a pro boxing coordinator/table lead. Scott usually helps in the warehouse, but for this event he stayed with the fam and scooped the vitamins and veggies), I was having a lot of fun! Jacob and I had a rhythm going. As I finished sealing a bag, I tested the seal then flipped it into the air, and he would reach out and snatch it up and put it in the right place. (We were very careful. I never threw them high enough to damage a bag if he didn’t catch it, and I tossed them over the sorting table so they didn’t hit the floor. One actually missed the table and landed right in the box!) We laughed, we sang along with the music playing in the arena, and even danced a little (or what passes for “dancing” in our family…) I physically worked to pack meals for about two hours, yet I left with more energy than I had going in! When Scott and I talked about it later, the only way I could explain that energy and why I keep signing up for events like that was to say that it “lights me up.”

Do you know the feeling of being lit up? Maybe you LOVE babies, kids, or teens, and spending time with them gives you that burst. Maybe you’re an actor, musician, comedian, or public speaker, and you feel the thrill of the live audience. Maybe creating artwork, playing a sport, or writing your novel gets you too excited to sleep. I’ll bet that there is something in your life that energizes you in spite of the calories it burns. This is passion. This is what you were put on this earth to do.

That may leave some of you baffled, or even insulted. The first time I heard a sermon on giftings and passion, I was hurt. I remember sitting in church and praying, “God, I make good cookies. What are you going to do with that?” I didn’t see my passion for food as something God could or would use. My “spiritual gifts” test always came out as “helps” which means pitching in where needed. So my passion was food and my gifting was pitching in. I thought that was pathetic. I thought it relegated me to bake sales and funeral lunches. But I wanted to make a difference in the world!

It took time for me to mature and for my interests and giftings to come together into something I could think of as a calling. Now here I am: writing, sometimes raising funds, and volunteering to my heart’s content for the cause of global hunger relief. I believe that when I asked God what He could do with my talent for making cookies, He had a fatherly chuckle and said, “Watch me.” Your talent may seem small, or like something that doesn’t coincide with spreading the gospel or changing the world, but God doesn’t make mistakes. He gave you your gifts and personality because He needed just that you in just the life He gave you. Let your light shine!