Introverted Thankfulness

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, readers!

Today wraps up my thankfulness posts (at least for awhile). I was planning to post yesterday, but, well, it was Thanksgiving. I was busy playing games, watching Veggie Tales, and eating turkey and assorted carbs with my in-laws. And then we didn’t get home until 12:30 a.m.

Today I’m thankful to be the shy, introverted type. (And that’s why this is a written post, not a vlog. I can’t see myself ever creating a vlog. Watching them, on the other
hand . . . Have you seen the Lizzie Bennet Diaries? I’m hooked.) I never thought I’d be thankful for these personality traits, but when I think about it, I’m super glad I’m not an extrovert. It just seems exhausting. But maybe that’s just because I’m an introvert. (Nothing against extroverts—I wouldn’t make it through life without you!)

In the last six or so years, I’ve gotten over being painfully shy. Enough so that some people are surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert. I still get knots in my stomach when I have to go to unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. But meeting a few new people doesn’t cripple me anymore.

Growing up, my best friend, Anne-Marie, was the most extroverted person I’d ever met (she still is). In that respect, we couldn’t be more opposite. She used to strike up conversations with complete strangers all the time, and I was happy to have her do it so I didn’t have to. (I’m also thankful for all fifteen years of Anne-Marie’s friendship. We met in fourth grade!) What a blessing! But it also horrified me. Not because I thought it was a bad thing, but because I didn’t understand why she was able to do it and I wasn’t. I hated myself for being so afraid. So why am I thankful now? What changed? Well, there are a few things.

1) I’ve realized being shy has made me a good listener (most of the time) and observer. I’m often able to remember details others don’t. This really comes in handy when my husband and I meet new people. He does the talking and I remember their names.

2) I’ve come to terms with the way God created me. I’m this way for a reason, and He’s allowed me to use who I am to bring Him glory. Who am I to complain about that?

Read my other thankfulness posts here, here, and here.

Happy Independence Day!

Every year, to celebrate the 4th of July and honor servicemembers, our church has the Freedom Celebration. This year it was on Sunday, July 1. (When they get the video up on the website, I’ll link to it.) Thomas Poch, a retired Minnesota judge and Navy veteran, spoke. He was full of great stories about his time in the service, but what has stuck with me is the essay he quoted—”I am an American,” written by Elizabeth Ellen Evans, a high school student in 1954.

If you want to be inspired and reminded of the American legacy we sometimes forget about, listen to this radio broadcast from September 1954 and take the time to reflect on Evans’ words. (It’s a dramatization, so if you want to skip the music up front, start listening at 0:50).

My Old Man

Me and my old man. That’s how he describes himself, so I have no shame in calling him that : )

My dad is a pretty awesome guy. As much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t realize just how awesome until my mom left him almost two years ago. They’d been married nearly 27 years when she packed up her stuff, moved an hour and a half away, and left my dad to parent my 17-year-old sister and 14-year-old brother.

I’ve never been so proud of my dad. He’s gotten involved in my brother’s education, taken requests for trips to the grocery store, and started cooking dinner every night. He bought Christmas gifts, stocking stuffers, and even made a holiday dinner. The last two years have helped me recognize the things he’d always done for us that I was never aware of. I’m sorry I didn’t recognize how lucky I am sooner.

I have so many happy memories—lessons he’s taught me, things we’ve done together, and snapshots of growing up as his oldest little girl. He taught me to pay attention to my surroundings, to make every day count, and—if I’m ever attacked—to “kick ’em where it counts.” I remember walks in the woods, early mornings at First Class Auto, and the way he cried when I got married. He’s convinced he’s a world-class singer, a total stud, and a rocket scientist. He always laughs when he retells the story of three-year-old me telling him to wait because “I can’t put my damn boots on.” And he gets a kick out of telling me I’m just like him.

I hated hearing that growing up. The last thing a teenage girl wants to hear is that she’s just like her lame old dad (no offense, Dad). But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have so much respect for my dad—for overcoming some pretty awful life experiences, for always providing for his family, for being the perfect example of what hard work looks like. He’s a great combination of heart, dedication, and that wonderful metallic auto shop smell, and I am so blessed to be his daughter.

Dad, I love you. I am so thankful for everything you’ve done for me. And I am so excited to see you follow Jesus. Thank you for always being there, always providing, and always catching my tears and putting them in your pocket.

Happy Father’s Day.

You Can Have My Leg

I came across this inspiring story on the Compassion International blog the other day (Click here to see the original post).

This video just about broke my heart. But it reminded me why I love Compassion International and the work they’re doing to care for kids and their families across the world by meeting their physical and spiritual needs.

I’ve been involved with Compassion since 2006. My husband and I sponsor a 12-year-old girl from Burkina Faso and a 10-year-old boy from Colombia. Through letters, pictures, and gifts, we’ve developed relationships with these kids from very different parts of the world. I’ve grown to love them both in ways I never thought I would.

That relational element is what makes Compassion different from other sponsorship organizations I’ve heard of. I love getting regular pictures and letters from Pierrette and Marlon. They give us updates on their families and studies and they share their favorite Bible verses. We even get drawings. And sometimes they ask heart-breaking questions like, “Dear sponsor, are you going to come to Burkina Faso to see me?”

Though we’re not able to make visits (at least not yet), I know our money, prayers, and letters make a difference in the lives of these children. I have been so blessed by the two precious kids God has brought into our lives.

Want to find out more? Click here to learn about sponsoring a child through Compassion.

How to Find Free eBooks

This is the one I want : )

I’ve wanted an e-reader for almost two years. Rather than go out and buy one right away, I’ve been a responsible adult, agreeing to use my Christmas bonus to help pay off the car. I still don’t have a Kindle, but I downloaded Kindle for PC and have been hoarding free books ever since (the go nicely with my large collection of traditional books). In the last year or so, I’ve collected nearly 100 books. And I haven’t paid for any of them. So I thought I’d share the love and give you my tips for finding free e-books. (I usually prefer Christian books, mostly because I don’t have to worry about coming across unnecessary sex or vulgar language, but most of these tricks should be helpful no matter what you like.)

1. If you’re on Facebook, “like” as many publishers’ pages as you can find. And make sure you change your settings so you see all of their updates. Twitter is probably a good place to check, too. (I don’t use it, so I can’t tell you for sure.) Publishers often post free offers on their pages, and they’ll often offer an author’s previous book for free in order to promote a new release.

Here are the publishers I’ve “liked” on Facebook:
Bethany House
Tyndale
WaterBrook Multnomah
Thomas Nelson
Zondervan
Scholastic
Little, Brown & Company
Random House
Penguin
HarperCollins
Chosen Books
David C Cook
Doubleday
Simon & Schuster
Hachette
FaithWords
BookBub (not a publisher, but they post free books every day)

2. If you’re on Facebook, “like” your favorite authors’ pages. This one won’t get you quite as much success because one person can only write so many books, but it’ll also get you updates about sales, book signings, and new releases.

A few of my favorites:
Julie Klassen
Robin Jones Gunn
Michelle Griep

3. Sign up for free e-book newsletters. Sometimes publishers send these out, and sometimes you can find third-party newsletters. Currently, I receive newsletters from David C. Cook and Inspired Reads.

4. Visit Amazon’s bargain/free ebook list. It’s a little tricky to find from the website, so I just Google “free amazon e-books.” I’ll make it easy for you—here’s a link. This is a great place to go if you want to collect the classics. There are other good ones too, but you often have to wade through some not-so-good ones (most of them with covers featuring mostly-naked people) to find them. Publishers have also started offering teasers, which only give you a few chapters of a book, so make sure you know what you’re getting.

5. Find out if your library loans e-books. Because I don’t have an e-reader, I’m not sure how this works, but I do know it’s creating a lot of controversy between book publishers and libraries. Regardless, if it’s a program your library participates in, it’s a great way to borrow library books without ever leaving home. And they’re easier to return, too.

6. Google “free e-books” and see what pops up. You never know what you’ll find. I’ve found a few decent sites that offer free classics this way. Project Gutenberg is a good place to start.

If you’ve found free e-book resources I haven’t listed—or a great free ebook you want to recommend—leave a comment and let me know.

Happy reading!

Happy Memorial Day!

I’m dedicating this post to John, the little old man who, when returning the chair he borrowed from my table at Starbucks, decided to sit down across from me and tell me his entire life story in about twenty minutes. Thank you.

John had just graduated from law school when he got drafted into WWII. He joined the Navy and became well-versed in submarines. When the government asked him to fly to Seattle to take part in an underwater invasion of Japan, he was reluctant to go. But  he went. And he arrived just in time for VJ Day.

Though John was blessed to avoid the invasion, thousands of others have not been so lucky. Countless men and women have fought, many losing their lives, to defend the United States and the values and rights she stands for.

I imagine those veterans would be even more angered and disappointed than I am in the way our country “honors” those sacrifices on Memorial Day. Most Americans celebrate Memorial Day with backyard BBQs, door-buster sales, and a day off work. Those aren’t bad in and of themselves, but the result is that many of us never even consider what Memorial Day is actually about.

So on behalf of all Americans—even, and maybe especially, the ignorant ones—

Thank you, veterans, for serving our country. Thank you for stepping up to defend the freedoms we so often take for granted. Your sacrifice keeps us safe enough that we often don’t even realize just how much you’ve done for us. But that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve our gratitude.

And to those who have lost loved ones in the military—whether because of war, training, or something else—I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t begin to imagine the price you, too, have paid for America.

May we all step up to the plate to do what we can to make America, and ourselves, a country worthy of your sacrifices.