Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Please check out this site. $1 isn't much, but it's enough to give one person water for a whole year. Maybe you can give more.

Blood:Water Mission exists to promote clean blood and clean water efforts in Africa, tangibly reducing the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic while addressing the underlying issues of poverty, injustice and oppression. Blood:Water Mission is building clean water wells, supporting medical facilities, and focusing on community and worldview transformation, both here in America and in Africa.

We recognize that numbers and statistics are hard to grasp, and that sometimes a step back is necessary to conceptualize the enormity of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Yet we also know that simply standing from a distance with arms thrown in the air is not a solution. We believe in pressing inward, in building relationships and bridges with communities in Africa. We believe in hearing personal stories and walking alongside brothers and sisters who have demonstrated strength and faith in the midst of desperate and tragic situations.

We hold fast to the conviction that we are all responsible for being good stewards of our time, our resources and our compassion in a broken world.

Every person has something to give in return for what has been received.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


I keep forgetting I have this blog because I am not reading a Newbery book right now. I don't really know what to write about on here because my life is told already here. And, in case you were wondering, outsiders can now comment on xangas! Finally! For those of you that read the other one, I may repeat myself here for the sake of Kira, whose xanga privileges have been taken away.

Things are really pretty hectic right now. I just sat down and planned out our next events and began preparation for a new week long event we may have for youth groups next summer. This is the stuff I love but I must be in the zone to concentrate on it.

Bill's parents are coming in tonight. They'll get to visit Crossings for the first time this Sunday. It's also possible that a couple I met a few weeks ago will show up with their kids. This is VERY exciting to me because I work in an environment where everyone already has a church and a faith background. These are the first people I've been able to tell about Crossings that aren't in that category! They are believers but they just moved here and are looking for a church home. I hope they come! I hope even more that they find a place where they can serve and become one with a community and that we can still hang out either way :)

Heather is officially working in the office now. I feel instant happiness when I walk out of my office and see her. We're saying goodbye to the Cogdells for a while tomorrow. We had a going away party today and had a cake with a big circle around the word "Texas" with a big line through...like a "Just say no to Texas" cake.

Ok, I'll write more soon, I promise. Shalom!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Real Post?!

As more and more of my friends get blogger, I guess it's time for me to write some real posts once in a while. My day to day goings on are usually recorded in my other blog, which you can find to the left, but I commment on a lot of blogs with this account and it usually leaves people wondering why I love kid's books so much. I intended to only track my Newbery Project Progress with this one so I'd have something to look back on and keep track with. I'm on somewhat of a Newbery hiatus this month though as I pick up some other books that I would like to read. If you don't mind, I'll borrow a paragraph from my other blog:

I have in my possession the newest book by controversial author Anne Lamott. "Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith" is a continuation in the series of memoirs in her faith journey. Lamott is not for the faint at heart or too easily offended. She has led quite the controversial life. In fact, if you asked me, "has she ever been involved in (insert worst sin you can think of here)?", I would probably say, "Yes." Lamott and those with similar backgrounds always stretch me and especially widen my mental net of God's grace. Each chapter is a story from her life with a faith lesson tucked inside. The stories make me laugh and sometimes cry because underneath our stories, we are quite alike in our hearts. I may never agree completely with Lamott and I most certainly will never, EVER, be able to fathom the depth of God's love and grace, but her works have definitely touched me over the past 2 years. It's also just kind of nice to step outside of the usual and easily acceptable.

I am also working through a Beth Moore study guide that goes along with "A Heart Like His". It's walking me through 1 and 2 Samuel and really challenging me in a lot of ways, especially in trying to be less self-centered. It's a study on David.

I suppose that is all I have for you today, but I hope to be able to come up with enough stuff to fill both this blog and my Xanga.

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Summer of the Swans

Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars won the Newbery Medal in 1971. I was able tell by some of the language and clothing that it was set in the 70s. There are also some drawings on the inside that dated it a little. However, I believe that this is a timeless story. We see a 14 year-old girl, Sara, caught up in the "misery" of her own life. Her feet are too big, her arms to thin, and her nose is too crooked. All of these things are brought into perspective when her 10 year-old mentally handicapped brother, Charlie, goes missing. This is the story of the day her worldview changed.

Swans is a quick and easy read. It probably took me a little over 2 hours. Faster readers could do it quicker! This story had exactly what I felt was missing when I read "Jacob Have I Loved". Both main characters really looked at the negative things in life, and both are named Sara! Sarah in Jacob Have I Loved found a way out of her circumstances but never really saw how negative she had been. It was all justifiable to her but it never was to me as a reader! Sara in Summer of the Swans really comes around and sees what is truly important in life.

None of the characters in the book are flat. Byars does an excellent job of telling the back story of Charlie, the mentally handicapped brother. I also really liked Aunt Willie, who has been taking care of them since their mother died. Her older sister Wanda is in the story for a shorter time, but I think that is what allows Sara to really respond to her brother's disappearance.

I realize I have not yet mentioned the swans! The title of the book comes from the excitement that is caused when 5 swans show up in a lake in Sara's small town.

In the final pages of the book we hear about this mental picture that she has of each of her family members on a set of stairs representing their different stages of life. I think that this represents a moment of growth for Sara and that it was a great conclusion to the story.

I couldn't help but think that this story would be very different if it was written today. Unfortunately, I don't think children would be nearly as excited to go see swans for entertainment. I also realized how corrupt my own mind was when I thought to myself that if Charlie had gone missing today that there are far more dangers that he could have encountered. But this was a simpler time, and I think that is one of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much.

Two thumps up!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo was quite a lovely tale. It's the story of a runt of a mouse who lives in a castle and falls in love with the Princess Pea. He is shunned by his family for speaking humans, a King and a Princess nonetheless, and sent off to the dungeon. Upon entering the dungeon he learns of a rat's wishes to harm the princess. A dim-witted and unlucky servant girl with cauliflower ears gets talked into kidnapping the princess in hopes that she can take her place and become a princess herself!

DiCamillo is an eloquent writer. I got the feeling that if she was here reading it out loud to me that her voice would be soothing but that I would hang on every word. She didn't just tell this story, she got to the heart of the issues that caused the characters to be good and bad. For Miggery Sow, the servant girl, we saw that nobody had ever cared what she wanted. For the rat, we see someone trying to get revenge for making him feel so ugly. For Despereaux Tilling, we see what happens when you choose not to conform to what everyone else is doing. The Princess is a ray of light throughout the whole book but we even see her struggle to want to take revenge on those who harmed her, but we also see what good comes when you decide to love instead of hurt.

This story is for younger readers, probably even 3rd to 5th grade, but I enjoyed it immensely. You can find The Tale of Despereaux at a theater near you in 2008.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Criss Cross

"Criss Cross" by Lynne Rae Perkins is a different book from the other winners I've read so far. There are a couple of reasons, and as I was reading it I was unsure about whether or not it was good or bad. First of all, Criss Cross is probably more appropriate for 8th and 9th grade and up. I don't think it's necessarily a bad book for younger readers to get their hands on, I just don't think they are old enough to "get it". The main characters are dealing with having true feelings for the opposite sex for the first time, figuring out the awkwardness that the ages of 13-15 year olds are dealing with, and they actually make a lot of progress in those areas. I don't see my 6th grade self being able to comprehend dealing with those issues with the amount of grace that these characters do. I do think it's a positive thing and that readers can learn from it and maybe even be encouraged by it. I don't think it's too heavy, it's all pretty innocent but treated like the big deal it is to develop these crushes for the first time.

Perkin's writing style was completely new to me. There is one entire chapter that is in columns. One side is one character's side of a story, the other column is her neighbor's side of the story. I couldn't read them both at the same time of course, so I read one and then went back to the other. It was a new way of showing that it was all happening at the same time but it threw me a little. It's hard to try new things in books other than the story line, but I think she accomplishes it quite well throughout!

My favorite thing about this book is how accurately it portrays the thoughts of young adults going through the awkward stages of life. I would never go back and re-do junior high! I remember it being fun but horrible at the same time. I think that she shows readers that it's only natural for it to be that way. I think it even made me appreciate that time of my life a little bit more.

I don't know if the author is Buddhist but she does bring a very small amount of Buddhism into an important part of the book. There is also some catholicism as well. There is a minister in it that teaches guitar lessons, and it's funny because he wears a collar and she talks about him like all ministers are like that. I'm married to a minister, though he's a creative arts minister, and it's always funny to me to see how they are portrayed!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dear Mr. Henshaw

I just finished "Dear Mr. Henshaw" by Beverly Cleary in approximately 3 hours. The story begins with the main character, a boy named Leigh, writing a letter to his favorite author. Leigh starts out as an immature boy and we see his development throughout the story through his letters. He has a hard time making friends at his new school, his parents are divorced and someone keeps stealing all the best items from his lunches!

At first he deals with all of this by being down and self focused all the time.We see through his letters how he begins to work through his problems and he even begins writing on his own for Young Writers Month at his school. It's interesting to see his transformation, and enjoyable since I myself have experienced so much transformation through reading and writing.I thought it was fun to think back on elementary school and the time of the year when we all had to write our own short stories. I always loved that!

Overall, I think this book may have won because it's a great look at the impact that most authors hope to have when they write. It was simple, but I'm glad I read it.