Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer reading

Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed reading. And then you give me the lazy, hazy days of summer, throw in some good books and a cold drink, and you have one happy chick! Some of my favorite times growing up in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, involved walking the three or four blocks to the public library, where in the summertime, they always had a Summer Reading Game for the kids to participate in. I would bring home stacks of books each time I went and can even remember our family making a stop on our way out of town for my sister and me to go in and do our oral reports to move our places around the game board. It was that important!

Fast-forward a couple of (OK, three) decades, and you can still find me relaxing with a good book on a lazy summer (or winter, spring or fall) afternoon, and most evenings before I fall asleep. My favorite books to read are usually Christian fiction, and I love a good series that doesn't end for at least four or five books. My favorite author is Jan Karon, and I have read her Mitford series all the way through at least twice, but I have other faves: Karen Kingsbury, Robin Jones Gunn (Sisterchicks), Dave & Neta Jackson (YadaYada Prayer Group series), to name a few. My newest "finds" have been Angela Hunt and Denise Hildreth (they don't collaborate, they write separately).

I just finished a series by Denise Hildreth, that I'll call the "Savannah" series, which I highly recommend. It's about a girl (recent college graduate) named Savannah, who happens to live in Savannah, GA. It's funny, quirky, thought-provoking, and makes you want to visit that city (or go back, if you've been before). The third book in the series is set in Seaside, FL, which is also a fun location to read about!

I also have been reading a new series by Angela Hunt (who has written lots of other stuff, including The Nativity Story, which was made into a movie). The series I found most recently is about a divorced mom who inherits a funeral home in central Florida, and decides to move her family (two sons and her mother) from Washington, DC, to start a new life in the small town. I just bought the third book in the series because I was tired of waiting for the public library to get a copy for circulation.

So, what about you? What is on your list to read this summer? I know some people prefer to read nonfiction over fiction, which is fine, too. I personally love to "escape" into a good novel and tend to feel like I'm supposed to "get something out of" nonfiction, so I get bogged down (unless I'm reading it as a group book study). Whatever your pleasure, share some of your favorites. Here's to a great Summer of Reading!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

Growing up in Glen Ridge, NJ, many of our Memorial Day holidays were spent marching in the annual parade. First as a Girl Scout, and then later on as a member of the flag line in the high school marching band, we'd assemble at Hurrell Field and march a couple of miles through the center of town to the Glen Ridge Middle School, where a ceremony took place to honor those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

The whole town would come out to line the streets, wave flags and watch as the Scouts (Cubs and Brownies, all the way up to Eagles and Seniors), the Police and Fire Departments (I remember our friend, Mr. Thorpe, drove the vingtage ambulance representing the Volunteer Fire Squad), marching band and squads of veterans marched along Ridgewood Avenue. My sister was once one of the wreath-bearers in the ceremony, maybe even the year the above photo was taken (isn't she so cute, standing at attention and wearing her digital watch above her white gloves!). My dad, along with many other residents of our town, would display the American Flag from the front porch.

I am thankful to have been taught to remember those who bravely served our country. I have uncles who fought in both World Wars (some I never met) and Daniel's grandfather, Dan Ryan, served our country in Vietnam. My cousin, Mary, recently returned from Iraq and currently serves in the Air Force at the Pentagon. Today, I will be remembering the families of those who are currently serving and of those soldiers who lost their lives serving our country. Thank you, Lord, for giving us true freedom through Christ and for allowing our country to be protected and blessed through the service and sacrifice of many.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Applause, applause!

There's been a lot of clapping going on in our family lately. Last week, Daniel got all decked out for his eighth grade dance, "An Evening of Black and White." I was just killing time at the computer desk while he got ready, and suddenly heard him say, "Let's give it up for Dan-iel Ry-an!"

I looked over to see him strutting down the hall in his black pants, white shirt, black tie, and new black dress shoes! He was thankfully in a mood to pose for some pictures, so I got to get some good shots outside (and had him reenact the hallway "runway" scene!).

And as a side-note, can I just say that the difference between boys and girls was highly evident in the amount of time it took for Daniel to get ready. We were on a tight schedule, and walked in the door at 5:00 and needed to be back in the car by 5:30. If girls were involved in our scenario, I'm 100% certain that we couldn't have made it to the dance on time! ;-)

The applause continues, as Erica has learned to clap, and loves to clap for herself and then look around to see if anyone else will join in (which of course, we do!). Her big achievement lately has been that she can get herself up on all fours, and then back into a sitting position. That's when she smiles and claps!

As a mom and aunt, I am one of Daniel and Erica's biggest fans, so I'll gladly give applause and standing ovations, probably to their dismay on some occasions!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

They shine like stars in the universe

I'm talking about Ed and Doris Knight. You probably haven't ever heard of them, but I wish you could meet them. Mr. and Mrs. Knight, as I have always known them, were in the church that my dad pastored in Freehold, NJ, in the early 70s. In fact, if I remember the story correctly, they were there to meet our moving van when we moved into the parsonage, and helped take care of my sister and me while my parents got settled. I had just turned three and Jeanette was only six-months-old and cried a lot (sorry, J, just had to throw that in there). The Knights had three kids, but since their oldest child, Eddie, was in college, we didn't get to know him like we did his teen-aged sisters, Kalla and Pam. I remember spending time at their house and being baby-sat by Kalla and Pam. Jeanette was the flower girl in Kalla's wedding. One of our favorite games was to be Kalla and Pam when we were "playing pretend".

The Knights are originally from Arkansas and are now living back in Little Rock in their "retirement." In the 70s, they felt God calling them to be "tent-making" church planters, so they packed up and moved their family to Lincroft, New Jersey, where they continued their careers in education (Mr. Knight was a school principal and Mrs. Knight taught in the classroom). After helping to start West Monmouth Baptist Church, where my dad was pastor for four years, they moved on to help start Colts Neck Baptist Church, and were an active part of the work in the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association for thirty-some years.

After the Knights retired from teaching, they didn't move back to Arkansas or go to Florida to live out their "golden years". Their permanent residence remained in New Jersey, but they went global, traveling to China, Viet Nam, and many other countries, teaching English and sharing the Gospel with their lives.

Now in their 80s (but you would never guess that by looking at them), they are continuing to make a difference in the lives of internationals in Little Rock. Mr. and Mrs. Knight teach English classes once or twice a week and have their students and their families into their home for meals on a regular basis. They chose to teach the most basic class, and are touching lives from countries all over the globe: China, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq.

The Knights came through Nashville last night and stayed with my parents. I joined them for dinner and for some time at Jeanette's house (so they could meet Erica). We sat around and reminisced about our years spent together in central New Jersey, and they entertained us with stories from their world travels. I could have sat all night listening to the Knights!

Two stories that stood out to me last night. One was about a missionary named Jim, living in China, who was out on his bicycle one day. Among all of the chatter of Chinese daily life, he heard someone call out to him in English, "Hey you, come here!" He looked and saw an older Chinese man sitting on a chair, beckoning for him to come talk to him. When Jim went over to see what he wanted, the man said, "When I was a little boy, an American soldier told me about Jesus. Can you tell me about him again?" Jim shared with the man about Jesus and how to become a Christian and the man received Christ into his heart that day. Jim offered to return with a Bible and to disciple the man, and over time, the Chinese man's entire family came to know the Lord. Mrs. Knight explained how that small seed that was sown by the American soldier in World War II, sixty years earlier, had come to bear fruit in that Chinese man's heart and had impacted his whole family for the Gospel!

The other story that impacted me was about some students in Viet Nam. The Knights taught English for four months at an agricultural college in a rural area outside of a major city. They would invite their students to come to Bible study in their apartment on some evenings. One day Mr. Knight had gone to get some sodas and snacks to serve the students that night. He met a young woman and invited her to come to the study. She asked if she could bring her boyfriend and both of them arrived that evening. Before the study began, the girl said that she couldn't stay for some reason, but asked if her boyfriend could stay. The boyfriend stayed for the Bible study and ended up accepting Christ as his Savior that night! If Mr. Knight had not met the young woman and invited her to come to the Bible study, her boyfriend would probably not have been able to make that life-changing decision that particular night!

The Knights are an inspiration to me. I have struggled throughout my life (and still do) with boldly proclaiming the Gospel as I live my life. I have known that you don't have to be a career missionary to bring someone to Christ, but have had a hard time getting out of my comfort zone in my everyday life, in order to tell someone about Jesus. The Knights have lived their lives in such a way that the Gospel pours out of them. They were obedient to God's call on their lives to move to New Jersey and to faithfully serve in their churches and in their community. They have been continually obedient "to be witnesses to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). They truly "shine like stars in the universe" (Phil. 2:14) and I am so thankful that God brought them into my life and has allowed me to be impacted by their example.