Best of 2011

I did this last year and had a lot of fun with it, so let’s try it again!

Most Entertaining Book: The Hunger Games – If you haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it!  I seriously couldn’t put it down.  The next two were also good, but nothing beat the first one.  I can’t wait for the movie!

Most Inspiring Book: Kisses from Katie – I wrote about this book here.  It was a total game changer for me.

Best Adventure Book: The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition – Crazy true story.  I wrote about it here.

Best Leadership Book: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln – This guy knew what he was doing.  I wrote about it here and here.

Favorite Movie: It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Once again, I’m a sucker for a downer movie.  But this one was also very inspiring.  It’s very real, very raw, and has enough humor in it to make it manageable.  I loved it.  It didn’t make it into many theaters, but I still think it’s worth a watch.

Favorite Movie That Wasn’t A Downer: Footloose – I loved this movie.  It was so much fun to watch and inspired me to buy cowboy boots.  I would love to say it inspired me to dance, but those of you that know me well know that dancing is not my best skill.

Favorite Album: Owl City “All Things Bright and Beautiful” – This is an all around great album.  I don’t skip any songs and I just love it. I wrote about it here.  I do have to add some honorable mentions here though:

  1. Matt Wertz- Weights and Wings
  2. Needtobreathe- The Reckoning
  3. Ben Rector- Something Like This

Favorite TV Show: Once Upon A Time – It’s a super weird show, but I really really like it!

Favorite Concert: Taylor Swift Speak Now Tour – This was a brilliant show.  It was like a theatrical performance and I didn’t even consider leaving early.  That is really big for me considering I always leave early due to my aversion to crowds and the need to beat the traffic.  I saw this show twice and didn’t leave early either time!

Favorite New Tradition: Girls Movie Nights – We do this once a month at my apartment.  We have dinner and watch a movie and I just really love it and those friends!

Favorite New Card Game: Russian Bank – My aunt taught me this game this summer and it’s a blast.  But it has a lot of rules, so if you don’t play it enough you forget how to play.  I got a refresher this week though, so I need to teach someone here how to play it before I forget!

Recovery Road

For the past couple of months our pastor did an incredible series at our church called Recovery Road.  In this series he addressed the state of our economy and our country as well as our responsibility in fixing it. It was such a good series and I highly recommend that everyone listen to it!

If you would like to watch the intro video to it, click here.  You can also watch all of the messages at that link.  If you would like to download the mp3’s for free, click here.

Random Thursday

Tomorrow I leave for a week of vacation, so I can’t really focus on anything.  My mind is all over the place.  Here are some of the things I have been thinking about…

1. Cancun- That is where I am going to be from Aug 26-Sept 2 and I am so excited!  I am going with a couple of friends and here are some pictures of where we will be staying:


I know….don’t be jealous!

2. Wildfire- This is a show that I just finished streaming on Netflix.  I will be the first to admit that I get addicted to shows.  But this one was different.  It actually grabbed me emotionally and took me on a journey.  It’s a great story of redemption, relationships, family, and love. (It does have more mature subject matter sometimes, however, so I would give it a PG-13 rating) I absolutely loved it.  The writing is ok, the acting for the most part is not great (except, in my opinion, by the lead actress, Genevieve Cortese Padalecki, and co-star Ryan Sypek, both of whom I had never heard of).  So, if you have Netflix streaming and are looking for a good show to watch, I recommend this one.  And it’s about horse racing, which is actually pretty cool.  I had no idea.

3. Parachute’s New Album- It’s just really good.  I listen to it all the time.

4. The Help- If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you need to.

5. Introversion- I have known for a long time that I am an introvert, but have discovered that it’s actually really hard to explain to people.  Well, I have run across two things that explain it well.  The first one is a hilarious article called Caring for Your Introvert.  The other was a blog post by Owl City that had some introvert myths in it from a book.  I thought they were both great, explain it really well, and were so funny!


This Ain’t Safe, But It’s Gonna Be Good

Fear is the enemy of life.  I have been thinking a lot about fear, reading what the Bible has to say about it, and observing it in people’s lives, and that is my conclusion.

I’m not talking about not wanting to go skydiving, but the kind of fear that keeps you from making the right decisions because you don’t know the outcome.  The kind that keeps you home at night because you don’t know what might happen outside of your home.  The kind that keeps you from having a tough conversation that may save a relationship.  The kind that keeps you so busy trying not to die that you never actually live.

God says in Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you may live.”

What is God setting before you today?  Are you staying in a job that sucks the life out of you because you are afraid to pursue the dream that burns in your heart?  Are you not making the phone call to that person that you miss so much, because you are afraid they may hurt you again?  Are you missing out on an adventure of a lifetime because you are afraid you might get hurt?  The reality is that you might get hurt (physically, mentally, emotionally), but that is what shapes you.  Life isn’t found in what’s “safe,” it’s found in the things that make us stretch and grow. God calls us to choose life, and His reason is simple: so that we might live.

There is a song that I have had on repeat the last several days that I think is perfect for this subject.  (The lyrics and youtube version are listed below!)  The chorus says this:

I wanna see you what you’re made of
Get up and fight you know you should
Try… there’s nothing you should be afraid of
I’d take your place if I could
This ain’t safe but it’s gonna be good

It’s probably not going to feel safe.  It’s probably going to take a fight.  Don’t let fear steal your life.  Sometimes it’s not safe…but it’s probably gonna be good.

If you have a minute, listen to this awesome song from Matt Wertz!

It ain’t about why or about what you’re gonna do about it
Nothing’s gonna change on its own
Cuz something ain’t right
Maybe that’s life just trying to tell you something
But it won’t take too long
You would see it’s not long

I wanna see what you’re made of
Get up and fight you know you should
Try there’s nothing you should be afraid of
I’d take your place if I could
This ain’t safe but it’s gonna be good

I think about this
What if all your plans just feel right into place
Would you be better then?
Was it the brokenness that built you
The emptiness that filled you
Or the times you couldn’t get away
Let that trouble have its way

I wanna see what you’re made of
Get up and fight you know you should
Try there’s nothing you should be afraid of
I’d take your place if I could
This ain’t safe but it’s gonna be good

It’s gotta get worse before it gets good
I know it ain’t easy nor need it should
Don’t hide away of what you have to do
Come into the city, buildings are falling
Listen to the crowd, angels calling out to you
To bring you through, to bring you through
To bring you through

I wanna see what you’re made of
Get up and fight you know you should
Try there’s nothing you should be afraid of
I’d take your place if I could
This ain’t safe but it’s gonna be good

I wanna see what you’re made of
Get up and fight you know you should, oh should
Try there’s nothing you should be afraid of
I’d take your place if I could
This ain’t safe but it’s gonna be good
This ain’t safe but it’s gonna be good
This ain’t safe but it’s gonna be good
(I wanna see what you’re made of)
(I wanna see what you’re made of)

Be the Light of the World (What I Learned from Owl City)

Owl City took the music industry by storm a couple of summers ago with his song “Fireflies.”  You can listen to it here.

To be honest, I didn’t really pay him much attention.  I am more of the acoustic guitar music kind of girl and he is more…well…not acoustic guitar.  But last year about this time someone posted a link to his blog.  We all know that I love blogs, so I clicked it and started reading.  I was so impressed by this guy (Adam Young)!  I may not have been into his music, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good music.  His writing is what drew me in, though and his shameless faith expressed through it.  This guy loves Jesus and is not afraid to talk about it.  In an industry where Jesus is a tricky subject, he does not shy away.

His blogs have been so encouraging to me throughout the year and I am just so excited about what he is doing, which is what we, as Christians, all should be doing.  He is taking his God-given gift and stretching it to its fullest potential, and then using it to reach the world.  He doesn’t water it down.  He doesn’t cheese it up.  He just makes music, and does it well.  We need so much more of that in the entertainment industry and really every area of our lives!  After all, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)

So because of all of this, I decided to buy his second album “All Things Bright and Beautiful” just to support him.  It was my small way of spurring him on (Hebrews 10:24), even though he’ll never know about it. It’s not my typical style choice, but it turns out, I LOVE the album!  The music, lyrics, and vocals are all incredible.  It’s definitely worth the money.  Also, if you want to check out his blog, here are a list of some of my favorite posts:

  1. The Good Fight
  2. Cue the Sun
  3. Plant Life
  4. Deep Regret
  5. My Hope Is Found

And here is my favorite lyric from his new album.  It’s from the song “Galaxies”

Oh telescope,
Keep your eye on my only hope,
Lest I blink and be swept off the narrow road,
Hercules, you’ve got nothing to say to me,
‘Cause you’re not the blinding light that I need.
For He is the saving grace of the galaxies.

Thanks, Adam, for being such an incredible example of the light that God has called us to be!

Book Review: The Endurance

This was an incredible story!  The full title of the book: The Endurance:Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Like the Lincoln book, it’s a story of tremendous leadership.  Also similar to that book, it starts out really slow.

But, this really is a great adventure and story of hardship.  It was a totally different time than we live in now and the stuff that these guys went through is incredible.  When you read this story you will understand the depth of Shackleton’s leadership genius.  These guys should have been dead, or at least should have been losing their minds, but they didn’t.  I really want to tell you what happens, but you have to read the book

Some of my favorite quotes about Shackleton from the book:

“He would be remembered not so much for his own accomplishment- the 1909 expedition that attained the farthest South- as for what he was capable of drawing out of others.”

“At the core of Shackleton’s gift for leadership in crisis was an adamantine conviction that quite ordinary individuals were capable of heroic feats if the circumstances required; the weak and the strong could and must survive together.”

“The mystique that Shackleton acquired as a leader may partly be attributed to the fact that he elicited from his men strength and endurance they had never imagined they possessed; he ennobled them.”

I really like that last one.  I need to figure out how to ennoble people; cause that sounds like something worth being remembered for.

Book Review: Team of Rivals

I think we have learned by now that my “Book Reviews” aren’t real reviews.  They just tell you if I liked a book and why.  I never write about the ones I didn’t like.  Although, I would be happy to tell you privately which books I didn’t like! Ha!

If you like history, or reading about great leaders, or you want to improve your character, then this is the book for you!  All three of those apply to me, so I really loved it.  The full title of the book is Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. As you can tell by my last post, I am a big fan of Abe.  Basically this book talks about how he wasn’t really equipped to be president, but he surrounded himself with the people who had the skills he lacked.  In his case, that meant everyone that ran against him for the presidency.  That seriously took some balls!

The Mercury Newspaper said about him, “He has called around him in counsel the ablest and most earnest men of his country.  Where he has lacked in individual ability, learning, experience or statesmanship, he has sought it, and found it. . . . Force, energy, brains, earnestness, he has collected around him in every department.”

So I highly recommend this book.  It starts out a little slow, but by the end you grow to love the guy.  And I seriously wonder how he put up with so much disrespect and whining in his cabinet.  He had an unending source of patience!

To end this “review” I am going to share a cool story from the book.

In 1908, in a wild and remote area of the North Caucasus, Leo Tolstoy, the greatest writer of the age, was the guest of a tribal chief “living far away from civilized life in the mountains.” Gathering his family and neighbors, the chief asked Tolstoy to tell stories about the famous men of history.  Tolstoy told how he entertained the eager crowd for hours with tales of Alexander, Caesar, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon.  When he was winding to a close, the chief stood and said, “But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world.  We want to know something about him.  He was a hero.  He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock.  His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived.  Tell us of that man.

I hope that I can become this kind of humble leader that knows her weaknesses and isn’t afraid to ask for help.

Five Favorites

1. This video cracked me up! Thanks to Kate for showing it to me and to Bryan for making it!  As you know from this post, I have issues with inefficient meetings and I have definitely felt like the lady in this video!  By the way, if you do lead meetings on a regular basis, I do recommend that you read the post above.  It’s not funny (like the video) but it offers a great lesson from Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonapart on efficiency.

2. My sister, Leah, posted this video in her weekly favs and I loved it! So precious!

3. Dear Girls Above Me The poor guy that runs this website apparently lives below the dumbest girls on the planet and can hear everything they say. So, he uses his twitter account to comment on what they say and it cracks me up! WARNING 1: Some of it is inappropriate. But, most of it is just funny. WARNING 2: These girls are really, really dumb. Here are some of my favorite post so far (in quotes are what the girls say and then there is his response:

“Did you hear that all these kids were rescued in Chile after being trapped in some mountain?” Miners, not minors.

“He said he was Spanish but not a Mexican. What the hell, that doesn’t even make sense!” It does to the entire country of Spain

“She JUST won a Golden Globe, why the hell is Natalie Portman doing ads for tampons?” No Strings Attached is a movie.

4. One word: Delicious! You can buy them at Costco. But don’t, they are too dangerous!

5. My Brother-In-Law, Reid, once again rocks it out with the iBand. This time for AT&T and this time with Livin’ On A Prayer!


Most adults don’t like to read.  I don’t know how I didn’t know that, but it’s a shocking fact (to me) that I have just recently discovered.  When people find out they have to read a book, even if it’s a short one, they absolutely dread it.  I LOVE to read, so this is a very difficult fact for me to grasp.

This post has two focuses: to give you some major benefits to reading and to suggest some books that would be good to get started on.

I googled “benefits of reading” today and found several lists that I have compared.  If you want to take a look at some of them, I recommend this one, this one, and this one. The bottom line is that reading makes you a better person. Here is why:

  1. It is an active mental process.
  2. It improves your vocabulary.
  3. It improves concentration and focus.
  4. It improves your memory.
  5. It reduces stress.
  6. It improves your discipline.
  7. It gives you something to talk about.
  8. It makes you a better writer.
  9. It improves your reasoning skills.
  10. It builds self-esteem.

If you don’t want anything on that list for your life, then you can stop reading now.  But, if you were intrigued by that and realize that you may be missing some of those things, then I have some suggestions for you.  If you are just starting back to reading, don’t start with something too heady.  Maybe start with some fiction.  The only suggestion that I have for you as far as content is that you read something that is entertaining, but that you also learn something from.  Even if it’s just something small.  Here are my suggestions:

  1. The Twilight Saga- I am hoping I didn’t just lose most of you by saying that.  I am serious though.  You will be entertained, but it’s not as mindless as some think.  You may not really expand your vocabulary (except for the vampire terms that are completely made up), but you will expand your imagination.  This is completely fiction, so your mind has to work overtime to get a mental picture.  I can’t stand science fiction (that’s right, I hate Star Wars), but this worked for me somehow.  I personally think it’s a great starting point.
  2. Redeeming Love- I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like this book.  Even my non-reading friends have read this book and loved it.  It speaks right to the heart of a woman and you actually learn a Bible story without even realizing it.  It’s an incredible love story and you learn some history with it.
  3. Mark of the Lion Series- For those of you that loved Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers hits another home run with this series.  What I love about these three books is that you get the incredible story that sucks you in, but you also learn a ton of history.  They are set in ancient Rome right after Jesus died.
  4. Andy Andrews Books- This guy is the king of coming up with a relatively short but intriguing story that teaches life lessons.  My favorite is The Noticer followed by The Heart Mender and The Traveler’s Gift.
  5. Chasing Fireflies- Charles Martin is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  This story, based around the hope of foster care, really touched my heart.  As a result, I have 5 more of his books on my reading list for this year.  You feel like you are a part of the story.

I think five is a good number for now.  I hope that some of you have been at least slightly inspired to start reading.  It’s worth it to just set out some time each day to do, even if it’s just a few minutes before bed.  Someone told me that you actually get dumber watching TV, so this has to be better than that, right?

If you have any great book suggestions for people that don’t like to read, please leave them in the comments section!

Resolution Game Plan

My New Year’s resolution is to write my New Year’s resolution blog for next year before next year actually roles around!

Here we are, three days into the new year, and I start thinking about resolutions.  I don’t normally make them.  I am not sure why, but I would assume it’s because I don’t want the guilt that comes from not following through on them.  So as I was riding the bike at the gym this morning, I decided that all I really need to be successful in my resolutions is a good plan.  Of course, while on the bike, I came up with the plan.

Kelly’s New Year’s Resolution Solution (I am so proud of myself for rhyming!)

  1. State the resolution.  Make sure that it is somewhat manageable and actually achievable.  I know, I know, you can do anything you set your mind to.  But in reality, you can’t.  If your resolution is to ride on Air Force One, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
  2. State the reason why that is your resolution.  If there isn’t a “why” driving you towards your goal, then all you are doing is making a list.  Make sure there is a purpose in your plans.
  3. State your plan for completing the resolution.  How are you going to get to the finish line?  What are you going to do to start working towards it?  Don’t end up with a list of resolutions that you never even start, let alone finish.

Here are my four resolutions, broken down using my “resolution solution.”

Memorize the book of Philippians.

  • Why? Because God has given us His Word to build us up, encourage us, teach us, and arm us.  If I have enough room in my head to memorize all of Taylor Swift’s songs, then I have enough room to memorize the book of Philippians.  Why Philippians?  Because the great folks over at the Gospel Coalition posted this free resource that you can cut out and paste into a moleskin notebook.  I love that it’s free and I love that it’s in a moleskin.
  • The Plan: Put the verses into a moleskin and get to work!  They break it down into 16 weeks.  My plan is to focus on it every day, several times a day.  The notebook is small, so it’s in my purse.  In the morning I memorize a small portion of it and read out loud the verses for the week. Constant repetition.

Train for and complete two duathlons and two 10Ks

  • Why?  Because my body is a temple to the Lord and I need to maintain it so that it doesn’t fall apart.  When I set the goal of completing in races, it gives me something to work towards.  I feel better when I am in great shape, and right now I don’t feel good.
  • The Plan: I went online and combined a few half marathon plans to come up with something that is doable for where I am right now in my fitness.  I knew that if I started too strong, I would quit, so I am starting slowly.  It also involves a lot of cross training and strength training.  I put the workouts on my calendar as a part of my regular schedule so that it becomes part of my routine.

Eating healthier, more nourishing food

  • Why?  Once again, my body is a temple.  What I put into it greatly effects how I feel, how I think, and what I am able to accomplish physically.  I don’t feel good right now.  I want to feel better.
  • The Plan: Use online resources to get ideas for easy to make meals that aren’t too tough on the budget.   Make meals (like this stew that I am making tonight) that can be used for a few lunches that week.  Plan ahead so that eating nourishing food is easier.  The more difficult it is, the more likely I am to eat out.

Be more intentional about friendships that are replenishing

  • Why?  Because these are the people that fill me back up after the draining people or circumstances have sucked the life out of me.  But, these are also the people that I tend to neglect because they aren’t needy.  But I need them. This verse and this verse are also good reasons.
  • The Plan: make a list of these replenishing friends and call or spend time with at least one of them every week.  Be intentional.