Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Year End Review: Books

A few years ago, I started keeping a list of books I read and movies I saw throughout the year. As I look back on 2012, here is a list of books I read (in order):

Longing - Karen Kingsbury
Enemies of the Heart - Andy Stanley
Poke the Box - Seth Godin
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Loving - Karen Kingsbury
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
Coming Home - Karen Kingsbury
Saying It Well - Chuck Swindoll
The Cavendish Home for Boys & Girls - Claire Legrand
Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts - Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott
The Mystery of God's Will - Chuck Swindoll

It's not as many as I thought, but I can look back on the year and see seasons of intensive reading and seasons when I took a break. Clearly, three authors dominated my book time: Karen Kingsbury, Suzanne Collins, and Chuck Swindoll.

Karen Kingsbury: I was introduced to this fantastic author through my mom. After just one book, I was hooked. What started with one book turned into a huge series of books broken up into 4- to 5-book mini-series that focused on the Baxter family and their close friends. These characters have become almost like family over the years as I have celebrated, cried, struggled, and grown with each of them. But one of the most special things is sharing these books and their themes with my mom, sister, and a few friends who came along with us.

Suzanne Collins: My sister inspired my parents and me to read the Hunger Games trilogy. We passed the books around and consumed them. Again, the themes of the books were the subjects of many conversations. After watching the first movie, we're looking forward to seeing the approach to capturing the second book on film.

Chuck Swindoll: I find it difficult to articulate how God has used this man in my life. Growing up, dad often mentioned listening to Chuck on the radio. It wasn't until 2007 when I moved back home after college that I realized he preached at a nearby church and started visiting. I was instantly challenged by the messages he brought each Sunday and got hooked on Insight for Living. In March 2010, I traveled to IFL - a trip I will never forget and hope to experience again. As I've read a number of his books now, you'll find each of them with scribbles and highlights and dog-eared pages that help me keep track of invaluable advice I've gleaned. Here are some key points from The Mystery of God's Will:

"To give Him our wills and to align our wills to His will requires the abandonment of what we prefer, what we want or what we would choose" (p. 5).

"The better you get to know the Word of God, the less confusing is the will of God. Those who struggle the least with the will of God are those who know the Word of God best" (p. 30).

"Obeying and delighting in God's will leads us to make major adjustments. And that requires us to release and risk - releasing the familiar and risking whatever the future may bring. That's the bottom line of fleshing out God's will" (p. 70).

"However, there still dwells within us this tendency to do wrong. Because we're 'bent' in that direction within, so it keeps rearing its ugly head, keeps coming back, keeps revisiting us. Even though we are right with God, we still must fight the good fight - stay engaged in the battle against sin. Whoever denies this is simply denying reality" (p. 165).

"It isn't that God does it all and I do nothing. It's that God does His part, and then I do mine. God sends the signals, and as I read them, I respond in obedience...and that simple plan results in my experiencing His holy will" (p. 168).


I could go on and on, quoting so many insights from this book that truly resonated in me. Suffice it to say that I needed these words of wisdom in the last quarter of this year. I faced some unexpected challenges and setbacks that I would never have imagined. Reading this book was a great encouragement during that time, and I know I will carry the truths with me far into the future.

The power of words on the page of a book or handwritten words in a card is lasting. To think long and hard about penning truth or words of love and encouragement is a true gift, whether to a specific person or for the world to see. Never doubt the impact your words can have on a life.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Whirlwind in the Windy City

What a whirlwind!

I just returned from a two-day trip to Chicago to play at the Midwest Convention with the Lone Star Wind Orchestra. We have been planning this trip for months, and with all the details worked out to a "T" by our fantastic leadership team, it was smooth sailing for a wonderful experience and truly memorable performance. Here are a few photos of the journey:

My bassoon of eight years, affectionately named Nicki after my dear friend I have played bassoon with for the past 15 years since we started in 6th grade.
Waiting for the early-morning plane.

LSWO Bassoon section

A man I greatly admire and have enjoyed playing under for over eight years: Eugene Migliaro Corporon.
My dear parents who traveled all the way to Chicago for the concert.

Plano East alumni and our wonderful Director of Bands from our East days.

It is such an honor to play with the dedicated, talented members of the LSWO. The opportunity to play with this group is inspiring and motivating. Congratulations to everyone on a fantastic concert at Midwest!

Now to prepare for our upcoming concert at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas on January 27th: "Once Upon a Time." Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Grown-Up Christmas List

A season of widespread reflection is upon us. The holidays seem to be a fairly universal time of intent thought as people contemplate the things that mean the most in their lives. 


The other day as I was driving home from work, I heard a Christmas song that brought memories flooding back: “Grown-Up Christmas List.” When I was little, I first heard Amy Grant’s version of this song, and it is the one that plays over and over in my mind as I think back on years of meaningful Christmases. Sort of like a mental scrapbook, I can reflect on my mindset over the years of hearing this song and see how my views of Christmas wishes have changed. Consider the lyrics: 

"Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee.
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies.
Well, I'm all grown up now,
But still need help somehow.
I'm not a child but my heart still can dream.”

What were your dreams and wishes as a child at Christmas? Toys and games, cookies and treats? It’s fascinating to think of the change in priorities over the years. I’m all grown up, but I still have wishes and dreams – they’ve just transformed as I’ve learned more about the world, myself, and my faith.

“As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely wrapped beneath the tree.
Well, heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul.”

There is a special sense of nostalgia when I remember early Christmases with my parents and sister – the excitement of the presents under the tree and the anticipation of opening those gifts on Christmas morning. Then, my views of Christmas started to change as I realized the deep needs of so many people. I’ve had the joy of participating in Operation Christmas Child and preparing packages of essentials and gifts for needy children. It has been an honor to serve in local soup kitchens, serving the sweet, grateful people who hunger not only for food but love and respect. Time and attention mean more to these people than packages and bows.

“No more lives torn apart,
And wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
Ev'ry one would have a friend,
That right would always win,
And love would never end:
This is my grown-up Christmas list.” 

This expressive chorus brings to mind families who face a recent divorce or death or the absence of a family member who has so bravely joined the military to defend our freedoms. What a wonderful wish – for everyone to have a friend (and might I add, that those of us who have been blessed with a special few would not take them for granted). The fact that right does not always win today makes me long for the time when it will. What a beautiful day that will be. And praise God that we do have a Love that will never end. Perhaps our prayer this Christmas should be that we reflect His love to those around us more clearly. 

My grown-up Christmas list is much different than my childhood one, but it brings the same sense of anticipation and a big smile to my face.