Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 :: RESTORE

{my word is top right
but please don't miss Justus's...
you will know}
Until Timehop reminded me today, I had no recollection of the word I chose for 2016:: RESTORE.  I love choosing A Word of The Year and in the past those words have helped keep me focused year round. Ironically, I forgot my word at some point this year as I moved from surviving to thriving.

Many parts of 2013-2015 are ones I hope to never re-live. Hurt, loss, despair, confusion, while intermingled with joy, fun and hope, the heaviness won out in those years. The end of the summer 2015 and into the fall of 2015 brought light to those dark days and I was resolute that 2016 would bring full restoration to the things in our hearts that were still lost, stolen or destroyed. Only this time, I knew it would not be me that brought the restoration but it would, one hundred percent, need to be the Lord. I smiled so big when I saw the Timehop post today reminding me my word was RESTORE because I distinctly remember acknowledging to the Lord it would need to be Him at work to bring restoration in our hearts and that we were going to step out of the way and watch Him work this year...and that He did!
Just yesterday I was looking through my iPhone at all the photos from this year and thought to myself, "even with all the loss we had this year, our hearts have been restored with joy through all the places we've been able to go and all the people we've been blessed to be around." Restored. With out so much of a thought beyond a few prayers at the beginning of the year on my part, God did just that, Restored.

We deeply miss the loved ones we lost and the next years will continue to be full of grief as we continue on with out them. We said pre-mature good-byes to a dear, amazing Aunt, a strong, loving Grandpa and our hilarious, best hug giver, wonderful Mother/Mother-in-Law/Grandma.

While we went through tremendous loss, 2016 will be remembered as a true gift.

January -

January started off hard with the news of my Aunt Ann's passing. We packed up as fast as we could and headed to Austin where we stayed for the next few weeks. Family and friends came in from all over to honor her life that week. We are truely a blessed family.

Vernon got his letter stating they accepted his PHD disertation and defense making him Vernon M. Burger II, PHD!!  We are so proud of him. He has worked so hard to achieve this.

We ended the month with our annual His Voice Global Board Meeting. We discussed and planned and enjoyed eachothers company.  We have such a tremdous, robust board of directors. We LOVE being around them.


February was full of soccer and travel.  We started the month on with a trip to Michigan to see Vern's Mom. We had a ball. We went to the Ice Sculptures and to Bronners, two of her favorite winter activites. We never could have known this would be one of our last weeks with her. We are so thankful we went.
Justus had a blast joining up with his longtime soccer buddies to play the winter/spring YMCA league.
We sent Vern off on his yearly trip to South Sudan. He had a great visit and came back so encouraged.


March was a month of enjoying Houston, catching up on school and a few short trips to visit dear friends. We spent Easter with our beloved Durham & Billups families, and traveled to Baton Rouge to see all our people there (and came away with some great family pictures!)


In April we said good bye to friends and headed across the US.  We stopped at 8 national parks :: Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde , Arches, Canyon Lands, Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Great Basin. We made it to our final destination, Scott River Lodge. We did school along the way and basically all of the rest of April!


In May I headed to Kenya with some of my dear friends. The Lord did so much on the trip in all of our lives. He restored hearts, mended wounds, opened hearts and minds and provided a way where it seemed impossible. I included a deliriously tired picture of Phyllis and me because we took a fun risk at the airport in Amsterdam on the way to Kenya and went through customs to meet up with friends in Amsterdam. It was so fun!


There is absolutely nothing in the world that could have prepared us for June.  We found out that the condition Vernon's mom had, which we thought she would be able to fight and recover from, had worsened.  We all got on a plane to Michigan, not knowing what the next weeks would hold. We laughed, we cried, we played songs, read scripture and held hands as we walked through Stephanie's last week of life with her.  This was one of the hardest things we have ever gone through. We miss her tremendously, especially this time of year, as the holidays were her favorite and she always made them so special. She was and continues to be such a gift to us.


Coming off of June with our sweet friends at Scott River Lodge was such a blessing to us.  We had the privilege of partnering with some the best college students around the US as we worked the summer at the lodge.  These students are so much fun and full of life.  They let us cry, let us grow and let us lead even when we were weak. We love them so much.  We went on SO many adventures on our July off days. 
We crossed off another National Park, Lassen Volcanic.
We also had a week long visitor, Titus's best friend, Johannes.


In August, the boys went to Kidder Creek Camp and had a blast!
We said good bye to our sweet college crew, with lots of tears and laughter.
We went to some more beautiful places.
Started school.
Dyed Titus's hair blue and celebrated the new Harry Potter book!


September started with harvest fun at the farm. There were fires all around the area which made the air quality too poor to have guest at the Lodge, this ended up being a blessing to us as that same week all the programs were postponed, we got a call that my Grandpa Bud was being taken home and put on Hospice.  We jumped on a plane and got to Missouri as fast as we could. That week with family was full of emotions. I am so thankful we were able to be there before he passed away. I am a lucky girl to have been raised so closely with my cousins. We went to school together, played ball, FFA, gymnastics, we were such a big part of each other's lives. Being home with them, in my Grandma & Grandpa's house was such a sweet spot in the midst of sadness.
We returned to The Lodge the following week and were so thankful to have friends come through the program. The rest of the weeks at the Lodge we had friends come through the programs. It was like Gods arms around us. We finished September celebrating Fall at Kidder Creek with friends!


October started with closing up programs at the Lodge. Packing for our drive home and getting to a good stopping point for school.  When the programs were finished, we loaded up and drove back across the US.  We stopped in St Louis to celebrate Allison's wedding and see family. We ended October back in Houston, and on a plane back to Kenya with some super fun ladies!


November started in Kenya celebrating a friends wedding, hanging with my sweet friends at RVF and hiking crazy hikes on Safari. Upon return to Houston we celebrated Tommy & Haley's wedding, voted, dyed Titus's hair platinum.  We through our annual Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving feast followed by Black Friday shopping!


We started December with Titus's new glasses!
We traveled to Missouri for Early Christmas with family.
We celebrated a final adoption for our sweet friends.
We said good by to our beloved 13527.
We traveled back across the US stopping at HARRY POTTER WORLD!
We arrived at The Lodge in time for a beautiful, magical, white Christmas.

I am excited for what all 2017 will bring. I am so thankful for 2016. I want to remember.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fall and Winter Reads

Like I said in my previous post, 2016 got away from me.  It was long and crazy but somehow I still found some time to read!  I lacked in getting my reviews out in a timely fashion but I am using the next few days to catch up on them so as to hopefully start 2017 off with a clean slate. I am not sure how I will continue these reviews but hopefully I will find a more efficient way to get them out with less time in between. 

Garden City by John Mark Comer

This may have been my favorite book of the year.  That's hard to say, though. I don't tend to finish books I don't enjoy so you can rest assured all of the books posted were ones I found intriguing at some level. :) Garden City: Work, Rest and The Art of Being Human, is a beautiful book in every way.  The book itself is artistically laid out in a modern design. Its thoughtfully put together to enhance the fantastic reading. Comer lays out the Biblical ideas of work and rest then ties it all together with how those two thing enhances your life as a human.  Grab it! Read it and put it on a shelf or coffee table to be seen because it's pretty, too!

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs 

Looking for Lovely is just that, lovely. Throughout the book the reader is encouraged to look around and find the lovely no matter what the situation that is at hand. Annie Downs shares deeply personal stories from her own life as she helps the reader "collect moments that matter." This book is a great bedside book to encourage your heart as you close the day. Annie's writing feels like you are sitting across the table from her at a coffee house hearing her heart as her stories transform yours. 

Univited by Lysa TerKeurst 

I put off reading this book for fear it would bring up (not so) old wounds and in some ways I am super thankful I waited, but in other ways I so wished I would have had this resource right in them middle of it all.  Lysa TerKeurst boldly goes where many female writers don't dare go, right into the middle of a common female insecurity, feeling "less than, left out or lonely." She approaches these areas with gentleness and understanding using her own personal stories, yet she leaves you feeling empowered to change your heart and mind and believe the truth about how God sees you and choose to believe the best about others. She uses the phase that my husbands says all the time, "Live Loved."  This book is for those who are hurting and alone, yes, but it is so relevant for all women. I am SO thankful I finally picked it up. 

This book grabbed my eye by the title. I have had that thought so many times, "How do I help my boys be grateful when everything around them screams entitlement?" When I saw this book I quickly snagged it up and jumped right in.  Kristen Welch lays out practical ways to help cultivate gratefulness and combat entitlement all in a sympathetic tone, as she is a mother herself.  The Welch's let us look a little into their daily lives and let us see how they have tackled issues from social media, Internet use, gaming, screen-time, devises and much more. This was SUCH a helpful book for me as we are starting these pre-teen years. I highly recommend it to all parents in America. 

 If you work in or want to be involved in the non-profit world at any level, I highly recommend this book. It is strategically divided into two sections, one that is written by Peter Greer and the other that is written by David Weekley. In the section by Greer, he outlines for us an beautiful Kingdom mindset on fundraising and partnership. He address the awkwardness of "the ask," and encourages you to see it from a different perspective.  The second half of the book, written by David Weekley, is a compelling perspective from the one who is being asked to give. Mr. Weekley graciously encourages non-profit leadership to pursue long time friendships and partnerships not just one-time asks, as well as encourages the asker that most givers see it as a gift to be able to give.  

This was a fantastic little book to finish the year off.  Tim Keller put together this short, sermon manuscript like, book that will indeed help thousands let go of their modern ideas of pride & humility and grasp a truer, beautiful form. Keller lays out clearly the difference between self-hating and true humility. He also articulates the pride involved in both over acknowledgement of self and under acknowledgement, encouraging readers to land in the middle which he calls self-forgetfulness. That place, he says, is where freedom lies. 

Spring and Summer Reads

Y'all,  2016 got away from me.  It was long and crazy but somehow I still found time to read!  I lacked in getting my reviews out in a timely fashion but I am using the next few days to catch up on a Spring/Summer post and a Fall/Winter post.  I hope these will help you with some reading choices in 2017!  I have contemplated changing the format of keeping the reviews more up to date and more often, but I am not sure what that looks like for 2017.  I was sure I was just going to stop posting them anymore, but I have had so many people ask for book recommendations over that last few months so  I decided to catch up on the year. I sure hope these reviews help y'all spend your Christmas money wisely! Here goes some catching up!
(if you want to read about why I started writing these reviews click here)

The In-Between by Jeff Goins

 Waiting is something that most people avoid these days. Jeff Goins makes the case in this book that being present in the moment and surrendering to the waiting is where we grow into more mature humans. As Goins shares his journey of waiting, the reader is compelled to embrace the wait, look around at their present and learn from the moments. I highly recommend it for anyone in "The In-Between."

Carol Dweck's perspective and research on human attitudes has changed so much about the way we parent, teach, train and encourage.  It has deeply impacted how I personally relate with myself and in turn how I relate with others. In her book Mindset, she documents her research on those with a "Fixed Mindset" verses those with a "Growth Mindset," revealing that those with the "Growth Mindset" become versatile, well-rounded, confident, hard working, emotionally healthy adults.  I recommend this book to anyone who works with young people at any level. This book is also great for self evaluation to see what areas of your life you may have the "Fixed Mindset."

Fervent quickly made itself onto a VERY short list of "books I want to re-read every year."  This book is a fantastic jump start for those looking for hands on tools to a deep, healthy, vibrant prayer life.  Mrs. Shirer does a wonderful job of laying out effective prayers for specific areas of your life, giving you Scripture to pray and memorize as you seek God's heart on giving situations. She reminds us throughout how wise it is to pray specifically and strategically, not to "get what you want from God," but to open your heart to His nearness. This is a book I plan on keeping by my bedside and referring to it each morning, reminding my heart to stay serious, specific and strategic in prayer. Believer, grab it, read it and re-read it.  No matter where you are in your relationship with Christ, you will be challenged and encouraged!

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessy

Out of Sorts captivates you with it's refreshing honesty.  In this book, Sarah Bessy covers topics that most Christian authors/leaders are unwilling to address.  Similar to her book, Jesus Feminist, Sarah writes openly about her struggle with church as an institution, her fight for community and remaining in community despite disagreeing.  She encourages the reader to embrace differences rather than forming a circle in which everyone thinks and looks the same. Bessy pushes the reader to a place where they can find comfort, as she did, in the places of uncertainty. This is a great read for those who are searching for a place to land or feeling shaken by uncertainty.

The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner

We read this book as a leadership team of HVG.  This book is deeply encouraging and spiritually challenging when you read it alone, but adding the element of group discussion brought so much depth to the experience of reading this!  The Gift of Being Yourself is the second of three books written together to focus on loving God, loving yourself and loving others.  This is the second in that trilogy.  In this read, Benner focuses you on how you personally were made in the image of God and how you were created differently than others on purpose.  Benner reminds you through out that God enjoys you, and that God created you and wants to spend time with you.  This book is full of self assessment and is worth all the time and effort you have to give.

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

Jen Wilkin is a fantastic Bible teacher and as you turn the pages of this book you can see why many eagerly awaited her latest book, None Like Him. Each page points you towards God and teaches you about His character. This book is about 10 ways God is different than us as humans and why that is good thing.  This book is well laid out and easy to read as a devotional, for a book club or community group.  Each chapter is dedicated to one of the ten ways God is different, making it easy to read, think and discuss.  She kindly gives questions to reflect at each chapter personally and also questions for a group discussion.  Such a great book!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Winter Read Reviews

The winter has past and spring has come with a furry.  I made quite a bit of time to read over the past five months but made little time for writing these reviews. I am going to reach back and try my best to review my winter reads and keep up better through the spring and summer.  Here goes catching up! (if you want to read about why I started writing these reviews click here)

This is a beautifully written gem, straight from the heart of a child of God who has been tested and pressed in on all sides and come out stronger and lovelier than ever. In Steadfast Love, Lauren takes you piece by piece through Psalm 107, weaving portions of her personal story throughout, taking verse 2, "Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story," literally. You will be encouraged, enlightened and challenged as you read this poetically written work.

**and bonus:: it has a great cover & spine so it makes for great decoration around the house!**
The Wisdom of Each Other by Eugene Peterson
Eugene Peterson is one of the most influential authors/pastors/teachers in my life. I found this book as I was searching through works by Peterson that I had yet to read. This little 112 page softback is packed full of wisdom, as the title implies, but not just theological wisdom. In Wisdom of Each Other, Peterson creatively explores how we, as Christians, need each other. He does this by briefly opening with some insights on having older, wiser mentors in our lives and the need for Spiritual Friends. Then he unpacks his points by setting up a letter exchange between two spiritual friends. Right before your eyes you read a back and forth conversation of friends who agree, disagree and agree to disagree. You watch as the back and forth conversations about life grow both parties. While one is more of a mentor figure and the other is a newer believer, the depth of their friendship never wavers as they both have mutual respect for each other's opinions. Inadvertently, Peterson ends up pastoring you a long the way, just as he always does.

Brain Maker by David Perlmutter

In this work, Dr. David Perlmutter presents his (and many others) long standing peer-researched findings on the effects that the gut microbiome have on the brain. This book is chalked full of information on the gut-brain connection.  Many of you know our story with our youngest son and how working on his gut health took him from non-verbal anti-social to fully caught up on all spheres in a matter of a year.  I believe in the gut-brain connection and am so happy to hear that many more doctors and researchers are pushing for this research to be so pervasive that it stops sounding absurd.  I have read Perlmutters other works on Grain & its effects on the guts, which in turn effects the brain, but this book specifically hones in on the living microbiome in the digestive tract.  He teaches about probiotics, prebiotics, the effects of anti-biotics and how to treat the onset of my autoimmune diseases by focusing on the GI. He breaks down how to choose a probiotic, which strands are useful and which are not.  He introduces the reader to FMT and how research is supporting its help towards all kinds of things from Autism to Alzheimer's, from Thyroid Issues to Dementia. This book is technical but well worth your time.  It left me looking up all the resources in the bibliography and trying to find more!

Audacious by Beth Moore
Every page of this work had me feeling like I was sitting across from a dear old friend, full of wisdom and insight, who was pouring all she had in to my young little heart. Some people mentor across the table from you, standing by your side as you cook or parent and others mentor across the pages of their books. This was the perfect way to start 2016, being challenged, encouraged and loved so well by this beloved author.  Beth takes time to unpack what it means to live audacious lives with audacious faith and all who read it will be encouraged to do the same. Grab yourself a copy, pour yourself a cup of joe, get your journal, a pen and a blanket and curl up with this book for a day or so. You will be so glad you did.

 Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
 I read this back to back with Mindy's first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and it made for an interesting contrast.  Mindy Kaling is still hilarious as ever in Why Not Me? but a lot changed in her life in the 3 years between publications. She changed jobs, moved to a new city and grew in fame. Her first book was more of a story of her life to that point, how she grew up, how she made it in NYC and how she came to be on The Office in LA.  This book, however, is more of a collection of essays of her life in LA, the starting of her own show, her transition to stardom and how she handles life in the public sphere.  She is extremely witty and you will laugh out loud along the way as she tells her stories and gives you glimpses in to the life of a celebrity.

Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
In this memoir, Rachel Held Evens walks the reader through her "loving,  leaving and finding the Church." She recounts her early love for the body of believers, her on going skepticism toward Evangelicalism and how it all morphed as she became an adult. She tells stories of how God revealed Himself to her through the sacraments and through the people in her life who loved like Jesus loved. This book is light and dark and light again many times over. She takes you on a journey of doubt, belief and the challenges in between.  She pushes in on many of the questions people have but feel unable to present to the evangelical crowd.  It reads like mini-essays you can pick up and put down but also flows well chronologically so it can be read as one.

**if you have ever been one who has written Rachel Held Evans off because of her social media or blog post or the misrepresentation of her by evangelical leaders, I would challenge you to give this book a read and hear her heart and know her story before you throw stones.

Hope these reviews were helpful and you get some books added to your wishlist!

Happy Reading!