2016 Reading Challenge

Last February my brother, Jeremy, showed me a reading challenge that he thought I’d be interested in trying for the year. I had successfully tracked my reading in 2015, a project Mom had urged me to do since I was a kid. It turns out that tracking what you read is easy and helpful, I should have listened. Since tracking was now a habit, and I am competitive, I decided to try the Tim Challies challenge. Here is the list, with the titles that I ended up reading for each category:


Some of the categories were challenging, some I tweaked and I was overly ambitious on some of them, but I did finish and it was a good exercise. Tracking my reading, for a challenge or just because, makes me more aware of my mental intake and more intentional about the contents of that fodder. I think about others seeing my list and about whether I would need to justify that choice. 

The list encouraged me to read some books that I wouldn’t have otherwise, or wouldn’t have yet, and several were from perspectives that I disagree with. Still, reading the arguments in a person’s own words was helpful. I found that in several cases arguments I had heard summed up or quoted by others were used accurately, even statements that I was skeptical of proved to be almost exact quotes. Some books were difficult to wade through, but worth the work. Others were boring and I was unsure of their helpfulness. Some were fascinating, some informative, some very well written, and some all three. I don’t recommend every book that I read, but I do most of them. I also recommend the process. Even if it takes a few years to work through, it’s a valuable exercise. This year I chose to do my own thing, however, and am attempting to read the rest of the books that we own but I haven’t read, or haven’t read in many years. It may be a several year endeavor, as we are always expanding and refining our library!

Here is the complete list of my books read lasts year, with author and page counts:

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New Year, Five Years


Five years ago we embarked on the next step in our crazy couple of months and got married! We still feel like newly weds in many ways, especially in our excitement in being together, but it is also hard to remember or imagine times without Fred. We have grown and changed and hurt and healed and rejoice in this mysterious picture and gift that is marriage. Five years down, a lifetime to go!

Fellowship of the Saints

One of the characteristics of Kodiak is that it is a transient community. Most people just don’t settle here for very long. We come for a year, two, maybe five, then move on, back to the lower 48 or mainland Alaska. To more real life. It makes it difficult to maintain friendships here, because good friends often move on. 
We have said goodbye to several good friends over the last four years. We’ve made others, but haven’t had consistent, close fellowship. We have had trouble finding iron friends, who sharpen us in our faith. We’ve had trouble finding friends to do things with regularly. We’ve missed the close relationships that come through regular conversation, frequent games, shared meals, walks and movie nights and laughter and heartache. We’ve prayed and cried many times for such fellowship. 

Over the last year, and especially over the last six months, God has been answering those prayers in a big way. In fullness of time, God suprised us with a sudden deepening of several friendships. It is almost like we just collectively reached a point of shared hunger and decided to dive together into a feast of fellowship, and it has been good. We’ve enjoyed games, murder mystery nights, potlucks, hikes, movie nights, centered around regular discussion and Bible study together. It has been good. 

There is now a core group of people who are like family, who pray for each other and memorize Scripture together and encourage each other and watching this going on around me fills my heart with joy, which is even greater because I get to be a part of it! 

“It is good for brothers to dwell in unity.”  Indeed it is. 

A New Addition

  
A couple of months ago, Fred was leaving for work. It was dark and the night had been particularly stormy, blowing roofing off our neighbor’s trailer, tearing limbs from the trees behind us, pouring buckets of rain. The storm hadn’t died down yet, but in the tumult Fred heard a kitten crying. He found it huddled against our neighbor’s trailer, a little black ball of pathetic, a miniature version of our Pepper. He took it to the shelter and we expected someone to claim her. 

 

 After a few days, we checked and no one had looked for her. So we asked for her. It took 4 weeks for us to bring her home, because she had to be spayed first, but now little Storm is ours and the cats are finally learning to get along!

   
  It gives us a fun range of the cat lifespan, with a 7ish month kitten, a 4 year old cat (who now tries hard to act sophisticated whenever the kitten is around), and our increasingly senile and stiff Crystal (who can still purr like a motorboat and still loves to sleep with us).  

   
   
Storm is learning to be held, Pepper is learning to share attention, and we are already struggling to tell them apart at times. It’ll only get better, right?

   
    
 

Taste of Kodiak

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What is Kodiak like?  Like anywhere, you have to be here to understand, but here’s a brief picture.  We have a diverse population.  Lots of Coasties (Coast Guard) come and go, with some Navy folk.  Those military folks come from all around the country and have an ever changing influence on our community.  There are many fishermen, both locals and out of towners.  Some are here longterm and some come for a season, or a few seasons.  Fishing means canneries and Kodiak has several. They have increased our diversity, bringing in a large Filipino population.  There are also El Salvadorans, Samoans, Mexicans, Japanese, and periodically small groups of Ethiopians or Somalis or other nationalities.  Next there are the Alaska Natives, from several tribes.  The rest of us trickle in for a variety of reasons.

So cultural diversity, which usually means religious diversity.  And we have that.  Russian Orthodox, Catholic, and a variety of Protestant churches.  Many churches and church leaders actively cooperate with each other, and people from these diverse backgrounds work and play together.  One of the most beautiful things about Kodiak is fellowship that is shared between groups in the community. 

The town is small and the population is largely transient, so people form quick relationships and the community quickly welcomes and integrates newcomers.  They are plugged into jobs, church groups, local organizations, and the friendships help compensate for being far away from family.  It is a laid back place, where people commonly where Carharts, sweatshirts and Xtra-Tuff boots.  Habits from the lower 48 disappear quickly.  And since this is Alaska, people tend to be fairly independent, helpful, and outdoorsy.  Very outdoorsy.

It’s hard not to be outdoorsy here, the island practically begs you to get out and explore.  Small coastal mountains give way to larger mountains in the island’s interior.  The mountains hug the coast and are surrounded by beautiful forests.  There are birds and animals everywhere.  On a given day, you might see sea otters, Kodiak brown bears, bald eagles, orcas, sea lions, grey whales, and much more.  Our bears are large and scary, our deer are tiny and cute, our salmon run in every waterway, nature here is always awe inspiring.

People here may love hiking, hunting, fishing, kayaking, hocky (on a rink), but one way or another they are likely to be active.  And to spend time in boats.  We have a limited road system, most of the island can only be reached by boat or float plane, though one village is on the ferry route.  People often fly to Anchorage for medical appointments or shopping, or ferry to Homer then drive.  Both modes of travel are expensive, but at least you are off island for a bit.  This matters more for some than others. Kodiak inspires love or hate, few people think it’s just “okay.”  I certainly dont.  Kodiak is our home now and I love it.