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Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Goals & Homemaking Link-Up!

Do you have any goals for this new year?  I have quite a few but, above all else, my main goal is to not do things that I don't really want to do or that I know I don't have the time to do.  I want this to be a "no-obligation" year.  An obligation is different than a responsibility in this sense.  An obligation, as I'm referring to it, is something that I shouldn't have gotten myself into but, since I've gotten myself into it, I feel obligated to follow through.  I want this to be a simple year.  I need a simple life for a little bit! :)

Here are some of my goals for this new year.  Please scroll down to join weekend Homemaking Link-up!



Relational Goals


*Walk With Jesus*

1.    Work Through Elizabeth Prentiss Study

2.    Work through Proverbs---my notes on it’s wisdom for women

3.    Prepare for my turn to teach Women’s Sunday School weeks ahead of time

4.    Spend time with God out of desire, not out of guilt

5.    Listen to praise/worship music on my NEW stereo while doing kitchen chores


*Marriage*

1.    Remember that Jamie desires a sweet spirit above anything else

2.    Ask what the needs are instead of assuming---his expectations of me are far simpler than what I think they are!

3.    Pray for his goals:  weight loss, finishing Bachelors Degree this fall, looking for long-term work


*Children*

     1.   Homeschool consistently Jan-May; take short summer break; continue Aug-Nov

     2.   Prepare L, M, E for standardized testing this year; follow through on testing whether it’s “their year” or not

     3.   Be very choosy about outside activities; instead, focus more on building solid characters and obedience training at home :)


*Friends*


1.    No obligation friendships:  schedule “friend time” when and if it works for our family and stop feeling guilty when it doesn’t! :)


*Ministry*


     1.  Remember that my ministry is my family.  Anything else is extra and not mandatory.

2.  Prepare for ministry commitments in a timely manner.  Study and prepare Women’s Sunday School lessons and Bible Study lessons before the night before.

     3.  This year I will serve on the Women’s Ministry board at our church.  Remember that this is, for me, a no-obligation ministry.  I will serve when I can and when it works well for my family.


Hobby/Creativity Goals


*Writing*


    1.   Submit at least one blog post a week to Christian Home online magazine---I’m already an established contributor there.

    2.   Consider whether I have the time to pursue other freelance opportunities and possibly do so.

    3.   Continue with my blog, posting at least twice weekly.  Bring followers up to 300 by the end of the year.


*Etsy*


    1.  Continue adding crafty items and vintage/antique items. 

    2.  Try to phase out candy sales until the holiday season comes again as it’s too big a temptation to have in the house.


*Sewing*


    1.  Really focus on finishing up projects I’ve started and using up my stash.  Some ideas include:  marble bags, crazy quilts

*Crafting*


    1.  Work on using up stash.

    2.  Host a CTMH party in early spring.

    3.  Refine the art of the ATC! :)


*Musical*


    1.  Decide which instrument of my 3 that I want to learn first:  Celtic Harp, Cello, A/E guitar?  I think I’m leaning toward Celtic Harp.

    2.  Patiently accept Jamie’s help in learning it!

    3.  Establish routine of singing hymns with kids before bed.


*Reading*


    1.  Read 50 books.

    2.  Be more involved in BookCrossing.

    3.  Read regularly with the kids.


Homemaking Goals


*Home *


1.    Plan meals and grocery lists several days before shopping trip.

2.    Reassign chores to distribute the work a little better.

3.    Continue working on my kitchen to make it a more pleasant place to work.

4.    Focus more on healthy homemade recipes.

5.    Shabby-Chic my piano and hutch.  Do a good job so Jamie will let me do my dining room table and matching hutch too!  Also want to do the antique dressers in my kitchen and bedroom.

6.    Plant vegetables and flowers this spring.

7.    Buy a red geranium and put it in a green pot for my porch chair.


Health Goals

*Physical*

1.    Drink plenty of water daily.  

2.    Set up small challenges for myself and reward myself when I accomplish them.

3.    Ride my bike when weather is nice.

4.    Go for walks…by myself and with family.
What are some of your 2012 goals?  Please join me this week by linking up your homemaking-related posts!  *****Do you need an email reminder?  Let me know in the comments below and I'll send you a weekly reminder about our Homemaking Link-Up Weekend via email.  (Please remember to add your email address if you want the reminder!!)*****
Also linking to:


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren --- Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (August 16, 2011)

***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Press for sending me a review copy.***

My Review:  I did not finish this book.  I read about 80 pages and decided to stop.  It wasn't that it was necessarily bad writing---it was more that it just wasn't holding my attention.  About 50 pages in, I felt like I was continuing more out of obligation rather than interest.  

The story seemed to be predictable and the characters seemed to be stereotypical.  Dane was too nice, too good to be true.  There's a part where he tells Krista he was "with someone" on the last two Christmases and she feels a little jealousy in her heart.  I bet you a million bucks that he was with her mother, rather than some other woman.  It's just one of those stories where you can already predict the ending and the reasons for things---but you read it to see how things play out.  I guess I just didn't feel tied enough to the characters to want to finish it up.  

I think that this book would really speak to the heart of someone who has or has had a loved one with Alzheimers Disease.  I have never experienced this in the life of anyone I know but I think that, if I had that tie, I'd have related much more to Krista and the other characters and probably would have finished.  

This is the first adult book by Bergren I've read.  I will look out for more of hers, though, as it's possible this was just an exception based on my own preferences.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


LISA BERGREN is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than thirty books, with more than two million copies sold. A former publishing executive, she now splits her time working as a freelance editor and writer while parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of the family’s next visit to Taos.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

There are no second chances. Or are there?

Krista Mueller is in a good place. She’s got a successful career as a professor of history; she’s respected and well-liked; and she lives hundreds of miles from her hometown and the distant mother she could never please. It’s been more than a decade since Alzheimer’s disease first claimed Charlotte Mueller’s mind, but Krista has dutifully kept her mother in a first-class nursing home.

Now Charlotte is dying of heart failure and, surprised by her own emotions, Krista rushes to Taos, New Mexico, to sit at her estranged mother’s side as she slips away. Battling feelings of loss, abandonment, and relief, Krista is also unsettled by her proximity to Dane McConnell, director of the nursing home—and, once upon a time, her first love. Dane’s kind and gentle spirit—and a surprising discovery about her mother—make Krista wonder if she can at last close the distance between her and her mother … and open the part of her heart she thought was lost forever.

“A timeless tale, to be kept every day in the heart as a reminder
that forgiveness is a gift to self.”
—PATRICIA HICKMAN, author of The Pirate Queen


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (August 16, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730107
ISBN-13: 978-0307730107

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“She’s dying, Krista.”

I took a long, slow breath. “She died a long time ago, Dane.”

He paused, and I could picture him formulating his next words, something that would move me. Why was my relationship with my mother so important to him? I mean, other than the fact that she was a patient in his care. “There’s still time, Kristabelle.”

I sighed. Dane knew that his old nickname for me always got to me. “For what? For long, deep conversations?” I winced at the harsh slice of sarcasm in my tone.

“You never know,” he said quietly. “An aide found something you should see.”

“What?”

“Come. I’ll keep it here in my office until you arrive. Consider it a Christmas present.”

“It’s December ninth.”

“Okay, consider it an early present.”

It was typical of him to hold out a mysterious hook like that. “I don’t know, Dane. The school term isn’t over yet. It’s a hard time to get someone to cover for me.” It wasn’t the whole truth. I had an assistant professor who could handle things on her own. And I could get back for finals. Maybe. Unless Dane wasn’t overstating the facts.

“Krista. She’s dying. Her doctor tells me she has a few weeks, tops. Tell your department chair. He’ll let you go. This is the end.” I stared out my cottage window to the old pines that covered my yard in shadows. The end. The end had always seemed so far away. Too far away. In some ways I wanted an end to my relationship with my mother, the mother who had never loved me as I longed to be loved. When she started disappearing, with her went so many
of my hopes for what could have been. The road to this place had been long and lonely. Except for Dane. He had always been there, had always waited. I owed it to him to show. “I’ll be there on Saturday.”

“I’ll be here. Come and find me.”

“Okay. I teach a Saturday morning class. I can get out of here after lunch and down there by five or six.”

“I’ll make you dinner.”

“Dane, I—”

“Dinner. At seven.”

I slowly let my mouth close and paused. I was in no mood to argue with him now. “I’ll meet you at Cimarron,” I said.
“Great. It will be good to see you, Kristabelle.” I closed my eyes, imagining him in his office at Cimarron Care Center. Brushing his too-long hair out of his eyes as he looked through his own window.

“It will be good to see you, too, Dane. Good-bye.”

He hung up then without another word, and it left me feeling slightly bereft. I hung on to the telephone receiver as if I could catch one more word, one more breath, one more connection with the man who had stolen my heart at sixteen.

Dane McConnell remained on my mind as I wrapped up things at the college, prepped my assistant, Alissa, to handle my history classes for the following week, and then drove the scenic route down to Taos from Colorado Springs, about a five-hour trip. My old Honda Prelude hugged the roads along the magnificent San Luis Valley. The valley’s shoulders were still covered in late spring snow, her belly carpeted in a rich, verdant green. It was here that in 1862 Maggie O’Neil single-handedly led a wagon train to settle a town in western Colorado, and nearby Cecilia Gaines went so
crazy one winter they named a waterway in her honor—“Woman Hollering Creek.”

I drove too fast but liked the way the speed made my scalp tingle when I rounded a corner and dipped, sending my stomach flying. Dane had never driven too fast. He was methodical in everything he did, quietly moving ever forward. He had done much in his years since grad school, establishing Cimarron and making it a national think tank for those involved in gerontology. After high school we had essentially ceased communication for years before Cimarron came about. Then when Mother finally got to the point in her descent into Alzheimer’s that she needed fulltime institutionalized care, I gave him a call. I hadn’t been able to find a facility that I was satisfied with for more than a year, when a college friend had shown me the magazine article on the opening of Cimarron and its patron saint, Dane McConnell.

“Good looking and nice to old people,” she had moaned. “Why can’t I meet a guy like that?”

“I know him,” I said, staring at the black-and-white photograph.

“Get out.”

“I do. Or did. We used to be…together.”

“What happened?” she asked, her eyes dripping disbelief.

“I’m not sure.”

I still wasn’t sure. Things between us had simply faded over the years. But when I saw him again, it all seemed to come back. Or at least a part of what we had once had. There always seemed to be a submerged wall between us, something we couldn’t quite bridge or blast through. So we had simply gone swimming toward different shores.

Mother’s care had brought us back together over the last five years. With the congestive heart failure that was taking her body, I supposed the link between us would finally be severed. I would retreat to Colorado, and he would remain in our beloved Taos, the place of our youth, of our beginnings, of our hearts. And any lingering dream of living happily ever after with Dane McConnell could be buried forever with my unhappy memories of Mother.

I loosened my hands on the wheel, realizing that I was gripping

it so hard my knuckles were white. I glanced in the rearview mirror, knowing that my reverie was distracting me from paying attention to the road. It was just that Dane was a hard man to get over. His unique ancestry had gifted him with the looks of a Scottish Highlander and the sultry, earthy ways of the Taos Indians. A curious, inspiring mix that left him with both a leader’s stance and a wise man’s knowing eyes. Grounded but visionary. A driving force, yet empathetic at the same time. His employees loved working for him. Women routinely fell in love with him.

I didn’t know why I could never get my act together so we could finally fall in love and stay in love. He’d certainly done his part. For some reason I’d always sensed that Dane was waiting for me, of all people. Why messed-up, confused me? Yet there he was. I’d found my reluctance easy to blame on my mother. She didn’t love me as a mother should, yada-yada, but I’d had enough time with my counselor to know that there are reasons beyond her. Reasons that circle back to myself.

I’d always felt as if I was chasing after parental love, but the longer I chased it, the further it receded from my reach. It left a hole in my heart that I was hard-pressed to fill. God had come close to doing the job. Close. But there was still something there, another blockade I had yet to blast away. I would probably be working on my “issues” my whole life. But as my friend Michaela says, “Everyone’s got issues.” Supposedly I need to embrace them. I just want them to go away.

“Yeah,” I muttered. Dane McConnell was better off without me. Who needed a woman still foundering in her past?

I had to focus on Mother. If this was indeed the end, I needed to wrap things up with her. Find closure. Some measure of peace. Even if she couldn’t say the words I longed to hear.

I love you, Krista.

Why was it that she had never been able to force those four words from her lips?


Excerpted from Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Tawn Bergren. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Sound Among the Trees Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)

***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Press for sending me a review copy.***

My Review:  I really did enjoy this book! Anything having to do with old houses, family secrets, history...  How great to find a book with all these elements that doesn't contain some sort of horribly illicit affair, murder or profanity.  The only part of the book that I didn't particularly find fascinating was the last few pages as everything is "wrapped up".  It seemed sort of hurried and "wrapped up" too nicely.  I also didn't like that they decided to show Carson the journals.  It didn't seem to fit with the idea of them all starting over in a new place with out the "ghost" of Sara still lingering.  All in all, though, it was an excellent offering from one of my favorite authors and will go into my permanent collection.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Award-winning writer Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2008. She is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A house shrouded in time. A line of women with a heritage of loss. As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband's home, it isn't long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.





Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307458857
ISBN-13: 978-0307458858

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Excerpt

The bride stood in a circle of Virginia sunlight, her narrow heels clicking on Holly Oak’s patio stones as she greeted strangers in the receiving line. Her wedding dress was a simple A-line, strapless, with a gauzy skirt of white that breezed about her knees like lacy curtains at an open window. She had pulled her unveiled brunette curls into a loose arrangement dotted with tiny flowers that she’d kept alive on her flight from Phoenix. Her only jewelry was a white topaz pendant at her throat and the band of platinum on her left ring finger. Tall, slender, and tanned from the famed and relentless Arizona sun, hers was a girl-nextdoor look: pretty but not quite beautiful. Adelaide thought it odd that Marielle held no bouquet.

From the parlor window Adelaide watched as her grandson-in-law, resplendent in a black tuxedo next to his bride, bent toward the guests and greeted them by name, saying, “This is Marielle.” An explanation seemed ready to spring from his lips each time he shook the hand of someone who had known Sara, her deceased granddaughter. His first wife. Carson stood inches from Marielle, touching her elbow every so often, perhaps to assure himself that after four years a widower he had indeed patently and finally moved on from grief.

Smatterings of conversations wafted about on the May breeze and into the parlor as received guests strolled toward trays of sweet tea and champagne. Adelaide heard snippets from her place at the window. Hudson and Brette, her great-grandchildren, had moved away from the snaking line of gray suits and pastel dresses within minutes of the first guests’ arrival and were now studying the flower-festooned gift table under the window ledge, touching the bows, fingering the silvery white wrappings. Above the children, an old oak’s youngest branches shimmied to the tunes a string quartet produced from the gazebo beyond the receiving line.

Adelaide raised a teacup to her lips and sipped the last of its contents, allowing the lemony warmth to linger at the back of her throat. She had spent the better part of the morning readying the garden for Carson and Marielle’s wedding reception, plucking spent geranium blossoms, ordering the catering staff about, and straightening the rented linen tablecloths. She needed to join the party now that it had begun. The Blue-Haired Old Ladies would be wondering where she was.

Her friends had been the first to arrive, coming through the garden gate on the south side of the house at five minutes before the hour. She’d watched as Carson introduced them to Marielle, witnessed how they cocked their necks in blue-headed unison to sweetly scrutinize her grandson-in-law’s new wife, and heard their welcoming remarks through the open window.

Deloris gushed about how lovely Marielle’s wedding dress was and what, pray tell, was the name of that divine purple flower she had in her hair?

Pearl invited Marielle to her bridge club next Tuesday afternoon and asked her if she believed in ghosts.

Maxine asked her how Carson and she had met—though Adelaide had told her weeks ago that Carson met Marielle on the Internet—and why on earth Arizona didn’t like daylight-saving time.

Marielle had smiled, sweet and knowing—like the kindergarten teacher who finds the bluntness of five-year-olds endearing—and answered the many questions.

Mojave asters. She didn’t know how to play bridge. She’d never encountered a ghost so she couldn’t really say but most likely not. She and Carson met online. There’s no need to save what one has an abundance of. Carson had cupped her elbow in his hand, and his thumb caressed the inside of her arm while she spoke.

Adelaide swiftly set the cup down on the table by the window, whisking away the remembered tenderness of that same caress on Sara’s arm.

Carson had every right to remarry.

Sara had been dead for four years.

She turned from the bridal tableau outside and inhaled deeply the gardenia-scented air in the parlor. Unbidden thoughts of her granddaughter sitting with her in that very room gently nudged her. Sara at six cutting out paper dolls. Memorizing multiplication tables at age eight. Sewing brass buttons onto gray wool coats at eleven. Sara reciting a poem for English Lit at sixteen, comparing college acceptance letters at eighteen, sharing a chance letter from her estranged mother at nineteen, showing Adelaide her engagement ring at twenty-four. Coming back home to Holly Oak with Carson when Hudson was born. Nursing Brette in that armchair by the fireplace. Leaning against the door frame and telling Adelaide that she was expecting her third child.

Right there Sara had done those things while Adelaide sat at the long table in the center of the room, empty now but usually awash in yards of stiff Confederate gray, glistening gold braid, and tiny piles of brass buttons—the shining elements of officer reenactment uniforms before they see war.

Adelaide ran her fingers along the table’s polished surface, the warm wood as old as the house itself. Carson had come to her just a few months ago while she sat at that table piecing together a sharpshooter’s forest green jacket. He had taken a chair across from her as Adelaide pinned a collar, and he’d said he needed to tell her something.

He’d met someone.

When she’d said nothing, he added, “It’s been four years, Adelaide.”

“I know how long it’s been.” The pins made a tiny plucking sound as their pointed ends pricked the fabric.

“She lives in Phoenix.”

“You’ve never been to Phoenix.”

“Mimi.” He said the name Sara had given her gently, as a father might. A tender reprimand. He waited until she looked up at him. “I don’t think Sara would want me to live the rest of my life alone. I really don’t. And I don’t think she would want Hudson and Brette not to have a mother.”

“Those children have a mother.”

“You know what I mean. They need to be mothered. I’m gone all day at work. I only have the weekends with them. And you won’t always be here. You’re a wonderful great-grandmother, but they need someone to mother them, Mimi.”

She pulled the pin cushion closer to her and swallowed. “I know they do.”

He leaned forward in his chair. “And I…I miss having someone to share my life with. I miss the companionship. I miss being in love. I miss having someone love me.”

Adelaide smoothed the pieces of the collar. “So. You are in love?”

He had taken a moment to answer. “Yes. I think I am.”

Carson hadn’t brought anyone home to the house, and he hadn’t been on any dates. But he had lately spent many nights after the children were in bed in his study—the old drawing room—with the door closed. When she’d pass by, Adelaide would hear the low bass notes of his voice as he spoke softly into his phone. She knew that gentle sound. She had heard it before, years ago when Sara and Carson would sit in the study and talk about their day. His voice, deep and resonant. Hers, soft and melodic.

“Are you going to marry her?”

Carson had laughed. “Don’t you even want to know her name?”

She had not cared at that moment about a name. The specter of being alone in Holly Oak shoved itself forward in her mind. If he remarried, he’d likely move out and take the children with him. “Are you taking the children? Are you leaving Holly Oak?”

“Adelaide—”

“Will you be leaving?”

Several seconds of silence had hung suspended between them. Carson and Sara had moved into Holly Oak ten years earlier to care for Adelaide after heart surgery and had simply stayed. Ownership of Holly Oak had been Sara’s birthright and was now Hudson and Brette’s future inheritance. Carson stayed on after Sara died because, in her grief, Adelaide asked him to, and in his grief, Carson said yes.

“Will you be leaving?” she asked again.

“Would you want me to leave?” He sounded unsure.

“You would stay?”

Carson had sat back in his chair. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to take Hudson and Brette out of the only home they’ve known. They’ve already had to deal with more than any kid should.”

“So you would marry this woman and bring her here. To this house.”

Carson had hesitated only a moment. “Yes.”

She knew without asking that they were not talking solely about the effects moving would have on a ten-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. They were talking about the strange biology of their grief. Sara had been taken from them both, and Holly Oak nurtured their common sorrow in the most kind and savage of ways. Happy memories were one way of keeping someone attached to a house and its people. Grief was the other. Surely Carson knew this. An inner nudging prompted her to consider asking him what his new bride would want.

“What is her name?” she asked instead.

And he answered, “Marielle…”

Excerpted from A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner Copyright © 2011 by Susan Meissner. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Day Today Homemaking Link-Up Weekend

Have you entered my newest book giveaway?

Today, I thought I'd share with you all a little from a typical day at our house! There's always something fun and crafty going on around here---especially when we're taking a holiday break from our homeschool! 
A few days ago, 5-year-old Selah surprised us all by sitting down and flawlessly playing, "Up On the Housetop"!
Her three oldest siblings have been taking piano lessons but we weren't planning on her having lessons for another few years!
Apparently, one of her big brothers took it upon himself to get her started.  Now she's playing all kinds of things from her siblings' older books!
Kynthia Joy, who turned 4 months old on December 2nd, rolled over for the first time today!
We've all enjoyed playing with sweet Kynthia as she's starting to explore her home!
I made this yummy pasta dish for lunch.  I am trying to use up the things we've got in our freezer and pantry this month and start the new year out with a newly-stocked kitchen so this was a hodge podge of ingredients that turned out really great!  I'll try and put up the recipe later this week.
Yesterday, 11-year-old Lynzie made another cute rag doll.  She has always been into the American Girl dolls and recently read about the 1856 doll, Kirsten, who had a little doll of her own named Sari.
Lynzie decided to make her own Sari doll and asked me to help with the hair since I'm not comfortable with her using a hot glue gun yet.
Here she is with her sweet new dolly.  I'm so glad my young lady has retained her childlike spirit this far!  While she could easily run this entire household, including care of the children, she still finds joy in childhood past times like dolls, dress-up and playing make-believe games with her younger siblings.
I've tried, on many occasions, to interest Lynzie in using my sewing machine, but she is more comfortable with her needle and thread.
Her hand-stitching rivals my machine stitches any day!
I think I did her hair pretty cute!
I hope everyone who celebrates is enjoying getting prepared for Christmas!  I can't believe there's only 10 days left!  I've got quite a bit of sewing to do myself this next week.  Liam is getting a "big boy pillow" now that he's almost 2 so I'm sewing him a cute pillowcase with lions on it.  Baby Kynthia is getting a quilt I'll make from pieces from my fabric stash and a Sunbonnet Sue block that was found in my grandmother's things after she passed away.  I've gotten everyone marbles so I'm wanting to make them some simple felt bags to store them in and I have a canvas book bag to decorate for 2-year-old Avalon Grace.  I think I'll use some of the printable fabric that Jamie got me for my birthday last year and find her some pretty vintage image to put on the front of the bag.  She loves going to the library and will enjoy having her own special bag for books.

What kinds of special gifts are you giving to loved ones this year?

I'd love to have each one of you link-up with my Homemaking Link-Up Weekend this weekend!  It's so fun to visit so many creative and encouraging bloggers!  In fact, I'd like to introduce one of my favorite bloggers from last week's party:  Shirley of Sweet Romantic Notions!
Shirley decorated this gorgeous silver tree with special handkerchiefs and handmade ornaments!
I was just really taken with the beauty of this tree and asked her if I could please, please share it with you all!  If you've got a minute, stop over and visit Shirley at Sweet Romantic Notions and tell her you "met" her here!

I've just been so blessed this week as I've gone about making my home a happy and comfortable place to live! What sorts of things have you been doing around the home this week?  Please, share below!  Have a lovely weekend!

Also linking with:
Beverly's Pink Saturday
Show and Tell Friday @ My Romantic Home

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Giveaway and Book Announcement: On the Path with God

Notice Readers: I am giving away my review copy of this beautiful book! It will arrive to you in gift-giving condition and has a page in front for a gift message. In order to win, you must be a follower of my blog and you must leave a comment on this post! This giveaway is open until December 31st. 


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

My Review:  This is a beautiful book filled with gorgeous photograpy and encouraging thoughts and studies regarding God and His word.  My ONLY complaint is that there's not clear information about the photography---where the pictures were taken or why they were chosen.  Lovely book!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR and PHOTOGRAPHERS:


Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor of The Moody Church since 1980, is an award-winning author of more than 20 books including Walking with God. He’s a celebrated international conference speaker and the featured speaker on three radio programs that are heard around the world. He and his wife, Rebecca, have been married for 35 years. They live in the Chicago area and are the parents of three married children.

Visit the author's website.

John and Debora Scanlan are partners in life and in creating Scanlan Windows to the World™ Fine Art Photography. They are internationally renowned for capturing the beauty, intrigue, and romance of the world while presenting the essence of every scene. Their work is featured in galleries, special exhibitions and juried art shows, on numerous products including cards and calendars, and in their breathtaking fine art photography book Windows to the World.

Visit the photographers' website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Inspiring meditations from the heart of popular pastor and author Dr. Erwin Lutzer join breathtaking photographs of winding country paths and cobblestone streets and invite readers to take time to walk with God. The joy-filled promises of faith await those who treasure an enriched journey with the Creator.



Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736939369
ISBN-13: 978-0736939362

AND NOW...THE FIRST FEW PAGES (The images were scanned so that you may see what this delightful book looks like, but the words were placed here from these scanned images, so that you may read and be blessed.) Please click on the images to see them larger:



Why Walk with God?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12



A tour through a cemetery can be beneficial and educational. I like to read epitaphs because they often say something interesting about the person who is finished with this life and has gone on to the next. Maybe epitaphs should be required reading for everyone once a year. They are a reminder that life is short and that eternity is near.

Most epitaphs are serious, some are tragic, and yes, there are at least a few that are funny. I’m told that this poem is found on the tombstone of a lady named Anna Wallace in England:

The children of Israel wanted bread.

The Lord sent them manna.

Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife.

The devil sent him Anna.

Here is a poem I learned in grade school, though I doubt it is on a tombstone—it could be. It contains an important message about automobile safety:
Here lies the body of William Jay,

Who died while maintaining his right of way.

He was right, completely right as he sped along,

But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong!

My favorite epitaph is found in the Bible, embedded in a long list of genealogies in the fifth chapter of Genesis. To read these verses is like walking though a cemetery. The names are difficult to pronounce and we are left to guess what life was like so many centuries ago. Like the tolling of a bell, every tombstone bears the same message; six times we read the simple phrase “and he died.”



Then unexpectedly we discover that there was a man who did not die! His name was Enoch, and of him we read in verse 24, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Twice we are told that Enoch “walked with God.” In fact, He walked with God right into heaven!

This epitaph is perhaps one of the most beautiful phrases in the entire Bible. If it could be said of you and me that we “walked with God,” nothing more need be said. Those few words contain an eternity of meaning.

An Invitation to the Journey

Walking with God is both difficult and simple. Difficult because it takes thought, discipline, and commitment; simple because the same characteristics that apply to walking with a close friend or a loved one apply to walking with God.

Enoch walked with God in the midst of a society filled with temptations and obstacles just like those we face. He is a powerful reminder that we can be faithful to walk with God in our day as well. When we accept the invitation to begin the journey, trials and distractions need not keep us from our time with the Almighty.



Interestingly, Enoch was motivated to begin this journey after his first son Methuselah was born. Maybe he felt a new sense of responsibility as he held the baby boy in his arms. Perhaps as the child reached out to touch the stubble of his father’s beard Enoch said to himself, “I need to reorder my priorities and begin to take God more seriously.” Evidently he realized that the greatest contribution he could make in life was to guide his family on the right path.

Spend some moments reflecting on what motivates your heart to walk with the Lord today. Have you faced a trial and found yourself ready to give your sorrow to God? Do you long to leave a legacy of faith for your children? Maybe you’ve been in fellowship with the Lord for many years and you are ready for refreshment. Together we can explore how to walk with God and embrace the meaningful, remarkable, and abundant life He has planned for you. Let’s take a step forward toward the light of life.

You have declared this day that the LORD is your God

and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees,

commands and laws, and that you will obey him.

And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people,

his treasured possession as he promised, and that

you are to keep all his commands.

Deuteronomy 26:17-18



Help for the Journey

I’ve often thought about what others might say of me after I die. I don’t mean the beautiful eulogies often given at funerals. Instead, I wonder what people will really think—what they will really remember about the impact for good or ill I have had in their lives. God of course, will give the final evaluation, but imagine our legacy if it could be said that we “walked with God.”



If an epitaph were written for you today, what would it be? Are you satisfied with that? What do you hope you will be remembered for?

Consider Jesus’ simple invitation to brothers Simon and Andrew referenced below. Think about how wonderful it feels to have Jesus call to you today in the same, simple way. What is your response to Jesus as He waves to you and says, “Come, follow me?”

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-17).
God provides what you need each step of the way. What worries or weaknesses do you want to give to God—need to give to God—in exchange for His hope and renewing strength?


Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:105

Monday, December 12, 2011

Angel In My Room by Betty Collier Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

WestBow Press (September 26, 2011)

***Special thanks to Betty Collier for sending me a review copy.***

 My Review: I normally don't read books about "true" supernatural experiences because, nowadays, it's hard to tell whether or not the instance really happened or someone is just putting you on for whatever myriad of reasons.  While I don't think it's warranted in this case to accuse someone that I don't know anything about with putting me on, I made the statement above because there is a distinction between believing I'm being misled and just not being convinced.  In this case, I'm not convinced.  Because I struggle with hurting others' feelings, I had such a hard time writing this review!  Lillie's story will no doubt bless and encourage many readers, yet I can't help but find so many things, both in the story and in the writing style, that make me hesitant to recommend the book to my readers.

Let me begin, however, with the positives.  Overall, the book tells Lillie's story of allowing the Lord to guide her through the most devastating time in her life.  Lillie's faith and willingness to serve others is encouraging and inspiring.  I also appreciate Collier's salvation message at the end of the book. (Although, it disappointed me that she prefaced this part with saying she was giving the "Come to Jesus speech". This seemed to give the impression that it was obligatory and something to apologize for and get out of the way.)

While I am not in the position to negate Lillie's experience with God, I do have to say that some of it seems odd and not quite lined up with Scripture.  The most poignant example of this is when Collier describes Lillie's baby appearing to her as an angel.  She says, "He was literally flying around in her room with his little wings". It seems odd to me that God would turn us into angels when we die.  I believe that we will still be humans, just like Jesus, and all of us, including Him, having been made "just a little lower than the angels" (Ps. 8:4-5; Heb. 2: 7, 9).  If Jesus was born as a man, died as a man, and is still being called the "Son of God", this would lead us to believe He is a man still.  Wouldn't we, who were born as men, also die as men and be raised to eternity as Sons of God?  I'm thinking it's a "once human, always human" thing---but I suppose I could be wrong.

I also find the description of Lillie's "out of body experience" to be sort of convoluted, but it's possible that my hesitation to believe it just comes from the way in which Collier wrote about the experience.  On page 33, she says "Lillie died".  Then, a couple paragraphs later, she describes what was happening, "as she was dying" and that she asked the Lord to wait.  Then, a couple more paragraphs later, it states that, "Lillie carried on like this for hours."  If one tried to put this all into a real-life picture in the imagination, it would seem that Lillie was dying for hours.  What exactly does that mean?  How can someone die and then be dying for hours?  A statement from someone with access to Lillie's medical records at the time, who would be able to verify that she was either mechanically or physically monitored as being dead for hours, would add a lot of credence to this claim.  If she was checked into a hospital, surely someone came along during those unspecified hours to find that she was in the process of dying?

This illustrates a lot of the frustrations I found throughout the book.  There's little continuity.  There's little flow.  Experiences hop from scene to scene with little details or depth.  Having lost a child myself, I was hesitant to read this book as I was worried it would stir up too many painful emotions.  I have to say that the only emotion that was stirred up while reading this was annoyance caused by confusion and frustration.  An experience that, with a little thought and time spent on descriptive detail, could have been a gut-wrenching tale, actually ended up being about 8 pages of sterile facts sandwiched between enough extra information to fill a very thin book.

A lot of thoughts were repeated, making the story very wordy and sort of unprofessional.  For instance, in one paragraph it says, "(He was) completely whole and free from all the ailments that plagued him at birth. He was perfect, free from all physical disorders..."  Those are two sentences that are saying the same thing.  Later in the same paragraph it says, "Looking at the angel in her room gave her indescribable peace that is beyond the human vocabulary."  The terms, indescribable, and beyond the human vocabulary mean the same thing!  I really don't like to pick the book apart---it's just that these sorts of things happen consistently throughout and it just makes for a very disjointed read.

In all actuality, this story would have made for a really great magazine article or short essay.  Everything that was told in this 83-page book (with small paragraphs and large spaces between paragraphs, I might add) could have been summed up in a few columns in Reader's Digest and, shortened down and to the point, would have made for a really touching story---even if one didn't believe that people come back as angels to fly around a hospital room.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Betty Collier is a wife, mother, nurse, author, and child of the King. In her Living Inside The Testimony book series, she inspires others to discover that they too live inside testimonies meant to be shared. Betty lives inside the testimony in Bartlett, Tennessee, with her husband and two sons.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

It has taken thirty-one years, but the story will now finally be told. It’s a story of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Lillie Hopkins had a miraculous encounter that changed her life forever on the day she gave birth to her one and only child. The joy and excitement she had previously anticipated suddenly disappeared and was replaced with the unbearable realization that something dreadful had occurred and things had gone horribly wrong. She was absolutely devastated and consumed with an irreparable broken heart. Excruciating sadness, agonizing sorrow, and total brokenness threatened her very desire to live, but then she had an angelic encounter which left her with indescribable peace. You will discover how Lillie caught a glimpse of heaven and was touched by an angel on April 21, 1980, the day her beloved son, Derrich, was born.





Product Details:

List Price: $11.95
Paperback: 108 pages
Publisher: WestBow Press (September 26, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1449726976
ISBN-13: 978-1449726973

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

My Walk Took a Detour

I remember watching the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon every year since I was a child. Lewis has hosted the telethon to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) annually since the 1960s. Each year, the telethon concludes with Lewis tearfully singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Sometimes I would cry along with Lewis as he sang these words that still resonate in my mind.

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart,
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone …


Although most of “Jerry’s Kids” were in wheelchairs and couldn’t walk due to the disease, they didn’t have to “walk” alone. Jerry Lewis and the entire MDA were with them, giving them all the support they possibly could—with millions and millions of dollars in donations each year.


Life is easier when you have a support system—family, friends, and significant others whom you can depend on in times of need. You should never feel you’re all alone in this world. It’s often surreal when you reflect back and realize that you don’t walk alone. At times, I’m sure Lillie Hopkins felt like she was all alone on this earth, with no one on her side. She had been walking with the Lord and had a personal relationship with him ever since she gave her life to him in April 1963. She was very assured of her salvation and her place in heaven.


She had indeed devoted her life to the Lord for many years—actually, all of her adult life—and nothing was going to separate her from Jesus Christ … no one or no thing. Fast-forward to April 1980, seventeen years after becoming a born-again believer. Could something so awful, so horrendous, so extremely dreadful and unbearable happen to shatter her very existence and her will to live?


In order to answer this question, we must go back to the beginning. Lillie Hopkins was born in the 1940s in a rural town near Memphis, Tennessee, in the segregated south, the fifth of her mother’s eight children. As a young African-American female born thirteen years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born, she lived through the civil rights movement. In 1963, the same year Lillie gave her life to the Lord, Dr. King was in the middle of the civil rights movement. He helped organize a massive march on Washington, DC, where he delivered his famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was seventeen years later that Lillie’s life was shattered beyond recognition.


Now, putting things into perspective, although Lillie was not directly part of the civil rights movement, one must realize that growing up in the segregated south during this time in our nation’s history would cause one to look at his or her own life and dream of a better future. Such was the case for Lillie, who saw the struggles and challenges her poor parents faced while trying to raise their family under very unequal circumstances.

But Dr. King had taught Lillie a very important lesson: to have a dream. She believed that one day she would grow up and marry a wonderful man, and together they would raise their children in a nation that was changing for the better. She started to believe that she had a promising future—not one marked by hatred, bigotry, and inequality but one filled with the love and peace of God, one in which she would simply be judged by the content of her character.


After all, who would ever question the content of Lillie’s character? She was the perfect child who always did as she was told. As her siblings described her, she was the one who always got them into trouble because she tried to ensure that they did the right thing. She always did the right thing herself, so why would her brothers and sisters not comply with their parents instructions and do the right thing as well? She took it upon herself to make sure they behaved, but as you can imagine, that didn’t always go so well. She frequently found herself being ridiculed by the other children who simply wanted to have fun and do things their way.


If there was a rule to be broken, Lillie was certainly not going to be the child who broke it. She never broke any rule. She always did what was expected of her. Since I’m not from that generation, I don’t know what they would have called her, but I would imagine it was the equivalent of “Little Goody Two Shoes.”


While doing what was good, what was right, and what was expected simply came naturally for Lillie, there was a period in her life that surprised her entire family. No one had ever questioned her Christianity or her morality, simply because she had never done anything to cause anyone to question it. Time passed, and as the 1960s turned into the ’70s, Lillie found herself a single woman in her thirties with no prospects for a future husband. Her heart’s desire was simply to get married and have children. But she was still living at home with two of her adult sisters, caring for their mother who had become ill. Lillie’s five other siblings had all left home and gotten married.


So there she was, in the late 1970s, in the same home her father had built many years prior to the civil rights movement. This was the home she had grown up in. Why was she still there with her other two sisters and her aging mother? Time had certainly passed her by; she had missed the opportunity to get married and have children. Her biological clock was ticking like a bomb, and if she waited much longer, it would simply be too late to fulfill her dream.


Being confident that her mother and sisters were financially stable without her, Lillie finally moved out of her mother’s home in the late 1970s into her first apartment. By now she was well into her thirties with a time bomb about to explode. Was it too late to fulfill her dream of a wonderful husband and beautiful children?


At least she had a job she enjoyed. Working with handicapped and autistic children in a state facility gave Lillie a great source of joy and satisfaction. Her job was secure but also very challenging. She took work-related and college courses to become more proficient in her job and was very happy to be doing so. Her life was good, but since she was nearly forty years old, she also felt like her dreams would never come true. She had missed what she considered the epitome of womanhood: a husband and children.


Lillie became unfocused after she moved into her own apartment. Soon her thoughts became very selfish and self-centered. She wanted what she wanted, which wasn’t necessarily what God wanted for her life. She began to walk away from the Lord, and her mind was no longer able to concentrate on all the things she had been taught as a Christian. Looking back now, she knows that was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time, she was being controlled by thoughts that certainly were not her own, and soon her desires took her to a place she later wished she had never gone.


She had been taught what the Bible says in Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” God was there, just waiting to give her peace to accept the life he had given her, but that’s not what she wanted. She had no peace, because she wanted something that was not God’s plan for her life.


What happens when you start looking around at other people? The grass always appears greener on the other side. Lillie started looking at other people and simply felt left out. Everyone her age was married with children. That’s what she wanted too. Her mind was not on the Lord; she became distracted; and her biological clock had nearly reached the end of its time.


When faced with the possibility that she would grow old alone, she took matters into her own hands. After all, men had been pursuing her for years, not just pursuing her, but downright chasing her! As soon as the next Mr. X appeared, wrapped in all the right packaging, the temptation became too great, and she finally yielded. He was a very nice man, extremely kind and incredibly gentle. He treated her very well. Was he the one? Had God sent Lillie the husband she had been waiting for? Were her dreams about to come true?


The courtship began.


A few months later, the courtship was over.


Lillie knew in her heart what the Bible said, and guilt was consuming her very existence. Even Mr. X recognized it but could do nothing to stop her uncontrollable guilty conscience. Confronted with the realization that she had gone contrary from her Pentecostal religious beliefs, Lillie and Mr. X separated. Shortly after the courtship ended, his job moved him out of town. He called her a few times after he left Memphis, but the courtship was already over. She was left behind with nothing—nothing but guilt, remorse, embarrassment, and a broken heart. Her last chance at “happiness” had ended as quickly as it had begun, and she had nothing … nothing that she knew of, anyway. Lillie’s lifelong dream was over. Or was it?
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