Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Quotes that will go down in family history

That's just a mummy...how bad could a mummy be? (Kevin, while playing the wii. Guess he hasn't seen the movie!)

That's an ice cream scoop for a tarantula! (Kevin -- about my new cookie scoop)

I bet that's an ant farm (Chris -- about a wrapped poster tube of Sammi's)

We can just dodge the dead bird (they wanted to play volleyball but there's a dead pelican in the middle of the court)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Engaging Father Christmas


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Engaging Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 30, 2008)

by

Robin Jones Gunn




My Thoughts:

I love books about England, especially when they are set in one of the small villages that dot the countryside. This book is the second in a series. I have not yet read the first book of the series, and I decided about two chapters into Engaging Father Christmas that I really wanted to go back and read the first book, Finding Father Christmas. I just received it yesterday and I can't wait to dive into it and then read straight through Engaging Father Christmas. If you want to get into the Christmas spirit with a few laughs, check these books out!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, go HERE

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sad Statement

A sign at a local Walgreen's is really bothering me. It is a sad statement for our whole society. The sign simply reads "Don't forget gifts for your pet."

Maybe in a different year it wouldn't upset me. But this sign is in the middle of the town with the most foreclosures in the whole state. How can we even think about buying trinkets for a pet when our neighbors don't have enough money to put food on their tables?

According to an August 6th 2007 issue of Business Week magazine, we spend 41 billion dollars on our pets annually. Isn't that insane? What part of the American economy would that 'buyout'?

Please don't get me wrong -- we have two dogs and a cat that are part of our family. I've grown up with pets all of my life and I enjoy the companionship and cuddling with them. But I think we've become so pampered in our lives that we seem to forget basic priorities. We've counseled families that are losing their homes but still pay for pet food, grooming, and medical care.

As in years past, our pets aren't receiving anything for Christmas...just call me Scrooge. Please consider donating what you might have spent on your pets to a local homeless shelter or food kitchen!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark Pursuit

Zondervan (December 1, 2008)

by

Brandilyn Collins




MY THOUGHTS:

Brandilyn Collins' books should come with a warning...don't start reading this book unless you have time to finish it! She is a master of suspense and she's faithful about ending each chapter with something that leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat.

In Dark Pursuit, Kaitlan Sering has finally gotten her act together, is recovering from her drug addiction, and she's found a fabulous man. Then she comes home early from work one day to find that a serial killer has left his latest victim in her bed...and that the murderer is her boyfriend. She panics (who wouldn't?) and flees to her estranged grandfather's home. He is a world famous suspense writer who is suffering mentally and physically from an auto accident, and he is unable to maintain his thoughts long enough to create his 100th novel. Can he pull together a plan of action to catch the killer and save his granddaughter?

Follow along as Kaitlan returns to her home and her boyfriend in a plot that could prove his guilt...or get her killed! This is a must read book if you are a fan of nail-biting fiction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Brandilyn Collins is known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. She is currently working on her 20th book. For chances to win free copies of her work, join her Fan Club on Facebook. Here’s what Brandilyn has to say about why she wrote Dark Pursuit:

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan’s followers, kicked out of heaven, boast about storming the gates and reclaiming their territory. Beelzebub scoffs at their boasting as merely “hatching vain empires” and suggests a different revengeful scheme: seduce mankind away from God. So Satan visits the Garden of Eden to teach humans the very thing he and his cohorts have learned to be futile—the dark pursuit of hatching their own vain empires instead of following God. He presented man with this “gift” of death, disguised as life. And man fell for it.

Upon this theme of man’s fall and spiritual blindness, I created the characters and events in Dark Pursuit. The story clips along at a fast pace, with much symbolism running underneath.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Dark Pursuit—A twisting story of murder, betrayal, and eternal choices

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, reclusive and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What Does True Love Look Like?

For the past few weeks I've not made time to regularly do my morning devotions and Bible study. I've been really convicted today to question what that means.

If I honestly loved God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind, I can't imagine that I would EVER miss a day of spending time with him in prayer, praise, and getting to know Him better, would I? Some may say that I'm being too hard on myself and that it isn't realistic, in fact it's even legalistic, to think that I would feel the need to meet with God every single day without fail. Yet I don't forget to eat, to sleep, or to shower...are those things more important to me than God? I'm embarrassed to say that based on the way I live, maybe they are.

I watched my oldest daughter this weekend as she made final plans for her upcoming wedding. There was probably not an hour that passed without her thinking about, missing, mentioning, or talking to her fiancee. They are obviously full of love and excitement about their life together. Anyone who spent more than 5-10 minutes with her could see that. Isn't that what God wants from each of us?

Monday, December 01, 2008

I'm So Thankful...That It's Over!

We had a wonderful, crazy holiday weekend. It was a blast, but I have to say that I'm glad it's over. The older girls got home on Tuesday night, and Wednesday was mostly spent cleaning and baking for Thanksgiving. On Thursday we had the honor of hosting my the meal. Dad brought the turkey (which was amazing), my nephew made his famous rolls, and Doug's mom brought the pumpkin pie. My Granny was released from the rehab facility just in time for the big meal, and we had a wonderful time catching up with each other...but I have to say that I missed Doug's dad. He died recently and we are still getting used to the fact that he's gone.

Friday was our annual Cookie Day (don't have any idea how many this makes, but at least 25!), and we made tons of cookies with lots of friends and family. We had lots of the traditionals...chocolate chip, peanut blossoms, snickerdoodles, lemonade cookies, and sugar cookies. There were some new 'favorites', too...pecan drop cookies, gooey butter cookies, and Becca's creation of orange cranberry oatmeal cookies -- YUM! This year we froze about half of the dough, so we can have fresh, hot cookies for months to come.

Later that day we went to church to prepare for Alicia's shower, which was Saturday morning. We had lots of furniture to move and things to decorate/prepare. The shower was wonderful -- she got lots of nice things to help start her new life, and we got a chance to meet with many special friends.

Sunday Becca and Alicia packed up and headed back to college for three weeks...then we head to Alicia's graduation in Tennessee and her wedding in Florida! Doug and I put our feet up and vegged out...we were exhausted in a happy, productive feeling way.

God has been so good to us this year -- even though there have been some rough times health wise, we are all closer than ever. I love watching my family grow!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Top Ten: You Know You Have Sons When...

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it. Provebs 22:6

I have always been fascinated with 'nature vs. nurture' studies, and at one time (before I had children) I believed that boys and girls were so different because of their upbringing...isn't it fun to see things you were certain of turned upside down?

I learned quickly with our oldest daughter that some girls were going to be 'girly' regardless of what the parents did. Now, as a mother of boys, I know that God is giggling in his throne room as I struggle with the truth that a little 'y' chromosome can make such a huge difference!

So, without further ado, I've learned that you know you are raising a son when:

10. A conversation on any topic can turn into a discussion on animal waste within three sentences.

9. You ask if he has a clean shirt on and he immediately looks down to see if there is any dirt (on the shirt you KNOW he's worn for three days)

8. You walk in his room to collect dirty clothes and find a week's worth of clean underwear in the corner...but no dirty pairs.

7. You have to create rules like 'no dinosaurs at the table'.

6. You decide to raise 'peace-loving' children but they still create guns out of sticks, fingers, and even sandwiches

5. He delightedly shows you that certain body parts 'bounce' when he jumps.

4. Bodily noises create gales of giggles and bragging instead of embarrassment

3. Your son proudly announces that he has discovered eight ways to create those embarrassing bodily noises

2. He chooses to drink root beer because it makes you 'burp better'

And the number one way to know that you are raising a son is....

1. When your family meets your daughter's boss (a minister) for the first time, he proudly announces that he hasn't made any of those embarrassing bodily noises in several days cause he's saving them up for a really big release!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips

FaithWords (November 5, 2008)

by

Stephen Baldwin
&
Mark Tabb



MY THOUGHTS:

This book portrays a story told by a man who is essentially repeating a story told him by his father. It is an interesting perspective -- one not often seen. The story itself is a tale of grace, forgiveness, and absolute trust in God.

I had some difficulty getting through this book. The story seems to take a while to truly unfold and some of the personalities reflect extremes not often seen, which was a little distracting for me. In addition, it has a lot of strong language that isn't typical for Christian fiction.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

STEPHEN BALDWIN - actor, family man, born-again Christian - makes his home in upstate New York with his wife and two young daughters.

Equally adept at drama and comedy, Baldwin has appeared in over 60 films and been featured on such top-rated television shows as Fear Factor and Celebrity Mole. He has his own production company that is developing projects for television and the big screen. These days, however, his role as director, co-producer and host of Livin' It - a cutting-edge skate video is bringing out his white hot passion for evangelism.

Writer and communicator Mark Tabb calls himself an “internationally unknown author.” Although his books have been published around the world, he is best known for his collaborative works. His 2008 release, “Mistaken Identity”, written with the Van Ryn and Cerak families, hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks, and remained on the list for over two months. He and actor Stephen Baldwin teamed up on their 2005 New York Times bestseller, “The Unusual Suspect,” and with their first work of fiction, “The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips,”


ABOUT THE BOOK

Even years of experience haven't prepared Officer Andy Myers for this case---

When Officer Andy Myers met Loraine Phillips, he had no interest in her son. And he certainly never dreamed he'd respond to a call, finding that same boy in a pool of blood. Even more alarming was the father standing watch over his son's body. Myers had never seen a man respond to death-particularly the death of a child-in such a way. When the father is charged with murder and sentenced to death, he chooses not to fight but embrace it as God's will. Myers becomes consumed with curiosity for these strange beliefs. What follows is the story of the bond these two men share as they come to terms with the tragedy and the difficult choices each one must make.


If you would like to read the first chapter of The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips, go HERE

*STRONG LANGUAGE*

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What 'makes' Christmas for you?

I was at a mall last week and I was actually distressed to see Christmas decorations and hear holiday music. It seems our society wants to skip right past the sentiments of Thanksgiving to focus only on giving. I know things are tight for many people this year and the stores are working hard to ensure they are able to make ends meet, too.

Please don't get me wrong -- I absolutely adore Christmas decorations. The lights, the scent of pine, and the joyful sound of Christmas music is a highlight in the year. It just feels wrong to jump into that season without having time to fully appreciate the changing leaves and the crisp fall air.

This year we will be spending the holidays preparing for Alicia's wedding. Our usual activities and traditions will change, and I'm actually excited about that! It gives us a chance to determine the basic things that make the holiday meaningful.

Do we take our nativity set with us? To be honest, it wasn't my first thought. Is that bad? My first thought of Christmas is the tree. I don't think that makes me any less spiritual...I don't need to see a feeding trough to remember that God gave us the greatest gift possible in sending his son to Earth.

So what traditions will we take with us? And what new traditions will begin as a result of this opportunity? I'm excited to discover the answer!

What holiday traditions 'mean' Christmas to you?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Until We Reach Home


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Until We Reach Home

Bethany House (October 1, 2008)

by

Lynn Austin




MY THOUGHTS:

When I read the back cover of this book, I thought it would be a typical historical romance-type novel. While I like those, I am getting a little tired of books that seem to be written in a formulaic way.

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Lynn Austin has a fresh approach to history, and the key story here is not the romance or the trip to America -- it is the journey of learning about ones' self and family. She draws you into the timeframe and the characters by using raw emotions, difficult but realistic circumstances, and multiple viewpoints. This is not a story where everything runs smoothly!

I'm still working to finish the book (with the funeral, an unexpected trip to Tennessee, and a few other things, life has been rather interesting around here and I haven't had much reading time), but at the moment it's working its way up the list of my favorites!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. She has published twelve novels. Three of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, and Fire by Night have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, and 2004 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005.

Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

Among her lastest books are A Proper Pursuit and A Woman's Place


ABOUT THE BOOK

Life in Sweden seems like an endless winter for three sisters after their mother's and father's suicide. Ellin feels the weight of responsibility for her sisters' welfare and when it circumstances become unbearable, she writes to her relatives in Chicago, pleading for help.

Joining sixteen million other immigrants who left their homelands for America between 1890 and 1920, Ellin, Kirsten, and Sophia begin the long, difficult journey. Enduring the ocean voyage in steerage and detention on Ellis Island, their story is America's story. And in a journey fraught with hardships, each woman will come to understand her secret longings and the meaning of home.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Until We Reach Home, go HERE

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Rain Song


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Rain Song

Bethany House (October 1, 2008)

by

Alice J. Wisler



MY THOUGHTS

This book reminds me of times I spent visiting my great grandparents in Arkansas. While they weren't as prim and proper as Ducee, the grandmother who raised the main character in this book, Nicole, they represented the 'Southern' state of mind. I could easily see myself sitting on a porch drinking sweet tea or lemonade and listening in on the down to earth discussions between Nicole, Ducee, and others in this book.

Alice Wisler's first book examines our need to face our fears and our past so we can become whole. She draws us into the story of Nicole, who can't remember life with her missionary parents in Japan. At a very young age, Nicole survived a fire which killed her mother and left her father in a decades long state of depression. Nicole subsequently spent most of her time in North Carolina with her grandmother. When unwittingly faced with the opportunity to meet a childhood nanny she can't remember, Nicole must make a life-changing choice. Will she overcome her fears to discover her past?

I enjoyed the varied personalities woven through this story -- Monet, the 'wild child' who can't be diagnosed; Iva, the neurotic aunt; Grable, trying to mother Monet appropriately while her marriage disintegrates; and the ultimate Southern Belle, Ducee, a woman of wisdom and tradition.

I imagine this book will cause me to think about life's 'coincidences' and our need to face our fears with God's help for a long time. I am looking forward to the sequel!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Nicole Michelin avoids airplanes, motorcycles, and most of all, Japan, where her parents once were missionaries. Something happened in Japan...something that sent Nicole and her father back to America alone...something of which Nicole knows only bits and pieces. But she is content with life in little Mount Olive, North Carolina, with her quirky relatives, tank of lively fish, and plenty of homemade pineapple chutney. Through her online column for the Pretty Fishy Web site, she meets Harrison Michaels, who, much to her dismay, lives in Japan. She attempts to avoid him, but his emails tug at her heart. Then Harrison reveals that he knew her as a child in Japan. In fact, he knows more about her childhood than she does.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Rain Song, go HERE


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alice sold her first story to David C. Cook for a take-home Sunday School paper called Sprint. The year was 1988, this was her first submission to a paying market, and the check sent to her was for $125.00.

She was on her way!

Since then, Alice has sold articles and devotions to the Upper Room, Alive Now, Standard Publishing, ByLine magazine and others.

In 2006 she sent her novel Rain Songto Bethany House...and the rest is history! She signed a two -book deal and the second, How Sweet It Is will be out in 2009.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

God Instances

Some days God has to use a 2x4 to get through my thick skull. Today must be one of those days.

I've found lots of great resources for Bible study lately, so I use two devotionals, a book on prayer, and an older Henry Blackaby Bible study text on the mornings when I have quiet time. I want to have quiet time every day, but unfortunately I let the world get in my way sometimes. So instead of being on-time with lessons that are designed to be done Monday through Friday, sometimes I'm off schedule.

Today it was fascinating to see how each of these four books linked together to give me direction.

I use Stormie Omartian's book, The Power of a Praying Wife, to pray for my husband. It has thirty short chapters, each ending with specific scriptures rewritten into a prayer, so I try to read the chapter that coincides with each days' date. The prayer in chapter 30 is about a vision for the future. One of the verses is Luke 18:27 "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God."


Next I read the October 30th devotion from My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. Today's verse is "Without faith it is impossible to please Him..." (Hebrews 11:6). The devotion focuses on how God reveals truth in ways that seem impossible for us. Chambers says that "the life of faith says,'Lord, You have said it, it appears to be irrational, but I'm going to step out boldly, trusing in Your Word.' " He mentions that stepping out if faith is always a fight, not just sometimes.

After that I opened a devotional that I'm reviewing for my blog called Jesus Take the Wheel by Stuart Migdon. I'm starting a new weekly segment about living a selfless life. It tells the story of Moses -- his birth and adoption, the murder of an Egyptian, and his flight to Midian. Migdon shows how Moses was self inspired, not God inspired, in his actions in Egypt. He believed that his own way was more rational than God's way and it took forty years as a shepherd for Moses to reframe his perspective. He could not be used by God until he had the faith to step out and take actions that would glorify God, not himself.

Finally, I worked on the next day's study of Henry Blackaby and Claude King's Experiencing God. It tells the exact same story of Moses, and asks the question, "Why do we not realize that it is always best to do things God's way?" It leads you to realize that understanding what God is about to do where you are is more important than telling God what you want to do for Him. If we don't cling closely to God and His way, he will leave us to our own devices (Hebrews 3:7-19), and then we will never experience what God wants to accomplish through us.

The message that I got from these lessons is that I am relying too much on my own 'logic' and not on God's plan. It addresses my life over the past few years (trying to define how I would work for the kingdom through writing, teaching, consulting, or coaching) and especially over the past week or so with things we are experiencing as we deal with the last days of my father-in-law's life.

God, please help me to put myself aside and focus totally on you. You know the situations we are facing and how to resolve them for your glory. Please make your desired actions clear so all involved will trust your way instead of our own. I believe there is something big you are trying to do...please don't let me get in the way!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dangerous Heart


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dangerous Heart

Avon Inspire (October 14, 2008)

by

Tracey Bateman



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tracey Bateman published her first novel in 2000 and has been busy ever since. There are two other books in the Westward Hearts Series, Defiant Heart (#1) and Distant Heart (#2)

She learned to write by writing, and improved by listening to critique partners and editors. She has sold over 30 books in six years.
She became a member of American Christian Fiction Writers in the early months of its inception in 2000 and served as president for a year.


Tracey loves Sci-fi, Lifetime movies, and Days of Our Lives (this is out of a 21 year habit of watching, rather than enjoyment of current storylines).

She has been married to her husband Rusty for 18 years, has four kids, and lives in Lebanon, Missouri.


ABOUT THE BOOK

For the past seven years, Ginger Freeman has had one goal: find Grant Kelley and make him pay for allowing her brother to die. Growing up motherless with a father who leads an outlaw gang, Ginger isn’t exactly peaches and cream. So when she finally tracks down Grant on a wagon train headed west, she figured providence had stepped in and given her the chance she’s been waiting for.

On the wagon train, finally surrounded by a sense of family and under the nurturing eye of Toni Rodde, Ginger begins to lose her rough edges. She’s made friends for the first time and has become part of something bigger than revenge. Not only has her heart softened toward people in general, but God has become a reality she never understood before. And watching Grant doctor the pioneers, she’s realized she can’t just kill him and leave the train without medical care. Putting her anger aside, before long, Ginger’s a functioning part of the group.

But when the outlaw gang, headed by her pa, shows up and infiltrates the wagon train, she is forced to question her decision. Only self-sacrifice and her new relationship with God can make things right. But it might also means she loses everything she’s begun to hold dear.

If you would like to read from the first chapter of Dangerous Heart, go HERE

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I've Won A New Title!

I am scum mom of the century today.

Chris only has one pair of pants that 'fit'...all the other pairs (which are the exact same type and size) don't fit. Other than the grass stain on the knee, I can't tell which are which and I am evil when I recommend that he wears a different pair. So I let him wear the dirty pair from yesterday.

Kevin has all of a sudden become Mr. Neat. His new pants (which we bought a week or so ago because the others were too tight) collect hair. His new coat collects hair. Even if I clean him before he leaves the house, the clothes apparently collect things on the way to school (yesterday he came running back home so I could get more stuff off of his coat). I told him we could give him a roll of masking tape so he could clean them when he gets to school...that helped a little, but he still broke into tears when I left the room. In addition, the new pants aren't quite tight enough, so all of a sudden he wants to wear his belt (which he refused to wear any other day this year). Of course it isn't where I put it and we can't find it. So I let him wear the dirty pants from yesterday (for some reason he doesn't mind that THESE aren't pristine).

So the boys are happy (well, not unhappy) but the teachers think I'm a scum mom because I send them to school in dirty clothes.

Some days you just can't win!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Less Than Dead


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Less Than Dead

Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)

by

Tim Downs



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tim Downs is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University. After graduation in 1976 he created a comic strip, Downstown, which was syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate until 1986. His cartooning has appeared in more than a hundred major newspapers worldwide.

His first book, a work of non-fiction, was awarded the Gold Medallion Award in 2000. His first novel, Shoofly Pie, was awarded the Angel Award in 2004, and his third novel, PlagueMaker, was awarded the Christy Award for best suspense novel of 2007. First The Dead, the third book in this Bug Man series came out earlier this year.

Tim lives in Cary, North Carolina, with his wife Joy.


ABOUT THE BOOK


Some secrets just won't stay buried.
When strange bones surface on a U.S. senator's property, the FBI enlists forensic entomologist Nick Polchak to investigate the forgotten graveyard. Polchak's orders are simple: figure out the mess.

But Polchak, known as the "Bug Man" because of his knowledge of insects and their interaction with the dead, senses darker secrets buried beneath the soil.

Secrets that could derail the senator's presidential bid.

Secrets buried in the history of a quaint Virginia town.

Secrets someone is willing to kill to protect.

With the help of a mysterious local woman named Alena and her uncanny cadaver dogs, Polchak sets out to dig up the truth.

But with a desperate killer hot on his trail, he'll be lucky to wind up anything less than dead.


If you would like to read the first chapter of Less Than Dead, go HERE

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Murder on the Old Bunions


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Murder on The Ol' Bunions

Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)

by

S. Dionne Moore



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

SAndra has been writing for years with historicals being her main focus. By the time she had a polished manuscript in hand, historicals were unpopular. She didn't give up though and decided to try her hand at writing a mystery. A cozy mystery.

Her first book, Murder on The Ol' Bunions , released in April of 2008. Book two of the LaTisha Barnhart Mystery series, Polly Dent Loses Grip, and book three, Eat, Drink and Be Buried will follow in April 2009 and 2010, respectively.

She's almost always running a contest, so drop by her Website, you just might win a free gift!



ABOUT THE BOOK


LaTisha Barnhart’s bunions tell her something’s afoot as she delves deeper into the murder of her former employee, Marion Peters. When LaTisha becomes a suspect, the ante is upped, and she is determined to clear her name and find the culprit.

She’s burping Mark Hamm’s bad cooking to investigate his beef with Marion. . .getting her hair styled at a high falutin’ beauty parlor to see what has Regina Rogane in a snarl. . .playing self-appointed matchmaker between the local chief and a prime suspect. . .and thinking Payton O’Mahney’s music store lease might be the reason he’s singing out of tune when discussion of Marion’s murder arises. LaTisha’s thinking she just might use the reward money to get her bunions surgically removed. But she’s got to catch the crook first.

Small town intrigue, a delightful, vivid cast, and a well-crafted mystery make S. Dionne Moore’s debut novel a must-read! I loved it!~Susan May Warren~Award-winning author of Reclaiming Nick

“S. Dionne Moore has the rare quality of pulling together great characters and compelling plots.”
~Kelly Klepfer~ www.novelreviews.blogspot.com


If you would like to HEAR the first chapter, go HERE and click on the bookcover trailer box!

If you would like to READ, the first chapter of Murder on The Ol' Bunions , go HERE.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What I've Learned in the Past 24 Hours

Philippians 4:3 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

1. God likes to be sure there is no room for misinterpretation:
- Rejoice ALWAYS
- Be joyful ALWAYS
- Give thanks in ALL circumstances

2. When He says "always" and "in all cirumstances" he even means when you are infested with fruit flies.

3. Fruit flies were created by God to have amazing sensory ability...they can smell food and breeding grounds from a very far distance

4. Fruit flies live for 10 days

5. Fruit flies lay eggs frequently, and the eggs can hatch within just a few hours

6. Most fruit flies can find their way back out of a container covered with plastic wrap if there are very small holes in it.

7. Fruit flies know better than to go into an open oven for food

8. They will fly to the highest point of a container to find their way out (therefore using a cut off soda bottle with the top inverted works pretty well as a trap)

9. A fruit fly within four inches of the end of a vacuum cleaner hose will get sucked in

10. Fruit flies can learn...as soon as they hear the sound of the vacuum cleaner they all disappear.

And my personal favorite:
I can be incredibly sadistic when it comes to ridding our home of bugs!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fruit Fly Frenzy

I like bugs. They are fascinating little creatures when in their own environments. However, my home is NOT their natural habitat...no matter what they think!

Our dear boys, bless their hearts, have been a bit disobedient. I discovered that they have been sneaking sodas, poptarts, and chocolate covered granola bars into the basement to drink/eat while they play wii. They've been told not to eat in the basement, so, crafty as they are, they hid their half empty soda cans along with poptart crumbs, wrappers, and half eaten granola bars in the bathroom trash can.

Please understand that the basement bathroom doesn't get used often, and therefore I don't clean it often -- it's on my once a month rotation unless we are having company. I may have missed my rotation last month for some reason...so it's been a while.

Well, I went down there yesterday. I should have been prepared for the worst when I saw that the door to the bathroom was closed, but I can be a bit naiive. I opened the door and was absolutely swarmed by fruit flies -- I don't think I'm exaggerating much to say that there were a million of them in there. I held my breath so I wouldn't breath any in!

I do have to give the boys credit...their trash actually made it into a trash can! But the smell of rotten soda and crumbs was pretty overwhelming. And every move I made just sent waves of flies out into the other room! I ran out, slammed the door, and went to get a big trash bag. I put it over the trash can and literally ran it up the stairs and out the door....I'm not sure how many flies actually left the house. I grabbed the bug spray and fumigated the bathroom. (WARNING: You really should read the warning on the bottle and not spray it into the air then breath the fumes....).

This morning I went to the kitchen and most of the fruit flies had relocated to the kitchen. They had landed on the cabinet doors, stove top, sink...almost any surface that was flat. I found this great site on the internet that has a ton of labor intensive ways to get rid of them. We are experimenting with the inverted soda bottle, glass container, and several metal containers covered with plastic wrap and filled with either apples or balsamic vinegar. Yes, the kitchen smells...unusual.

I really couldn't wait for the traps to do their dirty work, so I decided to attack with the vacuum cleaner. Now, if you are a bit sadistic, this can be rather fun. If a fruitfly gets within four inches of the hose, it is sucked in almost immediately! The boys thought it was really cool.

Well, we'll see how this all works. So far the apples are attracting more than the vinegar...and the vacuum has definitely won with the highest kill count. I'll update tomorrow to see how well it all works.

Any one know the gestation period of fruit flies?????

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Home Another Way



This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Home Another Way


Bethany House (October 1, 2008)


by


Christa Parrish


MY THOUGHTS:
I am only half way through this book, and I am anxious to finish it. Christa Parrish has an amazing way with words. Each sentence is a masterpiece -- descriptive yet concise. She spins a story like a spider spins a web -- not a movement is wasted, and when viewed all together it is an ingenious work of beauty and function. I want to know what happens at the end of the book, and I want to read this one slowly, speaking the sentences aloud in my head. It is fascinating to read.

ABOUT THE BOOK

After her mother’s death and her father’s abandonment, tiny infant Sarah Graham was left to be raised by her emotionally distant grandmother. As a child she turned to music for solace and even gained entrance to Juilliard. But her potentially brilliant music career ended with an unplanned pregnancy and the stillborn birth of her child.

In an attempt to escape the past, Sarah, now twenty-seven, is living life hard and fast–and she is flat broke. When her estranged father dies, she travels to the tiny mountain hamlet of Jonah, New York to claim her inheritance. Once there, she learns her father’s will stipulates a six-month stay before she can recieve the money. Fueled by hate and desperation, Sarah settles in for the bitter mountain winter, and as the weeks pass, she finds her life intertwining with the lives of the simple, gracious townsfolk. Can these strangers teach Sarah how to forgive and find peace?

A story of grace, of God’s never-ceasing love and the sometimes flawed, faithful people He uses to bring His purpose to pass.

If you would like to see a video book trailer of Home Another Way, go HERE.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Home Another Way, go HERE


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Christa Parrish graduated high school at 16, with every intention of becoming a surgeon. After college, however, her love of all things creative led her in another direction, and she worked in both theatre and journalism.

A winner of Associated Press awards for her reporting, Christa gave up her career after the birth of her son, Jacob. She continued to write from home, doing pro bono work for the New York Family Policy Council, where her articles appeared in Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. She was also a finalist in World magazine’s WORLDview short story contest, sponsored by WestBow press. She now teaches literature and writing to high school students, is a homeschool mom, and lives with her family in upstate New York, where she is at work on her second novel.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Book Review -- Hometown Favorite


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Hometown Favorite

Revell (September 1, 2008)

by

Bill Barton and Henry O. Arnold




NOTE: I havent' had a chance to read this yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I'll post a review when I'm done. I enjoy reading books that take a biblical story, like Job, and put it in a current setting! When you read it, be sure to let me know what you think!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:



Bill Barton is a business partner with Compass Technologies. An active member and volunteer at his church, Hendersonville Chapel, Barton is a regular speaker at services and other events. He lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with his family.



Henry O. Arnold has been a professional actor, writer, and director in theatre, film, and television. He co-wrote and produced the film The Second Chance starring Michael W. Smith and wrote the screenplay for the first authorized film documentary on evangelist Billy Graham, God's Ambassador. Arnold lives in Portland, Tennessee.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Talented, handsome, and personable, Dewayne Jobe rose from humble beginnings in rural Mississippi to play college football in Southern California and beyond. One of the best wide receivers in college ball, Dewayne is assured a promising career in professional football as one of those rare athletes whose exceptional abilities place him in a league of his own.

He easily finds success both on and off the field. Dewayne's got a beautiful, intelligent wife running his lucrative endorsement business and carrying his child and the pristine white picket fence to boot. The only thing lacking is a road sign confirming his address on Easy Street.

But catastrophe looms right around the corner and ultimately strikes with a crushing vengeance. Will Dewayne's faith and character stand the test of such tragedy? Or will he lose everything--including the love of his life?

This modern retelling of the story of Job will capture readers with the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people--and how good people can survive.

Combining realistic sports action and a deadly serious challenge to faith, Hometown Favorite is a story that won't let you up off the turf until the game clock hits zero.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Hometown Favorite, go HERE

"An amazing story of betrayal, forgiveness, redemption and hope. The characters are vibrant and alive. Barton and Arnold have a rare and keen understanding of human nature, making the spiritual truths of this story both profound and compelling."

~Michael W. Smith, recording artist

"Like a close game and a score that just won’t turn around, Dewayne’s true fans and Hometown Favorite readers will appreciate the daunting odds fate doles out and this story’s hard-won outcome."

~Darnell Arnoult, author of Sufficient Grace

Monday, October 06, 2008

That Last Moment of Expectation...

It is 7:05 a.m. on a Monday morning...my last few moments of silence before the day (and the week) kicks off. In two minutes the boys alarm will go off. What will that bring?

I will most likely see a sleepy Kevin, hair all tussled, creeping quietly into my room. He often stands behind me watching me work for a minute until I realize he's there, then he either snuggles on my lap or climbs into my bed until he's fully awake.

Christopher, on the other hand, is an unknown morning surprise. On good days he jumps out of bed, gets dressed in about two minutes flat, runs downstairs to eat his breakfast and then plays happily until it's time to go to school. On 'neutral' days he will turn the alarm off, pull the blankets over his head, and stay in bed until the last possible minute (my preferred morning routine personally!). Then there are the 'wild card' days. He may yell at Kevin for turning off the alarm clock. Or he may yell at him because he DIDN'T turn off the alarm clock! He will decide that he absolutely wants the one thing we don't happen to have for breakfast...then get angry because it isn't available. He hates his uniform, and each piece will not fit well for some reason -- or it will be itchy, smell funny, or just look all wrong when he puts it on.

How will I respond? Some days I'm patient and I talk softly, helping him to see his options and trying to tease him into changing his mood. Most often I do start with that approach, but he knows just how to push my buttons. Comments like "Why do you always buy me clothes I don't like" or "Why don't you ever get any food I like" just tend to hit me the wrong way and I get a bit defensive. Things usually go downhill from there.

I'm the grown up here...and he's a child learning his way in the world. The Bible says I should teach him the way he should go...which means I should set a good example for the way they should act when faced with poor attitudes...

Uh oh...it's 7:15 and the alarm hasn't gone off yet. I went in to wake them up. Kevin started crying because he woke up too late and he's stomping down the stairs. Chris covered his head. Let's see how the morning goes!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On Trial

Last week I had the 'honor' of participating on a jury panel for the first time. To be honest, I was kind of excited about it -- I know that lots of folks dread this, but I really wanted to see how the court system operated.

Well, I'm glad I took a good book! I was able to read the third book in Camy Tang's Sushi Series, Single Sashimi, all the way through on the first day! (This is a fabulous book, by the way. I loved the whole series). About 200 people sat in a large room for two hours before anyone was called to be on a panel of jurors. I was called in the third panel, and for some reason I was chosen to be on the jury.

We heard a felony robbery case. In case you wondered, it was definitely not like anything on tv. The defendant was charged with reaching over the top of a jewelry case in a pawn shop, opening the cabinet and taking out trays of jewelry. No one even checked for fingerprints! The only evidence against him was the memory of the pawn shop owner (somewhat faulty), identification in a line up a month later, and the fact that he sold a piece of the stolen jewelry the next day about three blocks away in another pawn shop (no one said he was smart...).

It was interesting to see the different approaches taken by the lawyers. Actually, the way the defendant's lawyer approached the case made me more convinced that the defendant was guilty than some of the evidence! The jury deliberated for about an hour and we had some good discussions before we finally all agreed -- guilty.

It was two interesting days...and I'm not against doing it again. It was rather fascinating to watch the trial and to see the reactions of twelve different people who all heard the same things. I do have to say that I'm glad I wasn't chosen in the first round of jurors -- those folks 'got' to be sequestered for two weeks!

I also learned that I never want to get a loan from a pawn shop (well, I kind of knew that already...). They charged a slight 283% interest! Amazing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On His Shoes

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledgs of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:76-79, NIV)


Do you remember how much fun it was when you were little to stand on someone else's feet while they walked?

It's amazing how difficult it is to successfully stay on the big feet of a grown up when you are a little child. It's easy for your feet to slip off the side since the tops of feet aren't very flat. Often you are going backwards, so you aren't really sure where you are being taken. In addition, if you try to walk yourself instead of relying on the other person to take the steps, you will fall off. The efforts and failures are usually met with giggles and attempts to try again.

The best way is to hold tightly to the person's hands while looking into their eyes. If you relax your legs and trust them to take each step, your tandem walk will be successful!

I want to be like a little child, holding tightly to Jesus' hands and looking into his eyes as I relax my legs and let him do the walking for me. My heart trusts that he has my best interests in mind and that he won't walk me into a wall or a piece of furniture, but my head still doesn't quite get it. I want to see where I'm going, but to do so I have to take my eyes off of him and twist my body in such a way that I can easily fall off his feet. I want to influence the path he travels, so I try to move my legs, hoping that his feet will go in the same direction -- it always ends in failure.

His path is peaceful, mine is full of landmines and stress. Why do I fight so hard to have my own way? But at least it is helpful for me to think that he may be giggling with me as I fail, and that he patiently lets me climb up on his feet again to keep trying until I get it right!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's a Nice Donut, but....

Last night I let Sammi and the boys buy a dozen donuts for our 'bedtime snack' and breakfast today. They went on an adventure, and each chose two donuts that were to be set aside for them. To fill the box, Sammi chose a few long johns and rounded out the dozen.

The boys were a bit miffed when I told them to select one of the two donuts they had chosen as their bedtime snack. I guess they wanted to save those for last! Then, this morning, Sammi took her last selected donut and a long john for her friend.

Kevin woke up (early, which may explain a lot), went to the donut box and broke into tears. He was really upset that someone had taken all except for one of the long johns. He was angry that there were so few donuts left. I told him that his specially selected donut was still there, but that wasn't good enough! I allowed him to have the one chocolate long john that was left instead of his special donut, but he still sniffled and whimpered through the whole thing. I'm sure it tasted like cardboard in his mouth.

It occurred to me that his response is unfortunately the same response most of us have in today's society. We have the things we chose, our jobs, homes, spouses, stuff, and yet we want something else. A bigger house, a bigger paycheck, more stuff. Then, even when we have more than we chose or need, we are still dissatisfied that someone else has more! When will we learn to be content with the wonderful blessings that we have?

I know that a lot of people are really hurting right now. They are having a really tough time making ends meet. There are a record number of foreclosures in our town (actually, we have the highest rate of foreclosures in the state), many people are out of work, and prices continue to increase with no end in sight. I don't want to downplay the difficulties that these folks are going through.

But so much of our lives are the results of choices that we make. We choose to live in a place that we really can't afford. We want stuff NOW, so we put it on charge, hoping we can pay it off later. We are dissatisfied with our jobs and want 'more, better, sooner' without being willing to take the effort to get more training, put in more effort, or go the extra mile. Or even to get an additional job to pay off some of our stuff. And even when we know what needs to be done to correct a situation, we don't change our behavior in a way that makes a difference.

Paul said he had learned to be content in any situation:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it
is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every
situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I
can do everything through him who gives me strength." Phillipians 4:11-13 (NIV)


I want that level of contentment! I want to look around me and acknowledge that God has given me not only what I have selected as a result of my actions, but more indeed! I want to rejoice in that and focus on what really matters -- not the amount of donuts in the box, but the fact that I can hold one in my hand and bite into it's sweet, gooey goodness! Lord, please don't let me lose the joy you have given me because I'm looking at what I don't have. Help me to be content with the wonderful things you give me each day. Help me to make choices that honor you!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

One Day At A Time

How are you different today than you were one year ago? How about 30 days ago? Other than being just a bit older, that is!

I'm not sure where I got the idea, but I decided on August 1 that I wanted to strengthen my arms. I read that push ups are a really good exercise for this, but I knew I couldn't do many. So I decided to just do one more each day. I started with one, and by the end of the month I could do 30 (ok, they were 'girl' push ups and I have to rest for a couple of minutes after 20)!

Knowing that my form could be improved, I decided to stick with the 30 each day and work on keeping my back straight, doing all thirty without a break, and moving toward full 'toe' push ups. In the meantime I decided to add sit ups to my challenge. I'm up to three, which isn't too hard yet, but I know it will get tougher as time goes on!

This 'one day at a time' thinking has really challenged me. I decided to post one thing each day on freecycle, helping to declutter my house over the course of the month. I know -- I could add one more thing each day, but let's take it slow!

I'm not sure what I'll add in October...maybe running for one minute more each day. Running for thirty minutes straight? I've never done that in my life! But at just one minute more each day it doesn't seem impossible.

What can you do just a bit each day? I'd love to have you join in my challenge!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Brotherly Love

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (NIV)

Christopher slept in this morning. That's pretty unusual for him -- especially when Kevin wakes up earlier. However, we have learned not to wake him up or we regret it! He can be a real bear when he hasn't had enough sleep.

So I was presuming that today would be a good day...oops! Well, it still will be, but it sure didn't start off that way!

Chris ate his breakfast and went to play on the computer. The computer went through a maintenance scan of some sort, so he had to wait for it to complete before he could pull up the game he wanted to play. Kevin, in his normal mode, went in to the computer room to see what was going on. Chris tried to hide the computer screen for some reason, and Kevin pushed him out of the way. An argument pursued over whose turn it should be.

So I said that Chris could have the computer uninterrupted for 30 minutes, then it would be Kevin's turn. Oops -- there goes Mount Vesuvius. Chris wasn't at all happy that I limited his time. Crying, screaming, and banging caused Chris to lose his computer time. He ran screaming to his room, kicking and throwing things (he's pretty good at throwing tantrums). I told him calmly (I think...) that if he kicked or threw one more thing he would not be able to use the computer at all today. He ran to his bed, covered up completely and started shouting that he hated me once I left the room. Ugh...

A few minutes later, while crying was still loud, I happened to see Kevin sneak up the stairs. He had the cat in his arms. Knowing that Chris is not a very good bunk mate when he's mad, I braced myself for shouts of 'get out of here' and 'leave me alone'. I watched from behind my bedroom door as Kevin snuck up to his doorway and gently put the cat down, sort of pushing her into the bedroom. She went the other way, and he picked her up and tried again. Kevin then raced back down the stairs.

She was exactly what he needed. Chris saw the cat, stopped crying, and picked her up. They lay on the bed together for about ten minutes. Then Chris let her go, got up and went downstairs like nothing ever happened.

It is fascinating for me to watch the interactions between twins. They have very different personalities, and they know exactly which buttons to push to make the other one crazy. However, when things get tough, they also know exactly what to do to help the other one feel better.

It makes my heart melt to see how much they care for each other, even if they would never admit it. This is one of those moments I want to treasure in my heart!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Penny Saved...

Yesterday I finally took the boys to Target so they could buy the Pokemon cards they've been begging for. They carefully counted out their 'spending' money and filled their pockets with one-dollar bills and quarters.

When we got there, Kevin discovered that he was two dollars short of what he needed. They knew before they left the house that the cards would cost them $10 plus tax. Chris brought $11, and Kevin only brought $9.

When Kevin realized that he didn't have enough money to buy a set of cards for himself, his face fell. He gave me that 'expectant' look, hoping that I would bail him out and pay the rest. I asked if he had another two dollars in his spending jar at home with the intent of loaning him the money until we got back home. He didn't because he had made a choice on the last 'payday' to put more of his money into savings that the amount we required him to save. We praised him at the time for his willingness to save for the future. But that meant he didn't have enough for this purchase.

So I told him that he wouldn't be able to buy the cards. He sniffled a little and looked sad, but he handled it pretty well.

I almost told him that he could take two dollars back out of savings to pay for the cards. And it would be so easy for me to just give him two dollars and let him have what he wanted right now. Sammi was with us, and I could see she was biting her lip because she wanted to help, too. But we knew that if we let him have something he couldn't afford this time that it would be one more lesson that could have dangerous repercussions later in life. Even though the money was in his savings jar, he needed to learn that it was important to maintain those savings for the bigger things he wanted to have later.

It's sad to look around America today and see so many people who haven't learned this lesson. We use charge cards or buy big things with 'no payments due until 2010' despite the fact that we don't have the money right now. But what does that matter? I can easily pay it off at $50/month! We spend our money on things we want right now, bigger cars, cable tv, nice clothes because they are 'on sale', or big gifts for others, but in the process we run out of the means to pay for the very basic things we need. And when tragedy comes (and it will) in the form of lost jobs, illness, expensive car repairs, or natural disaster, we don't have any money saved to provide shelter and food for our families because we chose near-term pleasure.

I know that I am prone to buy beyond our means. It is hard for me to go into a Target store and not come home with a cartful of great things -- things that are definitely useful but not necessary. The same thing happens in the grocery store -- as I've reported before, if I don't have a list and a limited amount of cash, I'll buy all kinds of great and interesting foods. Through many sessions of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, we're continuing to learn how to manage the money God provides for us, but it's not easy. We have to set aside cash each month for specific things, food, household goods, doctors visits, entertainment, etc., and when the cash is gone (even if it's the third day of the month), our spending in that category has to stop. Even if there is a big sale!

I really hate discipline. I don't like to exercise, I want to eat whatever sounds good, and daily chores are a bore. But I have to admit, there is an amazing peace in knowing that we are prepared for a variety of 'emergencies' like car problems and that we can enjoy a vacation that is paid for because we've saved in advance!

I hope Kevin will be able to have that peace as an adult, too. He may never remember having to wait two weeks for a pack of Pokemon cards, but I hope he gains a sense of pride from being able to pay for it in full all by himself. And someday, when he uses that saved money for a large purchase like a bike or even a car, he will know that he is capable of having what he wants free and clear as long as he plans ahead and works for it!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Lord's Steps versus mine

It's odd, but I feel like I'm in that 'desert place' while at the same time I am "lying down in green pastures and being led beside quiet waters". There is so much that I am learning right now about God and myself, yet I can't really put it into words.

The verse that has been put before me several times lately is Proverbs 16:9, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." I've heard this on the radio, I've seen it in devotions, I read it as part of a Bible study, and it's even been sent to me in a note from a friend. Ok, I am starting to get the message!

For quite a while now I've been frustrated that I can't seem to accomplish the things I set out to do each day. So this week I decided to stop planning out my day -- or maybe it would be better to say that I 'planned' not to have specific things done but just to follow along with the events of the day. As a result, I've been 'in the right place at the right time' to provide support to others in ways that I never expected. I won't go into any details, but I've had such a change of heart about several events. Had I planned out my day, these things would have felt like interruptions and I might have been a bit resentful. But since I'd decided to take things as they came, I was amazingly blessed by being able to accomplish more than I'd dreamed possible -- some things have had tangible results, others intangible.

God has brought to mind the names of people I've not thought of for quite a while, and I tried to pay attention. When this happened I stopped what I was doing and prayed for them, then I called or wrote to a few of them. In almost each case, there was something very timely going on that required prayer, and I was able to see how God's nudges mean 'take action'. He has been amazingly gracious in letting me see some of the results of his requests, which helps me to be more trusting when his requests don't seem to make much sense.

I still don't have any idea what God wants me to do with my life...and I need to just stop trying to figure that out. Right now I'm convinced that he wants me to learn to listen and obey...and to stop setting my own plans. Sometimes that means the house doesn't get clean...and I have to be ok with that (that one's pretty easy!). Other times it means that I may feel bored or unchallenged for a time, but in reality I'm learning to be challenged in new and different ways.

There are a couple of key books/studies I'm doing that are offering amazing insights -- maybe these will help you too if you are in a similar place.

Beth Moore's Stepping Up Bible Study
Lisa TerKeurst's What Happens When Women Walk in Faith
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning and Charles Brock
Susan Hill's Closer Than Your Skin
and a new one I just started, Donna Partow's Becoming The Woman God Wants Me To Be.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Wait on the Lord

It's been a while since I wrote anything. While life has been at its normal busy pace, I can't blame my schedule. The truth is I just didn't feel like I had anything to write.

As writers we are told to keep on writing even when you don't feel inspired to do so. And so I do, but often the results aren't worthy of sharing.

God has been working in my heart in ways that cannot be explained. I want to step up my commitment, my worship, and my obedience to Him. To do so I have to step back and examine where I really am and why I hold myself back from total devotion.

It's so easy to get caught up in 'feeling'. I want to have emotional, tangible sensations of God in my life -- mountaintop experiences. I do see God at work every day -- in each new plant that springs from the ground (oh...is THAT why they call it spring??), in the joy of a new parent showing off her baby at church, in the way a hummingbird gently tests each flower to see if it holds sweet food. But I don't always feel him at work in my heart.

Nevertheless I know he is there. I know that each day he has a lesson for me to learn. I wish I could say that I pay attention to them all, but some weeks go by and I think I must be sleeping through his class. But he is patient and he continues to repeat each lesson until he knows I 'get it'.

There are many things that I want to be doing for him right now, but he keeps telling me to wait...all things in HIS time. I wish I could get past the perspective that I should be doing something that feels worthwhile (there's that feeling thing again), but he keeps telling me to be worthwhile where I am. My desire to see results is really just an earthly desire. The results he wants may never be seen in my lifetime, and I have to trust that the little things he wants me to do right now are worthwhile from his perspective.

God reminded me today of the verses that are the basis for the name of this blog -- Lamentations 3:22-26.

22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.


Waiting quietly is a lesson he's trying to teach. I hope I get it down before he has to bring out the 2x4!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Favorite Book?

The Dabbling Mum writes several columns that are full of great information and are fun to read. She has newsletters for parents, writers, and those who operate home businesses.

This month she has a great contest (check it out here) to give away several books. However, it involves a challenge that is almost impossible for me to achieve -- choose your all time favorite book!

What is a favorite book? One that I read recently that caused me to set a new goal to read every book ever written by that author? If so I'd have to choose between The Valley of Betrayal by Tricia Goyer and Amber Morn by Brandilyn Collins.

Or, is it a book that has changed the way I look at things? In that case it would be Believing God by Beth Moore or The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormy Omartian.

Tough decisions. But I finally decided to choose a somewhat unconventional book that probably influenced the way I think early in my life -- The Penguin That Hated The Cold. This is a wonderful Disney story about Pablo, a penguin who isn't constrained by what the rest of the penguin world thinks is appropriate. He tries several methods of leaving the South Pole with little success, but he perseveres and finally finds a way to accomplish his dream of a warmer climate. There are problems along the way, but he uses his creativity to solve them and he's rewarded with the a warm, beachy life that he loves.

I, too, dislike the cold and love the beach. I also have been known to go against the grain once in a while and push for something I believed in even though everyone else thought I was crazy. Pablo is one of my role models and heroes (even though he's just a figment of someone's imagination).

Check out the eight books that the Dabbling Mum is giving away. I'm most interested in the one by Bill Myers, The Voice. It involves someone who steps outside of his comfort zone to help others and finds that the world isn't quite as he expected.

So, what is your favorite book?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What a Week!

Well, actually two weeks. Last week I had the privilege of attending the greatest conference for Christian writers at Mt. Hermon, CA. Once I got past my awe of the massive redwood trees and the incredible number of authors who I admire, I learned new things almost every minute of the day! Days started at 7:15 with worship in the woods and could have ended around midnight it I attended the night owl sessions that started at 9:30. My internal clock shuts down around 9:00 central time...I just couldn't make myself stay up that late.

The most amazing thing about the conference was the care that each attendee and faculty member had for others. I've been to a writers conference in the past where I felt that I had to continually prove that I was good enough to be there. At Mt. Hermon everyone just assumed we were all writers and they wanted to encourage others to improve their craft (no matter how many books they had or hadn't published). I was excited the woman who critiqued my Bible study proposal (who is only one of the best writers about Christian writing there is....)liked it and thought it was important to share! Yeah God! He's put this one on my heart for several years and any value in it is definitely his doing. Then, on top of that, a publisher wanted to see it!

While I was gone, Sammi went through a tough time. She was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst the size of an egg -- Doug had to take her to four different doctor appointments! Our good friend Tammy Balu stepped in to take Sammi to her first OB/GYN appointment -- thank you Tammy! It was hard to be so far away and not to be able to be with Sammi. When all was said and done, Sammi is having surgery on Thursday to drain the cyst. The doctor promises she can play full contact soccer within a week (however the doctor who reset her broken nose and her parents disagree)!

She and I have a great opportunity for bonding over the next week, because I'm having surgery on my shoulder tomorrow. We plan to have a chick flick marathon while we are foggy with drugs...sounds fun, huh?

I finished revising the Bible study for the publisher and I hit the 'send' button a little earlier this morning -- YEAH! Now I get to hold my breath until I hear back from them -- in about six months (ugh). I'm not really nervous about this -- I understand that what will be will be, and if they don't want it there are other places to try for publication. I am also excited about a new series of studies that Alicia and I are going to work on together! Maybe if I keep busy I'll forget all about the study I just submitted until I receive that acceptance letter (ok...I'm dreaming about it a little)!

Life is such an adventure and God is so good!

Monday, March 10, 2008

And the Results are In!

Well, after all is said and done, we saved $334 on our food bill in February! That means we spent a total of $66!!!

And our freezer is still at least 1/3rd full...so we may be able to save some of our food money in March, too. But if we do, I think we'll save it for those times when really good sales come along (so I can refill that freezer and do this all over again!).

In the process, we didn't spend all of the eating out money we had allocated for the month, either, so we didn't cheat by eating out.

What did we eat this month? In 29 days we didn't repeat one thing! We had Baked chicken, meat loaf, turkey pot pie, steak, spaghetti, orange roughhy, tilapia, parmesan chicken legs, pot roast, and lots of similar things. We really had good stuff in the freezer!

So, what did we learn with this experiment?

1. I store up way too much stuff. I need to decide a reasonable amount to keep around on a regular basis (maybe 3 cans or boxes of any one thing)and a maximum amount in case there is a really good sale (maybe a two month supply).

2. If you plan your menu in advance based on things you already have or items that are on sale, it's pretty easy to spend less.

3. I MUST have a list and a calculator when I go to the store! And it helps if I'm not hungry. And I have to stay away from things that might be on sale if they aren't on my list!

4. It is really helpful to have a menu for the week...I remember to get things out of the freezer to thaw more naturally in the fridge instead of trying to cook them while still frozen. And I don't have that panic of 'what are we going to eat tonight' every night at 4:00.

5. There are very few meals that every member of our household likes! (Ok, I knew this one, but it was validated). AND at least two people liked any particular meal I made this month...unless we switch to only pizza, tacos, and hamburgers I will not be able to change this one. I learned not to post the daily menu or people would magically disappear (especially on fish night). However, that, too, can reduce our food bill!

6. I can't fill up every night with a menu item...we need down time for leftovers and those nights when everyone wants something light like grilled cheese or soup. And I have to be flexible enough to rearrange the menu items based on what I or others feel like cooking/eating.

7. Things in the freezer really do expire...I had to throw away several bags of frozen veggies (and a cheer went up in our household) because they were freezer burned.

The only things we ran out of during the month were soda (I was REALLY craving a Mountain Dew during that last week), cereal, instant oatmeal (I'm the only one who eats that), bottled water, and canned veggies. And I was able to replace almost all items we had to have for our first week of March within the regular weekly budget.

I declare this experiment a success!