Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mom's Bread

One of my favorite memories is coming home from school as a little girl smelling all the good things Mom had cooking. Cookies, food for supper, pies and more would all fill the kitchen with wonderful aromas. One of my favorites of all was (and still is!) her bread. I finally went to her house one day several months ago to make some with her and made her measure all the ingredients. So, here's one of my favorite, treasured recipes:

Mom's Rolls
1 Tbsp. yeast
2/3 cup warm water
3 cups warm milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp. salt
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
7 1/2 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in 2/3 cup warm water.
Add yeast mixture, egg, salt, oil and sugar to the milk. Mix and add flour to make thick sticky dough (about 7 1/2 cups). Mix and Knead. Let rise in warm place. After doubled (or more), punch down and knead again. Form into rolls or loaf. Allow to rise and then bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes.
She makes it look so easy, but mine still don't measure up to hers!

A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann


When I requested this book for review, I didn't realize that it was a book I've read before. I have no complaints; it was well worth reading again!
I am a fan of Kristen Heitzmann and loved this book as well.
The story is of Noelle St. Claire who is running, but can't remember why. She comes from a wealthy family and has a fiance', Michael, who works for her father. Memories from her past, keep troubling her, but she can't seem to piece them all together.
Noelle finds peace at a ranch run by Rick Spencer. Trying to avoid being traced, Noelle refuses to use her credit cards and begins painting to raise money. Rick and his brother Morgan begin breaking down the barriers that Noelle hides behind. As conflict between the two brothers ensue, Noelle's life becomes more complicated. Her father's private investigator finds her just as her fiance' has discovered where she is hiding.
The suspence in this novel will keep you reading to the very end. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Great book.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishing Group for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball - Donita K. Paul


Choosing Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita Paul as my first book to review for Waterbrook Multnomah seemed to be a no-brainer since I love everything Christmas. I loved the cover of the book and it drew me in. Unfortunately, I'm not rating this one very high.
In the story, Cora prides herself on shopping for Christmas early and avoiding the holiday shopping rush. She finds an unusual book shop and stops to purchase a book for a gift. She ends up on the receiving end of a matchmaking ploy as the owners of the shop (wizards) give her tickets to a Christmas ball. Co-worker Simon is shopping in the same store and also receives tickets to the ball. Simon loves his family, especially his sister, Sandy, and plans to give her a special treat by taking her to the ball. When driving to the store to get a ticket for Sandy, they can't find this enchanted street; only when walking can they seem to find this magical world. As the three are shopping for dresses for both Cora and Sandy, they meet some charming ladies who help them find the perfect outfit for the special night. The dresses, however, will turn into rags when worn by someone other than the intended customer.
I've not read many fantasy books, and I am very uncomfortable with Donita Paul's use of wizards and magic in this Christian novella. I do understand that it is meant as an allegory but I guess I just didn't get it. It had a lot happening in the story line for such a short book and I loved the characters, especially Sandy and her relationship with Simon. The book was an enjoyable read but just isn't one I would recommend to others. Maybe that is just because I'm new to the fantasy genre.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Press as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Amish in Israel

Wow - I think this is amazing!
Click on the above link to read the article in Israel Today Magazine.



Monday, November 15, 2010

A Path Less Traveled

This sweet lady and author went to Wayland with Mark. I've read the first chapter of her book and can't wait to read it all! If you go to her blog, she is giving away a print copy and an e-copy of A Path Less Traveled for every 20 comments (by different people). So get over there and leave a comment!



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Trish James is tired of being rescued. When a spooked horse claims her husband's life, she’s determined to blaze a path for herself and her traumatized son without outside help. But will that mean leaving the place etched on her heart?


Andy Tyler has had to struggle for everything, and starting a new law practice in Miller's Creek, Texas is no different. Though prepared for business challenges, he's not prepared for falling in love--especially with yet another woman who will probably abandon him for her career.


Will Andy and Trish be able to see past their limited human understanding to take . . . A Path Less Traveled?

To read the first chapter go here: http://wordvessel.blogspot.com/2010/10/enjoy-first-chapter-of-path-less.html






WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

"This book was totally and completely enjoyable to read. I received the book on Friday and finished reading it on Sunday. I could hardly put it down. The storyline is very well written and grabbed my attention in the first chapter and never let me go....One of my favorite lines in the book is this: 'God doesn't waste any hurt you endure, Trish. What he allows into your life--even something as painful as Doc's death--He'll use for the days ahead...' I believe this is so true and have seen it played out in my life. I love it when I can read a really good fiction book and learn more about my relationship with Christ. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good story to read. I can't wait until Book 3 in the series comes out next year." ~Cathy at Tales of the TCKK Family

"...Cathy Bryant weaves an amazing story. She has a maturity in her writing skill that astounds me for only having two published novels. A Path Less Traveled is a must read. Cathy realistically captures the struggle of the heart." ~ Linnette at Linnette's Writing Corner


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cathy Bryant is a former public school teacher who handed in her chalk for a private music studio and writing career. Her passion is to write heart-stirring stories that show God’s life-changing grace. Cathy is the owner of the popular blog, WordVessel, and has written devotions for The Upper Room magazine, two devotional books, and online devotional sites. She’s the wife of a music minister, the mother of two grown sons and a beautiful daughter-in-love, and the Nana of Harrisen. A Texas gal since birth, she lives in a century-old Texas farmhouse with her husband and a phobia-ridden cat.


Texas Roads (her debut novel and a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist) released in March 2010. The second Miller’s Creek novel, A Path Less Traveled, was launched in November 2010. The Way of Grace will be available in 2011.


Visit her website at
www.CatBryant.com.


PURCHASE LINKS:

Print Edition
Other eBook Editions (including online reading, iPad, Nook, Sony reader, & PDF)

CHECK OUT THE SPECIAL "TWO-FER" CHRISTMAS PRICE FOR BOTH MILLER'S CREEK NOVELS (only through November 30, 2010)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Joy!

I am so grateful that my joy does not depend upon wealth or circumstances. It isn't about obtaining or possessing things. Joy is so much more! It is the elation, the contentment, the peace, the privilege of being in God's presence.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence is fullness of joy,
at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

Father, thank You for Your power to bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. May we as a family be as mighty oaks of righteousness planted by You simply used to bring You glory and display Your splendor. Help me to develop an outlook of gratitude and joy, may my life be spent in the joy of Your presence, praising You!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Amy Inspired by Bethany Pierce


After reading this book I have no idea how to rate it! On the one hand, it was comical and even engaging. At times I caught myself laughing and reading some great one liners out loud to my husband. Author Bethany Pierce had my attention early - in the prologue. I could easily picture a child with an over active imagination eating baby food all week while pretending to be an astronaut eating "moon food". Yet, on the other hand the book definitely had its faults. I felt blindsided with depressing information and a story line concerning breast cancer.

At times the author left me wondering what she was trying to say. For example, the main character Amy Gallagher believes that being opposed to two people of the opposite sex living together is legalistic. In the story, Eli, a 32 year old man is stranded and ends up staying in Amy's apartment. This temporary arrangement ends up being a semi-permanent set up. The story goes on to tell of the two sleeping together (no sex) and realizing the shame in that. But was the author showing that living together is a bad idea, or just using that situation to carry the story along? I'm not sure. There is at least one more example, but I'll stop there. Maybe the author simply failed to bring her points to a strong conclusion or maybe I just missed it. Is she trying to portray real life struggles with a Christian wrestling to do what is right rather than rebelling? Again, I'm not sure.

I'm disappointed that this book was labeled as a Christian novel. It falls short of being clear on the gospel and while there were no actual sex scenes it comes very close. One scene has Amy standing with only a bra and underwear, admitting to a boyfriend that she is a virgin. I will say that others are giving the book a very good rating so perhaps I'm being overly critical and prudish. You decide.
I must admit that I'm as ambiguous as Bethany Pierce because I think I can rate the book after all. Even though the book was entertaining and the author a good wordsmith I'd give it 2 out of 5 stars.
A big Thank you to Bethany House Publishing Group for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hatteras Girl by Alice Wisler



Hatteras Girl tells the story of Jackie Donovan. Jackie is a journalist who has returned to her home at North Carolina's Outer Banks. Because she is nearing 30, her relatives have a goal to get an engagement ring on Jackie's finger by the end of the year. Jackie suffers through many blind dates trying to appease her loving, well meaning family. Jackie has a goal of her own, a seemingly impossible dream of owning and operating Bailey House, a million dollar bed and breakfast where Jackie and her best friend Minnie spent many delightful afternoons as school girls.

When Jackie is sent to interview Davis Erickson, she discovers that he owns Bailey House. Can she convince Davis that she and Minnie are the ideal people to run the bed and breakfast in the same loving way that his grandparents ran it?

I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars. I felt that parts of the tale (especially her love interests) were somewhat predictable. In the story Minnie faces the death of her husband and her mother's stroke while also raising her son alone. It at times feels a bit subdued with the responsibility she faces; yet it also portrayed friendship and their efforts to help and support each other in a positive light. All things considered, I would say it was well written and an enjoyable read.
You too can become a book reviewer! Go here to check it out!
Thank you to Bethany House Publishing Group for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Redeeming Love


I was excited when I was asked to choose any WaterBrook Multnomah title I have read and post a review. One of my favorite books of all time is Redeeming Love by
Francine Rivers. I'm sure it would make my top ten list! Even though I haven't read it in years , I still remember this story of God's enduring patience and grace.
The book is set in the 1850's of gold crazed California. Angel is sold into prostitution as a young girl and attempts to protect her heart by shutting down her emotions. Angel hides her real name as her own secret treasure . The fact that she learns to hate men is quite understandable. When she meets Michael Hosea he simply sits and talks to Angel. She is confused by his lack of ardor and uses scorn to guard herself. Michael, obeying God, marries Angel to protect her from further abuse and shows her unconditional love. After much prayer, he hears God tell him to "Feed my sheep". Michael sees what needs he has failed to meet in Angel and tries even harder to show his love.
As Angel begins to feel herself relax and trust Michael, she is hit with fear and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and flees. Can she ever give the ultimate gift - the sharing of her real name, her trust? Her healing and ability to feel loved must ultimately come from God.
Redeeming Love is based upon the book of Hosea and is a wonderful picture of God's unconditional love. I must find my book and read it again soon!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chili Pot Pie

I found a recipe online to try out tonight. I ended up changing it so much, that it looked almost nothing like the original. So, I decided I could call it my own and post it. I did use some of the puree's I had made before but you could leave them out and not notice the difference. It was a hit with my family - I made one larger pan instead of 2 pies (the crust ended up too thick because I didn't divide it out) and had meat left-over. We wrapped the left-over meat in flour tortillas and made burritos for a second meal.

Meat mixture:

1 lb. ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
4 cups fresh spinach torn into bite sized pieces
1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup orange puree
1/4 cup white puree

Crust (or use your favorite pie crust recipe):
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 cups cold butter
12 to 14 tablespoons cold water

Directions: In skillet, cook the beef and onion (you could also add green bell pepper at this point) until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in remainder of meat mixture ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 - 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add water, mixing with fork until dough forms a ball. Divide into fourths; roll each portion into a circle. Cover w/ plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Line two pie plates with pastry. Divide meat mixture between the two crusts. Roll out remaining pastry to fit tops of pies; place over filling. Flute top and bottom crusts together. Cut slits in top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 min. Reduce heat to 375 degrees; bake 30 to 35 min. or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 - 15 minutes before cutting. Yield: 12 servings

Monday, October 4, 2010

Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander


Just when I thought I was all out of books to read, Bethany House sent another one for review!

In 1877, Widow Rachel Boyd struggles to keep her small ranch going to provide for her sons as she had promised her husband. When the farm's cow is in trouble she is forced to put her trust in the town's doctor. Eventually the choice is laid before her, keep going as she has and the farm will fail, risk it all to buy a better breed of cattle, or sell out.

Dr. Brookston was literally saved by the bell as a soldier and nightly faces his fears from that experience. He knew he would be sacrificing a lot to turn down the city hospital's job offer, but wants to make a difference in lives by working in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The townspeople are slow in learning to trust the doctor. When the town's storekeeper is in need of medical attention, the good doctor turns to Rachel, a former Dr.'s daughter, for help in performing the surgery. Both Dr. Brookston and Rachel must face their greatest fears.

I completely enjoyed this book, but was confused about one part of the story. The novel alludes to a tale of Molly, Rachel's sister-in-law, not being accepted by the townspeople, but never really states why. However, upon further investigation, I realized that this is the 3rd book in a series called The Timber Ridge Reflections and the story of Molly is in another book by Tamera Alexander called Beyond This Moment. The novel can be read as a stand-alone book but would perhaps be better enjoyed if you read the whole series. You can read the first chapter of the book here.


Thank you to Bethany House Publishing Group for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Monday, September 27, 2010

City On Our Knees by TobyMac

Can you tell by my blog that Bethany House has been very generous this month with sending books for review?

This weekend I received City On Our Knees by TobyMac in the mail. Each section in the book is named after a line from the song by the same name and includes a collection of stories about well known people in the church such as St. Patrick, Charles Spurgeon; as well as a story of a conscripted soldier in Hitler's army and modern day Christians that God has used and is using to change the world.
In TobyMac's own words, "City on Our Knees .... offers stories of people who have stepped across lines. Lines of discrimination, persecution, doubt, prejudice, pride, bitterness, self-isolation, and despair. I pray and hope that you will be inspired to see how just one person, or one small group, can be a mechanism for change. God can use us right here. Right now. All we need is faith that He has our best in mind." The stories are inspiring, though I had heard a few of them before they were well worth reading again. The beginning of each section includes several Bible verses and quotes from people for contemplation as well as a TobyMac blog. The section then ends with a one-minute remix and a prayer. The layout would be very conducive to using as a devotional and would be acceptable for a youth group setting. My one complaint is that it would have felt more personal and inspiring to read of what God has done in TobyMac's life rather than him relating other's stories. Yet, it does do what it sets out to do - remind Christians of the importance of prayer and obedience.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Masquerade by Nancy Moser


Historical romance readers will love Nancy Moser's book on America's gilded age. In Masquerade she weaves a tale of scandal, adventure and romance.
Charlotte "Lottie" Gleason is a wealthy, young English socialite in 1886. She is forced to face reality when she learns of her father's sin and loss of money. Trying to save her from disgrace and provide for her future, her parents send her to America with instructions to wed Conrad Tremain, a wealthy man she has never met. Lottie decides she wants to have a chance to control own life even if it means disobeying her parents and giving up the lifestyle she is accustomed to. She convinces her lady's maid, Dora, to trade places with her.
Dora considers this her chance to escape poverty and avoid a lifetime serving others. She takes Charlotte's place and enters the world of fancy clothing, parties, and leisure. She discovers that all is not well in the Tremain household and even though she likes Conrad and considers him a friend, she learns that it isn't always easy to live a lie.
Charlotte faces many hardships in the streets of New York; robbers, unhealthy living conditions, hard work and unsavory crowds are a shock to her system. She begins to regret her decision and wants to take her rightful place in the Tremain home. Will she learn how to support herself, or will she expose Dora and ruin Dora's chance at happiness? Both ladies must learn to seek God first and trust in His guidance.
This was an enjoyable book worthy of an all-night read!
Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, September 24, 2010

A look back to God's healing and provision

Just found this in my "drafts"....a blog written in August 12, 2009, that for some reason was never posted. I had been working at Living Water that day when Mark called saying that Ben was really sick and we needed to get him to the Amarillo hospital. So, now a look back to what we were doing a little over a year ago

.
Things I learned this week:
Anyone reading this probably already knows the story of Benjamin's hospital stay, so I won't bore you with the details again. But here are a few things I learned this week (in no particular order...) Reminder: Pampa Dr. did a CAT scan and blood test in Pampa - and sent results to Amarillo - they declared it appendicitis. Our pastor and Mark prayed over Ben in Pampa. The doctor in Amarillo (a christian ) wanted to double check results before going to surgery. No surgery was needed, and by the next day you would have never known Benjamin had been sick.


1. It isn't fun or easy sleeping in a hospital bed, even if you aren't sick.

2. BSA has an awesome pediatric floor and nurses.

3. I don't want to go back to work as badly a I thought I did.

4. I've lost a lot of brain cells since I last held a job.

5. I'm too old for this. I'm sitting here exhausted, Ben is begging to play outside.

6. Appendicitis and a virus have very similar symptoms at times.

7. Cat scans are more expensive in Pampa than Amarillo.

8. God is my provider and will take care of all the bills! :-)

9. Gib is a very understanding man with a panicked mom. (by the way, Becky I had an unusual call as I was leaving L.W. - Gib handled it, I think, even though the caller insisted on talking with you. It didn't seem to matter that you weren't there.)

10. Ben is a very, very brave kid! He drank 2 cups of "nasty stuff" for the cat scan, had an IV, thought he was going to have surgery, and much, much more, yet never complained or cried. Just asked lots of questions. (One lady later told me it is very similar to drinking two cups full of laundry soap. gag!)


11. Telling the DPS that you are going to the hospital because your little brother is sick can get you out of a speeding ticket. Scott and Sarah were concerned about Ben...

12. ER nurses aren't necessarily good with children. I don't think telling the possible risks of anesthesia and surgery in front of kids is a good idea.

13. A nurse telling a father "you're signing your life away" scares kids. ("what does that mean?!!?" he asked)

14. My sister is extremely good at her job, and very, very understanding about the fact that I am extremely lousy at it.

15. My daughter is very helpful. (She brought her brothers home and stayed with them while we were in Amarillo.)

16. Having Christians in the medical field (Drs. and nurses) is a blessing!!

17. You can encourage others no matter what your job. (The cleaning lady came in saying "you can just call me Cinderella" and told me she was praying for my baby.)

18. You know how kids can get so tired that they can't sleep? I do that too.

19. A hospital stay costing well over $2000 is a quick way to get over a really bad virus.

20. Prayer is an even better way.

A great big Thanks to all who expressed concern and prayed for us! Think I'll go to bed and stay there all day tomorrow. :-)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris


Imagine a Louis L'Amour book with a feminine touch and you will have a good picture of this debut novel by Yvonne Harris. This western tale begins with orphan Emily McCarthy being told by the orphanage director that they have arranged a marriage for her in North Dakota.
On the way to her Christmas wedding, the stagecoach is robbed. When the robber, Luke, returns and takes Emily with him, she wonders if he is her kidnapper or her savior.

An enjoyable book with mild references to relationship with God. I think that perhaps the character of Luke should have struggled more with remorse over stealing and killing. If he had been a real living person I would have wanted to remind him of God's declaration that "vengeance is mine." (Romans 12:19). There is a fine line between justice and vengeance. The lack of lawmen in the 1800's in the American west did lead to men taking justice into their own hands, hopefully with godly motivation, but all too often the system was not ethical. I simply felt that the issue of vigilantism could have been explored a bit more in the story.
All in all, a great, humorous,and lively book for a rainy day.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Love's First Bloom

This is the second book of Delia Parr's that I've had the opportunity to review. I love her writing style. I must say that I enjoyed this book from the cover picture to the very end. Having goose feathers for a weapon, using brooms to celebrate July 4th and an annoying pet turkey are a few examples of Mrs. Parr's creativity in her newest book, Love's First Bloom.

The story begins as Ruth's father places a baby in her arms with explicit instructions that she must change her identity and board the ship headed to a small community in New Jersey. She must make some big, life-changing decisions and learn how to discern whom to trust along the way. The two innocent victims of scandal, Ruth and the baby Lily, find refuge in the home of a kind, loving couple living near Toms River.

Ruth obediently and tirelessly cares for the child left in her care. Discouraged and grieving, Ruth begins to seek God as she tends an abandoned garden at the banks of the river. She meets Jake Spencer, a man she believes to be injured and in need of her help. Ruth begins to trust Jake and wonders if he can help her protect Lily from harm. How will Ruth react when she discovers that Jake is actually one of the newspapermen intent upon marring her good name?

This book points out the dangers of media telling all and destroying innocent lives in the process. It is an easy and enjoyable read. I have 2 more Bethany House books to review this month so be looking for more to come.


Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller


Judith Miller's book Somewhere To Belong is the first in a series based upon the Amana colonies in Iowa. The colonies were a group of God fearing people who believed in communal living. Their livelihood came from farming and fabric mills. These people of faith believed in spending as much time as possible in studying the Bible and in prayer. They were assigned jobs by a Bruderrat council; the jobs included working with children, gardening, cooking, working in the mills, stable work, and many other duties. They lived a devout, simple, hard working life.

Johanna had lived all of her life in Main Amana and yearns to see the outside world. She longs to begin her adventure by visiting her brother in Chicago. Berta is a young lady who had lived the life of wealth in Chicago. When Berta's parents decide to move to the colonies, she struggles to adjust to this new life. Johanna is assigned the responsibility of teaching Berta and the adventure begins. Both young ladies discover that not even parents always live a life free of deceit and both learn the importance of truth and honesty.

If you enjoy the Amish books that have become popular, then this book will be one that you appreciate. The link above gives a lot of information on the Amana colony and is quite interesting. Anyone want to visit with me? Honestly I did struggle with hearing some of the requirements the families had to live with in the colonies, but the book was interesting, well written and educational.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shhh...don't tell!


Last night my family ate spinach, broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and red peppers. Tonight we will add cauliflower and zucchini. Shhh....please don't tell them!!! They just think we had pizza and will think we're having chili tonight.

I've always been known to "hide" vegetables in my kids food. Mainly, I'd grate carrots into any tomato based or ground beef meal we had. Tacos, spaghetti, meat loaf - were all good ways to get a veggie into my kids. You'd have to be a part of our family to appreciate it, but my kids are always laughing at me - letting me know I didn't fool them. In fact, last time Sarah was here, she let me know that I no longer needed to "hide" it - that they were all old enough to know the carrots were there. :-) But as funny as they thought I was, it worked! They would eat the vegetables. I didn't really want to "fool" them, but teach them to eat vegetables willingly, so I never denied my attempt at deceit.

Several months ago I was given an electric steamer. I thought "this takes up so much space in my kitchen, I'll play with this awhile then donate it." but then yesterday I declared a play day for me - and went shopping. I went to a book store and came out with The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious cookbooks that I found on sale - really cheap. I went home played all afternoon - cooking! (Yes, I'm weird, I know, but I LIKE cooking.)
I fell in love with the steamer - not only does it cook perfect rice, but it works great with all the recipes in my new cookbooks. It may have earned its' space in my kitchen, at least until I lose interest. I made and froze several vegetable purees to add to recipes. Because the vegetables are steamed and then pureed in the food processor, a small amount of puree goes a long way - one cookbook called it "nutritionally dense". I wish I'd had this when my kids were small! No one noticed the difference, but I did notice that everyone ate less pizza than normal, with the vegetables in the sauce, I think it was more filling. (maybe that was my imagination). I'm thinking this is going to be great - not only were the kids eating better, so were the adults. (I normally wouldn't touch sweet potatoes or cooked spinach). How great would it be if it works on my mother-in-law, the world's pickiest eater? I have to admit, it was FUN being sneaky. (maybe one day I'll tell them.) So, what do you do that makes your family think you're strange - or maybe I should just ask what do you do to spend a fun day alone?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews


Mom's review:
My son and I had a fun time tonight reading a review copy of the children's book The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrew. The artwork in the book is great and the story drew us both in.
Using the lives of Norman Borlaug, Henry Wallace, George Washington Carver, and Moses Carver, the book teaches the butterfly effect - how each of our actions affect not only us, but the world! I loved that the book taught history in such an engaging way. The story included tales of each of the men as young boys. Norman played with his sisters in the corn fields, Henry went on expeditions with George and teased about hippos in Iowa. George made a crutch for a friend and Moses had a rooster named Buzz. Each of these things made the book appealing to my son. I would imagine that girls would be just as engaged in the tale as he was. It states that the book is for children ages 4 - 8, but I think this is a book for all ages! Each page has wonderful images of butterflies and ends with an abundance of butterflies and a reminder to the reader that "every little thing you do matters" and "you can be the kid who changes the world". I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am sure we will be reading it many more times!
Son's review:
The Boy Who Changed the World is a book about helping and sharing. Norman helped the world by growing special seeds that fed two billion people. Henry Wallace helped by telling Norman to make the seeds. Henry became the vice president of the United States! George Washington Carver helped Henry by teaching him about plants. But George couldn't have helped without Moses, his adopted father, who saved him.
This book was a very good book. It was about helping and about sharing food. It taught me that what we do is important and can help others.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson


Sixteen women, all with different stories and backgrounds,
join the Ladies Emigration Society and board the train headed to Nebraska. These women have been lured to leave their pasts behind with promises of "free prime homesteads" and an ability to "take control of their own destinies".
Caroline is a typical southern belle whose family will have nothing to do with her after her marriage to a Yankee soldier. Ella is a widow - a large girl with no hope of ever marrying again. She and her mother, Zita, have lost their farm during the war and hope to begin anew. Ruth is proud of her deceased husband's legacy, and is determined to pass that on to her son, Jackson. Sally is a divorced, rough Tennessee gal who becomes responsible for sewing and caring for chickens. Hettie is running from a past she wants to keep secret and yet she can't avoid helping those in need. When they discover that the people are secretly calling them the Ladies Desperation Society and that they've been deceived, anger and confusion abound. These women will discover a strength and determination to make it in this untamed land together.
When I first began the book I struggled to keep us with all of the names and characters, but soon the author narrows the story down to the "Fav-Five". I especially enjoyed reading the verses at the beginning of each chapter as the women learned to give control of their destinies to God and to "Hope On - Hope Ever". I can honestly say I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

A big thanks to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Multi-Purpose Cleaner


This is a recipe I made a few months ago and I love it! It is great for stains in clothing and spills (or puppy pee...) on carpet. I store some in a spray bottle to clean counters and the bathroom.




Multi-Purpose Cleaner
1/4 cup baking soda
1 cup ammonia
1/2 cup vinegar
1 gallon warm water
Mix well. Shake before using.



Sunday, August 15, 2010

Volcano!


I made the Volcano Cake this weekend. YUM! (Well, it would have been good if I hadn't over cooked it.) I did want to warn anyone planning on making it that it is called Volcano Cake for a reason. Make sure your pan is deeper than the average glass 9x13" pan or put a cookie sheet under it. Mine oozed lava batter all over the bottom of the oven. :-)
The cake tasted like a German chocolate cake with the icing in the middle. If you make it, let me know if yours turned out better than mine!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pampa High Choir


I found this picture on facebook.
Look on the third row up - second from the right.... Becky! Are the dresses really pink, or just a faded photo? I'm lovin' those stylin' elbow length gloves. Wow I bet they were hot to wear.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr

This historical fiction novel takes you back in time to a fictional island in Pennsylvania in the 1840's. Ellie Kilmer is an unusual heroine in that she is not a beauty but a simple, plain looking spinster. When she volunteers to clean and care for the sons of Jackson Smith, Ellie struggles to cook with the newfangled cookstove and gently begins to train two active boys. Her ability to forgive and look to God with trust even when her circumstances are less than perfect quickly charm the reader and enable her peers to begin to see beyond her looks to the beauty inside.
The characters in this book made me want to read more books by this author. I'd love to hear more about Gram's life and the experiences she had that enabled her to wisely mentor Ellie. Gram's observation, "the truth of the matter is that we've all got cracks in our spirits, and we have to remember they're only there because we need them....otherwise how could God's grace filter in deep enough to give us the joy and peace we're all searching for...." is a great picture of the story of rejection and God's redemption. A book about Mrs. French and the secret life she carefully hides from the gossips in town would be intriguing as well. The author handled the scandal and gossip concerning the adultery of Jackson's first wife with care and discretion. I'd give the book 3 out of 5 stars. All in all, an enjoyable read.

Thank you to BethanyHouse for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, August 6, 2010

Squash!

I'm not sure why I saved this recipe. My family doesn't like squash, so I'll never get to try it! But I had a squash casserole once at church that I loved, and I've been looking for a good one ever since. If you try this one, let me know if it's good enough for me to make just for me!
Squash Casserole
1 large onion, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
3 cups cooked squash, drained and water squeezed out
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers (plus additional)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. House Seasoning (see below)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350*. Sautee' onion in butter for 5 min. Mix all ingredients and top with additional crushed crackers. Bake 25 to 30 minutes.
Variation: layer slices of cooked red potatoes in bottom of casserole pan followed by squash mixture; repeat layers and top with 1 cup Ritz crumbs tossed with melted butter.
House Seasoning
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Another Recipe of Clara's!

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. butter recipe cake mix
1 - 3.4 oz. pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix
1 - 3.4 oz. pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 oz. chocolate chips
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350*. Grease & flour tube or bundt pan. In mixing bowl beat eggs, water and vanilla by hand. Stir in cake and pudding mixes. Slowly add butter and oil. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and pour into prepared pan. Bake 50 - 60 min. Cool for 10 minutes then invert onto cake plate. Sift powdered sugar over cake or drizzle chocolate sauce over it, if desired.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Black Bean Soup

1 lb. dry black beans
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 lb. smoked ham hocks
2 cans 14 1/2 oz. chicken broth
4 cups water
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 can 14 1/2 oz. Mexican tomatoes (Del Monte is one brand)
1 1/2 t. salt
sour cream
chopped green onion
Finely chopped bacon
Soak beans over night and drain. Heat oil and add onions, carrots and celery. Cook until tender. Add garlic, cumin and pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds longer. Add ham; stir in beans, broth, water and thyme. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Stir in tomatoes with liquid and salt. Simmer covered until beans are tender. Remove ham from bones and return meat to pot. Mash some of solids to thicken broth, if desired. Serve with sour cream, green onion and bacon.

Volcano Cake

I found a few recipes today that I had saved from Clara Imel's file while working for her. I'll be posting them here just to have a place to save them. I haven't made any of them yet, so if you make it, let me know if it's good!

Volcano Cake
1 cup coconut
1 cup pecans or walnuts
1 pkg. German chocolate cake mix
10 bite size Almond Joy candy bars, chopped
1 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temp.
1/2 cup butter, room temp.
2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350*. Spray 13x9x2" pan. Mix coconut & nuts and spread evenly in pan. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Stir in candy bars and pour batter over coconut and nuts. Combine cream cheese, butter, and sugar. Randomly drop tablespoons of mixture on top of batter - do not spread them. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until sides of cake pull away from pan.
If feeling indulgent, serve with whipped cream.
Update: See review here

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sometimes it's good to laugh at ourselves.

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Seriously, when are we going to learn church isn't about contemporary vs. traditional? It isn't about the method, the music, the performance or entertainment! It IS about The Truth(John 14:6), the message (Romans 10:17), the worship (Psalm 134:2) and our obedience (Heb. 10:25). In church we shouldn't be concerned about us and our tastes or desires, we should be aware of His presence (Matt. 18:20)!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Trinity


Scott loaned me his book Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I'm only on chapter 3, but so far this small book has been great! I just want to quickly share something from the book I'd never seen before and as you read you'll probably think "I can't believe you haven't noticed that!". Actually, I've probably heard it taught and should have remembered. I didn't. ( sigh.)
We've all read Isaiah 9:6, most of us have probably memorized it just from hearing it recited each Christmas.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be on His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Right there in this verse predicting Christ's birth we see the son referred to as Counselor which is another name for the Holy Spirit (see John 14:26), and as the Father! The trinity revealed in Christ's birth announcement.
Quoting Francis Chan, "This passage, and many others, keeps us from oversimplifying a divine mystery. It is not easily broken down into three main points that just make sense, but it works. And it is beautiful. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are One." Cool.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Cor. 4:20 (NIV)

"the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power".

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Friendships for Grown Ups ~ Lisa Whelchel


I think that writing a book would be one of the hardest things to do. Not only would you have to be a good writer (which I am not) but you would also have to be willing to be transparent and make yourself vulnerable. After all, your book will in some way reveal a part of your life, your thoughts and emotions. Then when your book is reviewed, you are putting yourself in a position of those qualities that you've shared being criticized.

In her book Friendships for Grown Ups, Lisa Whelchel does just that. She candidly discusses walls that she had built around herself for protection and the lack of ability to build friendships because of those walls. Lisa openly and honestly shares her deep, personal struggles and how God began to break down those walls in her life. She discusses how needy she felt and how she was finally able to begin building deep, lasting relationships.

I did enjoy the book and at times could empathize with Lisa's struggles. I felt that the book offered some good tips,but I will say that at times I was grateful not to be a friend of Lisa's with all of her expectations for friendship and the details of relationships being shared so publicly! My first thought was that the book would be better if it were geared toward teens or young adults. Yet as I've read reviews for her book, I was amazed at how many adults shared how they too could relate with Lisa's experiences and insecurities. One real problem I had with the book is when she shares about having a male "sponsor" that she called daily to talk about her problems. Lisa did end the relationship when she realized where it could lead, but perhaps she could be a bit clearer that a relationship of that type should never be started. This would be a good book for women who struggle with developing friendships.
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, June 7, 2010

Peach Enchiladas

Sunday morning I woke up early and made the perfect plate of creamy caramel. Why was I up early before Sunday School to make a plate of caramel? Strange cravings? Nope, accident!
Once a month we take breakfast to our class and I began making a great recipe for peach enchiladas. Failing to read the recipe correctly, I put the sugar mixture on the stove thinking it would help the lumps of sugar dissolve as I searched for the butter in the fridge. Evidently, it took me way too long to find that butter. I turned around to find this wonderfully amber colored liquid in the sauce pan. I quickly added the butter hoping to salvage it. Nope, too late - it didn't work. I poured it into a plate and it developed into the aforementioned caramel! YUM!
Kudos to Mark for coming to the rescue and helping me make the peach enchiladas in time for Sunday School. The verdict? Both the caramel and enchiladas were delicious! Never would have thought cinnamon in caramel would be good.
(Organizing the fridge is now on my to do list...)

Thanks to Mark's cousin, Jessica, for sharing her recipe!

Ingredients:
2 packages (8-ounce size) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 cup butter
4 firm ripe peaches, peeled and quartered, or 1 bag of frozen unsweetened peaches, thawed
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 can (12-ounce size) Mountain Dew or Sprite

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt butter and add sugar and cinnamon. Mix together and set aside.

Unroll crescent roll dough and separate on the perforations. Place a peach quarter in each triangle. Roll from large end to small. (If desired, after rolling, encase peach with dough by gently stretching and pinching dough together.)

Place rolled dough in a 12x10x2-inch baking pan. Pour or spoon butter mixture over all. Pour Mountain Dew (or Sprite) on top. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Serve as is or with ice cream. (This recipe can be easily halved.)

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

Before the time that it was decided Clara's debut was to come a year early, the governess spent time teaching what Clara enjoyed most - math, science and literature. Her scholarly activities intrigued her and she dreamed of attending Vassar college. Her somewhat persnickety Aunt came to the rescue when it was discovered that Clara had learned little of what was required to impress those in society. Lessons in posture, etiquette, dancing and clothing began to consume Clara's days and evenings. Clara was expected to restore the family honor by landing the DeVries heir as her beau. Her friend Lizzie was her encourager and lifeline, but when both girls are required to pursue the same young man, they wonder if their friendship will withstand the pressure.
The memories of her deceased mother were few, but one event stuck in Clara's memory. Her mother had been singing the hymn "Just As I Am" as she went through the rigmarole of preparing for an evening at a ball. Her mother hugged her fiercely and said,"Would it not be wonderful if God loved us just as we were, darling girl? Without affectation or pretension?" The young Clara threw her arms around her mother's neck and declared, "I like you just the way you are!" Could Clara find someone who would feel the same about her? Facing her family secrets could be life changing for the young debutant if she could find the courage to do so.

Set in the 1890's in New York City during the Gilded Age, this historical fiction has some well developed characters, my favorite being the Aunt who was unaware of her need for the same unconditional love that Clara was seeking. The book's group discussion guide includes a healthy admonition that even in today's culture you will be expected to behave in ways dictated by society and your social class unless you are willing to make a stand for what you believe in. The references to God and His love were very subtle and sparse but ultimately a reminder that our goal should be to please Him above all else.

Thank you to BethanyHouse for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, May 28, 2010

Plan B by Pete Wilson




I will begin this book review by apologizing to Thomas Nelson for being so slow in getting it posted. We've spent so much time in Dr. offices and hospitals, I forgot I had to get 'er done!

This book begins with some good truths, those that seasoned Christians may need to be reminded of at times and truths that new Christians need to hear.

Everyone at some point wakes up to discover that a part of their life is going to be nothing like it was planned. What happens when it seems that God's promises to you are not being accomplished? Perhaps you don't have the answer to the question - Why? Pete Wilson reminds us of the experiences of Bible characters and uses modern day stories from his experiences as a pastor to attempt to help people face those questions.

David had been anointed as the next king and had experienced his first success in killing Goliath. He then began working in the palace only to find King Saul jealous and bitter.
Joshua found himself the leader after Moses' death. He had to trust God enough to take the risk of stepping into a flooded river to cross to the land of promise. Good stories, with wonderful truths - yet I would recommend that if you read this book, you read it with your Bible open. At times Pete Wilson adds emotions to the Biblical characters that the Bible does not mention.

The book does show that having problems or tragic things happen does not mean that God is not with you or that He doesn't love you. Wilson says "so often instead of giving us what we think we deserve, instead of taking away our pain.....He (God) offers us the promise of His presence. But this is not a consolation prize. It's exactly the gift you need ..." I love that statement, yet later in the book, he refers to Christ's death on the cross as the "ultimate Plan B". Perhaps I read into it something that the author did not mean, but He fails to quickly and clearly say that the cross was truly God's Plan A and that perhaps circumstances in our lives, things that we look at as a Plan B are in reality God's original plan. I must admit that much later in the book he says that we must be willing to abandon our life plans to receive the life that God authored for us, but the point should have been made much quicker rather than calling the cross a Plan B. He also states that in Jesus' prayer in the garden before His death, Jesus was saying, "I don't like this.....I'm not even sure I can handle this." He is making a point concerning getting rid of idols in our lives and following Christ's example and attitude of not my will, but Thine, however, saying that Christ was wondering if He could handle the circumstances is unacceptable in my opinion. I would like to once again encourage you that if you read the book , please compare it to the ultimate book of Truth, God's Word, the Bible. That's good advice no matter your circumstances!

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Psalm 33


Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.

For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.

The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars ;
he puts the deep into storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.

For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.

But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance.

From heaven the LORD looks down
and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth-
he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.

No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ben's Youngest Granny


In the van yesterday, Ben began talking about having lots of grannies. "I have great, great, great, (etc.) grannies" I told him that if he wasn't careful, he'd go back far enough to be listing Eve from the Bible. Trying to get him to quit saying "great, great great....." I began listing his great grandmothers names to him, "Olive, Sadie, Effie, and Clara." Ben said, "I DO have a lot of grannies!" Then he began listing them...."Becky, Granny....." ROFL! I stopped him to say, "No, Becky is your AUNT". I don't think I ever convinced him he finally hopefully said, "But she's LIKE my Granny- isn't she?!"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April showers!

We had an unusual event for Pampa this weekend. Rain! Lots of rain. Over 3.6 inches as of noon yesterday - and it rained all afternoon after we heard that measurement. Above is a picture of my mother-in-law's back yard. (The puddles in our backyard weren't as impressive. LOL) The boys and I decided to head to the Pampa City Lake and see what it looked like.


Nathan and Benjamin began wading in the parking lot beside our van.



See the rectangular pieces of wood? That isn't the dock, it is the handrails for the dock!



Aaron decided to venture further out, determined to get to the dock.
Note that less than a week ago the water was 2 or 3 feet below
the bottom of it.



Success! He made it .

I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin'
I'm happy again..

Monday, April 12, 2010

Joel Osteen's Fault?

I'm not sure how I came across this, but here is an unusual take on our economic woes:
click here and then here. (I don't know Jennifer Taylor, I just happened upon the blog and thought it was good!)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review: Lonestar Homecoming by Colleen Coble



Author Colleen Coble's thirty five novel and novellas have won or finaled in numerous awards. Her goals of writing books that acknowledge God and to write for Him was brought to fruition after the death of her brother. She states that she learned that she didn't have time to wait to accomplish what God was telling her to do. Having been raised in the Midwest and growing up with the adventures of living on a farm must have helped inspire her newest book LoneStar Homecoming.

This charming book begins with Gracie Lister fleeing from her fiancee' on her wedding day. Gracie's response to problems seems to always be the same - she runs. Gracie fled with five dollars, a train ticket and the wedding dress she was wearing. She and her young daughter land in a small Texas town and are offered refuge by widower Michael Wayne. Michael is in need of a caretaker for his children and agrees to consider hiring her. Romance quickly springs up between the two but that is a limited piece of the story. Gracie's learning to face her past and the mystery involved is a larger part of the story. LoneStar Homecoming is the third in the LoneStar series, but can be read as a stand alone book. I have not read the first books in the series but had no trouble following this story. If you enjoy prodigal son stories, Christian fiction and are looking for a light, enjoyable read add this to your reading list.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My first Lent....

The practice of Lent is not a thoughtless practice, of giving up something just for the sake of giving it up. Quoting Jon Shuler on Ash Wednesday, "at the heart of the call of Lent is the stripping away of what really you don't want back and the putting on of what you would like to be the habit of the rest of your life." Lent is a facing of what we need to repent from , to expose our sins, to renew our commitment to Christ, to fast as a way to learn how to deny ourselves "to bring our flesh, our mind and our will into conformity with God's purposes." (again quoting Jon Shuler) It is about inward change.

It is humbling to admit that it took my 7 year old son's willingness to lead me to practice Lent. I don't think I would have ever considered it unless he had asked to do it. I think I tend to want to ignore the suffering of Jesus. To skip the story of Jesus' suffering and go right to the joy of His resurrection. The practice of Lent has begun to lead me to reflect on how my actions and thoughts have displeased God. I am uncomfortable looking at my failings and sinfulness. I don't like for things to be messy emotionally, I don't want to see the blood or acknowledge the pain. It is almost too much to bear to hear of the intense agony Christ suffered because of MY sin! Yet it is the very suffering and dying that brings me to God, to forgiveness and eventually from confusion and despair to hope. There is no real joy in Easter without the cross. The cost of my sins can not be ignored in favor of a joyful Easter. In fact, facing the debt He paid brings me from the point of facing the cross of pain to seeing the empty tomb of triumph. I'm not ready for Lent to end, I think I'm just now beginning to really understand, yet, I think I am more ready to truly celebrate Easter than I have ever been before. To be able to declare, "Christ is risen!" He is risen indeed.

Friday, April 2, 2010

How Deep the Father's Love For Us


How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulder
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
*Lyrics by Stuart Townsend

CVS Deal

I'm not one of those people who can save hundreds of dollars every month using coupons to get groceries. I wish, but I'm not. Living in small town Texas makes it tough - no double coupons, no great sales,(excuses, excuses). But I did find a great deal at CVS this week! I scanned my card at the price-scanner and it spit out a coupon for $1 off CVS hair care products. The shampoo and conditioner above are price at 99 cents, so I walked out with a free bottle of shampoo. I went back the next day to get some medicines, got the same coupon and walked out with another free bottle! I may not have all the coupons or CVS deals figured out, but I nailed this one!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Promises Kept

In homeschool this week we've been studying the events leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection. Yesterday Ben and I read the story of Mary anointing Jesus with expensive perfume. I asked Ben "what can we learn from this story?" His answer was "That Jesus always keeps his promises!" Huh? That's a great truth but where is that in this story? "Well:, he said, "Jesus promised Mary that whenever the story is told, what she has done will be told too, and we're talking about her today"! (Mark 11:9) Good lesson! With that we ended the Bible study - I figured what he learned was as good as what I'd planned on teaching!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fig Trees

On Monday, when we read the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree (Mark 11:12-25) Ben's response was, "that's weird!". His reaction was much like mine has been in the past. I've heard the explanation of the symbolism before: the fig tree is a representation of Israel and Jesus is condemning the nation for not bearing fruit. I get it, but still, the story has always seemed odd to me - cursing a fig tree when it wasn't even the season for it to bear fruit. Ben was right, it IS weird.
So, we did a little research, and if I understand correctly, the fig tree actually CAN have fruit out of season. The trees will grow green figs that are so bitter that only the hungriest travelers would eat them. Those figs fall to the ground to rot and then the tree produces the good fruit. If a tree doesn't have those first green, bitter figs that is a sign that it will not produce good fruit in season.
Perhaps Jesus was preparing his followers to understand the next event recorded in Mark 11 when he clears the temple area by driving out the money changers. Maybe he was giving them a visual lesson on the lack of fruit in the lives of those he would soon be driving out of the temple?
I have to admit that I did a poor job on trying to explain the story to Benjamin. Finally tonight I came up with what I SHOULD have told him. Maybe Jesus cursed the fig tree out of season to show us that He wants to see the signs that we will be bearing fruit for Him and that He wants us to bear fruit in ALL seasons, not just when it's easy and convenient!
I can't deny feeling relieved that Jesus didn't curse a tree for something it couldn't do! :-)

Hunter's Moon by Don Hoesel


With his grandfather dying, author C.J. Baxter heads back to a place he hasn't been in over 17 years - home. The power hungry Baxter family and their home have been sitting atop Franklin County’s highest point for over 200 years. Their goal to become as powerful as the renowned Irish-American Kennedy clan only succeeds as far as the town of Adelia. Even though he has become something of a hometown celebrity, C.J. isn't welcomed by his own family. However, once he is there, Adelia, N.Y. seems like a good place to escape from a failing marriage, bad book reviews, a probable lawsuit and possible arrest. After being attacked by his older brother, Graham, C.J. decides he can be as ruthless as his family and determines to reveal the deep, dark family secrets. Risking much, he begins to write an expose'. Graham Baxter is running for Senate and in his grab for power the last thing he wants is for C.J. to write about his transgressions. Graham, his father, and his campaign manager struggle to keep C.J. quiet in order to save the run for election.

Hunter's Moon is the second novel of Don Hoesel. I completely enjoyed reading this captivating mystery! The suspense in the novel kept me reading late into the night, and the outcome was completely unexpected. The Library Journal is quoted on the cover saying, "This intelligent drama will appeal to readers who enjoy stories about...the faith that guides one through life." With that, I disagree. There was very little faith mentioned in the book - C.J. is a new Christian struggling to forgive but you really don't see his character seeking God to direct his many decisions. However, the book is a great read and I look forward to reading more from Don Hoesel.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday


Can you imagine what it was like that first Palm Sunday? The Jews had been anticipating the King's coming for hundreds of years. They had been taught from birth to watch for His coming, wishing for someone to rescue them from the Roman oppression. With palm branches waving and voices raised in praise, they must have been envisioning a spectacular extravaganza! (Mark told me that the palm branches were actually used as a covert sign of rebellion and disdain toward the Romans.) Surely this great King would come clothed in royal robes surrounded by an impressive escort, riding a noble steed! They watched with bated breath, tip-toeing to see him enter the city, perhaps pushing their way to the front of the crowd so that their children could see this great, new king. Yet, Jesus came gently, weeping, and riding on a donkey. If the people were shocked, or disappointed at His appearance, the Bible doesn't mention it, but certainly some were surprised. Jesus didn't give the people what they WANTED - a great earthly king to save them from tyranny. He gave them what they NEEDED - freedom from sin. He was bringing them a new life.

Matt. 21:8 tells us "A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road." I wonder, what is it that Jesus wants those of us today to lay down in front of Him to declare His Lordship? Bad attitudes, personal agendas and plans, desires, unworthy thoughts....?
Then Matthew 21:0 says "The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"


I've always heard that some of the same people were the ones at the end of the week crying "Crucify Him!" I wonder, how many of them were just disillusioned because they didn't get what they wanted? Are we that fickle and ungrateful today? How often do we secretly wave palm branches of rebellion and disdain at things that have been ordained to enter our lives in order to make us grow- looking for the easy way out of a situation just as the Jews were? Do our voices lifted in praise, our coats laid down to carpet His way become fists raised in anger when we face pain and disappointment? Or, perhaps even worse, does our excitement and anticipation become apathy and lack of interest? Does God want to vomit our lukewarmness out of His mouth? We need to remain hot: trusting, faithful and see that God is giving us what we really, and truly need. He is NOT an over-indulgent Father who causes harm by giving in to our every whim.

Palm Sunday is still a day of expectations. Mark 13:35 - 37 tells us to be on the alert - "If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!" Everyday should be a day of looking ahead; anticipating His second coming, and on that day you can count on the fact that He won't be riding on a donkey!!

Lord, thank you for being my King! Help me to keep my eyes focused on You and what you desire for my life rather than on my selfish desires! Help me to see others as you see them, needing new life and forgiveness! Change me. Make my desires YOUR desires. Help me to lay my ALL down at Your feet, to honor and praise You in a way that pleases You, without concern for what others think! May my heart be forever grateful, not doubting even during pain and hardship. Draw me ever closer to You, help me to thirst after You and seek You with all my heart. Help me to remain "hot" in You! May my sacrifices be pleasing to You. Help me to stay awake, prepared, anticipating Your triumphant return. Lord, come quickly!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jane Austen


Thomas Nelson now has a new series of biographies called Christian Encounters. These compact books tell of the experiences, trials and adventures of people from different ages and areas of the Church. I chose to read the story of Jane Austen.
The author, Peter Leithart, begins by telling of world events that were occurring during Austen's life then proceeds to tell of her family and the importance of faith in Jane's life. The author obviously did a lot of research for this book and relied upon Austen family letters and other sources to tell of Jane's personality and experiences.
Jenny, as she was called by her family, began writing early in life. She loved to write simply for the entertainment of her family. Her books were written at a young age and then edited and rewritten many times before she was published.
It was hard to keep up with all the family members and friends discussed. There are, however appendixes in the back listing Austen's family, friends and neighbors and the characters from her novels. The book felt dry and a bit boring, but as I continued to read I appreciated learning more about this literary celebrity.
Since this is my blog and not on a more public book review site, I will take the liberty of saying this to my niece: Amy, I think I know why you enjoy Jane Austen novels. It's because you are so much alike! She was a P.K. (preacher's kid) and had lots of brothers. (5, if I remember correctly) She was a member of the Anglican Church, had a great sense of humor, and faith was an integral part of her life. I could definitely picture the two of you sitting together empathizing over the antics of brothers, laughing and having a good time!
*Thank you to Thomas Nelson for supplying this book for review through the Book Sneeze program! All opinions expressed are my own.