Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blog Tour - The Big Picture

Summer's a-coming, and for many of us that means decompressed schedules and some extra time to relax with a book.

I recently read a book that is aimed for teens, and yet it is a novel that I enjoyed and which touched my heart. My review follows the blog tour information below:

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Big Picture

(NavPress Publishing Group April 15, 2008)


Jenny B. Jones

Jenny B. Jones is the author of A Katie Parker Production series. The other books in the series are In Between and On The Loose. Though now an adult, she still relates to the trauma and drama of teen life. She is thrilled to see her writing dreams come true, as her previous claim to fame was singing the Star Spangled Banner at a mule-jumping championship. (The mules were greatly inspired.)

Jenny resides in Arkansas, where, as a teacher, she hangs out with teens on a regular basis.

Sometimes there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy—and Katie Parker is walking it.

School is winding down for the summer but Katie Parker is having a bad day. After leaving the drive-in, where her imploding love life was the main attraction, Katie arrives home to a big surprise on the Scott's front porch.

Her mother, Bobbie Ann Parker, a former convict and recovering addict, wants to take Katie away from her family, friends, and church. Now Katie's life will be changed by a series of dramatic choices as she struggles to understand what family and home really means.

Katie is forced to walk away from In Between, leaving behind a family who loves her, a town drive-in to save, and a boyfriend who suddenly can’t take his eyes off his ex. When the life her mother promised begins to sink faster than one of Maxine’s stuffed bras, Katie knows she needs to rely on God to keep it together.

But where is he in all this? Can Katie survive a chaotic life with her mother—and one without the Scotts? And if God is there, will he come through before it’s too late?

A Katie Parker Production series offers teen girls real-world fiction balanced by hope and humor. The The Big Picture helps us realize that the difficult chapters in our journey are only part of God's big story for our lives.

You can read the first chapter HERE

"A heroine to love. Jones just gets better with every book, and The Big Picture is her best one yet."
~BARBARA WARREN, author of The Gathering Storm
"Such inspiration in a package of fun and faith!"
~EVA MARIE EVERSON, author of the Potluck Club series

MY COMMENTS: This was a touching book that provided insight into the life and emotional struggle of a teen caught in the heartrending ping-pong of foster care. While she found security and love, and her eternal life in Christ, in her foster parents' home, she also had a void in her life that she desperately wanted -- and needed -- her mom to fill. Children should not have to be the parents, and that is the reality for many in these difficult situations. It also showed the impact compassionate Christian friends can make in a lonely insecure teenager's life. I recommend this for you, and it would also be great for a teen girls' summer book club. It would be a springboard for some great discussions.


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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A New Perspective

In spite of the pressure and stress (which I admit can be somewhat self-inflicted because I am such an overachiever and perfectionist), I had a great time being the Retreat Geek this past weekend. It was fun setting up the mics and amps and preparing and running all the Powerpoints and videos for our worship times and the speakers.

But it did give me a new perspective and a new appreciation for the folks who do this week after week after week after week.

Many churches today project the words of songs, Bible verses, sermon outlines, etc. onto a screen throughout the service. This requires someone to sit in a booth somewhere pushing buttons to make it all advance at the proper time.

Which means that while your eyes are closed and you are having an intimate encounter with God, theirs are wide open as they busily click and scroll and adjust. Which precludes them from having their own worship experience. And while their service is a form of worship, it is a different experience. Same thing with the musicians, the Worship Pastor, and the Preacher.

That doesn't even take into account the extra time they already were up there in preparation/practice/set-up. Similar to how I was setting up and participating in rehearsals while the other retreat ladies were having their free time. I'm not bemoaning my choice, but it was a definite eye-opener.

Of course, I'm quite sure none of you has ever gotten irritated because a slide had a misspelled word or was out of order or came up too slow, nor would you ever fail to express appreciation to these techies, right? Didn't think so!

But just in case, next time you are at church, let them know you notice what they do and thank them for their service to God and His people.


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Sunday, April 27, 2008

When God Shows Up

In a word: Wow.

I'm so glad God is omnipresent, because I would hate to have to apologize to all of you for His absence with you this weekend, because HE WAS AT OUR RETREAT.

To begin with, I have never been part of a retreat that has been bathed in prayer like this one was. How many times do we pray "Lord, bless our plans and our retreat?" The 3 ladies who co-chaired this retreat were burdened at the beginning that this be HIS retreat. In fact, the Children's Minister, who also oversees the Ladies Ministry, confessed to the church this morning that she was beginning to be a little worried as she went to the meetings for the 10 weeks prior to the retreat: "They spent hours praying, and I began to think they needed to quit praying and start planning! I learned that I need to spend less time planning and more time praying. "

Obviously, many plans were indeed made. But that was done by each of us in our own areas of responsibility, and when we came together it was for prayer, with just a bit of logistical discussion after we prayed.

I remember one particularly sweet meeting about 3 weeks ago. We had the list of all who were registered, and we went down the list name by name and prayed for each lady individually and specifically. I will admit when they said we were going to do this, I somewhat panicked because there were 60 names on the list. And it did take us a while. But what a precious time it was. And I know it did not return void. For at least two people, you'll see evidence just a moment.

We were relatively primitive this weekend. Scheduling logistics resulted in our staying in a bunkhouse instead of in cabins. We were 70 women in 3 connected rooms with 2 bathrooms! But when you are stripped down to the basics without the fluff, you realize what truly matters. Someone commented that they would sleep on a dirt floor to have the encounter with God this weekend produced.

I just have to share one goosebumps moment. At the end of the Saturday morning session, we had what was called a Divine Connection. One of the organizers stood at the front of the group with a basket containing everyone's name on slips of paper. She was going to pull them out in pairs, and those two individuals were to go for a walk or find a quiet place to visit and share. This had been much prayed over like everything else, that God would orchestrate exactly the pairs that needed to be matched up. I don't even know all of the stories of the conversations that folks had. Mine was definitely a sweet blessing and divine appointment.

But here's what our amazing God did: well into the process of "randomly" pairing up these 70 names, 2 names were matched up: the name of a wonderful lady in our church who is a licensed marriage counselor, and the name of a precious young mother who is experiencing tremendous marriage pain. Tell me how that could happen if not for God! I almost fell out of my chair. Just a few of us even knew about the situation. What a mighty God we serve!

That reminded me that God loves us so much that He ministers to each of us at our point of need, and it brought to mind this song that I love. I know it's not Saturday, but it's a great encouragement to begin the week!


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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Then Sings My Soul Saturday

One of our retreat speakers this weekend is sharing what God has taught her in the midst of incredible heartache, involving the tragic death of her 21-year-old daughter and son-in-law. She has chosen two songs for us to sing surrounding her talk. One is the incredible song Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman. And the other is the wonderful hymn I Need Thee Every Hour.

As I was preparing the Powerpoint slides, I ran across the background of this beautiful song, written by a mom very much like each of us, albeit 136 years ago! Written by Annie Hawks, the circumstances of the song and how it ministered to its author years after she had written it are below:

"One day as a young wife and mo­ther of 37 years of age, I was bu­sy with my reg­u­lar house­hold tasks. Sud­den­ly, I be­came so filled with the sense of near­ness to the Mast­er that, won­der­ing how one could live with­out Him, ei­ther in joy or pain, these words, I Need Thee Ev­e­ry Hour, were ush­ered in­to my mind, the thought at once tak­ing full pos­sess­ion of me."
After writ­ing the lyr­ics, Hawks gave them to her pas­tor, Ro­bert Low­ry, who add­ed the tune and re­frain. The hymn was first pub­lished at the Na­tion­al Bap­tist Sun­day School Con­ven­tion in Cin­cin­na­ti, Ohio, in No­vem­ber 1872. Some years lat­er, af­ter the death of her hus­band, Hawks wrote:
"I did not un­der­stand at first why this hymn had touched the great throb­bing heart of hu­man­i­ty. It was not un­til long af­ter, when the sha­dow fell over my way, the sha­dow of a great loss, that I un­der­stood some­thing of the com­fort­ing pow­er in the words which I had been per­mit­ted to give out to others in my hour of sweet se­ren­i­ty and peace."
I'm sure it's no surprise to you that the beautiful rendition below is none other than Selah. The voice is Nicole Smith Sponberg, the sister of Todd Smith and his wife Angie. (BTW. Angie's blog about their journey in the loss of their precious baby was finally unblocked earlier this week after 10 days. They had received so many comments on her A Letter to My Daughter post that Blogger froze it to check that it wasn't a spam blog! Don't you know the Blogger folks were ministered to as they sifted through their story and the more than 700 comments!)


I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.


I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.


I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.


I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou bless├Ęd Son.


Words: Annie Hawks, 1872
Music: Robert Lowry, 1872

Amy has more songs for your soul!


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Friday, April 25, 2008

Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?

One (long) question:

Why -- when I have spent the entire week submersed in all the wonderful songs that we will be singing at this retreat and the message of the speakers, and I know the theme of this particular retreat, possibly more than any other, is for each of us to seek after God wholeheartedly and to be encouraged -- why, then, did I just spend so much time standing in my closet obsessing over what to wear that would look "cute" as the leadership goes out early today to set up (and stops for lunch on the way) and worry about the fact that my pajamas are old and my slippers are dirty and I sure wish I could have gone to Kohl's?

Romans 7:24-25


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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Coming Up to Breathe & A Sweet Surprise

Thought I'd stick my head above water for just a moment to say hi and that I haven't disappeared entirely. It's not that I've been away from my laptop, not by any stretch - just completely immersed in Powerpoint getting ready for this weekend's Ladies Retreat. And meeting with our Worship Pastor to learn the ropes - or maybe I should say learn the cables! - of setting up all the mics, speakers, amps, etc. (I'm going to be ready for a retreat myself when it's all said and done!) I've managed to scan a few blogs this week, although my comments have usually been non-existent or extremely brief as I try to type it one-handed while eating.

But what a delightful blessing I received when I did surface today! Angela of Becoming Me gave me the sweetest award! The “You Make My Day” award is a way to let fellow bloggers know that they have touched your heart, brought you happiness and inspiration, and make you look forward to coming to the blogworld every day. My mouth fell open with some of the kind things she said, and I'm still not convinced she doesn't have the wrong person!

Now it's my dilemma delight to pass it along to a few someones. How to choose?! So many of you have blessed my life beyond belief in these 4 short months I've been doing this blog thing. But choose I must, so I send a hug and say "You Make My Day" to:

Xandra - a kindred spirit I have discovered in this sweet friend. Her heart for God and her family just shine, and like me, she cut her teeth on The Baptist Hymnal and loves those old songs like I do! I love reading her posts & smile when I see her name in my comments!

Kelli - what a precious sister in Christ this gal is. She is a sweet encouragement and an inspiration to me in her passion for her Lord. And every once in a while among the writings sublime, she'll post something like a picture of a Toilet for 2!

Linda - this gal's blog seriously cracks me up. . . .and then turns around and makes me stop and think! She's a busy woman with quite a public to keep up with and all, since famous people email her, so it makes my day when she stops by my blog or responds to a comment. If only she wasn't so Lost in American Idol!

Angela Hunt - I still can't believe that an author of 112 books not only has a blog, but she lets regular ol' folks like me interact with her! She is a delight! She loves the Lord and she is an absolute pro at wielding the pen, or should I say, keyboard. I love the glimpses she gives us into the process behind the books. And her posts are just plain fun! I am not delusional enough to think she waits for my visits, but hey, if she can write fiction, then I can pretend!

So thanks to each of you for refreshing my life and to the rest of you as well. I could give this to everyone who takes the time to stop by my blog and leave a comment! I think I'm going to hold on to this and surprise a few of you with it from time to time!

BTW, for the multitude 1 or 2 of you who may be wondering, I survived my smashogram from last Friday without incident. No results yet, but this is generally one of those situations where no news is good news.
Update: Got the results in the mail today that all is normal!!


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Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Life In Only Six Words

Xandra tagged me for this fun meme, a six word memoir. There's a book out called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. Apparently, it is a based on the legend that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn." There’s a video on Amazon with examples from the book.

I first heard about this back in February on Angela Hunt's blog. She asked some of her author friends to come up with their own memoirs and posted them. You'll enjoy reading the offerings of authors such as Colleen Coble, Randy Alcorn, Hannah Alexander, Brandilyn Collins, Terri Blackstock, Deborah Raney and many more.

One of my favorites that I saw somewhere that's in the actual book is "Always keep the candy dish full."

When I came up with mine to comment on Angela's blog, I wrote "Wife/Mom - many hats, one Purpose." I still like that one, but I can think of a couple of others that fit. The way my life has been lately: "Stay At Home Mom? An oxymoron!" And in the fun category: "Chocolate is a girl's best friend!"

But probably the greatest story of my life these last 4 years has been this:
"Shedding Legalism/Grasping God's Merciful Grace"
So. . . . .what about you? I'm not going to officially tag anyone (because I couldn't limit myself to just 5 of you!) but I'd love for you to play along! Put your six-word memoir in the comments, and/or take the meme to your blog so your friends can join the fun as well! Just let me know so I can enjoy them too!

Just one caveat: The book is not a Christian book. In my perusing of various websites that had excerpts, there were definitely some memoirs of some heartbreakingly empty and even risque lives. That's why I enjoyed the Christian authors' versions so much!

Looking forward to reading your "stories"!

(Word geeks like me can't stop!)


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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Then Sings My Soul Saturday

Emotions are fickle things. And as women we often tend to give them more weight than we ought, just because they are such an integral part of our daily lives.

This can wreak havoc on our spiritual lives. As long as we are on the mountaintop, we "feel" God's presence, His favor, His peace, His love.

Sadly, once we descend into the valley and the clouds and shadows obscure our vision, we often begin to doubt. Doubt His goodness. Doubt His promises. Doubt our salvation, our faith.

But just as the mountain remains even when covered by fog and clouds, God's covenant of love remains unbroken and He is faithful, even when we don't sense Him.

My mom has struggled with this for 25 years as she has suffered with depression. Coming from the generation where "good Christians" didn't have issues like that, she determined that God had withdrawn His favor from her. And since my grandmother (her mom) was known on occasion to demand ask folks to return her gifts to her when they irked her, it's easy to see how my mom learned to project this characteristic onto her Heavenly Father.

A hymn that has become so dear to me as I have observed this and as I have had my own spiritual ups and downs is the beautiful song O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go. Take a few moments to listen to David Phelps sing about God's steadfast love and worship with me.


O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Words: George Matheson, 1882.
Music: Albert Peace, 1884.

Go here for more Then Sings My Soul Saturdays songs!!


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Friday, April 18, 2008

Pressing Matters

(Don't forget to comment on Do Hard Things by noon CDT today if you want to be in my drawing!)

What a Week. Doctor's appointments. Taxes. My 40,000 mile "free" oil change today that cost over $400, thanks to worn out brake pads. Notices of costuming that my girl needs for their upcoming May choir Broadway Follies show. A rapidly approaching retreat next weekend for which I need to put together all manner of Powerpoints and other tech stuff for the worship times and speakers.

Unfortunately, the joy and sigh of relief that Friday usually brings is tempered by the knowledge that this is in my day.

Those of you over 40 know exactly what that picture represents! So Friday, while you are prancing around in your new shoes or landscaping, or blogging about your Idol-atry, or wallpapering your house with super-sticky Post-its, or primping for your husband's early return from China, or fretting that grace has been replaced by word verification, or spring cleaning or changing diapers or getting pedicures or eating bonbons or whatever you find to do ---- I'll be in The Torture Chamber getting my mammogram.

You young gals think I jest? Fine, here's a real one:

I had to look long and hard to find a picture of one without either (1) a woman actually being scanned (I didn't want to traumatize you too much! Or get kicked out of the Family Friendly Network!) or (2) a tech standing next to it with a gleeful smile on her face as if she were Vanna White.

Oh, and don't worry if you are minimally endowed. They have special training in Tug of War to get you right where you need to be. All while you put your right hand here and your left hand there and your head back there and . . . "okay, now don't breathe!" I'd like to hokey-pokey right out of there!

I'll take stirrups at the Gyn's office any day over this!

Seriously, I am faithful about scheduling this every year on the dot. It only takes a few minutes, it really isn't that bad, and it is absolutely worth it. My USA-residing sister had a malignancy 11 years ago and I do not want to follow in her footsteps.

Don't put it off if you are over 40 or if you are younger and have a family history of breast cancer. For more info, go here. It could save your life.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Book Tour Plus Giveaway! - Do Hard Things

Do you have teens in your house? Do you work with teens? Know a teen? I have a must-read book for you.

The next generation stands on the brink of a

Do Hard Things
A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations

by Alex and Brett Harris

I am so excited to be part of the Blog Book Tour for Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. This book blew me away when I read it, and it will be Mom-required reading for my high-schooler this summer.

My man and I have often discussed our frustration with the complacency, little motivation, and lack of effort among teens in general today, as well as the low expectations of society (be it schools, clubs, and yes, even churches). This book is a great antidote to that, and will challenge your teen to view his or her teen years in a whole new way.

Alex and Brett have been featured in the New York Times, World Net Daily, and World. Their Rebelution Tour is hitting cities across the country, challenging teens to not meet but exceed our culture’s low expectations for teens.

Whether you are a teen, you parent a teen, or you just know a teen, this book is an essential read.

I'm delighted that the publisher provided a copy for me to give to one of you! Please leave a comment by Friday at 12 Noon CDT and I will use a random number generator to choose and post the winner Friday afternoon.

You can also purchase the book here.


With over 10 million hits to their website, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.

Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins’ revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential. Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of revolution already in progress challenges the next generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.
Join Alex & Brett in encouraging our teens to Do Hard Things!

UPDATE: Friday 2:30 p.m.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers: 1
Timestamp: 2008-04-18 19:23:02 UTC
Congratulations to samismom22! Email me your address, Sandy, and I'll send the book your way!


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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Selah - Please Pause to Pray

I know many of you, like I do, love the group Selah. Their music has ministered to me many, many times.

Today my heart is heavy for their lead singer, Todd Smith, and his sweet family. I discovered through one of the later comments from my Then Sings My Soul Saturday post, that his wife, Angie, delivered their 4th daughter this past Monday, April 7, and they had two precious hours with sweet Audrey Caroline before she went to be with Jesus.

They have known since January that, barring a divine miracle, this would be the outcome. They weren't certain they would have any time with her, and so those two hours were a blessing.

I encourage you to visit Angie's blog to read more about their journey, including Angie's precious letter to Audrey written after her birth. You will be richly blessed. God has provided peace beyond understanding in the midst of this unfathomable heartache.

While you are there, be sure to read her March 11 post. It has Todd's wonderful rendition of I Surrender All, which will be on Selah's new CD to be released this fall. But, as she says in the post just before that one: "And a note to all you rowdy Selah fans who are thinking of downloading it....just remember that Jesus is watching you."

And please take a moment to lift them up in prayer.


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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Then Sings My Soul Saturday

I love hymns.

Such a beautiful heritage of theology, comfort, and encouragement can be found in these sweet old songs. I also love some of the recent interpretations of these blessed hymns, as often in church we would get so caught up in singing verse-chorus-verse-chorus (and always skipping the 3rd verse!) that it was easy to miss the powerful message in the words.

Here is one of my favorite groups, Selah, singing the wonderful hymn Be Still My Soul. The words they sing are on the video but I have included the full 3 verses below for your reflection. They also intertwine a portion of What a Friend We Have in Jesus in this arrangement; that itself may be a future Saturday focus, as it was my dad's favorite hymn.

In our hurried world focused on instant gratification and high-speed everything, from internet to microwaves, may we take some moments to still our souls, especially when we walk through difficult circumstances.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Thro' thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and wind still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast' ning on
When we shall be forevr with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone.
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when changes and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Be sure to visit Signs, Miracles, & Wonders for more Saturday music for your soul!


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Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Fun

Ah, spring. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, Kelly is still buried in snow, and we now have yard-to-yard carpet on our driveway.

See, my neighborhood is called Forest North for a reason. Trees, lots and lots of beautiful, shady trees. Most of them Live Oaks. Which means that for several weeks they have been dumping their leaves. You probably rake leaves in the fall, don't you?

I'm not talking about a household putting 6-8 or even 10-12 bags of leaves out at the curb to be picked up. Try 70.

We try to shred and mulch ours, but there's only so much use you can find for that volume of leaves.

But the leaves are the least of our problems. Because after the leaves comes the oak pollen. Doesn't matter what color your car is - it's a greenish yellow if it sits in this neighborhood. There was so much falling the other day, it looked like yellow rain.

And now we're getting into the last stages where the brown flowering clumps are dropping off the trees. That is what has covered our driveway in a nice soft carpet. And there I shall leave it. Because last week I swept leaves and haven't been able to breathe all week.

This picture is not one I took, and actually, it's a relatively light amount. You can still see plenty of driveway.

Oh, and did you know that oak trees are either male or female? The males are the ones that are doing all of this pollinating. That's just a little extra info for you - no charge!

So I'm staying inside where the air is filtered and trying to park this car. Try it - I bet you can't do it in less than 5 or 15 tries!!

For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

(I just hope those trees aren't full of pollen!)


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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

Kids are so funny.

Just like when they are toddlers and they unwrap the latest bright and shiny toy, only to discard it and play with the box, children are fascinated by the unfamiliar.

I was reminded of this by Sandy's post about her kids' fascination with her neighbor's discarded typewriter.

Last summer when my kids and I were in Houston we went to a Houston Comets game with my (non-missionary) sister. After meeting for a burger beforehand, my girl rode to the game with her aunt in her new, albeit no-frills, car.

On the way home, she said, "Mom, Aunt has the NEATEST car! It has this handle that you turn to open the window! She let me roll it all the way down and back up."

Clearly, I have deprived her by driving a van with automatic windows.

About a month later, while my man and boy were on their Scout backpacking trek, she and I spent the night at an adorable bed and breakfast in Fredericksburg. And she discovered the wonders of a rotary phone.

"That is so cool! How do you dial it? Can I try?"

I showed her, including the frustration of your finger slipping so that it doesn't go all the way around. And explained how impossible it was as a teen when we still had a rotary phone and push-button phones had come out and I would try to dial in to win a radio contest. She wasn't fazed. She still wants one.

Of course, I remember when I was a kid how much I loved visiting my mom's friend who collected antiques, including the old phone pictured here!

I'm just not sure I like my own childhood being relegated to the antique category!

She delights in reminding me that the latest American Girl Historical Character is Julie - a junior high girl from 1974! Spare me! You know, way back when there were no DVD's - we watched filmstrips and reel-to-reels! And no copiers: only the mimeograph machine. (I can smell that wonderful purple ink as I type!) And every elementary school fire drill was followed by an air raid drill as we huddled under our desks with our arms over our heads (like that was going to do any good!) Oh yeah, I was in 3rd grade when our school got air conditioning!

And just think: my poor kids have never known the thrill of being chosen to clean the chalkboard erasers. . . .

So what about you? What "ancient" memories does this bring back? Are your kids fascinated . . .or horrified?!


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Monday, April 7, 2008

Some Purse-onal Matters

Yesterday's blog was on grace, today's could be titled gross!

You come in from the store, the school, the mall. . . . . . where do you set your purse? On the kitchen counter? The table?

I did until I heard the report a couple of years ago, and a reminder yesterday, about all the icky stuff that is on the bottom of our purses.

If you haven't heard about it, the Snopes info is here. An ABC news report is here. E. coli, hepatitis, and thousands of other germs, all congregating on the bottom of our purses and transferring to whatever place we put them. (BTW, the bottoms of laptop cases and diaper bags are just as susceptible.)

Ick and double ick.

Since I read that, I have quit putting my purse on the counter. I desperately try to avoid restaurant floors as well, although sometimes the chair back is so rounded the purse won't stay. And public bathroom floors are totally off limits.

And speaking of bathrooms, where is your toothbrush? If it's out on the counter in a cute little holder, you might want to rethink that as well.

Seems there's an F3 geyser component at work in our bathrooms. Who knew that toilets sprayed an aerosol of germs into the air? And that the bacterial mist can still be in the air TWO hours later? So everyone should put the lid down before they flush. And store the toothbrush in an enclosed area like a medicine cabinet.

From purses to potties, I'm just full of all kinds of good news today. Clorox wipe, anyone?


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The Suspense Might Kill Me!

Do you like suspense? Or are you a BHCC type like me? You know, a member of the Big Honkin' Chickens Club. See, Brandilyn Collins, the Queen of Christian suspense, knows some of us like her and her blog and really wanna read her books and want people to know about them, but we're just too chicken to read them ourselves. So she's gonna have a logo and a page on her new website for folks like me. (And there are even some of her author friends in the club, so I don't feel like such a wimp!)

For the rest of you who love books that go bump in the night,

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Amber Morn
(Zondervan Publishing Company - April 2008)
Brandilyn Collins

The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than sixty seconds.

Bailey hung on to the counter, dazed. If she let go, she’d collapse—and the twitching fingers of the gunman would pull the trigger. The rest of her group huddled in frozen shock.

Dear God, help us! Tell me this is a dream . . .

The shooter’s teeth clenched. “ Anybody who moves is dead.”

On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a special celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in and take them all hostage. One person is shot and dumped outside.

Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio. The gunmen insist on communicating through the “comments” section of the blog—so all the world can hear their story. What they demand, Vince can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen beloved Kanner Lake citizens will die...

Amber Morn is the climactic finale to Collins’ widely read Kanner Lake series. All first three titles in the series, Violet Dawn, Coral Moon, and Crimson Eve, were bestsellers. Library Journal placed Crimson Eve on its Best Books of 2007 list, and hailed it the “Best Christian suspense of 2007.”

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense™. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline

“Don’t forget to b r e a t h e …®”

Brandilyn writes for Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins Publishers, and is currently at work on her 19th book. Her first, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. She’s also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons), and often teaches at writers conferences. Brandilyn blogs at Forensics and Faith. Visit her Website to read the first chapters of all her books.

One of these days I'm gonna get up my nerve. . . . .


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Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Little Spiritual CPR

My mind has been juggling all the things on my to-do list this week.

Taxing things related to April 15. Medical things related to annual appointments for mammograms, migraines, and Scout camps. Planning the logistics for our upcoming ladies retreat for which I am in charge of the tech/media stuff. Bible Study - Revelation this week! Chaperoning UIL contests. And on and on and on.

One thing not on my list is breathing. But maybe it should be. Because a book I finally read this week (after having it for months!) reminded me of the importance of this.

Not breathing oxygen (although I don't recommend the cessation of that anytime soon!), but the breathing of grace.

Harry Kraus, MD, a missionary physician in Africa, has penned some great words in his book Breathing Grace: What You Need More Than Your Next Breath. And he did relate it to our physical respiratory system. Just as we don't say "Well, oxygen brought me to life at birth but I can get along without it now," grace is something we need daily. In his introduction he says,

So why is spiritual famine an epidemic both inside and outside the church? Because although we've come to Christ by recognizing grace, few of us have carried it along as essential equipment on the Christian path. We give mental assent to the truth of the gospel message, but we live our lives in famine, as if we could earn God's favor. We are God's children, but our souls are dry.

From lack of "oxygen" (grace) to spiritual emphysema, anemia, and resuscitation, he shows how we cannot afford to go through our days without life-sustaining grace, both breathing it in and breathing it out.

Yep, he stepped on my toes a few times. Good books with truth in their pages tend to do that!

BTW, you don't need a medical background to read and apply this book. Any medical illustrations are thoroughly explained. (And they will give you a renewed appreciation for the wondrous intricacies of the human body which God created.)

Grace. I can't live without it, and yet some days I completely ignore it. And still He offers it!

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 3:18


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Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Godly Life

Not long after we were married, the church we attended at that time was privileged to have George Beverly Shea in concert for a Sunday night service. He was in his early 80's at the time. (He will celebrate his 100th birthday on February 1, 2009!)

I've always loved to hear him sing. One of my favorite memories of childhood is playing his Christmas album -- a 33 1/3 rpm record! (which you young gals have only seen in the antique stores, I'm sure!) But aside from enjoying his music, one thing stands out crystal clear in my mind from that Sunday night 18 or so years ago.

His face.

He absolutely glowed with kindness, peace, love--and yes, beauty--that reflected a lifetime of walking with God. It was so striking that my husband mentioned it as well, and I remember it to this day. Whether on the platform or one-on-one afterwards, he radiated and reflected Christ. I think he's probably the godliest man I have ever met.

There are several songs that many consider his "trademark" songs, some of which he wrote. One such song is "I'd Rather Have Jesus." He actually composed the music for that song, and talked about it in an interview here at the age of 92:
You composed "I'd Rather Have Jesus" when you were 23. How did that happen? My mother had been to a meeting in New York City and brought me a poem written by Rhea F. Miller, "I’d Rather Have Jesus." On a Sunday morning, with the poem in front of me, I sat down at the piano, and the melody came to my heart and mind. When I finished that first verse and chorus, Mother, with tears in her eyes, came from an adjoining room, and put her arms around me. She had wanted that poem to have an effect on my life, and it seemed that after that morning better things happened all along the way.

Here is a video from 1987 of him singing this song. (This was probably 2-4 years before he was at my church.) The lyrics are listed below. He does not sing the final verse on this occasion, but I have included it for your reflection. It's obvious that these are not just empty words to him, but the heartfelt testimony of his life.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out of the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.

For more songs for your Saturday, head on over to Signs, Miracles, and Wonders.


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Friday, April 4, 2008

When Zeffie Got A Clue

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
When Zeffie Got a Clue
WaterBrook Press (March 18, 2008)
Peggy Darty

It’s an ordinary afternoon in Summer Breeze, Florida, when a young, wide-eyed girl steps into I Saw It First, the trash-to-treasure shop Christy Castleman and her Aunt Bobbie have opened. Clutching a jewelry box, Zeffie Adams tells Christy she needs money to pay her grandmother’s medical bills, prompting Christy to offer this curious visitor more than the jewelry box is worth–or so she thinks.

But complicated questions form when Christy rips out the box’s lining and uncovers a clue to a cold case murder mystery from eight years ago. Despite warnings from her family and handsome boyfriend Dan Brockman, Christy decides to do a little detective work of her own. After all, the infamous murder happened close to her grandmother’s farm. How risky could it be to take the jewelry box back to the Strickland plantation and ask around about it?

Soon Christy finds there is more to the small box than someone wants her to know. A jewelry theft. A mansion murder. Dangerous family secrets buried in history. Can Christy convince others to let go of the past before it’s too late?

Peggy Darty is the award-winning author of twenty-seven books, including two other cozy mysteries set in Summer Breeze, Florida: When the Sandpiper Calls and When Bobbie Sang the Blues. She has worked in film, researched for CBS, and led writing workshops around the country. Darty and her husband call Alabama home but spend a great deal of time in Colorado, Montana, and on Florida’s Emerald Coast.


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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Check These Out!


For a virtual chocolate fix, go here -- a delectable site dedicated solely to all things chocolate, some edible, some not! And right now you can help Name That Chocolate Dessert in the inaugural edition of this monthly event. What a fun blog!

And between ball games, birthday parties, or other activities, please stop back by my blog on Saturday as I join Amy for Then Sings My Soul Saturdays. I'm so looking forward to being part of this weekly focus! What a great way to prepare for Sunday worship!


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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Winner! Plus, Some Odds & Ends

I was so touched by your comments about being in the Sandwich Generation as well as the emails some of you sent. This is definitely an issue that strikes a chord with many of us. I would love to give each of you a hug and a copy of the book!

But I only have one copy to give. So congratulations to Kelli, whose name was picked in the drawing! Kelli, please email me your address and I'll get it in the mail to you right away.

And just in case there are any CPA/Auditor types reading this: please note that I folded all names into the same size, placed them in the bowl, closed my eyes, prayed while I stirred them, and pulled one out! Whew! I'm just glad I wasn't an Old Testament priest in charge of the Urim and Thummim!

I'll be having some more book giveaways in the days to come, so hopefully it will get easier. This is an area where I need to toughen up and ignore my empathetic nature!

I would like to say hello and welcome to any of you who have stopped by my blog thanks to CWO's recognition in their April issue. I'm still getting my jaw off the floor. For a brief moment, I thought it might have been an April Fool's joke! Seriously, if you do not visit that site regularly, especially their Internet Cafe for a daily devotional, you are missing a blessing.

The Ladies Bible Study at my church has just a couple more weeks left on our whirlwind overview of the entire Bible. We've called it The Big Picture, and while there are some chapters here and there in some of the prophets, I & II Chronicles, and the gospels to read during the summer, by mid-April we will have pretty much covered the entire Bible in chronological order this school year.

Today's lecture was on James, I & II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude. Shoulda worn the steel-toed shoes for this one, as quite a few convicting messages are found in those books regarding holy living. However, not to be prideful or anything, I did discover that I recently have been applying the major theme of III John. In spades!

That would be offering hospitality and a place to stay to traveling missionaries. And it didn't say a word about Scrabble. Or letting the missionary win.

Just so you know.

If you need me, I'll be reviewing the verses in I Peter 5 on humility now. . . .


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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Timely Program Wednesday Night!

As evidenced by the responses to my Family Squeeze post just below this one, many of us are currently in the role of caring for our parents or anticipate that happening in the not-too-distant future.

I just heard about a timely program produced by AARP: Caring for Your Parents will be airing on PBS stations across the country on Wednesday, April 2, and will also be available for viewing online here beginning April 3.

Although I obviously haven't seen it yet and don't know enough about it to unequivocally recommend it (and it undoubtedly will not be from a Christian perspective), it appears to be a program worth watching.

Acording to the website, the first portion of the program "underscores today's struggle to keep parents at home, tensions between siblings, and the complexity of shifting caregiver roles through an intimate look at five American families. In the end, the documentary contends successful caregiving requires one primary ingredient‒love." The final half-hour will provide practical tips on how to initiate the difficult conversations that must be had among family members regarding caregiving.

The National Alliance for Caregiving, which provides online resources for families, recommends this program, stating it "is a moving two-hour special that draws much needed attention to this universal reality."

You can check your local listings here to see if and when your PBS station will be showing this program.

And if you haven't already, be sure to comment in the Family Squeeze post by 2:00 PM CDT Wed. (April 2) to be entered in the drawing for the book giveaway!


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