Saturday, July 6, 2013

It's been a long and relaxing weekend

Crepe myrtle, sage and cannas in my back yard.

This has been the strangest weekend for me.  I worked last Sunday afternoon and evening getting payroll ready to be processed a day early since this week had  a holiday in it.  So I was able to take off Friday and have a four day weekend.  I have been extremely busy at work lately and it has carried over into getting home late most evenings, so Thursday I didn't really know what to do with myself.   Yesterday was much easier, and today was fun!  Tomorrow starts Vacation Bible School so next week will be busy, too.  I am very thankful I was able to take these four days off!  

Because of the rain and thunder storms my son and I opted not to go to any fireworks shows this year.  Or any parades.  I guess when you hit the big 17 you just feel like a kid if you go to a parade.  Well, being a 40 something woman, sometimes I think it's nice to feel like a kid and go to a parade.  However, we just hung around the house after going to WalMart (to cash his paycheck) and then his favorite store, Game Stop.  Why would you want to go to Game Stop?!?  It's so BORING!  But we didn't forget why we celebrate the Fourth.  I am very grateful for all the sacrifices that were made for me and my family to live in a free country, and to worship in a manner we choose.   Of course we remembered my grandfather, my son's great grandfather, who passed away a couple of years ago.  He served in World War II and was highly decorated.  My son thinks of him as a hero (I do, too!).  I think it's really great that not only I and my siblings, but my children got to spend a great deal of time with our Papa.  He was an awesome man, and we miss him.

Elephant ears, monkey grass and hostas in backyard corner.
This is Alabama, and although it is generally very hot and very humid this time of year, it has rained All Week Long...  no joke, and the temps have been hanging around the upper seventies (we are used to high 90s this time of year).  I had planned do do yard work this weekend.  The yard really needs it and I am sure the neighbors would appreciate it.  There's been a lot of yard work going around and every one's yards look wonderful.  Then there is my yard.  Let's just say that all this rain has made my bushes try to become trees.  It's so embarrassing!  So yesterday afternoon I took advantage of a lull in the rain and laid into those bushes.  They gave it back, though.  I had leaves and limbs hanging all over me when I was done (I have loropetalums, and they stick to stuff and itch).  We are scheduled to have rain all next week, so I'll probably be out there butchering my loropetalums again very soon.  If I don't, they get out of hand very quickly.  Next I need to get after the holly...I hate that stuff.  Maybe I can just chop it down...My yard looks wonderful now, and with all the rain and the great temperatures, everything is starting to look like a beautiful garden.  Like it should.  Like my mother, I enjoy working in the yard.  Planting flowers, etc.  When I come in from working in the yard, I am often quite filthy.   I don't know how people can garden and not get really dirty.  What are they doing that I am not?  Well, enough about yard work.

My attempt at a dishcloth
Yesterday I also touched up a painting my sister found in my parent's barn.  Cleaned up the frame, and hung it over the piano.  Elizabeth, awesome idea!  It looks like it was made to hang there!  Then I found a pattern online showing how to knit washcloths.  I had made a few out of yarn and love them, they work so well.  So I was looking for a different pattern, and I found one that uses crochet thread.  You just hold two strands together and knit on the diagonal.  I am halfway finished, knitted while I watched movies, and it looks great!  I'm sure it will work well, too.  I also found a site that showed how to make face scrubbies.  Crocheted.  Really cool.  Made up a bunch of those.  I'll be sharing with my sister.

Today I decided to do a little painting.  I had a blank canvas and tons of photos, and my sister (once again the one with the good ideas) suggested that I paint one of my floral photos for my room.  This is what I came up with:  

Now I am waiting on the roast to finish cooking, will cook some rice and pop in some french bread, and dinner will be ready.    Right now it smells really good!  There is enough food that dinner will be ready for the rest of the week.  Especially since we start Vacation Bible School next week, and we get fed at the church every night. 

How has your weekend gone?  What did you do on the Fourth?  And don't worry, this was an extraordinary weekend for me! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Prairie Song

By:  Mona Hodgson
Published by:  Waterbrook Press 2013

Although Prairie Song is the first book in a new series called Hearts Seeking Home, by Mona Hodgson, it picks up where the story left off in the series The Quilted Heart.  Prairie Song follows Anna Goben, her mother and her grandfather as they leave their home in Missouri for the promised land of California.  Anna hopes the trip and the new home will be the catalyst that will change all their lives.  They suffered a terrible trauma during the war (Civil War) in the death of Anna's brother.  Now they have an awefull secret -- her mother is an alcoholic -- and her grandfather has given up on life.  This is a family who is just living from day to day and not experiencing a life of contentment or joy.

Anna is right.  The trip brings about change in her family, if not change as she had hoped. And along with friends who leave Missouri with her family, she finds new friends along the trail.  And could she also find love?  Will she need to give up being the one in the family everyone leans on?  Can she really do that?  She has always sacrificed her life for the well being of others.  Now she finds that might have been a big mistake.

This book has not yet been released for publication.  However, you can pre-order on or with your favorite retailer.  As usual, I am looking forward to reading all the books in this series -- when they come out!

In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of WaterBrook Multnomah's book review program.

Shakespeare Theatre, Montgomery, Alabama

One of the many lakes in the park

Several days ago I wrote the following, and just want to share.  If you are ever in the area you might want to check out the Shakespeare Theatre and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, both located on the grounds of the Blount Cultural Park.

This is incredible. I am sitting at a picnic table in front of the Shakespeare Theatre in Montgomery, Alabama, in the Blount Cultural Park. I dropped my son off with my brothers in Pike Road this morning. Of course I am not going to drive all of the way back home and then back again when he is finished. It's a little more than 25 miles one way! So I am at Shakespeare, enjoying this beautiful morning. It's a little after 8:30, the birds are singing, there is a soft breeze blowing, and it's not yet hot, which is wonderful. The sun is shining, the geese and ducks are on the pond and on the lawn, and walkers and joggers pass on the trails behind and in front of me. And I am being lazy! What a great way to spend a morning, with nothing pressing to do – but wait. And get caught up on my book reviews. Did I mention the smells? Sort of sweet, sort of green, all good and full of smiles. I think next weekend I'll bring Bella and we will walk, then crash and read. The wind is blowing stronger now, but not hard. I look across the small lake and see the wind blowing the leaves of a tree, making the light bounce off the leaves and looking like lights twinkling in the wind. The gentle ripples of the lake are glittering with light, too. Wish I could capture that on film.  Such an idyllic place to be in the morning.  I'm going to have to go back soon with my camera.  Cell phone photos don't do justice to the beauty here.
 Looking forward to going back very soon.

Sculpture in the park

BOOK REVIEW: Seven Steps to Knowing, Doing and Experiencing The Will of God for Teens

Seven Steps to Knowing, Doing and Experiencing The Will of God for Teens
Experiencing God at Home
By: Tom Blackaby, Mike Blackaby and Daniel Blackaby
Published by: B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2013

I was very pleased with this book! It is written by the son and two grandsons of the famous Henry Blackaby who wrote Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing The Will of God. I have never read the elder Mr. Blackaby's book, but I am certainly now entertaining the idea of finding it and reading it. His son and grandsons have made that great of an impression on me.

I just about guarantee that if you have a teenager in your life and you give them this book, they will learn much about how to learn about and serve God in their daily life. More than likely they won't be able to put the book down. It is written in such a way that it captures the attention. It shares personal experiences of each of the Blackaby's – some humorous, some challenging – as well as snapshots from history in helping to outline how to know and do God's will.

There are seven steps outlined:

  • God is always at work around you;
  • God Pursues a Love Relationship with You;
  • God Invites You to become involved with Him in His work;
  • God speaks by the Holy Spirit (this step is broken into four parts);
  • God's invitation leads to a crisis of belief;
  • Adjustments;
  • You come to know Bod by experience as you obey Him, and He accomplishes His work through Him.

Each chapter is followed up with study questions and ample space to write your thoughts. This book is written in an engaging, thoughtful, sometimes humorous manner, and will hold your attention and make you think. It just might help you grow to know God in a more personal way.

Why not read this book along with your teen? It's not too simple for adults to learn from, and you might learn how to relate to your teen while you're at it!

In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Shelton Interactive's book review program.

BOOK REVIEW: Experiencing God at Home

By Tom and Richard Blackaby
Published by B&H Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee 2013

As an adult, what is the most difficult area of your life? Where do you often have to make the hardest decisions, and sometimes experience what are your greatest failures or greatest accomplishments? If you are a parent, it would be in raising your family. And if you are a Christian, it is raising your children to become followers of Christ, to accept Him as their own. That's what this book sets out to accomplish. It applies guidelines from Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. It is the belief of the authors, and my belief as well, that it is harder today to raise Christian, God-fearing children, than it has ever been. If you don't believe it, think about your own youth and compare it with the experiences and temptations our own kids have to deal with today.

The Blackaby's use their own families as examples of how to raise Godly children, and don't polish the stories to make their families look good. Do you think your kids are going to make it easy to raise them as Christians? No, their natural bent, as well as yours and mine, is to lean towards sin. Isn't that our birthright? Our inheritance from our long ago first ancestors? And just how self-centered is this generation? I have heard from my own children that it's “all about me”. They are right. You see it everyday everywhere you look. Haven't you heard the phrase calling this the “me generation”?

Here's a statistic that hits home for me: “Some studies indicate that roughly 70 percent of children who grow up attending church with their family will walk away from church – and often God – when they become teenagers and young adults.” I can attest to that. My own teenage sons who grew up in church and both made professions of faith as kids, politely refuse to attend church any longer. Fortunately I still see the impact of what they learned in their lives through their kindness to others and their casual, unsolicited comments on faith.

You may find yourself alternately laughing and crying as you read this book, and hopefully on your knees asking God to use you to influence your children to follow Him. You will find not only practical examples of how to and not to raise your children, but also study guides at the end of chapters. And have you ever heard that the only person you can ever change is yourself? You'll find ideas for that in this book, as well. And when you change yourself and allow God to work in your own life, maybe you will be surprised that it flows through you and allows your family to want to learn to follow Him, too. Nothing, however, comes without great effort and much prayer. And unfortunately sometimes that is not enough. We all have the gift of free will. Sometimes we must endure the heartache and continue to trust God. Don't give up!

I don't want to give away the contents of this book – you are going to be in for some surprises! Talk about Biblical examples of parents in the Bible – how many of them were successful? Who were failures? You might be surprised! Take a chance, read the book, and challenge your family to a closer walk with God. And share this book with others!

In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Shelton Interactive's book review program.

BOOK REVIEW: Sammy Experiences God

By Tom Blackaby and Rick Osborne
Illustrated by Isabella Kung
Published by: B & H Kids, Nashville, Tennessee, 2013

Normally I don't mention illustrators, because I normally don't read children's books anymore since I have teenagers. However I read this book, and I must say I was highly impressed by the illustrator. The illustrations take up the whole page, edge to edge, of every page of this book. The text is superimposed on top. On top of the illustrations are representations of the main character's sketches.

Sammy is a young boy who loves to hear his dad read Bible stories to him. He calls them “God adventures”. While his dad reads, Sammy sketches what he learns. One particular night he asks God if he can be in a God adventure. Over the next few days Sammy desperately tries to re-enact what he has learned in the Bible. Stories about Jacob, King David, Moses, Elijah, Abraham, Paul and Timothy. Each time he is disappointed, because God doesn't show up as he expects Him to. Finally, Sammy is taken on a fishing trip with his grandfather, and his grandfather points out the secret. It was there all along.

This book is not only filled with wonderful illustrations, and a great story for kids, it also has talking points on each page. At the end of the book is a list of ideas on how to make the story behind the story – actually the story of the Bible, more real to your child. As the book says, “God doesn't want our kids to experience Him just in their heads but in their hearts and lives as well. That's a journey that can take time and guidance.”

This book is a great teaching tool for your own children, or any other kids you know. 

In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Shelton Interactive's book review program.

BOOK REVIEW: I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference

 I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference
By Thom S. Ranier
Published by: B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2013

This little book is packed. With ideas, attitude and conviction. Seven small chapters focusing what I can do to be a better church member. Each chapter is summed up with a pledge and study questions. The book is less than 100 pages long so it doesn't take long at all to read. However, I would suggest reading and studying one chapter at a time, absorbing what Mr. Ranier is saying, and learn how to apply that to your life before continuing on to the next chapter. This book is as much about what a church member should not be as what one should be.

I mentioned that this book is convicting. It is! One of the most convicting chapters for me is chapter 4, I Will Pray for My Church Leaders. Do you know how hard it is to be a Christian leader, especially in this day and age? You think the devil comes after you, but a Christian leader who is sold out to God, who is trying to do as they believe God would lead them, is under constant attack. I had forgotten. I was moved to tears and had to confess in prayer, and then begin praying hard for my pastor. And I have seen God moving in my church since that time, or maybe God has removed the scales from my eyes and allowed me to see, and pray more specifically.

If you want to improve your walk with Christ, and if you want to grow as a Christian, I would highly recommend this little book. This is one that I will be passing along, but asking for it to be returned so I can read it over and over and remind myself of what I should be doing. By the way, the author is the CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and is a pastor and researcher. As such, he has his finger on the heartbeat of modern Christians.

In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Shelton Interactive's book review program.