Disappointment, His appointment

Last night I got the supplies ready for our typical Wednesday schedule. We usually go to piano lesson in the morning, then the library, and end with the park. Along the way, we do our schoolwork for the day. I prepared last night making sure we had all our school books and necessary supplies, the piano books, our library books to be returned, and lunch to have at the park. Before he awoke, my older son started coughing quite a bit. I don’t care to let him share germs, especially with his piano teacher, who is expecting a new baby, or her daughter who is probably about 1.5 years old. So, we cancelled our plans. We were all disappointed. Later, I noticed that Ryan wasn’t coughing very much, which made the change all the more disappointing, but God had a plan to give us a blessing and to use us as a blessing!

My younger son is learning about butterflies this week in school. As part of that, our family is raising 5 butterflies. We’ve had the caterpillars for several days. Yesterday, one pupated into a chrysalis. Just before going to bed last night, we noticed that the other caterpillars were hanging in the “J” from the top of the container. I got the idea to watch a time-lapse video of caterpillars becoming butterflies. There were a couple of neat ones on YouTube. This was my favorite of the videos and follows the species we are raising (Painted Lady).

We thought that we might have five chrysalides this morning, but there was still only one. Later we looked and there were three. Soon after that, I looked just as one of the caterpillars was shedding his skin! I called the boys over and we watched the caterpillar wiggle and squirm until the skin fell to the ground. We were all very surprised at how much it moved! It looked like a chrysalis, yet it was swinging around a lot. It seemed as though it might fall off the tiny silk pad, but it didn’t! That was a neat blessing — to see that really happen right in front of our eyes, not just on a screen! The boys thought it was really cool and exciting.

Shortly after we received that blessing, we had the opportunity to bless our neighbor. The lady came over and asked if she could borrow a butter knife because she was locked out of her house and wanted to try to pry her window open. I gave her one, but also came out to see if I could help her. When I went back for a better tool, Ryan told me that he had prayed for our neighbor to get into her house. I passed the message along to her. She was grateful and mentioned that she and her boyfriend don’t have a church in town and she was interested in maybe coming to our church. Very shortly after, the window pushed open! We talked as we worked and she told me that she recently found out she is pregnant, unexpectedly. Due to that and the window being too high for her, I went through for her. Now I have learned how I can pray for her and encourage her. We don’t always realize when God is moving us for His purposes, but it was clear that He had a plan for this day that was outside my knowledge or foresight! And by His plan, He has opened a door for me to be able to speak into her life. I pray I will be a good steward of that relationship and bring Him honor in words and actions!

While the disappointment in this story is very minor, what about broken relationships, cancer, death, and more? God is the same and is still at work. Look at Joseph, Job, and Esther. Throughout the pages, the Bible teaches us that God is sovereign. When we don’t understand why, we can turn to the Who and walk knowing that we are in His hand.


Book Review: Eyes of Justice

 Friends Cassidy, Allison, and Nicole have several things in common, but crime is the one thing that drew them together as close friends. Together, the Triple Threat Club has solved mysteries and put away criminals. But this time it’s personal. One of the club is lost while the others lives are at stake. In a fight for their lives, they seek to find the murderer, only to be blocked by those in the justice system. Will the remaining two-thirds of the Triple Threat Club survive?

Before reading this book, I had never heard of this series, but when I have extra time and money, I may go back and read some of the earlier books. This mystery had action, suspense, drama, and surprise and it did it all without glorifying sin. There is sin depicted in the book — broken relationships, murder, robbery, and more. The author simply shows it for what it is; a painful fact of life in this fallen world. Of the three main characters only one is a Christian. We are given a glimpse into the way she handles mourning, anger, friendships, authority, and more. She hasn’t been written to be a perfect person. The struggle is evident, yet in the end, Christ triumphs in her life.

The author paints each setting vividly. Her characters are genuine. And the plot never bores the reader.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others. It kept me in suspense, hoping for justice, rejoicing in victories, and thrilled with the difference Christ makes in the lives of believers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

When Grace Invades

Recently, I received from BookSneeze.com a copy of the eBook, Beauty for Ashes by Dorothy Love. The past few books I’ve read from Book Sneeze I haven’t been thrilled with. I’m glad to say that I really enjoyed this one!

This story takes place shortly after the Civil War during a time of economic depression in the south. Carrie, a young widow who is determined and devoted to her Lord, is enamored when Griff rolls into town. Though a Charleston gentleman, Griff is secretive and the ladies of Hickory Ridge look down upon Carrie for her kindness to him. Weighted down with struggles in her family and her friendships, Carrie constantly falls back on her Lord. She is reminded of her grandmother’s Biblical wisdom and strong faith. Though circumstances seem impossible, the grace of God overcomes all and gives beauty in the place of life’s many ashes for both Carrie and Griff.

This is definitely a book written for the ladies! I don’t often read romance novels. Too often they can lead to sin as they depict overly romantic men or overly sensual relationships. Dorothy Love did a fabulous job of telling a tale of love that focused on faith, instead of the people. Her characters do not seem extreme in any way. As they face trials of various kinds, they respond as people do — sometimes with great faith, sometimes in their own strength, and sometimes wavering between the two. Though there wasn’t much word for word Scripture, Biblical Truth is woven throughout the story. The culmination of the story brings God glory as He is shown to be the cause of wrongs made right, the source of genuine love shown in difficult circumstances, and sovereignly orchestrating all events for His purposes. Through the story, characters grow more Christ-like, spurn one another on in love, and encourage one another in faith. This book didn’t leave me thirsting for the next in the series, but it was a pleasant diversion for a few hours one day and left me longing to love others sacrificially as Christ loves His Church and as illustrated in the book.

Book Review: Stained Glass Hearts by Patsy Clairmont

Stained Glass Hearts: Seeing Life from a Broken Perspective is intended to help the believer see God at work among the trail of glass shards in which life leaves one’s heart. In this world, everyone experiences trials and sorrows. These leave our hearts in pieces that we may think unusable, unfixable, and undesirable. In this book, Clairmont uses art to help show the grace of God poured out to take the broken pieces of our hearts and create a stained glass masterpiece. Each chapter closes with several pieces of varying art (painting, poetry, literature, music, etc.) for the reader to google and enjoy.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. Repeatedly, I found myself identifying with the emotions, faulty beliefs, and hopes that the Clarimont outlined. The early chapters challenged me to deeper faith. A few of the art items that she recommended were moving. But in the second half of the book, it seemed that the theme of art was forced and more central to the book than God’s grace. The final chapter was a bit redeeming as she encouraged the reader to care for the stained glass heart God is so sweetly working on. My final criticism is that the book needs more Scripture! God’s Word is what has the power to heal broken hearts! The book isn’t void of the Bible, but it often seems thrown in as an aside. Overall, I recommend the first 6 chapters and the final chapter.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosToday I had the urge to bake some sort of bread with the blueberries I picked up yesterday. I found this recipe online and gave it a try. It’s really good! I didn’t have a fresh lemon on hand so I substituted lemon juice for the lemon zest. A normal substitution is 2 Tbsp lemon juice for each tsp of zest. I only did half that mostly because I was somewhat distracted with my five year old helper!

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (outer yellow skin of the lemon)
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

Lemon Glaze:
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a non stick vegetable spray) the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3 inch) (23 x 13 x 8 cm).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until softened (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three additions) and milk (in two additions) alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix only until combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaf all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaf with the hot lemon glaze. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 30 minutes then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. This bread is best served on the day it is made.

Makes one loaf.

The original recipe can be found at www.joyofbaking.com

Delighting in God

One of several tables at our wedding reception that my mom catered mostly by herself!

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you thedesires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been looking at Psalm 37 in my Bible study time. This morning, the question was posed, “What does it mean to ‘delight yourself in the LORD?'” I thought I had that figured out. Simply put, it means to enjoy Him! That’s not wrong, but since the question was posed, I thought maybe I should try to look and see if there was something deeper that I might be missing. First I went to the Strong’s Dictionary on my phone. It told me that the word “delight” was “anog” in the Hebrew and that it meant “to be soft, delicate, dainty.” How in the world does being soft, delicate, or dainty tie in with enjoying something? I then went to Crosswalk and found further definitions that made a little more sense. “To be dainty of habit or pampered.” “To be happy about, take exquisite delight in.”

While that lined up with my original understanding of the verse, I was still curious if I was missing a little something more. The Treasury of David commentary gave a word picture.

 Every name, attribute, word, or deed of Jehovah, should be delightful to us, and in meditating thereon our soul should be as glad as is the epicure who feeds delicately with a profound relish for his dainties. (Emphasis mine)

This visual of a food lover carefully and purposefully creating and indulging in his delicacies brought the idea home for me. I thought of my mom, who is an amazing cook and baker. She seems to truly enjoy every moment of creating the foods she serves — even the grocery shopping. She travels over an hour to go to the grocery stores and farmers market that she has learned will have the exact items she wants in the best quality. She picks the choicest meat, produce, and herbs and spices. Then she puts them together in the way and the order that will bring out the best flavors and textures. The time is not tiring or wasteful to her. She truly enjoys doing all this. And her joy is complete when she serves the food to others and sees that they enjoy the fruits of her labor. But her labor isn’t best when devoured quickly. It’s best when the person takes time to enjoy the appearance and the aroma. It’s best when each morsel is chewed slowly so that the flavors fill the mouth and the excellent texture is noticed.

It is in this way that we delight in God! We are to carefully and purposefully enjoy Him,  enjoy laboring for His fruit, and enjoy His fruit in others. I think of times when I have done an act of service supposedly for Him, but in the end I was tired, glad it was done, and possibly thought of things that would have been a “better” use of my time and energy. And I know that I wasn’t delighting in God. If I had been, He would have given me the desires of my heart, joy and peace. It’s really what we all want — to be happy. To enjoy life. To not be stressed. We may desire stuff, relationships, and more, but truthfully we just want those things so that we might be happier or more at peace. Our solution is simple, delight in God! He will fill the desire for joy and peace, though it may not be the way we think we want or expect.

This begs the question, “how do we delight in God?” The verses leading into this verse instruct three things. Don’t fret, don’t be envious of wrongdoers, and trust God. The verse following instructs us to commit our way to Him and trust Him and He will do it. He will do what? Give us the desires of our heart! So we show our delight in Him

  1. By not fretting (ouch, I fret over everything!). If we are fretting, then we aren’t trusting Him who is worthy to be trusted and able to do all things!
  2. By not being envious of the wrongdoers. Do you ever wish you had the nice home, yard, or car that a neighbor who’s not a believer has? Read more in Psalm 37, you’ll discover that the wrongdoer, the wicked, the evil will be cut off. You’ll have an inheritance forever. We may or may not see abundance in our finances and stuff now, but we will have abundance in eternity! And as believers, we have all the riches of Christ! Why should we envy those whose only riches are are perishing?
  3. By trusting God.

The life of religion lies much in a believing reliance on God, his favour, his providence, his promise, his grace, and a diligent care to serve him and our generation, according to his will. We must not think to trust in God and then live as we list. No; it is not trusting God, but tempting him, if we do not make conscience of our duty to him. Nor must we think to do good, and then to trust to ourselves, and our own righteousness and strength. No; we must both trust in the Lord and do good.                              — Matthew Henry Commentary

4. By committing our way to Him.

This post has gotten far longer than I intended, so I’ll leave with this final thought from The Treasury of David.

Think what he is, and what you are; and at once, both wonder and yield. And what else have you to delight in? what thing will you name that shall supply the place of GOD, or be to you in the stead of him? Moreover, who should delight in him but you — his friends, his sons, those of his own house?

Keeping Consistent

I knew going on the cruise would be difficult for Ryan. He has a hard time adjusting to new places and situations. Like me, he quickly feels overwhelmed when surrounded by many people. The first day of the cruise was the hardest with not much fun going on as we checked in, found our room, did the safety briefing, etc. Finally, by the time dinner was done Ryan told me that he wished we hadn’t come on the cruise. I brought both boys down to the cabin to get ready for bed. As we prepared for bed, Ryan’s biggest concern was, “Will we be back home for Christmas?” I assured him that we would, then pulled out The Advent Book. This is a special book we have that goes through the Christmas story. It has beautiful pictures hidden behind doors. We have read it with the boys every year since Ryan was 1. I’m so thankful that we brought this book with us! We almost forgot it, but on the way out, Ryan asked about it, so my loving husband took us back home to get it. This piece of consistency gave Ryan great peace. As we sat together and read the book, his smile returned to his face. When I finished reading the 17th door, I closed the book while he jumped up and sang Away in a Manger. Then he said, “It’s time to pray!” Every night we always pray with the boys before they go to bed. Often we have to get on his case about complaining or causing distraction to the prayer, but on this night, he was so happy for this consistency that he prayed first then quietly listened. I am so thankful that we had a bedtime routine we could take with us! This one bit of consistency saved my sweet boy from complete despair the first night!

Free eBooks!

Carnival Paradise

Thanks to my parents generous gift, we will be heading out on this boat soon! I’m sure we will be busy with all that the boat has to offer, but there’s nothing I’d rather do more on a vacation than just have quiet time to read. So just in case I do get time to read, I thought I’d look around for some books to load up on my nook. I was very happy to find that CBD has a bunch of titles available for free right now! My husband, knowing how I tend to be swallowed into my books, probably won’t be too thrilled to read this, but I’m excited! And free is always nice! Sorry Kindle users, these books aren’t compatible with those devices, but CBD does have a free iOS app and computer program if you want to check out any of these titles.

Book Review: The Encounter by Stephen Arterburn

The Encounter is the fictional story of two individuals who desperately need restoration of a relationship. The wealthy entrepreneur, Jonathan Rush, has stuffed his anger for 31 years and is destined for destruction. Ada Guthrie, a poor, elderly, and independent woman, knows the depths of God’s forgiveness, yet refuses to forgive herself. This is the story of the paths that bring these two opposites together for an encounter that will change their hearts and lives.

This is a short book and reads quickly. Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I don’t highly recommend it. This is purely due to my personal preference that when I read a Christian novel, it would be one that is saturated with God. What I mean by that is that I want to use my time well, so if I’m going to invest my time in a novel, I want it to draw me to a deeper relationship with God by challenging my beliefs (or lack of belief) by using Scripture and through conversations, ramblings, or hearing the thoughts of God at work. This story hardly mentioned God. There were references to a pastor, some churches, and religion. Towards the end there was finally a voiced prayer and a hymn was quoted a couple of times. There was no Scripture at all that I recall and Jesus was never actually named. However, the story was well written. I was engaged and hoping for the happy-ever-after ending. The best part of the book was the last ten-fifteen pages when the author described where the story came from (two real-life encounters), how God taught him and is using him, and how he has seen God at work. If you’re going to check out this book, make sure you read that part!