Sunday, May 29, 2016

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

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Unfortunately, this was the third book in a three book series called the Two Blue Doors series, so it really jumped into the middle of the story.  While it can definitely be read on its own and it flows nicely there is a lot of questions that are raised that would have been explained in the first two books. This is bummer, especially beings I had the options of reviewing the first two books but I didn't know the author and so I passed. Oh well.

Anyway, on to the book. It's very much fluffy reading with the typical romance. One interesting part of the book is that they found the diary of their grandmother and were able to see how life was back then and also read of the struggles their grandmother went through during World War II. The book was well-written and interesting. There were recipes scattered throughout the book at the end of various chapters which is kind of interesting, but I don't very quickly think to grab a fiction book as a place to find a recipe for supper. However, there was a recipe for homemade ravioli that I might like to try sometime!!

It's called Christian and while it's not unChristian, it's not really Christian in my book. There was pretty much no mention of God made, the characters didn't seem to seek God for help or praise Him in the good times. So to actually call it Christian is a pretty loose definition. However, the scenes are all clean and there is no bad language so in that way it was wholesome reading. But when I read fiction, I like to have something inspirational to share on my review that could challenge, encourage, or bless readers and there is nothing that I can share from this book.

I did enjoy reading the book and would likely pick another of Hillary's books to read if it were to become available for reviewing and if I was looking for fluffy, light, mindless reading, which I do look for at times.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books for the purpose of reading and writing a review on it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Birthday Thoughts

This week contained my birthday and I turned a year older. Pretty surprising huh?

Anyway, not too long ago a couple friends and I were discussing birthdays and if we liked a big hullabaloo about birthdays or if we preferred to pass the day quietly with little fanfare. I think we all agreed we liked to keep the hubbub to a minimum.

Now, I've had my birthday again, I've had a few in this life and I loved the day. It has to rank as one of the top birthdays ever. Was there a big party? No. Did people remember? Yes. Was there singing? Unfortunately yes and some awkward hugging too, which was not my idea, but memorable I suppose.
But mostly the day was special because I got to spend it with people I love. I went for a walk with my sis-in-law and niece, spent the morning and lunch with my mom and sister and all of the above with my daughter. Then, wonder of wonders, Dave took off work early, as in mid-afternoon, as in that never happens just because (actually his truck was getting serviced, but...) and we left said daughter with her grandma and we took off like a bunch of kids and went to Duluth.

We took the very scenic route driving through a job he is trucking out of, stopping off at Superior Street for a Starbucks. It was my birthday and I had a free drink to Caribou Coffee and Starbucks both, and yes, I took advantageous of both offers. Then on up to Hermantown where we went shopping for birthday gifts, out to supper at Texas Roadhouse and then for dessert to Cold Stone Creamery.  There was a lot of food involved, yes, but also really good conversation and just good times being together and able to focus on each other and not trying to keep Amber happy. We got home way too late, but it was SO MUCH FUN.  On top of that, D had taken me flower shopping the previous Saturday also for my birthday.

This all coming from a man who generally mentions the fact that he needs to go shopping the eve of my birthday or any other holiday in which gifts are exchanged.

So I still prefer not to have people singing happy birthday or having a big party where I am the center of attention, but I do love being celebrated and spending quality time with my favorite people.

So there you have it. What are your most favoritest birthday memories? And how do you prefer to celebrate? Quietly or with great fanfare?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Saving my Assassin by Virginia Prodan

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Wow!! This is a book worth reading.

Our pastor this morning in his sermon was talking about duty versus safety and which should you put first. So much of today's culture is "Safety first". But what does Jesus call us to do? He calls us to lay down our lives and follow Him. While our pastor was preaching, Virginia came to mind.

She was raised in communist Russia under the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu. She became a lawyer because she wanted to know what truth was and she wanted to defend truth. While a lawyer, she found Jesus and the course of her career shifted. She was still a lawyer, but a lot of her work was defending Christians who were being wrongly treated, caught for carrying Bibles or whose churches were not being allowed to expand or even restore. She started to get threatened by the Securitate and realized that her life was not her own but she still determined to help those who asked for her help.

What really saved her life, I think, is the fact that the American Embassy and two radio programs, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe followed her work. Nicolae was trying desperately to appear like a human rights country and so he had to let her win her cases because of the publicity she was generating, plus it wouldn't have looked good for him to have her "disappear" as a lot of people did during his regime.

The climax of the book is when she is sitting in her office at the end of the day, her assistant has gone home and this big man comes in, pulls a gun and says, "I am here to kill you." Even though, she was terrified, Virginia begins to tell the man about Jesus and how He loves him. The big man starts crying and accepts Jesus as His Savior right there in that room.

Eventually, Virginia was placed under house arrest and during that time the American Embassy worked to get her out of the country. Romania didn't want other people to follow her example and start defending the rights of the Christians and other under-represented people.

Unfortunately, her husband didn't see eye to eye with her and after they moved to America, her marriage dissolved.

This is just a really good story. What is amazing is that her assassin was serious in his commitment to Jesus and as soon as the Revolution was over, he went to seminary in Romania and became a minister. He later went to see Virginia in her office in Texas.

I definitely recommend this book. I read it aloud on our recent trips and it made the time go super fast. It was a compelling read. You knew she survived because she wrote the book, but you really wondered how. God definitely was looking out for her and performing miracles on her behalf.

I received this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What I'm Listening To

You know how when you get excited about something you learned or something you've done, etc. etc. you want to share it with someone? Well, that's the reason for this blog. I've been listening to some stuff online that is making me think and causing me to reexamine my own thoughts and it makes me need to dig in and make some changes. Now, I haven't necessarily done all of these things, but they need to be done and I want to do these things.

Earlier, I read the book #Struggles by Craig Groeschel and I really enjoyed his style of writing. (Warning, this is a bit random and may be a little hard to follow my thinking here). Also for one of my New Year's Resolutions, I put a goal of reading four marriage books this year. I have one done, so I need to get on this goal. Anyway, one of the books I wanted to read was From This Day Forward by Craig Groeschel. Why? Because I enjoyed his #Struggles book. Are you getting the spaghettied up connection here? But, our dear little library and its interlibrary loan system haven't learned about Craig Groeschel and his books yet, which is sad and I'm cheap and don't like to buy books at full price so I haven't gotten the marriage book yet, but...... I discovered the series of messages that Craig gave at his church on the book and so I am listening to those and am going to call it my second book in the marriage genre.

So, that was a long-winded explanation of how I got here to a five-week series on how to fail proof your marriage. I am only part way through and I have been convicted on things I need to do better at. Reading marriage books always inspires me to put more effort and energy into making our marriage good. Now, I know that some people who read this blog may not have a good marriage or may not even be married. Don't quit reading at this point, these sermons are for you as well. He talks about each of those issues as well. His five points are:

Seek God (pray together)
Fight Fair (I'm going to talk about this a bit more in another paragraph)
Have fun (He rates this one as PG13, but one good point he makes is, you got married because you had fun together, keep having fun together, do stuff together, take time for each other)
Stay pure
Never give up.

I haven't listened to the last two yet, but if you are looking for some practical teaching, some humorous teaching and just some motivation to give your marriage a tune up, listen to these messages.

The other thing I have been listening to are Sally Clarkson's podcasts. I have to listen to these on my phone because my computer is weird, but anyway. This is a very informal discussion with Kristen Kill about raising children and discipling them, etc. etc. I have been challenged by what she says. In fact, some of it feels so far removed from what I would have grown up with that I wonder if it's really true, but I do think it is possible.

One thing that Sally and Craig both said in relation to children and spouses respectively that is so true is don't use the words "always" and "never". When you are frustrated or in an argument, don't say "You always do this" or "You never help around the house" or "You never obey me when I tell you to do something." That is destructive and very likely untrue. For a child, it can make them feel like they will never be good enough and for a spouse it is disrespectful.

Anyway, I have been impressed and challenged by these two speakers and I wanted to share them with you so in case you are looking for something inspirational to listen to, you have some new ideas now.

And now, I think I need to go check on the little girl who is growing up much too fast and is full of energy and ambition and loves being outside. She doesn't talk much yet, but when I ask her if she wants to go inside, her answer is to push the door closed which I take to be a rather strong NO. However, all I need to do is bring out the bread bag and she is more than happy to come inside. She is also obsessed with all things shoes and socks, so if you come to our house please make sure your shoes are clean!!!!!!!!!! And I probably should go rescue her dad's Sunday socks from my side of the bed and get the angel bear out of his closet that was left there in exchange for the socks. I think the trade off was a rip off, but she didn't so....  Oh and now everything is quiet again, so I am going to assume she is still happy in her crib.

Happy Thursday to you all.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

O To Be Like Thee

So it's the end of the day and I want to post something, so I am simply going to post the lyrics to a song. I am very bad at actually thinking about what I am singing in church, but Sunday these words reached out and grabbed me, I might do a longer post examining the words later, but just think about these words.

O to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

O to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! Lord, I am coming
Now to receive anointing divine;
All that I am and have I am bringing,
Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Simply Calligraphy by Judy Detrick

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A Beginner's Guide to Elegant Lettering

I read a few reviews before I picked this book to review and the reviews suggested that it was a pretty simple book and they were right. I took calligraphy classes many years ago and that is what most of this book is about, the basic italic letters in calligraphy.

However, I like having the review and it all neatly done up in one book. Plus the book did offer some way to add a bit of elegance to the letters with embellishes and flourishes. It also offered two other alphabet "fonts" though not with any direction, but they should be pretty easy to follow.

If you are looking for in depth lettering, this book is not for you, but if you are looking for a review on the basics of calligraphy, this might be just the book you need. It made me want to go do practice calligraphy again and also gave me a good idea of a fountain pen that would be good to start with. I have a true fountain pen, as in pen and inkwell, but I don't really want to start practicing with that.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson

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An Evie Blackwell Cold Case

I like Dee Henderson and this book totally met expectations. I liked it because it had the intrigue of a mystery with out all the suspense and wondering how the heroes were going to get out of that tight spots. There were no tight spots, it was cold cases, but sad, sad, heart-wrenching cold cases that are so true to life to what we face today. There are bad people in this world, people who abuse, people who murder, etc. etc.

The book left so much unfinished though. The big cold cases were solved, the family of Thanes and their personal lives were left hanging. There is still Karen who is hiding from a murderer who's still running free because the jury didn't believe her story. She is fast becoming an important part in Will's life. There's Grace who is having to deal with the fact her uncle killed her parents so he could become her legal guardian and then molest her for 6 years and then when he got tired of her, pick another 6 year old to molest and kill. Josh wants her as part of the Thane family. And there's Evie who has no idea what she wants out of life yet but she wants to be good at her job, as a detective and she is. I'm guessing and hoping there are more books about this family coming out.

I always like to pull something inspirational out of fiction books when I write my review and this one struck a chord with me. I want to remember the next few lines for a long time and apply them to my life. This was said to the mother of the tight knit Thanes, "You're one of the strongest women of prayer I know." That, along with the next couple pages just really cemented for me again how much I want to be a woman of prayer, how much I want to spend time praying for my husband, for my daughter, for the hurting people around me. I want to be known as a strong woman of prayer. It's easy enough to be known as a strong woman, but there's a special strength in a person that only comes by spending time in prayer and I want to be that person. I know it takes effort, effort I too often don't take the time to make, but I want to, I really do.

This book was given me by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mother's Day

So I have a few things I want to say in this post, but let me start with the good stuff.


I have a really great mom. She has given me many things that I could learn from. I'm not saying I've learned them yet, just things I could learn.

She has taught me to be tough or strong or whatever word you want to use here. When the going gets tough and life seems hard, mom gets out there and keeps moving. She doesn't curl up in a ball or expect people to cater to her, she goes and sews a quilt or something like that.

She has imparted to me her love of quilts. I love to sew quilts and decide what pattern to make and help pick out the colors. I would say most of the time, she just gives in to my color choices because I don't think she always likes them, but she's gracious about it.

She listens. For much of my youth days, she would wait up until I would come home from volley ball or where ever and she would be interested in hearing me talk about my evening. Even after I went to school and then left home, she was always interested. Looking back and even now when I talk to her, I imagine she has to be bored some of the time, but she never shoes it.

She loves to help people and reach out and take care of people. I could definitely learn from this.

She has a strong work ethic, that I've caught on to to a certain extent, but not as much as she has. I've let her keep a good portion of that!!!!


I am a mom now too. It's weird to think about it quite like that. I'm not sure what Amber would say if she could articulate her thoughts. I think today she would say I was a good mom because I let her eat two cookie halves, you know the sandwich cookies, in which I took the half that had the filling and gave her the plain half (Please don't tell her) and got her her own rag to "help" me mop the floor. That ended in cookie crumbs on the newly mopped portion of the floor and a switcheroo game between playing with BOTH rags and taking bites of cookie. We then went outside for awhile where she delighted in walking through the grass, finding sticks, and pulling grass. Next it was a tub bath where she pulled the plug promptly and let her water down and then played in the waterless tub.

I realized something today as I was watching her. I am enjoying this stage of being a mom. I can tell her to go do something and a lot of the times, if they are simple instructions, she can follow through and accomplish them. I'm always impressed with how much she knows. I can interact with her and though she may not say many words, she is generally able to get across what she wants me to know. This is also a scary time, because what all is she catching on to that I don't even realize I am doing?

So mother's day is Sunday, and I want to say something that won't be widely popular, but I really don't like Mother's Day at all. For the last 3 years, it has been just a bad day for me. The first 30 years of my life, Mother's day was a day on the calendar. I always tried to get a card for mom, for the last 15 years or so, give or take a few, (maybe even take this year but it's not mother's day yet). Enter Mother's Day (in case you haven't noticed, I can't decide if I should capitalize both words, just mother's or none of them. Any insight, please let me know.) 2013. This was the first year, that I was a mother, but nobody knew. Very few people knew about the little baby that had flown away to heaven way, way, WAY too soon. Mother's Day was hard that year. I received some very thoughtful cards and gifts and I was very grateful. Mother's Day 2014 was supposed to be a grand and glorious day. It was my due date. I mean really, what better timing? But alas, that mother's day was even more painful than the previous one, because once again our little one had gone to heaven way too soon. This time we had a visual of what our little Nicole Brooke looked like. We skipped church that year.  Then Mother's Day 2015 came and on that day, we buried my dad. There, while all over the country, people were sending flowers and honoring their mothers, we, as a family, stood by our mom and held on together as we said good-bye to dad's body for the final time.

So do you understand why I don't like Mother's Day? This year, it seems like it might be a good one, but let's face it, Mother's Day will always be bittersweet for me. I love Amber with all my heart, but there will always be a missing face on Mother's Day and the question of wondering exactly what Amber's big sister would be like. Would she live up to the shirt that Amber is currently wearing that says, "My big sister is AWESOME". I know she's living up to that title now, but what kind of a job would we have done in training her, etc. etc. And of course, then there's always the brain twist of how, if we had Nicole, we wouldn't have Amber and that makes my heart sigh because Amber is so very, very special too.

So there you have it, my less than normal view of Mother's Day, but somehow I think there are a lot more people out there for whom Mother's Day makes them sigh a little, maybe blink back a tear, draw on a memory, and send an extra prayer heavenward for the various circumstances that cause a blip in an otherwise, very nice holiday. I think it is nice that we have a day to especially honor mothers and fathers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

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So I'll be honest, the idea of not putting a picture with this book was tempting. How much more chick flickish can you get than a picture like that? It oozes that the book is going to be all romance and mush and gush, doesn't it? And then on top of that, it makes me feel like a shallow reader for picking it up and reading it.

Well, the truth of the matter is this is the second Melissa Tagg book I've read and I really like her as an author. Yes, she writes romance and yes the main characters get their happily ever after, but not without some struggles.

Logan had his wife die in a car accident. Amelia had her husband divorce her because she was "too much" and also went through a failed adoption. Now the divorce was a strong pull back in this book and I didn't like the fact that Amelia was divorced and then is obviously going to marry Logan. That bothers me. But the fact of both of them rising up out of their pasts and allowing God back into their lives and being open to His plan and His way, that was the beauty in this book.

Here's a quote from the book that I like: "I think sometimes believing is a matter of deciding. Deciding who you're going to trust and what you know about who you trust.And once that decision starts sinking into your bones, the wide-open spaces of your future get more invigorating than intimidating. Doesn't mean the choices suddenly get easy. But it does mean we stop worrying so much that we're going to mess up and pick the wrong door, as if we could possibly outwander God."

I like that thought, it's about knowing who you trust and ultimately I want my complete trust to be in God regardless of what happens.

This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, May 2, 2016

look me in the eye by John Elder Robison

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my life with asperger's

This was a very interesting memoir of John's journey with Asperger's in a time when Asperger's wasn't even a known or recognized thing yet. He talks of his difficulty in communicating because of his inability to respond the way "normal" people responded. He flunked out of school and yet got a 97 on his GED. He had an incredible memory and an insatiable appetite to learn about things that interested him.

He had a very rough home life, a mom with a mental health disorder and a dad who thrived on drinking and then got very mean when he was drunk. He left home at 16. He joined up with one of the biggest bands of the time, KISS, and worked on making sound effects for their tour. He had an amazing ability with figuring out special effects and knowing how to put it all together. He later went on to help develop some of the first electronic toys, but once he had worked his way up the ladder to management, he ran into the familiar problem of not being good in relationships. He was apt to say exactly what was on his mind. He did not have the natural ability to cue in and know what was acceptable in conversations, but he wanted to learn and so tried hard to be socially acceptable.

Eventually, he quit the corporate life and went to work repairing high-end cars.

It was a pretty well-written book. I wasn't a huge fan of his description of marriage. He is divorced and remarried, and asks the question in the book about how he can know if he chose the best partner. His second wife is the middle of three girls and how does he know he chose the best one? His whole thought process there was a little disturbing, but I also think at least some of that questioning is the Asperger's logic trying to make sense of a more emotionally-based decision. Emotion is not real natural for Aspergians, as he calls himself and others like him, and so I think that may contribute to his questioning.

As something to note, I read the paperback copy of this book and that has been refined to be more teen friendly, meaning the course language has been removed, which is a huge plus to me. He does have some questionable tricks and jokes he played on people recorded in this book and even he admits he would not be okay with his son doing the things he did 40 years ago, but he records them because it describes his life.

If you are interested in reading about the inner workings of a mind with Asperger's, I would definitely recommend this book. I found it very interesting.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books for the purpose of reading and writing a review on it.

Big Trucks Getting the Job Done Together, Illustrated by Sergio De Giorgi

A dozer, a digger, a crane and a dump truck work together to get the job done. Written in rhyme, it reminds me a bit of the book "L...