Friday, December 31, 2010


As we contemplate the year that has passed on this final day of 2010, I wanted to revisit my first post of the year.  It was the most memorable for me because it was the pre-cursor to one of the heaviest trials of my life that was to begin for me within a month of writing it. 

What you don't know is that I had written this on January 2nd with tears, not knowing what was to come.  I just knew that what I was writing was weighty for me because I had to put my faith into action when the hard things came.  I couldn't write these things from my heart, only to take it all back in the face of adversity because I changed my mind. 

Because of God's grace, I have not changed my mind about what I've written, and I still face the trial.  The trial has changed from what it first was, but it continues.  Have I learned how to suffer well?  Not yet.  I need to keep working on it.

If you are willing to oblige me, let's revisit my thoughts of January 2, 2010.....

2010: A Year of Comfort or Trials?

As we readied to say goodbye to 2009 and ring in 2010, I read many Facebook statuses and heard people saying something like this:

I am ready to be done with 2009.  I hope 2010 is a lot better.  This was a bad year.

I sure can identify with that statement.  I was feeling the same way at the end of 2008, and I'm pretty sure I felt that way the year prior as well.  It seems there were plenty of hardships that seemed unbearable at times and just wanted to get past them. 

Yet I guess it really struck a cord with me this time as I heard it coming from so many people.  I understand what it's all about.  Unemployment has been widespread.  I have friends who have returned to school who are trying to juggle family with that new adjustment in the mix.  Some have lost loved ones to death.  The list of pressures and heartaches goes on and on.

What if we change our perspective, though?  What if we look at what God says about all of our struggles of 2009 and what they amount to?  Would our perspective change?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NKJV)

Do you see the problem with our perspective on trial?  The very things we are ready to escape by turning the page of a calendar are the things God has ordained for us to experience to grow our precious faith.  The apostle Paul calls it a faith that is "more precious than gold that perishes."  And to what end?  That I might bring praise and honor and glory to Jesus Christ. 

But I just want to be happy, you might be saying.  Yeah.  Me too.  Let's be honest, though.  Happiness is relative and passes quickly. 

The truth of it is, we have been called to suffering.  Let me say that again.  Christians have been called to suffering.  Are you cringing right now?  It's a hard truth, I know.  How can you read 1 Peter 1 and come to any other conclusion, though?  He says that these trials that grieve us will prove the genuineness of our faith.  They make it precious.  They make it valuable.  They make it real.

This truth is something I have had to learn in the last few years and something I continue to wrestle with because just like everyone else, I crave comfort, not trial.  The real question is, what am I living for?  Comfort, ease, everything going my way?  Or do I live for the Lord Jesus Christ, hope of heaven, eternal rewards, and a faith to call more precious than gold?

Whatever God has planned for your 2010, it's my prayer that you and I trust Him and cling to Him as our only Source of goodness.  When He gives you the dearest desires of your heart and unexpected joys, thank Him.  And when the suffering and hardship come, thank Him... because He loves you so much He wants to grow your faith.  Will you let Him?

God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The 2011 TBR Challenge

Since I really pushed myself in the discipline of reading this year, I looked for a reading challenge that someone will be hosting in 2011.  I found one on MizB's Reading Challenges site and chose the 2011 TBR Challenge. 

The rules were to choose 12 books (one for each month) that I would read between January 1 - December 31, 2011.  The books had to be on my "to be read" list for at least 6 months.  The idea is to try to whittle away at those titles that are collecting but have been neglected.  I could also choose up to 12 alternates, just in case I needed to swap out a few on my original list if the mood strikes me.

Here are the main 12 books that I have chosen to read...


These are my alternates:

  1. Emma by Jane Austen
  2. The Face by Angela Hunt
  3. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult
  4. White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner
  5. Just Jane by Nancy Moser
  6. Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins
  7. Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes
  8. Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin
  9. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  10. Words Unspoken by Elizabeth Musser
  11. The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Colleen Coble
  12. Last Light by Terri Blackstock

You can find my current reading challenge list on the tab at the top of my blog.  I believe I will keep it updated as I complete the books.  If you're looking to stretch yourself in the reading department, you could head over to her website and check out the variety of challenges she presents.  Each of them are different.

I plan to read a lot more this year than just the main 12 I've chosen, especially with being a book review blogger now.  It definitely increased the amount of reading I did this year.  As of writing this post, I have read 38 books in 2010.  I would love to increase that number to 50 next year.

I hope if you're not a reader, you might stretch yourself this year and add a few more books to your life. 

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Possession" by Rene Gutteridge

Possession Detective Vance Graegan worked the D.C. sniper case, and it changed him forever.  Taking a toll on his life and marriage, he and his wife Lindy decide to make a fresh start and move to California to open a deli.  They can finally put the police work and the baggage that came with it behind them.

Except maybe it's not as easy as they thought it might be. 

Upon arriving in California, Lindy finds a condo to rent and a possible building to lease for their deli, but when the movers arrive with all of their belongings, they demand a ransom of the Graegans before they will give them their possessions.  Vance's past is fast catching up with him.

I do enjoy Rene Gutteridge's books, but I struggled to care about these main characters until toward the end of the book.  The plot of the story kept me reading, though.  It was unique to anything I've read before.  I also like fast-paced suspense, and I had this one read in two days.

My only complaint of the book is the lack of any character having a relationship with Christ.  The Graegans' son prayed all the time because of something he learned on TV one day while watching a televangelist, and then prayer becomes the moral of the story.  The problem with that concept is that there's no mention in the book about how to have a personal relationship with Christ.  People can pray all they want, but if they don't have Christ as Savior, it's basically meaningless.  I just feel that the story was sorely lacking any depth in this area.

Aside from that, I still liked the plot and the suspense.  I'm giving this book 4 stars.

Click here to read the first chapter.

I wish to thank Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a free copy to review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Christmas Vacation

I'm taking vacation time this week and the next, and it's a good thing.  My motivation to shop and wrap and make goodies has been sporadic.

Today will be the busiest day so far.  I "enhanced" my hair color this morning.  I'm in the middle of making Peppermint Bark at this moment.  (Hoping that turns out, as this is the first time I've made it.)  Then I'll go to lunch with my parents and a couple friends.  Upon arriving home, I will head out to an eye exam, which I hope to make on time by 4:00.  After that?  I think I'll crash.

Speaking of which... I have had a major change in my vision.  It's so dramatic in the last several weeks that I am having trouble seeing music when I play piano.  I have to push people's faces farther back from me, so my eyes can focus.  Let me tell ya, this is just weird.  In the past, I've never really noticed a change in my vision.  I just set up exams every couple years and would find I needed a new eyeglasses prescription.  I am anxious to find out how much my vision has changed this time.

So that's what is happening in my little world today.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Until my blogging inspiration returns, I'll jump in here as I can.  I've seen the Wednesday Hodgepodge link up every week on one of my friend's blogs, so today seems like a really good day to answer some hodgepodge questions.


1. Share your Christmas Eve traditions.

Every year my side of the family gathers on Christmas Eve night for finger foods, reading the Christmas story, and exchanging gifts.  That includes me and my husband, Mom & Dad, and my sister & her family. This year we add my grandma, since she moved in with my parents at the start of 2010.  It's pretty much the highlight of Christmas for us because we get to eat all those little goodies like meatballs, shrimp cocktail, smokies in a blanket, and especially the baked goods.  (Sugar cookies are my favorite.).

2. What was the best book you read in 2010? (we're not going to include the Bible here)

This is a tough one to answer because I've read a lot of books, and many are new favorites.  I'm going to choose two (or three), one fiction and one non-fiction. 

Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury was fascinating to me because it introduced me to the world of autism, and it was also the first book I had read by Kingsbury.  The story gave me goosebumps.  I must say that a tie for favorite fiction would also be How Do I Love Thee? by Nancy Moser.  Loved that book!

Under non-fiction I have to choose Outrageous Mercy by William Farley.  He's a new author to me as well, and he really gave me new eyes to better understand God's justice and love in a way I had not grasped before.  I think everyone needs to read this book because it's about making the cross central in everything we do... live, serve and worship.

3. Do you have pets and if so do you allow them on the furniture?

I have a cat and a dog, and we allow them on the furniture.  Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to enjoy them as pets.  I'd have to crawl around on the floor with them, and you know, I've got old knees at 38.

4. What event in 2010 are you most thankful for?

Unfortunately, I'm having trouble remembering a lot of highlights from 2010.  So the most recent event that stands out in my mind just happened a couple weeks ago.  A dear friend in our church, Martha, passed away from pancreatic cancer, and Judy and I were asked to sing at her funeral.  We sang the hymn "I Love to Tell the Story" because it embodied what her life was about.  I cannot express the filling of joy I experienced in those moments of singing, praising the Lord for His gospel and in honoring our friend for her faithfulness to the gospel.

5. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?

I had the privilege of being a speaker at a ladies luncheon at church in May.  It was both challenging and encouraging to me.

6. Brussel sprouts...friend or foe?

FOE!!!  The one and only time I tried brussel sprouts was at a buffet.  I took only one, just to say I tried it.  I put it in my mouth and started chewing, and all I wanted to do was spit it back out.  Ugh!  How does anyone eat those things?

7. Who would you nominate for man/woman of the year?

I am uncertain.  This question would be easier for me to answer if it was who I would NOT nominate.  *cough* Nancy Pelosi *cough*

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I got a new phone this week, and it's a smart phone.  I'm totally enthralled with the technology.  I mean, really.  I can't believe what this Android phone can do.  The only thing it's missing is the ability to "beam me up".  Now that WOULD be something!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fall Into Reading 2010 Challenge: Wrap Up

It's the first day of winter, which means it's time to wrap up the Fall Into Reading 2010 Challenge with our host Callapidder Days.  I enjoyed having something to challenge me to read, although my reading lists changed not too long after I chose my books. 

These are the ones I read:


  • Love's First Bloom by Delia Parr
  • Masquerade by Nancy Moser
  • The Intervention by Terri Blackstock
  • The Telling by Beverly Lewis (audio)
  • Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • A Time to Dance by Karen Kingsbury
  • Unwrapping Christmas by Lori Copeland


  • The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
  • Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament by Nancy Guthrie (a devotional for review that I simply skimmed it)
  • Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley
  • Outrageous Mercy by William Farley

**My top recommendations from this list are The Intervention, Unlocked, The Holiness of God, and Outrageous Mercy.**

These are the ones I either didn't get to or just set aside for later:

  • A  Woman's Place - Lynn Austin
  • Riven - Jerry B. Jenkins
  • In My Father's House - Brock & Bodie Thoene
  • The Joy of Fearing God - Jerry Bridges
  • The Divorce Dilemma - Dr. John MacArthur
  • The Fear Factor by Wayne and Joshua Mack (a study I'm still working on)

    Overall I'd say I did fairly well.  That's a lot of books for me to complete in that period of time.  I look forward to the spring when Callapidder Days hosts another reading challenge.

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  • Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Fall Into Reading: Question #12

    I know it's really late, but I'm linking up with Callapidder Days on her final question of the Fall Into Reading 2010 carnival.  You do realize that means the end of fall is drawing near, don't you?  I must say if you were here in Indiana you would see that fall left many weeks ago because we've had nothin' but SNOW for more than a week.

    So here are the three questions she asked:

    Do you write in your books?

    I do not write in fiction books, but I do write in my non-fiction biblical books.  I highlight in most of them and sometimes make notes in the margins.

    Can you read in the car?

    I would really love to be able to read in the car, but the vehicle would have to be stopped in order for me to do that.  I get carsick if I read in motion.  I can't even walk on the treadmill and read at the same time.  Ugh... the feeling is horrid!

    Does the rest of your family enjoy reading?

    My husband reads, but not as much as I do.  Unless you count the daily newspaper.  No, I take that back.  I read blogs daily, so I KNOW I read more than he does.

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    Sunday, December 05, 2010

    Sunday Scripture

    heaven's gatephoto © 2006 Germán Meyer | more info (via: Wylio)

         But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

         For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 

         Therefore comfort one another with these words.

    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NKJV)

    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    Quotes on Holiness

    RCSproul I have been reading The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul to take part in Tim Challies' challenge to read the Christian classics.  Although I kept thinking I was going to share the things I've been reading and learning from the book, every week passes and I just never get around to it because of time.  I'm doing well if I actually have the chapter read the day before Tim reviews the chapter on Thursdays.

    I realized that even though I don't have time to put all my thoughts down in a post, I could at least share some quotes that spoke to me from the reading.  Here are my favorites from chapter 8, Be Holy Because I Am Holy.

    The call to holiness was first given to Adam and Eve.  This was the original assignment of the human race.  We were created in the image of God.  To be God's image meant, among other things, that we were made to mirror and reflect God's character.

    The Bible calls us "holy ones."  We are holy because we have been consecrated to God.  We have been set apart.  We have been called to a life that is different.  The Christian life is a life of nonconformity.

    The "saints" are called to a rigorous pursuit of the kingdom of God.  They are called to depth in their spiritual understanding.

    The key method Paul underscores as the means to the transformed life is by the "renewal of the mind."  This means nothing more and nothing less than education.  Serious education.  In-depth education.  Disciplined education in the things of God.  It calls for a mastery of the Word of God.  We need to be people whose lives have changed because our minds have changed.

    To be spiritual has only one real purpose.  It is a means to an end, not the end itself.  The goal of all spiritual exercise must be the goal of righteousness.  God calls us to be holy.  Christ sets the priority of the Christian life:  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt.6:33).  The goal is righteousness.


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    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    "A Time to Dance" by Karen Kingsbury

    A Time to Dance

    John and Abby Reynolds are the shining example of a long-lasting marriage to all their family and friends, or at least that's what everyone thinks.  Little do they know the broken hearts that John and Abby hide behind a facade. 

    What started out as a beautiful romance and a promise of forever, now is falling apart after 21 years, and they have to break it to their kids.  The problem is that their daughter announces her engagement to a wonderful, Christian man, and they decide to put off their plan for divorce until after the wedding in order to keep from ruining the festivities.  Thus begins John and Abby's own mental, emotional and spiritual battles, wrestling with the big question of what went wrong.

    I am new to Kingsbury's books, this book being the second one I've ever read.  I appreciate a few things about her writing.  First, I love a story that is driven by dialog, and Kingsbury does this well, in my opinion.  Second, she provides us with the ongoing dialog between her characters and God.  I appreciate hearing that "inside" conversation.  The third element I appreciate is that her characters are at varying degrees of spiritual maturity.  Some demonstrate great faith, and others have gone by the wayside but are being drawn back by the Lord.

    Kingsbury knows how to make me feel what the characters are feeling, drawing me into the story within the first pages.  I certainly feel like I know these characters by the end of the book, as if they are real people.

    With that said, I must admit that I became weary of the book for awhile.  About halfway through I was getting tired of the arguing and characters' negative self-talk, and it made me want to take a break from the book for a day.  It's possible that the author was desiring to evoke that emotion in the reader, so as to identify with the weariness of the characters.  If so, she managed to accomplish that feeling in me.

    One other point worth noting is that there are a couple scenes that were somewhat sensual, at least to my standards.  For that reason I would not feel comfortable recommending this book to a teen reader.

    Overall I would say I liked the book, but I didn't love the book.  I look forward to more of Karen Kingsbury's books.  You can find my review of Unlocked at this link.

    I wish to thank for providing me with a review copy of this book.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions stated here are my own.

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    He Is!

    Nanga Parbat (Killer Mountain)photo © 2006 Faisal Saeed | more info (via: Wylio)

    I just needed to take this moment to put down in writing that my God is good.  I am praying for a mountain to be moved in my life, and He is doing special things to accomplish that.

    He is my Rock.

    He is my Shield.

    He is my Helper.

    He is my Strength.

    I will keep trusting.


    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Classics Bookclub: The Screwtape Letters

    Screwtape LettersI haven't read a classic since I was in college back in the 90's, and I've been wanting to culturize myself for many months now.  The problem is I knew it was going to be work to read a classic. 

    Joining in the Classics Bookclub at 5 Minutes For Books for the first time, I chose The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis to begin my venture back into the world of classic literature.  I chose it because it is a shorter book, and I thought I might really "get" C.S. Lewis.

    This story is told in the form of letters written by a seasoned demon named Screwtape, addressed to a demon-in-training.  Screwtape's job is to teach his trainee in the ways of deception.  Each demon has his own "patient", as the humans are called, and it is their job to keep them from believing in The Enemy.  Of course, The Enemy they refer to is God.

    It was fascinating to think about how the demonic realm works to oppress men.  I could relate to the way the demon talked about deceiving men with their feelings and influencing their thinking about God in order to turn men away from Him.  The things Screwtape recommended to his trainee were ways I know I have personally been deceived.  It made me think about how real the spiritual realm is and how much I need to depend upon the Holy Spirit for guidance.  Satan and his hoards are crafty.Classics-Bookclub-150

    Can I be honest here, though?  I had a hard time reading the book.  It was easy to read quickly because of the short chapters, but I had to wade through the language to comprehend.  I've been away from reading classics for too long, and I've lost my training.  Obviously, I need to begin honing these skills again.  I'll have to pick another classic for the next quarter and participate in the Classics Bookclub again.

    Although I had difficulty, I will still recommend the book.  It's an eye-opener.  Just don't expect light reading.

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    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Black Friday: Buy a Kindle!

    TN2-turing-R-column-02._V192549127_ I wanted to give all my book-loving friends a heads up about a Black Friday deal you might want to take advantage of.

    Today at they are offering a lightning deal this afternoon at 12:00 PM (ET).  Get a 6" Kindle - 2nd Generation at a reduced price for a limited time.  Be sure to check it out!

    *Affiliate links are used in this post.

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    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Book Review: Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury

    Unlocked Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury is a touching story that gives the reader a glimpse into the challenges a family faces when their child is suddenly "locked up" in the prison of Autism. 

    Tracy Harris fights the daily challenges with her son Holden, relying on nothing more than her faith since her husband and friends abandoned her when faced with all the questions and uncertainties that came with the diagnosis of Autism.

    As Tracy prays for God to bring about a means to unlock Holden from his private world, God is working behind the scenes to bring healing and miracles through the power of music and love, and in ways she never would have dreamed possible. 

    I have never read any of Karen Kingsbury's books, but if the others are as good as this one, I will be looking up her other titles.  The story caught me up right away and drew me in.  I loved the characters and could feel Tracy's love and longing for her son, to be able to reach him.  They felt like real people to me.

    I would recommend this book because the story is moving and unforgettable.  I don't think I've ever gotten goosebumps while reading a book, but I had them as I turned page after page of this one.  I look forward to reading more from this author.

    I wish to thank Zondervan for providing me with a review copy of this book.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions stated here are my own.

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