Matthew is Four

He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord. ~ Psalm 113:9

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My darling little boy is growing up into an adorable little pre-schooler. Since my oldest daughter is almost 15, I know first hand how quickly the time seems to pass. However, I am working everyday at savoring the moments God gives me with my family. This summer I fully intended to become “super blogger” and write blog posts galore. But, God had other plans for my summer days. I have not written as faithfully as I had hoped, but I’ve spent a lot of time reading, walking with my husband, driving my children to various activities and more! In short, I haven’t written about life because I’ve been too busy living it.

I did want to take a moment here to wish my youngest a happy birthday. He came to me this morning with his hair sticking up, squinting his eyes and put his arms around my neck. He exclaimed, “I love you, Mom!” I said, “I love you!” He said, “I love you MORE!” This is how he greets me most mornings. It’s hard to have a frown after that kind of start to the day. He says the cutest things and makes astute observations for a little guy. Sometimes, the things he says actually convict me, because he’s repeating something he heard from me (ouch). Sometimes, he makes me shake my head in amazement. Sometimes, I just laugh. I can always count on him for an interesting conversation, no matter what.

Matthew came into my life when things were not going well. Our church family wanted to disown us, our finances were not great, and Laci had a seizure. But on July 14, 2010, none of that heartache mattered. God sent me a priceless gift: a blond-headed little boy. He was a comfort to me on lonely nights when tears flowed freely. I could rock him, smelling the baby lotion on his skin, and feel blessed in the midst of so much turmoil.

I just want to thank the Lord for sending us Matthew. Each of our children brings something unique and wonderful to our lives, but Matthew was God’s special gift to lonely Pastor’s wife. My heart overflows.

With love,

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Books to Warm Your Heart

One of the many things I’d planned to do on the blog this summer was to write several book reviews and host a book giveaway. I know that the summer is not over, but it’s rapidly passing. I cannot believe that June has almost bid adieu. I have several tasks beckoning me to come hither and brand new books calling me to sit with them, but I have set aside everything in order to get back on track with my blogging. That’s not a sacrifice, because if I could, I would write all. day. long.

Today I wanted to share some books that have delighted me this summer. I try to stay ahead of my children’s reading, but that hasn’t gone too well. I hate to read science fiction or fantasy, which my older ones love. Terry and I have set some guidelines for their reading, and so far, they have kept them. I know this because they’ve turned in books to me, unfinished, because they have fallen short of those guidelines. While I don’t read sci-fi or fantasy, I  am always seeking out books for them that I’ve heard are good, or that I’ve enjoyed myself. I offer a few of these to you today. These are sure to put a smile on your face. Yes, they are children’s books, but with books, the saying “Age doesn’t matter.” is actually true.

128048Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

I had seen this title several times on book lists and  library shelves, but assumed it was a tale of adventure at sea- which is not my thing. How wrong was I! It does have its share of seafaring adventure, but it also has much more! It’s a biography of the young man who wrote what is commonly known as “The Navigator’s Bible”. The American Practical Navigator, by Nathaniel Bowditch, has saved countless lives due to the accurate calculations which he painstakingly worked. He had a very difficult childhood, but rose above it all to become a pioneer on the high seas. This book will encourage your child to work hard and overcome obstacles and to always hope for the best.

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One Morning in Maine

Would you like to have clam chowder for lunch? If so, I have the book for you!

I have read several books by Robert McCloskey, but this one was new to me. I have always been fascinated with New England, so I picked it up to read to my younger ones. It’s a delightful little story, but  Mr. McCloskey’s signature drawings set it apart. They make you feel as though you’re actually visiting the sea shore, the wooded hills and eating clam chowder for lunch.

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Freaky Friday

This book had us laughing on page one! It’s a crazy story with no basis in reality, but it’s a hoot. I read this book aloud to the children and was bit surprised that there were a few curse words and several crude words, which I skipped or changed as I went along. The main character, Annabel, is a rather rebellious young girl who dislikes herself, her brother and disrespects her mother. Through this one “freaky Friday”, she comes to appreciate her mother and her younger brother for the first time. She also comes to see she a bit of her own value, too. Just be prepared to alter the language or warn your young readers about it ahead of time.

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Miracles on Maple Hill

Nine year old Marly needs a miracle. Her father has come home from the war (WWII) after being imprisoned and assumed dead. It’s not the happy homecoming that Marly thought it would be, though. The war has changed her father. When her family gets the opportunity to move to Maple Hill – a house owned by Marly’s deceased grandmother – Marly is given hope. It is there that she and her brother, Joe, get to meet Mr. Chris, Harry the Hermit and see the miracles that occur on Maple Hill every day. But will she get the miracle she needs most of all, a healthy daddy? Read and find out!

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Peppermints in the Parlor

There’s something fishy going on at Sugar Hill Hall. Emily Luccock is supposed to move in with her Aunt and Uncle Twice after her parents’ death, but she is shocked to learn that it’s been taken over by the evil Mrs. Meeching. Why is the house full of old people staring at a bowl of delicious peppermints, but are never allowed to taste any?  And what happened to Uncle Twice? One mystery seems to lead to another, but  Emily is determined to get answers, no matter the cost! Join her for the adventure and have some laughs along the way.  Barbara Brooks Wallace has written several books of this type, but I have only read this one. We plan to read more of her books in the future.

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It’s amazing how that, even though I only read these books a few months ago (or even more recently than that!), some of the names and other details have escaped me. I suppose I’m always reading with one eye on the “next great book”. I know, shame on me. I should slow down and enjoy the stories more. I’ll work harder on that in the future. Anyway, I hope this meager information is helpful to someone. :)

Happy reading!

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The Holiness of God {A Book Review}

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A friend in our church recommended this book to me. I was a little afraid of tackling it just based on the title: The Holiness of God. I felt unworthy to even attempt to wrap my weak, human brain around it. God is holy, so holy that we cannot see Him in this flesh and live! Despite my fear, I decided I’d open it up and see what Dr. Sproul had to say. It only took one page. I was hooked.

Before I go any further, let me say that I’m not a Presbyterian, as is Dr. Sproul. I am a Baptist. It goes without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that I do not agree with him on everything. However, the topic of God’s holiness is one with which all born again believers can agree. And I am certain you do not need to be a Baptist to go to be born again. Every believer will be blessed by this book.

Why was I blessed?

First of all, Mr. Sproul is a great writer. He engages all of the senses in a work of non-fiction, which is unusual. He explains his points using normal, everyday English. His book is written more as a conversation than as a lecture. I liked that.

Secondly, I learned several things that had baffled me in the past. I have read Jeremiah and Isaiah many times, but I have never fully understood them. Dr. Sproul helped me to organize some of the events of these books in my brain. He helped me make connections and see how things fit together.

Thirdly, Dr. Sproul painted an interesting portrait of Martin Luther. As a product of the Christian School movement of the 1980′s, I had read about Martin Luther, but only as a figure in history. I got the impression that Baptists weren’t supposed to “dwell” on the likes of Luther, Hess or Calvin. Therefore, I didn’t know about Luther’s childhood, his struggles with Catholicism, his attempts at finding God, (only to learn that God had found him), and his stand against the Catholic church . I felt that the light was being shined upon parts of history that had always been dark, cobweb-covered corners to me. How helpful light is! I believe it’s a shame that Luther didn’t find the Baptists of his era, which were then called Anabaptists, and join them. Regardless, he did the best he could at fighting the sins of the Church of Rome and I admire his courage.

Lastly, I love the way Dr. Sproul helps us realize how daunting the holiness of God is, but also, how beautiful Christ is! Christ the Lord – the One who bridges the gap for us, enabling us to stand boldly in prayer before the throne of this great and holy God we serve. I came away with a renewed reverence for my Heavenly Father, a fresh look at how vile I am, and a more passionate love for the Savior who claimed me for His own.

This review is not as clear on the screen as it is in my head. It’s so hard to put into words the work of the Spirit upon the soul. I cannot begin to do it justice. Please read this book and let the holiness of God change your life.

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Fun on Fort Sill

I’ve had a list of summer activities to do with our family and so far, we’re checking several of them off! A friend of mine told us about some parks located on Fort Sill and I couldn’t wait to show them to the family. I’ve been wanting to see the grave of Geronimo, so last Monday we were able to combine play-time with site-seeing. (And I got to check something off my list. I just love doing that.)  It was lovely weather with temps in the 70′s that morning. Of course, on a military installation, most activities are for our service men and women, but some things are open to all.

We had a fun day spending time together and learning a bit of US history, too!

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First stop was Geronimo’s grave. I’m not familiar with our native American history, so we did a quick Google search on our phones so we could tell the kids more about this man and the other Apache Indians buried in this cemetery.

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Matt was interested in the little gifts left at the graves.  It sort of looks like he’s counting it!

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Next stop was a park. They liked this little fire truck. (How cute!)

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Leslie made it to the top!

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We liked this park because of the playground for the little ones, the grassy area for the older ones to play soccer, and the gorgeous trees everywhere for me. (I miss the big, leafy trees back home.)

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We thought we’d go through the museums on post, but they are closed on Mondays. They had lots of big equipment outside on display though, so we took a self guided tour of all of it. We must have started going through it all backwards, because we didn’t see the sign that said “Please do not climb on guns” until we were done. Oops. Please forgive us.

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This one is my favorite! I love how the kids are lined up and how the clouds look.

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Not all of the tanks or guns had signs to say what they were. The gun above can shoot 900 miles away. For perspective, they could fire it from here and hit a target in Ohio. Or Arizona. Wow!

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We ended the day with this statue to the artillery man. Being on post gave us a greater appreciation for our soldiers, especially during these turbulent times. We can often hear the effects of the work on Fort Sill (read: explosions), but this day, we got to see  some of the faces behind the bombs. It was a bit startling  to see a sign that read, “Caution, Howitzer Crossing”.

I’m so thankful for our military men and women. May God bless them and keep them.

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It Is Well

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I thought I had posted this on my blog somewhere before, but I can’t seem to find it. I wrote it shortly after my dad’s sudden death and it was published in the Baptist Bread on December 28, 2009. I recently uncovered a photocopy of the article, which I’d placed in a zipper bag. I’m sure I intended to place it at his grave as a personal memorial, but I never did it. I think my mother was worried it would become mere litter as it endured the days, nights, rain and wind in the cemetery. I realized that it didn’t have to be at his tombstone to be a memorial. Perhaps the fact that it was published at all is memorial enough? Perhaps – and  I hope this is true – that my life, my testimony is an even greater memorial to my amazing dad.

I still own the rights to this short piece about my dad, so I’d like to share it now for Father’s Day. Thank you so much for reading.

2 Kings 4:26 Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well:

My dad was not a pastor or a preacher. He was, however, the greatest Christian I have ever known. I was an eye witness to his daily walk with the Lord. Since I had no younger siblings,  my dad was my best friend. We did almost everything together. I saw his strengths and his weaknesses. I watched him face the daily grind in the secular workforce and never once lower the banner of “Christian” from above his life.

I was not worried when my mother called me on July 28, 2004, to say he was in the hospital. I had peace. I headed to our Wednesday night church services with my family as usual. On the way to church, my heavenly Father impressed upon my heart that my dad, my “partner” in youth, was going to the place for which he had lived; he was going home to Heaven. The sermon that night was from the above passage entitled “It is Well.” The hymn, “It Is Well with my Soul” was Dad’s favorite! On that night, the Lord gently wrapped his loving arms of comfort around me and said, “He’s coming home tonight, but it is well.”

I served my Savior as a child because of my parents’ faithful walk with the Lord. I serve Him today because of my own. I know from experience that though the burdens press heavily upon me, with Christ’s presence, it is well!

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Uncovering a Memory

If you read my blog, you know I love to read. It’s probably my favorite hobby. Sometimes, though, I can’t read because I know as soon as I sit down, I’ll doze off. (I hate that!) Yesterday, after church, I knew I’d better keep moving or I’d fall asleep. I’ve been meaning to organize my cookbooks and recipes since *ahem* Christmas. I’m not a great cook, but I give it my best shot. Over the years, I’ve developed several favorite, easy, standby, easy, yummy, easy recipes. Some are here on the blog. As I worked, I ended up tossing several that we didn’t like, copied some on fresh 3 x 5 cards, or glued them on cards from magazines.

I still use the recipe file that I made as a project for my 9th grade Home Economics class. Yes, that was a while ago! As I was sorting, I came across a recipe for Enchilada Pie, an old standby, that I hadn’t made in years. I saw that I had written the date that I first made it in the upper right hand corner of the card:

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Seeing this card brought back so many memories. Please notice the purple ink. I wrote almost every card in purple ink. I learned the hard way that it tends to bleed over the years. I remember that after we made this in class, I couldn’t wait to make it for Mom and Dad! I remember going with Mom to buy the groceries. I picked out everything and she paid. I prepared it all on my own, set the table, and served this delicious meal to my wonderful parents. I can still see them, sitting there, gratefully devouring my “gourmet” feast, then guzzling some tea. They complimented me and drank more tea. They raved about it, and sipped more tea. Finally, mom said, “Mmm…you know, this is kind of spicy.” She wiped her mouth and swallowed more tea. Dad said, “Yes, it is a bit on the hot side, but it’s good!” Then he gulped some more tea. I sat watching them with a satisfied expression, not really noticing their three refills of tea, and then I started on my portion. Yes. It. was. SPICY!

“When I made it in Home Ec. it wasn’t this hot, Mom!” I exclaimed.

She got up, a napkin still to her lips with one hand and gently looked through the top portion of our trash can with the other. She pulled up the empty can of enchilada sauce and held it up. It read, “HOT” in big yellow letters.

Whoops.

We all had a big laugh! Then, with sadness at the thought of wasting food, Mom threw away the remaining Enchilada Pie. None of us were spicy food lovers.

I did make it again - with mild sauce –  but somehow, it wasn’t quite as memorable as that first time. What can I say? Some of us were not meant to be chefs.

Fortunately, I do have other talents.

I think.

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How to Compile a Great Children’s Library

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My latest “old friend” found at Goodwill.

I love books and I want my children to love them as much as I do. In order to pass along this zest for reading, I am constantly on the lookout for quality literature. Because books can have a hefty price tag, I like to look for books at Goodwill and other thrift stores. I’ve found dozens of great books this way! Some are not in great condition, but considering that some of them are now out of print, I’ll settle for “readable” over “like new” any day!

I have a short list of books that I loved as a child which are no longer in print, and that’s where I start every time I shop. I’m like a prospector looking for gold. Sometimes I strike it rich, sometimes not, but I still enjoy the hunt. While my top priority are the “gold” books, I do have other, newer friends for which I’m searching, too. These are books that I have discovered since leaving home. You may have lists like mine in your head, too. If so, then just get to a thrift store and start digging! If not, I’ll give you some tips.

As a general rule, children’s literature written before 1965 is going to be pretty good. These books may not be well written, but they will be appropriate for young ones. Most of them will have an obvious moral, which I view as a plus. If you see an older looking cover on the shelf, but don’t recognize the author or the title as being your “gold standard”, then check the copyright. You’re looking at only spending a couple of dollars at thrift store (maybe only fifty cents!) so if it’s not good, you can donate it back. No big loss. I once bought a nice geography book for our library, but once I saw it was riddled with evolution, I got rid of it. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often, but it can happen. Also, if you see a “Weekly Reader” logo on the back of a book, well, that’s a good sign! Some of my favorite books are those old “Weekly Reader” books that came in the mail. Below are some examples of the “Weekly Reader” emblem:

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Look for Newbery Award winners and Caldecott Medal winners. Newbery Medals are given to the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” each year. Caldecott Medals are awarded to the “artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children” each year. Of course, being an award winning book doesn’t guarantee you’ll love it yourself, but it’s a nice place to start. There are several other awards lists to check out, so do a web search and start reading!

Find a favorite author, and search for him or her. I have enjoyed reading aloud the historical picture books by David A. Adler. He has written many, and I have gained several from thrift stores. Another great author is Jean Fritz. I also like Arnold Lobel, Carol Ryrie Brink, Patricia St. John, Garth Williams (artist), Harry and Wende Devlin, Beverly Cleary, Tasha Tudor (artist), Eloise Wilkin (artist), Richard Scarry, and a host of others. Whenever I see a familiar name on the spine of an old, forgotten book, I can’t help but examine it. Most of the time, I will adopt it. If I get more than one copy of a favorite title or author, I can always share the love by passing it on to a friend.

Do a web search for book lists. There are award winning book lists, as mentioned above, and then there are just “tried and true” lists in various places. Sonlight Curriculum is a great source of book lists, even if you don’t use their curriculum for homeschooling. Jane Claire Lambert wrote a great literature based unit study called Five in a Row. The books are listed in several places online, so search them out. They are all great books, even without the Five in a Row activities, so give ‘em a try. There are also several good books about books. Really! They are called Honey for the Child’s Heart, The Read Aloud Handbook and Books Children Will Love.

Don’t forget clearance shelves at bookstores! I do sometimes shop in a bookstore that sells new books. However, I’m always looking for deals there, too. Check the clearance tables for your favorite volumes. I found the hardback book below on sale for $4! I had been wanting it for our homeschool for a long time, but couldn’t afford the $17 (plus shipping) price tag. It was a happy book-buying day for me!

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Check out book swapping sites for old books. My favorites are  bookmooch.com and paperbackswap.com. You must be a member, which means you have to be willing to post ten books you’d like to part with, in exchange for receiving the books you choose for free. You pay the postage to mail your books, and then the books you’d like to own are shipped to you for free. I hope that makes sense. You can also buy credits (without posting books) for a low cost. Visit the websites for more (and clearer) information.

Disclaimer: Obviously, my reading tastes may vary from yours. Please read at your own risk. For example, I don’t like books with profanity, but I try to use my discernment in each situation. It is important that we don’t swallow a lie just because it looks like the truth. Likewise, the truth can come disguised sometimes, and we must work to find its real identity. I read with discernment, and I’m working to teach my children to do so as well.

I hope these few tips will get your library off to a good start, or help you continue to build it. Books allow us to live many lives, see new things and visit far away places. Books, as I once read, give us somewhere to go when we have to stay where we are.

How true.

Happy reading,

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