The Plan

Laci is wanting to learn sign language. When she pulled this book off the shelf, it brought back a host of memories.

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It’s just a basic book on American sign language. I bought it at a Brentano’s store in the mall in Little Rock many moons ago. (Yes, I’m showing my age. For you young whippersnappers, Brentano’s is a bookstore.)

You see, I had a plan. Actually, I had many plans. At age eighteen, my plan was to marry the guy I was dating. But when I found out that he was leading a double life in another town, the plan suddenly changed. Mom and Dad said, “Go to college,” which I misunderstood as, “Go look for a man elsewhere”. They even narrowed the field for me: Hyles-Anderson College (HAC) near Chicago or Oklahoma Baptist College in Oklahoma City. I picked HAC because, who would want to live in Oklahoma? (Sorry, Oklahoma! I love you now.) Of course, since I couldn’t cook well, sew at all, or play a single hymn on a piano, what decent Christian man would want me? I could boast the enviable traits of being able to read voraciously, write your term paper for you, organize your sock drawer by color, or discuss politics with you. I wasn’t exactly the Christian-ministry-worker’s dream wife.

As I was thinking about attending HAC, I knew that a ministry job was mandatory. My brother and sister had both graduated from there, as did their spouses, so I was familiar with the rules and regs. I chose the Deaf Ministry. I would LOVE to stand in front of a crowd of people and sign songs and sermons to them! Talking with my hands would be the next best thing to talking with my mouth! That’s when I bought this book. I wanted to get a head start on “the plan”.

But a phone call from a recruiter at HAC changed the plan.

He said some things that set off loud alarms in my head, and even louder ones in my Dad’s head. It was a sign (no pun intended) that maybe Hyles-Anderson wasn’t what we thought it was. We began to wonder if maybe they were man-centered instead of Christ-centered? Recent events regarding that institution have proven this to be the case, but back then, it was just starting to show.

Well, the recruiter got quite angry that I wasn’t agreeing with his statements and hung up on me. Dad spoke with some “senior officials” at the college and the man was told to apologize. He called the next day and actually said the words, “I was told to apologize.” This caused my dad’s frustration to became quite evident. In fact, his exact words were: “You are NOT going to that college.”

But even before that happened, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to go to that college. You see, in the meantime, I had met someone.  Someone who didn’t care that I couldn’t play the piano or sew or cook. Someone who liked hearing my ideas, and seeing me smile. Someone who wasn’t perfect and didn’t pretend to be; who made mistakes, and kept going anyway. That person has stayed with me for over eighteen years and has made me the happiest woman in the world.

I didn’t learn sign language. I didn’t get a college degree. I didn’t follow my plan, I followed God’s plan.

And that has made all the difference.

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Thy Salvation

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. ~ Psalm 51:12

One of my earliest memories is my “labor to enter into rest”. (Heb. 4:11)

I had heard our pastor, Bro. Glenn Riggs, preach about “calling out to God” and “praying and asking Jesus into your heart”, so I did those things. I was only five years old. I phrased my prayer the best I could, but nothing happened. The preacher said “You’ll know when Jesus saves you!” I didn’t “know”. The preacher said, “It’s not a feeling, it’s faith.” But what exactly was faith? My parents and brother and sister were all “saved”. I wanted to be, too. At age six, I went to my teacher in my Christian school, after two of my friends did, on a Wednesday and said I didn’t know if I would go to Heaven when I died. (Perhaps you had to talk to someone to make salvation official?) And if my friends could do it, why not I? It was October 10, 1984 – my mother’s birthday. I was wearing a Hawaiian style button-up shirt. The short sleeves were gathered in one place on the outside of the sleeve. I sat with Mrs. Parson in what had been my Kindergarten classroom. I was now a mature first grader. I squinted my eyes at her big, burgundy Bible, which was underlined and well-worn, straining to understand, seeking for that which I had been missing. I prayed the words. I left the room, hoping that this time, it had worked. I got baptized (despite my immense fear of water and crowds) soon thereafter. Life went on. I did not feel any different, but I recalled “it’s not a feeling, it’s faith.” Okay. *deep breath* Faith.

I made a second profession of salvation about two years later. The date is fuzzy on that one, but I do recall that it was the summertime. I went forward with a massive influx of other kids from our children’s church. Children’s church was a large production of songs, puppets, preaching and games. We met in the gym. There was no air conditioning in the gym. I had been doubting my salvation, so I went forward seeking answers. But I must admit that finding answers was secondary. I mainly went forward because I knew if I did, I’d get to go into the auditorium – or “big church” as I called it – where there was air conditioning. So around age eight, I filed in with several other boys and girls who had “professed Christ as their Savior” and stood at the front of big church. I smiled at my parents, who were probably very surprised to see me in the line, and I soaked up the blessed air conditioning. I felt my wet bangs turn cold against my forehead, and my Sunday dress gradually loosen from where the sweat had glued it to my skin. I felt the frigid air go up my sleeves, down my back and up the folds of my dress. I didn’t know if I was going to Heaven – despite a worker showing me the plan of salvation and praying with me – but I felt the air conditioning, which had to be the next best thing. I went to big church on a Sunday morning a few weeks later and got baptized. Again.

I continued to privately grapple with salvation for years. I went soul-winning with my church. I wore the right clothes. I sang in children’s choir. I went to every youth activity. I tried to quit talking so much. I read my Bible sporadically and prayed even more sporadically. I looked good on the outside, but I was a disaster on the inside. I was doing all I could do. I had prayed the words, I had tried to understand. Every time doubt sprang up in my mind, I pushed it down by trying to behave better. “You’re doubting this because you haven’t been reading your Bible every day. Just do better,” I would tell myself. I would start a read-through-your-Bible-in-a-year schedule. I would make a prayer list. I would just work harder. Surely, if I did all of that, I would know I was saved.

On the morning of June 12, 1993, as I was reading Ezra chapter one, the Lord quickened me. He said, almost audibly, “You don’t understand any of this because you are not born-again.” WHAT? What was this? I felt a huge sin burden upon my back, a feeling I had never had before. It was as if every sin I had ever committed was flashing before my eyes. I was not a Christian, and no amount of work or prayers would make me one. What a startling revelation. I sought out my friend’s mother, with whom I was staying, and told her I needed to be saved. But this time, I didn’t need anyone to show me verses, or to tell me what to say or do – I knew! As soon as my sinful condition was revealed, I cried out to God for mercy and He gloriously saved me.

SAVED, by His pow’r devine,

SAVED, to new life sublime,

Life now is sweet and my joy is complete

For I’m SAVED! SAVED! SAVED!

This song describes that moment in my life, the moment in which I was a lost sinner one second, and a born-again child of God the next. You see, you DO know if you’re saved. There is a “feeling”. It’s a feeling of sin, of despair, of hopelessness, of embarrassment before a Holy God, followed by a feeling of relief, overwhelming joy and indescribable happiness.

Years later, as a twenty-something married woman, I heard myself praying the words of Psalm 51:12, “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation”. I was going through a time of depression, which by nature I am prone to do. Shortly thereafter, I read the words of that Psalm and noticed that I had misquoted it – it’s not “the joy of MY salvation”, it says, “The joy of THY salvation.” This started an avalanche of thoughts tumbling through my brain. Was salvation not man’s choice? Was it of God and God alone? I’m sure that to those of you who caught on to this ages ago, this sounds silly. But I really thought that I had something to do with salvation! I thought I had to make a choice, to decide to be saved, but I had tried that. It didn’t work.  And while calling out to Christ certainly is part of salvation, it’s not all of it. Christ awakened me to my sin without my consent. My pastor, Bro. Ken Graham, would call this “the conviction of the Holy Spirit”, some call it “the quickening of the Spirit”. Whatever you call it, it was missing from my first two professions of faith. The first two times, I was essentially trying to save myself. I thought that my desire or decision to be saved would supply the final ingredient to salvation. Christ did His part, now I must do mine. I was believing that salvation was Christ plus my belief. In reality, it is Christ plus nothing.

Salvation is through Christ alone.

I went forward in the auditorium – not to please my flesh with air conditioning – but because I had been brought into the fold by the strong arms of the Good Shepherd. I was baptized for the third – and final – time on July 30, 1993. My parents were not surprised. They sat on their pew that Sunday morning silently rejoicing that their struggling little lamb had finally made it home.

With love,

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My Childhood Friends

I have an older brother and sister, but we were spread out enough in age to have grown up as three “only children”. I often came home from school as a youngster, found a place near the bookshelf and read and admired the pictures in my favorite books till supper time. My mother loves books, and, I have already mentioned my two older siblings. By the time I arrived on the scene, we had quite a collection of excellent children’s books. Of course, she added to it after I was born, too. 
I would spend summer afternoons cuddled up beside her, listening to her read (and re-read) selected favorites. I could even talk my dad into reading some to me. When I was very young, mother would send me off for a “nap” with a huge stack of books. “You don’t have to go to sleep,” she would say, “just lie back and look at books.” Before I knew it, I would fall asleep next to a close friend.
I had real life friends, too! But there’s no other friend quite like a good story. 
It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that Mother won’t part with these dear companions, and yes, I begged. So, when I married and had my own children, I began collecting my familiar acquaintances from the four corners of the country. I still haven’t found them all, but I won’t give up!
In October, Terry and I stopped in at our Goodwill to look for shoes for him. It was just a quick trip, since we were on a date out to eat. Of course, I couldn’t help but peruse the used book section. I was about to leave when I saw several golden spines all grouped together – Little Golden Books! I started to refuse myself the opportunity, but couldn’t resist. I quickly thumbed through them, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Not one, but TWO copies of one of my favorite Little Golden Books, Daisy Dog’s Wake Up Book! I absolutely loved it as a child and recall Mother reading it over and over and over. I loved the illustrations, too! I could admire them for quite some time at a sitting. Right next to the Daisy books, was one copy of a now out-of-print book called Jenny’s Surprise Summer, which I first heard about from the Five in a Row literature-based homeschooling unit study. It’s a cute story that we’ve only read once or twice because of how few copies are out there.
I was so excited, that I snapped a photo of the books with my phone, right there at Goodwill! I think I paid $2 for these books! 

The same day I found Daisy Dog, I also found this book that my mom had when I was young!

It has some cute illustrations and a darling story line about a boy named Kim who needs to get rid of some kittens, but something goes wrong. I hate to give it all away, in case you can find it for yourself.

Here are some of the cute pictures from Daisy Dog’s Wake Up Book. I just love them, too! The book is one long poem, so it’s fun to read aloud.

This picture is my favorite one. I would look forever at all the different kinds of beans that Bear ate.

It’s just adorable! 
I found these wonderful books at that same Goodwill on another day!
I have so many favorite books. 
Some of them I have bought brand new, gradually, over the years.
Some of them I’ve found used at library sales, thrift stores, or they’ve been given to me by friends.
Some of them I bought used online.
And some of them, like this one…
…and this one…
…my mother let me keep! 
This tattered set of books was purchased at a church rummage sale years ago. It was our job to sort through and price some of the sale items. Bro. Pritchard, a widower in our church who is now in Heaven, brought by several things for us and this was one of them! I quickly asked Mother if we could keep them, so she bought them from the church before they even hit the “market”. I am reading them for the second time now to my own children. 
What a treasure they are!
I’ve collected quite a few friends in my almost-sixteen-years of marriage. Some are from my husband, who cares about books almost as much as I, and some are new-to-us.
I know I might be a little crazy to care so much about the printed word as much as I do. I know there is a real world out there, with real people and real problems. In fact, reading books has helped me realize that more than ever. Books have shown me the world through eyes that are not my own, like in the Newbery medal winning novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. It’s a book about African-Americans who were sorely mistreated in Depression-era Mississippi. And sometimes, books have provided me the escape from my real world difficulties. Just when I have had the urge to run away from home, I was instead able to “run away” in my imagination. I have met George Washington and traveled with him down the East River with an army of Redcoats surrounding us. I have been with Harry S Truman when he suddenly became President of the United States after the death of FDR; I was beside him when he decided to drop the A-bomb on two cities in Japan. I have felt the heat of Atlanta as she burned to the ground in 1864, and I was there as she rose from the ashes once again. Books have taken me everywhere, to every time. But, the single greatest thing about reading, and the reason I work so hard to ensure that my children are good readers, is that God chose to reveal Himself to man through the printed page, the holy Bible. The Lord must place a very high priority on words, too.
I am so thankful for a mother and dad who took the time out of their fast-paced lives to settle down with a good book, or twelve, to read to their daughter. They probably didn’t realize that they were introducing me to some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

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Can You Find Me?

When I was 18 years old, the Lord led me to the perfect job. I was a receptionist for a car dealership and got to talk all. day. long. I told you, it was the perfect job! My boss was one of the owners, John Landers. He was a wonderful man. He retired about two years after I started working there, and upon his retirement, one of the salesmen drew a “family portrait” of the Landers family. I uncovered it as I was cleaning out and packing up to move. It was a happy time in my life and I owe it all to the Lord. I trusted Him to guide me, and He did.
So, the question is, can you find me? 🙂 

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History Lover

I have vivid memories of lying on the big bed in my parents’ room, which was right beneath two large windows, looking at books of Presidents. There was one book in particular, a large, red book from the library that I enjoyed the most. It had a good two or three pages on each President along with interesting photos. The portion about President Washington showed a picture of his ivory false teeth! Every page detailed the events of our exciting past as a nation. I found that through those pages, I could transport myself  back in time; I could become an eye witness to the hand of God (and of Satan) at work in our country. I fell in love with the past. My dad loved history, too, and it didn’t take any coaxing at all to get him to lie next to me, with reading glasses in place, and read aloud the book of our nation’s leaders. I wish I could recall the exact title of that big red book of Presidents (hmmm, maybe that’s it!), because I’d love to get a copy – even a used copy – as a token of the wonderful memories I made with it.

I still love history. I have found so many thrilling adventures in the pages of biographies and history books, not textbooks. They are dry and boring compared to books written by a man or woman who truly love the subject about which they write. That’s the difference! Their love and admiration is spilled out onto the page and you just can’t help going along for the ride!

I am in the middle of a huge volume right now, 992 pages to be exact. My kids looked at it and said, “Oh! I hope I don’t have to read that!” I told them, “If you started it, you wouldn’t put it down! It’s a page turner!” The book is Truman by David McCullough. I have read 1776 and John Adams by Mr. McCullough and each one was excellent. I have also enjoyed reading the autobiography of Laura Bush and Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly. If we don’t learn and understand our past, we most assuredly are doomed to repeat it.

I also picked up a DVD set the other day that I’ve seen on the History Channel, simply called  The Presidents. I highly recommend it.

Reading history is not only something I enjoy, but it reminds me of my own history. I remember snuggling beside that tall, tan, cologne-scented man who was my dad, my “partner”. Through the pages of these books, we are together again.

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My New Hobby

I have been “window shopping” for a nice camera for a while now. Last year, the price of the one I wanted was…well, way too much for my budget. So, I just kept dreaming. Then, a miracle occurred! The camera I’d been eyeing dropped in price by almost half! I saved up every penny I could, and, with a some help from my  tall, dark and handsome husband, I was able to purchase my Nikon D3100 DSLR camera on my fifteenth anniversary! It’s my first ever DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera. I know absolutely nothing about photography. From what I’ve been reading, it can be tricky – balancing aperture and shutter speed, ISO, diopter, exposure – and so much more that it hurts my brain to think about it.
I tried taking pictures inside my home right after I bought it, but that was a disaster. However, I was delighted to see some decent results with my outdoor shots. These photos are not perfect by any means, and I know that. But, I’m just so excited to have begun the process of understanding my DSLR, that I just had to share my first feeble efforts with you!
I read that using a large aperture would bring my subject into focus while the background was blurry, which is the look I wanted. I was so happy when that’s the effect I got in this photo of Laci! I know, it’s a bit washed out and perhaps not perfectly focused, but, you can see her and the background is…wait for it… blurry

I did edit this photo a bit. It was too dark for my taste, so I used Picasa to brighten it up a smidge. I just loved how the sun’s rays are so dynamic in this picture of our church. I used a small aperture for this one, which was supposed to bring everything into focus, which it did! I know, it’s not perfect, but to be my first time, I’m pleased. 
I played around with Laci for these photos -she’s showing her many faces: sad, happy, angry and surprised. Again, a bit washed out. I could have edited it to even it out, but I decided to leave it as-is, so I could remember what my first pictures looked like. I hope to compare them later on and find that I’ve improved my skills. 
I hope. (crossing fingers and wishing upon a star) 
I’m just so thrilled to have a new hobby! Raising five children, homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, reading, blogging and writing just wasn’t enough to fill my time. 
Adios,

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Books Read in 2012

I am hurriedly trying to get my “end of the year” posts finished, that’s why I’ve done three in one day. Sorry for the overload! 🙂 Here’s the list of books I read in 2012. My goal was to read 40, and I surpassed that goal. I’m pleased considering that many of them were over 500 pages. I had set a goal to read three books about writing, and I met that goal as well. I also did a lot of writing, but I have no idea if it will ever see the light of day. If nothing else, it was good practice!
I read 30 new authors this year!It was nice to branch out a bit, since I tend to stay with familiar names when it comes to reading. 
I’m already compiling my reading list for the coming year, so leave me a comment if there’s book you love. I’m always looking for new titles and authors. 
Here’s the list, in case you’re curious, although this is mostly for my own reference. The titles in bold type were books I read aloud to the children. 
Non-Fiction
Killing Kennedy – Bill O’Reilly
The Light and the Glory – Peter Marshall and David Manuel
By Searching – Isobel Kuhn
Life Skills for Kids – Christine M. Field
Spoken from the Heart – Laura Bush
Archimedes and the Door of Science – Jeanne Bendick
1776 – David McCullough
Plot & Structure – James Scott Bell
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint – Nancy Kress
On Writing – Stephen King
Suffering and Death: The Saint’s Highest Calling – Randy R. Pike
The Garner Files – James Garner
John Adams – David McCullough
Augustus Caesar’s World – Genevieve Foster
Invincible Louisa – Cornelia Meigs
The Ocean of Truth: The Story of Sir Isaac Newton – Joyce McPherson
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography – William Anderson

Fiction
The List – Robert Whitlow
Shepherd of the Hills – Harold Bell Wright
Tara Road – Maeve Binchy 
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie 
Home to Harmony – Philip Gulley
Just Shy of Harmony – Philip Gulley
Signs and Wonders – Philip Gulley
Christmas in Harmony – Philip Gulley 
And the Shofar Blew – Francine Rivers
The Scent of Cherry Blossoms – Cindy Woodsmall
More Stories In Grandma’s Attic – Arleta Richardson
Treasures from Grandma  – Arleta Richardson
The Trumpet of the Swan  – E. B. White
Flint – Louis L’Amour 
The 21 Balloons William Pène du Bois
The Nine Tailors – Dorothy L. Sayers 
The Discovery – Dan Walsh 
The Westing Game – Ellen Raskin
The Golden Goblet – Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Dinosaurs Before Dark – Mary Pope Osborne
Remembering Christmas – Dan Walsh 
Christmas at Harrington’s – Melody Carlson
Be Still My Soul – Joanne Bischof
The Story of the Treasure Seekers – Edith Nesbit
A Very Special Delivery – Linda Goodnight
Farmer Boy – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mountain Born – Elizabeth Yates
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Agatha Christie

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