Sunday, November 25, 2012

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart

Last Thursday, as we all know, was Thanksgiving.  This year, it's taken on a different meaning for me.  I've pondered a lot about life this year.  Faced with health challenges and surgeries...among other things...Heaven has looked a little sweeter.  But so have the things on this earth that really matter.
 My family.  They have given me so much support, love, encouragement, prayers...and things I'm sure I don't even realize.  I am grateful for a loving, Godly family.
 My kiddos.  I just look at these pictures of them and my heart swells...along with my eyes : ).  I love them so much.  Even when the days are tough...when there's poopy diapers, poopy accidents, discipline issues, tears, spit up, sickness...all of it fades out of my memory for a moment as I imagine a second of life without them.  If this is just a glimpse of what my Heavenly Father feels for me...I am overwhelmed.
 My littlest's first Thanksgiving.  I'm a little sad thinking about this being my last baby's first Thanksgiving.  I'm not going to go there!
 My best friend.  In eight years we've experienced deaths of loved ones, three babies with three different baby stories, ministry, sickness (oh, the sickness!), cancer, and surgeries.  Lots of laughter, some great trips, meeting new people and fellowshipping with old friends, birthday parties, special moments, and tears.  It's what two becoming one is all about.  My, how grateful I am that I waited for God's choice for me.

Making turkey cookies with the kiddos was a great way to round out the day.  I love doing fun little things like that.  My niece and nephew got to decorate with us! 
I said this a lot lately, but I'll say it again...God has blessed me!  Praise Him!  God bless you this holiday season!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tea time

 Today was a fun, busy day.  We had our little friend, Bethany, who used to do homeschool with us, over for a playdate.  It has been a while since she's been over, so I wanted to really try to make it special. I thought we could make cupcakes...but instead of putting them in the cupcake papers we put them in ice cream cones : ).  We also colored the batter. 
 After they were cooled, we had a little decorating crew.  Sophie and Bethany would put on the icing...chocolate almond (yum!)...and Isaac would add the sprinkles.  It brought back some good memories to see their chairs all lined up by the kitchen counter.  I didn't realize how much I missed the time we had those two years of homeschooling!
 I've been thinking lately that I really need to use my nice china more.  I was one of those brides that said, "If I get china, I'm going to use it!"..not.  I have to confess that I have not used my china very much at all.  But today...we used the china!  I let the girls have the fancy cups and plates for their tea party.  Sidenote...Bethany's birthday was over the summer and I asked her mom what she wanted.  We had a tea party earlier in the year at my house and Bethany told her mom that she didn't want us to give her a present.  All she wanted was for me to have a tea party for her at my house as her gift.  Presh!  I have had to put it off for a while because of the surgeries, baby, etc., so I was so glad that I was able to finally give her a tea party!  We also sang happy birthday to her and her smile was so big!
I brought out my special tea cup, too.  I bought this many years ago when I was in England.  It's so pretty and never gets I've decided that I'm going to start using my pretty tea cups.  Life is too short! : )

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Swept away with "Against the Tide"

*I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers to provide and unbiased review*
"Against the Tide" by Elizabeth Camden

The first book I read by Elizabeth Camden was "The Lady of Bolton Hill"...which I loved!  One of the mysterious background characters in this novel is now one of the principle characters in "Against the Tide".  And oh yeah...I was excited about that!

First of all, isn't the cover gorgeous?!  It definitely piqued my interest as most good book covers do.  From the beginning I was drawn to the character of Lydia Pallas, a native of Greece and a gifted speaker of several languages.  Her past is a sad one, left alone at a young age and forced to grow up in an orphanage.  But once she is on her own, she is able to use her language skills as a translator for the Navy.  That is how she crosses paths with Alexander Banebridge...a mysterious man with unworldly angelic features...and she becomes curious as to who exactly "Bane" is.  When Bane hires her to do some translation work for him, their interactions frustrate, yet intrigue, Lydia.  You see, Lydia likes order and stability and Bane is the exact opposite.  Lydia is challenged in ways she never thought she could and Bane is right in the middle of it all. 

One thing I love about Elizabeth Camden's books that I've read so far is that they give you more than you expect.  My expectation with this book was that it would be an interesting love story with maybe a little excitement thrown in, but I was glad that my expectations weren't met...they were exceeded!  This book is filled with romantic tension, suspense, excitement, and growth of characters that is not just realistic, but relatable.  I haven't faced the things that Lydia or Bane have, but I felt swept away by their story and I found it very believable.  I was so excited to get more insight into Bane.  His story was just a sidenote in The Lady of Bolton Hill, so some of the mystery of his character was revealed.  If you're looking for a novel that will keep you turning pages with excitement, this is one I would definitely recommend.  It also has a wonderful message of redemption, victory over addiction, and courage. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Music City, historic sites, and lovely meetings

I must say that as I sit writing this post, I am smiling.  The hubby and I just got back from a great weekend together.  It was a belated anniversary trip, as our anniversary fell 6 days after my last surgery and I wasn't quite up for doing much at that time.  But this weekend was PERFECT!  The weather was amazing.  The timing was good.  We were able to leave all three kids with my parents. : )  Our destination of choice: Nashville, Tennessee...otherwise known as Music City.
 Pretty nice, huh?  We actually stayed with Joe's brother while we were there and he was a very generous host.  It was really fun to visit with him and his kiddos as we don't get to see them very often.  He also took his lunch break to show us all around Nashville on about a 2 hour driving tour.  It was great.  He's a part of a hiking group that takes walks around Nashville each week, so he drove us around his walking route.  He also drove us around Music Row, a long street filled with music recording studios and places where musicians dreams have come true...including Elvis.  It was pretty neat.
 After our tour, the hubby and I had a lunch date at the Loveless Cafe.  We had honestly never heard of it, but we learned that this wasn't just any old restaurant.  It is known for its homemade biscuits...and they are delish!
 Here we are...a plate of fresh biscuits just delivered!  They serve them with homemade peach, strawberry, and blackberry jams. good.  I love this picture of us, too.  : )
 Here is the special lady we were able to meet for lunch...Tamera Alexander!  For those of you who don't know her, Tammy is the author of several historical Christian fiction novels, some of which have won awards for excellence.  I discovered her books in our church library several years ago and devoured them!  Over the years as she wrote more books, I would find a way to read them.  I haven't read one that hasn't been wonderful!  Not only do I read Tammy's books, but I also like to follow her blog and her facebook page.  Through those two things we've made connections through life experiences, recipes, faith, and more.  It's so neat to connect on a personal level with an author I admire.  Equally neat was the fact that when I asked her to meet up for lunch, she agreed!  She also suggested The Loveless...and it was just one more aspect of our weekend that was just right!  The food, the atmosphere, and the company were fabulous!
 On Saturday we were able to go to Opry Mills Mall (right by the famous Opryland Hotel) and meet up with my dear Berry College friend, Stacy, and her family!  Her husband is stationed on an Army base not far away in Kentucky, so they drove over and met us for lunch.  What a treat!  Stacy and I haven't seen each other in many years.  I was able to meet her husband and 4 beautiful children.  It felt like we picked up right where we left off...isn't it great when that happens!?
 And yes, that's Tamera and I again...but this time it's at the Belle Meade Plantation!  One of the reasons I picked this weekend to go to Nashville was because I knew Tammy was having a book signing for her new book, To Whisper Her Name, on that Saturday.  I actually won a copy of the book on Tammy's blog not too long ago and really wanted to get it signed!  Plus I wanted to meet the author ; ).  So Joe and I headed over to Belle Meade after lunch, got my book signed, said hello once again, and then took a tour of the house.  It was a lot of fun and the weather was gorgeous.  After the tour we had a great time walking around the grounds for a few minutes.
 There's Joe on the front steps as we're waiting for the tour to begin.
Here I am in front of this beautiful tree that had bright yellow leaves.  This stone fence lined the property and continued well past the current grounds of the house.  I loved the stone fence so I just had to get a picture with it : ).

So that, in a nutshell, was our whirwind trip to Nashville.  Part of the fun was just getting to spend time in the car talking and hanging out with my hubby.  It isn't often we just get time to sit and talk to each other without being interrupted or honestly too exhausted!  God was so good to provide this trip.  So many things worked together to make it all happen and I must take a moment to thank my parents, who not only let us borrow one of their vehicles because our was having trouble on our way to their house, but also got our vehicle fixed while we were gone.  Not to mention they took care of our three kiddos all weekend!  My uncle took the van for us and he and my mom cleaned it out for us!  How awesome is that?!  I mean, our van was rough...we still had sand in it from our beach trip!  And another big thank you to Tamera Alexander for taking time out of her busy weekend to meet up with us.  It was truly a joy and a blessing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Unending Devotion...a book review

I just finished reading Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund last night and wanted to share my review.  *I received this book free from Bethany House publishers to do an unbiased book review.*  Here is the book'll give you a short summary of the basic plot:

I love the authentic pictures that are used in this trailer, because it would've been hard for me to envision the lumber camps as I have never been to one.  Use that photo as a guide to take you into the dark world of the late 19th century lumber industry...a world filled with poor working conditions, men who are rough around the edges, and women forced into prostitution to fill the "needs" of the workers.  Many turned a blind eye to the evil around them, rationalizing it by saying that the country needed lumber to build with, so the men had to be kept happy so they could do the harsh labor.  Lily Young, however, doesn't turn a blind eye.  She has a mission to rescue her sister from one of the houses of ill repute...and other desperate women she meets along the way.  She is fearless and consistently puts herself in harm's way, standing up to those who are filled with greed and evil.  When she meets Connell McCormick she sees a man who is honorable, yet doesn't want to take a stand against what is wrong.  Their journey is filled with suspense, love, and a challenge to do what's right no matter the cost.

When I read a Jody Hedlund book, I know I'm going to take a step into a moment in history.  This moment is usually known for its challenges, injustices, and the perseverance of its characters.  Although the characters are fictional, they are often based on real people.  That's one thing that makes her novels so interesting and enjoyable.  They feel very authentic.  This book is no exception.  There were a few moments that Lily's fearlessness seemed unimaginable to me..yet I know from history that there are those who will risk their lives for others without fear.  I, of course, also liked the growing romance between Lily and Connell.  It wasn't without challenges in itself and I felt that it was realistic.  Even though Lily was very brave and selfless, she had to grow and learn as well.  Hedlund does a great job describing the evils of the lumber camps and the darkness taking place there, yet doesn't go so deep in the description that I felt overwhelmed by it.  The theme of overcoming evil and adversity that I've seen in each of her novels is inspiring.  As one who is concerned with the overwhelming problem of child exploitation that we have in this world, I thought Hedlund's book related to that and was an encouragement to me to think of how one person really can make a difference in the lives of those who are forced into a life of horror.  I would definitely recommend this book! 

I intereviewed Jody not too long ago on my blog.  Here is the link.  She includes a great recipe! 
Happy reading!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The freedom a fence brings...and crafts

 I look at the picture above and I feel like smiling.  Our new fence.  I can't describe how joyful the hubby and I feel about this.  It's beautiful.  It might seem strange to some of you that we would be so excited about something that is associated with being closed in and not having as much freedom.  For us...this fence brings some much needed freedom!  Let me explain.  From the time our son was able to walk, he's basically been running.  He is fearless, adventurous, and quite often disobedient.  The first two traits I love about him....the last one has been quite a challenge.  I have longed to be able to take him outside and let him run and play his little heart out...because I've known for quite a while that this boy loves the outdoors.  It kind of made me sad that I felt like I had to keep him in.  I simply couldn't handle chasing him around, especially when I became pregnant with our third child.  This year has been difficult for me physically with three surgeries, an infant, nursing, and then trying to keep up with my little "active" child.  The hubby and I have discussed a fence and how we could possibly put one in.  It was put on the "let's do this one day" list.  There was no way we could handle the cost this year.  Once again, God stepped in and heard our heart's desire.  He laid it on the hearts of several families in our church to come together and provide us with this fence.  I don't even know all of those who ministered to us in this way, but I know those who came out and measured, cleared out the area, and spent several hours digging holes and putting it in...and I am SO grateful!  The first day it was finished, we took the kids outside and my little "big boy" (he doesn't like to be called my little boy anymore) played almost all day...and loved it.  He digged in the dirt, tried to climb a tree, played on the swing set...I could tell he was so happy!  And the hubby was able to go out and work in the yard without having to worry about the boy running into the road, crossing over to the neighbor's yards, or just being where we couldn't see him.  This fence has brought freedom...and joy!  Thank you, God, and thank you church family!  We are so blessed! 
 On another note...kind of randomly, I decided to add in some crafts I just finished.  I embroidered these baby onesies for a friend who is expecting.  I used to love doing embroidery but haven't had a chance to do much in quite a while.  It was fun to get my thread out and put these together.
What prompted my onesie making was a little project I saw on Pinterest.  It's a felt heart bookmark.  I thought it was so cute and looked easy.  I had some felt so I decided to print out the template and do a little crafting.  It was so fun to put this together and embroider a yellow flower and instead of doing the stitching that was suggested, I decided to improvise and do this feather stitch on the edges.  It was fun!  It actually stays in the book, too.  I shook the book after putting it in just to see if it was worth all the work.  It was! : )  Might be some little Christmas gifts! ; )

Later this week the hubby and I are going on a little trip to Nashville.  I am thrilled to be able to meet one of my favorite Christian fiction authors while we're there...Tamera Alexander!  She's doing a book signing there for her new novel, To Whisper Her Name.  Pictures to come!