About Barbara H.


Great-Grandma Is Home

Jim’s mom passed away very peacefully last night.

Her decline til now had been very slow: she had been in hospice care for over three years (the usual course is six months). So I expected her last phase to go slowly as well, but it went very quickly. I think that was a mercy. The last couple of days were hard as she struggled for breath even with 100% oxygen. Hospice prescribed some medicine to help with congestion and calmness, and that made her last afternoon and evening much more peaceful. The chaplain came by yesterday and sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” to her. Our prayer had always been that God would take her peacefully, with no pain, trauma, or confusion, and that’s just how it happened. We were both in the room and Jim was standing beside her stroking her head, when he saw her last breath. We called Jesse in and had a little private family moment – Jason and his family had said their goodbyes the night before. Her regular caregiver for 4 years now (not with hospice) asked to be called when it happened, so she came over and helped the hospice nurse take care of Jim’s mom’s body, and then we all waited til the guys from the funeral home came.

As I said yesterday, death is called “the last enemy,” but its days are numbered. Some day  “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

But we do have them now, even as we rejoice that she is free from a crumpled, silent body and now breathing easily and reunited with her husband and sister and seeing the face of her Savior, who loved her and gave His life for her, whom she loved and faithfully served all her life. So we’d appreciate your prayers for her family, friends, and caregivers here.

Naturally I’ll be out of pocket for a few days. Thank you, dear friends.

This song came through in my playlist last Sunday, and seemed so appropriate. I wish I could find a clip or video of it online, but the CD it came from, Proclaim His Name by Mac Lynch and Tim Fisher, seems to be out of print.

All is done; the race has ended.
Weary bones are set aside.
You have now a brand new body
In a garment white, with celestial light.

Sin is gone; the pain has lifted.
Left behind are vic’tries won.
Now you see your risen Savior.
This is God’s own Son saying, “Child well done.”

Rest, rest, rest, oh, weary pilgrim.
Come and see that I’ve prepared for you.
Rest, rest, be at home with Me forever,
Free from sin and evermore I will give you rest.

~ Mac Lynch



Friday’s Fave Five

FFF snowflakes

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

Many of you know that we have cared for my husband’s mother in our home for the last 5 1/2 years. She has taken a sudden turn for the worse in the last few days, and it appears she is on the last stretch of her journey here. So this has been a difficult week in many respects. Because of that I almost didn’t do a FFF – I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate. But it’s always appropriate to notice and thank God for blessings, large and small. So here are some of the brightest moments:

1. Catching up with an old friend. My husband’s pastor’s kids attended high school and college with him, and their family was like his second family. One of them was in town for an appointment earlier this week and asked if we could get together, so we had him here for lunch. It was so good to catch up with him and hear news of the rest of the family.

2. Frozen broth. When I made broth from the Christmas ham bone for ham and potato soup in December, I had a lot extra, so I put it in the freezer. It was nice to be able to pull that out for a special lunch with our friend. And I realized, as I was cutting up potatoes and thawing the broth, that I didn’t even have to add seasonings as that had already been done – another plus.

3. Encouraging words from friends at just the right moment.

4. Cleaning up bushes out front was on my husband’s agenda the last few weeks of December when he was off, but he wasn’t able to get to it. He spent last Saturday afternoon on them, and they look so much better.

5. God’s timing. Our church is reading through 1 Corinthians, and wouldn’t you know the great “resurrection chapter,” chapter 15, came up in our reading for today, when my m-i-l is in the worst condition she has been so far. Verse 26 calls death the last enemy. Whether it occurs suddenly, as with my mom, or in a slow decline, as with my husband’s mom, it’s awful either way. It is an enemy, and it’s ok to hate it. But the gospel in verses 3 and 4, that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again, takes the “sting” out of death. We know, when she passes, that some day we’ll see her again, along with our other loved ones who have gone before, though we miss them til then.

Book Review: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Cold Outside

Dottie Morgan just wants to be left alone. Even at Christmas. Especially at Christmas. A part of her died when her son, Nelson, died in WWII. She’s not been well-favored in the town of Frost, Minnesota, since she ran off and married a “Dapper Dan” stranger, only to return pregnant and alone when her husband went to jail and later died. She and the town had held each at arm’s distance ever since. She felt that even God was keeping His distance from her because of her mistakes.

And then a blizzard trapped four other people in her house.

First Violet Hart came to tentatively ask Dottie about using the star she and Nelson had once made for the Christmas dance. But Violet got into an accident right in front of Dottie’s house and had to be tended to. Violet had been in the WAACs during WWII, a crack mechanic, but people didn’t respect her service. Now, even when she changed a light bulb or fuse, people wondered why she did a man’s job. But Violet had always felt more comfortable with mechanical issues than typical women’s pursuits. She had met one young man, Alex, overseas and corresponded for years. She had hoped he’d come to visit, but when her last letter came back stamped “Return to Sender,” she could only conclude he wasn’t interested, and she’d end up an old spinster like Dottie.

Jake Ramsey was the inadvertent cause of Violet’s accident when he tried to catch her. He had been Alex’s best friend all his life. When Alex died, all his belongings came to Jake, including Violet’s letters. Jake sort of took over Alex’s place, writing in his stead. In the process he began to get to know Dottie and then to love her. But how would she react when she learned that Alex had died and Jake had pretended to be him?

Gordy Lindholm had been Dottie’s neighbor across the street for as long as they could remember. He had loved her once. Still did, in fact. But she had married someone else. He had loved Nelson like his own, but Dottie resented that Gordy had taught Nelson to shoot and then inspired him to be a soldier. Dottie and Gordy had maintained a distant truce over the years, but he watched out for her, filled her wood bin and such. Now he heard the accident and went over to see what was wrong when the blizzard suddenly blew in. He could probably make it home, but it looked like he could be of help at Dottie’s house – if she’d let him.

Arnie Shiller had to stay after school as punishment for daydreaming. Darkness and cold descended on him as he made his way home, and then a sudden snow storm. He tried to make it home, but when that seemed impossible, he strove to make it to his designated Storm House, Mrs. Morgan’s.

Susan May Warren deftly weaves all these lives together in  Baby, It’s Cold Outside. I had started this before Christmas, but then set it aside to finish a library book that I could not renew due to holds on it. After Christmas I planned to put this book away for next Christmas. But I picked it up and read a few pages where I had left off – and got hooked into the story.

Susan has managed to write a tale of five wounded souls with all their flaws, unrecognized virtues, and issues without it becoming sappy or trite Christmas fare.

I loved this book. I loved each person’s story, their interactions, misunderstandings, and journey to make peace with God and each other.

And there were some brilliant moments throughout. As one example (in a slight spoiler), Arnie has been out in the cold too long when he is finally discovered. As they try to warm him, Jake explains that as feeling comes back into Arnie’s limbs, they’re going to be painful at first before they get better. In an aha moment, I realized that the exact same thing was happening to Dottie inwardly. All the emotions she had numbed since her son died were being rubbed back to life by all the circumstances and conversations, and at first they caused nothing but pain. I love that Susan made that parallel without being blatant about it, setting it up to dawn on the reader. She explains in her afterward another parallel or symbolism in the storm house itself.

A few quotes:

God doesn’t expect us to be strong without Him…we’re supposed to need Him, and there’s no disgrace in that. In fact, weakness just might be the mark of a man of God. Don’t call yourself weak because of the things you can’t do. Call yourself weak when you don’t let God take over, do His work in your life…That’s the point of Christmas, isn’t it? Our weakness, His strength? Him coming to our rescue? (pp. 225-226).

Hope, however fragile, is the one thing that keeps us from getting lost…We can’t stop the pain. We can only apply the comfort of God to it (p. 281).

Excellent book, even after Christmas.

Book Review: Among the Fair Magnolias

magnolias Among the Fair Magnolias contains four different stories set in the Civil War-era South.

“A Heart So True” by Dorothy Love takes place in Pawley’s Island, SC. Abby Clayton’s father plans to run for governor and expects Abby to marry a distant cousin, Charles. But Abby’s previous encounters with Charles have turned her against him. Besides, she loves the country doctor. Will she end up marrying Charles out of duty, or will he show his true colors and convince her father Charles is not the man for her?

In “To Mend a Dream” by Tamera Alexander, Savannah Darby takes care of her sister and brother after the deaths of their parents and loss of their Nashville home. She works for a seamstress and suddenly finds herself tasked with sewing curtains for the new owners of her family’s home. This is an opportunity to find a box her father had told her he had hidden away on the property.  Bostonian Aidan Bedford had visited the area and bought the place after an unusual conversation with an enemy soldier whom he nicknamed Nashville. Aiden has brought his fiance to see the place and decorate it to her tastes, but the more time they spend together, the less sure he is of their engagement. But something about the seamstress working on their curtains intrigues him.

In “Love Beyond Limits” by Elizabeth Musser, the Civil War is over, the slaves are now working as freedmen and sharecroppers in Georgia, and Emily couldn’t be happier. She spends most of her time teaching former slaves how to read. Not everyone shares her joy, however: the Klan is dangerously active in the area. An old friend seeks Emily’s hand, but she can’t accept him because she loves another: one of the freedmen. But she can’t express her love because it would be dangerous for the man she loves. (This one had an unexpected double twist at the end!)

In “An Outlaw’s Heart” by Shelley Gray, Russell Stark has been on the run for years. He had defended his girlfriend, Nora, from an attack by his drunken father and killed him in the process. Both his mother and Nora told him to go, and he has spent most of his time with an outlaw gang. Now he’s come home to Fort Worth to find his mother seriously ill and his former girlfriend caring for her. Nora is still single but seeing another man, someone Russell thinks is hiding something. But will anybody believe an outlaw? And can he ever put his past behind him and move on?

Some of the characters in the stories were from other books by the authors, but I didn’t feel I was missing anything in the stories by not having read the previous books.

I got this book mainly because I love Elizabeth Musser’s writing. But I enjoyed all these stories, the lessons learned, and the journeys of faith for each one.

Book Review: Annabel Lee

annabel leeAnnabel Lee lives with her uncle, called Truck, and his scary dog in small-town Alabama. Truck teaches her from home, mostly languages like German and Creole. Suddenly one day Truck takes Annabel to an underground bunker, leaves the dog with her, and tells her sternly not to open the door for anyone, including him, without the safe code.

Meanwhile investigator Trudi Coffey has noticed that a personal newspaper ad that has said merely “Safe” for months now suddenly says “Unsafe.” Shortly thereafter a mysterious “Dr. Smith” comes to her agency to ask if she has seen or knows anything about Truck. Trudi denies any knowledge, though Truck was a friend and colleague of her ex-husband, Samuel.

Then Samuel himself shows up, asking to borrow back a book he had gifted her with some years before: a volume of Edgar Allen Poe’s works. Trudi gives it to him but doesn’t tell him that she had discovered the secret compartment in the back and removed the key and note there.

The Mute is an ex-military sniper who first earned his nickname because he was so quiet. Then an explosion while on duty took away his voice for real. The Mute is Truck’s friend and knows Annabel is in trouble but doesn’t know where to find her. But he knows evil people are also looking for her.

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa grabbed me in the first chapter and did not let go. Not only was the story riveting, but the banter, particularly between Trudi and Samuel, was exquisite. The point of view goes back and forth between Annabel, Trudi, and the Mute. The story was a bit more violent than my usual fare, but it wasn’t gratuitous: the bad guys were extremely bad guys and needed extreme means to defend against. There’s a definite faith element and undercurrent to the story, though it’s not blatant.

Though I wanted to race through the book to find out what happened, I was also sad to see it end. Great story: wonderful writing: highly recommended.

A sense of Him

Isobel Kuhn‘s writings have benefited me greatly. One of her books is called Second Mile People, in which she writes of several who have influenced her life in a major way. In Jesus’s instruction about going the second mile, she says, the first mile is compulsory, but the second is an offering “for the good and peace of His kingdom.” All of the people she writes of in this book have gone the extra mile and “have cried out, not ‘How much will He ask?’ but ‘How much can I give Him?’”

One such person is Dorothy. Isobel begins Dorothy’s chapter with this poem:


Not merely in the words you say,
Not only in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.

Is it a beatific smile,
A holy light upon your brow;
Oh no, I felt His Presence while
You laughed just now.

For me ‘twas not the truth you taught
To you so clear, to me still dim
But when you came to me you brought
A sense of Him.

And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Til I lose sight of you and see
The Christ instead.

—by A. S. Wilson

Isobel then tells of meeting a young woman named Dorothy at a conference. Isobel had not been saved very long. “My ideas of the Christian life were still in a crude, unmoulded state.” Dorothy seemed attractive, winsome and sweet, and Isobel was pleased when Dorothy asked her to go for a walk. Dorothy had in mind to “speak just a word for Jesus” while on this walk, but as it happened, their conversation centered on happy, funny things. “When we parted Dorothy felt she had been a failure, unconscious that the one she had hoped to help was going away enchanted with this glimpse into the very human sweetness of this Christlike girl. ‘…I felt His Presence when you laughed just now….’ The Spirit-filled life cannot ‘fail’, it is fruitful even when it may seem least to have done anything. That walk gave Dorothy ‘influence’ over me when a ‘sermon’ would have created a permanent barrier. In fact at that time I carried a mental suit of armour all ready to slip on quietly the moment any ‘old fogey’ tried to ‘preach’ at me!”

“Oswald Chambers says, ‘The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us and talk to us, but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies of the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly.’ A great mistake is to think that a Spirit-filled man or woman must always be casting sermons at people. Being ‘filled with the Spirit’ (which is a first qualification of Second Mile People) is merely a refusing of self and a taking by faith of the life of Christ as wrought in us by His Holy Spirit.” “We must take the Spirit’s fullness, as we take our salvation, by faith in God’s promise that He is given to us.”

Some weeks later when Dorothy and Isobel met again, Dorothy’s “time had come” to “get in a ‘preach,’” for Isobel then was in a frame of mind and heart to receive it. “The Holy Spirit is never too early and never too late.” Though Isobel did not understand as yet all Dorothy was trying to say, her words did lay the groundwork for future understanding, and “from Dorothy I just drank in the inspiration of herself, the ‘sense of Him’, and the fact that this life of undisturbed peace was no mystic dream but a possible reality who sat before me with earnest sweet eyes and soft pink cheeks.”

Neither Isobel nor I are talking about being a witness just by lifestyle and never using words. As she said, eventually Dorothy was able to talk to her more fully. Isobel spent her life sharing God’s Word with others and writing words of His doings in her heart and those He ministered to.

But I know what she means about people like Dorothy. I have known some people who seem to reflect Christ and carry a “sense of Him” in everything they do, every word, action, and attitude. Something of Him shines through even when they are talking about everyday activities. That only comes from spending much time with Him in His Word and prayer.

May I live so close to Him that people always sense His presence.


(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth)

Laudable Linkage

Just a few good reads to share today:

Read Your Bible to Fight Unbelief, HT to Challies. “We stop reading it when, in our unbelief, we start living as if we were autonomous and knew well how to do this thing called life without any direction from the Holy Spirit.”

Why Paul’s Messy Churches Give Us Hope.

Walking Saints Home, HT to Challies, on “the calling to walk with men and women to the end of their earthly lives.”

Why You Shouldn’t Stop Blogging (or Why You Should Consider Starting)

And, finally, this was floating around Facebook a while back. It always cracks me up:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

FFF snowflakes

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

For some reason I am still in the “What day is this?” mode from the holidays. I don’t know why, as we’ve been back into the regular routine for a week now. But I did remember that it’s Friday, and time for FFF! Here are some of my favorite parts of the last week:

1. A valuable find. I keep some not-read-yet books in the bottom drawer of my nightstand. I hadn’t opened that drawer in I-don’t-know-when, but I did this week to see if I could make room for some new books. The books that were there were dusty, so I decided to clean them off. Then I ended up taking everything out to clean and organize and discovered – a $100 bill in the bottom of the drawer! I certainly didn’t remember missing $100. I don’t even have a $100 bill very often. After being mystified for days, wondering how it got there, I faintly remembered receiving it in a card from my husband on some gift-giving occasion. Not wanting to carry it around with me in my purse, I put it in the drawer for safekeeping. So it was like getting a gift all over again! And a smaller bonus: I got reacquainted with what I had in that drawer and did make space for more.

2. Another valuable find. I’d been missing my favorite umbrella for months. I checked the places I thought I might have left it, but couldn’t find it. It was special both because it was pretty and because my husband gave it to me. I didn’t have it on a “wish list,” which we usually exchange for gift-giving ideas: it was just something he saw that he thought I might like. So I mourned its loss for a while. But he discovered it this week – in the glove compartment of my van. I don’t know how it got there, either! I keep it on the passenger-side floorboard, and all I can figure is that one of the boys rode on the side seat once and put the umbrella in the glove compartment to get it out of their way.

These two finds make me think I should do a thorough spring cleaning! 🙂

3. Sleep. I felt like my body was trying to come down with something this week. On one particular day, every time I sat down for long, I fell asleep. But I think that was my body’s way of fighting off whatever this is. I still have a scratchy throat and am blowing my nose often, but I don’t have the heavy, boggy sinus pressure any more. Hopefully I headed a worse cold off at the pass.

4. Make your own pizza night. I found these single-serving pizza crusts in both regular and gluten-free, then set out pizza sauce and various toppings for everyone to put together their own. The downside was that some had to wait because the oven couldn’t accommodate everyone’s at once. But since they took less than ten minutes to bake, the wait wasn’t too very long. Dinner was both fun and tasty!

5. Cleaning out the sewing/craft room closet. No, this wasn’t inspired by # 1 and 2. 🙂 It’s the place I stick things I don’t know what to do with yet, and it was stuffed. I’m only about halfway done, but I feel much better about it and it’s much more usable already. I hope to finish by the weekend, if not before.

Happy Friday!

Book Review: Christian Publishing 101

 Christian Publishing 101 by Ann Byle is like a writer’s conference in a book.

Byle covers multiple aspects of writing and publishing, among them:

  • Writing from life and vocation
  • Facing nos
  • Writing as a spiritual journey
  • Pitching your writing
  • Creating a book proposal
  • Specialty markets
  • Writing for magazines and websites
  • Writing fiction, nonfiction, devotionals, memoir, poetry, flash fiction, etc.
  • Personal style
  • Writing for children, teens, and tweens
  • Platform and social media
  • Promoting and marketing
  • Different ways to publish
  • Legal aspects
  • Interaction with agents
  • Managing time

For each chapter, Byle consulted an expert in the related field. Most of the chapters are the result of interviews with each expert, but some are excerpts from the expert’s book, blog post, or article. I knew of many of those interviewed and others were new to me.

Some of the chapters are quite general; some are detailed and meaty, depending on the topic and the person interviewed.

Byle covered almost every possible topic related to writing and publishing. There were a few areas where I would have liked more information, but in almost every chapter she lists resources for further reading. In a book like this, as well as a writer’s conference, you’re not going to get all there is to know about any one topic, because that would require multiple volumes. But Ann gives a good grasp of many of the topics.

Best of all, instead of trying to madly get down all the notes in a writer’s conference session or having to process the fire-hydrant blast of information received there, in this book you have all the notes to refer back to and can go over any given chapter as slowly or as often as needed. And in a conference there’s no way to get to every interesting session: with this book, you have access to all of them.

Overall, an excellent resource.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: Homebody

HomebodyJoanna Gaines’ philosophy in Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave is that we shouldn’t decorate just to fit everything within a certain style. Rather, our homes should be reflections of the needs and personalities of those who live there.

Throughout this book, you’ll notice a theme of “telling your story” within your home. What I mean is that I want you to approach the design of your home with intention, to surround yourself with items that mean something to you, and choose furnishings and details that make you happy or inspired or content (p. 8).

Intentionality with a dose of creativity goes much further than money and flawless taste when it comes to making a house a home (p. 9).

The book is laid out simply and practically. First Joanna discusses some introductory thoughts. Then she gives a brief description of several styles: farmhouse, modern, rustic, industrial, traditional, and boho. In a sense these are all modern styles, or modern interpretations.

Then Joanna gives even more brief summaries of each of the homes she’ll be sharing pictures of. I noticed that all of them are a blend of two or three styles: no one decorated everywhere in a house within any one style. Of that eclectic tendency, Joanna says, “I believe that a gathered approach is essential to creating spaces that are a true representation of you and the people who share your home” (p. 13).

Then a chapter is devoted to each room in the house. First Joanna shares thoughts on how her philosophy of design for each room developed over the years. Then she lists what to consider in each room (how it will be used, special considerations, etc.), shows several pictures from a various homes and comments on salient points, and finishes with a couple of pages about troubleshooting the particular design issues in each room. In addition to the usual rooms (living room, kitchen, etc.), she has a chapter devoted to entryways, kid spaces, “rooms to retreat,” and utility spaces.

She mentions that utility spaces (laundry, pantry, etc.) are often neglected, but since we spend so much time in them, it pays to brighten them up a bit. I can testify to that. This is the first house we’ve lived in where there was a nice laundry room, and the first time I’ve put a bit of art on the walls (nothing expensive: a cross-stitched picture my sister made, a framed calendar page, a Hobby Lobby clearance piece, etc.). It makes a lot of difference to have that area pleasant to be in.

I also liked her thought that in kids’ rooms, “Rather than focusing on literal interpretations of a theme, decor and furnishings are incorporated in a way that will age with the children” (p. 249). In one example, a little girl loved rainbows. But instead of painting an actual rainbow on the wall, a rainbow effect was suggested by a gradation of soft colors on the walls and a wall hanging. (My own personal thought here: there’s nothing wrong with painting an actual rainbow or whatever if a child wants that. It’s likely the room will need to be painted again or her tastes will change sometime before she moves out, anyway. But I did like this idea of the effect of something rather than a literal interpretation.)

A few other quotes:

[Though] what’s on the inside matters most…tending to the outside has a pretty profound effect on how we feel on the inside (p. 33).

Functionality doesn’t need to be sacrificed to make a space feel inviting (p. 35).

I realized that I had let the pursuit of perfection inform how I designed this space instead of the people who were actually supposed to be enjoying life in it (p. 55).

The book ends with a design template and suggestions for the process of how to design a particular room.

We don’t watch too many HGTV shows as we don’t get that channel, and watching it online can be a little wonky (sometimes we’re limited in what we can see). But of the few shows we have watched, I like Joanna’s style and touch the best. Yet, her style is not my style. What seems clean and minimal to her seems a little barren to me. I don’t like the horizontal lines of shiplap and subway tiles. I cringe at the thought of open shelving (I fight dust even in closed cabinets: I can’t fathom adding dusting open shelving to my regular tasks). I got tired of the mostly black and white palette in the book’s illustrations. But that’s ok, because she’s not advocating that everyone follow her style. Her main point is that every home will look different as it’s adapted to its occupants. I love her philosophy and many of the practical tips she shared. All in all, I enjoyed the book very much.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)