End-of-August Musings

August is a full month for us with an anniversary (my son and daughter-in-law’s 10th this year) and two birthdays (my oldest son’s and mine). My oldest son came to visit for a week or so to cerebrate both our birthdays. Jim took the week off as well. Jesse is in-between finishing school and finding a job, so I’m not sure what future Augusts will look like. I hope he’ll be able to find a job locally or at least close enough to visit for those occasions. But we’ll see what happens then and just enjoy having everyone together now.

We didn’t have any major outings this time—just to a restaurant for my birthday and to an arcade/bowling/and other activities place for their Monday night specials. We enjoyed a lot of time talking and playing games.

Other than “birthday week” and getting ready for it, August was a fairly quiet month. Thankfully the trend of mishaps from last month did not continue!

Here are some of the things we’ve been into this month:

Timothyisms:

A couple of texts from my daughter-in-law about my grandson’s sayings:

Creating:

This card was for Jason and Mittu’s anniversary:

This was for Jeremy’s birthday:

The dimensions look a little wonky because it’s partially open.

This is for a beloved former pastor who turns 90 this weekend. I’m taking a risk showing this one because it hasn’t gotten to him yet—but I don’t think he reads this blog, so hopefully it will be ok. 🙂

This is for my pastor’s wife. There’s a story behind it. When she asked how my book-in-progress was going, I told her I’d had some good sessions, and bit by bit it would get done. She told me her husband always says any big task is like eating an elephant—one bite at a time. Later she gave me a little pink elephant to encourage me to keep taking those small “bites” til the task is completed. Thus the pink elephants on the card, made with a little hole-punch. 🙂

I wasn’t quite satisfied with a couple of these—but maybe if I don’t point out the mistakes, you won’t notice them. 🙂

Watching:

Jesse and I usually watch something with lunch and finished the Netflix remake of Lost In Space yesterday. It was pretty intense! But very well done. It had just a couple of bad words in it. Now we have to figure out what to start next. Any suggestions?

I also started watching When Calls the Heart, the Hallmark series based on Janette Oke’s books, while riding my exercise bike. It’s been so long since I’ve read the books, I have forgotten a lot about them. But that’s probably a good thing, or else I’d be constatntly comparing them

I mentioned on a couple of Friday’s Fave Five posts that we watched Lady and the Tramp and I Can Only Imagine together. I watched Savings Mr. Banks  and The Case for Christ while exercising before starting When Calls the Heart.

Sometimes I hate to mention shows because right after I do, they’ll have something bad on them. I’m usually wary of any kind of comedian shows on TV because they almost always contain something objectionable. One night Bring the Funny, a comedian competition show, was on, so I gave it a try. It was pretty good! And clean! I haven’t watched all the episodes, so I can’t vouch for all of them, but I hope they keep it clean.

Reading:

I’ve completed this month:

  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff , a collection of notes between Helene and the employees of a used book store in London, especially a Frank Doel. Though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting at first, it was enjoyable to watch the correspondence change from strictly business notes to more personal exchanges as friendships developed.
  • Kill Order by Adam Blumer, a novel about a man whose doctor inserted an implant in his brain during surgery, and now someone else is controlling his actions. I also interviewed Adam and his book and writing here.

Those of you who know me well know that’s a low number of completed books for me! I’ve been making steady progress on some others, which will probably all get done at the same time. 🙂 I’m currently reading:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • There’s a Reason They Call It GRANDparenting by Michele Howe
  • Rachel’s Prayer by Leisha Kelly
  • Loving People: How to Love and Be Loved by John Townsend

Blogging:

Some of the blog posts from this month:

  • Examine Yourselves to See Whether You Are in the Faith. With a couple of well-known professing Christians no longer professing recently, it behooves all of us to make sure of where we stand with the Lord and not take for granted we’re Christians because we grew up in that atmosphere.
  • Prayer: Talking With Our Father. What the Bible says about prayer, bringing it to the main point that it’s not a ritual we perform: it’s talking with the One who loves us best.
  • Biblical Prayers. Kind of a sequel to the previous one, I listed a few prayers from the Bible that we could pray as is or in our own words today.
  • When Interruptions ARE the Ministry. God often works through interruptions, in the Bible and in our lives.
  • Don’t Stop Preaching to the Choir. This was inspired by Christian writers who want to leave off writing Christian books to write for the general market, but its truths would apply to anyone who works primarily with Christians. Don’t stop “preaching to the choir,” because the choir still needs it.

Writing:

I didn’t work on my book during our “stay-cation,” but before that I had some good sessions. This is the first day in a long while I’ve had the whole day open, so I hope to get back at it. And I had a sudden flood of ideas for a couple of other books that I’m excited about and can’t wait to get to.

And that about wraps up August, though I’ll still have a Friday’s Fave Five and Laudable Linkage post before the month is officially done.

Our August has been joyful, but I know some have had a trying or sorrowful month. I pray for God’s grace for you, whatever He brings you through.

(Sharing with Linda, Grace and Truth, Faith ‘n Friends, Global Blogging, Hearth and Soul, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Shannan’s What I’m Into, Worth Beyond Rubies, Literary Musing Monday)

 

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End-of-July Musings and a Blog Anniversary Giveaway

Although technically summer runs from June 21 to September 23 this year. I always think of summer as June, July, and August. And according to that reckoning, summer is 2/3 of the way over.

When my kids were younger, this would be about the time we’d start thinking about school supplies, checking out backpacks and lunchboxes to see whether they’d serve for another year. Although I enjoyed the more laid-back summer schedule (or lack thereof), around this time of year I started looking forward to more structure and cooler days of fall.

But with all of our kids officially out of school now, the only major change from this month to next is looking forward to my oldest son visiting for ten days in August to celebrate his and my birthdays. My husband takes that time off, too, so it’s something like a stay-cation. Jesse has neither work nor school this time, which is nice. Since he’s hunting for full-time work now, this might be the last time he’s available for all ten days. Jason still has to work, but he and Mittu and Timothy come over as much as they can, and we go to their house and have some outings.

Family happenings

But back to July. The month started, of course, with Independence Day celebrations. We enjoyed the traditional July 4th cookout and the freedom to celebrate without fear or pressure, thanks to those who fought for our nation’s independence and safety.

We observed Jim’s mom’s birthday early in the month, the first since she passed away in January. She was so incapacitated for so long, and she was so ready to go to heaven, I don’t know if I’d say we mourned for her. We’re happy she’s released to be reunited with her loved ones in heaven. But there was a pang of sadness that day. A couple of thoughtful friends remembered and sent sweet messages.

We enjoyed celebrating Jason’s birthday over at their house. Timothy is always fun at celebrations. 🙂

Jim painted our bathroom walls, cabinets, and light fixture and I found some just-right bath mats, so we’re enjoying the new look there.

Mishaps

We’ve had some odd occurrences this month:

1. This one actually happened before this month, but I don’t think I mentioned it here. I reached for my curling iron, then noticed something black sticking out from the top. I thought maybe a piece of plastic was sticking up and went to pull it off. Upon closer inspection, I saw this:

An earwig had nestled down into where the screw went. Ew! One friend on Facebook said, “You wanted to curl your hair — that would have curled mine!”

2. We went to a park one Saturday morning, and I had to stop at the port-o-pottie before heading home. As I was trying to keep my clothes and my skin from touching anything icky, and trying not to breath the hot, fetid air, I noticed a spider on the wall and tried to kill it. When I stepped out, I realized my glasses were not in my pocket. I looked back and — yes, they had fallen into the toilet. Jim offered to fish them out for me. No, thanks! They were just little W-Mart readers, and I had some extras on hand at home.

3. That same day, Jesse headed out to join us for lunch at a nearby Mexican food restaurant. He stopped to get gas on the way. When he opened the covering to the gas cap, he found hornets had built a nest there. The gas station was in front of a grocery store, so he ran in to get bug spray and had to take care of the hornets before getting gas. Thankfully he wasn’t stung, but he was a little rattled when he came to lunch.

4. I was making barbecue ribs in the instant pot for a church potluck. I’ve made them a few times before with no problem. But I had the pot fuller than ever before. When I vented the steam, it was full of sauce and sprayed all over the counter, including Jim’s tablet and the covered, labeled, ready-to-go dessert for the potluck. So we had to clean all that up. Then a couple of days later I saw some had even gotten on the ceiling. Thankfully my husband took care of that for me.

These were all disconcerting at the time, but they made for funny stories afterward!

Timothyisms

From some texts about my five-year-old grandson:

The last is a reference to what some call a “farmer’s tan” — from the elbows down 🙂

And my favorite, from earlier this week:

I know that feeling . . .

We were also pretty impressed with Timothy’s engineering capacities. He loves lawn mowing with his granddad, and for his last birthday we got him a battery operated toy mower. But he rigged up a couple for inside use. He took his toy shopping cart and put his toy checkout register on top, and ran the conveyor belt on the register for the motor sound. The he took the Operation game, put it on top of an indoor riding toy, and clipped the tool for it to one of the operation sites so it makes the buzzing sound for a motor.

Creating

Nothing much this month except for the card I made for Jason’s birthday:

Writing

I mentioned the last few months that I was having a hard time getting into the editing stage of my book’s rough draft. It was just hard to find the time, plus it seemed overwhelming. But, thankfully, I’ve had several substantial editing sessions this month. When I am planning to work on my manuscript, I keep dragging my feet and finding other things to do. But once I get into it, I enjoy it and wish I had more hours in the day to work on it. If you’ve prayed about that with me, thank you!

Reading

Reading is a highlight of every month to me. This month I’ve finished (titles link back to my reviews):

  • A Place Called Morning by Ann Tatlock. A five-year-old grandson dies while under his grandmother’s care, and she can’t forgive herself. She withdraws from everything except her relationship with a mentally-disabled man, and later learns some surprising secrets about her history. Wonderful book about forgiveness and relationships.
  • Every Secret Thing by Ann Tatlock. twenty years after graduating from a prep school, Elizabeth Gunnar finds herself back as a teacher. A secret kept between her group of friends years back nags at her until she seeks to find answers. Wonderful redemptive story.
  • Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock. A teenage girl moving away from a crime-ridden area finds that there is no Paradise on earth and she needs mercy as much as the gangsters and bums she looks down on. Excellent.
  • Rorey’s Secret by Leisha Kelly. A fire breaks out in a barn, burning it and crops to the ground during the Depression. But the one person who knows what happened isn’t coming forward.
  • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, primarily about a brother and sister with opposite personalities. The sister, Maggie, is said to be somewhat based on Eliot herself. Not my favorite of hers, but still good.
  • Suffering Is Never For Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot, based on a series of talks she gave at a conference. Excellent.

I’m currently reading:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  • Loving People: How to Love and Be Loved by John Townsend. Still chipping away at this one.
  • Kill Order by Adam Blumer, due out next month. Very good so far!

Blogging

Around the blog this month, besides my usual book reviews, Friday’s Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage:

If you’ve read this far, give yourself a hearty pat on the back.

One last thing before we wrap up June: I had completely forgotten about my 13th blogging anniversary this month until WordPress sent me a notice:

One reason I am glad they reminded me is that some months back I picked up a couple of items that I thought would make nice prizes:

On the right, as the package says, are some cute magnetic page markers. The prayer journal on the left looks like this on the inside:

One of the main joys of blogging is you. I have made some great friends here over the years, and I so appreciate your taking time to read and comment! So as a thank you, in one week I’ll draw a name from the comments on this post and ship both of these items to the winner. If you’re reading from Facebook or some other means and would like to enter for the giveaway, please click through and comment on this post. I apologize, due to shipping costs I can only send to US addresses. I’ll count all comments here as entries unless you let me know you’re not interested or too far away. And please leave me some way to contact you. If I can’t figure out how to let you know you won, I’ll choose another name.

Whew! Good-bye, July! Hello, August!

(Sharing with Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories,
Share a Link Wednesday, Linda’s Loose Ends,
Grace and Truth, Shannan’s What I’m Into)

Update: The giveaway is now closed, and the winner is Wendi! Congratulations, Wendi!

 

End-of-June Musings

I was just telling my youngest son that summer doesn’t have the same feel as it did when the kids were young and in school. May was one of the busiest months with end-of-school-year programs, recitals, etc., so June was a welcome respite. Then summer’s more laid-back days were thoroughly enjoyed until near the end, when we decided we really did operate better with a little more structure to our days. But now, with no one in school, even with Jesse taking college classes online the last few years, there’s not that big sense of joy and relief when June comes.

Nevertheless, summer does mark a change of seasons, more time outdoors, lighter foods. Our June has more more temperate than usual so far, much to my delight.

And this month has been filled with mostly everyday activities: mowing (my dear husband), planting flowers (me), family get-togethers, reading. Oddly, I am on my second cold — or something — of the month, marked mainly by a sore throat.

One highlight of the month was Father’s Day.

My only card-making this month was for Father’s Day. This first one was for my step-father:

This was for Jim. I sometimes feel I am “cheating” a little bit when I use all stickers, but my laptop was having trouble connecting to my Cricut machine, and these all ‘fit” Jim. And they were 3-D, layered stickers, which seemed a little snazzier.

And this was for my son, Jason, from our generation encouraging the next :

During the month of June I’ve completed reading (each title is linked back to my review):

  • How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew David Naselli. A great resource, though a bit technical in places.
  • Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock a novel set in the 1960s about a divorced mom fleeing an abusive husband making a new start. The older woman who used to own their home keeps escaping the nursing home and showing up, saying she had planned to stay there til she died. The family ends up “adopting” her.
  • The Returning by Ann Tatlock. A husband and father coming home from prison seeks to reintegrate into his family and society.
  • Close to Home by Deborah Raney. A family’s daughter-in-law has continued being close to the family after the death of their son. After five years, she starts thinking about dating but doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her in-laws.
  • Home at Last by Deborah Raney, the last of her Chicory Inn series. The family’s only remaining son is interested in a biracial girl, but she might not be willing to navigate all that they would need to in order to have a relationship.
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Not my favorite classic. 🙂
  • The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper, a fictional treatment of Louisa May Alcott’s youngest artist sister, May. A bit of a disappointment.
  • The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott was her first novel, written when she was seventeen, but it was only recently discovered.
  • The Little Women Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson, an excellent resource for Little Women fans.
  • Buried Dreams, Planted Hope by Katie and Kevin Neufeld, a father-daughter team telling about navigating grief after Katie’s fiance is killed in an accident. Kevin was our former pastor when we lived in GA 20+ years ago.

I say “completed reading” because the first two were mostly read before this month and were just finished the first few days of June. I did get more reading in than usual, though, due to a couple of sick days and lack of much on TV in the evenings.

The Other AlcottThe Inheritance, and The Little Women Treasury were for Tarissa’s Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge.

I’m currently reading:

  • Loving People: How to Love and Be Loved by John Townsend
  • Suffering Is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot with the True Woman Summer Book Club.
  • The Mill on the Floss by George Elliot
  • A Place Called Morning by Ann Tatlock
  • Rorey’s Secret by Leisha Kelly

Around the blog, besides the book reviews, Friday’s Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage, I’ve posted:

  • While We Wait, thoughts from 1 Peter about how we can actively wait for Christ’s return.
  • Studying the Parts to Understand the Whole. Though it might seem tedious to break down a Bible passage in pieces and study it, as opposed to just reading, we learn, retain, and love a passage so much more when we’ve dug into it more. With some examples from classical music.
  • Bruised Reeds Are We All. God is so tender with us when we fall and fail, that should inspire us to be the same way with others.
  • The Lost Art of Forbearance. What the Bible says about “bearing with” each other.

Thanks so much to those of you who graciously answered my question last month about the value of these end-of-month wrap-ups. I enjoy them, but didn’t want to keep posting them if no one else did. I was pleased and encouraged to know you did get something from them and didn’t think they were just rehashes of previous posts.

I hope you enjoyed your June and are ready to turn the calendar page tomorrow!

(Sharing with Shannan, and Linda, and Literary Musing Monday)

 

End-of-May Musings

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Here in TN, May begins with spring and ends with summer. Even though summer doesn’t officially begin for a few weeks yet, we’ve had temperatures in the 90s, AC struggling to keep up, and sweat. And those temperatures will continue to climb, so for now I’ll appreciate that the mornings and evenings are still pleasant enough to sit outside for a while.

Family and events

We’ve had a couple of celebrations this month. Mother’s Day is fun as my family works together to make Sunday lunch. Then my youngest completed his Bachelor’s degree. When he got his associate’s degree a few years ago, he walked for commencement and we had a small party. He took classes online this time, didn’t want all the hoopla again, and didn’t want to drive to VA to walk. But once he had his actual degree in hand, we went out for a special dinner (more on that in tomorrow’s Friday Fave Fives.)

We also had a fun but all too short reunion with most of my extended family. One of my sisters in TX had to travel to SC for business, not too far from where two of my other sisters live. So she decided to rent a car and stay the weekend and visit them. We agreed to meet in Asheville, NC, for lunch one Saturday with all of mine except my oldest son. Then my stepfather, nephew, and youngest sister decided to fly over for a visit as well. It was such a fun time. Maybe next time we can get all six siblings together.

This May had some sad moments as well. Mother’s Day and my mother’s May birthday are tender moments since my mom’s passing 14 years ago. Though unexpected waves of grief don’t come quite as often as they did the first year, they still come. Mostly I have a few moments of quiet remembrance and appreciation on those days. This Mother’s Day, a lady I called my second mom or spiritual mom passed away. I knew she was declining, but I don’t think I realized her health was quite as poor as it was. She didn’t write much about her physical condition. So when I heard she was ailing, it came as quite a surprise to me. I had been thinking of writing her for the previous few of weeks, but kept putting it off since I always send a letter with her Mother’s Day card. But it was too late by then. I’m reminded again not to set those inclinations aside. And I am happy for good memories.

Making

The only card I made this month was for my daughter-in-law for Mother’s Day from a Cricut design:

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Watching

My main other out-of-the-ordinary activity this month has been catching up on a few Marvel comics movies in order to see Avengers: Endgame. My youngest son watched Avengers: Infinity War and Spiderman: Homecoming with me at home, then we saw Captain Marvel and Endgame in theaters. So good, if you’re into that kind of thing! My only complaint was a bit more bad language than I remember the earlier movies having. Grr! This was also my first experience with our newly revamped theater, with recliners, menus, and waiters!

Most of what we watch on TV is off for the summer, but we usually enjoy America’s Got Talent, which began this week (although even with that you have to have the remote handy occasionally).

Writing

I finally got back into the book I am writing. I had mentioned before that I had completed the first draft, but needed to go back and do some heavy editing. The first chapter was going to be the biggest challenge, as I needed to reshape a lot there and wasn’t quite sure the best way to go about it. But I had a couple of good sessions with it this week, and I think (hope) I am over the hurdle of the worst part (of that chapter, at least). Editing seems harder for me than just typing whatever’s in my head or notes, but it’s rewarding to see it come together better.

Reading

As always, reading is a big part of every month. I’ve completed:

A Room of My Own by Ann Tatlock. A young girl’s coming of age during the Depression. Very good.

Travelers Rest, also by Ann Tatlock. A young man is paralyzed while in the military and wants to end his engagement, but his fiance still loves him. This didn’t end the way I thought it would, but it was quite good.

All the Way Home, again by Ann Tatlock. Are you seeing something of a pattern here? 🙂 I had enjoyed her I’ll Watch the Moon so much last month that I started reading all her books that I had collected through Kindle sales. This one involves two girls in the 1930s, one from a dysfunctional Irish family and one from a Japanese-American family, who become fast friends until the Japanese are sent to internment camps during WW2. Excellent.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, the comic misadventures of members of a gentlemen’s club. While this is not my favorite of his books, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

I just finished How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew David Naselli, so I’ll have a review up next week. I’m currently reading:

  • Close to Home by Deborah Raney
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • The Returning by Ann Tatlock
  • Loving People: How to Love and Be Loved by John Townsend

Blogging

Around the blog, I share five favorite parts of each week on the Friday’s Fave Fives, and I share interesting links via Laudable Linkage on a few Saturdays a month – just however often I gather enough for a list. Elsewhere on the blog this month, I’ve shared thoughts on:

  • Trusting or Grasping. Even as I am ostensibly trusting God to meet my needs, sometimes I feel compelled to manipulate events to “help” Him out.
  • The Joys and Pains of Mother’s Day. I enjoy the holiday, but for some it is painful.
  • Recapture Your Wonder. Sometimes we can get into a rut with our Bible reading and prayer time and take God for granted. These thought help me get back to that awe that we should have towards God. This was one of my favorite posts to write, and I’m sure I’ll need to reread it many times in the future.
  • When the Lines Aren’t Clear. God is very specific about some things, but not others. How we handle those others reveals our heart.

A question for you

I started doing these monthly recaps because I enjoy reading others’ recaps and because Shannan and Linda invite us to link end-of-month posts and because I missed the What’s On Your Nightstand link-ups 5 Minutes for Books used to host. I really enjoy doing them, but I wonder how beneficial they are to you. Would you mind letting me know if you enjoy reading them or if you think they are too redundant? I’m not just fishing for comments – I’d really like to know if you like reading these or if you pass them by.

I hope you’ve had a good May. On to June!

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

End-of-April Musings

I’ve always loved this poem this time of year, because it’s so true and so cleverly stated:

Spring

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

—Robert Frost

Spring seems to have relaxed its back-and-forth entry and gotten settled in, hopefully for a long stay. We’ve had a couple of days in the 80s, but for the most part the temperatures are at their most pleasant this time of year.

It’s odd how days seem harder to schedule when they are open-ended than when you have to work around a number of obstacles. I think maybe because unscheduled days have so many possibilities, it’s hard to narrow down the choices. Or maybe there’s not that sense of urgency that I have to get this done in this small window of time, so I tend to meander rather than dig in.

I have gotten lots of extra household tasks done this month, with cleaning out and rearranging kitchen cabinets and the pantry. Just this afternoon I found some better spaces for certain items. That kind of thing does make one feel good and accomplished!

But I still haven’t gotten back into my writing like I want to. I think it’s mostly because I am at the stage of needing concentrated time rewriting and shaping each chapter. It’s a lot easier to just write off the top of one’s head than to wrangle it into some coherent order. I think perhaps I need to dedicate a day of the week or a week of the month to writing. When I used to compile a ladies’ newsletter booklet for our former church, that was the main focus one week of the month. Up until a few months ago, I couldn’t really schedule my time very well because I never knew what would come up on any given day, with hospice people coming in and out and my husband working at the kitchen table. But now perhaps I can set aside some focused time for working on this book. I’m excited about it – I just need to get to it!

The exercise front has gone well, though, since we bought a used exercise bike. I try to use any day I don’t have to be somewhere, which usually amounts to 3-5 times a week. I’ve increased my time plus the resistance just a bit.

Our biggest events this month all happened within a week of each other: my oldest son came for a week’s visit, my grandson turned five, and we celebrated Easter. My husband took that week off and Jason took a couple of afternoons off. We enjoyed the visiting, feasting, games, outings, and chatting. The only card I made this month was for Timothy’s birthday:

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The ringmaster was from a Cricut design; everything else was freehand. That was the theme for this birthday:

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On the reading front, I’ve completed the following:

The Fashion Designer, a novel by Nancy Moser. An English housemaid, Annie, left to her position in the early 1900s to pursue her own American dream of working in the fashion industry, eventually establishing her own company with friends. But Annie’s not the only one undergoing significant changes. An enjoyable read, and I loved the author’s notes in the back about the era and industry.

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (audiobook). This is a beautifully written classic about a boy’s coming-of-age in a Welsh mining village in the 1800s, but I wish I had know about a couple of unexpected objectionable elements beforehand.

I’ll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock will probably be one of my top ten books read this year. Told through the eyes of 9-year-old Nova in 1948, various members of a boardinghouse learn that everyone has a story, and God is trustworthy even in circumstances that make no sense.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior about how books formed her. As an English professor, Karen shares lots of insights that made me understand more fully the books she mentioned that I’ve already read and made me want to read others I hadn’t thought I’d be interested in. Lots of food for thought here.

A Room of My Own by Ann Tatlock. I just finished this last night and hope to review it soon. I had enjoyed I’ll Watch the Moon so much, I decided to look up Ann’s other books I had collected through Kindle deals.

This is less than I usually read in a month, but Booked was not one to rush through, and How Green Was My Valley was long. Plus I didn’t read a whole lot during the week everyone was here, and I listened to a couple of Christian Publishing Show podcasts during my usual time for audiobook listening.

I’m currently reading:

Around the blog this month:

  • Giving of Ourselves in Ministry to Others. Sometimes setting up a program is the right response to minister to others. But sometimes we can just go through the motions of a program. True ministry involves giving of oneself.
  • The Forgotten Element in Bible Reading, taking time to think through what we’ve read rather than just making our way through a certain amount of material.
  • My Writing Journey.
  • Giving Out of Our Poverty. Thoughts from those Macedonians in Acts who wanted to give to help others even though they themselves were in poverty. They encouraged me when needing to give, not financially, but of myself when I felt I didn’t have anything to give. God meets those needs with His grace.
  • Strong Women in literature and the Bible.
  • The Essence of Prayer: not just going through a form or ritual, but communication with our Dearest.

Although I didn’t plan it this way, a lot of my posts this month seemed to deal with not just going through outward forms in our quiet times or service to others. It’s so easy to slip into automatic pilot. Then in my quiet time reading just this morning, one of the ESV Study Bible comments on Hebrews 10:5-7 said, “God desired faithful hearts and lives more than mere performance of sacrificial rituals.” Amen. May we always be genuine and faithful.

(Sharing with Shannan)

End-of-March musings

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March is a month of contrasts. The worst of winter and best of spring. Daffodils pushing through brown grass. Rain and sunshine.

Our days have contrasted as well — a couple of very busy weeks followed by laid-back ones.

Writing

I started off the very first March weekend with my second writer’s conference. Though I enjoyed and learned from the first one, I gleaned so much more from this one. The keynote speaker, Karissa Culbreath, had some excellent sessions. I benefited from great workshops and meetings and an immensely helpful and encouraging critique of my partial manuscript submission. And! I won a prize in a devotional writing contest and an opportunity for a chapter of mine to be included in an anthology. Exciting! And encouraging that there has been improvement in the last year.

I am sorry to say I have not accomplished much on the writing front since then. Distracted by other things, I guess. I did incorporate the suggestions made by the person who critiqued my manuscript at the writer’s conference, and I keep a running list of notes about things to add or adjust. I think the difficulty is that now I need to go back and shape up each chapter, and the first one needs the most work. In some ways that’s harder than just getting my thoughts out in the first place. But I will get back to it as soon as possible!

Family

The very next week after the conference, we celebrated my dear husband’s birthday and I had a follow-up appointment six months from my physical (with good results, thankfully). This is the only card I hand-made this month.

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We also celebrated with my middle son his one billionth second of life. 🙂

My favorite Timothyism of the month: Evidently when we get up from a sitting position, we often remark that we “must be getting old.” So one evening as I got up from the dining chair and groaned a little, my four-year-old grandson said, “Are you old now?” Getting there! Much too quickly!

Around the house

After the scheduled events settled down, the activity around the house picked up. The weekend I was away, Jim took up the carpet that was in our bathroom and replaced it with new flooring.

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Much improved! Now the search is on for wall paint and bath mats. The first sample paint we tried was too blue and we’ve yet to try another one. I found some pink and grey striped bath mats, but they looked a little too busy – plus they had all kinds of strings hanging from them after washing them. I think I need mostly solid-colored ones.

Jim’s also been busy transforming the room his mom lived in for the last five years back into his office. We’d had some of her equipment (Hoyer lift, Broda chair) on sale on Facebook and Craig’s list, hoping to recoup some expenses plus get them to someone who needed them. But we didn’t have any takers. Jim has a colleague who was helping some friends, a husband taking care of his wife, and Jim offered to give the equipment to them. At least he had the satisfaction of knowing it was a help to someone.

He took some things off walls, patched and painted holes and dents, and rearranged a few things. He has a way to hook up his computer to her TV, so he has an extra screen. He mounted the TV on the wall to give his desk (an old table) more surface space. My son and daughter-in-law had a photo blown up and printed on wood that my oldest son had taken of the Snake River Canyon when we were in Idaho and given it to Jim on his birthday. They had Romans 8:18 printed in the corner, a verse that was special to us when Jim’s mom passed away. He was able to get that up on his office wall.

I couldn’t get a picture without the shadow of my arms in it – it looks much better in person!

The room is starting to look a lot more like his own space now. I’m so happy for him to have it. Not just because I don’t have to listen to one-sided business conversations any more. 🙂 But he really didn’t have his own spot to work, spread things out and leave them, etc., and now he does.

I don’t usually go on a cleaning frenzy just because of a date on the calendar. But recently I’ve noticed that our kitchen cabinets were in sad shape: dusty inside and out. Plus I needed to create some space for our small blenders (one an immersion blender and the other a “Magic Bullet” type, though not that brand). We had used them several times a day to puree Jim’s mom’s food, and washed them by hand and left them in the dish drainer for the next time. Since we’re not using them so often any more, I needed to find a spot inside for them. I followed my friend Dianna‘s example and just did a section at a time. I started with the easy ones – the cabinets that were already organized but just needed everything taken out and the shelves dusted. Now they’re all done except the biggest two that are going to need the most work. Though my goal was cleaning and rearranging, I have found a few things to get rid of.

Exercise

I’ve been struggling (again) with exercise. I benefit from the gym but hate the traveling time and the time involved changing into special clothes and back – as well as the time it takes just to exercise. But I can tell such a difference in my stamina when I am exercising regularly. So the past week or two I’ve been using some walking DVDs I have at home. Jim has been looking for a used exercise bike – the thing I use most at the gym – and just found one over the weekend. I’ve already put it to use and plan to keep at it!.

Reading

I’ve enjoyed a lot of good reading this month! I’ve finished the following and have linked back to my reviews:

Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s Fairy Poems, compiled by Stephen Hines

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook compiled and edited by Eugenia Garson. Music and a little background of the songs mentioned in the Little House books.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan, a fiction based-on-fact account of C. S. Lewis’s wife.

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey, another fictional book based on the true friendship of C. H. Spurgeon and a freed slave, Thomas Johnson.

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, a novel about the daughter of an American genetic scientist who hides and saves the deaf daughter of a friend. Excellent! My first book by Gohlke, but not my last.

Love Is Not a Special Way of Feeling, a reprint of Charles G. Finney’s Attributes of Love by another name. Difficult to read, and I disagreed with several points, but did glean a few helpful thoughts.

She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen, about a “perfect” friend who is not really so perfect after all.

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright, a novel about a family’s discovery, after their parents’ deaths, that the father had written a letter to his wife ever Wednesday of their 39 years together.

I’ve just finished but have not yet reviewed The Fashion Designer by Nancy Moser and How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn.

I’m currently reading Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior, How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew Naselli, The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, and I’ll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock.

Around the blog

Besides the book reviews and weekly Friday’s Fave Fives, I’ve shared:

And that wraps up another month!

(Shannan invites us to share our end-of-month round-up posts, what we’re into, what’s keeping us sane. Also sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Quick Lit)

End-of-February musings

I’ve finally taken the plunge. Some of you know that I am in the process of writing a book. I have the rough draft finished and now have to go back through and work on editing and shaping up. Publishers these days want authors to have a public platform in place before considering their book. So I created an author Facebook page to keep separate from my personal Facebook account. I want to invite you to like and follow my author page here. I probably won’t link every blog post there – just the more devotional ones for now. And I’ll share updates about the book progress as well as general encouragement. I do have a Facebook page that my blog automatically shares posts to, as some prefer to read them there. If I end up posting the same content both places, I’ll probably close down the blog page and just keep the author one. But we’ll keep them as is for now and see how it goes.

February has always been pleasant to me, even though it’s still wintry and cold. It’s a short month, and it brings us one month closer to spring! Two highlights in February for me are Valentine’s Day and my daughter-in-law’s birthday. For scheduling reasons we celebrated each after the official day.

Valentine’s Day vies with Christmas as my favorite holiday. I made my usual “meat hearts” (mini meat loaves shaped like hearts) and chocolate heart-shaped cupcakes. My grandson’s parents suspect red dyes of giving him problems, so we’re trying to avoid anything with red dye. Since most sprinkles and colored sugars for Valentine’s Day have red in them, I looked for non-food decorations and found these cute little cupcake toppers at Target.

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My special gift to my family is making a card for each of them. I try to make them according to their color preferences, likes, etc. This was for my husband:

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The Cricut machine did all the heavy lifting of cutting that out. I just had to choose the design and glue it together.

This was for Jeremy, who likes foxes:

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The fox and paw prints are stickers.

This was for Jason, a coffee-lover who likes blue:

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This is for Mittu, my daughter-in-law:

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She likes lavender and purple, so I used a heart-shaped punch and several lavender pieces of scrapbooking paper. On the checkered one, I used a corner punch at the bottom.

This was for my grandson, Timothy.

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The top cookie shape was done on the Cricut, and I got it a little too big, but it worked out ok. The shape of the bottom one was also done on the Cricut, but the paper on top looked like sprinkles already.

And, finally the last one was for Jesse, who likes red and prefers non-mushy cards. 🙂

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Though you could say jam is mushy . . . 🙂 The jam jar and letters were done on the Cricut. The Cricut also had the “You are my jam” letters shaped in an arch, but for whatever reason, they would not come out right. So I found a clipart banner and typed the words on it. There must be a way to type letters in an arch on the computer, but I couldn’t figure it out. Normally I would ask Jesse, but the card was for him. 🙂

Then, it’s always a joy to celebrate our sweet daughter-in-law’s birthday.

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I found that cute little birthday cake banner at the grocery store.

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This is the card I made for Mittu’s birthday:

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The letters were stickers; the square and rectangle shapes were cut with my paper cutter; the hearts were made with punches. I actually did the cupcake freehand, which doesn’t usually work out well! But it came out ok this time. Oh, the texture designs on the background and icing were done with the Cuttlebug embosser.

Those celebrations are not only enjoyable in themselves, but they are bright spots in the long winter and wait for spring. We are starting to see some bulbs pushing through the soil, but we still have some cold temperatures predicted for the next several days.

We experienced a lot of major flooding in our area last weekend after several days of heavy rain. Our house was fine, as it’s on raised ground. But a lot of roads around us were flooded over, including an on-ramp to the interstate.

We’re still adjusting to the loss of my mother-in-law. I wrote a tribute to her here. Since my parents and my husband’s father passed a long time ago, we’re not new to or surprised by grief. But they lived 1,000 and 2,000 miles away, respectively. Adjusting to their being gone took different forms – like missing calling my mom. Since Jim’s mom lived in our home for the last five years, there were triggers everywhere, and changes affected everything from what I buy at the store to how I use my time even to how I load the dishwasher. But she was doing so poorly her last few months, it’s a relief to know that she is no longer in a non-working, silent, crumpled body, and she’s with her Lord, her husband, and her sister. And we know from previous experience that those triggers lessen over time. In fact, in some ways I have felt guilty over enjoying some of the changes, like being free to go anywhere any time without arranging for a caregiver, not having to set up the ramp on bath days, not having hospice people (nice as they were) coming in and out, my husband being able to transfer his work station back into the room she had occupied, etc.  But I tell myself that if she could talk to me, she’d probably say something like, “Thank you for your care, but please, go on and enjoy your life.” (Forgive me if I have said this before – I thought I had but couldn’t find it here.)

Something that just occurred to me recently was that my mother-in-law cared for her own parents in various ways for years. They did not live with her, but they lived near-by, and my in-laws were the go-to people when her parents needed help of any kind. Of course they visited other times than when they needed help, and probably needed more help the older they grew. In some way I can’t quite explain, it helped me to realize that she understood what was involved in care-giving, and that I was able to give back to her in that way.

Of course, one thing I am into every month is reading. I read and reviewed these books (titles link back to my reviews):

  • Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, a nice imagining of what Anne’s Marilla might have been like as a girl.
  • Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott, kind of a cozy mystery involving a jet-setting American and a homebody Englishwoman who are friends with opposite personalities and who stumble across buried secrets in a sleepy little post-WWII English village.
  • Katie’s Dream by Leisha Kelly, the continuing saga of the Worthham family in the post-Depression era. This time Sam’s brother, recently released from prison, brings a little girl he insists is Sam’s, even though Sam never even met the girl’s mother. The story involves untangling the confusion and deciding what’s best to do with  a little girl who only wants a home.
  • Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word by George H. Guthrie. Excellent resource for just what the subtitle says. Especially helpful in discussing the different genres we find in the Bible and how to get the most out of them.
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, classic riches-to-rags-to-riches story that I had never read before. I am so glad I have now.
  • Journaling for the Soul: A Handbook of Journaling Methods by Deborah Haddix. Good resource: covers just about any journaling method you could imagine. (Congratulations to Kathie for winning the giveaway!)
  • I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel. Pleasant musings on the reading life.
  • On the Way Home and The Road Back by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The first is Laura’s record of moving with her husband and daughter by covered wagon from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri; the second is her journal of traveling back to South Dakota to visit her two remaining sisters 40 years later in an un-air-conditioned Buick.

I’m currently reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan, Love Is Not a Special Way of Feeling by Charles Finney, and Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey.

Around the blog, besides the book reviews, Friday’s Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage:, I’ve shared

  • It’s Okay to Say It Hurts. “Enduring hardship as a Christian is not just a matter of a stiff upper lip or a smile that glosses over painful circumstances.”
  • Praying to Love More. “In my ongoing quest to understand what Christian love is and to grow in it, I compiled Bible verses which specifically spoke of praying to love.”
  • Smelting the Soul. “Instead of being discouraged that God continually shows me the ways in which I fall short, I can rejoice that He is continuing to refine me.”
  • Why Laura Ingalls Wilder Is Still Worth Reading. No, she and her family were not perfect. But we can still learn from them.

And that about wraps up February! I have an adventure coming up that I look forward to telling you about a little later on.

(Shannan invites us to share our end-of-month round-up posts, what we’re into, what’s keeping us sane. Sharing also with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Porch Stories, Let’s Have Coffee, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesdays, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth, Linda’s Book Bag)

January Musings

January used to be a gloomy month for me. The landscape seemed all the more bleak and colorless after the Christmas lights and decorations had been taken down. The first warm spring breezes and colorful blooms seemed eons away. Coldness sank into my bones.

But more recently, I’ve enjoyed January as a time of rest after all the Christmas busyness and a transition to the new year. We don’t usually have any major events in January, so it’s a time to catch our breath, look ahead, plan, sort through things, enjoy hearty oven meals and soups, curl up with a good book, throw blanket, and coffee.

One adjustment this particular January involved my husband’s recent diagnosis of diabetes a couple of weeks before Christmas – not the best time (if there is a “best” time for that). It seemed to take 2-3 weeks on new medication for his blood sugar to settle into a mostly stable range. He’s lowering his carbs, and I need to look into lower-carb options for dinner. We’ve enjoyed frozen cauliflower rice for stir-fries and soups, but I haven’t attempted it as a side dish.

This January will always be marked by my mother-in-law’s home-going to heaven. We just got back late last night from her funeral in Idaho. More extended family came than we had thought would be able to, so it was almost like a family reunion. One niece remarked that the only think wrong was that Grandma wasn’t there to enjoy it. Family gatherings were the highlight of her life. She might be too caught up with eternal glories now to be concerned about what’s happening on earth. But I know that, if she was looking down and watching, she was rejoicing to see so many of us together. We had a wonderful time reconnecting with some we had not seen in decades, catching up with everyone, and sharing memories of Grandma. The eulogy and message at the funeral shared how Jesus made such a difference in Grandma’s life, which then rippled out into the lives of her family and friends. I want to share a post dedicated to my mother-in-law and her life one day next week.

It was a joy as well to see some of Jim’s mom’s long-time church friends and neighbors. I’ve communicated with a few of them about her progress over the last few years, since she could no longer write. One I had never met in person before until the funeral, so that was a highlight for me.

One morning before other family members arrived, we drove around the area to show our own family some of the sights. Mittu had never been to Idaho, and our boys had not been there is ages. We saw Jim’s old house, some of the places he worked and went to school, a park where we used to take the boys while visiting the grandparents, and some of the area’s claims to fame, like the Snake River Canyon and Shoshone Falls (though there wasn’t much water falling at the time we went)

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We all remarked on the difference in the landscapes here and there. Even though I mentioned January being colorless, we still have some evergreens. In SC and TN, we have a lot of trees and hills. In southern Idaho, it’s mostly flat except for mountains in the distance. Even though I prefer our hills, green in summer and multi-colored in autumn, there was something nice about so much visible sky in ID. Would’ve been a great place for my husband to have brought his telescopes at night, if we could have packed them!

This was Timothy’s first flight, and he did wonderfully with the travel, the different schedule, and meeting all the new-to-him family.

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In fact, on the way home from the airport, he said he wanted to take another trip – back to Idaho. 🙂 We had to explain that all the same people wouldn’t be there.

I can’t have a monthly round-up without mentioning books. 🙂 The ones I finished and reviewed this month are:

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren. Wonderful story about five people with various issues trapped in the same house by a blizzard.

Among the Fair Magnolias by Dorothy Love, Tamera Alexander, Elizabeth Musser, and Shelley Gray, four Civil-War era stories.

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa, fast-paced story about a girl hidden away in a bunker while both good guys and bad guys try to find her. Loved this!

Christians Publishing 101 by Ann Byle. A writer’s conference in book form.

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines

The Christmas Heirloom by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade, four novellas connected by an heirloom brooch passed down each generation.

I’ve finished, but haven’t had a chance to review yet:

Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott
Read the Bible for Life by George Guthrie
If I Run and If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

I’m almost done with Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, and I’m currently making my way through Katie’s Secret by Leisha Kelly, Journaling for the Soul by Deborah Haddix, and I’d Rather By Reading by Anne Bogel.

On the blog this month, besides book reviews, Friday’s Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage:

A Sense of Him

Heaven Is Not a Lesser Answer

Great-grandma Is Home

Looking ahead…well, today is going to involve unpacking, laundry, and hopefully a nap. 🙂 We’ll probably continue to sort through my mother-in-law’s things. When my husband goes back to work, I plan to dig back into the book I am working on. I have missed it!

And don’t forget the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge coming in February.

And that’s our January. How was yours?

(Shannan invites us to share our end-of-month round-up posts, what we’re into, what’s keeping us sane. Her link-up for January will be up Feb. 1)

 

End-of-January Musings

January is normally a doldrums month for me. All the light and glitter and celebratory spirit of Christmas has been put away, it’s dark and cold, the landscape is almost barren, nothing exciting is going on, and it will be months yet before spring. But this year it hasn’t been so bad. There were a few overcast, very cold days when I only wanted to hibernate, but overall I think keeping busy has kept me distracted. Maybe I’ve been taking my own advice for the winter blues. 🙂

We’ve had two family outings this month, whereas we normally might have only a handful a year, so that might be one thing that livened up January. One Saturday we went to the Ripley’s Mirror Maze in Gatlinburg and then a favorite Mexican food restaurant. Last Saturday we went to the Chocolatefest in Knoxville – or, as Timothy put it, the “chocolate party.” 🙂 The  event itself was a disappointment, though. I had envisioned a large room with rows and rows of chocolate-themed items. There were a few tables of chocolate items, but the others were mainly jewelry and clothes with assorted other odds and ends. There was one section you could only go into if you bought a “tasting ticket” for $20, and that’s evidently where most of the chocolate was. If you went there you got a box or bag you could fill up with goodies. But I don’t know if we could have collected enough to have made it worth $20 times four people. We didn’t think until afterwards that we could have had one of us go there and then we all could have shared the loot. 🙂 But I did bring home a few chocolate purchases, and Timothy enjoyed some “monster blue” ice cream (and showing me his blue tongue and teeth) and got to do a little activity at a kid’s table, and we enjoyed looking at the cake-decorating entries. And we went to one of his favorite restaurants afterward, so we had fun together even if the event itself wasn’t the best.

Jim and I have also done a bit of furniture-shopping. The padding on our couch and loveseat arms has gotten so thin we can feel the wood underneath when we lean against them, and the fabric is worn, with a few holes starting to show. We spent one Saturday looking at a few places and found one set that might work. There’s at least one more place I’d like to go. We found one place that had the Magnolia Home furniture. I loved the style, but they didn’t seem to have a combination that fit what we needed. It also might have been more expensive, but I don’t think I looked at prices much since I didn’t see anything I thought would work. We’d like to find a sofa, loveseat, recliner combination, or at least a sofa and loveseat, and then we can buy a recliner individually. We saw a lot of sets with, instead of a recliner, a huge oversized chair and footstool. I don’t think we’d have the space for it, and besides, some of the family like the reclining function.

Speaking of furniture shopping – furniture showrooms are my least favorite places to shop in. We almost never buy anything on our first look-through: we’re just seeing what’s out there, checking prices, testing out how they feel, etc., then we go home and think about it or go other places and look some more. I’m generally slow to make up my mind anyway, but I want big purchases to last for years and not have to go through this whole process again any time soon. As soon as you walk through a showroom, a salesperson greets you, which is fine, but they don’t seem to want to leave you alone even though you tell them you’re “just looking.” It’s good if you can find one easily when you have a question, but they can’t help you decide what you like and don’t like. It just takes time and looking around to decide that, and their constant questions and suggestions just make me want to leave, which is, I would think, not their goal. I’ve enjoyed more some little out-of-the way furniture places over the years, but the ones we went to when we first moved here have gone out of business.

During a lot of the year, Jim has grass to mow or projects to work on Saturdays, so it has been fun to do some other things together. Altogether I think I have begun to appreciate January as a restful spot between other busy times.

On the creative front, not much has been going on except that I have been sorting through, cleaning out, and shaping up my craft files. Seeing what I have there has been stirring my creative juices. I have not sewn clothes in a very long time – just curtains and pillows and such – but I saw a dress the style of which I loved in a catalog a few days ago. But the dress itself was around $135 – which is about 3-4 times more than I usually pay for dresses. I’ve been looking around to see if I can find a pattern similar to it. If I can find something I can adapt, I just may be spending some time with the sewing machine soon.

Around the house, besides the usual tasks and the files mentioned above, I spent some time rearranging my books shelves, making a place for new books I want to keep, pulling a few books out to give away. I love looking at the neat and tidy (is that redundant?) results. There are a couple of boxes of books in two different closets I want to go through next, and then our other filing cabinets. I’ve been in a sorting and organizing mood lately, and I usually don’t have time (or inclination) to tackle a whole room at once, but these smaller spaces catch my eye and call to me occasionally.

January was also a good month for reading, as I shared yesterday. Last year for the Back to the Classics challenge, I thought it would be good to get my biggest book (Middlemarch) out of the way first. But I felt like I was stuck on the one book for a very long time. This year I started off with some of the shorter classics, and I think I like that approach better. It feels like I’ve made good progress on my reading goals already. Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback has been both a challenge and and encouragement. I’m about finished with Isaiah in my current trek through the Bible, and Trust has been been gently hitting some of the same lessons, that anything we’re trusting in other than God will fail us, and that He is the only perfectly reliable and trustworthy One. Not reliable in the sense that He’ll always do what we think best, but He will always do what He knows best, even if it means letting our false props fail us in order to draw our attention back to Himself.

The other thing we’ve been into the last moth – don’t laugh – is HQ Trivia. My oldest son told us about it when he was here for Christmas and now we all play. It’s an app for your phone where there is a live quiz at 3 p.m. Eastern time on weekdays and every evening at 9 p.m. There are 12 trivia questions (occasionally 15) that start off ridiculously easy and then get much harder. There is a cash prize of $2,500 (sometimes more!), and the people who win that quiz split the money. So far the highest I have gone is 7 questions: Jim got all the way to the end before missing the last question last night. It’s been fun to do together, and if Jason and Mittu are here at 9, we all play together. And, you can get extra lives by referring people, so, though I am NOT mentioning this just to get extra lives – if you decide you want to try it out and wouldn’t mind putting barbarah06 in as a referral code, I would be very appreciative. 🙂

Around the blog, besides several book reviews and the weekly Friday’s Fave Five and occasional sharing of Laudable Linkage:

  • When everything fails. “It’s not that God orchestrates problems in our lives to create a need for Him: rather, He strips everything away to reveal a need that was already there that we couldn’t see or hadn’t paid attention to. Sometimes He has to show us that nothing else is sufficient to meet that need before we’ll turn to Him.”
  • What do you know? “It’s true that knowledge can “puff up” with pride, but rather than avoiding gaining knowledge, we need to remind ourselves that If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2), and we need to remind ourselves that the purpose of gaining knowledge is to better know the Lord and serve Him and others.”
  • Winter.
  • God’s Back. “If this is the back of God – merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love, forgiving sin – what must the front be?

And I think that about wraps up January. In February, we look forward to Valentine’s Day (which we make kind of a big deal of as a family), my daughter-in-law’s birthday, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge! And maybe some new furniture! And one month closer to spring!

(Sharing with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer)

Homemade Christmas cards and other stray thoughts

Today is the first “back to the old routine” day in a while. I love all the holiday activities, and God was kind to grant me some pockets of quietness and rest amid the busyness. Getting out of the normal routine for several weeks was fun and refreshing. Getting back into it feels both good and sad at the same time. We had a wonderful Christmas with all the family home and then a very quiet but enjoyable New Year’s Eve and Day.

I thought I’d show you the Christmas cards I made for the family. I buy boxes of them for extended family and friends – I’d never be able to make as many as I send out – but for our own family I like to make individual ones.

This is Jim’s:

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It doesn’t show up in the photo, but the white words are flocked. If I had been thinking, I would have cut off the bottom pine cone so more of the word Noel showed up.

This is Jeremy’s:

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Sometimes ideas come from others I’ve saved on Pinterest, sometimes from something in the Cricut design space, and sometimes they come as a result of looking over the materials I have. This one started out with the fox sticker, as Jeremy likes foxes, and then the other elements came one by one. This is one of my favorite cards I’ve ever made.

This is Jason’s:

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I had wanted to use blue because he likes blue, and I had also wanted to use the snowflake embossing folder on one, so those came together here.

This is Mittu’s:

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I love that cozy sweater background paper, and they love coffee, so these seemed like a good pairing. The cups were done with the Cricut.

This is Jesse’s:

Jesse Christmas 17

This started with the word sticker – that just seemed to fit him. Everything on the white part is a sticker.

This is Timothy’s:

Tim Christmas 17

I had seen the cookies on a cookie sheet idea on Pinterest, but the shapes on it were three of the same gingerbread men. As I looked through my scrapbook paper, I found one with these gingerbread figures on them, so I cut them out. Thankfully I had enough of a scrap of the metallic paper for the cookie sheet. 🙂

This is Jim’s mom’s:

GG Christmas 17

And this was for Jim for our anniversary:

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Other stray thoughts this morning:

  • We had turned on the TV New Year’s Eve long enough to see the ball drop, and I commented that I always wondered how they did bathroom issues in Times Square during that event. I envisioned a long row of port-a-potties somewhere. Jeremy looked it up and said there are no port-a-potties – and businesses don’t let the crowds come in to use the restrooms. And some people are there as early as 8 in the morning! They also don’t allow backpacks or large bags, don’t allow people to sit down, and they kick out the food stands to make more room for people. I looked up a couple more articles this morning (here and here). I never had aspirations to go to this anyway, but it’s definitely on my “Nope, I don’t think I’ll ever do this” list – which is guess is the opposite of a bucket list. 🙂
  • I’ve rediscovered cheese and crackers as a snack. My mom used to always send Swiss Colony cheese and sausage packages for Christmas until the kids all got older and it got too expensive to send them. But usually one of us gets a Hickory Farms package at some point during the Christmas season. This year we opened it on Christmas Eve. Then I had mentioned earlier that somehow we got started having the Chicken in a Biskit and Easy Cheese during the holidays, so I have enjoyed munching on them all month. They may not be the healthiest snack, though – especially the Easy Cheese – so I probably need to find a better salty snack.

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  • One of the things I miss most about putting Christmas decorations away is the lights. But not enough to keep any up year-round.
  • I’ve also enjoyed several weeks of Christmas music. I got a new Christmas CD this year, Worship the Newborn King from the Wilds Christian camp. I especially loved the Candlelight Carol. I’ve loved that for years but rarely hear it. Other long time favorites have been their Christmas With Friends album (although that doesn’t seem to be available any more) and Sacred Music Services’ King of Glory. I also like some of Pentatonix – not the more raucous stuff, but I especially like their versions of Silent Night, The First Noel, Carol of the Bells, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Mary Did You Know, and others in that vein.
  • I don’t make resolutions per se, but I do like to make reading plans for the year and map out some projects I want to work on, so I hope to do that this week. I like to incorporate some purposefulness in my reading but with some flexibility in case I come across something new I want to read during the year. I hope to have my reading plans posted in the next day or two.
  • Also this time of year you see a lot of people writing about words for the year. I’m not sure how that got started. A lot of people derive great blessing from it, and that’s great. Personally I have never felt led to do so. Usually God has more than one word to work on in my life at any given time. 🙂 But can I say, if you feel stressed about choosing a word for the year or guilty because you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. Seek God about it, and if you sense His leading toward one area of concentration, then go for it, but if not, just seek Him in His Word and seek His will every day.
  • This is also a good time of year to find a good Bible reading plan if you haven’t already. I wrote on that extensively here. There are all kinds available. Probably the best plan is one you’ll actually use. Reading the Bible through in a year is a good thing for several reasons. A Christian radio station I listen to reads through the Bible throughout the year during daily 15 minute segments, not really too difficult for anyone. The last few years I have continued to read the complete Bible, but not in a year. I am not sure how long it takes me. I aim for a couple of chapters a day, but vary it according the the length, difficulty, or density of the passage I am in and whether I want to stop and slow down in certain passages.

And now I had best get on to some of that daily routine that needs attending to. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

(Sharing with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer)