Friday’s Fave Five

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

How can we be a third of the way through January already? I’m pausing to reflect on some of the best parts of the week.

1. New Year’s Eve. I forgot to mention this last week. We had a Hickory Farms box of sausages and cheese we hadn’t opened yet, and I decided to use that and build around it for a smorgasbord-type easy dinner. I got some frozen potato skins and meatballs and such at the store, and Mittu made a chocolate-peanut butter tart and a few other things. Jim made ham salad. We ended up having quite the spread. Then we filled our plates and watched the old animated version of 101 Dalmatians. Jason and Mittu have been trying out the Disney Plus service, and it’s been fun to have access to all the Disney movies.

2. A belated anniversary get-away. Jim and I took a couple of days to go to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area to celebrate our 40th anniversary a couple of weeks late. He had all last week off while the kids had all gone back to work. We stayed in a lovely lodge, had some great meals, and visited the Titanic Museum. And he had dug out some of our notes from dating days to read again. I wrote all about it here.

3. Getting my hair cut. I had been meaning to since before Christmas, but hadn’t had a chance.

4. Jeopardy’s “Greatest of All Time” tournament. We don’t watch Jeopardy every night, but catch it sometimes when I’ve finished cleaning the kitchen after dinner. We watched several months ago when James Holzhauer took the program by storm and broke all kinds of records. Now he, Ken Jennings (who had a 72-game winning streak) and Brad Rutter (who has won the most money of any game show contestant) are back for a “Greatest of All Time” tournament among the three of them. I always wonder how Jeopardy contestants can know (and remember!) all that they do, but these guys take it to another whole level. I’ve also love the banter between them on the show and on Twitter.

5. Affirmation. My youngest son has been at his job about six weeks now. He received some good comments about his performance from a couple of people this week, and that’s always encouraging. He told us last night that even though this wasn’t exactly the type of job he was looking for originally, he’s enjoying it.

Those are highlights of my week. What’s a highlight from your January so far?

Reading Plans for 2020

There are some books you don’t get around to reading unless you plan to. Participating in some book challenges has helped be more purposeful in my reading. But I have found I also need flexibility. I don’t want to feel pressured and tied down by a reading list. I want the freedom to pick up books discovered during the year, new releases, etc. But I also want to read more classics and more books from my own shelves or list of recommendations. There are two main reading challenges I participate in every year, and sometimes I try a few others as well. Thankfully the books can overlap several challenges: otherwise I could probably only do one or two.

So this year, I’ll participate in these challenges:

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge begins here February 1-29. This will be my last year to host it. I have one book in mind for it this year, which I’ll share Feb. 1.

Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June.

Tarissa also hosts the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge November through December.

Karen at Books and Chocolate is hosting the Back to the Classics challenge again this year. Books have to be 50 years old for this challenge and fit into the following categories. We don’t have to determine them all at this point, but I’ll list a few I have in mind.

1. 19th Century Classic: Hard Times by Charles Dickens
2. 20th Century Classic
3. Classic by a Woman Author: Eight Cousins by Louisa My Alcott
4. Classic in Translation (originally written in something other than your native language): Possibly Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I read it a long time ago but can’t remember much about it.
5. Classic by a Person of Color
6. A Genre Classic
7. Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens.
8. Classic with a Place in the Title: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle
9. Classic with Nature in the Title: Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
10. Classic About a Family (multiple members of the same family as principal characters)
11. Abandoned Classic (one you started but never finished). Possibly Billy Budd by Herman Melville. I was supposed to read that for a college class but never finished.
12: Classic Adaptation (Any classic that’s been adapted as a movie or TV series): I might try Larkrise to Candleford by Flora Thompson. It’s long, but I’ve been wanting to read it and see the series.

Most of these books would fit in many of the categories, so I might change them around as I decide on the rest of the titles.

Karen draws a name from participants at the end of the year to receive a $30 gift card towards books, and the number of categories you finish determines how many entries you get.

mount-tbr-2017Bev at My Reader’s Block hosts the Mount TBR Challenge to encourage us to read the books we already own.. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. We don’t have to list the books yet, but we do have to commit to a level. I am committing to Mt. Vancouver (36 books). I’ve been able to reach that pretty easily the last couple of years. The one main rule here is that the books have to have been owned by us before January 1, 2020.

Bev is also hosting the Virtual TBR Reading Challenge, like the Mount TBR except that the first one requires you to own the books you’re reading. The virtual one can include borrowed books or books on your to-be-read list that you don’t own yet. I haven’t done this one before, but I think I can commit to Mount Rum Doodle, 12 books.

The Backlist Reader Challenge sign-up link

The Backlist Reader Challenge is new to me this year. It encourages reading books on our want-to-read list, whether we already own them or not. The only caveat is they have to have been published before 2018 and be a book you’ve already been considering. Lark will give away a $15 Amazon or Book Depository gift certificate at the end of the year. Since most of the Mount TBR and Virtual Mount TBR books will qualify for this challenge, I’m going to aim for 30.

The Audiobook Challenge is new to me, too. But since I listen to several a year (usually classics), it should be easy. I’m aiming for the Stenographer level (10-15 audiobooks). there will be a couple of giveaways with this challenge, on June 30 and December 15.

Yet another new one to me is the For the Love of Ebooks Challenge, which, as the name implies, involves reading ebooks. A good chunk of my TBR books are in my Kindle app, so I think I could do the Semi-Pro status (10-19).

Finally, I am going to try the Nonfiction Reading Challenge since I read several a year anyway. I’m only going to aim for the Nonfiction Nibbler (6 books), though, since I am not interested in all the categories for the next level.

Thanks to Tarissa and Lisa for introducing me to a few that I hadn’t heard of before.

I would never do all these except that they can overlap, and many involve types of reading I already do. There are still several other interesting challenges out there that I decided against!

Do you participate in any reading challenges or make reading plans for the year?

A quick 40th anniversary get-away

Our anniversary is just a few days before Christmas. With everything else going on that month, we don’t usually exchange anniversary gifts. We exchange cards and go for a nice dinner out, a quiet spot for just the two of us during a busy season.

But since we celebrated 40 years of marriage this past December, we thought we’d do a little something special. Our kids had gone together earlier to give us a gift card to use for our celebration. We did go out for our dinner at a favorite local restaurant the night before our anniversary. Our oldest son flew in the day of our anniversary, and that day was the last opportunity to go to Christmas in the Cavern. We decided to wait until the week after Christmas to celebrate. My husband was off New Year’s week, but everyone else went back to work.

Previously I never would have thought of staying in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area because they’re so close to home. But a friend posted pictures on Facebook about staying in a bed and breakfast there. The area was so pretty, I began to think about the possibility of going there for our anniversary.

We didn’t stay in that bed and breakfast, but Jim found the very nice Bearskin Lodge. The lobby looked like this:

Our room balcony opened over a stream running over rocks.

We really enjoyed the fireplace.

The rest of the room:

Very cozy!

We drove up Thursday afternoon and just chilled out in the room for a bit. We went out to dinner at The Peddler Steakhouse, right next to the hotel. The food was delicious. But the restaurant was very crowded and noisy. We felt really rushed. Jim asked the waitress about getting an appetizer, and she said she’d be back to see what he wanted, but she never did come back til after we got our meal. The lady refilling the salad bar elbowed me and others to get where she needed to go. Our silverware had bits of food stuck on. Altogether it was not the best experience, sad not only because it was for our anniversary, but also because this is a pricey place.

By the time they asked if we wanted dessert, we just wanted to go. Plus they didn’t have any dessert we wanted. There didn’t seem to be any coffee shops or dessert places nearby, so we stopped across the street at Old Dad’s General Store. Jim got a Nutty Buddy ice cream cone and I got a peanut butter cookie. Then we went back to the room and watched the Vols win the Gator Bowl (Yay!).

But before that, when we drove back to the lodge, Jim pulled out a couple of boxes from the car that I hadn’t noticed before. He said he had an activity in mind. I was intrigued!

When we got settled back in our room, he let me open the boxes. He had filled them with notes we had written each other when we were dating. Our college, in the days before cell phones or even phones in the rooms, had a note system whereby guys and girls could send notes to each others’ dorm rooms. Every dorm lobby had a box with slots for the other dorms, and we’d deposit our notes there. Then several of the guys would run the boxes around to each of the dorms and deliver the mail to the lobby. That was the primary way guys asked girls out for dates then. For dating couples, it was a nice way to say good-night and make arrangements for the next day (when to meet for lunch, etc.). We dated for two years, so nine months of nightly notes times two years … would be a lot! Jim said he didn’t gather all the notes. just as many as would fit in the boxes. Some time we need to sort through them. That night we took turns reading several of them out loud to each other. Such memories! It was funny how many of them started out saying we didn’t have time to write much because we had tests or projects due, but then we’d go on for two pages. I have to say, I was very impressed that he thought of doing this!

We got a surprise when we went to take showers the next morning. The water was cold even after running it for a long time. I was up first, and thought perhaps the hot and cold were reversed (that’s happened in some places). So I turned the dial to the right, but that took it from cold to icy cold. I turned it back to the left and tried to decide what to do. I didn’t want to mess with going to another room at that point, and didn’t know if perhaps the whole hotel was having a problem. I decided to step in, away from the shower head, and just try to do a quick sponge bath. By the time I was done, the water was lukewarm enough that I could stand under it and rinse. Jim had the same experience a half-hour or so later. When he went down to the desk to mention it, he was told they have a boiler that starts up on the fifth floor (we were on the third). They said it just takes a while to work its way down, so we just have to run the water in the sink and shower until it warmed up. Well, that would have been nice to know! And I can’t fathom wasting all that water. I imagine later on, when more people are up and showering, the water is circulating better and warmer. At least I hope so. That was our only complaint about the lodge.

We ate breakfast and then rested in the room for a bit. Then we went to see the Titanic Museum.

We had passed this several times on our way to other attractions in previous years, and I always wanted to stop in some day.

You might be able to tell in the picture that the lady letting us in was dressed as a crew member would have been back in the day. All the employees were.

When you first enter, they give you a boarding pass that has the name and information of one of the passengers or crew that were actually aboard the Titanic.

Unfortunately, they don’t allow photos inside the museum. They give you an audio device when you come in, and at certain sections you can push a button to listen to more information. But we never did. They had a different button for children to hear something they might be interested in.

They had several rooms, one dedicated to the man who drew up the plans, another to the man who took most of the pre-sail photographs, etc. There were artifacts like life jackets, a piece of railing, letters. One of the most interesting parts to me was a big cross-section. A panel in front told about the different areas, and you could push a button to see that area light up.

I read that the entire museum was built to half-scale. They built the grand staircase exactly to scale as well as a really small (by our standards) room.

I found it interesting that they gave a good amount of space to the “spiritual heroes” of the Titanic. The man on Jim’s boarding pass was one. Another was John Harper, subject of The Titanic’s Last Hero. He was known for asking everyone his bit of flotsam floated to whether they were ready for eternity and quoting Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” I read the book years ago but need to do so again some time. We wondered if we were related to him. I’d like to think so.

At the end they had some photos and information about the effort to explore and recover as much of the Titanic as they could.

They also had a Lego replica of the Titanic built by a a 14 year-old autistic boy over eleven months. It’s 26 by 5 feet and used 56,000 Legos, quite a fete.

There was a very small area for children. We thought it a little weird that the had a child-sized ship’s steering wheel with a screen in front of it so kids could see if they could miss the iceberg.

I never saw the Titanic movie, but I think lots of things in the gift shop might have been inspired by the movie.

I’m glad we went. We had often discussed whether we should do so as a family or just the two of us. I don’t think Timothy would have gotten much out of it—maybe when he’s older and learning about it, he might be interested then.

When we got done there, we looked for a place to eat. One funny instance of my brain not working right: every time I looked up restaurants or attractions on Google maps, it showed them being 4. something miles away. I thought that was so odd. As we searched for a place to eat on our phones, I found the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. That place is a favorite for me. We’ve eaten there several times before, and it has special memories because once when my mom, step-dad, and siblings were visiting, we met my aunt and uncle there. I mentioned it to Jim but noted that it was 4.5 miles away. He said his phone only showed it at only .04 miles away. I looked again—and realized that all this time, I had been looking at the star ratings, thinking that was mileage. Duh!

But we were delighted it was so close. We had a great meal there, and they have some little shops and a bakery as well. It had been too wet and cold to walk around the shops at Gatlinburg, so this finished off our visit just right.

One nice thing about going on a trip like this is that’s one of the few times I feel officially “off.” No cooking, no dishes to wash, someone else picks up the wet towels and makes the bed. So it was a nice little vacation for me, especially after the fun busyness of Christmas.

But mostly it was special just to go out and spend some time alone together doing something different and fun.

(Sharing with Global Blogging, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Worth Beyond Rubies)

Cards Made in December

I’ve written end-of-month posts this year, but I didn’t for December. There just wasn’t time, plus I figured most of us were doing the same things: getting ready for and then celebrating Christmas.

One thing I mention in those end-of-month posts is the books I read. Most of December’s reading was for the Literary Christmas challenge: one Christmas novel and three collections of Christmas stories or novellas. But I also finished up The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner and Shakespeare’s King Lear, both audiobooks, to complete the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge. Plus I finished the devotional book I had been reading all year, Seasons of the Heart.

At the end of the month I also share any cards I’ve made that month. December was a busy month for card-making.

This one was for my husband for our 40th anniversary. It’s supposed to look like a bouquet of balloons. It didn’t come out quite as I had hoped, but my husband liked it.

I buy Christmas cards to mail out, but I make cards for the immediate family. Only once before have I had a theme in making Christmas cards, and that was snow people. This year, as I looked at the design ideas I had accumulated on Pinterest, I saw several that looked like ornaments. So I decided to use that idea. I had a Cuttlebug embosser that looked like a fir tree, so I used that for all of the backgrounds.

The design I used for Jim’s and Jeremy’s came from a free pattern I used for felt ornaments for Timothy a few years ago. I just loved both of these designs and was glad to have a chance to use them again.

Jim’s:

I used this for Jeremy because he likes foxes, but this ended up looking more like a dog. I could not find a single rust-colored paper or card stock in Hobby Lobby or my own collection. I’ll have to stock up next fall.

I think Jason likes designs that are a little playful, so this one seemed perfect. I used stick-on felt for the snowman and card stock for the bird. The eyes and smile were stick-on beads.

Mittu likes purple, and one of their Christmas trees was white, so this seemed like a good combination for her. I cut strips from various pieces of scrapbooking paper and glued them side by side for the design.

The snow people on Timothy’s were made with stickers. I was delighted to find some that represented their family.

And this is Jesse’s, cut from a piece of glittery cardstock. The word is a sticker.

I had thought about coming back and adding a word at the top of each card, but there just wasn’t time.

Finally, this card was for my step-father’s after-Christmas birthday. The design was all done on the Cricut.

So that was my month in card-making! It was a busy one. But there are none to be made in January, so I’ll have a bit of a rest before February’s Valentine cards.

(Sharing with Create, Bake, Grow, Gather)

You don’t have to choose a word for the year

If you read many blogs, you’ll find a lot of people writing about a word they’ve chosen for the year. I don’t know how long this has been a thing, but I’ve been reading about it for several years now.

For many, choosing a word for the year replaces a list of resolutions. That one word gives them focus for the year. Christians who do this usually pray about it leading up to the new year and feel this word has been given them or impressed on them by God. They often plan their Bible study around their word.

Many share that this emphasis has been a great blessing to them. Some have been amazed at how God intersects their study and circumstances around their word. Some, like my friend Lisa, purposefully read several books involving their word over the course of a year. Others, like Crystal, plan activities to incorporate their word.

But perhaps you’ve never felt led to choose a word for the year and you wonder if you’re missing out. Or perhaps you’ve chosen one in the past but, like a soon-forgotten New Year’s resolution, it faded out of memory.

I just want to assure you of a few truths.

God never tells anyone in the Bible to choose a word, a theme, or even a verse for the year. That doesn’t mean the practice is wrong. It’s just one method of focus and of studying and applying God’s Word.

God may lay on your heart to study a certain topic, truth, characteristic, etc. from the Bible, and that may or may not coincide with January 1 and may or may not last a year.

Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Commentary I’ve read for that verse said that with the lighting they had in Bible times, they could only see a step or two ahead. God may well prepare you for something that only He knows is ahead through a word for the year. But often you don’t have that much notice. God’s guidance and provision is often moment by moment, day by day.

What’s more vital than a word for the year is daily seeking God in His Word.

I’ve never felt led to choose a word for the year. I’ve often said that God usually has more to say to me than one word. And, to be fair, those who choose a word for the year don’t claim that’s the only thing God wants them to deal with. They do read other books and other parts of God’s Word as well.

A topical Bible study on a certain word or concept can be highly valuable. But we also need the daily reading of Bible passages in context. Drew Hunter says:

If you received a three-page letter from a distant friend, you wouldn’t just read page 2. You could spend all day “studying” that page, but until you read pages 1 and 3, you will not fully (or perhaps even rightly) understand your friend’s message.

The human authors of the Bible organized their books intentionally. So, we step back and think through the author’s flow of thought. Studying the Bible involves thinking paragraph-by-paragraph, section-by-section, and seeing how everything fits into the overall structure and flow of the book.

We need the panoramic lens to take in the beauty and wonder of the big picture of God’s Word. We also need the macro lens for close-ups, for camping out with a verse at a time and mining its truths. Tim Challies calls these reading for familiarity (reading longer passages in a sitting) or intimacy (slowing down and meditating on or studying shorter passages) and says we need both approaches. Kelly Collier calls these two methods plow work (which “moves through large portions of Scripture more quickly,” like reading the Bible in a year or two) and trowel work (“taking a passage or verse of Scripture and settling in to dig for a long time,” like inductive Bible Study).

Choosing a word for the year shouldn’t replace contextual Bible study.

There are many who choose and study a word for the year and employ both these other methods of studying the Bible in context. That’s ideal. For some, the word for the year is their close-up, slowed-down study. That’s fine.

While many people find great value in choosing a word for the year, those who don’t use that method shouldn’t feel they’re missing out or somehow not as spiritual.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Let’s be faithful to partake of that bread every day.

Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught (Isaiah 50:4).

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.  (Jeremiah 15:16)

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(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, BOSS Blog Share, Hearth and Soul, Happy Now, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, HeartEncouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)

The Last Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

Forgive me, I should have had this up a week or more ago. It’s been busy, and we were out of town for a bit.

With the month of February comes the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge, which will take place February 1-29. Since this is a leap year, we have an extra day!

Last year I shared why I thought Laura Ingalls Wilder was still worth reading.

The idea is to read anything by or about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Some have also incorporated some LIW activities during that month. It’s not required, but I love to see and hear about it.

I chose February for this challenge since her birth and death both occurred in February. If you’re looking for something other than the Little House books, I posted a Laura-related book list here.

I’ll have a sign-up post here on February 1st. You can join in any time during the month. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you do, I welcome you to post about the books you read or any activities you might do. I’ll have a wrap-up post here on Feb. 29 where you can share your individual posts and/or a summary post. If you don’t have a blog, you can let us know in the comments on that post what you read. If you do your reviewing on GoodReads, yo can link that post as well.

No need to share now what you are going to read: you can save that for our sign-up post Feb. 1. I just wanted to give you a heads-up that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge is coming!

You may have noticed the title of this post mentioned the last LIW reading challenge. I’ve enjoyed hosting this challenge since 2012. I’ve thought about ending it the last couple of years due to waning participation and coming to an end of Laura-related things I wanted to read. But each year I’d come across another interesting book or two and decide to keep on. Now, however, I believe it’s time for me to draw this challenge to a close. If someone else would like to take it up next year, I’d be happy for you to do so.

For now, we’ll have one last hurrah here. I’m sure I’ll read the whole series again some time in the future. I have at least one other book in mind for this year’s challenge: I’ll let you know what it is on the February sign-up post, and I look forward to seeing your choices then, too!

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my first collection of noteworthy reads for the new year:

Six Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives. “As I’ve had time to think and pray over the situation, I’ve been reminded of the story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. She had a difficult person in her life, too—one whose foolishness went way beyond that of my distant relative! But her story gives me guidance for how I can approach these situations in the future.”

Laughing at the Days to Come. The Proverbs 31 woman “laughs at the time to come” (31:25, ESV). How can we face the future with that kind of confidence rather than fear?

Parenting with Authority, Affection, and Affirmation. Yes. Some parenting sources tend to emphasize one or the other, but they’re all important.

More Gospel, Less Trolls in 2020, HT to Challies. “If you don’t want to become an orthodoxy troll, don’t take non-essential doctrines and make them your rubric for attacking the orthodoxy of others. Make the gospel your main focus. Give liberty on those issues that are not essential for historic orthodoxy. Discuss these issues, for sure. But don’t act like they are on the same level as the gospel. And above all, for crying out loud, don’t be a jerk. Assume the best of others and act in love.”

The Real Scam of ‘Influencer,’ HT to Challies. “The things you need to do to be popular (the only metric the platforms share) aren’t the things you’d be doing if you were trying to be effective, or grounded, or proud of the work you’re doing. When there’s a single metric (likes/followers), we end up looking in the rear-view mirror when we should be driving instead.” I’m wrestling with this in light of seeking to be published next year. I’ve heard some publishers want authors to have tens of thousands of followers before they’ll even consider the author’s manuscript. Yet chasing online popularity can take away from writing.

This was a quote from a Spurgeon book I’m reading:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

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

There wasn’t an official Fave Five last week, but I didn’t know that until after I had already posted. But I don’t think I could have held in all the blessings from that week, anyway, with Christmas, our 40th anniversary, and some fund outings.

Happy 2020 to you! Already there are blessings to be counted! Here are some of mine:

1. Family time. We continued our Christmas break over last weekend, went bowling, hung out at the mall for a bit, played more games at home. It’s always hard to say good-bye, but we’ll all be together again in April, Lord willing.

2. A day of rest. Usually when we’re all together, we have a day or two of just hanging around the house. But we didn’t have that this time. We had something going every day. We realized that this break ended up being a little shorter—Jeremy’s flight was delayed a day, plus the calendar didn’t work out to incorporate his New Year’s Day off into the Christmas visit as we’ve done before. So while I loved the time together, I also loved crashing the rest of Sunday after church.

3. Getting the house back in order. It’s a mixture of sadness and satisfaction to put the Christmas decorations away. But it’s one more step in turning from the old year to the new.

4. New calendars. I love setting them up for the new year, jotting down everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries.

5. A son getting through a problem. Jesse’s car battery died while Jim and I were away on a belated anniversary get-away (more on that next week!) I felt for him, having to find someone to jump his car at work in the pouring rain. He got it going, took it somewhere to be tested, and bought a new battery. Such are the challenges of adulting. He handled it well.

Happy 2020 to you! One verse that always comes to mind in a new year:

Deuteronomy 11:11-12: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.

Book Review: Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another

Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another was compiled by Donna Kelderman from the writings of “twelve godly women from both Great Britain and America who lived from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries” (from the Preface).

Some of these women’s names are familiar. Susannah Spurgeon was the wife of oft-quoted pastor C. H. Spurgeon and had a thriving writing ministry herself. Frances Ridley Havergal was the author of several hymns we still sing today, like “Take My Life and Let It Be.” Harriet Newell and her husband sailed out with Adoniram and Ann Judson to India as America’s first foreign missionaries, and she died just a year later. Her writing was published posthumously.

I did not know the rest of the ladies, but Donna has a page-long biography of each one at the end of the book. She says in the preface that the ladies came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were married, some were single. Some had children, some did not. Some were widows. Many faced a variety of health issues. Some faced persecution. Some were published authors in their day. Some of the writing is taken from journals or letters.

One thing true of all the women is that their writing is saturated with Scripture. Donna notes that some of the letters and journals were written informally with Scripture, hymns, etc. incorporated from memory without chapter and verse notations. That’s my biggest takeaway from this book: to minister to others spiritually, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with His Word.

I have many places marked, but here are just a few quotes (there are no page numbers, so I’ll note the dates the quotes are from:

Sermons, instruction, and good books are all useful and blessed of God, but do not only be contented with what good men say or write about the Bible. Read it for and apply it to yourselves, seeking the help of the divine Spirit. Thus, draw water for yourselves out of the wells of salvation. Take each of you your own pitcher to the eternal fountain … the “water of life,” which we are to take so “freely,” is far best also at its source. Search the Scriptures, therefore, for yourselves. Despise no helps to understand the Scriptures, but above all read God’s Book quietly and with prayer, and think about it (Elizabeth Julia Hasell, January 28).

Shine on us, shine in us, shine through us—and in such light there will be living warmth (Ruth Bryan, February 28).

To know that He is ours, and that we are His. To draw near in faith telling Him all that is in our hearts, conscious of having the ear and heart of Jehovah toward us. Is this not true substantial happiness? (Mary Winslow, March 16).

May this trial be as a lattice through which Jesus will show Himself to your soul … [Concerning those delivered through the parted sea] It might be that “little faith” looked at the walls of water and feared they would give way, but those fears did not make the promise of no effect, though they might rob the soul of comfort (Ruth Bryan, March 26, emphasis mine).

Many times the Lord has had to disturb our nest and bring us out of some earthly refuge that was becoming too easy and too dear to our soul. But, as music sounds the sweetest when heard across the waters, so do God’s dealings make the purest harmony in our hearts when they reach us over the waves of trial and affliction (Susannah Spurgeon, April 7).

The ground of Paul’s belief was not something, but Someone. Simply, I believe God! This belief, of course, includes all His messages … (Frances Ridley Havergal, May 8).

It is no light matter when He calls the understanding, the will, and the affections each to bring their favorite objects and deliver them up to the fire that must either purify or consume, but this He will do to everyone that He has formed for Himself (Sarah Hawkes, May 9).

Time has not altered Christ’s heart, no, nor all the weaknesses and provocations He has seen in you; but having loved you freely and fully, He will love you eternally (Anne Dutton, May 29).

We often pray, “Lord, increase our faith.” In answering this prayer, the Lord places us in such circumstances as call it forth (Mary Winslow, June 6).

Oh, never shrink from the probing of our beloved Physician. Dearer and dearer will the hand become as we yield to it. Sweeter and sweeter will be the proofs that He is our own faithful Friend, who only wounds that He may perfectly heal (Frances Ridley Havergal, June 13, emphasis mine).

If by many poor attempts I may be used to stir up but one warm loving remembrance of Him, I shall be thankful. Satan is ever striving to divert the mind from this object. He will allure or alarm, he will use what is pleasing or painful, anything to keep the soul from delighting in Jesus, from looking unto Jesus, and believing in Him for life and salvation (Ruth Bryan, July 16, emphasis mine).

The soul that has learned the blessed secret of seeing God’s hand in all that concerns it cannot be a prey to fear; it looks beyond all second causes straight into the heart and will of God and rests content because He rules (Susannah Spurgeon, August 3).

I cannot tell you how sad it is to my heart when I find this savor lacking in some who have been long in the Lord’s ways, and active in serving Him too. They are cumbered with many things, and too little alone with Jesus, without which we shall become like salt which has lost its savor. It matters not what great works there be if the spice of love be lacking (Ruth Bryan, October 23).

Religion composed of mere desires will not do for a dying bed (Mary Winslow, October 27).

The spiritual sloth that arises from indifference and the spiritual debility that arises from unbelief are equally dangerous to the soul (Susan Huntington, November 6).

Like as the natural sun may be obscured from our view by some passing cloud, so may the comforting rays of the Sun of righteousness be for a time obscured by some mental cloud through which our faith is unable to penetrate. And then we soon begin to fear and say, “My beloved has withdrawn Himself!” To the law and to the testimony, therefore, we will turn rather than to sense and feeling, and, under the darkest cloud, rest upon His blessed word of promise—”I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” It is in order to produce, or rather to exercise, this stability of faith that we are suffered sometimes to walk in darkness. Every true Christian has his winter and summer seasons. It is only in that blessed country, toward which we are hastening, that there is one unclouded day (Sarah Hawkes, November 12, emphasis mine).

Praise has the power to lift the soul above all care as if on wings (Susannah Spurgeon, November 25).

There is no true separation from the things which Jesus calls us to leave without a corresponding separation unto things which are incomparably better (Frances Ridley Havergal, November 26).

Donna said that she “lightly updated” the language from the originals. I looked up the original sources of some of these in order to quote them, and that made me immensely appreciate Donna’s editing. In just a few places, the language is still a little hard to plow through, but it’s not insurmountable.

My one slight disappointment is that, this being a book by women for women, there were hardly any passages pertaining specifically to women. I believe women’s books shouldn’t just focus on what are called the “pink passages” of the Bible relating to women. We should read and study the whole counsel of God: all of it speaks to us. But since it does contain some special passages for women, it would have been nice to have  little Titus 2 teaching.

Nevertheless, in encouraging a close walk with God, diligent study of His Word, faith in Him through every circumstance, and vigilant combat against sin, this book will touch all areas of life. This is a book I can highly recommend.

(Sharing with Booknificent)

A look back at the blog in 2019

I seem to be a little out of sync with the rest of the blog world. People were posting their top books of the year in mid-December, while I was still reading. People have been writing about the New Year since the day after Christmas, but I don’t usually have time to think about goals for the New Year til after the rest of the family has gone back to work in January. And people usually post retrospectives of their blogs before the end of the year, but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll look back a just little more before I start looking forward.

I don’t know if anyone else gets anything from this post besides me, but I find it interesting to see what posts resonate the most with readers. Well, I can’t actually determine that, but my WordPress stats show me which posts get the most views.

As has been the case the past few years, the first several most-viewed posts are not from this year. In fact, the first hundred or so most-viewed posts of the year were from past years. I am thankful people are finding, reading, and hopefully being blessed by posts from the past. For the first time in several years, Coping When Husband is Away is not in the top spot: it has dropped down to number five. My top-viewed post from this year is from 2012: What Does it Mean to Magnify the Lord?

But as far as I can make out, the most-viewed posts that were published this year are:

  1. Just Wait: It Gets Harder.” People tend to tell tired young mothers that, but why? Instead, why not encourage them that God’s grace is sufficient for every step of the journey?
  2. Great-grandma Is Home. We had taken care of my mother-in-law at home for five years, and God released her from her fragile, silent, still body and brought her home to Himself.
  3. It’s OK to Say It Hurts. Maintaining a good testimony is not the same thing as keeping a stiff upper lip. The psalms are full of lament, and it’s okay to express grief or bewilderment.
  4. What You Miss When You Turn Your Back on Church. A lot, it turns out.
  5. A Tribute to My Mother-in-law. Written after we had gotten back and settled after the trip to take for the funeral.
  6. What If We Really Don’t Measure Up? Sometimes we feel inadequate because we actually are. We’re not enough in ourselves, but we’re complete in Him. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
  7. My Writing Journey.
  8. End-of-July Musings and a Blog Anniversary Giveaway.
  9. Remembering the Loved One Who Has Forgotten You. Sometimes people stop communicating with their elderly loved ones because “He doesn’t even know who I am any more” or “She wouldn’t even remember anyway.” But ministry and expressions of love should stop for those reasons. They might not remember us, but we need to show we remember them.
  10. Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis. I highly anticipated this one, but ended up having mixed emotions.

So 2019 has officially closed, and I look forward to spending time with you in 2020. Thank you so much for coming here to read and visit. You are an immense blessing to me.

“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” I Samuel 7:12. “The word ‘hitherto’ seems like a hand pointing in the direction of the past. Twenty years or seventy, and yet ‘hitherto hath the Lord helped us!’ Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health, at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea; in honor, in dishonor, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation–‘hitherto hath the Lord helped!'” Charles Spurgeon

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Worth Beyond Rubies)