Friday’s Fave Five


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

I started to say something about the first week in April, then realized it’s the second week already! We’ve had some beautiful spring days this week. Here are some of the best parts of the last week:

1. The church Easter egg hunt. Most, if not all, of the children in our church have food allergies, so instead of stuffing eggs with candy, we stuffed them with little toys and favors. I assume they have the Easter Egg hunt early so as not to interfere with family plans on Easter day itself. Jason and Mittu brought Timothy over to join in, and he had a great time – just plunged right in. It’s been a year and a half since we started going to this church plant, and I think this was a record attendance (37 if I counted right) since we’ve been there, so that was encouraging, too.

2. Lunch out with the family. After the Easter egg hunt, our family went out for lunch at a favorite Asian place. We often bring take-out home, so it was fun to actually go “out” to eat.

3. Spring decorations. I usually have them up before now, but finally got to them this week.

4. Blooms. All sorts of things are blooming just now: tulips in the front flower bed, my little azaleas, and flowering trees in the neighborhood. Our dogwood is budding and just about to be in full flower. Of course, all this new growth also puts a lot of pollen in the air, so that’s no fun. But I’m not usually outside for very long at a time.

5. The pantry. I don’t know why I have been in such a cleaning/sorting/decluttering mood lately, but I am taking advantage of it. I wanted to get to the pantry this week but didn’t think I would have time to. I don’t usually do housework in the evenings so that I am available to spend time with the family then. But Jim went out to cut grass one evening after dinner, something he usually does on Saturdays. I decided to get started in the pantry and just get as much done as I could while he was out. We’re blessed with a pantry the size of a walk-in closet, so we have paper goods and small appliances in there as well as food. I was able to get most of it done, found some better places for items, and even pulled out a few things to throw or give away. Then I also cleaned out a drawer on my nightstand where I stash receipts and tags from gifts we buy, and rediscovered a few special things under all of that.

This week has been busy but joyous preparing for two special events: my oldest son upcoming visit and a certain little person’s birthday next week!

Happy Friday!

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My Writing Journey

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I’ve been writing almost as long as I have known how. My earliest writing went into letters, mostly to my grandmother, later to friends and cousins. In my pre-teen and early teen years I poured my heart out in journals, which I sadly did not keep. I wrote a few stories here and there, but most of my writing has been factual. I seem to process what I am thinking by writing it out, pulling one strand of thought out at a time and laying all the strands out to see how they fit.

In high school my speech teacher wrote for a neighborhood newspaper and advocated for me to write a regular column for our school. In early married and young mother years my main writing was directed to my mother-in-law to keep her up-to-date on her grandchildren 2,000 miles away. I had a few magazine articles published. In 2006 I started a blog and have loved having that outlet.

Once, while visiting my mother-in-law, I saw a little booklet produced by the ladies’ ministry of her church. It was mostly made of of news for the group, but had a place for devotional thoughts, poems, etc. I liked it so much, I brought a few samples home and showed them to my pastor. When I asked him if we could do something like that for the ladies of our church, he told me to go for it. I compiled a 12-16 page monthly booklet for our ladies there for 9 years. When we moved to TN, the pastor’s wife of our church there asked me about writing a ladies’ newsletter for our group. I showed her samples of what I had done in the past and asked what she thought. She liked the idea, and we discussed what changes we would like to make. I compiled a monthly ladies booklet for that church for over five years. I wrote about these booklets in more detail here.

Once in the first church I mentioned, our ladies meeting hosted an open discussion about devotions, quiet time reading the Bible and praying. Every lady who shared was not satisfied with her devotional life. Some had trouble getting a regular time established, Some had been reading for years, yet felt they could be getting more out of the Bible. Most struggled with distractions, sleepiness, and lack of motivation. I started a column in the newsletter to encourage ladies to maintain and make the most of their time in God’s Word.

I began to think that perhaps those devotional columns could be made into a book. I made an outline and did some preliminary work, but set it aside while raising my children and participating in various other ministries. In the meantime, I was a community guest columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel from October 2011-October 2012 and contributed to The Perennial Gen, Blessed But Stressed, and iBelieve.com.

In March of 2018 I had the unexpected opportunity to go to a writer’s conference. I had heard of writer’s conferences but had no real thought of trying to go to one. But I saw a notice for one in a town where I used to live, only three hours away. Since it was in a familiar place, that took away some of the angst about going there alone. But I did not think it would work out. We were taking care of my husband’s mother in our home, and I didn’t see how I could get away. I didn’t even mention it to my husband for a few days while I thought it over. When I finally did tell him, he encouraged me to go, and he would work around his mom’s care.

That conference showed me much that I didn’t know, but it jump-started my desire to actually complete this book. I’ve been making time to write in the midst of everything else going on as I am able. Though I started out with what I had previously written in the ladies’ booklet columns, I couldn’t just copy and paste those columns. I needed to revise, fill in gaps, smooth out overlapping information, and employ some of the writing techniques I’ve learned. My first draft is finished, and now I need to go back and edit and shape up each chapter.

I was able to attend a second conference this year and received a much more positive critique of my manuscript excerpt. Plus I won a couple of writing contests there. All of that encouraged me that I have grown and improved in my writing and spurred me on to continue writing, growing, and improving. I’m reading books and writing blogs to learn more about writing and publishing.

In many ways I regret that I did not start writing a book earlier. I’ve had the desire to write a book for some 30, maybe even 40 years. On the other hand, I think those years of writing a newsletter booklet and blog exercised my writing muscles. I don’t think I could write this current project without that background of writing regularly to encourage friends.

I have a few ideas for other books projects. I’m looking forward to exploring them after I finish this current project.

Thank you so much for your encouragement! When I first started a blog, I had no idea that I would make such dear friends online. I’ve enjoyed meeting a few of you in person. Some of us will probably never meet til heaven. You’ve blessed my life in more ways than I can tell.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Booknificent)

Book Review: I’ll Watch the Moon

MoonIn the novel I’ll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock, 9-year-old Nova lives with her mother and 13-year-old brother in her aunt’s boarding house in 1948. Her mother works in a bakery by day and helps at the boarding house afterward. Nova’s mother is usually sad or angry, and Nova doesn’t know why until much later. Nova’s aunt, Dortha, is a woman of faith but has learned to choose her words carefully around her sister.

She was, you see, actually a loving and gentle woman. It’s just that she was lost, hidden way deep down inside somewhere, in a place of no light, the bottom of an ocean of too many hard years. And yet there were moments when she rose to the surface, breaking through the sadness and the anger like a diver coming up through murky waters. When I glimpsed her then, in those moments, I knew that this was the real Catherine Tierney, the good and kind woman, my mother, and someone I wouldn’t see very often because she had to work so very hard to find her way out of that dark inward place.

Nova’s brother, Dewey, is nicknamed Galileo because he loves astronomy and wants to be the first man on the moon. Nova and Dewy are exceptionally close, making it doubly hard for her to accept his going swimming without her. Their mother has strictly forbidden them to swim due to the possibility of getting polio, which was running rampant at the time. Dewy will risk it himself, but will not let Nova.

Other boardinghouse residents are a quiet Polish professor named Josef, a couple of show-business sisters, a middle-aged single lady, and a few others. One theme of the book is that every heart has its secrets sorrows, and some of these are revealed as the story progresses. And, as their stories come to light, and Nova goes through her own set of hard circumstances, another theme emerges: we often can’t explain why things happen the way they do. But we can trust God is with us.

“And if I curse him, Mrs. Tierney? What then? If I turn away from him, what do I turn toward?” Josef paused, shook his head slowly. “No. Better to keep one’s face toward heaven, even if you are angry with God, than to turn away and find nothing at all.”
___

Even a grain of hope can manage to eclipse a whole world of despair.
___

“Until then you can put yourself in the hands of God—he’ll see you through. You can take it from someone who knows, dear. I’ve found his hands to be an easy place to rest.”

I had read this book some years ago, evidently before I had a blog. I couldn’t remember much about it, so I bought a copy during a Kindle sale. Lou Ann’s recent review reminded me of it and brought it to the top of my TBR list. Interestingly, I was reading this just as our church was reading through Ecclesiastes, which often shares a similar theme: some things in this life don’t make sense, but we can trust God for what we can’t understand.

This was a wonderful story on many levels. I am so glad I read it again, and, this time, jotted down some of what I gleaned from it.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

 

The Forgotten Element in Bible Reading

It’s funny how you can read certain Bible passages for years, and suddenly something new jumps out at you. This happened one morning last week as I read in 2 Timothy. Chapter 2 verse 7 says:

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Many verses speak of God giving us understanding as we read His Word. I often pray for Him to do so just before I start reading the Bible. And I knew the Bible instructed us not only to read, but to study and meditate on it. But this is the first time I noticed both God’s part and ours so clearly and closely working together.

The ESV Study Bible notes comment on this verse:

Paul exhorts Timothy to make the effort to think and meditate on what Paul has written; as he does so, God will give him understanding in everything about which Paul has instructed him. The believer’s efforts and God’s empowering work together.

The definition of the Greek word for “think over” is noeo and means “to perceive with the mind, to understand, to think upon, heed, ponder, consider.” The KJV says “consider,” the NIV uses “reflect on.”

By contrast, just one chapter over, in 2 Timothy 3:8, Paul speaks of men who are “corrupted in mind.” The ESV notes say: “False teaching is cast in terms of deficient thinking . . . this is why divine aid is necessary for coming to the “knowledge of the truth” (2:7, 25-26)” (emphasis mine).

Jen Wilkin said, in “Studying the Bible Is Not Supposed to Be Easy“:

Bible study is . . . absolutely a skill. And so we need to go into it expecting, not that it will be easy – that the Holy Spirit is just going to dump truth on us just because we were faithful to sit down and flip open the covers – but rather, that if we obey just some simple reading tools that we would use with any book, that the Bible will begin to yield up treasure to us. 

I started to do a study on meditation, think, consider, ponder, etc., in the Bible, and then realized the topic was too big to complete in time for this blog post. But just looking up forms of the words “mediate” and “ponder,” I came up with the following:

When people speak of meditation, what usually comes to mind is emptying the mind or concentrating on one’s breathing. But what is Biblical meditation? It’s cogitating, reflecting, thinking about something, turning it over in your mind.

What does the Bible tell us to meditate on or think about?

  • God’s Word in some form: mentioned 10 times
  • God’s work, deeds: 9 times
  • God Himself: once
  • Our way (in relation to God’s): 4 times

Some of the words often associated with meditating on and pondering God’s Word:

  • Joy, delight
  • Counsel
  • Wisdom
  • Comfort
  • Love

The result of meditation on God’s Word is often faith, hope, and praise.

There are times for overview reading of larger parts of God’s Word, and times for camping out on a smaller section. Either way, we need to remember the object isn’t just to get through a certain amount of material or to check off our duty for the day. We need leave space to turn God’s truth over in our minds. Perhaps we need to allow for thinking time while reading and studying. Perhaps we need to turn off the constant noise while we go about our day’s duties to have time to think.

Of course, we have to be careful that our thoughts involve the text and what it says and how it applies. Some peoples thoughts stray far from Scriptural truth, yet they claim to be teaching Scripture. We don’t need to insert our thoughts into the Bible: we need to insert the Bible into our thoughts.

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalm 119: 14-16, ESV).

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV).

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

Friday’s Fave Five

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

Spring continues its back-and-forth entrance. We got back down in the 20s a night or two, but the days have been pleasant. Next week’s temperatures look nice as well, though some rain is on the way. Meanwhile, here are some highlights of the last week.

1. Finding two special recipes. It would take too long and be too boring to anyone besides myself to go into where and how I found them. But I discovered a recipe of my grandmother’s for Chess Pie that I had wanted. I don’t know how useful it will be, though, as it starts with “3/4 stick oleo or the whole stick.” I wonder how you decide which to use? 🙂 It was in her own handwriting, making it doubly special. The other was for a French Silk Pie from a lady I think of as my second mom. I am also unsure of using it because it requires eggs, yet is uncooked. I think back in the day they might not have had to worry about salmonella and such from raw eggs. But I am glad to have both of these.

2. A new-to-us exercise bike. My dear husband has been keeping an eye out for one for several weeks and just found a good one on Saturday.  I’ve put it to good use a few times already. I love that it’s quiet and I can exercise at home without traipsing off to the gym. And, since I’ve been using it first thing in the morning, it gets me wide awake for my quiet time in God’s Word, which comes next.

3. Finally getting my cabinet-dusting and organizing project done – as well as cleaning out the door shelves and drawers of the refrigerator. I followed my friend Dianna‘s example and just did a few sections at a time. My main goal was cleaning crumbs and dust and finding a a place for a couple of items. But I did also weed out a few things to throw or give away. And I reacquainted myself with what I have in some of those darker or harder-to-reach corners. A bonus with this one: rest after work!

4. A couple of easy returns. I hate returning things to stores. I usually try to get my husband to take care of that task. 🙂 I had a pretty negative experience years ago trying to return something, so part of me braces myself for the sales clerk to argue with me. But even though I thought one store in particular might have some resistance to one return, they politely returned my money with no questions asked.

5. Devotional bullet journal. I’ve shared before that I used to journal along with my Bible reading, but dropped it because I was spending more time writing than reading. But lately I’ve been thinking about just jotting a few lines from the different sources I read, so I finally started. It’s hard not to try to outline or list everything, but I wanted to keep it simple and just highlight the main point or thought. That helps cement it in my mind, plus it helps me read with purpose rather than just going through a routine. I’ve only been at it a few times so far, but I am enjoying it.

Bonus: Pizza and movie night with the family.

Happy Friday!

Book Review: How Green Was My Valley

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn is the story of a family in a Welsh mining village in the 1800s. The story begins with the narrator, Huw (pronounced like Hugh), looking back over his time in the valley just as he is getting ready to leave it as an older man.

Huw remembers his somewhat idyllic childhood. Most of the men in the valley worked in the coal mines. They’d come home en masse covered with coal dust, take a bath, and enjoy a fine meal prepared by their wives. Saturdays were special: payday. Every wife would dress in her second-best and bring a chair outside her door. Her husband would put his pay for the week in her lap. After a bath and a good dinner, then they’d go shopping.

Huw was the youngest son. Most of his brothers worked in the mines and contributed to the family coffers, so they were well-off, comparatively, and able to help others when times were hard. Huw was in an accident after which he could not walk for five years. Even after he could walk, his legs were spindly. Huw was educated by a village woman until she had taught him all she could. Then she prepared him for the national school. There he was a target, both because he was so slight and because he was the new kid. When he came home beat up, his father taught him how to defend himself.

Fighting was a big part of life then. People fought over slights, over speaking to a man’s daughter without asking his permission first, over just about any real or perceived infraction.

Huw’s memories trace the progression of his family, his own coming to manhood, Mr. Gruffydd (Griffith), the town minister, troubles and triumphs in town and at school. Trouble with the mines affected most of the families, and arguments flew back and forth about the best way to handle them. Some, including some of Huw’s brothers, were for unions, some for striking. And the slag heap, made up of waste from the mines, continually grew into a bigger blight on the landscape, eventually choking off life from the river and the land.

I’m not one to see symbolism behind every element in literature, but the slag heap is such a presence through the book that it must symbolize something. I’m not sure exactly what, though. Man’s progression, which so often ends up  harming his environment? Man’s inherent corruption, which affects everything he touches? Maybe a bit of both.

Llewellyn is a beautiful writer, with a musical lilt to much of his prose. I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Ralph Cosham, and enjoyed hearing the lyricism of the book that way. I also checked a print copy from the library and enjoyed rereading a few passages.

There is beauitful to watch a mountain sleeping, and other mountains in the other valleys rising up like bits of blue velvet to make you feel you could cut a piece and wear it for a coat, to dance in above the fat clouds.

O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come.

There is good a cup of tea is when you are feeling low. Thin, and plenty of milk, and brown sugar in the crystal, in a big cup so that when your mouth is used to the heat you can drink instead of sipping. Every part of you inside you that seems to have gone to sleep comes lively again. A good friend of mine is a cup of tea, indeed.

I knew she was laughing, but she looked as though she were crying, with golden tears unsteady in her eyes, and her eyes gone lovely blue to call for pity, big, and round, like a little girl wanting to be carried, and turning down her mouth, only a little not to be ugly, and a tremble in the chin, and with hair almost the colour of a new penny about her face and hanging down three feet, with stray ones shining like the strings of a harp across her eyes and down her cheeks.

There is a wholeness about a woman, of shape, and sound, and colour, and taste, and smell, a quietness that is her, that you will want to hold tightly to you, all, every little bit, without words, in peace, with jealousy for the things that escape the clumsiness of your arms. So you feel, when you love.

Men lose their birthrights for a mess of pottage only if they stop using the gifts given them by God for their betterment. By prayer. That is the first and greatest gift. Use the gift of prayer. Ask for strength of mind, and a clear vision. Then sense. Use your sense. …Think long and well. By prayer and good thought you will conquer all enemies.

Never mind what you feel. Think. Watch. Think again. And then one step at a time to put things right. As a mason puts one block at a time. To build solid and good. So with thought. Think. Build one thought at a time. Think solid. Then act.
____
Well,” my father said to her, and looked at her.

“Well,” my mother said to him, and looked at him.

In that quietness they were speaking their own language, with their eyes, with the way they stood, with what they put into the air about them, each knowing what the other was saying, and having strength one from the other, for they had been learning through forty years of being together, and their minds were one.”

When Huw was sent to take some things to a neighbor having a baby, he thought doctors brought babies in their bags. The daughter of the woman having the baby told him otherwise and brought him to a window to watch to prove her point. Traumatized, he went home, and eventually his parents found out. He thought he was going to get in trouble, but his father just said:

Listen to me. Forget all you saw. Leave it. Take your mind from it. It had nothing to do with you. But use it for experience. Now you know what hurt it brings to women when men come into the world. Remember, and make it up to your Mama and to all women. . . And another thing let it do . . . There is no room for pride in any man. There is no room for unkindness. There is no room for wit at the expense of others. All men are born the same, and equal. As you saw to-day, so come the Captains and the Kings and the Tinkers and the Tailors. Let the memory direct your dealings with men and women. And be sure to take good care of Mama.

Another interesting comment about women came when he and one sister had to do all the dishes for their large family, and he commented, “A man will never know a woman until he knows her work.”

One of the funniest parts was when the village school teacher came to the house to drill Huw before his examination for the English school. She gave him a math problem about how long it would take to fill up a bathtub with so many gallons going in and two holes letting so much out the bottom. Huw’s mother, a smart woman in her own right but not much on “book learning,” can’t get over the silliness of someone pouring water into a tub with holes. Then when they move on to decimals, she wants to know who came up with that idea and who says what that little dot is supposed to do.

One somewhat disturbing part was when a small girl was “ravaged,” and the men of the village sought him out and took his punishment into their own hands.

“To hand her murderer over to the police will give him an extra day to live, which your daughter was denied,” said Mr. Gruffydd. “He shall be fed and housed until the day he meets the rope, but your daughter will lie beneath the dead wreaths long before then, and the rope gives a good quick and clean, without blood, without pain, without torture of the soul and body. Is justice done, then, with a rope about the neck of a man, and his victim, a child of seven years, torn and twisted, long in her grave?”

“No,” said the crowd.

“Shall we burn him?” asked Mr. Gruffydd. “But if we do, he will die a death of honour, for martyrs died in the flame. What then?”

“Give him to me,” said Cynlais Pritchard.

“Is that your common decision?” Mr. Gruffydd asked the crowd.

“Yes,” they all shouted back.

“Take him,” said Mr. Gruffydd, “and as we do with him, so shall we do with the next, if next there is. And remember, if you bury him, however deep, you pollute innocent ground. Burden not the earth with such.”

Though the people were God-fearing, sadly, Huw saw Christ as only a man.

There is a smattering of “damns,” “hells,” and such. There is one description of teenage fondling and another of a sexual encounter that are written metaphorically, but still more graphically than I am comfortable with.

Though much of the book has a nostalgic feel, to me it ended up sad. Nearly everyone has passed on and the slag heap is about to crush what’s left. Huw muses:

But you have gone now, all of you that were so beautiful when you were quick with life. Yet not gone, for you are still a living truth inside my mind. So how are you dead, my brothers and sisters, and all of you, when you live with me as surely as I live with myself.

Llewellyn was of Welsh decent and portrayed this as something of his own history. After his death, it was discovered that he had not been in Wales until well after the book was published. He knew people from Welsh mining families and drew from their conversations.

The 1941 film version with Roddy McDowall and Maureen O’Hara remains popular even today. I saw it years ago but I remember little from it. I’d like to watch it again some time.

Book Review: The Fashion Designer

Fashion designer The Fashion Designer by Nancy Moser is a sequel to her book The Pattern Artist. I think the second book could be understood alone, but I encourage reading both of them.

In The Pattern Artist, which I read and reviewed last year, Annie Wood was a housemaid in England in 1911. She hoped her skill in sewing and designing would move her up to a lady’s handmaid. But the handmaids took credit for her work. Deciding there was no future for her in the Summerfield’s house, she decided on a trip to the US to strike out to pursue her own version of the American dream. She started out in the sewing department of Macy’s, then was hired on as a pattern artist for Butterick.

In the beginning of this new book, The Fashion Designer, Annie and a few friends from Butterick had quit their jobs to start a new company designing practical patterns for the everyday woman. But the lady who had enthusiastically promised to fund their endeavors inexplicably has a change of heart: she wants the women to design for her elite, upper crust friends and wants them to create patterns for a fashion show. At first Annie and her friends comply, but then bow out because their investor’s vision no longer matches their own.

After several discussions with her husband and the other women, they decide to try to open a store with dresses that people can buy off the rack but also have altered to fit if need be. They pool their resources to get started while they look for funding to continue. But all the financial avenues that seem promising end up closing.

Meanwhile, someone from Annie’s past at the manor house in England shows up seeking her own fresh start. Maude, one of Annie’s coworkers and partners, faces struggles in her relationships. She had vowed never to marry, for her own private reasons, but she meets someone who makes her wish she could change her mind. And a difference of opinion with Annie’s husband’s father puts a rift not only in their relationship, but between his parents as well.

Once again Nancy shared at the back of the book how some of her research informed the story and included facts and photos from the era. I especially enjoyed how she tied in Lane Bryant’s true story to intersect with Annie’s fictional one.

I enjoyed following along with Annie and Sean as they struggled to trust God for His wisdom and provision for the plans that they felt had come from Him.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Literary Musing Monday, Booknificent)

Giving of ourselves in ministry to others

So often when we want to minister to someone, we think we need to start a program or do some thing. And often we do. James warns against wishing someone well without taking the steps to meet their physical needs. Programs can be a good way to organize ministry efforts efficiently.

But programs without heart, without a personal touch, can be just a going through the motions. God is the One who touches and changes hearts. He doesn’t “need” us, but He often chooses to minister to others through His people. Paul said, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15, ESV). He speaks of being “poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith (Philippians 2:17). He didn’t just run through a program. He gave of himself.

I visited my mother-in-law almost every weekday during her five-plus years in various care facilities. I often felt more “useful” if I could do something – straighten her room a bit, bring her some mail, change her hearing aid battery, etc. – rather than get caught in the same conversational loops repeatedly. What she needed most, and what was hardest to give, was just one-on-one time and attention.

Some years ago our ladies’ group wanted to do something for the elderly ladies in our congregation. We decided to make little gift bags and then divide them up among us to deliver to the older ladies’ homes. Though they enjoyed the gifts, what they loved most were the visits. Some dear folks in one church would make little gifts or cards for my mother-in-law when she lived in our home, but they would send them home with us or someone who lived near us because we lived a distance from the church. Though we appreciated that they thought of her, a ten-minute personal visit would have been so much more effective. Even if she didn’t know the person, even if she forgot within the next hour that anyone had been there, for those few minutes she would have known that someone was interested enough in her to come and see her.

I’ve read blog posts directed to pastors about what to do when visiting members of their church who are ill. Some of the instructions urge having an agenda of talking, sharing Scripture, and praying. Those are all fine. It does help to have some idea of what to share so your mind doesn’t go blank. But from the times I have been seriously ill, I can tell you that working through an order of service or script was not what most ministered to my heart. What did minister to me was the personal looking in the eyes, empathizing, listening.

Even in our families, we often have wonderful talks while driving, cooking, etc. But sometimes we need to put everything aside and just look each other in the eye and listen.

Jesus often ministered to crowds. But then He would take a moment for a personal encounter with one person. Once He was stopped by one lady while on his way to minister to a father’s dying girl. But He had time for all of them, even though it might not have seemed that way to the father, Jairus, at first. Once He stopped a whole crowd in response to a blind beggar.

The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. ~ A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything we need to do and with all the needs we need to meet. We can easily feel depleted. But we seek His filling, His strength and grace, not our own. And we minister to the person given to us in each moment, without worrying about everyone and everything else. We trust Him for His guidance and provision as we share Him with others. When we’re filled with Him, we bring a sense of Him to others.

Programs, gifts, etc., are all fine in their place. I’ve been ministered to via each of those means. But we mustn’t forget to give of ourselves.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

Annie Johnson Flint

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

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)

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few interesting reads found on the web lately:

Next in the Sexual Revolution: Children. HT to Proclaim and Defend. “They claim children are sexual beings too and who are we to deny a consenting child that right?” Scary and appalling.

Matthew 18 is Not Instructive for Book Reviews, But Much of the New Testament Is, HT to Challies. “‘Did you contact the author privately before you posted the review?’ . . . The question invokes the well-known, but oft-misunderstood, church discipline passage in Matthew 18:15-20.”

The Miracle That Can Happen When You’re Tired. “They were tired. They were overworked. They were hungry. Which just so happens to be the perfect time for God to display His power.”

Who Says Social Media Can’t Make You Wise? HT to True Woman. “Ten years of social media has shown me the wisdom of being slow to speak, how comparison kills joy, how in-person friendship knows no substitute. But it has also taught me the sweetness of the well-timed word of encouragement, of shared celebrations and shared losses. Used wisely, a virtual platform can actually minister. For those indwelt by the Spirit, wisdom can be unearthed from even such common soil as social media.”

14 Stunning Illustrations That Perfectly Capture the Introverts Love of Books, HT to Linda

The $8,000 Mistake All Bloggers Should Beware. I forget where I saw this one. “Copyright laws have created and enabled an industry of predatory lawyers – also known as copyright trolls. These attorneys take advantage of photographers and artists who make their images available online, as well as the bloggers who don’t know any better and post the wrong content to their sites.” Apparently they don’t have to warn you first and give you a chance to take it down. We all know (or should) that just because a photo is on the Internet doesn’t mean we can use it. But apparently some of the instances we thought were ok, like a link back to the original site, don’t justify the use of the photo.

You’re Using a Cutting Board Incorrectly, HT to Challies. I never knew! But it makes sense!

And, finally, someone on Facebook posted this video of a baby trying chocolate milk for the first time. Adorable!

Happy Saturday!