Friday, December 2, 2011

Tiny Prints Christmas Cards

Last month, I went to my first blogging event. Tiny Prints hosted a party for area bloggers to showcase their new items. When I started thinking about Christmas cards, we searched all over the internet trying to find a card that we fell in love with. We were looking for one that really captured what life is all about to us and didn't just have a space for 1-3 pictures. Tiny Prints came through for us on this aspect! We chose Counted Blessings because it really seemed to capture us and I loved being able to show several pictures. I love the style, the colors and everything about this card. One of my highlights of the holiday season is receiving Christmas cards in the mail. I love seeing pictures of my family and friends and love seeing my kids faces light up when they see real mail, instead of junk! We love displaying Christmas cards on the bar in the kitchen, so we can look at them while doing dishes or cleaning up the kitchen. If you are considering ordering Christmas cards for your family, Tiny Prints is a fabulous company with great customer service! I highly recommend them!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful in all circumstances

So, today we are in the car headed home after Thanksgiving in Louisiana. If I could use one word to describe how I feel right now it would be thankful. Very, very thankful. I am thankful that my brother was there to be with us for Thanksgiving. I am sad that he felt too bad to eat. I am sad that he looked like he was hurting. I am very thankful that he was there and I was able to give him a big hug. I am thankful that we were able to spend some time with my mom, aunts & grandmother. I am thankful they are all still here.

On our way into town, we got the news that one of Ernie's stepmom's brother's had passed away that morning. He was sick and had been sick for a long time. I have no doubt that he's in a better place, but there was a sense of sadness when Shirley & her siblings lined up for a family picture. Every time we snap a picture, I am reminded of the fact that we don't take enough pictures. My memory is terrible, so I am thankful for pictures. The kids were happy to spend time with family that we don't see near often enough. The city girl in me was a wreck when my kids went out into the woods out of my sight, but it worked out. I enjoyed the visiting and am now enjoying some quiet as we are driving back home.

Every time we leave Louisiana, I have such mixed feelings. I love where we are now & love the new friendships and the church we are visiting. I'm saddened that there wasn't enough time to see everyone I wanted to see. The people pleaser in me wants to make sure we see everyone, so no one has hurt feelings. It robs me of joy, though, because I can't be fully there with anyone. I'm too busy thinking about what else we have to go and do.

I am so thankful to be going back to my safe place. The place where I am the most comfortable. The place where I feel like grace meets me. God is such a gracious and loving Father. I am so thankful for the changes he has brought about in our lives over the last six months. So, instead of crying, because it might be my brother's last Thanksgiving, I'm choosing joy. I'm noticing the beautiful sky, perfect temperatures, the crunch of the leaves on the ground and I am saying thank you, Father for loving me and blessing me!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Transparent...

Being transparent is my goal. I think it is so important to me, because there are many people in my life that if you asked me what they are like, my honest response would be that I can tell you what they want other people to think they are like. I want people to know the real me and know what to expect when they come into contact with me. This year has been a tough one for me, but honestly, it has also been one of my bests! There have been many mountains & valleys. But when the mask has been removed, I am broken, but my Father is putting the pieces back together. My Father is allowing me to be broken, because in my weakness, He is strong. When I am at my lowest, He is the highest. I am growing closer to Him. I can be sure that He is going to carry me through this. I am thankful for every trial that He uses to make me the person that He wants me to be. I pray that He will show me ways to minister and help others as they suffer trials on this earth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just breathe...

Today is one of those days when I'm reminding myself to take slow, deep breaths and to relax. I have dealt with anxiety induced chest pains when feeling overwhelmed for years. Today is the first time in about 10 years that I've wondered if I need to go to the emergency room, which of course, makes it worse. I want to pull the covers over my head and not answer my phone or come out, until absolutely necessary.

Can you relate? How do you fight those feelings?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice by Kristen Anderson with Tricia Goyer

Kristen was seventeen years old when she decided she had had enough of this world. She had had enough pain, disappointment and sadness in her life and decided she was done. She laid down in front of a train coming, trying to end her life. On that horrible night, she thought she was done with this life and knew what was best for her, but God had bigger plans. She was held down by God and only lost her legs and a lot of blood that night. She had a long, painful journey ahead of her, but God was with her every step of the way.

The story is told very straightforward with a lot of encouragement for anyone that has battled depression and discouragement. I read this book cover to cover in 5 hours. I had no desire to put it down until I read the last word. It was a beautiful story. I give it 5 stars and would definitely recommend this book to anyone that has felt discouraged and/or hopeless.

I was given this book for free by Waterbrook Multnomah to read and give an honest review.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Gratitude Project Day 3!

Today, the thing I am most thankful for is my God. My Daddy, my Heavenly Father, my strength, my fortress, my strong tower. I could go on and on about what He is to me.

I'm going to get real, because real is what I am. If you don't want to read personal things, you might want to stop. :). Don't say I didn't warn you! This year has been tough. When I say tough, I mean tough. I think it is probably the toughest year I've ever had. Ernie changed jobs, we relocated 300ish miles from home and we found out my 31 year old brother has stage IV pancreatic cancer that has spread to his brain. Let me tell you, if ever I have felt like someone ripped my heart out of my chest, it was when I heard those words.

I have wrestled with depression off and on since I was a teenager. After my Daddy died unexpectedly, I was taken to a psychiatrist & prescribed Prozac. I had days when life was good, but most of my teenage memories have been suppressed, because I was in such a dark place. A place that felt bleak, hopeless, worthless. I have many memories of thinking that this world would be such a better place without me. I always thought that those thoughts were because I was missing my Daddy so much. Fast forward many years, I get this news about my little brother(the brother that I have always wanted to protect) & my first idea after praying, of course, was to get back on Prozac. So, I went to my GP and told him I needed something to help me get through this. I wanted something to numb this terrible heartache. He gave me the prescription for Prozac & told me it would take 4-5 weeks to kick in and for me to start feeling a difference. I made it to 3.5 or 4 weeks and guess what? Those feelings of hopelessness, despair, helplessness, worthlessness, all came rushing back to me. The thoughts that this world would be a better place if I wasn't part of it came at me like a freight train. The thoughts that I'm not strong enough to deal with this heartache and I wanted to go first were screaming at me ALL day long. I did not want to get out of bed, much less do anything more than that.

Then my Father sent sweet friends to call out of the blue and check on me. Sweet emails for no reason, other to ask how I was doing. Amazing songs would play at just the right time that explained exactly how I was feeling. He guided me to a small group in my homeschool group that is encouraging me and lifting me up in prayer. He placed books in my path to read and review that are deepening my faith.

He has reminded me through friends tweets that if I am still breathing, He still has work for me to do for His kingdom. The medication I was on was not what I needed. More of God was. He has never said that He will not give us more than we can bear, but what He has promised is that we are never alone. That gives me courage to get up and face the day. I am not alone and He has a plan for my life. He has people that I might need to speak to or hug or even just smile at. For that, I am thankful. I am thankful that He chose me as His own. I am thankful that He loves me at all times.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Gratitude Project Day 2!

Today, I am thankful for health insurance! I took Annalee in to the pediatrician earlier this past summer, because she was having a lot of random stomach pain & her sides were hurting. Dr. Stanley ordered an xray of her stomach and the report said there was a fragment of a shotgun pellet in her intestines. He was not concerned & said it would pass. He said to bring her back, if she started complaining more often or if the pain got worse.

Fast forward about four months and she's having stomachaches & side pain again, but this time nausea is playing more of a role than the stomachaches. She's also very tired all of the time and her appetite seems to have shrunk. So, today we visited our new pediatrician. He examined her, did another stomach xray, urinalysis, CBC, checking thyroid levels, glucose, sed rate & lead levels. He suspects that she's dealing with IBS, because we have a family history of it. So, we are playing the waiting game and hoping for some kind of concrete answer, so hopefully we can get her feeling better! Thanks to health insurance, all this cost me was $15! I can't imagine the fees without insurance. Thank you, God!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Prayers and Answered Prayers...

Sunday morning we were back home in Louisiana and went back to our home church. At the end of praise and worship, they always invite people up for prayer. I went up Sunday morning and asked for prayer for my mouth. I specifically asked for one of our pastors to pray that nothing would come out of my mouth that God did not want me to say at a family get together on Sunday afternoon. With everyone in the family being stressed and worried, sometimes things overflow that you do not mean to say. My prayer was that the Holy Spirit would be walking with me every step and only encouraging things would come out of my mouth. Pastor Roy, the pastor praying for me, said that the message actually tied into what I was asking for prayer about that morning. He went up to start the message after praise and worship and one of the first things he said was "It takes wisdom to use words properly.". He used many Proverbs to back that up and stated that we can speak life into people. That is my goal in this life. I want to speak life and not death into people. I want to encourage, not discourage. He warned us to be careful what you say, because you never know how someone might take it. That reminds me of the saying that everyone is fighting a battle. You just never know how someone is going to take something. It might not affect them at all one day and the next, it could cause them to fall apart. He also stated that words that have never been spoken can hurt just as badly. That rings very true for me, because there are many words that I wish I had heard growing up and many questions I wish I could still ask my Daddy. Thank the Lord, I'll be able to ask him in Heaven one day! He quoted Calvin Coolidge and said "I've never been hurt by anything I did not say.". One thing he said that stuck out at me was that no matter how many times you apologize, it's impossible to retract your words. The damage has been done. I totally lost it this afternoon & yelled at Michael. He had done absolutely nothing wrong, I was panicking over life issues & when I was squeezed, ugly came out, instead of good. I am thankful tomorrow is a new beginning and am praying that once again, nothing will come out of my mouth that God does not want to come out of my mouth.

The Gratitude Project

My friend, Nicole, started The Gratitude Project last November to purposely name something you are thankful for every day of November, leading up to Thanksgiving. I joined her last year, but didn't do the greatest job blogging every day. I am going to try to do much better this year! These will not be in any particular order. I do not want to say the exact same things as last year. :) So, today, on this first day of November, I am thankful for my brother. We were told about 6 weeks ago that he has stage IV pancreatic cancer that has spread to the brain. He just turned 31 this past Sunday. He is a loving, tender-hearted guy that is always thinking of how he can help other people. Watching him suffer is the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life. I am very thankful for every minute that I have to spend with him. I am thankful for every text I get from him. I am thankful for every time I talk to him. I am thankful for every trip we are able to make back to Louisiana to see him. I am thankful for every hug. I am thankful for every I love you. I am thankful for every picture of him. I am thankful for all of the memories I have with him. I am thankful that he was there to walk me down the aisle when I got married. I am praying constantly for complete healing for him, but am also trying to make the most of every moment we have and to let him know how thankful I am for him!

My review of Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock

Logan Brisco shows up in a small town by the name of Serenity, Texas with every intention of robbing the town blind by conning the residents out of their life savings. He uses wit, charm and charisma to win the residents over. What he didn't count on was meeting Carny Sullivan. She was raised in a carnival setting and had seen all kinds of get rich quick schemes and was pretty well versed in con artists. She did not trust Logan from the beginning. Logan spent more time in Serenity than any other town he had ever stopped in. He felt welcome and accepted in Serenity, a feeling he hadn't found in other places. He started feeling remorse for stealing from the residents. Carny was there at every step, trying to prove to everyone that Logan was a liar and a con man. The longer Logan stayed, the more attached he started getting to the residents. He became pretty attached to Jason, Carny's son. Although, the book turns into a love story, it is not a romance novel. It is a beautiful story that weaves forgiveness and redemption into the story line. This was not a quick read for me. It took me pausing and reading slow and examining my own heart. That was not something I expected when I agreed to read this book. I don't normally find myself doing that reading fiction. It was a nice surprise! I would highly recommend this book. I give it 5 out of 5 stars! A digital copy of this book was provided to me by Zondervan and Shelby Sledge at Shelton Interactive in exchange for an honest review of this book. These views are my own. I am very thankful for the opportunity to read this book. It was the first book I have read by Terri Blackstock. I highly recommend her novels!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman Review

Saphora makes up her mind to leave her husband, Bender, after years of infidelity & retreat to their beach house. She has her bags packed and is getting ready to leave their home, when Bender comes home and announces that he has terminal cancer and wants to go to the beach house.

Saphora and Bender take their grandson, Eddie, for a few weeks, because there is no one to watch him. They meet a little boy, named Tobias on the beach. He's a very special little boy that has his own medical conditions.

This book is such a great example of love, hope, forgiveness and grace. There were times I laughed and times I cried. Saphora felt like she was a friend. I don't think anyone could read this book and not love her and Tobias. I loved every page of this book!

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Publishing in exchange of an honest review. Excerpt Chapter One My shell is not like this, I think. How untidy it has become! Blurred with moss, knobby with barnacles, its shape is hardly recognizable any more. Surely, it had a shape once. It has a shape still in my mind. What is the shape of my life? ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH, Gift from the Sea One might have observed that all of the right people had been invited to the Warren estate for the Southern Living shoot. The certainty of the Warrens’ happy existence on Lake Norman was firmly set in the minds of the departing guests. Undoubtedly, through the women present, the affair’s success spread off the estate and into the notable neighborhoods. The party had ended, leaving the catering help to stow away the perfectly selected china settings. Saphora Warren pulled down the balloons, plucking them out of the air and then inserting a straight pin into the latex. As quickly as she dropped the dead latex remains, a teen boy she had hired to clean up after the lawn party picked them off the ground. He had trolled past her dock on his Jet Ski yesterday and, when he saw her sunning on her boat’s deck, had asked in vain for a cold beer. Lake Norman’s shoreline lapped at the Warrens’ family boat in the distance, the mast a cross against a pale pink manse located transversely on the opposite harbor. One house sat like a relic on the Warrens’ end of the Peninsula, a reminder of the older ranch houses standing before the year the lake was put in. It was unseasonably hot for late June. The warm brown water turned red along the clay-brimmed lawns. Several of the guests had driven family boats across the lake, arriving early for the Southern Living lawn party. Had not Saphora’s housekeeper, Tabitha, just led the women docking their motorboats and sailboats along the Warrens’ dock into the guest room near the swimming pool to slip into garden dresses and brush out their hair, matted down after a morning of tennis? But here the afternoon had been spilled like sweet tea poured out, the ladies already gathering in clusters to kiss good-bye and float back to their pretty houses across the lake. Saphora noticed she had forgotten to shave her legs. She pulled down the hem of her skirt as if she were straightening it at the same second Abigail Weed, the journalist from Southern Living, noted a few more descriptive details about Saphora’s gardens, the patio containers holding gold black-eyed Susans that turned open faced to the sun. Saphora was popping the balloons so methodically that Sherry, her cook and personal assistant, ran from the kitchen out onto the paved patio yelling, “What in the world?” “It’s nothing,” said Abigail, taking over, speaking for Saphora, and familiar enough with running Southern Living lawn parties like productions that she said to Sherry, “Sherry, can you help Mrs. Warren?” Sherry took the straight pin from her boss like she would a child who might hurt herself. “Miss Saphora, aren’t you the one to be doing that?” Sherry said, implying that Saphora should not do menial tasks like deflating balloons. But Saphora was not herself today, and that accounted for her giddiness. Abigail put down her laptop that held the contents of Saphora’s “life on the lake” and joined Sherry in killing the remaining balloons. “This is some place, Saphora. You live in your own fairy tale,” said Abigail. “Bender planned it this way from the beginning.” Saphora had not noticed before how the high hedged wall surrounding the estate and the trees of a similar height enclosed the house like an evergreen compound. Bender had commandeered the landscaping crew using words like “picturesque” and “palatial.” “Bender’s your husband, Dr. Warren?” “The plastic surgeon. Yes. He invented a procedure.” She did not know why she told Abigail that without her asking. But it was the surgical procedure and its ensuing fame in the medical community that gave Bender the things he needed to order his life. He dressed like a prince, closet arranged like a Manhattan department store. He was tall and good-looking. When Saphora had gotten around to telling Bender the call had come from Southern Living, he was dressing in a golf shirt for his Sunday morning game. He patted her as he sprinted out the door, telling her she was using up the magic from her lucky star. He spread envy, she was pretty sure, as he putted over the third hole. She imagined him mentioning the SL lawn party in a casual way, like doctors do. This morning he had taken one final turn around the rear lawn, proud the house was selected for the Southern Living magazine spread. Practically speaking, a write-up about them could affect home value in a sagging economy. Not showing up for the lawn party was his way of making himself elusive so that he would become the subject of the party’s talk. Saphora knew her lines just as she knew Abigail would have fished around the subject of Bender’s illustrious career until she acquiesced. So Saphora helped her cut to the point she was after. One last time. It was not that she owed him anything. Promoting Bender was a fulltime habit. “I heard about that award,” said Abigail. “Back in the nineties, right? It’s all over the Internet. You must be the envy of all your friends.” Saphora looked at the four remaining women still mingling on the patio. “I don’t know.” She smiled. A faint laugh fluttered out of her throat. She was not as fast as Bender with words. She would lie awake, and the right thing to say would come to mind. But too late. Her brain was about to explode from storing so many unsaid things. Thinking deeply rather than broadly presented so many lost opportunities. Saphora was curious about Abigail’s life in Florida. She imagined Abigail writing clever descriptive phrases about the photographs of the places where she had traveled. She made fast friends, probably had to with her schedule. Abigail was a woman who did not care whether her clothes were designer made or factory overruns. There was an attitude about her that Saphora defined as gypsy. A woman who lived to cull out the far-flung corners of the universe. Sherry joined Abigail, and the two of them set to reopening the still-inflated balloons, sucking the helium out of them. Sherry sang, “La la la la.” Abigail laughed. Then Sherry laughed until Mark Ng, the photographer, walked up on them. “I’ve got to head back to Tampa,” he said to Abigail. “You’re always the spoilsport, Mark,” said Abigail. The helium was still constricting her vocal chords. Mark hefted his camera bag and walked away from them. Saphora had never met a more somber young man. He did not like or want to keep any of the photographs using the lake as a backdrop, calling the lake “too brown to photograph.” Saphora overheard him ask Abigail if it would be improper to colorize the lake photographs blue, but Abigail was a purist. “It’s a lake, Mark, not the ocean.” As soon as he walked away, she said to Saphora, “He’s a coast dweller. He doesn’t get lake life.” Saphora liked Abigail right from the start because of her secret admiration for cynical women. Abigail whispered sharp criticisms into her ear; she was good at assessing people on sight. That was evident as each Peninsula wife had arrived browned from playing tennis on clay courts. “There’s one with plenty of time on her hands,” she would say. Abigail was good, however, at bringing people she liked into her circle. She took Saphora into her confidence at the outset, making Saphora feel elevated, as if she and Abigail were circling overhead, their communal laughter falling down on the mortals below. The few remaining guests lined up along the courtyard quad to offer polite farewells to Saphora, but mostly to ogle Abigail, hoping against hope she would use her magical influence to pick their house for a photo shoot. But today was reserved: Pick Saphora Day. One of the women was a naturalist named Erin Guff. She thanked Saphora for Bender’s donation to her pet ecological fund. Bender had not mentioned donating to Erin’s charity. “That husband of yours is generous to a fault,” said Erin. Her tone was affected. She was hiding something, Saphora decided. Erin lobbied for environmental interests along the Outer Banks, like educating homeowners about how lawn fertilizer polluted the ocean. Saphora admired her activism if only because it seemed so daring. She admired anyone unafraid to confront and wished she could have that kind of boldness. But Erin’s subversive tactics were not admirable. Today Erin stood like a centerpiece among the other Peninsula wives. She wore a white strapless dress picked up in New York, not like the other women, who dressed like colorful birds from Charlotte boutiques. She looked away for a millisecond, long enough for Saphora to come to the conclusion that she had slept with Bender. Saphora should not have invited her to the party. Now that she thought about it, women had weakened Bender’s character. Erin turned to face her again. “I love you dearly, Saphora. You’re a treasure.” She said it as if she had found wings and flown between Saphora and Abigail. Saphora let Erin kiss her cheek. But it left an itch. Mark came alongside Saphora as she unthreaded a silk garland out of the trellis. “Thank you for letting us crash in today, Saphora,” he said. “Can you send some of the pictures to me?” she asked Mark. “I can pay you.” Mark’s sleeve brushed her forearm. He packed up the camera but seemed to take his time. Stalling was what a man like Mark did when he wanted to linger around a woman. He awkwardly interjected idle chatter, unlike her husband, who was never without exactly the right thing to say. Saphora was terrible at flirting. She had once filled out one of those personality quizzes that assessed her flirting skills. She was in the one percentile of women who did not know how to flirt. Not knowing how to flirt seemed to make her better, less like Bender. “Sure. Here’s what it’ll cost you. Tell me how you make your barbecue sauce,” Mark said to Saphora. He winked, she was pretty sure. Very charming, an Asian man’s wink. She walked alongside him toward the front gate. The back of his hand brushed the back of her hand. He was not so somber after all. Saphora had not cooked one of the twenty or more dishes for the staged party. Sherry had whipped up the sauce in between cooking two other dishes. “It’s the chili peppers,” she told him, sounding more southern than usual, probably because Mark seemed to expect it from her. “And brown sugar. Sherry can tell you.” She had a terrible memory for the details of what went into a sauce or any combination of ingredients that came together so perfectly as to draw admiration. Memory was not her strong suit. She could go downstairs for a cold cola, and the next thing she knew she’d be staring into the dryer trying to remember why she came downstairs. “Sherry’s around here somewhere,” she told him. “Did I hear my name?” Sherry sidestepped Saphora, flirting above her boss’s missed opportunity. She was African American, tall, leggy. The kind of woman who would turn heads if she could only afford the right clothes. But her voice was still so helium bloated that Mark turned away. “I’ll e-mail you, Mrs. Warren,” he said. “Just so you know, you’re the nicest hostess I’ve photographed so far.” Saphora hung on Mark’s compliment and his gaze until he broke eye contact and headed through the gate for his car. Sherry finished with the catering company’s associate, who was responsible for packing up the remaining folding chairs. The last of the chairs disappeared into the delivery truck. Soon the lawn was clean again, although trampled. Sherry said, “This is the best party we’ve ever had, Miss Saphora. You impressed the fool out of those ladies from the Peninsula Club. Not a one will ever top this.” “Because of you, Sherry. You should take the rest of the day now,” said Saphora, “for yourself.” That should get her out of the way. “But what about dinner? Dr. Warren, he’s home by dark tonight, he told me.” “We’ll warm up leftovers. You cooked plenty, enough for an emerging country.” “I am beat, for sure. I got to prop up my dogs.” “Go home and rest. As a matter of fact, take tomorrow off too Paid, I mean. You deserve it.” She caught Sherry off guard. Saphora walked her to the back entry where Sherry had parked her Kia. She helped Sherry into her car and told her to check in with Dr. Warren Thursday morning. Sherry continued to resist being brushed out of the house so quickly. “I saw your suitcase lying open on the bed when I was putting up your clean towels, Miss Saphora. You going somewhere?” she asked. “Oriental,” said Saphora, not looking directly at Sherry. The Outer Banks beach house Bender bought five summers back, in the coastal village of Oriental, had stood empty for all that time. “You should have told me. I could have driven up a day ahead and stocked up for summer. You know how cobwebs take over.” “I’m in a stocking mood,” said Saphora. “It’s therapeutic.” “Not for me. It’s just plain old work.” Saphora ran out of excuses. The late afternoon hour was swimming away, and she needed to get her cook and personal assistant out from under foot. “I left that bag of costume jewelry for you in the bathroom. Did you find it?” Sherry was on to her. She kept her eyes on Saphora in a manner showing her unease with leaving her mistress to organize dinner. “I did. That’s some of your good stuff. You all right, Miss Saphora?” “Better than most.” It was only costume jewelry; Sherry liked the junkier accessories. She looked good in bright costumey pieces that cheapened other women’s looks. “This is your bowling night. Jerry is waiting for you.” “You know me too good, Miss Saphora.” She took her time putting her pocketbook in the backseat, her apron in the passenger seat, folded too neatly for something she was about to put in the wash. She finally climbed into the car. There was a moment when she looked as if she was still conflicted over leaving. “Have fun bowling,” said Saphora. Sherry closed the door and started her engine. “Bye!” Saphora managed to get her sent off, down the drive and out the gate. A food smell hung in the kitchen. It followed Saphora up the staircase and into the bedroom when she realized it was she who smelled like everything that had been cooked from four this morning on. The steamed clams and chili-soaked shrimp were for the time being a part of the fabric clinging to her skin. She peeled off the blouse and the woven silk skirt and slipped into the shower. The dual shower heads shot the water at her skin like tiny bullets. The bathroom mirrors steamed over so that when she stepped out onto the marble she could not see any of her face or the small dimples of cellulite pocking her buttocks. She cycled four days a week, but her body responded like an old pillow. She stuffed the nine-hundred-dollar blouse into the dry-cleaning bag. She was leaving behind the expensive stuff, the part of her wardrobe she had passed through Bender’s impeccable filter, and taking her everyday clothes. She wondered if she would ever see that blouse again. Benny Taylor’s boy Eric would pick up the dry-cleaning bag Thursday morning after Sherry hung it on the rear kitchen door. Three days later, Eric would return the dry cleaning—her blouse, Bender’s laundered shirts, and his golf pants. Sherry would whisk them upstairs to hang in the dressing room. Saphora shoved the blouse deep into the dry-cleaning bag as if she didn’t care what happened to it. She finished rolling up her comfortable traveling clothes to pack tightly and then slipped into the twenty-dollar jeans bought on clearance at Kohl’s. Bender had rolled his eyes at her for slumming, as he called it. It was her happy rebellion to wear whatever she wanted. Saphora packed the Gucci suitcase with a few of her skinny clothes and some middle-of-the-road size sixes since she could possibly lose weight while living alone. Then she included the everyday clothes that actually fit. Maybe size eight would be her permanent state of being. It’s up to me, she thought. She looked around the Bender-sized bedroom for the last time. Tabitha had come Monday to clean. Saphora made the bed this morning, four hours after Bender got up at three to drive to the hospital. There was not a wrinkle in the bedding. She could flip quarters on the sheets. She opened the nightstand drawer. The items in the drawer were neatly segregated into a tray that held Bender’s watch and wedding band at night. There were always batteries in the flashlight tucked into the drawer that Bender used when he routinely got up at two in the morning to relieve himself. A new set of golf clubs in the bag waited just inside the walk-in dressing room. A mini putter station lay five feet out from the dressing mirror. It took little time to remove any traces of herself. She wondered how long it would take for Bender to notice she was gone. She zipped the suitcase closed and grabbed a ball cap she normally wore while running. She pressed it down over the two-hundred dollar hairstyle Bender had called “perfect, so perfect for you, Saphora.” She rolled the suitcase onto the upstairs landing at the exact moment the front door opened. She assumed Sherry was coming back to remind her how to use the warming oven. She stepped up to the edge of the overhang, resting her hands on the balustrade to look down into the entry. But Sherry had not come back. Bender came through the front door instead of the back entry, where he usually parked the blue Lexus, the only car he willingly left out in the rain. His face was white as scallops, and his skin palely gleaming. His shirt was wrinkled, and he had not dressed for the hospital but was wearing a plaid shirt, like the kind he wore tarpon fishing off the coast of Florida. He looked to the back of the house, as if he were looking for her, or maybe for Sherry to mix up a martini in the middle of the day. Had he not said he had an important surgery scheduled with a client from the Peninsula? A nose job, wasn’t it? Maybe it was yesterday. She couldn’t remember. “Good grief, Bender. It’s not even four,” she said in the quiet of the afternoon. “Saphora,” he said, breathless, as if he had been running. He was looking straight at her, but not as if he was at all perceiving her. He was looking past her. It was not like him. Bender was always direct. “I’m glad I found you,” he said distantly. She was thinking about the suitcase beside her on the floor. How to explain? She would send him into the kitchen for a beer and then hide the luggage. He would fall asleep halfway through the drink, and then she would leave. Nothing was keeping her from leaving. “There’s cold beer in the kitchen. Some leftovers. You like fried green tomatoes. I can’t have any so you might as well,” she said as if she had not already eaten two. Her pulse drummed in her ears. Before she could rattle off the list of dishes she thought might entice him, detour him from his upstairs shower, he said, “I’m sick.” The sky was not yet darkening and would not for several hours. Not even a motorboat rumbled distantly from the dock. “A glass of club soda then?” she asked, nervous, her thoughts spinning. “Come down,” he said, disappearing into the house. She caught up with Bender after passing the mud room, where the photographs of their three children hung above the coat rack. The coat rack still hung eye level to a first grader even though their youngest boy, Ramsey, was now married and a dad. Saphora had her first child because she was too young to organize her life around birth control. So she spent the first two years of marriage organizing her life around Turner. He was the biggest baby, her mother-in-law said, in four generations of Warrens. The Warren men came small into the world and then grew to be tall men. They were big earners and big spenders. Bender’s mama had called her only son Bender the Spender. She had passed away two years earlier after a vacation in Austria. Bender had said women who married Warren men seldom lived long after their men died. They lost their purpose. Turner had seemed like a lonesome little boy. If Saphora had known about temperaments back then, she would have known Turner was born to need people around him. She could have had twenty children and never filled Turner’s need for companionship. She had not thought of putting him in day school until after his sister, Gwennie, was born. Then the youngest came along, another boy whom his brother and sister called Ramsey, after a story that had been read to them in Sunday school. Saphora never told them the difference between Ramsey and Ramses. But the name had suited him the minute he opened his eyes—blue, never to turn another color. Saphora read baby books and went to a parenting class at a church, where they tried to rook her into membership. Confidence in mothering came too late. But finally the three of her children were in school and then they were grown. Turner married a girl from New York. She took him away from his Lake Norman nest and then sent him back. He was a charmer but not a good provider, and girls these days are smart to catch on. Turner kept his boy, Eddie, on weekends and summers. He called his boy Eddie because his ex named him Schuyler Eduardo Warren even with Turner at her side laughing and telling her she could not possibly mean it. She was not Latino. All of the Warrens debated the middle name privately. Saphora’s sister, Emerald, said it was probably an old lover named Eduardo. But Emerald was prone to gossip out of turn. Gwennie was an attorney who never married. Ramsey married a girl who kept him working long hours at a job anyone could do. Ramsey’s first child, Liam, had the temperament to either blow up a building someday or else research incurable diseases. He tortured his brothers, twin boys, until they came running to Saphora, calling her Nana, a name Ramsey’s wife, Celeste, selected when Saphora couldn’t accept any of the pet names for Grandmother. As Bender continued down the pass-through that led into the living room, Saphora was thinking about her children back when they were young and under her control. It was strange, as if the house had locked away the echoes of them running through the house calling out to each other, only to let them out at that instant. Bender took the upholstered chair that faced away from the bookcases. He looked awkward in the chair, and that is when Saphora realized he had never sat down in that chair until now. “You should have seen the Southern Living people, treating us like we were all Hollywood celebrities, snapping pictures of Sherry’s food. I didn’t let on that I was nervous.” She figured Vicki Jaunice might have noticed her anxiety when Saphora inadvertently dipped her shrimp into Vicki’s sauce. That was when, for the first time, she decided Vicki had slept with Bender, the same as Bernie Mae Milton and Pansy Fulton. Vicki had gotten her start in business when Saphora recommended Vicki’s cosmetics business to all her friends. The home-based business had ballooned into a sizable basement office with six staff members. She should never have let Vicki get a foot in the door with her friends. Bender opened a Red Stripe with one twist of the cap, without looking at it or her. “Abigail says our house photographs like a castle. Isn’t that good?” she asked. “She’s the SL journalist.” Had she told him that already? Bender could not settle comfortably into the chair. He had put on the weight he often did in the winter but would take it off as soon as he could get active again in the summer. “I’ve never noticed so many books in this room,” he said. “I should give some to the library. But they are, after all, our books.” Saphora kept books from as far back as second grade. She could look at one spine and it was like a time machine, like the blue book titled The Last Affair given to her by a boy who kissed her outside the boys’ locker room. He had never asked her for a date. But he kissed her and then handed her the book. Whenever he passed her in the hallway, he winked at her. “Have you noticed a change in me, say, over the past month?” he asked. “You’ve gained weight, but then you take it off as you please,” she said. He could gain weight, and women still thought of him as good-looking. “I can hardly take the stairs. Then, dizzy spells. You haven’t noticed me complaining of headaches?” He had a controlled tone, normally, but his voice tensed. His long, manicured fingers lay on top of his stomach accusingly. “And nausea.” He took a pair of eyeglasses from a case in the table drawer and carefully pushed them up his nose. Then he got up and, running his finger down a shelf of medical books, pulled three from the bookcase. He placed them on the end table and then sat back down in the chair. A faint moan came out of Bender such as she had never heard before. “Maybe you are taking the stairs more slowly,” she said. His expectations of her were often passed off like a quiz. There were curious other seasons of Bender, as she privately called them, where he went on self-assessment tangents. When he did, he swept her and the kids into the assessments too, over their weight; whether or not she had kept Turner, Gwennie, and Ramsey sweating long enough over a tennis game; or improving their math skills. Lately he had focused solely on improving Turner, a relief to Saphora as it took the pressure off her to perform according to Bender’s tightly regimented life. “It just seems you would notice.” “Tell me what it is I should notice, then, and I’ll try,” she said, her voice strained, like piano strings stretched too far. “That I’m dying,” he said, so quietly that a flock of birds outside the window nearly drowned him out. “Bender, it’s a mistake,” she said, knowing how he worried himself into illnesses privy to doctors. She quietly assessed the books beside him on the table, volumes she had saved from his first year at Duke med school. He ran his finger over the surfaces. Soft particles rose up in the glare of the lamp. “Tabitha should dust more often.” “I’ll tell her,” Saphora said quietly. “I’ve gone to two different doctors.” “Bender, your health is important to you. It’s not like you let yourself go like some people. You know yourself how technicians make mistakes. It was just last week one of your patients got read the wrong x-ray report.” A doctor wrongly told a woman she had a tumor right behind her nasal cavity. “You’re fine.” His hands curled over the ends of the chair arm so tightly that it seemed his fingers might go clean through the upholstery. “Saphora, you’re not listening.” Bender had said before that she was not a good listener. She was feeling her oats still, what with her suitcase waiting upstairs. “I can’t stand it when you’re like this.” “It’s cancer, of all things.” “I’m not listening to any of this.” He told her, “You’ll have to call the kids.” He pulled out a pad from the table drawer and the pen from his pocket. “I’m going to see Jim Pennington at Duke. He’s the one to do this.” “Yes, of course.” Jim had been Bender’s best friend in med school. They actually met playing on the same soccer team. They remained friends over the years, occasionally socializing with the wives involved. “You’re making a list?” she asked. Bender’s list making aggravated her only less than his flittering around with the Peninsula wives. “I’ll put the house up for sale,” he said, “if you’d like. I can’t imagine you knocking about in this place all by yourself.” He kept scribbling, as if he were writing out a prescription. “Sell the house?” she asked, feeling as if the ground beneath her shifted. It was like him to run back and forth, sneaking off for medical testing without telling her. But here he was making major decisions when the air in her ears was near to exploding. She wanted to yell at him. But she sat quietly. She was a good wife—that’s what he had told a group of his men friends just last week. The doctors played cards out on the back deck Friday nights. She could hear how the conversation went from golf to a botched surgery by a doctor not from their circle. She had taken a swim and come back so she missed what got them talking about wives. But she had let his compliment slide off her as she was already entertaining the idea of running away. “Gwen has the best head on her shoulders. Maybe she should tell her brothers.” She was the first girl in her class to pass the bar. Gwennie took her father’s pressures on her in stride. Better than Saphora. “I’ve been knocking about in this house by myself since we moved into it,” she said, but he was busy working on the list. “You’re jumping ahead of things, Bender. What is it you say all the time? Don’t make decisions if you’re too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.” Her emotions were beginning to tear away, though. She hated showing tears in front of him. He considered her weak when she did. “Saphora, stop crying,” he said. She pulled open the door on the mahogany commode, where she kept the tissues. “I want to die in Oriental.” He took a medical journal into his lap. “If I have to die.” “Bender, the hospital is too far from there. Stop acting as if you’re already dying.” He was making her so mad she felt the urge to walk out on him. But she stayed in her chair as if he had tied her into it with ropes. “There’s hospice. And Duke is not that far. I’d like to leave in the morning. It’s only three hours.” “It’s over three hours, Bender, and that’s a long drive.” He went on as though she hadn’t said a word. “Sherry can help out.” “For goodness’ sake, Bender! How soon?” “Six months. Six years. Doctors never really know those things. We guess.” “What about our friends? We’ll be so far out.” “We’ll have them up as I’m able.” Saphora got him a glass from the cabinet and poured the rest of his beer. “Call Sherry. She’ll get the house ready,” he told her. “I gave her time off. She worked herself to death for this party you insisted I give.” “Call her back. I need her there. Better yet, have her come here tonight.” It was the opportune moment Saphora had waited for ever since Bender had appeared so suddenly in the middle of the day. “I’ll call from upstairs. I need to compose myself.” She climbed the stairs, swept away by the urge to run for her suitcase and bolt for the door. The luggage was where she left it, behind the upper-landing balustrade. She wheeled it back into the bedroom. A tag from Nantes still dangled like a loose earring from the handle. She had gone to France two years ago, taking Gwennie to Europe for passing the bar. Bender had stayed behind in Lake Norman even after Gwennie had lost her temper with him for never joining them on a single vacation. She stowed the luggage, still packed for Oriental, in the storage cubicle of her dressing room. She pulled up Sherry’s telephone number in her BlackBerry. She scrolled past Gwennie’s number, and then there were Ramsey’s and Turner’s numbers sandwiching Sherry’s. Turner’s next nursing shift would be starting come dinnertime. He took any shift to fill up the hours away from his son and the ex-wife who said she loved him but could not stay married to a man with Turner’s low ambitions. Gwennie would be the first to call her back. Saphora scrolled back up and called her daughter. She heard the forceful little recorded voice answering mechanically as if she needed to place the thought in the caller’s head that she meant business. Saphora left a message to call her and then added, “This is rather serious, Gwen.” Then she hung up and wondered if she had said too little by saying “rather serious.” Gwennie would surely understand why she had not spilled out over the phone that her daddy was dying. Saphora did not want to call Sherry after giving her the rest of Tuesday and also Wednesday off. Bender surely did not mean that he wanted to leave the next morning for Oriental. Her Oriental. She walked out of the dressing room, stopping just short of the bedroom. Bender was pulling back the pale blue matelass√© coverlet she and Gwennie had picked up in Nantes. He dropped his trousers over the footboard and slid under the coverlet. When he closed his eyes, he said, “When Sherry gets here, have her come upstairs. She can make my calls.” “Sherry’s not home.” “Call her cell phone, Saphora. For Pete’s sake, think!” “Bender, she’s gone off with her husband.” She didn’t tell him they were bowling but left it mysteriously unsaid. He’d not think bowling important enough. But she didn’t want Sherry here tonight in the middle of their shock. “Rest yourself.” Saphora walked into the bathroom, wounded by Bender’s suggestion that she could not think on her own. Her telephone rang. It was Gwennie. It rang thrice and then switched to her answering service. Bender yelled, “Who was that?” Saphora closed the bathroom door. She sat on the closed toilet lid. She pulled paper from the toilet roll, wiping her eyes. She could hear Abigail mysteriously talking as if she were circling again overhead. “You must be the envy of all your friends.” She said through a sob, “Envy’s an expensive piece of real estate.” From the Trade Paperback edition. Excerpted from The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman Copyright © 2010 by Patricia Hickman. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Christmas Note by Donna VanLiere



The Christmas Note is a story about two neighbors that seem to have nothing in common. One is a military mother that is raising her two kids alone. The other is a single woman that seems to want to stay to herself. Due to a tragedy and needing to inform the single woman that her mother has passed away, they become great friends and even more. There are a few unexpected twists and turns in this book that added an excitement to the book. I have read the other books in the series and love Donna's writing. I would strongly recommend this book to others and am going to pass it on to the friend that recommended her series to me!

I received this book for free from Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When will I learn?

We are dealing with a tragedy in our family. My brother has stage IV pancreatic cancer that has spread to his brain. He was released from jail in June and me and my immediate family moved 296 miles away in July. We got the news mid September about the cancer. We've been trying to make up for the 3.5 years we missed while he was incarcerated and now the doctors are saying he might have 6 months to live. I have dealt with a wide range of emotions since he's told me the news. The one that keeps coming back is anger. As I was reading Andy Stanley's book Enemies of the Heart, I read that anger means you feel like someone owes you something. I have found myself thinking that God owes me more time with my brother. How foolish is that thinking, after God gave His only son for me? How silly am I to think that He owes me anything?

Everyone is feeling stressed and short on patience, I'm sure. My stepdad has always been very hard to get along with, but I have been trying very hard to keep the peace and be nice to not upset my brother. I think he has more than enough on his plate. My stepdad picked on & berated my son every chance the he got when we weren't around. He made snide comments about what he was eating and just made him miserable. But he would do it when my husband and I were not around. He is very friendly with my girls, but bullies my son. I am embarrassed to admit that I let my flesh get in the way and was outright rude to him with my body language z. We left with unsaid words and he is now lashing out at me with his statuses on Facebook.

The lesson I've learned, is to try harder to keep the peace. To pray to see him as Jesus sees him and treat him like he is Jesus. I cannot change him, but I can do my best to not make things worse. He is Jesus' child, after all.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

I have to admit, the title of this book and the cover grabbed my attention. I have never heard of Andy Stanley. Andy talks about the 4 main enemies of the heart. Guilt, anger, greed and jealousy can eat away at your heart until you are a bitter person. Ever since I got the news that my little brother is fighting cancer, I have been angry. I have given in and have been allowing anger to rule a lot of areas in my life. This book has given me hope that I can overcome anger with God's help. I would highly recommend this book. I found myself struggling in a few areas, not only anger.

I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Extraordinary by John Bevere

The description of this book starts with "Do you desire more hope, joy, intimacy, or power in your relationship with God? With Bevere's convincing biblical insights, you'll learn to live your life marked by extraordinary accomplishments---the way Jesus intended."

I don't know about you, but those words pulled me in. A lot of days I feel like I am just going through the motions and not living life to the fullest, the way Jesus intends for us to do. The words of this book came at a time that I really needed comfort and insight to going to Heaven. It was the perfect timing for me. I would recommend this book to anyone that is looking for an encouraging and uplifting message.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

Thank You, God, For Loving Me by Max Lucado




The book description says: Little Hermie and the baby bug garden friends teach little ones about God’s love for them.

God loves all of His creatures. Little Hermie explores all of the ways God loves him and his friends in this sweet board book with glitter on the cover.

We received this book in the mail today, thanks to Booksneeze and we could not wait to read it together! I love Hermie! My girls do, too. It has beautiful illustrations. The whole book is bright and has gorgeous colors. It kept my one year old and three year old's attention. The short rhymes are really cute!

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with young kids! I received this book for free from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Call Away by Brenda Warner



The book description states: Brenda’s life has taken twists and turns that are stranger than fiction. It always seemed as if she was just one phone call away from the next explosive change. Each time her plans fell apart, she had a choice: would she give up, or would she press forward and learn from the unexpected? One Call Away is the inspiring story of a woman who has prevailed through many of the circumstances that discourage women: tragedy, poverty, betrayal, and humiliation. But unlike most women, her life has been on display in the media.

Brenda’s faith and God’s strength enable her to face challenge after challenge: an accident that leaves her son blind and brain damaged, a crumbling marriage, a tornado that kills her parents, a new relationship with promising football player Kurt Warner, and the pressures his sudden success brings to their growing family.

Through food stamps and funerals, Super Bowls and serving others, Brenda’s strength is unwavering. Her determination to dream new dreams, willingness to learn from her mistakes, and commitment to giving back to her community make her a role model for women of all backgrounds.

Her dreams haven’t materialized as she had imagined, but Brenda has found that God has a much bigger plan for her. Conversational and candid, One Call Away invites readers facing their own difficulties to trust God and discover hope in the future.

It sounded like a wonderful read and I couldn't wait to download this book. Knowing that Brenda Warner has been sharing at the Women of Faith conferences had me really excited to read her book. The book is very conversational and I am really not a fan of conversational style writing. There were definitely some highlights and it was very encouraging to read about things God has done in her life. Overall, I was not thrilled with the book, though. I had a hard time making myself read it. I don't think I could recommend this book to friends.

I received this book for free from Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy...



The book description says: If what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, why is Audrey growing weaker by the day?

When her husband Geoff, a pastor, lost his job after a scandal rocked their congregation, Audrey's never lost faith.

They decide to resurrect a failing bakery as a way to heal family wounds and restore their place in the community.

Running late to the bakery one foggy morning, Audrey strikes a vehicle. Emerging from her car into the fog, she discovers she hit a motor scooter. But there’s no rider in sight. Just blood.

The absence of the driver is a mystery, especially to Sergeant Jack Mansfield, the detective and church member responsible for firing Geoff from his pulpit. The scooter belongs to Jack’s wife, Julie, a teacher at the local high school, who has vanished…like morning fog.

Though there is no evidence to support Jack’s growing suspicion that Audrey and Geoff were involved in Julie’s disappearance, the detective is convinced of their guilt. When he takes the tiny bakery and its patron’s hostage, Audrey must unravel the secret of Julie’s disappearance and her own mysterious suffering before Jack hits his breaking point.

I don't know about you, but that description was plenty to draw me in! This book was captivating. I did not want to put it down! I could relate to Audrey with the uncertainty of starting over, because my family and I are starting over in a new city right now. I also found myself relating with Jack and Julie's daughter. I got the impression that Jack was very tough raising his daughter. He reminded me very much of my stepdad. I'm not sure if that was a good thing or not! The book was absolutely wonderful, though. It was very well written. I think it's a book that I would love to read again one day. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that loves suspence!

This book was provided for free by Booksneeze, a division of Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hermie, A Common Caterpillar by Max Lucado



I requested Hermie, A Common Caterpillar from Booksneeze to read to my 3 year old daughter. It is a story about a caterpillar that keeps telling God that he is common. He sees all of these other animals: a strong ant, snail carrying his house, a lady bug with beautiful spots and cannot understand why he is so plain and common. He keeps asking God and God keeps telling him to hold on, He is not done with him, yet. It is a beautiful story. At the end of the book, Hermie gets very sleepy and turns into a beautiful butterfly. Then, he understood why God said He wasn't done with him, yet. It is a very touching story. I know there are times that I wonder what my purpose is and I can hear God saying, Hold on, I'm not done, yet. I loved how the story lined up with some of my feelings of being plain and common. The illustrations were beautiful! My 3 year old put the book in a special place and could not wait for her Daddy to get home to show it to him!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with children! I received this book free from Booksneeze, in exchange for an honest review. These thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stained Glass Hearts by Patsy Clairmont



Two years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Patsy Clairmont speak at a Women of Faith event in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was the first and only Women of Faith event I have attended. Patsy was an absolute joy to listen to and kept us laughing and crying the entire time she was on the stage. She's one of those people that you'd love to put in your pocket and keep with you at all times, because she eminates joy! I absolutely loved her. I have never had the chance to read one of her books until now. I downloaded Stained Glass Hearts from Booksneeze and snuck away to read it every spare minute I could find. The entire book is so real and authentic. I felt like I'd made a new friend when I closed the book. When I got to the last chapter, I was actually sad. I wanted to read more about Patsy's life. You can see God working in every area of her life and it is a beautiful story. I really was not a fan of the chapter on poetry, but I loved every other chapter of the book.

Near the end of the book she talks about how change is transitional, even if it's your dream come true. She states "Weed out regret. Once you make your decision to plow a certain field (new job, home, school, etc.), don't second-guess yourself. You will only stir up yellow jackets of insecurity. Keep tabs on what's buzzing around in your mind. Shoo off thoughts that keep you negative and sad. Deliberately life your pansy face heavenward.". I cannot tell you how much I needed those words right now, this very minute. God was using Patsy to speak to me and I love it! I would highly recommend this book to friends and family. It is a wonderful read, full of great Biblical insight!

I received this book for free from www.booksneeze.com with the agreement that I would read it and review it. All of the opinions about this book are my own.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stumbling Into Grace



I picked this particular book to read for two reasons and only two reasons. I love the cover! Who could look at this sweet little girl and not want to open the book? And because Lisa Harper is a Women of Faith porch pal and I LOVE the women of faith! I have never read one of Lisa's books, but I can guarantee after reading this book that I will look for more by her! The book was very conversational and funny. It almost felt like she was sitting right in front of you at the coffee shop, telling you her life story and giving you scripture to inspire you along your journey. I really felt like she's one of those people that will tell you like it is. I don't know if you have a person like that in your life, but if you don't, you need to find one! They are a huge blessing and invaluable!

The description of the book says: Humorous yet poignant stories from Lisa's life help readers relate to spiritual truths found in the life and ministry of Christ.

Stumbling Into Grace is the diary-devotional of one woman's honest, ongoing, bumbling journey of faith and how she finds encouragement through a deeper understanding of Christ's time on earth. Within each chapter she alternates her often humorous memoir with stirring portraits of Jesus and his own encounters as recorded in the New Testament.

Both intimately relevant and refreshingly inspirational, this book will help readers to jettison the theological misconceptions, guilt, shame, and hypocrisy they struggle with, exchanging them for a vibrant, passionate relationship with Christ that results in a more abundant, joyful life.

I chose the ebook version and I really wish I had it in print, so I could pass it on to friends! I loved the questions at the end of each chapter. It would be easy to use this book for a ladies Bible study. I wanted to fill in the answers at the end of each chapter. The questions were wonderful! I would definitely recommend this book!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review of A Place Called Blessing by John Trent with Annette Smith



A Place Called Blessing by John Trent with Annette Smith is a captivating, emotional book. It is fiction, but I could relate to a lot of feelings of being unloved that the main character, Josh, faced. Josh's parents died in a car accident when he was little and he and his siblings were moved around from foster home to foster home. When they finally found a family that would take them together and were happier, a tragedy strikes and Josh was no longer wanted. It brought feelings of being unwanted to the surface, because I felt that way most of my preteen and teenage years. The book brought many tears, but it also helped heal some past hurts. The end of the book showed unconditional love and forgiveness. It was absolutely beautiful. I would definitely recommend this book to others. I did not want to put it down.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Settling in... One day at a time...

This Thursday will be one month that we have lived in Texas. Today, it feels like we've been here a lot longer thsn that. We are settling in. We still have boxes to unpack, pictures to hang, a house to clean. We went back to Louisiana this past weekend, hoping to finish up cleaning out the house there & get it ready to go on the market. I thought we'd hold onto that house, just in case things didn't work out here & we needed to move back. But after being over here in Texas, I'm realizing I don't ever want to go back! I love the people, the neighborhood & our house. I really don't ever want to see the Louisiana house again. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I went through my darkest & ugliest depression season as an adult in that house. I never want to live there again. My mother in law blessed us while we were there by offering to do a few repairs & some minor updating to get the house ready to sell. She's hoping to get it listed for sale within the next two weeks. I hope so, too. The faster we can get that house off of our backs, the simpler life will be!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Don't Check Your Brains At the Door by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler



This was my first experience reading a book by Josh McDowell. It was a quick and easy read. My almost 13 year old boy also read this book. I enjoyed the scripture references, but honestly thought the chapters were too short. I would read a chapter and think, that's it? The book really left me hungry for more. It was broken up really well into different categories: Myths About God, Myths About Jesus, Myths About the Bible, Myths About the Resurrection, Myths About Religion & Christianity and Myths About Life & Happiness. I loved the categories, but I really wish there had been more information. I thought my almost 13 year old would learn a lot by reading the book, but most of the information he had already been taught. I wish I could recommend this book to others, but I really wouldn't recommend it. I don't think I would read it a second time, either. I was ready to finish it about 30 pages into it.

I am thankful for the opportunity to review this book free of charge from Thomas Nelson! Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Daddy Dates by Greg Wright



Daddy Dates by Greg Wright is a wonderful book for anyone(a mother or father) that wants to raise a strong, confident daughter. I was given the chance to read this book by Booksneeze and am so thankful for the opportunity! I laughed, I cried and I've tucked away a lot of helpful information about raising girls. We have 3 daughters, so I think the information will come in handy! The book was written really well, almost like Greg was sitting across from you at the coffee shop and was explaining what worked for him and his family. It is a book that I wish I could buy a copy for everyone of our friends that has daughters. I believe it could make a ton of difference in a young girls self esteem if fathers simply followed the principles in this book. He talks about spending time doing things that your daughters enjoy doing. He doesn't suggest simply quality time, but time doing an activity they enjoy and actually talking to them. I lost my Daddy when I was a preteen, but I had a wonderful relationship with him, because he took time to talk to me. We went on walks and talked and did things I wanted to do. It was not all about him. This book has really made me examine my parenting and I hope it helps me be a better parent.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that has a daughter, no matter if she's 1 or 21! This book was received from Thomas Nelson Press in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

There's a stranger in my house...

The lyrics to this song really don't fit, but the title explains a little about how I feel these days. We moved on July 3rd to the Dallas, TX area. The job change was somewhat sudden, but Ernie had been over here working for 2 months before we found a house that we fell in love with and made the big move. It's only a 5 hour drive, but it's still a HUGE change for our family. Ernie was born in our home city and I'd been there for most of my life and all of our family is there, so moving was pretty scary. So, we made the move. I love my house. I love the yard. I love the city. It's beautiful here and everything I need is within just a few minutes. We are in a suburb northeast of Dallas and I love it!!! Shopping is all a lot closer than it was at home in Louisiana. I really didn't expect that at all. I think we've already found a home church. I've found a ladies Bible study and tonight I found a Celebrate Recovery group. I think God has us exactly where He wants us, but I feel restless. I don't feel like me for some crazy reason. I look around my house and wonder why am I here? Everything feels very different. Maybe it's just because it's a big change. It's scary being in an area where I know no one. But at the same time I am excited about starting a new chapter in my life. Hopefully a chapter where I will figure out exactly who I am and what my gifts are. I would love to know where I am needed in this world. I know I'm needed as a wife and a mother, but outside of that, I'd love to find something that I excel at. I think getting out from under our family's guidance is really going to help us in the long run. I think I'm going to figure out exactly who I am over here. I feel so much more alive(when I'm not feeling totally overwhelmed) and so much happier over here. I'm not feeling suffocated and rejected, because the family members I love are either too in our business or pushing us away because we aren't doing what they think we are doing. We are slowly getting unpacked, one box at a time. The kids bedrooms and the living room look the best out of every room of the house, but the other rooms are coming along, when Elayna lets me put her down! She's started standing up holding on to the backs of my legs, which means I don't get much done because I can't move! All in all, I love this area. My kids love it here. We haven't met many people, yet, but they are loving the people that they have met. It's going to take some adjusting on my part, but I think we are going to be so much happier here on the whole, than we were in Louisiana!

Friday, April 15, 2011

How to Be God's Little Princess by Sheila Walsh



I requested this book, intending to read it with my 10 year old and she could not wait for me to read it with her. She devoured the book in a day or two and had answered most of the quizzes in the book. If you have ever had any questions about etiquette, manners, poise, modesty, friendships, etc., then this is a great book to read! I loved that there was scripture tied into the book. It is very encouraging and a wonderful book. I found it very fitting for my 10 year old. Even with the book being pink and Princess in the title, I do think it is very appropriate for older girls. How to Be God's Little Princess sparked a lot of conversation between my daughter and me and I loved it! I wish I had had a book like this to read when I was her age. I think it would have kept me out of a lot of awkward situations. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with 9, 10 or 11 year old daughters.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My goals for the 100 Day Chip Quest

There is a group I follow on Twitter, started by Brad Gansberg. It is full of supportive people that are trying to better themselves. They are all very encouraging and motivating! There is a 7 Day Chip and a 30 Day Chip where you decide what you are going to work on for 7 or 30 days. I have tried to earn a chip by not binge eating. Today, they are starting a 100 Day Chip Quest. I need something that will really challenge me and I think this is the perfect thing! It will go through June 30th. I need it for accountability and love the support and encouragement this group brings!

These are my goals for the next 100 Days:

1. Drink at least 100oz of water every day. Some days this is a piece of cake. Some days it's a struggle to drink 8oz.

2. No cokes of any kind. I cut out regular coke in January, but now it's time to cut out the occasional diet coke. I will still drink some tea. I love my tea!

3. Track every single thing I eat and drink. I am really struggling with tracking every bite. If it's something I shouldn't eat, I don't want to track it!

4. Exercise at least 5 days per week. Whether it's a class, walking the track or strength training, I want some activity at least 5 days per week. One of those days must fall on the weekend. I am not going to take two rest days in a row.

5. Read the Bible and do a devotion every single day. Dig deep and really open up in my step study and not fear what others might think about me. I need to work on some issues and it's a great safe place to work on them.

These are my goals. It's going to be a great 100 days, but I'm nervous at the same time. These things are challenging for me, but I should be able to handle them!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2011 is the year for challenges...

So, I love challenges, but have not been looking for them for the past several years. I'd gotten lazy. I was letting life pass me by without getting in on the fun. That's going to stop! So far this year, I've joined a group at a friend's church that's called Fit in 8. It's an 8 week bootcamp type group. There are 4 instructors from various gyms, one of which happens to be the best Body Combat instructor I've ever seen, and they work us out. There is strength training, cardio and a little bit of yoga. It's been very interesting so far! We are half way through the challenge and I'm really starting to dread seeing it end. I struggled with going yesterday. I had a major attitude problem yesterday and struggled with everything! I was so glad I got out and did it, though. I had a great time and I felt so much better afterwards. I haven't been getting enough sleep this week. It's messed up a lot of things! That was my first challenge I willingly joined this year, but it has pushed me to look for other challenges. For the month of March, I joined a group called Go the Distance. I pledged to walk 50 miles and strength train at least 3 days a week. That sounds fairly simple to me. Then yesterday, I came across a challenge to do 300 lunges a week for 3 months. I was a week late joining them, so I've got some catching up to do, but I'm going to catch up and succeed! I HATE, HATE, HATE lunges! I know they are so good for me, though!

This is a year to put forth some effort. To regain control over my eating and emotions. I read a tweet a few days ago that said so so effort yields so so results. That is why I haven't succeeded the last few times I've done weight watchers. I've been putting in so so effort. I had a bad habit of binging for two or three days and hoping that mostly eating good the other days of the week would give me a good weigh in. Well, it didn't happen. It might have worked occasionally, but not overall. I'm done with half hearted weight loss efforts. I am giving it my all.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I Ain't Settlin' For Just Getting By...

I've had enough so-so
For the rest of my life
Tired of shooting too low
So raise the bar high
"Just enough," ain't enough this time
I ain't settlin' for anything less than everything

This song by Sugarland came on when I was driving yesterday and I think it could be my life song right now. I have been thinking about making some life changes, but then I talk myself out of it, because I'm scared of change. I'm not a huge fan of Dr. Phil, but any time I would think about being scared of changing, I could hear him asking "How's that working for you?". I think that might have been a sign that it was time to change. I returned to Weight Watchers, because I know in the back of my mind that Weight Watchers works. I have been successful with it in the past. About 8 years ago, I lost 70lbs doing Weight Watchers in a little over 6 months. I got pregnant, lost the baby and found myself sinking back into depression and not caring about my health or working out once again. I have tried going back to Weight Watchers probably 4 or 5 times since then and have always given up. The time that I was successful, I had a good friend going with me that needed to lose fairly close to the same amount of weight and it became a competition. I am very competitive and love a challenge. In the end, I could not keep the weight off that time, though. I put it back on.

So, here I am again. What is different this time? I have no competition. I have no one to go to meetings with me. Our meetings are full of a lot of grandmotherly women. I have to stand in line 45 minutes to an hour to weigh in. But, the question is what is different. I had heard the click the first time. Obviously, I lost 70lbs. I was staying within my points & meeting friends at the gym. I was enjoying the process, but I was still eating a lot of junk. Better than before WW, but the goal was simply to eat less than 32 points a day. This time I am trying to focus on eating mostly fruits & veggies. I am trying to get more protein from beans & boiled eggs. I am eating a little meat & carbs, but not much. I am exercising, a lot. Some days I think I am obsessed with it.

What else is different? I am trying to work through & accept my past. Everyone has their inner demons & I am trying to acknowledge & let mine go. Comments made by my stepdad when I was growing up still rear their ugly head during my weak moments.

"You're wearing the largest size made(xl), what are you going to do when you outgrow it?"

"You can't have that coke, because you are fat."

"You are not allowed to drink coke, because you are overweight. We can drink it, because we do not have a weight problem."

"You will end up married to someone like him *pointing at a huge man that could barely walk*, because NO ONE else would ever love you."

"Are you really going to eat that?"

"Do you think you need that?"

My mom would tell me to ignore the comments. She would tell me I could have coke when I was out of the house. She bought coke & some foods for me and I hid them under my bed. I am not blaming my food & coke addiction & obesity on them. I cannot change the past, but I do have to work through it to be able to heal.

My Daddy, the parent that I felt like accepted me for who I really was, the one that I didn't feel like I had to earn his love, died unexpectedly when I was 13. He had epilepsy & had a seizure in his sleep & suffocated in his pillow. I will never forget the previous weekend. I asked him if I could move in with him. I was so miserable at home. He said yes & I was ecstatic. Then a couple of days later, I was sitting in first period & the overhead speaker came on asking me to come to the guidance counselor's office. I walked in her office and my mom was sitting there. She told me to sit down & then told me my Daddy had passed away in his sleep. I remember not understanding & asking if she said my Pappaw. She said no, my Dad. I remember sobbing & wishing it was my stepdad. My Daddy was such a great person. He loved people unconditionally. He didn't judge people. And I was left living with one of the most judgemental people I'd ever known. I remember standing at his coffin & holding his hands. I remember screaming & crying throughout the funeral. I remember wanting to die, because in my mind there was nobody else that loved me.

The next few years got worse. I hid in my room a lot. If my mom or stepdad were home, I stayed in my room. There were days I was scared to walk through the house if my stepdad was home, because I never knew what kind of mood he might be in. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd at school. I desperately wanted attention & wanted my mom to love me in a way I could see. She started taking me to "Tough Love" meetings, exposing me to way more than I'd seen in school. I guess someone suggested Tough Love. All I needed was a parent to show me unconditional love & that they wanted to spend time with me. All I wanted was love & acceptance. I started running to food to numb the pain. When my heart was constantly empty & breaking, food made me feel better for a little while.

Once the cycle started and I started gaining weight, I started hiding behind the weight. I could be an introvert. When you are overweight, there are people that completely over look you. They act like you don't exist at all. If friends stop talking to you or no longer want to do things with you, you can always blame it on the weight. I can tell myself that maybe they were embarrassed about my size. That's much easier to swallow than maybe they just don't like me. It's easy to eat and not care about what you are eating and to sit behind a computer screen for hours and not be active. But, after 14 years of that, it's not working for me any more. There are days that I don't like myself. There are days that I have no energy. I am done with that. I am tired of not taking care of myself. I am tired of not putting myself first.

So, this February has been life changing for me. I have decided once and for all that there are no more excuses. There will always be some excuse, if you are not ready to do the work. That's how I got here. Excuses, excuses, excuses. How's that working for me? It's gotten me almost 100lbs overweight. That is no longer working for me. I want to be free. I want to run. I want to enjoy life. I want to love myself. I do not love myself at this weight. I really don't. I'm starting to turn that around. This month, I have dropped 11 pounds. I am not sure how many inches, because I just decided to measure yesterday. I have dropped one pants size. I have completely given up coke. For someone drinking 3-6 cokes a day, that's a huge step. I have given up most sugar and most carbs. The craving for most of those is completely gone. That's God. It's not me. I've tried many times to give up cokes and carbs and have been a failure. I'm reading Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst and it is rocking my socks off. I am participating in a Fit in 8 weeks challenge at a friend's church. It has been a huge blessing. It is fun to learn about how God does not want us to be overweight and sluggish. That is convicting. Knowing that eating the way I have eaten for years is a sin, is very convicting. We are not supposed to look to food for comfort. I have always done that. That is why I am the size I am! I have no doubts that with God's help, this will be a successful journey for me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Shelter of God's Promises by Sheila Walsh



This is the first book by Sheila Walsh that I have ever read. It was very inspirational, very uplifting. After reading the first couple of pages, I wanted to go out and buy ALL of her books! Sheila says, "In these uncertain times, I know 100 percent that I can stake my life on the unshakeable, unchanging promises of God!". I know this already, but that statement is one that you can never read too many times. Chapter Five is titled Love. That one chapter was enough to change my life. The subtitle is I don't believe that anyone could really love me. I struggled with that thought growing up. I felt so unloved, unwanted and unaccepted growing up and during my teenage years, especially. There were many, many times I considered overdosing to end my life, because I was so miserable and felt like no one would care if I was no longer around. I now recognize those as lies, but at that time, I thought they were truths. This one chapter was worth buying the book to read. Sheila Walsh is a wonderful storyteller. She adds in a lot of scripture. I love that. The book really seemed very inspirational to me, but also like a Bible study. I think it is a book that I will hold onto and read several times, especially when I am fighting the blues! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that is looking for an inspirational and encouraging book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Truth of the Matter by Andrew Klavan



Truth of the Matter by Andrew Klavan is the 3rd book in the Homelanders series. I have not read the previous two books in the series and was worried about how well I would be able to follow along. The book caught my attention and held it the whole time. It was very suspenseful and had me wondering what was going to happen to Charlie West(the main character). I thought this book was going to be the final book in the series, but there is one more coming. I am really looking forward to book number 4 to see what happens to Charlie and his family.

From the back cover of the book "Ever since he woke up in a terrorist torture chamber - with a year of his life erased from his mind - Charlie West has been on the run. He has one desperate hope of getting his life back: track down the mysterious agent named Waterman. But in fact, reaching Waterman - and recovering the secrets lost in his own memory - will only increase his danger. Because a team of ruthless killers is rapidly closing in on him, determined to stop him from finding the answers. And the truth of the matter is more incredible... and more deadly... than he could ever imagine."

The book explores his relationship with his parents and friends in his flashbacks. It talks about regrets and faith. It was encouraging because it talks about pushing yourself when you don't think you have anything left in you. Andrew Klavan is targeting teenagers with this series, but I think if you look deeper into the words, you would see that it could definitely apply to adults also. I loved this book and would definitely recommend it to friends. My son talked me into requesting this book, because he had read books one and two and he loved it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Booksneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”