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Sunday, January 30, 2011

recipe: honeybun cake

I'm a big fan of The Pioneer Woman. I love how she gives photo step-by-step instructions when making amazing meals. In conjuction with her website is another site called Tasty Kitchen. And it's here I found a recipe for "Honeybun Cake." I made it this weekend and oh my, thought it turned out amazing! I like embellishing just a tad so I'm thinking the next time I make it, I'll throw in some mini-chocolate chips for some extra flavor (I'm a firm believer that chocolate enhances almost any dish). A cool thing about this site is that you're able to adjust the recipe to fit the number of people you need. You don't have to try to mentally half a recipe - just change the number of servings you need. Amazing.

Ingredients
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 4 whole eggs
- 8 oz. container sour cream
- 3/4 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 6 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

"Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. By hand, blend the cake mix, eggs, sour cream, and oil until well-incorporated. The mixture will be pale yellow; it’s okay if it has some lumps! Then set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon until well-blended; set aside. Pour half of the cake batter into a greased 13×9 pan, spreading the batter out into a thin layer. Add half of the swirl mixture to the top, covering the entire layer of batter. Don’t be alarmed if it looks like you’re over-saturating the cake—it’ll taste great! Pour the rest of the batter on top, and spread the batter until the cake is even. Top the cake off with the rest of the swirl mixture. With a knife, swirl the batter until you create a beautiful masterpiece. Place the cake into the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. While the cake is baking, make the glaze. In a bowl, mix the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until glaze is of desired consistency. When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour glaze onto the hot cake. You might have to pick up the cake and tilt it to spread the glaze evenly. Let the cake sit for a few minutes so the glaze can set and serve warm or at room temperature."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

book review: "trusting God to get you through" by jason crabb


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour
book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:
Charisma House (January 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva Publicity Coordinator, Book Group Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Best known as the powerhouse lead vocalist for one of Gospel’s most acclaimed and awarded groups, The Crabb Family, Jason Crabb’s career has already been an incredible ride. While garnering multiple Dove Awards, three GRAMMY nominations, and 16 #1 singles with his family, Jason has become one of the Christian music community’s most acclaimed vocalists. Crabb has become a “fan favorite” at the Grand Ole Opry, appeared regularly on the Gaither Homecoming Series videos, and was honored to sing for the Rev. Billy Graham’s final crusade in New York. He has sung with the legendary Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, among many other diverse and prestigious opportunities. His solo album debuted at #1 on Nielsen SoundScan’s Christian/Gospel Christian Retail chart the week following its release in 2009.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DISCRIPTION:

More than anything else, this book is about an amazing God who reaches down and touches ordinary lives. It is a testimony of all He has done for Jason Crabb's family and for the people he has been privileged to meet throughout the years on the road. He wrote this book because every soul walks through the fire of adversity. Most of us have walked that plank several times. Whether the life of your dreams is unfolding before your eyes, or you are losing hope that it ever will, you have tasted a trial or two. No human being with breath in his lungs can say, "Difficulty has never darkened my doorstep." You may have entirely different life experiences than Jason. Yet, when you look in the rearview mirror, you can see the high points and low points of days gone by. The important thing—the truly amazingthing—is that like Jason—you came through all of it. There may be a scar or two to remind us of the past, but the past is behind us. Jason Crabb wants you to know that you came through it for a reason.There is something God is yet going to do with you. The important things to remember is that you can go through the fire—any fire—with God's help.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (January 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381744
ISBN-13: 978-1616381745

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Just hold on, our Lord will show up



And He will take you through the fire again!



...Trust the hand of God, He’ll shield the flames again.



Facing Life’s Questions



So many times I’ve questioned certain circumstances



Things I could not understand.




Every song I sing has lyrics centered on a strong gospel message, although the sounds are similar to musical genres that are popular today. Sometimes those familiar styles open doors to exciting and unexpected opportunities to sing outside of mainstream gospel circles.


I’m jazzed by invitations to take part in nontraditional gospel events. One such invite led to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, a place like no other in the world. Just being on that stage is an honor; how that particular night played out—well, it added to my amazement and demonstrated God’s willingness to use unusual circumstances in the fulfillment of His will.


Talk about irony! The sponsor of our portion of that night’s program was a watering hole in Nashville. You heard me right; our segment was sponsored by a bar—and what an amazing night it turned out to be. From that iconic stage I was privileged to share a

testimony that was fresh in my heart.


“Through the Fire” was part of my testimony that night. Like all my dad’s songs, it speaks to experiences that are common to all people. The song has run like a thread through the fabric of my own life. I told the audience at the Grand Ole Opry as much,

explaining how the song had ministered to Shellye and me during a painful season.


It was a poignant moment when I shared how God had brought us through the trauma of losing two precious babies in separate miscarriages. Although the shock of those losses was still fresh in our thoughts, fresher still was the miracle of God in bringing our season of heartbreak to an end. That night—February 14, 2003—I had the pleasure of sharing breaking news from our house: Shellye and I had just experienced the birth of our first child! Our daughter, Ashleigh Taylor, had been born the day before, and she and her

momma were doing just fine.


After the audience heard our songs and our testimony about Ashleigh’s birth, a woman stopped us outside the auditorium. Like most everyone else at the Opry, she had come to hear the music. But God had more than music in mind for her. With tears streaming

down her face, she said, “I didn’t have any idea I was coming here for this tonight, but I rededicated my life to God—right here at the Grand Ole Opry—sponsored by a bar!”


Life doesn’t always follow the script that makes sense to us. That was true for this woman, and it was true of our miscarriages. The birth of Ashleigh had come after many long days of testing and trial. So many times the dream of raising a family seemed bound

in thick layers of impossibility. Yet deep down, Shellye and I knew that we were not alone in the fight. God’s Word told us so. Many nights the Scriptures comforted and strengthened us. We had His assurance that He would bring us through:


When you pass through the waters,


I will be with you;


and when you pass through the rivers,


they will not sweep over you.


When you walk through the fire,


you will not be burned;


the flames will not set you ablaze.


For I am the Lord, your God.


—Isaiah 43:2–3


Shellye and I walked through some fire. Yet God brought us out and blessed us—radically! Today we have two daughters, Ashleigh Taylor and Emmaleigh Love. They are as beautiful as can be, just like their mother. I will tell you more about them later, but first let me tell you about the love of my life.


My Cowgirl


My earliest awareness of Shellye came when someone brought me a picture of her and said, “You’ve got to meet this girl.”


My reaction was, “Yeah, she’s kind of cute. Yeah, I’d like to meet her.”


I guess I played down my curiosity in front of my friend, but I thought the girl in the picture was beautiful. Little did I know that someone had shown that beautiful girl a picture of me. It was a shot from the album Looking Ahead, a record our family made

even before we started singing full-time. I had a crazy hairdo at the time—a comb-over with a curl that dropped right down the center of my forehead. My hairstyle looked like a 1950s throwback. Shellye wasn’t impressed.


Her reaction was actually stronger than that. She looked at the photo and said, “No way. I don’t think I’d like him at all.”


She then pointed to my curl, saying, “I don’t know about that.”


Sometime later, the Crabb Family was invited by Kentucky Educational Television (KET) to be part of an outdoor concert in Rosine, Kentucky, the home of bluegrass and the birthplace of Bill Monroe, the man known to this day as the Father of Bluegrass

Music.1 KET asked us to sing for a documentary they were making about Kentucky music.


Friends had told me ahead of time that Shellye planned to come and see me at the concert. Things didn’t go exactly according to plan, however. She and her folks arrived after our set was over. We were headed off the stage when I spotted Shellye getting out of a car.


I never took my eyes off her; I watched her walk across the field and toward the stage. I might not be able to tell you what Shellye wore yesterday, but I can tell you exactly what she was wearing in Rosine. She cut straight across that field in blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and roper boots.


Shellye was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. She looked even more beautiful than her picture. My heart skipped a beat—maybe two—and I remember thinking, “Well, I’ve got me a little cowgirl with long, curly hair.”


I wasn’t the only one who noticed Shellye. Our drummer asked, “Who is that?”


I said, “Let’s go meet her.”


“Yeah, I want to meet her,” he said.


We talked to Shellye for a while. Then it hit me: I didn’t need to help the drummer get to know Shellye; I needed to head him off at the pass! Just as quick as you can bat an eye, I asked her, “Hey, what are you doing tonight?”


“I’m going to church,” she replied.


“Well, good, because I’m going with you.” I didn’t ask her if I could accompany her; I just told her we were going to church together. It was bold, but it was OK with Shellye.

She was comfortable knowing that her stepmom knew me. In fact, her stepmom was Kathy’s cousin. So, I wasn’t a complete stranger, and church seemed like a safe first date.


In the meantime, we tried to get out of the blistering heat. The only place that was even slightly cooler than that hot Kentucky field was the inside of our old GMC bus. It was our family’s first bus, and it burned almost as much oil as it did gas. It wasn’t pretty, but

it had places to sit and offered shelter from the sun. It even had a recliner that we had installed for on-the-road comfort.


Shellye sat in the recliner, and I stood in the stairwell. We just talked and talked until it was night. By the time we left for church, one thing was certain: our meeting was no accident. The hours I spent with Shellye were like nothing I had ever experienced. We

were clearly drawn to one another and found it easy to talk and laugh together. It sounds like a cliché, but we felt almost as though we had known each other for some time.


That night, Shellye and I went to church. At some point, I learned that she was seeing someone, but the relationship was not serious. The next day, the fellow Shellye had dated called her before I did. She refused to come to the phone. She had already decided that she didn’t want to talk to anyone but me.


When I finally called, it was Shellye’s turn to be bold. She asked me whether I was coming over and said she wanted to see me again. I didn’t have to think twice about my answer. I just said, “I’ll come over.”


When I got to Shellye’s house, she and her twin sister answered the door. Seeing the two of them caught me by surprise, but I got over it. There was no doubt in my mind: there was only one Shellye, and she was the girl for me.


The memories of those days are strong. The slightest reminder can trigger my senses and transport me back in time. During our courtship, I made it a habit to pick up some watermelon gum and a Dr. Pepper on my way to Shellye’s house. To this day, the

sight, smell, or taste of either one affects us, and each year the first October breeze reminds us of the day we met.


My Better Half


Years ago, I prayed and asked God to bring the right woman into my life. I knew it was important to find not just a good woman but the right woman. God answered my prayers. Shellye is everything I need and everything I am not. She helps me to remain rooted

in what matters. She helps me to strike a healthy balance between family and ministry. She helps me to stay grounded when I’m on the road.


Shellye is an amazing wife and mother and the perfect helpmate. Of course, she is much more than that. Ask anyone about Shellye, and they will tell you that she is a rock. In fact, that’s what they call her: the rock. She is content in life. She is comfortable with our

roles and all they entail. She is supportive of me while at the same time fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom. Her deep contentment brings me peace. I know that when I’m on the road, I don’t have to worry about her or my kids. Shellye has it all in hand.


Not everyone who travels enjoys the kind of homecomings I do. Not every spouse can deal with the things Shellye takes in stride. Keeping the home fires burning is not a chore for my wife. When I return from a stint on the road, I enter a home bubbling over with

warmth and love. It is inviting and reassuring and demonstrates Shellye’s wholeness. Her joy is a great blessing to our family. As a man,


I can’t imagine a better home life than the one I’ve got. As a father, I can’t imagine a better mother for Ashleigh and Emmaleigh.


One of my favorite pastimes is watching Shellye and our girls interact. She’s got a way about her that brings tears to my eyes. Whatever the activity, Shellye is right beside them. When they are learning their Scripture memory verses, Shellye is there. Already,

Ashleigh can quote nine verses of a psalm at a single clip, in part because Shellye is so supportive. As a mom, she is dedicated to helping both our daughters succeed in their endeavors.


Not that being a full-time mom is easy, especially when your husband travels as much as I do. Shellye is the nightly homework helper, the daily taxi, the resident chef, and keeper of all things domestic. Yet she relishes her life. She sincerely enjoys shuttling the girls to and from school and cheerleading practice—and not as a drive-by mother, either. Shellye is very involved at our girls’ school and finds ways to contribute and be a blessing to the staff and faculty.


As a life partner, Shellye is my perfect match, emotionally and otherwise. I value her opinion. She is smart, objective, wise, and knows me better than anybody else does. When questions arise as to the direction of ministry or the choice of songs for an album

or which producer or record company is right, I know I can go to Shellye for straightforward, reliable input.


Being transparent and at ease in our conversation is something we have been able to do since that first day in Rosine. There are no egos in the way. We just keep it simple and honest. That freedom allows us to grow individually and as a couple. After a two-andone-

half-hour concert, Shellye will say, “Honey, that set was too long.” I don’t try to convince her that a one-hundred-fifty-minute concert is a great idea. I take my wife’s advice seriously; I know she has my best interests at heart. At the same time, she knows I trust her and won’t be offended by the truth. In the end, if you can’t tell each other the truth, you have to wonder how solid your relationship really is.


One of the reasons Shellye and I came together in the first place has to do with transparency. At the very beginning, it was clear that Shellye loved me for who I was and not what I did. It wasn’t about the music, the recognition, or anything like that. In fact,

when we first fell in love, she didn’t know the extent of my musical and ministry life.


Shellye liked me as I was. As a result, she brought out the best in me. I had experienced relationships that lacked that kind of truth. In school, everyone had their crush and their reasons. I was a country kid with no fancy home or cars or anything to draw attention

to me. I wasn’t very popular with the girls. In fact, they usually gave me the brush-off. They weren’t interested in me—at least, not until I sang at a school variety show. Then, all of a sudden, the girls noticed me. Suddenly, I was in demand.


He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.


—Proverbs 18:22


Shellye did not operate that way. She loved me first and learned about what I did afterward. We were blessed in that when we started our relationship, we truly loved each other. We weren’t drawn by illusions or impressions or any other distractions. That has proved to be a good foundation for the rest of our life together.


Shellye’s Testimony: It’s Not About Me


I met Jason in Rosine, Kentucky, when I was sixteen years old. In all of Kentucky, I may have been the only person who hadn’t heard of the Crabb Family. All I knew was that my stepmom and my father were taking me to a concert. There was a guy there my stepmom

wanted me to meet.


Moments after I met Jason, he asked me, “What are you doing tonight?”


I said, “I’m going to church.”


Without the slightest hesitation, he said, “I’m going with you”— which he did!


That is where our relationship began. We hit it off from the start, but since we lived seventeen miles apart, it wasn’t easy getting to see one another. Not only that, but Jason was on the road a lot. Often he would come in during the middle of the week, wake up

at six in the morning, and drive over to Central City, where I lived. He would take me to school and return in the evening to pick me up and take me home.


Just about every time Jason came to get me, I would ask him, “What should we do tonight?”


Jason’s answer was always the same: “We’ve got to put up posters.”


The posters let everyone know when the Crabb Family would be singing. Once each month, they gave a concert in Owensboro, Kentucky. It took lots of posters to get the word out. That is how we spent most of our dates. And since the Owensboro concerts

happened every month, we were never done hanging posters. Jason and I dated for three years. In 1997, I graduated from high school, and on May 12, 1998, Jason and I got married in my home church. I was nineteen, and he was twenty-one. Our backgrounds

were very similar; my parents divorced when I was only four years old, and my dad raised me; my twin sister, Kellye; and our older sister, Leslie.


Because my dad worked on the railroad and was gone a lot of the time, my grandmother lived with us and cared for us kids. She was very involved with my sisters and me and played a very significant role in our lives. So did Dad. He worked really hard to make a living for all of us. My dad and grandmother did a great job raising us—and they made sure we were in church every time the doors opened!


After two years of marriage, Jason and I learned that I was pregnant. We were scared, yet excited. Starting a family was something we both wanted very much. But almost as soon as our dream was underway, it was threatened. Early in the pregnancy, I started having complications. Soon afterward, I had a miscarriage. Jason and I were devastated to lose our baby. We couldn’t understand why this had happened to us.


About a year and a half later, I got pregnant again. Our hopes were high, but we lost that baby too. It hit us hard. I remember asking the Lord over and over again to give me the strength to get through the ordeal. He did.


Yet getting through the miscarriages was only part of the process. For so long I struggled with the loss of our babies and the disappointment that followed. At times I almost questioned God; I wanted to ask Him why He allowed everyone but us to have babies.

The loss of our children did not make sense to me. Still, I kept praying. At some point I realized that my focus was centered on me and what I wanted. I was preoccupied with the way I thought things should turn out. What I really needed was to get to the point where it wasn’t about me.


Through prayer and dedication, I eventually got to where I needed to be. It wasn’t about us anymore. It was about what God wanted for our lives. The day came when I could agree with the psalmist who said, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Ps. 115:1).


Emotionally and spiritually, the change in perspective was dramatic. It not only kept us grounded in our trust of the Lord, but it also helped Jason and me to mature. Needless to say, our growth in this area was not easy; we were being stretched and tested. When you are in a situation like we were in, you sometimes wonder whether it will ever end.


Then one day, God spoke to me! He promised me a child. His promise did not come about right away, yet I knew I had heard His voice. And I knew He was faithful.


Shellye’s Testimony: Look to the Future


When Jason is onstage, he often tells the story of an evangelist friend who told us to buy a box of Pampers—before we had even conceived. The man’s name is Jay Boyd. Jason has known him since childhood when Jason and his family attended Jay’s revival meetings. Jason played drums for Jay at some point, and they have kept in touch over the years. The way Jason tells it, Jay could preach wallpaper right off the walls. I don’t doubt it. Jay is fearless about saying whatever he believes God wants said.


We bought that box of Pampers. Every day it served as a reminder that our promise was on its way. It was a tangible symbol of God’s promise and involvement in our lives,much as the watch from Pastor Parsley is symbolic of God’s faithfulness in Jason’s transition

to solo ministry.


This pastor encouraged us to be proactive in our faith, thanking God in advance for the blessing of our children. Doing that forced us to take our focus off the past. Jason and I set our sights on what was yet to come. Before six months went by, I was pregnant again!

This time, I knew everything was going to be fine. In fact, there was not a single doubt in my mind. I just started thanking God for our baby, knowing that He was taking care of us.


He was and still is taking care of us—all four of us! Now, when I look back to the years before the births of Ashleigh Taylor and Emmaleigh Love, I understand why things happened the way they did. The Lord has shown me, and continues to show me, the good

that came out of our trial. Night after night, women with similar heartaches come to our table. They are hurting and wondering why, just as we were during those hard years. Now we have precious opportunities to minister to them. And because we walked through the same flames, these women realize that they can come through the fire too.


God is faithful. He will comfort others as He comforted us! He will help others to understand the things He helped us to understand. They too will come out of the fire knowing that “ . . . neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39). In His wisdom and because of our experiences, God has given us a special way to share His love.


There is one other thing God showed me after our trial ended. I learned that trials are often one part why and an equal part when. It is clear to me now that when Jason and I first conceived, it was not the right time for us. The first five years of our marriage helped

us to draw close and build a stronger bond between us. God had something in mind for that season, and it wasn’t children.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


—Jeremiah 29:11


Through the struggle, we continued to minister. At times, when Shellye and I were on the bus, I’d look over at her and see tears in her eyes. Those tears did the talking even when no words were exchanged.


There was a question in my wife’s tears. The question was, “Why?” To this day, I really can’t say why Shellye and I endured the devastation of miscarriages. At this point, I’m not sure I need to know. I do know this: our experiences have helped us to bless others. So many people suffer the heartbreak of losing a baby. The numbers are staggering. In fact, depending upon the statistical source, as many as one out of four women suffer a miscarriage.


There are a lot of hurting people behind those numbers. For Shellye and me, it is easy to relate to them. We know what it is like to lose a child. It is hard—really hard. Yet even in the midst of our losses, we were not without hope. Nor was I without a voice. I just

kept singing “Through the Fire” and “Still Holding On.” I knew I could trust God to show up and carry me past the pain again.


Those two songs encouraged Shellye and me when we needed it most. It was as though God was saying, “I am faithful, and I will continue to be faithful.” He was giving us, through whatever means necessary, the strength to heed the words David wrote during his

own desperate times: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Ps. 31:24).


God used those songs to renew our hope and refresh our souls. He used people too. Shellye told you about Jay Boyd and the Pampers. Jay knew my family for years. His and my dad’s relationship dated back before the Crabb Family Singers to the days when my dad was a minister. I remember Jay in the pulpit—the man could preach! I am thankful that our relationship has continued throughout the years.


Jay told Shellye and me to thank God for the promise before it came to pass. He said we needed to do what the Bible says and call “things that are not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). We needed to be like the men who tore the roof off a building because they believed Jesus would heal the paralyzed man they brought to Him (Mark 2:1–12). We needed to be like Jairus trusting Jesus, even in the worst circumstances (Mark 5:22–43). We needed to come to the place where no matter the setbacks we would remain focused on the love and power of God to bless and heal.


All of Christianity is built on that kind of faith. It is the faith that says, “When doubt comes, we’ll praise Him. When life comes apart at the seams, we’ll praise Him. No matter the outcome, we’ll praise Him. Whether the promise comes to pass or it doesn’t, we’ll praise Him.”


That last one is a tough nut to crack. It means selling out to God to such a degree that your dreams are not as important as the fact that you are His. It took Shellye and me time to get there. We were not satisfied with the outcome of two miscarriages. We were not

satisfied to be childless. I won’t kid you; after the second miscarriage,

I threw my hands in the air and said, “God, I may not be the greatest father, but I will be a grateful father.”


In the midst of an ordeal like that, there are moments when you feel hopeless and unable to push past the sorrow. We often minister to people who feel exactly that way. Our hearts break for them, because we understand. We are so privileged to pray for them. How blessed we are to hear their testimonies afterward! Some of them write us to say that they have given birth. Others are ecstatic when they tell us that God answered their prayers through adoption. Still, I know that some of them have yet to see their dreams fulfilled.


For those who have had miscarriages, there is good news: your babies are in heaven. So are our babies. As hard as it was to lose them, I get excited to think that someday Ashleigh and Emmaleigh will meet their siblings in heaven!


At some distant day, all six of us will be there together.


It is not easy to be strong and take heart when things happen in defiance of God’s promises. In those crushing moments, it is hard to know what to think or how to respond. Should we trust in silence and ignore our doubts? Or should we deny our emotions, as though we were not in turmoil?


Our responses to difficulty have a lot to do with how we were raised and what we have been told about God. Some people say we should never, ever question God. Yet some of the greatest leaders and prophets in all of history have asked Him tough questions.


When Abraham learned of God’s plan to investigate the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pressed God to share His intentions. He wanted to know whether God would kill his nephew Lot and Lot’s family along with the depraved. Abraham asked God point-blank, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen. 18:23). He continued to press God until God assured him that the handful of righteous people living in the forsaken place would be spared (Gen. 18:24–32).


Life is full of questions. Not all of them are as pressing as our questions about death, suffering, and loss. Yet, even if we had never experienced a day of adversity, we would ask our Father the curious questions children always ask their parents:


• “How many stars are in the sky?”

• “Why is grass green?”

• “Why do we park in the driveway and drive on the

parkway?”

• “Why is my last name Crabb?” (Imagine how much

adversity a name like that can generate at school!)

• “Why...what...how...when...where?”


My point is this: if you have taken oxygen into your lungs, you know that life is marked by trials and heartaches. We experience circumstances we don’t understand and don’t want to embrace. We have questions and will continue to have questions as long as we are breathing, and maybe even after that. Who is better able to answer us than God? He wasn’t surprised by Abraham’s questions, and He won’t be surprised by ours.


I have met people in all kinds of situations. Often I can almost hear their hearts asking, “Why, God?” Recently I prayed with a woman in the Midwest. She wanted me to ask God to help her keep her new job. She said, “I have an incurable disease.”


She lost her health insurance when she took the new job. That sounds like trouble enough for someone with an incurable disease. Yet she feared something worse. She feared being without work. She had a family to support and was worried about getting fired. I got the sense that she was a single parent. Whatever her status, she was obviously under a lot of pressure and had decided to make choices designed to improve her lot. She believed her new job would open a fresh chapter in her life.


She summed up her thoughts by saying something unforgettable: “I have to get back to living.”


As the tears streamed down her cheeks, I started praying for words of encouragement, something God would have her hear. In my mind, I imagined the questions piercing her heart.


“Am I going to make it?”


“Will I lose my job?”


“Am I going to die?”


“Will they find a cure for this disease, or will God heal me?”


Then I asked this dear woman a question: “Do you believe that God can heal you?”


“I am trying to,” she said. “I’m going to church and hanging on to every word the preacher says.”


Although her unanswered questions lingered, I knew she would be all right when she said, “I have to get back to living.” Her life had been as tough as nails, but she was not about to give up. Nor was she willing to accept the bleak picture the devil was trying to

present to her.


We must never forget that the devil is a liar. Lying is his stock and trade. Therefore it is up to us to take the offense where he and his lies are concerned. When he tempts me, I like to ask myself this question: What if Satan had to tell the truth about himself,

about God, and about our destinies? What kind of picture would he paint then? How successful would he be at killing, stealing, and destroying lives if he could suggest nothing but truth?


The answer is that he would fail miserably at deceiving us. Unfortunately, truth is not the enemy’s hallmark. He continues to seek those “he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8, kjv.) The sense I got from the woman who wanted to get back to living was that she refused to be devoured by a liar. She was determined to keep moving forward. I like to see that kind of tenacity. People like her are hard to forget. In fact, I will never forget her or that altar service.


There are so many memories like that. The people we meet touch our hearts as much as we do theirs, if not more. I remember an outdoor concert from some years ago, before “Through the Fire” was completed. In fact, at the time, Dad had only part of the song

worked out. He had started it at the piano, but after a year, he was still stuck; the rest of the song just wouldn’t come together.


We had a product table at the concert. On that particular day, Dad was behind the table, and I was standing nearby. A woman walked up to Dad with a child in her arms. The woman asked Dad, “When you get back on the bus, will you pray for me? My son needs an operation, and my husband just left me.” We prayed for her right there.


A prayer request like that can take your breath away. Yet this woman showed great strength; as she turned to walk away, she reminded us about faith’s bottom line. Her last words to us were, “I’m still trusting in the Lord that He’s going to help me through all this.”


Her parting words were as riveting as her prayer request. We were reminded once again that there is always someone who is going through something worse than what we are experiencing. God used her to put our lives and issues into clear perspective.


That night Dad wrote the rest of “Through the Fire.”








My thoughts: I loved this book! Jason makes so many good points all throughout, reminding me of God’s love for me and that He has a plan for me. It was a needed reminder for me and anyone else who is going through a season of waiting. He talks about God’s faithfulness: “He is a faithful Daddy always ready to put an arm around your shoulder to say, “Son, daughter, you’re the apple of My eye. You’re right where I want you to be. Keep on walking. I’m right here beside you – and I always will be.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

book review: "save the date" by jenny b. jones

Lucy Wiltshire has found what she’s supposed to do with her life: run a home for girls needing a second chance at life called Saving Grace. A place for girls who are too old for the foster care system but too young to survive alone in the world. But she faces a huge obstacle when a large portion of her funding is cut. She doesn’t know how she’ll continue to run Saving Grace and the thought of closing it down is unthinkable. Where will her girls go?

Alex Sinclair has made the transition from running down the football field as a former quarterback to running for Congress. Yet he’s having a hard time convincing voters of his qualifications. When he meets Lucy and tabloids take a picture of the “couple,” an idea takes place. Lucy poses as his fiancĂ©e, giving him the look of a stable, family man and he pays for Saving Grace to continue to leave its doors open. It’s a win-win situation. But neither of them is prepared for the act to start to feel real and when Lucy’s ex-boyfriend returns, she has to make a choice…

I really enjoyed this book! It’s the first I’ve read by Jenny Jones and I’m now a fan. I loved the humor and how I was able to connect with both Lucy and Alex. The interactions between all of the characters is very well done. I loved how tender Alex was with Lucy – first for show but then as he came to care about her. One of my favorite scenes is when Clare and Finley are playing Guitar Hero with Julian and Lucy cheering them on. She writes in such a way that I can see the scene playing out in my mind…and it’s hilarious! Very good read!

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and was not required to write a positive review.

book review: "dragons of the valley" by donita k. paul

Verrin Schope has carved three statues, the Trio of Elements, that when positioned correctly, keep peace and order in Chiril. With the threat of the statues being stolen, Verrin asks three people to take the statues in order to keep them safe. If they fall into the wrong hands, it can bring about horrible consequences for both the country of Chiril and for Verrin Schope himself. Tipper Schope, Bealomondore and Wizard Fenworth all take a statue in the hopes of protecting their country.

King Odidoddex is planning an invasion of Chiril, wanting to take over the country. With the statues no longer together, Chiril is in a state of upheaval and thus making it the prime time for an attack. Prince Jayrus leads Chiril into battle, finally feeling as though he’s found his purpose as Paladin of the country. Will he be able to defend Chiril and lead them to victory?

Having not read the other books in the series, it took me a few chapters to finally get into the story. There are a lot of names and terminology to sift through but it slowly began making sense as I connected the dots with who is who (the appendix at the back of the book helped). By the time I finished, I really liked the story. I love the quiet theme of Wulder and His presence in Prince Jayrus and Verrin’s lives. Wulder is their Creator, who made everything and to whom they ultimately serve. It’s so easy to see the connection to God and I found the correlation rather beautiful. Overall, a very good read and fresh perspective on God and His love for us.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

For more info on the book, click here or here for info on the author or here to go to the author's blog (so many choices!!).

Others in the tour:
Gillian Adams
Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Amy Cruson
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Dave Wilson

Thursday, January 20, 2011

recipe: mississippi mud brownies

I'm a youth leader at my church and this weekend we're going on a overnighter to a waterpark. As a leader, I feel it's my duty to take yummy things for the girls who will be in my room. Chocolate is a given. I bought a box of "Mississippi Mud" brownie mix but then embellished just a little. The box comes with an oreo-type mix for the crust and the brownie mix has small marshmallows in it. I added some chocolate chips for that extra chocolate taste. They looked pretty amazing when I pulled them out of the oven. I've recently discovered a white glaze on the cake aisle but haven't tried it yet. It's in a bottle and you just pour onto your cake, etc. I'm thinking when I make these brownies again and they're fresh from the oven I may pour some of that on top. As it melts, its sugary goodness will saturate the brownies. Oh my.

Monday, January 17, 2011

chocolate

Today marks day 1 of a thirty day fast from chocolate. I'm doing well so far :-) My pastors have called a thirty day fast for the whole church, asking everyone to fast a different day of the four week period. In our Jr. High ministry last night, my small group decided to give up chocolate for the whole time of the fast. We're already planning on how we'll break this fast when it's over. Both myself and the other small group leader are bringing chocolate in all its glory for us to indulge in. I actually made a pan of brownies that are cooling as we speak for an youth overnighter we're taking this weekend to an indoor waterpark.
While fasting is not something I eagerly anticipate, I know the rewards are worth it. We fast when we need God to move - we need Him to do something we're unable to do ourselves. I'm needing God to do some things in my life and am believing for those things to happen through the course of these next thirty days. I'm also excited to talk to my small group and see how God moves for them. They're sixth graders and this is their first time participating in a fast. So to see them step up in this area is huge. We'll see what happens...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

book review: "the search" by suzanne woods fisher

Bess Reihl goes to Rose Hill Farm to spend the summer with her grandmother, Bertha. Her father is hesitant to send his daughter because of his strained relationship with his mother but Bertha claims to need Bess’ help while recovering from “female surgery.” The surgery turns out to be a having a tooth pulled but Bertha had an ulterior motive for wanting Bess to come for a visit.

Lainey O’Toole has decided what she wants to do with her life: go to culinary school. After saving her money she has enough for tuition but when her car breaks down in Stoney Ridge, she must put her plans on hold. She takes a job at The Sweet Tooth to make some money in order to fix her car and get back to her plans. But the longer she stays, the stronger the pull for her to join the Amish community she’s found herself standing on the edge of. Can she finally find where she belongs?

Suzanne did a great job in blending Bess and Lainey’s stories. I think my favorite character would be Bertha – I loved her honesty and the fact that deep down, she was very sweet and trying to take care of those she loved. There were several unexpected twists to keep the story interesting and I like the ending. It seemed fitting and I wouldn’t be surprised for Bess and Lainey’s story to continue in a fourth book in the Lancaster County Secrets series.

You can read other reviews in the book tour by clicking here.

I recieved a free copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group and all opinions are my own.

Suzanne Woods Fisher's latest installment of the Lancaster County Secrets, The Search, is just out and to celebrate Suzanne is hosting The Search iPad Giveaway!






One Grand Prize winner will receive an iPad Prize Package worth over $500 and includes:


To enter, simply click on the icons below to fill out the entry form/s, then tell 5 or more friends about the contest. Oh, and enter soon! Winner will be announced on February 3rd at Suzanne's Everything is Coming Up Roses Facebook Party. (Did you know The Search takes place on a rose farm?)



Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via Twitter



Facebook Party:
Join Suzanne for the Everything is Coming Up Roses Facebook Party on February 3rd! She’ll be announcing the winner of the The Search iPad Giveaway, hosting a book club discussion of The Search, giving away copies of all three books and HEAPS of other readerly prizes! Including roses delivered to your door for three months for you AND a friend! Be sure to join us on Thursday, February 3rd at 5:00 PM PST (6:00 MST, 7:00 CST & 8 EST) at Suzanne’s Author Page.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

book review: "caroline's choice" by martha rogers


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour
book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:






and the book:



Realms (January 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva Publicity Coordinator, Book Group Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Martha Rogers is a former schoolteacher and English instructor whose first book in the Winds Across the Prairie series, Becoming Lucy, became an immediate best seller. Morning for Dove (May 2010) is the second book in this series, with Finding Becky (book 3) releasing Fall 2010. Rogers lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (January 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381930
ISBN-13: 978-1616381936

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Oklahoma Territory, September 1907


Caroline Frankston’s hands clinched into fists, her breath coming in short spurts. Through the parlor window, she watched life go on in a normal, orderly fashion, but here in

this room her world lay fragmented like shards of broken glass. Each piece cut into her soul, causing pain that she no longer wanted to bear. The bleeding had to stop. “If I don’t leave this town, I’ll never get married.” Caroline Frankston spun around to face her mother. “Barton Creek has no men who interest me, so I would like to move to Oklahoma

City and start a new life there.”


Her mother’s blue eyes flashed with anger. “You’ll do no such thing. You haveresponsibilities here.”


Caroline’s jaw tightened. Mother’s demands only caused more determination. “What responsibilities? Going to luncheons and meetings with you and sitting around listening to you decide what people should do?”


The rigid set of Mother’s mouth warned Caroline to be careful with her next words. Now was the time to stand firm and not back down. “I know you want what’s best for me, and

right now a move seems to be it.”


Mother remained silent, a vein in her neck throbbing in response to the tension in her jaw. A mixture of anger and disbelief sparked from her eyes. She stood tall, with her back

ramrod straight. Mother wouldn’t back down.


Envy for her brother’s freedom gnawed at Caroline. Being male, Rob could pick and choose what he wanted to do, and he’d proved it with his law office and his marriage to Becky last year despite Mother’s disapproval.


Without waiting for a response, Caroline headed for the door, but not without one last comment. “I’m sorry. I’ll be twenty-seven soon, and if I don’t do something now, I never

will. I don’t want to be stuck here as spinster with time on her hands and no purpose in life.”


She darted from the room and up the stairs before her mother could react and spew forth a torrent of words to thwart Caroline’s plan. Recently a college friend had written to her of the job openings at the new Carnegie library in Oklahoma City and invited her to come live with her in her town house with another roommate. Caroline had just told her mother she wanted to apply for the job and move to the city. This evening she would break the news to her father.


Standing in front of the mirror on her bureau, Caroline picked up a stylish blue hat and pinned it on her upswept hair. Although she did love the hat, it had been chosen by her mother, as had most of the clothes in Caroline’s wardrobe. In Oklahoma City she could set her own standards and not be dictated to by her mother.


Some of Mother’s ideas and beliefs about fashions and social protocol left Caroline with the feeling that no one could measure up to what the mayor’s wife expected, not even her

own daughter. Being the daughter of the mayor had its advantages, but now they hindered her and kept her from pursuing other avenues of interest.


She gathered up her reticule. Time had come for a visit with her sister-in-law to seek her advice. After all, Becky had once pursued a newspaper career without thought of marriage. She could tell Caroline what it was like to be a single, working-woman on her own.


But deep in her heart the real reason she wanted to see Becky lay hidden. Maybe Becky would have some insight into why her brother, Matt, had been so distant the past year. Of course Mother was delighted with that turn of events, but Caroline was deeply hurt and at a loss as to how to reach out to her old friend.


She glanced around the room that had been hers since her family’s arrival in Barton Creek seventeen years ago. She’d miss it, but the idea of being on her own filled her with excitement. She raced down the stairs and headed for the front door to avoid another confrontation with her mother. When her voice called out from the parlor, Caroline pretended not to hear and closed the door behind her.


She walked toward town, her feet disturbing the fallen leaves and making them swirl about her feet. Late September should bring cooler air to match the changing of the colors in the trees, but not this year. Caroline wished she’d worn a lighter weight shirtwaist and a less heavy skirt, but Mother had insisted on storing all summer clothes away for the fall season. At the next corner she turned onto Main Street, thankful she lived such a short distance from town.


A few more motorcars dotted the streets, which were now completely bricked. As mayor, her father planned to replace the boardwalks where people now strolled in front of business establishments with real sidewalks. She walked past the post office, the jail, and several other stores and shops before reaching the newspaper offices.


The odor of printer’s ink greeted her nose as Caroline stepped through the doorway of the Barton Creek newspaper building. The bell over the door jangled and caused everyone but Becky to look up to see who had come in. The staff on the paper had certainly grown since Mr. Lansdowne made the paper available seven days a week. Becky sat at her desk behind the railing separating the office space from the entryway, staring at whatever was in the typewriter before her.


One of the young men jumped up from his chair. “How can I help you, Miss Frankston?” Caroline smiled and nodded toward Becky. “I’m here to see Mrs. Frankston.”


Becky glanced up then. “Oh, my, I was so engrossed in my story that I didn’t hear the bell.” She strode over to the gate in the railing. “What brings you here today?”


“I wanted to talk with you if you have time, but I can see you’re busy, so I’ll come back later.”


Becky pushed through the gate. “No, no, it’s fine. I think I’m in need of a break about now.” She turned to the young woman across the room. “Amy, would you tell Mr. Lansdowne I’m taking a break and will be back shortly? I’ll stop at the bakery and bring back pastries. He’ll like that.”


“Of course, Rebecca. Have a nice visit.” The young clerk returned to the business on her desk.


Caroline admired Becky’s attire. She wore the plainest of skirts and shirtwaists but made them come alive with fashion even though the signs of her coming motherhood were evident. Caroline would have been called a “Plain Jane” if she wore the same. Something about her sister-in-law gave life to whatever she touched or wore, one trait Caroline sorely envied.


Becky linked arms with Caroline. “Now, let’s head to Peterson’s for tea and cookies.”


When they stepped out onto the boardwalk, Becky breathed deeply. “Isn’t it a beautiful day? Although it’s too warm for me, I love this time of year.”


“I like it too,” Caroline responded, although at the moment all she could sense was the stench of horse droppings and the fine layer of dust and dirt over everything. She glanced at the woman beside her. “So, you’re still going by Rebecca at the office?”


“Yes. That’s my byline on all my articles, so they all call me Rebecca.” Besides reporting on town events, Becky wrote a column for women in the Barton Creek Chronicle each week to inform them of the opportunities and advantages of voting for their government leaders.


Caroline laughed. “But you’ll always be Becky to the rest of us.”


Becky returned the laugh, but hers had a musical quality that had earned the friendship of most of the people here in her hometown. “I don’t mind it at all now. Rob convinced me I could be both, and he was right.” She glanced up toward the windows of her husband’s law offices.


At least Becky and Rob had rediscovered the love they’d had for each other as youths, and now they were as happy as any married couple Caroline had seen. Mother hadn’t been too pleased with her son marrying a Haynes, and even now that Ben Haynes headed one of the wealthiest ranches in the area, her attitude hadn’t changed, especially since Becky chose to continue her job at the newspaper after learning a child was on the way. To Mother, Becky would always be a cowgirl.


When they had entered the bakery and ordered their tea and pastry, Caroline chose a table away from the window so they would have more privacy.


“So what is it that you want to talk with me about?” Becky unwrapped her pastry and pinched off a small piece.


Caroline stirred her tea and grinned. “I’m moving to Oklahoma City. My roommate at college, Madeline Barrows, has invited me to come live with her, and I have a good chance at a job at a library there.”


Becky dropped her pastry, spreading crumbs in its wake. She grabbed a napkin and wiped the bits off the table. “You’re doing what? Leaving Barton Creek? But what does your family say?”


“Mother is completely against it, and by now she’s probably let Father know, and I don’t know what he’ll say. It really doesn’t matter because my mind is made up.”


“But what about Matt? Have you told him?”


Caroline dipped her head and concentrated on stirring her tea. “You know how much I care about Matt, but over the last few years his interest in me has dimmed. He’s barely spoken to me since we ate together at the July Fourth celebration. I don’t know what else to do.”


Becky leaned forward. “I can’t tell you much since I don’t see him very often anymore. He’s been quiet and withdrawn the Sundays we go out to the ranch for the family dinner. When we were younger, we enjoyed doing lots of things together, but that changed when I came home from college. And since I’ve married Rob, he’s been much less open with me.”


They sat in silence for a moment. Caroline’s heart ached with the image of Matt sitting astride his great stallion and riding across the range. She bit her lip and leaned toward Becky. “I–I can’t bear the thought of being a spinster, and there’s no one here in Barton Creek except Matt I would consider as a husband. More opportunities to meet young men are available in the city. Many of my college friends stayed in the city, and I’ve been writing to several of them, and with Madeline’s invita tion, the time seems right. Although I care for Matt, I can’t wait for him forever.”


Becky blinked and shook her head. “I used to think my brother was working hard to establish himself before he took on the responsibilities of a wife and a family. But now that the ranch is doing so well, I don’t understand is why he hasn’t been more willing to call on you. I remember how you two were always together for every social event that came along before you went off to school. I guess I always thought you’d be his wife when he finally made up his mind it was time to marry.”


“That’s just it. I did too, but I’ve waited a long time for him to make up his mind.” And they had been the longest years of her life. Now the time had come to look to the future and her life ahead before it passed her by completely. She turned to Becky and sat up straighter. “Now, tell me everything you know about going out on your own as a working woman!”


Matt removed his hat and wiped sweat from his brow with a bandanna. Fall may have been the season, but the air definitely spoke of summer. Late September usually brought cooler temperatures, but not this year. He stuffed the kerchief in his pocket and jammed the hat back on his head. Time to round up a few more strays.


He waved to Hank and headed toward the west pasture. The ranch hand rode up to join him. “You think some of the herd made their way out to Dawson land?”


“Yeah, they’ve done it before. Good thing those fences are around the oil rigs.” Ever since the wells started producing, the noise of the pumps attracted whatever livestock meandered that way. He usually found around half a dozen or so head lined up at the fence staring at the work going on.


Hank tilted his hat back on his head. “I know that parcel of land wasn’t any good for farming and such, but rigs sure are ugly despite the oil they’re pumping.”


“That’s what worried Pa the most, but since it’s away from everything and can’t be seen from the house, he decided it was better to go ahead with Geoff’s recommendations. So far that’s been a good decision.” Geoff Kensington had kept his word, and Barstow’s Oil did everything Pa had requested. The first money from the oil deposits had surprised even Pa and Sam Morris. The two had put the money into a trust for the future after sending the original landowner his share.


“Your pa is a good businessman. I’ve admired him for many years. Remember how he took me in along with Jake and treated us like part of the family?”


“Yes, that’s the way Pa was and still is.” Matt loved his father even more for his treatment of other folks. If he hadn’t believed in Jake, the young man would never have become a Christian and found out that the killing he’d been involved with in Texas was ruled self-defense. That cowboy might still be running from the law instead marrying Lucy and owning his own ranch.


Hank slowed his horse. “You know, I’ve been thinking. I’m not getting any younger, and the idea of settling down with a wife has its appeal. That young woman, Amy, who works with Becky agreed to let me be her escort for the church singing next week. You ought to ask Miss Caroline to it.”


Matt cast a sideways glance at his partner. “You’re a lucky man. Amy Garson is a pretty young woman.”


Hank laughed and shook his head. “Matt Haynes, you’re stalling me. What about Miss Caroline?”


Matt didn’t respond, but his mind filled with the image of Caroline Frankston. He did love her at one time, but she had chosen a life far different from his. Just as he was about to ask her to be his wife, she’d announced she was going off to college. He remembered the day like it was yesterday. She’d been so excited when she showed him the brochures with all the information. She planned to major in fine arts and languages. Those were two things he knew nothing about.


“Matt, you hafta talk to her and let her know how you feel. I seen your eyes when we’re in town and she’s around. You can’t look nowhere else.”


“She’s busy with her own life. Attending luncheons and meetings with her ma and doing all those things on committees and such. She has no time for me or for life on a ranch.” Besides, the more he thought about it, the more he realized one Haynes married to a Frankston was almost one too many. Becky could handle the mayor’s wife, but the idea of Charlotte Frankston as a mother-in-law didn’t appeal to him at all. And if Caroline

really cared, she wouldn’t have run off to college when she did.


As though reading his mind, Hank offered his opinion. “It’s that Mrs. Frankston, isn’t it? She is rather formidable, but if you married Caroline and brought her out here to the ranch, you wouldn’t have to deal with her mother that much.”


Matt narrowed his eyes and worked his mouth. It wasn’t anybody’s business what he thought of Mrs. Frankston. He may be considered a coward for not facing up to her, but it was his decision to make.


“Matt, I think you’re missing out on what life has for you if you let one woman ruin your feelings for another. If you really love Caroline, her mother wouldn’t make any difference.”


“That’s easy for you to say. Have you forgotten how Mrs. Frankston treated Ma and Aunt Clara when everyone thought Jake was a murderer? Then look at how she hurt Emily Morris and Dove. That woman is rude and has no respect for anyone not of her own standing, but she’s not the only reason, and it’s best to keep your opinion to yourself.”


“I understand, and I do remember those days, but I also remember Mrs. Anderson and how her heart changed. She was as mean as Mrs. Frankston toward Mrs. Morris and Dove until that prairie fire almost destroyed us all.”


“True, but I don’t see anything like that in the future to change Mrs. Frankston.” Matt flicked his reins and spurred his horse. “Let’s go hunt for strays. That’s why we’re out here.”


His love life was nobody else’s business but his. And as much as he was attracted to Caroline, he didn’t care to saddle himself for the rest of his life with a cantankerous mother-in-law like Charlotte Frankston.



My thoughts: I wasn’t sure what expect when I first started this book but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a little hard to get into but I overall enjoyed it. One scene stands out to me. Caroline is talking to a woman, sharing her dilemma about Matthew. The other woman responds with “Child, there’s always hope. If two people are meant to be together, God will make it happen somehow.” That brought comfort to me because it assures me God has a plan for me and will work it out as only He can. I think that was the message of the book: trusting God’s plans even though they may not look like we thought they would. Good read.

Monday, January 10, 2011

doing

Today's a snow day and I'm making every effort to be productive while watching the snow outside. This blog post is actually not what I'm supposed to be working on but it technically is still productive so I'm taking a break from what I was doing. I finished the book Radical this weekend and am still trying to figure out what I'm going to do about it. It's not possible for me to ignore what I've read and continue life as I was before. I want to do something but what? This is where I'm at. It can be easy to become discouraged and overwhelmed with all the need in the world and therefore not do anything. It's all about baby steps. Platt lists five things for us to focus on in order to bring about radical results. One is reading the Bible in a year and I'm excited that I was already doing that before reading the book (you can click here to see my post). He also says to pray for the entire world. He refers to Operation World and they have a list of resources to help guide you in praying effectively. These are just two of the five but it's a start. I can't change the world in one day but I can do little things that will be ripple effects for bigger things but it all starts with doing something.

Friday, January 7, 2011

book review: "radical" by david platt

“I could not help but think that somehow along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” David Platt is the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. He reached a point where he began wondering about the church as a whole and its people in pursuit of the American dream. How can having expensive cars and large homes really further the gospel? Platt isn’t against us having nice things but feels we need to shift our focus off of obtaining what the world deems as important instead of the things God has commanded us to do. We’re told in Mark 16:15 to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” We ask God what He would have us do with our lives – what His calling for us is. “The answer is clear. The will of God is for you and me to give our lives urgently and recklessly to making the gospel and glory of God known among all peoples, particularly those who have never even heard of Jesus. The question, therefore, is not “Can we find God’s will?” The question is “Will we obey God’s will?” Will we refuse to sit back and wait for some tingly feeling to go down our spines before we rise up and do what we have already been commanded to do?”

This book has challenged me to do more with my faith. It’s one of those books that part of you doesn’t want to read because you know once you do, you can’t continue as you were before. Platt lists five things for us to do in order to live a more radical life for Christ. Pray for the entire world, read the Bible in a year, give not only when you’re able but when it’s a sacrifice, spend time in another context (be it a country or outreach), and commit your life to a “multiplying community). I think of how amazing it would be if we would all rise up to this challenge and strive to live lives that are truly radical for God.
I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

book review: "unexpected love" by andrea boeshaar


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour
book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Realms (January 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva Publicity Coordinator, Book Group Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


In addition to writing, Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at conferences such as: Write-To-Publish American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Oregon Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon Writers Conference, and many other writers’ conferences. Andrea is also co-founder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on the advisory board and was also CEO of the ACFW.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (January 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381922
ISBN-13: 978-1616381929

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chicago, Illinois, September 4, 1866


Do you think he’ll live, Dr. Hamilton?” The gray-haired man with bushy whiskers pondered the question for several moments, chewing on his thick lips as he weighed his reply. “Yes, I think he will,” he finally said. “Of course, he’s not out of the woods yet, but it seems he’s coming around.”


Lorenna Fields breathed a sigh of relief. It had been two whole days with nary a sign of life from this half-drowned man, but finally—finally—he showed signs of improvement.


“You’ve done a good job with this patient, Nurse Fields.” The physician drew himself up to his full height, which barely met Renna’s five feet six inches. “I don’t think he’d be alive today if you hadn’t given him such extraordinary care.”


“Thank you, Dr. Hamilton, but it was the Lord who spared this man and the Lord who gave me the strength and skill to nurse him.” The old physician snorted in disgust. “Yes, well, it might have had something to do with the fact that you’ve got a brain in your

head, Nurse Fields, and the fact that you used it too, I might add!”


Renna smiled inwardly. Dr. Hamilton always disliked it when she gave God the credit for any medical advancement, especially the miracles. Yet Renna’s intelligence and experience weren’t typical of women her age, and she determined to use them to God’s glory.


The patient moaned, his head moving from side to side.


“Easy now, Mr. Blackeyes.” Renna placed a hand on the man’s muscular shoulder. “It’s all right.” She picked up the fever rag from out of the cold water, wrung it once, and set it on the patient’s burning brow.


Dr. Hamilton snorted again, only this time in amusement. “Mr. Blackeyes? How in the world did you come by that name, Nurse Fields?”


She blushed but replied in all honesty. “It’s his eyes, Doctor. They’re as black as pitch and as shiny as polished stones. And since we don’t know his true identity, I’ve named him Mr. Blackeyes.”


“I see.” Dr. Hamilton could barely contain his laughter.


“Well, I had to call him something now, didn’t I?” She wrung the fever cloth more tightly.


“Ah, yes, I suppose you did.” Dr. Hamilton gathered his instruments and put them into his black leather medical bag. “Well, carry on, Nurse Fields.” He sounded tired. “If your patient’s fever doesn’t break by morning, send for me at once. However, I think

it will, especially since we got some medicine and chicken broth into him tonight.”


Renna nodded while the old man waved over his shoulder as he left the hospital ward.


Returning her attention to her patient, Renna saw that he slept for the moment. His blue-black hair, which had just a slight wave to it, shone beneath the dampness of the fever. The stifling late summer heat of the room threatened to bring his temperature even higher.


Wiping a sleeve across her own beaded brow, Renna continued to sponge down her patient. Poor Mr. Blackeyes had been found floating in Lake Michigan after a terrible storm the past Sunday. The crew of the passing ship that found him had thought he was dead at first. But they pulled him aboard anyway. The ship’s doctor immediately examined him and detected a heartbeat, so he cared for him until the ship docked in Chicago’s harbor. As soon as the sailors could manage it, Mr. Blackeyes was deposited at Mercy Hospital and admitted to the second floor and into Renna’s care. Now, two days later, he finally showed some improvement.


Pulling the fever rag from the round porcelain bowl filled with cool water, Renna replaced it carefully across Mr. Blackeyes’s forehead. She could tell this man was different from the usual “unknowns” that the hospital acquired. His dark features somehow implied sophistication, even through several days’ growth of beard. And his powerful broad shoulders and muscular arms indicated the strength of a man accustomed to lifting or hoisting. And he was handsome, all right. A lady’s man, no doubt.


“But who are you, Mr. Blackeyes?” Renna murmured, gazing down at him.


As if in reply, the man groaned.


Renna settled him once more and then slowly stood. She forced her mind to dwell on her other patients as she made her rounds through the sick ward, a large room with whitewashed walls and a polished marble floor. Eight beds, four on each side, were neatly lined in rows, leaving a wide area in the center of the ward.


Moving from bed to bed, Renna checked each patient, thankful that this ward wasn’t full: only Mr. Anderson, suffering from a farming accident in which he lost his left arm; Mr. Taylor, who had had pneumonia but had recovered and would soon be released;

and, finally, young John Webster, who had been accidentally shot in the chest by his brother. It appeared the wounded young man wouldn’t live through the night, and his family had gathered around him, his mother weeping.


Taking pity on the Webster family, Renna set up several wooden screens to allow them some privacy. Then she checked on John. She could see death settling in. She was somewhat accustomed to the sight, as she’d trained in a Union military hospital in Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War. Still, watching a life slip away never got easier. But in this case Renna took heart that the Websters were people with a strong faith. Young John would soon go home to be with his Savior.


“Can I get anything for you, Mrs. Webster?” Renna asked the boy’s mother now.


A tall, very capable-looking woman, she shook her head. Several brunette curls tumbled from their bun.


Renna asked the same thing of the boy’s brother and father, but both declined.


“I didn’t mean ter shoot ’im, Ma!” the brother declared. He suddenly began to sob.


“Aw, I know ya didn’t mean it, son,” Mrs. Webster replied through her own tears. “It was an accident. That anyone can see!”


“Tell it to Jesus, boy.” His father’s eyes were red, his jaw grizzled. “Give the matter to Christ, just like we done gave John over to Him.”


Renna’s heart was with the family, but she suddenly felt like an intruder. The Websters needed their privacy. Stepping back, she gave them each a sympathetic smile before moving away.


Walking to the other side of the room now, Renna sat down on the edge of Mr. Blackeyes’s bed and sponged him down again. Afterward, she checked his head wound—nearly a three-inch gash above his left ear. It had needed to be sutured, and Dr. Hamilton

had seen to that when Mr. Blackeyes was first admitted. “Unknown Male” was the name on his chart. Most “unknowns” didn’t survive, so Renna was heartened that Mr. Blackeyes’s prognosis seemed promising.


Now if only his fever would break. If only he’d regain consciousness and pneumonia wouldn’t set in.


Momentarily closing her eyes, Renna prayed for God’s healing of this man. She had been praying earnestly for the last week. Why she felt so burdened for him, she couldn’t say, but she was.


Suddenly an abrupt command broke her thoughts. “Nurse Fields? Nurse Fields, you may go. I’m on duty now.”


Renna glanced at the doorway where Nurse Rutledge, the night nurse who was also her supervisor, stood. A large woman with beady, dark eyes, she had a no-nonsense way about her. That same stern disposition kept her lips in a perpetual frown.


“As usual, your charts are in order.”


Was that a hint of a smile? Renna guessed not.


“You’re excused.”


Renna replied with a nod. She didn’t dislike the night supervisor, although she wasn’t fond of the woman’s overbearing manner. Still, Nurse Rutledge was in charge. “Thank you, ma’am. I’ll just finish up here, and then I’ll be on my way.”


The older woman came up alongside her. “The first rule in nursing is, do not get emotionally attached to your patients. You know that.”


Renna rinsed the fever rag once more and draped it across Mr. Blackeyes’s forehead. “I’m not getting emotionally attached.” Renna felt her conscience prick. “I’m just . . . well, I’m burdened for this man. In the spiritual sense.”


“Humph! Call it what you will, Nurse Fields, but I happen to think you’re much too emotional and far too sensitive. It’s a wonder you’ve lasted in nursing this long. Why, I heard from the other nurses on duty today that you were crying with the Webster

family over their boy.” She sniffed in what seemed like disgust. “A nurse must never let her emotions get in the way of her duty, Nurse Fields.”


“Yes, ma’am.” Renna endured the rebuke. She’d heard it many times before.


Nurse Rutledge squared her wide shoulders. “Now, may I suggest that you leave your burden right here in this hospital bed and go home and get some rest? You’re due back here at six a.m., and I’ll expect you promptly!”


Renna nodded. Then, with a backward glance at Mr. Blackeyes, she left the sick ward. She gathered her things and made her way to the hospital’s main entrance. Outside, she paused and breathed deeply. The air was thick and humid, but it was free from the chloroform and antiseptics that she’d smelled all day.


She spied a hired hackney, and within minutes, Renna rode the mile to the home she shared with her parents. She was the oldest child in the family, but at the age of thirty, Renna was what society termed “a spinster.” Her two younger sisters were married and

producing children galore, and her one younger brother and his wife were now expecting their first baby.


Renna loved all her nieces and nephews. They filled her empty arms when she wasn’t nursing, and Jesus filled her heart. Time and time again, however, Renna was asked by a young niece or nephew, “Why didn’t you ever get married, Auntie Renna?” And

her reply was always, “I never fell in love.”


But the truth of the matter was no man would have her—even if she had fallen in love. The large purplish birthmark on the left side of her face deterred every eligible bachelor. The unsightly thing came down her otherwise flawless cheek to the side of her

nose and then around down to her jaw, like an ugly purple horseshoe branded into her face. One would think she’d be accustomed to the gawks, stares, and pitying glances sent her way at social functions, but they unnerved her. All dressed up and looking her

prettiest, Renna still felt marred and uncomely under the scrutiny of her peers—especially when she was in the company of eligible men to whom she was supposed to be attractive and charming. Renna never felt she was either of those.


Nursing, however, was different. In the hospital Renna felt confident of her abilities. Moreover, her patients were usually too sick or in too much pain to be concerned with her ugly birthmark.


Rather, they just wanted her care and sensitivity, and that’s what Renna thought she did best . . . in spite of what Nurse Rutledge said about her being too emotional and too sensitive. God in all His grace had given Renna a wondrous work in nursing, and it pleased her to be used in that way. What more could she want? And yet lately—lately Renna desired something more. Was it a sin to feel discontented after so many happy years of nursing?


The carriage stopped in front of Renna’s house. She climbed out, paid the driver, and then turned to open the little white gate of the matching picket fence around the front yard. A slight breeze blew, and Renna thought it felt marvelous after her sweltering day on the second floor of the hospital.


“Well, there you are, dear.” Her mother, Johanna Fields, stood with a pair of shears in her hand. She had obviously been pruning the flowers that graced the edge of the wide front porch. “You’re late tonight, Renna.” She studied her daughter. “Mr. Blackeyes? Is he . . . ?”


“He’s still alive.” She stepped toward her mother. “Dr. Hamilton thinks he may even live, except he has an awful fever now. We’re hoping it breaks by morning and thatpneumonia doesn’t set in.”


“Oh, dear . . . ” Mum shook her head sadly. “Well, we’ll keep praying, won’t we?”


Renna gave a nod before Mum hooked arms and led her into the house.


“I’ve made a light dinner tonight, Renna. Help yourself.”


“I appreciate it, but I’m too tired to eat.”


“But you need some nourishment.” Mum fixed a plate of cold beef, sliced tomatoes, and a crusty roll. “Here, sit down at the table.”


Renna allowed her mother to help her into the chair. After one bite she realized how ravenous she was and cleaned the plate. Minutes later her sister Elizabeth walked in with her twin daughters, Mary and Helena. Delight spread through Renna as the girls toddled into the kitchen.


“Hello, darlings.” She gave each a hug before smiling up at her younger sister.


“Renna, you look exhausted.” Elizabeth shook her head vehemently, causing strands of her light brown hair to escape their pinning. “You’ll be old before your time.”


“And what would you have me do? Sit around the house all day, twiddling my thumbs?” Seeing her sister’s injured expression, she softened her voice. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m more tired than I thought.”


Elizabeth smiled. “All’s forgiven.”


Renna struggled to her feet. Her entire body ached from her long shift. “I’ll have to visit another time. I’m going up to bed.”


After bidding everyone a good night, Renna climbed the steps leading to the second floor. In her small bedroom she poured water from the large pitcher on her bureau into the chamber basin and then washed away the day’s heat. She pulled her cool, cotton nightgown over her head then took her Bible off the nightstand and continued her reading in John chapter 9. Renna realized as she read that physical ailments allowed God to show His glory, and she marveled as she read about the blind man who by simple faith and obedience regained his sight.


She bowed her head. Oh, Lord, that You might heal Mr. Black-eyes. That You might show Your power to those who don’t believe by healing him. Renna paused to remember her other patients then. And please rain down Your peace that passeth all understanding on the Websters tonight.


Despite the fact her eyelids threatened to close, Renna finished her Bible reading. She turned down the lamp as a breeze ruffled the curtains. Somehow Renna knew that John Webster would not be in her sick ward tomorrow morning. Nor would his family be there. Somehow Renna knew that John was with the Savior already.


But Mr. Blackeyes . . . why, he might not be a believer. It pained Renna to think of him spending an eternity apart from God.


Please heal him, Lord, she prayed as she crawled into bed. She allowed her eyes to finally shut, and the darkly handsome stranger who lay fighting for his life was the last person on Renna’s thoughts as she drifted off to sleep.



My thoughts: This is book three in Boeshaar’s “Seasons of Redemption” series. I haven’t read the first book, “Unwilling Warrior” but I have read book two, “Uncertain Heart” and enjoyed this third installment much better. I felt things were a little rushed in book two but since Richard and Sarah’s story continues, you already have a knowledge of them and their background. I love the twist Boeshaar includes in the book. I had wondered how some of the pieces fit together and was relieved when it finally made sense. I liked that my questions were answered from “Uncertain Heart.”