Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

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9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.    —2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NIV)

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Man, was I anxious this morning!  I had what felt like a million things on my plate and I had no idea how I was going to accomplish them.  I prepared in advance as much as I could, I prayed earlier in the week for the strength and organization to get through this busy weekend, but this morning panic set in.  There was NO way I was going to be able to do everything I needed to do in the manner in which I wanted to do them.

This morning I had to do a Sunday School opening, assist the kids in singing a song during worship, sing a duet during collection, prepare lunch for 10-15 kids, and manage pageant rehearsal. I needed to take candy canes to church, plug in the crockpot to make sure the sandwiches would be warm, grab a couple of spare cans of cat food for a friend, gather and deliver invitations for a small group, and see that the balloons for Jesus’s birthday party got into the right hands.  TOO MUCH!  There was NO way.

I woke this morning very aware of my limitations.  I just couldn’t get it done and certainly not without mistakes.  But, since I was aware, I started my day with prayer.  I tried to talk to God, but quite honestly, I thought maybe I should just double check the pile of stuff that had to go to church. Maybe I should do more and pray less. I was distracted.  But I knew that I needed His help.  I asked my husband to pray with me or for me and then I scattered to do another task.  Finally, as he passed through the room, I said, “Sit. Pray for me.”  After he smiled and commented on my forcefulness, he prayed for me.  His confidence in my ability with God’s help gave me some comfort, but I still had my doubts.

Fast forward to right now….when the day is in my past.  Unbelievable.  The day was so successful.  It truly happened.  All the things that caused me stress and anxiety went fine.  In spite of me, not because of me, I was able to do what I needed to do.  And, I did it through His strength, not my own.  As the scripture says. “when I am weak, then I am strong.”  Today I thank God for my weakness that allowed Him to show His strength.  And, I thank my husband for all that he did to help! Oh, What a beautiful morning it was!

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Daily Bears Our Burdens

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Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,

who daily bears our burdens.

— Psalm 68:19

I know that praise means to express warm approval or admiration of, I know bears means to carry or support and we all know what burdens are and indeed we have them daily so it’s good news to hear that the Lord is daily bearing them. But, what does it look like for Him when He hangs out with me?

In this week alone, my burdens have looked like a washer full of bubble gum, a trip to the ER, making dinner, preparing notes for a meeting, disciplining children, laundry, a sick cat, sixth-grade homework, chauffeuring to scouts, administrative paperwork, and making plans for a bathroom remodel. The Lord bore all of that!

When I wanted to take a look at my daily burdens, I consulted my to-do list.  As I looked at the items I crossed off, I immediately felt blessed that with the Lord’s help, I accomplished many of them. I also felt blessed when I looked at each item and tried to determine if it truly was a “burden” and realized that most of them weren’t. My list included:

  • Prepare Sunday School Opening Lesson
  • Email Pastor Joe
  • Write Katelyn
  • Write Martha
  • Send books to Diane
  • Make Ice Cream cake
  • Virginia Christmas plans

It also included some pesky paperwork items, but when I looked at the items individually and tried to decide if, in fact, my to-do list represented my daily burdens, I realized that wasn’t the case. Most of what I do each day isn’t a burden, it’s an honor, it’s an opportunity, it’s a blessing. I recognize that I unintentionally turn some of my blessings into burdens by listing them as “tasks” to do when in reality they are incredible gifts and opportunities.  Writing to a friend in the service, sharing an enjoyed book, making a cake for a celebration and studying God’s word for a lesson are all incredible opportunities for me! The burden is not the task, it’s in the heart of the one who does it, my perspective of it. Is it a chore or a gift?

I think I need to be more aware of this new insight and celebrate those blessings and cling to the truth that God is available to help me daily bear my burdens. Thank God, HE is here to help me clean the kitchen

 

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Life in the Desert

desert_2I hope that the following may speak to someone as it spoke to me when I read it in July of 2016.

Excerpts from A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller:

Life in the desert: The hardest part of being in the desert is that there is no way out. You don’t know when it will end. There is no relief in sight.

Thriving in the desert: God takes everyone he loves through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden.

The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face to face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you.

You stop caring about what people think of you. The desert is God’s best hope for the creation of an authentic self.

You have no idea you are changing. You simply notice after you’ve been in the desert a while that you are different. Things that used to be important no longer matter.

Oh God, you are my God earnestly I seek you; my soul thirst for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1) — He finally gets your attention because he’s the only game in town.

The best gift of the desert is God’s presence.

You cry out to God for so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God.

Watch for the story God is weaving in your life. Don’t leave the desert. Corrie ten Boom’s father often reminded her, “The best is yet to come.”

If you dear friend, find yourself currently in a desert, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone there and you have the best companion anyone could ask for….God. May you feel his presence!

 

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A Book Review – The Christmas Admirer

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About the Book

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Name of book: The Christmas Admirer

Author: Laura V Hilton

Genre: Amish Romance

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Amish romance fans will love this heartwarming holiday story, perfect for gift-giving.

Benaiah Troyer has loved Susanna King for as long as he can remember, but when his parents died in an accident a year ago, he broke up with her—for her own good. After all, he was now the sole caregiver for his three younger sisters. What woman would want to put up with that? Still, against his better judgment, he can’t help leaving her a gift now and then, anonymously addressing her name in big block print, just to catch a smile. Roses one month, maple syrup candy another; and maybe this time, something special for Christmas.

Susanna has never gotten over losing Benaiah, but now the clock is ticking. Her father is selling his glass-blowing business, remarrying in January, and moving to Iowa with his bossy wife-to-be. Angry and frustrated, Susanna realizes she’s left with three options: one, go with Daed to his new home with a new mom; two, stay in Jamesport, Missouri, as an old maid; or, three, the best yet, flush out her mysterious secret admirer. But how could she be with anyone else when her heart is still with Benaiah?

Click here to purchase your copy.

Review

(I received this book for free from Celebrate LIt Bloggers, CelebrateLit in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.)

Laura Hilton’s The Christmas Admirer is a Christian Fiction book set in modern day Amish country. Benaiah Troyer has loved Susanna King for a long time and in these small, close-knit communities, it’s obvious from the beginning that this couple will probably remain a couple until the end, though there are some obstacles in the way of their true love.  Though the story is predictable at some points, isn’t that the kind of read we are looking for when we want to simply relax with a good book? The author did an excellent job of incorporating Amish terms and phrases and even gives a glossary at the beginning of the book to help the reader out. Though the Amish ways are uniquely theirs, the contemporary setting made me consider the Amish life in today’s society in a new way. The mention of cell phones and use of internet make the Amish characters more relatable and not simply a representation of the past. The author’s understanding of scripture is evident in her main character’s name.  Benaiah.  Why isn’t that a more popular baby name? The author’s choice of name made me dig through my Bible to learn more about this name and the references the character made. It’s always good to grow and learn and this name made me do just that.

I enjoyed this book though a few times I thought the author’s attention to passion and temptations (they never gave in to it fully) were not needed for the storyline.  I truly appreciated the “magic potion” myth associated with Gingerbread houses and thought it was fun to imagine Amish women buying into it even if only for fun.  The author even gives us a recipe to try on our own! I look forward to putting what I learned about faithfulness and responsibility through the friends I met in the book into practice.  And, I look forward to reading more from this author and maybe even baking some gingerbread soon!

About the Author

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Amish fiction lovers responded positively and immediately to Laura V. Hilton’s debut novel, Patchwork Dreams, when she burst on the scene in 2009 with her unique series, The Amish of Seymour, set in the tiny town of Seymour, in Webster County, Missouri. Fans of the genre immediately recognized Hilton’s insider knowledge, not only of the Webster County community, but Amish culture in general. Her natural speech and writing patterns, she says, are uniquely “Amish,” acquired from her Amish maternal grandparents. The Amish of Seymour, includes Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another. Her second series, The Amish of Webster County, is comprised of Healing Love, Surrendered Love, and Awakened Love. A stand-alone title, A White Christmas in Webster County, was released in September 2014. The Amish of Jamesport includes The Snow Globe, The Postcard and The Birdhouse. In spring 2016 she released The Amish Firefighter with the setting in Jamesport, MO, the same as for The Amish Wanderer.

Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer. Laura and her husband, Steve, have five children, whom Laura homeschools. The family makes their home in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas.

Guest Post from Laura V. Hilton

Glass Blowing and The Christmas Admirer

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Right before my youngest son joined the Coast Guard we went on a short mini-vacation to Springfield, Missouri, actually going farther north almost to Kansas City to see another Amish community near there in Osceola. There is a cheese factory there and my son wanted to try some of their cheeses – such as a ghost pepper cheese. Too spicy for me.

But upon the return to Springfield, Steve read about a glass blowers shop in the downtown area. We found the address and went to visit it. It is owned by an older gentleman and his son. They had a display area set up where people could see their wares and buy them and then a work area where the son mostly worked, and talked about how the fire needed to be so hot, and showed us how he worked and made things. As we watched, he made a lovely flower, a lily, in different colors of glass, green, white, pinks.

It was fascinating.

And I got to thinking what if…

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So I did some more research. Asked questions. Probably drove them nuts. But when Whitaker House indicated they’d be interested in a Christmas novel, I proposed one about a glass blower.

The story is set in Jamesport, Missouri, and while completely stand alone, it does have some continuing characters from other books I’ve written set in Jamesport. If you are interested, the books set there are:

Amish Books set in Jamesport, Missouri:

The Snow Globe

The Postcard

The Birdhouse

The Amish Firefighter

The Amish Wanderer

The Kissing Bridge (part of Springs of Love collection)

The Christmas Admirer

Gingerbread Wishes (part of A Plain Thanksgiving collection–November 2018)

Love by the Numbers (February 2018)

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I haven’t read any books about an Amish glass blower, but that’s not to say they aren’t out there. I haven’t read all the Amish books available. Jamesport is an area that is more tourist-oriented than the books set in Seymour / Webster County Missouri. They give buggy tours, have bed and breakfasts, open their homes for visitors to eat supper with them, and have businesses.

All Amish districts are different and the rules vary depending on the bishop and preachers. Some are more liberal and some more conservative. Some keep themselves distant and don’t welcome attention from non-Amish and some embrace it. While Jamesport is not as touristy as some districts in Lancaster Pennsylvania or in Ohio, it is much more so than others.

Susanna’s Cranberry Salad

Ingredients
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed), chopped
  • 1 can (20 ounces) unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 medium apple, chopped
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, mix the first six ingredients until blended. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
  2. In a large bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Just before serving, fold cream and walnuts into cranberry mixture.Makes 16 servings.

Susanna’s Cranberry Sauce

For on top of turkey sandwiches as Becca requested
Ingredients
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed), chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water or orange juice
Directions

In colander, rinse cranberries. In sauce pan, add water or orange juice and sugar, boil until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and return to a boil. Lower to simmer and cook about 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries had burst. Let cool.

Susanna’s “Love Portion” Gingerbread

Ingredients
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 t ground nutmeg
  • 1 t ground cloves
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup shortening, melted slightly
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ c water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
Directions

Shift together flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, mix shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until they are absorbed. Divide dough into three pieces, pat down until about 1 ½ inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for three hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut in desired shapes. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes in preheated oven. Cool on wire racks. When cool, decorate as desired.

Giveaway

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In honor of her tour, Laura is giving away

Grand Prize Package: The Christmas Admirer, “Unto Us a Child is Born” painting on decorative serving plate by Donna White, The Hearthside Collection, Inc., and commemorative Whitaker House/Anchor Distributors coloring book (not in photo).

1st Place Package: The Christmas Admirer and The Very First Christmas by Juliet David with interactive illustrations by Pauline Siewert (children’s book).

2nd Place Package: The Christmas Admirer and “The Woman Who Honors The Lord Shall Be Praised” myrrh-scented candle from abba Jerusalem!

Click the link to enter! https://promosimple.com/ps/c16f

 

Blog Stops

ASC Book Reviews, November 9

Books n Baubles, November 9

Janices book review, November 9

Avid Reader Book Reviews, November 10

Have A Wonderful Day, November 10

A Greater Yes, November 10

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, November 11

God’s Little Bookworm, November 11

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, November 11

Eat, Read, Teach, Blog, November 12

A Holland Reads, November 12

Simple Harvest Reads, November 12

Reading Is My SuperPower, November 13

Beck To Basics, November 13

Carpe Diem, November 13

Christian Bookaholic, November 14

Blossoms and Blessings, November 14

Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner, November 15

Reader’s cozy corner, November 15

Christian Author, J.E.Grace, November 15

Baker Kella, November 16

Quiet Quilter, November 16

Karen Sue Hadley, November 16

Pause for Tales, November 17

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 17

Pursuing Stacie, November 17

For The Love of Books, November 18

Blogging With Carol, November 18

Pink Granny’s Journey, November 18

Bigreadersite, November 19

Vicky Sluiter, November 19

SusanLovesBooks, November 19

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 20

Moments Dipped in Ink, November 20

New Horizon Reviews, November 20

The Fizzy Pop Collection, November 21

A Simply Enchanted Life, November 21

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 21

Jeanette’s Thoughts, November 22

Daysong Reflections, November 22

Splashes of Joy, November 22

 

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Psalm 46:1-3

bible-1021657_960_720God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though it’s waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

— Psalm 46:1-3

I don’t know about you, but some days I really need to read the above scripture. And, better than just reading it over, I need to truly believe He is a real help to the day.  After reading it this morning, I thought about the truth in the words.  God is our refuge and strength and not just when the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, but always.  He is our refuge and our strength when a friend hurts us or a co-worker fails us. He is our help in trouble be it foaming seas, quaking mountains or broken dishwashers.  He is God and He is always our refuge and strength and an ever-present help in trouble.  Today, you can fill in the blanks with the struggles you are facing and remember that he will help you. (It says so in His word!)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though __________________ and the ______________________________, though _______________________and ______________________________. — Psalm 46:1-3

We will not fear!

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Thankfulness Reset

IMG_2128Be joyful always. Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything, hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil. –1 Thes 5:16-22

 

I woke this morning with a lot of regrets.  Little nagging regrets but regrets all the same.  I did not choose joy yesterday, I chose ingratitude and bitterness….over nothing! As we begin this month of Thanksgiving, I want to hit the reset button and try again. (And, I may need to hit that reset button again each morning.) As I read the above scripture, I decided that this month I will make a “game” out of giving thanks in all circumstances.  I will test everything and hold onto the good.  What might that look like in my life?

We miss the bus? That gives me a reason to remember to be thankful that we actually catch it more than we miss it. It’s raining? gives me the perfect excuse to curl up with a good book. The tire on my car is low? Might as well stay home and phone a friend. Piles of laundry to be done? I can be thankful that 3 of my children are grown and responsible for their own laundry and the 2 at home are in training.

So though yesterday I allowed myself to become bitter instead of better in the face of changed plans, unmet expectations and general spiritual fatigue, today, I will accept the scriptural challenge.  I will give thanks in all circumstances and test everything.  I will hold onto the good and I am sure to wake tomorrow with a lighter heart!  I challenge you to do the same.

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Understanding

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I visited a cardiologist this week and was diagnosed with PVCs (Premature ventricular contractions.) The doctor took a lot of time with me and attempted to explain the complicated heart and ventricle electrical system.  Even with his drawings and lengthy description I didn’t understand.  And, I decided that I didn’t need to understand, but he did and I told him so.  I didn’t think there was a chance that I’d understand in a short office visit all the intricate things he learned during medical school.  I was comforted by the amount of information he had and his full understanding of it.

4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

—Proverbs 3:4-6 NIV

In the doctor’s office, I decided to not lean on my understanding and it was a relief. The following day, I had lunch with my friend.  She has spent the last 7 months dealing with breast cancer and surgeries. She is an adoptive mom friend of mine who adopted because she was unable to have biological children of her own due to cancer in her youth. She adopted two children from hard places (aka foster care, trauma, unknown backgrounds) who have serious mental health issues and her life is anything but easy. She shared with me that the doctors said her cancer may return within two years and possibly it will return in her lungs. She said this and then went on to describe the temper tantrum her boys had the day before, the calls from the school and how both kids have been acting up due to the added stress in the family.  Kids from trauma facing potentially more trauma is a bad combination.

On my way home from lunch, I was talking with God and wondering why she had to face so much.  I don’t know anything about living with cancer, but I do know about parenting kids from hard places and I know the struggles she faces daily with that.  Couldn’t God just heal those boys and allow some peace in her home?  I know He could, but why won’t He?  And, why won’t He now so she can focus on her health? I just don’t understand. That’s right.  I don’t understand.  And, guess what else?  I don’t need to.  “Lean not on my own understanding, acknowledge him and he will make my paths straight.” Again, I don’t need to understand, I just have to place my friend into the hands of the one who does.  As much as I trust my cardiologist’s understanding, I trust God more. There is definitely comfort and relief in that!

 

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