A Simple “Good Morning”

bell_ringerWe woke and headed out to the frigid temperatures to man the kettle and ring the bells for the Salvation Army.  An annual event for our family continues to bless us with good cheer.  We intentionally greet each person entering the store and we smile and say “Good Morning” and “Merry Christmas.”  Everyone returns a cordial nod and most put donations in our kettle.

Today I “trained” some 11-year-old girls on the importance of greeting each individual and offering them a Hershey’s kiss whether they donated or not.  I explained to them that our purpose for being there was two-fold.  One, to collect donations for our community and two, to share the joy and spread the love by simply speaking, greeting and smiling.  We definitely accomplished both.

How we treat people in our lives is very important.  God loves us and he wants us to love each other.  This morning our group of bell-ringers served God by loving his children. It is my hope that people felt a little better after sharing a smile. I encourage you all to make eye contact and greet those people outside of stores whether you choose to donate or not, just as I encouraged the girls today to greet each person respectfully whether they gave or not.  The gift may not be monetary, it may be the gift of a smile or just a few moments of kindness.  Today individuals shared smiles, jokes, and cash and all were much appreciated.

Then, when you enter the store, share the smile with the clerks and fellow customers, go home and share the kindness with your family and continue to do so with everyone you meet.


If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 

— 1 Corinthians 13:2New International Version (NIV)



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Notes on A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller

23ba83cec5ba8af3a75ea77ea1e4a4c2If you are like me, you have stacks and stacks of books in your house.  I have books in every room and many I haven’t read and those that I have, I probably will not read again.  However, there are pencil underlines, notes in the margins, lessons attempted to be learned in their pages.  I’ve decided in an attempt to get the books off my shelves and into the hands of others who may benefit from them that I will make notes in my blog and maybe some of them will touch you….then, the book moves on!

Notes on A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller

  • Prayer is meant to be the conversation where your life and your God meet.
  • When we slow down to pray, we are immediately confronted with how unspiritual we are, with how difficult it is to concentrate on God. We don’t know how bad we are until we try to be good. Nothing exposes our selfishness and spiritual powerlessness like prayer.
  • Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.
  • Instead of fighting anxiety, we can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God.
  • At some point, each of us comes face to face with the valley of the shadow of death. We can’t ignore it. We can’t remain neutral with evil. We either give up and distance ourselves, or we learn to walk with the Shepherd. There is no middle ground.
  • Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life.
  • If you are going to enter this divine dance we call prayer, you have to surrender your desire to be in control, to figure out how prayer works.
  • Don’t just ask for spiritual things or “good” things. Tell God what you want. Before you can abide, the real you has to meet the real God. Ask anything.
  • Why do we have to spend our lives striving to be something that we would never want to be if we only knew what we wanted? Why do we waste our time doing things which…are just the opposite of what we were made for?” — Thomas Merton
  • Guidance means I’m driving the car and asking God which way to go. Wisdom is richer, more personal. I don’t just need help with my plans; I need help with my questions and even my own heart.
  • Until you are convinced that you can’t change your child’s heart, you will not take prayer seriously.
  • I prayed because I was weak. I wasn’t trying to control God. I certainly wasn’t in control of (my child). I was simply praying God’s own heart back to him. I couldn’t imagine him not answering such a prayer.
  • If the miracle comes too quickly, there is no room for discovery, for a relationship.
  • When we suffer, we long for God to speak clearly, to tell us the end of the story and, most of all, to show himself. But if he showed himself fully and immediately if he answered all the questions, we’d never grow; we’d never emerge from our chrysalis because we’d be forever dependent.
  • Living in our Father’s Story: To live in our Father’s story, remember these three things;
  1. Don’t demand that the story go your way. (In other words, surrender completely.)
  2. Look for the Storyteller. Look for his hand, and then pray in light of what you are seeing. (In other words, develop an eye for Jesus.)
  3. Stay in the story. Don’t shut down when it goes the wrong way.
  • I want success, he wants authenticity.
  • If we pursue joy directly, it slips from our grasp. But if we begin with Jesus and learn to love, we end up with joy.
  • When we understand the story, it quiets our souls. It’s okay to have a busy life. It’s crazy to have a busy soul.
  • Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don’t matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

May God bless the author and the reader of this book and may God bless you, the reader of this blog!





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Gorgeous Christmas Card Photos

IMG_2442They arrived yesterday.  The Christmas card photos.  Gorgeous families that I am blessed to call friends.  There were no notes, just photos of smiles and Christmas scenery emitting feelings of joy and peace. I know these families.  Some of these families are indeed celebrating the season with joy and peace.  Their children are young and would make every day special.  The twinkle in their eyes is sincere and they will indeed be awestruck come Christmas morning.  The others, though, are not quite as fortunate.  Some of them have been transparent with me this year and have allowed me to know that behind the superficial smile on their child’s face is a deeply troubled soul who causes havoc in the family. These kids have troubles.  These parents have troubles.  But, for an afternoon, they tried to get all the personalities represented in the photo to cooperate and to smile.  I don’t know how much blood, sweat, and tears went into this photo shoot, but I do know that in the end, it was worth it.

The ones who are not dealing with mental illness will laugh at the antics their kids did while trying to get the perfect picture and the ones who are dealing with mental illness will cling to the photo that represents a tiny bit of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic home. I hope that the struggling parents will feel a sense of accomplishment in actually getting a photo that can be sent out to others and I hope the “typical” parents can treasure and appreciate the gift of happy children.

I thank them all for sending the cards to me.  I will display them all season and I will pray for them.  I will pray that the holidays do bring them joy and peace. I will pray the same for my family….with or without a gorgeous Christmas Card photo shoot.

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Oh What a Beautiful Morning!


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)


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

IMG_2273 (1)

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


About the Book


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.


(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


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


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…


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)


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

  • 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
  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
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed), chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water or orange juice

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

  • 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

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.



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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