B&H/Lifeway Book Review: The Psalms and Proverbs Devotional for Women

Do you ever feel like you need guidance?  Goodness knows I do.  I can mess up fourteen things before I even get out of bed in the mornings.  I’ll take all the wisdom I can lay my hands on.

That thirst for wisdom makes The Psalms and Proverbs Devotional for Women is a wonderful book with which to start my day.  It contains daily devotionals and readings from Psalms and Proverbs, as well as space to make note of thoughts and prayers.  The readings are short but relevant, and I find them helpful to me, particularly on days when I find my heart heavy with worries of the day (or week, or month).  And the book itself is beautifully made and comfortable to hold.  It’s hardcover, and I feel confident I can read and re-read it without pages coming loose.  I also feel confident that I *will* re-read it, as I expect the passages provided will speak to me differently at different times in my life, and that’s something I look for in a devotional.

If you don’t think you have time to start your day with the Lord, I highly recommend this book.  Five minutes of reading and you’ve refreshed your spirit and given yourself a Scripture passage to meditate on throughout the day.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of The Psalms & Proverbs Devotional in exchange for my unbiased review.

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Bittersweet farewells

Last weekend was a busy weekend for us.  The events that led up to this moment actually started way back in August, 2012, when my father passed away.  He’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years earlier.  He fought it hard, doing his best to stay up and moving, until he broke a hip.  That pretty much ended his mobility, and so began the real downward slide in his health.

I was at the nursing home the day he died.  At that point, he couldn’t get up out of bed, couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t do anything for himself.  I stayed for several hours that day, feeling like we were just waiting for death to claim him.  Late in the afternoon, I left to drive an hour and a half back home to deal with kids and homework and daily life.  About 20 minutes after I left, I got a phone call saying that he’d passed.  And there was sadness, and relief, that he was no longer fighting his body’s inability to do what he wanted it to do.  He was home with our Savior, he was healed, he was whole.

I remember the music I listened to that day.  The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony.

Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin.

Daddy’s chains were gone.  He was set free.  And there was some relief, because he’d always been larger than life to me.  He worked hard with his hands to provide for us when I was a kid.  He was a farmer, and it wasn’t an easy life.  He was always on the move.  I knew he wouldn’t have wanted to linger long in a body unable to respond to his will to get up and go.

Fast forward to the early morning hours of December 17, 2017.  My phone rang in the dark, before my alarm went off.  There’s no good news coming from a phone call in the dark of the wee small hours.  Thing One was at his dad’s this weekend, and my first thought was, is he okay, is his dad okay, his grandfather?   My ex’s wife (who I’m pleased to consider a friend) asked if I was sitting down.  Never did I expect to hear what she said next.  She told me Liz had passed.  Thing One’s grandmother, Liz, my former mother-in-law and second mom and friend for over two decades, had died unexpectedly.  She said she was having trouble breathing and to call the ambulance, and then she collapsed.  She, too, was home, set free, in the presence of our Savior.  But there was no relief there, just searing grief, much like when my own mother died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1994.  There was no music, just the sound of my heart breaking and my tears.

So, a month and change later, here we are.  My ex and my former father-in-law are slowly going through Liz’s things, and my stepmom is downsizing, moving out of the spacious house she and my father shared to a smaller house that she’ll be able to take care of more easily.  This means I’m inheriting a whole lot of stuff – a curio cabinet that was filled with beautiful objects my mother amassed over the years, family quilts, purses, books, my grandmother’s china.  We drove up to see them last weekend to load up the van and truck with memories and bring those memories home.

When you’ve got an hour and a half drive one way, that gives you some time to think.  I thought about my mom, and her passing shortly after Thing One’s dad and I got married.  She wasn’t crazy about the idea of my marriage, but she did it up right just the same.  The wedding was gorgeous, and ten days later, she was gone.

I thought about my father, and how my mother had always been the buffer between us.  We were both hard-headed and strong-willed, and I never had sense enough to say “yes sir” and shut up.  There were a couple of occasions that I didn’t think we’d continue to stay on good terms without her there to help us communicate, and I had to make up my mind that he was the only father I had, and by golly, I wasn’t giving up on him.  I recalled his tempers over things that seemed miniscule to me, but sure were important to him.  I also remembered, when I split with Thing One’s dad, him telling me that he normally wouldn’t condone divorce, but he would stand behind me.  That meant a great deal, coming from him.

I thought about Liz, how she had loved me from the moment she met me.  The first time I walked into her home, she hugged me.  I was not a huggy person, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this woman who just started hugging on somebody she’d never met!  But I grew to love her, and since my mother died just as we were getting to the stage where she could see me as an adult, and we could start to be friends rather than just parent and child, Liz stepped into that role admirably.  She told me that she had made a promise to my mother to look after me if the need arose, and she did.  She loved me well, she loved Thing One well, and she adopted Brian and Thing Two as hers, too.  It’s a remarkable woman who can welcome her son’s ex-wife’s new husband and child into her family.  She blessed me, and I hope she knew how much.  I want to be Liz when I grow up.

This song came on the radio as we were driving out of town that evening, and it seemed to fit so well.

And this is who You are
More constant than the stars up in the sky
All these years of our lives, I
I look back and I see You
Right now I still do
And I’m always going to

I have won
and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy
I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

Regrets?  Sure.  Joys?  Absolutely.  And how thankful I am that God has been my God through all of it.  He has seen the big picture, and He will guide me until I, too, see Him face to face and get to hug my family members who’ve gone before me.

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Year in Review: My Favorite Books

Please note:  This post contains affiliate links.  If you think any of these books sound interesting, please feel free to use my links to purchase them.

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal on Goodreads to read 55 books.  As of today, I’ve read 114 books.  I’d say I’ve smashed that goal!

Of those 114 books, some were brain candy, some were not so great, some were pretty good, and some rocked my socks off.  I wanted to share some of the highlights with y’all.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the high notes of what I’ve read in 2017.

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt – nonfiction, history, science

This is the story of the women who served as the computers at the brand-new Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1940s and 1950s.  At a time when women were discouraged from pursuing things like math and science as career fields, these women used just pencil, paper, and brain power to calculate rocket trajectories and help launch us farther into space than we’d previously been.

I read this book in a single sitting when I was home sick.  It’s a fascinating story for anyone who’s interested in history, science, or just a good read about women breaking boundaries and doing things no one thought they could.

Carrying Albert Home:  The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam – fiction?  fact?  epic adventure

In keeping with the rocket theme, this book was written by Homer Hickam, of October Sky fame.  This book is described as a family epic, and tells the somewhat true tale of his parents, Homer and Elsie, the alligator Elsie received as a gift from Buddy Ebsen, and the journey they take to get Albert (the alligator) back home to Florida.  Is it true?  In places.  But what places?  Well, you’ll have to read it and figure that out for yourself.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill – middle grade fiction, fantasy

This is a story of a man desperate to hold on to power, a witch who isn’t really wicked, a young man who is more than he seems, and a girl filled with magic.  It was a beautifully written book, and I don’t cry much, but this book made me cry.  It’s a love story and a power struggle, and the story of sacrifice for something bigger than yourself.  It’s described as a middle grade book, and of course it would be excellent for that age group, but it delighted me as an adult.

The Daggers & Steele series by Alex P. Berg – fantasy, humor, police fiction

This link is for books 1-3, which is what started it all for me.  You can buy the books individually on Amazon, or start with the three-book set like I did.  I think I got these free through some email or other.  I thought they sounded like fun.  Little did I know.  Daggers is a somewhat crusty police detective whose aging partner calls it quits.  Daggers is pretty disturbed when they assign him a new partner who is brand new to the job.  She’s also young.  And attractive.  And she isn’t falling for any of his tricks.  Hilarity ensues, not quite to the level of greatness of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, but still a lot of good fun.  There are a whole bunch of Daggers &  Steele books, and I’m going to have to read them all.

Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce – fiction, fantasy, young readers, chapter books

Brian read this for a children’s literature course he took this past semester.  He recommended I read it, and I’m so glad I did!  This is a wonderful story of Billy and the stuffed animal, Ollie, made for Billy by his mother.  Ollie isn’t just any stuffed animal.  He’s special.  He’s Billy’s Favorite.  It’s the highest honor a toy can receive to be a child’s Favorite.  But Ollie is in danger.  When Zozo the clown (who is king of a subterranean kingdom at an abandoned carnival) and his army of Creeps toynap Ollie, Billy arms himself with his lightsaber and ventures into the big and sometimes scary world beyond his yard to rescue his friend.  The Creeps might be a little unsettling for very young children, but I think this would be a great book to read with your kids (even if they can read just fine on their own, because sometimes it’s just fun to have mom or dad read to you!).  Thing Two was so inspired, he wanted to make his own Creep.  I’m just glad he didn’t want me to make a stuffed animal for him, because that is beyond my sewing and crafty skills!

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – fiction

Arthur Pepper’s wife, Miriam, died a year ago, and he’s carrying on.  Same routine, same slacks and sweater vest, same puttering around in the garden.  Until he finds a charm bracelet tucked away in one of her shoes, and realizes he’s never seen it before.  The charm bracelet leads him on an adventure to learn about the wife he only thought he knew, and to learn about what he meant to her and what it means to live, instead of just to exist.

This is not a high drama book.  Yes, there are moments of suspense (with tigers, there always are).  But it’s mostly just a sweet, well-told story about a man who misses his wife and who finds himself wondering what exactly he meant to her as he learns things about her that he never knew.  I read it in one sitting, so it’s a quick read, and very enjoyable.

These are just a few of the high points of what I’ve read this year.  If you’d like to see all the books I read in 2017, come find me on Goodreads and get all the scoop!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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Book Review: The Shadow: Someone is Watching (Rahab’s Rope, Book 1)

Meagan Winston cares deeply about women who are victims of human trafficking.  She travels to India regularly to help women escape those who are victimizing them.  Unknown to her, drugs are also making that same trip, and she is the only connection the FBI can find.

The FBI wants answers.  Enter former Marine Cole Fleming.  He shows up at Rahab’s Rope, the shop where Meagan works selling items made by women rescued from trafficking, with questions.  As the investigation unfolds, it becomes evident that someone else is also interested in Meagan, someone who’s watched her from a distance for a very long time and wants to show her how much she means to him.  Can Meagan trust her heart?  Is Cole the man following her?

The Shadow was a humdinger of a good read!  This is the first book by Kimberly Rae that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I expect it won’t be the last.  I wanted to reach into the pages and hug Meagan.  I can’t imagine being accused by the FBI of international drug trafficking, nor can I imagine having someone stalking me.  One would be bad enough, but both?

In additional to a whole lot of suspenseful moments, the book has some other high points as well.  It looks at the effects of the drug trafficking the FBI is looking to stop, and in that theme, we get some insight into why Cole does what he does.  We see how Meagan’s faith sustains her, and the good relationships between her and her family (her grandpa is my favorite!).  We see the redemptive power of God in a broken marriage, and the start of a relationship in the most unlikely of circumstances.

If you’re a fan of Dee Henderson’s work, you will thoroughly enjoy The Shadow.  You can read it for free right now with Kindle Unlimited, or you can win your very own copy here!  I’ve got one to give away.  To enter, just leave a comment letting me know what cause is near and dear to your heart (and if you feel inclined to talk about it, why).

Disclaimer:  I received an advance copy of this book from the BlogAbout Blogger Network in exchange for my honest review.  I only read books that interest me, and I don’t say nice things about the books I read unless they’re true.  All opinions expressed here are mine, and I received nothing in exchange for my review other than the advance copy.


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Movie Talk: Enchanted Christmas

Can you feel it? That little edge of crispness in the air (even here in south Louisiana!) and the undercurrent of excitement in the stores? The holidays are right around the corner and you know what that means. Decorations, baking and family? Uh…no. It’s time to tuck into snuggly pajamas, grab a steaming cup of cocoa and curl up on the couch with your favorite holiday movies!  (My teenager thinks it’s way too early for Christmas.  Pffft, what does he know?  LOL)

Every year, Hallmark Channel outdoes itself on the family movie front and this year is no different. With TWENTY-ONE new holiday features premiering on the network’s “Countdown to Christmas” this season, there is plenty of sweet, family-friendly goodness to go around.

One of these movies in particular has piqued my interest. It’s called Enchanted Christmas*. Here’s the description of the movie:

Young widow, Laura Trudeau (played by Alexa PenaVega) was a remarkable dancer. Now working as a project manager in LA, she is tasked to renovate a rundown hotel lodge, in her hometown of Rosemont, Utah and have it ready by Christmas eve. She is stunned to run into her former love and dance partner Ricardo Archuleta, (Carlos PenaVega) who she discovers is in rehearsals for The Christmas Eve shows grand finale, with his new dance partner Taylor (Chelsie Hightower, “Dancing with the Stars”).  When Taylor has an audition abroad, Laura once again finds herself back in Ricardo’s arms. Feelings are rekindled, and with both the hotel opening and the show in jeopardy, Laura has to make some difficult decisions, both personally and professionally.

You can check out the trailer here.   http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/videos/preview-enchanted-christmas

Doesn’t that look great? Who doesn’t love ballroom dancing? And you throw in Christmas? Seriously! 

Photo: Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

Photo: Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

Photo: Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

Photo: Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

If you thought you recognized the main character, Laura, you probably did. Alexa PenaVega skyrocketed to fame in the Spy Kids series of movies. Now she’s all grown up and co-starring with her husband, Carlos PenaVega. They even contributed their musical talents by recording one of the songs for the movie. Is there anything they can’t do?

Enchanted Christmas airs on November 12th on Hallmark Channel at 8:00 pm/7:00 central. Don’t miss it!

*Enchanted Christmas is a Mission Pictures International and Gabriel Productions, LLC production. Cindy Bond and Gene Davis serve as Executive producers. James Wilberger and Jarrod Phillips are producers. Terry Cunningham directed from a script by Rick Garman and Catherine Y. Friday.  #HallmarkChannel #EnchantedChristmas #CountdowntoChristmas #Missionpicturesintl

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Tuneful Tuesday: Self-Centered or Selfless Edition

I listen to a lot of music.  One of my favorites is TobyMac.  I had this song playing as I cleaned the kitchen this morning.

And a line from the song really struck me:

“Anything, I would give up for you/Everything, I’d give it all away”

And I thought, would I really?  Give up ANYTHING?

I’ve been wrestling in recent months with giving.  Giving money, giving time, meeting needs as I see them.  I’ve made peace with the idea that, as far as giving money goes, we can’t make the grand gesture.  We don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay someone’s house note for a few months until they get back on their feet, or pay someone else’s light bill, or buy them a week’s worth of groceries.  But we can buy a meal for a homeless man, or add a little extra to our grocery shopping to give to our church’s food pantry, or contribute to Operation Christmas Child boxes.  So that’s progress, at least as far as recognizing our capability to give financially and doing what we can, letting go of the idea that it’s too small to matter.

But when it comes to giving time (which is usually in short supply when I’m working, but which I’ve had a surplus of while I’ve been out of work), I find myself confronted with something I never thought was an issue for me:  I am selfish.  I don’t want to go out of my way.  If I’m asked to do something that takes me out of my routine, that would keep me from getting things done according to my agenda, I start trying to think of reasons why I can’t do it.  I want to hang onto my time and use it the way I want to use it, not in a way that would help out someone else.

I know, it’s not mine to meet every single need.  I know there are times it’s appropriate to say “no”.  Where I struggle is when I’ve got the ability to do it, but straight up do.not.want.to because it inconveniences me.  And it’s only recently that this has come to the forefront of my attention.  If you’d asked me twenty years ago if I were selfish, I’d have said, of course not.  But God is working on me, and clearly, this is a burr He’s trying to rub off of me.  And it is one big, ugly burr.  I see it in how I relate to my family sometimes.  I see it in how I relate to others sometimes.  And that all ties back into how I relate to Jesus.  When I’m selfish with my time to someone else, I’m telling Him that my wants are more important than this thing He’s asking me to do.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially knowing that, as a Christian, I’m supposed to be striving to be more Christ-like each day.  And Jesus is the epitome of unselfishness.  After all, He laid down His very life for me.  And I balk at taking time out of my day to help someone?  Ouch.

There’s another TobyMac song in my iTunes library that is a good reminder for me of what love, the love we’re supposed to have for others, needs to look like:

This is harder than I thought
Harder than I thought it’d be
Harder than I thought
Takin’ every part of me
Harder than I thought
So much harder than I thought it’d be
But empty’s never felt so full

This is what love
Feels like
Poured out, used up, still givin’
Stretching me out to the end of my limits
This is what love (this is what love)
This is what real love
Feels like
This is what love feels like poured out
Used up still willin’ to fight for it
This is what love feels like
Yeah, this is what it feels like

Like floating confetti
The beautiful gets messy
When the fallout finds the floor
But in the depths of the trenches
Is the richest of riches
Love is calling us to more

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” — Matthew 25:34-40

Lord, remove my selfish heart and replace it with a heart that beats in time with Yours, that steps forth willingly and sacrificially to meet needs.

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Oh, that’s bad. — No, that’s good!

Y’all ever watch Hee Haw?  (Okay, I’ve just dated myself with that.)  I used to watch it all the time growing up.  The title of my blog post was inspired by the absolutely hilarious bit by Archie Campbell and Roy Clark.  (Y’all enjoy a little humor with the video above!  It just kills me every time.  If that’s not enough Hee Haw goodness, go find the backwards fairy tales.  You’ll laugh until you cry.)

Sometimes you think life is handing you something bad.  But God.  He can work all things for our good.

So, yeah, back in February, I had a wreck in which my car was totaled.

Oh, that’s bad. — No, that’s good.  The boys and I walked away unhurt, and I ended up with a lower car payment and lower monthly car insurance payment, and we have a larger vehicle that gets us from point A to point B.  And Brian says it has a better sound system than Chewbacca did.  LOL

Then in April, we found ourselves in the thoroughly unenviable position of having a house we could no longer afford.  We walked away and the bank took it back, and before we did that, we had to find someplace to live.  Seemed like a tall order, since we wanted to keep the boys in their schools, and rent here is exorbitant (as in, more than a house payment in a lot of cases).

Oh, that’s bad. — No, that’s good.  We found a place to live, in our school district, 3 bedroom and 2 bath (that 2 bath is important when you’ve got a teenage boy), with just about everything we wanted, for a price we could afford.  (And that was all thanks to God’s provision and my friend Wendy telling me to call and ask about it!)

The place we found?  It’s a trailer.

Oh, that’s bad. — No, that’s good.  There is nothing wrong with it, it’s sound, it’s a roof over our heads with covered parking for our vehicles, we have a lovely yard (nicer than we had at our previous house), it’s out in the country, and most all of our stuff fits in it (and we had a bunch of stuff that needed a good throwing away, anyway).  Our landlords are lovely people, and if something breaks, I just pick up the phone and call.  Living here is our opportunity (we hope) to finally get back on some solid financial footing.  Life has happened, and we hope this is our place to regroup.

But we couldn’t have our cats here.  They had to be rehomed.  (No hating on that, please.  It was not a decision we made lightly, and a whole lot of tears were shed.)

Oh, that’s bad. — No, that’s good.  Well, not as bad as it could have been, anyway.  A lovely woman gave them a happy home.  Bless her, she already had seven cats, and took ours to be her eighth and ninth.  By all accounts, they are happy as clams there (and she has it set up really nicely if you’re a cat!).  And while I miss the cats, I do not miss the cat hair.  Or the litter box.

And then just when you thought things might settle down, wait, there’s more.  On Friday I was laid off.  It was for financial reasons, as our firm wasn’t bringing in the work or the money to need two attorneys.  That was really, really not how I expected my Friday to go.

Oh, that’s bad. — Well, yeah, it would seem that way, wouldn’t it?  And I certainly wouldn’t have gotten up Friday morning and said, “Let me see, I think I’d like to lose my job today” had the choice been mine to make.  But when I look back at all the times things have happened, when our first response has been, “Oh, that’s bad,” and see that every.single.time God has brought something good out of it, I can’t really get too worked up.  This turn of events may have been a surprise to me, but it was absolutely not a surprise to Him.  There was a reason why I got that job, and there is a reason why I no longer have it.  So, right now, I’m okay.  I’m breathing.  I’ve already applied for two state jobs and reached out to friends to ask for a heads up if they hear of anything.  And it is only the grace and peace of my Lord, and my knowledge that He is faithful, that keeps me grounded in the middle of this particular storm.

Day by day, I’m learning what it means to pray without ceasing.  And even in this, I can lift my eyes to God and give thanks.


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Who you really are

I went to Thing One’s eighth grade awards program today.  Sitting in the middle school gym made me think back (a long way back) to my school days.  I was one of “those” kids.  The kind who was involved in ev.ery.thing, who won all the awards, who made the honor roll, who was Student of the Year, that sort of thing.  I was smart and I knew it and I loved it.

Academic Awards

You know how many awards Thing One brought home today?  None.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  No academic awards, no sports awards, not even 100% dress-out for PE.  But Thing One isn’t bothered by his lack of awards.  He’s comfortable in his own skin, for the most part, and if you ask him, he’ll tell you the awards don’t matter, because he’s the GOAT – Greatest of All Time!  That got me thinking, too.

How much do those awards I won in sixth grade, eighth grade, high school *really* matter now?  I’ve probably still got some of them stashed in a folder or scrapbook or box somewhere.  It was a lot of fun at the time, winning them.  But have they been any indicator of future success?  Not really, not as far as achieving ridiculous levels of wealth and/or fame or living the high life with all the toys money can buy.  Does anyone care now that I was a National Merit Scholar?  I’m not sure I even care at this point.

Worldly accolades are fun, I’ll grant you that.  It’s nice to feel like you’re special, like you’re appreciated, like you’re noticed.  But that doesn’t last, and that’s not what counts most.  Not even our perception of ourselves as worthy is what matters.  No, what I want Thing One to remember, even when the world is unkind, is who he is in our Savior, Christ Jesus.

He was created specifically by God, who knows him better than he knows himself.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you….” – Jeremiah 1:5

He is called to righteousness.  “I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness….” – Isaiah 42:6

He is a child of God.  “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” – Romans 8:16

He is created by God to do good things.  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

He is loved – loved enough that Jesus went to the cross for him, to save him and give him eternal life.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

Those are the things that matter.  Our identity as a beloved child of God, our salvation based on our faith in Jesus, those are the things we carry with us into eternity.  That scrapbook full of decades-old award certificates isn’t going to make the trip when we stand before our Creator.

If you have questions about eternity, about faith, about God, about Christianity, check out https://www.truelife.org/.  I’m no expert, but you can ask me, too.  If I don’t know an answer, I’ll look for it, and I’ll help you find someone who does know.

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It’s Good to Have a Guide!

This is a traffic map of the way I get to work.

This morning it was pretty tame – most days, there’s a lot more red on the traffic maps early in the day, because traffic is usually a disastrous hot mess.  But I drive about 20 miles to work each day, so knowing what the route looks like can be a big help.

One morning this week, Brian left the house earlier than I did.  That usually doesn’t happen, as I’m most often out the door ahead of him.  But on this particular day, he was ahead of me.  We often talk on the phone in the mornings, and we were talking that day (thank you, Bluetooth, for letting us talk without holding phones up to our ears!).  As we talked, he told me what traffic looked like on the bridge across the Mississippi River.  He was able to tell me where the slowdowns were, and said I might want to get off on a side street and pick up the interstate farther along the way.  I did, and it saved me some time and headache in traffic.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had someone who could act as a guide for us in our everyday lives?  Someone who’d already been where we were going and could give us directions as to what path we should take?  Wow, that would be amazing.

You know what?  We do.

There isn’t a place we’re headed to that God hasn’t walked before us.  There isn’t a day we face that He hasn’t seen.  He knows what’s coming, and He stands ready to walk with us through whatever each day may bring.

As Lauren Daigle says in her song Trust in You, “Your ways are always higher, Your plans are always good, There’s not a place that I’ll go You’ve not already stood.”  What a marvelous thought.  I don’t have to fear the future because I have a Guide who has already seen what’s around the corner.  He’s just waiting for me to trust Him to direct my path.

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Brian’s best Christmas present ever – the Cameron’s stovetop smoker

Okay, maybe not the best *ever*, but certainly the hit of 2016 – Brian got this Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker, and it is fabulous!!!  We’d talked about something like a Big Green Egg or a Kamado Joe, but those were really more than our budget could handle.  When he found this little gem, it seemed like the perfect fit.

The Stovetop Smoker comes with everything you need to get started – the smoker, the drip pan, the rack, and three good-sized samples of wood chips.  Ours came with hickory (the granddaddy of all woods for some good smoke flavor!), pecan, and alder, which is a good selection to get started with.

The first time we fired it up, we decided to make smoked meatloaf.  A local barbecue restaurant serves smoked meatloaf, and it’s my favorite, so that seemed like an appropriate first choice for our new stovetop smoker.  I used my Dr Pepper Meatloaf recipe from one of my Baylor cookbooks.

You don’t need a lot of wood to bring some big smoky flavor to your food.  Just a tablespoon or two of wood chips in the bottom of the pan is all you need.


After you put your wood chips in the pan, you cover it with your drip pan, lined with foil, and your rack, sprayed with cooking spray.


And then you’re ready to get smokin’!  Here’s the meat loaf, shaped and ready to go.


The Stovetop Smoker comes with a recipe guide, which is handy if you don’t know how long to smoke meat for.  The guide gave a time of 30 minutes for 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef in the form of hamburger patties.  We had about 1 1/2 pounds of meat in the form of two loaves, so we figured that would be a good starting point.

We put the lid on the smoker, set it on a stovetop burner, and let ‘er rip.  It works over any heat source, including open flame and electric stovetop.  We’ve got a gas stove, and we centered the smoker over one burner, as the instructions said.  And in just about half an hour, behold!  Glorious smoked meatloaf!


The one on the right was touching the top of the lid, so next time, I’d squash my meatloaf down a little flatter.  But it was tasty and delicious!  We’ve also done smoked hamburgers, which were a HUGE hit with Thing One and Thing Two.  We may never cook another hamburger on a grill again.

The Stovetop Smoker does release a little smoke into the kitchen, but it’s not much.  If it’s smoking too much, that’s easily fixed by tweaking the lid.  It’s stainless steel, so pretty easy to clean, and the pan is supposed to get darker with use (and ours definitely has).  We are enjoying the heck out of this thing, and I can’t wait to see what all we can smoke in the comfort of our kitchen.

If you think you’d like to try the Stovetop Smoker yourself, please feel free to use one of the links in my post.  Thanks!

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