Sunday, November 25, 2012

Celebrating Aspen's Baptism

Today was a very special day in the Magruder household.  Today, we celebrated Aspen's previous decision to become a Christian as she was baptized by her daddy at First Southern Baptist Church.  It was a special day filled with many loved ones in attendance including, Grandma and Grandpa Dial, Aunt Sonia and Grandma Magruder.  One of Aspen's best friends, Madison, was also in attendance to share in Aspen's special moment.

Congratulations, Aspen.  Mommy and Daddy love you so very much.  We know that God has very BIG plans for you.  You are our Rockstar for God.  We are privileged to be your parents and to have the opportunity to love you and watch you tell others about God's love everyday.  Love him today, tomorrow and forever, He will never let you down.  Continue to grow in Him and he will continue to open the windows and doors to the plan He has for you.  Serve Him wholeheartedly with joy that the world will see your true beauty, always.

These are the verses I've chosen to pray for you, my young Aspen.  May you grow tall and strong, rooted in the righteousness of God, bearing fruit in all seasons.

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers.  But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail.  Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.  
Psalm 1:1-3

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Today especially, I have 10,000 reasons for my heart to sing and it seems fitting to end this post about you, my Rockstar, with a small portion of the lyrics to one of your favorite songs.  In the days and years to come when life is not always paved with smooth roads and beautiful flowers, may you always remember - God's Not Dead.

My God's not dead
He's surely alive
He's living on the inside
Roaring like a lion

Roaring, He's roaring, roaring like a lion
Roaring, He's roaring

Let heaven roar and fire fall
Come shake the ground
With the sounds of revival

My God's not dead
He's surely alive
He's living on the inside
Roaring like a lion

Lyrics from "God's Not Dead (Like a Lion)" by Newsboys

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Moments of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that is jam-packed with family traditions.  From the turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie to the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade, family gatherings, football and even shopping for a few of those crazy people (myself included). As families combine and grow larger it seems the traditions grow larger also.  For several years now I have worked to re-create the Thanksgiving meal my husband remembers fondly from his childhood, which includes more side dishes than I usually fix in a month.  Due to the size of this meal, it's guaranteed we won't be eating it alone.  Most years it's shared with family and friends and even an occasional stranger.  Each year we discuss how we are going to downsize the menu, which we do, but never to the extent we discuss.  In the process of preparing for visitors and cooking a large meal, it's easy for me to become overwhelmed in the process and forget the reasons I have for celebration.  As my husband would lovingly describe it, our "Norman Rockwell" moments usually morph into some reality more suitable for "The Simpsons."

Yesterday I read a devotion about the importance of positive thoughts like those described in Philippians 4:8, one of my favorite verses.  Those positive thoughts can influence our words and actions.  So today, I have chosen to take time before I begin my self-imposed to-do list to ponder those many reasons for thanksgiving and fill my mind of those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  However, to be "gut-level" honest, even the writing of this blog post has brought a test of its' own as I type between moments of peeling oranges, making chocolate and strawberry milk, snuggling, important conversations about current and upcoming Wii games and fitting enough a reading of the Berenstain Bears, Count Their Blessings.

Off and on throughout the year I enjoy the simple devotions of Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young.  Today is one of those days.  Today it tells me that my God is pleased with me.  I don't have to perform well to be loved by God. (i.e. in my world this means I don't have to cook the perfect turkey or keep the cleanest house on the block.)  In some ways my performance focused mentality can become a form of idolatry by focusing on my good works.  It can also provide deep discouragement when my works don't measure up to the expectations I had previously set.  My God wants me to shift my focus from my performance (and that never ending to-do list) to His presence.  I need to be receptive to His unconditional love.  When I remember to thank Him for everything and to trust in Him, I will be open to His presence in my life.

Even though I failed to keep up with the daily thanksgiving posts on facebook (I'm okay with this failure), I have so much to be thankful for today and everyday.  I have a God who lives and He loves me. A God who can do more than I can think or imagine.  A God who knows me and wants to be known by me.  A God who calls me His daughter, His princess.  A God who knows my needs before I even ask.  A God who provides for those needs.  A God who wrote me a love letter to read and guide me through the good days and the bad days.  A God of hope.  A God of peace.  A God of love and joy.  A victorious God full of power and mercy.

I am truly blessed with a wonderful husband and three beautiful daughters, parents, siblings, extended family and friends across the country.  In honor of those many blessings, I will strive to revise my to-do list.  Although my list will still include a turkey and some trimmings and a few household chores.  My goal this Thanksgiving is to live in the moment and to love those in the moment.  My goal is to enjoy this special time with my family in the presence of my Heavenly Father, thankful for all he has done for me through Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving!

"When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.  May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now glory be to God!  By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we could ever dare to ask or hope.  May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen."  Ephesians 4:14-20

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Frugal Tip for Favorite Jeans

I have a pair of super comfy jeans that I purchased last year.  I noticed they were beginning to get weak around the corners of the back pockets.  I was concerned they might not last until I am ready to retire them or until I shrink out of them so I wanted to be proactive in extending the life of my jeans.  I remember as a child, my mother would occasionally use iron-on patches to patch my dad's overalls; however, I have never been a fan of patches on the outside of clothing (unless they are super cool, multi-colored and fun).  Neither have I been a fan of holes in my jeans.  I am definitely not enthusiastic of exposing the location these jeans were threatening to break open!  I also did not think this area needed additional attention with the super cool, multi-colored, fun style patch. The good news is that by being proactive I was able to use a simple iron-on patch on the inside to help prevent the early retirement of my comfy faves.  All for less than a "new" pair of jeans at my local Goodwill store.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book Review: Here's Lily by Nancy Rue

Here's Lily by Nancy Rue is a children's chapter book written about a red-headed sixth-grader, Lily Robbins.  Lily has many ups and downs throughout the book.  She is the constant target of a school bully and her brothers are always picking on her.  She is hand-picked to attend a modeling class which her parents reluctantly agree to if she can identify how she can serve God in a modeling career.  Days before Lily's first fashion show a terrible accident occurs that has potential to keep Lily out of the show entirely. Throughout the book Lily learns that beauty and confidence is about so much more than fashion and make-up.

I thought it would be fun to request a children's book that I could read aloud to my girls from one of my blogging for books programs.  This was a stellar idea, except that we did not have a regular scheduled time to read together and I had to finish the book without them.  I'm sure we will return to it together someday in the near future, especially since I now know what a wonderful ending is in store for my girls.  It has been many years since I've read a children's book of this nature.  I was very pleased with the lessons in beauty, confidence and love for other people that the author wove throughout the story.  The back of the book includes an excerpt to the next book in the Lily Series, Lily Robbins, MD (Medical Dabbler).  I foresee that addition to our bookshelf soon after we finish Here's Lily.

Here's Lily is a good, wholesome read for the elementary girls in your life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Word of Encouragment

Today I received an email from one of my blogging for books programs asking me to promote a new book that is releasing October 2, 2012.  I watched the video trailer and was moved to read the introduction and first chapter of the book Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic. It was encouraging and moving to see and hear the desire of Nick's heart to serve God in the midst of life's difficult circumstances.  Nick was born without arms and legs.  However, he doesn't allow his disability to keep him from enjoying life and living out his faith in Jesus Christ.  I hope each of my readers will take a moment to watch this book trailer and see and hear from Nick.  Once you watch the book trailer I think you will want to check out the free excerpt of Nick's book.  He truly is an encouragement to all as he lives out his faith in obedience to God.  What an incredible first chapter and I look forward to the rest of the story.

Watch the book trailer here.

Read the Chapter 1 excerpt here.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: Waiting for Morning by Karen Kingsbury

Waiting for Morning is a fictional novel, filled with fictional characters that took me on a very real emotional roller-coaster.  The main character, Hannah Ryan, experienced such tragic loss early in the book.  I cried with her in her anguish and at times I wanted to reach out and shake her as she struggled to find new ground.    I rejoiced in the new friendships she unknowingly formed in the midst of tragedy.

Karen Kingsbury has written what I would call plausible fiction.  While this is categorized and intended as a work of fiction, I found myself asking if I would respond the same way Hannah Ryan responded if faced with similar circumstances.  In many ways, I hope not.  Yet, I realize that Hannah's response is very real and possible.  Could I be the friend to Hannah that she found in Carol and Matt?  Would my relationship with God change for the better or worse?  Would I be able to reach out to my children in my pain?

Waiting for Morning is the first of Kingsbury's Forever Faithful Trilogy.  I look forward to completing the series and taking another ride on an emotional roller-coaster.  Kingsbury also includes discussion questions at the end of her novel for personal or group consideration.

An excerpt of this book is available here.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah publishing for the purpose of my unbiased review.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review: Submerged by Dani Pettrey

A glowing review from one of my favorite authors, Dee Henderson, on the front cover of Dani Pettrey's novel, Submerged, set me up with high expectations for this romantic suspense.  I am pleased to report that my high expectations were not disappointed.  Dani Pettrey did a superb job of mixing characters, faults and faith with twists and turns to keep you tuned into the action.  In the midst of action, Pettrey creates budding romances and restored relationships that satisfy the hopeless romantic reader.  I thoroughly enjoy a book that keeps me so involved I don't want to let it rest.  That is what I found in Submerged.  Be prepared to pull an all-nighter when you pick up this romantic suspense.  Obviously intended as "book one" of an Alaskan Courage series, upon completing Submerged, I immediately went looking for information on the release of book two.  Dani Pettrey has earned her place on my "watch-list" of favorite authors.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of my unbiased review.

Dee Henderson Returns!

One of my favorite author's has returned!  Last year when I began my blogging for books pastime, it led me to an area of the library I had never been before, Inspirational Christian Fiction.  There I discovered Dee Henderson's O'Malley Series which I quickly conquered in a couple weeks.  I just wrapped up reading her Uncommon Heroes series, which took a little more work to access through the inter-library loan program at my local library. Don't get me wrong - the program is great and free -  I just had to remember to request them and be patient for them to arrive!  You can only imagine my joy when I received a confirmation email that I was going to receive an advance reading copy of her new book, Full Disclosure.  I must admit it sat on my nightstand for a couple weeks while I completed other books, but once I picked it up I completed it in my typical reading style for great books.  Have I mentioned how much I love a Dee Henderson book?

I have been looking forward to Dee Henderson's new release and Full Disclosure did not disappoint.  Although I sensed a different writing style in Full Disclosure compared to Dee's previous novels, it grabbed my attention at the very beginning of the book and held it to the end. The depth of characters in this book is extremely deep and well planned. I enjoyed reading tidbits about the lives of the characters I met in Dee's previous books. I strongly encourage anyone who plans to read Full Disclosure, to spend the next month catching up on all of Dee's previous books in order to appreciate the depth of Full Disclosure. There are many twists and surprises within the novel that kept me engaged and curious to the end. I appreciate how the author always manages to bring each character to life and how she weaves together budding romance within the same pages of mystery and suspense.

Thanks Dee for another great read!

Full Disclosure releases October 2, 2012.

You can join the Full Disclosure Countdown on Facebook for chances to win your own copy of Full Disclosure here.

You can also view the book trailer and check out the Full Disclosure website:

If you are interested in checking out Dee's previous novels before the Full Disclosure release, I've compiled a list to get you started:

Danger in the Shadows - prequel to the O'Malley Series

The O'Malley Series:
The Negotiator
The Guardian
The Truth Seeker
The Protector
The Healer
The Rescuer

Uncommon Heroes Series:
True Devotion
True Valor
True Honor
True Courage

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: Cleaning House

I just finished reading the book, "Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement." by Kay Wills Wyma.  In this book the author gives her readers a first-hand look into her family and her home.  She wrote about both the good and the bad of the experiment, about the reluctant attitudes and the surprisingly upbeat attitudes and about the successes and the failures of the experiment.  Over the course of the year she sought to teach her five children, ages 4 to 14, how to become more responsible and more independent in areas of cleaning their bedrooms, learning to plan a menu, shop, cook and clean-up the kitchen, outdoor landscaping and clean-up, searching for employment, cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry, simple home repair, planning a party and extending hospitality, working together, running errands, serving others and learning and using manners.  

This book took me longer to read than others.  It contained a lot of information and sometimes I found myself absorbing some of the information over several days and often sharing highlights with my husband.  As a mother of three, ages 3 to 10, I found myself sympathizing with the author's challenges and cheering her on in her endeavor to teach her children responsibility.  The book is peppered with a few quotes and scriptures that I thoroughly enjoyed .  I applaud her efforts and determination to push through to the end of the year long experiment and to share it with the rest of us.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for insight on ways to involve their children in the household operations.  I found that I especially enjoyed the chapters the author focused on kitchen chores, hospitality, service and manners.  Besides the information I took away to help teach my own children about responsibility and independence, I was inspired to grow in a few areas of my own.  Here is a highlight from my favorite chapter on hospitality: "One of the secrets to hospitality is that people are just excited for an excuse to get together.  They don't care about the timing, the food, the theme, the decor, the [fill in the blank]. They just love to be included, welcomed, and cared for."

You can check out the first chapter of Cleaning House for free by following this link:

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, July 30, 2012

2012 Reading List

I enjoyed keeping up with my 2011 Reading List so much that I decided that I would continue it with a 2012 Reading List.  I hope it proves to be as fun and productive as last year's.

1) Indelible - Kristen Heitzmann
2) The Lucado Inspirational Reader - Max Lucado
3) How to Get Organized - Mary Masterson
4) Frugal Kitchen Tips - Mary Gail Stanley
5) The Witness - Dee Henderson
6) Simple Secrets to a Happy Life - Luci Swindoll
7) Fatal Judgment - Irene Hannon
8) True Devotion - Dee Henderson
9) A Fair to Remember - Stacey Joy Netzel
10) Jenna's Cowboy - Sharon Gillenwater (Callahans of Texas #1)
11) Emily's Chance - Sharon Gillenwater (Callahans of Texas #2)
12) Megan's Hero - Sharon Gillenwater (Callahans of Texas #3)
13) A Bend in the Road - Nicholas Sparks
14) Everything Romance
15) The Best of Me - Nicholas Sparks
16) Shades of Blue - Karen Kingsbury
17) Unforgettable - Kristen Heitzmann (Michelli Series #2)
18) Ever After - Karen Kingsbury (sequel to Even Now)
19) Echoes - Kristen Heitzmann (Michelli Series #3)
20) Unlocked - Karen Kingsbury
21) Deadly Pursuit - Irene Hannon
22) True Valor - Dee Henderson
23) Cleaning House - Kay Wills Wyma
24) Full Disclosure - Dee Henderson
25) Submerged - Dani Pettrey
26) True Honor - Dee Henderson
27) True Courage - Dee Henderson
28) Waiting for Morning - Karen Kingsbury
29) Lethal Legacy - Irene Hannon
30) Inescapable - Nancy Mehl
31) The Widow of Saunders Creek - Tracey Bateman
32) Saving Hope: Men of the Texas Rangers Book #1 - Margaret Daley
33) The Breath of Dawn - Kristen Heitzmann

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mirrors of Motherhood

A few months ago I discovered my tween Crazy Horse had been writing on my bathroom mirror after her evening shower.  When I mentioned it to her, she was surprised by the interesting knowledge that although the writing disappeared when the steam vanished, it would reappear the next time someone took a shower unless the mirror had been wiped clean.  I had much fun teasing her about her mirror writing.  

This morning as I stepped out of the shower a message came into view.  In the middle of my mirror my crazy tween had written:  

I (heart) you 

In the process of posting this memory, I decided to fog the mirror one more time to see if I could capture the message with my camera.  Although I was unable to take a picture of the message from Crazy Horse, I did realize that I missed part of the original message this morning.  The complete message read:

I (heart) you
Mom &

I suppose this crazy tween has enough love for both of us.

What a wonderful "mirror" Monday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: Everything Romance

There is no denying the fact that I am a hopeless romantic.  When presented with an opportunity to review a book of romantic ideas, I jumped at the opportunity.  The book, Everything Romance: A Celebration of Love for Couples by David Bordon and Tom Winters is published by Waterbrook Press.  It is a book overfilled with romantic ideas.  The authors have included numerous quotes on love, love stories that will bring tears of joy and happiness, food recipes, date ideas, various lists, poems, scriptures and prayers.  The book also includes gift ideas, love "busters" and love "boosters", lists and trivia and other interesting romance tidbits.

Lists included top 100 love songs, Ten Things a Couple Can Make, Besides Money, Made for TV matches and several others.  The book includes special love letters including Abraham Lincoln's Proposal and a letter from Mark Twain to his fiancee, Olivia Langdon.

This book is aesthetically appealing jacketed hardcover making it perfect for a wedding or anniversary gift for any couple.   There is a presentation page in the beginning of the book for gift giving.  

I found this book to have some familiar stories and many unfamiliar stories of love and romance.  It makes for a great coffee table or nightstand read.  I look forward to adding it to the list of possibilities for wedding gifts to encourage couples to continue to fan the flame of love and romance in their relationships.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Click here to preview this book.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Created Perfectly Imperfect

Tea and Testimony
MOPS April 2012

I had a privilege to grow up in a Christian home, with parents who loved me and loved God and served our local church and neighbors with all their hearts and abilities.  I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was 7 years old. But that is only where my story begins.

I have been very blessed throughout my lifetime.  I excelled academically in high school and college.  I never seemed to have much difficulty in securing the jobs that I desired to obtain.  I excelled in my profession and received promotions as openings became available.  I may have even been on track for the Executive Director position of the organization I worked for when my world turned upside down in June of 2005.  Cale and I had been married for almost 6 years and were the proud parents of our oldest daughter, Haley.  Haley was almost three years old and we had just found out we were expecting our second child.  Cale was a bi-vocational pastor, fulfilling all the roles of a pastor and working part-time as an Associate Director of Missions to our local association of churches.  I worked full-time as a Director of Services for an Independent Living Center. My dad worked a construction job in Sedalia and would bring my mom to town each morning and she would provide that loving Grandma care to Haley in our home while Cale and I were both working.  

On Friday, June 10th, 2005, Cale, Haley and I returned home from our usual Friday night Burger King routine and received a phone call that my parents had been in a car accident and that my Dad was life-flighted to the University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia.  My Dad had incurred a severe head injury and was taken for immediate brain surgery to stop the bleeding on the brain. We were told by the ER doctor who first attended to my father, that the majority of people who present with this type of head injury do not survive. I know that God heard the prayers for healing voiced by so many people as the surgeon emerged and knelt before my mom and explained to her that when they got into surgery to stop the bleeding, the bleeding had already stopped and the swelling of the brain never reached a critical point they were anticipating.  This night was the beginning of weeks spent in the hospital and rehab for my father.  Four weeks later, my mom was admitted for brain surgery to release the swelling from a slow bleed that had gone undetected in her initial emergency room check up the night of the accident.  Today I am pleased to report that we are still blessed by the presence and overall health of both of my parents. 

These incidents are difficult to explain and to process.  For months, even years, I looked at the promise in Romans 8:28, were it reads "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."  However, I could not see how this event worked for the good of my parents, my siblings, myself and my family.

My parents' accident left Cale and I no choice but to place Haley in a local daycare facility.  We were pleased with the facility we were able to place her in; however, with another child on the way, we struggled with the idea and the financial burden of placing our second child in a daycare facility from birth.  This propelled us into thinking outside our box.  Cale was a volunteer firefighter and enjoyed the rush of every call.  He also had a strong desire to work with the ambulance.  Together we decided that he would pursue his EMT license and I would make plans to become a stay-at-home mom.  This was a title I never imagined on my resume. 

Our second daughter, Aspen, was born at the end of January 2006.  I took 7 weeks maternity leave and returned to work for a couple months before assuming my new position as a stay-at-home mom.  My new position brought with it many self-imposed "June Cleaver" style goals and the harsh reality of my "Lucy Ricardo" style struggles.

I've spent the last 6 years trying to figure out how to be a stay-at-home mom and wife.  Each day I feel like I come up short of the mark I've set for myself. The daily household tasks and child activities seem like they should be so simple, yet they continue to be some of the most difficult and frustrating tasks I've ever tried to accomplish.

Recently through my bible study of James, I have come to realize that the way I see "perfect" and the way that God sees perfect may be two totally different ideas.  In James 1:2-4, Jame's writes, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."

My bible study points out that in these verses, the Greek word for perfect describes "that which has achieved or reached its goal, objective, purpose and therefore is full-grown and fully-developed."  

What this has taught me recently is that there are many "perfecting" events in our lives.  That doesn't make the event a "perfect" event.  It makes the event a point in our lives when God can turn our hearts and bring us closer to Him, if we are willing.  I previously quoted Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." This is the verse myself and many others hang our hat on when trials come our way; however, we tend to neglect the importance of the verse that follows. Romans 8:29: "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son..." 

I've previously mentioned that I excelled in most everything I attempted in my young life.  I also mentioned that the title "stay-at-home mom" was never in the sights of my early ambitions.  I believe that God impressed this desire on my heart only in part for the benefit of my children.  Now, six years into this journey, I believe that God's bigger plan with this call on my heart was to use my imperfections to draw me closer to Him and to conform me in the likeness of His son, Jesus Christ.  God brought me to a place of my insecurity that I might learn to fully rely on him in my weakness.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10," Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I believe that my parents' accident was a "perfecting" event in my life.  It was an event that yielded my heart to become a stay-at-home mom.  It was an event that triggered events that later led us down a path that eventually brought us to Augusta, Kansas, almost two years ago.  A place where I have enjoyed an opportunity to grow new, wonderful friendships with many lovely ladies. And it is with those lovely ladies I have studied the Word of God in ways I never studied before.  It's a time and place in my life where I deeply miss my weekly lunches and grocery shopping trips with my sister and my mom. And God has used that hollow part of my heart to open my eyes and see each time I step into the grocery store as an opportunity to share God's love.

I now believe that my God has created me perfectly imperfect.  Imperfect in all the ways He wants to refine me and draw me closer to Him that His power and light can shine through my imperfection. Just as He blessed me in my abilities, He blessed me in my inabilities and uses them to display His strength and power and to bring glory and honor to His kingdom.

So I leave you with these questions, “In what way has God created you perfectly imperfect? What trial or struggle in your life does He want to use to bring you closer to Him?” and lastly, “Are you willing to let Him use it?”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Simple Secrets to a Happy Life

Doesn't everyone need a course in a happy life?  Luci Swindoll's book, Simple Secrets to a Happy Life, 50 ways to make the most of every day, is a book full of great topics to help you do just that.  Luci breaks down the secrets into five parts: Beginning with the Basics, Developing Your Style, Achieving Balance, Living a Good Life and Staying Connected.  Each part is composed of ten secrets.  Each simple secret is short and sweet and colored with examples to drive home the author's point.  Many secrets are laced with scripture or other quotations to encourage and uplift the reader.  The author also provides practical steps to help the reader achieve these simple secrets.  These secrets to a happy life cover a variety of topics from spiritual disciplines to organization and creativity to personal relationships with others.

I found this book to be a worthwhile read.  The author draws in her readers with personal stories from her childhood as well as her adulthood.  Each secret is only a couple pages in length and can be quickly and easily read.  I find the more difficult part is deciding to take action and implement it into my personal lifestyle.  Luci Swindoll has written more than a dozen books and curriculum studies.  This is the first of her works I have read, hopefully not the last.  I found this book to be very encouraging and would recommend it to my friends and family.

Simple Secrets to a Happy Life

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Review: The Lucado Inspirational Reader

I have the opportunity to review Max Lucado's recent book, The Lucado Inspirational Reader.  Max Lucado is a well-known and popular Christian writer and has written many books including, Facing Your Giants, Fearless, It's Not About Me and Next Door Savior.  This recent book is a compilation of inspirational quotes and passages from Lucado's many written works.  

I personally had difficulty reading this book for review purposes because, in my opinion, it is not designed to be read cover to cover in a few sittings.  I would consider this book to be an excellent choice for a coffee table or waiting area.  It is a book that could be picked up and flipped through and read piece by piece.  The passages are categorized into topical chapters such as: Comfort, Creation, Family, Prayer, Purpose, Salvation and Worship to name a few.  Each chapter includes several small passages and quotes from many of Lucado's complete books, each giving reference to the book it was drawn from.  The end of the book also includes a topical index for more specific searches of the passages.

I have found Max Lucado's works to be uplifting and thought provoking.  This reader is a wonderful addition for those who want to briefly read pieces of his larger works.  It would make a thoughtful gift for pastors, teachers, friends and family.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Cookies

I was excited that Valentine's Day afforded me a wonderful opportunity to practice my newly acquired cake decorating skills.  I set out to bake and decorate sugar cookies for Crazy Horse and Rockstar's classes.  I was excited at the new venture.  I've baked sugar cookies before but never had the tools or knowledge to decorate them short of some frosting and sprinkles.  There is some real fun to be had while living in a small community where homemade treats are still allowed in school classrooms.  Monday I baked cookies, baked cookies and baked cookies.  I was going to package them for each student, so I wanted a couple cookies for each package.  I had no idea how exhausting it would be to bake so many sugar cookies!  I'm honestly not even sure how many I baked.  I'm guessing a rough estimate of 150.  I needed a dozen or so to take to my MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) meeting on Valentine's day and it is impossible to bake cookies around three children and not have to pass a few out to the kiddos in the process.  Monday night after the girls were in bed I began the decorating process.  I gave up around 12:30 a.m. with one large cookie decorated for each child, determined to finish after MOPS and before the classroom parties.  I strongly considered placing 2 unfrosted cookies in each bag with one large decorated cookie.  In the end, I managed to lightly design the remaining cookies for the parties and off Little Princess and I went to deliver the goods.  Each bag contained one large heart and arrow cookie and two other heart shaped cookies.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Discouragement Comes

This morning as I woke to my mess that I created yesterday during my creative processes, I quickly saw all that was undone and needed my attention.  The amount of energy that must be expended to maintain my family and my household is often daunting and sometimes discouraging.  Today began as one of those days.  As I began my discouraging self-talk and felt myself sinking, I suddenly had a new thought.  I thought to myself, "I will text my friend and ask her to pray for me today."  There is nothing wrong with that thought and I know my sweet friend would have prayed earnestly for my day; however, the "shocking" thought then occurred to me that I was capable of taking my concern to my God who is always bigger than my problem and most capable of cleaning up my messes.  As I turned my thoughts upward, my mood also followed.  During this time I searched my mind for a song that would fit my mind could not find a common song, but it led me to a poem my mother passed on to me a year or so ago written my her grandmother.

The Small Duty
written by Mrs. C. L. Conaway

Through all my life I've wished to make
Some little song or poem;
but all that I could ever do was wash and iron 
and bake and stew
to keep things daily going.

I've bathed wee baby hands and faces
and stitched on little frocks,
Lo- even have I done this thing
I've darned my husband's socks.

Yet Lord, if it should be thy wish
I do the trivial thing
Please grant me strength to do it right 
and let some other sing.

Perchance, who knows when life is done,
my record bad or good,
may read thus on the Book of Life - 
"She hath done what she could."

Dear Great-Grandma - Thank you for your words so real. I echo your request of ages past...please Lord, grant me strength to do it right.

~Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.  Colossians 3:23

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cake Decorating Class #4

Tonight was our final cake decorating class for course 1.  We learned a new flower, the ribbon rose.  We also worked on our writing skills.  For tonight's cake I baked a devil's food cake and layered it with a marshmallow cream filling and I topped it with a chocolate buttercream frosting.  It was like one giant, irresistible "Ho-Ho".

I was fairly satisfied with how my new ribbon roses were turning out which inspired me to use one of the designs in the book as my guide for my final cake.  

This one is dedicated to my wonderful husband and my girls who make it all possible.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Review: God Gave Us You

I've been reviewing books for almost a year now.  The very first book I requested was a three book treasury by Lisa Tawn Bergren titled, God Gave Us So Much.  My children enjoyed it and I enjoyed reading it to them.  I recently had the opportunity to request a copy of the children's board book, God Gave Us You, by Lisa Tawn Bergren.  

The book, God Gave Us You, tells the story of Little Cub's entrance into the world in response to her bedtime question, "Where did I come from?"  Mama Bear chronicles the happiness and excitement that Mama and Papa experienced the whole time Little Cub was growing inside Mama.  Mama tells Little Cub of the preparations they made for her birth and the prayers that Mama prayed for her little cub.  Throughout the story Mama and Little Cub return to the statement, "because God gave us you."

This story is fun and easy to read to children of all ages.  I've read it frequently to my little "cub" and I love how she turns the theme to "God gave you ME."  It is a great length for a story before bedtime or nap time.   The book does just as the back cover claims as it "assures each child that he or she truly is a treasured gift from the Lord."

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cake Class #3

We had lots of fun tonight learning many different flowers and leaves.  Tonight we decorated cupcakes.  I was really pleased with how my flower "baskets" turned out.

This little guy was just for fun:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Rockstar!

In May of 2005, we were excited to find out that we were expecting our second child.  Baby #2 was due January 26th, 2006.  We elected not to find out the gender of Baby #2 just as we had with our firstborn.  I was nearly certain that Baby#2 must be a boy since he/she was so much different than Haley.  January 26th came and went and no baby yet.  Saturday morning, January 28th, I woke up early around 5:30 unable to sleep well.  I was having some contractions, not yet severe.  We had made a "false-alarm" trip to the hospital two weeks earlier and I certainly didn't want to do that again.  After a while of sitting in the living room, Cale got up to check on me.  I showered.  Cale got Haley up and going and called our friends for the expected need for childcare.  We left home sometime between 8 and 8:30, dropped Haley off to our friends and headed to the hospital 45 minutes away.  We arrived in the OB department sometime around 9:15 a.m.  It seemed the nurses wanted to make certain I was actually in labor, so I was placed in this tiny room where they placed me on a monitor and bp cuff and the first nurse attempted multiple times to check my progress - unsuccessfully I might add.  She went for another more experienced nurse who returned to my tiny little room and she quickly assessed that I was indeed well into labor at a "good" 6 cm dilated.  They made arrangements to move me to a labor and delivery room across the hall.  As the nurse was prepping my IV's and pushing the antibiotics that I needed prior to delivery, I informed her that my water had broken.  Once again, she checked my progress and discovered I was at 9 cm quickly nearing 10 cm and almost ready to deliver. At this point the room got a little busy with the hustle and bustle of several nurses.  The younger nurse I started with yelled from my room door down the hall to the desk to call the Doctor STAT.  While the other nurse calmly explained to my husband that it is very possible the doctor will not make it in time to deliver the baby.  She tried to comfort us by letting us know that this is not a first time for such occurrence and that they are capable of seeing us through the delivery until the doctor arrived.  At approximately 10 a.m. I was given a dose of 30 minute pain medication to ease the pain of my contractions.  My doctor did arrive in plenty of time to deliver our precious baby girl at 10:45 a.m.  Aspen Mackenzie weighed in equal to her big sister at 8 pounds 14 ounces.  We then called our parents, who did not know we were at the hospital, to announce the arrival of their newest grand-daughter.  

Since her arrival in our lives, Aspen has provided much energy, excitement and joy to our family.  She loves to sing and dance.  She frequently makes up new songs of great content and sound to sing to us.  As we were driving to school one day, she asked me if she could be a rockstar when she grew up.  I told her that I thought she could be a rockstar, as long as she sang about Jesus.  Content with my response, she determines at this young age to aspire to become a rockstar when she grows up.  Thus the nickname, Rockstar.   Regardless of her chosen occupation in the years to come, she will always be a rockstar in the eyes of her parents.

My sweet Rockstar, may you continue to nurture your sweet spirit and kind heart.  I pray you continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  May you be filled with love for the Lord and serve Him with your whole heart, soul and mind that you might be a Rockstar for Jesus all the days of your life.  I pray that I will be willing to commit you to God's loving care and control and release you to serve Him wherever He may lead you across this great globe.

Happy Birthday, Rockstar!  I love you!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Little More Practice

Tonight was my second cake decorating class at Butler Community College in El Dorado.  Tonight we worked on leveling our cakes and smoothing our icing.  We also practiced a few decorating techniques.  Once our icing was smooth (or somewhat close to smooth), we were free to decorate our cakes however we wanted.  Everyone in class did a stellar job.  Below is my second cake creation.  On a January day when the outside temperature reached nearly 60 degrees, this is in no way reflective of the weather outside.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A New Hobby for the New Year

I have always found the art of cake decorating interesting.  Growing up, I watched as my mom decorated many birthday and wedding cakes for friends and family.  This past Christmas I asked my husband for a new hobby kit, a cake decorating caddy.  A good friend of mine thought it would be fun to take a class together.  She located the class details and we enrolled.  Last Tuesday, I attended my first cake decorating class offered at Butler Community College in El Dorado.  The main problem I see with this new hobby is that hubby and I have started 2012 with great momentum in eating better and exercising more. I've yet to see how my new hobby fits into that wonderful plan.  Tonight I baked and decorated my first practice cake.  My inspiration comes from the cake that Rockstar wants for her birthday next Saturday, much similar to the one below only covered in stars. Since we are just weeks away from Valentine's day I found the heart shaped design fitting for my practice run.  Tomorrow is our monthly carry-in lunch at church. I plan to take this to church so that it may be eaten and enjoyed (hopefully) without sabatoging our current goals. While I am certainly looking forward to tasting my creation of white cake with strawberry preserve filling and buttercream frosting, I'm also looking forward to practicing again!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review: Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

Indelible is a romantic suspense novel written by award-winning author, Kristin Heitzmann.  Indelible features new characters such as Trevor MacDaniel and Natalie Reeve among others and also weaves in many residents of the Redford community first introduced in Heitzmann's book, Indivisible.  While the story-line stands alone apart from Indivisible, I believe readers will find Indelible much more enjoyable and somewhat easier to understand if they choose to first read Indivisible.

I found this book to be written in familiar Heitzmann form.  I did find the antagonist's introductory parts of the book somewhat confusing. I considered the disjointing of thoughts part of the author's style and saw it through to the end.  As the book carried through I was able to easily tie it all together and realize the author had been referencing John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost.  This is a light romance of a budding relationship that develops despite Trevor's perceived past inadequacies and Natalie's almost super-natural and at times disabling ability to see into people with her eidetic memory.  The suspense keeps the story-line moving and the reader anticipating the next twist or turn. Indellible, like other Heitzmann novels, captured my attention and made for a quick, suspenseful and enjoyable read.  

The product description from the back cover of the trade paperback reads:

In a clash of light and darkness, can courage prevail? 
Rescuing a toddler from the jaws of a mountain lion, Trevor MacDaniel, a high-country outfi tter, sets in motion events he can’t foresee. His act of bravery entwines his life with gifted sculptor Natalie Reeve—and attracts a grim admirer.
Trevor’s need to guard and protect is born of tragedy, prompting his decision to become a search and rescue volunteer. Natalie’s gift of sculpting comes from an unusual disability that seeks release through her creative hands. In each other they see strength and courage as they face an incomprehensible foe.
When a troubled soul views Trevor as archangel and adversary, Redford’s peaceful mountain community is threatened. Together with Police Chief Jonah Westfall, Trevor presses his limits to combat the menace who targets the most helpless and innocent.

If this sounds like a book you might enjoy, you can check out the first chapter for free at Scribd by clicking here.  This book is available in both print and ebook form from most retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and  

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

My particular digital review format of this book had some quirky formatting as some other reviewers have noted. I downloaded the free Kindle sample and found it to be without quirks.  I believe the odd formatting and hanging letters is a reflection of the compatibility of my review copy and my Kindle device, not the author's grammatical error or inadequacy.