Monthly Archives: July 2013

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno by Dan Brown (click book for description)
(Borrowed from a friend – thank you!)

Finish time: 6 nights.  This is a page turner for sure (all 480 pages of it!).  Good book, keeps you interested and turning the pages, but the ending?  I won’t reveal anything – but can someone else read this and let me know what you think?  I’m not sure I’m settled with it, is all I can say, and it has me questioning the entire book and it’s premise.

That all being said and put aside, it’s a thriller for sure.  I found myself staying up later than usual to get to a decent point to stop for the night, but there weren’t many breaks in the action.  From the first page when Robert Langdon (same character as Dan Brown’s other books) wakes up not remembering the last few days, the action is non-stop.  There are twists and turns and you never know who you can trust.  Plenty of well-built characters that were so well described, I could picture them in my head.  I’ve never been to any of the places described in the book, but would love to now because the descriptions made them sound so beautiful.  (The vivid descriptions also described some not too pleasant images that I would rather forget!)

The story takes place in present day Europe, but is centered around a “puzzle” on Dante’s Inferno (from the 14th century) and Sandro Bottacelli’s artistic depiction of it (Map of Hell – see below).  I only vaguely recall Brown’s other books that I read so long ago (The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons), but I remember more of the codes and symbols.  While this book had puzzles (really just one big one), I didn’t feel as involved as I recall in the other books (as I enjoy puzzles and riddles).  Not a bad thing, maybe just not what I expected.  I don’t recall ever reading the Inferno, but the glimpse into Dante’s world is both fascinating and disturbing and a great topic for a novel.  (Real subject, fictional story – makes me feel a bit smarter!)

I could probably go on – but I will encourage you to read it, then let’s talk!  Or you can read the 7k+ reviews on Amazon if you want more info.  I have not read any yet – so not sure how mine measures up – but I hope it gave you a decent introduction.  Overall great read, no doubt about that, just left me thinking. (Which may not be a bad thing – but I need to discuss soon!)

Botticelli’s Map of Hell
Click here for a zoomable version. (Many more online too!)

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I will follow – will you?

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Mark 8:34

Happy Sunday!  Today I wanted to share a song that I have heard a few times this week that I really feel God has placed on my heart as I am trying to listen.  It is Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Follow”, and as always I have included the YouTube video below.

I’ve been feeling restless lately.  As the kids are getting older and a bit more independent, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my [free] time.  Part of that was starting this blog.  I am hoping that by organizing how I spend my time and documenting trips, activities, and whatever occupies our time, maybe my true calling (purpose) will appear.  At least that is my prayer.  God speaks to me through music, as each Sunday I have been posting a song that either goes along with that days sermon or one that God has laid on my heart.

This week it was “I Will Follow”.  I always hope and try to follow the desires God places on my heart, but as I am entering a period of unknowns and possibly some tough choices (nothing serious, I will elaborate at a later time), I need to, now more than ever, place my trust in God and follow.  Where HE goes, I go, where HE stays, I stay, where HE moves, I move…you get the point.  I know things are not always clear – but I’m praying for a clear answer right now! (Wouldn’t that be nice!?)  I know in time, it will come, so I pray for patience in the meantime (something I pray for daily)  I will TRUST in HIM, SEEK HIM, and my joy will follow.

Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading stories behind songs, and found this article here with Chris on the meaning behind this song.  It comes from the story of Peter.  Peter was a follower of Jesus, but also a man of the world, and while he wanted to follow wholeheartedly, he was hoping for a different version of the story.  Sound familiar?  (It does to me!)  Following Jesus means setting aside your own wants and obeying.

“Isn’t that still what it means for anyone to follow Jesus? It means that we lay down our own agendas and hopes and dreams, and faithfully obey day by day. It’s a daily dying to self—the crucifying of our own petty and self-centered desires so that we might more clearly reflect Christ to the people around us. In the end, it’s not about bravado and bold statements. It’s about simple, ongoing obedience to the words of our Lord. To say “I will follow” is really not so different from saying “Help me every hour to die to my own desires, Jesus, so that you can live more fully through me.”” [Excerpt from article linked above with Chris Tomlin]

I pray this week (and always) that I can set aside MY expectations and MY agenda and fully open up my heart and mind to the word of God and follow HIM with my whole heart, while trusting HIM, and praising HIM always.  In HIM I will be free and find my joy, if I will just follow.

Amen – have a great week!  (Looking forward to a fun and God filled week here as we host VBS at our church!)

I Will Follow
Chris Tomlin

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You went to Arkansas on vacation? (July Travels Part I)

070113 (1)Two of our hosts for the week!

Sorry Les – but that was the reaction I received from most people.  BUT my response is YES and had a blast!  (Minus the stomach bug we all passed around.)  It is true, me and the kids (and later Steven) flew into XNA (Zena I have been told by pilot friends) aka Northwest Arkansas for a week of friends, fun, sun, and memories!

Dear friends of ours, ones I met my sophomore year of college at PSU a few years (13 – ahhh!) ago, moved to Fayetteville, AR a few years back.  People who don’t have the immediate reaction of why? go immediately to “oh – they must work for Walmart!”  BINGO!  But really it is a fun, college town, that I had a blast exploring.  It was filled with little parks, cool restaurants, interesting people-watching (although not many were there during the summer), and just a vibe that made me feel “young and cool” again!

Some of the places we visited were:

Northweat AR Naturals game at Arvest Park.  I’m becoming a big fan of minor league baseball.  Our first experience was at at Chattanooga Lookouts game last August.  Minor league games attract a smaller, yet more family friendly crowd (in my experience.)  Case in point, this night was kids eat free (also for LM that consisted of Doritos dipped in ketchup!)  And to make that even sweeter – kids under a certain age (3 maybe?)  don’t have to buy tickets – so free meals with no tickets – bonus!  A playground in the outfield, lots of shade (still with great views), plenty of entertainment (my favorite was the eyeball race for a local eyecare center), and a Sasquatch & dragon as mascots – I couldn’t have asked for more!

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Wilson Park is just a short block away from our friends house.  And is one of the coolest parks I’ve ever seen.  It has a castle!  The kids enjoyed going up to the tower and looking down.  Checking out the fish in the little pond.  Walking over the bridge.  This is such a gem so close to home for them!  The park also has a pool, 2 more large playgrounds, ball fields, and lots of trees and space!  I was told students come and hang hammocks in between the trees to hang out too – how fun!

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Before going to the lake we drove into Bentonville, AR (home to Walmart headquarters) to visit the Bentonville Splash Park in Lawrence Plaza.  This is a quality splash park.  Huge, flat, some shade, plenty of seating, restrooms, they really got it right here.  And as an added bonus a few food trucks set up around there – so for lunch we checked out Crepes Paulette Food Truck and was not disappointed!  I had a turkey reuben crepe.  LM had a blueberry sweet crepe, and I’ve never seen LL eat so well with her ham and cheese sweet crepe!  Great find!

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Next we drove up to Beaver Lake to spend the remainder of our trip.  They have a decked-out, amazing, beautiful lake home, complete with 5 bedrooms and all the toys you could want!  No detail was missed as they have truly made this a home to relax, enjoy, and not worry about anything!

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One day we drove the boat out to eat at JJ’s – a floating restaurant.  Decent food but the highlight was the ginormous fish that the kids enjoyed feeding!  We did have to rush out of there after our LM got sick.  Combo of a nasty tummy bug we all were passing around and motion sickness.

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A few more highlights from the lake included:

Polaris (ATV) for getting down to the docks:

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Pontoon Boat: (I had Little Big Town’s “Pontoon” stuck in my head all week!)  That is me and LM being pulled behind the boat on a raft!  (Also went with LL too!)

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Jetski: (Even LL took a ride on this!)

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Floating Island: (Great for little ones, and to top off just floating off the dock – Steven even got to fill this up with a modified leaf-blower!)

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So thank you to our dear friends and their parents for having us out for a week of fun, sun, memories, and more!  Can’t wait to come back or visit another new place with you again soon!

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As a thank you – we sent them BumFloats.  Basically diapers for adults to float in the water – hands free.  The review was that they worked, just looked funny!


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Book Review: Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist (plus WIN THIS BOOK!)

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes (click book for description)
by Shauna Niequist
BookSneeze® has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book

Despite my long break of book reviews, I have been reading, and actually finished this book in just a few nights.  I loved it.  I will admit – it took me awhile to open up.  But as soon as I did, I didn’t want to put it down.  It is a glimpse into the life of the author, so vividly described that I felt as if I were a guest at her table and could taste and smell the recipes she prepared.  I will be copying most of these recipes too before someone pries (I mean wins) this book from me!  Or I may just need to pick up my own copy!

So many things I loved about this book.  One is that the author is not a trained chef, she simply enjoys cooking and enjoys having a full table.  Many of the recipes are also modified for her husband, who is gluten-free, so many of the recipes are also clean (yay!)  She is a Christian and I actually expected the book to have more references to the Bible, but I think she found the right mix.  She mentions that she finds God through food and asks the reader where they find God?  Even if not through food, this book will motivate you to find God in what you love doing! I love the introduction where she mentions to role of food in our lives and the role of food in the Bible (bread and wine anyone?)  And also poses the question – what you would serve/eat at your last supper?

Each chapter is a different story/time in her life.  Some fun, some tough, some will make your heart hurt, while others will make your heart smile.  She has fun telling stories and sharing where each recipe came from and even gives the reader ideas of an easy dinner party, a meal for a new baby, or for a grieving friend.  I love when she points out that we all go to food to show care.

winnie the pooh quotes what is for breakfast

This book challenged me to look at food and the act of eating together in a new light.  “The table is where time stops.  It’s where we look people in the eye, were we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.”

I really liked this book.  Just flipping through looking at the recipes, they look good, but didn’t really stand out and make me want to cook them until I read the text to go with them.  Now I will be copying most of them and trying them out soon!  Maybe for some of you – as I’m also more motivated to open up our table to friends and family often (and it doesn’t hurt that I enjoy cooking too!)

You can win this beautiful hardcover book!
Simply enter your name, email, and “Giveaway” in the comments!
Contest closes at noon (EST) on 8/1/13 and winner will be announced on the blog and notified via email.
Thanks and good luck!

Thanks for all the entries!  Congrats to Casey H. for winning!

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Filed under Celebrations, Chapters, Clean Eating

10,000 Reasons for my heart to find

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”
Psalm 103:1 (KJV – Full text at end of post)

Happy Monday!  I’m a day late, but for good reason.  We drove up to NC/SC (Charlotte area) to visit Daddy/Steven.  He’s been working a lot  up there lately and we thought we would save him a round-trip weekend drive and make the 4+ hour trip ourselves.  More to come later this week on that trip.  (And I know I am way behind on our 1st July trip to AR earlier in July – stay tuned for that too!)

We did find a church in Fort Mill, SC to attend on Sunday AM.  (Sad to have missed the contemporary service at New Church)  It said it was a “blended” service, but was a typical traditional Presbyterian service.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that, just not one I connected to.  SO, while we were driving home from exploring and dinner last night in Charlotte, one of my all-time (albeit relatively new) Christian songs came on the radio, one that brings me goosebumps and to tears depending on the day.  It is one we sing often in our house, that even LL knows the words.  She’s been singing it for so long that now LM even hums along and chimes in at “name”.  I haven’t been able to capture that version yet – but I was able to catch her singing along with the radio yesterday while Daddy was driving:

I feel like I’ve been “saving” this song to put on my blog for so long, that this week finally seemed appropriate.  With no message or scripture to tie to from church – I’m on my own and no better way to express myself than through this song.  I am so blessed.  10,000 ways and even more.  This weekend was a small glimpse into that.  We were able to stay in a hotel, eat out, and just not having the usual household chores, let us truly enjoy each other’s company so much.  I am blessed with my loving, hard-working husband, who would do anything for me and the kids.  Two beautiful, smart, flexible, fun-loving kids.  Wonderful friends and family who helped out back home with our amazing furry kids.  Family we hadn’t seen in awhile that we got to spend time with.  Ofcourse food on the table, roof over our heads, clothes on our backs. And most of all a Savior who died for us so that we may live in His glory each and everyday.  It’s hard most days, so I treasure these times to truly appreciate it all.  So “Bless the LORD” I will always “Worship Your Holy Name” and I pray that I can be “singing when the evening comes” each and every day!

Here is Matt Redman’s Full Version.  And a link to a article about how it came about and full lyrics.

May your week be full of 10,000 reasons (and more) for you to praise our LORD and sing out HIS holy name.  Below is a glimpse into our trip and stay tuned for 2 parts of our July travel, yard sale musings, and a GIVEAWAY of a great book I finished last week!  God Bless, Amen.

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Psalm 103

King James Version (KJV)

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;

18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

19 The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

20 Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

21 Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

22 Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.


Filed under Calling, Celebrations, Children

Let your light shine!

I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
John 8:12

Good afternoon!  Happy Sunday!  I’m exhausted after preparing for and hosting a garage sale this past week.  Stay tuned for my “Garage Sale Musings” as I had no idea how much I would learn (or observe) from hosting a simple garage sale (note: I will attempt to be funny – so just cut me some slack as that may not come naturally!)

Today I wanted to give you some simple scripture and another favorite song to get a new week started.  Praise for our very own Pastor David, who became a Grandfather (for the first time) to a precious baby girl this week!  So standing in for him at New Church this AM was Ike Thurston, our Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries, which was very exciting as it was his first time preaching – way to go Ike!  Always a good sermon for me that starts with a dog story, although his was not a “happy” one, but prayers to his pooch Scout for a quick recovery from her run in with a copperhead (eke!).

And before I get into that – this is a little jewel for Ms. Pam, our Children’s director, who reminds us that our faith should be like that of a little child.  Here is my precious LL with the song she preached about to the children this AM:

Ike preached about the “Power of Perception” and being a light among the darkness.  As we know, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the LIGHT (John 14:6).  And we are all His “ambassadors” (see 2 Corinthians verse at bottom) to be lights in this world especially to non-believers.   I don’t think a lot of “Christians” think about how their actions impact non-believers and how many people it keeps away from the church or leaves a bad taste in their mouth of Christ followers.  Ike used a great example of the harshest slave owners being the most devout Christians.  Simple enough premise – yet poorly executed by many – practice what you preach/believe.  Be a light for Christ in whatever situation you are in.

This week may you be a “Candle in the Darkness” and  “mirror that reflects Your endless love”.  God bless and Amen!

Natalie Grant
I Will Be

Today’s Scripture Reading:

Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.  Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
2 Corinthians 5:14-20 (The Message)

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Book Review: Yellow Crocus: A Novel by Laila Ibrahim

Yellow Crocus: A Novel (Downloaded free on 7/6/13)
By Laila Ibrahim

Finish Time: 3 nights.  Maybe I’m making up for lost time, or maybe this book was just that good that I couldn’t put it down 3 nights in a row.  Both are probably true, but I’m happy to report I really liked this book.

It falls into the historical fiction category taking place on a plantation in Virginia in the mid-1800’s.  The story follows Lisbeth Wainwright and her nurse Mattie, a slave pulled away from her family into the “big house” to care for Lisbeth at the moment of her birth.

The story follows Lisbeth from her birth into adulthood.  You feel as if you are there with her as she deals with family, friends, the help, social standing, her personal conflicts, and ultimately a very difficult decision.  It is during a time where slavery is part of life but some are beginning to question it as the North changes their views and slaves are freed.  I felt transported back to a time that I can’t even imagine, but was painted a very vivid picture of.  I like to think I would be like Lisbeth, as my heart just hurts for Mattie and her family and fellow slaves, and realize what was going on what not right.  But what if it was all you knew and an accepted part of life?  I am glad for those who stood up for others who could not and thankful to live in a FREE country where all men are truly created equal (didn’t we have the same Declaration of Independence even then?)

The story will bring you to tears and melt your heart at the same time.  The ending was perfect and I just felt very satisfied.  Lisbeth and Mattie are both amazing characters, and I was very impressed to read that this book is this author’s first book.  I will keep an eye out for her in the future, but in the meantime – read this book – you won’t be disappointed!

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It may be hot outside, but it’s still winter for some.

Psalm 23:1-6

Happy Sunday (ok it’s Monday now – hope your week is starting off well).  A bit of a bittersweet message and song for you all today.  I just returned home from a great week of sun, friends, and good times (post on that to come soon).  Not quite settled in, still piles of laundry and many bags to unpack, we headed to the 3rd evening contemporary service of the New Church of Peachtree City held at Heritage Christian Church.

Pastor David is preaching a series titled Seasons of the Soul.  We started with Summer, missed Fall, and tonight’s message was Winter, which could not have been timed more appropriately.  The service started with Psalm 23 (see above).  This verse has been read at many funerals, including my father’s, which appropriately timed, was 12 years ago this week.  And today is the anniversary of my father’s passing (that is him below shortly before his death around 48 years old).  12 years ago was a “winter” period of my life.  The season of winter in one’s life can be full of uncertainty, unmet expectations, feeling of hopelessness (nothing more we can do), and just lack of control.  It basically is the lowest of lows and sucks, to be frank.  Psalm 88 tells us winter is a part of life and offers a prayer for help.  God often seems silent and we are desperate for answers.  (Remember Job?)

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Like all things though, God sends us through the winters of our lives to teach us some lessons and really appreciate the summers.  David presented 3 lessons (taken from John Ortberg) we learn during winter:

  1. We learn that we are not running the show. (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14)
  2. We learn we need community the most when we desire it the least. (Romans 12:12)
  3. We learn to cling tenaciously to hope. (“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  Invite one to stay.” Maya Angelou)

My prayer today is for all of those in the winter season of your life.  Cling to your faith, pray ferociously, lean on those around you, and KNOW God is there and you will come through even stronger.  I find comfort today knowing that my Dad is in heaven looking down on us, watching his grandkids grow, and not suffering any longer.  And I know we will be reunited one day and can rest in that knowledge.

And a special prayer to friends of ours that lost a loved one yesterday too.  I pray for comfort, peace, understanding, and patience as they wait for answers.  Love you guys and we are praying hard for you and your family.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs that always bring tears to my eyes and goosebumps as the words to just so raw and true.  The tears, the storms, the sleepless nights, and trials are truly YOUR mercies in disguise, and for that we exalt YOU always and declare YOUR GLORY!

Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise


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