Friday, September 23, 2011

Time Just Keeps Marching On

You've heard that old saying, "Time flies when you're having fun", well if that's true, then time REALLY flies when you're having fun and staying busy! It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes.  I couldn't believe when I came here today and realized I hadn't posted anything since my September 11th tribute. Wow!  It's hard to believe how our life has been in "fast forward" for the past two weeks.  Actually, when I do think about it, my head spins. (I'm not a fan of using that phrase, it always brings to mind that scene from The Exorcist...thankfully, that's NOT the head spinning I'm referring to here. LOL).

Anyone who homeschools or goes to college, or like me does both, you know how crazy the start of a school year can be.  Our kick off this year began on September 12th, as we got our homeschooling under way - it's hard to believe that my daughter's in 8th grade already!  She's working way above her grade level!  We always get excited about the beginning of a new school year and this year is no different.  In addition to her regular homeschool routine, my daughter was given two incredible opportunites through earning youth scholarships!  One is for a writing workshop provided by a local published author, who will hold weekly writing classes.  The most amazing part of this is that the author is so impressed with my daughter's writing talent, that she's agreed to mentor her!  The second big opportunity is a youth scholarship for bible college classes.  She will be one of only 5 kids in the entire world to complete this program and earn an Associate's degree!  Bible college classes resumed on the 13th - not only am I a student, but I teach the class, and to top that off, I do all the registrations and paperwork for the bible college.  It's a lot of preparation, study and work, but I love it so much!  I wouldn't change a thing.  I'm teaching the largest classes I've had, since I began doing this and the material for this semester is AMAZING

We've had such jammed packed days, that it's surprised me that I found time to study for my first test of the semester and get some pleasure reading you can see from my book review posts. If all this school-related stuff weren't enough, we've been dealing with illness, doctor appointments and medical testing.  There's nothing like showing up to have some spots removed by the doctor and having the doctor almost pass out as she was preparing to do the procedure!  Stuff like that can only happen to me :)  So that appointment got rescheduled till next week. 

Today, as a break from the hectic whirlwind we've been living in, my daughter and I decided to take some time to see the new movie, "Dolphin Tale".  What an amazing, true story!  It was awesome...ranks right up there with many of my recent favorite, touching movies.  I'd highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone!

FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son.” ~Ann Voskamp~

So that's what been happening in my life these past two weeks...stay tuned, there's always something going on around here :)

There You'll Find Me - Jenny B. Jones

When my teenage daughter and I first began as a blogging book reviewers, we were introduced to Jenny B. Jones.  Before that time, we'd never read anything by her.  We started off with her Katie Parker series - we've been fans ever since. 

This book, much like the Katie Parker series, isn't just for teens.  Jenny B. Jones proves this by introducing her readers to Finley, an older teen, whose personal growth is smothered by the overwhelming loss of her older brother.  This story contains bits of Jenny's trademark humor that are found in her previous novels. 

In her past novels, Jones has tackled issues like: foster homes, changing family dynamics, and illness.  This time around, she tackles the effects of grief (as well as some other challenges) that many young women battle each day in a very realistic manner. (As one who has personally dealt with grief issues from the unexpected loss of my husband, to the loss of my father just 9 weeks after his cancer diagnosis, to just recently losing my best friend from melanoma, I can definitely say that each grief situation is different). You don't need to be a young adult to identify with the characters, Finley and Beckett. They struggle with fears and insecurities felt by young and old alike.  Jones also bridges the generation gap in a beautiful way, through the supporting character, Mrs. Sweeney, whose own story impacts Finley and adds emotionally stirring depth to the story. 

Only the most talented of authors can craft a novel that incorporates romance, humor, grief, illness, and family relationships relevant to any age group.  Jenny B. Jones knows and understands teens; she also knows we remain part of who we were yesterday. This is why, since I began reading Jenny B. Jones novels, I've become hooked on this author!

I wish to thank BookSneeze for this complimentary copy in exchange for my review.

When the Bottom Drops Out - Robert Bugh

At some point in our lives, we all experience disappointment. It's just a fact of life. No one is immune.  Often times, we face such horrible moments, that it feels like the bottom totally drops out of our life and we're not only devastated, but left floundering for answers.  Everyone reacts to these times in different ways. 

I was so able to relate to Pastor Robert Bugh's book, as I myself have had the bottom fall out of my life.  I lost my husband, unexpectedly, just days after our daughter was born.  I lost my dad to cancer within 9 weeks of his diagnosis.  And just recently, lost my best friend to melanoma - a deadly skin cancer.  The most devastating loss, was of course, that of my husband...that's when the bottom fell out from my life.  I floundered, questioned, feared, raged...and eventually found amazing grace, love, comfort, and a strong, deep relationship with God.

When the Bottom Drops Out chronicles Robert Bugh’s journey from loss to restoration.  It shows readers how to find and hold tightly to Christ through even the most painful episodes of life. Bugh’s story is proof positive that while pain and disappointment are an unavoidable part of life, God is nonetheless faithful, holding us close at all times and in all circumstances.

I thank Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review..

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11-2001 ~ 9-11-2011

Sometimes there are events in life that no words can adequately describe. The terror attack of September 11, 2001, is one such event.   In my grandparents' time, it was Pearl Harbor; in my parents' time, it was the assassination of President Kennedy; in my time, it was September 11, 2001.

I've spent a lot of time this weekend, watching coverage of the new 9-11 memorials, watching old footage and news reports from the actual day and like most of the world, I've been churning over my thoughts, feelings, memories and emotions.  We've all heard and seen the accounts on our t.v. screens and in newspapers, time and time again, from the moments of the actual attack to the coverage of the anniversary. The facts will forever remain the same. The lives taken that day, will always be missed. On this ten year anniversary of the worst terror attack on US soil, I have chosen to take a little different approach to remember.

Since I believe that the children are our future and that God's word even tells us that the children will lead, I'm taking the snippets of my child's words to include because in reality, they echo the thoughts, feelings and words that most adults have had.

  • Watching Dateline on 9/11... My first time ever watching the attacks. They're worse than I thought : O
(Written by Samantha Morgan on 9/9/2011 on her FB wall after watching the Dateline Special: 9/11 American Remembers)
  • "Why did those bad people fly planes and make the building smoke?"

    I said that when I was three, and the 9/11 attacks had just happened hours before. I was confused that day on my way to Disney World, and I'm still conufsed this very moment as to why the terrorists would do such a horrible thing to our country. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who were affected. May God touch many on this anniversary.

(Written by Samantha Morgan on 9/11/2011 on her FB wall)

I, like anyone who witnessed this event, will never forget where I was, what I was doing, how I was feeling that day....

Visual Reminders:

Before the world changed....

Terror and unimaginable horror....

Like a scene out of a movie...

Sights and sounds that no one could ever imagine...

Could this really be happening, here in America???

Who could hate us so much???

Why would they destroy so many innocent lives???

And yet, out of the horror, heroes emerged from all walks of life...

In times of tragedy, we will unite together and be resilient...

Forever thankful for those civilians who took action...

To stop more destruction, they gave their lives to save countless others...

Americans are resiliant, we are overcomers...

Because we are one nation, under God...

We will not forget....ever...

God, continue to bless America

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Attracted to Fire by DiAnn Mills

This was the first book by author, DiAnn Mills that I've read and I must say, it was better than I expected it to be.  It was interesting how, Mills, shifted narrative perspectives from one main character to another as she moved from chapter to chapter.  I've read other writers who do this with their stories and I, personally, feel it adds great depth to a book - seeing the story from the point of view of more than one character.

Special Agent Meghan Connors, gets assigned to protect the Vice President’s daughter, Lindsay. Lindsay has an alcohol and drug problem and is sent to a working ranch in Texas to rehabilitate...and to stay out of the sight from whomever is threatening her.

The main characters certainly are not all perfect, which makes them easy to relate to and understand. The two agents' bravery and tenacity provide a sharp contrast to a fearful and confused Lindsay. The added romance that Mills throws in doesn't distract from the storyline but improves it by carefully not becoming overly sappy.

This book touches on mystery, romance, adventure and's got a little bit of something for everyone.

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, for my honest review. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hermie, A Common Caterpillar (eBook) by Max Lucado

Hermie and his friend Wormie have always felt common.  They don't have stripes or dots, they aren't very strong, and they can't find anything special about themselves.

What an amazing lesson they learn as each time they pray, God tells them that He loves them all the time, just as they are and that He isn't finished with them yet.

As Hermie becomes a beautiful butterfly, he realizes the plan that God has in store for him.  But that's not the end of Hermie's story...he goes on to encourage his friend, Wormie, to hold fast to the hope that God isn't finished with him either.

This classic story has been revised for kids to read and enjoy on their own (it's now a Lever 2 Reader) with fresh new art and a story kids can read themselves.

This is a must have book for any young reader and/or Children's Ministry!

I received this e-book free from BookSneeze as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Gabby God's Little Angel (eBook) by Sheila Walsh

Gabby is a guardian angel in training and she's starring in this first children's book in a new series from author Sheila Walsh - Women of Faith speaker and Bible teacher.

When Gabby is given a new assignment to watch over little Sophie, she realizes watching over this gal will be harder than she thought!
The book is filled with captivating, beautiful pictures.  Sheila Walsh has created a delightful character in Gabby. The book is humerously written.  It will easily keep a child's attention the whole way through.  The story will create a great opportunity to talk about guardian angels and what the Bible has to say about them.
I received this e-book free from BookSneeze as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Grace. It's what we crave most when our guilt is exposed. It's the very thing we are hesitant to extend when we are confronted with the guilt of others-especially when their guilt has robbed us of something we consider valuable.  Therein is the struggle, the struggle for grace. It's this struggle that makes grace more story than doctrine. It's the struggle that reminds us that grace is bigger than compassion or forgiveness. That struggle is the context for both. When we are on the receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing. But when correctly applied, it seems to solve just about everything.  This struggle is not new; it has been going on since the beginning."  -Andy Stanley

This is the second book by Andy Stanley that I've read and reviewed and I'm finding him to be one of my long list of favorite authors.  He has a great writing style. The Grace of God is a nice light read that I found enjoyable and informative.  The information wasn't too in-your-face or too intensely deep. It was insightful and lifted the spirit.  What exactly is Grace? Grace is not getting what we truly deserve. There are more complicated, deeper explanations, but this is a book that will help you to understand various nuances. Andy Stanley uses several people from the Bible to demonstrate the grace they received and, in doing so, gives greater clarity to the true meaning of God's favor to us. Examples like Moses, Abram, Jonah, Rahab, Matthew, Nicodemus, and the Prodigal Son are but a few of the familiar stories he uses to demonstrate God's marvelous grace. There are 13 chapters that reveal aspects, such as chosen, redeemed, rescued, puzzled, accepted, saved, and other delineations. Each example given renews the awe at how gracious and loving our Heavenly Father is to His children. 

I received this book free from BookSneeze as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Leslie: The Queen of HOPE

 (3/26/1962 - 8/18/2011)
How do you sum up a life?  I've been working on this tribute since Leslie left for her home in Heaven, but it's so hard to know exactly what to write.  The words have come time and time again in my head, but when I try to apply them to paper (or here on this blog) they just seem so jumbled...they don't do justice...and many times I've thought, I should just keep my thoughts and feelings tucked inside, close to my heart and cherish them...but when someone touches your life the way, Leslie, touched not only my life, but the lives of countless others, you just can't keep it to must be shared.

So after some intense thought and much prayer, I have decided that the best way to honor her memory, is to not just make one tribute, but to share her with you, my readers, often and over the course of many posts.  Anytime memories come, lessons were learned, love shared...I'll be sure be sure to share them here.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind or heart that Leslie is sitting in a righteous place in Heaven.  She influenced a great many people in her lifetime.  She knew she was on her way to Heaven and she made sure she'd take a lot of others along with her.  I personally, don't know of anyone else, who did so much to influence the Kingdom of God.  Yes, we're all familiar with the likes of big name Preachers and Evangelists, who have done tremendous things to influence the world for Christ, but this lady wasn't known in this way, but what she did in her life, impacted everyone she ever came in contact with.  She was a true living example of what the hands and feet of Christ were like her on this earth.  I know that when she reached the Throne Room of Heaven, God would have joyously said, "Well done, My good and faithful servant, well done!"  I'm sure she even got God to "Happy Dance" with her...she was just that kind of infectiously joy-filled person.

"I Love You"
Now I don't want to paint her as a "perfect person" because she'd be the first one to tell you that she was far from perfect.  All humans are flawed.  But she knew she was a forgiven person...and that makes all the difference.  When you're forgiven by God, you don't even have to worry about being perfect.

Leslie always lived a life of thankfulness and in all ways she exemplified this.  I will never forget when she and I first our first of what turned out to be, many cards/notes, emails, chats and phone calls...when I was chosen to be her ChemoAngel in February 2008.  My introductory card/letter was written to her on Valentine's Day...which over the years became known as our "Friend-iversary".  (As a ChemoAngel volunteer, we're matched with a cancer patient and weekly send cards/letters of support and encouragement to them throughout their cancer journey.  It is NOT a pen pal service...we take on these assignments knowing that there is no obligation on the cancer patient's end to ever contact their angel.)  So you can imagine my surprise...okay, shock...when a week after my introductory letter, I received a card in the mail from Leslie, thanking me in advance for what I was agreeing to do for her.  She wanted me to know the depth of her thankfulness while she was still feeling well, (her chemo treatment wouldn't begin until the end of that month), and to let me know that she felt such a connection to me through my introduction.  From that moment forward, Leslie and I forged a friendship like no other.  It went way beyond the normal ChemoAngel/Patient relationship...I should know, I've been doing this for 10 years and this is the first, and only, time a relationship like this has come about.  (I've become friends with all my ChemoAngel buddies...and I stay in touch with many of them to this very day...and have seen the 'ripple' effect a little kindness shown at a time of such trauma has had...but this superseded all of that.)  I was never able to put my finger on it, until just the other day, when God spoke to my heart as I was writing to a few other friends (who I met as a result of my friendship with Leslie).  God said, "What I have forged in Heaven will endure for all time."  So not only do I rest in the fact of knowing that the friendship God forged between Leslie and I will endure for all time, but so will the 'ripple effect' friendships that happened as a result of all of us knowing Leslie and becoming interconnected with one another through her.

We always marveled at the strength and depth of the friendship we had, despite the fact that we never had the opportunity to meet face-to-face in this world.  We found out together how deep affections for others could grow through praying for one another.  God was always teaching us these kinds of lessons.

Leslie wanted to come to Pennsylvania to meet me, especially in the fall to see the beautiful fall leaves...I smile as I think of this.  Her desire to see the fall foliage here, motivated me to do the craziest thing:  package up beautiful fall leaves from my back yard and mail them to her to enjoy.  I didn't just do this once...I did it two years in a row!  The first year it was done, while she was in treatment for her melanoma, as a way to brighten up her day.  The second year, it was done to not only brighten up her day (she wasn't in treatment the second year) but it was so she could share the colored leaves with her little side-kick...her much anticipated, much loved grandson, Tyler - whom she most graciously shared with all her friends through (almost) daily photos on her blog.  It was Leslie's great desire to get through her latest treatment and come east when she treatment was completed...which would have been in October (just about the right time for fall leaves!).

She often talked about our first meeting and how "grand and glorious" she wanted it to be.  She was true to her word - it was and will be "grand and glorious".  What do I mean "was" and "will be"?  At the exact time that Leslie went to be Jesus, she stopped by my house.  I learned of her passing about 30 minutes after the fact...and at the moment she would have left for Heaven, there was a rainbow over my back yard!  That's the "was" of our "was and will be" meeting.  The "will be" portion?  Well, that will come when she greets me as I make my journey to Heaven...and it will be grand, it will be glorious, and most will be forever!  There won't be any short visits, no having to go back home after a week's visit, no missing one another until the next will be a daily visit, every day for all eternity.  It can't get any more "grand and glorious" than that.

She Loved the Beach
I could go on and on about the wonderful attributes of this phenomenal woman and what she meant to me...those things will come, in bits and pieces.  I just know that I am the person I am today because my life was intermingled with hers.  For that, I'm forever thankful.

While my heart is still hurting at not having her in this physical world anymore, I cling to the HOPE of the future.  Leslie was the "Queen of HOPE"...she had HOPE in God, she had HOPE in faith, she had HOPE in all good things, she had HOPE in belief...and she made all those around her hold on to HOPE as well.  I loved her acronym for HOPE - Helping Other People Endure.  She was all about helping others endure whatever they were dealing with and instilling in them HOPE for the outcome of those situations.

So often we hear of what people take from this life, but when it comes to Leslie, we are hearing about what she brought to this life and what she brought to the lives of those she touched.  So as you can see, there is no way one single tribute can sum up her life.  Stop back often, because her lessons...her love...her kindnesses...her memory will continue to fill the pages of my stay tuned.