Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book Review: The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole

The Sacred Slow is written by Alicia Britt Chole and is published by W Publishing Group (Thomas Nelson).

We do live in a busy, fast paced world, don't we? Even up here in a small northern village, I have found that life wants to rush right past you. And in that busyness, faith gets sort of swept up in a whirlwind. Our church has program after program to keep us busy and occupied during the holiday season. I'm not knocking that, but I do think that sometimes we just have to stop - and breathe.

The Sacred Slow: A Holy Departure from Fast Faith is a book that is written in a devotional style - 52 daily readings with "exercises" to help us slow down and focus on the giver and sustainer of faith, God Himself. The daily chapters are practical and they are written in a manner that makes us feel at ease with the whole process. And it gives us time to pause and to breathe.

I haven't really gotten into the life scroll at the back of the book yet, but I'm going to really start doing the exercises on January 1. I have read some of the devotional readings at the beginning of the chapters and am eagerly looking forward to just doing the whole shebang.

I find that Chole is an engaging writer who makes me comfortable yet not so comfortable. It's hard to explain. It all works together to give me a feeling that what she's saying is right and it is good. It's going to help me to slow down and enjoy life for what it is - good - when I am living in the center of God's will.

*I received a copy of The Sacred Slow in exchange for my honest opinion. My opinions are my own.*

Thanksgiving 2017 Menu

It seems like we just had Thanksgiving, but here it is again already. Time is really flying by fast. Things that have blessed me this year and for which I am truly thankful are:

  • Our bills continue to get paid, sometimes only by God's grace.
  • Our son married a beautiful girl (inside and out) this year.
  • Though some of us might still battle some physical ailments, we are all relatively healthy. As the saying goes, things could be worse.
  • One of my best friends, because of countless prayers on her behalf, has learned that although people might forsake us, God never does.
  • And many, many other blessings
This year I have planned for tomorrow's feast:

For Breakfast: 

For Dinner:

Roast Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Cornbread Stuffing (for those who hate rice)
Green Beans
Deviled Eggs
Relish Tray
Dinner Rolls
Gluten-free Pumpkin Pie
Crustless Strawberry Cheesecake

Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review: A Crazy, Holy Grace and The Remarkable Ordinary - both by Frederick Buechner

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory, and The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life are written by Frederick Buechner and are published by Zondervan.

A Crazy, Holy Grace resonates with me. For the past year, I have been haunted by some memories that I try to squash every moment I can. It is a memory of which I struggle with, "Did I do enough to help this person? Did I witness to her enough? Was it all enough and is she in heaven or somewhere else?"

Buechner has struggled with the past, repressing memories and trying to move ahead anyway.

In this book, he reveals some of those memories and how he dealt with them, allowed them to surface, and found healing within. By his own admission, many of them were painful. But with the power of God's grace, he found healing.

Some have said that Buechner is somewhat of an American C. S. Lewis. When I read that, I became intrigued. I love C. S. Lewis. Let me say that I, too, can compare Buechner to Lewis. It's not so much the writing style but the depth and wisdom of the writer that makes the writing great.

The Remarkable Ordinary  is another book that I have devoured. In today's busy world, it is easy to get bogged down in just the, well, busyness of it. Buechner, through personal stories and lessons learned, teaches us the importance of just stopping and taking the time to listen to what each experience - and God - is teaching us.

If you are not familiar with Frederick Buechner, you should acquaint yourself with some of his books. The two above are small, barely over 100 page reads. But don't let that fool you. What is contained in those 100 or so pages is worth a lot, especially if you know you are on a spiritual journey (and we all are, whether we acknowledge it or not) and want to make the most of it.

*I received copies of A Crazy, Holy Grace and The Remarkable Ordinary in exchange for my honest opinion. My thoughts are my own.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Menu Plan Monday - October 30

We are to get our first accumulating snow tonight. I am not looking forward to that, but I can be thankful that the snow was held off for this long. This is a week for comforting, warm foods. Here is the plan:


Slow-cooker Barbecued Pork Chops
Baked Potatoes
Green Beans


Turkey Tenderloin
Scalloped Potatoes
Tossed Salads


Skillet Lasagna
Garlic Bread


Lamb Chops
Mashed Potatoes


Pizza & Pop


Chips & Salsa


On Your Own

Monday, October 23, 2017

Menu Plan Monday - October 23

I have finally finished my menu plan for the week and it's only 1:32 in the afternoon on Monday. Recently, I haven't even bothered doing one. That is a mistake. Making a menu plan keeps me on track for the week and saves me time. I don't have to look around trying to decide what to have at the last minute. Plus, if I am gone, my kids or husband can get around supper. I keep my plan posted on the refrigerator.


Homemade Bread
Tossed Salads
Cake and ice-cream


Chicken and Gravy over Mashed Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts
Rice Pudding


Sweet Potatoes
Green Beans


Pork Chops
Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream


Pizza & Pop


Vegetable Soup


On Your Own

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Book Review: The Beautiful Word for Christmas by Zondervan

The Beautiful Word for Christmas is published by Zondervan.

The Beautiful Word for Christmas is an illustrated hardcover devotional book that makes a great gift book. It is truly beautifully illustrated as well as contains beautiful Scriptures that speak to the heart. Everything in it pertains to the first coming of Christ. There are 31 days of devotionals, so it's great to use with the family for Advent. That is what I plan to use it for. It's always good to remind everyone what Christmas was intended to be - what it still can be.

I think it's a great book and I know that I will enjoy using it.

*I received a copy of The Beautiful Word for Christmas in exchange for my honest opinion. My thoughts are my own.*

Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: Adored by Lindsay A. Franklin

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women is written by Lindsay A. Franklin and is published by Zondervan.

Adored is a small but thick devotional book for young women, just as the cover states. There is one devotion for every day of the year, unless we have a leap year. In that case, we'll all just have to read one devotion twice. The devotions focus on God's love for us, something we sometimes forget. At the top of every devotion is a Scripture verse that relates to the love of God. It is a great reminder that the Bible is literally filled with declarations of His love for us. At the bottom of every page are a few lines that could be used to jot down whatever hits us. And that could be whatever.

I find that the verses are well-chosen and really do exemplify God's love. Franklin's words are not quite as insightful, but she is human - God is so much deeper and wiser than we can ever be.

All in all, I find that the book is a short, good devotional for young ladies. I am giving my copy to my daughter as a Christmas gift. It is a sweet volume reminding women how much they are loved by an almighty God. However, if you want something deeper, you will need to look further.

*I received a copy of Adored:365 Devotions for Young Women in exchange for my honest opinion. My thoughts are my own.*

Book Review: In the Middle of the Mess by Sheila Walsh

In the Middle of the Mess is written by Sheila Walsh and is published by Harper Collins.

I have read many of Sheila Walsh's books over the years. I always loved watching her on the 700 Club. She has given me a lot of encouragement, though she has never met me. Yet, in reading her books, I feel I have gotten to know her.

This book, In the Middle of the Mess, reminds me that Sheila is not some star out there who has no idea what I'm going through in my own little life. She has found her life a mess at times. She has been broken. She has also learned that Jesus Christ frees us from a life bound with all of life's messiness.

The book is easy to read, sort of in a devotional style yet still in a readable "life" style. It's filled with teachings, personal stories, and testimonies from Sheila, as well as "reflections" at the end of each chapter that are designed to help the reader apply the teaching in her own life. It is a great addition to reading the Bible. Key word = addition. It isn't meant to replace God's Word.

I enjoyed this book and can recommend it highly.

*I received a copy of In the Middle of the Mess in exchange for my honest opinion. My thoughts are my own.*

Book Review: The Master's Mind by Lance Hahn

The Master's Mind: The Art of Reshaping Your Thoughts is written by Lance Hahn and is published by W Publishing Group (Thomas Nelson).

Lance Hahn reminds me a little bit of a male counterpart to Joyce Meyer, only deeper. The Master's Mind is about overcoming negativity and then replacing it with positive, peace filled thoughts. Hahn reminds us what God is like and gives us steps to take that point us in the right direction of becoming more like Him. In this book are topics such as depression, temptation, the attributes of Satan, and living with a fantastical worldview.

What is great about this book is that it is honest and full of Scripture. Everything point the author makes is backed up by the Bible itself. That's where the real power is, by the way. Hahn doesn't point to himself as the authority - he points to Christ. And I really appreciate that.

Lance Hahn has done a great job of writing a book that is both very readable and very pertinent. Reshaping your thoughts is difficult and I think Hahn is right with the key to it all: we need to become more like Jesus because He is the only one with a perfect mind and handled all things perfectly while He was on earth. I really enjoyed this book and will keep it as a reference for times when I feel as if I can't go on anymore. The encouragement is great.

*I received a copy of The Master's Mind: The Art of Reshaping Your Thoughts* in exchange for my honest opinion. My thoughts are my own.*

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Idea for Teaching a Homeschool Co-op Literature Class

I, along with a friend, teach literature to a group of high school students in our homeschool co-op. Last year, we delved into the class with blinders on. I guess I never expected the class to be popular and thought it would be a breeze. Well, last year we had fourteen students. I thought that was a large number. This year we have twenty and actually had to close it to more. Yes, we could have had more!

Choosing a curriculum to use was a difficult decision. I wanted to be sure that whatever we chose would be filled with ample writing lessons because, after all, high school kids should be in the rhetorical stage of learning. Wow, did I learn fast that the group started class with all sorts of English studies backgrounds! We ended up choosing Excellence in Literature's curriculum, beginning last year with Introduction to Literature (Book One). This book gives a good foundation for those who are at the early stages of writing.

We pretty much followed the instructions and lessons as they are given in the book. We did skip The Tempest by William Shakespeare because we begin our co-op classes in September but end early May. We simply didn't have time to do them all. Also, we added some vocabulary lessons as well as discussion questions. I don't like to use comprehension questions with high schoolers. They should have that foundation in the earlier years but should now be learning to see things and evaluate them through their own worldviews. Discussion questions to the works studied, as well as vocabulary words, are easy enough to find on educational sites on the internet. 

We have an hour each week to teach the lesson, and then the students are responsible for learning on their own the rest of the week. This "guidebook" is also the teacher's book. It truly does guide the students along as they read a body of work, study the author, study the history behind the work, and then write out well-researched essays relating to that particular literary work. 

I have to admit, the curriculum pushes the students, and I think that's good. Last year, we saw kids at the bottom of the pack rise to the top. It was so fun to watch their progress. It's one of the reasons the class is so popular this year.

We did things like debates and a Family Feud style game to help reinforce lessons. We also threw in some role playing, allowing some students to interview folks such as Mark Twain, his wife, and his publisher, as well as others. It was great fun that helped the kids learn more about the authors.

One other thing that we added to our class was to participate in our co-op's year end program. A few of the students, with some guidance and suggestions, wrote an original skit based upon one of the stories we studied - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, as well as Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. This skit, A Modern Knight in King Arthur's Court, was a great learning experience. We required that each student take part in the production. Most had an acting part, a couple put together the set, and another was a stagehand. The skit was comedic and fun. It brought the house down. Most of all, it showed the audience that learning literature and writing is fun and a blessing.

This year, we are teaching American Literature by Excellence in Literature, skipping Literature and Composition (book 2). We have decided to drop The Great Gatsby  by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It seemed like the best one to drop. We are also planning to do something for the year end program again. Already a couple of the students have suggested a Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Washington Irving) skit. Again, it will be a comedy based on several books we study this year. I think Benjamin Franklin (Autobiography) makes an appearance.

If you're looking for a good literature program that adapts well to co-op settings, I urge you to take a look at Excellence in Literature.