Friday, 27 September 2013

Book Review: Eventide by Shelley Shepard Gray

About the Book: A young Amish woman harbors a difficult secret. Does she dare share the truth with the man she hopes to marry?

Elsie Keim doesn't want to be left behind. Her twin sister, Viola, and her older brother, Roman, have both found love and are building lives of their own. But Elsie? She's still stuck at home, being treated like a child. No one seems to consider her a capable woman-all they see are the thick lenses of her glasses, constant reminders that Elsie suffers from keratoconus and is slowly going blind.

Elsie knows there's much more to her than her disease. That's why when a new neighbor, Landon Troyer, shows some interest in her, she doesn't want anything to scare him away . . . even if it means keeping her condition a secret.

Landon is ready to start a new life and feels like Elsie may just be the right woman to start it with. But when Roman steps in and shares the truth about Elsie's illness, Landon is floored. His job is demanding and takes him away from home, sometimes for days at a time. How could he keep up with his responsibilities and take care of Elsie?

My Thoughts: I admit that I had grown tired of Amish fiction, but I've been really enjoying this series by Shelley Shepard Gray (I reviewed the 2nd book in the series here).  It's different than the typical work of Amish fiction, and it's definitely been holding my interest.

Once again, this third installment was no exception.

This story wraps up all the storylines from the previous books.  All of the books can be read as stand alones, but you see the depth to the characters much more if you've them all (that being said, I haven't read Book 1!).

Peter had finally agreed to get the help he needed to overcome his problem with alcohol, but now his wife Marie is seriously ill.

Their daughter Viola will be marrying soon and moving to Brazil as a missionary's wife.

Their son Roman has married Amanda and they've begun a new life together with Amanda's daughter from a previous marriage.

Grandparents Lovina and Aaron finally face their past head on.

And what about Elsie?  Will she find love and the normal she's always wanted to feel, despite her impending blindness?

All these characters live out real life situations, circumstances, and hardships.  They do so as flawed human beings, just like us. They make mistakes, they have wrong motives, they are selfish - but they are pursuing God and growing in maturity along life's journey - through the good times and bad.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Challenge Accepted - ODP in 2 weeks

I first heard of the October Dress Project from my friend Pam, who heard about it last year, but didn't commit to doing it until this year - check out her ODP blog here.  And she's managed to talk me into joining her.

What is the October Dress Project and why would anyone do it?

Here's a snippet from the October Dress Project blog....
Here is the basic idea: for thirty-one days, from October 1st to October 31st, you will build all your outfits around one single dress. You will put this dress on in some way, shape, or form, every time you get dressed.

Why? There are a lot of a different women participating, and each participates for different reasons, but the motto sums it up as 'anti-consumerism, pro-simplicity, anti-conformity, pro-imagination.' This can translate into a lot of different motivations, from an out-of-control wardrobe to a concern for environmental sustainability, from an intellectual exercise to a deep rethinking of what you do with your clothes and why. It encourages thinking of your clothing more creatively as you use one dress as a canvas for the other clothes you have in your wardrobe. It prompts dressing more responsibly as you begin to reevaluate the versatility of a single garment. It helps you to cut away the clutter surrounding personal worth, body image, and consumer culture (one of the first thing many people notice is that no one else notices them wearing the same dang thing every day!) It gives you a starting point to begin challenging cultural norms of buying habits and our perception of needs.

I'm a little nervous about this project because, although I have quite a few clothes, I don't have many accessories, nor do I have a tremendous eye for fashion, particularly when it comes to layering and accesories. I'm a more than a little concerned that I'm not going to be able to make the dress look that different from day to day.

But that's also exactly the reason why I'm doing it.  I want to get more creative in my clothing choices, and putting outfits together, and utilizing the items that I already have in new ways.

I am, however, giving myself two exception clauses.....
1) Nathan and I have a trip planned to Minneapolis to watch the Jets play.  I must wear my Jets jersey to this event.  I will try to make it work with my dress, but if I can't make it work, I won't wear it to the game - but then I will wear the dress one extra day at the end of the challenge to make up for it.
2) Due to this trip, I am allowing myself to shop at the Albertville outlets and the Mall of America.

So, with those two caveats in place, here is the dress I'm going to use for the challenge.

Unfortunately, it's navy instead of black, but I'm hoping it will work out well anyway.  I believe I got it from Kohl's.

I admit, I may be picking up a couple of accessories with this dress in mind on our church's ladies retreat in Fargo this weekend. :)

Well, here goes nothin'!

Starting October 1st, you can check out my outfits for the October Dress Project here.

Friday, 13 September 2013

5 Minute Friday - Mercy

Five Minute Friday5 Minute Friday is somewhat of a "writing flash mob" hosted weekly by blogger Lisa-Jo Baker. Each Friday she selects a subject and your job is to write about it for 5 minutes and link to her post. Whatever comes to mind, even if you aren't sure what the subject is about, don't know anything about it, or haven't ever really thought about it. Just write. For 5 minutes. Doesn't that sound fun?? There's only one rule: After you've linked your post, you MUST visit the person who linked up before you and leave a comment.

This is my first time participating!  Want to join me?

Today's topic: Mercy


Whenever I think about mercy, I think about grace.  What's the difference between the two?  They're often used interchangeably, but they're actually not quite the same.

Mercy is God not punishing us, when we deserve to be punished.
Grace is God blessing us, when we don't deserve to be blessed.

All of us, Christians or not, live under God's mercy and grace every day.  Every breath you take is a demonstration of God's mercy and grace.

God is in control.  God created the universe and everything in it, including this world and the people who inhabit it.  God determines right and wrong, not us.  And God demands perfection in order to enjoy relationship with Him.

Unfortunately for us, none of us are perfect.  NONE.  Not me.  Not you.  I think we would acknowledge that.

Fortunately for us, Jesus was perfect.  And Jesus took the punishment for our imperfection, for our sins, when He died for us on the cross.  When He experienced the wrath of God that WE deserved.  He took our punishment.  And we get His perfection, when we believe in Him as our Saviour AND Lord.  Both are required.  We can't accept Him as only Saviour.  We also have to accept Him as Lord of our lives.  That's the tough one for people to swallow.  It's hard enough to admit we need saving, let alone allow someone other than "I" on the throne of our lives.  But it's the only way to perfection, to relationship with God, to heaven.

Our imperfection, our sin, deserves death.  Death is a just and deserving consequence.  God demonstrates His grace and mercy to us every single day that He allows us to live.  Every breath we take is evidence of His mercy.  But more often than not, we presume upon that mercy.  We take it for granted.  We don't even acknowledge it as mercy at all, but rather our "God-given right".  Ironic, isn't it?

And.... STOP.

Eek.  I think I actually went over by 2 minutes - lost track of time. Guess I should set an alarm next time! :)

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A Day of Two Milestones

Today marked two milestones in our family.

It was Jacob's first day of Kindergarten!

And it was my last first day of sending a child to Kindergarten.  After 12 1/2 years of having anywhere from 1 - 3 of our 4 children at home with me 24/7, I am stepping into a new phase of life.  It's a bittersweet day because I know that things will never be "the same" again.  And yet, that's exactly what we've been training them up to do.  To begin to become independent, instead of totally dependent on us.  To become their own individuals.  To begin to make their own choices.  To take the things we've trained into them, and choose to either discard or use them as they encounter real life, and make it theirs, instead of ours.

Obviously, this is not an immediate severing of all parental influence.  Far from it.  We know that we continue to be the biggest influences on our children's lives for years and years to come.  But it is a step in this direction, and from this point on the steps will continue in that direction.  And, as we well know, the days may sometimes go by slowly, but the years go quickly indeed.

It is a huge leap of faith.  But faith we have, and faith we will cling to.  Faith that God goes with him (as He does all our children) every step of the way, even when we do not.  Faith that God is sovereign, and that every single thing that will happen in his life, has been sifted through the Father's hands.  Knowing that that doesn't mean that nothing bad will happen, but that he will not walk alone, and he will be given the strength to get through it.  Faith that God will take all that we've poured into him, mistakes and all, and His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.  Faith that God loves him, even more than we do, even though that seems impossible from a human standpoint, because who could possibly love a boy more than his mom (ok, and his dad)? Truly, only his Creator.

And that faith is what makes it possible to let him go.

And, in light of the 12th anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow, and in light of the fact that there are many other people out there who have lost children that should've started Kindergarten this year, I am simply thankful for him, and for the fact that I have a child to send.

So, yes, my life took a pretty major shift today.  But it's a good one for him, and since it's all about perspective and outlook on life, it will be a good one for me too.

Now, I didn't allow myself to even really think too much in this direction ahead of time.  After all, I knew that if I wanted to, I could think myself into one hot mess by the time the first day of kindergarten rolled around.  So, I simply chose not to.  Instead I focused on him, and how happy I was for him that he was so excited about going to school.

As a January baby, and the fourth child, Jacob was more than ready for school this year (us Canadians do school age cutoffs differently than in the States, so January babies are the oldest in the class up here). And he's been counting down to this day for awhile now.  In fact, he was a little confused when he turned 5 and couldn't immediately start going to school!  I had to tell him that he had to wait until after summer vacation, and that when the girls went back to school in fall, so would he.

Except that with the whole graduated entry thing, that didn't end up being totally accurate either.  The girls went back on Thursday, the 5th.  And he didn't get to start until today.  He was in the very last group of kids to start.

Two weeks ago he asked me how many more days it was - and I said 2 weeks.

Two days later he asked me again - and I said 12 days.  He said "12 days?!"  because of course, 12 is higher than 2.  So, I tried explaining that 2 weeks was 14 days so things were still going in the right order.

And as the number of sleeps got lower and lower, he got more excited.  Until finally, it was the night before kindergarten!

In the morning, he woke up just before I was going to go in to wake him, and ran into my room all excited for the first day of school.

He helped me pack his lunch (banana, 4 slices of marble cheese, sweet potato chips, and homemade chocolate chip cookies, with a cheese string for snack time), ate his breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse, picked out his clothes, and finished getting ready to go.

I miraculously managed to be ready on time myself, and after snapping some pictures (yes, we're in the fake smile stage), off we went!

The girls were excited about Jacob's first day too!

When we got to school, we found his spot for his outdoor shoes, then headed into the classroom.

We found his hook for his backpack and sweater, got on his indoor shoes, and I barely managed to get in one last hug and a picture of the two of us, before he was off to sit on the carpet and wait for his teacher.

Unfortunately, things weren't going quite so well for a few other kids this morning.  One little girl was screaming and crying as her mom tried to leave.  I felt so bad, for both of them, and was very glad I wasn't dealing with that, as that would've made this day so much harder.

And then one little boy came in, I'm assuming from off the bus, and when he said his name, they couldn't find it.  It turns out that he was supposed to have gone to the Immersion school next door instead.  He looked so lost and confused, I felt so bad for him.  What a bad start to school life.  I'm not sure why one of his parents couldn't bring him to school on his first day, but it would take something absolutely monumental for me not to do so.  I'm really trying to give his parents the benefit of the doubt on this one, but my heart broke for the little guy.

So, I was pretty thankful for how our morning had gone, especially in comparison!  In fact, I was doing great.....

until I started walking out the door.

And then it just hit me.  Hard.

And the tears started welling up in my eyes.

And right then, his teacher asked me "How are you doing?"  And I almost lost it. I knew I couldn't start talking or I wouldn't be able to stop the tears. So I mumbled something incoherently in reply, grabbed the baggie she gave me, and left as quickly as I could.  I didn't full out cry, but the tears definitely welled up, and two or three may have escaped on the walk back to my house by myself.

This is what she gave me....

We have such awesome teachers at our school!

Earlier in summer, she sent Jacob this postcard....

Thankfully I had to leave immediately for Coffee Connections at church, so I didn't have time for a pity party!

And, just over 6 hours later, he was back.  Running up the driveway, having had a fantastic first day of school!

I'm so proud of the young man he is slowly, but surely, becoming.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Book Review: Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

About the Book: Lily Winter's wings are folded so tightly around her daughter that when empty nest arrives, she feels she can no longer fly. But Lily's lonely, widowed life changes in a heartbeat when she goes to visit a woman who is almost a stranger to her---a woman who also happens to be her mother. During their fiery reunion, her mother reveals a dark family secret that she'd been hiding for decades---Lily has an identical twin sister who was put up for adoption when they were just babies.

Without looking back, Lily---with her fear of flying---boards a jumbo jet and embarks on a quest to find her sister which leads half way around the world to Melbourne, Australia. Befriended by imprudent Ausie, he might prove to be the key to finding her sister. But her journey becomes a circle that leads her back home to attempt a family reunion and to find the one dream she no longer imagined possible-the chance to fall in love again.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book.  From watching Lily transform and allow her true person to shine through, to enjoying the process of finding her long lost sister, to seeing the differences between the way each twin saw and processed the separation, to observing them rekindling their relationship, this book captured me from page one and didn't let go till the end.

So many deep and difficult subjects were dealt with this in this book, and yet it was not in any way depressing to read.  In fact, mercy, grace, and hope shone through each page.

Looking forward to reading more books by this fantastic author!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Book Review: Whispers on the Dock by Evangeline Kelley

About the Book: Three sisters. A charming inn. Hints of mystery and romance. And a gorgeous seaside setting. Escape to Misty Harbor Inn.

As Nantucket reaches the pinnacle of its summer glory, and the Marris sisters welcome guests at Misty Harbor Inn, youngest sister Sam Carter enters her mother's cobbler recipe in the Summerfest baking contest. But she faces a formidable opponent, a past winner who is determined to keep her title even if it means stooping to dirty tactics. Can Sam's newfound faith help her rise above the fray and reach out to this lonely woman? Meanwhile, an elderly guest arrives who knows the inn's history, and the sisters are stunned to learn that their late mother lived there as a child. But she told them she'd never been to Nantucket until her honeymoon! Through the woman's reminiscences and photos, the sisters make an intriguing discovery --- not only about the mysterious Hannah Montague, the young woman who disappeared from the house in 1880, but also about their own family history.

Readers will delight in the inviting Nantucket setting and be enthralled by the adventures of these sisters who reunite to bring their mother's Misty Harbor dreams to life.

My Thoughts: After previously reviewing the first two books in the Misty Harbor series, I was looking forward to the third installment.  I don't like leaving things unresolved and I was looking forward to finding out what happened to Hannah Montague.

This was an easy read, and I really enjoyed finishing off this saga.  I particularly liked the twist about the baking contest and how two characters grew as individuals and friends by looking at their own weaknesses.  The whole series seemed to wrap up really quickly at the end, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ending.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.


Related Posts with Thumbnails