If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge


Be sure to click the Hodgepodge Button above to join Joyce and the rest of us for all this fun!


1. Did you know there is a National Day of pretty much everything in the universe? February 23 happens to be National Inconvenience Yourself Day...when was the last time you were inconvenienced?
Every time I have to get ready to go somewhere.  I love to go and I love that I have a job, but I sure hate having to get ready.  I mean, couldn't I just wear pj's or sweats to work and church, etc?

2. When a room in your house needs painting who does the job?
Hubby paints it and I get stuck with the trim work.  Our girls will paint some now too (well at least their own rooms). 

3. Are you friends with your cousins?
Yes

4. Do you use an alarm clock? If yes-is it an actual alarm, music, or something else?
Yes and hubby takes care of setting it, so it's on talk radio. 

5. What do you put ketchup on?
Hotdogs and french fries


6. What smells make you nostalgic?
The smell of froot-loops cereal.  Reminds me of the first time I ever ate them.  It was at my grandparents home in Safety Harbor, Florida while we were on Christmas vacation break visiting them.  Every time I smell them I think of Florida.

7. Have you heard about the high school English teacher recently suspended as a result of some things she wrote in her personal blog? You can read the story here but in a nutshell she vented a lot of frustration onto her blog. She didn't mention individual students by name but she did make some harsh comments about kids in general and their parents.

What are your thoughts-If you're a parent is your child's teacher online and are you 'friend' or 'follower' there? If you're a teacher are you on facebook and do you accept or friend students on fb? How about their parents? If you're a student are you friends with your current or former teachers online? Do any of them have blogs you read? If you're a teacher or a parent do you ever use your blog as a place to vent your frustrations with our educational system? So much to discuss...
I'm FB friends with some of my daughter's former teachers and also with some of her former classmates.  I'm also a follower of some of the kids my kids are friends with.  I try to be careful of the things I say and comment on to other people's kids. I heard about this lady, but I haven't read her stuff.  I do believe you need to be very careful of the things you say about your work place or the people you work with, whether you're a teacher or in any other profession.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
 Can I just say once again....I love my Kindle! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall



About This Book:

Love alone isn’t enough to overcome some obstacles.

Lena Kauffman is a young Old Order Amish schoolteacher who has dealt all her life with attention raised by a noticeable birthmark on her cheek. Having learned to move past the stares and whispers, Lena channels her zest for living into her love of teaching. But tensions mount as she is challenged to work with a rebellious young man and deal with several crises at the schoolhouse that threaten her other students. Her lack of submission and use of ideas that don’t line up with the Old Ways strengthen the school board’s case as they begin to believe that Lena is behind all the trouble.

One member of the school board, Grey Graber, feels trapped by his own stifling circumstances. His wife, Elsie, has shut him out of her life, and he doesn’t know how long he can continue to live as if nothing is wrong. As the two finally come to a place of working toward a better marriage, tragedy befalls their family.

Lena and Grey have been life-long friends, but their relationship begins to crumble amidst unsettling deceptions, propelling each of them to finally face their own secrets. Can they both find a way past their losses and discover the strength to build a new bridge?

My Thoughts:   First of all, I really enjoy reading books about the Amish and this book is a really good one.  I'll admit when I first started reading it, it seemed a little slow.  I think the reason for that is I hadn't read the 1st book in the series and I was a little lost on all the characters.  But it didn't take long and I was completely engrossed in the story and totally loved the characters.  The story is about very down to earth and real life issues that we all could face.  It deals a lot with honesty and openness in relationships and how important that is.  And how sometimes when we hide things from our family because we think we need to protect them and that often this ends up hurting them even more.  I really love the character of Lena.  She loved and wanted to help people so much.  Many times she acted beyond her boundaries and got into trouble, but it was always with an honest, pure and giving heart.  I think this world would be a better place, if more of us were like her.  I recommend this book very highly.

Click here to read an excerpt from The Bridge of Peace


Video: Meet Cindy Woodsmall


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

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Giving Up Chocolate!

I was walking down the street when I was accosted by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking homeless woman who asked me for a couple of dollars for dinner. I took out my wallet, got out ten dollars and asked,'If I give you this money, will you buy chocolate with it instead of dinner?'

'No, I had to stop eating chocolate years ago', the homeless woman told me.

'Will you use it to go shopping instead of buying food?' I asked.

'No, I don't waste time shopping,' the homeless woman said. 'I need to spend all my time trying to stay alive.'

'Will you spend this on a beauty salon instead of food?' I asked.

'Are you NUTS!' replied the homeless woman. I haven't had my hair done in 20 years!'

'Well, I said, 'I'm not going to give you the money.. Instead, I'm going to take you out for dinner with my husband and me tonight.'

The homeless Woman was shocked. 'Won't your husband be furious with you for doing that? I know I'm dirty, and I probably smell pretty disgusting.'

I said,'That's okay. It's important for him to see what a woman looks like after she has given up shopping, hair appointments, and chocolate.'

Friday, February 18, 2011

Twenty-two Years Ago Today

Thought I'd share a couple pictures of what we were doing 22 years ago today.





Happy Anniversary Sweetheart!  

It's been the best 22 years of my life.  I pray the Lord will give us another 22 at least!  You are the sweetest, kindest man I know.  I love you with all my heart.  Thank you for loving me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl by Amy Parham

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Christianne Debysingh, Senior Publicist, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Amy Parham co-authored with her husband, Phil, The 90-Day Fitness Challenge and The 90-Day Fitness Challenge DVD. She and Phil were contestants on Season 6 of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Over a seven-month period, they recorded the highest percentage of weight loss of any couple in the program’s history. Married for more than 20 years, they live in South Carolina with their three boys, Austin, Pearson, and Rhett.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Former fat girl Amy Parham offers a practical, proven plan for changing not only the fat-girl body but also the fat-girl mentality. Focusing on the mental ,emotional, and spiritual aspects of our relationship with food and exercise, Amy shows how readers can make this a healthy partnership that brings permanent change.



Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736938656
ISBN-13: 978-0736938655

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


We All Have an Empty Place

We’re all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls. Some people use alcohol, or sex, or their children, or food, or money, or music, or heroin. A lot of people even use the concept of God itself. I could go on and on. I used to know a girl who used shoes. She had over two-hundred pairs. But it’s all the same thing, really. People, for some stupid reason, think they can escape their sorrows.

—  Tiffanie DeBartolo, God-Shaped Hole



My earliest memories were such happy ones. Mom had dinner on the table when Dad came home from work, and my two sisters and I laughed and talked about our day with our parents. It was the best feeling. Everything about our family felt so right and secure. I remember Mom walking me to kindergarten every day at a church around the corner from my house. In that same church parking lot, my dad taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. He also taught me to fly a kite, and with his help, I won a blue ribbon in a kite-flying competition at my school.

I had my own bedroom with a yellow gingham canopy bed and a playhouse in the backyard. There was also a dogwood tree that I climbed all the time. My best friend, Teresa, lived across the street, and my grandparents lived nearby. Life was good and felt normal, but when I turned eight years old, my seemingly perfect life changed forever.

A Growing Hole

Dad quit his longtime job at a local radio station in South Carolina to pursue a job at another radio station in West Palm Beach, Florida. We had to sell our house immediately and move to what seemed to me to be a different planet. I will never forget the image of Teresa and me standing by the “For Sale” sign in our front yard. We bawled our eyes out and held each other so tight because we knew we might not ever see each other again.

When we got to Florida, the five of us moved into a tiny apartment. There was nothing wrong with the apartment, but I was uncomfortable because I was used to living in a larger space and having a big yard to play in. My sisters and I barely had enough room to squeeze past each other on the way to the bathroom. My new school was huge compared to the one I attended in South Carolina. But the worst thing was that while everyone knew and loved me at my old school, I was now the new girl at school, and I got ridiculed for it. I felt insecure, unsure of myself, and alone. I wanted to go back to my happy, carefree life.

This was the first time I remember being unhappy and having no control over my circumstances. I was deeply sad, and it felt like I had an empty hole in my soul. Thankfully, we only stayed in Florida for one year, but things would never go back to how they were before. I would never regain the sense of normalcy I had so desperately craved.

When we came back to South Carolina, we moved to a different city, and my parents bought a restaurant and ice-cream parlor. It was hard work building a new business, and the stress took a toll on Mom and Dad. They began to fight all the time about money and other issues. It got so bad that they divorced.

When my parental situation turned upside down, I found myself in a world that lacked security and stability. Suddenly, I was being raised by a single mother, and as the oldest daughter at ten years old, there was a lot of pressure on me to help my mom care for my two sisters. She worked very hard (sometimes up to 18 hours a day), and I know she did her best to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. She usually had no time to tuck us in at night and tell us bedtime stories because she worked such long hours.

My sisters (who were four and six years old) and I spent a lot of time at home alone. As much as we tried to pick up after ourselves, you can imagine how messy three kids can be. I felt terrible when my mother would come home, tired from working so much, and be cranky because the house was such a disaster. I never felt like I could do enough to make Mom happy or fix our broken home life.

Many mornings she had to get to work at the crack of dawn and woke us up at three in the morning to take us to the restaurant. She made us a makeshift bed on the concrete floor in the back room and let us sleep there while she worked. This was not an ideal environment for kids, but she was doing the best she could.

It wasn’t her fault. The problem was me. I felt the hole inside my heart growing bigger and bigger, and I desperately needed something to fill it.

Enter the Banana Split

I remember one particular day when I was playing outside the restaurant and decided to go visit the couple who worked at the dry cleaners next door. The owners were in their late twenties and had no children of their own. They were kind enough to let me hang out with them sometimes, and it made me feel good.

In my mind, I felt “less than” because my life had changed so drastically in only two years. I was nothing like the other kids at school and always felt out of place. This couple welcomed, accepted, and loved me just the way I was. They talked to me like I was one of their peers, and I appreciated the kindness and warmth they showed me.

This day was like any other day that I would drop by for a visit. I had been sitting at the counter and talking to the wife for about 20 minutes when her husband walked in. He abruptly told me that it was time for me to go. He said that their business was no place for children and that I shouldn’t hang out there so much.

I was hurt to my core and very embarrassed. I thought they were my friends, but they were abandoning me. I tried my best to maintain my composure and make myself believe that it didn’t matter. I reassured myself that I didn’t need them and was fine on my own. I remember announcing to them that I was leaving, anyway, to go to make a banana split for myself.

I guess in my own childlike way, I was trying to hold on to my self-respect by pointing out that I could have a banana split anytime I wanted one. Maybe it seems silly, but for me that moment was a turning point because it concerned food. I ended up making myself that banana split and hoping it would fill some of the rejection and the emptiness I had been feeling for so long. It was the first time I used food for comfort, but it would definitely not be the last time.

Bigger and Bigger

As I got older, I gained weight and came under the attack of my grandmother who constantly told me I was chubby. My two sisters were in this weight battle with me. What else would anyone expect from kids who ate fast food and ice cream every day for years? Being overweight compounded our problems in school. Not only were we still the new kids on the block, but we had also become the fat kids.

My youngest sister had an especially hard time with children teasing her. To this day, she talks about the negative memories — one of which was having to shop for clothes in the husky department at Sears — that have haunted her through the years. Not only did she suffer from a kidney problem that made her gain even more weight, she also had an eye condition and had to wear coke-bottle glasses. She felt like such an outcast, and it broke my heart. At this point, I had taken on the role of surrogate mother for my sisters. I felt responsible for them and believed it was my job to protect them. I hated to see them suffer so much.

I don’t say all of this to blame my parents. I know they both loved us girls very much and did their best at the time, but the fact was I felt very alone and abandoned. While my mom worked long hours to support us, my father took up a new life. He started dating a woman soon after the divorce. We didn’t realize how serious the relationship was until we found out they had gotten married. My sisters and I weren’t even invited to the wedding.

Yet again, I felt I was left behind as he started a whole new life without my sisters and me. This feeling was further reinforced when he purchased a two-seater sports car. I remember thinking that there wasn’t enough room for my sisters and me. Where were we going to fit in? To me, the car was a symbol of how we weren’t a part of Dad’s life anymore.

My void grew deeper with each passing day. As I shoved more food into my mouth to soothe the pain that wouldn’t go away, my weight crept up.

When I was eleven years old, my friend Beth invited me to attend her church youth group one night. My grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher, and church was a big part of our lives. We visited many churches through the years and spent many weeks during the summers at different vacation Bible schools, which were hosted by local congregations. I had even accepted Christ into my heart at a young age.

Since moving back to South Carolina, however, our family had stopped going to church. I missed it. The thought of visiting one with my friend absolutely thrilled me. When I arrived at the service, I immediately felt as if I belonged. I was in a wonderful place where people loved and cared about each other. It felt like I was home again. Church became my refuge. I especially felt drawn to the youth pastor, Sam. He quickly became a father figure to me, and I felt like I could tell him anything.

This reconnection with church sparked the beginning of a deepening relationship with God. Every Tuesday night, the church bus would drive to my house and take me to church. It was there that I experienced overwhelming love from others, and I discovered that God wanted to fill up the empty hole inside of my heart.

My faith commitment didn’t mean that my problems were suddenly solved. I didn’t ride off into the sunset of my new, happily-ever-after future. It just meant that for the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a lifeline. I had hope. My heart had a chance to become whole.

By learning about God’s love for me, I realized that because we are all human, we all carry with us a certain measure of hurt and pain. This is a part of the sin nature of humankind. But that was not all. I also discovered that God created us with a space that only He can fill. He wanted to be the one to fill my voids and heal my hurts. The pain I was trying to mask with ice cream was a pain that only He could mend.

The Fat Girl Thinks She Is in Control

I want you to know that emptiness is normal. If you feel as if you need to numb the pain or soothe your soul with something outside of yourself, you are not alone. We all endure suffering from time to time. It’s a normal process of living in a sinful world.

While emptiness is normal, it is how you fill the emptiness that will determine whether you are a fat girl or a fit girl. These two chicks cope with problems in different ways. The fit girl chooses God. The fat girl chooses unhealthy addictions. The fat girl can use many different ways to try to heal the hurt on the inside. Some abuse food, drugs, or alcohol or become addicted to work, hobbies, or unhealthy relationships. It might be hard to believe, but some folks can even abuse exercise to an addictive level.

Let me tell you something. The hole that is formed inside of us is not shaped like an ice-cream cone, a vodka bottle, a cigarette, or a good-looking guy. The hole is shaped like the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. He is the one who is meant to fill our empty places and heal our hurts.

I like to think about it this way. We have been created like puzzles with a missing piece. That piece is a relationship with God. He wants us to invite Him into our hearts. The closer we walk with God, the less we will search for other things to fill the hole. This is something the fit girl knows and understands.

I will be honest with you. There have been many times in my life, especially as a fat girl, when I have drifted away from my relationship with the Lord. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I believe that because of the instability I felt as a result of my parent’s divorce, I made a decision as a little girl that when I became an adult, I would be self-sufficient. I would take care of myself so that bad things would never happen to me again.

As most of us know, life usually doesn’t turn out as smooth as we hope it will. Bad things happen to everyone. Here’s a reality check. In life, people will disappoint us one way or another. If you have never been hurt or offended by someone, then you just might be an alien from outer space. The fact is none of us can measure up to perfection, and since we can’t, then certainly life will never be perfect.

My sense of independence severely impaired me when it came to trusting God with my life. I voiced my commitment to Him, but when things got tough or trials came my way, I wanted to take back my commitment. I wanted to do things my way instead of His way. When I turned away from God, that original hole in my heart would reappear, and I temporarily filled it with something. My choices were usually food, of course, and sometimes alcohol or the attention of the opposite sex. None of those things ever gave me true contentment because nothing outside of God could fulfill me.

A significant time I pulled away from God was when my son Rhett was diagnosed with autism. I was 35 at the time, and Rhett was 3. Autism is a spectrum disorder that presents different social and psychological abnormalities in some children. The main challenges we had with Rhett were that he screamed nonstop and was very sensitive to certain sounds. He also had a high threshold for pain. If he was hurting, he didn’t know how to tell us, and so my husband and I were always afraid that he might be sick and we would never know.

We faced other obstacles with our son. Rhett acted as if he had no fear. He was always jumping off the top of the sliding board, and one time he even climbed out of his bedroom window and onto the roof. He exhibited destructive behaviors, colored on the walls, overfilled the bathroom sink or tub with water, and broke things around the house at random. Because he couldn’t communicate in a normal manner, he was easily frustrated.

It was a very sad and dark time in our lives. I was utterly exhausted. I couldn’t believe that God would allow my child to be this way, especially because I tried to live a good Christian life. For goodness sake, I even served Him in ministry at church! Why me? This was the question I constantly asked myself whenever I threw a pity party, which was quite often. This should not happen to someone like me, I thought.

I determined that if my son could suffer from autism when God was supposed to be in control, then maybe I should take back the reins of my life and chart my own course. I would figure out how to fix Rhett. I would find a way to make him better by myself. Who needed God? I was pretty sure I could handle things on my own.

As I focused on being in control, guess what happened? That’s right. The hole that formed when my family fell apart grew bigger. And that’s when the fat girl came out in full force. When it came time for bed, I was so exhausted from trying to do everything on my own that I would fall into a heap on the sofa. I spent many nights with my new comforters—a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips. Oh, I still had conversations with God, but they were more like yelling matches. I would demand that He fix Rhett in the spirit of “You got me into this mess, God, so You’d better get me out of it.”

One day as I was driving down the road and screaming at God yet again, He gently put me in my place. A still, small voice spoke quietly to my heart and said, “Amy, you aren’t perfect, and I love you. Why does Rhett have to be perfect for you to love him?” Talk about getting hit right between the eyes! I knew that God was absolutely right. I was definitely not perfect, and instead of loving Rhett for who he was and dealing with the situation at hand, I had been focusing on making him normal (whatever that even means). At that moment I shifted my focus and asked God to forgive me. I asked Him to help me trust Him with Rhett and the other challenges in my life.

I quickly came to the realization that when I controlled my life, I only made more of a mess of it. It was a lesson I would continue to learn even after I lost the weight and transformed into a fit girl. (By the way, you’ll quickly find out that the fit girl is always learning!)

A week later, I was at church, and as I listened to the sermon, the pastor stopped in the middle of what he was saying and told the congregation that he felt led to say something specific. He said that there was someone in the service who didn’t know how much longer they could hang on, and that they should be encouraged because God was about to perform a miracle in their life.

I was stunned. Only a few days earlier, I mumbled something to myself about not being able to take these problems anymore. Not only was I dealing with my weight  —  I was 230 pounds at that point  —  and Rhett’s autism diagnosis, but my husband, Phillip, and I had also lost a business right after we had purchased a home that needed thousands of dollars worth of renovations. I was emotionally drained by these problems. It seemed I couldn’t get a break.

I felt as if the pastor was talking to me. It was the encouragement I needed to hear. Maybe my life would get better! Within days, the miracles started happening. First, we found out about a therapy called “audio integration” that proved to be a miracle cure for Rhett. It stopped his sensitivity to sound and his constant screaming. We were able to catch and keep his attention for a long period of time, and for the first time, I felt he could actually begin to learn. Second, our financial situation started to turn around as we found new careers in real estate.

When things started changing for the better, Phil and I specifically realized we had been feeding our physical bodies instead of filling our spiritual bodies. In the process, we had become morbidly obese. It was time to begin the journey to lose the weight. For me, it was time to say good-bye to the fat girl and hello to the fit girl.

What about you? What’s your story? I have met people all over the country who have stories that make mine seem like a walk in the park. One such lady that I met recently told me that her problems with her weight began right after her husband committed suicide. That in itself is a horrifying traumatic event, and now this woman is left to pick up the pieces of a family torn apart by tragedy. This affected her and her family emotionally, mentally, and financially. Five years later this lady is obese, depressed, and struggling to support her family. My heart goes out to people like this because I see the magnitude of their holes and how they are desperately trying to fill them.

Pascal wrote, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” In this he describes the search that is familiar to the fat girl. So many people are on this journey to fill that hole in their hearts.

Another time I met a beautiful young woman with an incredible singing talent. She is tall and blonde and beautiful in spite of the more than 100 pounds she wants to lose. She shared with me that when she was in high school, her stepfather was murdered. Before that she had never had a weight problem, but that event threw her into such a depression that she could hardly get out of bed in the morning. Her grades suffered, and she had to drop out of school for a while. She began eating to comfort herself in her grief.

These people suffered a pain that pierced their hearts like a bullet and left a hole that couldn’t be healed. They needed the Comforter to heal them, but instead they turned to food. Does this sound familiar? Have your fat-girl tendencies to heal yourself left you more depressed and burdened with extra weight? Have you suffered in a way that you feel no one can understand? Do you feel that there is no way out of the pain that plagues you day and night? It’s time to become the fit girl.

What a Fit Girl Knows

Fit girls know that making the right nutrition choices and getting regular exercise are only half the battle. The real key to losing weight and keeping it off is in fighting a spiritual and mental battle. When I lost all the weight while on The Biggest Loser, I found that many issues from my past reappeared. When it was time for the fit girl to deal with her internal fears and let go of the crutches the fat girl held on to for dear life, I felt like a scared kid curled up in a corner in a fetal position. I had to give that scared little girl permission to rise up and be strong. Why? Because fit girls are strong and are not afraid to face challenges, obstacles, or their fears. I had to show the fat girl what a fit girl is capable of.

As a fat girl, I focused on naming things I couldn’t do. After I started losing weight, I was on a mission to prove the fat girl wrong. I climbed mountains, kayaked rivers, hiked the Grand Canyon, and endured physical challenges that I never thought I could face. Being able to witness my own strength for the first time in my life and overcome the impossible was just the beginning of my fit-girl transformation. Healing my heart on the inside would prove to be a bigger challenge than climbing the biggest mountain I could find, but it was only when my heart healed that I was able to find the fit girl.

You may be asking, “Who is the fit girl?” The fit girl is you when you discover that the hole on the inside of you is designed to be filled by God, your heavenly Father and the Creator of the universe. The fit girl is you when you realize that the compulsion to fill an internal void with food, alcohol, or other stuff is futile because only God can fill that place. The fit girl is you when you realize that you don’t need to comfort yourself with anything but God because you know He loves you very much and wants nothing but the best for your life.

The Bible says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (see Hebrews 11:1 nkjv). Faith in God is the belief that He is the substance you need for the life you dream of but have yet to see. For the fit girl, a life worth dreaming about is one where she doesn’t have to fill the empty places in her life with things outside of God when pressures get to her.

Remember how I said I would continue to learn this lesson? Well, when I was going through the process of losing weight, I faced different kinds of temptations to fill the void. My new alternatives to filling the void were worse than the food addiction.

For instance, as I got thinner, I was getting attention from men other than my husband. I hadn’t experienced that kind of attention in years, and to be honest, I liked it. In fact, I liked it so much that I realized that even though I was a happily married woman, I still sought after male attention to prove that I was attractive. I liked it when other men thought I was pretty, and so I didn’t discourage harmless flirtations. As you can imagine, my husband didn’t find this behavior an acceptable replacement for my food cravings.

Before I knew it, I found myself switching from one addiction to another. I stopped caring about welcoming glances from men and started drinking red wine. That occasional one glass of wine quickly turned into two or three glasses a few nights a week. Obviously the fat girl wasn’t just an outside issue but an issue of the heart. I had a heart problem, and I needed a healer.

So once again I turned to the Lord and asked Him to heal me and be my guide. I asked Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit and show me how to change my heart. I asked Him to reveal to me the keys to change my reactions to life and its challenges and pressures. It was then that God, once again, asked me to have faith in Him and trust Him with my life. He didn’t want to be my acquaintance. He wanted to be my Lord. Thankfully, I said yes to that process. I haven’t looked back since.

What about you? Have you noticed that your struggles are similar to mine? Do you have a hole in your heart that you are trying to fill up with addictive behaviors like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, or smoking cigarettes? Have you lost weight and found yourself holding on to things that have replaced a food addiction? What’s your new drug of choice?

Often weight can be a security blanket to keep from having to deal with sensitive things going on in the heart, and uncovering those hurts can be a painful process. Know this: God loves you and wants you to be whole and fit. He wants to build a relationship with you so that you can allow Him to fill every part of your life. It’s not enough to occasionally chat with Him through a prayer. God wants to be your partner and your friend. He wants to transform you from the inside out! He wants you to be a fit girl.

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.  — Ralph Waldo Emerson



Transformation Tips

I want you to do something for me. Find a really quiet place and go there by yourself.     I know this might be hard if you have little kids or a busy schedule, but carve out some time to sit in the quiet and set your daily routine aside for a while.     This is important. (By the way, finding a few minutes alone to meditate and pray is a great thing to do at the end of each of these lessons.)

During this quiet time, pray and ask God to reveal some things that may be holding you back from being the fit girl He made you to be. He may bring things to your mind that you haven’t thought about in years. You may have buried feelings, situations, or experiences you didn’t want to deal with back then — things God wants you to uncover today.     God can show you these things through dreams or even nightmares. Identify whatever comes to your mind and write them down in a journal.

Here is a list of questions that will help you with this process and show you some things that may be keeping the fit girl at bay.     Take some time to meditate on these questions and pray about your answers.     Ask God to speak into your heart.

What are my earliest childhood memories? Are they happy ones? Sad ones?
How have these memories shaped my life?
Are there people from my past who I need to forgive or ask to forgive me?
What role does God have in my life? Can I draw closer to Him?
In my relationships with others, does the way I act cause hurt feelings? Concerning myself, does my behavior cause harm or is it self-destructive?
These might be hard questions for you to think about, but it’s what you have to do if you want to transform yourself into a fit girl.     Finally, I want you to pray about each revelation and ask God to show you how to make changes in the areas that need some work.     Trust that He will give you the strategies to heal the places that need healing.

Commit to having a closer relationship with God and listening more closely when He speaks to your heart. He may ask you to call someone and ask them to forgive you for being angry with them. He may tell you that you are going to have to end relationships in your life that are unhealthy.     Whatever it is you feel He is leading you to do, do it.     This is the beginning of the healing journey and finding the fit girl in you!



Your Prayer

Father, please help me realize that only You can fulfill me, and that I need only You to fill the empty spaces inside me. Help me turn away from the temptation to fill my empty spaces with anything else. I pray that You would give me the strength to continually make the choice to relinquish control of my life to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge


1. Your favorite chocolate treat?
Death By Chocolate which is absolutely the most decadent chocolate cake you can imagine!  The one I've had comes from our Kroger Bakery and it's so rich, you have to drink a glass of milk with it.

2. What more than anything else makes you feel loved?
I'm not sure what, but I know who...my hubby! 

3. Cherries or blueberries?
Probably blueberries, but I really love them both.

4. What is the one trait you most want the leader of your country to posess?
Honesty

5. Are you a saver or a spender?
Spender

6. If you gave a party for all of your friends would they already know each other?
No, not all of them.

7. Are you interested in antiques?
Some, but nothing like my mother.  Her house is full of antiques and it's beautiful.  I'm more of a I like old stuff if it has a memory attached or it belonged to someone I know.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
Have you heard Francesca Battistelli's new song, "This is the Stuff"?  Take a listen, it's really good and this is the kind of stuff He's using to teach me right now.  Trying to learn more patience and less frustration.  Tough lesson to learn because so often I forget just "how big I'm blessed".



I lost my keys in the great unknown
And call me please 'Cuz I can't find my phone

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that's getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I gotta trust You know exactly what You're doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

45 in a 35
Sirens and fines while I'm running behind
Whoa

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that's getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I gotta trust You know exactly what You're doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

So break me of impatience
Conquer my frustrations
I've got a new appreciation
It's not the end of the world
Oh Oh Oh

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff
Someone save me
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
And I've gotta trust You know exactly what You're doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Siesta Scripture Memory #4



Well it's February 15th and time for a new memory verse. This time I chose Isaiah 1:18  “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool."  Another great first from Isaiah.  Who knew that Isaiah was so rich.  I love it.

I really appreciate Beth Moore encouraging all of us in the pursuit of knowing and understanding the scriptures and encouraging us to memorize scripture. You know it's not too late to start memorizing with us. It's on the 1st and 15th of each month and by the end of the year we'll have learned 24 verses. If you start today, you'll memorize 21 and that's very awesome too! So go here  if you want to join in.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Woo Hoo - Could This Be the Beginning of Spring?

After it being like this forever (or at least if feels that way)....




It's so nice to have a day when it reached this...

People flying kites in front of the old radio station for "Voice of America"

And we celebrated the beautiful sunny warm day by having this....

Thank you God for the wonderful break!!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge



 Click the button above to join in all the fun of Wednesday Hodgepodge.

1. What is more important-doing what you love or loving what you do?
Isn't it the same?  If I'm doing what I love, wouldn't I be loving what I do?

2. Do you like bleu cheese?
No.

3. What is the most difficult emotion for you to handle?
When I'm worn out, I don't handle any emotion very well.

4. Fresh flowers or a box of chocolate?
Chocolate

5. What's a song you love that has the word 'love' in its title? It doesn't have to be a 'love song'.
"Love Lifted Me" an old hymn

6. Are you the person you wanted to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a mother and I am, so I guess so.

7. Any special Valentines Day plans?
Not yet.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
 Wish I were here right now or some place similar!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reality Series

You've got to go to Jill's place and read this post about a new reality series (at least it should be).   It is hysterically awesome!

Monday, February 7, 2011

If You're a Parent, You've Got to Read This

Check out this post by my daughter. If you're a parent of younger kids, it'll give you hope and if you're a parent of grown children, you'll understand why this makes me so happy.

Looks Like Love by Brandy Bruce

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

WestBow Press A Division of Thomas Nelson (December 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Brandy Bruce for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Brandy Bruce holds a bachelor of arts degree from Liberty University. She's been a nonfiction developmental book editor for more than six years. Brandy lives in Colorado with her husband, Jeff, and her daughter, Ashtyn.



Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Kasey Addison is a twenty-something marketing consultant whose life has just been savagely thrown into disaster status. Following a bad breakup and an unfulfilling career, Kasey feels lost in her own life. With the help of her best friend, and with a rekindled relationship with the Lover of her soul, she embarks on an adventure to rediscover life, faith, and love.



Product Details:

List Price: $19.95
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: WestBow Press A Division of Thomas Nelson (December 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1449707017
ISBN-13: 978-1449707019

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


I wasn’t going to marry him anyway.

At least that’s what I told myself about fifty-two times from the moment he said the words “This just isn’t working for me” until my car was started and my shaking hands were holding the steering wheel. I wasn’t going to marry him. Not in a million lifetimes would I consider marrying him.

My shock turned into devastation, which soon turned into anger as I ransacked my apartment and tossed every piece of Riley Shepard memorabilia I could find into a large brown box.

Riley Shepard. Boyfriend of eight years and sixty-four days. Dirty dog deserving death.

Well, I should possibly have said, dirty dog deserving death who up until recently was in disguise. Nah, too much work. Dog summarized my feelings pretty well, and even that was being generous.

And so, here I found myself: Kasey Addison, a normally very nice, Christian, twenty-seven-year-old marketing consultant for Jinkson’s Advertising Firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, whose life had just been savagely thrown into disaster status. I tried not to think about the fact that if this breakup remained permanent, the last eight years of my life had been worthless.

How did I get here? Was it possible for me to be shocked by a cruel announcement telling me that I was no longer loved? Weren’t there warning signs? Answers: I don’t know. Yes. No.

The box of memorabilia sat by the door, a constant reminder of the end of my life. I refused to call Riley. If he wanted his things, he’d have to make the effort to come get them.

* * *

One week later, I caved and gave into the foolish desire to call him since he had made no attempt to contact me. I thought perhaps the sound of my voice would bring him back to reality. That was when I realized the unfortunate truth: Riley was fine. He didn’t miss me. He was happy. He spoke to me as though I were a dear, old friend who had been keeping some of his belongings for him. He even told me that my friendship was important to him. That was the moment I yelled unintelligibly (think Tasmanian devil) before hanging up the phone and sinking into depression.

For three weeks I avoided all calls from my parents and my friends from work and church. I managed to go to work every day and come home and that was it. I’d even started living off frozen pizza, Chinese take-out, and my faithful friends Ben and Jerry.

Everything changed when Amanda called. Amanda Scott. Best friend since freshman year of college. British chick who went to Penn State as an exchange student. My lifesaver.

The phone rang twelve times before I considered answering it. My voicemail would kick on after every four rings. Amanda would hang up and text me. She did this three times, and I knew it wouldn’t stop until she reached me.

I set aside my pint of Cherry Garcia and reached for the cordless (which was sitting next to me on the sofa).

“I’m here.”

Amanda’s exasperated sigh was so loud that I could practically feel her breath in my ear.

“Of course you’re there. Where else would you be? Getting on with your life? I know you too well to assume that. Which is why I’m calling.”

I noticed the scattered popcorn around the living room floor. Why couldn’t I at least lose weight as a result of my broken heart? I’d known girls who couldn’t eat after a breakup. Not me. I’d already cleaned out the first and second shelves of the pantry.

“Why are you calling again?”

Luckily, I knew Amanda to be the type of sarcastic friend who was not offended easily—not to mention controlling, sweet when she wanted to be, and a little demanding. She was the kind of girl who left London to be an exchange student only to annoy her parents. I was very aware of the fact that other people’s feelings were rarely her priority.

“I’m calling to pull you out of depression and push you back among the land of the living. I bought you a birthday present.”

I picked up a piece of popcorn from the floor and ate it, hoping it would poison me.

“My birthday was two months ago, and you already sent me that skirt that I’ll never wear.”

“You haven’t worn it? Forget I said that. You will wear it, Kasey. With your pale skin, the color will look great on you.”

Demanding. More than a little.

“Thanks for that reminder that I basically look like mozzarella string cheese,” I retorted.

Amanda chuckled. “String cheese doesn’t have wavy, strawberry-blond hair.”

“Frizzy, you mean,” I interrupted.

“I was being nice,” Amanda said bluntly. “Back to the present situation. I bought you a present. How much holiday time do you have?”

“Not much. I think Annie hates me.” Annie was my boss who thought she was prettier than she really was and treated me worse than her pet poodle.

“Who cares about Annie? How much time off do you have? Concentrate, Kasey! Have you been drinking?”

“No,” I answered, thinking that it didn’t sound like a bad idea. Amanda’s tone softened just a tad.

“Listen, I know you’ve been through a lot. I wish I were there so I could go directly to Riley’s apartment and tell him what I think of him—and maybe slash his tires. But honestly, Kas, it’s time to move forward, and I’m here to help you. I bought you a ticket to come visit me. We’re going to have a great time, and you are going to realize that you deserve better than Riley.”

My tears vanished. Suddenly I was quite coherent and pretty sure I had just heard Amanda tell me that she had bought me a plane ticket to London.

“Amanda, what have you done? How am I supposed to pay you back for this? I can’t take a vacation in the middle of October. The holidays will be here soon.”

“What does that matter? Holidays will only make you more depressed. What you need is some girl time with me.”


I promised to think it over and later came to the conclusion that it made sense to me. Riley and I usually spent the holidays together, jumping back and forth from his parents’ house to my parents’ house. Maybe a trip to England would help boost my re-entrance into single life. Maybe I would meet a gorgeous, Hugh Grant-type of guy.

I knew it was unlikely. My chances of attracting an amazing Brit were slim to none, especially since I was obviously repulsive to normal, sensible guys like Riley.

I wished I were twenty-two again. Why couldn’t Riley have broken up with me when I was twenty-two and still valuable to the opposite sex? Did he know nothing of the predicament of aging women? Amanda was absolutely right. I should travel. Increase knowledge and gain experience. I’d never been to England. My only European jaunt had been a family vacation to Italy with my parents when I was in sixth grade. Maybe some adventure was exactly what I needed. (Plus, there was always the hope that Riley might come to his senses and start to miss me.)

* * *

Somehow Amanda always managed to talk me into things, telling me later that I wouldn’t have gone along if I hadn’t really wanted to. Usually I believed her. But taking my precious week of vacation the month before Thanksgiving felt strange. Annie had given me that look. The one that meant, Are you ever going to be a normal person? But she’d signed the vacation form and I’d started packing my bags.

Amanda had bought an open ticket so I could leave when I wanted to. She must have been feeling kind. It was unlike her to leave decisions up to me. But I’d made my decision. I was going to England. I was taking this trip for myself, and I wasn’t going to mourn Riley the entire time. In two weeks, my new life was beginning.


My Thoughts:  I loved this book.  It was fun but it was thought provoking.  Kasey was very fun to read about.  She is a little quirky, a little klutzy and a little mixed up.  She's hurting over losing her boyfriend and doesn't know how she'll go on.  But eventually she turns back to God and tries to get on with her life and comes to terms with what love really is.  I think what I like most about this character is that she is so real.  I mean I can imagine knowing Kasey and being friends with her.  So, if you're looking for a fun book to read, this is it.  And you just might learn something about love along the way too.  Great job on this story Brandy Bruce.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Proud Mama Showing Off Some New Artwork by Kelli

My daughter has been working on her drawing talents. This is her first paid commission for a portrait. I think it's awesome! I can seeing her talent growing and growing. She took a picture with her cell phone and then sent it to my phone and I forwarded it to my email, so the quality isn't that great. But you can get the idea from this. So here is the original picture and her partially completed drawing and then the second is the completed drawing.



Friday, February 4, 2011

Just in Case You Want to Know

I turned word verification back on in my comments. I'm starting to get a lot of spam since I turned it off a few weeks ago. Fortunately the spam filter has caught most of it. Some of it is pretty nasty stuff and I don't want to take a chance that the spam filter will miss it. So sorry everyone, but if you want to leave a comment (and I hope you will, because I love comments) you'll have to do a word verification.


Now just for fun I'd like to show you a picture I took in December.

I promise, I did nothing to edit this picture.  In fact, all I did was point the camera and push the button.  I have no photographic skills at all.   I took it standing in my back door or on the back porch.  Isn't that the coolest looking sky?  As far as I'm concerned, I think God just absolutely outdid Himself with this sky.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Guess Where I Went This Morning

Yep, the dentist!!  I hate going to the dentist.  I know, it was just a cleaning, but sometimes that leads to other things.  Unfortunately, this time it did and now I have to go back next week for a filling!  Yuck!

What about you, do you hate it as much as me?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge



I can't believe I forgot about the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Glad I saw it on Mocha with Linda's blog. I love the Hodgepodge. Guess with all the weather stuff and my daughter being sick yesterday, it just slipped my mind. So I'm a little late, but here we go. Hey don't forget to click on the button above and join in on this fun with us.

1. Would you rather be seen as a person who did their duty or forged their own path?
Why can't I forge my own path while I'm doing my duty?

2. This week's Wednesday Hodgepodge happens to fall on Groundhog's Day. In keeping with that theme, if you could have a do-over of any one day out of the last seven, which day would it be and why. If you haven't seen the movie Groundhog Day this question will make absolutely no sense but that's okay....you can answer anyway.
I've seen the movie and I love it...That being said, I'm not sure any of the last 7 I would want to do again.  They've been pretty good and I'm afraid if I did them again, they might change..  Hubby and I had the whole weekend to ourselves.  Both girls were gone and that was really nice.  The rest weren't bad either.  

You thought my question was going to be weather related didn't you?

3. Hot cocoa...yay or nay on the marshmallows?
Yay, of course!  Although I really like whipped cream too.

4. Do you wear makeup every day? What are the top two must haves in your daily makeup routine?
No, I don't.  I wear it sometimes, but not always.  Usually when I do wear it, it's just eyeshadow, liner & mascara.

5. Is it more important to you in a relationship to be loved or understood?
I want to be loved understandingly.

6. Parsley sage rosemary or thyme... your favorite?
Parsley

7. What do you do when you feel angry?
Have you ever heard the saying, "If mama ain't happy, then no one's happy"?  Well that probably explains about as well as anything what I do. haha  Remember my answer about the Drawfs last week?  Grumpy!

8. Insert your own random thought here.
Thank goodness, Punxsutawney Phil says we are going to have an early spring!  


I'm so ready for winter to be over!

Words by Ginny L. Yttrup

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

B&H Books (February 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, Trade Book Marketing, B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ginny L. Yttrup is an accomplished freelance writer, speaker, and life coach who also ministers to women wounded by sexual trauma. Her blogs include Fiction Creator, My Daily Light, and Crossings Life Coaching. She has two grown sons and lives in California. Words is her first novel.



Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“I collect words. I keep them in a box in my mind. Whenever I wanted, I’d open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box. But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can’t take them.”
Ten-year old Kaylee Wren doesn’t speak. Not since her drug-addled mother walked away, leaving her in a remote cabin nestled in the towering redwoods-in the care of a man who is as dangerous as he is evil. With silence her only refuge, Kaylee collects words she might never speak from the only memento her mother left behind: a dictionary.

Sierra Dawn is thirty-four, an artist, and alone. She has allowed the shame of her past to silence her present hopes and chooses to bury her pain by trying to control her circumstances. But on the twelfth anniversary of her daughter’s death, Sierra’s control begins to crumble as the God of her childhood woos her back to Himself.

Brought together by Divine design, Kaylee and Sierra will discover together the healing mercy of the Word—Jesus Christ.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433671700
ISBN-13: 978-1433671708

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“In the beginning was the Word.”

John 1:1


“All those things for which we have no words are lost. The mind—the culture—has two little tools, grammar and lexicon: a decorated sand bucket and a matching shovel. With these we bluster about the continents and do all the world’s work. With these we try to save our very lives.”

Annie Dillard


Chapter One


Kaylee


I collect words.

I keep them in a box in my mind. I’d like to keep them in a real box, something pretty, maybe a shoe box covered with flowered wrapping paper. I’d write my words on scraps of paper and then put them in the box. Whenever I wanted, I’d open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box.

But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can’t take them.

The dictionary is heavy on my lap. I’m on page 1,908. I’m reading through the Ss. When I finish the Zs, I’ll start all over again.

Su-per-flu-ous.

I like that word. It means something extra, something special, something you don’t need. It’s super. But you don’t need super. You just need good enough.

How does it sound when someone says it?

I didn’t really think about how words sound until I stopped talking. I didn’t mean to stop talking, it just sort of happened.

My mom left.

I got scared.

And the words got stuck.

Now I just read the words and then listen for them on the little radio in the kitchen, the only superfluous thing we have.

As I read, my hair falls across my eyes. I push it out of the way, but it falls back. I push it out of the way again, but this time my fingers catch in a tangle. I work for a minute trying to separate the hairs and smooth them down.

When my mom was here, she combed my hair most mornings. Our hair is the same. “Stick straight and dark as soot.” That’s what she used to say.

It hurt when she pulled the comb through my hair. “Kaylee, stop squirming,” she’d tell me. “It’ll pull more if you move.”

Sometimes I’d cry when the comb caught in a knot and she’d get impatient and tell me to stop whining.

Maybe that’s why she left. Maybe she got tired of my whining.

That’s what he says. He tells me she didn’t love me anymore—that she wanted out. But I don’t believe him. I think something happened to her, an accident or something.

She probably has amnesia. I read that word in the dictionary.

That’s when you hit your head so hard on something that you pass out and have to go to the hospital and when you wake up, you don’t remember anything. Not even your name.

Not even that you have a daughter.

I think that’s what happened to my mom. When she remembers, she’ll come back and get me.

So I just wait. I won’t leave. If I leave, she won’t know where to find me.

And when she comes back, I’ll be good. I won’t whine anymore.

I was nine when she left. Now, I’m ten. I’ll be eleven the day after Christmas. I always know it’s near my birthday when they start playing all the bell songs on the radio. I like Silver Bells. I like to think about the city sidewalks and all the people dressed in holiday style. But Jingle Bells is my favorite. Dashing through the snow on a one-horse open sleigh sounds fun.

It’s not near my birthday yet. It’s still warm outside.

As the sun sets, the cabin gets dark inside, too dark to read. He didn’t pay the electric bill, again. I hope he pays it before Christmas or I won’t hear the songs on the radio.

Before I put the dictionary away, I turn to the front page and run my fingers across the writing scribbled there. “Lee and Katherine Wren. Congratulations.

Lee and Katherine are my parents. Were my parents. Are my parents. I’m not sure.

My mom told me that the dictionary was a gift from her Aunt Adele. Mom thought it was kind of a funny wedding gift, but she liked it and kept it even after Lee left. We used it a lot. Sometimes when I’d ask her a question about what something was or what something meant, she’d say, “Go get the dictionary Kaylee, we’ll look it up.” Then she’d show me how to find the word, and we’d read the definition. Most of the time she’d make me sound out the words and read them to her. Only sometimes did she read them to me. But most of the time when I asked her a question, she told me to be quiet. She liked it best when I was quiet.

I miss my mom. But the dictionary makes me feel like part of her is still here. While she’s gone, the dictionary is mine. I have to take care of it. So just like I always do before I put the book away, I ask a silent favor: Please don’t let him notice it. Please don’t let him take it.

I put the dictionary back under the board that makes up a crooked shelf. The splintered wood pricks the tip of one finger as I lift the board and shove the dictionary under. The shelf is supported on one end by two cinderblocks and by one cinderblock and three books on the other end.

I remember the day she set up the shelf. I followed her out the front door and down the steps, and then watched her kneel in the dirt and pull out three concrete blocks she’d found under the steps. She dusted dirt and cobwebs from the cracks and then carried each block inside. She stacked two blocks one on top of the other at one end of the room and then spaced the last block at the other end of the room, under the window.

“Kaylee, hand me a few books from that box. Get big ones.”

I reached into the box and pulled out the biggest book—the dictionary. Then I handed her the other two books. She stacked them on top of the block and then laid a board across the books and blocks.

Even at seven, I knew what she was doing. We’d move in with a boyfriend and Mom would get us “settled” which meant she’d move in our things—our clothes, books, and a few toys for me. She’d rearrange the apartment, or house—or this time, the cabin—and make it “homey.”

After she made the shelf, she lined up our books. Then she placed a vase of wildflowers we’d collected that morning on the end of the shelf. She stood back and looked at what she’d done. Her smile told me she liked it.

The cabin was small, but of all the places we’d lived, I could tell this was her favorite. And this boyfriend seemed nice enough at first, so I hoped maybe we’d stay this time.

We did stay. Or at least I stayed. So now I’m the one arranging the shelf and I’m careful to put it back just as it was. Our books are gone. In their place I return two beer bottles, one with a sharp edge of broken glass, to their dust-free circles on the shelf. I pick up the long-empty bag of Frito Lay corn chips and, before leaning the bag against the broken bottle, I hold it open close to my face and breathe in. The smell of corn and salt make my stomach growl.

Once I’m sure everything looks just as it was on the shelf, I crawl to my mattress in the corner of the room and sit, Indian-style, with my back against the wall and watch the shadows. Light shines between the boards across the broken front window; shadows of leaves and branches move across the walls, ceiling, and door. Above my head I hear a rat or squirrel on the roof. Its movement scatters pine needles and something—a pinecone, I imagine—rolls from the top of the roof, over my head, and then drops into the bed of fallen needles around the front steps.

This is the longest part of the day—when it’s too dark to read.

When I read…

I forget.

That’s how it works.

Once the sun goes down, I don’t leave the cabin. I’m afraid he’ll come back after work and find me gone. He’s told me not to leave because he’d find me and I’d be sorry.

I believe him. believe --verb 1. to take as true, real, etc. 2. to have confidence in a statement or promise of (another person).

My legs go numb under my body and my eyes feel heavy, but I don’t sleep. Sleep isn’t safe. Instead, I close my eyes for just a minute and see flames against the backs of my eyelids. They burn everything my mom and I brought to the cabin.

I remember the hissing and popping as the nighttime drizzle hit the bonfire. And I remember his laughter.

“She’s gone for good, Kaylee. She ain’t comin back.” He cackled like an old witch as he threw more gasoline on the flames.

The smoke filled my nose and stung my lungs as I watched Lamby, the stuffed animal I’d slept with since I was a baby, burn along with most of our clothes and books.

The only exceptions were the three books he hadn’t noticed holding up the shelf. My tears couldn’t put out the fire, and I finally stopped crying. I wiped my nose on my sleeve and stepped away from the blaze. I squared my shoulders and stood as tall as I could. Something changed in me that night. I couldn’t be little anymore. I had to be grown up.

I open my eyes and reach my hand under the corner of the mattress. My fingers dig into the hole in the canvas, feeling for the music box that had been inside Lamby. I’d found it in the ashes the morning after the fire. I tug it free, then wind the key and hold it up to my ear. As the music plays, I remember the words of the song that Grammy taught me just before she died. Jesus loves me, this I know…

The song makes me feel sad.

I don’t think Jesus loves me anymore.

Eventually, I must fall asleep, because I wake up startled—mouth dry, palms damp, and my heart pounding.

I hear the noise that woke me, the crunching of leaves and pine needles. I listen. Are his steps steady, even? No. Two steps. Pause. A dragging sound. Pause. A thud as he stumbles. Pause. Will he get up? Or has he passed out? Please let him be out. A metal taste fills my mouth as I hear him struggle to get back on his feet.

“Kay—leeee?” He slurs. “You up? Lemme in.”

He bangs his fist on the front door, which hasn’t locked or even shut tight since the night he aimed his .22 at the doorknob and blew it to pieces.

The door gives way under the pressure of his fist. As it swings open, he pounds again but misses and falls into the cabin. He goes straight down and hits the floor, head first. A gurgling sound comes from his throat, and I smell the vomit before I see it pooled around his face.

I hope he’ll drown in it.

But he won’t die tonight.

Instead, he heaves himself onto his back and reaches for the split on his forehead where, even in the dark, I can see the blood trickling into his left eye. Then his hand slides down past his ear and drops to the floor. At the sound of his snoring, I exhale. I realize I’ve been holding my breath. Waiting…waiting…waiting.



Chapter Two

Sierra


Cocooned in crocheted warmth, I slip my hands from beneath the afghan and reach for my journal—a notebook filled with snippets of feelings and phrases. I jot a line: Like shards of glass slivering my soul. I set pen and journal aside and warm my hands around my ritual mug of Earl Gray, considering the phrase. I like the cadence of the alliteration. I see shining slivers piercing an ambiguous soul. I see a canvas layered in hues of red, russet, and black.

A memory calls my name, but I turn away. There will be time for memories later.

I close my eyes against the flame of color igniting the morning sky and allow my body the luxury of relaxing. I breathe deep intentional breaths, exhaling slowly, allowing mind and body to find a like rhythm. With each breath I let go, one by one, the anxieties of the past week.

Prints—signed and numbered. Five hundred in all.

Contract negotiations with two new galleries. Done.

Showing in Carmel last night. Successful.

Mortgage paid. On time for once.

Van Gogh neutered. What did the vet say? “He’s lost his manhood—be gentle with him. He’ll need a few days to recoup.” Good grief.

A whimper interrupts my reverie. The afghan unfurls as I get up and pad across the deck back into the bungalow. Van presses his nose through the cross-hatch door of his crate—his woeful expression speaking volumes. I open the cage and the spry mutt I met at the shelter a few days before staggers toward the deck, tail between his legs. I translate his body language as utter humiliation and feel guilty for my responsible choice.

“Sorry pal, it’s the only way I could spring you from the shelter. They made me do it.” His ears perk and then droop. His salt and pepper coat bristles against my hand, while his ears are cashmere soft. He sighs and drifts back to sleep while I wonder at the wisdom of adopting an animal that’s already getting under my skin. I consider packing him up and taking him back before it’s too late. Instead, I brace myself and concede “Okay, I’ll love you—but just a little.” He twitches in response.

The distant throttle of fishing boats leaving the harbor and the bickering of gulls overhead break the morning silence followed by the ringing of the phone. I smile and reach for the phone lying under my journal.

“Hi, Margaret.” No need to answer with a questioning “Hello?” There’s only one person I know who dares calling at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday.

Laughter sings through the phone line. “Shannon, when are you going to stop calling me Margaret?”

I dubbed her that after the indomitable Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of her homeland. Her unwavering British accent, even after nearly half a century in the United States, and her strength under pressure inspired the nickname. It fits.

“Well, as I’ve told you, I’ll stop calling you Margaret when you stop calling me Shannon. Need I remind you that I haven’t been Shannon in over a decade?”

“Oh, right. Let’s see, what is your name now? Sahara Dust? Sequoia Dew?”

I play along. “Does Sierra Dawn ring a bell?”

“Right, Sierra Dawn, beautiful name. But you’ll always be Shannon Diane to me.”

The smile in her voice chases the shadows from my heart. “Okay, Mother. I mean Margaret.” I pull my knees to my chest and reach for the afghan as I settle back in the weathered Adirondack for our conversation.

“Sierra, I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Of course not. What is it you say, ‘You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.’”

“That’s my girl. Your daddy’s been out in the fields since 6:00 but he let me sleep. I just got up and thought I’d share a cup of tea with you.”

I do a quick pacific/central time conversion and realize with some alarm that it’s 9:00 a.m. in Texas.

“You slept until 9:00? You never sleep that late. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, darling, I’m simply getting old. I had to get up three times during the night and by this morning I just wanted to sleep. So I indulged.”

“Well, good for you. I’m glad you called. You know my favorite Saturday mornings are spent with you and Earl.”

“I’m not drinking Earl.”

A startling confession. “You’re not? What are you drinking?”

“Sierra, I’m drinking Lemon Zinger!” Her declaration is followed by a giggle that sounds anything but old.

I stretch my long legs and cross them at the ankles and lean my head against the back of the chair. I feel as though my mother, with gentle skill, has distracted me while she’s worked to remove a few of those slivers imbedded in my soul. But unless I stop brushing up against my splintered history, the slivers will return—or so she tells me.

Just before we hang up, she says, “Shannon—” there’s such tenderness in her voice that I let the slip pass— “are you going to the cemetery today?”

Her question tears open the wound, exposing the underlying infection. I imagine her practicality won’t allow her to leave the wound festering any longer; instead she lances my heart.

I lean forward. “Yes, Mother. You know I will.” My tone is tight, closed. But I can’t seem to help it.

“Darling, it’s time to let go—it’s been twelve years. It’s time to grasp grace and move on.”

The fringe of the afghan I’ve played with as we’ve talked is now twisted tight around my index finger, cutting off the circulation. “What are you saying? That I should just forget—just let go and walk away— never think about it again? You know I can’t do that.”

“Not forget, Sierra— forgive. It’s time.”

“Mother, you know I don’t want to talk about this.”

“Yes, I know. But you need to at least think about it. Think about the truth. Ask yourself what’s true.”

I sigh at my mother’s oft repeated words and grunt my consent before I hang up— or “ring off” as she would say.


I left Texas at eighteen and headed to California, sure that was where I’d “find myself.” On the day I left, my daddy stood at the driver’s door of my overstuffed used station wagon gazing at the hundreds of acres of soil he’d readied for planting in the fall and gave me what I think of now as my own “Great Commission.” In the vernacular of the Bible Belt, my daddy, a farmer with the soul of a poet, sent me out into the world with a purpose.

“Honey, do you know why I farm?”

At eighteen I’d never considered the “why” of what my parents did. “No, Daddy. Why?”

“Farming’s not something that can be done alone. I till the ground, plant the seeds, and irrigate. But it’s the rising and setting of the sun and the changing of the seasons that cause the grain to grow. Farming is a partnership with the Creator. Each year when I reap the harvest, I marvel at a Creator who allows me the honor of co-creating with him.”

He’d stopped staring at the fields and instead looked straight at me. “Look for what the Creator wants you to do, Shannon. He wants to share his creativity with you. He wants to partner with you. You find what he wants you to do.”

With that, he planted a kiss on my forehead and shut the door of my car. With my daddy’s commission tucked in my heart, I left in search of my life. My older brother, Jeff, was already in California completing his final year in the agricultural school at Cal-Poly in San Luis Obispo. Tired of dorm life, Jeff and two friends rented a house in town and told me I could rent a room from them for the year. I was thrilled.

Our neighbors and Mother and Daddy’s friends couldn’t understand why they’d let me “run off” to California. In their minds, California was a dark place where drugs and sex ruled. But Daddy assured them California was not the Sodom and Gomorrah they imagined. He should know. His roots were in California. He was born and raised there. Jeff and I grew up hearing about the Golden State and were determined we’d see it for ourselves one day. College in California seemed a logical choice to both of us.

As I headed west, I thought of my parents and what I’d learned from each of them through the years. Daddy taught me to see. Where others in our community saw grain, Daddy saw God. He always encouraged me in his quiet and simple way to look beyond the obvious. “Look beyond a person’s actions and see their heart. Look for what’s causing them to act the way they act, then you’ll understand them better.”

When I was about twelve, Mother and Daddy took us with them down to Galveston for a week. Daddy was there for an American Farm Bureau meeting. After the meeting, we stayed for a few rare days of vacation. I remember standing on the beach and looking out at the flat sea, Daddy pulled me close and pointed at the surf and asked, “What do you see?”

“The ocean?” I asked it more than stated.

“Yes, but there’s more. You’re seeing God’s power.”

I must have seemed unimpressed because Daddy laughed. “It’s there Shan, someday you’ll see it. But, I’ll admit it’s easier to see it in the crashing surf and jagged cliffs of the California coastline.”

I didn’t understand what he meant then—and I’m still not sure I fully understand—but back then my daddy’s description of the California coastline followed me as I was off to see it for myself.

My mother taught me to look for something else. “What’s the truth, Shannon?” she’d ask over and over, challenging me to choose what was right. She taught me to analyze a situation and then make a decision that represented the truth foundational to our family.

Most often the truth she spoke of was found in the big family Bible she’d brought with her from England. She’d lay the book out on the kitchen table and open it to the book of John in the New Testament and she’d read from the King James version: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

“There’s freedom in the truth, Shannon. You remember that,” she’d say.

Again, I’m only now beginning to understand what she meant. But these were the lessons from home that I carried with me to California.

So why hadn’t I applied those lessons? Why I had I wandered so far from my parents’ truth?

Those are questions I’d ask myself many times over. I’d yet to find the answers.



My Thoughts:  This is an excellent book.  I loved each of the characters and thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Even though this book is about the horrible subjects of child abuse and drug addiction, it was written very well.  I could barely put it down.  It teaches about forgiveness and truth.  One of my favorite lines was "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."  Then Sierra realizes that the "Truth" is Jesus.  When we know Jesus, only then will we be free.  This has really made me think and that's what I love reading, a good fiction story that makes me think about God and my relationship with Him.  I really recommend everyone to read this book.