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Muted Monday - Photo of the Week

Isaiah 51:11-13(NLT)
"Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. 
They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. 
Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
'I, yes I, am the one who comforts you.
So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear?  
Yet you have forgotten the LORD, your Creator, 
the one who stretched out the sky like a canopy
and laid the foundations of the earth.'"


Book Review - I Love to Tell the Story by Susan Braun

Sometimes, I receive e-mails from authors requesting a review of their books. The following is my review of I Love to Tell the Story, by Susan Barnett Braun.

I Love the Tell the Story: Growing Up Blessed and Baptist in Small Town Indiana is Susan Barnett Braun’s memoir.  It’s written for an audience who grew up similar to the author in a conservative Christian environment. I’m near the age of Susan Braun, so I could relate to many of her stories. Like her, I grew up in a conservative Christian home. We sung the same songs she quotes at the beginning of every chapter, and her stories of Sunday School brought back memories. It stirred memories of getting a baton for Christmas,  fainting in biology class, playing with Little People, Scholastic book orders, and so much more. In many ways, her story is my story.

From a writing standpoint, the author has a conversational style in her storytelling, and includes dialogue that’s natural. She’s warm and not condescending. As a tough critic, I noticed the author uses a peppering of clich├ęs such as “been around the block” or “go the whole nine yards” throughout the book, but most readers won’t likely notice these, and they aren’t excessive. Each chapter in the book begins with an excerpt of lyrics from a traditional song or hymn, and each is titled from that song.

Readers will likely see that this book has a very narrow audience. Those who didn’t grow up in a Christian environment might read the book to get a perspective on someone who did, but they’ll likely not see some of Braun’s experiences as positive as she does. They will likely not understand. And those who grew up in Christian homes probably won’t stumble over a few creative similes, but those unfamiliar with the Bible won’t understand “she signed us up quicker than Saul lost his vision on the road to Damascus.” Or the phrase, “feeling about as happy as John on the island of Patmos when God gave him the revelation.”

My biggest critique of the book is that it’s missing a real takeaway for the reader. There are a few lines at the end that sum up the author’s thoughts, but they don’t contain something to prompt any response from the reader. I’d like to have seen something here and there about how these experiences made the author who she is today. Or something about the experience that changed or didn’t change her church experience now. In the end, I was left with a feeling of, nice story, sweet girl, but how does this affect the reader?

 In places, I responded with my own reminiscing, but I had mixed feelings about some of what the author might see as positive. In many cases, similar experiences in my upbringing made me think of the church as a place for legalism and artificiality. When I got older, I realized that so much of the legalistic environment of my childhood stifled the gospel rather than spread it. All in all, I think the responses to this book are going to be very subjective, and my response may not be exactly what the author  may have hoped for when she requested that I read and review her book.

I received a free Kindle copy of this book from the author for review purposes.


New Pinterest Interest

This weekend, I explored Pinterest and it's addicting. For those who haven't heard of it, it's a newer social networking site where people can share media such as photos and videos. It's different from Facebook in that there is no status to update. However, people can comment on pictures you post and those you share through a process called "pinning" and "re-pinning".

I added a little tool to my web browser and any time I see something I like on the web, I can "pin" the photo to my Pinterest boards. And while browsing on Pinterest, I can always reshare or "repin" what someone else has shared.

Follow Me on Pinterest

The unique thing about the site is that it works best with websites that have a lot of photos because there's lots to share. I'm still exploring, but check out these things I found:

Sometimes it's a clever homemaking idea.
Other times, it's a clever decorating idea.
I've found phrases to inspire.
And I've collected recipes and fun ideas.
Pinterest is a way of collecting ideas and coming back to them later. Once you find a picture that interests you, you can click on it to see the original website or blog post where the idea and often the instructions or tutorial are located.

I've found hairstyle ideas, decorating and craft ideas, craft patterns, fun photography, places I dream of visiting, and so much more.


A New Clothes Dryer With an Amish Influence

This morning, my dryer gave out. The motor has been overheating and squawking for the past few days and I chalked it up to the frigid air shooting down the vent and frosting up the insides of the mechanism. However, it shuts off frequently and won't restart until the motor cools down. Denial over. It's broken.

Since it would be cheaper to purchase a decent used dryer than to buy parts for this one, I'm shopping on Craigslist, which is an experience in itself. It's a little bit like standing in line in Phy-Ed class in elementary school waiting to be chosen. I send e-mails and make phone calls and each time, I'm either ignored, or I get, "Sorry, someone else took it." So, I start the process all over again. I AM going to find a dryer. And fortunately, I just found a buyer for our old portable dishwasher and that will likely fund the "new" dryer purchase...that and the price my husband will get at the metal recycling place for the demolished pieces of the old dryer.

In the meantime, my husband came up with a new clothes dryer. It involves a wood stove and a box fan.

We've heated the family room (which used to the the sanctuary of our church house) to 80-something degrees, strung up a bunch of lines, and plugged in a box fan to move the air around. Voila! An Amish inspired clothes dryer...except they wouldn't have the box fan. And their clothes would probably smell like kerosene from the lamps.
 Kind of reminds me of the way the house looked in the Hee-Haw segment I used to watch when I was a kid. The wife was missing teeth and had rollers in her hair. Whew! At least we haven't gone that far down hill. Yet.
 The sheets actually billowed in the the deer looked on. Sounds a lot more quaint than it was, as you can see.
Hmm...maybe we should make this a permanent thing and skip shopping on Craigslist.  Or not.

Book Review - Heart Echoes by Sally John

I'd like to introduce you to a brand new book, Heart Echoes, by Sally John. It isn't out yet, but it's available for pre-order, and I'm so glad I got to read a preview copy.

From the Back of the Book:

In the aftermath of a massive Los Angeles earthquake, the perfect existence Teal Morgan-Adams has built begins to crumble. Teal’s daughter, Maiya, is determined to learn the identity of her biological father, despite the loving devotion of her stepdad, River Adams. But that’s a secret Teal hoped would remain buried forever. She has never shared the truth with anyone . . . not her family, not River, not even Maiya’s father.

As Maiya’s rebellion escalates, Teal receives tragic news from her sister and decides to take Maiya home to Cedar Pointe, Oregon, a place she’s avoided most of her adult life. But will her already-strained marriage survive the distance and the secrets she’ll be forced to face there? And can Teal erase the lies that echo in her heart?

My Review:

Sally John creates characters who are multi-layered and believable. In Heart Echoes, I felt an instant connection with both Teal and her daughter Maiya and their desire for a bond with a biological father. Although, I never experienced the absence of a father, I understood the longing because I have a great father and I can’t imagine life without that security. That’s what’s great about Sally’s books. The reader doesn’t have to have experienced what her characters experience to feel a connection. She creates a story that draws the reader in. I was in Teal’s shoes, watching a highway crumble in an earthquake, feeling the panic of wondering if my daughter and husband were okay somewhere. I felt Teal’s anxiety over revealing the biological father of her daughter and her own pain over the rejection of both a step-father and a biological father. I saw myself in the family relationships and marital interaction.

A highly successful attorney, Teal has buried her pain in her work. But as she begins to heal, a new and beautiful future unfolds. The story line has multiple layers as we watch Teal go back to her hometown for the first time in many years and as she reconnects with a half sister whose love she hasn’t realized until now. Her husband, River has his own pain from the tragedy of losing his first wife in a terrible accident.

This is a story about reconciliation. It’s about healing the pain of the past in order to move forward. And it’s about the ups and downs in a relationship during the reconciliation process. Readers will see themes of insecurity, parent/child relationships, teen rebellion, the devastation of verbal abuse, the beauty of redemption, and much more.

I highly recommend Heart Echoes. Sally John is a talented writer and I loved it. That’s pretty high praise from a self-proclaimed tough book critic!

(I received a complimentary advance reader copy of this book from the author for review purposes).

About the Author:

Author Sally John’s passion is writing stories about relationships. Her seventeen novels explore marriage, family, and friendship in today’s world. Initially inspired to write after penning a computer software manual, Sally has also published nonfiction articles in a variety of magazines and speaks at workshops and conferences about writing and family issues.

Three-time finalist for the Christian Bookseller Association’s Christy Award, she has two married children and two granddaughters. Illinois natives, Sally and her husband Tim live in Southern California.


Duluth, MN - A Photo Journal

Last weekend, we went to Duluth, Minnesota for our anniversary getaway. We love Canal Park and are here a few photos from our trip.
I like taking panoramic views


23rd Honeymoon

Phil and I have been married for 22 years and we're taking our 23rd honeymoon this week. We try to get away with the two of us at least once a year just because the pace of life doesn't allow us much time together without distractions. Now that I think of it, we might have missed a few honeymoons in there when we just got too busy. But this year, we're spending 3 days together, away from home, away from the phone. We don't usually go all that far from home, just an hour or two, but we need the time together more than we need a huge bill for plane tickets and tourist attractions.

Our getaways weren't always without incident. There was the time when we got a fantastic deal at a hotel with their "Lucky in Love" package. We got the second night free, breakfast at Denny's each morning, a free dinner at the nearby casino each night, and $20 in quarters to spend in the slot machines. Neither of us had ever been in a casino, and neither has since then, but we got our free dinner, asked the nice man working there how to operate a slot machine (he looked at us like we'd just flown in from outer space, but complied with our request), spent the roll of quarters and left. 

When we returned to our hotel room, the red light was blinking on the phone. Since we'd left our 2 1/2 year old and 6 month old at home with grandparents, we figured that blinking red light wasn't likely good news. I called the front desk and retrieved the message to call home.

No parent likes to hear, "Now, don't come home, but..." on the other end of the line. My brother explained that Mom and Dad were at the emergency room with Dallas who had broken his arm in a leap from the top of the steps  a tricycle accident  a fall from the swing  a tiny little jump from the footrest of the La-Z-Boy chair.  Since my mom is a nurse and perfectly capable of caring for a child in a cast, we did stay on our getaway both nights. Please don't think I'm a terrible mom. This is why parents write medical permission slips when they leave their children with relatives, isn't it?

On the time we left our teenagers alone for the first time to attend a conference, it snowed 10 inches and they had the whole next day home alone on a snow day. Of course, my mind conjured images of all of the things they might be doing and I called home often. By that time, we'd installed padding around all of the La-Z-Boy chairs and put 911 on speed dial.

Before we leave tomorrow, I'll stock the freezer with pizza and the fridge with Mountain Dew. I'll make sure my cell phone is on and our teenagers can reach me, but it's sure a lot easier to get away than it was back in the days when I had to pack up diaper bags, formula, feeding instructions, emergency numbers and special blankies.


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