Saturday, November 14, 2015

Owls: Our Most Charming Bird - Book Review



This book is written and illustrated by Matt Sewell, a British artist and ornithologist.  He has created several books about birds, and this one focuses on the mysterious owl.  This is a readable and fun book. The illustrations are charming and the descriptions are a little zany, comparing owls with people and more. Besides the mention of myths/gods and one illustration of a woman who isn't too modest, it's quite a swell book, about pocket-size.  There is a place to check off owls you've seen, as well.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Remembering WWII in Linden, 2015

The morning of September 26 was one of hectic getting ready--unwinding pin curls, donning shoes, picking out hats or jewelry, making sandwiches, and forgetting things I meant to take.

Our brother Matthew was our chauffeur, as Annie tried to cheer me up about my hair not having time to be pinned up properly--I had videos on WWII hairstyles that I hadn't had time to watch.  I did my best as we bumped along the roads.

Me with a vintage roadster

Life is never perfect, and I soon forgot all the little things as we entered the Linden event, remembering the big things that happened in time past.  Men and women lost their lives in concentration camps, men fought for freedom from oppression.  The spotlight was not on me.

Some of the audience
Arthur Pais



















 We heard the first speaker, Arthur Pais, from a ways back at first, as we sat on the side, hardly able to concentrate on his speaking.  Eventually we moved up, and saw his grave face as he spoke about being separated from his family as they went to work camps (or death camps)--never seeing his mother again.  His humor was not extinguished during the talk, however, or his grace and humility.

As it was nearing noon, we decided to head to the car and eat our packed lunch--an assortment of chicken salad sandwiches, apples, ginger snaps, and chocolate-covered pretzels.  It was nice to relax in our van as we ate and sipped water or iced tea.

The streets and sidewalks were bustling, with vintage vehicles, clanging fire-engines, troops, and onlookers in everyday clothes.





Annie and I split up from Matthew, so we could each listen to a different speaker.  We wanted to hear Norman Weber, an American boy who lived in Germany and even joined the Nazi Youth.  The walk was longer than I expected, and my previously untested high heels began to dig into my feet and rub blisters into them.  But it was worth the walk.  Near the speaking site, we saw rows of tents.

A soldier in camp

Norman Weber
After a few well-sung songs sung by a Courter girl, we heard Mr. Weber speak.

He recounted his story clearly, and an interesting story it was.  It felt normal for him to join the Nazi Youth at the time, not knowing all the atrocities to come.  He was saved from harm through this, and never questioned as to his birthplace, since he looked like the ideal German--tall, erect, blond-haired and blue-eyed. But what was going to happen when the Americans came and won the city?

After his talk, I walked over to meet him and get his autograph.  He was happy to oblige.

I pointed out the vintage vehicles and people getting rides, and asked Annie if we could try to get a ride in one.  It would save us another walk, too.  The back of the jeep we chose was so high that I didn't think I could step up onto it. They pulled out part of the seat in the front so I could get by that, and we got up and onto a bench seat in the back.  Two young friends from church joined us, one of them crouching and holding onto the front seat.  Then three modern-day marines (I think) hopped on the back, as well, making for a pretty crowded ride down the street.  I was near the front, with open air to my left.  It felt rather nice to be riding along with wind in my hair.  Matthew, unbeknownst to us (and he didn't know we were riding, either), took a photo of us as we rode.  The marines wanted to get off near the stop-light, and Annie and I got off there, too, as did our friends.

Around 2:00 pm (shortly after the ride), we met up with Matthew, as well as some friends, in the back row of this "Courthouse Stage."  We listened to Lacie Bowman sing two songs: "The White Cliffs of Dover" and "It Hurts to Say Goodbye."  Her voice and presentation were beautiful, though the impact didn't hit me there at first, because I was talking with one of the Seargeants off to the side.  Then I sat down with the group to watch.  We then heard Jerry Neal, not ashamed to say he owed everything to his God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Jerry Neal
Next there was a parade of vintage vehicles and veterans, with young men and women running out to give them honorary white carnations.

Mr. Courter interviewing twin veterans
These twins (left) also had interesting stories to tell, involving an explosion.  The man on the right was a twin, too, and told about a shark story.

At 4:00, there was a battle reenactment, which began peacefully, with women walking the streets, sitting at the Cafe, and having their identification cards checked.



Then shots rang out, and the street was filled with the fake but effective blasts for many long minutes.  I plugged an ear at times, and wished for it to stop. . . . How much more the soldiers of WWII must have wished this, as not just the noise jarred their ears, but comrades fell around them, the bloodied, moaning, and dead.



It was a good day to meet up with friends:
The Seargeants and Sierra
Anna
Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez
Norah
Laura Verret
We saw many friends, and stopped to rest here (photo below).  Steven Bowman said the beignets were excellent, so we decided to split one three ways.  Annie and Matthew went to order the pastry at "Cafe Normandie."  Indeed, the pastry, with a dollop of jam and sprinkling of powdered sugar, was excellent!  It was light and airy on the inside, and crispy on the outside.

We had to walk back to the encampment area to eat our supper (we'd purchased tickets upon arriving that morning), and I could barely stand the walk.  Next time maybe I'll be smart and wear flats!

The tables were decorated, with charming lights strung overhead.  A band played to one side ("Merchants of COOL"), lilting and jazzy.  We got in line and got our meal of fried chicken, coleslaw, baked beans, and dinner roll.  We picked up a bottle of water or soda and a root-beer float, where I saw some other friends.

At our table, David Noor met the three of us for the first time, and sat down to eat with us, with our permission.  So we enjoyed chatting with him about various things. A friend of his joined us for a bit, too.

Waiting around
After the meal
Then it was time for the USO-style show to begin.  There were announcements of thanks, prizes for the best reenactors and the family who traveled the farthest (from New Zealand!), more singing, including a children's choir, and a recitation of Winston Churchill's famous "Never Surrender" speech (given on June 4, 1940; House of Commons).

Lacie Bowman singing
Steven Bowman reciting Winston Churchill's speech
 After being immersed in the music, words, and look of the era, I was feeling as if I had stepped back in time; I felt the emotion, the honor and courage of these men and women.

Many of the places in town also appeared to be back in time.
Annie and me posing for a shot
The night ended in fireworks, which we watched after walking halfway back to our van.
Grand finale

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators: Mastering the Art of Drawing from Memory - Book Review

Admittedly, I have not read this whole book, but I have flipped through it and have begun reading it.  From what I have seen and read, I believe this will be quite a helpful book to me as an aspiring illustrator (I have partially illustrated a book before, my mom's Hebrew alphabet book entitled Hebrew: Beginning Your Journey). However, to be a first-rate illustrator, I greatly desire to be able to come up with poses and drawings without having to meticulously copy a photograph.

That's where this book comes in.  It's true that the majority of the poses in the book are dramatic, such as the cover shows, but the proportions, angles, and shapes should help.

The book begins with two and three-point perspective, something which I have never understood well or mastered.  I still need to practice it and reread this section.

Then it moves on to the "glass mannequin," which is, as on the cover, a basically see-through shell of the body.  This is helpful because it allows you to think better about where, say, the arm will come out if partially hidden behind the body.

Then there are the high and low-angle drawings, which are more commonly used in movies or comic books, but could perhaps be useful in a regular book.  I practiced one of them, here, after reading how to draw in the four sections, etc.


It is certainly not perfect, but better than I could have done without this quick book training, and I'm sure would get better with practice and after reading the rest of the book.

There are a few pictures in the book which are quite sensual in nature, showing more than necessary, so I covered them over.

Overall, I'm glad I got this book, though at first I worried that it would be only applicable to those going into animation art or comic books.

A big thank you to bloggingforbooks.com for a review copy of this book!  I was not required to give a positive review.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Prayers for New Brides - Book Review

Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God's Armor After the Wedding DressPrayers for New Brides: Putting on God's Armor After the Wedding Dress by Jennifer O. White

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Though I am not a bride--new or old--I wanted to read this book and have it in my collection.  As I was hoping, it has many helpful thoughts for me at this stage of life, when I am preparing for the possibility of someday getting married.

The books is separated into two large parts, five smaller parts, and 40 short chapters.  I was glad for the small chapters and sections within chapters, making it easy to digest. Each chapter ends with a "prayer prompt" and "a wife's call to action." The whole book is chock full of Scripture, but especially the prayers. They are not always word-for-word quotes from Scripture, but the ideas are probably at least loosely found in the passages referenced. I was disappointed by one or two that I looked up and didn't find very helpful or fitting. I think most of them fit, however.

I liked the practical assignments ("a wife's call to action"), which included interviewing others who have years of experience in marriage, listing reasons why your husband is fun to love, memorizing Scripture, etc.  Some of these will be more helpful to a married woman, but a few of them are possible to employ before marriage.

Here are a few quotes I like from the book:

"Your heart and mind toward your spouse and your marriage will be as healthy as the information you put into your mind and speak from your mouth."

"Your fight for your marriage is not something you can put on hold while you pursue some other honorable mission.  Sitting down on this job is not an option."

"Remember, God is not sitting on the throne evaluating your ability to stand in hopes that you make it this time.  He is actively involved in helping you stand.  He has an unlimited supply of time, wisdom, strength, and love for you.  He empowers you to stand."

"You cannot walk away from the job of holding up the mirror to your husband.  Your thoughts about him, good or bad, are obvious to him and others.  And they are contagious.  Think about it.  What you've communicated to your parents and friends about him is the foundation where their thoughts of him originate.  Are you painting a picture that looks like God's image of this man?"

"There is no problem in you, your spouse, or your marriage that God cannot resolve.  Nothing that comes against your marriage is stronger than God."

"She explained that talking negatively about your husband was a slap in the face to yourself because the two of you are one."

"Jesus pursues a present-tense love relationship with His Church. You said "I do" to the very same lifestyle of enduring, pursuing love and oneness."

I'm not sure if I quite agree with the interpretation of 1 Peter 3:1, something I've thought about quite a bit.  If a husband is unsaved, is this passage saying that the wife should be totally silent?  The verse says "they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives," but it doesn't say she can't say anything about the Lord to their husbands. I'm sure that's not what the verse means, as we are supposed to be evangelists.  However, the book may be saying that in general Christian women are to be meek and not badgering their husband all the time regarding the faith, mostly just living it out, which is what I believe the verse means. It's hard to tell, but it seemed to be taken almost literally, since the book states "no more preaching."

There are a couple of other doctrinal fallacies, or so it seems, implying that God will always work marriages out if we follow Him, etc., but it was subtle, and I think with all the battle involved in marriage, the positives of God's victory and strength are needed encouragement. There may have been some Arminian doctrine, as well, but I tend to filter that out unless it's constant.

There are a couple of chapters that offer more to read online, extra stories of encouragement, that I want to look up.

There is a chapter focusing on physical intimacy, which is written tastefully.

The book ends with a brief addressing of abuse in marriage.  I think she handles it well, speaking of separation if needed, yet believing that God can work things out.

My top takeaways from this book:

Marriage is hard, self-sacrificing work, more-so than I imagined (it goes far beyond the basics of cleaning and cooking), yet God is there to uphold and empower when we seek Him and obey Him.

We as women need to be confident in God's love, not seeking man's love to hold us up--God's love is perfect.

Spilling troubles and complaints about husbands with others is most often disastrous.  We should lovingly work out differences one on one with our spouses.

~I received this book from CrossFocusedReviews.com for my review; I was not required to give a positive review.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Hiding in the Light - Book Review

Hiding in the Light: Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow JesusHiding in the Light: Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus by Rifqa Bary

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an amazing true story of a Muslim Sri Lankan girl who moves to America, meets Christians, and becomes a Christian herself. She hides it for many years, fearing the consequences, though feeling guilty for lying.  Eventually her parents find out and things go from bad to worse, in many ways.  She has to run for her life, unwilling to deny the faith when her father gives her an ultimatum.  Through jail-time, courtroom battles, sickness, and more, Rifqa Bary keeps trusting the Lord, feeling His presence even amid fears.  Read it and be inspired and humbled, as I was.  Though Rifqa didn't do everything right, she is a testimony to God's grace and power.  Most of us don't experience half of the burdens she faced, yet how weak and small is our testimony and love for the Lord! 
4.5 stars.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review (thank you!) and was not required to post a positive review.

More Info About the Book and Author

Monday, August 10, 2015

Frame 232 - Book Review

Here's another old book review that slipped through the cracks!  Written on May 14, 2013.

The story captured my attention from the beginning, with descriptions real and frightening.  For some reason, the last half was not as gripping as the first for me, though parts of it did keep me glued to it.  I think there was a little too much time spent on the bad guys, not enough on the main characters and their personal feelings and actions.  Perhaps it would make a better movie than book, although there are some scenes that would not transfer in a godly manner into film. (The book mentioned people swearing, prostitutes, etc.)  Then, the Christian aspect of the book was lacking, in my opinion, though trusting in Jesus was mentioned briefly. Catholic churches and works were too accented, which may cause confusion for readers. However, it was well-written, with characters you basically either love or hate, and with a few twists, so I liked it. And if a book succeeds in making a conservative with no previous interest in the subject fascinated by the history (albeit speculative/alternative history) surrounding someone like JFK, I guess it deserves points. Overall, it is a vivid and fast-paced conspiracy novel, and I am interested in seeing what comes next in Jason Hammond's life.

Thanks to Tyndale Blog Network for giving me a copy to review! My review was not required to be positive.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Questions Jesus Asks - Book Review

How would you answer if someone asked you "What are you seeking?" or "Why are you afraid?"  Someone has, and His name is Jesus.  He asked them of His early disciples, along with many other questions, and the questions are for us today, as well.  The topics covered in this book, all inspired by questions Jesus asked, are:
  • Christology
  • Virgin Birth
  • Family
  • Discipleship
  • Money
  • Healing
  • Counseling
  • Fear
  • Demonology
  • Servanthood
  • Government
  • Forgiveness
  • Apologetics
  • Lordship
  • Prayer
  • Suffering
  • Love
  • Persecution
  • Hell
  • Resurrection
There are also two appendices about the Hypostatic Union and Communicato Idiomatum.

Yes, this is a lot of ground to cover in one small book, but there is a good foundation here and some good thoughts to mull over.  Israel Wayne writes about them in an approachable way, with a few stories from his life, Bible quotes, and bite-sized sections.

If you are looking for a book to further your arguments from the Scriptures and to provoke thought, then this is a helpful place to start.

Many thanks to CrossFocusedReviews.com for providing me with a copy to review!  I was not required to give a positive review.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lessons In Friendship

Friendship is a beautiful word, and one I've longed to see deeply in my life ever since I was a young child.  I watched Anne of Green Gables, yearning for the kind of "kindred spirit" that Anne had in Diana, or vice versa, since I was mainly more like Diana.  I was the shy, self-conscious one, with a seemingly smaller brain than my intellectual siblings, but with a love for camaraderie and imagination.  My shyness kept friendship to a minimum--probably because I didn't feel sure of myself, or able to express myself without nervousness and stumbling, and that somewhat continues until today.  Perhaps because I was the "baby," the one to be ignored or scowled at because I would tag along, bumbling through things, distracting.  I felt this keenly, though I knew, most of the time, that I was loved.  But being left out, even just occasionally, can be hard for a sensitive person who loves family time.  I'm sure that sometimes it was for my own protection, such as when my family was building a tree fort when I was five or so--we even have a photo of me by the side of the fort, crying.  Words and actions are important--saying "I don't want you to get hurt" is much better than saying "you'd just get in the way." (I'm not sure how my family put it to me, but I'm pretty sure that's how I felt in those type of situations--that I was a nuisance.) That's a lesson for another day, I suppose.

Today I'm focusing on friendship, but now you know some of my background, and partly why it's hard for me.

However, I'm certainly not without blame.  Proverbs 18:24 says: "A man who has friends must himself be friendly . . . "

I was not very friendly, very much looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4)--an unsaved person is not at all good at this.  But even now, as a Christian, I struggle with this . . . selfishness, and perhaps self-pity, is ingrained.

That is one of the lessons I've been thinking about, trying to achieve: be interested, truly interested, in others.  Even if they're talking about a plain piece of wood, or any boring subject you can think of--if it interests them, it should (if it's not a bad subject/gossip) be of vital importance to us.  ("Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. -Philippians 2:4)

Another lesson is not to nurture jealousy.  This can be a real joy-killer, and leads to bitterness, anger, and perhaps distance or the end of a friendship.  There are many Bible verses about jealousy.

Another lesson is to empathize with your friends, both in sorrow and in joy.  Romans 12:15 says: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."  If you don't truly put yourself in your friends' shoes, they can sense this, and won't have your true care, concern, or excitement.  I don't mean to say that we should put on a front, but that we should try our best to understand and show our care, whether it be with a sincere smile, hug, note, gift, deeper conversation, or what-have-you.  This goes along with being interested in others, and not being jealous.

I have felt jealous, hurt, and bitter, at times, when I felt left out of my friends' lives.  I didn't receive what I thought I should--the recognition, thanks, position, etc.  This stems from pride.  I'm thinking I'm more important than I really am, more wonderful, when I am but dust and ashes, terribly sinful.  Even if I happen to be forgotten for something I should have received thanks for, I have to put myself in my friends' shoes, and realize they can't always remember everything.  They may not have realized how much something cost us in effort, time, or money.  They may not realize that we were hurt, or longing for something, or how important it is to us. We (or me, especially, with my quietness) may not have expressed much of an interest.  Can our friends read our minds?  Perhaps if they have known us for all our lives, they can often anticipate our reactions or desires (I have a dear sister like this, and ironically her name is Ann), but if it's a friend of shorter standing, one cannot expect such special capabilities.

Parts of being a friend are serving, laying our lives down for the other, listening, being humble, thinking the best, loving--I Corinthians 13 springs to mind.  The very definition of friendship in Merriam Webster has to do with helping the other person.  Do we expect to do all the "getting" in friendship, or do we expect to give of ourselves?  "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." -Philippians 2:3

And when other friendships falter, there is the precious end of the verse I quoted from earlier (Proverbs 18:24): "A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

. . . How amazing is that, when God knows all our sins (infinitely magnified in His holy sight)?  He pities us as a dear Father. ("As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him." -Psalm 103:13) 

But more than that, we can call Him friend, as that verse in Proverbs states, as well as this verse: "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." - John 15:15

When we focus on this--believe this--it makes so much difference.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Polycarp Movie Review


Friends of ours offered to let us borrow Polycarp, and we gladly accepted.

The movie, while using a very limited budget, was more thought-provoking and effective than most high-budget, secular-made movies.

The story revolved around a young girl named Anna, a former slave.  She is bought by the kind-hearted and God-fearing Polycarp, who gives her freedom.  Anna becomes the charge of a couple, and she starts to feel like family among them all.  Germanicus is a young man who, like a brother, works along-side Anna.  Anna hears new and startling doctrines, of one God, not many.  She asks questions of her new family, and they answer with patience and joy.

But not all is joyous.  The Roman government is trying to quell the Christians.  And on the day of testing, will Polycarp stand for the truth of Jesus?  Will Germanicus?  And how will the persecution of Christians affect Anna? . . .

Some of the acting in this movie was not the very best, but Polycarp's (or rather, Garry Nation's) was good, as were Germanicus's (Dusty Martin's, who played on Courageous) and Anna's (Eliyah Hurt), most of the time.  In any case, I was moved to tears many times.  How would my faith hold up under fire?

It is made for the entire family to watch, with nothing graphic, though the themes are somewhat deep and possibly scary.  Based on the real lives of Polycarp and Germanicus, your family should find this film inspiring.

Bravo, young filmmakers, Joe and Jerica Henline!  They had a lot of help, of course, as you can see in the behind the scenes documentary, but they are still impressively gifted.  Most of all, the message shines through in this movie, the message of courage among fear, faith beyond failure, and the love of God, which casts out fear.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Help the West Ladies Build a New Homestead!

Our sweet friends, the Wests (of Homestead Blessings), are in need right now....They have to move and build a place to live within a few months, and they'd really appreciate donations, as well as prayer!  The sooner the goal is met, the better, so they can start and complete their house!  Please consider donating and sharing the link. :)



Also, read more about this on their blog.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ollie Chandler Collection - Review of Three Books in One

I thought had posted this before, because I finished reading them a few months ago....

The first book, Deadline, starts out a little slow, even though there's one cataclysmic event near the beginning. The story is about a reporter named Jake and his two best friends--one a liberal atheist/agnostic, another a conservative Christian. Jake feels like he's somewhere in the middle. Some of the writing is a bit wordy and lecture-like, but it has much to recommend itself, raising good thoughts about heaven (imagined but not anti-biblical that I know of--hell may be a different story), the sanctity of life, repentance, and making amends with family members. There are some sensitive/mature issues such as adultery and HIV, so it's not a children's book. There are also two or so times that someone apparently uses the Lord's name in vain. Overall quite good, though.

Here's one quote I liked:

"In the darkness, men can shine flashlights on a sundial and make it tell any time they want. But only the sun tells the true time. The flashlights are the changing and fleeting opinions of men. The sun is the eternal Word of God."

Here starts the review of the second book,
Dominion. What would you do if your sister and niece were murdered in a drive-by shooting? This book explores pride, revenge, fatherhood, gangs, abortion, racial prejudice and stereotypes, forgiveness, and God's justice through a broad view of eternity. I think I liked it better than the first in the series, as I've often been interested in cultures and "races" (I believe there's really only one race, as the author does), and it helped me see both sides of the issues blacks and whites (and others) have today, without excusing either side's wrongs. I didn't always like the way Clarence and Ollie ferreted out information, and I'm not sure about all the pastor's conclusions about biblical men's lineage, but I liked the whole story.

Quotes I liked:

"Now, what all this prosperity teaching shows me is that many people today care less about God than they do the benefit package. My daddy always said, 'He that serves God for money will serve the devil for better wages.'"

"I say when we tell God he has to take away this illness or handicap or financial hardship, we may be tellin' him to remove the very things he put into our lives to conform us to the image of Christ!"

"If these were animals or subhuman, they couldn't breed together. You can only have children with your own kind, and though there are many kinds of animals, there's only one kind of human. The fact that blacks bore the children of whites proved they were the same kind. And therefore equal."

"It takes two parents to raise a child. It takes a village to get out of the way and quit trying to take over Dad and Mom's child-raising authority and responsibility."

"She thought further, wondering what would happen if but one Wilberforce rose up in American politics today. What would happen if one representative or one senator would introduce over and over again measures and reminders of the reality that unborn babies were being killed by the millions? What if only one man or woman would pull out pictures of the unborn from under his congressional chair, would endure the ridicule and opposition, would tirelessly stand for justice, would speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, refusing to be silent? What if just one person, relentless, would live out his convictions not for the applause of his colleagues nor the approval of his generation but for the audience of One?"

"Deprived of joy, they reduce life to the pursuit of pleasures. But without Elyon [God] there are no pleasures. The pursuit of pleasures without the giver of pleasure can never end in heaven, only hell. Refusing to anchor their lives in the bright sacred mysteries, they turn instead to the dark evil mysteries. Denying Elyon, they turn to the demon Moloch, for man is made to worship, and if he will not worship the true, he will worship the false. Hence a generation that prides itself on uplifting peace and caring for the earth and rising above barbarity daily offers its children in sacrifice to Moloch."

"Bitterness never relieves suffering, it only causes it. I used to pray for the overseers and masters who beat me. I knew they wasn't beyond God's grace because I wasn't. One of the slaves, ol' Elmo, he used to say the massas didn't deserve forgiveness. I said, ''Course they doesn't deserve forgiveness, Elmo. No man does. If you deserved forgiveness, you wouldn't need it.'"

"Breaks this old man's heart what happened that day. No excuse for it. But it wasn't the spirit of Jesus you saw, it was the spirit of the devil, and he can get admitted to any college."


The last book, Deception, is more mystery than the others, and with many twists and turns, keeping me guessing most of the way through. It was sometimes almost dizzying, but good. There are also some funny quotes, such as this one: 'His hair went everywhere--Einstein with a perm in a wind tunnel.'

But besides the good plot and humor, there are threads of important themes about God, sin, and family (not 100% of which I agreed with, such as the free will). Here's one good quote for an example of explaining suffering in the world: '"Would you ever have been able to see courage without danger? Or heroism without desperate situations? Compassion without suffering? Justice without injustice? Sacrifice without a need?"'

This is an engaging and enjoyable read.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Movie Night - Beyond the Mask Review

I had been wanting to see Beyond the Mask for quite some time.  Finally my family agreed to go with me, all except Mom.  Matthew and Andrew weren't too excited about it (especially Matthew), thinking the quality would not be that great.


We invited the Lees and others to go with us, but they didn't buy tickets in time...or so we thought.

We had bought tickets for the 5:00 hour, so we made our journey to Franklin early enough to get there in time.  But . . . when we got there, the ticket seller said that there was no 5:00 showing--it had been cancelled.  We had heard nothing of that, though I had noticed the button to buy tickets for that time had disappeared a day or two ago. I thought that the tickets had merely been sold out.  The lady said we could get our tickets switched to the 8:00 time, or that she'd give us a pass to go to that showing.  So, we really got a night showing for the afternoon rate.  But we had several hours to kill.

First we ate at Chick-Fil-A, though we had eaten a sandwich or something light before coming.  Our appetites had revived sufficiently to eat again. ;)

After that, we spotted a chocolate shop (called Paul's Chocolate Gallery) and we went in, curious.  Chocolate is never a bad idea, right?  The little shop had chocolate sculptures and a baby grand piano on one side, a glass case full of chocolate candies on the other.  We looked them over, noting flavors from orange cream to maple to peanut-butter.  The prices were more than I would usually pay for an inch-and-a-half square of chocolate: around $2.49 each.  Matthew or Andrew said jokingly, "She should get a discount for playing the piano."

"Actually, you do get a free piece of chocolate for playing a song," the young lady behind the counter said.

Ah!  Oh!  :)  I sat down at the piano (whose autographs were on the piano? didn't even read them), and played my Chopin waltz.  I messed up in the middle, but skipped by the parts I couldn't remember there, and finished.

The young lady liked it, and asked how long I'd been playing.

I picked for my free piece of chocolate the same as Andrew's--something with raspberry.  Mmm, it was quite good!  Matthew asked the young lady her favorite flavor, and she said the Balsamic one.  He tried this, and liked it.  Not as sickening sweet as some, but it didn't taste like balsamic vinegar, he said.

Annie played Greensleeves and got a free piece of chocolate. Not sure of the flavor.

The lady said we could have a second piece for free, too!  I thought I was supposed to play another song, so I made up an arrangement of Amazing Grace, and nabbed a second chocolate, this time pomegranate, which had a drizzle of reddish stripes on top.

Matthew plunked a few random notes on the piano and asked if he could have a free chocolate, too.

"No, that doesn't count," the young lady said with a smile.

She stepped out from behind the counter and talked with us more personally, about our family, piano playing, and even church.  Perhaps she was a Christian, as Annie thought.  We asked a little about the lady's work and the owner of the shop, too.

Eventually we headed out. Andrew and Matthew wanted to do some shopping; Matthew wanted to buy clothes at a thrift store, since he was a bit lacking in jeans and shirts.  So we remembered the nice thrift store called "Our Thrift Store," found it on the GPS, and went there.  The store was closed.  But we had noticed a goodwill on the way there, so we headed back to that.

I thought this whole adventure was maybe even better than a movie--free chocolate, spending time with siblings, and impromptu shopping.

Annie and I browsed the clothing, but most of it was a bit pricey--even half off about $4.00 each.  So we went back to the books and bought a few of those.  Annie also found me a nice white purse for $5.00.  I wasn't sure I wanted to buy it for that price, as there were a couple of stains on it, but I'm glad now that I did.  The stains are small and hardly noticed.  The bag looks quite classy, with silver rivets and rings.  Yes, it's cheap and hard faux-leather, but oh well.

Now we hustled back to the theater, as the time was almost upon us.

We sat through dozens of ads and previews (thankfully none bad), plugging our ears often because the sound was so loud.

The sound of the movie wasn't much better--Matthew even stuck in an ear-plug he happened to have in his pocket.

The movie started out quite exciting and intense.  And it kept my attention all the way through. Here's my review I submitted to Fandango.com:

"This is a good movie for kids and adults (though some of the violence may be too intense for young children), including lots of action, romance, and a little history. I enjoyed it and thought it was well done for an independent film. The acting was very good, not distracting as in some Christian movies. The script and costuming was quite good. The romance was a little modern and more intimate than I expected for a Christian movie, but overall not too bad. It may have just been the theater, but the sound was so loud we had to plug our ears at times (my brother wore an earplug in one ear). Of course, the graphics were not as good as a Hollywood film, but that's to be expected. I liked the theme of forgiveness not being earned, and it was put in there effortlessly. It kept me riveted; I'd count it a success in the main!"

Yes, the romance was the main thing I didn't like too much.  There were some good points about it, such as the lady seeking advice and approval from God, her mother, and her uncle (her father is dead).  But she does kiss the man before marriage.  And I was disappointed to see that in a conservative Christian movie.  They could have faked it, too, not shown their lips, but I think it did (I looked away a bit), and if the actors were indeed not married to each other, that would not be good.

Overall it was fun.

The guys picked apart all the fallacies or cliches on the way home, including not-perfect graphics.  But for a low-budget film, who can expect something totally amazing?  The guys actually did enjoy it more than they thought they would, so that's a success, too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Goals for 2015 - Halfway Checkup

More than half of the year has gone by already, so I figured it was time to check to see how I'm doing at my goals, and perhaps adjust them slightly.

Here are my goals I wrote at the beginning of the year and my updates to them in italics:

1. Finish writing/editing my children's story.  (Ah...I did some editing on it, but probably have not finished.)
2. At least attempt a few illustrations for said children's story!  (I haven't really tried this; one of my friends has offered to illustrate it, but we'll see if it works out.)
3. Write more notes (or speak words) of encouragement to people, both Christians and non-Christians, telling of God's grace and salvation. (Haven't really done more of this, sadly.)
4. Spend less time on facebook, unless doing something to help others! (Say, no more than one hour a day. Every bit adds up.) (Again, I'm not doing so well at this, though I think I might be doing pretty well some days.)
5. Polish (and preferably notate) at least three music compositions.  (Well, I started working on one, but do want to finish!)
6. Try at least one new craft or recipe (I probably will try many new ones).  (Hmm. Yes, I've tried a new recipe or two, I believe, but no new crafts, really.  Soon, hopefully!)
7. Drink more water; eat less. (I have sometimes done better at this, but need to renew my efforts.)
8. Exercise (walk, cycle, etc.) at least twice a week. (Ooh, ouch. I should be doing this!)
9. Organize clothes and keep in better organization. (It's hard to keep it that way, but I have organized a few times.)
10. Polish/learn these piano pieces: (Haven't done much on these, yet, though a little on the Brahms. I may not do the Mozart.)
  • Brahms' waltzes (selected)
  • Sonata in C Major (Facile) by Mozart
  • Lullaby by H. Kjerulf
11. Completely memorize these pieces (I have most of them--especially the first one--memorized):
  • Waltz in C# minor by Chopin (I still blank out on the middle, sometimes.)
  • Allemande from French Suite No. 4 by Bach (Still working on this. It's coming.)
12. Memorize at least one psalm (psalm 34) and at least five NT Bible verses. (Still working on this--need to renew my efforts.)
13. Buy a music keyboard and other tools for future music studio (Lord willing)!
14. Go over/relearn all Major and minor (natural, harmonic, & melodic) scales, arpeggios, and inversions (I, IV, V, MmVII). (I may not do this this year, after all.)
15. Learn about cadences and key transitions on piano (from youtube, etc.) (I might still do this.)
16. Read as many of the books I borrowed from my brother and sister-in-law as possible. (I read one so far.)
17. Finish reading at least half of the books I'm currently reading (some are more like reference books, so they don't have to be read this year). (Still not there.)
18. Spend more time in prayer. (I definitely still need to work on this!)

Marie Durand - Book Review

Marie DurandMarie Durand by Simonetta Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a beautiful book, with illustrations ranging from paintings to photographs of various places and things, making it extra interesting for children and adults.

It is written matter-of-factually, yet occasionally with imagination.  The main theme of this historical piece is to remain strong in the Lord, not falsifying things (denying the Lord) in order to gain an easy life.  Marie Durand is indeed a woman worthy of note and emulation.

I like the extra "Did you know?" tidbits at the end of the book, as well as the letter written by Marie herself.  That is perhaps the most touching and inspiring of all, for her trust in God is obvious, as well as her encouragement and humility, and it's amazing to be able to read her very words.

My thanks go to Cross Focused Reviews for my complimentary copy.  I was not required to give a positive review; all thoughts are my own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Buying Samir - Book Review

Buying Samir (India's Street Kids #2)Buying Samir by Kimberly Rae

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I had a knot in my stomach while reading much of this. But while it's not really fun to read, it's important to know about. This story continues where the first book left off, narrated by Jasmina, who wants to find her brother and parents. The means she uses to get to her brother are not good, but the danger she finds herself in helps her see her need of Christ. A good book for teens and older.

Thanks to Netgalley for my complimentary copy to review!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Capturing Jasmina - Book Review

Capturing Jasmina (India's Street Kids #1)Capturing Jasmina by Kimberly Rae

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5 stars.  I will never think of tags reading "Made in India" the same way.  I knew so little on the topic of child trafficking, and this book really enlightened me.  It is written in a captivating way, and with compassion and delicacy.  There was only a thing or two I questioned, so I didn't quite want to give it 5 stars.  Some of the formatting in the kindle version was a bit off, too, but not horribly so.  Inspiring, too, to see how some women reach out to help save these girls and boys off the streets.  What are WE doing about it?  At least we should be praying!

Thanks to Netgalley for my complimentary copy to review!

Friday, June 26, 2015

His Mercy Surrounding, Part 2

Read part 1 here!

As Becky nibbled on a chocolate chip cookie at home that evening, she let her mind wander.  There was nothing pressing for her attention at the moment.

Becky had been more than a little nervous to start volunteering at the pregnancy crisis center.  Normally, when she met a new person, there was a lot of self-consciousness.  What would the person think of her?  What would she say?  Would there be common ground?  But somehow, when she read about a woman who had been in the abortion industry, Abby Johnson, it had resonated and called her to action.  Abby Johnson was a real person.  Someone with a heart, and confusion, and an awakening.  And God used sweet, loving protestors--ones who prayed and gave instead of shouting--to awaken Abby's heart, to turn her from the abortion clinics to something different.

Now Becky would talk to people without much fear.  She still occasionally bit her lip after saying something she feared was stupid.  But God was with her, giving her the right words much of the time, and blessing the process, giving sparks of light to women wavering in their decisions, wondering and hurting and needing a friend.

Becky had not always been loving.  Before Christ saved her, showing her the beauty of love and sacrifice and changing her heart, there had been haughtiness and disdain for the lost, or those with tattoos and spiked hair and too-tight pants.  Now, she knew she was just like them, and so she loved them, wanted God's love to reach into their lives.  She still struggled with pride at times, still caught herself grimacing at the biker chicks, but not so much.  Their souls were the important things, the place everything started and ended, and the place God could dwell.

Tears dotted her eyes.  To show the same love Jesus showed . . . that was her goal.  Unattainable in its entirety, but the thing she strove to reflect.  Her words still halted and stumbled, she still felt too small for the task.  But that was the beauty of God.  He was enough.  More than enough.  His strength was sufficient, and with Him all things were possible!

Becky heard her mother greet her father with a loud exclamation of joy at the front door.  How blessed she was to have parents that loved each other and her, so much so that they lived and proclaimed the gospel every day!

"Becky, where are you?" she heard her dad ask.

She brushed her face clear of crumbs and tears, and answered as she hurried out, "Here I am!"

His whole face brightened.  "How was your day?"  His eyes were glued on hers.  Her weekly visits to the abortion clinic were an exciting thing for them all.

"Quite good, Daddy," she replied, leaning into his hug.  "It was Payton's first day, and I think she did very well.  She's much more personable than I am, chatting like an old friend to everyone."

Her father gave her a warning smile.  "That's good, but don't compare yourself.  You have a gift in your way of communicating, as well, one God placed in you for a reason.  Not that we can't all use improvement, but . . . you listen well, and that's a gift."

Becky felt her face warm and nodded.  "Thank you.  But Payton did well.  And we had a girl who I think seriously wants to have her baby after seeing the sonogram!"

"Praise God!"

"She looked physically ill when she looked at it, wide-eyed and frozen in place."  Becky grabbed the ice from the freezer and put three cubes in a glass for her dad.  "So many people don't realize . . ." 

Her dad squeezed her hand.  "I'm so thankful you can be there."

"So am I, Daddy," Becky said.  "So am I."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Empire's End - Book Review

Empire's EndEmpire's End by Jerry B. Jenkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This story weaves in the Biblical epistles of Paul quite seamlessly into the story of his life. Much of the story was added, but not outside the realm of possibility, I believe. Some of it did seem unlikely, and I regretted that divorce was easily accepted by Paul and kisses sought at inappropriate times (one star off for that).  Overall, however, I really enjoyed this book. Paul was made out to be very human, yet bold and humble, growing in grace, and strong in the faith, matching up with what the Bible conveys about him. The message was inspiring and the end of the story touching. It left off a bit early in Paul's life, and I wonder if there will be a sequel (there is a prequel, I found out at the end).  The story-telling itself is not intricate--it is a straight-forward, first-person narrative, but with enough descriptions to add life.

Thanks, netgalley, for allowing me to review this book!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Loss of a Special Pet



My mom took a liking to this little, friendly, black and white kitten on the steps of friends' house. She asked if she could have it, and the answer was yes.  We took him home, and he acted as if he belonged at our place. He loved exploring.  He was an easy-going, non-confrontational kitten, who hardly made a peep even if he was hit accidentally by a door.  He ran to keep up with us, he rubbed against our legs, especially when he was looking for food, and he curled up on our laps when he was content or tired.  He would also lift and hold one or the other front leg up while standing, as if treading slowly in the air.

What to name him?  We thought of nearly everything: Christo-Fur (Columbus was his original name), Raymond, Tuxedo, Oliver.  Nothing seemed quite right, though we finally settled on Oliver, after a stint with Christo-Fur.  Then, while listening to his high-pitched little meow, I called him Pipsqueak.  How about Pip?  (Another Dickens character.)  This name stuck, beating out Oliver.  Then came the nicknames such as Pipster, Pipper, Pippin, Speedbump--because he was always lying in our pathway, almost making us stumble--and occasionally I called him Lumbering Bear, because he was big and bear-like in his stride, except when he bounced along at a faster clip.

He grew and grew, until he was bigger than our other cat, Kezzie, who was not enamored with him at first.  But eventually, though they sparred and tussled like alley cats, they became friends.  Kezzie would lick his head or paws as if she were his mother, and occasionally Pip would lick her as they were curled up next to each other.  Pip also liked to stretch out long, sometimes on his back with his feet sticking up and out.


This past week, Pip was struggling with an illness after getting neutered.  The first sign he was sick was when he wouldn't eat.  Pip's appetite was gigantic.  So this--this was concerning.  We wondered if he was still recovering from his surgery, but he had eaten since the surgery, so perhaps this was something else.  We started giving him tuna fish instead of hard food (noting that his gums were inflamed), which he ate a little bit.  But it was still not the Pip of earlier days.

We took him to the vet, got some tests, and some antibiotics and saline solution to give to him.  He had a 105-degree fever and was dehydrated. The vet said it could be a tick-born disease, and . . . that this was usually fatal.  We were still clinging to hope, and coaxing Pip to drink and feeding him droppers of yogurt.  There was no imagining life without Pip.  But by the fourth or fifth day of him not eating anything, and having very little reaction from him when we pet him (normally he would be purring away, even when we weren't petting him), I started to face the hard truth.  He wasn't getting better. I could see it in his half-glazed eyes, feel it in his thin body which had been plump a while before.  We treated him gently, lifting him to the sink to drink, putting him on a towel on the couch to relax.  But he didn't stretch out like before, he just sat, with his head sinking lower and his eyes barely open.  I cried.  Yes, he was "just" a cat, but he was also a buddy. . . . He would follow us around everywhere, getting between our legs, playing with grass, and generally being a cute nuisance while we tried to garden.  He wanted all the attention and time from us he could get . . . and in retrospect, I would have given him more attention.  Shouldn't it be that way for all the special things and people in life?  We never know how short their lives may be, so don't waste time on things of lesser importance (and I'm still learning that lesson).  Is a cat important?  Not like a person, who has a soul that lives forever.  But a cat is a beautifully created thing, given for our pleasure and God's glory.

A day or two before he wandered off.  He looked remarkably healthy here,
but you can tell by his dirty paws that he wasn't up to his usual self.
He enjoyed the outdoors so much that it perked him up for a while.

I wrote this free-form poem when I was hurting, yet trying to comfort myself.  All this came on top of the death of a tiny kitten of Kezzie's.
"A time to be born, and a time to die,"
Yet some die young.
It seems wrong somehow,
Like saplings blighted
Before the flowers appear,
Or robust redwoods
Chopped for no good reason.
Does not God want beauty
And friendship here?
Is not an animal innocent
Of sin and shame like ours?
Yet there they lie, still and cold,
The breath knocked from their lungs.
Is it all to teach a lesson,
To show our sin, to chasten us,
Or to make us long for kingdom days?
Perhaps, or further still
To long for Thee,
My Father, God.
Your arms are there
For us to cling to,
Your promises don't fail,
And nothing comes or goes
Without Your wise ordaining.



We couldn't find Pip when he wandered off when I left him for five minutes outside (where he loved to sit or romp).  We searched the bushes, combing back and forth, risking ticks, ourselves.  Pip now must be dead, and it still seems unreal, but not quite as nightmarish as it seemed when he first left.  God is good, no matter what.  Come rain, come fire, come sweet or sour, He knows our needs and loves us despite our every sin!  This is what we need to remember every hour.  This is why we can "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) 

And, sweetly, the message today at church was about trials, God's refining purpose in our lives.  Oh that I would readily rejoice even in the worst times!  Yes, there is a place for mourning, too, but there should be behind that a peace and joy, deeper than the pain.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Uncovering the Life of Jesus - Book Review

 
This is a very short book about some of the events and lessons in Jesus' life on earth (from the book of Luke), including the prodigal son, the centurion who proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God, and the resurrection of Christ. There are questions to get you thinking, and places to write your notes. I enjoyed it, but wish it were a bit longer and in depth and more helpful in witnessing (which I thought would be the theme of the book). It also seems to be from an Arminian perspective, which goes against what I believe the Bible teaches. However, there were a few new thoughts to me, and it could be a helpful book for those who are new to the Bible, and could be applied to witnessing.

My thanks go to crossfocusedreviews.com for this book to review!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Tears in Room 001

Take a moment, if you will, to read this touching and inspiring account by a friend of mine!

Tears in Room 001

Friday, April 3, 2015

His Mercy Surrounding - Short Story, Part 1

I started writing this over a year ago, and it's still unfinished, but I thought I'd post what I have of it, and perhaps be more motivated to finish it.  I hope you like it!  Comments and critiques are welcome.

His Mercy Surrounding
Copyright 2015, Melissa Merritt

The light bulb flickered, then died, plunging the room into darkness.

"Stupid light," Greta mumbled, then rummaged for a flashlight in the purse that weighed down her shoulder.  She always came prepared for anything.

The beam of her flashlight revealed cracked walls, warped cardboard, and old pallets.  She thought she heard rustling.  Probably rats or a stray cat.

"Why did you have to pick this place, Adam?"  She clenched her jaw, turning slowly and scanning every corner of the room.  One never knew who else might be using this old warehouse as a rendezvous.

She heard footsteps shuffling.  Adam always walked like that, with his hands in his pockets and a quiet smile on his face.

"Hey, babe," Adam said, grinning as he reached her.  "What'd you call me at this deep, dark hour for, sounding so mysterious and frantic?  Missed me that much?"

Greta felt herself trembling, and tried to still herself.  She even managed a half smile.  "You wish."  She took a deep breath.  "I'm pregnant, Adam."

His eyebrows rose.

"I don't know what to do!"  She pressed her lips together to keep from crying.

He breathed a laugh.  "Well, what do you think?  Either you hide away in Australia, or you get an abortion."

She put her hands to her forehead.  "But it's your child!  We could--get married.  It's still early enough."

Adam shook his head and backed away.  "No way. I'm not ready for that!  We're in high school, for crying out loud!"

"I know.  I know!"  She huffed out a breath.  "I never thought this would happen.  It would kill my dad!  You know him."

Adam smirked.  "Yeah. Mr. Preach-to-all-the-world-yet-neglect-his-daughter.  He deserves the humiliation."

Greta's eyebrows knit together.  "But--isn't abortion murder?"

"You swallow that lie from your father?"

Greta turned and looked at the floor, its grime glaring in the round circle of flashlight.  "He might be right about some things."

Adam put a hand on her shoulder gently.  "Greta.  He's a hypocrite.  I'm sorry to say it, but he is.  How could he be right when he's so wrong about so much?"

Greta bit her lip.  Her father did advocate being a loving parent, leading the home in righteousness.  He never seemed to have time to live out his words.  Television crews and huge crowds  flocked to him, and he drank it up.  He only had one child, yet he didn't even take an interest in her beyond asking how her week was or what she was studying in school, and that while he was surfing the internet or reading a book.

She sniffled and blinked away tears.  "Maybe you're right."

~~~

Becky pulled her crocheted cardigan on and hummed a line of Handel's Messiah.  The sky was cloudy gray, but there was one little pocket of sky where the sun shone through.

May Your light shine, oh, God, she prayed.  May there be someone saved from darkness today, and some little lives kept.

The tea kettle whistled shrilly.  She poured a mug, stirring in honey, then letting the tea bag steep for a minute while she chomped down a banana.  She carried the cup to her mom.  "I'm about ready to leave.  Pray for us.  Love you."

Her mom smiled.  "Thank you, honey.  I love you, too.  I'll be praying."

Becky nodded, then paused with her hand on the door-frame.  "I'll be praying for you, too.  Hope your doctor's visit goes well."

"I'm sure it will.  It's just a check-up."

Becky drove her car to her friends' house.  Mrs. Harper was in the van waiting.  Becky hopped in the van and was greeted warmly.

"Peyton is running late, as you can see," Mrs. Harper said with a grin.  "I think that girl would be late to a baseball game, and you know how much she loves those! . . . Wait, she has been late for one."

Becky smiled.  "The main thing is she's coming.  I'm so glad you could both make it! Thank you for taking me."

A minute went by before Peyton came jogging out, a bagel in one hand, a satchel on her shoulder, and a Bible in her other hand.

~~~

Does anyone care about me?  Do you care, God?

Greta gripped her purse strap tightly, feeling metal dig her skin.  She swallowed and gazed at the abortion clinic through a clump of tall bushes.  Women, some weeping, some with head held high, were ushered into the clinic through the big gates.  They were greeted with smiles, but the workers seemed in a hurry.  Outside the gate, there were a few sign-clad people, and some shouting, some praying.

Other women came out of the clinic, looking broken.  Was that what she would look like when she came out?  If her nerves were any indication, it was more than likely.

Adam seemed to think it would be easy, that it was the only option.  But they didn't have to operate on him.

She wiped her face, making up her mind.  She turned, hopped in her car, and revved the engine.

Then she saw a similar building across the street and a little farther down.  The sign had a stylized drawing of a mother and baby on it, and read Hopeful Care.  The name might have sounded cheesy to her at another time, but right now . . . Hopeful Care sounded . . . hopeful.

She parked, looked at the small, flagstone building, and got out.

No one was there to hurry her in like a fugitive.

Inside, a brunette in her thirties looked up with a smile.  "Hello, there!  Welcome to Hopeful Care.  I'm Lindsay. Have a seat, please.  What's your name?"

Greta sat down, glad to rest her jelly-like legs, then ventured, "I'm Greta.  What is this place?"

"Well, Greta, we're here to help troubled women who are pregnant, giving other options besides abortion."

"Options?"

"Yes.  We can give you an ultrasound, first off, to see if you really are pregnant.  Then we discuss the options of keeping the child, giving him up for adoption--"

Greta bit her lip and looked away.  "But what--what would I do in the meantime?" she murmured.

Lindsay reached a hand out to squeeze Greta's hand.  "We'll talk about that, too.  Let me introduce you to some other ladies."

Greta squared her shoulders and followed Lindsay down a hallway and into the first door on the left.

Two girls about her age and a gray-haired woman were in the midst of filling plastic bags with diapers.  They looked up.

"Greta, meet Mrs. Harper, Peyton Harper, and Becky Murray.  Becky's been here for a few months, but the other two are new."

~~~

Becky smiled at Greta, noticing the tightly crossed arms, the trembling lips.  "Hello, Greta.  I'm glad to see you." Becky looked at her two friends.  "I think Greta and I will get acquainted, and you can continue packing for now.  Right this way, Greta."

"Are you going to give me a test?" Greta asked.  "Because I already took one, and it was positive."

"Yes, but they can sometimes be wrong.  Rarely, but it's standard procedure to check, and give you a chance to look for yourself."

"Look?  At the fetus?"

"Yes, the unborn baby."

Greta shook her head.  "I really think--well, my boyfriend thinks I should get an abortion.  It would be easier . . ."

Becky's eyebrows pinched together in sorrow.  "It may seem so, Greta, but . . . there are scars from things like that.  Deep, heart scars."

"How would you know?  Have you had an abortion?"  It was tossed out impertinently, but there was something fragile in Greta's eyes that Becky caught.

"No," Becky answered softly.  "But I have a friend who did."  Becky rubbed the chain to her silver heart-shaped locket.  "The pain went so deep she--wanted to kill herself."

Greta froze, then cleared her throat.  "What happened?"

"She tried it, but her parents stopped her before she could finish the job."  Becky's voice trembled a bit, but there was a peaceful smile on her lips.  "And Someone else stopped her, too.  God took hold of her and made her see that there is forgiveness in Him.  There is life.  But there was no going back.  She still regrets her decision to kill her own baby."

Greta pressed her lips together and blinked.  "But how could I take people--looking at me?  My dad . . . everyone.  If God forgives, it can't be so bad to--you know.  Most people don't even think a fetus is a baby yet."

Becky swallowed, adjusting her thoughts into words.  Talking didn't always come easily to her.  "It is a baby--we'll show you pictures of a  baby's growth and functions.  And thus, it is wrong to kill an unborn life.  God forgives, yes, but that is no reason to sin."  Becky prayed a three-second prayer for help and for Greta's heart.  "Think of the horrible price Jesus paid on the cross.  Sin is very serious to God!"

Greta squirmed and sighed deeply.  "Okay, then.  Give me the test."

~~~

Greta shut the door behind her, then clenched her jaw.  Her father was sitting at the couch near the door, and he looked up from his Bible only briefly.

"Hi, Dad."

"Hello, sweetheart."  He looked back down and scribbled something in his study notebook.

All veneer, no solids.  Greta would take the rough-and-tumble, not-word-perfect, yet heartfelt dad any day.  Would he even care about anything but his own reputation if she told him that she was pregnant?

"Did you have a good day?"  His words were said nearly every day, like a ritual.

Greta decided to be honest and see if he noticed.  "Just horrible."

"That's good," he mumbled, buried deep in his writing.

Greta rolled her eyes and hurried to her room.  She plopped her leather purse on her bed, then quickly took out a folded paper.  Her fingers trembled, wanting yet not wanting to unfold it.  She swallowed once, twice, then flipped the paper open.

Just as she had seen at Hopeful Care.  Black and white and a bit fuzzy, but there was a hand, a head, and the cutest little nose.  A sob rose in her chest.  She felt like vomiting.  This little person she had thought of putting an end to--why, it was murder, wasn't it?  Dad or no dad.  Perhaps he didn't even mean the words, just said them to sound good . . . but he was right.

~~~

To Be Continued . . .

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gluten-free Oatmeal Peanut-butter Cookies - Version #2

I was playing around with this recipe today, and here's my 2nd version, which really has two different ways of doing it. My measurements are not exact, because I was going by look, feel, and taste, though I based it on my first recipe. So, please do the same when you make yours! This is just a guide.  But for me it turned out better than my other recipe, so I wanted to share again.


1 cup gluten-free oats
1/4 cup or so flax seeds
1/4 cup coconut oil after melted, about 2 Tb. hard
Nearly 1/2 cup maple syrup
2 organic eggs, whisked
1/2 carrot & apple pulp (or just carrot)
1 tsp vanilla
3 heaping tablespoons organic, natural peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
2 tsps. or so of cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup (approx. for whole recipe, or 1/2 if you add it later) soy flour - Optional (I added it in half-way through, and actually liked it better without this, but it is helpful if you want to roll them into neat round cookies.)
These would also be good with pecans or other nuts, but I didn't want to use them this time.

After mixing these up, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
I found you don't really need to grease the cookie sheets--yay!  Drop cookie dough by spoonful or by hand, about 1 1/2 inch round.
Bake for about 9 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.
You may serve with a dollop of plain yogurt, touch of maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon, as pictured.
Makes 25-30 1 1/2-inch cookies.

To recap, the main differences from my previous recipe are the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder.  Let me know how it turns out for you, or what you changed! :)