CFBA Blog Tour ~ Kelly's Chance

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Kelly’s Chance
Barbour Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 2010)


Wanda E. Brunstetter


A Note From Wanda:

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. When I was in the second grade, I wrote my first poem about a moth. Luckily, I received encouragement from my teacher. During my teen years, I wrote skits that my church teen group performed during special holidays.

It wasn’t until 1980, that I took a course on writing for children and teenagers. I became serious about a career as an author. Soon after that, I began to write stories, articles, poems, and devotionals, which appeared in a variety of Christian publications. Later, I had 5 books of puppet/ventriloquist scripts published. *These books are currently available by contacting me. (wanda@wandabrunstetter.com)

My first novel was released by Barbour Publishing’s book club, Heartsong Presents, in Dec. 1997. I have now written nearly fifty books, with over 4 million books in print. Many of the novels I've written are Amish-themed.


Life for Kelly McGregor is a daily drudge of driving her overbearing father’s mules along Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Canal. She dreams of one day owning an art gallery where her own drawings and paintings are on display. But these dreams don’t include marriage. . .not after seeing what her father has done to her mother. How then can Mike Cooper, a general store owner, make her realize he is different than her father and wants to support her artistic talent? Will Kelly learn that dreams can walk hand in hand with a love created by God?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Kelly’s Chance , go HERE.



We were threatened yesterday.

"Get out of your house or you and your children are dead" threatened.

Half a sheet of lined notebook paper, crudely handwritten, unsigned, of course, and left in the mailbox.  Menacing words, and very personal...a particular reference within the note making it clear that this was no random act.

And all because my husband, literally, helped some little girls cross the street, and let them use our phone to call their parents.  Whether the work of kids trying to stir up fear and trouble, or a truly sinister and serious threat, it's obvious that it all started there.  Brings to mind the old saying "No good deed goes unpunished."  *Sigh*

And whether it is kids trying to "rattle our cage" or a sincere criminal threat, life is not the same this morning as it was yesterday.  The police, who say that they can't do much at this point, were nonetheless quite grave in admonishing that it must be taken seriously..."we sure can't just assume it's kids."  And while I keep waiting for *someone* to say, "It's just prankster kids,"  so far instead everyone has said, "You've got to get out of that house."

Children aren't allowed outside, Billy and I are now sleeping in shifts, and I got a crash course in using Billy's shotgun yesterday.  (Too bad there isn't a YouTube video...it would actually make great entertainment.  The gun is almost as long as I am tall, and so heavy I'm pretty sure it would be much more effective if I whacked someone over the head with it than if I tried to actually shoot it.)

It would have been really nice, in the ideal world, if our children hadn't had to even be aware of such a threat. Unfortunately, life in the real world is different.  Our 12-year-old is the self-appointed family mailman, and walked back in the door reading the note as he brought me the mail that was in the box (which, by the way, is on our front porch, inches from our front door...eek) with it.  And regardless,  it would have been a bit difficult to hide the police cruiser in the front yard or the tall, uniformed officer standing in the living room.  *Sigh*  Not to mention the family meeting we had to have to lay down a few new rules for the time being, and come up with a  "safety plan"...just in case.

One of my children is particularly nosy curious.  She really feels a strong need to know *every* detail about *everything* going on in her world...all for the good of the family as a whole and the rest of mankind, of course.  So, naturally, she immediately wanted to read the note.

Unfortunately, this child also struggles with overwhelming fear.  We have just recently come to a place of calm in a three year long bout with intense sleep trauma issues.  Our children have already, at much too young ages, come face-to-face with the ugliness and evil of crime.  For these reasons, and others, Billy and I made the decision that the kids wouldn't actually see the note (other than what the oldest had already seen bringing it in the door.)

Oh, the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth on the part of our dear daughter.  Oh, the begging and pleading, the well-reasoned arguments and attempted coercion.  And all, much to her dismay, to no avail.

No amount of asking on her part...no matter the persuasive words or the (ever-increasing) degree of emotion...would sway her daddy and I from our decision.  It was one thing to "know" that there was a threat, but the actual words on paper were joltingly frightening, even for us.  There was no way that our children needed to have those words burned into their minds.  Even her older brother tried to help, explaining that he really, really wished he had not seen the contents of the note himself.

And yet, this child who is usually obedient and the most compliant of my children, persisted.  She was almost frantic in her "need" to read the note.  When I tried to explain that Billy and I had made this decision for her good, knowing it would frighten her all the more to actually read it, she insisted that it would help her to read it, that somehow that would make it all better.

I understood her feelings.  And in other situations, I probably would have agreed.  But in this particular situation, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that actually reading the words and seeing them on paper was NOT a good thing for this child, and would definitely in fact make things worse.

At one point I almost had to laugh at her insistence that she knew better than Daddy and I.  It *wasn't* funny at all, but given the "nerves on edge" state I'd been in all day plus the complete absurdity of her position by this point, I did have to choke back a chuckle a time or two.

"I just need to know what it says.  I just need to read it myself."  "No, you don't.  All you need to know is that there was a threat, and Daddy and I have given you the instructions on what to do to be as safe as possible.   You just need to obey, and Daddy and I will deal with the rest."  "But Mom, I really need to read it."  "No, you really don't.  Daddy and I don't want you all to read it, because it would only scare you worse, and there is no reason for you to read it."  "But, Mom, you don't understand.  I will be less scared if I can read it.  It won't make me more scared."  "Mom and Dad have a responsibility to protect you.  I know you want to read the note, but God has given you parents to decide what is *best* for you and to do it.  We can't allow you to do something we feel would be bad for you."   "But it isn't bad for me.  It would help me.  I know it would!"

At that point, it was as though a lightening bolt struck.

In the pleading and cajoling of this child, I suddenly heard myself as God must often hear me.  No matter how many times He tells me that He is working all for my good and the good of my family, no matter how many times He tells me that He sees the big picture and I don't need to see any more than He has shown already, no matter how many times He tells me that He is God...Almighty, Sovereign, Sufficient God of Love, Mercy, and Grace...I continue with my own absurd responses:

"But this is terrifying, Lord.  I'm scared."

"My children are going to be scarred for life, Lord.  I can't watch them go through this."

"I can't wait any longer.  We've waited long enough.  We need an answer *now*."

"I feel like we're in an interminable desert, Lord.  We can't do this anymore.  We have to have resolution."

"If you could just assure us that this is all going to work out, Lord.  I need to know what is going to happen."

And the whole time, God is gently speaking, over and over, while I continue to try to talk over Him and persuade Him that...just this one time...I really know what is best.  And if He would just listen, and do it quickly...it would all be okay.  Or if He would just show me the next step...or two...or maybe the next ten years...

But He continues....

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.And we know that God causes  things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." ~ Genesis 50:20

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." ~ John 14:1

"But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired." ~ Isaiah 40:31 

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." ~ Jeremiah 31:3

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." -1 Peter 5:7 


The words of my daughter are a mirror, reflecting my own pleading, cajoling, and yes, absurdity...in the face of an All-Knowing, All-Loving Father who has promised to meet my every need, and work every detail out for our good and His Glory.  

And just as I lovingly instructed my daughter to do, I need to stop...

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
                  and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, 
       and He will make your paths straight.
~ Proverbs 3:5-6

holy experience

Linking up with Ann today, after discovering as I was writing this post that she is inviting us to share how we have recently experienced God in our lives...visit, read, and share at A Holy Experience  today.  


In "Other" Words...Misunderstood Peace, Part 1

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
~ Matthew 10:34

Tolerance.  In the 1828 Webster's Dictionary, it was defined this way...

TOL'ERANCE, n. [L. tolerantia, from tolero, to bear.] The power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring.

Today, Dictionary.Com defines it as follows:

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.

(I didn't add the medical, machining, and coining definitions, in the interest of space.)

Tolerance, as defined in Dictionary.Com's first 3 entries,  has become one of the great defining  virtues of our day.  And to be intolerant, in many circles, is the greatest possible sin.  

Not only are *we* expected to be tolerant, but because tolerance has become such a great, over-riding virtue in our time, that "virtue" has been projected onto God.  After all, "God is love" and "Peace on Earth" are what God is all about, right?  God wants all men to live at peace, and everyone to love one another, so of course He is a tolerant God...that only makes sense.  Peace, love, and tolerance are all part of the same package, according to many.  If we love people, we will be tolerant of whatever beliefs they have or choices they make, and if we would just be tolerant of everyone, then everyone could live at peace.  

Except...it doesn't work that way.

I've been bombarded recently with this topic...bombarded both with God's truth, and with examples of the world's confusion and false teachings.  

Some months ago, Bro. Kent began preaching through the book of Romans on Sunday mornings.  I had no idea when we started that study how much God was going to use it in my life.  For the last few weeks, we have been studying what the Bible says about the wrath of God in Romans 1-2.  Not especially happy stuff...in fact, it's a subject that many today...even many churches...choose to ignore.  After all, we wouldn't want to scare anyone off.  "Wrath" doesn't sound very peaceful, loving, or tolerant.  People say, "Surely a loving God wouldn't really send anyone to Hell!"   And yet, as Bro. Kent said a few weeks ago, "Without the doctrine of the wrath of God, the doctrine of salvation is worthless."  Yes, a loving God *will* send people to Hell...everyone who rejects Him, in fact.  The loving part is that He made a way of salvation from that wrath...through the death and resurrection of His perfect Son, Jesus.  And through that salvation He brings perfect peace...not in the world, where there will *never* be peace until the second coming of Christ, but in the hearts of those who have accepted His gift.  

I've mentioned before that I came face-to-face with the "We must be open and accepting of all beliefs because to say that there is only one way to God or Heaven is intolerant" viewpoint just a few weeks ago while planning my grandfather's funeral.  The people who were espousing this view were well-meaning, sincere, peace-seeking people who truly feel that all the great problems in the world could be solved if no one insisted that there is a "right way".  If all people could just be tolerant of the beliefs of others, there would be true peace on earth, in their view.  Like the Jews waiting and watching for their Messiah, they are looking for a world-wide political peace...and in the process, missing completely the peace that passes understanding that Jesus actually came to bring. 

During the time this was going on, I began reading John MacArthur's The Jesus You Can't Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ
, which a friend had given me for Christmas.  Wow!   Not only was this an amazingly timely gift, it is one of the few books that I will say I think every person should read.  So many of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, have a mental picture of Jesus as a meek, mild-mannered man carrying a baby lamb in His arms and never getting His feathers ruffled about sin, but accepting everyone just as they were.  MacArthur points out that this couldn't be further from the truth.  Yes, Jesus preached love, and He came to bring peace, but again, not the way the Jews of that day expected, or the way the world today would have us believe.  The Jesus of the New Testament loved the sinner, but never tolerated sin.  He confronted false teaching, threw the money-changers out of the Temple, and never backed down from His claim to be the Son of God and the *only* way to the Father.  He was crucified for His intolerance, which the Jews labeled blasphemy.  

Then last Wednesday I ran across a couple of links I posted as "Midweek Inspiration".   I was having "one of those weeks" (you know the ones...), and the Spurgeon quote and the story of pianist Leon Fleisher both really touched a chord with me, in a comforting, challenging, motivating kind of way.  Just hours after posting, however, I received an email from an anonymous blog reader labeling me as "intolerant", due to my expressing sadness that such an amazing pianist with such an incredible attitude about the suffering he has experienced did not appear to acknowledge the Giver of all good gifts.  After labeling me as intolerant, the reader then asked, "Does your God like that about you?"

I was struck once again by the confusion of so many about Who God Is.  My first thought was, "I serve an intolerant God."   A God of love, yes.  A God of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, yes.  A God who grants peace that passes all understanding, yes.  But also a jealous God, a God of wrath, a God who can have nothing to do with sin, with evil, with false teaching, and who commands us to flee from them as well. 

It took two days and much prayer to compose my reply to this anonymous reader.  In Part 2 of this post, I will share more of my response to him or her.  In the meantime, here's an excerpt:

"The world equates "love" somehow with tolerance.  And yet, if I truly believe God's Word is true (which I do), and I truly believe that the God of the Bible is the one true God (which I do), and I truly believe that salvation through Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven (which I do) and the alternative is an eternity in Hell (which I do), then the least loving thing I can do, for Mr. Fleisher, for the readers of my blog, or for anyone else, is to pretend agreement with them that "any religion", or no religion, is okay.  They certainly have the freedom to believe whatever they choose.   And I am responsible to be gracious and loving to the *person* regardless of their beliefs.  But that does not mean that I am to be tolerant or accepting of evil or of false teaching.   I am also responsible to graciously and lovingly and boldly proclaim the truth, both out of love for others, and out of obedience to God.   If their choice is to reject God and spend an eternity in Hell as a consequence, I don't want it to be because I didn't lovingly and boldly share the truth of God's Word."

Peace with the world should not be our goal.  Standing on truth will create division.  In fact, we are told to expect hatred and persecution. (John 15:18-20; 2 Tim. 3:12)   But we can have peace:  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. 
Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 
~John 14:27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7

I haven't heard back from that reader.  I am praying that God will open his or her heart to the truth of God's Word.  I pray that that reader and others will find the peace that only God can give.  

Thank you to Esthermay for hosting In "Other" Words this week and selecting this quote.  Please visit her blog, From the Heart of a Pastor's Wife, to see what others have written on this verse.  Also, check back here for "Misunderstood Peace, Part 2", where I will share more of my response to last week's anonymous email.  


Food on Friday...Pantry Challenge

I mentioned Monday that I am participating in the "Eat From the Pantry Challenge with Money Saving Mom and FishMama" (say THAT three times fast! :)) this month.  I got a late start because I didn't hear about it until the month was well underway, but we had actually been doing this on our own without being aware that there was an official bloggy challenge going on.   I am determined to rein in our grocery spending, and I have noticed in the past few weeks as I've been back to keeping a pantry/freezer inventory that there are items that never seem to drop off the list...items I *intend* to use but never really get around to.

Now...that doesn't mean that we aren't grocery shopping at all!  But I'm trying to use as much from the pantry/freezer as possible, and take a chunk out of our {recently over-budget} grocery spending.  I'm trying to focus our grocery dollars on perishables (dairy/produce/bread), and cut *way* back on the convenience foods we've become way too dependent on lately.  I'm also trying to utilize "found deals" instead of...well, whatever I would have bought otherwise. :)

We've done pretty well.  We've had some really good meals, a great one or two, and one that was only so/so.  The best part has been that I have done much better about making snacks/desserts rather than buying them, which has been much better for us and the budget, as well as making everyone happy to see old favorites we haven't had in a while.  

The other night I found some really good deals during a quick trip to the store.   Country style ribs were marked down to 98 cents per pound.  I bought ribs marked at almost $15 originally for under $6.  We love country style ribs cooked all day in the crock pot.  Yum. :)   I also found bagged salad...the good kind :)...for 50 cents a bag.  I got several varieties of specialty salad for $2.

Last night's dinner was not only delicious, but frugal. :)  We started with this ...(if you don't like to look at raw meat, skip this picture! :))

in this...

and added some of this...

(This is our favorite marinade/grilling sauce, by the way.  We used it for years, and then Sam's stopped carrying it for a loonng time, and then suddenly one day we were walking down the aisle at Sam's and there it was.  I was practically dancing in the aisle.  The kids thought I had completely lost my marbles. :) Not a terribly unusual thought for my children, I'm afraid.)

The ribs slow-cooked all day and by the time Billy got home the smell was absolutely wonderful. :)  At that point I pulled out a bunch of "leftover" red potatoes that needed to be used and put them on to boil.

When they were done, we pulled out some of our 50 cent salad...

and then sat down to eat...

Yum. :)  (And somehow I didn't get a picture of the no-bake cookies we had for dessert.  I had everything in the pantry/fridge to make them (I usually do, which is one of the wonderful things about no-bakes. :)  I think I'm making more tomorrow.)

The best thing about last night's meal was that it was a good reminder to me that there *are* quick, easy, economical meals if I will just stop and *think* a bit.   While the ribs had to cook all day, the actual prep for them took less than two minutes.  Throw them in the crock pot and pour marinade over them. :)  I can do that on the craziest of days.  Washing and cutting the potatoes took maybe 5 minutes?  Then they boiled away on their own while Bayley and I made the no-bakes.  Those are a bit more time consuming, but again, not terribly.  I think my actual prep time (not including cooking times) for the entire meal was less than 20 minutes.   If I'd done the cookies on bulk cooking day and had them in the freezer, my labor time would have been under 10 minutes!  Why do I think these things take so long?

Another bonus...Billy had lunch ready to go this morning, and we still have enough rib meat to shred and use for sandwiches tomorrow.  Yay!  Super-easy  Saturday lunch...I'm all for that. :)

Visit Money Saving Mom for more on the "Eat from the Pantry Challenge".  And to see what others are saying about food this week, visit Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays.


Midweek Inspiration...

I ran across a couple of things on Facebook this morning that I thought I'd share for anyone else who is needing some midweek inspiration...

God has been teaching me so much over the past few years about the purposes of suffering in our lives.  I've struggled a bit in the past few weeks with needing to "re-learn" some of those lessons (I've needed Mr. Tom around to say "RWYK!" Remember What You Know! ).  This Spurgeon quote, posted this morning on the "Spurgeon--Prince of Preachers" Facebook page, really hit home:

I don't know how I had missed hearing about this amazing pianist. I'm adding his story to
my collection of  those who face great adversity and are later thankful for it...
although sadly, from the further reading/listening  I've done on Leon Fleisher, he 
doesn't at any point indicate a trust in God or belief in God's sovereignty as 
the giver of all good things. The documentary "Two Hands" can be found through 
a Google search, but I'm not posting a link here due to a couple of instances of
inappropriate language (which I *really* wish weren't there, because otherwise,
it is quite good.) I loved this closing quote by Fleisher, after saying that he 
doesn't know that he would change anything, given the opportunity:

"There was a lot of despair, misery, and unhappiness, but there were commensurate ecstasies...and you 
can't really have, expect to have, one without the other."

It was quite sobering to see this from someone who appears to be an unbeliever,
when we as believers have such a hard time with it sometimes.  
And how much more should we "get it", when we know that all the
suffering and all the joys come to us from an all-loving God who is working it 
all for our good!

There are some great YouTube videos of Fleisher's playing, without the commentary
of the documentary. In this one, you can actually see that despite his two-hand 
"comeback", the little finger of his right hand still
doesn't work totally normally (which he explains near the end of the documentary). 
What a challenge to seehow hard he has worked to play with that hand despite its

Have you been inspired by something you've seen, heard, or read this week?  
I'd love to hear about it in the

P.S...I just noticed today's verse of the day from BibleGateway...it goes along with this
post perfectly. I love it when God puts things together like that!

“ Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” 


Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY... January 18, 2010

Outside my window... gray skies.

I am thinking... about the week ahead and praying for wisdom, diligence, and productivity. 

I am thankful for... God's faithfulness always!

I am hearing... children working on chores...we're all a bit behind today, but determined to catch up!

I am remembering... Many January 18ths of yesteryear.  Today is my childhood friend Susan's birthday.  She always had the *best* birthday parties.  Her mom was so creative and unique!   And frugal.  :)   So many wonderful memories of her birthdays over the years.   I always think of my dad on Susan's birthday, too.   For many years, it snowed almost every year on Susan's birthday.  Even after we had moved here, and I was grown, sometime around January 16, Daddy would say, "Are you ready for snow?" :)   *Soo* glad it isn't snowing today!!  

I am going... to be home all day today, I hope!  Love Mondays at home.  

I am currently reading... Still have my head in my stack of "homeschool faves", as I finish planning the year.  Didn't get far in  The Jesus You Can't Ignore, by John MacArthur, last week, but hoping to remedy that this week.  Also reading bits at a time from E.M. Bounds on Prayer.  

Also reading this article this morning...excellent, timely reading for me, shared by a friend on a message board.  

I am hoping... that the temps actually warm up as forecasted...looking forward to highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s/50s this week!  

On my mind... Psalm 139.  Bro. Kent read it in yesterday's worship service, and I am trying to meditate on it this week.  I wish I had more time to share my thoughts on that...maybe later. :)

Noticing that... I have *lots* of things "To Be Blogged" this week.  I hope I have time to blog  them all!

Pondering these words... 

"In God's name, I beseech you, let prayer nourish your soul as your meals nourish your body.  Let your fixed seasons of prayer keep you in God's presence through the day, and may His presence frequently remembered through it be an ever fresh spring of prayer.  Such a brief, loving recollection of God renews a man's whole being, quiets his passions, supplies light and counsel in difficulty, gradually subdues the temper, and causes him to possess his soul in patience, or rather gives it up to the possession of God."  
~ Fenelon (from E.M. Bounds on Prayer)

I read this this morning and thought it was timely.  Just yesterday I had heard a snippet on the radio about the Jews' practice of stopping to pray at regular times during the day, and decided that I would incorporate, at least for a while, scheduled prayer times throughout the day.  More on that later. :)  I thought the above was very timely in light of that.  

From the kitchen... Joining in on the Eat From the Pantry Challenge for the rest of the month, and hoping to have time to blog a bit about that this afternoon. 

Around the house... Got a *lot* done last week, mostly thanks to Billy. :)  Hoping to keep up the momentum this week.  

One of my favorite things...  shelves full of good books!

From my picture journal... No picture today...maybe I'll have time to come back and add one later!  

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook to see what others are doing today!


"In Other Words"...Astonishing (Birthday) Blessings

"God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways."

~ 2 Corinthians 9:9 (MSG)

When I saw this week's quote, selected by Deborah from Chocolate and Coffee for today's In "Other" Words, I immediately thought of a blog post I started to write over a week ago that was still on my "waiting to be typed" list. :)   

Two weeks ago yesterday, I wrote in my "Simple Woman's Daybook" post:

"One of my favorite things~ this week between Christmas and New Year's!  It's always been my favorite week of the year.  That probably started due to my birthday falling on the 31st, but now I love it because it has a different "flavor" than any other week of the year.  There is still a lingering of the beauty of Christmas, with a continuation of holiday spirit due to the coming New Year's celebration.  The shopping, cooking, and preparation deadlines of Christmas are over, and it is usually a "slow" week commitment-wise.   And what a week for a "planner/list-maker", as goals and plans for the new year are being created!"

Then in last week's post, I wrote the following:

"I am thinking... that sometimes you just have to laugh. Last Monday I posted in my Daybook that the week between Christmas and New Year's is my favorite week of the year.  I had all kinds of intentions to plan the new semester and the new year during the last few days of 2009.  I foresaw quiet days of goal-setting, lesson planning, and even some scrapbooking.  Tuesday evening I came home from the store ready to have a nice dinner and a quiet evening with my family.  The phone rang just as I came in the door; it was my aunt calling to tell me things weren't looking good with my grandfather.  By the time I reached my mom at the nursing home, where she had been with Papa, he was gone.  In that few minutes, my plans for the week went out the window.  Instead of planning the new year and coming semester of school, we were planning a funeral, with all the meetings, errands, and other tasks that come along with that."

As the scheduling worked out, my aunt was unable to get here until Thursday, which meant that we spent most of my birthday at the funeral home and otherwise planning Papa's funeral.  I kept hearing, "How awful that you are having to spend your birthday planning a funeral."  And I have to admit, it certainly wasn't the way I had *planned* to spend my birthday, nor do I ever particularly want to repeat the experience!  

But...in the midst of it, I realized that while it was definitely an atypical birthday, God showered blessings in ways I could never have imagined through it:

*He reminded me of the precious heritage that I have...the wonderful blessing of Godly parents,  the treasure of having had all four of my grandparents until I was 17, and the treat for my children of having a "Great-Papa" who lived long enough for them to know and remember.  

*God's timing, although not at all what we would have chosen, is always perfect.  Billy had already taken off Thursday for my birthday, although he had to work on the New Year's holiday on Friday.  The fact that he was off enabled me to be free to help my mom all day Thursday, which would have been terribly difficult otherwise.  I am so very thankful for my sweet husband, who is always willing to step in and take over at times like these (and is frankly probably more competent at keeping things running at home than I am. :))  

*I have the most wonderful friends anywhere.  I can't even begin to post all the ways they once again helped and encouraged during this time, but I will say this...we ate the last of the food they provided this past weekend...almost two weeks later!  What a huge blessing during a chaotic time to have food ready and waiting, and not have to worry about planning or preparation....to be able to pull things out of the fridge or freezer and pop in the microwave or oven and just eat...especially on those days when I was too tired and too scatterbrained to make peanut butter sandwiches!

*Our church staff, deacons, and church family are amazing.  Again, there is no way to begin to list all the ways that they blessed us during this time, but I realized once again how good God has been to us in leading us to Oak Cliff and allowing us to be part of this church family for over 13 years.  

*God just keeps bringing home to me...in my *heart*, and not just my head (because those of us who grew up in church grew up hearing and knowing these words from our earliest days), that His greatest gift truly is salvation through His Son, Jesus.  As I shared in yesterday's post, "What a blessing to have the assurance of God's Word during times like these...and how thankful I am that God has sent continual reminders throughout this time of His Truth."  Seeing up close and personal last week those who do not have that solid foundation and assurance was such an incredible reminder of what a gift that truly is.  

Only our God could take what would have seemed like a totally sad and dreary way to spend a birthday and turn it into a time of joy.  There were so many times during my birthday and the days surrounding it that I found myself fighting back tears...not of grief or sadness (although there were a few of those, too), but of thankfulness at God's amazing goodness.  I actually may look back on my 41st birthday as one of the best birthdays ever...because God truly can "pour on the blessings in astonishing ways"!

To see what others have shared about today's quote, please visit Deborah at Chocolate and Coffee


Daybook Monday

January 11, 2010

Outside my window... 

Cold, the sun is just beginning to come up, birds chirping loudly.

I am thinking... 
about Jesus as the Only Way.   Sola Christo~Christ Alone!  That has been an on-going theme around here ever since planning my grandfather's funeral with people who are very "ecumenical" and universalist in mindset.  It has been so sad to see, on such a close personal level, people who are so sincere, and yet so incredibly misguided (and misguiding others.)  What a blessing to have the assurance of God's Word during times like these...and how thankful I am that God has sent continual reminders throughout this time of His Truth.

 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
~ John 14:1-7

I am hearing...

the whirr of the electric heater behind me.

I am thankful for... 

the promise of warmer weather this week...near or in the 50s every day, according to the 10 Day forecast!!

I am wearing...

Gray fleece sweats...it's not warm yet. :)

I am remembering... 

14 years ago this week...we were getting ready for our wedding!!  

I am going... 

to get back to our "two-week schedule" again this week.  We've gotten way off lately, and I'm feeling the need (and seeing it in my children) for more structure again.  

I am currently reading...

and re-reading, my "big three" homeschooling books...The Heart of Wisdom, Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home, and Educating the WholeHearted Child.  Always good when I'm planning a new year or new semester, or just in a slump. :)

Hoping to really dig in to The Jesus You Can't Ignore, by John MacArthur, this week.  I've been carrying it around ever since I got it for Christmas, but haven't gotten to read much yet.  

I am hoping...
to make up for lost time the last two weeks, this week.

On my mind... 

still very much in "planning" mode.  It was so nice to sit down this weekend and get some of the thoughts swirling around in my mind down on paper!  Now if I could just get some of the blog posts I keep planning in my head *out* of my mind and *on* to my blog!!

Noticing that... 
I have done more research as a homeschool mom than I did in high school and college combined...in a research-intensive college program! :)  I realized last night as I was researching for some of this week's lessons that my background in and enjoyment of research has been a real blessing in our schooling.  

Pondering these words... 

 “I find doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about His plans!” –George MacDonald

(from yesterday's True Woman Facebook page)

From the kitchen... 
I have absolutely no idea!  This weekend we actually ate the last of the food friends brought when my grandfather died, Billy cooked a bit, and we had a big breakfast for supper one night.  I spent all weekend planning school, schedules, etc., and realized this morning I haven't given a single thought to what we are eating this week.  Guess I'd better get busy on that! :)  We are trying to eat out of the freezer/pantry this week, so I need to get the creativity flowing. :)

From the Learning Rooms...
Finally got some school planning done over the weekend...enough to get us through the week, at least.  Yay!! We did have a bit of school last week despite the lack of planning, but we are actually officially starting "back to school" today.  I think we're all excited about the coming semester!

Around the house... 

Serious work in the dining room this afternoon.  We are planning to move furniture when Billy gets home, and before that, we have a LOT of decluttering and re-organizing to do.  I am so ready to get this room (which is also our schoolroom, scrapbook room, etc...the room we really live in!...put to rights. 

One of my favorite things~ 
Notes from friends, in the mailbox or my inbox.  Between my birthday and Papa's death, I've gotten some of the sweetest, most encouraging notes in the past couple of weeks.  They've been such a blessing, and have inspired me to do better about pulling out the notecards and stamps and sending a few of my own. 

From my picture journal...

January 13, 1996 :)

For more Daybooks, visit Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook