Word-Filled Wednesday {Delight}

Linking up with Word-Filled Wednesday today...

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focused on Glory {Feathered Splendor} + Giveaway WINNER!

No matter how much time I spend watching them, they always amaze me.  The intricacy of God's design in these small feathered creatures shouts His glory in the quiet of a cool fall day.  

focused on Glory is a {not terribly regular these days :)} collaborative effort between Ponderings of an Elect Exile and Creative Confetti.  We've both had a bit of a crazy fall, but hopefully this feature will be more consistent soon. :)  Be sure to visit Tauna at Creative Confetti to see her latest! 

Giveaway Winner!!

Congratulations, Tammy!!  And thanks to all who entered!!  (And just a little side note...I have discovered that I LOVE Rafflecopter!  If you have a blog, check them out for running giveaways...Rafflecopter makes it super-easy!) 

Thanks for visiting Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  If this is your first time here, please take a minute to follow Ponderings of an Elect Exile on FacebookTwitter, and/or Pinterest.  Or subscribe by email via the box in the sidebar.  I'd also love to hear from you in the comments or via the email option on my profile page.   


Food on Friday...Cherry-Pistachio Bark

I have to start this post by saying that this recipe is not original to me.  Our friend Valerie found it online last year and brought it to a church Christmas party, where I became immediately addicted.  When she shared the recipe with me, I discovered that not only is it extremely delicious, it's also extremely simple.  It has since become one of our favorite go-to holiday recipes...because you just can't have enough "simple and delicious" this time of year!  An added bonus is the fact that the ingredients can all be kept in the pantry for those last-minute get-togethers.  

Cherry-Pistachio Bark

1 1/4 cups dried cherries
1 1/4 cups pistachios, shelled
2 11-ounce pkgs. white chocolate chips
4 3-ounce squares vanilla almond bark

Microwave cherries in 2 T water for two minutes and set aside.  Microwave white chocolate chips and almond bark together until melted, stirring frequently and being careful not to scorch.  Stir cherries and pistachios into white chocolate mixture and spread into 15 x 10 inch pan lined with wax paper.  Chill for an hour or until firm.  Break into bite-sized pieces.  Store in tightly closed container.  

Linking up today with Ann Kroeker's Food on Friday...visit Ann's blog for more food chat!

Thanks for visiting Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  If this is your first time here, please take a minute to follow Ponderings of an Elect Exile on FacebookTwitter, and/or Pinterest.  Or subscribe by email via the box in the sidebar.  I'd also love to hear from you in the comments or via the email option on my profile page. 

(Be sure to enter our giveaway for Kim de Blecourt's book Until We All Come Home if you haven't already! :))


Book Tour ~ Until We All Come Home Review and GIVEAWAY!

"While this book describes my journey, it is really God's story, because there is no other logical explanation for how things ultimately worked out except by God's hand.  I don't know what God will choose to do with what happened or how he will use it--but I know he will use it...if in no other way than to change me, because I have been changed." 

"Ultimately, this is the story of an orphan who found a forever home. This is also a story of a mother who, alongside her husband and daughter, felt a call to adopt a child and remained resolute to make that a reality.  But more important, this is the story of a God who will move mountains for one abandoned child, who will stop at nothing to show how much he loves and cares for the orphan, and who knows each one by name. Soli Deo Gloria." 

These words are from the Prologue to Until We All Come Home, by Kim de Blecourt, whose life...and heart...have been truly changed by her family's experience in international adoption.  That experience began due to their desire to add to their family in the wake of the disappointment of secondary infertility.  It has led, however, not only to a forever family for a little boy from a Ukrainian orphanage, but also to an impassioned ministry of hope for orphans all over the world. 

When the opportunity came to participate on the Launch Team for Kim de Blecourt's book, I seriously debated whether to even apply.  I was already committed to another Launch Team, for a long-awaited book by a favorite author, and I really wasn't sure I had the time or mental energy for another.  But...as I read the intro material for Kim's book, I was hooked.  I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to read a preview copy of this book and participate in its launch.

I read the entire book in less than 24 hours, riveted not only by the drama, intrigue, and suspense, but also by similarities I saw in our stories.  No, I've never adopted a child, internationally or otherwise, but her experiences struck a chord with me. As I said about Kim's post "Why I Wrote 'Until We All Come Home'":

I've never been out of the country, never adopted a child, never been physically assaulted or threatened with arrest or told that I would have to return a child I had come to love as my own to a heartbreaking orphanage in a foreign land.  Our circumstances are very different, but this post resonated with me, nonetheless.  I have known the determination to protect my children whatever the cost...and seen Jesus become my Everything in a whole new way as I realized that only He can truly protect them.  Our family has dealt with post-trauma issues and wondered if life would ever be remotely "normal" again.  And I have experienced that urgency to share "my God in action"...that story of His glory and grace that just has to be shared!

International adoption is rarely a smooth, simple process.  However, it typically doesn't involve physical assault, arrest, or 11 months spent dealing with hostility in a foreign country.  As a former foster care/adoption recruiter/trainer and caseworker for state-sponsored programs, I appreciate Kim's raw honesty about her family's struggles.  

I've often counseled parents considering foster care and/or adoption that they need to be absolutely certain that God is leading them to pursue those paths, because they are not easy roads to travel.  Kim's story dramatically confirms that.  However, the ordeal her family endured to bring little Jake home has not turned them against international adoption...far from it.  She founded the ministry  Nourished Hearts "to encourage, inspire, and create community around those who are adopting or have adopted, provide foster care and/or work in orphan care ministry internationally".  She is an international orphan advocate.  And all of the author profits from Until We All Come Home go to Food for Orphans, a non-profit organization that feeds orphans around the world.   

Photography by Tammi Dryden, More Than Words Photography.  Used with permission.
This book is definitely recommended reading...for the dramatic but true storyline, for the encouragement to become a part of helping orphans around the world, and most of all for the glory it gives to God, the Deliverer who brought them through and continues to lead them today.  

I've been provided with a copy of Until We All Come Home by the publisher to give away to one wonderful blog reader!  It's super-simple to enter...just click on the Rafflecopter link below for instructions and options, as well as opportunities for multiple entries!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Choir Flashbacks...

Keyboards at Christmas 2010

Sitting in the choir loft last night with a bunch of teenage girls, my mind went back about 30 years...I was 14, sitting in the choir loft at FBC, Conway, with veteran altos Myrtle Lee Selig, Wanda Landers, and Cynthia Lamberson.  I learned so much from those ladies and others there through the years!  I was a bit taken aback last night to realize that now I'm one of the "veteran"  (sounds better than old! ;-)) choir members in the midst of a group of young girls. :)

Fast forward a few years, and I was in the brand new choir at a brand new church...what fun we had in those early days at Woodland Heights!  I remember our very first rehearsals in the Gobers' living room, and then the excitement a couple of years later of rehearsing in our brand new choir room in our brand new church building...we could almost still smell the fresh paint! 

Then came Grand Avenue...where I was the recent college grad in the midst of ladies who had sung in the choir at Immanuel with my grandmother and with my parents when they were dating. I loved hearing the stories they had to tell about those days! Loved, too, the "grand" musicals we did there. :)

I've been in choir at Oak Cliff now for almost 16 years. That doesn't seem possible!  LOTS of memories there...so many I can't even get started or I'd be here forever!  I've made dear friendships and sweet family memories, sung tons of wonderful music, and learned a "tremendous" amount about music and true worship from Lyndel. 

God has done some amazing things in my life over the almost 30 years I've been an adult choir member.  I am so very thankful for all the memories and all the things He has taught me through those years in various choir lofts. :)  

I'm also thankful for the latest work He's done through choir...giving me peace about letting it go.  Singing in choir has been as much a part of life to me as breathing...not just these last 30 years, but since I started preschool choir with Neva Hayley and Shirley McCone when I was three. :)  I've loved {almost :)} every minute of it.  

And yet...I'm closing in on my last few weeks as a choir member for the foreseeable future.  As part of our "transition time", Bayley and I have been going to choir rehearsal at Oak Cliff in preparation for singing with them in Keyboards at Christmas.  I am so thankful that we've had the opportunity to be part of that for one more year.  Hard as it is to believe, Keyboards weekend is only four weeks  away!  :-O  Then our days of juggling the activities of two churches will be over, and I'll be on official sabbatical as a choir member. 

When we first started feeling our hearts tugging toward Grace Lavaca, one of my main thoughts was, "But what would I do about choir??  I can't leave choir!"  I knew that there was no choir at our little mission church, and I knew that it could be years...if ever...before there was one.  In those days when we were hearing God say, "Maybe someday", I think my subconscious thought was, "When they are big enough to have a choir!"

Our God works in amazing ways, though.  The night that we began to feel God might be changing "Maybe someday" to "Now!",  I suddenly realized that I had total and complete peace about leaving choir behind indefinitely.  That stopped me in my tracks and was one of the {many} confirmations that yes, this was God's plan...because only He could turn my heart on a dime from "I can't possibly leave choir!" to "I'm totally okay with this!"  

I really thought that after a month or so "off" between the time that we joined Grace and the time we started rehearsing for Keyboards, going back to rehearsal in September would remind me of all I was missing and make me sad.  But, again, God has given total peace.  I *love* our congregational singing time during worship at Grace, and I have truly not felt one moment of "lack" in not having or being in a choir.  

I have no idea what God's plans for the future hold.  Grace may never have a choir, or Grace may have a choir sooner than I think.  While Grace is "home" now and where we plan to be for the duration...we thought that about Oak Cliff, too!  So...one never knows if, when, or where God may move us from here.  He may someday lead us to a different church with a choir, and if so, I may or may not sing in it.  Or He may someday lead us to another church *without* a choir!  Who knows? 

Never in a million, quadrillion (as my kids would say) years would I have ever thought I could say this...but I'm fine with any of the above.  God has given complete contentment, and even joy, at the prospect of choir later, or choir not at all.  Quite a change of heart for the girl who thought she'd follow in her daddy's footsteps...he was still singing in choir just weeks before he was homebound, even when people had to {literally} carry him into the choir loft. 

I am so thankful for our church.  I'm thankful for the sweet music there...for Rachel's piano music every week, for John who leads us in singing, for Billy who does the sound, and for Bro. Gary who keeps them all in line. :)  I'm thankful for the 5th Sunday Singing we had a while back and I'm already looking forward to some of our family participating in the next one. :)  Most of all, I'm thankful for the ways that God changes the desires of our hearts to conform with His when we delight ourselves in Him.  

For those readers within driving distance of Fort Smith, I want to invite you to attend Oak Cliff's Keyboards at Christmas.  It's an amazing time of worship through music using four grand pianos, 18 pianists, and two choirs.  This year there are three opportunities to attend...Saturday, December 8 at 2:00 or 6:30, or Sunday at 6:30.  For more information, check out the Oak Cliff website, or contact me via the comments or the email option on the "Profile" page linked in the sidebar.

Thanks for visiting Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  If this is your first time here, please take a minute to follow Ponderings of an Elect Exile on FacebookTwitter, and/or Pinterest.  Or subscribe by email via the box in the sidebar.  I'd also love to hear from you in the comments or via the email option on my profile page. 



"I Know Who Holds Tomorrow..." {Or Post-Election Day Thoughts}

Okay, I still have Monday's post and Tuesday's post to go...they are all composed in my head, but Blogger has been terribly uncooperative lately...but I'm going to go ahead right now and post Wednesday's post *now* and then work my way back to Monday and Tuesday later (I hope!)

Woke up with this old song on my mind this morning...

"Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand..."


Things may seem much more uncertain this morning, with "four more years", than they did even last night when I went to bed, with the electoral votes neck in neck.  However, I have to remind myself this morning of several things:

1. God is in control.  He is no less in control today than He was yesterday.   He knew before the foundations of the world who would win yesterday's election. The outcome of the election came as no surprise to God, and furthermore, it is part of His divine plan. 

"I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2)

2.  I wasn't thrilled with either option in this election.  I voted for Romney because his positions lined up more closely with Scripture than Obama's, but I had major concerns with the thought of Romney as president as well.  Neither man follows the God of the Bible.  

3.  Even if there had been a viable candidate who was a Godly Christian, he would not have been the savior of this country. Would I love to see someone in the White House who truly followed God and His Word?  Yes.  Would that mean that all of our country's troubles were over?  No.  Our country has massive political problems.  But abortion, same-sex marriage, government healthcare, and the
Benghazi debacle are just symptoms.  The problem isn't who sits in the Oval Office...the problem is sin.  And that won't change until Jesus returns.  Yes, we need to stand up for what is right.  Yes, we need to do what we can to make changes.   But we must always realize that we live in a fallen world, and the only true answer to any of its problems is Jesus.  

4.  I may be very unhappy about yesterday's results, but I have these responsibilities today and onward: (1) to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27), (2) to love my neighbor (even those with whom I disagree politically! :)) as myself,  (3) to nurture my children and teach them diligently (Deut. 6:6-9), (4) to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), and (5) to respect and pray for those in authority (Romans 13:1-2).

I am thankful today that God is still on His throne, and that the same Hand that holds tomorrow and the king's heart (Proverbs 21:1) not only holds my hand, but has my name inscribed on it! (Isaiah 49:16)

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O Sacred Head...


We sang one of my very favorite hymns at church yesterday morning.  It was one of my dad's favorites, too.  The words are amazing, and the melody/harmony are gorgeous.


O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss till now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call thee mine.

What thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners' gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour!
'Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
To thank thee, dearest Friend,
For this thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me thine for ever;
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to thee.

I am thankful for my parents and for churches who have passed on a rich heritage of hymns.  As Guy Penrod says, "We don't sing them because they're old...we sing them because they're good!"

(Three times since I decided to attempt to post daily in November, Blogger hasn't let me post when I've tried to.  That's putting a bit of a kink in the plans. :)  This is actually Sunday's post.  Monday's post to come soon! :))


Thankful for Family Fun...

Tried to post this last night, but Blogger wouldn't let me...so I'm going to try to post quickly now for yesterday, and then post again later tonight.  I had planned to post last night that I am thankful for my in-laws.  I don't often say that, but I am. :) 

Last night Billy's whole entire family got together at his sister's house...his parents, both sisters and their spouses, Billy and I, and all the grandchildren.  That doesn't happen often...in fact, that may have been about the third time we've *all* been together at the same time since Sheryl got married.  (With Shelly working in retail, and Billy and Sheryl working in healthcare, there just aren't a whole lot of times they are all off work at the same time.)

How many Harrises does it take to solve a word puzzle?

I posted this on Facebook last night when we got home...

It doesn't happen often, but I am completely and totally "noised" out. 1 Italian mother, her 3 Italian children, 7 Italian grandchildren, and 6 dogs...it was great fun, but I am ready for about 12 hours of complete and total silence. So funny...the 11 Italians were talking non-stop, all at the same time...while Granddad, Larry, Tim, and I spent most of the evening just taking it all in. My children have been forbidden to speak above a whisper the rest of the evening. :-D

Actually, upon further thought, the grandchildren vary in their intensity levels.  Brianna is probably the quietest of the bunch, followed by Emlyn.  The boys and Ammah Grace are somewhere in the middle near the top, and Bayley and Aeryn...well, let's just say that there's not a quiet bone in either of their bodies. :)

Regardless, we did have a lot of fun last night.  It was fun for my kids to hear the reminiscing by Nonna and Granddad and Billy and the girls...took me back to the days of the Brown/Beene/Robertson clan reminiscing in Granny Kitty's living room (albeit MUCH more quietly), and the Folsom/Marks family dinners (with just as many stories, and a little more noise than Granny Kitty's house :)).

I am thankful for my in-laws, and for the fun family time we had last night. :)


A Quick But Rambly Ladies' Night Thankful Post...

I'm guessing this is not going to be the last time during this November effort to post daily that I'm going to be posting past bedtime when I'm too tired to make any sense. :)  But post I will, regardless...at least this time. :)

Just some rambly thoughts tonight about the Ladies' Night at our (old? former? can't quite figure out how to refer to it these days...not terribly happy with either of those...suggestions, anyone?) no-longer-current church, which I'll mix in with some Day 2 Thankful Thoughts. :)

Bayley and I went to Ladies' Night at Oak Cliff tonight.  It was a sweet time of encouragement, laughter, and (as always) really good food.  (Yum!!)  As I said on Facebook, I got to hug some necks I haven't gotten to hug in a while. <3 nbsp="nbsp" p="p">
Mrs. Ann shared about the gift of laughter, and asked us to think about people who make us laugh.  I thought about my children...one of whom was sitting beside me...and my husband...and my best friends, all of whom make me laugh often. And then I looked across the table at Madison and Kaitlyn...both of whom make me laugh, but in very different ways...and then I thought of Kaitlyn's brother, Joshua.  I have often thought that one of the main reasons God created Josh was to keep the rest of us laughing, even when our hearts are heavy.  He's just been talented at that since before he could even talk!  I thought about our (new? current?  Grace :)) church family.  Oh, how we laugh!  What a blessing.   I'm thankful for the gift of laughter, and for those who make me laugh!

Sarah, our sweet pastor's wife (I'm too tired to figure out how to word that more appropriately...sweet would be an adjective for "wife", not "pastor", in this case...I love Bro. Kent, but I don't know that "sweet" is necessarily a descriptor I would use for him...:)), shared her testimony.  (She claimed not to be a speaker, but we all know better now. :))  What a blessing and encouragement that was! 

As Sarah  shared about her thankfulness for the many people who have prayed for their family since the loss of their youngest son, the words to one of my newest favorite songs came to mind...the chorus to the Gaither Vocal Band's "I'll Pray for You" (seen in the above graphic).  Oh, how we have prayed for their family these last few years! 

I thought, too, of the people who have prayed so faithfully and fervently for our family during the struggles of the last 8 years.  Several of the ladies there tonight have been mighty prayer warriors for our family, and they have precious spots in our hearts because of those prayers.  Why do I so often feel like "I wish I could do more" than pray, when I know from our own experience that those prayers are vital and treasured?  I am so very, very thankful for those who have prayed for our family and continue to do so.  And I'm so very thankful for the privilege of bringing the burdens of others to God in prayer as well. 

I had a few more thoughts when I started this...but several interruptions and many yawns later, I have no idea what they were!  I'm thankful for the sweet time tonight and all those who helped make it happen.  I'm thankful, too, for those from our "old" church who are excited about God's plan for us at our "new" church, and who let us know often that they are praying for us and for Grace Lavaca.  And I'm thankful that the family of God transcends "church membership"...that we are all one body in Him, and I'm not going to have to worry about what to call which church when we get to Heaven! :)


It's November!

How in the world can it be November already??  Seems like we were just barely ringing in 2012!  November is one of my favorite months...fall finally "settling in" in Arkansas, Thanksgiving, Christmas rehearsals (most of the time that's a good thing...*grin*)...lots of good things.  

November is also host to a number of interesting events:  No-Shave November, "NaNoWriMo" (National Novel Writing Month), Native American Heritage Month, and (one of the more interesting) National Pomegranate Month.  It's also Epilepsy Awareness Month, which I plan to post on in a day or two.

Here at Ponderings of an Elect Exile, we're celebrating November with a two-pronged goal.  One...after a rather quiet October on the blog, my goal is to post every day in November.  It may be a super-simple post...but something, every single day for 30 days.  (My record, in case anyone other than me is interested, is 28 days in a month, way back in July of 2007!  I was surprised...I thought last November's 22 days was probably the record. :))  And two...while I won't be doing separate 30 Days of Gratefulness posts as I did last November, I do plan to end each post this month with something I'm grateful for.  

I'm starting off simple on this first day of November...I'm thankful for a cleaned and defrosted deep freeze today!  It's one of those chores that's been overdue for a while, and today I finally snapped. :)  I'm thankful for my husband and children, who helped me finish the job when my energy began to sag, and for the affluence (compared to much of the world) that provides enough food to need such an appliance.  I'm thankful it's cleaned out and ready for the holiday season, and for all that that season represents.  Later in the month I'm sure I'll be thankful for bigger, deeper things, but for today...I'm grateful for my clean, de-iced deep freeze!