Monday, July 29, 2013

Calling Me Softly

This weekend, I thought about my current situation as a tutor. This got me wondering about my calling in life. I wondered if God had called me to this job or if it was just the direction my life has gone because of the circumstances surrounding my life at the time I obtained this job.

To understand the current path I’m on, we have to look back at the paths that came before.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
When I was in grade school, I helped out in Sunday school classes when the adults in the church were unwilling. From the nursery to the toddlers to elementary school kids not much younger than myself (I was nine or ten at the time), I worked with them all in turn. The whole youth group helped out, and we gained knowledge and experience and wisdom the adults missed out on.

At ages twelve and thirteen, I helped out at a preschool with the two and three year olds. During this time, I learned a lot about the responsibility required to work with young children. Sometimes it was lots of fun. Other times, I had to be the disciplinarian, which was very hard on my nerves. (It still is today.) 

Image courtesy of
Sura Nualpradid/
That led me to baby-sitting, which I’ve enjoyed immensely over the years. The children I’ve watched have varied in ages from newborn to 13 years. Each child and their parents taught me new things about what it means to be a parent and how difficult it can be. But there were also lessons in how to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. (I must say those moments I savored.)

Also, as a teenager, I helped out one summer in Vacation Bible School. This experience was incredible as several of the kids in the class I shared with a sweet lady came to know Jesus as their personal Savior. I’ve never been more humbled than I was that summer. It escaped my understanding why God would use me to reach those kids for Him. My mind is still delightedly boggled to this day about that.

I guess you could say God used those (and other) experiences to groom me to become a tutor. In my senior year of high school, while I was homeschooling, a man in town had a couple of sons who both needed help with math. My mom worked with one while I worked with the other. I never thought I would be a math tutor, but there I was, teaching a sixth grader how to work mathematical problems. Word of mouth brought more students to us, and God taught us how to work with each one in the subject(s) they struggled with. Now, ten years later, it takes all three women in my family (mom, sister and me) to help all the kids God leads to our door. We have even pulled my dad in when we needed his computer expertise!

Glancing ahead into the future for a moment, I suppose you could say God is using tutoring and all the other past experiences with children to groom me to be a great mom. Though I am as yet unmarried and childless, I know God is working out His plan for me one step at a time. I may not always understand this plan of His, but He gives me glimpses along the way.

This article is proof of that. Until this moment, I hadn’t really known that tutoring was my calling. I always thought I would audibly hear God call me to a certain career or life path. Or at least feel an emotional nudge in a certain direction. Apparently that isn’t the way God spoke to me on this one. It seems it wasn’t any one particular moment that drew me into tutoring. It wasn’t one simple decision that led to my working with children for over fourteen years.

Image courtesy of Paul Gooddy/
Instead, God called me softly. By placing in my heart a longing to be around and help children, He led me to my current path of tutoring kids. Yes, it’s difficult at times. Yes, it’s overwhelming and frustrating when my techniques aren’t working for certain kids. But, then God shows me something new. Then, God cultivates in my heart a step of maturity I never thought I’d reach. He’s given me patience (something I still haven’t mastered), love, joy, fascination and many other blessings along the way. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with my family and not have to find work outside my home. This has given me the chance to pursue another possible career path (writing novels), but that’s another topic altogether.

The blessings of working with children confirm to me that, sure enough, I have been called into action.

God called me softly. How did He call YOU? Was it audible or silent? A gentle nudge or hard shove? Did you stumble upon it or was it dropped in your lap? I can't wait to hear your stories of God's call on your life!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wagons, Ho!

Covered wagons.

The hard trail west.

The great unknown.

When I was in 5th grade, I played a computer game called either “Wagons West!” or “Oregon Trail!” (or a mix of both; I really can’t remember.) That game about traveling on the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon was so much fun, I became fascinated with covered wagons and the historical journey west.

Knowing that about myself, it’s no wonder historical fiction books appeal to me. Recently, I was able to read an advanced reader copy of a book that takes place on the trail west. (Yes, it features covered wagons!)

Prairie Song by Mona Hodgson is about a journey west that will change the lives of the folks traveling west with the Boone’s Lick Company Wagon Train. Trail hand Caleb Reger bears secrets that keep him from settling down or releasing his heart to be loved again. Anna Goben’s got secrets of her own, which may jeopardize the adventure that awaits her, even as she tries to protect those she loves. Garrett Cowlishaw leads this company with a bravery Caroline Milburn is hesitant to admire. When trials occur on the trail before them, will these four—and the people they’re traveling with—find the courage to carry on? Or will they turn back, being labeled “go-backers”? Will the secrets they hold within cause more trouble and prevent them from fully enjoying the blessings of a fresh start?

Well written with spunk and historical facts, Mona Hodgson’s Prairie Song is a must-read. Without books like this one, the thrill of the old journey west will one day be forgotten. Thankfully, authors like Mona pen stories that are sure to inspire many generations to come with the adventures their ancestors experienced.

There’s a great take-away for readers in this book. Caleb feels God is being silent. At one point, Garrett asks him, “Don’t you agree that God’s truth can prepare our hearts and bolster our spirits?” (page 64) Not only are these words meant to encourage Caleb, but the reader may also find in them the strength to carry on. Life is tough and harsh at times. Wouldn’t it be nice to have God’s truth prepare your heart for those difficult moments? I know I’m relieved when His Word bolsters my spirit! It might not change the hard circumstance, but God’s companionship will help you through it.

Prairie Song by Mona Hodgson comes to a bookstore near you on August 6, 2013. Be sure to mark your calendars, folks. Especially if you like a little old-fashioned adventure!

Mona Hodgson would love to hear what you think of her books. You may find her at any of these locations:

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for my copy of Prairie Song to review.

What part of history inspires YOU? Which piece of history do you hope to share with the next generation?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Reading!

Yes, summer is in full swing. Perhaps we’re even on the downside of summer. (But none of us really want to think about that yet, do we?) Usually during June, July and August, I read as many books as I can. This summer is no different. I’ve got a full slate of books on my list to read this summer. Take a peek!

When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason, Revell, 2012
After a brush with death due to equipment failure, smokejumper Alexia Allen is ordered to take time off while the incident is under investigation. She makes a last-minute decision to recuperate at her mother’s home and attend her high school reunion. Yet trouble seems to be following her, and within hours of arriving home she is confronted with murder, arson—and a handsome detective.

Jenna’s Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater, Revell, 2010
Jenna Callahan Colby thought she was content. A partner on her father’s successful ranch, she is surrounded by family and friends. But she never expected to see Nate Langley back in town—the first guy she ever noticed, the one her father sent away all those years ago. And she never thought the attraction they felt would be as strong as ever.

Prairie Song by Mona Hodgson, WaterBrook Press, August 2013
Though it means saying good-bye to the beloved friends and spiritual mentors of her St. Charles, Missouri, quilting circle, Anna Goben is certain that she needs to enlist her family in the Boone’s Lick Company Wagon Train. The loss of her beloved brother in the Civil War has paralyzed her mother and grandfather in a malaise of grief and depression, and Anna is convinced that only a fresh start in the Promised Land of California can bring her family back to her. Although unknown perils of the trail west loom, Anna’s commitment to caring for her loved ones leaves no room for fear—or even loving someone new.
*Thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah for my advanced reader copy for an upcoming review.

Awakening by JoAnn Durgin, Torn Veil Books, 2010
Lexa Clarke signs up for a TeamWork Missions summer assignment expecting adventure in a far-off, exotic country. Instead, she’s sent to sweltering San Antonio to help rebuild homes destroyed by sudden flooding. She survives the four-hour bus trip from Houston, dust in the lungs, a flat tire, a tool-throwing incident and a spitting goat—not to mention an inquisition from a distractingly handsome cowboy—all before reaching the work camp. What will she find once she gets there?
*Thanks to JoAnn Durgin for my complimentary copy. Stay tuned for an upcoming review.

What Once Was Lost by Kim Vogel Sawyer, WaterBrook Press, September 2013
On a small Kansas farm, Christina Willems lovingly shepherds a group of poor and displaced individuals who count on her leadership and have come to see the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor as their home. But when a fire breaks out leaving the house uninhabitable, she must scramble to find shelter for all in her care, scattering her dear “family.” Will the incident and its aftermath destroy Christina’s hopes of fulfilling the mission to which she’s dedicated her life?
*Thanks to Kim Vogel Sawyer for my advanced reader copy as a member of her Hope Harbingers “street team.”

Mysterious Ways by Terry W. Burns, River Oak, 2005
When Amos Taylor steals a parson’s clothes, he thinks he’s found the ideal disguise to hide his life of crime—until an old blind man enters his life who has a little trick up his own sleeve. Before long the disguise is working too well: The local residents start expecting Amos to actually serve as their preacher! When revival breaks out in the small Texas town, Amos’s payoff is bigger than he could have dared imagine—proving, indeed, that the Lord works in Mysterious Ways.

Made to Last by Melissa Tagg, Bethany House, September 2013
Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that’s how it looks when she’s starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she’ll do anything to boost ratings and save her show—even if it means pretending to be married to a man who’s definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago. When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda’s every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth—and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she’s built come crashing down just as she’s found a love to last?
*Thanks in advance to Melissa Tagg for my advanced reader copy as a member of her Tagg Team influencer team.

Now it’s your turn! What books are on your summer reading list?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Fourth of July Weekend

This past weekend, our country celebrated Independence Day. On the fourth of July, my family hosted a small cookout at our house. A sweet family we know joined us for some good food and the fireworks some folks shot off out in the country (which could be seen from our front porch). On the fifth, our town held a fireworks show, which we could see from our home as well. It was a super fun weekend with great company and conversation.
Cherry 3-Minute Cobbler

Here are some of the recipes I used to chip in for the cookout we had. They complimented the grilled chicken and hot dogs perfectly.

Roasted Vegetable Medley

2 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh or 1 tsp. dried sage leaves
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ lb. Brussels sprouts, cut in half
½ lb. parsnips, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
¼ lb. ready-to-eat baby-cut carrots
1 small butternut squash (2 lb.), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ tsp. salt

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In small bowl, mix oil, sage and garlic.

2. In ungreased 15x10x1-inch pan, place remaining ingredients except salt. Pour oil mixture over vegetables. Sprinkle with salt; stir to coat.

3. Cover with foil. Roast 20 minutes; remove foil. Roast uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Italian Vegetables

1/3 cup fat-free Italian dressing
2 medium zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
2 medium yellow squash, cut into ¼-inch slices
3 medium bell peppers (color of choice), cut into ½-inch slices
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup sliced onion (color of choice)
4 Tbsp. chicken broth
6 Tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese

1. In large, deep skillet, cook dressing, zucchini, squash, bell peppers, mushrooms and onion over medium-high heat about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until dressing has almost evaporated.

2. Stir in broth. Cover; cook about 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with cheese.

Note: I used one red, one yellow and one orange bell pepper, which added color and a variety of flavors to this dish. I also used a purple onion for the same reason.

And, of course, we had dessert!

Cake Mix Peach Cobbler

1 big can and 1 small can of sliced peaches
1 stick butter
1 box white cake mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spray 13x9-inch pan with non-stick spray.
Open cans of peaches and pour evenly into bottom of pan (juice and all).
Pour cake mix on top of peaches. Spread evenly and break up big pieces.
Cut butter into thin slices (14-20 pieces). Place evenly on top of cake mix.
Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until brown.

3-Minute Cobbler
(It only takes 3 minutes to mix up!)

½ cup butter or margarine
1 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup milk
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 16-oz. can fruit pie filling or fruit

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter in an 8x8 or 9x9 casserole dish. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, milk and salt until all lumps are gone. Dump the fruit on top, but don’t stir! Bake for 1 hour.

Note: I doubled this recipe and used a 13x9-inch pan. Also, I substituted almond milk for regular milk.

What are some of your favorite Fourth of July recipes?

How did you celebrate Independence Day?

Monday, July 1, 2013

When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason

“Someone seems to be after me and I’m not sure why.”
~Alexia Allen (page 143 of When the Smoke Clears)

I love a good suspense novel, don’t you?

Last week, when I was searching for a book to read in my oversized to-be-read pile, I had a few criteria. First, it had to be a novel that would quickly capture my interest. It must be one that I don’t want to put down until I read the very last word on the final page. This time around, I was looking for an author I had previously read before. And lastly, I needed to be finished with it in two or three days, so I could get back to work on my own manuscript.

When my eyes landed on Lynette Eason’s When the Smoke Clears, I knew I had found a winner. Previously, I had enjoyed her suspenseful Women of Justice series. They captured my interest and I could hardly put them down! Since I had finished each of the books in that series in less than three days, I figured the same would be true of When the Smoke Clears.

I was right.

Here’s my own brief summary of the first book in the Deadly Reunions series:

Since she’s been suspended pending an investigation into a piece of faulty equipment, firefighter and smokejumper Alexia Allen decides to attend her 10-year high school reunion in the hometown she fled immediately after graduating. As she’s confronted with her troubled past, a series of murders casts a murky shadow on her future. Will Alexia evade the killer long enough to clear her name in both cases looming over her? Or will she run away from her problems like she did as a child? Or will the killer catch up to her before she has a chance to do either?

Just thinking about this book again gives me the chills! I can’t wait to start reading the next installment in this gripping series!

If you are a fan of Christian suspense novels and have not yet discovered Lynette Eason, you should run (don’t walk!) to your nearest library or book store and pick up one of her titles. She does not disappoint readers looking for a good crime drama with lots of twists and turns. When I read a Lynette Eason book, I know I’m getting a tightly written story that will keep me up at night—the perfect and expected thing for a suspense novel to do! It leaves me so interested in the plotline, I don’t want to put it down. Besides that, I get so anxious to discover the killer that I couldn’t sleep a wink even if I wanted to.

I’ve decided that next time I read one of Lynette’s books, I’m going to make my own suspect list and see if I can figure out whodunit before the big reveal at the end of the novel. I challenge you to do the same!

Please visit Lynette Eason at one or more of the following places (and don’t forget to find a copy of When the Smoke Clears!):

Now, it’s your turn! What do YOU think makes a good suspense novel? I’d love to hear your ideas.