Thursday, September 19

May thru September: sort of a blur

May: oh, look! the end of the school year! woo hoo!

June: grandma very sick, grandma promoted to Heaven. House on the market. Offer in the first day, same day grandma goes to Heaven. Offer too low. Counter back and forth, no sale. One last update, never ending showings.

July/August: Thinking maybe we should have taken the "too low" offer after all. Nate and family come for visit, two weeks of pure fun. And exhaustion. Showing after showing. "awesome house. too small" yeah, that's what we said. grandma's memorial service, offer on house, things going wrong with house. Took the offer, repairs attempted and successful but more issues uncovered. Unexpected expense after unexpected expense. What?!?!! School is starting already!?!? FOUND A FIXER UPPER THAT WE CAN BUY! offer accepted, apply for loan, (far below our approval amount) and found out the laws have changed and the house has to be "complete" so there's a list of repairs here and repairs there and WOWSA. overwhelming. not sleeping well, not functioning well...it's crazy.

September: CC begins, great first week, cut down in my prime by the strep bacteria. Oh My Swollen Glands. A full week gone! We're getting back on track...

In all this, God works for us and in us! It's been a super time of learning and I'm sure there's more to come. I have to say I'm very excited to sign the papers and get this chapter over with!!  It has been really fun to get to know the older man who owns the new house. He is the original owner and such a sweet guy.  The new house needs a lot of work but upstairs it's a bathroom renovation and cleaning and painting.  I can handle that!! Downstairs we have visions of wall removal and wall creation, new flooring and bathroom renovation. But we'll have more space! and a partial basement! And the price is right for the neighborhood, so we should be able to make it work as far as investment goes. As heartbreaking as it will be to leave our "sweat and blood" house, and especially our lovely neighbors, we're very excited to have another project house. I'll be pinching myself when we sign the papers. There's just one thing.

The new neighbor has a lovely garden. And. A cottonwood tree.

You remember our 4' diameter cottonwood that we had removed just this year? And how greatly I rejoiced in the lack of sticky pods and messy branches. The hands raised in praise. The happy hallelujah dance. As you can imagine, I'm already plotting my "please remove that nasty tree" strategy.  A plate of sugar cookies decorated like tree slices, complete with age rings; a yule log cake with cottonwood bark...a chainsaw wrapped up with a bow.  Wink, wink.

I can't wait to post before (and after!) photos of the house! We've got lots of vision, at least!

Friday, May 17

O Pilgrim, Come

This song/poem has been a real encouragement to me lately.  I hope it blesses you!

O pilgrim come, here is the cross
Your pardon and your peace
Collapse upon the grace of God
Whose mercy is complete
O pilgrim come, here is the cross

O pilgrim come, here is the cross
Cast all your pride away
And earthly treasures count as loss
In light of all you gain
O pilgrim come, here is the cross

Here is mercy
Come be crucified with Christ
Here is mercy
Come be raised with Him to life

O pilgrim come, here is the cross
God's judgment on your sin
Drink deep the shame that leads to life
And broken enter in
O pilgrim come, here is the cross
O pilgrim come, here is the cross

O pilgrim come, here is the cross
And here your boast should be
What I could never do myself
My God has done for me
O pilgrim come, here is the cross

O pilgrim come, here is the cross
No other path attend
O here begin your journeying
And here your journey end
O pilgrim come, here is the cross
O pilgrim come, here is the cross

Written by Wes King and Douglas McKelvey

Tuesday, April 23

nobody tells you the real stuff anymore

I love being 33.  Love it.  There are really cool things about being older than I used to be, like seeing my friends with kids that look exactly like younger versions of themselves, and being able to say things like, "twenty years ago..."  There are lots of great things in my life that I have to be 33 to really appreciate.  However. When I was young, nobody said real things to me about my future as an older human.

1. Nobody told me that eyebrows all of a sudden go crazy.  Seriously crazy.  Well, they do.

2. Nobody told me about hair that looks like eyebrows growing from other places, places from which it probably should be removed, like chins (for example).

3. Nobody told me that pillow lines stop disappearing within the first 15 minutes of waking up.  I need at least half an hour, now, and I expect that number to continue to increase.

4. Nobody told me about the times that all of a sudden you start crying like a baby with absolutely no control.  It could be because you have a moment of clarity, or you see something sweet like an older couple walking and holding hands, or even super cheesy like a Hallmark commercial, or even something random like a leaf blowing down the sidewalk.  I think this is because of older-ness, but I could be wrong.

5. Nobody told me about sleep, and how precious it really is.  Nobody told me to relish the years when I could freely choose when and how and how long I could sleep.  They should have.

I know there are more, but...

6. Nobody told me about memory fritzes and just plain forgetfulness.  Seriously.  I need to get with the program!

You know you have things to add to this list...

Wednesday, March 27

On Expectations

I was thinking a little bit this morning about expectations.  We all have them.  And I can't imagine that Jesus' disciples were exempt from having expectations.  Of course, it's one of those things that you sort of have to speculate.

The speculation really isn't that far of a jump - even though Jesus told them with his own words that he would die and rise again the third day, the disciples couldn't believe it.  (Matthew 16:21-23) You know how we are - always with the self made plans, always with the crazy hopes that our plans will prevail in the face of God's sovereign plan.  We've seen it in ourselves and we can see it in all of Scripture - prophets and people of God hope through the end that their plans will be carried out instead of God's plans. Sometimes begging Him to follow this - our - plan.

Jesus came into town on a donkey and people formed lines to see him and shout "Hosannah!" and were very excited to call Him King. At the end of His triumphal procession, He went on a temple rampage and got rid of all the corrupt vendors.  He healed people who came to Him, and the Pharisees were outraged when Jesus called them out in ways that no one else would dare. I'm sure the disciples thought they were going to be part of a gigantic political overthrow - it's really not that far of a leap, at least not logically.  Sure, Jesus reminded them that He was about to be crucified, and even gave them a time frame, but it's hard being human.  And it's really hard letting go of those expectations.

And then, a few days later, Jesus was dead, just like He promised.  Talk about a roller coaster of highs and lows. I can't imagine experiencing that kind of confusion and disappointment. The things that went on in the disciples minds - well, I imagine they were conflicted.  Wanting to trust the Savior and uncertain of their future, perhaps in fear for their lives - it must have been horrific.

Then, the resurrection.  Jesus defeated death; the tomb was empty.  He is ALIVE.

And suddenly the plans of God were made a little more clear.  Jesus was who He said He was.  The message of the gospel was validated.  The disciples had a mission, and carried it out.  They knew.

I know I have expectations, big and small.  Of how things should be, of how much I should have to pay for something, of how elected officials should act, of which laws should be passed, of who should be allowed to live, of who should be brought to justice, of who should be advocated for.  And sometimes my "plans" happen, and sometimes they don't.  I'm not always okay with this.

But I need to be okay with this, because I am not God.  I do not see things from His viewpoint;  I do not know His plans. Sometimes I get to see a little glimpse of what He's doing.  And that is - thrilling!  He DOES promise that He loves us; He promises to take tender care of His children. He has proven Himself faithful.

A lot of times I don't know anything about His plan. He doesn't promise that I'll go through life without disappointment, without pain, without being witness to or victim of injustice and suffering, or that everything will be great.  He doesn't promise the success of our nation, of our economy;  in fact, He doesn't promise the success of anybody but Himself. 

But there is something thing I can be sure of: God wins, and we will all worship Him. 

In the end, God wins.  And between now and the end, it's not about me or my plans, or my expectations.  It's about God and HIS plan. 

Does this mean I don't fight injustice, or stop advocating, or petitioning? Certainly not.  Does it mean I just flop into a doormat or float along doing nothing to fight against evil? NO.  But my foundation has to be sure. And my expectation has to be HIM.  I have to trust, knowing that if God wants to use something I don't get, it is really okay.  He hasn't forgotten. Nothing has escaped His notice.  It is ok.

It is MORE than ok.  He's Alive, He is Risen, He has conquered death and the grave.  He has an awesome plan, beyond my wildest dreams.  I am expecting Great Things.

Wednesday, March 13

Allergic Reaction

I took Cadey for an allergy skin test.  She's not allergic to anything (even though she may still have gastrointestinal sensitivities that would explain symptoms but not show up on this test).

But I am allergic to something, or rather, someone: the doctor.  And I will NOT be going back.

The conversation went something like this.

Doc: Tell me more about why you came
Me: Well, the family doctor wanted to rule out allergies as a cause for Cadey's rashes
Doc: OK, tell me about the rashes, how long to they last?
Me: it varies, totally unpredictable.
Doc: does she react to other things? Soap? Lotion? Did she react to her baby shots?
Me: It doesn't seem like it, and she hasn't had shots yet so I don't know
Doc: Why not?
Me (really not wanting to get into it): oh, there are lots of reasons.
Doc: Like what?
Me (big sigh): just lots of reasons
Doc: well, what are they?
Me: I've done quite a bit of research...
Doc: *sarcastic and cutting me off* Oh, I didn't realize you were an epidemiologist.  What is it that you do?
Me: silently stewing.

Later...
Doc: so have you ever seen a polio patient?
Me: silent
Doc: HAVE YOU????
Me: no (stewing and thinking, really? polio?)
Doc: well, iron lungs are coming back, they're bringing them back - you might want to look into that and change your mind.
Me: silent  (willing myself to be silent) *checks out*

The rest of the appointment was a total disaster.  The doctor over-explained each test with great speed and technical terms, concluding each explanation with a disparaging, "I don't know how much of that you can understand" when I would ask a simple process question.  It was horrible and I just wanted to escape.

Really, it's just another point against doctors, a group which I *try* to evaluate individually and with grace.  Every experience like this makes me generally more distrustful.  It's really unfortunate, and makes me MOST thankful for our doctors who do not act this way. So, because I was not prepared to discuss it then, I am now writing one of those pointless open letters. OK maybe catharsis is the point.

Dear Doctor,
If you don't want to hear my answer, it is not acceptable to push me into answering just so that you can cut me off.  Also, it is not ok to use sarcasm in your office toward anyone.  It is not professional; it's also very unkind and almost always ineffective.  Third, you do not know me, and yet, you are making assumptions about my intelligence. This does not make me value your obvious intelligence or years of expertise more.  Fourth, if you truly think I can't handle researching to decide if or when I should vaccinate my children, why would you assume that I can handle researching iron lungs?

Lastly, if you are going to try to convince me of the need to vaccinate, please use something that is a little more of a known and proven risk than a wild polio outbreak in an Amish community almost 34 years ago.  Maybe you could site the whooping cough outbreak in California in 2010 or Washington State just last year, or the 3 cases of measles last year that "really had Michigan doctors worried."  Perhaps you could regale me with horror stories as other doctors have done. Maybe that would be more effective.  (But probably not.)  Remember: honey is more effective than vinegar.

I will not be back to your office.

Sincerely,
Jenny

Friday, March 1

There is A Hope

There is a hope that burns within my heart, that gives me strength for ev'ry passing day;
A glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre part yet drives all doubt away
I stand in Christ with sins forgiv'n, and Christ in me, the hope of heav'n! 
My highest calling and my deepest joy; to make His will my home.

There is a hope that lifts my weary head, a consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit, I find the Savior there!
Through present suff'rings, future's fear, He whispers 'courage' in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms, and they will lead me home.

There is a hope that stands the test of time, that lifts my eyes beyond the beck'ning grave
To see the matchless beauty of a day divine, when I behold His face!
When suff'rings cease, when sorrows die, when ev'ry longing satisfied,
Then joy unspeakable will flood my soul, for I am truly home!

Stuart Townend, c 2007 ThankYou Music

You can take a listen to the song here, although it is in scorch format so you'll have to sing along yourself!

Thursday, February 28

Tropical Traditions Winner!!

Congratulations to Alicia, the winner of the Tropical Traditions giveaway!

Thanks so much to all who entered! 

Wednesday, February 20

Tropical Traditions (a Giveaway!)

I LOVE cooking with coconut oil.  I love doing hundreds of other things with coconut oil also, but cooking is my favorite, especially since our health journey has led us toward more traditional and whole foods, and our food sensitivities have led two of us away from dairy (for the moment).  Coconut oil is a fantastic substitute for butter and usually works for shortening.  It always works as a substitute for canola, corn and vegetable oil in recipes (which is a big plus for us - I won't get into it here, but trust me, there is a lot to be said about fats and health and which ones are best).

Tropical Traditions has been my go-to source for excellent quality coconut oil. The bonus with this company is that the customer service is fantastic, shipping is very quick, and the quality is very consistent.  I am happy with their ethical farming practices, and when I purchase in bulk, the prices are great! They also have a great referral program - if you choose to order through my link (see sidebar), and you are a first time customer, I get a credit! Yay! At first I started with their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, and then as I also needed something without the coconut flavor, I added  their expeller pressed coconut oil to our pantry, which is completely unflavored.  We use the expeller pressed for frying and sauteing, roasting vegetables, and more.  The Gold Label is sooooo delicious in baked goods - I am a huge fan of coconutty brownies and cupcakes!

If you've never used coconut oil before, it's important to know this - coconut oil is solid at temperatures under 76 degrees!  Around here, that makes it pourable in the summer and solid in winter.  It's also important to know that you should melt it before adding it to recipes! (ask me how I know! ha!)

Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil - 32 oz. 
Win 1 quart of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil!
Tropical Traditions is America’s source for coconut oil. Their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is hand crafted in small batches by family producers, and it is the highest quality coconut oil they offer. You can read more about how virgin coconut oil is different from other coconut oils on their website: What is Virgin Coconut Oil?


Tropical Traditions also carries other varieties of affordable high quality coconut oil. Visit their website to check on current sales, to learn about the many uses of coconut oil, and to read about all the advantages of buying coconut oil online. Since the FDA does not want us to discuss the health benefits of coconut oil on a page where it is being sold or given away, here is the best website to read about the health benefits of coconut oil.


Here's how to enter (open to the US/Canada):
1. Sign up for Tropical Traditions Newsletter (this one is required)
2.  Leave a comment telling me whether you have tried coconut oil before
3. For bonus entries, "Like" Tropical Traditions on Facebook, follow on Twitter (@troptraditions and @ttspecialdeals or Pinterest 

You MUST leave a comment telling me which items you have completed.  (one comment including all of them is fine). Giveaway ends one week from today!  (Next Wednesday, Feb 27th @midnight EST)

Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Monday, February 18

I'm not the (only) crazy one

This morning, I was instructing a first grader and a preschooler on different grade levels, different subjects, simultaneously. One child thought his work too hard, the other too easy.  They complained loudly, we discussed that. The baby, who had woken too early and then avoided her morning rest, sat screaming at my feet, folding herself in half and lying her forehead on the floor and weeping out the largest most pathetic tears she could muster, and the phone was ringing.  My espresso machine was steaming out it's "I'm done" song and I just wanted to crawl back in bed.  There are other things on my mind, which makes everything less manageable.

The van needs repair, there's something scheduled tomorrow that I still haven't quite figured out with no van.  We keep cycling through the sicknesses and fevers and dishes and laundry and dust and there's a washing machine repairman coming today to replace the gasket.  I'm getting ready for a Pampered Chef show and hoping I don't forget lists and games and catalogues! Oh my! (such giant first world problems)

Life is messy, and it just gets messier. There are big issues, hurting people, broken and bleeding and waiting for hope and help, and those who have given up hoping and waiting.  There are big hurts, big questions, big unknowns. That big-ness wins over my supposed, and sometimes self-inflicted issues.

Still, it is ok for me to freak out a bit and get a little crazy.  Because it's those little moments of crazy that help get me to the point of growth.  That help me take a millisecond to refocus, to just breathe.  When I breathe, and focus, there are moments of pure amazement, glittering with clarity. Moments that I can see God, and remember His glory, and all that is important.

Mostly I just need those reminders that I am HIS child, chosen for This Task, made up of these tasks.  And it's going to be all right.  Even when I'm overwhelmed by the ridiculous and mundane, even when things get worse than merely overwhelming. And especially when I think about how crazy and messed up and tragic things are in other parts of Earth.  Any little things that I'm stressed about now will work out, and if not, they won't. But I don't need to add contrived guilt to my overwhelmed, and my crazy.  I don't need to panic. I need to let go.  And run to Him, and breathe in and out, and trust.

God is here, and He is there. In your crazy beautiful mess.  In the ugly. In the hopeless. For the tired, the lonely, the alone, the weary and depressed, the abused, the fainthearted (and yes, even the slightly crazy). He says, "Come to me. . . and I will give rest. . . to your soul."

Thursday, February 14

Sunday, February 10

this is not my first confession


Facebook makes me feel social, but really nothing could be further from the truth.  I want to be the kind of person with a revolving front door and a smile and maybe even baked goods for every surprise visitor, but really, at least ninety percent of the time, I'd rather just curl up with my husband and kids and a book and shut the world out.

I love adventures; dream of worldwide travel; it's not that I hate new things, or change.  It's far worse.

I have never really learned how to make friends.  I grew up with them built-in, through the magic of my small parochial school, the one where I knew all my classmates from 4 years and on, my family and my one brother, and my church, with many of the same friends that I had at school.  I am just now realizing what a huge problem it is that I don't know how to make friends.

I am painful at it, really. 

I've run into people, as we all do; people with kids who are also playing on the same playground equipment as my kids, people who look very nice and far more normal than I.  And I sit with paralyzed tongue, waiting for who-knows-what.  I overcompensate by smiling too much, in silence, which I'm sure has an entirely-not-what-I-intended creepy effect.

College was different - being thrown into a new situation, knowing no one, and (eventually) I did fine and made friends, and it was great.  Since then, it's been different.  I have made a few *new* friends over the years, but all of them are SUPER at making friends. They smile, they come up with some topic of conversation that doesn't sound weird at all when it comes out of their mouths (as do my first attempts at conversations with strangers).  All of a sudden, we're talking normally and we're friends, and it's great. We really don't have to have much in common at all - it's easy once those first few conversations are started.

Seriously, what is the DEAL? I worked in customer service for years (admissions counselor, office assistant, receptionist, etc) and loved it!  I was a classroom teacher! I'm a Pampered Chef consultant!  All of those situations are fine - put me in front of people to do public speaking and I'm not really that nervous.  One on one for no specific reason?  I turn into a blob.

I think this problem is made 100% worse by the fact that I can't concentrate on anything when I have my kids with me - trying to make sure that the baby doesn't get into trouble and the boys don't take off or take their clothes off or anything in between takes every brain cell. 

I am trying to be better.  I joined a Bible Study a few years ago to try to meet people out of my comfort zone, and the study was great, and I did meet people!  I have also met some really nice people through our new home school group.  I still need some how-to-make-friends tips, or some lessons.  Play dates still give me a minor case of panic.  But I'll be fine, right??  Baby steps!  If that doesn't work, I'll just get some therapy like this.

SO.  Got any tips for me, or confessions of your own?

Friday, February 8

Recent Happenings

Aaron finished his first grade reading curriculum - hurray! We had a party to celebrate - with cake! and grandparents! and spaghetti! He really enjoyed the special night.




We got just a little bit of snow - this isn't an accurate measurement.  Most people around here measured 12 inches.  :-)  Maybe I just measured too early!  It's our first big snow of the year!




we played outside with the neighbor kids!
we had "hot vanilla" with strawberry heart marshmallows

Cadey is a sad sick little baby

She really *wants* to eat the sausage.  Find the energy, girlie!


 We are all VERY ready for the sicknesses to leave this house!  I got so desperate that I opened the house (in 30 degree weather) and turned on the fans while the kids were resting yesterday, and Lysol-ed all the doorknobs and handles.  This afternoon we disinfect the bedding and curtains and vacuum some more.  We really are weary of this illness making continual house calls to our address!!

Giveaway WINNER

Thanks to the kiddos, the winner is RICHELLE!

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated!

Monday, February 4

The Tenth Plague GIVEAWAY!

Last  week, I posted an interview with author Adam Blumer, upon release of his newest book, The Tenth Plague, and over the weekend he contacted me to let me know that I could do a giveaway!  I'm so excited!

3rd Grade Me
I don't know how many of you are into reading novels - but I will tell you - I LOVE reading!  As a kid, I could easily devour a 200 page book in a summer day - or maybe even two!  I sat on my bed in my room for hours on end, reading and imagining.  We did not have a television, so books were friends most dearly treasured.  One summer I read nearly all of the Newberry Award Winner books as part of a deal my dad made with me - I had to read one Newberry book for every non-Newberry Book I read.  I think he was trying to thwart my interest in the Babysitter's Club books, ha ha!  It worked - I found several favorites and saved up my money to buy my own copies! Of course, I did find a loophole - I think I read "Island of the Blue Dolphins" about 8 times that summer as dad had forgotten to specify that they had to be DIFFERENT Newberrys! (the photo to the left is of me just as I was falling in love with reading)

My love of reading never waned - but the time allotted for reading certainly DID! I know that before I got my Kindle and really made a concerted effort to do more reading, it had been since before I had kids that I had sat down to read.  When I did get my Kindle, I immediately tried to find some free books to upload and read.  I found a Christian Suspense novel, and while I hadn't ever read a suspense novel before, I decided to give it a try.  My page swipes became fast and furious as I tried to make my eyes read the words faster - a new genre was open.  And I was hooked.

Adam is giving away an e-copy of his newest book, and it is compatible with either Kindle or Nook, or any device that has an app for those devices. That would include iPads, tablets, iPhones, smartphones, etc. And if you don't have any of those, you can also read the book on your computer!

For one entry, comment on this post to let me know what your favorite fictional genre is.  For additional entries, "Like" Adam's author page on Facebook, tweet or facebook this giveaway, and for 5 additional entries, buy his first book, Fatal Illusions, which I just got done re-reading (it's FANTASTIC).  Then leave a comment letting me know which items you have done!

Anyone, anywhere can enter this giveaway!  Just be sure that you enter by Thursday, February 7th.  I'll announce the winner on Friday! 

Wednesday, January 30

Sparks-A-Rama










 



Last Saturday, Aaron participated in the AWANA Games - our church hosted, and it was really fun!  Here are a few action shots.  It was really fun to watch him participate in team activities - the first of many, I am sure!!

Tuesday, January 29

The Tenth Plague

You may remember a few years ago an interview with our friend from Northland, Adam Blumer, upon the release of his first novel.  Today marks the release of his second!  You will not want to miss this!


Book Summary

Water turns to blood. Flies and gnats attack the innocent. Marc and Gillian Thayer’s vacation resort becomes a grisly murder scene, with a killer using the ten plagues of Egypt as his playbook for revenge.

When their friend turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of a retired homicide detective, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Meanwhile, a stranger is after the Thayers’ newly adopted baby. Will they uncover the truth behind the bitter agenda before the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn son?


About the Author

Adam Blumer is the author of Fatal Illusions (Kregel Publications) and The Tenth Plague (Kirkdale Press). A print journalism major in college, he works as a freelance writer and editor after serving in editorial roles for more than twenty years. He lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife, Kim, and his daughters, Laura and Julia.









Here's an interview with Adam.


1.      What was your inspiration behind The Tenth Plague?

One day I was reading the book of Revelation and came across 22:18–19. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (ESV). My mind began playing the “what if” game. Would God really bring a biblical plague on someone who tampered with His Word? I chatted with a few theologian friends, and the plot emerged from there.

2.      How does this novel compare with your first novel, Fatal Illusions?

Though the plot, of course, is different, the two novels share a number of similarities. Both are set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where I live. I like to write about average folks like Marc and Gillian Thayer, a pastor and his wife who face unexpected, even threatening, events. Of course, there’s another really bad killer who wants to do them harm, and their retired homicide detective friend, Chuck Riley, once again comes out of retirement to help them. I also like to weave in a historical event that somehow relates to the present day. In Fatal Illusions, it was the killer’s obsession with Houdini; in The Tenth Plague, an old mine disaster plays an important role. The past always plays an important role in the present—a running theme in my novels. Overall, I like to write about redemption: how biblical truth offers the answers to the complicated issues of life. Stories, like parables, present some of the best ways to illustrate biblical truths.

3.      What was one of the most important lessons you learned during the writing of this novel?

The power of the collaborative process. I had a fairly strong first draft, but I was stuck. A novel editor provided a creative springboard and helped me see where my true story lay. Without her help, I doubt this story would have seen the light of day.

4.      What part of writing this novel took the most work?

This novel required a ton of research. From an old mining tragedy to autism, from adoption law to anthrax, from pheromones to the Oklahoma City bombing, the research for this one required much more than I ever expected. I’m so thankful for technology and ease of access, thanks to the Internet. Without Google and so many resources at my fingertips, I’d probably still be researching this story. 

5.      So far, what has been your favorite work experience in life?
During one summer between years in high school, I worked at a library, a book lover’s paradise. Granted, a lot of the work involved stocking shelves, but being surrounded by so many fascinating books and interesting authors was pure heaven. I was born a die-hard book lover, and I’ll probably die one too. 

6. Consider the qualities that make you unique. How do these qualities come out in your writing?

I love suspense fiction and history, so a blending of the two always seems to come out in my writing. In high school, I won awards in calligraphy; Gillian Thayer, my female lead, is into calligraphy in a big way (it’s her job). I’ve always been intrigued with how one’s past impacts his or her present and future. This is a recurring theme in my novels because it’s part of who I am. Now that I think about it, what I write is inseparable to some degree from who I am.

7. Introduce your plot summary and main characters. What is your favorite part of the story?

Water turns to blood. Flies and gnats attack the innocent.
Marc and Gillian Thayer’s vacation resort becomes a grisly murder scene, with a killer using the ten plagues of Egypt as his playbook for revenge.

When their friend turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of a retired homicide detective, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Meanwhile, a stranger is after the Thayers’ newly adopted baby. Will they uncover the truth behind the bitter agenda before the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn son?

My favorite part is when the firstborn son is revealed and the novel culminates in the tenth plague. This is the most suspenseful and action-packed part of the story, with several key characters in jeopardy. I had a blast writing it.

8. One of the main themes of The Tenth Plague is confronting and dealing with your past. What can readers take away from this theme, especially in a novel that deals with religion and death?

Both the villain and my heroine, Gillian Thayer, grapple with heartbreaking real-life issues from their past. But how they respond shows two very different paths. My hope is that readers will see the stark contrast in the context of biblical truth presented in the story. The bottom line is that God is enough, and He offers the solution to every problem of life. This is another repeated theme in my stories. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my latest project.

What are two things about you people might find surprising?
I took lessons to play the accordion in junior high and high school (wanna hear a polka?). When I was a tween, I was a ventriloquist and had a dummy named Andy. I used to entertain the younger kids in children’s church with routines I made up.

How did you meet your wife? I understand it’s an amazing story.
In the spring of 1995, still single and disillusioned with dating, I gave up on the idea of dating anyone ever again. I decided to go on a trip to the Holy Land as sort of a spiritual pilgrimage; I wanted to meditate on God and see what He wanted to show me about Himself. Wouldn’t you know it? What I least expected happened. At the Boston airport, I met Kim, a gorgeous brunette (her church group met mine) who’d brought the same novel to read on the airplane, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. No kidding. Then at London’s Heathrow Airport, the ticket person thought she and I were a couple and put us together on the all-night flight to Tel Aviv. Kim didn’t care for her sardines, so I ate them. The relationship appeared to be promising. To cut to the chase, we chatted in Jericho, conversed in Nazareth, and talked nonstop in Jerusalem. On the way home I sat beside her on the plane. A few weeks later, I visited her in Milwaukee and met her parents. By New Year’s, we were engaged. Pretty amazing, huh? I now tell singles not to look for a marriage partner. Seek God, and He’ll put you on a collision course if marriage is His plan for you


Some content used by permission of
Kirkdale Press
.


Wednesday, January 23

Redeemed

Someone introduced me to the lyrics to this song awhile back - the truths are so. powerful.  I've been REDEEMED!  And that is something to shout about!

Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me "son
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won"


Refrain:
I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember oh God, You're not done with me yet

I don't have to be the old man inside of me
Cause his day is long dead and gone
I've got a new name, a new life I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home

(Cowart/Weaver)

Tuesday, January 22

sprouts and homeschool and progress, oh my!

I'm sprouting a spicy mix!  Can't wait for sproutwiches!

It's amazing how much a little change of scenery can help things.  For example, the occasional reading class on the couch makes my first grader much more willing to read without complaints, and a "fancy glass" of juice makes the math test fly by.  I am really enjoying getting into a groove with Aaron and homeschool.  It's great to know exactly what he's learning (or needs help with)!

Our new schedule is going relatively well also.  I'm tweaking things to try to get some housework in on a regular basis, but we're all surviving!

We've been learning about volcanos and taking more regular trips to the library!  SO thankful for our awesome library!

Thursday, January 17

adventures in tikka masala

My friend Keri has, over the years, introduced me to many international foods, almost all delicious, and most when we were young and I was single. 

Indian is by far my favorite ethnic cuisine.  And thankfully, much of it is gluten free.  It is not, however, free to eat it at our favorite local restaurant, so I have been experimenting with new recipes at home.  This is one we have made over and over.

Chicken Tikka Masala (adapted)

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken (any cut is fine), cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup yogurt (I have used both dairy and plain coconut with success)
1 T lemon juice
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (but only if you want it super hot - the black pepper really heats it up well)
1 tsp salt
1 T fresh ginger (I use a microplane)

Mix all of that together and marinade for at least 1 hour. I usually make a double batch and freeze 1/2 for another time.

The original recipe calls for skewering the chicken and grilling it, but I have never made it that way - I bake it on skewers or on a baking sheet until it's done.

Saute in a large skillet:
1 T butter (or coconut oil)
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded (or not) and minced fine
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (1 large or 2 small)

When tender, season with
2 tsp paprika (smoked is delicious)
2 tsp cumin
any additional salt you wish to add

Then add the following and simmer until sauce thickens slightly.
8 oz tomato sauce
1 cup cream (I use unsweetened full fat coconut milk)

Add cooked chicken and garnish with 1/4 cup or more of chopped fresh cilantro.


I serve this with cumin/basmatti rice:
saute 1 T cumin seeds (NOT the ground cumin from the above recipe) in 1 -2 T coconut oil until fragrant, add 1 cup basmatti rice and saute a bit longer (not long enough to brown the rice).  Add 1 tsp salt and 2 cups water, bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a low simmer until all water is absorbed.  Add fresh citrus juice if desired (lemon or lime).

We don't share this with our kids.  It's an at home date night kind of thing.  Not that they wouldn't eat it - just because we don't WANT to share.  *grin*  Let me know if you try this!



Monday, January 14

small steps

This weekend Michael made some shelves for our closet in the living room.  It started out as a "guest coat closet" but soon became just a mess of stacked up junk with a couple old coats thrown in for good measure. Our games were on the top shelf, shoved in corners and wobbling precariously - you had to use a step ladder and recruit backup before even thinking about playing games!  We had some boxes of rarely-referenced books and half-finished sewing projects stacked up on the floor - it was a nightmare.  I was definitely too embarrassed to actually use it as a guest coat closet!

Of course, once I started in on that project, and decided to put the homeschooling supplies in there for easier access, that opened up a space in another closet, and then another, and before I knew it, 4 closets and a few under-bed storage bins got involved and the whole house was in upheaval. 

Does this ever happen to you?

Closest I have to a before pic - oops! Love Evan's yawn...

Michael added the upper shelf for easier access

the finished closet

New Bins!

Love my label maker!

School supplies and cards

New home for my sewing stuff! Hooray!

An entire diaper box worth of coloring books?  Maybe a few too many.
Anyway, some very good things came out of this weekend's project.  I have a great space to store our school supplies, the craft and art supplies are in one location (gasp!) and our games are more accessible.  The BEST thing is that my sewing machine and sewing supply cart finally FINALLY have a permanent place of residence that is perfect.  Easy to get to - no one sleeps in the living room - and easily put away when I'm done working!  Hurray!

Saturday, January 12

January Outdoors

Today is in the mid-to-upper 50's, so very unusual for January in Michigan. Thankfully it is also a Saturday, meaning that Michael isn't working. (hurray!) So after Michael got back from donating blood this morning, we piled in the van and headed to the park. Cadey surprised us all by really going to town - she kept saying "Play? Play?" and didn't want to stay in our arms!!  This summer is going to be so much (crazy) fun! Here are a few pictures.

the slides were wet - but we brought a towel!


Cadey loved sliding!

Happy to be outdoors!

wanting to slide down the very wet slide

Parks are FUN, Dad!

A great big brother and helper!

So many discoveries to make!

Friday, January 11

Near the Cross

 This song has been going through my head this week - my prayer in the midst of this crazy world.  Thank you, Fanny Crosby, for your timeless words of truth.
  1. Jesus, keep me near the cross,
    There a precious fountain—
    Free to all, a healing stream—
    Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.
    • Refrain:
      In the cross, in the cross,
      Be my glory ever;
      Till my raptured soul shall find
      Rest beyond the river.
  2. Near the cross, a trembling soul,
    Love and Mercy found me;
    There the bright and morning star
    Sheds its beams around me.
  3. Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
    Bring its scenes before me;
    Help me walk from day to day,
    With its shadows o’er me.
  4. Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
    Hoping, trusting ever,
    Till I reach the golden strand,
    Just beyond the river.

Thursday, January 10

update!

So, the kiddos.

Cadey is 16 months and pretty much ON her 16 month birthday decided to walk a bunch of steps in a row - down the hall and through the living room - just as if she'd been doing that all along.  She's also getting pretty good at throwing mini-tantrums where she folds herself in half and rests her forehead on the floor while sobbing as if her heart is breaking.  Thankfully these are few and far between and since this is our third rodeo, it's more funny than alarming.  Cadey's also learning a ton of new words, repeating things after us like a tape player.  She's turning into an even more amazing version of herself.  We like her a lot.  She has yet to reach the 20 lb milestone, but you'd never know it by the amount of food that child consumes.  She loves to eat!

Evan has this amazing sense of humor and command of the English language that sometimes has me stepping back in wonder.  He's curious and mischievous and has a great laugh and sparkle in his eyes.  He loves his preschool class at homeschool group, is an enthusiastic participant (for the first few minutes) in our school days, and loves to sit and listen to stories being read to him, although his first choice of activities is always, "let's watch something."  (No is the answer he hears more than he would like!)  He's also beginning to ask great questions about spiritual things, which is truly awesome.

Aaron is really taking off with his reading, which is SO fun to see, and will very excitedly spout answers to simple addition problems!  He is doing great with his memory work at CC, but is disinterested in learning his AWANA verses.  (we are trying to get better at working on those on a consistent basis!  There's a lot of memory work going on in this house!)  Aaron loves to create and imagine and is getting really good at drawing.  I love to watch his face as he explains his latest masterpiece.

We're all still recovering from the respiratory flu, trying to rest up and get back into a good routine of school, church, and other activities.  God is good, and we are so, so blessed.  Here are a few pictures!

we girls got new hats for Christmas!

Michael made these awesome trivets out of Swanstone countertop scraps

the kids all love the castle toy! win!!

Eventually, I'll get those New Year's cards sent...

Monday, January 7

it's all downhill from here

I go back and forth.  Obsessive/not obsessive.  Probably the fact that I'm even writing this post means that I lean more toward the obsessive.





But something happens when I stop being picky about the (rainbow) order of the plates.  First it's just the plates, but then it's the towels, out of color order AND folded hastily, and then all of a sudden there is a laundry mountain and a stack of papers, then multiple stacks, then avalanches. And the toys. Everywhere.  And then the bathroom is all of a sudden filthy, there's a pair of kid-sized pj's in the living room of all places and week old leftovers languishing behind the mushy celery in the back of the fridge, and something else that is growing a fungus, and I find myself looking around wondering how it got so bad, so quickly.

And yes, I do realize that this is my second in a row posting about the condition of my house.  Maybe it's time to call in the cavalry.  Apparently, I can't keep 1200 square feet of living space liveable.

It's gotta be the plates.