Friday, January 29, 2016

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell

When I read my first Cantrell novel I knew she was going to be a favorite. This gifted writer doesn't write easy. She takes the reader on a journey, a deep heart tugging, thought pondering story that leaves you thinking about your own life and circumstances. She brings the reader characters that are real and leave us thinking of them long after we have closed the last page. Yes, Cantrell writes unforgettable stories. 

I love this novel and the reality of emotions that Julie brings to each character she introduces us to. The story flows easily. Love, faith, and endurance are weaved in this story. This is a novel  that will leave you wanting to hug your children tighter and embrace all you treasure, family, friendship, and faith. We realize what's really important in life and what doesn't matter at all in the big scheme of things. 

For me this novel is deep, but deep is what I enjoy the most. Life doesn't always go smooth and easy. Trials and fears attack us when we least expect them. Cantrell brings a story that touches on issues we would rather not think about, but issues that are very real and personal. 

This is a gem and I'm so thankful I had the pleasure of reviewing it. Another beauty penned by Cantrell. 

This novel was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, the 2013 Christy Award-winning Book of the Year and recipient of the Mississippi Library Association's Fiction Award. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction and, like her debut, was selected for several Top Read lists.
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Glass Shattered Under Foot

Do you think Cinderella ever thought about her glass slippers breaking? Oh, having a perfect night up until midnight when all would shatter to pieces. I mean one day you're walking in your Cinderella slippers and all of a sudden you're no longer walking with ease, but they have shattered and now it is cutting glass under your feet. 

We all envision a family that has Sunday dinners together, right? I had shared with my son that it would be awesome if we could all enjoy a Sunday dinner together once at month. His reply was, "Mom, we aren't the Reagan family on Blue Bloods". 

Yep, I always thought our home would be filled with our kids and grandchildren on the weekends. Maybe cooking and baking together. Spending afternoons just sharing all that's going on in our lives and well, sharing dreams together. Laughing and remembering the times when all seemed perfect right about before midnight. 

Somewhere along the way our children grow up. They leave the nest and have families of their own. But that quiet home is never really what you imagined. You just assume your home will always be filled with kids stopping by just to visit for an afternoon. My husband and I enjoy our time spent together now more than ever. But having our family together would just make everything right.

Family makes us feel secure. We can call upon one another for support and encouragement. We should cheer one another on and desire to know more about each other. 

It's hard at times, isn't it? I mean having adult children. Sometimes our dreams of having a close family isn't quite what we expected. I dream of having conversations about Jesus and talking about faith. The happenings around the world and what their thoughts are on things. There's so much we can teach our children, but so very much we too can learn from them. But today everyone is busy. I remember those days of helping to raise five children at home and homeschooling three of them. But where does our time go? Sometimes I think it's wasted on things that we later in life realize doesn't matter much at all. At some point I think we look back with regret and wish we had shared more time together, don't you?

As a parent you don't want to invade on your children's lives. You don't want to feel as if you have to know all that's happening and know every detail. But it would be such a blessing to have our children want to share their lives with us. If they have a bad day, let us know to pray for a specific area. If they have had a blessing, share so that we too can be joyous with them. 

It's not easy to give advice to our children. I've learned to wait for the invitation to share my opinion. Raising children is hard enough, but asking your parents advice can at times ease what we are going through. I think today young people would rather ask their friends instead of going to mom and dad. 

What's expected of being a grandparent? I always knew the kind of grandparent I would be. The kind I didn't have. We would spend time sharing stories, baking, exploring, giggle, and leave behind a legacy that they would cherish and pass down to their own children one day. I want to be that Nanny that they can come to with anything. 

I didn't have grandparents. Oh, they were there, but they weren't a part of my life. Do we really miss what we never had? I do because I know what could have been. 

Being a grandparent doesn't mean you're {just} a babysitter. But to babysit is a wonderful gift, right? A grandparents greatest joy is spending time with their grands. Oh, to be there when you can is wonderful, but to be taken advantage of is something that wounds the heart. I don't want to just be a babysitter. I want my grandchildren to know that Nanny and Papa love having them near. 

It would be a great reward to the heart if families could talk about things instead of just hiding our true feelings and pretending all is fine.  We shouldn't have to pretend anything. Families should be able to talk, even argue, but walk away knowing that bond of love is stronger than any disagreement. So much time is spent on being angry about things that mean nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. I don't want that kind of relationship with my children. Goodness, every parent gets aggravated with their children just as every adult child gets angry at their parents over something or another, but is it really worth it? What happened to loving each other unconditionally? Taking time to give one another a call just to check up on each other? 

Sometimes it doesn't matter what a parent does, it just isn't ever the right thing that the child wants. Well, to that I say, don't expect from another what you yourself aren't willing to give. Somehow we say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, and most of all we say no to something they ask of us. Ouch! Does a parent get to say no? Yes, we do! We shouldn't have to explain ourselves. Sometimes we have plans, sometimes we are just exhausted from the week, sometimes we just want to do something we have been waiting to do for twenty-six years. 

My husband and I have been married for almost twenty-six years now. I praise Jesus daily for my husband and the relationship we have together. It is so wonderful having someone by your side no matter what. They are there to go the journey with you and they know you better than anyone else in the world. Most of all they accept you with warts and all. They see the beauty and they know your faults, but choose to love you. And that's it, isn't it? It all comes down to choice. 

Losing my dad when I was nineteen taught me a valuable lesson about time. At nineteen I was doing my own thing and just when I was at that age to really want to know my dad he was gone from this earth. Oh, how I wish we had shared more and how I wish I truly knew his heart. We shared a mighty bond together, but going deeper would have been a treasure to keep. 

As my mom gets older and as her health and memory deteriorate I realize more and more how much she needs me and how much I need her. I can't imagine the day when I can't pick up the phone and call her. Now, she can irritate the fire out of me. As she ages she has no filter on her mouth and has the attitude that she can say and do whatever she wishes. Maybe she's earned that privilege. I don't know, but what I do know is that I can accept my mom the way she is because she loves me. 

There's so much about me that my children don't know. Oh, the stories my husband and I could share with them about our journey together. The ups and downs. The joys and struggles. How walking in faith has grown us closer together. I think my husband and I would just love to spend more time with our kids. 

Some parents get calls every Sunday from their kids. Some parents don't get calls at all. Birthdays should be celebrated with joy. We have yet to share Thanksgiving Day with our children. I understand that our children have many places to do and so much to do. That's all great, but my husband and I would just sometimes enjoy not coming in last. At least feeling like we do. 

My mom never baked cookies with me. I wasn't allowed in the kitchen. We didn't share that kind of relationship, but I knew my mom was always there and always on my side. She would certainly tell me if I had done wrong and I have always accepted her advice willingly. A parent shouldn't have to be afraid to share advice, but so many of us are, aren't we? 

Relationships take work. No matter what kind of relationship it is. They simply take work and you must make an effort. Egg shells and glass shouldn't be a part of our relationship. We should be able to be honest and you know what? Just not get so mad about everything and say nothing. That kills a relationship faster than anything. We have to have communication.

Today in our world the family is under attack. Satan is heading that attack. He wants the family destroyed. It can happen ever so slowly as the heart feels wounded and nothing is said, and then the day comes when all explodes and then what's there do? We need to be praying for our children and grandchildren. Pray for our families to come together and grow stronger. To be that strong unbreakable bond of love. 

I think for parents, after raising our children, we simply want to have the respect we deserve. They want to be appreciated, needed, and wanted. Goodness, our children have no idea all that we have done for them over the years. When my kids were at home, after they were older, they began sleeping with their door shut. So I no longer walked in and laid my hand on their back and prayed over them. I would stand at their door and place my hand upon the door and pray over them. I hope one day they can know the prayers that have been spoken on their behalf and truly know the love that their parents have for them. 

I was forty years old when I wrote my mom a letter. I was forty when it completely hit me all that my mom had done for me. In raising my own children I came to understand just a little bit more about my mom and my respect grew even more for her. In all my years of being her daughter I can share that I have never disrespected my mom. So, in this letter I shared every single thing I could and apologized for all the wrongs in my teenage years and just stuff I could have done better. I thanked her for all she had done for me and for all that she had done that I had no idea about. Love doesn't count every wrong. It doesn't keep score. Love forgives and it accepts. Love gives room for us to make mistakes and even more so love gives us room to be ourselves. 

We think it's hard when our children are small, but goodness when they become adults it seems life takes on different challenges that parents didn't quite expect. 

There are parents that live miles apart from their children and see them maybe once a year. Sometimes it is years between visits. Sometimes parents live thirty minutes from their children and don't see them as much as they would enjoy. I think parents just want to be a part of their children's lives, but they just aren't sure how to do it. I mean I don't want to be that parent that calls constantly and my kids look at their phone and roll their eyes.'s my mom again. Finding that balance is difficult. Finding that adult relationship isn't as easy as it should be. 

I don't want to wear glass slippers. I surly don't want to walk on egg shells. That just isn't how parents and children should be. So, what about you? How is your relationship with your children? Is it everything you dreamed or has midnight struck and you're totally lost in the shattered glass beneath your feet? 

I don't expect perfection. Goodness, I am a work in progress just like you. There is no family that is perfect. We love beyond our imperfections. In fact, we embrace them and learn from our differences. I made mistakes daily just as I know my children do. But shouldn't we as parents and children have grace? Children can expect so much from their parents, but be willing to give so little. The same can be said for parents expecting much. If we aren't careful we can expect so much and then feel wounded when all our dreams have yet to come true. 

Don't wait for too much time to pass. Time isn't something to take for granted. We don't want to look back with regret. Pick up the phone, send a text, mail a card. Recognize birthdays and celebrate the life you have shared together. We should treasure our time and make the effort to spend time together.

As a parent you want to lift your children in prayer. You want to encourage them and hopefully inspire them. At my night table I have photos of my children and grandchildren. I pray for them throughout the day, but especially at night when all is quiet and my heart is stirred as a momma who only wants the best for her family and prays for the Lord to place a hedge of protection around them. To watch our children soar is a blessing. 

There's no room for pride and arrogance. Our words should be filled with grace and love. Never allowing the sun to go down when anger has us stirred. Oh, be careful of the words we say in anger and misunderstandings. We can't take those back. But what we can do is choose to forgive. No relationship is perfect, but we can always strive to make them better. 

So, we simply enjoy the time we do get to see our children. A parent is only as happy as their happiest child. And a parent always misses the one they see the least the most. Our children mean the world to us. As they were growing we gave our all. We did the best we could. Being a parent is a treasure. We try our best today. Wanting more, but finding contentment in how things really are. It's okay to dream a Cinderella kind of dream, right? One that doesn't contain any shattered glass beneath the feet. But one that is filled with joy in the heart. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Salsas and Moles {Fresh And Authentic Recipes by Deborah Schneider

Wow!! This book makes me want to rush out to the store and grab up all the ingredients I will need to pack my pantry to begin a journey of making a new salsas and moles.

For this salsa loving girl I could literally have salsa every single day and now I can try many new fresh styles and enjoy it all the more. I can't wait to try these recipes with my husband. He's going to be so excited when he sees this new book on our shelf. I'm sure we will have some new favorites.

This is a cool book because the author gives such great information. It isn't just a recipe. She shares how to work with chilies and how they best work for different dishes. She gives a great list of ingredients to have on hand and gives techniques for making the best salsas and moles.

I am a photo lover. A picture gives me a great help in what it should look like when I'm all finished. There are great photos here, but not for each dish. That would make for one gigantic book. But she gives such great tools and serving ideas that you cannot go wrong. In short, she has made it simple for us peeps who have a bit of trouble in the kitchen.

Some of the recipes I can't wait to try are:
Salsa Fresca with queso and pintos
Pineapple-cucumber salsa
Mango-Habanero salsa
Black bean salsa borracha

She gives the recipe of course, but she tells a bit about it, and walks us through the dish, beginning to end. I LOVE that! She too gives variations and serving sizes.  In the HOT section she even shares the number of just how HOT the salsa is on a scale, but as we see in this book, not all salsa is made to be hot. To enjoy the flavors is a treat. I don't want a burning tongue although some people dig that kind of salsa. I really had no idea you could use salsa for so many things. I too am learning more about moles and how fun is it to learn about something new to add to the table that's inviting.

"Take the time to pay attention with your senses to every ingredient and every step. This will make you a more observant cook, and a better one." 

I think this is one you would really enjoy if you're a salsa lover. You will surly find new ideas for salsas and moles. I really cannot wait to begin trying out these recipes. I'd say there's more than a touch of Mexico in this book and I can't wait to try it out!!

This book was a gift by Ten Speed Press for sharing my review with you. 

DEBORAH SCHNEIDER is the executive chef/partner of SOL Cocina in Newport Beach, CA, and was dubbed “the reigning queen of San Diego chefs” by Bon App├ętit. She is the author of the James Beard-nominated Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta; Amor y Tacos; ¡Baja! Cooking on the Edge, which was one of Food & Wine’s Best of the Best of 2006; and is the co-author of Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Latin Cooking.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Saving A Pew Or Saving A Heart?

If a whore walked into your church would you move over to give her a seat? If a known heroin user entered the doors would you stare in disbelief? If a gay couple joined your Sunday morning service would you share your pew with them? What about the couple in town that lives together unmarried with three children? Those questions kind of sting, don't they? We don't like to think we make a difference in people, but we do. Some how we are accepting of those we love and admire, but as for strangers, not so much and if they are different in some way other than what we are comfortable with everything changes. 

"But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in each other." Galatians 6:4 

We point out sins that we seem to think are much worse than others. But see, sin is sin. All sin is ugly.  We are sinners in need of grace. What I've learned is that most sins are not seen on the outside but they live inside hidden from others who share our pew. May this be the day, the beginning, where we realize we are ALL sinners in need of God's grace. And oh, what a mighty grace He has. 

"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector." Luke 18:11

We see the outward sins of people in their actions, their way of life, their choices, their speech. But what about the inside, down deep, under the skin that no one else can see, maybe except for a few in our circle in which we share the same sins? Lies and gossip. Betrayal and lust. Pride and arrogance. Hatred and condemnation. Jealousy and judgement. Silent sin is still sin. In so many ways we are like the Pharisees, aren't we? We see the sins of others, but don't realize our sins because they in some way just don't seem bad enough. 

"When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." Matthew 15:10-11

The church house isn't for just some, but for all. We have differing skin tones that separate our worship house. What happens when ink covered skin enters the door? Do we look at them with tainted eyes and thinking of how much they need Jesus? Friends, we all need Jesus. What about those who live on the outskirts of town and enter the doors? Better yet, what about those who live uptown and have more than us? How often do we look at them with upturned noses? People all around us are searching for more. They are searching for something. 

The day happens where they pass by a church and the Spirit moves and calls them inside. They finally have the courage to enter. They take a seat near the back row. They just want to sit and listen. Feel everything out. Do they fit? What is they see? Are they welcomed with love and grace or are they met with differing eyes? You know that look, right? That, {bless their heart} look we give people when we think they need Jesus more than we do. There isn't one of us who doesn't need Jesus and need Him the most. 

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." Philippians 2:12-13

I am in no way saying we should accept sin of any kind. We must preach the gospel of Christ and stay true to His Word, never wavering from it. But we must live with grace and love towards all men. We are to love without discrimination. Jesus accepts us as we are, but some how we place a standard on who we accept. We are to love people. Simple as that. When we love with grace we give Christ the room to change the heart. There isn't a time table on what God can do. When we exclude people we limit God. We are to be in the people business and allow God to be in the heart business. 

The world is watching. Just what are we showing them about the love of Christ? Too many are walking out the doors of church and never returning. If we are loving like we should our churches would be packed full of people wanting nothing more than to worship the Jesus we so love. It isn't about people measuring up to us. It's about using God's Word as our measurement for life. 

He meets us where we are and on that Damascus Road everything changes. But the sweetest thing is God's grace and how He walks with us. Everything in His perfect timing. Our loving another today could change their life years from now. We don't always get to see the benefit of loving others. So often that love isn't reciprocated, but one day, in God's perfect timing it will all fit together for His benefit and glory. 

"What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

We grow in faith through prayer and seeing what God does to the heart of man. He changes us. There are none of us in the same exact spot with Jesus right this moment. He convicts the heart and in obedience we listen and follow. We all had to begin somewhere, right? We all started out as sinners and even after accepting and receiving Jesus as Savior we are still sinners. Forgiven and saved by the grace of God, but still sinners. We cannot forget that we too our sinners and look upon the world as if we are better. We aren't better. We are all created in God's image and He desires for ALL to be saved. 

"So God created man His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Genesis 1:27

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Timothy 2:1-6

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but ins long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

We go to Friday night football games and Saturday night movies, placing our sweaters in seats to save them for who we wish to sit by us. We love feeling comfortable. We like cozy. We love being surrounded by family and friends. There's not a thing wrong with that until we stop making room for others. This seat is taken isn't words that should come from us when we are to be light-bearers to the world. We should be making room for all. There was one who chose to make room for me. 

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. But this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

We want church to be comfy cozy. We don't want to be uncomfortable, but you know what? It's when we are uncomfortable that God does this amazing thing. He shows Himself to us in ways we never expected. Maybe we just need to start expecting the unexpected. God's glory comes in all sizes and shapes. Take a chance on someone. Scoot your sweater over and make room. You just may witness God do something spectacular!


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