16 December 2013

Time and Chance Happen to Them All

The new calendar/planner/journal arrived today.
Blank pages. Blank days.
Waiting to be written on.
Choices. Options.
Must do’s. Want to’s.
Responsibilities to be met.
Opportunities to be embraced.
Foreordained moments.
Serendipitous occasions.
Lists and charts and plans
Moving time in a line.
Reflections circling it back again. 

"I returned and saw under the sun . . . [that] time and chance happen to them all." Eccl 9:11

18 November 2013

How one family's crisis of faith strengthened mine

Recently I read a news story about a man and how he and his family left the church they had attended all their life and have found happiness in another denomination. It was a respectful and well written article in which this man and his wife told about things that happened that caused them to look elsewhere for a spiritual home. The article quoted the man as saying, “Before I was working for my salvation - today I am working because I'm grateful for my salvation."  I'm saddened that he had this misunderstanding and felt, in his former church, that he needed to be "working for his salvation". This made me wonder how many other Christians are misguided like this. How many others do the things asked at church because they feel like they have to check the boxes on the list or they won't be with God or their families forever? I asked myself do I do these "works" i.e.-  baptism, partake of the sacrament,  attend Sunday services, help out in teaching a class or organizing an activity or give service  (service given because it is asked of me or because I saw an need and quietly stepped in)  because I feel a need to “work for my salvation” or because “I rejoice in my salvation”.

I think it is easy to fall into the trap of “working for your salvation”. It’s one more thing to add to the never ending to-do list:
                Wash the dishes
                Read the scriptures
                Fold the laundry
                Say a prayer
                Visit my neighbor
And soon we are checking the boxes, feeling guilty when we miss the mark, and start equating in paying tithing with paying taxes and attending Sunday services is ranked with getting the grocery shopping done.

It is important that we give service, that we study the word of God, that we say our prayers, that we gather to worship with others, but no matter how long your spiritual to-do list is you can’t work for your salvation. No amount of work or perfectness or lists with little checked off boxes will earn your way into Heaven - just faith and repentance and love.

So, I serve and work and worship in Christ’s church because I rejoice in my  salvation, because I "stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me", because I  know that  "my redeemer lives" and He does so for me. I know that whatever "work" I do in whatever way for His other children is just a bonus to the gifts I've already received from Him.

11 November 2013

Homes - Heroes - Hope

Men and women, youth and retirees, help to rebuild homes through Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). 

VOLUNTEERS have been working tirelessly to rebuild homes on Staten Island that were damaged or destroyed by hurricane Sandy. Volunteers will rotate in and out as their time allows committing to work for a week or more. Heading the project up will be a local leader who makes sure the there is consistency and order to the work being done. Also, the volunteers, especially those who live out of the area, will take time to visit local landmarks. In the case of the Staten Island crew they took and evening and visited the 9/11 National Memorial and the Empire State Building.   

Husband and wife working together.
In Bastrop, TX the place of one of Texas' largest wildfires MDS rebuilt nine homes. Building homes does more than give a family a much needed temporal abode it gives a family HOPE. “One common factor in all of those homes was the hope of the clients. All had been working and waiting for over a year to reach home. Some had just about expended all of their resources and given up, but some hope remained. It was up to the MDS volunteers to rebuild that hope.” 

A finished home in Texas
Braithwaite, LA flooded when hurricane Isaac came ashore, hit against the reinforced levies around New Orleans and sent the water rushing over the Plaquemiene Parish levees flooding the town of Braithwaite. Volunteers (living in a temporary RV camp) scraped, sanded, mudded, and painted their way into repairing homes in this community. In exchange the grateful individuals took the volunteers on tours of New Orleans, set up a fresh shrimp feast, and encouraged them to pick bags full of citrus fruit from their orchards to take back home to family. I know the volunteers do this work out the desire and need to serve their fellow man, but I can’t help but think of the long term satisfaction and reward they get from the friends they make.

Braithwaite, LA
MDS has over eleven projects  going on in both the U.S. and Canada. One thing that amazes me is the care and dedication this organization gives to an area long after the news cameras have left and the rest of the world has forgotten the disaster. MDS has not forgotten these communities no matter how small or how far off the map they may be. One example of a far off the map is the work being done in Circle, Alaska. A hundred homes were destroyed in this tiny community and I don’t recall ever hearing about the ice dam that caused the thawing river to flood, but MDS is there working hard and fast to put up simple home that have been shipped to Circle in kit form.

The most recent project MDS is taking on is Colorado. As of mid-October a clean-up team was on the ground. As additional plans for clean-up are made and volunteer needs are known, the MDS website will be updated.

You can find more information about Mennonite Disaster Services at their web site /http://mds.mennonite.net/home/.  There is a place to make monetary donation as well as a place to sign up to help. Who knows maybe your upcoming vacation will be to lend a hand to someone in need, make new friends, and explore the wonders of a new place.

Responding – Rebuilding – Restoring

Faithful Hands, Open Heart video

07 October 2013

Blog Hop Book Giveaway - Misty Moncur

click picture to link to blog hop
I enjoyed Misty Moncur’s Stripling Warrior Series and have been able to read two of her books Daughter of Helaman and Fight for You. Misty does a great job taking us not only back in time to an ancient American society's battle for liberty, but also into the life of a young woman fighting her own battle to follow the unconventional path the Spirit of God is leading her along.  Keturah, the heroin of the story struggles with having interests and righteous desires outside the norm for her society. More than anything Keturah wants to join with the 2000 young men working to defend their parents who many years ago took a vow and lay down their weapons of war. Misty does a terrific job showing the conflict the calling and choices of one person creates for that individual, their family and community, and this small band of soldiers. With a cast of well-formed characters, and drawing on historical facts and archaeological research, Misty built a first person perspective story that moves at a good pace with a nice balance of introspective moments and exciting action or emotion. Her inclusion of herbal medicines, early farming techniques combined with the daily struggle to hunt or gather food, and weaponry styles gives the reader a sense of time and place.  Also woven through the story is the thread of conflict created from choices made many years ago by the adults and how choices made while younger have far reaching and generational effect.  The book is written in modern American English which I feel makes the stories accessible to young adult readers who might not be used to reading historical fiction.

I would recommend Daughter of Helaman and Fight for You to anyone who likes light historical fiction, young adult stories, a romantic triangle, and strong female characters. 

For this blog hop I'm giving way one of Misty's Stripling Warrior books. The winner will be able to select Helaman's Daughter or Fight for You. Choose ONE method to enter from the form below.    a Rafflecopter giveaway 

(ps- hopefully I've set this up correctly, first time doing a giveaway so please forgive any mistakes or glitches.)

04 October 2013

A Horse, a Pug, and a Wedding

What do you do when you have lost your driver’s license and you need to travel 600 miles to your brother’s wedding? 

Why, you put Bufford, your small pug, in a backpack.

Fill your saddle bags with a black-powder pistol and beer.

Climb on your trusty stead.

And ride from Larkspur, CO to Bryce, UT.

One thing though – don’t ride drunk, hit your horse, or wander into traffic. Then the police will need to pick you up and you won’t make it the wedding. 

What's one of the craziest ways you have tried to solve a problem? 

27 September 2013

Costuming Basics

For some cosplayers the creation of the costume is a labor of love and a fun hobby. This is the first in a series for the novice cosplayer.

25 September 2013

What I learned at Comic Con (part 3)

This is the last post on what I leaned at Salt Lake Comic Con 2013. These two panels I found the most interesting and dynamic out of all the ones I attended over the three days.

23 September 2013

Wild Trees

I live where trees grow in neat rows flanking the streets or in ascetically pleasing arraignments with shrubs and boulders. The majority of street trees are flowering pear and 90% of the yards are a doppelganger of it's neighbor. If you are one who likes conformity and order then you'd think it was lovely (and to be honest, if it wasn't for the landscaping that softens the edges and brings green lawns and flowering pops of color I'd be living among tumble weed and sage brush- which yes, has it's own beauty, but I wouldn't want to live with it every day). I was needing wild trees, the kind that grow where they will, whose roots run in a maze and whose branches are left to bend, sway, break, burn and grow as high as they will into the sky.

20 September 2013

Comic Con 101

The family and I have attend two Comic Cons. While we are in no way experts we had fun and successful experiences both times. Here are a few tips to make your Comic Con visit a treasured experience.

18 September 2013

What I learned at Comic Con (part 2)

Each day at Comic Com there were terrific panels to attend. Here are some highlights about world building, hero building and the hero's journey.

11 September 2013

What I learned at Comic Con (part 1)

Salt Lake Comic Con had and extensive panel line up. There were so many good things to choose from it was hard to narrow the list. Here are a few of the things I learned: 

09 September 2013

SLC Comic Con 2013

Seven family members


Three days

Photo Opts



Artists  Vendors  50,000+ people


Sidling through crowds and

Talking with strangers while standing in line

Listening to panels


Total Geek Culture Coolness

 for Father's and Son

for little ones 

And the exotic 
(yes, a real snake) 

Overall our three days at Salt Lake City's first Comic Con was a fun family event. The attendance numbers on Saturday reach close to 80,000 people making records for the largest first comic con. Even with those overwhelming numbers the organizers did a great job with lots of last minute planning as more and more guest agreed to come and be a part of this event. I thought the number and variate of panels astounding. I mostly went to panels on writing. The authors and others in the writing field hosting the panels were professional, fun and educational. I went to a few celebrity things and found Clair Coffee (Adaline a hexenbeast on Grimm) to be delightful and funny. We chatted with Kevin Sorbo and learned he (okay, his wife) home schools their three kids and they travel to wherever dad is working. 

We are already talking about costumes for next year. 

18 August 2013

Bad News - Good News

I flipped through the freshly arrived September issue of National Geographic in my typical, oooh a new issue is here, method. I scanned the cover, flipped through the first pages, read the Editors Note then looked at the pictures reading the captions and the odd paragraph here and there. By the end of the month I will have read the whole magazine cover to cover. I do this with several magazines each month. In my home it is okay to read a the breakfast and lunch tables, that is how I get through at least five magazines each month. Because we have home schooled the kids and we always got a lot of interaction together - all day, every day. Reading at breakfast and lunch became a sort of break from all that togetherness. More often than not one of us would find something interesting in what they were reading, share it with the others thereby sparking a conversation. But, I digress from what I mean to be saying. . .

September's National Geographic has a dramatic pictures of the Statue of Liberty 1/3 submerged in water with the title "rising seas".

In flipping through the article and looking at the pictures, graphs, and maps National Geographic makes this sea level rising to be quite scary (this is NOT a post on global climate change or the various opinions on that subject, so please don't even comment along those line). This is BAD news. Then I flipped open today's local paper. On page A6 I find an article about and American artist helping Syrian children in a Jordan refugee camp paint and beautify a place that has become home about 120,000 people, half who are under 18. On page A8 is a story about a team in Indiana who is making a huge difference in the fight against child pornography. On that same page is an ad announcing the opening of a new commuter train line. A train line finished 2 years ahead of schedule and under budget. Then on page A13 there is an article about the "natural grown" label, an alternative to organic that many small direct to market farms are finding a better fit than the now federal government controlled "organic" label.

Yay for GOOD news! 

Yes, there is a lot of tragedy and negative things happening in our world. We do need to be aware of them and where we can work to make a difference. At the same time, let's not overlook the good that is out there. Within five minutes of looking over a doom and gloom article I was able to find four other items of good.

What GOOD news have you heard lately? 

10 July 2013

Mid-Summer Book Reviews

Here are some short reviews of recent books I’ve read. Because of budget and space I get most of my books from the library or buy free or supper cheap Kindle books, so if it is noted I’ve purchased the book it means it is really, really worth having. Also, I hate book reviews that recap the story – Amazon or the back of the book can do that for the reviewer. What you get here is my simple option based on my personal likes. The books are listed in no particular order.
** = highly recommend read

Austinland by Shannon Hale **
A fun, fresh read with engaging characters and a charming setting. Ms. Hale’s unique voice and masterful use of similes really shines in this uplifting, engrossing story.  Autinland put a smile on my face and made my heart happy.

Clockwork Prince & Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
I really enjoyed the first three books in Ms. Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. I also liked Clockwork Angle, the first book in her Infernal Devices series. Unfortunately, Clockwork Prince dragged. I found too much repetition, too much emoting, and not enough action. Son2 started to read Clockwork Princess. I asked him how he liked it. He found it slower than Clockwork Prince and put it down after a couple of chapters. I didn’t even bother to read it. It’s a shame because I really like the world Ms. Clare has created. These two stories feel like they are packed with words just for the sake of making a thick book.

Imaginarium Geographica; Here There Be Dragons by James Owen **
I first found out about Mr. Owen and his writings from other authors I friended on my author Facebook page. After reading a few posts and checking out his web page I had to read his books. I read Here There Be Dragons out loud to Mr. W. He really liked it and I found it wonderful. Mr. Owens does a masterful job melding real history with fantasy. I must admit I cried at the end when the four main characters reveal their true and full names. When Son2 (age 16) read it he said, “Smart writing. There were even words I didn’t know.” This is high praise from my very Spock like child. I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this series.

Drawing Out the Dragons by James Owen **
I’m bought a copy for our bookshelf. Drawing Out the Dragons contains motivational, from the heart advice for anyone in a creative pursuit. It is written with young and young adult readers in mind, but I found it very useful for the moment I’m in – one in which I have too much on my plate and am making the transition from working part to being home with more time to focus on writing and being a wife/mom/homemaker (rolls which bring me the greatest joy and meaning). Thank you, Mr. Owen, for your wise words.  “Never, ever, sacrifice what you want the most, for what you want the most at that moment.” Son3 (age 14) got half way through the book when he got sick. He said he really liked what he read so far and is looking forward to finishing it when he is well.

Variant by Robison Wells
A great concept. I got impatient to know what was going on so though the story moved at a good pace I couldn’t read fast enough to see behind the mystery.  I really liked the last third of the story where the action speeds up and Benson’s eyes (and the readers) are finally opened. The ending keeps you hanging though with enough wrapped up to leave you stratified, but enough unsolved that you want to read more. I’ve never been a fan of first person, but Mr. Wells does a good job of keeping out too many “I’s”. The next book in the series, Feedback, is on my ‘to read’ list.  

Waiting Fate by W.B. Kinnette
(warning spoilers) A sweet, clean, formula romance. I read it at night when stress would wake me at 2 a.m. Parts of the book were page turners. Other parts made me groan. I love how Ivy had the courage to leave an abusive husband. I mentally screamed at the book when Ivy goes out of characters and meets him alone. I felt the author contrived the situation to rev up the drama. I also felt the dialog and social situations of these mid-20s college and working adults sounded more high school-ish. That could be because I’m surrounded by dynamic mid-20s adults and not ones still in an extended adolescence (which wasn’t how these characters were set up to be so there was a discord in the description of the characters and what they said and what they did for recreation).  I purchased for my Kindle at either a free or cheep price.

Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock **
Read with a box of tissues handy. Ms. Hancock touches on the issues of love, cancer, mental issues, and family. This was an emotional, tough, and satisfying read for me. My mother had a fight with cancer and is doing well now. My step-brother deals with manic depression and schizophrenia.  Throughout the story you will cry with the characters, you will rejoice with them, and you will take them into your heart. For those times you feel you just can’t do it you can turn to Micky and Lucy and know if they could find the courage and strength to go on, so can you. A triumph of love and spirit. I’m buying a copy for my mom. I’m looking forward to Ms. Hancock’s next book.

Out of the Dark by David Weber

(warning spoilers) I love Mr. Weber’s Honor Harrington books, minus all the paragraphs of technical details. I love the idea of aliens invading earth and us humans triumphing. So, when I found this book I thought I’d like it too. And parts I did. I like the aliens he created, very clever. I really liked the different story lines taking place on different continents knowing Mr. Weber would tie it all into together. And then vampires?!  I could have even bought the vampire bit if somehow he tied it into the alien theme. Maybe the vampire crashed landed on earth ages ago, tried to use his power to concur the earthlings, found their will indomitable, went into hiding, observing, began to admire them and then became their champion, but no. No explanation what-so-ever, just here’s a vampire swallow it. Sorry, in my household we just couldn’t. We had a good laugh over it and talked about ways we could have made the ending fit with the rest of the story. Other than the ending that skewed way off course it’s a good book (again minus all the technical details that bog the story down- but those parts are easy to skip).