In case anyone is still checking this blog, I thought I would let you know that after considerable thought I’ve finally decided to officially discontinue blogging here for the time being and focus on my three other blogs. The Pajama School Blog will be the primary blog for posts related to life in general and family happenings. I’ve just launched a Capture the Moment feature that I hope will help facilitate this transfer. So, if you want to keep up with our family, be sure to add the Pajama School Blog to your feed reader or your mental list of sites to check regularly. 🙂

For those of you who don’t follow the Pajama School Blog, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve just launched an exciting contest! We’ve partnered with Advent Film Group (producer of Come What May) to provide an opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to work on a short creative film project with the potential of winning a free pass to the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival or admission to their Filmmakers Bootcamp. You can check out all the details on the Official Contest Page.

And…for those who aren’t interested in producing a film, but are willing to help spread the word about the contest, we’re offering a great giveaway package. You can check out the details on how to enter the drawing for the giveaway on the Lights, Camera, Action! blog post. I’m really excited about this and hope that you all have fun being a part of it as well!

A Day of Leisure in Oregon

[Sorry for the delay in getting up more pictures from our trip to Oregon…]

We began Saturday morning with a trip to The Crepe Place – one of Andy and Nicole’s favorite morning haunts!

It was very tasty!

We spent the rest of the day visiting the church offices where Nicole works, exploring The KILNS bookstore, stopping at a Saturday Market, hitting a few thrift stores, and driving to the top of Pilot Butte.

Mom and Dad took Nicole and Andy out for dinner, so Joey, Naomi, Noelle, and I ordered a couple of humongous pizzas. Before digging in, though, Joey, Naomi, and I decided to go back to Pilot Butte and see if we could run all the way to the top. Last year when I was visiting Nicole and Andy I attempted the challenge and made it all of about 100 yards. Pathetic, I know, but hey, I’m a Kansas girl! I was determined to do better this year! Joey amazingly summitted with hardly a sign of expended energy. Naomi and I made it about half a mile before we had to slow down to a walk. After catching our breaths, we finished running to the top. (Next year, Lord-willing, I will make the run all the way up!) And then we went back to the house and made up for lost calories… 🙂

On the Trail Again


Today, we made our way to a favorite hiking/climbing spot in Central Oregon – Smith Rock.


The trail is short, but steep (as I’m sure our calves will affirm tomorrow!).


Joey had a little trouble making it to the top, so his big sisters pitched in to help him out. 🙂


Then Joey had to return the favor when Nicole had a difficult time climbing the final big boulders at the top. 😀


Andy, Dad, and Joey enjoy the view from their perch far above the plain.


I decided to zoom in for a close-up shot of one of the small cottages arrayed across the valley. 🙂


Noelle makes herself comfortable and is only disappointed that she neglected to bring along her book.


Nicole and Andy find other ways to while away the time at the top…


I was excited to meet up with my friend, Kelsey, and her sweet 7-week old daughter. She and Mom opted to walk along the river path rather than attempt to summit the rock, though!


It was necessary to make a brief stop on the way home in order to replenish some of the calories we worked off on the hike. Elizabeth was quite disinterested and preferred instead to take a nap!

Upon arrival back at Nicole and Andy’s place, chef Andy went to work and soon had a meal of sizzling fajitas ready to be consumed. Yum!

Sisters in Oregon

Dad and I greeted the morning with a couple-miles run along the Deschutes River Trail. The air was brisk, and the terrain slightly more hilly than our regular route back home. 🙂 Andy fixed a delectable brunch that was the perfect complement to our leisurely day.


All of us girls headed to the quaint town of Sisters. Of course, we had to get a picture of the sisters next to the sign. Too bad we were missing a sister!


We enjoyed walking around and in and out of the various shops until mid-afternoon when we stopped for a late lunch.


Here’s a shot of the Three Sisters [mountains] that I captured on the drive home.

Today, Nicole and Andy planned a suprise destination for me. All the others were in on the little secret, but I was left guessing until we arrived at Steelhead Falls…a cliffjumper’s paradise!


Andy, Nicole, Noelle, and Joey pose at the entrance to the “water park.”


It was a half-mile trek back through the canyon to the final destination point.


The swirling falls, surrounded by crags that served as a perfect launch pad for the cliffjumpers.


We got warmed up on the easier jump. Andy led the way and most of the rest of us followed. (Sorry, you’ll have to turn your head sideways to watch this clip…)


We were all impressed when Dad made the jump! And look at the beautiful form, to boot! 😀


Andy, Noelle, Joey, and I made our way over to the falls and had a blast climbing up and jumping off the edge several times.


Noelle prepares for her entry into the rapids below.


It took her a while to work up the nerve, but Naomi eventually made the plunge. We were all so proud of her!


Next, Joey and I set our sights on the big jump on the other side of the river.


It was a good bit higher than the other cliffs, but oh, what an adrenaline rush! I’d say God definitely has the corner on creating the best water parks, don’t you think? Too bad He didn’t put a few in Kansas, though… 🙂

Introducing…Oregon!

Since I don’t do any scrapbooking, I’ve decided to try to do a better job of posting pictures and highlights here from special family events. This is from the first day of our trip to Oregon to visit Andy and Nicole. Noelle, Naomi, and Joey flew out a week early, then Mom, Dad, and I drove out a week later and joined up with them. This is Mom and Dad’s first time to visit Nicole and Andy in Oregon, so we were excited to show them some of our favorite places!


The river flowing down the mountain from Tumalo Falls.


Andy, Dad, Naomi, and Joey looking down over the falls from above.


The family enjoys the exhilarating view from the top.


Some of the more adventurous in the group decide to hike our way up the river to experience the falls up close.


Naomi, Joey, and Noelle exhibit the victorious feeling of arriving at the foot of the falls – almost there!


The falls are truly magnificent!


After a treacherous climb up the mossy side of the mountain, we all took a turn in the icy shower.


Dad and I wave in triumph before rushing back out! 🙂

We spent the afternoon swimming in the river (i.e. being carried swiftly downstream by the current while desperately attempting to dodge the large boulders strewn all across the bed of the river). No pictures from this…the camera would definitely not have survived the ordeal.


Then, after a scrumptious grilled feast enjoyed alfresco at Andy and Nicole’s home, we headed toward the Old Mill District for a walk along the river.


We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect end to our adventure-filled day!

This poor blog has been sadly neglected for quite some time now. I have a number of good-sounding excuses, but I’ve been hesitant to share the real reason. You see, this whole business of writing and publishing and marketing a book has taken quite a toll on me. In fact, I’m told that I appear to have aged 40 years in the last three months. And sadly, the stress of the situation has even affected my wonderful friends, Seth and Kayla, and they, too, have succumbed to the same accelerated advancement of years…

😀

Haha! Actually, we were part of the exclusive guest list for a surprise celebration honoring our friend, Julie, who turned very old this year. Thus, we were all instructed to arrive at the gathering looking “very, very old.” (However you don’t quite get the full effect of my outfit since you can’t see the pastel striped socks that overlap the bottom of my slightly-too-short sweatpants…)

Julie was quite surprised and more than a little amused by the eccentric-looking crew that greeted her at the bottom of the stairs!

However, she wasted no time donning the garb that was provided for her, and seemed quite comfortable making the transition to her new very old age. Ah, the things we have to look forward to in the years to come… 🙂

In other news, I have been debating whether or not to keep posting to this blog, since I’ve launched the Pajama School Blog and have been posting some things there that otherwise might have ended up on here. The issue is not yet settled decisively one way or another, so for now I’m planning to keep this blog going and I may even try to post more frequently than once a quarter!

I Concur…

“I love to read. If I had things my way, I’d tuck myself into my library of 10,000 books and read the rest of my life. But alas (speaking from the fleshy portion of the brain), God prefers a charity that edifies. I guess I actually have to get up and go out to love the orphan and visit the widow from time to time.”

from Kevin Swanson’s blog

…except for that I don’t quite have my own library of 10,000 books yet. Hopefully someday! 🙂

comewhatmayIf you haven’t been keeping up with my other blog, Pajama School, you may want to head over and check out the series of posts I’m doing this week on the film Come What May. The DVD was officially released today and is available for purchase nationwide. It was produced by a crew of 40 homeschool graduates, a handful of professionals, and numerous volunteers under the direction of Mr. George Escobar. Mr. Escobar has graciously agreed to let me interview him, and I’ll be posting the interview on the Pajama School Blog this week. Following that interview, we’ll also be joined by Victoria Emmons, a 19-year old homeschooler who starred as Rachel Morton in the film.

In addition to this, I’m holding a giveaway for several copies of the DVD. Check out this post for a list of ways you can enter to win your own copy!

Our First Commercial

For a recent family project, Joey and I were paired up and assigned to produce a commercial for the product of our choice. We opted for Joey’s favorite eating establishment – Taco Shop. We worked together to storyboard, film, and script our production. Neither of us really know anything about filming and the technical side of things (so please don’t judge us on our lack of quality… 🙂 ), but we had fun in the process! Here is the result of our efforts:

…the very first printed copy of Pajama School – stories from the life of a homeschool graduate! This is the proof copy. Lord-willing, the real thing will be ready for distribution by mid-April! You can even pre-order your very own copy in one of three ways:

1. Pre-order Pajama School at Amazon.com

2. Pre-order Pajama School through Sibro Publishing. In fact, as a special way of saying thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support as I’ve worked on this book, I’m offering a special on-line discount of 20% through the end of February. Just enter the coupon code: FRIEND when you checkout.

3. Download and print a copy of the Pajama School Order Form, and send it to me, along with a check or money order. If you live locally and want to pick up your book in person, you can leave off the cost of shipping. And…if you make a note to this effect on the form, I’ll even autograph your book(s) for no additional charge! 🙂

Musings from a Lofty Heart

In scorn I beheld my fellow man,
his ways so different from mine –
his clothes the wrong color, his books in poor order,
and on fattening foods he did dine.

To my dismay he called himself Christian;
how could he be so blind?
with mental precision, I went through my checklist –
his life came up short every time.

With keen perception, I watched his choices,
and measured them one by one;
though his heart seemed sincere, I couldn’t help notice –
my standard was high above them.

Keeping my distance I lifted my eyes,
and prayed with words of grandeur,
“Lord I humbly thank you that I am not like him;
for my ways are enlightened and pure.”

Inspired by God’s chastening in my life and Jesus’ sobering words in Luke 18:9-14.

After numerous tags, it has become apparent that many people would like to know 25 random things about me. 🙂 Since I aim to please, I have gone to great lengths to compile the following list of little-known items of interest [or non-interest!] about myself. And I followed the rules…almost. I just added a little twist. Read on for details…

1. So, it turns out that there aren’t enough interesting things about me to fill up 25 spots, so I’m embedding in the list below a random item of interest about each member of my immediate family. Can you identify which items should not be attributed to me? Extra points if you can identify the family member to which they should be attributed!

2. I used to turn the stove burners on until they became red hot and then light paper towels on fire and quickly throw them into a prepared cup of water before the fire reached my fingers.

3. One of my parents’ former classmates served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

4. During a slow political season one year, we had only one sign in our yard. When a neighbor girl asked what it was for, I convinced her that we had buried our uncle in that spot.

5. I once won a coloring contest and received a brand new bike as my prize.

6. A group of friends and I were playing around on our bunk beds at camp one year and I accidentally hit the window with my elbow and shattered the glass.

7. I love shoes and have a growing collection of over 90 pairs.

8. One morning, as I was getting ready for the day, Mom commented that I looked a little out-of-it. I promptly passed out and then tried to reassure her by saying, “It’s okay, Mom, I’m ready to die.” An ambulance arrived at our house a little while later, but I was doing considerably better and was able to continue with the day’s activities.

9. I quit eating sweets/desserts six years ago to attempt to develop more discipline in my life.

10. I received my first piano lesson at the age of two.

11. While riding in a van with a group of kids one time, I snuck under the seats in front of me and tied together the shoelaces of one of the boys. Then I laughed hysterically when he tripped and fell trying to get out of the van once we arrived at our destination.

12. I started running my own business when I was seventeen years old.

13. When I was little, I pretended that the coffee table was a diving board and I was diving into a big pool of water. Several hours later, I had a nice set of stitches where my chin used to be all one piece of flesh.

14. A couple months ago my fingers got burned pretty badly because I forgot I had turned the burner on when I tried to readjust its position on the stove top.

15. I’ve followed a regular morning workout routine since I was seven years old.

16. I once stapled my finger with a heavy duty stapler because I wanted to see if it would hurt. (It did.)

17. A practical joke backfired on several friends and me when the car into which we dumped large quantities of packing peanuts sucked them up into the engine and caused serious problems. That turned out to be the most expensive practical joke I’ve ever pulled…

18. One of my favorite travel experiences was taking a white water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.

19. Nicole and I spent a night in my car at the back of a grocery store parking lot in San Diego because we didn’t want to pay for a hotel room.

20. Several years ago, I won an essay contest and received a new Dell computer as the prize.

21. While attempting to show off on a 4-wheeler one night, I accidentally went over the edge of a small ravine, flipped the 4-wheeler, and busted the handle bars. It took my friend and me several minutes to convince the rest of the group that we weren’t teasing them by the time we walked back across the property and relayed the story to them.

22. I ended up with an eyeful of Elmer’s glue one day when I was shaking it and peering into the uncapped bottle to figure out why the glue wouldn’t come out.

23. The first time I jumped into a mountain lake, I was completely unprepared for the frigid temperature and started hyperventilating. The lifeguard on duty had to jump in and rescue me.

24. I was once arrested and spent a night in jail for participating in a pro-life protest in which a group of people sat in the driveway, blocking access to the abortion mill.

25. I got lost when I was driving by myself one day and ended up on a deserted, unmaintained mountain road with no way to turn around. (Don’t worry, I eventually found my way back to civilization…)

So there you have it. Everything you never knew you didn’t know about me, right? Did you figure out which ones belong to other members of my family? Leave your answers below and I’ll post the answers in a few days. Have fun!

I Forgot About the Limp

Several weeks ago, I posted that I was wrestling with God. Let me explain. In November of last year I was contacted by a lady who is part of our church women’s ministry. They were in the process of planning a winter event for the 23rd of January and wondered if I would consider being the speaker for the event. The topic was “Being Content.” I was excited about the opportunity, and after several days of prayer and getting counsel from Mom and Dad, I agreed to speak at the event. Little did I know what I was getting myself into…

I began studying and preparing in earnest. The Bible and concordance were my constant companions as I spent hours pouring over Scripture passages, cross-referencing, jotting down notes and ideas, meditating, trying to understand the true nature of contentment and how it is attained. I considered myself a fairly content person most of the time, and tried to imagine what it would feel like to be living a wholly discontented life. What were the factors that would contribute to such a state of being? I searched desperately for answers to my questions, eager to uncover gems of truth that I could incorporate into my message and share with women who might be struggling with discontentment. Friends who were aware of my upcoming talk shared helpful resources that further enlightened me. But still, something was missing.

One of the primary truths that the Lord impressed upon my heart was gleaned from Paul’s familiar declaration in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Even in the midst of apparent need, Paul stated that he wasn’t in need. Far from a contradiction, he was revealing that the secret of contentment is that the sufficiency of Christ transcends any situation and grants contentment and fulfillment in the context of what is perceived as a need.

In the afore-mentioned post, I alluded to the account of Jacob in Genesis 32:24-31 when I said that I would keep wrestling until God sent me away with a blessing. Well, I think that I should have re-read the account before referencing it as an application to my situation, because I forgot a rather critical element of the story. I forgot that when the angel of God didn’t prevail over Jacob within a considerable amount of time, He supernaturally knocked Jacob’s hip out of joint, leaving him with a pronounced limp. In a similar manner for me, after several weeks, apparently God felt like it was time to end the wrestling. So He knocked my hip out of joint and gave me a limp…

As I sat having my quiet time one morning, less than two weeks before the event was to be held, I grew increasingly frustrated. I had pages and pages of notes, ideas, thoughts, Scriptures, etc., but every attempt to develop an outline into which I could incorporate all these elements was fruitless. I was expressing these frustrations in my journal, noting that the event was quickly approaching and that I needed to have an outline, and I needed to have it well in advance so that I could spend adequate time filling in the content and practicing my delivery. After writing words to this effect, I stopped short. As I re-read the freshly penned sentences, one word jumped at me from the page: need. I was telling God what I needed. Essentially, I was discontent because God was not bringing the fulfillment of my desire – the desire to have a carefully planned outline and well organized notes. Instead, the words of Paul reverberated in my mind, “Not that I am speaking of being in need…” And then came the whisper upon my heart, “I am sufficient. I am all that you need. You don’t need your notes; you need Me.”

My heart skipped a beat. Actually, I think it was more like ten beats. I was terrified. Was God really asking me to do what I thought He was? Was God asking me to go into my talk without an outline, without any notes? It was too much. I told God as much. I tried to put the horrible thought out of my mind. So God filled my mind with the image of Moses standing before Him at the burning bush, refusing to go before Pharaoh because he can’t speak well. God reminds Moses that He is the Creator of man’s mouth and will teach him what to say. “That’s nice, Lord,” I thought. “If You appeared to me in a burning bush and told me to carry Your message, I would do it in a heartbeat.” But my communication with God was far from a burning bush scenario. It was just a still, small voice whispering into my heart. How could I be sure that it was from the Lord?

Another day came and went. My heart was unyielding. What if I was mistaken? What if I didn’t use notes and then no words came when I was supposed to talk? It was more than I could bear. There was just no way that I could fill up an hour of time with a cohesive message with no notes from which to plot the course of my message. As I read Psalm 12 before going to bed that night, I was pierced, “Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:1-4) The prideful insistence that my words would be more effective than the Lord’s exposed my lack of godliness and faithfulness. I went to bed duly convicted, but not yet broken.

The next morning, I awoke in turmoil. My heart was conflicted. My desires were obviously not in harmony with God’s desires, and the discontentment I experienced was acute. Finally, I was convinced that I had heard the Lord correctly, so my approach shifted from one of unbelief to an effort to persuade Him to change His mind. It was in vain. Instead, He reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:8-11 when Paul petitions Him to remove his “thorn in the flesh” – “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” For three days I had questioned God, doubted Him, and pleaded with Him to show me another way. But He said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And so it was that I walked away from my quiet time that third morning with a limp – a limp that would remind me continually of my utter dependence upon Jesus Christ.

The intervening days were filled with special times of learning from the Lord, enlightening insights, moments of eager anticipation quickly followed by visions of disastrous failure, reminders of promises passed down through the ages, attempts to sneak in the writing of detailed notes to organize my thoughts (which were stopped short by the Lord’s obvious disapproval), e-mail exchanges with friends who exhorted me and offered up manifold prayers on my behalf, and the realization that my desire must be to “wait only upon the Lord” and seek to please Him alone. I became more and more firm in my resolve. There was a peculiar exhilaration in walking by faith, anticipating the great things that God was going to do, and wondering how the evening would play out. At times, I imagined myself opening my mouth and God speaking forth a message of eloquent beauty. At other times, the image of myself staring at a blank podium and then running off in humiliation prevailed. But by and large, my heart was filled with a peace that far transcended my understanding. God would work all things according to the counsel of His own will. Of that I was certain.

At long last, the day arrived. January 23, 2009. A feeling of oppression assaulted me almost as soon as I got up. My quiet time was dry, and I had a hard time focusing and calming my heart. An e-mail from a friend provided important words of truth that I recalled to mind throughout the day. I did my work dutifully, but a feeling of darkness permeated my mind. As I finished getting ready and prepared to head over to the church building, I had an emotional breakdown. I got upset with Mom over something that was my fault and broke into tears. She told me to relax. But I couldn’t. Dad talked with me, asking me questions to try to discern why I was feeling and acting like this. I couldn’t explain it very well, but he did his best to understand and offer words of counsel. I was trying to be the epitome of contentment, but here I was – an emotional wreck. As I tried to get myself under control, I watched the minutes on the clock tick by. I had to leave. But I couldn’t show up with red eyes and tear-streaked mascara running down my face. Another layer of makeup attempted to conceal the emotions that raged within me. I started quoting Scripture out loud and praying for God’s protection from the enemy. I begged God to clothe me with His armor and help me stand against the wiles of the devil. I felt weaker than ever. Just before leaving, the whole family gathered around me, laid hands on me, and prayed for me. I left with Dad and Joey assuring me that they would be praying for me throughout the night.

I walked into the church building and was greeted by a roomful of women and their daughters who were busily putting the finishing touches on the decorations and making sure that everything was ready to go. I conversed casually with various people and greeted other friends as they arrived. As I spoke with the lady who had originally called me about speaking at the event, she expressed amazement that I didn’t even seem nervous. I laughed and said that if only she had seen me thirty minutes before, she would think otherwise. She told me that the whole committee had been praying for me, and that she really sensed that God’s hand was orchestrating this event. Several others expressed their eagerness at having the occasion to hear me speak. I tried to be gracious, but the pressure I felt was immense. God’s grace alone sustained me.

Soon the lights flickered on and off, signaling the commencement of the program for the evening. The room was packed with over 100 women and their daughters. I sat in my assigned seat at a front table, facing a room full of loving hearts and friendly faces. The Lord was present in our midst. His hedge of protection kept the enemy without from wreaking havoc on the events within. God would emerge the victor in this battle. I enjoyed visiting with the girls at my table while we munched on desserts and sipped hot drinks. My spirit was considerably calmer than an hour before, but I still felt on edge. After several short announcements and special music selections, I was introduced and called to the stage. Technical difficulties with the microphone gave me a few additional moments to formulate how I would begin. Eventually, with my Bible in one hand and a microphone in the other, I opened with a short prayer. I shared a relatively brief introduction to the topic of contentment, which was followed by the first act of a skit that was written to portray the image of a discontented heart. As the act concluded, I again made my way onto the stage and looked out over the sea of expectant faces.

Visions of eloquence and clear delivery were short-lived. I fumbled through sentences, repeated myself unnecessarily, and left some thoughts woefully undeveloped. Much sooner than I anticipated, I led into the second act of the skit. This act depicted the beauty of a heart that is waiting only upon the Lord. Following a wonderful performance, I resumed my position behind the black podium and delivered the remainder of the message. It was more of the same, with brief moments of clarity overwhelmed by the primarily disorganized nature of my thoughts. I had not a clue where I was going as I moved from one point to the next. Then suddenly, it was the end and the words of one of my favorite quotes were on my lips, bringing my talk to a close. This quote was the one sure thing the Lord had given me. I knew that it was to be the closing. As soon as the last word escaped my lips, I was back at my seat, utterly spent. The tears again streamed down my face as we were led in several songs of worship and then in a closing prayer.

I wanted to run and hide. The content and delivery of my talk seemed like a disaster. But in my heart I knew that God was pleased. I had believed that He would be sufficient for me. And that belief had led me to act in obedience to what He called me to do. As one after another lady came up to me and expressed in utter sincerity that the Lord had spoken to her heart through the message, I was dumbfounded. My expressions of “Praise the Lord” were never as fraught with meaning as they were that night. I couldn’t see how God could have used my jumbled presentation to touch so many hearts. Again I was compelled to greater faith, for faith is the “evidence of things not seen.” And for perhaps the first time in my life, I understood what it was for me to be nothing and God to be everything.

As I later told Mom, this whole ordeal was the second hardest experience of my life. And it was by far the most humbling. But now, by the grace of God, I can say with Paul that I have learned the secret of contentment. Not by studying it out and coming to an intellectual understanding of what it means. But by going through God’s custom-designed “school of contentment.” I have learned by experience that contentment is recognizing that our sufficiency is found in Christ alone. He is all that we truly need. And when we recognize this, we can endure the loss of anything and everything, because He will never leave us or forsake us. Indeed, though we petition God for what we think we need, we trust Him to give us what He knows we truly need (which may be the lack of the very thing that we think we need) in order to draw our hearts to Himself.

It is with a profound sense of gratitude that I praise God that he still touches His people and leaves them with a limp. For it is after the limp that the blessing comes.

It’s Coming…

…AIC 2009 at the TPA Homeschool Convention!

Students at this year’s AIC will find themselves stranded with a group of travelers deep inside the jungle. The way out seems obvious…at first. But unexpected dangers and obstacles await them at every turn. Will they discover the way of escape before it’s too late? As the captivating drama unfolds before them, students will learn eight key ingredients for living an effective and fruitful Christian life: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (from 2 Peter 1:5-8).

Plans are underway, and we are gearing up for our most exciting adventure yet! You won’t want to miss this!

Announcing…

As I indicated in my “Happy New” post, we have one other exciting announcement to make. I know you all have been waiting with bated breath for this moment… 🙂

Several weeks ago, Joey came to me one morning and said that he had an idea for starting a building blog. For as long as I can remember Joey has been fascinated by buildings. He is always asking how tall they are, whether this building is taller than that building, when it was built, etc. Of course, we didn’t have the answers, so we encouraged him to research and find out for himself. Now he is taking that research to a new level. We are excited to announce the newest Wickham blog!

A World of Buildings – exploring fascinating facts and figures through the eyes of a boy.

I know Joey would love it if you would drop by his blog and leave him a comment to encourage him in his efforts!

Wrestling with God

Pages and pages of notes are cluttered with random thoughts, midnight revelations, conflicting questions, and scattered verses of Scripture. I am on a quest to learn, to know, to understand. But the treasure lies buried yet beneath the surface. I am wrestling with God to find it. He seems at times to be obscuring it, urging me to dig in another place; and at times whispering clues, painting pictures in my mind of the reward that is to be had. Fuzzy pictures, to be sure. For the clarity has not yet come. But it will. I will keep wrestling until it does. Until God sends me away with a blessing.

“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Psalm 119:18

We are in the process of sending out our family newsletters, but I thought I would post a copy here as well. Plus, this one is prettier than the one we’re mailing, because this one is in color! Feel free to download and read to find out some of what our family has been up to this year. (Although if you read my blog, you probably already know half of it!)

As long as I’m in a “happy new” mood, I figured I’d also announce the new Pajama School Blog! I’d love to have you stop by and check it out!

And, last but not least, we have one other exciting announcement to make. But I’m currently sworn to secrecy about it, so you’ll have to wait a little bit longer… 🙂

A Year of Reading in Review

Several years ago, I remember commenting to a small group of ladies that I was struggling with feeling cold-hearted and unemotional spiritually. A wise older woman asked me what kinds of books I was reading. At the time, my reading consisted of primarily philosophy and theology. I had not considered the connection, but realize now what a significant effect my reading diet has on my spiritual life. Since that time, I’ve tried to make a point to balance out my reading choices between different genres of books. I’ve gotten back into reading more biographies. I also try to incorporate books that deal with various areas of practical Christian living, and books that pertain to specific business issues, in addition to books that address theological or philosophical issues. I still don’t get through nearly as many books as I’d like (I think it’s because I just can’t learn to read any faster than my slow, methodical style…), but here is a list of the books I read this year, along with brief notes about each one. I’d love to know what great books you have read and would recommend. I’m always open to suggestions for future reading!


Peace Child

By Don Richardson

Years ago, I heard about a book called, “Peace Child.” The people who talked about it spoke very highly of its author. So I acquired the book and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since. The book is a first-hand account of the Richardson’s missionary work among the tribal people of Western New Guinea, Indonesia. As soon as I began reading, I was captivated! The writing is full of color, and overflows with rich spiritual truths. One can’t help but be in awe of God’s power to transform the most pagan cultures into loving, faithful Christians.


Life As a Vapor

By John Piper

Thirty-one short chapters made this book a nice devotional companion for my morning quiet times one month. Full of Scripture, commentary, anecdotes, and quotes, my heart was continually reminded of the overarching purpose in life – knowing God and living for Him alone.


The Law

By Frederic Bastiat

I had heard this book referenced a number of times recently, so when it showed up at the bottom of a box of books given to me by some friends, I snatched it up! Only 70 pages long, this book may be a short read, but it is not an easy read – at least not for me! I think I need to read it several more times before I can fully comprehend it. Nevertheless, I found it incredibly enlightening and amazingly relevant to our times and our society. There are many little nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from the pages to bring about a greater understanding of the purpose of law and the proper function of government.


Love and Respect

By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

A friend of mine who does a lot of marriage counseling with her husband highly recommended this book to me. I usually make a point not to read books on marriage for various reasons, but she said she thought it would be helpful to me even as a single person in learning how to better relate to the men around me. Although I didn’t particularly care for the style of writing – it seemed very circular – I definitely came away from reading it with a greater appreciation for the importance of communicating respect toward the men in my life. I was also challenged to take responsibility for my attitudes and responses, regardless of the attitudes and responses of others.


Pierced by the Word
By John Piper

Another short devotional that reiterates Scriptural truths and provides thoughts for reflection throughout the day. Books like this are a great way to feel like I’m sitting with and learning from some of the great students of the Word of our day. It’s refreshing to “hear” them talk of the issues that are a part of our contemporary life and share how we can view them in light of God’s Word.

Building Gold, Silver and Precious Stones
By N.A. Woychuck

Since our theme for AIC this year was 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, I thought this would be a timely read. And boy was it! My heart was drawn repeatedly back to Jesus Christ as I gained a greater understanding of what it means to build “gold, silver, [and] precious stones.” In many ways, this has been a year for me of being reminded of this truth that Dr. Woychuk shares: “There is only one question, and that is how to apply the Gospel to all circumstances and conditions. It can and will correct all that is wrong.”


The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
By Thad Carhart

An American residing in Paris, Carhart imaginatively captures the story of his curious attraction to a small Paris Atelier where he gains access to the “other” side of Paris and rediscovers his love for the piano. He is inspired to resume piano lessons as an adult and the book is his poetic narration of the events that transpire as a result. Carhart gives readers a wonderful look into the world of piano playing and the building of pianos and reminds us of the beauty of music. This was one of my favorite quotes: “‘Leonardo spent years developing a codex of body parts. He drew ears, he drew elbows, he drew hands, he drew all parts of the body in as many different aspects as he could. Then he forgot about it and painted what he saw. You must do somewhat the same.’ Gyorgy Sebok, said in a masterclass to a student inquiring how to achieve a particular effect on the piano.”

Time Out, Ladies!
By Dale Evans Rogers

Mrs. Rogers, wife of the famous Roy Rogers and mother of 9 children, shares candidly with women of her day on topics ranging from marriage to children to prayer. Each chapter is short and the book is an easy-read, but Mrs. Rogers does not mince words as she exposes many of the wrong philosophies permeating the culture of the 1960’s. I appreciated her statement at the beginning of the book that “Christ, not I, has the answers. He is the answer to every human need.” She continues to reiterate this point throughout the book and it is obvious that she is committed to growing in her relationship with Jesus Christ in her own life.


Complete Idiot’s Guide to Self-Publishing
By Jennifer Basye Sander

My friend, Jennie, gave me this book to read so that I could outline what steps we needed to take next on her book project. In the course of reading it, I became intrigued by the process of self-publishing. I was still in the early stages of working on my book, Pajama School, and had planned to go the traditional publishing route. Inspired by the benefits outlined in this book (but trying to keep in mind the realities of how difficult it would be!), I decided to officially launch my Journey to Self-Publishing. This book provides lots of practical advice that helped get me started in the right direction.


Do Hard Things
By Alex and Brett Harris

As a long-time reader of The Rebelution Blog, I was thrilled when I found out that its authors, Alex and Brett Harris, were writing a book! I have been continually impressed by both the content and the quality of their writing, and appreciate so much all that they have done to encourage young people to seek the Lord and make a difference in the culture.


God’s Signature over the Nation’s Capital
By Catherine Millard

A friend of mine lent me this book right before our family traveled to Washington D.C. this spring. I read it on the drive out there and found it to be a great combination of historical information and facts about the structures themselves. Although we didn’t get to all the places covered in the book, it did help us map out our plan for each day!


Ten P’s in a Pod
By Arnold Pent III

Some friends gave me this book for Christmas several years ago. I’ve been wanting to read it ever since, and finally pulled it off the shelf to read this year. I could definitely relate to certain stories shared by the author! More than anything, I was inspired by the large amount of Scripture reading that was required in the Pent family – several hours a day for most of the family members. Because of such consistency in God’s Word, many of the children, by default, had memorized large portions of Scripture, which they regularly recited during their family programs. This book challenged me to make a more conscientious effort to spend time reading Scripture.


Lords of the Earth
By Don Richardson

Somewhat of a sequel to Peace Child, Mr. Richardson again captures the reader with his vivid telling of the missionary work among the Yali tribal people of Irian Jaya. The story this time centers on the work of missionary Stan Dale. It is at different times heart-wrenching, jaw-dropping, and awe-inspiring. Books like this do a great deal to help broaden my perspective and understanding of God’s work throughout the whole world.


Still Growing
By Kirk Cameron

As a former “Growing Pains” viewer, and current admirer of the ministry of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, I was excited to get a copy of this autobiography. It was fascinating to catch a glimpse into the life and family of one of Hollywood’s young stars. But it was even more fascinating to read of Kirk’s conversion to Christianity, and to see the amazing things God has done in and through his life since he became a Christian.


The Courage to Run
By Jim Ryun and Sons

Ever since Jim and Anne first announced their plan to run for political office at a Wichita homeschool convention years ago, our family has enjoyed supporting them and cheering them on. Having met both of them and various members of their family, I can attest to their unwavering love for the Lord and passion for serving Him. They have had a tremendous influence on my life, and I was so excited when Mom and Dad presented me with a specially autographed copy of this book for my birthday last year! The short daily readings were full of practical insights. Several of them also served as perfect reading material for my Olympic-themed piano camps this summer.


Words of Warning for Daily Life
By C.H. Spurgeon

I’ve got a little collection of published sermons that have sat on my bookshelves for a while now, so I figured it was about time that I at least read something of this acclaimed, “Prince of Preachers.” Spurgeon speaks with boldness and clarity, and is ever intent on bringing his listener back to the heart of the gospel – salvation through Jesus Christ. Of this salvation, he has this to say, “Some people, when they use the word ‘salvation,’ understand nothing more by it than deliverance from hell and admittance into heaven. Now, that is not salvation: those two things are the effects of salvation.” He also shares this important reminder, “Right well remember this [referring to his references of God’s mercy and love], for else you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith which is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God’s grace in us.”


Restoration – Returning the Torah of God to the Disciples of Jesus
By D. Thomas Lancaster

A friend of mine whose family holds to more of a Jewish tradition than most Christians lent me this book. It was very thought-provoking! I gained a greater understanding and appreciation for the culture of the Jewish people, their feasts, and other aspects of their lifestyle. I was also impressed with how so many of the laws and traditions God instituted were designed to help His people live with a constant awareness of His presence and the great things He had done on their behalf. In our eagerness to throw off the “constraints” of the Old Testament, Christians today have also forsaken in many ways the God-centered approach to life that He desires His people to embody.


Publishing Basics – A Guide for the Small Press and Independent Self-Publisher
By Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. with Ron Pramschufer

Once I decided that self-publishing was the path I was going to take for Pajama School, I set out to learn as much as I could about the field. I came across an offer for this free booklet and started my education! This was a great first read to familiarize myself with the terminology of the publishing field. The more I read on the subject, the more some of the things I initially read in this book were affirmed. Read my full review here.


The Prepublishing Handbook
By Patricia J. Bell

Although some of the specific information in this 1992 book is now outdated, it still contains a number of relevant principles. From this book, I also borrowed the term that I now use frequently to describe how to effectively take the first step of a journey into a new field: vigorous self-education. 🙂 Read my full review here.


Guerrilla Marketing for Writers
By Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman & Michael Larsen

If being a successful self-publisher is all about marketing, then this book is what every self-publisher needs! With 100 ideas gleaned from years of experience, there is no want of creative approaches for anyone willing to invest the time and energy into promoting their book. Now that I’m getting closer to the release date for Pajama School, I think I need to get my own copy of this book and re-read it! Read my full review here.


How to Publish and Promote Online
By M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy

This book helped me boil down the overwhelming field of marketing into 3 Keys to Marketing for the Self-Publisher. I was grateful for the input from a variety of experts in various fields, and for the authors’ candor in sharing both their successes and failures. Read my full review here.


Lord, Teach Me Wisdom
By Carole Mayhall

Having read Carole Mayhall’s book, Words That Hurt Words That Heal, I was excited to find this book and glean from her insights in the area of wisdom. Carole’s writing is very “real” and full of personal illustrations and stories. The book is separated into four sections – Wisdom’s Ways, Wisdom for a Wife, Wisdom for a Mother, and A Wise Woman Builds. Although I’ve never met her, Carole strikes me as a wise, godly older woman. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from her through her writing!


How to Make Money Publishing from Home
By Lisa Shaw

This book covers a broad range of publishing options, and provides a snapshot of others who have been successful in those respective areas. As a result of reading this, I grew excited about pursuing some other publishing projects in the future! Read my full review here.


Unseen
By J.R. Messenger

Several years ago, a friend gave me this book that was written by a family member. I’ve put off reading it for a long time, because I don’t read much fiction anymore. Unfortunately, this book was a reminder of why I quit reading most fiction. The plot was shallow and contrived, and the story was predictable and somewhat corny at points. (I’m probably just a book snob, but that’s my opinion…)


Island of Saints
By Andy Andrews

A friend lent me this book, and once I got into the first couple of chapters, I had a hard time putting it down! There were numerous twists in the plot that left me guessing about what would happen next. The historical elements were intriguing, and I’m still not sure whether it was a true story or not…


With Christ in the School of Prayer
By Andrew Murray

Normally I don’t read books on prayer because I think it’s probably a better use of my time to just pray instead. But I’m so glad I read this book! Andrew Murray, a recognized authority on the topic of prayer, shares some incredible insights that left me with a new understanding of what a life of prayer should look like. One of the most poignant insights I gleaned from the book is the importance of expecting God to answer our prayers. Mr. Murray shares, “It is one of the terrible marks of the diseased state of Christian life in these days, that there are so many who rest content without the distinct experience of answer to prayer.” He goes on to say, “There may be cases in which the answer is a refusal, because the request is not according to God’s Word, as when Moses asked to enter Canaan. But still, there was an answer: God did not leave His servant in uncertainty as to His will.” Isn’t that an incredible, faith-building thought?!


In Faithfulness, He Afflicted Me
By Lynnette Kraft

For years I have known of the Kraft family and observed them from a distance. I have been amazed at the difficult experiences they have gone through, but the peace and faith that continually characterizes their lives. Lynnette sent me a copy of her book as a prize for coming up with an “almost” name for her blog, so the night I received it in the mail I couldn’t wait to start reading it. It was so engaging that I stayed up way too late reading the whole thing! Lynnette does an incredible job of pointing her readers to Jesus as the One who provides true peace and comfort in the midst of the most difficult trials in life. I was also blessed by the beautiful picture Lynette paints of God’s calling for women as wives and mothers. I don’t know that she necessarily even does so intentionally, but it comes out in the way she expresses her love for her husband, her children, and her home.


The Practice of the Presence of God
By Brother Lawrence

To be honest, the only reason I read this book is because it was included in the same volume as the afore-mentioned book on prayer by Andrew Murray. However, I found it to be a perfect continuation of the primary thing God has been impressing upon my heart this year – the importance of walking in the Spirit and performing even the most mundane duties to His glory. I loved this thought that Brother Lawrence shares, “That in order to form a habit of conversing with God continually, and referring all we do to Him, we must first apply to Him with some diligence; but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.” Here’s another great thought, “That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for God’s sake which we commonly do for our own.”


Last Days Madness
By Gary Demar

I’ve studied eschatology a little bit in the past, but have wanted to study it more in depth for some time. I was spurred on to do so when I found myself disagreeing with some of the things being shared in a conversation with an ardent premillennialist. I asked Dad for a recommendation of a good book to start with (since he has studied the topic at some length in the past), and he suggested this one. I found myself almost giddy with excitement as I devoured page after page of this wonderful book! In fact, it was mostly due to the influence of this book that I started getting up early in the mornings to read through whole books of the Bible (like Daniel, Revelation, etc.) in order to gain a more complete understanding of what the Bible teaches in this area. While I still have much studying to do on the topic, this book has given me a renewed vision for the importance of Christians influencing every sphere of our culture for the glory of God. There is one sentence that particularly grabbed my attention, and summarizes the fault with much modern eschatological teaching, “Perhaps because we are to such an extent ‘strangers to the past,’ we easily read into the events and circumstances of our own day a distinctiveness and uniqueness that may not actually be there.”


Heaven
By Randy Alcorn

This is unquestionably the best book (other than the Bible, of course!) that I’ve ever read! At a whopping 500+ pages, it may appear daunting, but it is broken down into short, easy-to-manage chapters. I could almost feel myself being blessed each morning as I read from it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I read it again someday (once everyone else in my family finishes reading it, since I’ve told them all that they absolutely must!). Mr. Alcorn shatters the preconceived conception that most people today – including myself – have of heaven. Instead he presents what he believes to be a more biblical picture – based on 25 years of study on the topic, and a dose of biblically-inspired imagination. He particularly dispels the notion that heaven is an ethereal world where we, as disembodied spirits, will spend eternity floating on clouds and playing harps – an image that causes many people to claim indifference as to whether or not they are going to heaven when they die. He places a lot of emphasis on God’s promise to create a new heavens and a new earth. I was particularly enlightened by the explanation that God’s plan for redemption includes not just the souls of men, but the whole of creation. His ultimate plan is to redeem the entire world and return it to a state of complete perfection – devoid of sin, pain, and death. And that’s where we will dwell for all of eternity, in our humanity, but free of corruption. There is so much more that I could say, but you really should just read the book for yourself!


On the Other Side of the Garden – Biblical Womanhood for Today’s World
By Virginia Fugate

As part of the preparation for a talk I’ve been asked to give in January at a women’s event on “Being Content,” I’ve started reading books that specifically address God’s role for women. I’ve had this one on my shelves for a while and opted to start with it. Mrs. Fugate shares solid biblical truth unapologetically. She does so as one who has made mistakes and gone through a difficult process to arrive at her present understanding of biblical womanhood, so her tone is one of humility. Her book is borne out of a desire to help other women avoid making some of the same mistakes she did. She begins by outlining what the Bible teaches about God’s role for women, then exposes the oppositions to biblical womanhood that are prevalent in our humanist and feminist-saturated culture, and finally spends the last third of the book outlining practical ways that women can apply God’s principles of biblical womanhood in their lives.


Pajama
School
By Natalie Wickham

It just so happens that I have read this excellent book numerous times this year! 🙂 Between writing, re-reading, editing, re-writing, re-reading, editing, etc.,it’s probably been about a dozen times total. There were so many occasions that I wanted to just sit down on the couch with another book, but the Lord compelled me to spend that time working on my book instead. I have such a renewed appreciation for the work that goes into the excellent books I have had the privilege of reading! I continue to be amazed at God’s blessing upon this project, and am still hoping and praying to have it released in March, 2009.

The Holy Bible
God

This year, for my regular Bible reading, I followed a rotation of reading through the books of history (Joshua-Esther). The plan is a 2-month rotation that Dad developed that outlines what to read each day in order to get through the set of books in two months. Ideally, then, by the end of the year you would have read through each book six times. I didn’t finish the last rotation, though, because sometimes I diverge from the plan when I’m particularly interested in studying another book or topic. 🙂

(Click here to view my 2007 Year of Reading in Review.)

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