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17 Years…

Had we been able to see into the future seventeen years ago today, what would we have thought? What would we have felt? Would we have been uncertain? Excited? Frightened? Ready? Anxious?

Instead, we enjoyed the moment. The day. The celebration. And we’ve rejoiced to have each other through every single day of those seventeen years.

Happy anniversary to you, Doug! To the man I could never have conjured up in my grandest dreams. I love you! Thank you for seventeen years. Thank you for knowingly walking into however many more.

I love you!

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Review: Tales from the Circle C Ranch

Last week I reviewed Thick as Thieves from Susan Marlow’s new Circle C Milestones series. This week, I have Andrea Carter’s Tales from the Circle C Ranch. This book of short stories is a sort of companion volume tying all three Circle C series together.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Tales from the Circle C Ranch. It’s a cute book. In just a short time, I’ve come to enjoy Andrea Carter and her stories. But, is this little book really worth the expenditure for anyone but the avid Andi Carter fan?

On the one hand, my kids and I read these stories and know, without a doubt, that we are missing a lot. We have never read any books from the Circle C Beginnings or Circle C Adventures series, so the references to adventures from those books are meaningless to us. Certain characters, too, are strangers. So, on the one hand, I would say that this is not necessarily a book for an audience considering a new author.

And yet…

Tales from the Circle C Ranch does offer a great introduction to Susan Marlow and the world of Andrea Carter. The first story gives a little background, and each subsequent tale stands alone with relative strength. Yes, there are missing pieces. But, if you’re really in the market for new books for your children, this little collection might be just what you need to determine whether or not your children want to enter the world of the Carters and Circle C Ranch.

Bottom line: I would recommend Tales from the Circle C Ranch, whether to long-time fans of Andrea Carter or to newcomers who just want to get a feel for Susan Marlow’s stories. Just be warned – you might find yourself wanting more!

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Giveaway! Dear Magazine

We interrupt our regular blog schedule for an extra special giveaway!

dear.pr_.300x250If you follow me on social media, you have probably seen my references to Dear Magazine, a brand new magazine for Christian young women. Now, here’s your chance to win a subscription!

Every young woman is dear. But not every young woman realizes this truth. Jenny Keliher has a passion to encourage young women to discover that they are dear. She wants to “show young women that they are dear in every sense of the word and in every area of their lives.”

So, who is Jenny? Daughter of Well Planned Gal Rebecca Keliher, Jenny is a young woman who has been taught to chase her passions and use her talents to God’s glory.

In an effort to reach teenagers world-wide with the message that they are dear to God, Jenny has created Dear Magazine. This beautiful product combines Jenny’s heart for the Lord with her love for literature, baking, and design.

Designed for young women ranging in age from thirteen to twenty-one, Dear covers everything from faith to fashion, from relationships to entertainment. But nothing about these topics fits the societal norm. Instead, each article reminds young women that everything they do should reflect the dear woman God has created them to be.

In each issue of Dear, young women will find much to challenge them and spark their interest, such as:
– the biography of a historical hero, beginning with Amy Carmichael
– women’s awareness topics
– do-it-yourself sections
– recipes
– fashion tips
– spiritual growth encouragement
– encouragement and advice for growing in maturity
– discussions on relationships with friends and family
– entertainment suggestions

Would you like to learn more? Feel free to explore to see a preview of Issue 1. And be sure to enter my giveaway for a free one-year subscription!



Click here to enter the giveaway!! Contest ends at midnight, Sunday, March 8.

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Marriage Monday: Grow!

Last week, I mentioned that your plan for marital growth must come from your personal time with the Lord. And I do not back down from that. My suggestions mean nothing if they are not relevant to your situation. But I hope that in the past week you have spent some time taking your marriage before the Lord in anticipation of how He wants to challenge and grow you this year.

If not, please walk away from what I have to say and go spend some time with the Lord.

If so, then I am now free to share with you some of what I have learned over the years. After all, God gave us one another for a reason: to grow together and encourage one another.

So, what have I learned?

The number one lesson I have learned over the years is the necessity of personal growth. That seems like an obvious statement, I know. We should always be growing, whether spiritually or in other ways (well, except physically – I’d rather be done with that by now!).

But, is it really as intuitive as we might wish?

  • Spiritual growth is not simply reading the Bible every morning to fulfill the “quiet time” requirement.
  • Spiritual growth is not being a faithful church attender.
  • Spiritual growth is not acting on the thoughts and ideas that spring from the spiritual growth of others.
  • Spiritual growth is not reading the latest and greatest spiritual growth book.
  • Spiritual growth is not attending the great women’s conference every year.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Those things are not bad for our spiritual growth. In fact, I would argue that we cannot truly grow spiritually without daily time spent in the Word of God and regular interaction with our church family. (The spiritual growth books and women’s conferences can help, as well, although they are not essential and can even be harmful if not handled properly.)

But, none of these things truly bring spiritual growth. Instead, the bottom-line component of personal growth is a continuous interaction with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We can be very active in “spiritual” things yet not growing spiritually at all.

Were you to make a very honest evaluation of your spiritual growth, what would it reveal?

I will confess that there have been many, many times in my marriage when my spiritual growth was stagnant. Oh, I went to church regularly – I am the pastor’s wife, after all. I had my daily quiet time. But, I was not growing. I was not connecting with my Savior on a daily basis. My life stood as exhibit A of “going through the motions.”

And my marriage suffered because of it.

When we marry, we set aside much of our individuality to become something new. But there is one thing we all retain: a personal identity before the Lord Jesus Christ, each of us an individual member of the priesthood of believers.

  • I am individually accountable before the throne of God.
  • You are individually accountable before the throne of God.
  • Our spouses are each individually accountable before the throne of God.

If we do not handle that accountability well, our marriages will suffer. My desire is to be much more proactive and intentional in my own spiritual growth this year. Will you join me?

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Not Quite Ordinary Observations

As I work on a writing plan for 2015, I’m realizing that I still haven’t settled on a great idea for Wednesdays. So, for now, I’m going to share something that I try to publish on our family blog each week. Enjoy!

For Today…Wednesday, Dec 31, 2014

In the great outdoors…bright sunshine. What a treasure!

Within our four walls…lots of playing. Enjoying the last little bit of Christmas break.

A heart of thanksgiving…for Christmas break, for friends, for time to lay the groundwork for a good start to 2015, for the chance to read more than usual lately.

A heart of prayer…several in need of salvation lay heavily on my heart these days; also, a couple of church members dealing with serious health issues; and friends who need wisdom and provision.

Random observations…I’m sitting here thirsty, forgetting that I have a cup still half full of water sitting beside me on the desk. How often do we do that in so many aspects of life? (Oooh…I think that’s a post starter!)

My silly son…loves bouncy balls. I have no idea how many he has. A bucketful…

2014-12-31 10.16.24

But what he does with them is even more overwhelming sometimes. He goes into the foyer where there is hard floor and a very enclosed space, and he dumps or throws them! They bounce everywhere. Loudly.

But, he is always diligent to clean every single ball up. I don’t find them all over the house (my firm stipulation for allowing this many bouncy balls to be collected over the years!). So, I let him enjoy his little balls.

Thoughts from the kitchen…let’s see…Angie cooked spaghetti yesterday. Olivia is supposed to be making chicken noodle casserole today. And we have a plan completed for January. Works for me!

On my bookshelf…currently reading a review book, The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen. She is one of those writers who doesn’t fall into the standard romantic fiction mold – my favorite kind of author. Makes me want to go back and reread the book of hers I reviewed several years ago: The Girl in the Gatehouse.

Projects…creating a writing plan. I’m realizing that most of my creative energy is going into HEDUA right now. Which means I’m not writing on either of my blogs. So, I’m brainstorming some post starters and a plan for getting them up on the blogs. It’s reigniting my excitement about writing.

Sounds of the moment…truck rumbling outdoors, music playing, kids playing, keys tapping.

From Hibbard Academy…Christmas break! Although, I am fully prepared for next week. Yay! Okay, so maybe I’m not all the way caught up on grading, but we’ll get there.

A favorite thing from last week…Christmas celebrations all around. A wonderful and relaxing Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home with my family. Christmas Eve candlelight service at church (my favorite of the year!). Christmas with the Browning side.

The planner…Christmas with the Hibbard side in Monroe this weekend. Then back to normal life next week!

Because visuals are fun…Olivia commented the other day that she just doesn’t get “selfies.” Frankly, I don’t either, and I’m usually no good at taking them. But, when she made that comment, I couldn’t help but say, “Come here…let’s do one!” I think this one turned out all right!

2014-12-26 10.44.36

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Sweet Sixteen

It really is a sweet number. Of course, with Doug every number is sweet. And I don’t say that just to be cheesy. We have seen so many ups and downs over the past sixteen years, but God has shown us His love by constantly reminding us that true love perseveres regardless of the ups and downs.

Sixteen years ago my wonderful husband made a commitment to the young woman he thought he knew then. He’s learned a lot over the years, but he’s still here! And I’m thankful!

We have discovered life together over the past sixteen years. And I know we’ll discover a whole lot more over the next sixteen. (Yep, he’s already let me know he wants to stick around for at least another sixteen!)

This morning we will drop our children off with our dear friend Mary Ann. We will head to Little Rock for a day to ourselves. A day in which we won’t worry about checking e-mail or thinking about the todo lists. A day when we just enjoy each other. We won’t avoid talking about the kids because, after all, they are a huge part of who we’ve become as a couple. We won’t avoid talking about the ministry, because that too is a major part of us. But, we will just be us. We will do what we enjoy. And we will enjoy each other.

That’s what makes sixteen so sweet. We have learned what we love about and with each other, and we love celebrating the fact that we’re a little odd. Okay, so maybe we are a lot odd. But we like it.

So, happy anniversary, precious husband! I’m so thankful for sixteen years with you, and I look forward to sixteen more…and then thirty-two more after that.

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It Was Right!

I’ve been a little quiet on here recently. There is a reason for the silence.

My husband graduated from seminary just over a week ago!

So, why has that made me silent for so long? Well, graduation was in Arlington, TX. Since we had to make the drive anyway, we thought we would go a little early and enjoy a little vacation time to celebrate. And we had no Internet. So, we really took the time off. It was nice!

But I digress.

The point of this post is not to explain my blog absence. Instead, I want to shed a bit of light on why graduation was such a huge deal.

Our journey to Doug’s MDiv started nearly twelve years ago. And that’s only because our attempt to start three years before that was derailed.

Most people know that graduate school is not an easy thing. The academics alone can make a student long to just quit. For graduate students with a family, it can be even more difficult. That proved very true for my dear husband, especially considering an MDiv is a 96-hour degree – equivalent to the number of academic hours required to become a medical doctor! Family needs, finances, transitions, and a myriad of other obstacles stood in his way on so many occasions.

I knew he could do it. I knew he could and would persevere. But I have to admit that I sometimes wondered if we would ever see the end of the journey. So many of the obstacles were outside of our control. It wasn’t always about perseverance. Sometimes it was about finding the freedom to do what he longed to do.

Now as we are sitting at the end looking back over the journey, one thing is crystal clear to me. This is right. May 23, 2014, was the day my husband was supposed to graduate. B.H. Carroll Theological Institute was the school he was supposed to graduate from. None of the obstacles truly derailed us. They simply brought us here – right where God wanted us to be.

Words cannot express my pride and joy as I sat through Friday night’s ceremony. It was more than just an academic ceremony to me. It was a life ceremony. It represented twelve challenging, but blessed, years. It represented prayers and conversations and hard work. It represented a myriad of people who invested in our family over the years. It represented a surrender of our idea of how and when and why it would all happen – a surrender that allowed God to step in and do it His way.

How precious is that?

I would be willing to bet that there is at least one seemingly long-overdue success in your life. Something you have been working toward for months, years, or even decades. I know what it’s like to be in the middle of that. I know that my words to you might seem empty and even frustrating right now. But I’m going to say them anyway. And one day, you will see them come true.

It is going to happen. If you are working for His glory and in submission to His will, whatever you are working for will come to be. It will not happen in your way or in your time, but it will happen.

And when it does, you will know that it was right!

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Advent Reflections: Week 3, Day 4

Week Three Day Four: The Sacrifice without Spot and Blemish

“I will not take what is yours for the Lord[1] or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (King David) 1 Chronicles 21:24

It is easy for us to picture Christmas in light of the Hallelujah Chorus and sing “Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!” This is certainly the celebration of the overall character of Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth in Bethlehem anchors our celebrations. Yet Christians recognize not one Advent but two. The second is the one yet to come: when He returns and initiates the visible Kingdom of God in all things. The first Advent leads us to Bethlehem and the manger.

In the gap between the two Advents, something else had to happen. (click here to read more)

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Advent Reflections: Week 3, Day 3

Week Three Day Three: A Sense of Destiny

“For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.” John 12:35 (NASB95)

The sensation that is myrrh, though, does not stop in everyday use. Myrrh was a portion of the anointing oil of the Tabernacle. In fact, it was the largest portion of this oil. Exodus 30 records this oil and its purposes. Whatever was touched by this oil was considered holy. It was to be used on the priests and the implements of sacrifice. It was used on the altar and on the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of the center of God’s presence in those times. He never expresses Himself as limited to wherever the Ark is, but for the Israelites of those years, the Ark was where they could know God certainly was. The Ark was to be kept near to the altar for sacrifice and to be kept separate from the people by a heavy curtain.

Why? (click here to read the rest)