what I've been reading | november


Today I'm sharing what I've been reading lately...

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado. Sooo good! I'm not a very anxious person but when Lucado digs deep into anxious things I found there are a few things I could use a little work on. Not just for the anxious at heart but the stressed and the concerned and while this is typical Lucado book speak, as always, he speaks words of truth in a relatable, practical, and inspiring way. I don't think there isn't any of his books I haven't learned something, gained wisdom from. 77/100 books read.

Unspoken by Francine Rivers. A novella of historical fiction of the life of Bathsheba, one of the five women in the lineage of Jesus Christ who changed eternity. Rivers shows the unlimited grace of God given Bathsheba as testament and what we can learn from Bathsheba and the mercy of God even today. We have limited information in the Word of God regarding Bathsheba yet I can envision her story being this. 78/100 books read.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. A young adult book that delves into the world of multi-dimension travel. Besides being quite frustrated in wanting the story to resolve, and in some ways it does, but in others we are left hanging, I blazed through A Thousand Pieces in one sitting; my favorite parts are when the protagonist, Marguerite, with the aid of the Firebird, is transported into another dimension, and another, and another...It is an intriguing storyline, unique from anything I've read - definitely held my attention and worth the read. I'm sharing the cover because this fulfills Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2017 Reading Challenge, a book you chose for the cover. Because it is a YA book, I wouldn't normally give it a shot (although this past year I've read quite a few YA books that have begun to change my mind - maybe) so, I definitely chose the book for the cover. I love the abstract painting underlain with two cities, different dimensions? In fact, the entire Firebird series by Claudia Gray has the same abstractness that I love. 79/100 books read.

You and Me Forever by Francis Chan & Lisa Chan. After reading this book if you give it even an ounce of effort you will not walk away unchanged. Case in point: One 'marriage' quotes from the book that rocked me to the core, "The one who wins the argument is usually the one who acts less like Christ." Boom! Because it is about becoming more like Christ, isn't it? An Amazon reviewer summed up my feelings for this book, exactly, "You And Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan is the best kind of bait-and-switch. It looks like a marriage book, and it sounds like a marriage book, but it’s not REALLY a book on marriage. It’s really a book about having the eternal view of every aspect of life, including marriage and parenting. It’s a book about seeking first the Kingdom of God and everything else, including a healthy marriage, flowing from that. And it’s about seeing everything you have, including your marriage, as something to be used for the mission of God in this world.

I estimate only about 25% of this book directly addresses marriage and marriage issues. I’m reluctant to let that cat out of the bag, because the best-case scenario would be someone beginning this book with their guard down, expecting some “tried-and-true marriage tips,” and getting creamed unawares by the Chans’ amazing vision of living a life focused on God and His mission.

This book rocked me like none I’ve read in a long time. It’s unquestionably the best book I’ve read all year, and the best marriage book I’ve ever read—if it indeed qualifies as a marriage book. This book is a manifesto of daily discipleship, in light of eternity. It was simultaneously water for my parched soul, and painful, jolting stab of conviction to my heart.

This is a book for married people, single people, people with kids, and people without them. The American church desperately needs the message of this book.

Francis and Lisa Chan do an excellent job of narrating the book. At first I found the narration a little dry. However, as the book goes on, both of them speak with deep conviction and seriousness, practically pleading with the listener to repent of their small view of God and His mission...Highly, highly recommended.
" - Nick Duffel, on Amazon. 80/100
books read.

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny. As I am only on the fourth book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, it is inevitable that at least one book in the series will be read each month over the next few months. I am enjoying this series immensely, and look forward each book to the next. With a different setting A Rule Against Murder takes us to a mountainous resort where the Gamache's are vacationing for their wedding anniversary and where, of course, murder rules the day. Another "Spot" on book. Now, let me go count my sums. 81/100 books read.

Hallelujah Anyway, Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott. Something of a memoir - of sorts. But not really. Maybe testimonies? Whatever it is supposed to be, I struggled through the first half of the book begging myself to finish but I could not find the mercy. The chapters were full of - fluff - is about all I can call it and, maybe, one line or so at the end of the chapter and coming out of nowhere, a sort of fill in the blanks of how mercy applied to the chapter. This book was: all. over. the. place. I felt like I was drowning while I was reading it. That's a horrible feeling. It was totally disjointed. Ms. Lamott is definitely not someone I would go to for spiritual guidance. 82/100 books read. 

High Heat by Richard Castle. Interesting story (at least to me). Jeff and I finished watching the television show Castle this year. We never saw it on television, but I purchased Season 1 to check it out and we were hooked. In that first season you hear about the novels, the Nicki Heat novels, the character (on the show) Richard Castle writes. For some reason I missed that the show was based on those novels (although the names are changed in the show). High Heat is a later book in the series and probably about Season 8 on the show. This was a very quick read and moved along without any lag. Not a lot of character developing as I imagine (or hope) it is done in earlier novels. I enjoyed the book enough to pick up the first three in the series and see how it goes. 83/100 books read.

A Brutal Telling by Louise Penny. Oh, Louise Penny! I love your books! Another brilliant, rich, complex story - of murder. I fall harder for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache with each novel, as well as, his trusty sidekick Jean Guy Beauvoir, and the numerous cast of characters in the quaint, secluded town of Three Pines, Canada. Imagine every good thing you can say about a murder mystery then apply it to A Brutal Telling and - well - all of Penny's novels thus far. 84/100 books read.

The Visitor's Guide to the Afterlife by Annie Pigeon. A co-worker, who I've known for many years handed me this little book. And, honestly, I only read it because he said his belated wife, who was a closer friend, had read it. I knew from the title and because my friend and I don't have similar tastes in reading material, it would be like young Tantor's saying from the Disney movie, Tarzan, "...It looks questionable to me!" It is a tad [and I use the term loosely] questionable and sarcastic, but it is a clever-humor take on heaven. Some form of spiritual and biblical awareness is necessary so as not to take the guide seriously or believable and to catch much of the humor. 85/100 books read.

Humphrey's First Christmas by Carol Heyer. This is a beautifully illustrated story of the camel carrying the gifts of the three wise men to Bethlehem. I bought 24 Christmas books for my oldest daughter's kids, but also to give them a new tradition: a Christmas book Advent, unwrapping a book a day and reading it aloud. This one, and the following two, were in the stack of books I wrapped in brown paper packaging or snowflake paper wrapping, tied each with a string, and tagged with a day of December. A sweet story. 86/100 books read.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. A 1986 Caldecott Medal Winner. Although I think it's popularity peaked when the book was made into a movie, starring Tom Hanks. When I began reading the story, I didn't realize it was such a short story. Some of the books pages were illustrated quite beautifully, while I was unimpressed with other pages, the story, however, was sweet. 87/100 books read.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. Yes, that Pearl S. Buck. Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck wrote this beautiful and heartwarming story about the gift of love. When love is given and love is received. It will be a favorite Christmas book of mine for a long time to come. 88/100 books read.

stories 2017 | Costume Fun


One, maybe two, more pages from Halloween. This page is Wyatt. I know. You can't tell who it is, right? It looks like the red Power Ranger, for sure. Truly, I say, it is Wyatt! He loves everything Power Rangers. I love when costumes are wearable for more than just Halloween. Then, it seems like you get your monies worth.

Digitally, this is a new technique page. I turned the photo black and white and and 're-colored' Wyatt and his red power ranger costume. It is a simple technique. I layered a black and white over the colored then, erased out the area I wanted to return to color. I love this technique and hope to use it again.

Stories 2017 | Have you seen this wizard


I'm so excited to share the first of several Halloween posts. The stars of the pages are, of course, my grandkids. My grown son, John, did dress up but unless I find some pictures stashed in his phone it's the grandkids for the win.

These two pages are 6 x 8 sized. I used a combination of Ali Edwards Design - monthly digital kit for October and Sahlin Studio's Wizard kit (which I bought specifically because I knew Ian was going to be Harry Potter. And, because my daughter Ashley is a Harry Potter geek and I was sure I could use the kit in other ways, then).

This year Ian choose to be Harry Potter. We think it was because his mom is such a nut about Harry Potter. Read: loves everything Harry Potter. So, Ian was kind of honoring her by wanting to be Harry Potter for Halloween. While out trick or treating, Ian would wave his wand at people he passed on the street like he was saying a spell over them. It was so sweet!

I got such a kick out of the photo because it catches Ian - as Harry Potter - perfectly!

stories 2017 | best memory


Digitally, I am trying to keep my pages clean and simple with just a few embellishments. Clean and simple, when it comes to scrapbooking, I have found is my love language. While I might dream I can create more 'creative' pages, I, however, cannot 'dream' them into being.

For this 2-page 6 x 8 spread, I simply used two journal cards and a couple embellishments from Ali Edwards Design BEST Story kit. The idea: Clean and simple. Photos + Words. Words are another thing I have been concentrating on lately, hoping to convey more of the story, smaller stories within the whole and not just a broad stroke or sweeping glance at our life. 

I adore these photos of Jeff (Grandpa + Pop Pop, because Ian still calls him Pop Pop, although he's coming around) and two of his grandsons, Ian and Wyatt. We visited Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina while we were staying with Ashley for the weekend. It was a really good time. We took our time. We ambled, unhurriedly through the zoo and accompanying botanical gardens. We went at Ian's pace as he was in charge of the map.

Having just made it through the slithering snakes display Ian, decided a face painted like a snake was in order and Wyatt chose everyone's favorite, a tiger.

stories 2017 | paying attention to details


The Botanical Gardens of the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia South Carolina are at the top of a rather steep hill. So much so that the zoo offers guests the option of a tram ride up to the gardens and back down running every 15-20 minutes.

Once we crossed the long bridge ("Ian, Wyatt, John & Jarrod raced across and Wyatt would have won if John hadn't gave it one last surge," she said with a snicker), everyone turned to me to make the call whether we would take the tram up to the gardens or we would trek the hill. I gave myself a short talk, "You can do this," "Don't quit," "It will be an accomplishment." Fear lost and I said we would walk it! While I was short on oxygen at the top and breathing was labored, everyone (except the young boys) was struggling when we finally made it to the top. Yes, it was a struggle but, man, it was good, too.

One might think, "Botantical Gardens? Boring!" They would be wrong, of course. These gardens not only shared beauty but fun for the kids with ropes to walk, water falls to splash in, xylophones to play, cubbies to navigate, plus more. 

Ashley and I leisurely walked through the gardens while the guys ambled ahead towards the play area. We talked and drank in the beauty. We looked closer. We saw more. We smiled more with each beautiful display of the unusual, or the simple, and the delightful. Simply the best! 

And, the trip down? We opted for the tram!

stories 2017 | the story of the best time


It's the distance. It's that we have rarely seen Noah. Noah clings to his momma and sister like a Koala Bear snuggles into a tree. He ain't going nowhere he doesn't know and find comfort it.

This desire to have his grandson want to be around him drove Jeff to some drastic measures.

We were cooped up inside from the afternoon summer rains. The thunderstorms had everyone heading to the front door and our big picture front window to see the pouring down rain. We talked Ian through the storms so he wasn't scared.

Then Jeff turned the next several minutes to his advantage.


He opened the front door.

Noah crept up next to him ever so slowly peeking outside, too.

Jeff pretended he didn't see him at first then he encouraged Noah to continue on to the front door mat wet from the pouring down rain (but still under cover). Noah sticks his little two feet out into the rain and quickly pulls it back. He inches out further and further each time looking up at Jeff to see if his Grandpa is going to pull him back in from the rain or scold him.

But, Jeff just grins and motions to us to come share in the goodness.

We watch and laugh as Noah gets his first drowning from the rains and still isn't pulled inside. He starts to dance and slap his feet in the puddles all the while the rain is coming down (Jeff ever ready to pull him back inside if the thunderstorms get to close)

It was this time, the story of the best time, when Grandpa Jeff opened the door  for Noah as he played in the rain that opened the door for his relationship with Noah. It was so very much a story of the best time.


Stories 2017 | I love


I saw a page like this on Pinterest and I couldn't get it out of my mind. It was so inspiring. It is clean and simple and on any given day I'm all for that. 

For this page I used an Ali Edwards Design stamp 'I Love' and a messy rectangle brush. I even modified one of her templates for the clean design.

I turned all the photos to black and white for cohesion and used bright colors for backgrounds. I could see color photos with white backgrounds and black words looking really good too. But - I love how these pages turned out.

Just some things I love or I'm loving right now. 


Swimming, always and forever. Family game night, the best (although we haven't had this in quite some time). Snowmen, with Christmas around the corner they're on my mind. Blue and White Quilts, ALL my quilts. Reading - YEP! Bible study, and so much fun with Ashley.


Teaching Meteorology; I'm doing this again and I already love it! Collecting mugs; well, mugs and coffee should be more like it! Saturday morning breakfast out; while we don't make it every Saturday when we do I love it. Whether it's Metro Diner, The Breakfast Club, or even Waffle House. Pistol Shooting - on target! Tigers - since high school. The Front Porch - that is our front porch.

stories 2017 | around the room


I LOVE OUR BEDROOM! To me, it's perfect. It is only a 14 x 14 space but with the hardwood flooring and the gray painted walls, all the blues and white quilts, Bible verse, prints that mean something, the red chair, bookshelves filled to the brim...lovely. 


The quilt is my latest acquisition in the quilt department. With winter coming around the corner I probably will have to pull out one of our heavier blue and white quilts, but this white with blue will serve it's purpose for now, beauty and comfort.

The ocean print I ordered from Etsy, had it enlarged at Persnickety Prints and framed it in black. The ocean waves crashing against the shore - gorgeous! Both Jeff and I love the water so it is a fitting addition.

I still love our pencil post bed. It is over 25 years old and still looks beautiful. I love our bedside table lamps. They are indigo blue and white thin-stripped with a white shade. They are sitting on Indigo blue shibori napkins which I'm using as doilies. Above my lamp is the wood art, 'In the morning when I rise give me Jesus'. I cannot say enough how just that simple phrase sets my mind on things above. It's one of my favorite worship songs.

On my bedside table is a gift from Jeff. A photograph of him in his Roman Calvary uniform on a big white Percheron. Love it so much.

If I could change anything in the room it would definitely be our bedside tables. Don't like them at all. I do, however, like the size, so maybe they need re-done somehow.


The far walls are filled with prints and paintings. Each one is purposeful; a reason for each one. Like the red and gray subway art of every place in the world Jeff and/or I have been in our travels over the years. Our wedding date. The tiger print because we both adore tigers. I have a big stuffed animal tiger, still, from Korea. Elizabeth made the paintings. 'Your hand in mine...' is a personal phrase I've felt deep down about Jeff taking my hand to hold.

More quilts, the red chair and ottoman, a couple pillows, shear white curtains and navy blue shade... 


The rows of books, ever-growing, on bookshelves made by Jeff. Those Lord of the Rings poster prints (arranged near the bookshelves) are super special and represent the Lord of the Rings trilogy I read out loud to the boys in their 11th grade year of homeschool. Hats, tigers, bible verses on the shelves.

It's a beautiful room and one I love simply walking into. It seriously makes me smile.

stories 2017 | details


I saw a magazine page on Pinterest somebody had pinned, I assume, for the design. It was thin rows of photos at varying heights plus a paragraph of words at varying heights also beneath each photo. That ad became my inspiration for this page.

I am a big-time scrap lifter of others' pages, without shame; I do, however, try and make them my own. I love how this page turned out and the individual stories I was able to tell because of the skinny columns.

The journaling is sort of a what's happening around here, things making me happy, what I'm into, where I'm finding my smile. Pretty simple things, really. Like, books and bookshelves arranged by color. Or, Saturday morning breakfast out with the fam. Bible study with Ashley. Or, playing dress up with new clothes and jewelry - and shoes (and I am not a shoe person at all; yet, it's been fun).

stories 2017 | amazing you


For every one serious photo I am able to capture of Ian, usually capturing when he isn't looking, I catch a hundred other photos that are silly Ian, hamming it up, confused Ian of what to do, playful Ian, or chatty Ian like when he's in the middle of one of his many stories. When I get one serious photo I treasure it.

None of this is to say that I don't like all those goofy photos I've captured, because however I capture Ian it is simply - Ian. 

Amazing Ian.

Digitally speaking: I love how this page turned out. While it only took about a half hour to put together it came together how I envisioned it and I think I rocked the page!