Monthly Archives: May 2016

Stop for a Sip of Tea….(With help from Emilie Barnes…)

Forty degree temps in May, in Kentucky, aren’t even close to being normal. However, the beauty of Springtime, coupled with the cool, crisp air, make for a perfect opportunity to sip some tea. A warm cup of tea or coffee will calm your spirit and soothe your soul.

Tea Time With Scones

If you have school-age children or grandchildren, this time of year offers so many year-end activities, you probably need to stop and sit a spell! I remember when our boys were graduating from high school I thought we’d all go crazy trying to attend all the programs, events, concerts, etc. It was tough deciding which was more challenging: year-end or back-to-school!!! God bless the teachers!!!

Several years ago, I was blessed to hear Emilie Barnes speak in Northern Kentucky at John Russell’s church (Bob’s brother).  At the time, my friend Kathy was living nearby and got us tickets. Emilie’s authored seventy plus books and has been married to Bob, her high school sweetheart for nearly sixty years! They’re blessed with two grown children, five grandchildren and one great granddaughter.


Many of you remember her for her infamous book, More Hours in My Day: Proven Ways to Organize Your Home, Your Family, and Yourself. She and Sheri Torelli wrote this. They also have a website that spun off of the book, helping thousands upon thousands of us with organizational ideas.


Since we just finished with our Spring Cleaning series (!!!), I’ll not venture down the organizational road, but wish to steer us in the direction of tea today. The book I want to share with you is called The Twelve Teas of Inspiration—Celebrations to Nourish the Soul.

12 teas

This book is absolutely beautiful in many ways. It’d be a perfect gift idea! It includes gorgeous paintings by Susan Rios, plus recipes and menu ideas for different themed teas:


Emile says, “Tea inspires: 

Comfort during times of trial,

Friendship between neighbors and strangers, and

Peace during the busiest days.  

Tea brings people together and provides a way to give and receive and CREATE COMMUNITY wherever we are and with whomever is near.  

It’s also the perfect companion when we are alone and enjoying a time of devotion, prayer, or simple solitude.”

Relaxing in Roses Garden With a Book

My three favorite tea ideas are: A Scripture Tea, a Funny Bone Tea (We all know laughter is the best medicine!), and A Book Club Tea. (Bet you’re stunned.) Emilie gives you her classic recipes, before she ever starts with the themed teas and their menus. (Don’t miss the scones and Devonshire cream recipes!!!)

In the chapter on A Scripture Tea, Emilie suggests everyone invited bring their favorite verse and tell why it’s their favorite. Emilie shares how her five-month stay in Seattle, Washington, at the Fred Hutchinsons’ Cancer Research Alliance was only endurable with the help of God’s Word.

Christian cross on bible

She said, “No matter what my situation might be, I can turn to the powerful collection of poetry and praises found in the book of Psalms and know that something appropriate will soothe my soul.” She includes some of her favorite verses including one of my favorites:

Psalm 32 7

This book on tea is one of several Emilie’s written. You may also enjoy these:

The Tea Lover’s Devotional

Tea Lovers

If Teacups Could Talk: Sharing a Cup of Kindness with Treasured Friends (Teatime Pleasures)

If Teacups Could Talk

An Invitation to Tea: Special Celebrations with Treasured Friends

Invitation to tea

The Twelve Teas of Friendship

12 teas of friendship

The Twelve Teas of Celebration: Festive Teas for Special Moments

12 teas of celebration


In addition to her books on home organization and on ideas for tea, she’s written books on manners for little girls and little boys, a book for a tea party for little girls, plus wonderful devotionals. These are gifts to all of us readers for so many different seasons!

Please take a moment this afternoon to stop, and sip a cup of tea or coffee. Take a few deep breaths and pause to praise the Lord for the blessing of another day.


‘Til next time!




Filed under Book Reviews

When Your Brain is on Overload…(Get Wise-Make Great Decisions Every Day by Bob Merritt is a Must-Read!) Spring Cleaning, Part 4 of 4

Ever feel like you need to go clear your head? Like there’s too much in between the ole’ ears? When I have fifteen frazzling thoughts vying for my attention, sometimes a walk to clear my head is the perfect prescription.

My friend Sherry gave me a book recently, Get Wise—Make Great Decisions Every Day by Bob Merritt. I devoured it and was so moved by it, Hubster and I promptly gave copies to all three of our boys. (Hubster’s readying to read my copy.) This book is great for guys and gals, plus it’ll clear your head rapidly, filling it with wisdom.

Get Wise

You can find Bob at Eagle Brook Church in Centerville, Minnesota. He’s the Senior Pastor there and Get-Wise is his third book.


Allow me to tease you with some terrific tidbits while strongly suggesting you procure a copy of this most excellent book at your earliest convenience.

The endorsers give you multitudes of reasons to read this: John Ortberg, Jud Wilhite, Lee Strobel, Shauna Niequist, Bill Hybels, and Wayne Cordeiro (Don’t miss a post hugely inspired by Wayne. He says it like it is.).

I love what Shauna wrote: “Reading Get Wise feels like having coffee with someone who knows more than you and wants the best for you.”

Coffee Cup On Wood Table At Sunset Or Sunrise Beach

One of Bob’s many talents is the gift of storytelling. He grabs you from the get-go and tells on himself more than once. You’ll laugh your head off while learning how to make wise decisions. He clearly has coined, “It’s not a mistake unless you learn from it.”

Here’s how the book’s set up, so you can either read it straight thru’, or pick and choose your topics:

Bob says, “Part 1 looks at the value of wisdom, how to acquire it, and why the wisdom of a man who had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines can be trusted.” (!!!) See what I mean about his humor???

Part 2 is where a wise life begins and why decisions about your heart, mouth, and feet are foundational to the rest of your life.”

Part 3 focuses on relationships, on the critical decisions you’ll need to make about sex, fools, friends, and revenge.”

Trust me, you’d be a fool NOT to read the chapter on fools! It’s the best!

Part 4 brings eternal wisdom to the three most critical decisions you’ll need to make about your family:

How to begin well,

How to build intimacy, and

How to raise great kids.” (Oh how I wish I’d had this book when we were raising our boys…)

Part 5 addresses the top two decisions you’ll need to make about your work, the area where most of us spend forty years of our lives.” Think about that for a minute!

 The benefits alone from reading this book will entice you to dive in:

Benefits of Reading Get Wise

Each of the fifteen chapters are loaded with sound advice. Any time an author uses Scripture to back up his points, I’m sold. Bob is a master at this.

Plus, there’s a set of Discussion Questions at the end of the book. They’ll help you and your Small Group, or Community Group or Bible study group respond immediately to each chapter’s lessons.

My first of three favorite parts comes from Chapter 4: Wise Heart. Proverbs 4:23 tell us, “Above all else, GUARD YOUR HEART for everything you do flows from it.”

Red heart in the hands

Bob reminds us that the heart is “the center of your life. It’s the core, the source, the place from which everything else flows. It’s like a deep well that keeps you alive…It’s the inner spring that sustains your life.”

Bob poses a killer question:

“When God examines your heart, what does he see?”

He also reminds us of Solomon’s eye-opening parallel: “A good place to start is to look at your mouth and feet.” (Oh my….) “…often what you say and where you go reflect the condition of your heart.”

So after you’re fairly flattened by that earth shattering thought, Bob graciously shows us HOW to get a wise heart. This book is amazing!

My second favorite part comes from Chapter Six: Wise Feet. This chapter centers around Proverbs 4:26 “Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.”

Woman Walking Along A Rural Path

Round two of questions: “What are your well-worn paths? Your paths will predict the outcomes in your life.”

“All it takes is a pair of wise feet that walk away from something destructive and toward something constructive.”

That reminds me of a great visual from Max Lucado’s book, Turn-Remembering our Foundations. He suggests when encountering a temptation to simply TURN and go in the opposite direction. To literally turn away from whatever it is…defining “repent”.


My third favorite part of Bob’s book is from Chapter 11: Wise Beginning. Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

You must read how Bob and Laurie’s marriage began. Nothing short of comical. In spite of several poignant disasters, their marriage did not derail.

But…. (ahhhh you knew that was coming…) Bob shows us a couple of crucial findings:

“Whom you marry will affect every part of your life for the rest of your life….

Marriage is less about finding the right person and more about becoming the right person.”

Quitting isn’t the answer. Bob teaches: “Anybody can quit. It takes people of strength and WISDOM to say, ‘We’ve got a problem. But divorce is not an option, so let’s get some help and beat this thing.’”

Stop Divorce Indicates Warning Sign And Annul

Finally, Bob gives us two “ingredients” for locking in a wise beginning. (I’ll give you one of two, hoping you’ll go get the book to find out the rest!)

Bob realizes, “Through all our arguing and uncertainty during that first year, our faith in God was the ONE CONSTANT that held us together. He adds, “Make sure you BOTH have a holy reverence for God as your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.”

Remember last week Stuart Briscoe reminded us about seeking FIRST the Kingdom….by experiencing, expressing, and extending the Kingdom. He helped us “clean our clocks/calendars”, while Bob helps us clear and clean our heads/minds for wisdom.  Spring Cleaning at its’ finest!

Go get some wisdom!

‘Til next time…


Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

When a Downpour Deluges Your… KITCHEN??? (Spring Cleaning, Part 3 of 4 with help from Stuart Briscoe)

It was  Wedding Week in the Hoagland Household. Being parents of the groom helps…not too many to-do’s there…

Spoiler Alert: Indulge me a moment in the lovely RESULT of the week, so you can see we did survive the below challenging circumstances after all… We were blessed to be part of what was the picture-perfect-Wedding-Day from start to finish:

Wedding Photo

Pictured left to right:

Gordy and Lauren, Hubster and Yours Truly, The Groom: John Jr., and the Bride: Diana (She’s wearing my dress which will be thirty-two years old, Lord willing, this July!!!), and Woody and LT. Congrats again to our lovely Bride and Groom and praises and prayers for their marriage and for all of ours! (This was April 23rd.)

This particular week also happened to be Week Two of our Master Bath’s Remodeling Project. Juggling around workmen, enduring frighteningly loud noises while they removed tile, mirrors, walls, etc. bothered our Sweet Gracie more than Hubster and me.


Progress happened daily. Each night we’d go peek into the bathroom to survey the situation.

Wednesday afternoon, however, went sorely awry… Plumber was due early, but kept getting delayed due to emergencies. Foreshadowing???

Upon his arrival, he capped off all the faucets. Or so he thought. I took him down to the basement, showing him where to turn the water back on. He said, “Make sure you check your faucets as some were turned on to drain the pipes earlier.” Right.

Sure enough, as I ascended the stairs, I could hear water running. I turned it off in the powder room. But, I could still hear water running and splashing…

Upon entering the kitchen, I beheld a curious sight. The splashing noise proved to be not one, but…

TWO SHOWERS of water,

BURSTING thru’ the canned lights in the ceiling,

GUSHING downward,

all over the floor!!!!

flooding in interior. 3d creative concept

(Above pic is a slight exaggeration!!! ) Water was falling so fast, it filled the tray of Gracie’s crate, spilling out. It was falling from such a height, it began to splash over into the family room.

I froze.

Then I yelled, “Turn the water OFF!!!”

The plumber also froze.

It occurred to me perhaps we should be trapping the falling water! Novel idea….Plumber went back down to the basement to turn the water off. This seemed like it took an eternity, but was probably no more than a couple of minutes, all the while the water continued to deluge our kitchen.

Quick Fix: Mixing bowls to catch, beach towels to dry. Soon, some semblance of order arrived.

Au contraire…

Enter Hubster, now home from the office. Practical Paul announced, “I’ll have the water removal guys*** come check this tomorrow. We need to be sure the water is gone.”

Fast forward to Thursday morning: Don’t you know those guys found water everywhere??? Wood floors, ceiling, walls, blah, blah, blah. One of the guys informed us, “Water migrates, you know. It’ll travel very far where you can’t even see it.” Awesome.

Don’t you know they set up what looked like a HAZMAT area, ceiling-to-floor plastic walls, coupled with fans and mats regulating the new “room” to over one hundred degrees? (Kept the food in our pantry nice-n-toasty.)

Five and a half hours later, (!!!), new drying room was constructed. It had to be checked every day. Once pronounced dry, on Wedding Day no less, they took said structure down. Just in time for our houseguests to arrive. Super swell. (Below pic is inside of the plastic tent.)

Plastic Room 1

Plastic Room 2

(Above pic is exterior of the plastic tent.) Needless to say, we did not have the time or the nerves for this calamity. This occurrence cost us (Truthfully, it cost Yours Truly, not Practical Paul who’s also known as Cool Carl.) some sweat equity. I confess I was ready to implode. This huge frustration defines a phrase Stuart Briscoe taught me: Time Bandit.

Stuart’s book, Time Bandits—Putting First Things First was a welcomed sight for me to re-read after all this needless angst. It’s perfectly portable, so small you can pop it in your book bag or briefcase. I highly recommend you fetch it ASAP!

Time Bandits

Stuart’s writing style is one of my all-time favorites. He’s so funny and direct, you can’t help yourself from nodding in agreement, laughing out loud, and declaring, “Oh my word, you are spot on!!!” Plus, his love for the Lord and His Word is contagious.

Stuart says, “The problem is the demands of life exceed the supply of time.” Hello?


That’s when he said, “I began to sniff out the banditry under my roof.”

See if you can relate to this:

Some days it seemed as if I was HELD HOSTAGE

by demands and interruptions,

crises and trivialities,

diversions and frustrations

that surrounded me like masked men

ominously demanding my time and robbing me of my day.”

Sounds like his kitchen may have flooded a time or too also!!!

Criminal Running Away Carrying A Bag

He shared while pastoring their growing church early on, several of his church members helped him figure out how to spend his time:

One lady took it upon herself to enroll him in a Book Club (atta girl), so he’d have time to read.

close up on stack of book

One group of “very fit looking men said, ‘Stuart, we believe your physical fitness is very important, because if your body quits, your ministry ends’.” Time to exercise.

Athlete running man - male runner in San Francisco listening to

Then, another man shared what he’d been learning while reading about Martin Luther, sharing “he couldn’t possibly manage on anything less than three hours of prayer.” Time to pray.

Bible and praying hands

While yet another gal approached him preaching he must spend more time with his family!!! Family time.

Families Playing Soccer At Beach Smiling

Finally, a little ole’ lady proclaimed, “Stuart, you look exhausted. Are you getting enough rest and relaxation?” Time to rest.

ready to nap

All of these folks mean well, but how does one BALANCE all of these helpful suggestions? Ahh, you must read the book to find out! But first, I will give you a couple of the many, many pearls of wisdom to get us started:

Bottom line: Reassess your priorities.

 Go-to Scripture:

 Matthew 6:33 – “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (NLT)

Matthew 6 33z

Point to Ponder:

 Are we expressing His Kingdom in our everyday lives?

Stuart gives us 3 “Es” to help us remember how to do this: “We must strive to


Express, and

Extend the Kingdom” — God’s Kingdom, by our daily testimonial lives. I’ll never forget a friend from Bible study teaching me, “You may be the only ‘Bible’ somebody reads!”

Let’s close with this helpful and honest prayer from Stuart. Especially on our crammed calendar days, this could be hugely beneficial to all of us:

All right, Lord, here we go again. Today I have this, that, and the other to do, and I don’t need anything else added to my schedule. So would You please help me to go through today thinking Kingdom? So that in the contacts I make, and the decisions at which I arrive, and the responses I give I will concentrate on expressing and extending Your Kingdom rather than instinctively thinking about my little empire.”

I pray these snippets have caused you to re-examine your days, and your calendars. Spring Clean them up via your priorities.

‘Til next time!


Note: You can find out more about Stuart and his lovely wife, Jill Briscoe, via their website: They have a wonderful app you can download for free on your phone along with a plethora of resources. (Both of them have written over forty books!!!)

John and I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from them in Naples, Florida this past January.


***FYI: Should you need professional water extraction, drying and restoration help, or fire and smoke damage restoration, etc., oh, I pray you don’t, but I’m serious…our guys really did an incredible job. Our hardwood floors were buckling and they are now smooth as glass. Call Jerry Wilkerson and his capable crew with A Nicer Reflection, Inc.



Filed under Book Reviews, Family