Category Archives: Family

Big Excitement from Sally Lloyd Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible—10th Anniversary! And more!

Friends!  Blessings to you this week.  I’ve got some fun news for you about more than one book by one of my favorite children’s authors, Sally Lloyd-Jones. (We adults enjoy her books as much as our children and grandchildren do.)

I first learned about Sally Lloyd-Jones one weekend when our middle son, Gordy, was home from college several years ago.  He asked me if I’d take him out and buy him a book.  Friends, now this kind of request rarely happens from a boy who’s in college.

This wasn’t a book he needed for classes.  This was a book he heard about from some kids involved with the ministry of  Campus Outreach. All the kids were talking about and reading a children’s Bible.  The Bible?  The Jesus Storybook Bible—Every Story Whispers His Name.

Yes, well, I don’t know about you, but if your child asks you for any Bible, wouldn’t you be thrilled?  Gordy and I marched out and bought a copy for him and a copy for John and me.

The staffers at Campus Outreach were smart.  They were showing college students all about the Bible via Jago’s cool illustrations and Sally Lloyd-Jones’ storytelling skills based on the Bible. Sally’s creation has not only reached and touched college students’  lives, now in its’ tenth year, it’s been translated into thirty-three languages all over the world. Ponder that for a minute…

Here’s a pic of the new gift edition:

Sally begins by reassuring us readers, “You see, the best thing about this Story is—it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.”

I love what she says in the section on Adam and Eve, “You see no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children—with a

Never Stopping,

Never Giving Up,

Unbreaking,

Always and

Forever Love.”

(These five types of love are repeated throughout her book.)

Another favorite part is found in Paul’s transformation when he says to the people, “It’s not about keeping rules! You don’t have to be good at being good for God to love you. You just have to believe what Jesus has done and follow him. Because it’s not about trying, it’s about trusting. It’s not about rules, It’s about Grace: God’s free gift—that cost him everything.”

I just love how she explains the Gospel.  This book really is for everyone, not  just children!

I discovered another book by Sally at a shower given for me to “Stock the Grandmother’s Library” my cousin Bonnie hosted.  Talk about book heaven! Baby’s Hug-A-Bible is an adorable book, and one where the child can literally hug the fleece-covered book.  It includes ten favorite Bible stories in rhyme.  It would be a great way to introduce your child or grandchild to God’s Word.

For the toddlers who are being potty trained, don’t miss another one of Sally’s books with the best title ever:  Skip to the Loo, My Darling! A Potty Book.  The illustrations and rhyming words are just too terrific.  Beyond clever.

I heard Sally interviewed about this book on the Eric Metaxas Show.  They are long-time friends. You’ll find their back and forth banter priceless. www.metaxastalk.com

She was also recently on his show talking about the 10th Anniversary edition of The Jesus Storybook Bible as well as the Stories and Songs Tour she would be doing with Amy Grant and Ellie Holcomb.  (It ran from March 19-May 13.)

Sally was born in Uganda.  She reveals while she was only nine years of age, at a boarding school no less, she experienced God speaking into her life about her future. It’s an irrefutable God-incident!

Sally’s newest children’s book, Found:  Psalm 23 sounds strangely familiar to her own story.  It’s her paraphrase of Psalm 23 from The Jesus Storybook Bible.

The books we’ve talked about this week are just a sampling of many, many wonderful offerings Sally’s written.  Pop over to her website and check them out. (www.sallylloyd-jones.com ) I can’t begin to say which is my favorite, but I’m on a mission to “research” them all, one by one, and soon will be reading them to our little Claire, Lord willing.

‘Til next time!

 

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Don’t Make Me Come In There… “The Power of a Whisper” by Bill Hybels Makes You Think

Friends! I pray today finds you well and that perhaps you’re getting to experience a beautiful spring day.  It’s been a wild-n-crazy week in the Hoagland Household. (Translation: Not enough hours in the day.)

I found a post on a most helpful and interesting book by Bill Hybels which I wrote about a while ago, worthy of a reprise. Please enjoy.

Next week,  I’ve got a fun, new devotional to share with you. It will lift your spirits every day.

May you have a blessed week and hear from the Holy Spirit thanks to Bill’s great thoughts…


 

Ahhhh…Motherhood…. A time when you finally admit, “Never say never!”

How ‘bout a for instance?

“I’ll never be one of those Mothers who chucks a pop tart in the back seat to my child on the way to school.”  Busted.

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“I’ll never plunk my child down in front of a TV and let him/her sit for hours.”  Busted.

 “I”ll never scream and yell like a  possessed person at my child.”  Yeah, right.

To this day, our boys’ favorite seemingly-possessed-style-of-parenting was me shouting “May Day!  May Day!” at the top of my lungs when something really went awry.  As if “the troops” knew I was waving a major white flag?

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After years of experimentation (!!!), probably the biggest attention grabber in my mothering was lowering my voice, in a do-or-die whisper.  Whispering won out way over yelling.  Greatest fear factor:  Whispering “Don’t Make Me Come In There!”

So what exactly do you do when someone’s whispering to you?  You sit still, ears at attention, and you listen

This week I’d like to share some highlights from an intense book by Bill Hybels:  The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond.  It had me from its’ title…

Not such a gutsy gal, I prayed this book would give me some gargantuan guts. (I s’pose “Guts for God” sounds better…)

Allow me to share the wealth:

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Bill begins with informing us he’s been on a fifty-year odyssey of hearing whispers from God.  Bill expounds: “Inaudible whispers at that!…My entire journey comes down to a series of unplanned promptings from heaven that have charted a course for my life even I never could have foreseen.”

Sound crazy?  Perhaps.  But…to encounter Bills’ experiences all over the world  immediately hooks and leads us, the readers, to want to learn to listen expectantly and prayerfully.

After citing Samuel’s story, how he became a prophet of God from listening to God  in I Samuel 3, Bill shares a poem one of his teachers gave him which he memorized in the second grade:

“Oh! Give me Samuel’s ear,

An open ear, O Lord,

Alive and quick to hear

Each whisper of Thy Word;

Like him to answer to Thy call

And to obey Thee first of all.” (A hymn by James Drummond Burns)

Titus 3:5 returned to Bills’ memory when he surrendered his life to Christ:  “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Soon after that, a Christian man offered to buy Bill dinner.  Over burgers, the man asked him a show-stopping question:  “What are you going to do with your life that will last forever?…I’m just curious what you’ll do that will outlive you and all of those earthly accomplishments.”

Oh boy…that’ll make you think, huh?  My husband, John, is always saying upon his death, he just hopes he’s missed.  Not remembered so much for what he did, but because if you are missed, you have touched others’  lives.

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We are forever and a day laughing at obituaries that rattle on and on and on filled with clubs and organizations people belonged to as if a resume is needed…for heaven?  I don’t think so.

Bill also reminds us of Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (ESV)

Billy Graham, in his book Day by Day, tells us what the Holy Spirit does for us:  “The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds of people, makes us yearn for God, and takes spiritual truth and makes it understandable to us.”

Billy’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, in a recent  Decision Magazine said “Learning to recognize the voice of God is critical, not only for our own peace of mind but also for developing a personal relationship with Him and for living a life pleasing to Him.”  There’s the peace found from Romans 8:6.

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Well how exactly do we hear from the Spirit?  Bill gives us five filters to help us test every whisper we receive.  He says, “No matter how confusing, challenging, or unsettling a prompting may be, if it passes the following filters, I obey it every time:

Filter #1:  Is the Prompting Truly from God?

Filter #2:  Is it Scriptural?

Filter #3:  Is it Wise?

Filter #4:  Is It in Tune with Your Own Character?

Filter #5:  What do the People You Most Trust Think About it?”

The best way to learn more about these, in addition to the book, is to watch the below YouTube clip where Bill talks about this whole concept and explains the filters.  It’s only eighteen minutes long.  The testimony included will bring you to tears.

Stormie Omartian, in her book Lead Me Holy Spirit affirms the concept of being rooted in our faith:  “The Holy Spirit is the power of God flowing through you, and that puts you on solid ground, like a house built on rock.”

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Last week we talked about how we want to become rooted like redwoods. All of these  authors we’ve heard from today are textbook examples of Colossians 2:6-7:  “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward:  Just go ahead with what you’ve been given.  You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him.  You’re well constructed upon him.  You know your way around the faith.  Now do what you’ve been taught.  School’s out;  quit studying the subject and start living it!  And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” (The Message)  Don’t miss those last two crucial sentences!

Look at how The Voice puts it in verse seven:  “Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundationBe strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.”

May it be with us…

‘Til next time!

 

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Calling All “Fixer Upper” Fans…(Make it a Merry “Magnolia Story” Christmas!)

Friends! Are we really in the month of December?  Translation: The countdown to Christmas has arrived. As of this writing, it’s early in December, however many folks have had the nerve to reveal they’re done with their Christmas shopping.

Herein lies the challenge to “rejoice with those who rejoice”…I fear I must be related to Scrooge. Very distantly, of course.

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Good news is there are plenty of delightful distractions to detour one’s potentially foul mood. Bigger bonus: My cousin Bonnie, a/k/a Bow Creator Extraordinaire, has moved right up the street from us. I can magically appear in her foyer in three minutes, tops, begging for a bow. Smiling with relief while typing…

One of my favorite distractions is a wildly popular TV show, Fixer Upper, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their new season has just begun, and there are plenty of other seasons to catch up on. www.magnoliamarket.com  Just ask my friend, Val, who “caught up” on all of them while recovering from surgery. She’s newly hooked.

Before we talk about the show, surely you’ve seen the Gaines’ new book, The Magnolia Story. It landed lickety-split on the New York Times’ Bestseller List and hasn’t left.

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Now that I’ve read it, I also learned Chip and Joanna recently recorded the audio version which would be a total hoot. The book uses two different fonts, helping us readers distinguish whether Chip or Joanna is the one writing. The audio version where one could actually hear them would be stellar.

Mark Dagostino is who helped Chip and Joanna write the book. He has completely captured their personalities. We can literally envision them bantering back and forth. While it’s their story, as in non-fiction, it’s quite the page-turner.

The book also takes us down memory lane via a large section of adorable pictures. You can see their childhood pics, wedding pics, and of course, Fixer Upper pics.

I learned of their show from one of our daughters-in-love, LT. She was wildly blessed by one of her friends last fall who invited her to go to Waco, Texas for the Grand Opening of the Magnolia Market at The Silos. (Silobration)

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LT’s friend, Jamie Marshall Dorr, happened to register to win tickets to the Opening, never thinking she’d win. Lo and behold, she not only won, she won four tickets! Jamie took her sister, Randy, plus LT, and LT’s sister, Chelsea. We could hear them shouting many miles away they were so excited.

They got to go to the Grand Opening, attend a concert by Johnny Swim, meet Clint Harp, the fab furniture maker, and even spend some time with Chip and Joanna:

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Left to right:  Joanna, Jamie, Randy, LT, Chelsea and Chip

And don’t miss the identical leather jackets Joanna and LT are sporting. (Thank you, Anthro’….)

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In addition to learning how Chip and Joanna built their business (you’ll be stunned to learn at one point, they nearly went belly up financially), you’ll connect with a beautiful theme within the book: Their steadfast faith in God. They consistently give God the glory in their endeavors while never waivering in their faith or trust in Him, even in the hard times.

Being a huge fan of Billy Graham and his family, I was excited to learn Chip credits Billy Graham and Danny Lotz (Anne Graham’s husband) with leading him and his family to the Lord. His Mother attended a Billy Graham Crusade in 1975.  Her newfound faith trickled down to her children.

Later while attending college at Baylor, Chip met the Lotz’ children and got to spend time in their home.  He said Danny took an interest in him and mentored him, showing him what a relationship with Jesus Christ looked like. (This came from an article in Decision magazine this past May.)

Both Chip and Joanna are very candid in their book.  They reveal lessons they’ve learned which have the potential to open our eyes to our own foibles.

For example, one home Chip and Joanna bought was what they then considered their dream home. It was in a lovely area of Waco. Joanna worked her creativity to perfection. Problem was they had little bitty children who naturally made messes, leaving trails of who-knows-what behind.

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Joanna said she was constantly fussing at them, straightening, picking up, forever exhausted and frustrated. Her “aha!” moment finally came when they moved to a much smaller home where she purposefully created fun, livable spaces for her kids to just be kids, spill milk, squish play-doh, etc.

She said, “If all I’m doing is creating beautiful spaces, I’m failing. But if I’m creating beautiful spaces where families are thriving, then I’m really doing something. Doing that became my new calling…It’s not just about pretty anymore. It’s about practical.” Stunned, she said, “I saw my family come alive in ways I’d never quite felt before.”

When their Magnolia Market at the Silos opened in October 2015, Joanna said she felt like they’d come full circle. She said, “If ever I needed proof that I should trust God with my dreams, this was certainly it.   He turned my little dream, my mustard seed of faith, into all this.”

What a visual of Matthew 17:20!

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Joanna concludes, “Not even a decade after I made that difficult decision to close my shop to stay home with my babies, God delivered on the promise of making my dreams come true in ways that were bigger than I ever imagined.”

This is where I hear Ephesians 3:20 blessing the Gaineses plus us readers:

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Lastly, my favorite thing about Chip and Joanna is they are complete WYSIWYGs. (What-you-see-is-what-you-get.) The folks at HGTV capture their authenticity which is the main ingredient that draws us viewers in. (It’s throughout the pages of their book as well.)

Joanna says, “We love our kids, we love each other, we love this town, and we love our clients. That’s the heart behind our show.”

If you need another Christmas gift idea this season, your friends would enjoy reading the The Magnolia Story. It’s a fascinating journey.

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Meanwhile, enjoy this Christmas season and may we all remember the reason for the season.

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‘Til next time!

 

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Friends, Holidays

When You Miss Your Mom and Dad…

What seemed like a normal stop in the laundry room last week turned out to be a devastating downpour.  This is the challenge in losing a loved one.  One little photo can spark a thousand emotions…

Growing up a lonely only was super swell in my book.   My petite universe swirled around me.  No wonder sharing wasn’t in my vocabulary. (Can you say, “spoiled”?)

My Mother and Father married in 1952, but I wasn’t born until 1960.  After eight long years of waiting, who wouldn’t be fearful of a brand new baby girl?  I still believe they had no idea what to do with me.

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(Note most of our pictures were either of Daddy and me or Mother and me as with the three of us, who else would take the picture?  Please don’t miss Daddy’s very svelte argyle socks.  This was 1960.  My sweet sister-in-law got all our boys rockin’ with svelte socks last Christmas.  Yeah, 2015.  Thank you, Nordstrom Rack.)

Mom and Dad perfected helicopter parenting, not wanting a scratch or a bruise to mar my little self.  The day I rode my Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon down our neighbor’s hill, crashing on the asphalt in our driveway, depositing some skin on the pavement, freaked us all out.  Odd, there was no flying in that wagon.

Once in school, I began inviting friends over.  Many of them were lonely onlies too.

God provided the best kind of friend directly across the street from us.  She was ultra cool because she came with the bonus of having two older brothers.  They were boy scouts and there was nothing they couldn’t do.  Each visit was a new lesson.

Her name is Meredith Myers.  She and I are only one year apart, so for several years, we’d ride our bikes together to Glendover Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky.  God graciously protected us because we never paid attention to cars near us as we talked non-stop all the way to and from school.

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(Note these little girls are wearing helmets.  Helmets weren’t invented back in our day.  Yes, we are old.)

Meredith’s parents and mine also became close friends and “those were the days” as they say.  Elementary School evolved into “Junior High” (now Middle School), on into High School.

Meredith and I went to different colleges, but we managed to visit each other, staying in touch.  We married three weeks apart and were in each other’s weddings.  She and her husband settled in Nashville while John and I settled in Louisville.

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Meredith lost her parents first.  Both deaths seemed too early and too sudden.  Thankfully, we were able to trust in a Sovereign God.

Two favorite Scriptures  which help are:

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My folks stayed in their home, still across the street from where the Myers lived, as long as they could. Multiple illnesses plus my Dad having a stroke landed them in an Assisted Living facility in Lexington.

Unfortunately that was a short term band-aid, causing us to move them to Louisville into a nearby nursing home.  Our three boys swear they’ve never moved so much furniture so many times. God bless their strong backs.

Daddy had a heart attack that ultimately took his life, followed by a seventeen-month progression of health deterioration in my Mother.  “Only the Lord” is how we answer the question of, “How did we survive those difficult years?”

Deuteronomy 31:6 is one of our favorite “life-lines”: 

“So be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will never fail you nor abandon you.” (NLT)  Somehow that little word “panic” resonates. But look at the promise that follows…God will go ahead of us, never failing nor abandoning us.  Isn’t that the best?

Many of our friends are losing their parents too.  I find myself buying sympathy cards by the box.

Visitations and funerals are not at the top of my list of most desirable activities, but of course, who wouldn’t go for a friend?  The greater challenge of attending these services is offering the right words of condolence.  Not a gift of mine, rest assured.

I’m embarrassed to admit that often, the bereaved winds up comforting me because I’ve dissolved into a puddle of tears.  Thus, I’ve resorted to borrowing words of encouragement from a few of my favorite authors:  Max Lucado, Bob Russell and Kerry and Chris Shook.

The Shooks help with a good perspective when a death seems to happen too soon. They tell about a young couple in Owensboro, Kentucky.  The wife discovers she has terminal cancer and soon will be leaving her young children and husband behind.  (This is in their book, One Month to Live—30 Days to a No-Regrets Life.)

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She asks her pastor, Jess Moody, about the below verse:

2 Peter 3:8 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

She did the math, and “figured if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like one hour…my husband may live another forty years, but that will be just like an hour to me in heaven.  When he gets to heaven, I’ll greet him and say, ‘Where have you been for an hour?…I’ve missed you.’”

My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that will be like two hours to me.  When they get to heaven, I’ll greet them and say, ‘How was school today?  Mom misses you when you’re gone for a couple of hours.’”

Jess said, “Now that’s an eternal perspective.”

Max Lucado, in his book, When Christ Comes, quotes Bob Russell.  He tells about Bob’s father’s funeral.

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Bob said the day of the funeral was a “cold, blustery, Pennsylvania day”…The Funeral Director told Bob the roads were too treacherous to take a procession to the burial.  He said he’d take the body to the grave.

Bob couldn’t bear to not be at the burial, “so he and his brother and their sons piled into a four-wheel drive vehicle and followed the hearse.”

Bob said, “We plowed thru’ ten inches of snow into the cemetery, got about fifty yards from my Dad’s grave, with the wind blowing about twenty-five miles per hour, and the six of us lugged that casket down to the grave site…”

He continued, “We watched the body lowered in the grave and we turned to leave.  I felt something was undone, so I said, ‘I’d like for us to have a prayer.’  The six of us huddled together and I prayed, ‘Lord, this is such a cold, lonely place.’

“And then I got too choked up to pray anymore.  I kept battling to get my composure, and finally I just whispered, ‘But I thank you, for we know to be absent from the body is to be safe in your warm arms.’” (2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV)

Max concludes with what I hold onto today:

“We don’t like to say good-bye to those whom we love…It is right for us to weep, there is no need for us to despair.  They had pain here.  They have no pain there.  They struggled here.  They have no struggles there.

“You and I might wonder why God took them home.  But they don’t.  They understand.  They are, at this very moment, at peace in the presence of God.”

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This is an older picture of my parents, but it’s how I like to remember them. It’s the one staring at me over the washer and dryer.  It’s the one that triggered the unexpected tears.

On days when those of us who’ve lost our parents are homesick for them, I pray these words of these great authors plus The Author of the Word of God bring us all comfort.

‘Til next time!

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons

Gift Book, Married for Life—Inspirations from Those Married Fifty Years or More, Inspires All Ages…(Plus Petite Travelogue from Gulf Shores, Alabama)

Friends! Run, don’t walk, to your nearest Hallmark store and grab several copies of a nifty little gift book. (www.hallmark.com ) Married for Life—Inspirations from those Married Fifty Years or More by Russ L. Potter, II and Bill Morelan is a fantastic, enlightening discovery.

My friend Mary gave a copy of this book to our newest daughter-in-love, Diana, at a dinner in her honor before she and John Jr. got married. Fascinated by the title, I peeked inside…

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Every two pages include quotes, devotional-style, from a different couple who have been married fifty years or more. A snippet of how they met comes with their two cents’ worth on what’s kept them married all these years. The advice concludes with a fitting Scripture.

I was so blown away by this power-packed book, I marched out and bought several copies. One for Hubster and me since we’ve just celebrated our thirty-second anniversary, one for each of our married kids, and one for several different couples who recently got engaged. It’s the perfect gift!

One favorite section is entitled: “Never get too old to hold hands.” This comes from Arnold and Hazel Morelan, married on February 17, 1920 in Iola, Kansas.

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They say, “Holding hands is one of the most intimate expressions of love between two human beings. Don’t ever let this beautiful act slip away from you…It requires no words; in fact, no words can convey such a profound message.”

They conclude: “Hold your spouse’s hand throughout your life together; don’t ever let it go until the day when you’ve fulfilled every marriage vow and finally release it from your grasp, placing it lovingly, trustingly into the hand of God.” Tear jerker!

Psalm 73:23-24 ties this together:

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The Life Application Bible reminds us, “From birth to death, God has us continually in His grip. But far more, we have hope in the resurrection. Though our courage and strength may fail, we know that one day we will be raised to life to serve Him forever. He is our security, and we must cling to Him.”

Our family of eight was recently gathered around a table, eating breakfast in Orange Beach, Alabama, right down the beach from Gulf Shores. We’d trekked there for a week of vacation. (Just to pull that off is like herding cats, so we were beyond grateful it came to fruition.)

LT read us this very quote from this devotional. Now that we all have a copy, my prayer is we’ll continue to enjoy the book post-vacation.

God blessed us with picture perfect weather, a beautiful beach to look at, walk on, sit on, play in, and the most fun lazy river pool you’ve ever seen. It was the solution to beating the heat.

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I must share about a very challenging team-building activity we tried: Breakout Games— “A Life-Sized Game of Twists and Turns”. (Checkout www.breakoutgames.com ) See if your town has one!

Grab some friends or family and go try it!  It’s a total blast. I double dog dare ya to watch the “launch video briefing” from the website.  It’ll kick your heartbeat up a notch or two or twenty…

Breakout Games currently offers the following options:

Museum Heist,
The Kidnapping,
Island Escape,
Hostage, and
Operation: Casino.

We chose the Operation: Casino. Our kids turned out to be super smart sleuths, solving puzzle, after clue, after lock combination. Hubster and I pretty much watched them at work, all the while being one hundred percent wide-eyed.

Participants only get an hour to solve the mystery. You’re also blessed with a “Game Keeper” who watches your every move from another room and occasionally gives you a hint or two. Jessica was our Game Keeper. She was the bomb, bless her patient soul.

The instant the door closed, a very large clock started the sixty minute countdown…oh my… I had my doubts, but with the kids’ persistence, I’m happy to report we were able to break out with less than three minutes to spare.

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Lest any of you are claustrophobic, you’re free to leave the room at any time, especially to visit the loo. Just sayin’…You can imagine our dinner conversation after our big breakout!

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We all had “jobs” during our week of vacation, just to throw some more ideas your way…

Each of our newlywed couples had a night where they “got” to cook dinner. We called it a “Cook Off”. (Translation: Mom and Dad have a night off.) Each couple grilled.

We had tilapia tacos one night, steaks-n-potatoes another, and chicken with mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado another, pardon me. We never declared a winner as each meal was so delicious, we couldn’t have possibly chosen just one.

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My equally tough assignment (!!!) was to choose a restaurant to dine in on the nights when the kids weren’t cooking.

Any of y’all heading to Gulf Shores may like to know we LOVED The Gulf (www.thegulf.com). They have a fantastic grouper sandwich as well as a grouper salad in a very festive atmosphere.  We ate at a picnic table right next to the beach.

Since Breakout Games is located at The Wharf (www.alwharf.com), we were able to get a table by the marina at The Villaggio Grille. (www.villaggiogrille.com) The Wharf’s development has only been open a few months, so they’re still trying to fine tune things. Good potential.

Craving a good lasagna as Hubster does nearly nightly, we tried Cafe Grazie (www.cafe-grazie.com) another night. The lasagna was good, but not as pretty as the picture.

I had the grouper with pasta and capers which was delicious. Others of us tried a pizza and different shrimp and pasta dishes. Crab cakes were a big hit. After dinner, we walked out onto the docks and snapped some fun photos:

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Group picture of all eight of us above from left to right are: Woody and LT, John Jr. and Diana, Gordy and Lauren and Hubster and Yours Truly.  The girls’ photo starts with Diana, then Lauren, me, and LT.  Just warmed our hearts to have our kiddos together.

Sadly our last night rolled around way too quickly. We ventured over to Shipps Harbour Grill (www.shippsrestaurant.com) . Big bonus: you could make a reservation.

We tried nearly everything on the menu: oysters on the half shell (not 100% participation there….); smoked tuna dip (delish, but we all ate too many crackers!), fried shrimp and fish, coconut grouper, island mahi mahi, and a crab and brie quesadilla. Our favorite side dish of the night was the smoked gouda mashed potatoes (oh my—to die for!). Our round table of eight led to some massive sharing. This was a favorite.

Finally, let’s look at one more pearl of a quote from Married for Life. At dinner one night, we loved this, given we were at the beach: “Enjoy the simple things—like looking at sunsets.”

Retirement Vacation Concept, Happy Mature Retired Couple Enjoyin

This comes from Auburn and Louise Roland, married December 14, 1935 in Leicester, North Carolina. They say, “When you and your spouse feel the need to get back to basics, to look beyond the clutter and clamor of this bewildering, complicated world and see what really matters, just go outside together for a moment and gaze upward. No matter what time of day it is, you will witness God’s splendor—…”

“…And when a butterfly floats out of the sky and alights nearby, examine it closely and consider, Who but God could have made such a lovely, ‘simple’ thing?”

Large Tree Nymphs butterfly and flowers

As God would orchestrate, Lauren had just been telling us about a neat connection she has with butterflies. Our gracious God literally sent one her way at the perfect time when we’d been in Naples together a few years ago. (Later this month I’ll be sharing about a new website Lauren’s Mother is launching and you’ll be able to read her whole story. It’s the BEST!)

We also realized Gordy’s had a love for butterflies since he was a small child. We have a great picture of him with three butterflies sitting on one hand one summer day. It “just so happened” it was Lauren who read this particular devotion to all of us. Is God the best, or what?

Let’s close with the Scripture this section offers:

Psalm 113:3 says:

Psalm 113 3

We praise you, Lord.

Amen.

‘Til next time!

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Come With Me to the Lowcountry (Part 2 of 2)

Greetings, friends! I pray you enjoyed our stops in Beaufort and Bluffton, South Carolina last week. This week, we’re heading to the beach and to Charleston. If you’re traveling that way anytime soon, make note of these restaurants! (Lest you think we ate our way thru’ South Carolina, well, we did.)

Third stop: Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Only an hour and a half from Beaufort, we arrived on the Isle of Palms the next day in time for lunch. (Perish the thought we miss a meal! It’d be sinful to miss a meal in the Lowcountry.)

We stayed in a condo’ in The Village at Wild Dunes. www.wilddunes.com Oh, to be at the beach! Lots of families took up very little space on these huge beaches.

The tides change four times a day. When the tide’s out, it’s a game-changer for families with little kids. They can have their own little tide pools, set up tents, games, you-name-it. We walked for miles and miles. Exhilarating!

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One of our favorite meals happened at a restaurant with quite the moniker: The Obstinate Daughter is on Sullivan’s Island.   Just minutes from the Isle of Palms, we pulled up to a veritable restaurant row. The couple we sat next to also happened to be from Kentucky which made our experience that much more fun. www.theobstinatedaughter.com

If my parents were still living, they’d probably buy that restaurant in my honor and move to South Carolina. This lonely only can be a tad obstinate on occasion!

Restaurateurs will tell you they’re paying homage to the “rich Revolutionary War history of Sullivan’s Island. On June 28, 1776, under the command of Colonel William Moultrie, the defenders of Fort Sullivan foiled the British fleet’s attempt to capture the city of Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. This first American Patriots victory inspired a London political cartoon of the defiant defenders of Charleston: ‘Miss Carolina Sullivan, one of the obstinate daughters of America, 1776’.” Who knew?

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Fourth stop: Charleston, South Carolina

After an indulgent breakfast at the Sea Biscuit Café (www.seabiscuitcafeiop.com ), Hubster and I made the short trek over to one of our all-time favorite destinations: Charleston.

bridge to charleston

Arriving just in time to hop in a carriage for a tour, our fiercely strong horse, Riley, carted fourteen of us around town. Riley grew up pulling plows in Amish country, so this was a walk in the park for him. Only once did our guide scold him as he’d try to turn in a different direction, knowing a shortcut to the stable!

Horse named riley

We had to stop for a minute for our tour guide to receive which course he’d be taking us on. Each carriage must register with the city at a tiny little shack, state the name of the horse, and receive a tag telling us which of the three routes we’d be taking. (This is for the express purpose of insuring the horse’s number of work hours aren’t in excess, as well as for the carriage companies’ legitimate registration.)

Thankfully, we were number one for take off, waiting for the next carriage’s return. That meant there were twenty carriages currently stirring about town. (This was ten o’clock in the morning!)

One moment of awe smacked us in the face before we began our tour. While waiting for the okay, we noticed a very elderly man, clad handsomely in a suit, tie, hat, and dress shoes, walking very slowly across the street.

I noticed him first and said, to John, “Oh, no. He’ll never make it across before the light changes.” Suddenly, everyone in our carriage noticed him. We all became apprehensive.

He clearly wasn’t concerned and kept walking. Barely putting one foot in front of the other. He was carrying something which seemed to be too large for his very diminished frame.  And yet, he persevered… As he got closer to our carriage, John said, “Well, will you look at that? He’s carrying a Bible!”

Man with bible

We were reminded of Isaiah 46:4“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Beautiful sight to behold.

Movin’ on with Riley, Charleston’s architecture and history captivated all of us. Cameras were clicking as often as Riley’s hooves were on the street.

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Afterwards, we landed for lunch at a perfect spot with an equally amusing name as the Obstinate Daughter. This restaurant was dubbed S.N.O.B., standing for Slightly North of Broad. (www.snobcharleston.com )

Hubster has a knack for getting us a table sans reservation which still stuns me. We savored Butternut Squash Bisque and a Grilled Salmon Salad that both were to die for.

The twenty-five minute trip back to the beach flew. We were parked on the beach, half asleep before you could say, “Goodbye Charleston.”There’s nothing like hearing the roar of the waves and watching the tide ebb and flow. For a change, we could be still.

We laughed as we were monitoring our blood pressures (long story). Both readings were uncharacteristically low. We said, “Wow, we’re nearly dead! Wonder if that’s the definition of BEING RELAXED?”

Psalm 46:10 is the best reminder of our tremendous trip:

Be Still

With summer upon us, I pray your next vacation brings you peace, awe, savory meals (!!!) and stillness to rest in the Lord.

‘Til next time!

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Come With Me to the Lowcountry… (Part 1 of 2)

Hubster and I recently returned from a fascinating, exploratory trip all over the Lowcountry. We visited Beaufort, Bluffton, Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, and Charleston, South Carolina.

We happily consumed massive amounts of, yes, you guessed it: GRITS! (And biscuits, and scrumptious seafood, among other delectable delights.) Our eyes were wide-eyed for grabbing a glimpse of the Lord’s Creation all around us.

Psalm 34:8 reminds us:

Psalm 34 8

Join me in this petite travelogue. You might enjoy visiting some of these spots this summer or fall!

First stop: Beaufort, South Carolina. We stayed in a way- cool, transformed Motel 6. I kid you not. Check out: www.citylofthotel.com

Rooms have been totally remodeled. Bathrooms are contemporary and attractive. Their coffee shop, City Java and News, wafted delectable aromas early every morning and we indulged three for three mornings.

Hotel

Notice the draping, the railings and the shutters which give the hotel nice dimensions.   They added a small patio with furniture and umbrellas for relaxing on the first floor.   We complied.

Every night we walked to dinner. Historic Beaufort was only a couple of blocks away. Walking on Bay Street, each morning, along the Harbor River was stunning. We couldn’t decide whether to look at the water or the historical homes! Both were beautiful.

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Two of our three nights we walked next door and ate at the Breakwater Restaurant. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, obviously, since we went back the next night! www.breakwatersc.com (Notice they also have a location in Greenville.)

One day we had an enjoyable tour of Pinkney Retreat. www.pinkneyretreatsc.com The marsh views with the birds flying over are incredibly peaceful.

Philippians 4:7 fell all over us:

Philippians

The lowcountry architecture is also appealing. They’re really big on porches and charm!

Confession: I had to lower my covet meter in the model home at Pinkney because the décor was beyond gorgeous. (Take the 3D showcase on Pinkney’s website so you can covet with me! Hey, what are friends for?)

Second stop: Bluffton, South Carolina

Only 30-40 minutes from Beaufort, the next day, we drove to a gorgeous development called Palmetto Bluff. We know two couples who have recently bought homes here and we were blessed to visit one of them, Randy and Sue Boehme, for most of the day. The four of us were neighbors when we all lived in Lake Forest several years ago.

I can still hardly talk without tearing up about the four-mile entry, lined with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, accompanied by gas-lit lanterns every hundred feet. It completely took our breath away.

Savannah, Georgia, USA oak tree lined road at historic Wormsloe

It was like entering a fairyland. I told Hubster if this were our daily entry, I’d be one happy, calm camper. Talk about a no-stress zone. Check out: www.palmettobluff.com

It made me think of one of my favorite verses:

Jeremiah 17:8 – “They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Our visit to Palmetto Bluff began by meeting the Boehmes for lunch at Buffalo’s. It had been some time since we’d seen them, so our reunion was blissfully accompanied by mouth-watering fried green tomatoes for starters, along with an awesome view of the May River.

We could see Hilton Head Island across the water.   A beautiful chapel was right across the street and people were setting up for a wedding reception on the lawn.

Randy and Sue gave us a tour of the development and of their beautiful home. You can’t beat the views from their first and second story porches. When you sit on the swing, you’re looking straight out at the water. If I only had a book…

Lots going on in Palmetto Bluff including golf, horseback riding, skeet shooting, swimming, tennis, boating, plus trails galore for walking or biking. Because they’re big believers in conservation, classes on wildlife are offered frequently. Randy and Sue had recently taken a class on armadillos and one on tagging gators!

American alligator in natural habitat in the Okefenokee swamp

We also discovered a hotel we weren’t familiar with, but loved learning about. We popped in the lobby and lo and behold, it was time for tea, lemonade, and cookies. Yes, we “sampled”.

Pile of chocolate chip cookies

The hotel is called The Montage. In addition to its’ guest rooms, it also has several adorable cottages you can rent, with several more under construction. www.montagehotels.com (Start saving now to stay here! Pricey!)

Finally Randy and Sue took us into Old Bluffton, only five minutes from Palmetto Bluff, which is loaded with shops and restaurants. We barely scratched the surface. It was bustlin’ with people.

Here we are in front of Captain Woody’s. (Don’t miss the photo bomber—could it be Santa?) www.captainwoody’s.com

Captain woodys

Pictured left to right: Randy and Sue Boehme, Yours Truly and Handsome Hubster

Certain this is more than you asked for, for now….Next week we’ll hit the beach on the Isle of Palms and visit Charleston, South Carolina. More great discoveries, foodie stops, and aha moments.

I pray these little “escapes” are blessing you:

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

 ‘Til next time!

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