Monday, March 21, 2016

The Calling by Rachelle Dekker

The Calling by Rachelle Dekker is the sequel to my favorite book from 2015, The Chosen. In The Chosen, we are introduced to a community that has survived a world wide population near extinction event. There is a group of people that have gathered in a small area that have created a set of rules to help them survive this near extinction event. The majority of those rules revolve around marriage and obedience to the higher powers. In this novel, the story is about a group of renegades who have decided to see what life and marriage can be like outside of those walls. The main character is Remko, who we meet in the first novel and has married Carrington. The two have become integral parts of the rebel group, the seers. Remko because of his guard experience has fallen into the role of protector of this misfit group. He often struggles with the reality that he cannot keep his group safe and eventually has to come to terms with either trusting God or holding on to that fear.

One of the major themes that I really enjoyed about this book was that the root of evil and discord is free will. There is a movement that is trying to rid all people of free will so that they can be happy and content. In addition to this concept making a human a god, it negates the good parts of free will. Without free will, there would be no love or kindness. We would just be puppets in someone's grand play. That is not how we were created. Our steps have not been predetermined, even though they have all been witnessed and God sees where they will lead us, each step is a choice we need to make. Anything less, would not be a choice of following and loving God, it would be an automated response.

I enjoyed The Calling and I'm looking forward to the next in the series. The book was provided to me by Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of review. My opinions are my own.

And for some fun, in case you are not familiar with Rachelle Dekker, who is the daughter of the author, Ted Dekker, here is a cute Christmas video they released last year as well as a link to some questions and answers from her about the book.

"A Dekker Christmas" with Ted Dekker. From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!
Posted by Rachelle Dekker on Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday, March 14, 2016

God works

I have a friend that unfortunately is dealing with cancer. It's a long terrible story that started years ago. Recently, she started chemo, I guess at this point it wasn't that recent. When she first started, I said that I would make a hat for her. She wanted it to be purple. I agreed. The next time I saw her a few months later, I had not made a hat and she was wearing one, a purple one to be exact. Another friend made one for her. She said I could make her a white hat. It moved to the top of my to do list because my slow ways had caused me to miss out.

I kept thinking that I need to get to the fabric store, I even had a gift card! Last week, as I drove by the fabric store to get something at a big box store, I lamented that I had indeed forgot to make time to stop by there yet again and did not have my gift card with me. On to the big box store I went. We picked up all the things we needed and wandered over to the toy section to see if they had something that Hannah was looking for. She's in that wonderful age of still enjoying some toys but also interested in older things. It's a fine line, but that's another blog for another day. Well, at the end of the toy section was a row of clearance items. I attribute my love of the clearance aisle to my mother. I couldn't say no. We walked down the aisle, not looking for anything in particular and everything in general. And there at the end of the row was a skein of white yarn. The label had fallen off, the clearance sticker was its only dressing. I picked it up and put it in my buggy.

I brought it home and there it sat until the weekend and I cast on one evening. And I began to knit. It was a pattern that I've made several times before. It's probably my most knitted pattern ever, go to pattern if you will. So much so that the next evening I was done with it. Wove the ends in and it was finished. I still have to get it to my friend, but I thought I'd share with you some of the lessons I learned along the way.

God is not going to wait for your disobedient heart to come around with time sensitive matters, someone else will gladly get the job done. And you're the one that misses out. The one who could have given a gift is truly the one that misses out on seeing God's blessings and how the work of His hands never fails.

God is always going to give you the tools, gifts, resources you need to do what is asked of you. Not once in my life has God said to go and then left me in the dark. Even in the simplest of tasks of buying a skein of yarn, God provided a way in an unexpected place within my means. Sometimes it's easier to see this in the small stuff, but it's true in the big stuff. Maybe even more so in the big stuff.

We too often build things up to larger than they really are. We let the idea of them overwhelm us to inaction and then are surprised by how little time obedience actually takes. It's probably related to tithing and how we wonder if we can actually live on 90% of our income when the truth is it's easier to live on the 90% than the 100%. God helps us through the work that He has appointed us to. He does things that are not humanly possible and we can be used to do them, if we say yes.

I'm not exactly sure why I keep forgetting all these little lessons, but I do know that I'm thankful that God is willing to walk with me through them again and again.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful that we've been able,to have the windows open this week, even if the skunks decide to occasionally frolic in the middle of the night. Oh the unsung joys of life in Michigan.

I'm thankful that even though I was scared to have another failure of a loaf, I tried again with the sourdough. Even more thankful that it was edible.

I'm thankful that sometimes I walk down the clearance aisle at a random store and find the very thing I was planning on making a special trip for and would have gladly paid full price for on super sale and in the exact color I wanted.

I'm thankful that even though I'm more forgetful than I used to be, I remember at some point, normally with enough time to fix it. And if it's not, I'm still sharp enough to figure things out with out it.

I'm thankful that sometimes play is the best medicine.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Breaking Bread

I did some fiction writing this weekend, thought you might like to read it!

Breaking Bread

She stirred the gooey concoction that was her sourdough starter before pouring most of it into a large ceramic bowl. The little that clung to her finger after wiping the edge was too tempting not to taste. The sour flavor was first and foremost. The aftertaste was clean.

She set her crock aside and turned her attention to the beginning of the bread she was making. Flour and a little bit of water was all it needed. She mixed them in and turned her attention back to the remnant in the crock. She fed the leftover starter so that the wild yeasts she captured from the air would continue to thrive. Putting a lid on it, she now looked at the clock to see how much time she had before needing to tend the bread again. Only ten minutes more, plenty of time to check her email and facebook.

Unfortunately, she had nothing waiting in her inbox. Re reading the recipe would have to do. Finally, time came to knead the dough. Flouring her countertop and pouring out the dough, she sprinkled kosher salt and flour over the top of the shaggy dough and began to knead. She loved the rhythm of folding and pushing the dough. Over and over again, waiting for the just right texture and bounce. Her hands were covered with a thin layer of dough. It was close to being ready to rest. She let it sit for a moment while she washed her hands and the bowl.

The residual dough from the bowl became sticky with the hot water. It clung to her sponge, making it a doughy mass instead of a cleaning tool. When the last of it was wiped off her palms, she dried her hands and the bowl. She coated her palms once more with flour for a final round of kneading. Placing it in the dry warm bowl, she covered it with plastic wrap and decided to do some reading while she waited the requisite hour.

The book couldn’t keep her attention, she kept looking to the clock, wishing it would move faster. Maybe tea would help. The water kettle whistled and she turned off the flame. She got her favorite cup and put English Breakfast in the tea ball. Pouring the hot water into the cup, she dumped it out, put the tea ball in and more hot water to let it steep. While waiting for it to brew, she took the cup to the table and sat down. She played with the tea ball, bouncing it up and down in the cup until its color was to her liking. Pulling it out and setting it on a small plate in the center of the table, she poured some cream and a small spoonful of sugar. She loved the sound of sugar falling into tea. It was like a miniscule waterfall crashing into a great lake. The crystals rubbing against each other making a sound much larger than their teaspoon size.

She barely began her cup when the dough needed her again. Getting up, she floured the counter again and sprinkled some on the dough. She scraped it out with her pink spatula. Dusting the tips of her fingers, she pulled the dough into a rectangle and folded it up like a letter. She turned and folded until all the outside edges made up the inside. She put it back in the bowl and went back to her tea.

The tea had cooled almost too much, but she finished it anyway. Leaving the empty cup on the table, she went and laid down on the couch. Pulling a blanket over herself, the cat came and sat next to her feet. She quickly fell asleep. The cat stirred and woke her up. Looking at the clock, an hour had passed. She quickly sat up, sitting there for a second to get her thoughts together. Yes, the dough.

One last time, she dusted the counter, scraping the dough out she shaped it into a round, placed a towel over it and turned to wash the bowl it had been resting in. Drying it off and putting it away, she got her cloth covered basket out. It didn’t really need any more flour, years of use had embedded the fabric with it. Removing the towel from the dough, she shaped it into a tighter ball and gently placed it into the basket. The towel once again covered it. She had two hours now. Two hours to do as she pleased. Going upstairs, she found her socks and a light jacket. Putting them on, the dog suddenly took an interest in her. Walking back downstairs with the dog following her every step, she found her shoes and put them on. The leash was beside the door. Picking it up, the dog sat expectantly. She clicked it into the dog’s collar and they set off.

It wasn’t a very cold day. She probably didn’t need her jacket, but the wind would occasionally kick up and make her thankful she’d worn it. They walked their normal route. Past the house with the blue star, through the park, and then back up the side street that leads to her her house.

When they got back to the house she washed her hands and put the baking stone into the oven and turned it on. The flames turned the oven orange and then the blue flames took over and heated the space. She peeked at the dough to see how it was coming along. She couldn’t see any difference. She’d just have to trust it was going okay.

While she waited for the oven to heat up, she picked up her book and tried to read again. She made it to through a few pages before returning to the kitchen and pulling out the peel and semolina. The semolina spread out across the peel, eager to help move the loaf into the oven. Leaving the peel on the stove top and walking away, she checked the internet again. A few messages but not the one she was hoping for. The oven chimed its success at reaching 450 degrees. It reminded her to get the spray bottle. She found it in the bathroom. Not really sure why she kept it there, she made a mental note to find a place for it in the kitchen. She emptied the bottle and filled it with fresh water. Looking at the clock, she couldn’t wait any longer.

Taking the bread basket, she gently emptied the dough onto the peel. Finding her sharpest knife, she cut four lines into the top of the loaf, being careful not to deflate it. Opening the hot oven, she quickly flicked the dough from the peel to the stone. Putting the peel aside and grabbing the spray bottle, spritzed the entire oven until her glasses fogged and she closed the door to seal it in.

She turned to the countertop and picked up the bench scrapper from where it had been waiting. She scraped up the last bit of dried dough from the surface and dumped it into her hand, tossing it into the trash. She took a clean sponge and wiped it down following quickly with a dry towel. Placing her towels in their place, she opened the fridge and found salted butter and cheddar cheese. She put the butter on a small plate with a butter knife and got a small cutting board. Unwrapping the cheddar, she slided a few pieces so they would be ready when the bread was finished.

The scent from the oven grew more and more delicious. Only a few more minutes. She filled the tea kettle again, deciding to make a full pot this time. Earl Grey should pair nicely she thought while looking through the tins. She warmed her tea pot with hot tap water. Pouring it out just as the kettle sang. Turning off the heat to let it rest for just a second before pouring it over the tea leaves.

There was just enough time to check her email before having to take the loaf from the oven. There it was, the note she had been waiting for. Her friend for the past several years had said they would write last week and the note finally arrived in her email. She scanned it quickly. As she was going to read it again, the timer rang from the kitchen. Quickly, she got up from the table and made her way to the kitchen. Reaching to turn off the timer, she also opened the oven. The heat poured out and made tears start to well up.

Grabbing the pot holders she reached in and pulled out the beautiful loaf. Perfect to look at, crust golden brown,a nd a nice hollow sound when she tapped the underside. Just to be certain, she took its temperature with her insta-read thermometer. 200 and climbing, perfect. She let the bread rest on a wire rack and marveled at how beautiful it had turned out. Her mind lurched back to the email and she wondered what the inside of the loaf would hold.

Walking away, she poured herself a cup of tea and absentmindedly nibbled a piece of cheese. Her stomach growled, hungry for something more. Her hunger lead her back into the kitchen where she found her serrated bread knife and a cutting board. She placed the loaf on the board and nervously started to cut. The inside was gummy and cavernous. Tears rolled down her cheeks. The bitter ugly words from the email overwhelmed her. The tears continued to fall. She wiped her face with the back of her hand. The very hand that had kneaded this loaf, the hand that had welcomed and comforted her friend time and time again. So much time and effort by her hands. She knew in that moment that she could do two things. Either she could throw it all away and pretend the final result meant nothing to her, she could let the hard work and labor of love be enough with no real treat to show for it. Or she could eat it. Taking the bad, knowing it had nothing in it that could truly harm her. It just wouldn’t be what she had hoped for. Both decisions brought their own pain and reward. In her heart, she knew that she’d need to at least taste and see if she could abide by what had been done.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thankful Thursday

Is it really Thursday? Thursdays seem to sneak up on me lately. But today, I remembered!!

I'm thankful for growth! My kid in particular isn't just growing up physically, but academically as well. She's made leaps this year that were a long time coming and now it's as if there was never any struggle at all.

I'm thankful for my husband. He's such an amazing man. He does a great job providing for our family and directing us. I can't imagine anyone more perfectly suited to care for our family.

I'm thankful for my pets, even if they are a little neurotic sometimes. Especially, Tink who has been having a hard time getting along with Mindy Dog lately. It probably doesn't help that Mindy isn't getting along with her either.

I'm thankful for Fred our sourdough boy. He mainly lives in the fridge and eats top shelf flour. But he's fun to have around and occasionally makes us tasty treats.

What about you? What are you thankful for?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: What's Stopping You?

At the start of all this, I said that hospitality is creating the time and space for people to be real. I think that's still a pretty good definition. I've talked about several different ways to find that time and space. But the question remains, what's stopping us?

All sorts of things stop up us from doing what we want to do. But I've found that very few things stop us from doing what we really want. Just want it and it will start to happen.

Being real with people can be painful and terrible, but occasionally, it's beautiful. So beautiful in fact that it will make all that terrible pain seem small and negligible. I can't do it for you. You're the one that will have to take the risks and determine if they are worthwhile. I can only speak from my experience. My experience says there is nothing better than having people in your life that are real with you and expect your reality in exchange.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: The Well Written Note

Do you want to know the secret to the well written note in this day and age? Okay, I'll unmask the mystery for you. You write a note and you send it to the recipient. I know, I know, difficult, but I'm sure you can do it. I'll break it down a little more.

Get something to write on that will fit into an envelope. Find a writing utensil. Write something, put it in the envelope, find the person's address, label it and mail it.

You think I'm being sarcastic or silly don't you? Not true. I often get lost on any of these points when I want to write a letter. I've developed some habits that make it easier.

I keep my stationary, stamps, address book, and pens all together in a common area of my home. I don't have to search for the standard basics when I'm in the mood to write.

I do occasionally have to find someone's address. Okay most of the time. I can help it if people move! Or the fact that I move! I move a lot, I know. Anyway, I've found the best way to get someone's address is to contact them. Go figure.

My other down fall is getting the stuff out the door. It doesn't help that my mailbox doesn't always work for sending mail. That's another blog for another day. I've learned that time sensitive deliveries are best sent through the post office directly. It also helps to keep stamps on hand. That can delay a letter by a month easy in my world.

You can get fancy and craft elegant words and genuine heartfelt poetry for people, but it does no good unless you put it down on paper and send it to them. I'm convinced that's the key.

Your challenge for the day is to go find some stationary, write someone you love a letter, and send it to them.