Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I'd rather be kayaking

I went for a walk today, in the early morning hours.  The moon was still high in the sky, yawning its way toward the western horizon, and the kiddos still fast asleep.  I took my favorite 4 mile route through the state park because I knew my customary summer weekday 2 mile walk around the "block" wouldn't be enough.

I love walking.  Y'all know that, right?  I certainly talk about it enough.  I especially love walking in the early morning hours.  God is with me on my walks.  I am sometimes talking, sometimes listening, always walking with my Savior. 

My favorite 4 mile walk follows along the north side of the river and lake, but the dense forest blocks the view of the water for most of the time.  I came to one of two breaks in the trees overlooking the lake, sat on my rock, and gazed down toward the water.  The lake was still as glass.  It looked so peaceful, so calm, and suddenly, I wanted to be on the lake, soaking in the stillness and serenity.  I wanted to be down in the quiet, the only sound my paddle dipping into the water, the only movement my boat cutting across the smooth surface of the lake.  I wanted my soul to mirror the water.

It was so beautiful.

But as beautiful as that lake is, it's only a shadow of the glory it was meant to be.  Like a hazy, grimy film, this world and everything in it bears the stain of sin and brokenness. 

I think of it like those Disney movies, released from the vault and digitally restored.  You don't realize how drab and faded the films have become until you see them next to the remastered film--you don't even know what you're missing, how sharp and colorful and lovely they can be.  The original films are wonderful.  But the restored films are so much better.  Just like my lake--I don't even know what I'm missing, none of us does.  There are places of beauty in our world, but a restored world will be unimaginably better.

It must hurt the Creator's heart so, to see what our choices have wrought upon His masterpiece, to see the consequences we've rained down on ourselves, to realize we don't even know what we've done, to see His beautiful world tainted by so much pain, so much brokenness.  How can God even bear to look?

And still, He draws near.  In the midst of ugliness and pain, He seeks to restore, to renew.  He shows us glimpses of His glory, the beauty that could be, that should be.  And He bids us walk with Him.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Menu Plan for the week of July 14 and beyond

Wow, y'all, 2 summer menu plan posts in a row.  Amazing.  As I've mentioned, we have 3 weeks of crazy starting today.  It's unlikely I'll get a chance to post menus again this month, so although they are not complete, I thought I'd put what I've got for menus out there for your inspiration.

Here you go:

Week of July 14:
--Creamy Italian Chicken (in the crock pot, from the freezer), bow tie pasta, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
--Pancakes, eggs, fruit
--Out to eat
--Chicken/rice/broccoli casserole (from the freezer), fresh fruit or peaches, sugar snap peas
--Pizza, tossed salad
--Grilled pork chops, rice, grilled zucchini or Brussels sprouts
--leftovers/fend for yourself

Week of July 21
--Brats/hot dogs
--Grilled Beef and veggie kabobs
--Chicken Skewers, grilled French bread, romaine salad, corn on the cob

Week of July 28
--Haystacks or taco salad
--Ranch chicken kabobs
--Brats/hot dogs
--Basil chicken burgers

--Cookie dough hummus
--Crunchy granola bars
--No bake peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars
--Orange cream cake pops
--Green stuff
--Chocolate caramel layer bars (similar to this recipe)

What are you cooking this month?

Friday, July 11, 2014

This week in review

After a few sunny, warm, and humid days, today has dawned cooler and windy with rain.  As I sit here at my desk with the windows open, I'm wearing a sweater.  Y'all know I'm not a huge fan of the heat of summer, and it is so refreshing to have these cooler days to recover.  This week has been less hectic than the others so far this summer.  It's been kind of refreshing, like the rain this morning, kind of like a reset.

AKD and MC both had soccer games scheduled for Monday evening, and both were canceled due to severe thunderstorms.  AKD's game was to be played about a 45 minute drive away, and when we left the house, the sky was gray, but it wasn't raining, and we hadn't seen any lightning.  About 20 minutes from home we saw the first bolts of lightning ripping across the sky, and I knew the game would be canceled, but we had to keep going just in case it wasn't. 

By the time the city officials came out to the field to let us know they were closing the park, there was a full blown thunderstorm raging down on us.  It was a driving rain that the windshield wipers couldn't quite keep up with.  The cars ahead of us would disappear and reappear with each swipe.  More than once, I felt the 'burban being pushed sideways by strong gusts of wind.  My knuckles were white, for sure, and I was wiped when we finally arrived back home.  At home, it was sprinkling, like the angry wind and rain, the slashing lightning and crashing thunder, had never even existed. 

AKD's game was rescheduled for Tuesday evening, and the night was absolutely gorgeous.  With their victory that night, his team clinched the conference championship.  He had another game Wednesday night (at home, thankfully), which they played brilliantly and won, bringing their record to 10-1-1 for the season.  Playoffs are this weekend, and the state tournament is in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday morning I escaped the house, and the children, for some mystery shopping--always a good time.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday the boys had friends over, one at a time.  Sure wish we could have scheduled all those play dates at the same time--it just didn't work out that way.

In between, there has been lots of trampoline jumping and pool going ining, a bit of errand running, and lots of relaxing.  In truth, I've been gearing up for another 3 weeks of crazy, storing up the calm to mete it out bit by bit in the storm.  And even though it's all good, the crazy, I would be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a bit anxious about how it'll all get done.  One day at a time, I guess.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Where June went and menu plan for the week of July 7

When last we spoke, school had just ended and we were midway through June. Now, it's July.  A week in to July, in fact.  Where did June go?

Well, I'll tell ya.

Summer school and swim lessons, that's where.  There was also soccer, a visit from my parents, more soccer, a camping trip, Scouts, soccer again, eye appointments, orthodontist, rain, canning beans, and more rain.  And laundry!  We finished June with my three oldest boys heading off to Boy Scout camp for a week.  Started July that way, too.  Now we have a merely busy week ahead before 3 weeks of crazy busy starts again.

Yup, I will definitely need a vacation to recover from this summer "vacation," and we haven't even done anything fun yet.

Anyway, we're going to eat this week.  You know, in between the soccer, appointments, mystery shops (4 of them. In one day), library, swimming, and preparing for the crazy busy.  Everything is either in the crockpot or on the grill, yes, even the pizza, because the summer heat is finally upon us, and we don't need to be heating up our oven.  Or even our stove.  Here's what's on the menu this week.

--Creamy crock pot chicken and rice, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
--Shell casserole (in the crock pot), green beans, orange slices
--Chicken chili verde tacos, taco fixin's
--Hamburger stroganoff, corn, applesauce
--Brats, carrots, green stuff
--Hamburgers, sugar snap peas, watermelon
--Pizza, grapes

--No bake peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars
--Almond butter

What's going on with you this week?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Game Changer by Kirk Cousins: A Review

When I saw that NFL quarterback Kirk Cousins' book Game Changer was available, I knew I had to read it.  Kirk attended the same high school as Hubby (and most of my in-laws), the same college as my parents (and other family members), and was drafted by the team most of our friends in WV root for.  I also have a son who is just a tiny bit obsessed with football.

In Game Changer, Kirk Cousins gives readers an inside glimpse at his life on the football field and off, and shows how he puts his faith into action.

I really liked this book, even though it wasn't quite what I expected.  I was expecting an autobiography, the story of Kirk Cousins in chronological order, but it's better than that.  Kirk sat down and thought about specific ways in which his faith has influenced his life for the better.  Then he wrote 13 inspirational chapters to encourage others to use and develop their faith, by using the Bible as a playbook, by making good decisions, by surrounding oneself with a great team, and 9 other ways.  Kirk's writing style is conversational, engaging, and easy to understand.
This book would be an excellent book club selection for tweens and teens, especially young football fans--I plan to read this book aloud with my boys.  Mr. Cousins is talented, hard working, and humble and I would be incredibly pleased if my sons wanted to be more like him.
I received this book from the publisher through BookLookBloggers for free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert: A Review

Regular readers of my blog will not be surprised that I chose to review Katie Ganshert's third novel, A Broken Kind of Beautiful, given my fascination with the art of turning broken things beautiful. 

I loved Ms. Ganshert's first two novels, Wildflowers from Winter and Wishing on Willows, and I was thrilled to see this new offering.
Ivy Clark is a 24 year old fashion model, whom it seems no one wants--24 is ancient in modeling terms.  Out of desperation, Ivy agrees to model a line of wedding dresses for her stepmother, Marilyn's, boutique.  After 10 years as a model, Ivy has come to believe that no one cares how broken and stained she is on the inside, as long as she looks beautiful for the camera.
Davis Knight was a rising star in the world of fashion photography before he gave it all up to become a church maintenance man.  He reluctantly agrees to come out of retirement to shoot the photos for the wedding dress campaign as a favor to his aunt.
The book opens at the funeral of Ivy's father.  Marilyn, Ivy's stepmother, was married to Ivy's father when Ivy was conceived as the result of an affair.  Instead of rejecting her husband, she clung to her marriage.  Instead of rejecting Ivy, Marilyn welcomes her into her home year after year.  For reasons even she doesn't understand, Marilyn feels called to love this girl who feels rejected and unloved by all those around her.  Marilyn sees the broken and hurting inside while the world sees just another pretty face.
During the course of the wedding dress campaign, with the gentle prodding of the one person who always loved her, and influenced by a man who loves God and treats Ivy in a way she's never been treated, Ivy's experiences come to challenge what she has come to believe about beauty and worth--that God sees her, broken and stained by the world, and wants her still.
I loved this book and found it hard to put down.  Ms. Ganshert's writing is vivid and descriptive and her characters are compelling and real.  This is a love story, but not in the way one might think.  Yes, the boy and girl fall in love, but more than that, the book shows the selfless love of a stepmother for her husband's daughter, a love the world doesn't understand, a love that can only come from God.  In the end, this story is about how God loves us, values us, pursues us, even when--especially when--we are broken, stained, and unworthy.
I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.
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