Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Highlights

Looking back on 2017, it's been a pretty good year around here! As the year comes to a close, here's a look at some of the highlights.

We enjoyed several fantastic trips, including a Spring Break trip to Vicksburg & New Orleans, our 14-day Europe Trip to Amsterdam, Paris & London, and a week in the Smoky Mountains to celebrate Christmas and our 16th Anniversary. We returned home at 1:30 this morning after a week spent mostly just relaxing!

In between our travels, Robbie had a busy year at work and once again has been part of a successful sale as the company he works with has been acquired by an international corporation. That acquisition will be finalized in the coming weeks, so we are anxious to see what 2018 will hold for him as the transition takes place.

We enjoyed quite a few get-togethers with family this year. We celebrated my parent's 51st wedding anniversary and helped Robbie's mom move back to Ohio after she lost her home in Hurricane Harvey. Robbie's brother and his family joined us for the spring break trip and a few days in Tennessee this past week. We met up with my sister and her family quite a few times as we dropped off and picked up the twins for their summer visits and recently celebrated my niece Nichole's graduation as she earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management. I'm so proud of her and might have shed a few tears when she walked into the graduation ceremony wearing a Magna Cum Laude medal (and my Beta Gamma Sigma stole).

A huge highlight for me this year was teaching my twin nieces to ice-skate over the summer and then getting to ice skate with all four of my nieces (and one step-great-niece) a few weeks ago! My sister even bought us all matching infinity scarves!

While I didn't achieve many of the goals I set for my ACTIVE year, I once again enjoyed having a word and participating in Ali Edward's One Little Word workshop. I've chosen a word for 2018 (which I'll be sharing tomorrow) and once again signed up for Ali's 2018 class.

This year I checked these items off my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List:
Carve a Pumpkin
Tour the Anne Frank House & Corrie ten Boom Home
Travel to Paris (which I'll be sharing about soon)
Travel on a Train
Revise My Will

I continue to enjoy illustrated Bible journaling and sharing this FUN hobby with others through classes, workshops and women's events. It was a special bonus when my sister and two nieces joined me for one of my classes this summer! I will be hosting monthly classes here in our home in 2018 - if you'd like to know when registration for these classes opens (of if you're interested in a private event for your church or small group), email me or sign up for my newsletter HERE.

I didn't do as much scrapbooking this year as I had hoped, although I did complete a 146-page custom scrapbook-for-hire project.

I've always thought editing books would be a FUN job, so it was a real highlight when I got to read and offer feedback on the manuscript for Jann Gray's new book! In addition, I read 60 books and participated in a book swap with my sister Brenda this year. As a bonus, I enjoyed writing on the (sometimes challenging) blog topics Brenda sent me, especially Five People I Admire, the Top Ten Moments of My Life, and The ABCs of Reading That Work.

Here on the blog, I joined in a few times with What's on Your Workdesk Wednesday, Monday's Mail Memo, 5 in 5, and the Christmas Card Throwdown. I especially enjoyed creating a new blog header mid-way through the year.

Yes, it was definitely a good year around here! What were the highlights of your 2017?

Monday, December 25, 2017

It Doesn't Matter . . .

It doesn't matter where you were born . . .

It doesn't matter what language you speak . . .

It doesn't matter what color your skin is . . .

It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor . . .

It doesn't matter if you celebrate at home or far away . . .

It doesn't matter what version of the Bible you read . . .

It doesn't matter if you're young or old . . .


is still the

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 - Corrie ten Boom Home

Some of you may remember that I listed Corrie ten Boom as one of the Five People I Admire in a post earlier this year (and I reviewed her book, The Hiding Place, in a post several years ago). Corrie was 52-years-old when she was arrested for resistance work during World War II. She was sent to prison, then on to a concentration camp in Germany. And yet, after her release (due to a God-sized "clerical error"), she spent her life sharing about God's love and the healing power of forgiveness.

When I first read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, I was probably 12-years old. At that time, I never imagined that one day I would walk through Corrie's home, affectionately called the Beje, in Haarlem, Holland, and see the hiding place for myself. Yet, that's exactly what happened seven weeks ago when we were on our Europe Trip!

We took the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem and walked from the station to the Beje, which is located at Barteljorisstraat 19. This home is actually two buildings - one in front facing the Barteljorisstraat, and one behind opening into the alleyway. At some point years ago, the wall between the buildings was removed and a ship's mast was placed in the opening, around which a spiral staircase was built, from the basement to the rooftop patio.

Here's a sketch of the building from The Hiding Place.

The day we visited, there was a huge pile of construction material in front of the watch shop as the business next door was being renovated, but here's a look showing the top of the watch shop windows and the next two floors.

Down the alleyway to the left of the shop is the museum entrance.

This is the entrance the family and guests (and underground workers and Jews and young men seeking help during the war) used every day.

There's a large window just past the door that looks into the dining room. During the war, the ten Booms placed an Alpina watch sign in the window to let those in the underground know that it was ok to enter. If the sign was not in place, it warned them to keep away. Unfortunately, during the raid on the Beje, the officers discovered the sign knocked down from the windowsill. It was put back in place and several people walked into the trap and were arrested with those already in the Beje that day.

We had a reservation for the first English tour of the day, which began in the two rooms on the second floor of the front building. These rooms had been Tante Jans' rooms as shown in the sketch above. I was surprised to discover one large room instead of two; however, I learned later that the two rooms had actually been opened up into one room during the war years to make a space for a celebration when one of Corrie's nephews was released from prison. After that time, the family referred to this as the Liberation Room. Before the tour guide informed us that photos were not allowed in this area, I snapped a photo of us sitting under Father ten Boom's photo.

Luckily, we were allowed to take photos when we arrived at the top level of the back house - Corrie's bedroom where the hiding place was installed during the war.

Corrie shared this bedroom with her sister Nollie when they were growing up, and it remained her bedroom until she was taken away to prison. You can see that there's a large hole that allows visitors to step into the hiding place, however, the entrance is that small opening underneath the bottom shelf of the wardrobe.

Most of the furnishings and other items in the home are original to the ten Boom family. The sign below says "Jesus is Victor," which brought comfort to Corrie as she sat in the dining room the day of the raid on the Beje.

I have to admit that the biggest surprise for me was the size of the Beje; although it is described as being very narrow, I had envisioned it larger. So much activity and so many events occurred in these rooms, with lots of people in attendance, that I had pictured them much larger. I'm so very glad to have had the opportunity to visit this place and am even more impressed with the amount of resistance work that occurred here. Because the tours are scheduled and are limited to 20 people at a time, I really felt like I was able to get a feel for the house and see everything during the allotted time. An added bonus is the fact that the tours are free (a container for donations is available in the gift shop).


Before our trip, I re-read a couple of Corrie's books. Her first book, A Prisoner and Yet, was published in 1954. This book begins with the story of the ten Booms' work in the Dutch Underground during Holland's occupation in World War II and goes through Corrie's release and return home to the Beje. Corrie's time in Sheveningen, Vught, and Ravensbruck are related through short stories and memories of people or incidents. She shared God's love and story of salvation in all these places and lived through unimaginable hardships.

I also re-read The Hiding Place, which was published in 1971 (with John & Elizabeth Sherrill who helped tell the story in a larger, more dramatic way and included scenes and lessons from Corrie's childhood). This book reads easier, more like fiction, and is exceptionally well-written. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, are portrayed somewhat differently in this book (as opposed to A Prisoner and Yet). In this book, Betsie does most of the teaching, preaching, and leading in the concentration camps, whereas in A Prisoner and Yet, it seemed like Corrie did most of the preaching. This may just be due to differences in the writing styles and organization of Corrie's memories. However, one thing is constant - Corrie and Betsie, who had a beautiful sweet spirit, were very close and devoted to each other and their father.

Robbie and I watched The Hiding Place movie as well. The movie is a Billy Graham production and is very well done. Corrie herself comes on screen at the end of the movie, sitting in the parlor of the Beje, reminding us that "there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still."

After our trip, I read More Than a Hiding Place: The Life-Changing Experiences of Corrie ten Boom, which we purchased from the museum gift shop. This book is full of wonderful photos of the ten Boom family over the years as well as photos from the time when they were hiding Jews. It also includes a good bit of information about Corrie and her travels and speaking after the war. She continued to work well into her 80s and died on her 91st birthday in 1983.

This tour is item number 11 on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list, which actually includes two items - tour the Anne Frank House and the ten Boom Home. (You can read about our visit to the Anne Frank House HERE.) Here's a look at the completed page in my 50 Things album.

Have you visited the ten Boom home? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday Musings - The Giving Spirit of Christmas

We're only one week away from celebrating the birth of our Lord, and the Christmas spirit is everywhere! I truly enjoy this time of year and the overall spirit of Christmas. I enjoy the decorations, the joy, the Christmas tree, the get-togethers, and the love. I also like Santa Claus, festive movies, and Christmas carols. But my favorite part of Christmas is the giving spirit that is evident everywhere, from the beautifully wrapped  presents under the tree to the coins dropped in the Salvation Army bucket to the volunteers serving holidays meals. It's a time when many are in a giving mood.

But let's be honest about this time of year - there's also the hustle & bustle, the desire to keep up with others, the pressure to decorate & cook & attend events & make gifts & send cards & host all the family for a big meal. The list can go on and on . . . and sometimes we lose some of that giving Christmas spirit among the list of things we must do or should do or have to do or simply do because it's expected of us whether we enjoy it or not. It's during these hectic times that we need to return to the Reason for the Season and remember the Greatest Gift of All given to us by a Heavenly Father.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. ~John 3:16

God gave us the ultimate gift in His Son Jesus Christ. Let that fact fill you with joy during this season! God gave out of love, so let's remember to also give with love . . . and good cheer.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. ~2 Corinthians 9:7

There are many (many!) scriptures on giving throughout the Bible. This one in Luke is a great reminder that God honors and blesses those who give.

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. ~Luke 6:38

As we speed toward the end of the year, I pray that you will be truly blessed as you cheerfully give this Christmas season!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Final 2017 Book Swap

It seems like it was just a few weeks ago when my sister Brenda and I began our 2017 monthly book swap, but it's been almost a whole year now. We didn't actually swap books every month this year as there were a couple of times we needed time for one or the other of us to catch up. We ended up swapping nine books (well, technically, I got ten books since the twins filled in the books one month). The final package we sent each other contained books for the last two months of the year - one fiction, one non-fiction.

I wrapped the books for Brenda and sent them out right before our Europe trip.

The fiction book is The Dollhouse, which I read for my book club meeting in October (and reviewed here). The non-fiction is a small book I enjoy reading during the holiday season. Windows on Christmas shares a look at Christmas from various perspectives or "windows" beginning with Mary & Joseph and including the angels, the shepherds, Anna and Simeon.

My package from Brenda was a wonderfully FUN box full of confetti!

There were two new books for me to read.

And a few FUN scrapbooking goodies, too!

The Privilege of Youth: A Teenager's Story by Dave Pelzer shares his stories from his teenage years and the friends he made during the short time he lived with a foster family Duinsmoore Way in the Suburban Park community in California. I've read this author's previous books (and one of his brother's book), however, I thought this one was not as well-written and was difficult to follow. The timeline jumped around, making it seem disjointed, and it was hard to keep up with the other individuals in the story. His friend, David Howard, for example, was referred to as David or as Howard at various times.

Honestly, I didn't like the author and his friend's shenanigans. He was irresponsible and their pranks were dangerous. He wrecked several vehicles when he was working as a car salesman. And the friends & adult males he considers to have had such an influence on his life weren't really portrayed as all that well-meaning or even nice. The author ended up going in the armed service as he didn't have other options to support himself as he aged out of the foster care system. He obviously made something of his life as a writer, sharing his story, and he now spends his time in efforts involving child-abuse awareness and overcoming obstacles in life. However, in the first chapter he describes the hectic (and dangerous) pace he keeps when traveling with little sleep (he's fallen asleep at the wheel before but now takes precautions like blaring the radio & keeping the windows down). Somehow I feel like that kind of lifestyle negates some of his credibility and indicates his priorities (however altruistic) may be out of alignment.

On the other hand, I truly enjoyed A Plain & Fancy Christmas by Cynthia Keller. This quick easy read is about two babies who were switched at birth. The nurse who discovered this kept it a secret for years, however, she wrote them each a letter when the girls were in their late 20s. One of the girls grew up in New York, one grew up Amish. They end of switching places for a short while, and this story has a very happy ending as each of the families embrace the other and the girls discover what they truly want in life.

If you've been following along this year, you know that Brenda's also been sending me blog topics. I still have a few that I haven't written on yet, so I'll be finishing those up in the next couple of weeks. Here are two for today!

List Your Ten Favorite Foods - I like a lot of foods, so this was really tough; I had to omit some things to only have ten, and I may have forgotten something, but here are ten of my favorite foods.

1. Chocolate
2. Mama's Robbie's Biscuits
3. Grandma's Pecan Pie
4. Beef Stew
5. Robbie's Grilled Hamburgers
6. Peach Cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top
7. Beef Roast with Potatoes & Carrots
8. These Chocolate Chip Cookies
9. Steak & Baked Potato
10. Praline Sweet Potatoes

Favorite Quote - This one, too, was really hard. I keep a notebook of quotes and often share quotes from books I've read, so it's hard to choose a favorite. However, here's one that comes to mind often.

Failure to prepare on your part
does not necessarily constitute
an emergency on my part.

Brenda and I have decided to continue our book swap next year, with a little added twist. I'll be sharing more about it at the first of the year!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

50 Things To Before I'm 50 - Anne Frank House

Item number 11 on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list actually included two items - tour the Anne Frank House and the ten Boom Home. We checked this item off on our Europe Trip last month, and I'm sharing about it in two posts. Today's post is about the Anne Frank House. (Read about our tour of the ten Boom home HERE.)

Before we left for our trip, we re-watched The Diary of Anne Frank mini-series and the Anne Frank Remembered documentary. We also pre-purchased tickets to tour the Anne Frank House after talking to several friends who missed the tour due to extremely long lines. Our tickets were for a timed entry at 7pm on the day we arrived in Amsterdam, so we enjoyed a nice dinner then strolled over to the Jordaan district.

It was well after dark at this time and photos were not allowed inside the building, so I only have a few snapshots to share. The most noticeable landmark is, of course, the Westerkerk clock tower that Anne mentions several times in her diary.

We sat on a bench across the canal while we waited for our time slot. In this photo below, you can see the line off to the right of the photo.

Robbie tried to take my photo in front of the building with the Anne Frank House sign, but it was dark outside and the sign inside was lit . . . so we ended up with this!

Although I'm very happy we took the tour, in all honesty, the tour itself was disappointing. It's a self-guided audio tour, so there's just a bunch of people in each room with an audio unit held up to an ear. It was almost impossible to get up to the few displays and read the information on the signs.

While I had read about and expected the Secret Annex rooms to be empty (because all the items were confiscated after those in hiding were arrested & Otto Frank wanted the rooms to remain that way), I was surprised that the other rooms were also mostly bare. There was very low lighting  and it was difficult to get a feel for the building overall because of the one-way route that everyone is herded through. We did not experience the somber feeling that many have written about when entering the rooms of the Annex, primarily, I think, because it was so very crowded (and possibly because one lady was constantly complaining about not knowing there were so many narrow stairs to get up).

Finally, we were really surprised to discover that the diary and notebooks and pages that are normally on display in the final room were all facsimiles as the originals had been removed due to construction being done within the museum.

We really didn't feel like we learned anything new at the museum nor did we get a true feeling for the conditions the Franks lived in during their two years in hiding. However, we did enjoy seeing the city and area around the house, giving us a better understanding of what Anne could see (when she peeked out the curtains) and hear (when the church clock chimed) and how obscure that part of the building was from the main streets. We returned to the area the next day and snapped a photo in front of the building.

There's a statue around the corner from the house, and (as you can see) flowers are often placed there by visitors.

After returning home, I re-read The Diary of a Young Girl (The Definitive Edition). This edition is based mostly on the second version of the diary, the one Anne rewrote after hearing a radio broadcast that diaries would be important documents for future generations to know about the war. I thoroughly enjoyed the book (again) and am so glad that her story has been preserved and is used to educate others about the atrocities that occurred. I also think it is such a beautiful example of how people can live under terribly harsh conditions and continue to plan for an uncertain future. The Franks and the others in the Annex spent hours each day reading and taking courses and learning new things.

As for Anne, the book covers a period of two years, with lots of emotional ups and downs, yet there is an overall positive outlook in her writing, a choice that she consciously made. Her writing improves over time and she grows in her understanding of herself and others. It is through this book that I once again found that somber feeling that encapsulated so much of the world during World War II, yet I also found hope that through Anne's story and the efforts that continue to be made to share it, we will learn about prejudice and survival and how we must never allow another Holocaust.

Have you visited the Anne Frank House or read The Diary of a Young Girl? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, December 4, 2017

One Little Word - October, November & December

I'm so excited to finish up the prompts in Ali Edward's One Little Word 2017 class!

The October prompt encouraged us to find song lyrics or quotes that relate to our word and include those in our albums. I really wasn't inspired by this prompt, so I adapted it and created a page using hymnal pages as a background. Since I have been ACTIVE in teaching illustrated Bible journaling this year, I created a page using products from that hobby. All the song titles have ACTIVE words (onward, walk, get), and I added more ACTIVE words with letter and word stickers. I used Gelatos and a circle stencil to include the colors of my OLW album. This page is 8x8, which works perfectly with the assortment of page sizes I've used in my album this year.

November's prompt was to write a letter to yourself. I decorated an 8x8 piece of white cardstock (to fit in the page protector behind my hymnal page) for my letter.

Ali also suggested including a full-page photo in our albums (she included a photo from her wedding dinner). I printed one of my favorite photos from our Europe trip and added some journaling that reads: Our Europe trip was one of the most ACTIVE and most relaxing times of the year for us.We enjoyed each day, whether it was packed with travel and activities or a much slower pace with fewer items on the agenda and time to just enjoy being away together.

The December prompts were designed to help us reflect on the year and how we were impacted by our word. I simply printed the prompt page and filled it in.

As I noted on that page, I'm glad to let this word go and move on to a new year (and word). However, I want to end the year ACTIVE, so I choose three ACTIVE goals and created a checklist (from the February prompt provided in the class) for each one. I'll add this sheet to my album at the end of the year.

As you can see, I've started out the month great with these ACTIVE goals:
(1) Physical - walk daily, regardless of the weather or my schedule or where we are each day.
(2) Creative - participate in the Illuminated Journaling Series: The Gifts of Christmas.
(3) FUN - post an #AdventSelfieADay along with Becky and Penny (I'm posting my photos on Facebook each day).

I've already begun thinking about a word for next year and have several possibilities! Did you choose a word this year? How did it impact your life?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday Musings - Be Wise

When I was a teenager, I thought I knew everything and didn't need anyone's advice. (Can y'all relate?) However, as I've grown, I realize that there's much to be learned from listening to good counsel and receiving instruction from others with more experience or knowledge in certain areas. In fact, it's Biblical to get learning from others (and from the Word, of course).

Listen to counsel and receive instruction,
That you may be wise in your latter days.
There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel-that will stand.
Proverbs 19:20-21 

This is such a good (and needed) reminder for those of us who might occasionally revert to the I-know-it-all mentality, right! :) 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Rejoice in the Season

I love this time of year as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior! This is a season of rejoicing!

I'll be spending lots of time in the Word this month as I prepare for a couple of Christmas Bible Journaling Classes I'll be teaching here at my home next Friday and Saturday (email me if you want to join in on Friday - the Saturday class is full). I'll also be participating in the Illuminated Journaling Gifts of Christmas Advent Series. I'm excited about focusing on the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of the hustle and bustle and festivities.

Yesterday I pulled out  my ornament stamps and illustrated  the scriptures in Luke chapter 1. In this chapter, we find Mary's song of rejoicing after Elizabeth's recognition that Mary is carrying the Christ child as well as Zacharias' prophecy after John's birth. Both of these are songs of rejoicing and praise.

As we begin December, I hope you'll find time to rejoice in the season and take time to focus on the Reason for the Season!