Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Musings | Prayer Circles & Prayer Chains

Did you know that the words "pray" and "prayer" appear in the Bible anywhere from 450 to 600 times (depending on the translation you're reading)? And there are over 650 prayers recorded in the Bible! Obviously prayer is an important part of our walk with the Lord. 

This year, I am striving to be more intentional in my prayer time, especially in taking time to pray for others. I have found that praying for others, whether it's our family members, friends, church leaders, neighbors, or political leaders and missionaries we've never met, helps us draw closer to the Lord and to those individuals. Praying for our enemies changes our perspective and opens our hearts to show more love and kindness to those around us. Prayer is such a powerful way for us to grow in our relationship with the Lord and with others!

However, I've also found that I have a tendency to fall back into the habit of simply praying for the things that I want or need, like offering up a list I'm asking the Lord to check off. I know I'm not the only one who does this because several others in my Pray Without Ceasing Bible Journaling classes last month admitted to the same practice at times.

Yet, we all truly desire to spend time in prayer for our families, for our friends, for our neighbors, for our country, for our world, etc.

Over the years, I've used a variety of practical tools to help me be more intentional with my prayers. I've written out my prayers, used several prayer journals (like this fun creative guided journal), created notebooks with sections for various prayer requests, and most recently used illustrations in my Bible as reminders to pray.

In the Bible journaling class last month, we created prayer circles in our Bibles using "people" I punched from cardstock or patterned paper.

I created this prayer circle in my Interleaved Bible so I would have the full page to work with. Some of the ladies added their prayer circle to a blank journal page or one of the blank pages that can sometimes be found at the end/beginning of a book in their journaling Bibles.

In addition to creating prayer circles, we added prayer chains beside 1 Timothy 2:1 as a reminder to include supplications (petitions), prayers (worship), intercessions, and thanks in our prayers for everyone.

We also took time to simply journal our prayers. What a privilege to sit around the table with a group of women striving to draw closer to the Lord through prayer. 

Truly, what a privilege it is to carry everything to God in prayer!

What tools do you use to be more intentional in your prayer time?

Friday, March 29, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Learn To Ride A Horse

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to learn how to ride a horse. Thus, this was one of the goals that I've wanted to do for years that I included on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list.

When I set this goal, I'd only ridden a horse a couple of times in my life, each of those times it was a short ride at some type of tourist attraction where everything is designed for those of us who know nothing about riding. In fact, it's obvious from photos of me over the years that I have never spent much time around horses at all; although I rarely miss a great photo op, whether it's right here in Texas or among the Canadian Rockies or on the streets of London, England.

My original idea for this goal was to take lessons until I felt comfortable mounting and riding a horse on my own. Realistically, however, I don't anticipate needing this skill at this point in my life. I don't aspire to owning a horse, so my opportunities for riding are still pretty much limited to touristy-type rides.

But I have worked on this goal! About a year and a half ago, I took several horseback riding lessons. I did not realize until I arrived for the first lesson that I would also be grooming and saddling the horse.

I was able to practice mounting (with the aid of a step), walking, turning, stopping, and trotting in a covered arena near our home! [Unfortunately, I never remembered to get a photo while I was mounted!]

I contemplated and researched taking more lessons before checking this goal off my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list; however, I don't feel the need for more training at this time. I think these few lessons helped me feel at least somewhat comfortable around horses and confident that I can enjoy a ride if the opportunity presents itself in the coming years. So, I'm checking this item off with a little  variation.

Have you ridden a horse? Would you consider yourself a novice or an expert?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Take Three Thursday | Time Capsule Bible

The city of Lucas, Texas, put together a time capsule this year, and the church we attend contributed a journaling Bible to it. The pastor asked members of the congregation to add journaling or notes to the people who will read it when the time capsule is opened in forty years. There were a variety of entries, mostly prayers and notations of favorite scriptures.

I illustrated my favorite scripture (Jeremiah 29:11) using a variety of yellow letter stickers and a pink pen.

Robbie simply made a  note of his favorite Psalm.

I also illustrated Psalm 33:12, re-creating a similar patriotic illustration in my journaling Bible.

I wonder if people will still be using journaling Bibles forty years from now, or will everything continue to move more and more to all digital so that printed Bibles will be hard to find?

Joining in with Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday, a meme designed to help us notice more of the ordinary of our lives. What are you noticing this week?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Take Piano Lessons

Taking piano lessons has been a goal of mine for many years. I always thought I'd enjoy finally learning to read music and play an instrument. So, this was one of the goals that I've wanted to do for years that I included on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list.

Earlier this year, I signed up for piano lessons at our local senior center. (No, I'm not actually old enough to be a member yet! However, the minimum age is only 50, so I was able to join as Robbie's spouse.) The instructor has been teaching music and piano for years, so she wasn't daunted by the fact that I've never learned to read music or play any instrument at all.

I started with an adult beginner's course book, learning the keys on the piano, finger position, and the difference between a quarter note and a half note. I set up the keyboard we have here at home and spent a little (very little!) time practicing some basic (very basic!) exercises and tunes.

One thing that I've realized during the two months I signed up for lessons is that I'm really not all that interested in taking up this new hobby at this point in my life! It's not that it doesn't still sound like something I'd like to know how to do; it's simply that there are other things more important or interesting to me right now.

I feel good about signing up for a few lessons and trying something new, and it's quite possible I'll continue to work through the course book here and there since the keyboard is set up and easy to access. However, I'm comfortable checking this item off my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list … I did take some lessons after all!

Sending a huge thanks to my friend Darlene, who snuck into one of my lessons and snapped these photos! 

Do you play the piano? When did you first learn to play?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Book Review | Chosen People

Despite the fact that he's had 18 books published, I had not read any of Robert Whitlow's novels until this week when I read Chosen People, which I received free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

This legal thriller and hard-to-put-down story is set in Atlanta, Georgia, and Jerusalem, Israel, and kept me guessing who could be trusted until the very end. [I admit that I stayed up late to finish the book.]

The main character, Hana Abboud, is a Christian Arab Israeli lawyer trained at Hebrew University and currently working for a large firm in Atlanta, Georgia. She is asked to work on an anti-terrorism case involving the killing of an American woman in Jerusalem four years before. She ends up working with Jacob Brodksy, a young Jewish lawyer, and Daud Hasan, an Arab private investigator. She also meets and becomes friends with the husband and young daughter of the American woman who sacrificed herself to save her daughter's life during the attack in Jerusalem.

There's plenty of intrigue, a host of cultural differences, and a variety of other characters to keep the plot moving along at a rapid pace. This book is not for the faint of heart as it describes in detail (although not grotesquely graphic) the terrorist attack as well as scenes of jihadist training sessions. Knowing that these types of events are actually happening in our world today brought on feelings of sadness and righteous indignation and horror … maybe not the best choice for late night reading. 

However, I especially enjoyed the insights into the culture and divisions in Jerusalem, along with peeks at various historical religious sites. It was also refreshing to read this type of story with a main character who is a strong Christian with a meaningful prayer life as she seeks the Lord's direction and His comforting presence in her life. I highly recommend this book - an interesting and intriguing read! In many ways, this book is reminiscent of a John Grisham novel. [In fact, I've passed it on to Robbie as I think he'll enjoy it, too.]

Have you read any of Robert Whitlow's books?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Take Three Thursday | Hymnal Journaling Event Sneak Peek

This week I'm busy preparing for my upcoming Sing A New Song Hymnal Journaling All-Day Event. I am so excited about this event, which is taking place in Allen, Texas, on March 30. 

Throughout the day, I'll be sharing the stories behind some favorite hymns and worship songs as well as a variety of illustrated journaling techniques. Each participant will receive a hymnal along with several kits with supplies for covering the hymnal and illustrating the stories and messages in the hymns.

I was blessed to have two volunteers here yesterday who helped me put together kits and prepare table decorations. Here's a sneak peek!

If you're in the DFW area and would like to join us for this event, there are still a few spots available. Check out all the details and find a link to sign up HERE!

Joining in with Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday, a meme designed to help us notice more of the ordinary of our lives. What are you noticing this week?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Bible Journaling | Scripture Lettering

In a continued attempt to improve my lettering skills, earlier this year I joined in (a few days of) a scripture lettering challenge hosted be Amanda from the Move the Mountains website. There was a short devotional video each day, along with a lettering example.

The topic for this series was "Daughters of Promise", and some of the letterings were short, simple reminders of the topic discussed.

I added these simple reminders in various places near the referenced scriptures in  my journaling Bible. For the blessed reminder below, I used a small piece of patterned paper (and washi tape, of course) as a background because there was some bleed through from the other side of that page.

Other times, the journaling fit better in the margin and worked well with a few bits & pieces (the arrow & hexie in the example below).

I even got brave enough to try lettering on a full page in my interleaved Bible!

While I didn't participate in the entire series, I enjoyed trying out the lettering styles and the reminders of God's many promises to us throughout His Word.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Take Three Thursday | Seeing, Listening, Organizing

Joining in with Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday, a meme designed to help us notice more of the ordinary of our lives.

Seeing … a creative idea for old paperback books: the covers have been removed & the spines painted white to give the look of wood. Words are stamped on the spines, then three books are bound together with twine.

Listening … to podcasts on my exercise walks around the neighborhood on sunny days. I inadvertently captured this screenshot of my phone as I was trying to adjust the volume on my new AirPods.

Organizing … our to-read books by color. I think this gives us a new (colorful) perspective when we're deciding what to read next.

What are you noticing this week?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Book Reviews | Book Club Selections

The last three library book club selections I've read are fiction books that are fairly quick reads.



My favorite, and the most interesting read, is Lisa Wingate's Before We Were Yours. This historical fiction is based on the atrocities committed by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home from the 1930s to the 1950s. Children from poor families were stolen (right off their porches or while walking along the street) or signed over to the home's custody (by parents who were lead to believe they would be able to retrieve their children at a later date) and then sold/adopted out to rich families (or in some cases given to law enforcement officials for looking the other way). 

Before We Were Yours is told from alternating perspectives. In the present day, we meet Avery Stafford, a young lawyer who is being groomed to take her father's Senate seat. A chance encounter with a resident at a nursing home (during a press conference) leads Avery on a quest to find our more about her grandmother Judy, who is currently in an elite nursing care facility and suffering from dementia.

Back in 1939, we meet Rill Foss, the oldest sibling of Queenie and Briny, a young couple who live on a shanty boat on the Mississippi River. When Queenie goes to the hospital because she's having trouble birthing twins, Rill and her brother and sisters are taken from the house boat to the Tennessee Children's Home. As this story alternates between Avery's life of wealth and privilege and Rill's struggle to keep her siblings together, we are introduced to a myriad of other characters and situations that kept me wondering until well into the book how the stories would eventually intersect. A great, although disturbing, read.


At first, I really didn't like My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. The story is divided into two parts: "Book One" follows Katie Brenner's life in London, where she works at a marketing firm. She's struggling to make ends meet, is trying to change who she is to better fit in to the London marketing scene, and is faking a perfect life on her Instagram account by snapping beautiful photos as she wanders around London. Honestly, she's not very likable; however, in "Book Two", she returns home (after being fired from her job) to help her dad and step-mom open a new glamping retreat. Here, she's more in her element and able to just be herself. She's much more likable, although the story takes some unbelievable routes (as she gets even with her old boss). At our book club meeting, we had a great discussion about social media, glamping, and not judging others by appearances.


The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick is the story of a widower living in the UK and begins one year after the death of his wife. As he begins cleaning out her things, he finds a charm bracelet that he's never seen and ends up going on a search to learn more about her life before they met. This is a quick easy read, although not quite believable. Arthur is in his 60s and is retired from a job as a locksmith, but he seems somewhat naive as he absentmindedly rents a bed in a hostel in London and spends another night sleeping on a vagabond musicians' couch. Then there's his visits to Graystock Manor where a tiger mauls him, the French writer who turns out to be gay, and the jewelry artist who wouldn't return his phone calls. I like the concept of the story (searching for the meaning behind each charm), but the somewhat unrealistic turn of events made this too much of a fluff read for my tastes. 

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Well-Planned Surprise

When I learned that my twin nieces would be reading The Hobbit as part of their homeschool curriculum, I volunteered to re-read the book and have weekly FaceTime discussions with them...and it was so much FUN!

Our first meeting began with a discussion about J.R.R. Tolkien and how he originally wrote/told this story for his children. We looked at the Wilderland map showing the various locations Bilbo and the dwarves traveled through in Middle Earth and Thror's map with the finger pointing to the secret door to enter the Lonely Mountain. 

Each week, we discussed several chapters in-depth, then went through the questions and vocabulary in their workbooks (which we'd usually already covered in our discussions). The seventieth anniversary edition of the book (which I was reading) has a dustjacket with Tolkien's original three-color jacket design, as well as his illustrations throughout the book; so, we also discussed how these resembled or changed the way we imagined the scenes as we read. One week, I had the girls read the dialogue between (the dragon) Smaug and Bilbo that took place deep inside the mountain, and they did a fabulous job bringing that scene to life!!

As we neared the end of the book, I called my sister and we planned a surprise for the girls. We had our final FaceTime scheduled for a Wednesday afternoon, and they were all set up in one of the back bedrooms, waiting for my call. Unbeknownst to them, I had been on the road all day so we could have our last meeting in person! (It's been over five years since the last time I surprised the girls with a visit!)

My sister went into the room ahead of me and captured this fabulous group of photos as the girls turned around stunned when I walked in, then jumped up in excitement for a big hug.

It was so much FUN to discuss the final chapters of the book with them in person. I'm thrilled to report that both of them thoroughly enjoyed the book. They had each taken notes to keep all the characters (especially the thirteen dwarves) straight and their insights and understanding of the plot and theme and the various conflicts was excellent.

After a delicious dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate their 14th birthday, we stayed up late that night watching the 1977 animated movie based on the book.

This 90-minute movie is a very shortened version of the story, much of it told through narration and/or from Bilbo's perspective. We paused the movie quite a few times to discuss the differences between the book and the movie, especially how disappointed we were that they left out the entire chapter about Beorn (and his animals serving the meals) and did not even include the Arkenstone (and its impact on Thorin and Bilbo's decision to give it to Bard). We also discussed how we could see the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien's illustrations for the animations in the movie and that the words to the songs were directly from the book.

If you've been reading here for a while, you know that I enjoy reading and discussing books, and it was even better being able to share a book I really like with these two beautiful young ladies! And, this well-planned surprise visit made it even better!

Have you planned any surprises lately?