Ebenezer Season

hehe. It's not what you think.

As a little girl I remember going to the family camp and seeing all the rocks my grandmother had on the window sills there and I eventually started my own collection. Some of my rocks I've had since 1985 or 86 when my dad brought 6 jungle river pebbles home to me (they're in the dish in the picture here.) But there's a reason why I collect rocks as well as a few other little knickknacks--and it's not because I like to dust, because I don't! LoL. You can find out why here.

As I played taxi this morning I got caught in a skunk parade! And I came out smelling like a rose. *grin* Okay, maybe not quite like a rose, but I sure didn't stink of skunk. I'll tell you about sometime, along with what I learned.

Happy Tuesday!

Traffic in the Cornfields

Yesterday at church our youth pastor preached and asked a very good question...

Are you too busy living life to see God?

Be still, and know that I am God. 
~Psalm 46:10 NIV

That's a question we need to stop and ask ourselves every so often. And if you think "But I don't have time to stop!" then you ARE too busy.

Be still so you can see God.

I'm posting today at The Barn Door about a cornfield traffic jam. ;-) Drop by and see what I'm talking about.

Time for the Edges

One of the joys of living I the country is dealing with the dust, dirt and mud, depending on the season. With 7 of us in and out the door, our floors get dirty fast so it's not uncommon for one of us to run around with the broom and do a quick sweep of the walkways. It works as a quick fix, but we still need to take the time and do a thorough job of sweeping everyday.

Recently I've been just sweeping the walkways of my life. Sweeping the clumps of mud, chunks of dirt and all the grit of life out of the way so I can keep rushing on. But it's not working well. In fact, it's caught up to me.

All around the edges of my life there's a mess and it's time for me to take care of it.

The other day I was finally able to do the cleaning that's been on my to-do list for 2-3 Saturdays and it was such a relief to get it done. I even enjoyed doing it! I'm looking forward to doing the same thing in my life now. I NEED to do the same thing in my life. For me, my marriage and my family.

Just wanted to let you know why I won't be around as much as I was planning. This is a good thing and although the path here was not nice, I'm glad to be here.

How about the edges of your life? Have you been doing quick sweeps of the walkways but neglecting the edges?

Author Spotlights and Winners

Are you looking for the Author Spotlight? It's posted over at Reflections and this week is Cathy Bryant and her book, A Path Less Traveled.

Last week's spotlight was on Linore Burkard and her giveaway is still open. You can find Linore's spotlight and her interview at Reflections.

Holly Heisey is the winner of Paul Baines' book, Alpha Redemption and
Rita has won A.K. Arenz's book, Mirrored Image.

How do you deal with stress? Do you deal with it like Jesus did? Yesterday I posted at the Internet Cafe on Dealing with Stress Like Jesus. I'd love for you to stop by!

Resisting or Resting?

Nursery duty is not one of my favorite things. In fact, it's enough to make me groan, but I remember quite clearly how much I appreciated being able to sit through a church service without little ones. Nursery is something I can certainly do once every six weeks, so when the need was announced, and my daughter asked, we volunteered. Each time our turn comes up, I remind myself it's a good opportunity to serve with a smile so a young mother can sit in service. It's been good for me! And the time I'm with the kids is okay.

I was in the nursery recently and found myself with a little one that was tired and fighting sleep. Which made two of us! By 11:30 the child did not want to play, but to be held while I stood. I'm enough out of practice that I can't stand with a little one on my hip for long, so I sat in the rocker and tried to placate the temper tantrum throwing child on my lap. After several toys were batted away, I reached for a book, and quiet finally settled in. After chatting through several pages, the little one's head nodded and I would've cheered if I hadn't been afraid of ruining it. Two more nods and the little head tucked under my chin with a sigh from both of us.

As I sat and snuggled the little one I wondered why they resist sleep so much sometimes. That's when I realized that I'm often like that little one. I throw a fit because I don't want to rest in God. I resist relaxing in my Savior's hands and do everything I can to handle things on my own. Until I can't anymore and I drop off and finally rest in God—the very thing I needed all along.

Why does a little one fight sleep so much? Why do I fight resting in God so much? Maybe I need to simply let go, snuggle in and rest in my Father's arms.

How about you? Do resist resting at times too?

Boys, boys, boys

We knew going in we would not only enjoy ourselves, but that we'd be blessed. And we were--above and beyond what we thought. Far above. Recently we were a host home for some of the Watoto children from Uganda and although we only got to spend a few hours with them, we fell in love fast! Here's our boys and their caretaker, Uncle Nicholas.

In the morning the boys were anxious to go outside and play. They loved being able to run around for awhile and they didn't mind substituting a volleyball for a soccer ball. They ran circles around my boys! =]

The little time we spent inside was full of legos, blocks, airplanes and kittens.

The youngest of the boys and and Alex teamed up. I don't know who had more fun, but they sure made a towering giant.

Although Bruce wasn't at our house, he connected with my middle son. I have a feeling the impact of that friendship will be felt for quite awhile. He was missed immediately.

These boys immediately became our boys and it was hard to let them go and wave goodbye. If you ever have a chance to hear a Watoto Childrens' Choir, GO! And if you can, host a few of them in your home. It will be a breath of fresh air and it just might change your life.

So tell me, what's been the highlight of your week?

Choosing to Celebrate

Have you ever felt like you fell short? Miserably short?
That's how I'm feeling.

I set out to celebrate the 40 days before my birthday, and life was so dog-gone busy that I didn't do near as much celebrating and seeking as I wanted to. I was hoping to make it through the book of 1 Samuel in my studying, but I'm only in chapter 11 of 31 chapters. I planned on staying up-to-date in my Esther study posts, but I missed several weeks and barely kept my nose above water in the Tuesday night study, never mind writing a weekly post.

But the fact is that I'm still standing and not down and out and that, in itself, is cause for celebration. So I'm choosing to celebrate in spite of falling short of my goals.

One night at Bible study a prayer was answered in a way that I had no doubt it was the direction from God that I'd been seeking. I don't remember ever receiving an answer like I did that night, and if another lady hadn't been sharing a neat answer to prayer I might've done a happy dance right there in someone else's living room.

One of the things I was seeking direction on was concerning a domain name I purchased a couple months ago. I've been thinking of moving my blog to a different domain, but I didn't want to jump first and think later, as I'm prone to do, so I had been talking with God about it. That night at Bible study God directed me to move to the new domain.
Finding the Extraordinary God in our Ordinary Lives
I was really hoping that I'd be able to move on my birthday, but other things have been going on and I wasn't able to get the site up and going, let along move. But that's okay, it will come in time. There are still lots of details to work out, but just experiencing God's direction like that was fantastic!

Other things have happened in ways that points to God's hand working and it's been so cool to see and realize that God is working behind the scenes even when I don't see any obvious evidence. The timing of the Esther study is a perfect example. I learned so much in this study—things that I've been able to apply immediately to where I'm at right now. Things that have made a difference in my life and changed how I see my current events and how I approach those events. Only God, who loves me enough to be intimately involved in the details of my life, would work things as He has. What a great an awesome God!!

Life has been in a pattern of change recently, and you've seen a little of it here at Patterings with the author spotlights, but things here will be settling down now. I'll be returning to what I love blogging about most: Finding the extraordinary God in our ordinary lives.

I hope you'll continue to join me. =]
Oh! I almost forgot! Today is my first post at The Barn Door. I'd LOVE it if you stopped by and said hi! Check out why I have No LadyBug Love.


Jesus is our Light in the midst of a dark world,
and in our personal dark times.
Look to Jesus!!

Esther 6: The Set Up

Bible study: The Book of Esther

Sleepless in Susa. What's a king to do? Listen to stories of his own greatness, of course! And that's exactly what we find King Xerxes doing after that first dinner with Esther and Haman.

Esther 6 is when God pivots the whole story line of Esther, and the pivotal point is not the point of highest tension.
We expect the peripety (the sudden reversal, the hinge) to fall in the spot of highest tension but it doesn't always happen that way. In Esther, the pivot point is not the climax of the narrative. It's the seemingly insignificant event of Xerxes sleepless night, an ordinary event that begins to turn the tables. By making the peripety, the pivot point, an insignificant event, rather than the point of highest dramatic tension, the author is taking the focus away from human action. Had the pivot point been during the tension, Esther or Xerxes would have been seen as the cause for the change or reversal. By separating the peripety from the tension this makes the message that no one in the story is in control what is about to happen! An unseen power, God, is controlling the reversal of destiny. ~Karen Jobes.
God used Xerxes' sleepless night to turn the tide in Esther. The scrolls that were read to him recounted the story of how Mordecai had saved the king's life, 5 years previously. Typically, those kinds of deeds were great rewarded, but that time hadn't been. When Xerxes looks around for someone to help him figure out what to do, Haman is there with a fast answer.

Just look at this! Haman doesn't have to stop and think. The answer is fast because he's thought about it so often, and besides, who would the king want to honor more then the great Haman who attends private dinners with the king and queen of Persia? Haman pours out his wish list. He's so deep into self-promotion that he doesn't even stop to think the king may have someone else in mind.

Check out Haman's wish list:
*dressed in a royal robe—Persians superstitiously thought the king's robes brought him magical powers so very, very few ever touched them.
*riding the king's horse—coronations included riding the king's horse.
*paraded around by the king's most noble prince—clearly placing him much higher than the most noble prince.

It's enough to wonder if Haman wasn't planning on usurping the king's throne. Haman's tremendous thirst for honor made him so fixated on it that it eventually ended up destroying him. Look at the pronouns in verse 10...

The the king said to Haman, “Take quickly the robes and the horse as YOU have said, and do so for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king's gate; do not fall short in anything of all the YOU have said.” ~Esther 6:10 NAS

Of course, Haman obeyed. *snicker* I so wish I could see an instant replay of that scene! What was said between the two men as Haman robed Mordecai? Did Haman bellow his pronouncement of “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor!” or did he say it only loud enough that he could still mumble some? And what did the onlookers think and see? Did they see and understand the irony of it all? How many Jews got to see Mordecai on the king's horse? Did they cheer wildly? Do you think they had any idea of what was about to happen?

And then what happened?
Mordecai went back to work at the king's gate and Haman scurried home with his head covered. Once he got there, he wasn't encouraged, either. His friends saw what had happened and they took off. They didn't want to be anywhere close the lightening bolt struck, and it's a good thing because it struck fast.
We might glean several things from Mordecai's example. If we get overlooked for affirmation or promotion, so be it. Let's just do our jobs. If we get elevated and celebrated, so be it. Let's just do our jobs. Let's pursue a walk with God so close that the spolights of this world—be they for us or against us—are eclipsed by His enourmougs shadow dcast on our path.

There in the shelter of the Most High we find our significance and the only saticsfactin of our insatiable need to be noticed. There and theree alone we are free to be neither depressed nor impressed with the capticious reactions of this carnal world. ~Beth Moore
Haman's pride set him up for the fall he took. God's hand worked out the details for his free fall from fame.

By making a sleepless night the pivot point of the book, God took the focus off all human involvement and placed it squarely on Himself. He is the unseen powerful hand controlling destiny—then and now.

What about me and you?

*Do you think Xerxes' sleepless night had anything to do with Esther including Haman in their private dinner?

*When was the last time you've been sleepless? Try listening to what God may be trying to say to you but you're always too busy to listen to.

*Is there something you've become so fixated on that it's cheating you out of the goodness God is offering? Is that fixation setting you up destruction?

*After you've been praised or rewarded, do you go right back to work or do you strut around preening?

meet Margaret Daley

...at the Barn Door today and tomorrow. She's an incredible lady who wows me with all she does. Her books are favorites here at my house. Be sure to go to the Barn Door to meet her and enter the book giveaway.

ALSO, don't forget, there's two book giveaways still current here at Patterings...
Spotlight with Paul Baines
Interview with Paul Baines
Spotlight with Alice Arenz
Interview with Alice Arenz

It's hard to believe it's November already. After a week or two of cold, we're in a warm week and let me tell ya, it's WONderful! It's warm enough that we're going to wash the van today, one last time, so we can get some pictures and list it in the paper. A bittersweet thing since it closes a chapter in our lives. It's good but sobering at the same time. I'm on the verge of buying a huge wall calendar for the family simply to keep track of who and where.

Since Esther is the one who posts the author spotlights for me (both here and at the the Barn Door now) here's a picture of her with one of her birthday presents last week: a NaNo t-shirt. She has her first book: last year's NaNo project and she's writing furiously this month, too, working on book 2. =] Esther is my younger daughter, number 3 in my line-up of kids. She'll also be getting her permit next month, but until then, I'm enjoying the driving and think time I've been getting. Trust me, I no longer take that time for granted. LoL

Happy Tuesday! Friday's coming! ;-)

The Barn Door

The Barn Door is now open!
Come visit us and see what we're all about.

Tomorrow's author spotlights will be posted at The Barn Door and I'll be using those days here for other things. =] =] This is one of the fine details that I've been seeking God over--and how He directed and arranged all this amazes me. God's timing is incredible! I'm so thankful for His sovereignty.

This week is the last of my 40 day birthday celebration and I'm curious to see how things come together. (I've already been surprised several times.) It's so cool to see and experience God working in my life.

Book Giveaway Winners!

Now that October is over, I'm finally getting caught up and we have some winners!
Some of these are review, but I'm posting ALL of them for the fun of it! =]

Merry = A Memory Between us by Sarah Sundin
Anne Payne = Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad
Carole = The Perfect Blend by Trish Perry
Sunny = Letters in the Attic by DeAnna Dodson
Joanne = Love Finds You in Golden, NM by Lena Nelson Dooley
karen k = Facelift by Leanna Ellis
CarolNWong = Just for the Moment by Deanna Klingel
Apple Blossom = First Love by Michelle Sutton

From now on, the author spotlights and interviews will be posted at The Barn Door, a midwest group blog that I'm excited to be a part of. We're opening the doors at the Barn Door on Monday and I hope you join us there.

There are still two book giveaways going on here at Patterings:
spotlight with Alice Arenz
interview with Alice Arenz
spotlight with Paul Baines
interview with Paul Baines

with P. A. Baines

Welcome to Patterings, Paul!
Tell us about your epiphany moment when you decided you were going to seriously pursue writing and eventually publication.

For me that moment happened about thirteen years ago. I was looking for something I could do for God and I spent a lot of time in prayer. Not long after that, an idea for a Christian speculative novel started rattling around in my head and wouldn't go away. I decided to write it down and was surprised that it wasn't as dreadful as I thought it might be. It wasn't polished but I sent it out anyway. It was accepted by a well-known agency in New York but, although it "came close" (their words) they could not sell it. By then I was hooked and have been writing ever since.

Which of your books (published or upcoming) has been the most fun for you to write and which character is your favorite? Why?
I am busy writing a humorous space opera called "Hanzet, the Universe, and Everything" which I am enjoying way too much. I enjoy writing humor because you get to have fun while you work. My favorite character in Hanzet has to be Malcolm, an ordinary Earth human six million years from now. His life revolves around television and food, until one day he gets caught up in an adventure that takes him to the farthest reaches of the universe. He is flawed but has a good heart and ultimately ends up saving the day in spite of his best efforts to avoid trouble.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
I struggle to get started. I'm fine once the first few words hit the page, but I really have a problem with that first sentence. I get around this by reading a few lines from one of my favorite authors at which point the urge to write usually grabs me.

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote? Why?
Alpha Redemption has two main characters. Brett is an astronaut taking part in a prototype mission to Alpha Centauri. Jay is the computer program that controls the ship. Although the story centers around Brett's physical and emotional journey, Jay stole the show for me. He is like an innocent child with an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Brett treats him badly at first and I really found myself feeling sorry for Jay. One aspect of the story I enjoyed the most was exploring life and the human experience through the eyes of a computer.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Singing "Climb Every Mountain" from the Sound of Music on stage during a school play is probably the quirkiest thing I have ever done. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I am normally a shy person. Secondly, I cannot sing.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
I tend to like peace and quiet, so a trip into a busy town center is something I will try to avoid if at all possible. Filling in my annual tax return is something I dread and always end up leaving until the last minute. I find any kind of formal occasion a chore and will drag my feet when going to one of those (not so much dread as discomfort).

What would a perfect day for you look like?
Realistically or in my dreams? Well, maybe I'll settle for a mix of the two. Waking to the sound of birds singing on the first day of a long summer holiday. A blue sky on a warm day spent at the beach with my family followed by a barbeque under the stars. Later, on our return home, an envelope is waiting on the doormat containing a publishing contract for my latest novel. Add cheesecake in there somewhere and you have my perfect day.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I write Christian speculative fiction but don't read very much in the genre. I tend to look for any story that is well-written with a strong voice. The story is paramount to me, no matter what the genre. As an example of the kinds of books I like, I recently finished A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Both of these stories pulled me in and made me think about life and my place in the world. I think a good story becomes part of you and changes you a little bit.

Are there certain foods or snacks keeps the words flowing for you?
I used to nibble a lot of biscuits when I first started writing. These days I don't nibble much when I write, but I do like to keep some mixed nuts and raisins handy.

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
I think redemption is a big theme for me. I am drawn to imperfect characters who believe but who have doubts about their faith. Life has pulled them away from God but He still has a plan for their lives. I like to show the unfolding of that plan as God reveals His perfect love. I don't identify with flawless characters because people like that do not exist in the real world. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, yet He is always faithful. This, to me, is an amazing thing.

What lesson is the Lord teaching you right now or recently taught you?
Something He has been teaching me for a long time now is to trust Him, even when things seem to be going wrong. I used to think that, as a Christian, I should never have problems and that my life would go smoothly if only I prayed. Now I understand that what I think should happen and what God wants to happen do not necessarily agree. Through this I am learning to align my will with God's. I used to get irritated if something happened to break my daily routine. Now, instead of getting annoyed, I thank God for whatever the reason is for the delay. Simply put, I am learning to let God take the reins of my life and not fretting when we take a route I did not expect. I have a lot more peace now.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I have a finished novel that I hope to show to my publisher soon. It is called Hour and involves the discovery of another planet just like the Earth on the other side of the Sun. A team is sent to explore the planet where they discover a civilization caught up in a terrible ecological disaster and harboring a secret that has spiritual consequences for everyone on Earth. For this story I spent a lot of time and effort researching space travel to make it as authentic as possible, including reading through an actual Shuttle accident report. I like this story because it has an ending that I think many Christians will enjoy.

You can purchase Alpha Redemtion from Amazon:

P. A. Baines is giving away a copy of Alpha Redemtion. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment by Monday, November 15th and check back on Tuesday, November 16th to see if you've won. You can enter twice--once on this post and once on yesterday's spotlight with P. A. Baines. If you want to guarantee that you're notified if you win, then leave your email address in the comment, otherwise, you can just check back and email me through the button in my sidebar.
**Annoying little disclaimer: This giveaway is open only to U.S. addresses. By clicking on the Amazon link above or in the sidebar, and purchasing, I will receive a very small percentage of the sale.

meet P. A. Baines

P.A. Baines is the author of Alpha Redemption, a Christian speculative fiction novel that asks the question: “If a man-made artificial intelligence became self-aware and developed a belief in God, would God recognize it as having a soul?”.

Educated in Africa, he works as an analyst/programmer and is studying towards a degree in Creative Writing through the Open College of the Arts in England.

He currently lives in a small corner of the Netherlands with his wife and two children and various wildlife.

You can find P. A. Baines at his website www.pabaines.com and on the blog newauthors.wordpress.com

Alpha Redemtion

From despair he fled, through tragedy he lived on, and journeyed to innocence.

His trajectory: the stars. His companion: a computer poised at the brink of sentience.

An unlikely friendship on a prototype spaceship at lightspeed towards Alpha Centauri, and redemption.

Here's an excerpt of Alpha Redemtion:

The ship loomed overhead, its shadow engulfing them. Its smooth white skin filled the window, slowly obscuring their view of the Earth as the elevator rose. It stopped, and pneumatic seals hissed and whirred into place. Brett followed the technician through the airlock, pausing only to get a final glimpse of the planet he would not see again for almost a decade. He craned his neck to get a look but the ship's hull now blocked his view. All he could see was a sliver of atmosphere and a handful of stars.

It was his first time inside The Comet, but he knew it intimately from months of training. They were in the cockpit but there were no instruments: no joystick or control console, or even a windscreen--at least not in the usual sense of the word. There was nothing for him to do other than get into the hyper-sleep chamber that crouched in the middle of the floor like a grotesque, mutated iron-lung. He climbed the steps, turning to look towards the open airlock while the technician helped him connect the hoses, checking and double-checking the seal around his mouth. His initial discomfort at having something attached to his face faded as he relaxed the way they had taught him in the swimming pool, focusing on breathing slowly and deeply.

He slid into the chamber and his legs, hips, torso and chest became weightless in the clinging embrace of the syrupy goo. It covered his head and he opened his eyes, blinking uncomfortably into the yellow haze. He knew it was vital to immerse the eyes; they had stressed that many times. Remember to open them wide and have a good look around.

He could see the airlock from here, and the technician, now an amorphous blob, moving around the front of the bath, back and forth, back and forth. Brett felt a shudder as the lid closed and sealed over his head. A vague fear surfaced in the deepest recesses of his mind—what if. . .? then vanished again like a puff of breath on a chilly autumn morning.

The technician disappeared through the airlock, leaving Brett alone in his bath, breathing filtered air through a hose, listening to the muted sounds of the ship as it prepared to launch him towards an impossibly distant point of light.

In his dream-like cocoon, Brett could sense very little. Everything seemed muted and far away. He heard distant hisses, cavernous booms, and the ghostly shriek of metal on metal. Vibrations passed through the liquid and nudged at his body as if to alert him to some impending danger.

He could see the hoses drifting. His legs floated like odd-shaped creatures in a yellow sea. Then the vibrations stopped and there was no sound other than his heart beating softly in his ears. The taste of the air being fed to him through his mouthpiece changed. It reminded him of something. Was it watermelon? He could not remember the last time he had eaten a watermelon. He could not remember the last time he had seen a watermelon. Maybe they were extinct. Like dinosaurs. Hit by an asteroid; drowning in the mud; arms too short to take out the seeds. . .

Brett became aware that he was no longer thinking clearly, but that was fine. He watched his thoughts tumbling along like pretty little shards of plastic in a kaleidoscope, tumbling, tumbling, ever changing, never the same picture twice.

And at some point--he did not know exactly when--his thoughts faded as darkness washed over him and he slipped into hyper-sleep.

You can purchase Alpha Redemtion from Amazon:

P. A. Baines is giving away a copy of Alpha Redemtion. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment by Monday, November 15th and check back on Tuesday, November 16th to see if you've won. You can enter twice--once on this post and once on tomorrow's interview with P. A. Baines. If you want to guarantee that you're notified if you win, then leave your email address in the comment, otherwise, you can just check back and email me through the button in my sidebar.
**Annoying little disclaimer: This giveaway is open only to U.S. addresses. By clicking on the Amazon link above or in the sidebar, and purchasing, I will receive a very small percentage of the sale.

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