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Dec 15, 2011
In the Shadow of EvilIn the Shadow of Evil by Robin Caroll

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book I almost didn't read because of the cover. The cover looks borderline occult-ish to me and paired with the title - I almost passed it up. But I'm glad I didn't! The story is well worth reading, it's a lively romp with plenty of suspense!

Layla Taylor's life is turned upside down when her award winning building project goes up in smoke. Maddox Bishop is the detective sent to find out why the house was burned... with a body inside. More disaster awaits and casts Layla as a likely suspect, but Maddox can't believe she's guilty when his heart gets involved.

Dec 14, 2011
(Disclaimer: I swiped this from an e-mail and didn't check with first!)

Christmas Cookie Rules...

1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free.

2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

3. If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calories free, (rule #1) yours is also. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.

4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!

7. Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street" have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.

8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

9. Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!

10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. It's a rule!

So, go out and enjoy those Christmas Cookies - we only get them this time of year! Merry Christmas & Happy New year 2012
Dec 11, 2011
Threat of Exposure (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #244)(Texas Ranger Justice, #5).Threat of Exposure (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #244)(Texas Ranger Justice, #5). by Lynette Eason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brock Martin isn't looking for a female cop in his life. Gisella Hernandez is looking for drug runners, not a handsome DEA agent. They both find more than they bargained for. A good story with enough suspense to keep the pages turning, enough clues to figure out the crime, and enough romantic spark to satisfy the reader's heart. Enjoyable read!
Dec 1, 2011
Abigail's New Hope (Wayne County, #1)Abigail's New Hope by Mary Ellis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I give very few 5 star ratings because I save them for books that I know I'll read again. This is one of them. Not just another "sweet" Amish story, this story deals with some tough issues. What can land an Amish midwife in jail? How will her church district react? What will she find in God's Word for answers? In the background of these heavy issues lurks a touching love story. No spoilers here, but a book I highly recommend!
Fireman Dad (Love Inspired)Fireman Dad by Betsy St. Amant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good story about second chances, facing your fears, and letting go of the past. Marissa is a wonderful mother with a heavy load of past baggage. Handsome Jacob Greene offers everything but the security she craves. The characters are real and engaging and the story keeps you turning the pages. Recommended for any age.
Nov 23, 2011

You are responsible for the Thanksgiving dinner pies and you find your cupboard free of lard. What do you do? This happened to me today and I did the logical thing. I pulled a ten-pound package of ground hog fat out of my freezer and rendered a new batch of lard the day before Thanksgiving. You don’t have ground hog fat in your freezer! You need to get out more.
Those of you who are wincing at the whole idea of lard, don’t. It’s all natural, fully digestible, and eco-friendly. And it makes the best pie crust on earth – period. Why do you think Grandma’s pies were so much better than Mom’s? (Please refrain from nodding if you are reading this while seated next to Mom.)
Oh, sure, I could have run to the store, burning up gasoline and polluting the atmosphere, to purchase shortening which is highly processed and only semi-digestible, but I went back to the basics. The result? Fabulous pies to present to my family on Thanksgiving Day.
Instead of reaching for the shortcut, we often get a better result when we go back to the basics. Hebrews 12:2 says we should be “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” That’s the best example of getting back to the basics.
When you reach into your spiritual cupboard and find it lacking, pull your Bible out of the freezer (or wherever you store it these days) and spend time in His Word. By reading, absorbing, and living according to the basics of scripture, we can create something fabulous. And it’s all natural, fully digestible and eco-friendly too.
Surrender the Night (Surrender to Destiny, # 2)Surrender the Night by M.L. Tyndall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful love story wrapped up in the War of 1812. The division of loyalties makes the attraction between Rose and Alex difficult, to say the least. But he saves her from a dangerous situation and in return, she works to hide him from the American forces. Full of intense situations and daring action, this book will keep you reading!
The Rancher's ReunionThe Rancher's Reunion by Tina Radcliffe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the possibility of a terminal disease hanging over his head, Will Sullivan decides to never marry. But then Annie Harris moves back home. I enjoyed this story and the way it looked at two difficult issues, a heritable disease and trusting God with the future. I enjoyed the characters who displayed both intelligence and humor throughout the story. This one I can recommend for any age.
Nov 5, 2011
Torrent (River of Time, #3)Torrent by Lisa Tawn Bergren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The final book in the River of Time trilogy is the best book in the series, but one must read the first two to understand "Torrent". These are not stand-alone novels. The action is griping and the tension palpable. Several ends are wrapped up while a few questions remain unanswered. Perhaps the author intents to revisit these characters and finish those storylines at a later date.

These books are written for 'tween and teenage girls. I can certainly see young girls falling in love with the heroes as well as identifying with the heroines, no matter how far-fetched their actions seem. In fact, one young lady in our church told me she read the second book, "Cascade" in one day! Oh! To have young eyes again!

I highly recommend this series for any church library that is looking for engaging, wholesome books for young adults. While there is no true gospel message in these stories, and the heroine falls short of any conversion to Christ, the seeds are still planted and books are a good read.
Oct 30, 2011
Cascade (River of Time, #2)Cascade by Lisa Tawn Bergren

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An action packed sequel to "Waterfall", this book continues the story of sisters Gabi and Lia as they travel back to medieval Italy. The girls hopped back to the present at the end of "Waterfall" and return with their mother this time. Once again the girls are in the thick of political intrigue and medieval romance. A less-than-believable series of events (but hey - it's fantasy!) propels them further into the role of true heroines, once again saving the city of Siena before hopping back to the present. There is a wonderful twist at the end of this one!
Oct 23, 2011
Tea for Two (The Tea Shop Series)Tea for Two by Trish Perry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Second chances happen, and sometimes they happen at the right time and for the right reasons. This book highlights that. An enjoyable read about two everyday people who make the right choices. Zack is a single dad with teenagers teetering on rebellion. Tina is a counselor with the ability to help his family. This is a light, feel-good read suitable for any age. The characters are fresh and have a down-to-earth appeal. My favorite character is Milly, the owner of the tea house, who I have named a sheep after. I recommend this one!
Oct 15, 2011
Waterfall (River of Time, #1)Waterfall by Lisa Tawn Bergren

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An entertaining tale of two modern-day teenage sisters who find themselves transported back into medieval Italy. It strains the bounds of credibility in many places, granted, but it *is* a fantasy. Gabriella finds herself separated from her sister and in the middle of a feudal war. Thankfully she also finds a drop-dead gorgeous knight willing to help her in her search for Evangelia. In the process, she helps him and his family. Once reunited with Evangelia (amidst most of the credibility stretches) they find themselves celebrities who have made enemies. This is the first of a trilogy and it ends with more questions than answers. I look forward to reading the next two in the series to find out how it ends. I'd recommend this one for any age, but I suspect it will appeal most to 'tween and teen girls.
Oct 11, 2011
The Map Across Time (The Gates of Heaven, #2)The Map Across Time by C.S. Lakin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very enjoyable tale with more twists and turns than your small intestine. Okay, that's a little graphic, but you get the picture! A classic fantasy romp through a kingdom - and through time - involving all the usual elements of wizardry, good-vs-evil, men swinging swords, and at least one pretty princess. Some rather unusual elements make their way into this one as well, like a talking pig and a map that pulls the holder through time.

The characters are good and diverse, some an open book, others with an air of mystery. The setting is very well done. The tension is in all the right places and keeps the reader flipping the pages. My only complaint is the overuse of words that mean nothing... in English. There was a glossary in the back but it pulled me out of the story to stop and look them up, so I just ignored them and missed the meaning most of those words.

I highly recommend this one to folks who enjoy a complex tale of daring-do!
Sep 30, 2011
Patchwork Dreams (Amish of Seymour County, #1)Patchwork Dreams by Laura V. Hilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An Amish book with a serious subject matter. Becky Troyer has a child as the result of a date rape. She blames herself and hides the truth of the situation from her parents and her church. She plans to spend the rest of her life unwed, and a single mom, in the Amish church. Then handsome Jacob Miller arrives and her carefully laid plans to protect her heart crumble around her feet. Can she hope to have a normal life? Can Jacob learn the truth and not reject her? A touching look at the healing needed for the victim of such a crime.
I Shall Not Want (The Psalm 23 Mysteries, #2)I Shall Not Want by Debbie ViguiƩ

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rollicking good mystery that kept me guessing to the very end! The second in a series, I nevertheless had no problem picking up the clues from the past and enjoying the present. Oh! And the clues for book three are clearly in place.

Mystery is one genre I rarely seek out, but I enjoyed this story throughout. The characters are fresh and engaging, a little surprising, a little mysterious (would you expect any less in a good mystery?) and easy to identify with. No spoilers here - you have to read to book to find out what's inside!
Sep 28, 2011
My third year at Maranatha is the first year I've been able to relax. My book is written. My job is done. Whether or not it sees publication, I've done what I felt called to do. What a liberating feeling! This year I gave myself permission to *gasp!* skip a few sessions, to slow down, to enjoy the moment and the people. I've volunteered to go in front of the group - twice - and survived both times.

I wish I could describe the worship here. David Teems employs his God-given talents in this area. Words fail me (pitiful lack of expression for a writer) but my spirit soars. Debbie Taylor Williams pumps life into the morning devotional time. Her gift of encouragement to others is inspiring. Her knowledge of the Person of God dwarfs my meager understanding.

Those behind the scenes, working the bookstore, putting out snacks, running the sound equipment, and performing the many other unseen chores are the unsung heroes of the conference. A hearty thank you to each of them. That they can put up with a wallowing hoard of self-absorbed writers and do so with a smile on their faces gives a new level to the word "gracious".

Next year's dates are September 24 - 28. If you're looking for a Christian writers' conference with a heart, look no more. Mark the date and start plopping your pennies in the conference fund jar today. You won't regret it. Oh - and if you see me muttering to myself and frantically cramming in every session I can find next year - you'll know I'm somewhere in the middle of my next novel.
Sep 24, 2011
Trail To JusticeTrail To Justice by Susan Page Davis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A nice, easy read. No surprises here, a gentle love story suitable for any age. Loved the setting of Wyoming and the people surrounded by horses... that's always good stuff!
Sep 20, 2011
Larkspur CoveLarkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gritty look at what divorce does to a family. Andrea Henderson's marriage is shattered by her husband's behavior. She and her son move into her parent's lake home and try to put their lives back together. Raising a teenager by herself, getting a job, taking control of her life are all overwhelming things. Author Lisa Wingate does a nice job of portraying the turmoil of a woman whose life has been altered by things outside of her control. Handsome Mart McClendon adds another layer of tension and uncertainty to Andrea's life. Both learn to recognize a Power greater than themselves as they wade through the murky waters of Larkspur Cove.
Sep 14, 2011
Where Hearts Are Free (A Darkness to Light Novel, #3)Where Hearts Are Free by Golden Keyes Parsons

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a good book set in Colonial America. It is build around the historical practices of indentured servants and arranged marriages. It also encompasses the desire and ability of immigrants who came to this country in that time period to blend into the new culture emerging here. The characters are believable and appropriate for the time period. I recommend the book to people who enjoy fiction of this time period.

This is the third in a series and I have not read the first two. The amount of backstory at times was distracting for me. If I had read the books in order, it probably wouldn't have been.

Bridget is the dutiful daughter who desires to please her parents. She agrees to marry an older man she doesn't like because it is the desire of her parents. Her real love, Philippe, is released from his indentured servitude early when her father learns of her attachment. Philippe goes back to work on the family farm and stays there until he learns that Bridget's future husband is selling guns to the Indians. He mounts a rescue attempt to save the woman he belatedly realizes is the love of his life.
Sep 6, 2011
The CoveringThe Covering by Dana Pratola

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A sizzling attraction, a touch of spiritual warfare, and characters who intrigue from the first page. What more can you ask for? How about the gospel message and redemption? Yeah, it's got all that. Buy this book. Read this book. Pass it on.

Gunnar is the bad boy, Tessa is the naive girl, the powers of good and evil are tugging at both of them. The instant attraction is compelling and a bit dangerous. Tessa walks a perilous line between her Christian beliefs and her love for a rough but gorgeous biker. Gunnar struggles with demons and his past. Neither wants the relationship they find themselves in. You have to read the book to learn how it all works out. No spoiler here!

This book is Dana Pratola's first novel. I'll be watching for her next one!
Sep 3, 2011
It's true. My parents did irreparable damage to me in my formative years. They didn't mean to. They were acting in what they thought was my best interest. I will spend the rest of my life, however, dealing with the consequences.

This morning I'm canning another nine jars of string beans. I have enough string beans canned this year to see us through the next two winters. And yet our bean plants are still producing. If I was smart, I'd pull the bean plants and stop this wearying cycle. But I can't. Why? Here's where my parents come into the equation. There are starving children in China.

Many of you are nodding your heads now. You know what I mean. As children, we were guilted into not wasting what others were dying for the lack of. And now here I am in my hot and humid kitchen, standing over hot water and scalding steam, preserving string beans no Chinese child will ever see.

But life is good and God is great and soon the snow will fly.
Aug 30, 2011
A Stand-Up Guy: A NovelA Stand-Up Guy: A Novel by Michael Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nobody does a better job of depicting the underdog than Mr. Synder. Amidst the abject realty of the characters in this story, with their faults and foibles, their insecurities and insomnia, glimmers a little beacon of hope. If they can make it, anyone can.

Oliver, the wannabe stand up comic, is the quintessential wimp - in every sense of the word. Layer by layer his story is peeled away until we understand how he came to be who is he. I had a hard time liking him and never really got to the point of admiring him, but I came to understand him.

Mattie, who doesn't wannabe the girlfriend, is another complex character who is also not very likeable. She's something of a mystery and her story unfolds more slowly. She breaks all the molds for "typical" story girlfriend.

Through it all, Mr. Synder lights the reader's imagination with colorful word play while twanging the reader's conscience by revealing the reasons behind the characters. Everyone has a story. When you know it, it's easier to understand and to empathize. Too often in our busy everyday lives, we forget that. We look at the outside, we observe the obvious, and we miss their story.

Aug 21, 2011
The Colonel's LadyThe Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've become exceedingly stingy with 5 star ratings in recent months... but this book has earned one! I fell in love with both main characters from the start. The book hooked me immediately, held me in its grasp, and never let me wander. What more can you ask of a book?

Roxanna Rowan's life has been difficult. She's not perfect. She's not rich. She's getting "old" and has resigned herself to spinsterhood. She decides to head into the frontier of Kentucky and seek out her soldier father.

Her father, however, has been killed in an accident. Roxie finds herself in an impossible situation for a woman in the late 1700s. She is unmarried, with no family, and virtually trapped in a fort surrounded by hostile Indians and the British commander who is using them.

Colonel Cass McLinn is everything a commander should be. To fulfill her father's dying request, he has become her guardian. He must look after her while looking for his shoulder at the British commander who wants him dead.

A well written story that includes the sights, sounds, and smells of the frontier along with the intrigue of a war which birthed a nation.

Aug 9, 2011
Courting ConstanceCourting Constance by Teryl Cartwright

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful romp through the season in Bath with the unpredictable Constance in full pursuit of Sir Geoffrey. Gleefully breaking the bonds of propriety, Constance tries her hand at courting the gentleman in question. Nothing goes smoothly as the story twists and turns through one painful life lesson after another. I highly recommend this book to anyone of any age looking for a fun, light romance.

Jul 30, 2011
Grow Old With Me (The Quilt Trail Series)Grow Old With Me by Melinda Evaul

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The opening of this book is an instant attention getter. The entire first half was a page turner for me. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and the unlikely hero of this story. Melinda Evaul does a great job of creating the characters and peeling back the layers to let us see who they are. She allows them to be exceedingly human, which I find makes them all the more interesting and real. The second half dragged a bit, the ending was obvious and obstacles expected. However, it's still a good "Hallmark" type story with great characters and well worth reading. What I liked best about this story is that it illustrates the value of a person disassociated completely from physical attractiveness or physical abilities. In our culture, we tend to value the physical over the spiritual. Shame on us.

Benjamin carries his scars on his body while Sarah's scars are emotional. Neither are young anymore and change is hard. They both need to learn to trust in each other but more importantly - in God. They struggle with their own demons as they learn and grow. This really would make a good Hallmark movie. Hallmark? Are you listening?
Jul 20, 2011
No Safe HavenNo Safe Haven by Kimberley Woodhouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading this book. It's written by a mother/daughter team and the two separate voices came through loud and clear. The perspective of the daughter added an extra layer of authenticity to the character of Andie.

The book is set in Alaska, which I have never visited but I have it on my bucket list, and takes place during the winter months. Amid all the ice and snow during a plane trip, Jenna and Andie (another mother/daughter combo) crash into the side of a mountain. To make matters worse, it's not an accident and someone wants them dead.

Layer after layer of tension is added by the mysterious appearance of Cole Maddox, Andie's life threatening health issues, and Jenna's injury from the crash. No spoilers here, you'll have to read the book to find out how their survive all this!
Jul 11, 2011
Havah: The Story of EveHavah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed "Havah" and recommend it for adult Christians. It contains enough mature content that I would not recommend it for early or mid-teens. Nothing is offensive, but certainly it ventures into areas meant for a more mature audience.

I am not sure I would recommend it for non-Christians, however, because I think the book explores some darker areas of human nature that might derail someone who is searching for Christ. This is the story of Eve, it has everything to do with why we need Christ, but it doesn't illustrate that need clearly. It is eluded to, but I not sure how many non-Christians would see it.

As a Christian, I found many aspects of the book fascinating. I enjoyed the exploration of what those first moments of life - without birth - might have been like. The time spent in the garden, the majesty of the true communion with God, was very well told. The first years in exile were difficult to read after the beauty of the garden. Some areas mid-book dragged, but it's worth it to read the ending.
Jul 5, 2011
A shepherd culls out the problem sheep. Culling is the practice of removing an animal from the flock. There are many reasons an animal needs to be removed for the good of the flock. Culled animals wind up at the auction or... in the freezer.

We have a strict policy at Twin Willows Farm. If a ewe doesn't raise her lambs, she doesn't stay in the flock. Mothering skills and milk production are both highly heritable traits. By culling out those who can't or won't raise their lambs, and breeding only those who do, we strengthen the flock. Buyers who come to purchase replacement sheep from us know that they are getting solid genetics to add to their flock.

Many years ago we had a ewe I call the old bigot ewe. The three years I kept and bred her she produced triplets. Each year she gave us two white and one black lamb. Each year she rejected the black lamb. That left a lamb to be raised on the bottle, a time consuming and expensive way to raise a lamb. The old bigot ewe "sprouted wheels" after the third year. (Sprouted wheels = loaded on the truck and headed for the auction.)

We have another strict policy, we don't keep any dangerous animal on the farm. Attitude is another trait that can be linked to heritability. Our breed of sheep is generally pretty even tempered, including the rams. However, I purchased a new ram in the summer of 2010 and he turned meaner than a sore-headed bear. I wouldn't go into the pen with him without a pitchfork in my hand. Then he started charging the pitchfork! Michael came home one day to find him in the garage, skinned and hanging. Don't mess with the shepherd.

Our Shepherd isn't one to be messed with either. Our Lord is just and will do what needs to be done. "He (God the Father) gave Him (Jesus) authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man" John 5:27

The Lord culls out those who are harmful to His church, His flock. He may do that culling in this life, but for sure He'll do it at the end. Many people want to center all their thoughts on "God is love" and He is, but we can't limit Him at that. God is also just and sometimes that love is tough.
Jul 3, 2011
A shepherd keeps careful count and searches for missing sheep. As stated before, sheep have no natural defenses. They are easy marks for any passing carnivore or mischievous neighborhood delinquent. A good shepherd is vigilant that all are accounted for, and if not, goes in search of those missing.

Not far off the west edge of our property is a swamp that sings. We hear it at night, mostly, after the moon opens up in the sky. It starts as a high-pitched wail not dissimilar to a siren and evolves into multiple high-pitched yappings. We've seen scruffy looking critters slinking in and out of that swamp. A loaded rifle is usually within reach of the kitchen door for just those sightings.

In the spring when the lambs are small I am particularly vigilant about counting heads at least once a day. To date we've yet to lose a lamb to a coyote. God bless the electric fence! We've heard the snap-crack of a wet nose hitting the fence followed by frantic yapping.

We did have a sheep that was missing in pasture a few years ago. I went looking until I found her. She had fallen and injured her back. That case didn't turn out well, but at least we could put her out of her misery.

Our Shepherd keeps track of us. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10

It's not that the Lord doesn't know where we are, either physically or spiritually. He does - all the time. Those who try to hide from God find that the fig leaves are never big enough. What He seeks is our salvation, our names written in the Lamb's Book of Life. I think He keeps a rifle loaded by the kitchen door too... to keep away those who would tinker with His chosen.
Jul 1, 2011
Simple Choices (Harmony, #3)Simple Choices by Nancy Mehl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fitting ending to the trilogy! I've enjoyed my time in Harmony, Kansas. Nancy Mehl does a good job of bringing this town to life. "Simple Choices" adds some new adventure and wraps up a lot of loose ends from the two previous books. If you've read the first two, you don't want to miss this one!

A shepherd breaks up fighting among the sheep. In our modern sheep husbandry practices, this means keeping the rams separate from the ewes and lambs. Rams need to be kept in a small enough stall that they can't hurt each other, or in a large enough pasture that they can get away from each other. The term "battering ram" comes from fighting sheep. They can do a lot of damage to each other in a short amount of time.

Back in the old days, a shepherd had to wade in among the flock, swinging his staff and probably calling in the dogs for back-up. Breaking up a pair of fighting rams is a dangerous thing to do. A ram can take out a shepherd's knees in a moment. Once on the ground, the shepherd is pretty much helpless without a good dog.

We've had our share of ram fights out in the ram's paddock. We keep a pair of rams in a paddock of roughly a half acre. Included in that paddock is plenty of brush, a huge rock pile, an old bone pile (don't ask), and a broken-down farm wagon. With all those obstacles, the weaker ram has a good chance to get away from the aggressor. That's the best we can do to keep the peace.

Our Shepherd is all about peace. "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, no let it be fearful." John 14:27

The world may place obstacles in your paddock to keep you from fighting, but the Lord has left you with something more. His peace is here, today. That can be a difficult thing to remember when we're troubled and fearful, but that's when we need to remember it most.
Jun 29, 2011
A shepherd does routine care like hoof trimming, worming, and shearing. These things are necessary for the health and well being of the sheep. Neglect these chores and the flock would be a very sorry sight indeed!

We live in a valley between two large hills. The ground is fertile, a rich black soil that will grow anything. If the dog buries a bone we have to dig it up before we have a whole skeleton. But that type of ground does nothing to wear down sheep hooves. Therefore, I have to pen and catch the sheep several times a year for hoof trimming.

This ritual involves setting the sheep upright on it's rump, securely planted between my two feet, leaned back against my knees, so that all four hooves are dangling out in front of me. Theoretically... this means I can grab one foot after another and trim off the long growth before releasing the animal back into the flock. In reality... it involves me struggling with an animal who may outweigh me, has popped an attitude, and has no interest in cooperating with my endeavor.

Our Shepherd prunes and trims us as well. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit." John 15:2

How often during the pruning process do we pop an attitude? How often do we have little or no interest in cooperating with His plans? I'm not commenting on the weight issue... not - going - there. :)
Jun 27, 2011
A shepherd tends to the sick and wounded animals in his flock. Sheep can find more ways to damage or injure themselves than any other critter the Good Lord ever created. (Perhaps He did that to make a point?) They are forever getting a head stuck in a feeder, a leg stuck in a gate, or eating something never intended to see the inside of a sheep.

I had one ewe who was uncommonly fond of sticking her head through the feeder and getting it stuck. She seemed content to wait for me to come to the rescue, only to resist my best efforts to free her. The more I pushed or pulled, the more she pushed or pulled in the opposite direction. These ovine (look it up!) tug-of-wars would end with her finally free and me bathed in sweat with at least two new scrapes somewhere on my body. Said ewe no longer resides at Twin Willows Farm.

Just because the shepherd knows what the sheep needs, doesn't mean the sheep understands that. Last winter our barn was invaded by a particularly nasty bacteria that causes mastitis. After the infection of one ewe and the infection and death of a second one, I knew we needed the big guns. I use antibiotics sparingly. In fact, I had to go purchase a new bottle as the one I had on hand was five years past date. But sometimes it's needed. Getting the sheep to understand that, however, is not possible. They only know that getting caught five days in a row and jabbed with a needle is not fun.

Our Shepherd cares for us as well. "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall." Malachi 4:2

Sometimes the medicine is bitter and doesn't go down well. Sometimes the jab of the needle hurts. Sometimes the healing takes longer than we wish. But always He is taking care of us and giving us the strength to see it through... even when we can't see it or understand it.
Jun 25, 2011
A shepherd must provide certain necessities for his sheep every day. Adequate food, clean water, and shelter are as important for sheep as they are for humans. My fat wooly sausages have obviously received much more than simply adequate food, but I digress.

Food is important for all the obvious reasons, but it goes deeper than that. A good shepherd has to manage the feed intake for the season. Ewes who are pregnant or lactating require much more than a lazy old ram. Growing lambs need more feed than a lazy old ram. Hmm... what does a lazy old ram need anyway? In the fall when it's his season to work - he'll burn plenty of calories too! The shepherd has to provide what is needed when it is appropriate.

Shelter in the summer months consists of just a place to get out of the sun. When winter sets in, it's a whole different picture. The sheep need someplace to get out of the cold wind, a place clear of snow to lie down, and somewhere snug to drop those early spring lambs.

Our Shepherd provides for us as well. "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

The Lord knows when we need what we need. It's so easy to think that He's missed something because we think we need it. Trust the Shepherd.
Jun 23, 2011
My dear friend Claire asked me to do a 5-minute Bible Study on Jehovah-Rohi, the name of God that translates into "The Lord Our Shepherd". No problem... well... except maybe for that 5-minute part. So I decided to post my thoughts here on the blog in 7 installments, thus allowing me to blow that 5-minute restriction out of the water.

The name Jehovah-Rohi (pronounced ro-hee) is attributed to the 23rd Psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." we all learned that one before we cut our second set of teeth. I'm going draw some comparisons between being a shepherd and what the scriptures tell us about our Shepherd.

I'll use the pronoun "he" to describe the shepherd, knowing full well that you, the gentle reader, will understand that a shepherd can be and often is, in fact, a "she". I trust my readers not to need a lot of he/she, him/her, his/hers nonsense to get the message.

On with the first installment!

A shepherd guards his flock against danger. There are numerous dangers that face sheep every day. Sheep, by their very nature, have no defenses. They are easy prey for practically anything passing by.

In our neck of the woods, that may be a coyote, a wandering dog, or even a bear. To protect my sheep from these outside invaders, we have invested a lot of time, money, and energy to install and maintain appropriate fencing. There is nothing like the zap of a few thousand volts of electricity to deter any of these dangers. But along with hot wires, we also have the sheep enclosed behind high-tensile woven fence.

Not all dangers come from without. As a shepherd, I also have to watch for things with which the sheep - being sheep - might hurt themselves on. When we first bought this place and fenced in the land, we spent hours and hours walking the pasture and removing bits of wire, odd pieces of metal, plastic trash, and other objects that a sheep might get hurt on.

The Bible tells us that God has put up fences and picked up objects for us as well. "But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." 2 Thessalonians 3:3.

The next time we find ourselves facing evil and feeling tempted, we should take a good look at where we are. Have we kept ourselves behind the God's fence? Or have we wandered off into the wilderness? His fence is still there and He has already cleared it of sin's debris through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Jun 13, 2011
Second Chance RanchSecond Chance Ranch by Leann Harris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Leann Harris presents us with a good story of hope and struggle against the odds. Both main characters have their hurdles to climb and working together, they overcome them. It's a good, wholesome story, suitable for any age. Nothing surprising or unexpected, just a good "lawn chair" read for summer. It includes horses and cowboys... what else does one need?

Jun 9, 2011
Lydia's CharmLydia's Charm by Wanda E. Brunstetter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This Amish book takes on more weighty issues than most I have read. It's a melancholy read. Lydia faces so much loss and family angst at such a young age. Even though it has a good ending, it leaves the reader with a bittersweet aftertaste. It harbors a lot of real life within it's pages. I recommend it, it's a good book and carries a good message of hope even amid devastating loss.

I was pulled up short several times by the actions of the children in the story. The level of disobedience tolerated is not something that rang true for me. Living in an Amish community, I can't imagine any of my neighbors allowing their children to behave that way. The children in my neighborhood are incredibly polite and respectful.

Jun 5, 2011
Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, #13; A Memory of Light, #2)Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. The world Robert Jordan created has been further blessed by the talents of Brandon Sanderson. I marvel at the incredible job Mr. Sanderson is doing of continuing this series after Mr. Jordan's death. The characters are true. The storyline is consistent. The twists and turns are fascinating. And the pace and intensity are much improved.

This one doesn't wrap up the story - there will be a book fourteen - but it does wrap up several loose ends in a very satisfying way. I don't want to put out any spoilers for those who haven't read it yet, all 843 pages. I "saved" this one until I had a week off from work. I've had it on my bookshelf these past four and a half months. There are some books that require sufficient time to truly delve into. This is one of them.

My only disappointment is the amount of grammatical errors and typos in this book. I don't remember any of the previous Wheel of Time books having this many. Perhaps in the rush to get this book into print... someone cut a corner or two too many. The folks at Tor should know better!
May 31, 2011
Legendary Space PilgrimsLegendary Space Pilgrims by Grace Bridges

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was very different from any I have read in a long time. I haven't delved into a true sci-fi book in ages. It's an interesting idea of taking "Pilgrims Progress" into outer space. That's a tall order, to be sure, but Grace Bridges does a nice job of making it all believable. The reader follows the pilgrims from their life of slavery toward what we assume will end in salvation. However, the book ends abruptly - leaving one unsatisfied and with the need to look for the sequel to find the answers. Sometimes I find cliffhangers exciting, but because we know what the outcome should be (if we've read "Pilgrims Progress" anyway), this ending seems to drag out the inevitable.

I had a little trouble getting into the characters in the beginning of the book. They are slaves on a planet that attempts to wipe out all emotion. Since emotion is generally what I connect to with a character, be it good or bad, I struggled to work up much empathy or interest in what was happening to Mario and Caitlin. But I'm glad I stuck with it. The emergence of emotions is slow but steady as this pair breaks free of their emotionless bondage and learns to accept and deal with their feelings.
May 19, 2011
Simple Deceit (Harmony, #2)Simple Deceit by Nancy Mehl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nancy Mehl did a wonderful job of pulling the reader back into Harmony in this sequel to "Simple Secrets". With numerous plot twists and turns, she keeps the story moving and the reader guessing. In this sequel, Gracie cuts her ties to the city and moves back to Harmony, only to find an abandoned baby on the church steps, some skulking around her back yard, another dead body, and an arsonist. All of these events unveil more of Sam's background and how that might impact their future together. This one is worth reading! Now I need to find "Simple Choices" to find out how this series ends.

May 10, 2011
Simple Secrets (Harmony, #1)Simple Secrets by Nancy Mehl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't know what to expect of a romantic suspense book set in a Mennonite community. What I found was a tale with plenty of twists and turns to keep me happily turning the pages. The characters are interesting and believable. The setting is a quaint little town in Kansas. The heart of the story revolves around a mystery that has gone unanswered for most of a generation. The romance is big city girl meets down-to-earth farm boy. It all comes together in a book I can highly recommend for older teens and adults. I would not recommend this one for younger teens due to some non-offensive but mature content.

May 2, 2011
Give the Lady a RideGive the Lady a Ride by Linda Yezak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want a fun read with snappy dialog and spunky relationships, this is the book for you! Linda Yezak does a great job of combining a love story with a realistic portrayal of life on the ranch. Patricia is a big city girl who inherits a working ranch in Texas. Add her best friend and two good looking cowboys, toss in a few bulls, and you have a lighthearted romp to read through. Woven through the story is Patricia's reawaken faith and trust in God. I highly recommend this one!

Apr 23, 2011
A Cousin's Prayer (Indiana Cousins Book 2)  A Cousin's Prayer (Indiana Cousins Book 2) by Wanda E. Brunstetter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Indiana Cousins series and it's even better than the first. Katie Miller's struggle to overcome panic attacks and her search for faith come together in a compelling story. As usual, Wanda Brunstetter weaves in a cast of characters full of flaws and strengths who are so very... human. Suitable for any age, this book is an easy one to recommend.

A nice set of salt & pepper twins born this afternoon to Twin Willows Mingle. These are the first lambs for Mingle to raise and she seems to be doing a good job so far. The black lamb is a ram and the white is a ewe.
Apr 20, 2011
A Cousin's Promise (Indiana Cousins, Book 1)A Cousin's Promise by Wanda E. Brunstetter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wanda Brunstetter does a very good job in her portrayals of the Amish way of life. This book is no exception. The story begins with an accident that changes the lives of the young people involved. Tragedy strikes and they learn how to pick up the pieces and move on. Well told and believable, a very enjoyable read.
Apr 18, 2011
Rosalie of Grand Traverse BayRosalie of Grand Traverse Bay by Donna Winters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The mystery of who Cutler Gowan is keeps this story moving along. Rosalie gets caught up in helping her aunt and uncle with their attorney friend, Kenton. A predictable romance ensues that is complicated by things happening at Rosalie's home in North Carolina.

The story is good but I felt as though I should have read the previous books that "Rosalie" was spun off from. There were a many characters and they seemed to have more backstory than this book could account for.

The setting of this story is wonderfully done, the time period is authentic, and if anyone is familiar with the Grand Traverse Bay area, you will feel right at home in this story.

Apr 13, 2011

Even though I fully expected Dance to have triplets this year, due to her size as well as the poorer quality of her wool when I sheared, it was still a thrill to get all three delivered, up and nursing tonight. All three are white, 2 ewe lambs and 1 ram lamb. This is the first one born getting cleaned up.
Not unexpected, but not welcome either. I predict our feed costs will double, as they did last time gas hit $4/gallon. Look for food prices to skyrocket in the coming year. It'll cost more to raise food, harvest food, and get the food to market.

And I think it's high time I trained at least one of our horses to pull that cart stored in the barn. I need a new harness but as things are now, a good harness will cost me less than a full tank of gas. Mr. Ed's IGA has a nice hitching post behind their store. Sorry Wal-Mart, I don't save money if I have to pay gas to get there!

Apr 12, 2011

The first Twin Willows Lambs born in 2011 arrived at 8:45pm on April 12. Out of Twin Willows EweNika by Twin Willows Odin. A nice boy and girl pair of twins. Shown here at an hour old.
It's that time of year again! Actually, this the latest we've ever started lambing. Since Jeff aged out of 4-H and we didn't need lambs born in January to be ready for the fair, I've pushed back the start of lambing a little more each year.

I think I've hit upon the perfect formula now. The rams go in the day before deer season; the lambs arrive the middle of April. That's after hypothermia cold and before fly season. Brilliant!

I only kept 6 ewes this winter. There are 3 aged ewes and 3 yearlings out in the barn. I like to see yearlings have a single their first year, but it looks like China might have twins. Queen and Lilly should be carrying singles. The older girls all look good. EweNika and Mingle should have twins and Dance looks like she may be carrying triplets.

Watch here for updates and photos as the 2011 lambs arrive.
Apr 6, 2011
The Blacksmith's Bravery (The Ladies' Shooting Club Series, #3)The Blacksmith's Bravery by Susan Page Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be honest, I'd put off reading this book fearing it would be the all-too-typical tale of a masculine-light female lead who does it all better than the men of the Old West. Wrong! Susan Page Davis put together a cast of characters who are believable, likable, and find themselves in situations realistic for the time period of the book. Three cheers! This is the third book in a series and it reads fine as a stand alone. I haven't read the first two yet, but I will! I highly recommend this one if you enjoy a good western with a touch of romance. Content wise, it's suitable for teenagers on up. The spiritual message is subtle, not preachy, and woven deftly throughout the book.

Apr 2, 2011
Double Identity (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #238)Double Identity by Diane Burke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Likable characters, small town setting, budding romance and - oh yeah - the mob. This is the first Steeple Hill "Love Inspired" book I've read. A grandmother with an addiction to the old Harlequin Romances swore me off book club selections for life. Not anymore! Diane Burke crafts a love story into a strong plot about deception and faith. The theme of reliance on God is woven into the story without being preachy. The story has a very satisfying and believable twist at the end that leaves the reader content. I recommend this one for younger teens on up. A very good read!
Apr 1, 2011
Alpha RedemptionAlpha Redemption by P.A. Baines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recommend this book even if you're not much of a sci-fi fan. While the setting is sci-fi, the theme is life and faith and what it takes to have both of those. Brett is as down-and-out as a human being can be, completely divorced from God and heading nowhere. His travels with Jay, a computer who evolves into an almost-human, take us on a journey like no other. The book skips around a lot, going forward and backward in time. This isn't a light read, it takes some paying attention to keep up with the story, but it's worth it.
Mar 27, 2011
Witness (Seeds of Christianity)Witness by E. G. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unique is the best way I can describe this story. Part love story, part historical, and part spiritual, it wraps together to make an intriguing read. The main characters, Rivkah and Shemu'el, are both likable and believable. Mr. Lewis does a wonderful job with the setting, enough information to put you in the scene without slowing down the story. While a wonderful glimpse into the past, both the good and the bad, I wouldn't recommend this book for younger readers. There is quite a bit of adult content, not in an obscene way, but the Roman lifestyle, for instance, is not sugar-coated. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in Mr. Lewis's series.

Mar 25, 2011

My dad is suffering from this disease as did his mother before him.

Yes, I'm feeling a little next in line.

Yes, I want someone to find the cure.

Yes, I need your help.

And so do the 5.4 million people currently dealing with Alzheimer's.

Please donate to my Walk to End Alzheimer's.

Mar 20, 2011
Red Ink (Extreme Devotion)Red Ink by Kathi Macias

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A powerful story and well worth reading. An interesting perspective on how God calls Christians to intercede in prayer as well as how He works through Christians "on the front lines". Some of the front lines are in countries where Christianity is outlawed, and some are found in nice neighborhoods all across the U.S. This book does a great job of showing that evil knows no boundaries.

I had a hard time with the names for the first quarter of the book, just because they are so foreign to me. Kathi Macias provides the pronunciation of each following her acknowledgments, which helps.

This book leaves you with the ultimate question, what are you willing to sacrifice to be obedient to your Lord?

Mar 17, 2011
Fayette: A Time to Love (Great Lakes Romances Series, Volume 8)Fayette: A Time to Love by Donna Winters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Undoubtedly the best self published book I've read so far. Donna Winters does a wonderful job of telling the story of young Lavinia while giving us insights into the lives and times of upper Michigan in the 1860s. I've been to the ghost town of Fayette and through her writing Mrs. Winters brought the place to life. She told about the pig iron furnaces and life in the shanty cabins without interrupting the flow of the story. She does an exceptional job of combining accurate history with a sweet romance. The character of Lavinia was so accurately portrayed that at times her actions annoyed me, and then I would remember that she was a 16-year old girl. Mrs. Winters did an excellent job of writing that character for her age, social position, and time in history. This is a book suitable for any age with a clear and yet unobtrusive Christian spirit. I highly recommend it.

Mar 14, 2011
McKenzieMcKenzie by Penny Zeller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

McKenzie is a sweet story with a wonderful character arc for the female lead. McKenzie learns about life, love, and most importantly about the Lord through her adventure to find her sister in 1880s Montana. Zack Sawyer, the rancher who advertises for a mail order bride, reminded me of the male lead in Francine River's "Redeeming Love". He is a man of character, faith, and steadfast in his relationship with the Lord. This book is very appropriate for young teens and still a page turner for adults.

I'm giving it 4 out of 5 stars mostly on how it's billed. Whitaker House calls it Fiction/Christian/Historic. It delivers on the first two but misses on historic. Details of the Montana Territory in the early 1880s are sparse and non-specific. The story is set just five years after the Battle of Little Bighorn and there is no mention of the continuing unrest with the non-reservation Indians that ended at Wounded Knee. Montana ranchers in this era were on constant alert to the danger and several forts were constructed during this time to ensure their safety and stability in that area. Starving Indians and rustlers were a constant threat during this time. Okay, so I'm a history geek, but if they're going to bill it "historic", they ought to deliver the history!

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Mar 12, 2011
Decision PointsDecision Points by George W. Bush

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I liked best was the way this book is laid out. Instead of being written chronologically, it's laid out by topic. I read the book all the way through, but one could just as easily take it topic by topic as desired without losing any of the context.

President Bush's humor shines through in the opening chapters where he talks about his family. I found that the best part of the whole book. The love and reference for his dad is incredible. Oh, that my son would ever write the same way about me some day! I enjoyed that glimpse into his family and was surprised at how comfortable such a powerful figure was/is at sharing it. Good stuff!

I'm very glad this was not a "tell all" type of book with "gotcha" moments against political opponents. There was none of that. I felt there were areas where things were not said, but that's okay. As my mom used to tell me, "If you can't say something nice..." He was frank about some issues and named everyone who was involved in whatever the topic was. He made very few disparaging comments about the actions of others, there were a couple, but only on issues well covered by the media already.

The foreign policy stuff was both fascinating and boring. That's probably sums up foreign policy in a nutshell. I found the players fascinating but struggled to keep an interest up in the more mundane political maneuvering between countries. This may be why I've never been tempted to work in a foreign policy field.

His insights into Iran and Afghanistan were compelling for me, as were his thoughts about our soldiers and the welfare of our country. While I didn't learn anything new, I will look at those situations in a little different light now.

Overall I'm giving this one a 4 star rating. It's well written and worth reading, but not a light or quick read by any means. Read it when you have time to digest a plethora of foreign names and weighty issues.

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Feb 20, 2011
Mended HeartMended Heart by Mary Manners

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mended Heart is a sweet story with enough emotion to keep one turning the pages. The story contrasts two people with vastly different backgrounds who must both overcome their upbringing before they can move on with their lives. The characters were engaging and easy to identify with.

I did find the repetitive and sometimes over-the-top descriptions a bit wearing and they had a tendency to pull me out of the story. The author worked too hard to use less common comparisons, which often resulted in me having to stop the storyline and think about her descriptions. And I may have developed an aversion to spearmint gum after reading about it over and over again.

But the writing aside, the story was worth the read, a good take-along book for the beach or on-the-go reading.
Feb 18, 2011
Stories Behind The Greatest Hits Of ChristmasStories Behind The Greatest Hits Of Christmas by Ace Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book! The author did a great job of telling the stories, including the historical perspective and some cultural influences behind these Christmas songs. Both Christian and secular songs are represented. I was amazed how many were written by Jewish authors or scored by Jewish composers!
Feb 7, 2011
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book came highly recommended by a writer I both admire and respect. For that reason, I gave it every chance and read more than half of it before shutting the cover for good last night. I have never read a book or article by Anne Lamott other than this one, I know nothing about her personally, but this book turned me off completely. She talks about God and going to church, yet ridicules evangelicals and snidely refers to the Lord as "she". The book contains vulgar language including taking the Lord's name in vain and the use of the F word.

As far as writing content, I found nothing in here that I haven't found in other books. Anne Lamott believes in seat-of-the-pants style writing. In the first two thirds of the book, there was nothing much except the repeat of "listen to the characters" and how to do that. She uses examples from a class she teaches, usually by mocking the students, and her humor throughout tends to be derogatory in nature.

The book overall is well written and easy to follow, but the content did not appeal to me or encourage me to keep reading. I would have shut the cover much sooner except for the respect I have for the person who recommended it.