Friday, March 13, 2015

{Review} Mercy's Rain by Cindy K. Sproles

Set in the late 1800s in the heart of Appalachia, Mercy's Rain tells the story of Mercy Roller. Brought up by her abusive father, the Pastor, and her compliant mother, Mercy suffers abuse and torture at the hands of her father. She feels her name is a curse and cannot figure out why her mother ever gave it to her.

The story uses flashbacks to tell about the unspeakable acts, Mercy's father committed not only on her and her mother, but on the other families in the community they live in. It is an excellent and well written story and shows how Mercy finally finds the true meaning of her name. 

From the back cover:
Married and widowed at thirteen, a mother and childless at fifteen, Mercy has spent her life under the authority of her abusive father, the Pastor. The Pastor rules both her family and the community around Wadalow Mountain, Tennessee. Not a single person seems capable of standing up to the man who calls his sinful actions "righteous," that is, until Mercy takes matters into her own hands.

Kicked out of her home by her grieving mother, Mercy finds her way to the other side of the mountain where she slowly learns that true righteousness has nothing evil about it - and that there might be room for her own stained and shattered soul to find shelter, and even love. 

My thoughts:
The story is not an easy read in the sense that the abuse described doesn't hold back anything. Unfortunately, there are too many people like the Pastor in this world and too many girls like Mercy. Sproles does an excellent job of showing how far Mercy must go to find what true love is and how to live in God's grace and mercy. She doesn't make it seem simple but shows just how hard it can be to finally rest in God's loving embrace.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Constancy Day

Sunrise from our hotel room

This past weekend my hubby whisked me away for a romantic weekend together. Our two older boys were gone to a youth group event all weekend. Our youngest went to stay at a friend's house. It was, in a word, heavenly.

I very much enjoy spending time with my hubby. I suppose that's a good thing! This July we will be celebrating 22 years of marriage. This past weekend we celebrated "Constancy Day."

What? You have never heard of that? Well, neither had I until my hubby decided to celebrate it.

Here is what he posted on his Facebook page Sunday morning:

Lisa B...was not always Lisa B.... She was, once upon a time, Lisa G.... She changed her name when she married me in July of 1993. On that day, she was 21 years, 8 months, and 14 days of age.

Today is not our anniversary. But as of today, we have been married 21 years, 8 months, and 14 days. Today marks the day that she has spent half her life as my wife. Today she will be married to me longer than she was not.

I know this is not some traditional celebration or holiday. But to me, this is a special day because this wonderful woman chose to dedicate herself to me for life. Today marks her commitment: she has been a B.... longer than a G.... I know some folks do not feel that a name change at marriage is necessary, and maybe it is not. But to me, this is something special: a sacrifice she made and a sign of her vow. 

I fully appreciate the job Bob and Joyce did raising this woman. But she is a B... through and through. Today I celebrate it with Constancy Day!

And yes, he did the math. He's an engineer after all. He even told me he was going to celebrate this moment months ago but that I would forget he ever mentioned it. He was right.

We had a lovely weekend away and I doubt I'll forget March 1, 2015 any time soon.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Yummy Candy

I'm behind in my blogging. What's new right? Well, lots of things so I'll be adding in all kinds of content and back dating the posts.

First up is a really yummy field trip we took at the beginning of February. We headed south to Westbrook which is located just north of Portland. Our destination? Haven's Candy.

We arrived early and browsed their retail store. They had lots to browse! It was obvious they were all ready for Valentine's Day.

As soon as the rest of our group arrived we started with a history of how chocolate is made as well as the history of the company. I learned quite a few things about chocolate I didn't know before including the fact that white chocolate is really cocoa butter - a byproduct of the chocolate making process. 

Then we headed in to the manufacturing area. First up was the room where they make flavored popcorn and salt water taffy.

Salt water taffy pulling machine in the background.

They were on the process of preparing for Easter. The typically prep 3-6 months before a holiday with the exception of Christmas. We were told that they will begin prepping for Christmas in July by making solid chocolates that have a long shelf life. They tend to make things that will last longer further out from the date while those that won't last closer to the date of the holiday. For example, we were told they would spend the Friday & Saturday of Valentine's Day hand-dipping thousands of strawberries to ensure they are fresh!

The table was full of bunny corn (I think that's what it was called) - flavored caramel popcorn. We were all able to taste some. My oldest doesn't like caramel popcorn so wouldn't try it. However, when he was told it tasted nothing like regular caramel popcorn (and it didn't!!) he tried it. It actually tasted like Fruit Loops!

Next we went in to where the chocolates are made. The first machine was making chocolate covered graham crackers. Yum! We learned that all chocolates have a design placed on the top and those in the chocolate industry know exactly what kind of chocolate it is (including flavored fillings) based on those designs. 

This chain was putting a wavy design on the top.

They were in the process of taking white chocolate bunnies out of the molds. It was interesting to learn about how these are made. They even had made a few that were 36 inches tall. It takes (I think) about eight to ten hours to make one. One even had money ($1000) hidden inside! They were raffling them off (I think - thus the issue with trying to recall details a month later - at my age).

They melt 10 pound candy bars to make the liquid chocolate they need to make all of their items. It's huge!

We were each given a little goodie bag of "seconds" at the end of the tour. All very yummy and a great way to pass the time on the ride home - sampling chocolates!

I've been wanting to take this tour for quite some time. However, because it is a factory, no child under eight are allowed to go inside the manufacturing area. My youngest is now 11 so we were able to finally check it out. It was worth the wait!

{Journal Prompt} Music

Not my piano, but my piano was (is) this color!

This past Friday I went to the "big city." Earlier I mentioned I was studying to become a group fitness instructor and my test was scheduled for Friday afternoon. Mother Nature didn't care though and we had another snowstorm raging outside. While the University I was headed to did not shut down, the testing company was notified they "might" shut down so they cancelled my test. While they did notify me by calling my home phone and emailing me, unfortunately, I didn't know that until I had already driven the hour to the city, did some shopping, and arrived to take my test. The silver lining is I now have another week to study as it's now rescheduled for this coming Friday.

While in the city, I spent a gift card to one of my absolutely favorite places to shop - the bookstore! I started picking up books for my kids - like I tend to do. However, this time I decided to get more books for myself since I was spending my birthday gift card. One little gem I picked up was a journal book with 300 writing prompts in it.

I decided that instead of handwriting them, I would periodically take one and use it to write a blog post. So, welcome to my first installment.

Write about an extracurricular activity you did when you were growing up, and how it affects (or does not affect) your life now. 

I was involved in so much growing up. I was blessed to land in the fourth spot out of five children. By the time I was in high school, my three older siblings were out of the house, my dad worked at a job that allowed for very flexible hours, and my mom went back to work as well. We had time and money for me to do activities and I certainly did plenty.

I think the thing that affected me the most was music. When I was five years old I apparently asked my mother to learn to play the piano. We had a big old-fashioned upright in my parents bedroom. I liked to go in an plink away on it.

The music teacher for our school district also went to our church and was a family friend. She agreed to teach me. I was pretty happy until I realized how hard it was to learn to play! It was like learning a whole new language!

It wasn't long until my teacher realized I wasn't memorizing the notes, but rather using the fingering numbers to play. This worked great until you started playing higher or lower notes. Then it was blatantly obvious. This was not her first time teaching, so she simply switched me to a book without fingerings. I soon begged my mother to let me quit. And she did. I remember hiding in the bathroom the day Mrs. House came and my mom told her I no longer wanted to play.

Fast forward to fifth grade. I'm not sure if it's like this anymore since my boys are homeschooled, but in fifth grade you could play in the band and start learning an instrument. Our family owned a clarinet so that is what all of us played while we were in fifth grade. It always worked out that when a new sibling was coming in to fifth grade, the older one was stopping band.

Miracles of miracles, I learned how to read music and once again began plinking away on the piano. The only issue? I could only read the treble clef (or right hand) notes and none of the bass notes (or left hand notes). I asked my mom if I could take piano lessons again. She agreed but I had to call Mrs. House and ask.

I was in seventh or eighth grade when this happened. She only had openings for me in the summertime so that is when I took lessons. I was in high school (and probably had showed her I was serious about learning) before she took me on during the school year.

I also continued to play the clarinet in the band. I quit my seventh grade year which actually worked out well. That's when my little sister was in fifth grade so she had a chance to learn to play the clarinet. She decided not to continue though and I went back to it my eighth grade year and continued playing all the way through high school.

My sophomore year I played the trombone for one season of basketball. Our pep band for basketball games was sorely lacking so myself and two friends volunteered to learn enough to play the songs. My arms just simply aren't long enough to hit that last slide position though! I was very happy when the new freshman arrived the next year and had three trombone players among them!

This was probably 1989. 
I'm on the far right almost off the photo.
This was actually chorus but many of us played in band too.

And yes, I also sang in the chorus. I started in fifth grade and went all the way through high school. It wasn't until about 7-8 years ago that I started singing in public again. I've always sung in my car. Just ask my boys. I joined the worship team at my church and soon after that I started singing solos, something I never did in high school.

So how has this affected my life? One is the regret that I didn't continue with music after high school. It wasn't until I had children of my own that I even started thinking again about playing.

When all my boys were old enough, I started them on learning how to play the piano. I found a wonderful homeschool young lady who was willing to take on all four of us. That's right, I started lessons once again. 

My family after my first ever recital.
June 2011

My boys were so little here! My youngest (white shirt in the front) was only seven! My middle son (glasses) was ten and my oldest was 14. My oldest and I took lessons for about 2-1/2 years. I simply lost the time necessary to practice and had refreshed my memory enough to do what I wished - play well enough that I could play on our worship team. I knew I would never be a concert pianist. 

My oldest son, while talented, did not enjoy lessons. Since he was so much older when we started, I allowed him to stop playing. However, my other two boys are still playing and have since added more instruments. My youngest son added the violin this past fall and my middle kiddo just added the drums. No worries though, we're starting out with just a practice pad. My hearing is still intact - for now.

Music enriches my life. It relieves stress. It helps me worship God. I feel incomplete without it. Music has had a profound impact on my life and for that I am very grateful.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. American Idol is back for a 14th season. Are you watching? Have you ever watched? If you were to audition for the show (or were made to audition), what song would you sing? I didn't watch the first few seasons but then watched a few in the middle. I'm not watching this year. I have been cutting way back on my television watching - not that I watch a ton actually. If I were to audition, I would either sing "God Gave Me You" or "Amazing Grace."

2. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." So when did you last have to 'eat a frog'? Or two? How'd that work out? I know I've had to tackle lots of things I don't particular care for, but right now I can't think of one. Although, I do still need to finish my oldest son's high school transcript and course descriptions in order for him to apply to college. I think at this point we have put off the frog eating a bit and we're aiming for January 2016 college entrance rather than September 2015.

3. If you were going on safari, what is the number one animal you'd want to see? An elephant. I've seen them up close and personal, but I'd love to see one in its natural habitat.

4. January 21st is National Granola Bar Day. I know. Do you like granola bars? Chewy or crunchy? Your favorite flavor? How about regular granola? Let's exhaust this topic in honor of the holiday okay? I actually do, but typically only one brand and flavor. I like the Sunbelt Chewy Chocolate Chip ones. I keep them on hand as they work great for raising my blood sugar when I'm having a low. I usually pair it with a small glass of milk and I'm good to go. As for regular granola, I do like it, but I like it best in yogurt.

5. If only__________________________________________. Life had a rewind button...

6. You can add one item to your bedroom. What will it be? Keep it family friendly please. A dual heated blanket. I could turn up the heat on my side and hubby could keep his side of the bed cooler.

7. What is one thing you've enjoyed about winter thus far? If it's not winter in your corner of the globe, what season is it, and what is something you've enjoyed about whatever season it happens to be? I'm pretty sure "enjoy" and "winter" do not go together. This winter has just been weird here in Maine. We've had super cold weather (as in -20 one morning) and warmer than normal (as in 40 degrees yesterday - hello mud!). We haven't had a lot of snow yet either. However, thankfully the freezing rain hasn't been as much this year either, although any is too much. Oh wait, I was suppose to share something I've enjoyed. Um....well...I'll just leave it as I'm not much of a fan of winter. Period.

8. Insert your own random thought here. I've been super busy studying for my group fitness instructor certification. I take the test at the end of the month. However, I'm offering free classes starting next week! Yikes! January has certainly gone by fast.