What Happens When an Author has a Large Family?

…she writes a story about them!

I’ve participated in several launches for Sarah Holman’s books in the past, but I’m thrilled to be able to help promote this book this time. I’ve always enjoyed what she wrote, but (just between you and me!) it’s gotten even better in the last year or so as she’s gotten a professional editor to go over her books as well.

LaughterBlogTour

I’ve followed this story from almost its inception when she first started planning and writing it. It’s completely different from anything she has put out before, since it is non-fiction, but it’s also a beautiful snapshot of a lovely family.

Note: Some links in this post may be affiliate links. Your purchase through these links does not cost you anything extra, but helps keep this blog going.

There Was Always Laughter in Our House by Sarah Holman

Description

What do you get when you mix two parents who grew up in the city, six kids who have always lived in the country, and add homeschooling? You get a whole lot of laughter!

Homeschool graduate and author Sarah Holman shares stories about her family that range from thought-provoking to side-splitting. She shares both hilarious mistakes and heartbreaking moments in her family. In this collection of stories, she endeavors capture some of the answers to the questions people have often asked her about growing up in a conservative homeschool family as well as some of the wisdom she has gleaned along the way. Sarah invites you to open up this scrapbook of memories. She hopes that you come away encouraged, inspired…and laughing.

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My review

Well, today I’m supposed to be participating in the blog tour for There Was Always Laughter in Our House, but I realized yesterday that I had barely read past a quarter of the story! (I’m choosing to blame NaNo for this.) But here’s my review of the book so far. I’ll update this post when I finish reading it (hopefully within the next day or two).

Full of a mixture of funny and somewhat challenging instances where plans went awry or the family worked together on unit studies (and many, many other stories!), There Was Always Laughter isn’t your typical biography. I’d classify it more as something of a memoir, but it isn’t organized the way you’d normally expect one to be written. It’s somewhat of a random jumble of different odd facts and tales about Sarah Holman’s family, and even though the chapters might not have one continuous thread of “we did this, and then we did that, and then when we were a bit older we did such-and-so”, it’s an engaging read and one that I’m thoroughly enjoying.

I love the little glimpses into Sarah and her sisters’ relationships. They work at fighting evil together, they play together, they drive their brother batty and he makes them go crazy. It’s real life, and she’s got a lot of things spot-on in here.

Such as:

“My brother was a very manly man, even when he was small. He would rather dig in the dirt than play with his sisters. Every stick became a sword, gun, or club.”

(That’s my brothers, summed up perfectly in three sentences. I love it!)

Or:

“One of the issues with Christian homeschoolers is that the Bible is a book that the child becomes so familiar with early. It often leaves them feeling bored in most Sunday schools and even church services. […] Boredom breeds a large amount of misbehavior and annoying conduct. The best way to rout it out? Do what my parents did, and what Mr. and Mrs. Kline did. They didn’t punish me, they challenged me. ‘You already know that? Great, then try learning this.’

(I’ve found this very true in my own life—and Sarah finally put it into words for me! Yes, thank you, Miss Holman!)

Okay, I won’t bore you with more quotes, but I did think those two, especially the last one, was worth a little pondering. In all, I’m loving this story, and can’t wait to get back to reading.

Preorder your copy now for $2.99—price will be going up after launch day, which is next Friday, the 24th! (Paperback should be available in time for the launch as well).

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Sarah HolmanAbout the Author:

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined. You can find out more about her at her website www.thedestinyofone.com.


Free book!

Father Forgive (free)

Father, Forgive Them, an Easter story, is free right now! Claim your copy here, or click the image above.

Blog tour stops

November 16
Reachel — What stories are you going to include, Sarah?
Grace Pennington — An interview
Esther Filbrun — A review
Tarissa Graves — A review

November 17
Leona Ruth — A review
Chloe — A review

November 18
Kaylee — A review
Alexa – A Thanksgiving Story

November 19
Liv K. Fisher — Short Girl Jokes
Kelsey Bryant — A review

Little Things and NaNo Update

Early this morning, I remembered that today marked a year exactly since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that disrupted our lives and the lives of thousands of people here in New Zealand. Wow. Amazing how many changes can be made in a year, and how two minutes at midnight has created challenges for people to this day. One main road still hasn’t been opened yet as a result (although the current hope is that they will be able to open it within a month).

So much in such a little time.

Little Things and NaNo Update

I was listening to a podcast earlier today as I cleaned a few windows in my bedroom that have been bugging me for weeks. Michael Hyatt, a well-known leader in the business world, was talking, and he said something about how our words and actions can influence people either positively or negatively, depending on how we use them. He went on to say that our attitudes and perceptions of life can, in some cases anyway, be huge determining factors in how others relate to us—or even if we end up keeping our jobs or not! Again, another case where little things can influence huge changes, either good or bad.

Lots to ponder there.

The main project for me these last two weeks has been writing. Since I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been writing at least a little each day. It’s been so, so fun. And while I know that we shouldn’t just do life for the fun aspect, I do think it’s okay in the creative sphere to really challenge yourself to turn up each day and get something done. The challenge is good, but it’s also fun to do.

Last week, I finished the first children’s story I was writing, and began a second that I’ve been pondering off and on for a little while. I’m almost to the end of the second now, and I’m not sure where I’ll be going from here, as I’ll still need nearly 23,000 words of something to write in the next fifteen days in order to win NaNo.

One thing that I have found fascinating over the course of this challenge is the fact that my creativity levels can be depleted. Some days are better, some are worse, but overall I’ve witnessed a general slide in the creativity to a not-so-full state. That’s fine, as I know I’ll be able to tank up over the next few months again, but it has been an interesting trend to follow.

I also have been amusing myself greatly by how much I forget to include one particular character in my more recent story. It’s a dragon, who is supposed to be a little bit on the arrogant slash snarky side, but he keeps forgetting to act his character or I forget he’s even there…this is when I’m looking forward to doing some editing so I can put him back in later. 🙂

In all, NaNo has gone a lot better than I expected so far, I’ve loved (almost) every minute—except for the few times when I realize I’m writing an extremely boring scene!—and I’m looking forward to the final sixteen-or-so days.

Now, I’d better go see if I can figure out another story to write, or else make some good progress on planning out the story I’ve been wanting to write for years!

What projects have you been working on lately? Have you ever listened to podcasts by business leaders? What is one useful tip you have picked up or been given recently?

November’s NaNoWriMo and a Thankfulness Challenge

Last Wednesday, I did something crazy that I’m hoping I won’t end up regretting (I don’t think I will): I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month. (NaNo, as in National Novel Writing Month, or the crazy challenge writers take to write 50,000 words in 30 days.) I’ve participated other years—and even managed to get to 50k in 2013!—but since then, I’ve gained a lot of other responsibilities, so this is proving to be an even bigger challenge than it was back then.

But it’s been so, so fun as well. It’s thrilling to watch a story develop under your fingertips; to “live” in another place and try to put all five senses that you’re discovering there in word form so that someone else can experience it as well.

November's NaNoWriMo and a Thankfulness Challenge 01

Pre-food near-starvation mode

As an aside: One thing I’ve discovered about myself (to my surprise!) is that I tend to write a lot more clearly than I speak. That’s become a continual annoyance to me, because words flow so well through my fingertips, but not necessarily through my lips. But that’s okay. It’s always good to have at least one thing to hone in life, right?

Back in 2013, and again in 2014 and 2015, I believe, I participated in another month-long challenge in November: GiveThanks x7. It was hosted by a girl’s magazine, The King’s Blooming Rose, with the goal being to write down seven things I’m grateful for every day of the month of November. It proved to be a lovely time of creating a habit of thankfulness, a frame of mind I’d love to be in constantly.

This year, although the magazine isn’t hosting the challenge, they do encourage us to do it ourselves. So I thought I’d share my “thankful” lists from the last three days.

November's NaNoWriMo and a Thankfulness Challenge 02

Post-food relaxation mode (at this point, I’m thinking there are probably some interesting and useful parallels between sheep and humans, as the Bible often points out).

November 1:

  1. Haunt Fox by Jim Kjielgaard—a fascinating nature book!
  2. Peacocks—they’re so pretty!
  3. Beautiful mornings
  4. November
  5. A new dresser for my little sister
  6. NaNoWriMo
  7. Work away from home!

November 2:

  1. Summery days
  2. Motel-quality sheets (what luxury!)
  3. Stories to write
  4. Roses
  5. Bible memory verses
  6. Pitcher plants—fascinating things, especially when wasps get stuck in them!
  7. Dear friends who are willing to help when it’s difficult to get something done ourselves (oh, that I might be a friend like that to other people!)

November 3:

  1. The quails I heard early this morning
  2. Brothers that I can delight with stories
  3. My happy little sister
  4. God’s faithfulness
  5. The color of fresh spring green
  6. Taking walks with my little sister
  7. Her delight in nature

Have you ever written fictional stories and/or participated in a writing challenge? What are some things you are thankful for today?

Rose Propagation

Since we found out late last week that we’re definitely going to have to move (the previous week or two saw a few ups and downs in that area, but the final verdict is that we can’t stay here), everyone has been doing a lot of thinking about what they want to keep and move, and what they’re willing to either pass on or dispose of.

The thought of moving again is daunting, but it’s always encouraging to remember that the Lord knew about this way in advance! I’m so thankful! And He will continue to lead. He is so good.

Rose Propagation 01

Anyway, one thing I’ve been thinking about is the fact that I want to get a few starts from some of the beautiful rose bushes around here. The roses have just started flowering, and they’re so gorgeous. I feel quite spoiled to be able to bring some inside, too, for when I can’t be outside to enjoy them! I think they’re one of my most favorite flowers!

A while back, I heard something about rooting a rose in a potato, but I haven’t taken time to look that particular fact up to verify it one way or the other. However, after doing some other research, it sounds like roses aren’t too hard to propagate—apparently, they tend to grow roots fairly easily. So I decided to try it out—we’ll see what happens!

Rose Propagation 02

This particular rosebush produces one of the most beautiful flowers, both scent-wise and color-wise—you can’t see it very well here, but in real life the outside edges are deep red and the inside is a creamy ivory color.

For now, I took starts from six different bushes. I did skip several, as some aren’t flowering yet, and others don’t appeal to me quite as much. I may try to start more if I decide I really like them, but this is enough for now.

I took somewhere between 2–4 stems from each bush, and wrote the bush “number” on a bit of masking tape and attached that to the stem. After trimming off excess from the the lower portions of the stems, I scraped a bit of the outside “skin” off to make a wound. Apparently, in some cases, that encourages the stems to grow roots better. Then I packed them all into a big vase someone gave us a while back, and added water.

Rose Propagation 03

One website said it can take as little as two weeks for roots to appear, although it’s more typical to take four or more weeks. It will be interesting to see what will happen! After all, it’s worth a try—and if it doesn’t work, I’ll either just leave with no rose bushes, or research another method to try.

Have you ever wanted or tried to propagate roses? If you did, how did you do it? What are some of your most favorite flowers?

Springtime Memory-Making

Today is a beautifully sunny spring day, almost untypical for this year’s weather. Usually, Canterbury’s spring consists of some rainy days but mostly sunny ones—this year it almost seems like its the opposite! However, after three years of drought I’m enjoying every moment I hear rain drumming on the roof.

This afternoon, the little guys had a hose running into our front creek, and took great delight in dousing each other and all the land around them with a liberal helping of water.

Springtime Memory-Making 01

Springtime Memory-Making 02

Springtime Memory-Making 03

Reminds me of old days back on the farm when my brothers and I used a small pool for swimming in…or played in the spray from the sprinkler. Great memories!

Springtime Memory-Making 04

You can see our oldest lamb, Daisy, on the far left of this picture.

Springtime Memory-Making 05

And here are the two newest additions to our family: Dusti (left) and Debbie (right), both born yesterday! They’re so cute right now, just learning to take the bottle, and both have good appetites at this point!

Springtime Memory-Making 06

Springtime Memory-Making 07

Springtime Memory-Making 08

Keep looking to Jesus. And, if needed, get out the hose every once in a while. Apparently, it’s great fun!

What are some of your favorite memories of springtime when you were a child?

Commit Thy Works…

This morning, as I was preparing for my day, I spent some time in Proverbs 16, along with reading a few other chapters. Verse three really struck my attention:

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

This past week hasn’t been the easiest in all senses of the term. For the last few months, Dad and Mom have been trying to figure out how to buy this rental we’re currently in. Due to one thing and another, though, getting all the paperwork together and getting the inspections and agreements drawn up has been a tedious, drawn-out process. And this week, they got the news that if they can’t get everything together by Friday, we won’t be able to purchase the place.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

I was struck by the similarity of this verse with one a book earlier in Psalm 37:

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

This committing thing is hard. It’s entrusting everything we have (or think we have, when really it’s His all along) to God. And while theoretically we might know that He’s the one in control anyway, it’s still hard to choose to give it to Him.

If we can’t get this place, we’ll have to move. While I’m personally not too worried about moving, and in some ways would welcome the change, I do shudder a little at the thought of the amount of work needed for us to make the move as a family. It’s a big job.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Sigh. I think I have more to learn in this “commitment” stage. And while I pray for God’s will to be done, and that I will be accepting and eager for His plan for my life—our lives—it still takes faith to wait.

Uncertainty is a difficult thorn to work with, but today, I’m going to focus on committing it and my future to Him.

I’ve got a promise to stand on that my thoughts will be established, and He will bring my way—His will for my life—to fruition.

What uncertainties are you facing today? What encouragement have you gleaned from the Word as you try to face it with a Christ-like attitude?

Hope in the Hurting Places

It’s been a cloudy day here in North Canterbury, but this evening the sky is starting to show slices of blue through it. It’s beautiful. And with the dandelions scattered around the yard like little bursts of starlight, I can’t help but feel a little happier.

Last year at this time, that wasn’t the case though—I was reeling from the devastating news that my brother was dead. Today, I haven’t been able to help but remember all that happened that day, and how our family was changed forever from that time on…but despite that and the difficult memories that come with it, I’ve continuously tried to direct my thoughts up.

Like the Psalmist of old, “Oh Lord, I’m sinking…but You in Your salvation and mercy will lift me up.”

And in this case, that’s enough.

Trust Him

One thing I’ve purposefully been doing these last few days leading up to the one-year anniversary is focus on God’s character. I knew this time would be rough, emotionally speaking. And I wanted to be prepared to some extent. It’s been such a blessed time. Even though there’s been a lot of pain, eyes stinging with tears at times, I know I can still look up and see the truth of God and His Word. It’s one constant thing in my life right now—and it has been constant for the last 2000+ years. It’s not likely to be going anywhere anytime soon.

This has been very helpful for me. Making note of these things, to read over and ground myself in when I need it, has been so special.

I’m thankful…

  • For the riches of God’s Word
  • For God’s holiness and justice
  • For the peace only Jesus can give
  • For God’s absolute love and guidance
  • For God’s mercy and grace
  • For His unending faithfulness
  • For hope in Christ
  • For the fact that we can trust God in everything
  • That He is in control
  • That He will never leave us
  • That He has (and will) bring us through
  • That He has cleared the path before, and He will again
  • That He is God, Jehovah-jireh, the Provider

God is so good.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now, what testings (emotionally or physically) you might be facing at the moment. But do know that you are loved, that you are in the center of His hand, and He will never let you go. God is there, in the situation with you. And that, as cliché as it sounds, is really enough.

Trust Him.

If you had to choose, what Bible verse comforts you the most when you’re walking through the valleys? Share below—I’d love to hear!

The Texting Book Story – A Guest Post

When I signed up to review Where Dandelions Grow, I also had the option of Lydia guest posting on my blog. Today, I’m excited to share with you a part of the backstory for the book—who the real people are. This was something I was curious about, as I saw a mention of this “texting book” in the story, so I’m interested to hear a little more about how this story came about today!

Welcome, Lydia!

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Only the bestest of cousins could inspire a story like Where Dandelion Grow, and my cousins happen to be the inspiration.

Alexa and Aubrey are close in age to my sister, Helena, and I, and we did everything together. Right after I turned eighteen, Helena and I got an opportunity to go help some missionaries in South America—only we’d be leaving in two weeks and we’d be gone for two months, including missing out on the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Texting Book Story

The town where Lydia and Helena stayed.

When we told Alexa and Aubrey they rearranged their schedule so they could come and spend a couple days with us before we left. We lived out in the country and their cell phones didn’t work out at our place. All throughout the visit, the girls kept scribbling stuff in a notebook that they were carrying around. When Helena and I asked about it, they told us it was their “texting book” and since they couldn’t text from our place they were just jotting down all the texts they wanted to send, so they could do it later when they had service.

We obviously knew they were joking, but it wasn’t until later that we found out what the book was really for. They’d written us a note for each and every day that we were going to be gone. That way, whenever we felt homesick, we could just open the book and read a delightful memory, joke, story, or piece of encouragement from them.

That was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. I read and re-read the book many times while being gone—especially on the holidays when I was missing home the most. The book helped keep homesickness at bay and made me feel loved. Each time I read the “texting book” it was like getting a hug from my cousins. I still keep that book tucked away in a special place and pull it out from time to time.

At the end of Where Dandelions Grow I’ve included some of the special entries Alexa and Aubrey put into the “Texting Book.” I’ll forever be thankful they took the time to do that, and in a way, inspired Where Dandelions Grow through their kindness.

Lydia's Author PictureAbout the Author:

Lydia Howe (aka Aidyl Ewoh) is a twenty-something adventurous author who is partial to hiking in the mountains of Asia and South America, building life-size models of dinosaurs, taking road trips across Europe, visiting friends in Africa, growing up in a barn and everything in-between. She currently works in a coffee shop during the day and concocts stories by night. Find her online at her blogYoutubeFacebookTwitterGoodreads, and Google+.

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Read my review of Where Dandelions Grow here.

Where Dandelions Grow: My Review

It’s one of those brilliant blue spring days outside. My brothers are mowing—I hadn’t realized how long the grass had grown in the last couple weeks since the last mowing! The mound of clippings beside the greenhouse is pretty tall now.

The spring daffodils are pretty much done now, and the apple trees are in full bloom. They’re the last of the fruit trees to bloom, if I remember right. The dandelions are also just starting to bloom. Another week or so, and there will be hundreds of them all over the yard and down the roadsides. So pretty!

Mowing

And speaking of dandelions, I’m excited to share with you a new book I’ve had the privilege of reading recently: Where Dandelions Grow! It’s written by one of my favorite bloggers, Lydia Howe, and it released today!

Note: Some of the links today may be affiliate links. Your purchase through these links will not cost you any extra, but will help keep this blog going.

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up the story for the first time, but I knew I really appreciated what the author blogged about, and I had great hopes for a good book. I wasn’t disappointed. This book blew me away in some aspects, and overall, I loved the story.

Where Dandelions Grow by Lydia HoweDestiny isn’t quite sure what to expect when she decides to go against her mom’s wishes and go back to her roots—back to Swallow Ridge, where she was born. And had lived, until she was ten, when for some inexplicable reason the family up and moved away. She didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to her three best friends—her cousins. Now, she’s heading back, hoping against hope to be able to track her family down and find answers to the questions she’s been silently asking all these years. She’d also really like to prove that for once her mom is wrong: That she can write a book, and that she can do it well. Will her move prove fruitless in the end? Will she ever be able to figure out what happened so many years ago—and even if she can, is there any way she or her cousins can help to bring healing to their fractured relationships? And how is she even supposed to start looking, when all she knows are first names?

I loved the fact that while this is a young adult novel, it didn’t have the stereotypical triangle of love interests—or any romance in it at all, for that matter. That fact both shocked and delighted me, not because I don’t like romance, but not having it in the story (especially since in this case it wasn’t needed) was a refreshing change. The story also wasn’t fantastical fiction (is there such a thing? the characters certainly didn’t attempt to do things that under normal conditions would be impossible), rather, it felt fairly believable and the characters were delightfully relatable. I read the book in close to one sitting, and thoroughly enjoyed the pacing—it wasn’t too fast, but fast enough to keep me interested. In all, if you’re looking for a clean book—not necessarily hold-onto-your-seat fiction, but gripping enough to keep going—with a good theme, I’d recommend checking out Where Dandelions Grow.

Note: I received this book for free from the author, in exchange for my honest review.

Now for a couple of my favorite quotes from the book:

Where Dandelions Grow Quote 01

Where Dandelions Grow Quote 02

There’s a giveaway going—enter here!

And join in the fun over at Lydia’s blog here.

(Psst…Where Dandelions Grow is still $.99 as of this writing right now. I’m not sure what the “normal” price will be, but I believe it will be going up after a while.)

Website Building and the Vine

Ever since—well, almost before Learning Resource Directory was launched, I’ve been wanting to change to a different name. I knew I wanted something shorter, easier to type, and catchier, but laid that aside to let my subconscious mull over it while I got more important things, like the website launching and more book reviews written, done.

Just a few months ago, I finally came across the perfect name. And although I’m not (quite) ready to share that with you yet, suffice to say I’m thrilled to finally have a name I love!

I bought the domain name several months ago, but didn’t have time to do any more then, as I wanted to research hosting (Gretchen Louise’s tips have been extremely helpful in that area!). I eventually decided to do in-between hosting on Bluehost, where I’m currently hosting this website. I’m not planning to stay here long-term due to a plethora of problems I’ve had, but for now I’ve got another year on the contract I’m on and I may as well use it.

Website Building and the Vine

This past week, I’ve transferred the domain to Bluehost, and am now getting into the exciting phase of deciding on a theme and how to put it together, what I’d like for a logo, how I want the reviews to show up (static, like I have now, or more of a blog layout?), etc., etc.

For someone who’s been through all this designing and tweaking multiple times before, for multiple websites, this is where all the magic (and a lot of the “Oops! I broke it. Now what did I do wrong…?) happens. Next job is to contact someone who designs themes, who has done one particular theme I’ve got my eye on, and ask if she does 30-day money back guarantees in the off chance it doesn’t end up being the right theme for what I need.

And as I sit here, pondering the work I have ahead of copying and pasting, and messing up and trying again and maybe—just maybe—getting it right the first time around for some things, I can’t help but think of that passage in John 15 where Jesus speaks of the vine and the branches. He’s the trunk, the roots, where all the nutrients and plant strength comes from. If that gets cut off, the vines and branches can wither in just a few hours.

Just like a new domain name on a new host—it has potential to do a lot, and if fed the right bits of code and has the correct files that are all interconnected properly, it works well and delivers the information to those who need or want it.

But if just one part of the coding is wrong—even one character off, it’s broken.

Like what mysteriously happened last night when somehow the connection between the two major parts of the website and this blog got disconnected, and they went down. Turned out all I needed was a few bits of text—a database name and a username, and perhaps a password—put in the right places, and we were live again (don’t ask me how they were wrong in the first place, but anyway—it’s obviously fixed now, if you can read this!).

Sometimes, it seems to take daily checking to make sure this website is up and running like it should, no pages showing funny gobbeldy-guck or not showing up at all.

And I have to think how important it is to keep going back to the trunk, the Word, to make sure everything’s still lined up right. No character misplaced, no essential file accidentally deleted. It often takes daily refreshing—both the browser tab kind, and the prayer and reading kind.

But it’s all worth it. Because, in the end, if we are still being fed through the trunk, getting the nutrients we need, we can thrive and grow and through that growth be a blessing to others.

Keep your eyes and heart on Jesus!

What have you been doing lately? Have you ever worked on putting a website together?