Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ishtar’s Odyssey

I love celebrating Advent. Our family celebrates slightly differently every year, the main “tradition” being our Advent wreath. But, with people often asking me about Advent and how it should be celebrated, I do enjoy having resources to point them toward, especially resources that both explain Advent and provide guidance for the celebration.

Ishtar’s Odyssey is one such resource. In content, this book is 4393 ishtar cover CC.inddprimarily a story. It’s an enjoyable story, full of adventure and excitement. And, of course, it ends at the manger.

So, before I share my favorite aspects of Ishtar’s Odyssey, I will touch on the story itself. How does it align with the biblical narrative? How much liberty is taken? How well does it handle application?

  • If parents read the introductory material in Ishtar’s Odyssey (highly advised!), Ytreeide makes it a point to point out that this is a work of fiction. And, as such, it works well to paint a historical scene. I love that! Historical fiction brings familiar information to life, drawing the truth of history closer to our hearts, allowing us to live out those truths.
  • So, how does it align with biblical narrative? Well, I could not find a way it contradicted Scripture. Some might disagree with Ytreeide’s interpretation of the biblical narrative, but, in all honesty, there are a lot of gaps in Scripture. We don’t know the timing or the exact nature of every detail. Ytreeide’s literary license honors the integrity of Jesus’ birth – delving the spiritual truths while honoring what’s actually in the text.

Having that groundwork laid, let me point out what I really like about Ishtar’s Odyssey.

  1. The supplemental information is exceedingly helpful. Ytreeide offers a history/explanation of Advent, a discussion on the benefits of using fiction to bring Scripture to life, menu suggestions for identifying even more closely with Ishtar’s culture and experiences, and a calendar to help plan an Advent observance.
  2. The story is divided beautifully! Because the exact length of Advent adjusts each year, it is hard to provide a daily reading to cover all of Advent. Ytreeide provides distinct, manageable readings for the definite Advent days, then offers a calendar to help parents know how to combine the final parts of the story to fit that year’s exact schedule.
  3. Each day’s reading finishes with an application thought to encourage family discussion.

If I were to choose a negative, I would probably come back to the application/discussion starter that ends each chapter. Sometimes, we go too far when we take a story and lay out an application rather than letting the readers/hearers digest and apply for themselves. Sometimes, instead of making the application, simply asking questions is a better route.

In the final reading sections of Ishtar’s Odyssey, that’s exactly what Ytreeide does. He uses simple, one-line questions to spur thought and discussion. In the earlier reading allotments, however, he goes ahead and provides an application.

While this application is not a true negative, I can see how using a simple, one-line question throughout the book could be useful. Perhaps provide the application as well as an option to guide parents. But, for those who would prefer to nudge their children to draw conclusions, the question might be a more useful tool.

But, does that truly detract from Ishtar’s Odyssey? No. Because, in all honesty, parents can use the application portion however they please. In fact, my primary reason for bringing it up is to simply encourage parents to consider asking questions instead of feeding their children the application. But, it’s helpful for us to have a starting point, isn’t it? And the included information provides just that.

So, bottom line, I would definitely recommend Ishtar’s Odyssey as a family Advent resource.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Wednesday, November 18, 2016

In the great outdoors...the after-effects of a very wet couple of days. The sun peeking through clouds, shining down intermittently on yellow and brown leaves is quite stunning. I love fall!

Within our four walls...much sniffling and sluggishness.

A heart of be feeling better after of weekend of feeling rotten; for a roof that doesn’t leak; for reports that yesterday’s storms only caused minor damage – no major tornadic outbreaks; for four weeks without hives; for kids who not only are independent, but who also enjoy worshipping together, even if it’s at home and combined with a bit of silliness.

A heart of prayer...for our churches; for safety as hunting season is well underway; for friends as they go through their daily lives.

Random observations…sometimes being tired is not only about lacking sleep or running non-stop. Sometimes it’s also about not being able, for whatever reason, to spend time on the things that energize us. Not recreationally, but spiritually and relationally. 

My sweet children...are so very tired. And, I think it’s the combination of a hefty schedule and the aforementioned lack of re-energization. 

Thoughts from the kitchen...the kids are SO excited because they’ve been asked to fix baked potatoes for lunch today. They have really, really, REALLY missed being a part of Wednesday night suppers, and baked potato night was one of their favorites to prepare. They had quite the system going. When we asked them to prep a bag just for our family today – some for lunch and some to turn into potato soup later in the week – they all acted like we’d just handed them an early Christmas present!

See what I mean about things that energize us?

On my bookshelf...Ishtar’s Odyssey is up for review this week. I’ll probably post it here as well as on The Joy of Writing since it’s a family Advent story.

Then there are all these books I want to read:

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Oh, and I just received notification that I’m on the list to review the latest from both Elizabeth Camden and Julie Klassen in just a couple of months! These authors are like Tricia Goyer and Liz Curtis Higgs. They don’t write fluff. They write stories with depth. And I learn about nuances of history I’d never known before. Yes, I’m just a bit giddy!

And I have just enough room on my Goyer/Camden/Klassen shelf for these two – and maybe one more!

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Projects...the sewing machine still needs to come out. But, knitting is in progress. Hopefully it will turn out – it’s a rather odd pattern.

Sounds of the moment...the dust vac running in the living room.

From Hibbard Academy...we’re a little slack this week, just because we all desperately needed to catch up on sleep (evidenced by the fact that my typically early-to-rise children are having trouble rousing themselves before 8:00 this week, if even that early!).

A favorite thing from last week...seeing my girls embrace a decision that was forced upon us.

We were supposed to go on an American Heritage Girls mother-daughter camp weekend. I’d been battling gunk for a week or so, but by Friday morning, I was for-real sick. I’m rarely for-real sick, folks. VERY rarely. I might feel yucky and need to slow down, but rarely does sickness get me all the way down. But Friday morning I knew I couldn’t spend the weekend at Camp Paron. And sure enough, I spent the next three days on the couch.

I was in tears as I told the girls, but they were just fine! They’d been so excited, but that morning, they were almost relieved to be staying home. And they had such a GOOD weekend together. Truly enjoying one another’s company. So thankful.

Oh, and then there was Sunday morning’s home church. That might require a separate post. It was fun!

The planner...We just finished a couple of pretty busy, full weeks. This week is nice and slow before heading into Thanksgiving week. What a blessing!

Because visuals are fun...Steven came in all excited just now and said, “Mommy, there are rainbows on the living room floor!”

Obviously, my poor photography skills just could not capture the beautiful patterns on the floor. But I still tried!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In the great outdoors...a sunny fall day. We probably need to tackle the leaves in the front yard. Not too motivated to add that to our busyness, though.

Within our four walls...I’m not sure I can get past the attitudes sharing the couch with me. Both cats are here, and they are in a mood. Their behavior the past few days shows that they miss Jack.

About that…

A heart of thanksgiving...for just over five and a half years with Jack.

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When we rescued this monster, he was skin and bones and so very sick. His fur was so dirty and unhealthy that the white was almost not even visible. His head looked three times too big for his body, and we really thought we were just giving him a comfortable place to die. Then he miraculously recovered, and this old cat seemed to almost become youthful again for a while!

There have been several times over the years that his health issues have made us think we were about to lose him, but he always rebounded. This last time, though, we knew for sure. It was really real. So, we all started preparing, and the kids made sure to hold and love on Jack most of Thursday and Friday.

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We had a bed fixed for him indoors, but he didn’t ever want to stay there. He insisted on going outside. When we couldn’t find him Saturday morning, we knew. Sure enough, our neighbors found him on their front doorstep Saturday morning (I hate that for them, but appreciate so much the way they took care of him!).

Our old man cat drove us crazy at times – okay, lots of times – but he was a sweetie. Thankful to have had him for as long as we did!

A heart of prayer...for friends who continue to battle health and other issues. For our churches. For our hearts as believers to be turned to Christ alone, undistracted by the piddly little things that tend to turn our heads so easily.

Random observations...Three weeks. I let three weeks go by without writing a thing. I didn’t even finish sharing about our fun bloggy friend adventures! My struggle to keep up with writing reminds me just how much  I struggle with discipline. Discipline of my time, energy, and thoughts. Which leads to a deeper question of what I allow to control my time, energy, and thoughts. Is it Christ, or is it me and my whims? Yeah…too often it’s the latter. It’s not about how much I get to write. It’s about a deeper issue of surrender. That HAS to change. And when it does, hopefully the writing will become more regular, too. But, if not, I will at least know that I have the real issue taken care of, knowing Jesus can handle the rest and the Holy Spirit can and will guide me to what I need to be doing.

My amazing children...inspire and bless me so greatly. They have such security, trusting the authority and sovereignty of God, yet also resting fully in the knowledge of His love. I see it in their transition after the move – even though they still have tearful days because they miss Almyra, they show no bitterness or regret because they, too, know that God brought us here. And they’re determined to fully root themselves where God has planted them.

I’ve also seen it as they have dealt with death. I first noticed it with Grandpa’s death in August. They cried and were sad, but they were so confident. Not an attitude of “I’m going to cry for a bit, then bury this emotion.” More of an attitude of “I’m going to cry and be thankful all at once.”

And, even though a cat holds no comparison whatsoever to a grandfather, they handled Jack’s death so well, too. We didn’t have to discuss whether or not there’s a cat heaven or anything along those lines. We simply got to talk about God’s blessings and how He blessed us with Jack. They were very quickly able to talk freely about him and his absence.

I don’t really know how to put into words what I’m seeing in my children, other than to call it confidence. They are all still so young in their faith, but they know God’s control and His love. That’s enough for them. I love that!

Thoughts from the kitchen...a crock pot full of water warming a bag of frozen something – my friend this week.

On my bookshelf...making good progress toward finishing Everyday Grace. I’ve really enjoyed that one.

Meanwhile, two review books on my coffee table. Ishtar’s Odyssey is an Advent story that I’ll be reviewing next week.

But, then there’s the really distracting one. The one that makes all of the discipline I discussed earlier much, much harder.


This one was so long-awaited. And, in typical Patrick W. Carr fashion, I am more confused with every page turn. But also more intrigued. Unfortunately, this is just book one in The Darkwater Saga. Which means I have to wait for the rest. Yeah. I might have to go back and reread The Staff and the Sword series while I wait.

Projects...Christmas stuff! My sewing machine WILL come out soon!  

Sounds of the moment...the dishwasher. Kids playing. Music.

From Hibbard Academy...plugging along. They’re so independent these days that they even do a lot of their own grading. It’s helpful, but it makes it harder for me to remember exactly where we are!

A favorite thing from last week...the Annual Meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention was last week. Seeing people is always fun, but our favorite stretch of the meeting is the Tuesday night service. And this year, several church members joined us! We’ve been talking up that particular service for years, encouraging people to join us. This is the first year anyone has taken us up on the invitation. It was so much fun to have others come and enjoy the service with us. (Next year it will be in Little Rock the last Tuesday of October. Come join us!)

Even James the Big Cow got to attend the last service on Wednesday morning.

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The planner...a pretty full week of meetings and activities, including friends coming for a little while this morning, a ministers’ wives event tonight, a couple of meetings this week for Doug, normal church activities, and AHG and Scouts events this weekend. The girls and I have a mother-daughter activity, and Doug and Steven have a Webelos hiking activity. Lots of social interaction right on the heels of the convention, so we’re probably going to resemble hermits by next week. But, we’ll have fun in the meantime.

Because visuals are fun...Steven snagged his sister’s famous hat. (It’s hilarious the number of people who have tried to buy this hat off of Olivia!) Looks pretty cute on little brother, too!

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