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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Tennessee Christmas by Amy Grant

Just in time for the holidays, Amy Grant released her first all-new Christmas album in nearly twenty years.

This is a collection of thirteen new recordings, including the title track, Tennessee Christmas. 

My favorite songs on this album were:

#8, I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

#11, Still Can't Sleep

I loved the fun, upbeat sounds of them.

Longtime fans, however, may be surprised at the sound of this recording.  To be honest, I enjoyed Home For Christmas more, which was brighter and more elegant sounding. 

I missed the big orchestra, the strings, and the overall majestic sounds when I listened to these new songs.

However for those wanting a more subdued, mellow, melancholy sound, this might be a great choice.  

Check out the links below, to hear some samples for yourself.

You can purchase it here

or check out the audio of To Be Together on You Tube here

Listen to the title track, Tennessee Christmas here


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Longing For Home - Precious Memories 14


I cut my baby teeth on Southern Gospel music.

My parents were a bit musical and loved to sing. I grew up hearing a lot of old hymns. My mom could play the piano a little by ear, and my dad played the guitar. My mom had notebooks full of handwritten lyrics and chords. I remember sitting on the kitchen table, holding up a “songbook” so my dad could see it, while he stood and played. Mom would stand next to him and they would sing about Jesus.

Swinging my legs back and forth in time, I listened to their voices blend together. I heard songs like, “Because He Lives”, “I’ve Got A Mansion”, “He Touched Me” – all were a part of my childhood.

But even now, there’s one hymn that instantly chokes me up and puts a huge lump in my throat. I cannot hear it without feeling a deep homesick feeling inside.

It’s called, “Beulah Land”

The lyrics go like this:

Beulah land, I’m longing for you 
And someday, on thee I’ll stand 
Where my home shall be eternal 
Beulah land, sweet Beulah land 
 I’m kind of homesick for a country 
Where I’ve never been before 
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken 
For time won’t matter anymore 
I’m looking now across the river 
Where my faith is gonna end in sight 
There’s just a few more days to labor 
And then I’ll take my heavenly flight 
Where my home shall be eternal 
Beulah land, sweet Beulah land 

After the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, we tried to keep my mom’s environment peaceful and calm. She still loved music, even when she couldn’t always sing along. She had several CD’s with old hymns on them, and one had Beulah Land. When it would play, I could tell she recognized the song. She had a look about her – almost a longing on her face. Just like the song says, she was looking ahead.

She knew what lay before her and where she was going. So did I. But it didn’t make it easier to let go. I began missing her long before she was physically gone. We played those CD’s endlessly, to bring her a sense of familiar, and a sense of peace. In her world, which had gone completely mad and upside down, hymns were normal. They brought comfort.

She began to talk about “home” quite a bit in the last few months. The professionals told me that when your loved one is asking to “go home”, or referring to home, sometimes it’s a sign. Sure enough, it was within just a few months that she made her final move and went home to heaven. The hymn playing that day, was Amazing Grace. It’s the last song she heard, as she took her last breath.

Knowing she was finally home was such a relief. I was happy for her, trying to imagine the very first person she saw. Who would be waiting for her at the gate? For her sake, I kind of hoped it was her mother.

She had been asking for her, for quite some time. The first time I heard her call out for her mother, it nearly took me to my knees. I felt a pain in my middle, so sharp – I cannot describe the agony or heartache. I was stunned at what this disease had reduced her to.

In her mind, she was a little girl again, wanting her mom. They told me this often happens as the end draws near, but witnessing it for myself, was gut wrenching. After the shock wore off, I wanted to find a way to reassure her, and make her feel safe. I didn’t want her scared.

I knew what it was like to want your mom. I missed my mom so much, and yet she was still here with me physically.

The next time she did this, she was in bed. She called out for her mom and waited. I went over and gently tucked her in. The room was darkened, and as I tucked her blankets around her, I softly rubbed her back and said, “Momma’s here.”

She smiled at me.  

A sleepy, satisfied smile, the look of a child comforted. She then closed her eyes, and quietly fell asleep.

It broke my heart and at the same time, made me feel a sense of relief that she felt safe and secure. I knew she longed for home and ultimately, her journey here was ending. She was homesick.

And so I began to pray that God would take her.

*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who battled Alzheimer's.  I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here: Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
And This Is Why I Write - Precious Memories 13

Listen to Bradley Walker sing Beulah Land here

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller

This book is for anyone who is weary--who longs for rest but doesn't know how to make it a reality.

Shelly Miller, a sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping, shows how even busy people can implement a rhythm of rest into their lives--from small windows of time to a whole morning or day.

With encouraging stories from people in different stages in life, Miller shares practical advice for not only finding physical refreshment but also restoring your soul.

You will learn:
· Simple ways to be intentional about rest
· Ideas for tuning out distractions and tuning in to God
· How meals and other times with friends and family can be Sabbath experiences

Sabbath is a gift from God to be embraced, not a spiritual hoop to jump through. Discover how genuine rest is possible today.

Cafe Lily's Review:

This book was so timely for me.  I have been intentionally focusing on Sabbath and rest, and what that looks like for me, so when the opportunity came up to review this book, I was thankful to get a copy.

Cafe Lily has been more like "Cafe Chaos" the past few years.

If you have spent any time reading my blog, you already know why. 

"Rest" has been nearly impossible for me, much less easy.  Resting was the last thing on my mind, until the Lord began dealing with me.  And even then, I had no idea HOW I was going to rest.  I had so much to do! 

And yet I was so tired, so weary.  Emotionally, mentally and physically wrung out.  Spiritually dry.  Numb for the most part.

I love that this book emphasizes what Sabbath is and is not.  Sabbath does not mean a list of rules, or "thou shalt nots" on Sunday.  What Sabbath looks like for you, may be a little different for me.

Sabbath is necessary, and oh so worth it, if you put it into practice.  Resting does not come easy for me - working 7 days a week was normal, or at least I thought it was. 

I bought into the lie of the enemy that Sabbath was not possible.  Or as the author writes about, relying on myself instead of trusting God.

This book helped me pinpoint areas, where I can shore up and strengthen my resolve that I will Sabbath, no matter what the circumstances look like. 

In essence, it was like being given permission to let go.   And there is such a freedom in resting.

I suggest that you get your hands on a copy of this book, if you need some direction regarding Sabbath.   As part of my Sabbath the past month, I read a chapter or two of this book.  I found myself relaxing, taking a deep breath and looking forward to my time of rest.

The very first chapter talks about baby steps - if you aren't able or willing at this point to devote an entire day to rest, this book will help you incorporate shorter time periods.  You can work your way up, or stay at whatever feels like a rest for you.

Shelly gives a lot of personal examples all through the book, so readers can see what rest looks like.  I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

“No matter where you go, no matter whether you succeed or fail, stand or fall, no gone is too far gone. You can always come home.” 

At the age of eighteen, musician and songwriter Cooper O’Connor took everything his father held dear and drove 1,200 miles from home to Nashville, his life riding on a six-string guitar and the bold wager that he had talent. But his wager soon proved foolish.

Five years after losing everything, he falls in love with Daley Cross, an angelic voice in need of a song. But just as he realizes his love for Daley, Cooper faces a tragedy that threatens his life as well as his career. With nowhere else to go, he returns to his remote home in the Colorado Mountains, searching for answers about his father and his faith.

When Daley shows up on his street corner twenty years later, he wonders if it’s too late to tell her the truth about his past—and if he is ready to face it. A radical retelling of the story of the prodigal son, Long Way Gone takes us from tent revivals to the Ryman Auditorium to the tender relationship between a broken man and the father who never stopped calling him home.

 Cafe Lily's Review:

That book you see pictured in the photo way up at the top?   It's one reason I still enjoy reviewing books. 

If you've spent any time around here, you already know there's been just a little chaos going on, the past few years.

With my days so full of "life" and having little time to kick back and get totally lost in a book for awhile..........this is what I am looking for when I need a mental break.

I am no stranger to Charles Martin's books.  If you do a search on this blog you will find reviews for Thunder and Rain, The Mountain Between Us, A Life Intercepted, and others.

As I wrote in an earlier review:

I discovered Charles Martin when I read his first book, The Dead Don't Dance, published by Thomas Nelson. I saw the title at my local library, and became intrigued with the cover, so I brought it home. 

Years ago, I just happened to be wandering around the local library and stumbled upon what was my first, (but definitely not the last) book I would read by this author.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I experience just about every emotion you can think of reading these books.  Long Way Gone had me grieving, laughing, crying, longing, smiling, hurting - it was an emotional journey, but oh so worth it.  

For the longest time, I was torn between When Crickets Cry and The Mountain Between Us as my favorites, by Charles.  However, Long Way Gone has muddied the water.....I think this is my new favorite! 

I believe all of us, at some point in our lives, have a bit of the "prodigal son" in our life, attitude, approach.  This book reminds us of just how powerful, far reaching, and cleansing the grace of God is towards us.  

The writing is not overly preachy, but straight forward.  There is no mistaking the message when you turn the last page.

I loved it.  I highly recommend it!

And the one Charles Martin book that made me cry the most so far?  

Where The River Ends, hands down.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

And This Is Why I Write - Precious Memories 13

 Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious sacred scenes unfold
As I travel on life's pathway
Know not what the years may hold
As I ponder, hope grows fonder
Precious memories flood my soul
                                                      Hymn written by J.B.F. Wright

My mom loved to read. Growing up, I remember seeing books in various places all over the house. Sometimes mom would have several books going at once.

She used whatever she had as a bookmark. An envelope from an old bill, a torn out magazine page, sometimes a pencil if she was desperate. She devoured books by the stacks. We read all of the time.  In fact, I cannot remember not being able to read.

My mom used to tell me a story about when I was a baby. She would lay me down on the newspaper so I could look at the words. She did this on a regular basis, and also gave me books to look at and to hold. She read aloud to me, and books were as much a part of my life as food, water, or air. They were with me and around me constantly.

My family members often told me the story of how one day when I was about 3, my mom overheard me reading out loud, and she thought I was “pretending” to read. Turns out, I really WAS reading and she was never quite sure how I learned. There was never an intentional reading class or lesson given by my mom. I didn't learn "phonics." I have no idea how it happened.  I inherited her voracious love of books and so much more.

It saddened me when my mom lost the ability to read due to Alzheimer’s. She lost one of her great loves and there was nothing I could do to stop it. People with this disease lose various communication abilities, at different stages. I wasn’t even aware that there were “stages”, until I lived out my own personal experience with this disease.

I did notice that prior to being officially diagnosed, my mom seemed to have trouble following conversations. Actually it was me that I suspected of having the issues! I would feel so confused, sometimes trying to talk to her. I mentioned some of this previously in my Storm Warning post.

She would wander from topic to topic and take rabbit trails. She would become irritated with me, if I wondered what we were talking about. In her mind it was plain as day!  She began telling me strange things, but would sound absolutely convincing as she relayed these "incidents."

For example, she would blame the phone company for messing up the line when I would find her phone unplugged from the jack on the wall, or off the hook.  Good thing I lived close when she was in her own home.  I cannot recall how many times I raced over there, thinking the worst, when we'd have an hour or more of a "busy signal" and couldn't reach her.

When she began using strange words to fill in what she couldn’t remember, that really raised a red flag with me. For example, “There was a rainfall in bed.”  Alzheimer’s translation?  "I took a shower before bed last night."

I learned quickly to play the game, fill in the blanks, and become very good at guessing. I often joke with my husband now that I should go on the $25,000 Pyramid game show, because I am so quick to fill in the blanks and figure out what someone is talking about.

You learn to cope with this illness. You have to.

It wasn’t until after my mom was diagnosed officially that I noticed she was losing interest in books, magazines, word puzzles and the like. She used to faithfully work the crossword puzzle in her daily newspaper when I was at home. She loved word searches and we’d have all kinds of them around. I tried using large print materials to help her, in case she was having issues seeing the print.  I would later learn that vision changes are another factor with dementia patients.

Slowly, over the course of time she just stopped picking up her books. She had her Bible close by, but eventually stopped picking that up as well. It broke my heart.

This was a woman who loved Scrabble, and board games. We played UNO and card games, Chinese checkers, and regular checkers. She was just as active mentally as she was physically and yet, this awful disease was not deterred by her busy brain.  Hoping to keep her engaged mentally, I would read out loud to her when she had an interest.

Sometimes she just wanted it dim and quiet, and I tried to respect that. I would read devotions to her, especially about heaven as the end drew near. She seemed peaceful as I read, intensely watching me with her eyes. I believe her spirit picked up, what her brain could not process.

In honor of her, I could not think of a better way to keep her memory alive, than with words on a page.  And this is why I write. 

Not because I am an aspiring author, or think that I write well.

I write for her, and so I won’t forget.  I write with the hope that maybe someone else will be informed, encouraged, and strengthened if they are facing this too. Although Alzheimer’s played a role in my mom’s life, it wasn’t how I define her.   And it won’t be how I choose to remember her.   She was so much more.

But having walked this painful road, she would have hoped that her personal struggle and journey, might be able to help someone else.  She was a giver that way, always wanting to lighten the load of another.  Sharing her story and what we've walked through, is my way of just sitting next to you and holding your hand as you walk this path too.

I know some of what you face, and how lonely the grief process can be.

I choose to remember the wonderful (precious) memories she left me with.   I remember, and so I write.

*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who battled Alzheimer's.  I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.

You can start reading our story from the beginning here: Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
A Time To Weep - Precious Memories 12

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Chicago socialite Anna Nicholson retreats to the Hotel Ottawa in Holland, Michigan, after breaking her engagement with her wealthy fiancé. Filled with questions about her newfound faith and troubled by a recurring nightmare, Anna finds solace in Derk Vander Veen, a seasonal hotel worker who plans to go into the ministry.

Prompted by a request from her son, Geesje de Jonge begins to sift through memories of emigrating from the Netherlands almost fifty years ago. As she writes them down for the Semi-Centennial anniversary of the town's settlement, her story takes on a life of its own as she honestly and painfully recalls her regrets, doubts, hardships, and joys.

Her story captivates Derk, who sees similarities between Geesje and Anna, and wishes to bring the two together. Past and present collide as Anna and Geesje seek clarity, but neither expects the revelations that await them.

Cafe Lily's Review:

I've said it before, when reviewing Lynn's books, but it is worth repeating.

Lynn is one of my favorite authors and is one of the best writers of historical fiction that I have personally found.  I waited anxiously for her newest book and was not disappointed.

There was just the right mixture of romance, suspense, and history blended into this story.  It was an interesting journey, and the family secrets that kept popping up, kept me riveted until the last page.

Sometimes with dual timelines in a story, its confusing to go back and forth from past to present.  Not so, with this book.  Lynn wrote it beautifully and I was easily able to follow what was happening.

I really enjoyed learning more about the history of Holland, Michigan. Historical fiction is my favorite genre to read, because I learn something new and interesting.

When it's written by Lynn Austin, I know automatically that I am going to enjoy it even more.  I have yet to read one of her books that I haven't recommended.

If you love historical fiction as much as I do, this is one to add to your library.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Time To Weep - Precious Memories 12

The first man who broke my heart was my father. He died when I was young.

As a child, this was my first close experience with the death of someone I knew well. I had a lot of fear and anxiety, watching him slowly dwindle away. I had never been that close to death before. Many studies have been done on the lifelong effects of a child who loses a parent.  Not only do children lose the parent, but the relationship that went with it.

When you are older, you sort of have time to prepare as you are growing up, that at some point in life your parent(s) will die. But as a child, you don’t expect it. At least I didn’t. I wasn’t prepared at all.

I was blindsided, scared, confused, and to make matters worse, I was told not to cry. 

The night my father died, a family member took me into another room and told me not to cry. They said it would make it harder on my mom and if she saw me crying, it would make things more difficult.

And so a pivotal moment took place, and I became an “emotional stuffer.” I would practice this for many years, burying my thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  I squirreled them deep, and kept them hidden away, so as not to hurt others.

I’m sure this family member had no idea the damage they would do to me.

Studies have been done showing that not releasing tears, can be physically toxic. Emotional crying, can produce endorphins to help relieve pain and suffering.  I suffered silently, with no way to release the shock and grief.  I was traumatized.

I never told my mom what was said to me, because I was too afraid of upsetting her.

And so, I walked on eggshells. I withdrew and became silent. I carried deep sadness. I was as invisible as I could be, afraid that she might go away too, if I upset her.

Many years later, when we had a chance to talk about some things, my mom told me how worried she was about me. I was after all, Daddy’s girl. I worshipped him. And when I became so very quiet, and non-responsive, she worried. I still never told her what was said to me. I didn’t want her to grieve all over again.

She mentioned my lost childhood and how sad she was that it was cut short for me.

I was sad too.

I became overly responsible, to the point that it would be out of balance at times. Even now, I have to monitor myself for balance. I was an old soul, and still am. A very tired old woman in a little girl’s body, or so it felt to me.

I was instantly thrust into the world of a grown up, having to be responsible and dependable. No longer a child, I was now my mom’s right hand, her helper, and roommate. I had an instinct that I needed to be strong for her so she wouldn’t shoulder the burden alone. I tried to be as mature as I could, responsible, and self-sufficient so she wouldn’t worry about me.

Looking back now, I realize now how frightened she must have been for the future.  So was I. 

I clearly remember when we were given the news that my dad had passed away. Mom had come home from staying with him, to grab a bite to eat and change clothes. In that short period of time, he died, while other family members were there with him.

I remember following my mom into the bathroom where she was getting ready to go back and be with dad, even though she knew he was gone. She stopped what she was doing at the sink, turned to me, and held me by the shoulders. She looked straight into my eyes and said, “It’s just you and me now.”

I felt so overwhelmed and unsure. I had a pit in my stomach. I felt sick.

I remember being quiet, sort of stunned. I would go through the next few days, and attend the funeral in that same hazy fog, choking back my emotions to stay strong for her.

Many years later, I would again face the loss of a parent to a terminal illness.  I once read a description of Alzheimer’s, as a ‘cancer” of the mind. I couldn’t agree more. It is a slow, painful disease that eats away at the memories. And decades later, I would grieve again, as I watched my mom slowly slip away.

I found it sort of cruel and ironic that I lost my father to cancer, and then my mom, to a ‘cancer” of the mind so to speak. Both were horrible to witness.

Though I was older when my mom passed away, I don’t know that I could have ever been prepared for the journey Alzheimer’s was going to take us on. I had spent more time with her, and developed a very different, deeper relationship with her, than what I had with my father. I loved my daddy and nothing could ever replace him in my heart.  The bond with my mom was just different.

She and I were closer than what she was with my siblings who were much older than me. That’s not to say that she loved me more, or to make it sound like I was her favorite. We were just different.

Because of what we went through, we formed a very different bond. We had battle scars on our heart, the others knew nothing about. 

Mom and I were the ones who came home to the empty house, after my dad’s funeral. We were the ones who had to pick up the pieces and figure out what life looked like. She and I had to learn how to mow the lawn, and shovel the long driveway when it snowed. We learned how to drive the riding mower. We also learned how to bend the aluminum siding on the garage back in place, when one of us dented it with the riding mower.

She and I were the ones who held each other up on the rough days, and kept each other going. I was the one who went with her to the cemetery and watched her shed tears for her first love. She never remarried, even though she was widowed considerably young. In her mind, she had met (and said goodbye) to the love of her life.

She and I were the ones who woke up that first Christmas morning (and all of the other first holidays) and had to start the day without him. She would do her best to become both father and mother for me, and I would attempt to learn the ropes of being raised by a single mom.

It would be a very long time before I was able to shed tears again. Yet when they came, I felt a sense of relief.

I felt human once more.

 *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who battled Alzheimer's.  I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.

Precious Memories 1 
Precious Memories 2
Precious Memories 3
Precious Memories 4 
Precious Memories 5
Precious Memories 6
Precious Memories 7 
Precious Memories 8 
Precious Memories 9
Precious Memories 10 
Precious Memories 11