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Home at Last Deborah Raney

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March 31, 2007

On Valentine’s Day this year, Darlene Schacht, editor of Christian Women Online magazine, was interviewed by Cindy Swanson for WQFL/WGSL Radio’s “Weekend Rockford.” I’ve been so busy this month, I didn’t have a chance to listen to the interview until this morning. It lasts about 20 minutes.

It’s a wonderful, encouraging interview! I really got to know a lot about Darlene and how she started CWO. Although she first began it as a writing project with a few friends, she’s been surprised at how it has taken off into a ministry. There have been several women who have come to faith in Christ because of this magazine — Darlene explains how that happened in the interview. She also shared more about the Prayer Room and what is going on there.

Cindy and Darlene talked about the blogosphere and how women are connecting online these days. Darlene shared that many of CWO’s readers are stay-at-home moms who enjoy being able to fellowship with other women while staying nearby their children. It was so enlightening for me to learn more about the blogging community.

If you’re a blogger and you haven’t joined the CWO ringsurf yet, I hope you’ll take a minute to join. There are now over 1100 members, so it’s the largest Christian blogring on the internet.

It was fun to hear Darlene’s voice since I’ve only known her through written correspondence so far. I really enjoyed reading her book, The Mom Complex.

If you’ve got a load of laundry to fold, maybe you can listen to this podcast in the background and enjoy getting to know this amazing woman of faith, Darlene Schacht.

By: Heather Ivester in: Faith,Motherhood | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)



March 30, 2007

It looks like we have a lot of chocolate fans here. What an education! I think it’s definitely time for me to start branching beyond Hershey’s with almonds. I’m impressed with your exquisite taste for the good stuff!

Thank you to everyone who left a comment to enter into the drawing. I wrote all your names on little slips of paper, and this morning, I drew…

Ruth of “It’s True,” Sighed Roo!

Congratulations! I’ll be sending you a copy of Julie Carobini’s novel, Chocolate Beach. Hope you have a great time reading it (and of course eating some chocolate while you read!).

I’m attending my fourth Easter egg hunt of the week — our church had an egg hunt Wednesday night, the preschool is having one today, and there’s an egg hunt and cookout for my older children in the afternoon. And Easter is still over a week away — which means we’ll still have another egg hunt at Grandma’s house.

Next week is our spring break — and I also have a couple of wonderful interviews to post. You will love hearing what these ladies have to share!

I wish you a happy weekend — with lots of chocolate, of course! 🙂




March 29, 2007

I saw this little quiz on Julie Carobini’s blog — and thought I’d give it a try.

This is actually pretty funny because I feel like I’ve gotten to “know” the Cameron family after reading Kirk Cameron’s mom’s wonderful book, A Full House of Growing Pains, and interviewing her for Christian Women Online.

Kind of scary to admit that my favorite 80s band is Duran Duran — yes, I actually went to their concert. Just saying the name gets the song “Rio” playing in my head.

(Actually, I’ve been married to my real heartthrob for the past 12 and 1/2 years!)


Your 80s Heartthrob Is


Kirk Cameron
By: Heather Ivester in: Friendship | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)



March 28, 2007

I have a new column, The Parent Muse, which will appear bi-monthly at Spirit-Led Writer webzine. I’ll be highlighting successful authors who are also parents and will focus on encouraging the rest of us who feel called to write — in between diaper changing, carpooling, and heating up dinner.

Editor Lisa Crayton is always looking for inspirational articles and stories. In the Writer’s Guidelines, she says:

SPIRIT-LED WRITER is a resource for Christians who write in fiction and non-fiction genres for Christian and secular markets. It is for the beginner, intermediate and advanced writer.

As an alternative to secular writing resources, we choose to uplift the name of Jesus Christ, and give Him glory. Thus, we promote Spirit-led excellence and integrity in publishing. At SPIRIT-LED WRITER we recognize that our achievements come “not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord” and that “all things work together for our good.”

This month, I offer tips from three successful children’s authors: Katherine Paterson, Madeleine L’Engle, and Jonathan Rogers. I hope you’ll find a minute to check out the whole March issue of Spirit-Led Writer.




March 26, 2007

It’s a new week, and I have a great book sitting right here on my desk that I’d love to give one of you.

Julie Caraboni’s debut novel, Chocolate Beach, is the perfect companion if you’re in the mood to relax and enjoy the spring weather.

Here’s what the back cover says:

Bri Stone has it all: the man of her dreams and their surf-ridin’ teenage son, a chocolate-loving best pal, an adorable beach bungalow, and a kicky job as a Southern California tour bus host.

She also has a few things she didn’t ask for: a know-it-all friend, a snobby mother-in-law, and a Fabio-meets-Dilbert boss. All three of them seem eager to share their strong opinions and suspicions about Bri’s relationship with her husband, Douglas.

When Bri’s rose-colored glasses crack after she finds evidence that Douglas has grown tired of her carefree ways, she resolves to win him back. Can Bri reinvent herself — and recapture his heart?

I enjoyed this book — it was fun to imagine what life would be like living by the beach, as the author does, in Ventura, California. You can read my review of it here. (It’s published by Bethany House.)

If you’d like to enter a drawing to win a free copy, here’s the million-dollar question:

What’s your favorite kind of chocolate?

I’m so curious — do any of you have particular types that are extra special or hard to find? I’ve been craving the dark chocolate Hershey bars with almonds lately. I know — they’re full of sugar and calories — but I figure the darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants (at least it sounds good!), and almonds have protein, right?

How about you?

If you leave a comment, I’ll draw a winner on Friday, March 30 and send the book out to you in time for you to enjoy it in April!

Let’s talk chocolate! 🙂




March 25, 2007

Today is my parents’ 41st wedding anniversary.

Of all the things they’ve given me over the years, nothing compares to the gift of showing me how to love someone for over four decades!

My siblings and I don’t have to look beyond our parents to know how much God loves us. In good times and bad; in sickness and in health.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

We love you!

By: Heather Ivester in: Marriage | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)



March 23, 2007

Have you seen Bridge to Terabithia yet? It really is a great family movie. We took our kids to see it a few weeks ago, and this was easily the best film we’ve seen since The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

And no wonder; it’s produced by Walden Media, the same company behind the Narnia movies, as well as Because of Winn Dixie, Charlotte’s Webb, Amazing Grace, and others. You can read a chapter excerpt of Bridge to Terabithia here.

In a recent speech, the president of Walden Media, Michael Flaherty, addressed an audience of college students and talked about the importance of reading good books. He said:

In launching Walden Media, our greatest challenge was in identifying the stories that we wanted to bring to the screen. We did not want to waste our time making films out of “the wrong books” that Eustace Scrubbs [The Voyage of the Dawn Treader] wasted his time reading.

So rather than turn to the usual parade of agents and Hollywood producers, we launched an unusual campaign that continues to this day. We enrolled in as many educational conferences as we could find. We spoke to tens of thousands of teachers and librarians and asked them what books they most enjoyed teaching and recommending.

After seven years, the only thing that seems odd about this strategy is the fact that our company is the only one doing it. After all, who knows stories better than teachers and librarians?

And I must add to this: parents. We know what we love to read to our kids! We know what our children respond to. We know what books bring joy to our family.

If you’ve read a good book lately, why not write Walden Media and request they consider it for a movie? Get your kids to write them a letter — not a bad composition assignment, huh?

Flaherty continues in his speech (which I hope you can read in its entirety) by explaining why they’ve chosen to tackle projects that contain some frightening content (such as Terabithia, which I won’t spoil for you, if you haven’t seen it yet. But bring the tissues!) He quotes this wonderful passage from C.S. Lewis. I don’t know where this came from originally — does anyone know?

Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias. His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of. Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil.

If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the…atomic bomb.

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

Oh, that last line: I love it!

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.

Are you reading books to your children that teach them about the courage needed to overcome evil? Whenever I get depressed about the state of the world, about the junk our kids must grow up with, I look to people like Michael Flaherty and Walden Media as my heroes.

One more quote from this great speech:

Today we desperately need more leaders like William Wilberforce and the Kings and Queens of Narnia who will fight to make good laws, keep the peace, save good trees from being cut down, and encourage ordinary people who want to live and let live.

I wish you a happy weekend, filled with brave knights and heroic courage!




March 22, 2007


The cherry blossoms are absolutely gorgeous right now in our hometown. This morning, I fell in love with the trees in bloom at our church. I set my kids on the branches of this one tree — and took a mental picture because I didn’t have a camera with me.

Two smiling faces, bright pink cherry blossoms, sunshine on my back … These are the moments I want to keep a snapshot of in my soul. Why do I ever complain when God gives me gifts like these?

Thinking about cherry blossoms — Sakura — always reminds me of Japan. The Japanese are wild about their cherry blossoms, yet the season is short, so enjoying the blossoms also has a tone of sadness. The Sakura Zensen or “cherry blossom front” is a daily part of the weather forecast.

This website also explains more about the significance of the cherry blossom to the Japanese culture, and if you’re interested in kanji, you’ll find the meaning of the sakura character fascinating:

The picture on the left part of this kanji is a tree — can you see it? Then the character on the bottom right is a woman, and on the right top is a hair ornament. A woman wearing an ornament in her hair is pretty. A cherry blossom is pretty. So this is the character for SAKURA.

Can you see why I spent three years of my life studying Japanese? I went crazy with it — don’t even get me started on the hidden spiritual meanings in many of the characters. It’s truly amazing.

Actually, I read that the “cherry blossom capital of the world” is considered to be Macon, Georgia! There are 300,000 cherry trees in Macon, and right now there is a ten-day Cherry Blossom Festival going on. Maybe we can go someday.

Are the cherry blossoms blooming in your hometown?




March 21, 2007

I’ve added a new category to my blog here, “Crafty people and things.” It’s been a few years since I’ve been into making crafts. But now that my kids are getting older, I’m trying to find hobbies we can do together — and knitting is one activity I’ve been considering for my daughters.

So I’ve discovered a “knitting mentor,” Jennifer Keene! She is so talented and full of ideas — and she manages to find time to work on her knitting projects while being a mom of two boys. Jennifer has a home-based business called The Knitting Queen2, where you can see all the wonderful items she has for sale online.

Aren’t these little rabbit booties adorable?

Hi, Jennifer. How did you get interested in knitting?

I’m not really sure! It started about 12 years ago. I had been working in a job I really didn’t like and decided to quit and take a little time off before finding another one. I told my husband that one of the things I really wanted to do during my break was learn to knit.

It was just a whim. I found a cute little knitting shop nearby and took a class — it was a series of four evenings. By the end of the first evening I was hooked.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my new “talent” (I have a couple of very ugly sweaters to show for that!) and I really found my passion when I was pregnant with my first son, about seven years ago. I started making baby hats for him and for my best friend’s son.

Baby hats are adorable and make such great gifts! Is it hard for beginners to pick up knitting?

I don’t think so. It’s pretty straight forward. Knitting is made up of two stitches — knit and purl. There are many variations on this, but it all boils down to these two stitches.

Knitting patterns can look pretty daunting — they’re often written in paragraph form and use a lot of abbreviations. For a beginner, I think it can look overwhelming. But it’s really not. If you have the right person teach you in the beginning, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to pick up.

What’s the best way for beginners to get started?

I think taking a class is the best thing. All knitting stores have classes for the beginner, taught by people who love to knit. People who work in knitting stores are there because they love it so much and they get great joy in seeing someone else “see the light.”

I wouldn’t recommend trying to teach yourself to knit using a book. That being said, I also think a beginner can learn a LOT about knitting in just a few sessions. For an investment of just a few evenings or Saturday afternoons, the beginning knitter will walk away with a ton of basic knowledge.

Do you have any favorite books you’d recommend?

Two books that I bought early on have been invaluable to me. One is Vogue Knitting. It has excellent pictures and drawings and you can look up almost anything.

The other is The Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square. This is a small spiral-bound book that fits easily into your knitting bag. Again, great descriptions and covers a lot of basics. When I was first learning to knit, The Knitter’s Companion was my bible.

A spiral-bound book sounds handy so you can leave the page open while you’re working.

Yes — and keep in mind that most knitting stores welcome the chance to help you if you need to pop in for a quick question. If the help you need is extensive, they may ask you to schedule a time and charge a nominal tutoring fee. But if there is a step in your pattern that you just can’t get, ask the experts at the store to show you. That’s what I do!

You make this sound do-able! What was your first knitting project?

My first project was from the class I took. It was a sweater. I chose very thick yarn, in a color I don’t particularly care for, and it ended up being something I knew I would NEVER wear (no one ever needs sweaters that thick in Seattle).

Somehow, my mom ended up with it and I saw her wearing it once. I was horrified!

What project would you recommend for a first-time knitter?

A sweater is actually not a bad first project — if you choose a fairly simple pattern. A sweater teaches you many skills a knitter needs to know — increases, decreases, binding off, picking up stitches, and finishing (sewing your pieces together).

I wouldn’t recommend a sweater, however, if you’re on a deadline. Even for an experienced knitter, a sweater is not a task to be taken lightly.

Scarves are obviously a good choice — that can be about as basic as you can get. Also, many hat patterns are quite easy and you can finish up a hat pretty quickly.

I love to knit socks. They are a great portable project, there are gorgeous sock yarns out there, it’s fairly inexpensive, and you’re guaranteed to wear them.

Why do you think knitting has become so popular lately?

Honestly, I don’t know. I do think the books and patterns that are available now are WONDERFUL, compared to what they were ten years ago. Designers are coming up with much more wearable, usable items and I think that intrigues people.

Also, writers like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot, Knitting Rules) are writing bestsellers about knitting. Her books are hilarious, very true to life, and I found myself loving knitting even more after reading her books.

It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing, though. Did people finally start seeing how fun knitting can be after seeing the great yarns and patterns, or are the new yarns and patterns the result of knitting’s rise in popularity?

For me, it is a relaxing hobby that I can do around my family. I really love to read as well, but reading is very anti-social. I can knit and talk to my kids or my husband at the same time. Many projects are easily portable and it’s a great way to kill time.

How do you find time to knit?

I quit cleaning my house! Seriously, that’s only partially true (part of the reason I quit cleaning my house is that I find it to be a losing battle. I have two small boys and a messy husband … enough said).

I often will schedule in knitting time — I do my errands, housework, etc. in the mornings. Then I usually knit during my four-year-old’s nap, and I often knit in the evenings after the house is picked up and the kids are in bed. I admit, I’m a TV watcher, and I find I can knit easily while relaxing and watching TV.

Also, my kids are getting old enough (four and seven) that they can play together and don’t need constant supervision. They would LIKE my constant attention, but I think it’s important that they rely on each other more for entertainment.

So in the afternoons I will often sit in the living room and knit while they play. I’m still very much available for them, but I am teaching them that Mommy has things she likes to do too. My family knows that knitting is important to me and I think they’ve learned to accept it (either that, or they’ve completely given up all hope…).

I’m in a Bible study once a week, and after our discussion there is an hour-long video we watch — I always knit during the video. I know some people who will actually knit during church services. I can’t do that. I honestly think I would still stay focused on the sermon, but I think others would find it disrespectful, so I don’t feel right about it.

Can you tell us about your business, The Knitting Queen2?

About a year ago I started selling my baby hats on ebay. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for seven years now and I really wanted to find something that I could call my own.

I’m not ready to go back to work, but I want to try to contribute a bit to the household income (or at least make enough to support my habit!). Knitting is something I am truly passionate about and it just seemed like the next logical step, to try and sell my creations.

I had been knitting for friends and had been getting a lot of great feedback, so I’m trusting that the general public will also feel the same!

I agree. Your knitting creations are so adorable!

I knew ebay wasn’t quite the right venue, but, well, you have to start somewhere.

The name Knitting Queen was already taken, so I became Knitting Queen2. I carried it over to my Etsy store just so I wouldn’t get confused with my different IDs.

I was so excited when I found Etsy! It’s a website to sell hand-crafted items! It’s easier and less expensive than ebay and I feel it’s a much better fit for me. So now I am exclusively on Etsy, trying to make a go of this.

I’m selling hand knit baby and toddler hats, baby slippers, coffee sleeves (I’m from Seattle, remember?!), and hand knit plush cupcakes. I have a list a mile long of upcoming projects, so the more people buy, the more I can afford to come up with new creations!

How can we get in touch with you?

My shop on Etsy can be found here. I also have a blog at The Knitting Queen or people can email me directly at jen_keene@hotmail.com.

Thanks, Jennifer. You’ve inspired me to learn more about knitting!

Thanks so much for inviting me, Heather!

You can see Jennifer Keene’s knitting creations at her website, The Knitting Queen2.




March 19, 2007


This morning, I woke up to the Focus on the Family broadcast and caught most of Dr. Dobson’s interview with author, Julie Barnhill. A mom of three, her topic was motherhood guilt — and why we shouldn’t let it steal our joy.

Today’s interview was part one of three — so if you missed it, you can listen to it here — and tune in for parts two and three tomorrow and the next day.

Perfect timing for me — as I’m struggling with the GUILT of signing up my youngest kids for preschool. Why should I let this bother me? I have this little voice in my head that tells me I’m a failure because I’m not 100% overjoyed to spend 100% of my waking hours with my children. I love them so much, and I LOVE being a mom, but I feel refreshed when I get a little break every day.

This morning, we had our preschool sign-ups, and I straggled my way in at 8:15, sick to my stomach that we hadn’t gotten there earlier. I overheard some moms saying people were lined up at 5 am. I did the best I could getting the three older ones off to school — then getting the last two up and dressed and out the door by 8 am.

It was so much fun seeing everyone — like a reunion for us battle-weary moms of preschoolers. My comrades. It took about an hour of waiting — but the time flew. We discussed toilet training, sibling rivalry, mealtime woes, toddler antics, and working out at the gym (where I should BE right now, with swimsuit season just around the corner).

My little social butterfly (almost) two-year old sang her repertoire of songs for the entire room, flitted from person to person, played ball, spun on the sit and spin — and spilled a whole box of breath mints.

Finally! They called my name, and I walked to the front table, weak-kneed with worry that I’d arrived too late.

“Do you have any spots left in the two-year-old program?” I asked.

The director smiled at me. “You got the last spot. Congratulations.”

Oh, thank you Lord. I had to stop myself from doing the Snoopy dance in front of the whole room and shouting, “We’re in!” Restraint is always helpful when you don’t want to make enemies.

And I’m not feeling guilty at all now, thanks to Julie Barnhill. 😉

By: Heather Ivester in: Motherhood | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)