Saturday, April 30, 2011

On a Lighter Note

Since I think the pictures are kind of hilarious, I thought I'd show you our "storm shelter." We've never really been the "take cover" kind, but over the last few weeks we've had quite a few storms and have quickly perfected the art of running to our safe place.

I gathered up tons of blankets and pillows so we'd be a little more comfy in the closet. Notice that the laundry basket has become our "night stand" - the perfect place to put drinks, books, and cell phones. Hubs' contributions? A giant flashlight, bottled water, cell phone charger, and a knife (to fend off the looters!). Can you guess who's going to actually help us survive if we needed to? Glad I have him!

The iPad has become a stormy weather necessity. We were able to stream live news coverage the entire time.

Hubs decided to catch a quick nap in between watching the news and doing a little work. Glad I brought all those blankets!

The weatherman said to wear a helmet. So I did. Just sittin' in a closet, reading a book, wearing a kayaking helmet. I would also like to point out the hilarious t-shirt I'm wearing. I bought it for Hubs several years ago. The front says "Calvinism: This shirt chose me." The back says: "Arminianism: I chose this shirt." And now I have pictures for all of posterity. Ha!

Since April has been so stormy and May promises to be even worse, I think we're just going to leave it set up until tornado season is over.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Author Interview: Colleen Coble

An interview with Colleen Coble, author of The Lightkeeper’s Ball

Did you always dream of becoming a writer?  Why did you choose the romance genre?

I wrote my first story in the first grade.  It was about a horse that had twin colts.  The teacher praised it and the writing seed was planted.  I love illustrating God’s love through romance.  I especially love the suspense I put into all my books as well.  I have a strong streak of justice and it plays out in the suspense element.

What inspired you to write a historical series based in the early 1900’s?  What would you have enjoyed about living in that time period and what would you have found the most difficult?

I happened to read an article about the Gilded Age and it mentioned how that era was so similar to today’s.  I was intrigued with that, plus I wanted to choose a time period that wouldn’t be too much of a departure from my contemporary books.  In that era, there were still cars and telephones I would have loved the simpler lifestyle.  However, I would miss my jeans!  How vain.

Society at the turn of the century was very preoccupied with appearances and impressing other people.  How is that not so different than our society today and how can we keep from falling into that same trap?

That’s exactly right!  The parallels between the two eras are astounding.  I’ve been at the cancer hospital this week with a dear friend, and it was a reminder of how fragile this life is.  We seek THINGS when God wants us to seek Him.  We need to keep our eyes set on eternity and remember that THIS life is the real dream.  When we reach heaven, we will finally start to really live.

Bitterness and unforgiveness led to the death of Olivia’s sister.  Why is it so important to forgive those who have wronged us?

An unforgiving spirit hurts us much more than the person we hate.  It makes us ugly and crowds out the love we want to show other people.  God is love, not hate.  Bitterness is the very opposite of the attitude God wants us to have.

This is the third book in your Mercy Falls series.  Addie and Katie were the main characters in your first two books.  Olivia was given a true gift in the friendship of Katie and Addie.  What does it take to find trustworthy and loyal friends?  Why do you think that we all desire to find friends like these?

You have to first be a friend.  You have to be open and giving of yourself to have those kinds of friends.  A true friend tells you the truth in love, and that’s an important component of the give and take of real friendship.

What do you hope that your readers will take away from reading The Lightkeeper’s Ball?

I hope the readers who feel they have to earn love will take away the realization that their true worth is that Jesus loves them and died for them.  They are valuable beyond comprehension.  When we can step into the role of daughters and sons, we can realize our true potential.

The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble

I really enjoyed The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble. Set just after the turn of the 20th century, Olivia sets out to try to save her family's place in society. When she begins investigating the death of her sister, she focuses on Harrison, the man she is supposed to marry. Along the way, she learns a lot about herself and, more importantly, she learns a lot about God.

Colleen Coble does it again! It's been a while since I've read her books, but this one was as good as I remembered! With a knack for developing characters that readers will love, she instantly draws you in to a fast-paced romantic drama. With a few bits of intrigue thrown in, she keeps you guessing until the very end. 

The only thing that was a bit odd to me was that the ball mentioned in the title of the book wasn't really a prominent part of the story. Not a big thing, just odd.

I really enjoyed the book and the way it made me think about what it would have been like to live during that time. This is the third in a great series, but the book stands completely on its own. So ... check it out, and enjoy this great new read!

I received a free copy of this book from The B&B Media Group in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Book
At the elegant Mercy Falls masquerade ball, Olivia's hidden identity will be revealed.

It is the dawn of a new century and Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred—those considered the wealthiest and most distinquished in America. Unfortunately their wealth has nearly disappeared, and now their security rests upon the Stewart daughters' marrying well.

Olivia's sister, Eleanor, was engaged to Harrison Bennett, one of the nation's wealthiest men, but has since died. Now the pressure is on Olivia to take her place, despite her suspicions about Eleanor's fiancé. Using her family's long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth, hoping to learn more before committing to marriage. There she finds that Eleanor's death was no accident. And Harrison is not the man she thought he would be.

When Mercy Falls holds a charity masquerade ball to raise funds for the new lighthouse, secrets—and truths long hidden—will be revealed. But can Harrison really love Olivia when he finds her true identity? Can she live with the repercussions of failing her family, or will she finally realize that nothing—not money, family, or romance—will ever compare to God's unconditional love?

About the Author
Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA’s RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website at Twitter @colleencoble

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Storm

We've had a ton of bad weather around here over the last few weeks. Yesterday, though, was a day that won't soon be forgotten.

I woke up around 5:00 to the sound of the tornado sirens, wind howling around our house, the door bucket banging on the front door, fire truck sirens, and more tornado sirens. The storm was pretty bad. Part of our fence wiggled its way loose, a neighbor lost a tree (one of the few in the neighborhood), half of our neighbors lost power.

On the way to work, though, I realized that we were actually very lucky. The damage was much worse in other areas of town. It took me three times as long as normal to get to work. When I finally made it, everyone was trying to get the essential things taken care of because more storms were coming.

The majority of yesterday afternoon was spent waiting. Waiting on more storms. We went ahead and got our "safe place" ready. When Hubs realized that things (mostly leaves, sticks, etc.) were falling from the sky, we decided it was time to go.

Watching the news coverage of one storm after another hitting all around us was terrifying. We knew that we were safe. But so many weren't. Then the pictures of the damage started rolling in. Absolutely devastating.

We are so thankful that we were spared. We are fine. Our home is fine. All of our family and friends are fine.

But we are heartbroken for those who were not so fortunate.

Please join us in praying for all who were affected by the tragic storms that hit our state yesterday.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This Week's Top Pick: T-Shirts for Zoey

My sweet friend Lauren and her husband Eric are adopting a precious little girl from South Korea. They are waiting to go pick her up and bring her home. They are raising the last bit of funds in order to make that happen, and there's an opportunity for us to help.

A friend of Lauren's designed a fantastic t-shirt to support their adoption. They are requesting a donation of $25 per shirt and are taking pre-orders now until the middle of May. Check out Lauren and Eric's blog for more details.

Thanks in advance for helping these sweet friends bring Zoey home!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Update on Sterling

Sterling is out of surgery now. Things went really well.

Roger (Sterling's dad) posted this update around 4:30pm:
"8 hrs after he left us, Sterling’s in recovery & doing well, verbally responding. Meet w/ Surgeon & he is pleased w/ what he was able to do. Grids w/ 149 sensors in/on the brain. In recovery for an hour then to PICU & we will see him. Now we need him to seize as much as possible. Much thanks to those who have prayed faithfully on our behalf today. Felt. It will be a long wk leading to another surgery by next Tuesday."

Thank you to everyone who is praying!
(Click on the picture to see a larger version so you can read the text.)

From Sterling's Mom

Sterling's mom, Becca, posted this on their blog last night. Sterling is in surgery now. Please continue to pray for this precious boy!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for so many who have been texting, calling & emailing us tonight to say that you have it on your calendar for Sterling to be admitted tomorrow. Another reminder that our ever present God is spurring His followers to intercede for us. We are as ready as we can be, I think. So much we don’t know. It’s time to move forward and figure this all out. Thankful for the Good Shepherd.

We will check-in at Children’s Hospital at 5:30am tomorrow morning. Surgery is set start @ 7:30/8:00am – should be finished @ Noon. We aren’t expecting any deficits from tomorrow’s operation. It is simply putting grids in his brain on the right temporal lobe. Simply is not the right word, but you get what I’m saying. The primary concerns for tomorrow’s surgery is blood loss and infection. So please join us in praying for those things specifically.

We found out late today that we will be on 6th NW instead of in the Burn Unit. It’s a little disappointing b/c we were hoping for a more private room than having a nurse next to Sterling’s bed 24/7. But, there are some positives about the familiarity of it all and the opportunity for us to step outside for some convo or fresh air and know that Sterling is being watched carefully. And maybe this is one of the ways the Lord is providing opportunities for us to share about His love. Nothing like being held captive for an 8 hour shift with the Davises… :) 

We will update more throughout the day and this week. Many of you have shared how you printed out the prayer card we did last August to hang in your office or on your fridge as a reminder to pray for us. Thank you! We are working on another one and hope to post it Tuesday afternoon. It will outline specific requests for the coming days as we work towards Grid-Out/Resection surgery on May 3rd.

Sterling (& Roger) got their traditional buzz cuts for surgery tonight from our dear friend, Tanya. Praying it’s our last time.

Sterling’s prayer tonight with Roger was “God please help the doctors finally get my brain tumor. I hope we sleep well & help make me brave tomorrow.”

Well said, buddy. Well said. We are not brave on our own. We are not faithful on our own. We are not strong on our own. We are nothing and have nothing except that the Lord graciously gives it.

“Lord, we offer our lives to you. Everything we’ve been through, use it for Your Glory”.

Please Pray for Sterling

A while back I posted asking for your prayers for a special friend of mine, Sterling. I come to you today asking for more prayers for this special kid.

In October 2009, Sterling was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Since then, he has three surgeries to remove the tumor. In addition, he has had seizures. The number and severity has increased as time has gone on.

Today he is having "grid surgery" to hopefully get these seizures under control. This will be followed by a 14 day hospital stay. If they see an opportunity to remove more of the tumor, they will take it. They aren't sure if they will be able to remove more of it at this time or not.

Please join me in praying for Sterling's surgery today. Several days ago, his mom posted on their blog a few specific requests related to the surgery.
  • Risks include blood loss, infection, and neurological deficits
  • The doctors are specifically trying to avoid a field of vision loss on his left side
  • Becca (Sterling's mom) expressed in a recent post that she has a lot of fear about making this difficult decision. Join me in praying for peace for Becca and Roger. I can't imagine having to make these kinds of decisions!
  • Sterling's doctors Dr. Blount and Dr. Wellons
  • Wisdom and discernment for the surgical team as they attempt to be aggressive enough to fix the problem but cautious enough to still allow Sterling to be Sterling when he wakes up
 I would also like to ask you to pray for each member of Sterling's family by name: Roger (dad), Becca (mom), Sterling (6), Landry (5), Kinsley (3), Murray (1.5).

Sterling's prayer last night was: "God please help the doctors finally get my brain tumor. I hope we sleep well & help make me brave tomorrow."

These are precious, precious friends. They have ministered to me in the way they have lived through this difficult time and the way they have continued to trust God in the midst of intense suffering.

Check their blog and Facebook group for updates throughout the day.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh

Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Happy Easter!!! 

* Lyrics by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Scent of Water by Naomi Zacharias

Naomi Zacharias is a wonderful story-teller. In The Scent of Water, Naomi share the stories of women across the globe and what God has taught her through each of these incredible women.What a wonderful compilation of stories! Though don't think for one minute that this is an "easy" read. The situations that these ladies are in are heart-wrenching. I am so thankful that Naomi feels she is responsible for getting these stories out to the world.

I will say that at times the book was a little disjointed. I think I was looking for theme running from start to finish or maybe something to tie them all together. Once I took the approach that each chapter was in essence it's own short story, it made a bit more sense to me. Also, in one chapter there is a lengthy section about how personalities of women can be tied to Greek gods and goddesses in mythology. It seemed a bit strange and out of place in the book. Also, some have commented how "unChristian" the book seems to be. I will say that the Christian theme is perhaps a bit more subtle than some but the message is clearly one of hope found in Christ. Overall, the stories are powerful and give readers a glimpse of how God is working around the world.

I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Book
Follow Naomi as she talks to women working in brothels in Mumbai; survivors of an Indonesian tsunami in which more than 160,000 lives were lost; a young girl waiting on an operation to save her life; and victims of domestic violence horrifically burned by fire. Be still with her when she realizes the pain she feels in the face of these extreme injustices reveals a common struggle that exists within all of humanity. And rise with her as she wrestles with confusion over her identity, comes face to face with redemption, and then begins to understand her own story … and to find her calling.

The Scent of Water will open your eyes to the complexities of the world, showing you pain can also be beauty, and how each are found in the unlikeliest of places.

Zacharias doesn’t have all the answers. But she has hope and encouragement that will empower you to find and begin the adventure of your life.

About the Author
Naomi Zacharias graduated from Wheaton College. After working in sales for Coca-Cola, she joined RZIM and launched Wellspring International, an initiative devoted to providing financial grants to international efforts working with at-risk women and children. Naomi has spent time in red-light districts in The Netherlands, India, and Thailand; foster homes for children affected by HIV/AIDS throughout Asia; hospitals providing surgical treatment for women who have been victims of violence in the Congo; women’s prisons in South Africa; displacement camps in Indonesia, Uganda and Pakistan; areas of the Middle East offering aid to Iraqi refugees; and areas of Southeast Asia devastated by the tsunami of 2004. Naomi recently met and married her husband, Drew, in Florence, Italy. They currently live in Oxford, England.

Friday, April 22, 2011

5 Minute Friday: Hard Love

It's time for 5 Minute Friday hosted by The Gypsy Mama.

The rules?  Write for only five minutes. Don’t edit. Don’t over think. Don’t stifle your creativity. Easy enough, right?

Timer set for five minutes. On your mark, get set, go!

Hard Love

With this being Good Friday, it seems appropriate to talk about Hard Love. I mean, what love could be harder than sending your Son to die for a world full of foolish, sinful people? People who won't believe in You. People who won't appreciate the sacrifice? People who won't love You back?

It seems to me that would be the hardest.

God sacrificing everything to save His people.

And so many of us won't ever love Him back. And those of us who do love Him ... our love is so inadequate.

Humbling to think about.

Good Friday isn't really that good if you think about it. The only thing that makes it good is the resurrection that happens three days later.

Life makes the death good.

And really ... God makes it all good.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Vacation of a Lifetime

A couple of weeks before we started out on this little adventure, Mom commented that this was the "vacation of a lifetime." We laughed a little bit, but she was right. It was definitely the vacation of a lifetime ... until the next one anyway!

We had an absolute blast. It was wonderful to be away for 10 whole days ... just the two of us. About halfway through the trip, we both commented on how good it was to be away from work, away from the house. We truly had enough time to decompress - even though we were super busy! - and forget about all the various things going on while we were gone. We turned off our cell phones, didn't check work email, and just enjoyed being together.

When mission teams come back from their trips, I encourage them to figure out what they would say to people about their trip given 30 seconds, 5 minutes, or 30 minutes. That way, whatever the situation, you're prepared to make the most of any opportunity to share about your trip. Obviously, this wasn't a mission trip, but I thought it was still a good idea to try and capture what I was thinking about our trip. Here goes!

Given 30 seconds ...
"It was great! We had a blast ... the vacation of a lifetime! We're already thinking about where we'll go next!"

Given 5 minutes ...
After 10 days away from "the real world," I have a few thoughts and takeaways.
  • Time away is good for the soul - and good for our marriage. We haven't been away since our honeymoon a year-and-a-half ago. Sure, we'd been away for a night here and there, but not for an extended period. I didn't realize how much we both needed to escape our everyday lives and just be together. We had the opportunity to be as busy as we wanted during the day (which was very busy!) and could be as lazy as we wanted each evening (which was very lazy!). It was perfect! We came back totally refreshed and ready to tackle another few months of the grind.
  • I am more patriotic than I even realized. I have always loved our country and am so grateful to have been born in this country. I am super patriotic. I once told Hubs that if he didn't vote he would be "spitting in the eye of freedom" and I would have to reconsider our relationship (we weren't engaged/married at the time). Yes, a bit overly zealous, but it was from the heart. *wink* I got totally misty-eyed when we visited the White House and I might have shed a tear or two when we went to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
  • Dreams really do come true ... and it's so fun when they do! We have talked about taking this vacation for years and I've been thinking of it before we ever started talking about it. So it really felt like a dream come true to take the plunge and plan the trip that we'd talked about for so long. I honestly didn't worry about anything and just had a blast!
  • We enjoyed everything that we did and saw, but a few of our favorite things were: the White House, the U.S. Capitol, Fenway Park, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, lunch at the City Tavern, pedicab tour of Central Park, the Eastern State Penitentiary, the Holocaust Museum, the Newseum, dinner at S'Mac, the National Archives, and the Freedom Trail.
  • My husband is amazing. This is certainly not a new revelation, but it was totally reinforced during our vacation. He let me plan everything to my heart's content, and then went along for the ride. (I did take what he wanted into consideration when planning.) We spent so much time talking - really talking - and it was just wonderful. And, after 10 days and nights of being together without any sort of break from each other (hotel rooms are pretty small!), he still wanted to be with me when we got home and we're already talking about where we'll go on our next vacation. :) I'm so thankful for my husband!
Given 30 minutes (or a couple of hours) ... well, I'm going to try to cover the entire trip in more detail in upcoming posts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This Week's Top Pick: The Hiding Place

It's a little hard for me to choose this as this week's top pick since I've never actually read it myself. But let's say that this is at the recommendation of a couple of great friends.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom has been on my bookshelf for years now, and I haven't made the time to read it. It's my lucky day ... er ... month ... because it's the free audio book on for the month of April!

Not familiar with The Hiding Place or Corrie Ten Boom? Here's what the back of the book says ...

Corrie ten Boom was a woman admired the world over for her courage, her forgiveness, and her memorable faith. In World War II, she and her family risked their lives to help Jews escape the Nazis, and their reward was a trip to Hitler's concentration camps. But she survived and was released--as a result of a clerical error--and now shares the story of how faith triumphs over evil.

For thirty-five years Corrie's dramatic life story, full of timeless virtues, has prepared readers to face their own futures with faith, relying on God's love to overcome, heal, and restore. Now releasing in a thirty-fifth anniversary edition for a new generation of readers, The Hiding Place tells the riveting story of how a middle-aged Dutch watchmaker became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler's death camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century.
It's moving to the top of my stack. I'll let you know what I think!

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Creative Friend Jenny

I find myself surrounded by creative people. My family. At work. Random friends here and there. It seems like everyone has some incredible talent ... or multiple talents.

My friend Jenny is super creative. She bakes cakes. And decorates them ... wow ... they are gorgeous! She makes hairbows. She writes. And she's super fun to be around. Recently she started making some crafty things to help fund her and her husband's mission trips this summer. Picture frames, barrettes, headbands, onesies, burp cloths, purses ...

My favorite, though, are the PRECIOUS barrettes. Kind of makes me want to have kids ... just so I can buy the barrettes. Ha!

Anyway. She has a whole bunch of really adorable things on etsy. Check out her etsy shop to see the rest of her stuff!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Please Excuse The Mess

I'm in the process of updating the blog. Something's wrong with the code of the background that I want to use, so I'm trying to sort it out. In the meantime, please excuse the mess. :) And enjoy a new background from The Cutest Blog on the Block.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren

I received this precious children's book in the mail today and just had to let you know how great it was ... pronto. This is a sweet story about a mama bear telling her baby bear a bedtime story about how God gave them a special gift ... her. What a wonderful reminder that God brings families together and gifts mommies and daddies with precious babies. The pictures by Laura J. Bryant are so sweet ... very winter wonderland.

The book is written toward telling the story of how biological children came to the family. However, Lisa has also written God Found Us You, which is geared more toward adoptive families.

This will definitely be on my list of gift books!

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my fair and honest review.

If you liked my review, please rank it for me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer

My Review
I'm not usually a huge fan of Amish fiction, but I was excited to finally get my hands on a book by Tricia Goyer. I've heard that she's a great author and I was not disappointed. She's a fantastic story-teller. She really captured the Amish lifestyle well throughout the book while also developing the characters and the story. I was super-impressed with the entire book. I am definitely a new fan of Tricia Goyer and can't wait to read more!

About the Book
Raised among the Amish of Indiana, 18-year-old Marianna Sommer plans to get baptized into the church, marry Aaron Zook, and set up life in the only community she has ever known. But when her older brother chooses the world’s path following his rumschpringe, and a younger sibling begins showing interest in Englisch ways, Marianna’s parents move the family to Montana. Although she is also in her rumschpringe years and not obligated to move, Marianna makes the journey to dutifully help her mother who is expecting another child. Surprisingly, from strangers on the cross-country train ride to the less rigid stance of the new Montana community, many Englisch influences awaken within Marianna—and even her father—the desire to pursue a deeper kind of joy and love for God. After an accident, Marianna tells her friend Ben a defining story about the Sommer family, and his response further illumines the active relationship God seeks with His followers. In due time, she learns the move from Indiana was not about losing anything, but finding out who God really is. Despite all the shake-ups, Marianna feels a sweet peace, like still waters, in her soul.

About the Author
Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock , Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. Visit for more info.

Tricia is hosting a really fun giveaway. Check out all the details on her blog.

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity and B & H Publishing in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Verse 8

It's a little hard for me to believe that we're already eight verses in this year.

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
Isaiah 30:18, ESV

Is anybody out there still memorizing Scripture? If you've fallen off the wagon, hop back on with me! If you're still going strong, be encouraged!

What are you memorizing this week?

5 Minute Friday: On Distance

It's time for 5 Minute Friday hosted by The Gypsy Mama.

The rules?  Write for only five minutes. Don’t edit. Don’t over think. Don’t stifle your creativity. Easy enough, right?

Timer set for five minutes. On your mark, get set, go!

On Distance

A number of things immediately come to mind when I think of distance.

Friends who don't live in the same city as me. Some live on other continents. Emails and Facebook help close the gap that miles create, but it's not the same as being in the same living room, watching movies, drinking Coke, and laughing until we cry. Some live less than two hours away. I don't know why those two hours seem like such a great distance but we never see each other as often as we'd like.

Marathons. I've seen a lot of those 13.1 and 26.2 stickers on the back windows of people's cars. I always wonder if the sticker represents an actual marathon or half marathon completed. Or a goal. Or just wishful thinking. I find it hard to believe that so many people have actually completed a marathon. Maybe I'm wrong, though. Today, Hubs told me about a "marathon for fat people." I think it's really just for people who aren't as hardcore and in shape as true marathoners. But it's a marathon completed in a week. I could do that. We walked at least one or two marathons on our vacation last month.

Distance also brings to mind perseverance. I guess what I'm really thinking of is "going the distance." You know ... not giving up. And that brings to mind words like courage, guts, intestinal fortitude as my middle school choir teacher would say, discipline, faith, integrity.

This is completely scattered. But that's what came to mind today ... on distance.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Grandfathers DVD


The Grandfathers is an hour-long documentary which builds on the familiar story of Nate Saint. Nate Saint (and Jim Elliot and three other men) was a missionary who was killed by the tribe he went to minister to.

Remember the movie (which was originally a book) End of the Spear? That's about them. Anyway.

The Grandfathers is told from the perspective of Nate's grandson Jesse who has a hard time identifying with who Grandpa Nate really is - beyond all the fame of being a martyr. Jesse narrates the movie and talks about the difficulties of moving to Ecuador with his family and learning to live alongside the people who murdered his grandfather.

This would be great for kids (and grown-up kids) of most ages. It gives lots of background information about Ecuador, the Indian tribe, and the well-known story of the martyred missionaries.  Additionally (and more importantly), it highlights the relationship between Jesse and his Ecuadorian grandfathers, which gives an excellent picture of God's grace lived out in the Saint family.

At times the film is more educational than entertaining. However, it would be a great addition to anyone's video library. The film is rated PG.

I received a free copy of this movie from The B&B Media Group in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Author Interview: Denise Hunter

Interview with the Denise Hunter, Author of A Cowboy's Touch

Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you first begin to write?

I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t start dreaming about writing a novel until I was in my early twenties. By then I was married and busy pursuing a degree. I put writing on the back burner until my grandfather became fatally ill. While I was visiting him in the hospital, I was struck by the brevity of life and felt God pressing on my heart to take the first step. I started my first novel a couple weeks later. I had two small children by this time, so I wrote while they napped. I wrote my first four books that way. Even if you can only write a page a day, by the end of a year you’ll have a complete manuscript!

Are you a small town or a city girl? What inspired you to write a book about the life of a cowboy?

I’m a little of both. We live in a country setting just outside the city. It’s the best of both worlds. There’s something very earthy and organic about a cowboy’s life. I was drawn by the idea of living off the land. I think it takes us to a simpler time and place—even though the life of a cowboy is not necessarily simple! And Montana is such a beautiful state. I thought my readers might like to journey there with me through story.

Can you tell us a little about what you have learned about the cowboy lifestyle while doing research for this book?

I learned a lot of fascinating details about the workings of a ranch: branding, breeding, cattle disease, etc. But what I came away with is a great respect for cowboys and their families. Those who choose this way of life do it because they love it. It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Abigail’s title at her job is “the Truthseeker.” What is the significance of this title, and what do you think a real truthseeker does?

I thought it would be interesting to write about a protagonist whose job was to seek the truth and have her find out that she was missing the real Truth the whole time. Since Jesus is the Truth, a real truthseeker follows Him.

Forgiveness seems to be a recurring theme in your books. Why do you feel it is so important? Your main characters both dealt with forgiving their past mistakes. Do you think that it is just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive the mistakes of others?

With sin rampant in all of us, this is something we need to get good at! Eventually, someone’s going to do something you struggle to forgive. I think this is partly because forgiveness is easily misunderstood. It’s not saying that what they did is okay. It’s saying that you’re not going to hold it over them anymore. I do think it’s just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive others. Oftentimes, it’s even harder.

Abigail and Wade both threw themselves into their work in order to escape their pasts. Do you believe it is easy to find an escape in work in order to hide from our problems?

No one likes to hurt, so I think the tendency is to avoid it however we can. Throwing ourselves into our work is certainly one way of doing so. But these things have a way of bubbling up to the surface eventually, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.

What would you like your readers to take away after reading A Cowboy’s Touch?

Abigail was essentially trying to work off her guilt. She thought if she could just keep exposing other peoples’ wrongs, it would appease her own guilt. I’d like readers to see that only God can redeem us.

A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

When I picked up A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter, I was hoping for a book that would be a quick, entertaining book to lose myself in for a few days. I was not disappointed!

Abigail takes some forced time-off from her job in order to deal with some health issues. She goes to stay with her aunt but gets more than she bargained for when she accepts a job as nanny for Wade's daughter. Wade has his own secrets that he's keeping from everyone. When Abigail discovers a way to save her mother's company, she must decide if she will expose Wade's secrets or sacrifice her job.

I immediately liked Abigail and Wade and found myself completely wrapped up in the drama of their lives. I found myself wanting them to figure out how to be together. The author did a great job of showcasing the personal struggles that each of the main characters dealt with and the decisions they made - whether right or wrong - and the consequences of those decisions. This is the first in the series, and I can't wait to read more!

I received a free copy of this book from The B & B Media Group in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This Week's Top Pick: Celebrate Easter with The Bible Experience

Several years ago, I was introduced to a really cool audio Bible called The Bible Experience. It's an extremely well-done reading of the Bible by famous actors and actresses. Think Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding, Jr. For real actors and actresses. Great sound effects are interspersed as well. Imagine the thud when Ananias and Saphira hit the floor. It's a neat way to listen to the Bible and feel like it's really coming alive.

Imagine my delight when I learned that Zondervan is doing something special for Easter. They are launching a seven-part series of emails telling the Easter story with segments from The Bible Experience. What a unique way to celebrate the story of Easter this year!

Check out the Zondervan blog for more information about the series and to sign up for the emails.

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

The Bible calls them parables. Aesop calls them fables. Literary aficionados call them allegories. Call them what you will ... they are stories with a purpose greater than simple entertainment. They are stories that teach a lesson.

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews is just such a story. David Ponder has made his fortune, lost everything, and started over again. Now an old man, his wife has died, he is alone, and he considers the course of his life. While reflecting on his previous journey, recorded in The Traveler, the archangel Gabriel whisks him away to participate in a summit to determine whether or not humankind will be given a chance to start over.

The rules are explained and David must submit the answer to a question posed by Gabriel before time runs out. He begins requesting help from men and women throughout history. Men and women like Abraham Lincoln, King David, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, and many others.

A unique blend of fact and fiction, The Final Summit explores principles which are valuable in both leadership and everyday life. Important men and women throughout the history of the world share the lessons they learned from their successes and failures. I was extremely curious to learn the answer to the question asked by Gabriel and eagerly turned the pages to learn if the group leading the summit would find the correct answer.

Andy Andrews has a fascinating writing style and a knack for telling some of the least-known bits of history. For instance, do you know who is credited with ending World War II on the European front? Neither did I. But somehow Andy Andrews unearthed this bit of historical trivia and relays this story in the telling of David Ponders' story.

While God is mentioned, as are other heroes of the Christian faith, and the summit supposedly takes place in heaven, I'm not certain how truly Christian the book is. I am not familiar with the religious beliefs of many of the historical figures that were mentioned in passing, but I do not recall all of them to be Christians. I would hate for anyone to read the book and assume that doing great things assures a person a place in heaven. There are other things mentioned as well that are not supported by Scripture. 

Additionally, I came to a completely different conclusion than the author (and the characters) about the answer to the question presented to the summit. The question is: "What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?" My answer would be something along the lines of "Trust Christ." The author doesn't really point people to Christ through the discussions of the characters. Wonderful principles of hope, courage, self-discipline, humility, and wisdom are explored, but the ultimate answer was not as Christ-centered as I had hoped it would be.

Overall, the book is well-written and enjoyable as a "self-help" book (which is what it is listed as on the back cover). The historical overtones are intriguing as well. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the lack of Christian focus. Overall, I would give the book a rating of 3.5 stars. I wanted to give it 5 stars, but just couldn't reconcile some of the content with my personal convictions.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's ACT Day!

So Hubs and I have this weird thing that we do. Three times a year, we proctor the ACT. It's part of his job. For me, it's just a nice extra $100ish dollars. I'm not sure what I'm doing with my fun money this time ... maybe getting my hair cut.

Anyway. The ACT is always an adventure.

Once, I caught a girl cheating. Yep. On the ACT. I really think the pressure just got to her ... but we had to kick her out of the test. It. Was. Awful.

Another time, a kid in my room peed in his pants. Right in the middle of the test. Puddle in the seat. Giant wet spot on his pants. Awkward situation. I almost laughed out loud.

I'm not kidding. You can't make this stuff up!

Wonder what will happen today ...

Friday, April 8, 2011

5 Minute Friday: If you met me ...

It's time for 5 Minute Friday hosted by The Gypsy Mama.

The rules?  Write for only five minutes. Don’t edit. Don’t over think. Don’t stifle your creativity. Easy enough, right?

Timer set for five minutes. On your mark, get set, go!

If you met me ...

If you met me for coffee, you'd find I don't actually drink coffee. I love to meet for coffee, but I never order the actual coffee drink. Hot chocolate or apple cider are my "coffee" drinks of choice.

If you met me for lunch, we'd go somewhere near my office ... maybe Chick-Fil-A or Momma G's. If we had some extra time we'd settle in for The Fish Market. Yum!

If you met me for dinner, I'm not sure where we would go. I hate choosing restaurants. I mean, what if you didn't like it? In high school, my friends and I always ... I mean ALWAYS met at Applebee's. We're still carrying on the tradition, since Tricia and I met for dessert there about a month or two ago. I do love Mexican food, though, so I'm always up for cheap, good Mexican food.

If you met me at the movies, we'd go see something funny or romantic or maybe if we're in the right mood something a little sad. Nothing scary or too intense. And nothing terribly crude.

If you met me at the park, there are two great parks between my house and work ... depending on which way I drive. We could walk in the park. I got engaged in one of those parks. I could show you where.

If you met me at the mall, we would definitely shop for shoes. And maybe pajamas ... I love pajamas. And definitely stop in at The Loft ... it's my favorite. And we could watch the kids ride the carousel.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reporting In

I just realized that I haven't given an update about Jonathan since his surgery a couple of weeks ago. I'm pretty good at asking people to pray ... not so good at giving updates. Sorry about that!

Jonathan and Karla met with his doctors on Monday and got a great report - slow-growing tumor, not much tumor remaining, no additional treatments needed at this time, MRI in three months to keep an eye on things. Isn't God incredible?! You can read their blog if you want additional details.

Thanks for praying for Jonathan and his family during this time!

The Nest

I went outside to check the mail on Saturday. On my way back inside, I noticed some pinestraw in the greenery hanging on our front door. I reached up to pull it out and realized it was a nest.

Yes, a bird's nest.

I ducked down, dashed in the house, and quickly closed the door.

I'm not sure how to say this without being judged. But I don't like birds. They sort of freak me out. I think they're beautiful and love to hear happy bird chirps outside the window. But the thought of Mama Bird swooping down on my head or pooping in my hair totally freaks me out.

And now there's a bird living in the arrangement on my front door. (It usually looks better than this, but I knocked it sideways and didn't want to reach back in there to fix it.)

Hubs was out of town. Based on the information above, I certainly wasn't going to move the nest, so I left it there for him to move.

When he got home and went to move it, we realized that Mama Bird had already laid eggs in the nest. Four of them.

He went all PETA on me and wouldn't move the nest. (For the record, I don't want to kill the baby birds either, but I also want to be able to use my front door.)

He won and we now are going to witness the miracle of life up close and personal ... on our front porch ... on the door, to be more precise.

In the meantime, if you come over, please use the back door. We don't want to disturb Baby Bird Paradise. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Springtime of the Spirit by Maureen Lang

Springtime of the Spirit by Maureen Lang provides a unique perspective on life after "The Great War" (better known to most of us as World War I). Set in Germany in 1918, the story focuses on the rebuilding of Germany, with various factions each fighting for a new type of government that will provide a better future for the people.

Analiese and Christophe, childhood friends, find themselves on opposite sides in this battle for freedom and rebuilding Germany. Analiese is devoted to socialism and fairness for all. While Christophe sees some of the good things in socialism, he ultimately believes that God is vital to the success of any new form of government.

I found this book to be truly thought-provoking. It was interesting to see the perspective of each character. Reading the motivation behind why they felt socialism or communism would be the system to rebuild Germany on, reading about their thoughts on how terrible capitalism was and how capitalism was to blame for Germany's involvement in the war, reading about the doubts that Christophe (a Christian) had about his involvement in a war he's not sure he truly believed in, the doctrines of fairness and equality debated between socialists and Christians. It just made me think. A lot. Obviously, the book is fictitious, but I imagine that these thoughts would have been shared by actual people living in Germany in 1918. Most of the books set in various historical periods focus on America's role in events, so this was a refreshing change and gave me a new perspective.

At times I felt like the book was a bit heavy on the speeches and the political views of the socialist party that is trying to come to power. It was a little wordy and sometimes confusing ... causing me to put the book down on more than one occasion. However, once I got further into the book, the pace picked up, and I found it to be quite thought-provoking.

This is a bit more of a "thinker" than I was prepared for, but I enjoyed the book. Additional books in the series focus on characters living in France and Belgium during the Great War.

About the Book
By the fall of 1918, the Great War has ended and the world is at peace, but there is little to celebrate in Germany. After four years of fighting for his homeland, Christophe Brecht returns to find there is little left of what he once called home. So when family friends ask him to travel to Munich to bring back their runaway daughter, Christophe agrees.

When he finally locates Annaliese Duray, he discovers she is far different from the girl he once knew. Headstrong, idealistic, and beautiful, she is on the front lines of the city’s political scene, fighting to give women and working-class citizens a voice in Germany’s new government.

As the political upheaval ignites in Munich, so does the attraction between Annaliese and Christophe. With an army from Berlin threatening to squash everything Annaliese has worked for, both she and Christophe are forced to choose between love and loyalty.

About the Author
Maureen Lang has always had a passion for writing. She wrote her first novel longhand around the age of 10, put the pages into a notebook she had covered with soft deerskin (nothing but the best!), then passed it around the neighborhood to rave reviews. It was so much fun she's been writing ever since.

She is the author of several novels, including Pieces of Silver—a 2007 Christy Award finalist—Remember Me, The Oak Leaves, On Sparrow Hill, My Sister Dilly, and most recently, the Great War series. She has won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award, the Inspirational Readers Choice contest, and the American Christian Fiction Writers Noble Theme award and has been a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. She is also the recipient of a Holt Medallion Award of Merit.

Maureen lives in the Midwest with her husband, her two sons, and their much-loved dog, Susie. Visit her Web site at

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This Week's Top Pick: Go Green!

Pedicures. One of the great indulgences in life. My life at least. And my favorite nail polish right now is OPI's Green-wich Village. I don't think you should take your feet too seriously and this color is definitely not a serious color.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heart of Ice by Lis Wiehl and April Henry

The Triple Threat Club is back in Heart of Ice by Lis Wiehl with April Henry. As much as I loved Hand of Fate, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next installment of this series! I was not disappointed! Cassidy, Nicole, and Allison team up again to investigate a string of crimes in Portland. When they realize that several incidences are related, things begin hitting a little too close to home. Personal issues arise as well and the women must figure out how to balance personal and professional crises.

The faith aspects of this novel are more subtle than some, but it's clear that Allison's faith is her lifeline. Her friends know this about her and alternately resist discussions of faith and requests for prayer and support. I appreciated the realistic way faith is addressed in this novel.

Lis Wiehl and April Henry delivered again with a fantastic novel, intense plot, well-developed characters, and an insanely disturbing villain. I can't wait to read the next novel in the series!

5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze blogger review program in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Friday, April 1, 2011

5 Minute Friday: A Few of My Favorite Things

It's time for 5 Minute Friday hosted by The Gypsy Mama.

The rules? Set a time for five minutes. Use the prompt to write for five minutes - no editing, no censoring, just be creative and write. Stop when the timer goes off. Easy enough, right?

A Few of My Favorite Things

Timer set for five minutes. On your mark, get set, go!

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. I love that song ... and better yet I love the movie! If only coming up with a list of my favorite things was as simple as singing a song and spinning around the room!

I've never been great at choosing favorites. I don't like saying that this is THE thing I like the most in a particular category. But for a few of my favorite things ... here goes nothing.

I love spring and fall. Not so crazy about hot summers and freezing cold winters. The weather right now is absolutely gorgeous! Warm enough for flip flops but cool enough for sweaters.

I love watching movies. Disney cartoons are a favorite but anything funny or romantic is also a huge hit. Or a superhero movie - like Batman or Spiderman. :)

Chocolate ice cream, brownies and I certianly can't leave out Dr. Pepper. Although that seems like more of an addiction than a favorite thing.

It's harder to write for five minutes than I thought it would be. Without editing, come on?

Live theater is another favorite. I got an email today that a local theater company is performing Annie and Hairspray this summer. I'm already recruiting friends to see them with me. Any takers out there?


April 1 = Scripture Memory Time and a Confession

Let me begin with a confession. This month has been a total disaster as far as my Scripture memory is concerned. I got out of the habit while we were on vacation (I forgot my spirals!) and failed miserably at getting back in the swing of things.

Instead of choosing a new verse for the next two weeks, I'm going to do something a little different.

I'm going to meditate on two verses that I've had memorized for a long time.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:105, KJV

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119: 11, NIV

And I'm going to continue memorizing the two verses that I selected for March. I think it's more important that I memorize these verses well than adding another one just because it's the first of the month.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."
Acts 18:9-10, NIV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6, ESV

Is anyone else still memorizing Scripture this year? What verse are you working on right now?
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