Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This Week's Top Pick: Nation's Outfitters

In the event that you're looking for some new clothes, please please check out Nations Outfitters! I discovered them last spring and absolutely love the few things that I have of theirs. Everything is really soft and comfortable and modest as well. PLUS, I love that Scripture is written on the inside of each piece of clothing. What a great little touch!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!


I hope everyone has had a wonderful Memorial Day! While it's certainly wonderful to have an extra day off of work or school, I pray that we all remember the true reason for this holiday.

Lord, thank you for the freedoms that we have in this country. For the opportunities that we have to hear the gospel, share the gospel, and live it out in our daily lives. As we are thankful to live in a country where we have these freedoms, we are also grateful for the men and women who have fought and died for these freedoms.

May we never take our freedom for granted!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren

 
A friend at work loaned me My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren ... Wow! You have to read this book!!!

Four of the most screwed up people. They know what's right. They even want to do what's right. But they're still relying on their own strength.

Personal tragedy. Past sin. Fear.

Can all of this be overcome with romance? New friends? Renewed faith?

The best part? There are three more books in the Deep Haven series! I can promise you that I will be reading ALL of them!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Desert Gift by Sally John


Jack and Jill (yes, like the nursery rhyme!) have been married for 25 years when one day Jack suddenly decides he wants a divorce. Jill must examine her entire life - and her career as a speaker and writer about all things marriage - to determine where things went wrong and if there is any way they can get their marriage back on track.

Sally John is certainly a wonderful author. I have read several of her books previously and have enjoyed every one. For whatever reason, though, I had a hard time pushing through this one. I think it's because it's a little too realistic.The struggle between Jack and Jill was heart-wrenching at times and it was difficult to read. On the bright side, though, the main characters are thoroughly developed, and there are a number of supporting characters that truly add to the depth of the story. Additionally, Sally John really does a great job of telling a story and pulling you in. Even though there were times I wanted to put the book down because it was a tough read, I kept picking it back up.

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

About the Book
What does a nationally known marriage expert do when her own marriage falls apart? Just as Jillian Galloway sets out for a publicity tour to promote her new book, her husband drops a bombshell: He wants a divorce. Jill flees to her parents’ home in the California desert, wondering whether everything she’s built her career on—indeed, everything she’s built her life around—is a sham. Navigating this “side road” of life is an uphill climb that leads to new understandings about herself, her marriage, and her relationship with the One who created marriage.

About the Author
When the going gets tough—or weird or wonderful—the daydreamer gets going on a new story. Sally John has been tweaking life's moments into fiction since she read her first Trixie Belden mystery as a child.

Now an author of more than fifteen novels, Sally writes stories that reflect contemporary life. Her passion is to create a family, turn their world inside out, and then portray how their relationships change with each other and with God. Her goal is to offer hope to readers in their own relational and faith journeys.

Sally grew up in Moline, Illinois, graduated from Illinois State University, married Tim in 1973, and taught in middle schools. She is a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. A three-time finalist for the Christy Award, she also teaches writing workshops. Her books include the Safe Harbor series (coauthored with Gary Smalley), The Other Way Home series, The Beach House series, and In a Heartbeat series. Many of her stories are set in her favorite places of San Diego, Chicago, and small-town Illinois.

She and her husband currently live in southern California. Visit her Web site at www.sally-john.com.

Friday, May 27, 2011

5 Minute Friday: On Forgetting

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 Forgetting ...

Whenever I forget something, my mom is fond of saying, "Oh no ... Just imagine what you'll be like when you're my age."

Well ... here are a few things I will not forget.

The day I married my best friend.

The babies I cared for in Africa.

The friends who kept me sane during that one year in pharmacy school.

The women who mentored me during middle school and high school.

The community that I had in small group after graduating from college.

The opportunities I've had to be part of ministry that is so much greater than myself.


Yep. Those are things I surely won't forget!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beyond All Measure by Dorothy Love


What a wonderful book! Set in Hickory Ridge, Tennessee just after the Civil War, Ada moves from Boston to take a job caring for an elderly woman. She must deal with a difficult patient, her handsome son, and the prejudices of the townspeople against her for her Yankee heritage.

Beyond All Measure by Dorothy Love is a beautifully written story. The characters are lovable and I truly felt their emotions through the different circumstances they faced. The time period was interesting ... set in the defeated South, trying to rebuild, harboring bitterness and anger towards former slaves and northerners. Throw in romance and faith-building trials, and you have a fantastic book! I repeatedly found myself reading "just a few more pages," only to realize that I was still reading WAY past my "bedtime!" I highly recommend this book ... and the ones to come in the series.

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

About the Book
Unless she can trust God's love to cast out her fears, Ada may lose the heart of a good man.

Ada Wentworth, a young Bostonian, journeys to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, in the years following the Civil War. Alone and nearly penniless following a broken engagement, Ada accepts a position as a lady’s companion to the elderly Lillian Willis, a pillar of the community and aunt to the local lumber mill owner, Wyatt Caldwell. Ada intends to use her millinery skills to establish a hat shop and secure her future.

Haunted by unanswered questions from her life in Boston, Ada is most drawn to two townsfolks: Wyatt, a Texan with big plans of his own, and Sophie, a mulatto girl who resides at the Hickory Ridge orphanage. Ada's friendship with Sophia attracts the attention of a group of locals seeking to displace the residents of Two Creeks, a "colored" settlement on the edge of town. As tensions rise, Ada is threatened but refuses to abandon her plan to help the girl.

When Lillian dies, Ada is left without employment or a place to call home. And since Wyatt’s primary purpose for staying in Hickory Ridge was to watch over his aunt, he can now pursue his dream of owning Longhorns in his home state of Texas.

With their feelings for each other growing, Ada must decide whether she can trust God with her future and Wyatt with her heart.

About the Author
Before returning to her writing roots in historical fiction, Dorothy Love published twelve novels for young adults. Her work has garnered numerous honors from the American Library Association, the Friends of American Writers, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and many others. The Hickory Ridge Novels mark her Christian fiction debut.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Week's Top Pick: This Is Our God

This CD (This Is Our God by Hillsong) has been on continuous play around here for the last few weeks. I downloaded it right before our vacation and listened to it while packing, on the plane, on the train, in the car, at lunch, at home, and pretty much anywhere that my iPod or cd player or computer work. I may have even hummed bits and pieces of a couple of songs while we were checking out the Declaration of Independence. I'm so thankful that the Lord gave us music!

Monday, May 23, 2011

One of those days

Today was one of those days. You know the kind I'm talking about. A day when the only thing you can think to be thankful for is that you woke up. And then about an hour later you begin to wonder if that's really a good thing or not. My mom would say I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I would say that I woke up overwhelmed with all that needed to be done today.

I attempted to just set my mind to the work that needed to be done. Tune everything out ... including my own bad attitude ... and just get down to business.

It sort of worked.

But deep down, my attitude still stunk. (Is "stunk" a word?)

And then this afternoon, I was driving home, running a couple of errands before our mission team came over for a meeting. I stopped at Sonic to buy ice and thought, "Thank you, God, that I can buy a bag of Sonic ice for $1.50!" And I meant it.

Then the Lord kept bringing to mind one thing after the other of things that happened today that I could be thankful for.

My drive home went something like this ...
  • Thank you, God, for Sonic ice.
  • Thank you, God, for the Chick-Fil-A lemonade in my refrigerator.
  • Thank you, God, that you gave me the energy to clean my house last night so it's basically done now.
  • Thank you, God, that my husband put gas in my car for me.
  • Thank you, God, for a friend that got me lunch today so I could work during that transit time.
  • Thank you, God, for friends who will listen.
  • Thank you, God, for friends who will pray for you when you're having a hard day.
  • Thank you, God, that we got our tax refund check.
  • Thank you, God, that we got a tax refund at all.
  • Thank you, God, for co-workers who offer to help out.
  • Thank you, God, for a hug from a friend I haven't seen in years.
  • Thank you, God, for 14 people who want to serve you in New York this summer.
  • Thank you, God, for three teams that are serving in India, East Asia, and Southeast Asia right now.
  • Thank you, God, that I get to be a small part of those three teams.
  • Thank you, God.
  • Thank you, God.
  • Thank you, God.
Talk about a change in perspective!

... giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ...
Ephesians 5:20

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summer Book Club?

Okay. I am really excited about this and am super excited to share this with you.

One of my absolutely favorite blogs is (in)courage. Such fantastic and uplifting content! This week they announced that they will be reading and discussing The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter in an online book club! Basically, everyone will read a couple of chapters each week, there will be a really great, insightful video by our hosts Jess and Angie and Kelly, and an online discussion forum. Easy enough, right?


I'm actually reading The Fitting Room right now for a review. Let me tell you ... it's amazing!!!

The book is based on Colossians 3:12 and takes a look at what it really looks like to live a life where we clothe ourselves with Christian virtues. Again ... it's amazing!

Kelly Minter is a fantastic author and musician. I think you'll really like her writing style ... like friends chatting over a cup of coffee.

I won't write the review here but if you're looking for some biblical community this summer, I would HIGHLY recommend getting a group of girls together, reading the book, and participating in the online videos and discussion. All the details are here if you want to join the online community at (in)courage this summer.

Anyone interested in reading it with me? I'm planning on going back and taking a closer look at each chapter. Maybe we can meet up for lunch and talk it over!

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 
Colossians 3:12

Saturday, May 21, 2011

And the winner is ...

Congratulations to NICOLE, winner of the most recent giveaway!!!

Hope you enjoy Words and When Sparrows Fall as much as I did!

(Message me your address on FB and I'll get these out to you this week.)

Winner selected using Random.org. :)

Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock


Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock is different than much of the fiction that I've read recently. It's what I would call "literature." I think the back of the book calls it "contemporary fiction." In other words ... it's not simply a romance ... there's a bit more going on.

The story is told from the perspective of 11-year-old Roz Anthony. She and her family have just moved to Illinois to get away from her father, whom she misses very much. She doesn't understand why they had to leave her father and desperately wants him to be part of their family again. She befriends another girl in her class who has her own "daddy issues" and they become fast friends. Many other "minor" plot lines weave in and out of this "main" story and enhance what Roz is going through.

A few times I wished that the author would speed through a particular conversation or scene to get to another point, but for the most part the story flows really well. Also as likeable as Tillie (Roz's surrogate grandmother) is, Roz's mom got on my nerves for most of the book. I felt like she should just wake up and snap out of it! But ... the author's rendition of this character is probably a little more true-to-life than my wishful thinking. I also felt that the blurb on the back of the book was a bit misleading. I picked up the book thinking it would be suspenseful and somewhat action-packed, but that was certainly not the case.

Overall, I felt like this was a well written and enjoyable novel.

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



About the Book

Eleven-year-old Roz (Rosalind) Anthony and her family have just moved to Mills River, Illinois, to escape an abusive situation. Only days after settling into their new home, they are surprised to find the previous owner, Tillie Monroe, on their front porch reading the newspaper. Though her sons have sold the house and sent her to a facility for the aged, she is determined to die in the place she lived her life and somehow manages to find her way "home" day after day. Feeling sympathy for the elderly woman, Roz's mother allows Tillie to move back in.

Mara Nightingale becomes Roz's first friend in Mills River. In spite of their many differences, the girls discover they have something in common that binds them together--both are hiding secrets. So they make a promise--"cross my heart and hope to die"--never to tell anyone else.

When danger stalks the Anthonys, Tillie exhibits unimaginable courage and selfless love in her determination to protect the family she has adopted as her own.
A mother fleeing unspeakable danger to keep her children safe...
Two young girls guarding secrets in a "cross my heart and hope to die" pledge...
A father desperate to be reunited with his family...
Award-winning author Ann Tatlock skillfully blends her well-drawn characters into an inspiring tale of unimaginable courage and selfless love.

About the Author
Ann Tatlock is the author of the Christy Award-winning novel All the Way Home. She has also won the Midwest Independent Publishers Association "Book of the Year" in fiction for both All the Way Home and I'll Watch the Moon. Her novel Things We Once Held Dear received a starred review from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly calls her "one of Christian fiction's better wordsmiths, and her lovely prose reminds readers why it is a joy to savor her stories." Ann lives with her husband and daughter in Asheville, North Carolina. Visit www.anntatlock.com.

Friday, May 20, 2011

5 Minute Friday: When Seasons Change

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!

When Seasons Change

The time between seasons is one of my favorite times of year. It seems that all of the best parts of the passing and upcoming season are all rolled into one. For instance, summer is coming soon. In about two months, the air conditioning and every fan in our house will be cranked on high ... and it will still be too hot to breathe ... inside. I don't even want to think about outside. But right now it's perfect. The flowers are blooming, the nights are cooler, the sun is shining, and the springtime rains have let up a little. We can actually enjoy the weather! This week we even had a "cold front" swing through ... what a nice break to wake up to temperatures in the 40s and 50s!

But it's not just about the weather. It seems there are so many things to look forward to! Especially this summer. Birthdays, holidays, a mission trip, a summer with my cousin, a weekend getaway, our anniversary, parties, baby showers, weddings. There is so much coming in the next few months of summer!

But for now, I'll just enjoy the calm before the (good) storm.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Courting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer


I completely devoured Courting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer in two days. Yes. Two days. I was introduced to Kim Vogel Sawyer last year and was really excited to have the opportunity to review this book. It was fantastic!!! I was immediately drawn into the story about a woman moving to a small town in Nebraska to fulfill her dreams of becoming a teacher. Challenged by her students, their parents, the unexpected arrival of her sister, and feelings for one of the bachelors in town, Edythe Amsel must learn to rely on God. The way Sawyer weaves elements of faith and the gospel throughout the story was outstanding. I am a true fan of Kim Vogel Sawyer!

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

About the Book
Edythe Amsel is delighted with her first teaching assignment: a one-room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. Independent, headstrong, and a firm believer in a well-rounded education, Edythe is ready to open the world to the students in this tiny community. But is Walnut Hill ready for her?

Having raised his nephews since their parents' untimely deaths, Joel Townsend is thrilled to learn the town council has hired a female teacher. His sons could use a woman's influence. But he sure didn't bargain on a woman like Miss Amsel. Within the first week, she has the entire town up in arms over her outlandish teaching methods. Of course, Joel can't help but notice that she's also mighty pretty—and just might make a good mother for his boys.

When Edythe decides to take her pupils to hear Miss Susan Anthony speak on the women's suffrage amendment, the town's outcry reaches new heights. Even Joel isn't sure he can support her newfangled ideas any longer. And if he can't trust her to teach the boys, how can he trust her with his heart?

About the Author
Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren. She invites you to visit her Web site at www.kimvogelsawyer.com for more information.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This Week's Top Pick: The Jesus Storybook Bible

A friend of mine at work introduced me to this incredible children's Bible. I absolutely LOVE The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Sally includes a wide selection of stories from the beginning to the end of the Bible and tells each in such a way that it makes a direct connection from the story to Christ. It really helps connect all the dots and gives a great picture of redemptive history. The illustrations are wonderful as well!

I would highly recommend this for kids of all ages. Although we don't have kids, we have one on our shelf!

Some folks around town are collecting The Jesus Storybook Bible to give to children in lost everything in the storms that swept across our state a few weeks ago. There are several drop-off sites around town if you're interested in contributing a copy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Holy Guacamole! by Dan and Denise Harmer

Okay ... I had this great, thoughtful review all typed out and ready to post last week. Then Blogger went down for several days and it deleted this post. So ... here's my attempt at re-creating the review. Ugh!


In Holy Guacamole by Dan and Denise Harmer, Trace Domingo has the opportunity of a lifetime when he wins an internship under Chef Bonnie Miller. Upon arriving at her culinary bootcamp, he realizes that this is going to be a much more difficult season than he had anticipated.

The book was good and I honestly wanted to read all the way to the end. That said, the plot was pretty unbelievable and had more twists and turns than I could follow. From culinary bootcamp, to an underground tunnel that Zorro used, to revealing secrets from the past, to a visit with Bonnie's dying father, to a kidnapping by the Mexican mafia, to an orphanage, to randomly adopting two children, and back to culinary bootcamp. See what I mean? It was a little hard to follow. Each piece of the plot was fairly shallowly developed. I felt like the authors had really good ideas for the plot and characters but they could have easily comprised four or five books instead of just one. There were tons of food metaphors throughout the book. While I love a good play on words, some of the metaphors were just downright cheesy ... at least they made me laugh! I was impressed with how the authors made me actually like a completely unlikeable character by the end of the novel. Overall I would give this book three stars.

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

About the Book
Nestled along San Diego's coast, the former romantic getaway of the silver screen's most notorious lovers is now the sizzling hacienda of Bonnie Miller's culinary boot camp. "If you are what you eat, make it hot, spicy and irresistible," is her motto, and this queen of Southwestern cuisine enjoys quite a savory life; success, fame, and a reputation for the finest palate west of Barcelona. That is, until a pot-rattling bang causes Trace Domingo, a washed-up sports writer, to crash into her life. His arrival turns up the heat at the culinary boot camp as Bonnie discovers in life's recipe book, it is not the spices which add the most flavor, but how truly hungry you are.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Leaving by Karen Kingsbury


I think I have read every novel Karen Kingsbury has written. I'm a fan. So I was thrilled with the opportunity to get my hands on Karen's latest novel Leaving. (It's kind of my blogging/book reviewing dream!) Leaving picks up the story of Bailey Flanigan, one of the main characters in previous series.

Leaving is an incredible story about a girl trying to determine the direction that God is leading. Should she stay in Bloomington? Should she pursue a Broadway role in New York City? Should she move to California to pursue Hollywood? Is God opening the door to a new relationship and closing the door on an old one? As Bailey comes to terms with leaving everything familiar and starting over again.

Kingsbury is just as moving as ever. Her writing evokes real emotion and reminded me why I fell in love with her stories years ago. The events throughout the novel are fairly realistic and she's not afraid to put a beloved character through a difficult time. At times, the way some of the stories are resolved seem a bit cheesy ... but sometimes that's life! Also, I love that the Flanigan family is based on Kingsbury's own family.

Leaving is the first novel in the Bailey Flanigan series, but it's not the first story featuring Bailey and the Baxter family. If you want to start from the very beginning (which is what I would recommend), start with the Redemption series (Redemption, Remember, Return, Rejoice, Reunion), the Firstborn series (Fame, Forgiven, Found, Family, Forever), the Sunrise series (Sunrise, Summer, Someday, Sunset), and the Above the Line series (Take One, Take Two, Take Three, Take Four) before diving into Leaving. BUT Kingsbury does a great job filling in some of the gaps if you want to start with Leaving.

I would highly recommend Leaving or any other book by Karen Kingsbury!

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

About the Book

The Bailey Flanigan series begins with Bailey leaving Bloomington for the adventure of a lifetime. She has won an audition for the ensemble of a Broadway musical in New York City.

She’s determined to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but is she really ready to leave family and friends for the loneliness of the city? And what of Cody? His disappearance has her worried about their future and praying that their love can survive. In order to be closer to his mother in jail, Cody takes a coaching job in a small community outside Indianapolis. New friends, distance, and circumstances expose cracks in his relationship with Bailey Flanigan. Love, loneliness, big opportunities, and even bigger decisions highlight the first book in the new Bailey Flanigan series that features members of the popular Baxter family and finally completes the Bailey Flanigan/Cody Coleman story.

About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist, with over 15 million books in print. Her Life-Changing Fiction™ has produced multiple bestsellers, including Take One, Between Sundays, Even Now, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, and Ever After, which was named the 2007 Christian Book of the Year. An award-winning author and newly published songwriter, Karen has several movies optioned for production, and her novel Like Dandelion Dust was made into a major motion picture and is now available on DVD. Karen is also a nationally known speaker with several women’s groups. She lives in Washington with her husband, Don, and their six children, three of whom were adopted from Haiti.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rejoice


It's time to choose another verse to memorize for the next two weeks. It's hard for me to believe that this is verse number ten for the year! What an amazing testimony of God's faithfulness for the endurance and diligence He has granted me with this "project" this year.

To be honest, I completely forgot that today is the 15th ... hence a day to post another verse. Usually, I start thinking of a new verse and searching for one that stands out a few days before time to post. But ... with everything that's happened in the last few days, I completely forgot.

Because the word I chose for the year was JOY and the previous verse was about REJOICING, I decided that I need another verse about joy/rejoicing. I started searching through Bible Gateway and think this one will be a great one to commit to memory. What a commitment to rejoice in the midst of affliction and distress. May it be so!

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, 
because you have seen my affliction; 
you have known the distress of my soul.
Psalm 31:7, ESV

Who's still memorizing Scripture this year? What are you working on right now?

Departures: The Rediscovered Stories by Robin Jones Gunn


Robin Jones Gunn was one of my absolute favorite authors when I was in middle and high school. I absolutely devoured the Christy Miller series in 7th and 8th grade. So I had no choice but to request this book and get caught up.

Departures gives readers two new stories about familiar friends: Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen. Each novella is about 100 pages, and I flew right through them. I had forgotten how much I loved Gunn's stories! Gunn uses her writing as a ministry to readers. These in particular are focused on teaching valuable biblical truths to teenage girls. The messages come through loud and clear. There is no subtlety with the truth here! The characters wrestle with different situations and rely on Scripture and the counsel of more mature believers to come to conclusions about which direction to go. At times, the stories seemed fairly simplistic in light of all the challenges that teens face today. But the more I read, the more I found myself remembering what it was like to be a teenager ... a high school student trying to make the right decision, on my way to college trying to figure out relationships. My younger self really identified with Christy and Sierra.

I cannot recommend this book ... and others in the series ... highly enough for girls of all ages. These would be totally appropriate for middle school and high school students. And if you're like me and a little bit older than that, don't be embarrassed to catch up with these old friends!

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

Please take a minute and rank my review. All you need is an active email address. Thanks!




About the Book
Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen cross paths on their way to summer vacations that reveal what a gift it is to have a true Forever Friend.

Now Boarding at Gate 10
After her high school graduation, still aching from Todd’s departure, Christy joins her family on a trip to Wisconsin to visit relatives. While there, she reunites with Matthew, an old friend from junior high. When Matthew starts to show a romantic interest in Christy, she realizes this summer vacation could change everything she thought her future would be.

In the Event of a Water Landing
Fifteen-year-old Sierra Jensen can’t wait to spend her summer vacation with her friend Jana at a pristine lake in Montana. But when they arrive, it becomes clear that Jana’s only interest is acquiring a boyfriend. Sierra just wants to hang out with the guys as friends, but Jana turns every encounter into a possible romantic relationship. As their friendship begins to suffer, Sierra wonders if it’s possible to find a Forever Friend who will listen to you, laugh with you, and keep your confidences.

About the Author
Robin Jones Gunn is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than seventy books, with over 4 million copies of her titles sold worldwide. Best known among them are the Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, and Christy and Todd: College Years teen series. A Christy Award winner and a two-time finalist for excellence in fiction, Robin has also been a Gold Medallion finalist. She and her husband have a grown son and daughter and live in Hawaii.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The DMZ by Jeanette Windle

The DMZ by Jeanette Windle is an interesting story about the cold war in Columbia. Jeanette definitely did her homework. The book is thoroughly researched ... a note on the back stated that government agencies have actually questioned her to make sure she hadn't received classified information. The plot is deep with plenty of twists throughout. I will say that this isn't exactly the style novel that I normally choose to read. So ... I'm sure others will really enjoy it ... it just wasn't exactly for me. (The other reviews on Amazon were really positive, so check those out.)

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

About the Book
More than a decade after the end of the cold war has chilled the Marxist rebel movements around the world, one hot spot remains: Colombia. Why a democratic country with a growing economy should still feel the brushfires of a civil war is a mystery to U.S. analysts, but not to certain parties on the other side of the world. The inexplicable loss of three major U.S. assets draws the attention of the world to the Colombian demilitarized zone. Are the local Colombian rebels responsible? Or is a deadly Middle Eastern secret cloaked by the jungle canopy of the DMZ? Among the contingent of politicians and media headed for the DMZ seeking answers is reporter Julie Baker, whose parents had been missionaries in Colombia. Old hurts and terrors surge as she revisits the place of her birth... and her parents' deaths. When Julie's own abduction by guerrillas triggers a time bomb that has been ticking under the feet of the U.S. for a decade, she is left with more questions than answers.

About the Author
As the child of missionary parents, award-winning author and journalist Jeanette Windle grew up in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, which are now guerrilla hot zones. Described as a "top notch storyteller" by Publishers Weekly, Jeanette's detailed writing is so realistic and carefully researched that government agencies have questioned her to determine if she has received classified information. Currently based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Jeanette has lived in six countries and has traveled extensively on five continents. She has fifteen books in print, including the political suspense best-seller CrossFire, The Parker Twins series for tweens, Betrayed and Veiled Freedom (Tyndale House).

Friday, May 13, 2011

5 Minute Friday: Deep Breath

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!

Deep Breath

I almost laughed when I saw the prompt for today's 5 Mintue Friday. I've been reminding myself to "breathe" all day long. It's just been one of those days.

As the day went on, though, I realized that I wasn't just reminding myself to breathe and make it through the day. Instead I was breathing prayers ... begging God to just help ... and humming that chorus "Breathe on me." It's really been one of those days.

Knowing on my way to work that there was potential for it to be a day from you know where.

Breathe on me

Learning this morning that our precious pastor of prayer, a godly man, went to be with the Lord this morning.

Breathe on me

Learning that Jonathan needed surgery to clear up an infection in his skull/brain.

Holy Spirit, breathe on me

Sadness all around.

Take thou my heart 

Trying to hold it together and get some work done.

Cleanse every part

Recognizing that in the midst of a pretty horrible day, God is still in control.

Holy Spirit, breathe on me

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Church, we have a problem ...

Sunday, we started a new message series at church called Next: The Gospel and the Next Generation.

At the beginning of the message, David shared several statistics that were simply astounding. 

Percentage of people who profess to be born again Christians who have trusted in
Christ alone for salvation:
 Age 65+: 65%
Age 46-64: 35%
Age 34-45: 15%
Age 16-33: 4%

Percentage of high school students who attend church and then leave the church within four years of graduation: 70%

As he said, if these stats are anywhere close to being accurate, we have a major problem. I mean ... 4% ... that's unbelievable ... unacceptable.

Check out the full message to hear what he proposes as the solution.

If you are a mom, dad, grandparent, brother, sister, youth worker, teacher, church staffer, church member, neighbor, or anyone who comes into contact with ... well ... anyone of any age, please listen to this message.

We are praying through how we can engage the next generation ... or even our own.

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! ... We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 78:1,4

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Free to Live!

 

A Night to Touch the Father’s Heart
Tom Davis, children’s advocate, encourages
Christians to fight for freedom for the oppressed.

We are free from injustice—free from being captured and forced into prostitution, rape and slavery. We are free to come and go as we please—FREE to LIVE. But in this freedom, shouldn’t we choose to bring freedom to others? There are orphans who are hungry, thirsty, dirty, sick and dying. And we can bring freedom to these children. We can bring the freedom of Christ to their lives. Join in this fight for freedom by attending the Free to Live Tour. By attending you will be given the opportunity to make a change in the lives of millions of children worldwide.

The Free to Live Tour is an interactive evening of worship, prayer, multi-media and personal testimonies from orphans, along with an inspirational call to action. It will bring together the passion of Tom Davis, author and CEO of Children’s HopeChest, with inspiring worship from the Desperation Band and Meredith Andrews. Together they will offer an engaging evening of music but, more importantly, they will proclaim a desire to bring hope and freedom to the hopeless.

The tour begins this May and will visit both the East and West Coasts of the United States. Specific dates and times are available on their website at www.freetolive.com. Sponsored by Children’s HopeChest—a Colorado Springs-based ministry that helps orphans overcome abandonment, poverty and violence—the tour will begin in the following cities:

Louisville, KY
Wednesday, May 11 @ 7 PM
Southeast Christian Church


Atlanta, GA
Thursday, May 12 @ 7 PM
The Tabernacle AG

Weddington, NC (Charlotte)
Friday, May 13 @ 7 PM
Southbrook Church

Huntsville, AL
Saturday, May 14 @ 7 PM
Asbury United Methodist Church

Birmingham, AL
Sunday, May 15 @ 7 PM
Westwood Baptist Church

A portion of the proceeds collected at the Alabama events will
be donated to local ministries for tornado relief.

The concert will feature a night of worship music by two of worship’s most exciting and innovative artists. This is a free-ticketed event. However, there will be an opportunity to give in a love offering, and audience members will be given the opportunity to become part of the movement to protect orphans and vulnerable children from sex trafficking and extreme poverty. “Bringing freedom to orphans trapped by poverty and sex slavery is the challenge of this generation,” says Davis. “The church has unique resources to share with the 163 million children who are living as orphans today. Those resources bring freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from abuse and violence and freedom to live as true sons and daughters of their true Father.”

About the Speaker: Tom Davis is the well-known author of Red Letters, Fields of the Fatherless and his fiction series (Scared and Priceless) which bring readers to a greater awareness of issues such as orphans around the world and human trafficking. A tireless advocate for fatherless children, Davis has spent most of his adult life calling U.S. believers to become the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to the 143 million orphans living around the world. He holds a business and pastoral ministry degree from Dallas Baptist University and a master’s degree in theology from The Criswell College. He currently serves as the CEO of Children’s HopeChest, a Christian-based child advocacy organization helping orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa. When not traveling the globe, Davis resides in the mountains of Colorado in the small community of Palmer Lake. He and his wife, Emily, have seven children, including two adopted daughters from Russia.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This Week's Top Pick: New CD!

I have loved Selah for a long time. Their arrangements of traditional hymns are absolutely beautiful and each CD generally has at least one song that includes a tribute to the African music they grew up listening to on the mission field. Plus their original music is so compelling.

I tend to get stuck on one CD for quite a while and Selah's You Deliver Me stayed in the CD player in my car for about a year after I got it. Non. Stop.



Anyway. I am SUPER excited that they have a new CD (Hope of the Broken World) coming out!! And the best part is that you can pre-order it for only $10!!! Then they'll simply mail it to you when it releases in August. So ... good deal now and surprise in your mailbox later.

I have no idea how long this deal will go on, so take advantage now!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Time for a Giveaway!!!

I realized the other day that it's been a really, really, really long time since I've given anything away on here. So ... let's remedy that now.

What's up for grabs?

  
  • When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley (advanced reader copy)
  • Words by Ginny Yttrup (advanced reader copy)

For a chance to win, you must:
  • Follow this blog,
  • Leave a comment on this post saying that you want to win, AND
  • In your comment, tell me your favorite thing about spring.

For additional entries:
  • Post a link to the giveaway on Twitter and/or Facebook and leave a link to your post(s) in an additional comment(s) on this post.

All comments must be posted by Saturday, May 21 at 11:00 pm.

Note: I will only mail the books to addresses in the U.S.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother of Pearl: Each Life Is Unique

Welcome to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother's Day blog series. The series is week long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today's best writer's (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and more). I hope you'll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother's Day.

AND ... do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother's Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother's Day!

Each Life is Unique by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. II Peter 1.3 (NIV)

Moms, God wants you to know that He has given you everything you need for life --- your unique life. He does not plan to give you what you might need to live the life of your best friend, or your neighbor, or even your favorite mother-model. No, God has called you to the life that He planned. I suspect that for most of us, it didn’t turn out to be the life we thought it might be… so long ago when we were young and dreaming of ‘growing up.’

On Mother’s Day I often recall my own dreams to one day be a mother. I grew up playing with dolls and looking to my own Mama as a model for that particular role in life. However, by the time I reached my thirties I was still not a mother! God did, however, have a plan. It just wasn’t what I imagined.

My own unique life would find me becoming a mother through the adoption of my first three children who were ages 9, 7 and 4; and then much later giving birth to our fourth child. Of course I was shocked when God revealed this to me, but I was ecstatic as well. It’s as though I could hear Him saying, “Well, you’re not getting any younger so I’m just going to just give you a jump start with three at one time!”

A huge blessing! A huge adjustment! A joy and a struggle. Change is often like that, isn’t it? We finally get what we want then we have to deal with it. May I just offer a bit of advice if you just got a great answer to prayer, but perhaps not in the way or form you imagined? Just receive it. Embrace it. And be willing to move forward into a new paradigm for your life. So what if you’re not like all the other mothers you know? So what if you’re not like your own mother? So what if your family unit is different? I guarantee God has a plan.

Not only did he want me to embrace my own story, but He called me as a mother to do perhaps one of the most important tasks of all --- to nurture my children to live their own unique lives. Not for me to try and squeeze them into what I hoped and dreamed they would be. Not for me to try and live my life through them. But to recognize how God made them, gifted them, and called them to their own special place.

All of my 4 kids are different from one another. Let’s take sports, for instance: I have one child who wins gold medals in international tennis competition, one who is a born equestrian, another who competes nationally in obstacle course shooting matches, and yet another who manages to dance onstage in 3 inch heels, do cartwheels and splits while singing at the same time. Now, honestly, I do none of these things. And yet they do.

I don’t remember placing my order with God for these things.  But I do remember when that tennis player turned 9 years old and I enrolled him in Special Olympics for the first time and how it changed his life… and ours. I remember getting a counselor job at an exclusive summer camp so that my daughter could take English riding classes. I remember being a Cub Scout leader (even though I knew nothing about boys) so that son could one day become an Eagle scout and pursue his love of the great outdoors. And yes, I remember enrolling my preschooler in dance lessons. Later when all the little girls were scared to go on stage for the recital, she exclaimed that she had endured a whole year of lessons just so she could go on stage.

Don’t compare yourself to someone else. And don’t live vicariously through your favorite reality show star. Live your own story. And Moms, raise your kids to embrace the unique life God has for them.
Remember, He has given us everything we need for life!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, is the author of 10 books including “Role of a Lifetime,” “Amazed by Grace,” “Spa for the Soul” and the new Bible Study “Fit and Healthy Summer.” She is an international conference speaker and enjoys being a Pearl Girl from “Sunnyside” – her home in a New England village. Visit Cindy at www.EncouragingWords.net

A Mother's Day Tribute

I have a wonderful mother.
Mom and me, 1st birthday
Celebrating Mom's 50th birthday in New York City


Upon marrying Hubs I was blessed to also inherit a wonderful mother-in-law.
Hubs and his mom

Hubs and his mom

We are so thankful for both of you! Happy Mother's Day!!!
Mom and me, Wedding Day 2009

Hubs and his parents, Wedding Day 2009

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother of Pearl: What Is a Grandmother?

Welcome to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother's Day blog series. The series is week long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today's best writer's (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and more). I hope you'll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother's Day.

AND ... do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother's Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother's Day!

What is a Grandmother? by Suzanne Woods Fisher

“A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.”
 Amish proverb

I arrived late in the night in Rhode Island, anxious to meet my two-day-old grandson, Blake, after a full day of flying. My daughter and son-in-law had just returned home from the hospital and felt like they had been in a train wreck. There was stuff everywhere.  Already, the needs of this little eight-pound bundle of joy were enormous: an all-terrain stroller, plenty of diapers, onesies, spit-up rags, an assortment of pacifiers to try out until he found the ideal one.

And he was perfect.

I know, I know. “Every mother crow thinks her own little crow is the blackest.” But this little dark eyed, dark haired boy really was perfect.

I spent the next seven days (and nights) getting to know this little guy. His schedule (he had none), his hunger cries (very similar to his every other cry). His pirate look--one eye open, one eye squeezed shut, as if he was still surprised by all that had taken place to him in a week’s time.

I felt surprised, too. How could my baby possibly have had a baby? How could I be a grandmother? I had just turned fifty-one. Shockingly young! How could a kid like me give up playing tennis three times a week to settle into knitting and crocheting and Friday night bingo? And shouldn’t I alter my appearance to fit this new label? Give up my jeans? Switch over to below knee-length calico dresses, thick black socks, practical shoes, gray hair pinned in a topknot. Think…Aunt Bee on Mayberry R.F.D.

As soon as people knew my daughter was expecting, I was bombarded with advice from my well meaning friends—even those who weren’t yet grandparents. “The best way to avoid getting on the nerves of your daughter and son-in-law is to not say anything. Ever.” Or “You’d better pick your nickname or you’ll be stuck with something hideous, like MooMoo Cow.” 

What should I be called? Granny? No…reminded me of The Beverly Hillbillies. Grandma? No…sounded like The Waltons. Grammy? No…it was already taken by the in-laws.

But no one really explained what it meant to be a grandmother. I didn’t know myself, not until I held baby Blake in my arms. In that moment, I realized that he was one of mine. He belongs to me. He will be on my mind and in my prayers, every day, for the rest of my life. There’s a bond between us that can’t be broken. He has altered my life forevermore.

I had become a grandmother. 

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, and The Search, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Benedict eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Suzanne is the host of a radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California. www.suzannewoodsfisher.com

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother of Pearl: When Mother's Day Is Difficult

Welcome to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother's Day blog series. The series is week long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today's best writer's (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and more). I hope you'll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother's Day.

AND ... do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother's Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother's Day!

When Mother's Day is Difficult by Holley Gerth

I have a confession (anyone surprised?). I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day.

On one hand, I love celebrating all the women who have made a difference in my life (thanks, Mom!).

On the other hand, a long journey of infertility has left my heart with some tender places.

On May 8th, we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day once again. For many, it’s a time of appreciation and joy. For others, it can be one of the most difficult days of the year. This is often true for women facing infertility, families who have recently experienced the loss of a mother, and many other painful situations.

At one point in my life it seemed as if I couldn’t take another step. In addition to infertility, I was facing several other losses. I felt as if I were in a dark cave. But then I sensed the Lord gently and lovingly speak to my heart, “You may be in a cave, but you still have a choice. You can sit in despair or you can diamond-mine your difficulties.” I decided I was not leaving that time in my life empty-handed. I was taking every hidden blessing I could find. Of course, I still had difficult days. But choosing hope made a difference.

As a reminder, I now wear two rings. The one on the fourth finger of my left hand represents my commitment to my husband. The one on the fourth finger of my right hand is a simple silver band inscribed with the word “hope” and it represents the commitment I have made to God and myself to hold onto hope no matter what happens.

The story of an inspiring woman named Terrie also reminds me to hold onto hope. She endured the loss of four pregnancies and waited seventeen years before adopting a little girl. She told me, “I think one of the most important parts of this journey is learning to trust God. I don’t mean the flippant kind of trust. It’s easy for people to say, ‘You just need to trust God.’ It’s much harder when you’re in the middle of all this pain. But he is trustworthy. Through it all, God has given us an amazing story. I wouldn’t have chosen this road, but he has been with us. I can look back and truly say every step was worth it.”

I don’t know how my journey will end and you probably don’t know how yours will either. I also don’t know how many of you will be silently grieving your losses as we sit in church together on May 8th. But I do know that God sees each one of us. He knows how many hairs are on our heads and how many cares our in our hearts. Whatever you’re going through this Mother’s Day, you’re not facing it alone. As King David, a man who experienced many losses in his life, expressed in Psalm 34:18 NIV, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” May God surround you with love, fill you with hope, and give you strength for each moment—especially this Mother’s Day.

Excerpted from When Mother’s Day is Difficult.

Holley Gerth is an award-winning writer for DaySpring, a cofounder of the popular web site (in)courage, and licensed counselor. Holley loves chocolate, coffee, Jesus and connecting with the hearts of women through words. Her next book, a devotional titled God's Heart for You: Embracing Your True Worth as a Woman (Harvest House) will release this July. You can find Holley online through her blog Heart to Heart with Holley.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May I Make a Suggestion?

A while back, I announced that I had finally crossed over to the world of e-reading.

I love my nook!

I was a little worried before I took the plunge that I would have to spend a lot of money to buy books. I NEVER pay full price for a book. I shop clearance aisles, check out from the library, use gift cards, and blog for free books. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that publishers often make one or two books each month free for download. Most of the time they are available for kindle, nook, or any other e-reader.

New books came out at the beginning of the month, so may I make a suggestion?

 Words by Ginny Yttrup
I reviewed this book last year. I really enjoyed it. Have some tissues handy though! (It's only free through May 15.)

Disaster Status by Candace Calvert
Candace Calvert is one of my newest favorite authors. I reviewed Code Triage last year and bought the first two books in the series while on vacation in March. Each book stands alone pretty well, so feel free to start with this one!

It Happens Every Spring by Catherine Palmer and Gary Chapman
I haven't read this one yet, but I love Catherine Palmer. I can't wait to read this one!

Cool Beans by Erynn Mangum
I reviewed Double Shot, another book in this series, earlier this year and really enjoyed it. Perfect easy, light reading for the beach!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mother of Pearl: Adoption, A Mother's Greatest Gift

Welcome to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother's Day blog series. The series is week long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today's best writer's (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and more). I hope you'll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother's Day.

AND ... do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother's Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother's Day!

Adoption, a Mother's Greatest Gift by Tricia Goyer

I held the small baby in my arms, wrapped up in a receiving blanket to keep her warm from the chill of the delivery room, and a voice spoke to me. "Congratulations, Mom."

The congratulations came from an unlikely source--the grandmother of this child, the mother of the sweet birth mother who chose adoption for her baby girl.

To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. Thankfulness filled my heart--to God who'd answered my prayers and to the birth mom who'd chosen our family for her daughter. I also ached that my joy would be another's heartache. Working with teen moms for ten years, I was often an advocate for the young mother. I knew that while the weeks and months ahead would be a time of celebration for our family, they would be ones of heartache and grieving for this woman.

Adoption is a wonder and the beauty, and the sacrifice of it is never so clear as on Mother's Day. My new daughter is one-years-old now and she huge is a part of my heart. Her life is a gift to my days and her smile can make even the most dreary afternoon bright. I can honestly say there is no difference in the love I feel between her and my three other children. If anything the love feels even more special because she was an unexpected gift. John and I learned about her life just 2 ½ months prior to her being born. The years of prayers to expand our family were answered quickly and beautifully.

The sacrifice of adoption makes my heart ache, for I know on this Mother's Day another woman will be thinking about my daughter—her daughter. As I rejoice, I'll be crying tears for her. I'll also be sending up prayers that God will wrap His arms around her in a special way.

This Mother's Day I cannot help to think about Christ's sacrifice to make our adoption into God's family possible. Maybe it's because just a few weeks ago we were celebrating Easter, but I'm reminded anew that my gain required His loss, His pain. The greatest love, it seems, is not shown with flowers, chocolate or a diamond bracelet. The greatest love is shown when, because of your love for another, your desires and comfort are laid down for the greater good of someone else.

As Ephesians 1:3 says, “How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son” (The Message).

Perhaps you know an adoptive mother. Take time this Mother's Day to let her know that the beauty of her gift is not missed by you. Also, take time to thank God for adopting you into His forever family, thanking Jesus Christ for His sacrifice. I wouldn't be the mother I am without this Gift of Love.

Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Beside Still Waters, 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. www.triciagoyer.com

Blood Covenant by Lisa Harris


All I can say is WOW! Well ... that's not all I can say or it would be a fairly boring review. But seriously, this book was fantastic. Perhaps one of the best I've read ... this year, for sure. Lisa Harris provides the perfect combination of adventure, thrills, romance, and Christ-centered fiction in Blood Covenant. Definitely a page-turner, I couldn't put it down for the three days it took me to finish it! I can't wait to read Blood Ransom, the first book in this incredible series. Great job, Lisa! Can't wait to read more!!!

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

About the Book
Paige Ryan and Nick Gilbert are trapped in an overpopulated African refugee camp where an outbreak of measles erupts and renegade soldiers block their only way out. Desperate for vaccines, they must put their own lives in the hands of God as they fight for the safety of the refugees under their protection.

From the explosive first pages, Lisa Harris weaves a tale of heart-stopping suspense and adventure with her second book in the Mission Hope Series.

When fighting erupts between government forces and renegade Ghost Soldiers deep within the Republic of Dhambizao, thousands are forced to leave their homes. Dr. Paige Ryan, who works with Volunteers of Hope International, is sent to lead a team to set up a refugee transit site—where the immediate needs for shelter, water, sanitation, and food are critical. Nick Gilbert, a bush pilot for Compassion Air, joins the team to help fly supplies in and out of the area.

With the refugee camp already experiencing overcrowding, raids, and uprisings, a group of American mountain climbers is attacked by the Ghost Soldiers. Paige’s medical team responds immediately, rescuing survivors and taking them into the camp. When it’s discovered that one of the trekkers is carrying an infectious disease, the harrowing conditions of the camp are forgotten.

In desperate need of vaccines and the Ghost Soldiers blocking the only road out until their demands for amnesty are met, it won’t be long before the disease is out of control … and there is nowhere to run.

About the Author
Award-winning author Lisa Harris has been writing both fiction and nonfiction since 2000 and has twenty novels and novellas in print. She currently lives with her family in Mozambique, where they work as missionaries. Visit her website at and her blog.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mother of Pearl: A Merry Heart

Welcome to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother's Day blog series. The series is week long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today's best writer's (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and more). I hope you'll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother's Day.

AND ... do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother's Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother's Day!

A Merry Heart ... by Megan Alexander

Sometimes family is really all you need. This was reinforced to me when my Mother shared a story a few days ago about her mother, my Grandma. You see, when my Grandma was a very young girl, around age 10, she was diagnosed with polio. This meant long hospital stays, extremely limited interaction with children her own age and lonely days staring out the window from her hospital bed. In those days, with polio, they felt keeping the children very subdued and quiet was best, and this particular hospital was as drab as can be. It was also during the time of the Depression, which meant money was tight and life was tough. Day in and day out, she was given the best medicine and treatment, but she wasn’t thriving and recovering. Daily visits from adult doctors and specialists is not exactly stimulating for a young girl. Her health was so poor, at one point, a Catholic Priest had administered the "last rites" at her bedside.

One day, her older brother and sister decided to sneak some brand new baby kittens into her hospital room. Their cat Fitzy had just had babies, and the cute kittens were small enough to put in a basket. Upon entering her room, my mother says they quietly took off the lid and showed my Grandma the sweet little kittens and let her cuddle with them. Her mother, my Great Grandmother, observed my Grandma’s mood instantly lift. Her eyes sparkled and she squealed with delight at the cute kitties! Her whole demeanor changed and she came to life.

My Great Grandma took all this in and made a decision that day. She decided that my Grandma would heal much better at home. She promptly checked my Grandma out of the hospital and brought her home with her family. My Grandma did gradually recover, among the love and warmth of her family. You know what Proverbs 17 says “ A merry heart does good like a medicine.” Also, I can imagine that she healed emotionally and physically and spiritually as well and that combined strength wouldn't have been possible in the hospital alone.

When they left that day, the hospital instructed my Great Grandmother to massage my Grandma’s legs everyday, something she promised the hospital she would do, and she did. My Grandma was one of the few people we know who did not have a limp or shortened leg due to polio. And perhaps most importantly, the entire family was always praying for my Grandma.

I’m not saying that medicine is bad or not necessary. But there is no cure quite like the warmth of your family. Its like milk, it simply does a body good. As a pregnant Mom about to give birth to a baby boy, I am inspired to provide this same love to my child. May he feel the same warm love from his family that my Grandma felt from her’s.

And in this same way, we are called sons and daughters of God. Galatians 4:1-7
“Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

God claims you and I as his children. This is a wonderful gift and identity that is good for our heart and soul, and something that is more powerful than all the medicine in the world.
 
Megan Alexander can be seen nightly as a television correspondent for the top rated news magazine show “Inside Edition”.  She also appears on the CNN program “Showbiz Tonight”. She especially enjoys reporting on stories with a heart. She graduated from Westmont College with a degree in Political Science. She loves speaking to youth and works with Girls Inc and National American Miss. She and her husband reside in the New York City area and attend Redeemer Church of Manhattan. For more on Megan, go to www.meganalexander.com. Megan’s mother, Mary, resides in Seattle and provided insight into this essay.
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