12.30.2011

Memorable Books of 2011

Measure of Katie Calloway, The: A Novel
It would seem as though everyone is doing one of these lists, and let me just say that I did not realize how hard these things were to compile! So instead of ranking them 1-10, I've decided to make a list in no real order, of the books that I most remember enjoying in the year of 2011 :)

One of my favorites was The Measure of Katie Calloway. I passed this one on to my mother and it quickly became her 2nd favorite book! I really liked how the hero and heroine interacted with each other, everything was honorable, and they didn't randomly think about each other at odd times for no real reason. Their romance wasn't forced, it just felt natural. You can read my review of The Measure of Katie Calloway HERE

To Die For: A Novel of Anne BoleynAnother book that stood out to me, was Sandra Byrd's To Die For: A novel of Anne Boleyn. This book was historical fiction done right. So many times it's hard to capture a real historical figure in a way that does them justice, and this book captures that perfectly. The Tudors have long been one of my favorite topics, but often poor Anne Boleyn is not done justice to. But here, I think Ms. Byrd has gotten her right :) Also it has a bit of church history woven in, with a character's involvement with William Tyndale, my favorite Christian hero. For me, this book hit all the right notes. It was entertaining, yet historical, with well thought out characters, and on a topic that I love to read about :) You can read my review of To Die For HERE

The Wonder of Your Love (A Land of Canaan Series #2)The Wonder of Your Love was my favorite Amish book this year. It had everything, love, loss, laughter, killer characters, and a great storyline. After reading Beth Wiseman's Plain Perfect I was hooked on this author and her series. I think it would be very hard to read this book and not like it. You can read my review HERE

Forsaking All OthersForsaking All Others. Wow, what a hard hitting emotional read. Well written and full of truths. It was hard to read at times because it showed how people who genuinely lived and believed a lie, they were even willing to inflict such horrible wounds on others for their beliefs. Forsaking All Others is not a book I will be forgetting any time soon! You can read my review of Forsaking All Others
HERE    

Blue Skies Tomorrow: A NovelBlues Skies Tomorrow was actually the first by Sarah Sundin, even though it was third in a series. This book had action and conflict, pain both physical,emotional, and spiritual. My favorite character of the book was Ray, a soldier during WWII. Boy, did he have a heart-pounding adventure! This book convinced me to buy Ms. Sundin's other 2 books in the series that I hope to get around to sometime next year :) You can read my review of Blue Skies Tomorrow HERE    

To Win Her Heart
I loved the story of the feisty librarian and the rough-looking, blacksmith with a large vocabulary. I was probably smiling for 95% percent of this book (because it wouldn't do to smile when the hero is in peril). With wonderfully drawn characters, and a great storyline, it's hard not to have your heart won over by this charming book. And surprisingly I didn't review To Win Her Heart, as I read it right before I started blogging.

Mine Is the Night (Here Burns My Candle #2)Mine is the Night is the wonderful re-telling of Ruth re-located to the Scottish Lowlands. Full of wonderful characters that are sure to draw you in, Mine is the Night is a book that is well worth reading. Ms. Higgs skillfully changes the setting of this well-loved tale in a way that you won't want to miss. You can read my review HERE

From Darkness Won (Blood of Kings, #3)This compilation would not be complete without the thrilling end to Jill Williamson's epic trilogy, From Darkness Won. Don't let the thickness of this book scare you, I finished this 660 page epic in approximately less than 2 days, albeit I stayed up way too late at night! And then I passed it off to my brother, which led to him staying up way too late! LOL :) I didn't write a review about this one either, but I should have!

Reclaiming LilyPatti Lacy's Reclaiming Lily was a wonderfully emotionally deep read that was hard to put down to the very end. I really liked how the author handled Kai's remembrances of when she was a child. The characters are strong and well done. You can read my review of Reclaiming Lily HERE

Aerie of the WolfIn the Aerie of the Wolf really took me by surprise. I was not expecting it to be the way that it was. It is a historical fiction re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, and it's one of those books that only gets better with every re-read. Filled with great Biblically based lessons, In the Aerie of the Wolf is sure to surprise and delight. You can read my review of this book HERE


Thank you for letting me share my compilation with you! I hope to be reading many more wonderful and memorable books in 2012. Do you have a favorite book of 2011? A memorable one? Feel free to share in the comments below :) Have a wonderful New Year!

12.29.2011

A Time to Love by Katie McCurdy ~ Review

A Time to Love
About the Book: Four years of war, two years of reconstruction…and still her husband is missing.

With the War Between the States over, Leah Williams waits expectedly for her husband’s return. But that never happens. With no word if he’s alive, dead, or simply abandoned her, she struggles to go on. With the mortgage payments due and people pressuring her to remarry, does she have the strength to hold on? Or should she even wait for a man who might never return to her?

With so many unanswered questions, Leah must learn to lean on God implicitly. But will her faith be enough? Will God provide a way?

My Review: I was very honored to be allowed to be a pre-reader of this lovely novelette. Though this story is short in length, don't let that fool you!

 Filled with moments that will make you laugh, smile and cry along with the characters, A Time to Love is a heart-warming tale that you won't be able to resist.

The dialogue in this book was dazzling, in how Ms. McCurdy managed to capture the character's emotions, without a lot of outside description. For me the dialogue was what brought this book popping to life. Another thing that I particularly enjoyed was how well the back story was woven in, at the right moments. And don't let me forget the tension! This story had some great hold-your-breath-till-you-find-out-what-happens moments!

Though I thought all of the characters were well done, my favorite was a fellow named Mark, who part of the supporting cast. I really liked how he genuinely was a good man, and tried his best to help Leah out of a bad situation. I could go on, but I think I should make you read the book to find out :)

Overall, I highly recommend this book. Though it was short in length it had all the elements that make a great read. Great characters and plot. Thanks :)

Final Rating: 5 out of 5

Don't forget to pick up a copy at Amazon.com for the great price of $2.99!

I volunteered to write this review, and this is my honest opinion. I received a copy of this book from the author which may have undergone some changes since I read it, so keep that in mind. But...I think that's all :D Thanks!

12.26.2011

The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer ~ Please Rank My Review

The Canary List: A Novel
My Review: I have been a fan of Sigmund Brouwer since I was about seven years old when I discovered The Accidental Detectives, and through the years his book have never ceased to entertain me and my family, so despite the strange description on the back of this book I agreed to review it. I wasn't disappointed.

Mr. Brouwer never writes predictable books, it must be a rule with him. In his typical style. he reveals the puzzle pieces one-by-one, careful not to ever reveal too much, and yet unveils just enough to keep you on edge. With tons of mystery and action, The Canary List is a book that will keep you flipping the pages until you reach the very last one.

I am going to say that I wasn't exactly all gung-ho about the subject matter of this book. The Canary List is a Vatican conspiracy novel, and it tells the story of a girl who can sense evil. And there are evil forces that would like to silence her, demonic forces. And honestly I had trouble with the question of why a little girl would be chosen to go through such ordeals.

While this is a Vatican conspricay novel, it wasn't really overly Catholic or even Christian. There wasn't alot of spiritual growth in the characters, though the book hints that this ordeal caused them to begin to question things and start looking in the right places.

Overall, I'd advise this book be read with a discerning mind, ready to question and probe. And I think that it is always good to have reminders of the spiritual warfare around us, that as Christians we are protected from the evils of. And also I think that a good warning to go with this book is that it is a work of fiction, so weigh it as such.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5



I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review, though not necessarily positive, which I have tried to do here. Thank you.

12.24.2011

12 Pearls of Christmas Day 12 ~ With Rachel Hauck

Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of
Christmas
!



Merry Christmas from all of us at Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoyed these
Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from the authors who were so kind to donate their time
and talents! If you missed a few posts, I hope you'll be able go back through and read
them on this blog over the next few days. If you'd like to keep up with Pearl Girls
and our new book project, Mother of Pearl, coming this spring, just click this link and sign up for our
newsletter (lower left sidebar).


Also, just a reminder that today is the last day for the pearl
necklace and earrings giveaway!
Enter now by filling out this

{form}. The winner will on 1/1 at the Pearl Girls blog.



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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***
Jesus -- The Reason For the Season

By: Rachel Hauck



Through the narrow scope of 2000 years, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears to be one
lucky woman. Chosen by God to give birth to His son, the Savior of the world? All right,
Mary, way to go.



“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” Gabriel said.



How many of us would like a declaration like that? Highly favored. The Lord is with
you. But Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this
might be.



The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High
will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Mary’s
seems confident and resolved when she responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your
word to me be fulfilled.”



She’d just been told the Holy Spirit will come upon her, that God’s power will
overshadow her, that she’d become with child even though she wasn’t married, and she
said, “I’m the Lord’s servant. Let your words be true.”



I find this amazing! A young woman. Ancient Bethlehem. Unwed mother. They stoned
women for such things in her day. But Mary believed in God. And submitted to His
will. He gave her the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit given to us. If He gave her
confidence, He will give us confidence. Even though, like Mary, our situation seems
impossible.



Listen to Mary’s song later on in the first chapter of Luke.



“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been

mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me
blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me Holy is his name…”



Conceiving a child out of wedlock, by Divine intervention. Not a girl’s every
day existence. Yet she had a Yes in her heart to God. She rejoiced. She boldly
said, “Generations will remember me!”



How we struggle to trust God with our children. Our finances. Our emotional well-being.
We worry. We fret. And wonder why we have no peace.



Christmas is the season where words like joy, peace and love are bantered around like
Christmas candy. Let’s not take them as just words, but as truth. Let’s be like Mary and
embrace God’s favor on our lives. Boldly declare "He’s done great things for me!”



Out of the grit of our own souls, we can reach His heart, and feel Him reaching
for ours.
No matter the pain of our past, present or future, God is there for us. He
is able. Best of all, He is willing. “My soul glorifies the Lord this Christmas!”



***
Rachel Hauck is an
award winning, best selling author who believes God has done great things for her. She
lives in Central Florida with her husband and ornery pets. Her next release is Love Lifted
Me with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, January 2012. Then in April, look for
The Wedding Dress. www.rachelhauck.com.

12.23.2011

What I'm Reading ~ Merry Christmas Weekend


The Lady's Maid
Merry Christmas! I just wanted to ya'll a very Merry Christmas this weekend :)
Now on to the books!

Lady's Maid (back blurb): Travel along with Elise Finster and her British mistress, Lady Anne Stone, as they search for the new but missing earl of Stoneford. Determined to follow David Stone’s somewhat cold trail leading to Oregon, greenhorns Elise and Anne secure livestock and supplies to join a wagon train. Will the ladies succeed in their quest or succumb to the malfeasance of the mysterious man dogging their heels? Scout Eb Bentley’s initial disgust with these ill-prepared women eventually turns into admiration for one lady in particular. Can he protect her long enough to win her over, or will prairie dreams turn into a Wild West nightmare?

Take Back the Land: Inspiring a New Generation to Lead AmericaTake Back the Land (back blurb): GOD IS CALLING YOU TO GREATNESS. NO EXCUSES. BE READY TO ANSWER THE CALL.
As a young person, you have the chance to impact the future in a positive, godly way. The question is: “Are you ready for the challenge?”
If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, your calling is to change the world. All you need to get started is the desire to influence your country and church in a positive way. Home schooling and the strength of the Christian family is helping to produce the future leaders of our culture, those with the potential to lead decades of revival and national reformation. If you ignore the challenge, there is little hope for America. A lot depends on you.
So, here is the challenge: Grow up. Now. Get busy. Take responsibility to change this world for God, because that’s exactly what He expects you to do. Your life matters, and God wants to make your life great.
It won’t be easy, and reading this book, you may feel it’s being a little tough on you. There are high expectations and little allowance for excuses. Life isn’t easy, but strive to make it a worthy one. Pioneer missionary William Carey once said, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”


Well that's what I'm reading this Christmas weekend :) What are you reading? I'd love to hear from you. And have a Merry Christmas :D

12 Pearls of Christmas Day 11 ~ With Robin Dance

Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of
Christmas
!



Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.



AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.



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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.





***
The Panhandler's Breath

By Robin Dance



He slipped in sideways between the closing elevator doors, as if he were late to a
meeting; he pressed the "5" without looking. Instead of suit and tie, though, baggy pants
and faded navy hung on his tall, slim frame...and his stealth entry stiffened the hairs on
the back of my neck.



I had noticed him a few seconds earlier, just after we had parted a sea of clamorous teens.
He was smiling, grandfatherly, standing maybe 30 feet away where the electric shuttle
picks up.



I had no idea he had been watching us, studying us, predator patiently awaiting his next
prey.




The four of us were sealed in a four- by six-foot metal tomb. Tomb--that thought really
scampered across my mind. I wondered if he had a knife in his pocket. I wanted to
protect my son. Fight or flight pumped adrenaline but there was no where to run.



Extreme and ridiculous, these thoughts - and more - flashed through my mind. The
Stranger began speaking.



"Yessir, I see you're a family man with your wife and your son here..." and he nodded in
my and my son’s direction.



"...you see I'm homeless and all I've got..." and on queue, he reached into his left pocket
and pulled out two old pennies blackened with age. Two cents to his name?! It was all too
contrived, too practiced, and I didn't believe a word he was saying.



It was then I smelled it ~ the small space lent itself to that ~ and I doubted my doubt.



His breath.



It wasn't the scent of alcohol. His eyes weren't red, his voice didn't waver; his wizened
face matched his graying hair.



His breath was morning's, zoo breath, the pet name I'd given to the scent inhaled when
kissing my children awake when they were little.



He needed to brush his teeth. I wondered how long it had been since he brushed his
teeth.



The elevator door opened and I handed him my leftover pizza as my son and I brushed
past him. My husband handed him a bill and the Stranger thanked and God blessed
him.



The elevator door closed behind us. Conflicted, I was relieved.



We got in the car and blurted first reaction--



"I didn't believe a word he said."



"That made me nervous."



"I wonder if he'll really eat the pizza."



In the quiet, we were left to our own thoughts, contemplating the right thing to do. At the
end of the day, this is what I decided: It doesn't matter whether or not his story is true; for
an old man to resort to begging, he has to be desperate. The money my husband gave him
will never be missed. It was a reminder we've been entrusted with much and given much.

Materially, yes, but more so spiritually. Loved, chosen, forgiven, redeemed, graced,
lavished--every spiritual blessing. E v e r y.



There's a part of me that wishes I would have been brave enough to ask the man
his story, made sure he knew he was loved...and bought him a tooth brush.




Later, it occurred to me he could have been an angel. Doesn’t that mean generosity,
kindness and hospitality is always the right response? Then it's not about you or the
stranger or the circumstance, it's about a simple, God-glorifying response.



Had we entertained an angel unaware? We'll never know.



But it wouldn't be the first time the Breath of Heaven smelled like a zoo.



***
In a decades-old, scandalous affair with her husband, Robin also confesses mad
crushes on her three teens. As Southern as sugar-shocked tea, she’s a recovering people
pleaser who advocates talking to strangers. A memoirist, Compassion International
Blogger, and Maker-upper of words, Robin writes for her own site,
PENSIEVE, and also for (in)courage by
DaySpring (a subsidiary of Hallmark) and Simple Mom. She loves to get to know
readers through their blog comments and on Twitter and Pinterest. www.pensieve.me

Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy ~ Review

Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy: Book Cover

My Review: Reclaiming Lily left me spellbound. The rich writing of Ms. Lacy beckons, and draws one into the story and emotions of the characters. I was surprised at how immersed I became in the story, I couldn't believe how fast the time flew by!

Miles deep emotionally, done in such a way that is un-put-down-able,  and page-turning. This book was a beautiful masterpiece, painful, yet inspiring, with a beautiful message of hope, perseverance, and faith.

I really liked how Ms. Lacy used two characters, Kai and Gloria, who couldn't be more different from each other to tell the story. I was amazed at how well done the character of Kai was. She was outwardly calm and in control, but on the inside she was confused, hurting, and in need of something more in her life. There was so much attention to detail in the way that Ms. Lacy integrated the Chinese culture and the American lifestyle into to Kai, I loved just how much detail was paid to that, I would have read this book just for how well developed Kai was :)

Lily/Joy is the fourth daughter of a struggling Chinese family during the counterrevolution of China. After leaving her youngest sister on the doorstep of an orphanage, Kai is determined to succeed in school and become a doctor as a way to help her family and get out of China's crushing system. Lily gets adopted by a pastor and his wife who rename her Joy. Joy grows up to be a trouble teen, but one tornado might just be the beginning of a life-changing journey.

Reclaiming Lily is a book that will inspire and entertain. Emotionally deep, with characters who will tug at your heart strings. Ms. Lacy has written a beautiful story that will capture your hearts and you will be loath to see this story end. This is a book that you will not regret picking up!

Final Rating 5.3 out of 5


Thanks to Bethany House Publishers who provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

12.22.2011

12 Pearls of Christmas Day 10 ~ Debora M. Coty



Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of
Christmas
!




Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.



AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.


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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.




***
Inside Out Christmas

by Debora M. Coty



My veterinarian friend, Dr. Katie, tells the story about the December when a woman
brought a very sick black lab into her clinic. The dog was only ten months old, so she was
really just a big puppy, but she’d been vomiting incessantly and her worried owner didn’t
know what was wrong.



“Why don’t you go on home?” Dr. Katie told the owner. “I’ll need to run tests for about
four hours. We’ll give you a call when we’re finished.”



Dr. Katie’s assistant took x-rays and hung them on the light panel for Dr. Katie to
examine. Hmm. Something looked a little peculiar. Dr. Katie called her assistant over.




“Is it just me, or does that look like a … a camel to you?” she asked incredulously.



“Matter of fact, it does,” replied the astute assistant. “And look, there’s an angel here, a
shepherd there, and down there in the colon, it’s Baby Jesus!”



At that moment the phone rang. It was the dog’s distraught owner. “I can’t believe this!
I just got home and glanced at the coffee table where I put my manger scene yesterday.
There’s nothing there but an empty stable!”



As I thought about this quite literal technique for internalizing the true meaning of
Christmas, it occurred to me that sometimes I have the opposite problem. With all the
bustling busyness, my inner joy in celebration of my savior’s birth never really makes it
to the outside.



Oh, I have plenty of glittery, festive evidences of the holiday in decorations, baking
galore, and gifts under my tree. But those things are for show. They’re merely the pretty
wrappings, not the gift itself.



Can people really see the core-deep joy that radiates within me when I think of the true
gift that Papa God sent the world in his son, Jesus? Is my immeasurable gratitude for
eternal life evident as I dash through this hectic season?



I’m afraid all too often, the answer is no.



I’m just too preoccupied to allow my outside to reflect my inside so that nonbelievers
recognize that I rejoice because of the hope that is within me. My joy is obscured by
the mounds of clutter. Gratefulness is sucked out of my soul by the vacuum called
urgency.



“But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with
joy” (Psalm 68:3, NLT).



This verse has become my prayer this Christmas season – that I would make the time to
give priority to rejoicing, being glad in God’s presence, and letting my inner joy show for
those who may be silently desperate to know the giver of true joy.



Yep, there’s a better way to internalize the gift of Christmas than the black lab
technique. We can lodge the Little Lord Jesus in our hearts rather than our colons.



***
Debora M. Coty is a humorist, inspirational speaker, and award-winning author of twelve books,
including Too Blessed to be Stressed, and coming in March, More Beauty, Less Beast:

Transforming Your Inner Ogre. Debora would love to swap Christmas hugs with you
at www.DeboraCoty.com.




12.21.2011

Some of My Favorite Christmas Books



Merry Christmas to ya'll, today I wanted to share some of my favorite Christmas picture books with you. These are the ones that I remember my Mother reading to me before bed. These are the stories that I remember fondly, and have some awesome memories of reading and re-reading multiple times. So enjoy!

The Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey Gift Set
One of my favorites will always be, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski; Illustrated by P.J. Lynch. I've heard that someone has made a movie of it, but I haven't seen it. One of the things that makes this one of my favorites is that is a story that a young person and an adult can both enjoy and get something out of, also the illustrations are beautiful!

The Gift of the MagiAnother of my favorites will always be The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; Illustrated by Carol Heyer. I think it was rare if a Christmas season went by when we didn't read this one every single day! Yeah, I was kinda obsessed with it :P It's definitely a classic, heart-warming tale and the gorgeous illustrations are just the icing on the cake :)

Annika's Secret WishAnd last but not least Annika's Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis; Illustrated by Pamela Querin. The details in the artwork are stunning, and I love the obvious Scandinavian feel to the illustrations.

Well thanks for letting me share my favorite Christmas Picture Books with you :)

Have a very Merry Christmas!




12 Pearls of Christmas Day 9 ~ With Tracey Eyster

Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of
Christmas
!



Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.



AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.



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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.




***
Simple or Sparkle?

by Tracey Eyster



It’s a simple ornament made of thin cheap metal and it looks quite out of place on our
CHRISTmas tree. But each year I lovingly and safely nestle it amongst its expensive and
sparkly peers, without a care as to how unglamorous it appears.



Many of our CHRISTmas ornaments have a story and an uncanny way of welling up
emotion in me, but this certain one causes an intense stir.



You see the ornament is engraved with the name of my grandmother, Sara, and was given
to me by my mother, who ordered it from Hospice, after Grandmama’s death. Yes, the

months leading up to her death carry memories of a frail and failing grandmama, but that
ornament carries my thoughts to sweet CHRISTmas memories of the past.



CHRISTmas Eve dinners in her home, laughing, singing, gathering and celebrating a year
filled with blessings as we remembered the birth of our Savior. CHRISTmas mornings,
she was always there participating with glee, in our raucous CHRISTmas happiness. Her
gifts were always bank envelopes gently tucked into the pine needles of our CHRISTmas
tree, fresh cut from the property she grew up on.



All memories of my Grandmama make my heart swell. You see she was my
Jesus with skin on. She lived her life full of joy, serving others and approached life
selflessly with an attitude of, “What can I do for you?”



Just months before she left us, even as the Alzheimer’s was robbing her mind she shared
her love of Jesus with a sweet little old lady friend, who came to know the Lord – a
divine appointment.  The very next day that little old lady silently slipped away to
meet in person the One Sara introduced her to just the day before.



At the time I wept, realizing that regardless of our own frailties and failings, God can
still use those of us who are willing to do His work and are well practiced at hearing His
voice...no matter our lack of sparkle in comparison to others.



A simple life lived for Him, a simple ornament in memory of Sara...a simple truth for you
to ponder.



***
Tracey Eyster wife,
mom, relationship gatherer and Creator/Editor of FamilyLife’s MomLife Today is a
media savvy mom making a difference where moms are, on-line. Through speaking,
writing and video interviews Tracey is passionate about encouraging, equipping and
advising moms on every facet of momlife. Her first book, Be The Mom will be released
August 2012. You can connect with Tracey at www.momlifetoday.com, her personal
site www.traceyster.com or www.twitter/momblog.com
.

12.20.2011

12 Pearls of Christmas Day 8 ~ With Susan May Warren

Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of
Christmas
!




Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.


AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.



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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.




***
Enjoy the Ride!

Susan May Warren



We sit poised on the top of a cliff, a near drop off before us, that falls to a rushing river.
In the middle, a bridge of snow and ice hints at our destination. My husband guns the
snowmobile engine. “Ready?”



Ready? For a face plant into a tree, maybe reconstructive surgery? To feel my stomach
ripped from my body as we plummet down the mountain? Let’s do it!




We live on five acres of woods in northern Minnesota that butts up to a national forest.
Hence, our backyard is about a hundred thousand acres. Aside from harboring deer, lynx,
fox, cougar and bear, it also makes excellent snowmobile terrain. And not long ago, Mrs.
Claus gave her Santa a snowmobile for two.



I love snowmobiling. Flying over the snow, catching air over drifts. I love to drive, to be
at the helm of the beast as I weave around trees and over hill and dale, my husband sitting
behind me. I also love riding behind my husband as he drives, feeling those powerful
arms as he’s muscling the snowmobile into the wilds. We follow unknown trails, driven
by a Magellan spirit, hoping that we have enough gas to get us back to civilization. I
love hanging on, simply trusting him, knowing that wherever he’s taking me, he’s going
first.



But there are times, when I see where he’s taking me, and I just have to bury my head in
his back. Like straight down a cliff.



However, my heart cheers, despite the terror as we gun it down the hill, over the river, up
the opposite side. And, if we hadn’t let ourselves go, we would have never discovered the
beauty of a winter river, a hidden jewel buried deep in the forest. Nor the exhilaration of
facing the challenge together.



Further on, we find an enchanted forest of towering white pine. Catch a view of Lake
Superior, discover an old cabin in the woods.



It occurs to me that snowmobiling is much like my spiritual life. Occasionally, I drive,
and it’s me setting our course, weaving through the trees, getting us hopelessly lost. But
when God takes the “wheel” and I hang on, trusting Him for the speed and destination, I
see the scenery. I trust him to keep me safe. I trust him to bring me home, where there is
an eternal supply of hot chocolate.



As Christmas season becomes more hectic, what if I let God drive?  Maybe
everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and maybe I don’t have to control every tradition,
every holiday nuance. What if I just held on for the ride?



I’ll bet I’ll still get there, and I might even enjoy the scenery along the way.



How have you let go, and “enjoyed” the scenery of this hectic, exhilarating
Christmas season?




Merry Christmas!



***
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of thirty novels with
Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press.  A four-time Christy

award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational
Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.  A seasoned women’s
events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and
the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create
and publish the novel in you!.  She is also the founder of
www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service
that helps authors discover their voice.

A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City by Erica Vetsch ~ Review

A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas

My Review: If you like a good western, well then grab your Stetson and run down to the nearest book store and pick up A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas!

Ms. Vetsch skillfully paints each character in such a way that you can almost see them before your very eyes. Every character was unique and had their own kind of charm. It's not often that I find a book with such good character development of such a vast array of the characters. My favorite character was Miles Carr, I couldn't help but relate to his hesitancy to speak up, and his longing to be a bolder witness for Christ. I think that everyone--if they're being honest--has felt that they should have been a better witness at some time in their life, and I liked how Ms. Vetsch put that part of Miles' character into the story.

The pages turned swiftly, and I couldn't help but be completely transported by Ms. Vetsch's lively writing style, her word choices were spot on, and fit the situations to a "T."

Overall, this book has it all action, adventure, mystery, romance, and great characters. Someone would be hard out not to enjoy this book, I know that I did :) A lot of research was obviously put into this book, with details that bring this book to life. I heartily recommend this book, and look forward to reading more books from this author in the future :D

Final Rating: 5 out of 5

I received this book from the publisher through Netgally in return for an honest review. The copy I received may not have been the final copy of this book, so keep it in mind that changes may have been made to the final edition. Thanks :)




12 Pearls of Christmas Day 7 ~ With Tricia Goyer

Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of
Christmas
!



Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.



AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.



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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.




***
Family Traditions: A Glimpse into Christmas Future

by Tricia Goyer



Have you ever thought about family traditions? As I helped my 1-year-old place
ornaments on the Christmas tree this year I imagined her doing the same thing with her
children—and maybe even grandchildren—one day. Traditions are beliefs and customs
handed down through generations. By sharing meaningful moments with your kids you're
sending yourself into the future. How amazing is that?




Sharing family traditions cause us to slow down from the busy, adult world for a while.
We ignore the laundry to set out the nativity set with our kids. We set aside time in our
schedules to drive around and look at Christmas lights.



Holiday traditions aren't only fun, they also help strength family bonds. Through
traditions kids trust in the security of family unit. They think, “This is our family and
this is what I do.” Of course, the most important thing to share isn't just what we do ...
but why. Why do we put out a nativity? To remind us the real meaning of the season—
Jesus coming to earth. What do the Christmas lights represent displayed on homes and on
trees? They represent the Light of the World, Jesus.



Using traditions to bond our families and share our faith isn't new. I love these
two Scriptures that talk about that very thing.



Exodus 12:25 says, “When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he
promised, observe this ceremony.”



Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next
generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has
done.”



What are you're traditions? Here are a few of ours:

Baking a Birthday cake for Jesus

Buying a new ornament every year for each child

Acting out the Christmas story (with props!)

Praying together before opening presents



What are your traditions? Write a list and appreciate them in a new way this
year. Then ask, “If I could add one new tradition this holiday season, what would it
be?” I'd love to hear what you choose! It also makes me smile to think of your children's
grandchildren doing the same.



***
Tricia Goyer is a
CBA best-selling author and the winner of two American Christian Fiction Writers’
Book of the Year Awards (Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights). She co-wrote
3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and contributed to the Women of Faith Study Bible.
Also a noted marriage and parenting writer, she lives with her husband and children in
Arkansas. www.triciagoyer.com

12.19.2011

12 Pearls of Christmas Day 6 ~ With Shellie Tomlinson

Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of
Christmas
!



Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.


AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.



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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.




***
Let The Baby Grow Up This Christmas

By Shellie Tomlinson



When I was a little girl, Christmas seemed to take forever to make its way back to our
little house on the end of a dirt road called Bull Run in northeast Louisiana. We kids
started counting down the days before the leaves ever began turning. Sure, the adults
said it came once a year but I wasn't so sure. Once Santa Claus left our humble abode it
seemed like light years before he found his way back to the Delta.



That was a child's perspective. I imagine it hasn't changed all that much for today's kids.
On the other hand, I'm operating under a completely different time frame these days. It
seems like it was just yesterday when I pulled the boxes down from the attic and began
pulling out the nativity scene, the miniature lights, and the keepsake ornaments. And
now, just that fast-- Christmas Day is right around the corner. Soon the tree will be
striped naked and the piled up presents will all be distributed. After a few more day it'll
be hard to remember who got what from whom, and once again, I'll start packing all the
decorations away for another year.



I was thinking about how bare and cold the house always looks after the holidays
when I realized that, sadly, this  scene would play itself out in many hearts as
well.
A lot of people will have had expectations that weren't filled and many of those
same souls will be left with hurts that don't seem to heal. Unless this year is remarkably
different from past seasons, my bet is, the New Year will bring magazines full of articles
on combating depression and the talk shows will have experts on offering ways to fill the
long days ahead and cure the winter blues.



I'm no expert, dear readers, but I'd like to offer you a suggestion that will go far beyond
the creature comforts of a nice warm bath or a delicious bowl of hot soup. Your heart
doesn't have to be bare and naked after the holidays. Do you want to know the real
secret? It's simple, really. Don't pack up Christ with Christmas! As beautiful and special
as the Christmas story is, it's only a part of heaven's miracle. The Christ child grew into
a man and the man became a Savior.



This year, may we be determined to let the babe from Bethlehem live on in our hearts. If
we'll allow Him to become the Messiah He was born to be, the joy of Christmas can be
ours all year long.



***
Shellie Rushing

Tomlinson
is an author, speaker, and radio host from Louisiana. Her latest release
Sue Ellen's Girl Ain't Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy was endorsed by Jeff Foxworthy
as "laugh out loud funny!" You can find Shellie's weekly southern features, podcasts,
video chats and more at http://www.allthingssouthern.com/ Make sure to get by the blog
 and read about the Super Christmas Giveaway Shellie is hosting for her readers and secure
your chance to win a Mort Kunstler print valued between $700 and $1400. www.allthingssouthern.com

12 Pearls of Christmas Day 5 ~ With Deborah Raney

Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of
Christmas
!



Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.



AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.



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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.




***
The Snowflake Party 

By Deborah Raney



The first snow of winter hasn’t fallen yet, but in our kitchen tonight we’re doing a pretty
good imitation. The whole family is circled around the huge old oak table. The snip, snip,
snip of scissors is background music as tiny scraps of white paper float down, making our
floor look like a giant brownie sprinkled with powdered sugar.



Tonight has turned out to be the night for our annual Snowflake Party, a tradition that
began when our children were toddlers. There has never been a date blocked out in red
on our calendar, but one day we wake up and the brisk autumn air has turned bitter cold.
Naked tree branches trace their stark calligraphy on a dull grey sky and we need a taste of
the joyful promises of Christmas and snow. It’s the perfect time for a party.



On such a day, one of the kids will fly in the back door, fresh home from school, and
declare “Hey, Mom! Tonight would be a good night for the Snowflake Party!” First we
round up every pair of scissors in the house. This is one time when sharing is not a virtue.
While the kids search for scissors, I cut white paper into squares and fold them caddy-
corner multiple times. The resulting triangles are artfully arranged in a basket, awaiting
the beginning of the party.



Later, while the supper dishes dry on the counter, I recruit a volunteer to help me stir up
a big pot of hot cocoa. For the next hour it will warm on the back burner, tantalizing us
with its aroma.



Now the fun begins with careful cutting and snipping, shaping plain white paper into
intricate works of art. Each snowflake we create seems as unique and spectacular as the
genuine variety created by God himself. As each masterpiece is unfolded, collective oohs
and aahs go up.



When the last dregs of our creative juices are drained, Dad oversees the vacuum
patrol while I pour cocoa into generous mugs. We spread our handiwork on the floor
around us and sit, quietly admiring our work while we dunk marshmallows and sip rich
chocolate.



With empty mugs piled up in the sink, it’s time for the judging to begin. There will
be awards for ‘prettiest’, ‘most unusual’, and as many other categories as we need for
everyone to be a winner. Dad is the judge because he studied art in college. He also
usually wins one of the top prizes––because he studied art in college.




Snowflakes deemed runners-up might be pasted in scrapbooks or hung on the
refrigerator. A few even “melt” into the trash that very night. But the winners are taped
proudly to the picture windows in the living room for passersby to enjoy while they long
for the day when genuine snowflakes will color the world clean and white.



Our oldest daughter went away to college last September. She called just after
Thanksgiving to tell me that her dorm window was covered with snowflakes. No, not the
real thing, but the ones she remembers from her childhood––paper ones that she spent an
entire evening cutting and snipping while sipping hot cocoa.



That’s the neat thing about traditions: They go with us no matter how far from
home we travel.




***
DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Her books have since won the RITA
Award, ACFW Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award,
Silver Angel, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. After All, third in her
Hanover Falls Novels series will release next spring from Howard/Simon &
Schuster. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas. Their
four children are grown now and having snowflake parties with their own children–
–and they all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the web at
www.deborahraney.com.

12.16.2011

12 Pearls of Christmas Day 4 ~ with Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.


AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.



If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit http://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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***


Why I Decorate for Christmas

By Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser



An old cassette tape of Christmas carols—received in a package twenty years ago when
we had first arrived in France as missionaries—fills our den with delightful piano music
as I place one more ornament on the already over-laden Christmas tree.  This one
is a little white wooden rabbit with pink ears that move back and forth.  It actually
doesn’t look much like a Christmas ornament, but I bought it for our baby Andrew when
my husband Paul was in seminary, and I was working for less than minimum wage in the
library.  This ornament was literally all I could afford.



As I hang it on the tree today, I get goose bumps and then a rush of warmth.  And
that’s why I decorate for Christmas.  Not to impress but to remember.  I
remember those lean, lean years, and God’s faithful provision for us.



There are the cross-stitched ornaments I made our first year in Montpellier—for the boys
(for by now we had two sons) and Paul and me.  How I ever had time to do that,
I don’t know.  I remember our puny little tree—the kind they sold in France back
then—in a pot so that it could be replanted later.  We perched that tiny tree on a
small table out of baby Christopher’s reach.  I guess I watered it too much, because
about halfway through December, it started smelling and then stinking, and it rotted there

on Christmas Day!



I smile with these memories.



I look at the other ornaments on the tree.  Many were purchased—one for each
boy—when we attended conferences around Europe, and that makes me smile too.
 Getting to travel on a missionary’s budget to exotic places!  There are
the waxed red bear and red baby carriage from Wales, the brightly painted clay sun
and moon from Portugal, the blue and white porcelain windmill and wooden shoes
from Holland, the hand-blown glass Snoopys sitting on gondolas from Venice, and the
delicately decorated eggs from Prague.



Other ornaments include the little pinkish shiny ball ornament with Paul’s name written
in glitter—I think he made it when he was about six , and the little red velvet bows,
bought at Michael’s after Christmas one year for a dollar.  They bring a unifying
theme to the tree.  I say this, smiling, because our tree is, and has always been
throughout the years, a hodge-podge of our life.  And I like it that way.  I
don’t think I could ever have a ‘theme’ tree.  Mine is a ‘memory’ tree.



The music plays softly in the background and I smile through tears, remembering God’s
incredible faithfulness to call and keep us here in France for so many years.  Heart-
breakingly hard years, overwhelmingly joyful years—the same years, the same amazing
God, our keeper.



Before we left for the mission field, I memorized Psalm 121 in English and in French,
and over the years I have held on tight to those last beautiful words of the psalm:
 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and
forever. (NASB)



Of course He will.  He is God with us.



We decorate to remember Christmases past, our lives, our legacy, and mostly, for those
of us who have embraced Christ, we decorate to honor and praise Him for coming to
us—Emmanuel!  We make our homes ready to receive the Christ Child, with soft
music and candles burning and the sweet flickering of angel wings on an over-laden
evergreen.



***
ELIZABETH
GOLDSMITH MUSSER
, an Atlanta native and the bestselling author of The Swan
House, is a novelist who writes what she calls ‘entertainment with a soul.’  For
over twenty years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions work
with International Teams.  They presently live near Lyon, France. The Mussers
have two sons and a daughter-in-law. The Sweetest Thing (Bethany House, 2011) is
Elizabeth’s eighth novel. To learn more about Elizabeth and her books, and to

find discussion questions as well as photos of sites mentioned in the stories, please visit
www.elizabethmusser.com and her Facebook Fan Page
http://www.elizabethmusser.com/

Weekend off :)

Hey there! Sorry to say I not be doing my usual weekend posts, etc., this weekend. Why? Well, I'll be off to a Bible Quizzing meet! This time we are quizzing over Hebrews 12 & 13, and 1st Peter 1 & 2. So hopefully the weather is good and we make it to where the meet is safely. I'll be back with a book review and my usual posts on Monday, also hopefully next week I will be doing a focus on some great Christmas books :)
So have a great weekend!

The Irish Healer by Nancy Herriman ~ Review

The Irish Healer

My Review: Rich with lush descriptions, The Irish Healer sparkles with promise.

Accused of murder, Rachel goes to England to get away from the hurtful rumors that surround her family, after she is found innocent. Though she is innocent of murder, she still blames herself. Rachel comes to be under the employ of a burdened and hurting doctor, James Edmonds. As the two of them draw nearer together will they finally be able to accept the forgiveness that is waiting for them, and finally be set free?

For me this book had a nice writing voice and beautiful descriptions. There were tense senses of medical drama that were gripping and really kept the pages going, but at other times I felt a lull in the action and at times the characters did things that I didn't understand the logic behind. I wished that I had been drawn in more by the characters, there just needed to be something more to them. I wish that the main characters had had more meaningful conversations earlier on, to establish a friendship, because I felt that there should have been more to their relationship. The dialog is good, and often I could see the characters in my mind saying those things, like in a well done play before my eyes. This is a promising debut, and though there were rough edges I think that I will be looking out for what Ms. Harriman does next.

Final Rating: 3.8 out of 5

                                        The Irish Healer will be released in April of 2012
                                        

I received this book from the publisher through Netgalley in return for an honest review.  The edition I read was not a final edition of the actual book, so my review is based on that and due to changes, and editing my review my no longer be relevant by the time the book comes out. Thanks.

    12.15.2011

    12 Pearls of Christmas Day 3 ~ With Sandy Ralya



    Welcome to
    the 12 Pearls of
    Christmas
    !



    Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
    (Tricia Goyer, Babbie Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella
    Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor
    shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of
    the year.


    AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
    simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
    necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
    1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.


    If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit http://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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.



    ***
    Where is Comfort and Joy Found?

    By Sandy Ralya




    The year 2006 ushered unwelcome emotions into my life. My husband was unhappy in
    his job, two of my grown children were making poor choices, my mother-in-law was
    showing signs of Alzheimer’s, extended-family issues were surfacing, and I was writing a
    book. Things only got worse. Much worse.



    Early in 2007, I was asked to represent the mentoring ministry for wives I founded,
    Beautiful Womanhood, and lead a women’s conference in Uganda, Africa. My husband
    wasn’t sure if traveling to Africa was a good idea, so we committed it to prayer. While
    we were listening for an answer, I sensed God asking me to fast from spending, except
    for groceries, for thirty days. Sometimes you know that you’ve heard God’s voice
    because you’d never have come up with those words on your own. This was one of those
    times. I’d never heard of a fast from spending. Tom needed no convincing that a fast
    from spending came directly from the mouth of God. He still gets excited just thinking
    about it!



    During the fast, it became clear I had used spending as a way to gain a comfort fix.
    When I was spending money, I felt carefree and lighthearted. Instead of dwelling on the
    unpleasantness in my life, I was thinking of my purchases and how they would bring me
    pleasure. Not until I stopped spending did I realize how short-lived the fix really was.
    During the fast, when I felt the urge to spend—to anesthetize my pain—I pictured myself
    running into the arms of Jesus, the Great Comforter. Oh, what comfort I received!



    One night, I told good friends my experience of gaining comfort through the power of
    the Holy Spirit rather than money. I exclaimed that I had never felt so comforted. One
    friend then told us about a dream he’d had shortly after hearing about the invitation from
    Uganda. After the dream, he had awoken and recorded the following thoughts:



    “. . . this is for Sandy. Christ’s redemption of women is beautiful. Beautiful Womanhood
    is a result of redemptive wholeness. The visuals the ministry uses on the books, etc.,
    are like a piece of beautifully veneered furniture. There is something going on with
    the ministry to the brokenness of abused women. In Uganda, there are hurting, abused
    women, and something is connecting their need and Beautiful Womanhood. Though
    there is nothing wrong with veneer, it is only the topping—the covering, and without
    good structure it is shallow and will not hold up. It is time to add a new depth to the
    ministry.”



    Then these verses came to my friend’s mind:



    All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every
    mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can
    comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort
    God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will
    shower us with his comfort through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NL



    When my friend was finished sharing, everyone in the room broke down in tears, praising

    God for His work in my life. I’d learned to listen and God had spoken. I’d obeyed, and
    He’d acted. When He acted, I was changed.



    Needless to say, I packed my bags and experienced some of the best days of my life in
    Uganda—offering God’s comfort to His troubled women.



    ***
    Sandy and her husband Tom have been married since 1980 and live near
    Grand Rapids, Michigan. They have three adult children and a growing number
    of grandchildren. When not writing and speaking, Sandy enjoys shopping at yard
    sales for vintage clothing, cooking, travelling, and drinking really good coffee
    (black is best) with her husband. For more information, contact Sandy at s
    andy@beautifulwomanhood.com. Subscribe to Sandy’s blog at www.beautifulwomanhood.com/blog. Find Sandy on Facebook at Beautiful
    Womanhood. Follow Sandy on Twitter @MentoringWives.

    Amish Weddings by Beht Wiseman, Barbara Cameron, and Kelly Long ~ Review

    An Amish Wedding

    My Review: Three Amish couples wrestle with doubts and hilarious situations in the days prior to their nuptials.

    Each of the three novellas are interwoven with the story lines of the other making this book even sweeter. Because this is a novellas collection I will split my review into 3 parts, with a brief review of each story.

    Perfect Secret is the first of the collection, and tells the tale of Rose Bender and her husband-to-be Luke. As the date grows closer so do Rose's suspicions that Luke is hiding something from her.

    This story was hard for me to get into, and the story was a bit choppy at times. At times I questioned the logic behind some of the character's choices, but this is just my personal opinion. Perfect Secret the realms of doubt, and mistrust that can either hold people together or tear them apart.There are some scenes that will make you smile, right along with the characters :) If you love Amish fiction you'll enjoy this one.

    Perfect Match. Naomi, who has made some good matches for others, attempts a match for a friend. But what happens when it all goes awry?

    Well written with a clear, plot and characters that will endear themselves to you when you aren't looking, Perfect Match was my favorite of the three stories, and it's possibly because I got to see the connections being made between the two main characters, instead of it already being in place before the story began. The characters were well done, and I couldn't help but be utterly charmed each of them. Not only did the main characters stand out , but so did some of the side characters, most especially Margaret. I couldn't help but wish that Margaret's story had been expanded upon :)

    Perfect Plan. What happens to a young Amish couple when everything seems to go wrong just weeks before their big day? For Priscilla and Chester, that's exactly what seems to happen, even to the point of them questioning whether they should even be together!

    This was the story that tied them all together. Filled with humorous moments, and faith, Perfect Plan show us how, we should trust all our worries and cares to the Lord, rather than take them upon ourselves, because He alone can make things--and be--perfect. Chester and Priscilla want everything to be perfect for their wedding yet, worries and stress creep up on them at times. Filled with heartwarming moments and messages, sure to put a smile on your face :D

    Overall this is a wonderful collection for the lovers of Amish fiction, out there, and for those who just want a great read. You won't want to miss An Amish Wedding!

    Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review, which I have done my best to do here. Thanks.

    12.14.2011

    12 Pearls of Christmas Day 2 ~ With Sibella Giorello

    Welcome to
    the 12 Pearls of
    Christmas
    !



    Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
    (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
    more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
    stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.



    AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
    simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
    necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
    1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.


    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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.



    *** 
    Advent By Sibella Giorello



    Consider the bride's walk down the aisle. We all know where that woman in the white
    is going but somehow waiting for her to arrive at the altar is an essential part of the
    ceremony. In fact, the waiting is so essential that even cheapskate Vegas chapels include
    wedding marches.



    Why?



    Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.



    At Christmas time, we tend to forget this essential truth about anticipation. We're lost to
    shopping malls and checklists, rushing toward December 25th so quickly that we forget
    the quiet joy of the month's other 24 days -- and then we wonder why we feel so empty
    on the 26th, amid ribbons and wrapping paper and our best intentions.



    Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.



    And that is why Advent is so important to Christmas.



    I'm as guilty as the next harried person. This Advent was particularly tricky because
    just six hours before it started, I was still trying to finish a 110,000-word novel that
    was written over the course of the year -- written while homeschooling my kids,
    keeping my hubby happy, and generally making sure the house didn't fall down around
    us.



    It's an understatement to say my free time is limited. But waiting adds meaning, and
    Advent is crucial to Christmas, so I've devised several Advent traditions that are simple,
    powerful and easy to keep even amid the seasonal rush.




    When my kids outgrew the simple Advent calendars around age 7, I stole an idea from
    my writer friend Shelly Ngo (as T.S. Eliot said, "Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers
    steal." Indulge me.)



    Here's how it goes: Find 24 great Christmas books, wrap them individually
    and place then under the tree. On the first day of Advent, take turns picking which book
    to open. When we did this, we would cuddle under a blanket and read aloud -- oh, the
    wonder, the magic! We savored "The Polar Express," howled with "How Murray Saved
    Christmas," and fell silent at the end of "The Tale of The Three Trees" (note: some of
    the picture books I chose were not explicitly about Christmas but they always echoed
    the message that Jesus came to earth to save us from ourselves and to love us beyond
    our wildest imagination. In that category, Angela Hunt's retelling of The Three Trees

    definitely hits the Yuletide bull's eye).



    This Advent tradition lasted for about five years. It gave us rich daily discussions about
    the season's real meaning, without being religious or legalistic, and it increased family
    couch time. But like the lift-the-flap calendars, my kids outgrew the picture books.



    Because the wait adds meaning, and Advent is crucial, I prayed for another way to
    celebrate anticipation of Christmas. By the grace of God, last year I found an enormous
    Advent calendar on  clearance at Pottery Barn. Made of burlap, it has large pockets
    big enough to hold some serious bounty.

     

    But my husband and I didn't want the kids focusing only on the materialist stuff for
    Advent -- we already fight that on Christmas day. We decided to fill the daily pockets
    with simple necessities and small gift cards. We also printed out the nativity
    story from Luke 2:1-21 in a large-sized font and cut each verse out. From Day 1 to
    Day 21, there is one verse to read aloud. The kids memorize it, then get to open their
    present (again, on alternating days for each person). Then we tape the verse to the wall
    in order. By Day 22, all the verses are on the wall, in order, and the kids now try to
    recite the entire nativity story from memory. That's not as difficult as it sounds because
    they've been memorizing one verse each day. Still, the entire recitation -- verbatim --
    usually requires Day 23 and Day 24. Whoever does memorize the entire thing -- without
    mistakes --  earns a bonus gift of $25.



    Does that sounds extravagant?



    It is.



    Because we want our kids to understand that God came down and humbled himself and
    taught us about love right before He suffered and died on behalf of the undeserving --
    which is every one of us.



    "That's" extravagant.



    And in the waiting, we find even more meaning.


    ***
    Sibella Giorello writes the Raleigh Harmon mystery series which won the Christy
    Award with its first book "The Stones Cry Out." She lives in Washington state with her
    husband and children, and often wishes there were 36 hours in a day.

    12 Pearls of Christmas Day 1 ~ With Suzanne Woods Fisher

    Welcome to
    the 12 Pearls of
    Christmas
    !



    Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
    (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
    more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
    stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.



    AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this
    simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl
    necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on
    1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.



    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 gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


    ***


    A Christmas of Kindness

    By Suzanne Woods Fisher

    "You can give without loving, but you can¹t love without giving." Amish proverb

    I do it every year.

    I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by Christmas EveĊ 
    I'm exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-to-make traditional Swedish
    meal to honor my husband¹s relatives (think: Vikings), it's time to head to church. I'm
    embarrassed to admit it, but the last few Christmas Eve's, I have sent my husband and
    kids head off without me. The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong
    as a magnet.


    It's odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn't you think that Christmas would be
    simpler? Instead, it's just the opposite. Jugging schedules to share the grandbaby with the
    in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the best time of day for them, dancing
    carefully around recently divorced family members whose children are impacted by the
    shards of broken relationships.


    The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can't really simplify people. We are
    just a complicated bunch.

    Here's where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It's easy to get
    distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there's so much more to
    learn from these gentle people if you're willing to look a little deeper.



    Yes, they live with less "stuff" and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered life. But
    it's the reason behind it that is so compelling to me: they seek to create margin in their
    life. Not just empty space‹ but space that is available to nourish family, community, and
    faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours or mine, but what they do fill it with
    is so right.


    Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of the
    holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room corner. A few
    modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place settings, covered by a
    dishtowel. Waiting first for Dad to read the story of Christ's birth from the book of Luke.
    Waiting until after a special breakfast has been enjoyed. Waiting until Mom and Dad give
    the signal that the time has come for gifts.



    Later, if Christmas doesn't fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will gather for
    another big meal. If time and weather permits, the late afternoon will be filled with ice
    skating or sledding. And more food! Always, always an abundance of good food. Faith,
    family, and community. That is the focus of an Amish Christmas.



    And it's also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a young
    family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish couple, Jaime and C.J.
    Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An unlikely and tentative friendship
    develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol hold most dear disappears and thenĊ  Ah, but
    .
    you¹ll just have to read the story to find out what happens next. Without giving anything

    away, I will say that I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season.
    Mattie knew inconveniences and interruptions that come in the form of people (big ones
    and little ones!) are ordained by God. And blessed by God.



    Creating margin probably means that I won't get Christmas cards out until the end of
    January, and my house won't be uber-decorated. After all, something has to give. But
    it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his Alzheimer's facility.
    And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-crowded event. And time to
    invite a new neighbor over for coffee. Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won't get
    diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda. Only by God's agenda‹ the essence of true
    simplicity.



    And that includes taking time to worship Christ's coming at the Christmas Eve service.
    You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.



    ***
    Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The
    Search, and The Keeper, 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. Suzanne is a Christy Award
    nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom and
    her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California.
    www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

    Faye : I reviewed Ms. Fisher's book A Lancaster County Christmas awhile back, so if you care to read my review click HERE.