Friday, November 30, 2012

5 Christmas Gifts to Make with Your Family

Painting by my son 
It’s that time of year. Gift-giving season is upon us. Whether you have lots of money or a little to spend, people love receiving home-made gifts. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1) Get your children involved by using hand prints or foot prints to make a calendar. We’ve done this a couple times. For example, January can be a snowman made from a small foot. February is hearts crafted by painting the fisted hand by the pinky. November is a hand-print turkey. October is a ghost. Do the prints on colored construction paper, then go online and print off the next year’s month-by-month calendar. You paste the calendar to the back of the next month’s artwork. Then take it to a copy shop to be spiral bound. Don’t forget to have the child sign and date their artwork. Grandmas and aunts love these.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Pause to Soak in His Presence

It's the week after Thanksgiving. We're racing toward Christmas. Even with Thanksgiving occurring a week early, it feels like a race. When did we decide that this organized (or not so organized) chaos was restful, relaxing, conducive to a joyful season?

When did the joy of gifting something to one we love become replaced by the pressure to find the perfect gift? When did the amount of the gift matter more than spirit it is gifted in? At times like these I need a reason to remember that God can calm my heart when I feel like I'm spilling in a bazillion different directions.

Grab a mug of tea or cup of coffee. I'll share my peppermint mocha creamer. It's low-sugar. And let's sit together and soak in this truth.

The Lord is with us. With us. Emmanual. The God with us. Savor that. He's with us. Not watching us. With us.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Perfect books for suspense/mystery lovers

Today I want to introduce you to a couple new books by two of my friends who write great conflicted characters. Ronie Kendig shines in military set suspense -- with fantastic characters and a bit outside the box. While Sibella Giorello writes an FBI set series with an equally conflicted heroine. 

Trinity combines Kendig's trademark discarded heroes with the military war dogs. The result is a book I couldn't put down and thoroughly enjoy. Kendig writes military very well, placing the reader in the middle of the action and not letting go. At the end there were a couple times I had to stretch what I thought could really happen, but I willingly did it because I wanted the characters to win. And the twists and turns were great. Combine a broken hero with a broken heroine, an international crisis on the horizon and one amazing dog and this is a great military thriller/suspense. Thoroughly enjoyed it and CANNOT wait for the next book!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ready for A Merry Little Christmas with Anita Higman?

Today, I'm delighted to have Anita Higman join us. Anita is a friend of mine who has a Christmas book releasing just in time for some holiday cheer. This would make a great Christmas gift!

Franny and Charlie come from very different backgrounds, but are both looking for something very different from the way they've grown up. Do you think as humans, we all have a "grass is always greener on the other side" mentality?

Yes, that is a human frailty that is easy to succumb to, and I’ve been guilty of it as well. But God is good about reminding me that he’s placed me on my own unique life-road, and it may have little to do with anyone else’s journey. Besides, in many cases when we get a closer look at someone else’s “lush green grass” it usually turns out to be turf.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Trust: another perspective

This week I'm rerunning some of my earlier posts. I hope you enjoy this video. It's still a great reminder of how we live, and how God wants us to live!
Here's a great clip from Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love.

As I watched this the other day, God took it a step further in my mind. I think some of us do cling to the balance beam. But others of us are trying to do a full routine for God. Everything He puts in front of us we tackle with gusto. Then something happens.

Life throws us for a loop.

The perfect life we'd been living is suddenly shaken to our core. Then we get up to do that skill again, and we can't. We now have a mental block because our mind tells us we'll get hurt again. And God watches, waiting and encouraging. He says, "You can." We say, "I can't." And in the process we lose the ability to live the full life He has for us. Until we can climb up on that balance beam, dust the chalk off, and trust Him to catch us if we try and fall again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What does it mean to have an Inheritance from God?

This is a post from last year. Still very true...

One of the things I am studying right now is exactly that question. What does it mean to be a daughter of the King -- and by extension to have an inheritance from Him? I'm trying to get a head-start on a Beth Moore study I'll be leading for the ladies at our church starting in January.

The springing off place for me and the study is Psalm 16:6: the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I love that verse!

For years, I've been stressing to the ladies at our church the importance of understanding who we are in Christ. What it means to be a co-heir. To

Monday, November 19, 2012

Being Thankful...all the time

This week I'm rerunning a few of my older posts. Regardless of where we are, thankfulness is important. May you experience a fresh sense of thankfulness this week.

Ever had a season where you just couldn't dig deep to find a reason to be thankful? I bet we all have. Here are a few verses that really put it in context...

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 Colossians 2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Three Children's Christmas Books I Love

I know Thanksgiving is next week, but I'm thinking about the Christmas books I want to read to my kids this year. It's always fun trying to decide which ones we'll enjoy together as a family. Here are a few of our favorites, and I want to know which ones you love, too.

The Velveteen Rabbit: I realized the other day when I picked up a copy at Kohl's that I hadn't introduced my younger two to the story. And the older two didn't remember it. Time to remedy that. The story begins with Christmas, but is really a story of so much more including the power of love. How a stuffed animal becomes real through the love of a little boy. I get sentimental just thinking about the story.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Courting Cate Review

I have loved Leslie Gould's books that she coauthored with Mindy Starns Clark. They are a great mix of Amish with mystery and great characters. So I was excited to see that Leslie had a new book releasing: Courting Cate. Courting Cate is an interesting mix of the old idea that the oldest daughter has to marry first. In this case, Cate has no interest in marrying and the local bachelors are only interested in her sister. Then a new bachelor arrives and everyone decides he's the right man for Cate. If you like books set in the Amish lifestyle with a strong romance, then this is a book you should try.

Courting Cate
When This Couple Gets to Courting, Sparks Will Fly!
In Paradise, Pennsylvania, Cate Miller is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Her sweet and flirty sister, Betsy, on the other hand, seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County!
But the sisters’ wealthy father has made one hard-and-fast rule: older Cate must marry first, before younger Betsy can even start courting. Unfortunately, untamable Cate has driven away every suitor–until Pete Treger comes to town, that is.
Prodded by the men of the area, Pete turns his attention to winning Cate’s hand. But is his interest true or is there a scheme at play?
Book 1 in The Courtships of Lancaster County series.

Leslie Gould is the co-author, with Mindy Starns Clark, of the #1 bestselling The Amish Midwife and The Amish Nanny. She is also the author of numerous novels, including Garden of Dreams, Beyond the Blue (winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice for Best Inspirational Novel, 2006), and Scrap Everything. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University and has taught fiction writing at Multnomah University as an adjunct professor. She resides with her husband and four children in Portland, Oregon. Learn more at

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

3 Ways to Encourage Greatness in Others

There are those moments in life that leave me wondering and humbled.

Last night I received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the community college I attended.

As I considered what I would say, I came to appreciate all over again how very blessed I have been. Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by people who believe in me. People who always challenged me to be more and never looked down on me because I was young. (I Timothy 4:12).

My parents never told me I couldn't start college early. Then when I was 16 and ready to do it, my mom took me to Mid Plains to see how we could make it happen. The admissions team didn't know what to do with a 16 year old homeschooler, but they made a way for me. Mrs. McGahan opened so many doors for me through student government. Mr. Babcock

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fun Historical: A Change of Fortune

This week, the

is introducing

Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)



Jen grew up in the small town of St. Clairsville, Ohio, where she spent an idyllic childhood riding her purple spider bike, ice-skating on a little pond and reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon books in her tree house. High School was, surprisingly enough, fabulous as Jen spent time with her girlfriends. She headed off to college with no idea of what she wanted to be when she grew up, but settled on pursuing a career in fashion because she thought it sounded glamorous. Her parents thought she’d lost her mind, but they resigned themselves to her choice and after earning a BA degree in Clothing and Textiles, Jen set off to take the fashion world by storm, only to discover retail was certainly not the glamorous career she’d imagined it would be. She moved to Buffalo, New York to take a job in the buying office of a large department store, learning all there was to know about cookware, which again, was hardly glamorous, especially to a girl who did not have a knack for cooking. She met her future husband, Al, a few months after taking this job and eight months later, they were married. After moving into management at another department store and working that for a few years, the company went out of business and Jen decided she’d had enough. One year later her son was born and Jen hung up her heels for good and concentrated on being a mom.

She began dabbling in writing when her son, then in elementary school, said he liked her made up stories as much as those in his books. It was then that she  fired up the computer and never looked back.

Jen loves to write humorous stories with quirky characters and a dash of intrigue and finds historical romances especially appealing, seeing as how she’s been reading them since she was a teenager. Her mother gave her a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower, and Jen was hooked on the genre. When not reading romance, she loves to read mysteries, young adult and her favorite series of all time, Harry Potter.

Besides writing, Jen enjoys spending time with her family and friends.


Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. Her fortune was the last thing she had left after losing her father, her fiance, and her faith. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett, much to his chagrin, is the catch of the season, and all the eyes of New York society--all the female ones, at least--are on him. He has no plans to marry again, especially since his hands are full keeping his business afloat while raising his two children alone.

Eliza's hapless attempts to regain her fortune unexpectedly put her right in Hamilton's path. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces and, before she knows it, Eliza has a whole retinue of people helping her. Eliza's determination not to trust anyone weakens when everyone's antics and bumbling efforts to assist her make her wonder if there might be more important things than her fortune and independence.

When all of Hamilton's and Eliza's best-laid plans fall by the wayside, it will take a riot of complications for them to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Change of Fortune, go HERE.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Steven James is back with Placebo

I love Steven James' Patrick Bowers series. I love the fresh take on an FBI investigator and all the sub-plots which recur and deepen through the series. When I learned he had started a new series, I was curious to read it...even as I wondered if he could live up to my high expectations.

Placebo is the start of a new series, this time with Jevin Banks as the main character. I'll admit that I was convinced I knew by page 66 exactly where the story was going -- though it didn't -- but I wouldn't be surprised if another book in the series goes where I anticipated.

Jevin Banks is an illusionist who made it big and then disappeared from the show scene when his wife and twin boys died. Now he spends his energy exposing frauds on a national television show. He thinks his trip to a retreat/research center will be one more opportunity to expose frauds. Instead, he's dropped in the center of a quest to see how our lives are interconnected through quantum

Friday, November 09, 2012

Courting Cate Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Courting Cate
Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)
Leslie Gould

I really enjoy the Women of Lancaster County series that Leslie Gould co-wrote with Mindy Starns Clark. Those stories are rich and multi-layered. Courting Cate has a different feel because it doesn't focus on a mystery, but many other elements are the same. Readers who love a good romance mixed with conflict will really enjoy this book.


Even though I knew I wanted to write fiction by the time I was in the sixth grade, as I grew older I pursued other things instead, such as majoring in history and communications, and then working as a museum curator, then a public relations specialist, and finally as a magazine editor. Once I finally started writing fiction, it was another ten years until I sold my first novel. By that time I’d been married for nearly 20 years and had four children of my own to read to.

In the decade since my first contract I’ve written fifteen books, from Beyond the Blue, a story about international adoption set in Vietnam, to Courting Cate, a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. No matter what I write, I aim to reveal truths about God’s love, beauty, and redemptive work in our lives. My goal is to connect more deeply to God, family, and friends through my writing. My hope is that my stories encourage readers to deepen their own connections too.


When Amish farmer Pete Treger moves to Paradise Township, Pennsylvania, seeking a better life, he meets sisters Cate and Betsy Miller. Both are beautiful, but older sister Cate is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Betsy, on the other hand, is sweet and flirty--and seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County!

However, the sisters' wealthy father has made one hard and fast rule: elder sister must marry first, before the younger can even start courting. Unfortunately for poor Betsy, and for the men who want to court her, her older sister, Cate, doesn't have any suitors--until Pete comes to town, that is.

Though he finds both sisters attractive, something about Cate's feisty demeanor appeals to him. Soon the other bachelors in the district convince Pete to court Cate. She hardly seems receptive to his overtures, though. Instead, she's immediately suspicious of his interest.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Courting Cate, go HERE.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Ready to have Your Mind Expanded? Soul's Gate Giveaway

Every once in awhile I read a book that impacts me on a deep level. One where I find myself praying through the pages asking for God to expand my vision and expectations. Last week I read a book like that. Soul's Gate, by Jim Rubart, could open your spiritual eyes if you let it.

Jim is an author who comes up with mind-twisting plots and what-ifs. Soul's Gate was no exception. The characters were interesting, but what grabbed me and is staying with me after closing the book is the idea that I want God to use me in a way like He did the characters. Imagine four people who fulfill an old prophecy. They are to come together to bring freedom to those who are in bondage. They have to start with themselves...and that means jumping in to other people's souls -- with permission -- to do warfare for them. Jim admits in an author note, that may not be possible. But so many other things in the book come straight from the Bible.

Bottom line, I closed the book with a cry in my heart and hunger to be used by God in fresh, new, mighty ways to bring His freedom to this world. Definitely a book that can impact readers as much as Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

God is Still in Control

Last night was disappointing for many of us. But as I watched the results pour in, here's what I kept coming back to: God is in control.

Either I believe that or I don't. But it doesn't change the reality that the Lord of the Universe and the King of Kings has not suddenly disappeared. He is still sitting on His throne and He is at work. 

Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

So here are a few things I commit to do more intentionally. Anyone want to join me?

Monday, November 05, 2012

4 Things to Remember on the Hard Momma Days

A few weeks ago, I asked people for feedback on what topics they’d like to see covered. One of the first suggestions struck home What about those days we feel like a failure as a mom?

Raise you hand if you’ve ever had a day like that. Can you see my hand waving? I have so been there.

The day where I struggle to get out of bed. Then I struggle to keep my temper as the house seems to disintegrate around me. Or the kids pick at each other until I’m ready to cry uncle. Don’t get me wrong…I have great kids. Some of the best I could ask for, but they’re still…well…kids. Or the days I look with longing out the window and wonder what it would be like to see at least a couple of my children off on the school bus. Then there are the days someone asks me how to homeschool – with this look of expectation that just makes me want to laugh or cry.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Behind the Scenes: A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island

I often start my books by thinking about a setting that I think readers will enjoy escaping to through the pages of a book. A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island was no exception.

I didn't grow up aware of Mackinac Island. I wasn't even sure what I was getting into the first time we drove the ten hours from Lafayette, Indiana, to the tip of Michigan's mitten. I knew is it took a long time to reach this tiny dot on the map. It didn't take me long to learn the island had worked hard to preserve a feel of days long ago. It took even less time to fall in love with this retreat. We've stayed at the Grand, in B & Bs and in Mackinaw City. Each time, I couldn't wait to reach the island and explore its roads, shops, and Fort. It was only natural that it became the perfect place to set a contemporary romance. 


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