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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Unwanted Gifts

Have you seen that commercial where women go on vacation and Mother Nature shows up with a "gift"? Well, that was the start of my Christmas vacation. Very not fun. Not the kind of gift anyone wants for Christmas, that's for sure.

Christmas morning, I opened the gifts from hubby. I told him I didn't want anything. We were getting the Wii Fit and that was enough. I also wanted a new bowl set, but because I'm picky, I told him I wanted to pick it out, so not to bother. So for Christmas, he got me a set of bowls. Yep, wrong bowls. Don't get me wrong, they're nice bowls. But they aren't the kind I need, so even though I can use them, I still have to go buy the bowls I need. He also got me another gift that I thought was a little too expensive, and not something I really need, so I was frustrated with that. The third gift from hubby was sweet, so it wasn't a total loss. But still, a disappointing morning when I'd have been happier with nothing.

As the day wore on, I started feeling like I was coming down with something. By the end of the day, I couldn't deny it. Santa had brought me a cold.

At face value, you could say this has been a disappointing Christmas. The family loves the Wii, and even though I've played a couple of times, I don't feel like doing more than resting on the couch. I've gone to the other room and slept for a while when the sound of their joyful giggles made my head ache too much. As much as they are enjoying the perfect gift I've been wanting to give them for so long, I am not.

Today, when we went out to pick up a few things, we drove past a house that burned down the other day. Talk about an unwanted gift. I bet losing everything wasn't a part of their holiday plans. A friend of mine spent Christmas with her little one in ICU with flu symptoms. Another friend asked for prayers for a neighbor who found her husband dead of a heart attack on Christmas Day. I don't think they asked to lose a husband and father of two children for Christmas.

Even though it wasn't quite the holiday I expected, I have to sit here in gratitude for the things I did receive. Or at least still have. A nice, safe, comfortable home. Healthy children. A husband. Maybe I don't get to enjoy the Wii today, but I will. And my husband and kids are having a great time. Today, my 5yo thanked Jesus at dinner for our Wii. They're both pretty happy with everything they got. I'll be feeling better soon, and things will be back to normal.

We put so much emphasis on the material gifts that we sometimes forget about the best gift, the reason we celebrate the holiday to begin with. What are all these other things in comparison to that?

So today, I am thankful. Even for the unwanted gifts. Because I have the best gift of all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who can you touch?

Last week, one of my critique partners brought a rough piece to share. She told us she didn't know what she was going to do with it, but she needed to write it because it was heavy on her heart and she needed to get it out. First off, let me say that it was a great piece. In terms of the writing, I thought it needed very little in terms of mechanics. Yes, it needed direction, but mostly in that she needed to figure out who her audience was and the purpose of the piece. Otherwise, it was excellent. But that's not my point.

Frankly, if all she did with the piece was let it languish on her hard drive, it did its job. Why? Because when I read it, I knew it had been written for me. Did she say as she was writing, "I think Danica needs to read this?" Nope. But it was a struggle heavy on her heart that the Lord needed to deal with in her life. Which happened to be similar to a struggle in mine. As I've pondered her words and the Lord's words, I can only sit in complete amazement in how perfectly our God works with our imperfections to meet our needs.

My prayer for this piece is that my friend figures out a home for it and lots of people read it and are ministered to by reading it. But even if it garners thousands of rejections and no home, God still used her writing. First, it helped her vocalize emotions to a situation she struggled with. But second, it helped me sort through something I've been struggling with. All because she had the courage to write something hard and share it with someone else.

Are you writing and wondering what the payoff will be? Maybe you'll be like Debbie Macomber and touch millions of people across the globe. But maybe it's only meant to draw you and God closer. Or maybe it will help the one person you give it to. And maybe it'll help someone in between. But maybe, you'll write something and never know it's touched a person's life. You just have to have the guts to put it out there trusting that God will let it land where it needs to land.

Personally, there are so many people who've written things that meant the world to me, and I wish I'd thanked them all. I'm so glad that they decided to put it out there anyway.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sweet Anticipation

I told you about how we're surprising the kiddos with a Wii this Christmas. In a fun turn of events, we keep going to friends' houses and they all have Wiis. The kids have been so excited to play the games. Today we went to another friend's house where again, the kids got to play a Wii.

On the way home, my 9yo says, "Mom, I didn't have very much fun playing the Wii today."

What? Oh crap. But I need more info, right? "Why do you say that?"

"Because there were too many people to share with so I didn't get a very long turn. Plus, I REALLY wanted to play Mario Kart but my sister never wants to play, so I haven't had time to play it. Mom, I really want to play Mario Kart."

SCORE!!!! Because yes, we DID get them Mario Kart. And hubby is super excited about playing it with her.

"Mom, I wish we could go somewhere where I could play Wii for a long time. I really liked it at our cousin's, where I got to play as much as we wanted. Can we go back there?"

Do you know how hard it was for me to NOT crack? I wanted to say, "Guess what, honey bear?! You're getting a Wii for Christmas!!!"

But did I? No. I said, "Well, honey, we'll see what we can arrange. Maybe after Christmas."

What satisfied me more than her sweet, "that would be great," was her lack of begging for a Wii. A long time ago, we told her that they were too expensive and we didn't think they were a good idea. It's going to be so exciting for her to see that maybe they didn't get a lot of presents, but they did get something they never imagined we'd get.

For me, this has been a hard secret to keep. Mostly because I cannot wait to see the joy on her face when she realizes what she's been given. I'm so excited for that moment.

I think about what it says in Luke 11 " 11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!""

If I am as excited as I am about giving my kids a Wii, I can't imagine how excited God is for all the great gifts He wants to give us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My big fat tea confession

Most of you know my love for tea. Tea is something that, for me, is a guaranteed pick-me-up. I drink hot tea 365 days a year. I like tea bags, loose tea, and any other tea in between. I have three teapots that I use regularly, three I use sometimes, but are mostly decoration, and then a few itty bitty decorative ones that people keep giving me because they think I like tea junk (PLEASE!!! STOP!!!). I also have a handy dandy on the go travel tea mug with a strainer built in so I can have tea whenever, wherever. And, as some of you know, the best birthday gift EVER was my hot water boiler so I can have instant hot water for tea anytime.

Today, though, I had to ask myself if I have a little bit of a tea problem.

I finished my Christmas shopping yesterday, but when I was in one of the stores, I noticed that they had a number of Republic of Tea teas that are special for the holidays. Republic of Tea is one of my favorite brands of tea. They can get pricey, although since I've started buying a lot of loose tea from tea shops, I don't have as much sticker shock over spending $9.50 for a thing of tea, especially considering I get 50 tea bags. After justifying and justifying, I bought myself a tin of tea. I decided that it would be my stocking stuffer, since I usually take care of stocking stuffers for the family.

Then today, I was reading one of my magazines and they mentioned a different tea from Republic of Tea that sounded wonderful. Well, okay, two teas. And I am very happy that I could not find them on their website, because otherwise, I may have had to buy some. Which would be very, very bad. Yes. Bad. My tea cupboard is pretty close to capacity right now, and my rule is, when the cupboard's full, I can't buy more.

This, my friends, is my tea cupboard. The top shelf actually is a pull down spice rack with three shelves FULL of tea. My blue teapot on shelf two is the one I use the most-it's my I'm alone all day drinking tea teapot. It has a nice strainer built right in. Best little teapot on the planet.

A few notable teas:
Top shelf: I actually don't like the Tazo African Red Bush tea or the Yogi Peach Detox tea. I just can't bring myself to throw away perfectly good tea. I'm allergic to the banana chamomile tea, because I'm allergic to chamomile, but I give it to my kids. The big gray box is the decaf Earl Grey I bought today because I'm drinking my last bag of it now. The white box is my current fave- Sugar Cookie by Celestial Seasonings. My kids like it too. The others are just random teas I drink in when in the mood or keep around for guests who like that kind of tea.

Middle Shelf:
I mentioned the teapot. We have limited cupboard space at our house, so that's the only spot I have for it. I'm a bit resentful that I don't get to use that space for more tea. I also keep a box of Emergen-C there, and I'm not sure why. The orangish box is a nice bagged chai I stick in rice milk to trick me into thinking I can drink chai on this dairy free diet. The blue box is my Lady Grey, and I only have one bag left. I should've bought it today when I got my Earl Grey, but I thought it would be too greedy of me to buy two kinds of tea in one day. The plastic wrapped box is Red Zinger, hubby's favorite. On top of that is Tazo Lotus, which is my fave green tea. The silver bag is a lovely loose mint called Mahgreb Mint that I got at a local tea shop. Behind my teapot, I have a number of similar bags of other lovely loose teas.

Bottom Shelf:
The brown bags are all assorted loose teas from local tea shops. You can see a red container of lotus seed tea that my FIL picked up for me in Cambodia. Next to it is a detox tea I like. Next to that is my favorite bagged Jasmine tea, Jasmine Pearl, made by Two Leaves and a Bud. Then there is the good old standby, Lipton, and YES, I DO drink Lipton. Next to that is some of the Traditional Medicinals tea I keep on hand for colds.

AND... behind all of the containers of tea you can see are more containers of tea. My tea cupboard is PACKED.

So how can I possibly want more? Seriously, I am a sick woman. I justify this all by saying no one ever hurt another human being under the influence of tea. Well, maybe they did, but the Surgeon General hasn't come out with a warning about it. And frankly, the more tea I drink, the less I want to hurt people. If you see me in an "I want to hurt people" mood, give me a cup of tea, and I'll calm right down.

You know, the more I look at this picture, the more I'm convinced I can fit more tea in there. I'm going to InTea on Tuesday to meet my BFF and her daughter, my daughter's BFF, so we can attend the Teddy Bear Tea. Which means I will probably bring home a bag of their tea of the day, because I can never resist. *sigh* I don't know if you can tell in the picture, but there are some green bags toward the back of the bottom shelf as well as behind the teapot on the middle shelf- those are InTea bags. If I moved my Emergen-C, which really belongs with supplements, and not tea, I'd get that box space back. And surely if I moved things in my OTHER cupboards, I could put the blue teapot somewhere else, freeing up that space, right? And if I found a good home for the icky detox and African Red bush, that would give me more room there, right?

Anyone want to come over for tea?

Monday, December 14, 2009

A response from the President

Some of you may recall that I wrote a letter to the President and my Congressmen back in March. Yup, March. I figured they'd all blown me off, but imagine my surprise when I received a letter in the mail from Barack Obama himself. It takes him the amount of time it takes most people to have a baby to write little ole me a letter. Yeah, I know, he's busy running the country and all that.

But really... I must share his sage words with you all:

Dear Friend (Huh, I never said we were friends. Is that kind of like a guy who sleeps around calling all the girls, Baby?):

Thank you for writing me about the pressures facing the middle class. (Sort of like that Santa/M&Ms commercial where they both realize that they do exist!) I have heard from countless Americans working hard to make ends meet (do you call all of us Friend, or is that just the special little name you have for me), and I appreciate your perspective. (Really?! I'll just bet you hung on every word my talented self wrote.)

My administration is addressing the serious challenges our Nation faces. (That is just swell!) Some say we are moving forward on too many issues too quickly. (Not letter writing, that's for sure. Especially since I'm beginning to suspect someone merely printed off a canned response and stuck it in an envelope.) Given our unprecedented circumstances, swift, deliberate action is needed. (You put the words right in mouth, buddy. Can I call you that? After all, you called me friend.) I am committed to taking immediate steps that generate job creation and economic recovery, and I am determined to make investments that lay a new foundation for real and lasting progress. (Wow. So do you send this letter to all your friends, or do you have a list of canned letters based on keywords in a person's letter? Just wondering. Because so far, you haven't addressed any of the points I made.)

I can't type any more of his letter without vomiting in my own mouth. The next paragraph is all his propaganda about health care reform, clean energy, education, homeland security, cutting the budget deficit, yada yada yada. The last line, though, I think is really clever. "We can do all this, and change the way business is done in Washington, by building the most open, transparent, and accountable government in history."

Seriously. He said that. The most open, transparent, and accountable government in history. He hasn't read much history, has he? Actually, he's right. In comparison to say, the communists, this is a very open, transparent, and accountable government. After all, a communist would have me jailed for daring to say that he is falling really short of the mark. So hey, kudos to you, President Obama. You got me on that one.

Final paragraph: Ultimately, the only way to solve the problems of our time is to involve all (ALL? Really? Are you sure? I don't think anyone really even read this letter, so how are you involving ME in the process, except to put more of your propaganda in my hands. Come on, Mr. President, surely you think we're smarter than that) Americans in shaping the policies that affect our lives. Thank you again for writing. (No, thank YOU. Really, I mean that.) I encourage you to explore www.WhiteHouse.gov, which is regularly updated and more interactive than ever before. (Super! It has a lot of great information about what you're doing, but I don't get the interactive part. Interactive as in we get to watch a video of you? Or interactive as in we actually get to participate in our governmental processes? No need to answer, we already know it.)

A very clearly stamped by someone else signature of Barack Obama (I am so touched. It's a pretty high-quality stamp. I'm not 100% on this one, but it may have even been printed on the page by the computer. Now that's some high-tech, courtesy of my tax dollars. I bet THAT helped stimulate the economy.)

Sooo... here is my takeaway. Um, yeah, they really don't give a crap. Someone very well trained in regurgitating the President's agenda wrote a nice letter to send to anyone who has issues with what's going on in the country. I'm actually more disappointed that I have not heard from my Congressmen. They have fewer people to deal with, and it's disturbing that they don't seem to care what the people they represent think. So who exactly do they represent? I'm not sure. I just know it's not me.

Welcome to Democracy in America, ladies and gentlemen. Along with a bridge he's going to try to sell us all, the President wants you to believe that is is the most open, transparent, and accountable government in history. I suppose duck manure and cow manure smell differently, but in the end, it's still just crap.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best Christmas movies ever?

My friends keep talking about their favorite books... I have to be honest. I couldn't think of any until someone reminded me of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. LOVED Imogene. I think I need to get that book for my kids.

Now movies... there are some good ones. I've heard people listing them, but you know, they've all left out MY favorite. So I'm going to blog about it because I think we need to remember this oft forgotten classic.

Meet Me in St. Louis

Seriously, if you have not watched it, you must. This, my friends, is the movie that debuted the fabulous Judy Garland song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. If you like that song and haven't seen this movie, shame on you! I think having seen the movie, the song is so much more beautiful.

So there it is... my favorite Christmas movie. Margaret O'Brien as Tootie is delightful. Actually, she reminds me of my own children. Maybe that's why I love her. Plus, who doesn't love Judy Garland? Well, maybe you shouldn't answer that. This is what we call an IQ test. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are you missing the ocean in the desert?

I had dinner with a friend recently, and this friend asked me a question that rocked my world. It was an innocent enough question, and I know she had no idea what she was asking. But as I began the answer I've been giving to that question for a long time, I realized something... that's not me anymore. Sure, that was the answer to what was happening in my life a while ago. But now? I'm living in entirely different circumstances. Better ones.

I'd been in the desert in this one area of my life for so long that I'd begun to accept that I will always be in the desert. I began to see this place as one big desert, and completely missed the fact that I was actually swimming in an ocean of blessings! Talk about being blind.

Since then, God has continued to rip off the blinders and pour salve into that wound. No, my life isn't perfect, and certainly, I lack a lot of things. But this one place... I am so full that the blessings are overflowing. And I almost completely missed it because I had resigned myself to the desert.

Do places of your life feel like a desert? Have you taken time to reexamine them? Maybe, instead of being in the desert, you're swimming in an ocean, but haven't realized it yet!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Five Cents? Really?

Today's irritation: the whole Starbucks world AIDS day thing. Guess what? When you buy a cup of their overpriced coffee, they'll give a whopping FIVE CENTS to AIDS relief efforts. People are going to rush in to Starbucks to do their good deed for the day, Starbucks gets the pat on the back for being socially responsible, everybody feels good about themselves, all over a measly FIVE CENTS. Here's a thought: Why not skip the Starbucks today, and donate your $2.50 or whatever your drink of choice costs to the charity of your choice? Imagine what kind of good you could do if you skipped your Starbucks run one day a week and donated that money. But instead, everyone's all hopped up over the five cents that doesn't cut into anyone's profit margins. Yes, it adds up, and yes, I'm sure it does good. But come on people!

Most of us make in a week what these people in Africa make in a year. And all it takes to ease our conscience is five cents out of money we're already spending. That doesn't sit right with me. Even if you're making an extra trip to Starbucks to do your part, you're spending your money to give FIVE CENTS. Seriously. Five cents. If all you really want to give is five cents, why not run by the mall and drop that change in the Salvation Army bucket?

Maybe I'm jaded, but it seems to me that this whole making a difference for World AIDS Day is less about actually helping people, but about giving Starbucks a great PR platform. People are going to buy more coffee because they think they're doing a good thing. And sure, they're helping people. Starbucks gets $2.45, AIDS gets $.05. Who's the real winner here?

If you care about AIDS and the plight of people with AIDS, here are a few suggestions to make a real difference. First, visit the World AIDS Day website, with information on AIDS as well as ways to get involved. Yes, it takes a little more than buying your favorite drink, but seriously, why not feel good about actually making a difference as opposed to tossing in your five cents while Starbucks gets richer? Second, there are a lot of great organizations invested in caring for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Two of my favorites are World Vision and Compassion International. For what tends to be the average American's monthly Starbucks budget, you can sponsor a child in an HIV/AIDS affected area and give that child hope for a decent future. You can't drink it, but you will be saving a life.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What I learned from NaNoWriMo this year

**edited to add totals and NaNo button**

Sooo... it's over now. I'm officially at 59,932 words. The book I'm working on needs to be 80,000 words so I still have some work to do. Actually I have a lot to do.

As I just mentioned to my CP, this is absolutely the sloppiest first draft I've ever written. She offered to help me on the places I'm stuck, and I'm too embarrassed to show it to her. That's how bad it is.

Last year, my NaNo book was a book God challenged me to write because it was something I was afraid to write. This year, I'm not so sure what it is. Maybe it's to learn about accepting my imperfections and just going with the flow. I thought I did that okay, but wow... talk about your writing crap.

So far, here's what I learned from this year's experience:

1. My writing process is yet again evolving. I am a serious pantser. Usually, starting a new book from scratch at the beginning of a month is not a problem for me. However, my last book, I used a lot of the prewriting techniques from the book From the Inside Out by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. I learned a lot from that process and found that I was more confident writing it. On my NaNo book, I did not do any prewriting. I found that this was the hardest book I've ever written, mostly because I didn't know a lot about my characters and story. I realized that while I still don't feel like my process involves a lot of pre-plotting, I do need to take time beforehand to figure out my characters, their goals, and their motivations.

2. Save, save, save!! I lost somewhere between 20-30 pages because my computer crashed and I hadn't saved my work. I'd been relying on autosave, and I could not recover what had been lost.

3. Friends make the work go quicker (and more fun!). I got together for writing days with friends on a couple of occasions, and my word count on those days was higher than any other day. Part of it was the inspiration of having other creative folks with tapping keys around me, and part of it was the accountability. I knew that I couldn't slack off and mess around when we were together.

4. I LOVE my alphasmart!! I've also learned how easily distracted I am. When I'm working on my alphasmart, I can't obsessively check my email, play on Facebook, surf the web for "research," see what everyone is doing on Twitter, and check on work stuff that I just checked on ten minutes ago.

5. I work better on a schedule. My most successful writing days happened when I had a schedule for myself. When I set certain hours for working, certain hours for writing, certain hours for family, etc. and forced myself to stop when time was up and move on to the next task, I got a lot more done on all tasks. Though I am good at multitasking, my best work comes from focus.

Given these lessons, I feel like I've got a lot of things I can use moving forward. And even though my book is crappy and not even close to being done yet, I do feel like I've got a good framework. My goal is to have it finished by the end of the year.

For those who did NaNo this year... what did you learn from it?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

All I want for Christmas...

Tonight hubby and I had "the talk." You know, the "what do you want for Christmas so I don't mess up and get you the wrong thing" talk. And to be honest, I've had a hard time coming up with anything.

World peace? hahahaha
My children to obey me? not before Castro admits communism was a big mistake
A bigger kitchen? hmmm... don't have an extra $50K or so hidden anywhere, do we?
My own bathtub? see above
A book contract? now if that could magically appear under my tree...

The truth is, I have everything I need. And in terms of what I want, well, I don't think I want very much. A Wii fit would be nice, and we're getting it. I'd like a new mixing bowl set, but as I explained to my hubby, I want one that's just like the set I have that broke. But that's about it. I'm pretty content with my life as it is right now. I have all the stuff I want, and a lot that I don't want. Or even need. So what more can I get?

I don't want gifts that people give me just to give me a gift. I have enough. I'm starting to get frustrated with trying to tell people what I want when I don't really want anything. They think I'm being difficult. Yet I'm just trying to be honest. I'm happy with what I have. And the things I don't have that I think I might like are either too expensive or I simply don't want them badly enough to justify getting. I don't even know if that makes sense.

So what I want for Christmas this year, what I really want, is a little peace. A little freedom. To not be tied down by possessions and wants, but to just enjoy the season. What I truly want is for my family to spend a day, in a junk-free house, playing our Wii together. Laughing, drinking some tea, and maybe, if I'm finally done with this crazy diet, eating a big fat chili dog from Sonic.

What do you want for Christmas?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pearl Girls by Margaret McSweeney

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Pearl Girls

Moody Publishers (July 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the Litfuse Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Margaret lives with her husband and two daughters in a Chicago suburb. Her book, A Mother’s Heart Knows was published by Thomas Nelson in 2005. Go Back and Be Happy, a co-authored book will be published by Lion Hudson in July 2008. Margaret has been featured on Greg Wheatly’s “Prime Time America,” TLN’s “Aspiring Women,” and LeSea’s “The Harvest Show.” Margaret writes freelance articles for The Daily Herald, the largest suburban Chicago newspaper. Notable interviews include Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Kinkade, Susan Branch and Dr. John Gottman. Margaret also wrote a feature article for crosswalk.com. With a master’s degree in international business, Margaret became a vice president in the corporate finance division of a New York City bank and worked there from 1986-1993. Supporting charitable causes is important to Margaret. For the past five years, she has served on the board of directors for WINGS, an organization that helps abused women and their children get a new start in life. Margaret would love to meet you too.

Visit the author's website.

Pearl Girls from Michael J Garvey on Vimeo.

Read my review here.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802458629
ISBN-13: 978-0802458629



By Susan May Warren

Ephesians 4:32: (ESV): Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Angels of Forgiveness

I felt as if I had been slapped. I gaped in horror as I stared at the empty storage room and tried to comprehend my mother-in-law’s words, “ . . . and we even made $200!” She had sold all my worldly possessions without my permission. She was trying to be kind, but in doing so, she plowed a cavernous furrow through the garden of our friendship. I knew it would never bloom again.

Our family had just returned home after serving as missionaries for four years in Russia. We still hadn’t found a place to live, and my mother-in-law wanted to help by clearing out room for us in her unfinished basement—in the space our hundred boxes of lifetime treasures once occupied. She’d sold everything from hand-knit sweaters to homemade

quilts. Only a forlorn crate of John Denver records and a bag of used mittens remained.

The money she handed me from the proceeds of the sale felt like blood money. I had waited for four years to unwrap my wedding china, greet my books and knick-knacks, and slip back into my fine dresses. I couldn’t believe I had put so much value on possessions, but I had, and now I was stripped.

Then I discovered she’d sold my Christmas ornaments. Every year since childhood my mother had given me a special gift at Christmas, a new and unique tree decoration that symbolized my life for that year, as well as her love for me. The box of heirloom ornaments I had so carefully packed had been sold for a dollar; my memories traded for the price of two cheeseburgers.

A ball of anger swelled in my heart. As I curled in my bed, sobbing out my grief, the ball gained momentum and became an avalanche, burying any tendril of love I had left for the mother of my husband.

Christmas loomed close and everywhere I saw beautiful, glittering Christmas trees. My tree was naked, its arms bare against the white lights. Where was the golden star with my name etched on it, or my tiny porcelain piano? How could she have done this? I felt entombed by my anger.

Sometime in January I realized I had missed the joy that came with the advent season. It couldn’t penetrate my icy heart. I could barely look at my mother-in-law, despite the fact she begged my forgiveness. “I didn’t know how much this would hurt you,” she said, weeping. “I was just trying to help.” I turned a stone heart to her plea. Frost laced the edges of our conversations and although I said the words, “I forgive you,” my soul

was an iceberg and I knew I had not.

In the past, my mother-in-law had been my greatest supporter, encouraging me, helping me pack, babysitting, and stuffing thousands of newsletters. She had cried with me, prayed for me, and tolerated me living in her home. I missed her and knew that if I wanted warmth to reenter my heart, I had to forgive her. But nothing could ease the ache of losing my memories. I avoided her and resolved to live with the pain.

When we moved away in February, I slammed the door on our relationship and didn’t talk to her again. Three days before the following Christmas, a parcel arrived at our

front door, my name etched on the front. Mystified, I opened it. Then, surrounded by my family’s astonished gasps, I unwrapped, one by one, a collection of angel ornaments.

From bears with wings and halos to gilded crystal angels holding trumpets, I hung a choir of heavenly hosts on my tree. Finally, I sank into the sofa as my children examined the

decorations, oohing and aahing.

“Who’s it from?” my husband asked. I retrieved the box, dug through the tissue, and unearthed a small card. Merry Christmas—Love, Mom was scrawled out in my mother-in-law’s script. Tears burned my eyes and, as I let them free, my icy tomb of anger began to melt. My mother-in-law was not able to retrieve the past she had so carelessly discarded, but she was hoping to build a future, our future. And it would start with these angels, proclaiming the love and forgiveness that entered our world. If God could forgive me, who stole His Son’s life, certainly I could forgive my mother-in-law for stealing my . . . stuff.

Easter arrived and with it forgiveness finally flowered in my heart. We descended upon the in-laws for a visit and I wrapped my husband’s mother in a teary embrace. I had lost the little stuffed bunnies my grandmother had knit for me, but I had gained something better—the fragrance of forgiveness, and the everlasting hope that love can warm the coldest heart.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

The Swiss Courier

Revell (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.

Visit the author's website.

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733363
ISBN-13: 978-0800733360



To the Reader

In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.

Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.

Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.

Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.

An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.

What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.

This is that story . . .


Waldshut, Germany

Saturday, July 29, 1944

4 p.m.

He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.

Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.

His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of

Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.

Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.

Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.

His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.

Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.

Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.

Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,

the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.

Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.

Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had

to keep reminding himself of that.

Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red

armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.

She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green

uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.

She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was

to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.

“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.

“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.

He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.

Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.

“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”

Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.

A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.

Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.

A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.

“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.

Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.

Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to

know well.

One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.

As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.

Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.

The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.

“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.

Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.

What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.

With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.

“Don’t shoot!” one cried.

The sound of a police siren split the air.

“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.

The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.

Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”

Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.

Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.

They needed to find cover—

More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.

The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.

Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.

“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”

She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”

“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.

“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.

“But what if—”

“I’ll join you. Now go!”

Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.


Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping

with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.

I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.

Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.

Suzanne . . .

He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.

“Go,” Suzanne whispered.

“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”

Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.

Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of

black hair from her face.

Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with

the prisoner.

He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.

Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.

With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.

Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.

The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.

Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother

Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.

Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.

He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.

Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,

Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What I know for sure...

I am exhausted. It's so funny, I'm going through treatment for adrenal exhaustion, and should be nearing the end, and yet, I'm more bone weary than I have been in a really long time.

For those of you unfamiliar with my 5yo (get out from under your rock!), that sweet little girl we lovingly refer to as "The Terrorist," well... I can't even describe it. We've been going through a tough year of testing, testing, testing boundaries since school started. The school called (again) the other day, so I called hubby to tell him, and he said, "Principal or Nurse?" Last week, she taught half the kindergarten some monkey bar trick that landed them all in the nurse's office. Yep, we have one of THOSE kids. Anyway, this week has been tougher than usual in terms of her behavior. And I'm really weary.

On top of that, it's been a season of clashes between hope and disappointment on a number of fronts. A lot of really good news, and a lot of not so good news. My days are these crazy roller coasters that don't seem to have an end in sight. I don't want to complain too much, because while I'm on this ride, I see so many people on similar rides. It's like chaos is trying to consume us all at once. My heart hurts, for me, and for them.

Why am I telling you all this? To let you know how neurotic I am? Um, no. You probably already know that if you read my blog. All this turbulence of late is causing me to question what I think I know. Do I know how to be a good mom? Do I know how to be a good writer? Do I know how to be a good wife? Do I know how to be a good friend? Do I know...??? For someone who likes to know, my answer is... Nope.

A while back, I woke up with a song in my head. I'm learning to listen to those songs, because they tend to be the stuff of sustenance God uses to bring me through whatever's coming next.

What I know for sure is this:
1. It's going to be all right.
2. God is still in control.
3. It's going to be all right.
4. God still loves us.
5. It's going to be all right.

I suspect, because it seems like everyone in my life is going through something hard or reeling from some hard news or just in a season where they can't see much of anything, that some people reading this blog are dealing with something too. What I know for sure is captured by this song from Lincoln Brewster that's been running through my head during all of this. It brings me a lot of peace, and I hope it will for you, too.

So You Want To Be A Work-At-Home Mom: A Christian's Guide To Starting a Home-Based Business by Jill Hart and Diana Ennen

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

So You Want To Be A Work-At-Home Mom: A Christian's Guide To Starting a Home-Based Business

Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (August 15, 2009)

***Special thanks to Jill Hart for sending me a review copy.***


Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com. Jill is a co-author of the upcoming book So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom (Beacon Hill, Sept. 2009). Jill welcomes work-at-home questions at http://AskJill.cwahm.com/.

Visit the author's website.

Diana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing. Diana has worked from home for over 25 years and is passionate about PR, Publicity and Marketing & helping others Start their Own Virtual Assistant Business. Follow Diana on twitter at www.twitter.com/dianaennen.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (August 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0834124661
ISBN-13: 978-0834124660


Making the Choice to Stay Home

Today’s moms are passionate women who want both careers and families without having to give up precious time with their children. They’re searching for ways to have it all, and they’re finding that it’s possible to work from home and at the same time balance a family.

It may sound like a dream, but it’s not. It does start with a dream, though.

A few fortunate women fall into a job or business that allows them to work at home, but it isn’t that easy for most women. To find a way to stay at home while still contributing to their family financially is something that many women long for but few know how to achieve. We hope to make it easier for you.

Being Content at Home

You might have expected us to immediately launch into a chapter about how wonderful life can be if you work at home. However, with the authors having worked from home many years, we realized that you first need to be content in your home life to make it work. The focus of your mind is where true happiness lies. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Before beginning your search for a career that will allow you to work from home, it’s important to remember that God has put you where you are for a reason. It may be for a season of your life, or it could possibly be long-term. Either way, trust that God will provide what’s best for you, and that may look a little different than what you think is best.

Being a mom and working outside the home can be incredibly challenging. Coordinating schedules, running kids to and fro, and being so tired by evening that you don’t have the energy to enjoy your kids take their toll. However, being a work-at-home mom every day, all day, presents its own unique challenges. It can become monotonous, even tedious. The kids, the house, the responsibilities—the list goes on and on. In either case, it can feel downright impossible to have an attitude of gratitude. The road can be hard, but in the end, your life will be less stressful and more satisfying if you can overcome discontentment. Following are some ideas for building contentment.

Be Grateful

One of the hardest attitudes to achieve is that of gratefulness. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives that happen each day. However, it’s important to be grateful for each and every blessing that God gives.

Make a list of things in your life that you’re grateful for. You can start your list with your family and the opportunity to work from home, and continue from there. Take the time to thank God for each of the things on your list. As you begin to develop a grateful attitude, you’ll begin to notice more and more things each day you can add to your list.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Give Back

Changing your attitude is the first step to finding contentment. Reaching out and helping others is a proven way to change your attitude. When you extend help and graciousness to others, it can’t help but benefit you as well.

Find someone who needs a friend, and make a conscious effort to reach out to him or her every week or every month. Or find a ministry that you admire, and get involved. You’ll be surprised what investing something of yourself in others will do for your attitude. If you’re running a business from home, you may be able to bless others with a product they can’t afford or a special discount that will brighten their day. Maybe you can mentor someone. Be careful, though, that you don’t get so involved in helping others that you neglect your own business.

Choose to Accept Your Situation

A key component of contentment is acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean you don’t strive to better your life. It simply means that you make peace with where you are in life at this time.

There will always be more to attain—more money, more prestige. If you spend your life focused on what you don’t have or what you haven’t attained in life, you’ll be sad indeed. Celebrate each and every success, no matter how big or how small.

Examine your life and see all that is good in it. Each good thing is a gift from God. Accept that He is with you at this point in time. He’ll be with you in every success and every setback. Nothing you do will make Him love you more, and there’s nothing you can do that will make Him love you less.

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Focus on Christ

This may sound like a cliché, but it’s easy to allow focus to move from the Lord to self. When moms work at home, the needs of family, business, and self can sometimes be all-consuming, leaving little time to meet spiritual needs. But focusing on your relationship with the Lord is what should come first. If your relationship with Christ is weak, all other relationships will be affected.

Here are practices that will help keep you focused on Him:

1. Read your Bible every day. Make the commitment to read at least one verse every day. The Book of Proverbs is a good place to start, or start with verses from the Gospel of John for a close look at the life of Christ. As you progress to reading more each day, consider purchasing a Bible that will guide you through reading the whole Bible in a year. There are also versions available that will lead you through the Bible in ninety days.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).

2. Cultivate an active prayer life. You can pray anytime and anywhere—when you’re driving, putting on your makeup, cooking, even as you drift off to sleep at night. Take advantage of these precious moments to spend them with your Heavenly Father.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

3. Meditate on the Word of God. When you find a verse or verses that have deep meaning for you, allow your mind to dwell on them, and let them soak into your spirit. A good starting point might be Romans 8:38-39—“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Make note of the verses you’ve chosen, and jot down thoughts or ideas that they bring to mind. Keep your mind focused on Him, and be in prayer that He will open your eyes to what He would have you learn from the verses.

4. Wait. Contentment will not be attained overnight. Feelings of discontentment will push their way in. When they do, look through your life to bring to mind the ways God has changed you, the things He’s done to bring you closer to an attitude of contentment. Contentment comes in His timing, so allow Him the time to work in your life.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him

(Psalm 37:7).

If the temptation to wallow in discontentment continues to present itself, find someone who will hold you accountable—someone you can trust to be kind but firm who will speak the truth to you lovingly.

When you’re feeling dissatisfied or frustrated, give your accountability partner a call, and be honest about your feelings. Every mom gets frustrated; you’re certainly not alone. When you find someone you can talk with honestly, it will be an excellent help in overcoming negative thoughts and feelings. Accountability partners know each other on a very real and honest level and still accept and love each other. This allows both of you the opportunity to be supported as well as supportive.

Contentment may seem elusive, but with prayerful deliberation it can be achieved and will bring you more joy and peace than you can imagine. Start working toward an attitude of contentment today.

When your mind and heart are in a good place, it’s time to begin thinking about the choices that are available to you. Can you work from home? Should you work at home? And how in the world do you begin your search for success?

Setting Priorities in Business and at Home

Working from home, particularly if you’re running your own business, is a time-consuming endeavor—especially for moms. You’re responsible not only for the success of the business but for your family as well. You must be self-reliant, self-motivated, and self-disciplined in order to attain success in both areas.

When you work at home, it’s easy to let phone calls, e-mail, and paperwork keep you tied down and cause you to feel you don’t have time to take a break or choose to spend top-quality time with your family. Maybe you’ve noticed that you spend more time in front of your computer or on the phone than you expected to when you made the decision to work at home. Maybe you see your kids acting up and trying to get your attention. Maybe the work-at-home dream you envisioned isn’t happening.

You started out with noble intentions, but now the excitement of success in your business has caused you to lose sight of the primary reason you chose this path. It happens to many of us who work at home, so don’t worry. Help is on the way.

She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard (Proverbs 31:16).

Here are five tips for setting priorities in your life and business:

First, be honest. You probably didn’t start your work-at-home career to climb the corporate ladder. Spend some time in prayer, and ask the Lord to show you the things you need to change.

Take a few minutes to answer the following questions about how you’ve been handling the time commitment of owning a business.

• Are you spending too much time on the phone with clients?

• Do you think about business to the point that you’re distracted when you’re doing family activities?

• Is television getting more top-quality time with your children than you are?

• Do you snap at your children because of the stresses of your business?

Second, make a list. Sit down and write out a list of things you see that you would like to change. This can be a list of tasks you can do differently, such as limiting the time you spend on your business or ways you can reduce stress so you can deal kindly with your family.

Third, log your time. Buy a notebook or create a spreadsheet to log the time you spend on business. Make a column for each day across the top and a row of half-hour increments down the side. Time yourself every time you sit down at your desk by writing “in” in the box that corresponds to the time and day. Every time you leave your desk or complete a task, write “out” in the appropriate box.

At the end of the week, total up the hours you’ve spent each day on business tasks. Take special note of how much time you spend on e-mail and things that aren’t billable. Are you surprised, or is it about where you thought it would be? This can be a real eye-opener and show you in black and white if your priorities have gotten off track.

Fourth, take a break. If you’re in shock after examining your time log, it’s time to take a break. If you normally work during the weekend, make it a point to take this weekend off. Shut down your e-mail, turn off the ringer on your business phone, and shut the door to your office.

Plan ahead and schedule your time. Prioritize your workload, and have the work that will require the most effort and concentration scheduled for your peak time. Try not to get sidetracked; stay on task and focus on what you need to do. For example, you’ll be amazed by how much more you can accomplish by changing the way you handle e-mail. If you answer it only at scheduled times, you’ll find you have more time to do the tasks at hand.

Reevaluate the ways you’re spending your time. Try to plan when you can work on your business without losing time with your children. If your children are in school, make it a point to stop working when they get home. If your children are still small, try to plan your time accordingly. Perhaps a babysitter for several hours or days a week is necessary. Another possibility would be to have a grandparent or neighbor watch them once or twice a week to allow you time to work without interruptions.

Fifth, plan an activity. Now that you’re ready to make a change in your routine, why not plan an activity once a week? This can be an outing with your children or something simple, like setting aside time to make cookies together. You’ll notice that when you plan for these times, they actually happen.

If possible, find another work-at-home mom, and hold one another accountable to keep to your new schedules. Make a weekly play date for your children to spend time together. You and your friend can talk business if necessary, or you may decide to make it a “no business talk allowed” time.

Remember that the years you can work at home and have time with your children are a gift; your business is a gift also. How that will work for you and your family will take a little time to determine and will be different for each family. Take the time to find what works for you, and set your schedule accordingly. Reevaluate your priorities every few months to make sure that you’re making the best use of your time. The rewards will be well worth it. Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him (Psalm 127:3).

So You Want to be a Work-at-Home Mom, by Jill Hart and Diana Ennen © 2009 by Jill Hart, Diana Ennen, and Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO. Used by permission of Publisher. All rights reserved. Visit www.beaconhillbooks.com to purchase this title.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My big fat Wii confession

When hubby and I got married, we made a very important decision regarding the children. We vowed that we would absolutely not buy a video game system. We hated the fact that kids spend so much time on video games.

Over the years, we've kept that promise. And then, this game system called Wii came out. We dismissed it at first. Not another game system. We don't need it. We have computer games. And we don't need one more thing to take up our time.

We've heard a lot of great things about the Wii. And I have to say, I started getting a little bit of Wii envy. Especially when the Wii fit came out. We started talking about getting a Wii over a year ago. But each time, we decided against it.

Then we started talking about this coming Christmas. I'm pretty disenchanted with the whole holiday. I'm sick of the commercialism. I'm sick of my kids getting a bunch of stuff that does nothing more than clutter up my house. I'm sick of the big productions. I'm sick of spending tons of money on toys that break the next day. Which is when we decided to get a Wii.

The thing I liked the best about my friends' stories about their Wii is all the games they can play together. We spend so many evenings on our own computers, doing our own things... why not find one we can do together? Rather than sitting on our hind ends all evening, why not get up and get active?

So... in a great reversal of our previous anti video game stance, our family will be getting a Wii for Christmas. The kids do not know. (And if you read this and tell them, I will break every bone in your body. :) ) They have already been told that they need to lower their expectations in terms of quantity of gifts. Hubby and I haven't hashed out all the details yet, but we're committed to a smaller Christmas. But hopefully, one that is bigger in terms of the quality of time we'll be spending together in the future.

Now that I have crossed over to the dark side... I would love recommendations of "must-haves" for the Wii. So if you have something your family enjoys together as a family, I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Reading Challenge

I've reached the ever thrilling point of being a bookworm parent: I have a child who likes to read and discuss books with me. Today, I learned the reason why this may not be a good thing: going to Barnes and Noble. She's reading a book she really likes, and so she thought she'd look to see if the author had written anything else. (SEE! All you writers out there, if someone likes one of your books, they'll look for the others.) We asked one of the salespeople, and found out they carried two. The goal was to exchange one book but really... what do you expect from two book lovers? Yep, we got them both.

As she and I were browsing, we talked about how it's good to read books by the authors we like, but how it's also good to try something new. Later on, she told me how, in her class at school, they were talking about how most Americans don't know American history. As we talked about various facts, I realized that I, history buff who took more than the required courses to finish my history major, don't remember most of what I'd learned. When we returned home, I couldn't stop thinking about how I've fallen into a rut.

Even though I encourage my children to read new things, I don't always take my own advice. 75% of what I read is Christian, and the remainder is almost exclusively romance. Oops. Not that what I read is bad, but I no longer branch out. There's no variety in my reading list. And frankly, if you asked me to summarize many of the classics I HAVE read, I couldn't do it. I told my daughter, in regard to her indignation that most people don't know American history, it really is "use it or lose it." I've lost it.

My new reading resolution is that once a month, I will read something different. A classic, a popular book that everyone else is reading outside my preferred genres, something totally obscure, or maybe even something that actually challenges me.

Your turn: are you stagnant in your reading? Want to branch out with me? Any recommendations for where I should start?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My big fat Barbara Mandrell confession

I'm going to blame my friend Jenny B. Jones for this one. Jen, who started the discussion on Twitter with her admiration of the great Barbara Mandrell. Yes, friends, I said great.

My childhood was spent enjoying many a pleasant evening watching her show with the Mandrell sisters. Seriously. I LOVED Barbara Mandrell. Back then, I had two aspirations in life: 1. To be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and 2. To be Barbara Mandrell. In case you were wondering, I accomplished neither.

I was such a Barbara Mandrell fan that I planned on having 3 daughters when I grew up: Barbara, Louise, and Irlene. My daughters should spend the rest of their lives kissing the ground I walk on for not carrying out that one.

So there it is... my confession. Your turn. Who did you idolize as a kid?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanksgiving for always

I shared this story on another loop and realized that it's something cool I should also share with my friends and readers. So if you saw this post, indulge me and read on...

My best Thanksgiving memory was when I was 8 or 9 years old. I didn't grow up in a Christian home, but I had lots of friends who always took me to church. Somehow I got it in my head that because it's a holiday, it must somehow be about God. Because after all, aren't all holidays about God? Well, I went round and round with my very not Christian family. Finally, I said I'd prove it to them. I got out my aunt's old dusty King James version Bible (and if you've ever read it, you know how hard it is for an 8 or 9 year old) and I searched and searched for a verse about Thanksgiving.

I found Psalm 100:

1Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

3Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we
ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

As you can clearly see, it says THANKSGIVING right there... and for me, proof that Thanksgiving was a Jesus holiday. From that year on, so long as I'm at the Thanksgiving table, my family gets to hear me pray and recite whatever verses I happen to think appropriate, because yes, friends, Thanksgiving is all about God. :)

To this day, that is my favorite Psalm. And I only seem to be able to enjoy it in the King James Version.

But there's another important lesson in this story. What you invest in a person can have way more impact than you ever dreamed possible. I was just a kid who went to church with anyone who invited me. For whatever reason, God put it on my heart that I needed to know Him. Let's be clear: I went to more than a couple of messed up churches. But you know what? I still sought God. And I still remember things I learned back then. Don't be afraid to plant seeds. I will never forget Psalm 100. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catching on to the insanity

I've known a certain person for a number of years. And in that time, I've known nothing but drama in her life. Don't get me wrong here. I LIKE this person. And most of the drama isn't necessarily something she's created. We're not talking Gossip Girl here. It's more of a, why does all this bad stuff keep happening to her, drama. The other day, she posted something on her Facebook about yet another drama in her life. I was instantly unsympathetic and not ready to walk down another hard road with her.

Later that day, another person posted the definition of insanity- doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I realized that is my friend's problem. In fact, we all have that same problem. More specifically, I have that problem.

I've been struggling with a couple of situations in my life for a while now. Hard stuff that I just can't even deal with most of the time. I always tell myself that it has to get better sometime. I pray. I do everything I know how to do. And yet, I'm still mired in these same situations I wish would just go away. They haven't.

Regarding these situations, I am insane. But I'd like to think that having caught on to my insanity, I can change how I look at the situations. What I need is a new perspective. A new way of dealing with them. A new set of prayers to pray over them.

What insanity do you need to wake up to?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Pearl Girls by Margaret McSweeney

About the book:

With His love and grace, God covered the unexpected pain in my life of becoming an adult orphan and transformed this pain into a pearl. We are all Pearl Girls. Each of us has been touched by God's gift of love and grace, and it's a gift that I want to share with others. That's why I am launching Pearl Girls.

Actually, my very first gift from my parents was a pearl. The gift of my name. Margaret means "precious pearl." So perhaps this is what I was always supposed to do. My heart's prayer is that Pearl Girls will be a blessing to others - to the women who contribute their literary talent to the Pearl Girls projects; to the readers who are inspired and comforted by the life experiences shared through these projects and to the women and children who will benefit from the proceeds given by Pearl Girls to various charities. This is a win-win for everyone, and each of us has a special part in making the Pearl Girls projects "blessed sellers."

After the first Pearl Girls tea in Atlanta, I went to my brother, Claude's home to help sort through our parents' boxes in his basement. It was an emotional experience and tedious process to discover what was in each box, to decide what to do with each item and to discard those belongings which we needed to let go. After several long hours of sorting, I received an incredible hug from heaven - a confirmation that Pearl Girls is something that is meant to be. I discovered a three strand necklace of painted pearls belonging to my grandmother from the early 1900s! Isn't that amazing?

Read an excerpt here.

It’s about Connecting Hearts and Souls to Impact the World.

Margaret doesn’t keep a penny of any proceeds. 100% of the royalties go directly to two charities:

WINGS (women in need growing stronger). The proceeds will help fund a Safe House in the Chicago suburbs. It costs $50 a night to provide safe shelter for a woman and her children. During this economy, WINGS is receiving even more phone calls for a safe place to stay. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided 60 nights with the advance royalties. www.wingsprogram.com

Hands of Hope. The proceeds will help build wells in Uganda for school children. Can you imagine a child at school without a water fountain in the hallway where he or she can grab a quick sip of water in between classes on a hot day? These children have to drink from puddles and other water sources which carry diseases and parasites. It costs $12,000 to build a well in Uganda. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided funds to build ¼ of a well. www.handsofhopeonline.orgFirst and foremost Margaret would like you to highlight above all else that 100% of the book’s royalties go to Charity.

My Review:
I just love this book and the stories that come out of it. I think they speak to so many of the things in our hearts and I love the sharing spirit of this book. Each story is a precious pearl, and I love how they all come together. I hope there will be more Pearl stories, and more of this encouragement being passed from woman to woman.

Link to buy the book online: http://www.amazon.com/Pearl-Girls-Encountering-Experiencing-Grace/dp/0802458629/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253048057&sr=8-1

Pearl Girls from Michael J Garvey on Vimeo.

Spread the Word about Post-a-Pearl!

Inspired by the many women who opened their lives and shared their stories in Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, we have created sister site, Post-a-Pearl. A place to continue the connection and encouragement the book began. I hope you will take the opportunity to connect through the Post-a-Pearl site. Please post your own Pearl story and reach out to share your own story with others. Collaborating is an important purpose of Pearl Girls. We connect to make a difference in the world.

You can find all the info and instructions on the website. http://postapearlgirl.margaretmcsweeney.com/

Spread the word by adding the button to your blog/website

Add the Pearl Girl button to your blog or website. Embed this code: Pearl Girls button

Blog tour schedule!

September 29
Jennifer at So Many Books

Elizabeth at Little Woman, Big Family

October 1
Wendy at Theology for Women

Alaina at Dinker and Giggles

October 2
Christa at Christa Allan

Mindy at Ponderings of the heart

October 3
Tammy at Grateful in GA

Kristy at Southeast Country Wife

October 6
Erin at Connected to Christ

Mary at Owl Haven

October 8
Amy at In Pursuit of Proverbs 31

Janice at The Nearsighted Bookworm

October 9
Camy at Camy's Loft

Lori at the Non-Apple Plie Club

October 10
Nicole at Gidget Goes Home

Sunny at That Book Addiction

October 13
Maura at Maura Prelich

Pat at Why Didn't You Warn Me

October 15
Nora at Psalm 5:16

Camy at Camy's Loft

October 16
Lori at the Non-Apple Plie Club

Nicole at Gidget Goes Home

October 17
Amy at Sprightly Amy Anne

Rachel at Grasping at Objectivity

October 20
Amy at Amy’s Random Thoughts

Angie at God Uses Broken Vessels

October 22
Michelle at the Rigsbys

Pamela at Aunt Pam's Closet

October 23
Suzanne at There's No Place Like Home

Amy at The 160 Acre Woods

October 24
Jarrod at Jarrod Haggard

Charlotte at Charlotte's Heart

October 27
Kyla at Knit Girl Musings

Debra at Debra Brand

October 29
Tasra at Real Womens Crap

Michelle at Chelled

October 30
Scoti at Springs Writers

Alex at Alihsee Reads

October 31
Jennifer at Jennifer's Snapshot

Dena at Mother Inferior

November 3
Jeanette At His Marvelous Work

Deborah at Comfort Joy

November 5
Tiffany at Amber Stockton

November 6
Danica at The Journey of Writer Danica Favorite

November 7
Kayla at Kayla Finley

November 10
Annette at Annie's Eyes

November 12
Leticia at My Daily Trek

November 13
Lisa at Musings

November 14
Angela at All that Naz

November 17
Cassie at Cassie Graves

November 19
Jill at Christian Work At Home Moms

November 20
Sarah at Reborn Butterfly

November 21
Stacie at the Hobbit Door

Maureen at Maureen Lang

November 23
Jennie at a Bookish Mom

Wendy at Wendi's Book Corner

Holly at 2 Kids and Tired book reviews

Kim at Window to My World

Renee at S.A.G.A.

Erin at Connected to Christ

Donna at Write by Faith

Tara at Tara's View on Books

Marietta at Mari's Morning Room

Mimi at Mimi's Pixie Corner

Deena at A Peek at My Bookshelf

December 1
Urailak at Homeschool Blogger

Marta at Marta's Meanderings

December 3
Deena at A Peek at My bookshelf

Stephanie at The Joy Centered Life

December 4
Kaylea at My Scrappy Life

December 5
Melissa at Breath of Life

Jennifer at Rundpinne

December 8
Heather at Life As We Know It

Beth at Journey Bound

December 9
Lori at Laurel's Reflections

December 10
Brooke at Brooke Turner Photography

December 11
Kelly at Scrambled Dregs

December 12
Mandy at Becoming

December 14
Tammy at Three Different Directions

Melanie at Melanie Writes

December 15
Christy at Christy's Book Blog

Laura at Lighthouse Academy

December 16
Christi at Blah Blah Blah

December 17
Kelly Kiggins at Kelly Kiggins

December 18
Shanna at The Beauty of Surrender

December 19
Christy at Critty Joy

December 28
Lynn at Heading Home

December 29
Susanne at Truly Captivating

December 30
Patty at Fresh Brewed Writer

Special thanks to LitFuse Publicity for providing me with a free review copy of this book.