April 24, 2013

The Heiress of Winterwood - Book Review and Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Amelia made a deathbed promise to her friend Katherine - a vow to care for her newborn child, Lucy. Nine months later, Amelia has no wish to ever be separated from the infant. Her betrothed, Edward Littleton, wants nothing to do with Lucy and insists that the child must leave the Winterwood estate after their marriage. Just months away from her 24th birthday, Amelia must choose between receiving her inheritance (which can only take place if she's married by 24) or remaining with Lucy. Unless, there is another way . . .

Captain Graham Sterling struggles with the ghosts of his past. With the death of his wife, Katherine, Graham must find a safe place for Lucy before he can return to his duties at sea. When the beautiful, Amelia Barret proposes marriage in order to continue caring for Lucy, he struggles to determine if he can accept such an arrangement. Does he even want to marry again?

When young Lucy is kidnapped, the two are desperate to solve the mystery. Thrown together by their mutual love of the child, they race against time to rescue her.
I've recently discovered regency romances, and I've fallen in love. The Heiress of Winterwood does not disappoint. I stayed up way too late last night just so that I could finish reading the book. I literally could not put it down. There's a little bit of mystery, a bit of romance, a bit of drama.

This is a Christian historical fiction novel, so in addition to the relationship between the characters, there is insight into their relationship with God. The novel contains several references to the Psalms. I didn't feel that it was overly preachy or cheesy.

It's a fun, easy read, and I love the glimpse into this time period.

If you're a fan of Austen or the regency period, I think you will enjoy this latest offering from Sarah Ladd. The characters are lovely, and the plot kept me turning the pages (even when I knew I should be going to bed). I look forward to reading more of Ladd's work in the future.

About the Author: Sarah E. Ladd has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Heiress of Winterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever. Find out more at www.sarahladd.com or http://litfusegroup.com/author/sladd 

PLUS!! You have a chance to win a really neat prize pack - enter to win a Downton Abbey, Kindle Fire prize pack! Just click on the button below! To be directed to the entry form. 

Enter Today - 4/15 - 4/30
The Heiress of Winterwood Downton Abbey Kindle Fire Giveaway

I received a copy of the book to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed are my honest thoughts of the novel. 

April 22, 2013

Win a Conscious Box from Educents

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PLUS, if you aren’t the grand prize winner, you can still get a 3-month subscription to Conscious Box for less than $12/month by heading over to Educents.com. For one week only, Educents will be offering the Conscious Box for 40% off!  In addition, ALL profits from the sale of this box will be donated to The One Fund, which will provide funds to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during Monday’s Boston Marathon. So enter to win, and then head on over to buy the Conscious Box for yourself or a friend to celebrate earth day and support our fellow Americans in Boston!

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This giveaway is sponsored by Educents.com. Conscious Box only ships within the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. They can also ship overseas to APO addresses, as well as US territories.

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Rescuing Hope: A story of sex trafficking in America

We'd like to believe it doesn't happen here, that girls don't get abducted from the streets and sold into prostitution. It's easier to turn away and pretend that those type of crimes take place in the dark corners of third world nations. Not in our country. Not in our cities.

Unfortunately, children, teens, and women of varying ages are trapped in the sex industry. Their bodies are sold without their consent, and they live in fear for their own lives if they dare defy the pimps that control where they live, what they eat, and who they see.

It's hard to imagine a fourteen-year-old girl trapped in prostitution in Atlanta. As a mom, my heart breaks to think of someone's daughter in that situation. Author Susan Norris, tells the story of Hope in her novel Rescuing Hope. Although the story itself is fictional, the book is based on research conducted with survivors of sex trafficking, their families, detectives, and even a former pimp.

Due to the nature of the topic, the book does have a high amount of sexual content and includes references to rape and abuse. As difficult a topic as it is to discuss, it's a conversation I definitely think we need to be having with our pre-teens and teens. The book is labeled as young adult fiction, but as a mom, this is the type of book I would want to read first and then discuss alongside with my teen if they were at an age to handle the content. I would give it at least a PG-13 rating.

It took me a little while to get into the book at first, but before long I was captivated by Hope's story and had to find out what was going to happen. I read the whole book in one morning.

It's an issue that needs to be addressed, and although I might not be able to charge into the inner cities and knock down the doors of underage brothels, I can do my part to raise awareness and support organizations that do the hard work of rescuing and restoring women and girls.

If you'd like to get involved in the fight for freedom and awareness, check out these organizations who are out on the front lines:

Wellspring Living: www.wellspringliving.org

Out of Darkness: www.outofdarkness.org

Resolution Hope: www.resolutionhope.org

Not For Sale: www.notforsalecampaign.org

Norris includes information on more organizations involved in ending the sex trade in the appendix of the book.

The book is available for sale at Amazon:

Photobucket I received a complimentary reader's copy of the book to facilitate my review. The opinions are my own.

April 21, 2013

Life List vs. Bucket List

Perhaps you've heard of a Bucket List - a list of things you want to do before you "kick the bucket." Recently, I read another blogger talking about a Life List. Although the two are pretty much the same in principle, I like the term Life List much better. The truth is, we never know when we'll kick the bucket, so why not be intentional about the time that you have right now.

Here are a few of the items on my Life List. Some of them are practical and let's face it, some of them are pure fantasy, but they would sure be fun.

1.Audition for Wheel of Fortune - I know the odds of getting on the show are about the same as the odds of winning the lottery. It must be the 80-year-old woman in me, but I love me some Wheel of Fortune. It's one of the few TV shows that I like to watch regularly.

2. Publish a Book - I think everyone who loves to write aspires to be a published author. This has been a goal of mine since I was a little girl scribbling out stories in a spiral notebook.

3. See the Aurora Borealis - I would love to visit Alaska and witness this wonder first hand. 

4.Complete a Marathon - I completed a half-marathon in November 2012, but I'm contemplating training for a full marathon in celebration of my 30th birthday in 2014. 

5.Have a six-pack - And I don't mean a six pack of sodas, I mean those snazzy things that people have at their mid-section. My six-pack is currently hiding under this super soft, fluffy pillow. It's great for people to take naps on, not so great for fitting into my pants. 

6. Pay off my Mortgage - Right now, that's scheduled to happen in 2041. My goal is to have a home paid off waaaaaaay before then (preferably before my boys head to college in 14 years). 

7. Visit Hawaii - This would preferably take place after I had acquired aforementioned six pack, not that anyone other than the hubster would see them. I've never worn a bikini in my life . . . I don't think that's going to make the life list though. 

8. Attend a Broadway Show in NYC - I envision a super awesome girls weekend. I don't think my husband would appreciate the splendor and glory that is a musical, now a Yankees game, he could totally go for that. 

9. Memorize a piece of music on the piano. I've been playing the piano for over 20 years, but for the life of me, I have yet to successfully memorize and entire piece of classical music. 

10. Go snorkeling - I've snorkled in nasty lake water, but that doesn't count. I would love to see some beautiful fish.

11. Enter something in the County Fair.

12. See New York City at Christmastime.

What I'm doing to accomplish my Life List
  1. I continue to watch Wheel of Fortune. I'm honing my skills, folks. I signed up to be notified when there's an audition in my area. 
  2. I'm actually working on a book proposal right now. My goal is to finish the proposal by 4/30 and begin looking for an agent. 
  3. I'm thinking a trip to Alaska would make an excellent 15th anniversary trip. 
  4. If I want to run a marathon during my 30th year, I would probably need to start training in the spring of 2014, with a goal to run the marathon in the fall of 2014. 
  5. I'm actually starting an online Biggest Loser Challenge this week. It will help me be accountable for diet and exercise choices. 
  6. We're completely debt free, apart from our mortgage and we live within our means and use a budget. I'm currently paying a little bit extra on our principal  each month. Ok, it's only $9 extra, but every little bit helps. 
  7. Perhaps Hawaii can be our 10th anniversary trip. 
  8. I need to talk to my girlfriends and see if I can scrounge up some interest.
  9. I would like to memorize Deux Arabesque by Debussy.
  10. Maybe I could check this off my list when I go to Hawaii
Of course, this isn't a final list. I'm sure I'll add to it along the way. I also have personal/spiritual goals that are a little more private. I'm just learning the importance of being intentional and setting goals. 

Some cool things I've already crossed off my list:

  1. Married my handsome and charming husband. 
  2. Gave birth to two incredible little boys. 
  3. Bought our first home.
  1. Traveled to South America (Brazil), Central America (Guatemala), and Europe (well actually, just the UK - Scotland and Ireland). I've also been to Mexico and Canada. 
  2. I've gone for a swim in both oceans. 
  3. Been to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day.
  4. Visited Loch Ness
  5. Seen Braveheart's real sword.
  6. I've stayed in a 200 year old estate in the Highlands of Scotland. 
  7. Visited Disney World and Universal Studios.
  8. Seen the Hollywood Sign.
  9. Hiked around the Grand Canyon (and got lost . . . that's another story).
  10. Visited Roswell, NM.
  11. Toured Carlsbad Caverns
  12. I've toured the Hershey Chocolate factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
  13. I've gone for a swim in one of the Great Lakes.
  14. I've toured the White House.
  15. I've been to the Smithsonian (I even got to see Mr. Rogers sweater and Oscar the Grouch). 
  16. I've been inside the St. Louis Arch.
  17. I've visited Iguacu Falls in Brazil.
  18. I've been inside a rainforest. 
  19. I've been to Yosemite National Park.
  20. Attended a Coldplay Concert
  21. Been to the top of Pikes Peak. 
  22. Ridden an ATV across the Continental Divide. 
  23. White Water Rafting in Colorado.
  24. Danced a jig on top of the Wallace Monument in Scotland
  25. Peed on the side of a volcano (classy, I know). 
  1. I've been on TV (I was in the studio audience at a taping).
  2. I've been on the radio. 
  3. Ran a 5k.
  4. Ran a half-marathon
  5. Solved a Rubik's Cube
  6. Debt free (with the exception of our never-ending mortgage).
  7. Studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
  8. One of my quotes was printed in a magazine. 
  9. I've ridden every ride at Six Flags Over Texas (or at least I did in 2006 - not sure if they've added more since then.)
  10. I've climbed to the top of Guadalupe Peak in Big Bend National Park (the highest natural point in Texas).
  1. Haggis. 
  2. Chocolate covered squid jerky.
  3. Calf Fries
  4. Frog Legs
  5. Alligator
  6. Drank a pot of tea in a castle courtyard. 
  1. I've gotten to pet a dolphin
  2. I've fed a giraffe. 
  3. I've touched a Toucan
  4. I've ridden an elephant. 
It's been fun to take a trip down memory lane. You never realize the neat things you've had an opportunity to do until you start writing them down. 

What's an item on your Life List? or What has been the most exciting item you've crossed of your list so far?


April 16, 2013

Psalm 34:18

A friend shared this verse at MOPS this morning. As we continue praying for those impacted by the Boston bombing, we ask that God would be near to those who are brokenhearted and that He would save those who are crushed in spirit. 

April 15, 2013

Praying for Boston: A Christian mother's response.

I get tired of writing these kinds of posts.

I'm tired of the killings and the murders, the crimes and the carnage, our seemingly insatiable appetite for all of the gory details. I'm tired of lunatics with guns and fanatics with car bombs. I'm tired of watching parents bury their children and children waking up as orphans. I'm done. I've had it. I want to wake up in the morning, shake my head from side to side and let the memory of such heartbreak be cast off like tiny droplets of water. I want to shed the realization that there is evil in this world. A very real evil that wants nothing more than to "steal, kill, and destroy."

I'm a mother.

This is the world my children will inherit. At night, I sit beside their beds, smooth aside their baby fine hair and wonder, "What would I have done if it had happened to me?" What if one moment, all was well in the world and in the next, everything was irrevocably changed.

I think that's why our hearts hurt when we hear stories about Boston, Newton, New York City, and Aurora. We can't help but put ourselves in their shoes. We walk along city streets. We drop our children off at school. We go to our regular places of business and entertainment. We sit in church pews and movie theaters. Never knowing.

And then the questions come: "How could a good God allow this?" Why does He not intervene? Why do the innocent die? What can we do to stop this from happening again? There are no easy answers. More guns, fewer guns. A parade of political pundits each claiming to have a solution. I hate to tell you, but there is no solution for the problem of evil, at least not yet.

We don't like to talk about "evil." For some of us it conjures images of a shiny horned devil, some sort of caricature that perches on your shoulder telling you to eat that piece of cake when you're supposed to be on a diet.

Evil is not the opposite of good, it's the absence of it. Satan is not God's equal or opposite. He is not all powerful and he is not ultimately in control. He does however have a limited amount of time to do as much damage as possible. His time is running out and he knows it.

The temptation is to plant ourselves in front of a TV or a computer screen and consume images of the death and destruction. I think it's natural to get angry and want justice. I think it's normal to mourn and grieve. However, allowing these images to permeate and disturb our hearts and minds is not always healthy, nor is the quest for revenge fueled by hatred. I love this quote attributed to Fred Rogers:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.

I don't want to draw attention to the evil, I want to emphasize the good. I don't want my focus to be on the short-lived victory of evil men, but on the small beautiful battles. The firemen rushing up a burning tower. The nurse cradling a frightened child. The teacher putting herself between a gunman and an innocent student. These are the people I want to hear about on the nightly news. These are the glimpses of God in the midst of a desperately wicked world.

As a Christian, I believe that one day evil will be dealt with once and for all. Death will be replaced by life. Those who morn will be comforted. What has been destroyed will be renewed. What has been stolen will be restored. I don't just "hope" that one day evil will be destroyed. I know that it will.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
Revelation 21:1-8 

Spoilers . . . Good wins.

April 14, 2013

Food for thought: Change

I'm reading through a book on integrative wellness (a new interest of mine) and I came across this quote: "Change happens when the discomfort of the familiar outweighs the fear of the unknown." Although this book deals primarily with health related changes and issues, I thought that this quote is very true for a large variety of situations. 

Change doesn't come easily for most of us, the fear of the unknown, and potential failure, can be unnerving. Until we get uncomfortable with our current situation, we're probably not going to change. 

What is one personal thing that you would like to change? 
Are you at that place where your discomfort with the status quo motivates you to face your fears of the unknown? 


April 11, 2013

"Bread and Wine" by Shauna Niequist

When Zondervan sent me Shauna Niequist's latest book to review, I was excited. I purchased her previous two books Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet after hearing her speak at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Convention in 2012. 

Bread and Wine: A love letter to life around the table, her latest release, communicates the value of community and the way that food so often brings us together. De-emphasizing the importance of crafting the perfect meal, Niequist challenges the reader to make her table a place of love and relationships.

I really appreciate Niequist's honesty. She has a way of communicating the thoughts and feelings that I think a lot of us share as Christian women, wives, and mothers. She shares the good, the bad, and the ugly - the triumphs and the failures - including the fear of swimsuits and the love of a warm slice of homemade bread. 

This collection of short essays and recipes blends in perfectly with Niequist's previous works. Some essays almost read like poetry. She has a beautiful way with words. 

Bread and Wine would be a wonderful choice for a book club (or a dinner club/cooking club). The book is divided into four sections. Each section includes four recipes which can be used to create an entire meal (main course, sides, and dessert). I haven't had a chance to try out the recipes personally, but many of them look very good. I also REALLY appreciate that most of the recipes are gluten-free (or could easily be adapted). Niequist shares that her husband has a gluten intolerance, so she has learned how to prepare many gluten-free dishes. It was so nice to find that several of the recipes were adaptable to fit my own dietary restrictions. 

My own copy of the book is marked with highlighter and notes. Many things struck a chord with me. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to others! Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

"She teaches me, through her words and her actions, that if you take the next right step, if you live a life of radical and honest prayer, if you allow yourself to be led by God's Spirit,  no matter how far from home and familiarity it takes you, you won't have to worry about what you want to be when you grow up. You'll be busy living a life of passion and daring."

"But if the last few years have taught me anything at all, it's the very things you think you need most desperately are the things that can transform you the most profoundly when you do finally decide to release them."


I received an Advanced Reading Copy to faciliate the review. 

April 10, 2013

You might be the mother of a preschooler if . . .

I'm fortunate enough to be a part of an incredible group of moms called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). They have been such an encouragement to me on my mothering journey. One of my favorite things about MOPS is the opportunity to sit around a table and share about our week.

Despite how different our families are, I find that we have a lot of things in common. Here are a few things that I've discovered, Jeff Foxworthy style:

You might be the mother of a preschool if . . . 

  1. You've caught yourself saying things like: "Take your foot out of the Doritos bag!" or "Don't stick that zebra up your nose."
  2. You've had to choose between eating, bathing, or sleeping because you only have time to do one of the above. 
  3. You're more skilled at negotiation than an FBI hostage negotiator. 
  4. Your purse contains enough snacks and toys to appease a tiny army. 
  5. Repeatedly singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" counts as exercise.
  6. You have been pooped, peed, and puked on (and no, you're not a nurse). 
  7. You share labor stories like you're the veteran of a war. 
  8. Going on vacation is exhausting.
  9. You'll put up with Barney, Yo Gabba Gabba, or the Barkyardigans if it means you can fold the laundry without "help."
  10. Your skills at wrangling a toddler into a diaper rival that of the best rodeo riders.
Thanks for all your hard work, mama! Don't give up! We're all in this together. 

I'd love to hear your own variation! Leave a comment:  "You might be the mother of a preschooler if . . . "


April 8, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why I'm Late (Preschooler Edition)

I'd like to say that I've always been the picture of punctuality. The truth is, I've been running late since birth. I've raced to beat tardy bells. I've sprinted across campus to make it to an 8 AM class (one time I even showed up with my shirt on inside out . . . but that's another story). Most times I made it with only a few seconds to spare, but I usually made it.

Then, I had children, and I was never on time again . . . or at least that's how it seems most days. I swear, some days it feels like they hold secret meetings to conspire ways to make us late.

Ben: "Ok, here's the plan. Mom just hopped in the shower to get ready for church. I'm going to pull all of my clothes out of my drawers. I'm going to need you to spill something on the floor."
Andrew: "Sounds good. While she's putting on her make-up, I'm going to poop my pants and stick my toys in the toilet."
Ben: "Excellent. She'll never be on time!" (insert maniacal toddler laughter). 

OK.  So MAYBE that's a bit dramatic, but it never fails that the moment we need to be out the door, something happens. A diaper needs to be changed. We can only find one shoe. Someone has taken my wallet out of my purse (true story - I haven't been able to find it for the last 3 days). Something comes up.

I figured, when life gives you lemons; you make lemonade. When your kids make you late; you make an entertaining blog post. Chances are, I'm not the only mom showing up late with only half of the make-up on her face. So here, for your entertainment pleasure, the top ten reasons why I'm late - preschooler edition:

10. The sink is full of books.

9. The boys have helped themselves to the secret stash of chocolate I had hidden in my bedroom.

8. The cereal, which was stowed in the pantry, is now all over the living room floor because I forgot to lock the pantry door.

7. Someone has climbed in the toilet, splashed in the toilet, or put things inside the toilet.

6. Someone colored on themselves with marker "on accident."

5. Someone decided they wanted some peanut butter (and mom forgot to put it away). 

4. While in the bathroom "washing their hands" they decide they also should wash their hair by dumping half a bottle of shampoo on their heads and bodies. 

3. Someone colored on the carpet with markers. 

2. Someone decided that firemen need beards and mustaches . . .and apparently multiple uni-brows. (Don't worry, marker privileges have officially been suspended).  

And the #1 reason I'm late. . . . 

1. Because as the mother of a preschooler, life is always full of unexpected surprises. I wouldn't have it any other way. . . well, I might be able to do without the markers :-)


April 7, 2013

Praying for the Warren Family

We don't like to talk about mental illness. It's one of those conditions that we'd prefer to sweep under the rug and pretend doesn't exist. It's easier to talk about things like cancer or diabetes - things we can see on an x-ray or verify with a blood test. Mental illness is different. It's often unseen, and like most unseen things, it can be difficult to understand. 

Mental illness is just as real as cancer, only it's a disease of the unseen mind. It has the power to rob an individual of the power to properly reason and view the word. It can hold an individual captive with fear, anger, or despair.

I can understand the fear of mental illness. Cancer doesn't storm into a room with an automatic weapon. Not all mentally ill take a weapon to someone else, sometimes they suffer silently and commit violence against themselves. 

That's why my heart breaks for Pastor Rick Warren and his family on the loss of their son. 

“At 27 years of age, Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many. Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.” - Statement from Saddleback Church
In a letter released to members of his congregation, Warren shared that, "“In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life."

This side of heaven, we struggle to understand; we seek answers and someone/something to blame. I'm praying for grace and peace for Rick and Kay and their family, that God will guard their hearts and mind and quiet the voices of guilt and pain. Matthew suffered from an illness that was just as real as other illnesses that plague the body. This week, that disease claimed his life. 

As a nation, we need to be made aware of the ravages of mental illness, and provide resources to individuals who suffer from not only disease, but the stigma that surrounds their illness. 

If you suffer silently, I urge you to seek help. Find a licensed counselor or a doctor to provide the help and care you need. Many individuals have been able to successfully face and overcome obstacles with professional help. Help is out there. 

Has your family been touched by suicide or mental illness? 


April 6, 2013

Even if no one cares . . .

I write because I love to write. It's one of those deep down, "I have to do it or I might explode," type of urges. There have been nights when I've already crawled beneath the covers and quite literally have to get up and start writing because I can't go to sleep until I vomit my ideas out on paper (or in most cases, onto the computer screen). Sometimes, the things I write are deep and insightful. Other times, they're just a jumbled rush of half-thought out ideas with a title slapped on top.

I've always had a desire for significance. I think we all do. We want people to look at us and say "You know _______ he/she is great at ___________." We want to be known. We want to be valued. We want to be appreciated.

And that is where blogging has been both a blessing and a burden. I pour my heart into a post and then I wait.

"Will they like it?"

"Will it make a difference?"

"Does anyone even care?"

In this social media driven world, we bloggers know that to build an audience we have to connect with our readers.  Honestly, it's something I really enjoy doing. So I share a blog post on Twitter or on Facebook and I wait some more.

Ok, let's be honest, I stalk the posts - waiting for some affirmation. I check back to see if it has been "liked" or "shared" or if anyone has left a comment.

I treat those little "likes" like a tip jar. Emotional currency.

I have to stop.

I can't wrap up my worth in whether or not people show up at my blog. I can't get depressed when only fifteen people read a blog post that took an hour to write (darn you google analytics for telling me the truth). I can't get depressed when I know that half of the people who read the post HAVE to because they're related to me.

I guess the problem is that in my own mind I think I'm doing something special - that the world should take notice of what I have to say. The truth is, I'm one of many. So many of us have something to say and only a few people to say it to. . . .and that's OK.

If there's one thing I've been learning over the last few years it's to be faithful where you are, with what you've been given. God has an amazing way of rewarding faithfulness - even if it's nothing more than "entering into the joy of your Master."

When I'm faithful with the little things, writing to an audience of One, He's able to take my little and make it much. He's able to open doors and opportunities that I only imagined - and as cliche as that sounds, it really has happened. My worth isn't found in what I do, my success or my failure, but in what He's done. He looks for willing hearts, to use the "weak things of this world to shame the strong." I'm glad that He works that way.

So, even if no one cares, I'm still going to keep writing, because I know in my heart that it's what I was created to do. It's the "talent" God has entrusted to me, and one day I'll stand before him and return to Him the investment. My prayer is that I will hear these words:

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness! (Matthew 25:23)

Even if no one else cares . . . He does.


April 5, 2013

A Gift of Dandelions

If there's one thing I've learned since becoming a mother, it's that it totally changes the way I see the world. Where I used to see a beautiful balcony, I now see an iron obstacle that my three-year-old might try to climb. Instead of a picturesque pond, I see a drowning hazard. That gumball over there, yep, someone might choke on it.

It might sounds a little extreme, but as a mom, I'm on the look out for how something could possibly harm my child. A few years ago, when my husband and I were deciding on names for our children, he gave me a hard time for thinking up all the possible ways elementary school kids could turn the name into a taunt: "Icky Vickie," "Hairy Larry" . . . you get the idea. I wanted to save my child from any possible bullying or embarrassment (although to be fair, there is no bully-proof name). I saw a name as a potential weapon used against that precious baby still snuggled up safe and warm inside me.

Yesterday, as I was getting my kids out of the minivan, my youngest walked from our vehicle straight over to a bright yellow dandelion in our front lawn. "Flower!" His plump little baby fingers reached down to pick it up. He lifted it to his nose and smiled.

In that moment, God spoke to me. Is it a flower or is it a weed?

I certainly didn't plan for dandelions to pop up in my front yard. I've taken efforts to keep them out and leave my lawn looking tidy and green. Yet here they were, bright and loud, breaking up my manicured grass.

Life is like that, you know? You go along, minding your own business when all of a sudden, something pops up. Something you didn't plan on. Something that disrupts your normal schedule or routine. Maybe it's an illness, a job loss, a rough patch in your marriage, a frustrating relationship with your child or family member. In that moment, you are tempted to pull out the Round-Up and spray away all your troubles. How dare that thing show up. It's nothing but a problem that needs to be solved and quickly eliminated.

Is a dandelion a flower or a weed? The answer is yes. The remarkable thing is that although this weed tends to weasel it's way into my lawn unwanted, it brings with it color. My son was able to see it with innocent eyes, a bright yellow flower - a gift for his mother.

I wonder if God ever hands us dandelions?  All we see is the weed - the trouble and heartache, and fail to see that there can be beauty in it. No one wants trouble in their life, but it colors us, it makes us stand out, it allows us to have a gift to give to others.

Here's to noticing the dandelions.


April 4, 2013

How I almost won $2.5 million dollars from the Publisher's Clearing House . . .

Confession: I like entering giveaways. Each year, I enter the HGTV Dream Home giveaway hoping that I'll win. I also enter the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes from time to time. I know it's more likely that I'll get struck by lightening while dancing a tango in the rain, but still . . . it doesn't cost anything to enter, and someone's got to win, right?

Well today, Publisher's Clearing House called. Or at least a Jamaican guy pretending to be from the Publisher's Clearing House. The first guy called about 9 AM.

Me: "Hello?"
PCH: "Yes, Hello. Congratulations, sweetie. You have won a prize from the Publisher's Clearing House."
Me: "Oh, really? (insert highly skeptical "yeah, right" tone of voice).
PCH: "Yes, sweetie. It is your lucky day. God is blessing you today.

The conversation went on for a couple minutes.

PCH: Would you like to receive the prize privately, just between you and God, or publicly with the van and cameras from the television station.
Me: Oh, I definitely want the TV cameras there. I'd like to see you pull that off.
PCH: OK, Sweetie. We will deliver the prize to your residence today. Don't worry, I never gave him my address. 

I could tell from the get-go that it was a scam. First of all, I highly doubt the professionals at Publisher's Clearing House would be calling people "sweetie." I also know for a fact that they would not ask me to send them a prepaid gift card for $397.05 which OF COURSE would be returned to me from my winnings.

Big. Fat. Scam. Plain and simple. I told the guy, "Thanks, but there's no way I'm sending you money." He tried to assure me he didn't want my money: that he's worked for the company for 15 years, he has a college degree (not sure how that's relevant to the conversation), and how the company reimburses you once you receive your prize.

I obviously didn't fall for it. I hung up the phone and went on about my business. Of course I did post on Facebook telling my friends to be on the look out for the Publisher's Clearing House van that was SURE to be on it's way to my house *wink, wink.

I went on about my business.  Loaded up my boys and went up to the church for Ladies Bible Study. Maybe I should have left a note for the Publisher's Clearing House guys . . .

I came home from Bible study and started fixing my boys some food for lunch. The phone rang and I saw the same phone number. Same guy. I grabbed my cell phone and decided to have some fun and play along:

Even after telling the guy that I was an extra-terrestrial, living in a space ship that I bought for $4 million dollars, he still continued his pitch.

The sad thing is that there are hundreds of people who fall for it and send their hard earned money to criminals. Those who try calling the number back often face international phone call charges. Be wary of phone calls with an "876" area code. If you have elderly loved ones, you might want to remind them never to share personal information over the phone (unless it's that they're an alien living in a four million dollar space ship).

In case you were wondering, the Publisher's Clearing House does not call you and tell you that you've won a prize, and they certainly will not ask you to send them money - no reputable sweepstakes organization will every make you pay to claim your prize. Any taxes due are payable directly to the United States government.  I found this handy fraud protection page on the Publisher's Clearing house website.

It stinks that there are criminals out there that are so anxious to steal money from people, especially from the elderly who often struggle to survive on pensions and social security.

I'm not sure if my "friend" will be calling me back. Even if he does, I'm not picking up any more. I'm too busy planning how to spend my $2.5 million dollars . . . .


April 2, 2013

Where did Love find you?

I've had a lot of fun being a part of author Tricia Goyer's fiction launch team.
 I put together this video featuring several of the bloggers in the group as part of a promo for her book Love Finds you in Glacier Bay

I love working on little video projects. I'm pleased with how this one turned out :-)


We all have our own story. I'd love for you to share your story in the comments below.

Where did Love find you?


April 1, 2013

I Pity the Fool

If you ask the world around you how they would define a "fool," you'd probably hear definitions including everything from "crazy" to "unwise." Mr. T's classic catchphrase "I pity the fool" usually pops into my mind.

Did you know that the Bible defines a fool as someone who says in their heart that there is no God? I get frustrated sometimes when society at large classifies Christians as ignorant and simple-minded. I consider myself to be an intelligent person. I'm not a nuclear physicist or a molecular biologist, but I did graduate as valedictorian of my high school and graduated summa cum laude with a double major from my University.

I don't say all that to toot my own horn. I mention it because I could have all of the accolades the world provides and if I refuse to acknowledge the existence of God, I am a fool. 

What's the difference between the wise and the foolish? According to scripture "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The term "fear" doesn't mean that God wants us cowering in the corner afraid that he might smite us with a bolt of lightening. It's a healthy respect. A recognition that God is not man. He is holy and he is separate.

A healthy understanding and respect of God is essential to what the Bible describes as wisdom. Take a glance through the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is personified as a woman who brings good things to those who heed her voice. Wisdom enables us to make the right choice, to choose the right path, and to keep ourselves from harm.

If you were to poll the average man on the street and ask them who is foolish, the person who believes in God or the person who does not believe in God, chances are they'll categorize the Christian as foolish - charging them with believing in myths and fairy tales, unenlightened, uneducated.

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." 1 Corinthians 1:27

I don't have all the answers. I still struggle through my own personal questions and issues, but the thing I'm reminded of on a regular basis is that the wisdom of God is often contrary to the wisdom of the world. The world says that to be a leader you must exert force and speak with authority; Scripture says that true leaders humble themselves and serve. The world says that you are successful if you are at the top of your field, or if you are in the spotlight; Scripture says that the last will be first and the first will be last. The world says that you should seek to control your future as much as possible; Scripture says do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worries of its own.

The world's wisdom and God's wisdom are often in conflict. I love that God has given us the ability to choose - we're not some group of cosmic robots who have to love God because we were programmed to do so. Wisdom calls out, but we get to choose if we want to listen or ignore her voice.

Does not wisdom call out?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?

At the highest point along the way,
    where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

beside the gate leading into the city,
    at the entrance, she cries aloud: 

 “To you, O people, I call out;
    I raise my voice to all mankind.

You who are simple, gain prudence;
    you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.  

Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.  

My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.  

All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse. 
To the discerning all of them are right;
    they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

 Choose my instruction instead of silver,
    knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Proverbs 8:1-11