Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sarah E. Ladd’s The Headmistress of Rosemere reminds us everything is in God’s hands

Through good and bad, cling to God’s strength

Sarah E. Ladd’s The Headmistress of Rosemere
reminds us everything is in God’s hands

Life is unexpected. Each day holds new surprises — some exciting, others unwanted. What matters most is how we respond to those trying situations. Sarah E. Ladd reminds us the importance of clinging to God to get us through the mountains and valleys of life in The Headmistress of Rosemere (Thomas Nelson/December 31, 2013/ISBN: 978-1-4016-8836-3/$15.99).

Ladd hopes The Headmistress of Rosemere, book two of The Whispers on the Moors series, will encourage readers to look for help in the right place. “I think a lot of people look within themselves to try to find answers to their problems,” explains Ladd. “But if we look to ourselves for solutions, we will be disappointed. Instead, we should take our problems, cares, and worries to God and lay them at His feet. Pray about them. Ask God to make His plans known. When we do this, amazing things can happen.”

Readers have fallen in love with Ladd’s depiction of early19th-century England’s Regency period and have raved about book one in the series, The Heiress of Winterwood.  They are sure to be equally smitten with Patience Creighton who has come to terms with what’s expected of her. At 25, she knows her chance of having a family has passed, so she happily dedicates herself to teaching at Rosemere School for Young Ladies. Her orderly and pleasant world is turned upside down with the sudden death of her father and her brother uprooting to London. The burden falls on Patience to keep the school running. And the return of the enigmatic master could be the end of the school and all she holds dear.

Every move William Sterling makes is met with failure. Mistake after mistake leaves William teetering on the edge ruin. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns more property than he can manage, including Rosemere School. When debtors start calling, he is desperate to find a new source of income, even if it means sacrificing Rosemere.

When a raging fire threatens the school grounds, William must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to protect his birthright. Patience begins to question her own calling when her brother returns to take over management of Rosemere. After a revelation about William’s past, both William and Patience will have to seek God’s plans for their lives — and their hearts.

Ladd approached The Whispers on the Moor series with one question in mind: “What wouldn’t a young woman in the Regency period not do?” Ladd hopes to surprise and delight readers with a new view of Regency heroines. The recipient of 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance, Ladd is currently working on the third book in the series, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall (October 2014).

Readers can join Sarah Ladd for a live Facebook author chat on February 4, 2014 at 8:00 PM EST. Watch for more details to come on her Facebook page (Sarah Ladd Author). To keep up with Sarah Ladd, visit www.sarahladd.com or follow her on Twitter (@SarahLaddAuthor).

Advance Praise

“Sarah Ladd has written a story sure to warm your heart even on the coldest day.”
~ Laurie Alice Eakes, Author of A Reluctant Courtship

“Readers will cheer for the determined heroine and the flawed hero in this engaging story of redemption, set in the lush English countryside. Sarah E Ladd is quickly establishing herself as a rising star in Regency romance.”
~ Dorothy Love, author of Carolina Gold

About the Author

Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously.  Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in The Whispers on the Moors series. Book one of the series, The Heiress of Winterwood, was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance.

Ladd also has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing.

Ladd lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter and spunky Golden Retriever.

To keep up with Sarah Ladd, visit www.sarahladd.com, become a fan on Facebook (Sarah Ladd Author), or follow her on Twitter (@SarahLaddAuthor).

Monday, December 30, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new

...when it comes to my hair anyway!

I really liked how I got it cut last time, but my hair grows so very fast that I decided to go shorter this time. You should have seen the pile of hair. Probably 5 inches off the back. 

The first time I try to straighten or curl it, I'll berate myself for cutting it off because I'll hate it short and wish I'd kept more length. It's all a cycle, I'll grow it back out long. 

Here's to hoping next year is more exciting and my blog posts won't consist of boring posts about hair cuts. 

I do go to the dentist on Friday. I promise not to bore you with details. ;)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How did they know what I was going to teach about?

The kids really didn't know what I was going to teach about though they may have skipped if they did.

I may teach it again next week since Peyton was out of town. After stubbornly refusing to go to Waxahachie and Cedar Hill to exchange some of HER Christmas presents after all of us tried to convince her she needed to go (me, her dad, my mom), she lost out could have used a firm talking to.

Since we had a low turnout in class, our songs needed more work than usual. I thought they had one, then they didn't. They told me they had another one, then they didn't.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks

I successfully lobbied for Saving Mr. Banks rather than Madea for our annual Christmas Eve dinner (Applebee's was open until 2 AM) and movie.

Dad thought it was going to be a silly comedy, but it's actually a drama. A sad one at that! But, oh-so good! He really liked it, but said watching Tom Hanks made him think Forrest Gump. He looks nothing like Forrest Gump anymore. That's his mental hang-up.

The trailer below has more of the lighter-hearted moments. The movie is actually two-fold. One aspect of the story is about Walt Disney trying to convince the author of Mary Poppins, Mrs. Travers, to sign over the rights to make her books into a movie. She's very stubborn and is afraid of the spectacle he might turn her story into (NO ANIMATION!).

The other half of the movie is a series of memories as to why Mary Poppins (never just Mary) is so close to Mrs. Travers heart--why Mary is family. Very serious. The movie is PG-13 mainly because of this part.

Afterwards, we thought about watching Mary Poppins on DVD, but instead, the three of us watched It's a Wonderful Life all the way through for the first time ever. Man, that's a depressing movie! At least I checked it off of my bucket list, and I don't have to make that an annual tradition.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas joy and Christmas exhaustion

Here are a few pictures from our Christmas day. It was a bit of a long day waiting for Brian, Paige and Peyton to be able to come, but we had a great time. Then, almost all fell out asleep on the couch.

Mom wanted individual pictures of everyone in front of the fireplace. Here's Dad!
We didn't get pictures of everyone in front of the fireplace.
Mom and Dad

Digging in!

Peyton opening a pair of shoes she had already gotten an identical pair of several days before.

Dad telling Mom to pay attention to what she was opening.

Paige opening her Monsters Inc. and Monsters University DVDs.

Making bracelets isn't all that easy.

Paige looking at the scrapbook.

Mom is reading it too.

Brian's out. (By this time Paige was almost out in the chair, Peyton was laying on Mom, and I was getting drowsy.)

I got my picture made. Mom has pics of me with Peyton's headband on, but I didn't have them on my camera.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The surprise present I got my family

With minutes to spare by deadline, and while working before and after my Christmas party in order to get the most discounts, I finished the photo book of my family's summer vacation to give my parents and my nieces.

Here's how it turned out!

*As of 5/20/17, Shutterfly made me remove the widget.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hope you're having a very merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Hopefully you are stuffed to the brim with good food, fun, family and friends. I also hope Santa brought you all that was on your list! 

Back to regular blogging tomorrow! I'll share pictures from my Christmas.

Hope you enjoy the end of the 12 Pearls of Christmas series.


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.


Do You Hear What I Hear?
by Cynthia Ruchti

To shepherds? Really, God? You crafted a birth announcement that was delivered first to shepherds? The story’s become so familiar to us, so easy for us to visualize because of all the Christmas pageants we’ve witnessed over the years—all the fourth-grade boys in plaid robes with a homemade shepherd staff, carrying a cloth lamb from the toy department that plays “Jesus Loves Me” if you pull the ring where an umbilical cord should be.

Theologians speculate the reason for shepherds as the audience for the holy pronouncement could be as intricate as a genetic retracing of the Baby’s heritage back through history to King David, who started his career as a shepherd.

Or it could have been simpler than that. Maybe shepherds were the only ones listening that night.

“Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night,” Luke 2:8, CEB. The biblical story tells us that the shepherds weren’t sleeping but were on guard, watching, when the news about Jesus came to them.

Distractions were few. Hills, sheep, other shepherds, a low fire, and a wide expanse of sky overhead—a dark sky that held the same stars night after night, until this one.

I wonder if any of the shepherds brought their families to the fields. I wonder if in the tent was a hardworking woman nearing the end of an exhausting day. She’d barely gotten the evening meal cleaned up when she had to start thinking about what her family and the other shepherds would need for breakfast. Soak the grains. Check the progress on the sheep’s milk cheese. And try to get those kids to settle down.

“Stop annoying your brother. Caleb! Last warning. Josh, get your fingers out of your sister’s ears. Turn down that video game. You can’t listen to the radio and watch TV at the same time. Turn one of them off. Better yet, both of them! Who’s singing? What’s that sound? Do you hear what I hear?”

What noise do I need to turn off in my life in order to hear the first notes of the angel’s song?

Another noisy Christmas party. Another trip to the department store for stocking stuffers. Another round of Christmas CDs. Another Christmas special on TV. Another Facebook post to share—the true meaning of Christmas. A text about the practice time for the Christmas program at church. Another phone call about travel plans. Brain waves clanking into each other, making a cacophony of noise.

Shutting down one layer at a time. Unplugging. Keeping even "Silent Night" low so I can silence my night and hear the downbeat of “Glory to God in the highest.”



Cynthia Ruchti is an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. Of seven books on the shelves currently, her latest releases are the novel When the Morning Glory Blooms (Abingdon Press Fiction), the nonfiction Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (Abingdon Press Christian Living), and several dozen of the devotions in Mornings With Jesus 2014 (Guideposts). Spring of 2014 will see the release of another novel—All My Belongings, also from Abingdon Press Fiction. You can connect with her at www.cynthiaruchti.com or on Facebook.


A Teenage Pregnancy
by Robin Jones Gunn

It was early, early morning, that delicate time of day just before sunrise when it seems as if all of creation is still asleep.

In the cold, gray light she gazed at the infant in her arms. He was less than an hour old and so, so small. Instinct prompted her to draw her newborn close that he might feel the rhythm of her heart. He curled his tiny hand around her finger and she smiled. His eyes closed, and with feathered breath he gave way to the blessed sleep that follows such a long journey.

In weary awe she studied his face, his ears, his nose. He was here. He had come at last.

A single tear fell from her eye and rolled across his cheek. She kissed the tear away but could not kiss away the memories that came with the tears; memories of the day she found out she was pregnant. How exhilarated she felt and yet how terrified. She was young, and there was much she didn’t understand.

Trying to justify her condition to her parents proved more difficult than she’d hoped. But the most excruciating memory was the moment she stood guileless before the man she hoped to one day marry. She had no words to make him understand the awful truth—the child she carried was not his.

Leaving seemed to be her only option. A gracious aunt took her in and welcomed her with open arms. From the moment she arrived she was showered with motherly words of hope and sisterly touches of love. Week by week, month by month, the child inside her grew.

Was it a miracle when she returned home, her belly round, her face flushed, and found him there?

What prompted this man to take her back and make her his bride? Did he now believe what she had tried to explain all along, that none of this was her own doing?

When the time was right they left their small town together, as husband and wife, with her due date rapidly approaching. The labor began—tightening her abdomen with a force she had never before imagined. Perspiration streamed from her forehead. The contractions multiplied with a frenzied urgency until the need to push overwhelmed her young body, and the baby was born.

Nothing of the past mattered anymore. He was here. Naked, perfect, quivering in her arms. With a thrill of hope, she believed that her life, her world, would never be the same.

Now as the first silver streaks of dawn pierced through the cracks in the stable, she tenderly wrapped her sleeping babe in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.



Robin Promo Photo Close Up 2013Robin Jones Gunn, bestselling author of the much-loved Christy Miller Series and the award-winning Sisterchicks® series, has had more than 4.5 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her frequent speaking engagements have taken her around the globe. Robin and her husband live in Hawaii and have a grown son and daughter. You can learn more at Robin's website.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve!

The older I get, the more Christmas tends to lose it's magic. I miss the family gatherings we had at Nanny's house before she passed away ten Christmases ago now. Moments like my aunts screaming for my cousin Wes to come get the mouse out of the kitchen that just sprang the trap. How everyone groaned at having to gather to sing "The 12 Days of Christmas"...

We all grow up, huh? I'm actually scheduling this post ahead of time as I'm off doing the new tradition I share with my parents - our annual trip to the movies. I hope as you read this that I AM NOT seeing a Madea movie. I don't know that I can pull off Saving Mr. Banks though. 


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.


My Gift to the King
by Sheryl Giesbrecht

It was a week before Christmas; a woman in the rush of her last-minute shopping bought a box of fifty identical greeting cards. Without bothering to read what the card said, she quickly signed and addressed all but one of them. A few days after they had been mailed she came across the one card that hadn’t been sent. She was horrified to read, “This card is just to say, a little gift is on the way!”

Gift-giving is just one of our many Christmas traditions. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Truly Jesus is the best gift we would ever want to receive.

One year a friend gave me a Christmas devotional book that turned my holiday traditions upside down. Anne Graham Lotz shared her custom of asking King Jesus what gift he would like for his birthday. God wants us to give freely out of our love for him as an act of worship. This process of intentionally and sacrificially giving a "love gift to my King" is something I have added to my personal Christmas traditions. I wonder, have you ever thought about giving Jesus a gift? Maybe this year you might ask Him what He would like you to give Him.

Each year, as the Christmas holidays approach, I ask the King what he would like for his birthday. I remember Anne Graham Lotz’s criteria: “Something I would not do except the King requested it. And it is something I could not do except the King enabled me,” (Christmas Memories by Terri Meeusen pg. 159).

One year the King began asking me for His gift in September when a local high school contacted me to develop a truant program. I didn’t feel qualified. Lotz’ words rang in my mind: “Something I would not do except the king requested it. And it is something I could not do except the king enabled me.” “God, not me," I argued. I remembered what God brought me out of; I was a rebellious and promiscuous teenager, chain-smoker, alcoholic, drug addict, and drug dealer who cut class all but five days my junior year of high school. At age seventeen, I went to work at a Christian camp and there I was shown the love of God through the experience of working transformed believers. I was shown God’s love could cover a multitude of sins. Now He asked me to share this same love with those who are looking for love in all the wrong places. I committed to doing the King’s bidding.

What gift will you give your King this year? Maybe God is asking you to serve in your child’s classroom at school or teach a Sunday school class. Or maybe God is calling you to prayer or to spend more time with Him? Maybe Your King is asking you to give Him control over a situation?

"Something I would not do except the King requested it. And it is something I could not do except the King enabled me." Ask the King for His gift suggestion. When He impresses on your heart the gift He desires, offer it to Him as your gift of thanks for His indescribable gift, His Son, Jesus.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (I Cor 9:15)



"Exchanging hurt for hope" is Sheryl Giesbrecht's focus. She loves to share how God rearranges loss, bitterness, and mistakes, and turns them into something remarkably beautiful. Learn more about Sheryl and her book, Get Back Up, at her website.


Wrapping Paper and Fancy Bows Not Required
by Jodi Murphy

For more than a decade I worked in the luxury design field, and every year around Christmas time there were holiday show houses and charity events where the designers would hold nothing back to create the most beautiful displays for the Christmas season—trees with baubles and sparkles, swags of fresh greenery festooned with handmade bows, every room dressed to the nines, dining and breakfast tables set for imaginary entertaining, and hundreds of perfectly wrapped packages that would make Santa’s elves go green with envy.

The sights, sounds and smells were magical! And though I enjoyed the "eye candy" and appreciated all of the creativity, I often left these events on a "sugar high" of the season’s pufferies and feeling disconnected to the spiritual significance of Christmas.

As we begin to count down the days toward December 25th, I will do my share of simplified decorating as a way to mark such an important day, and I will be celebrating Christ’s birth with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the gifts God has given to me . . .

My Parents
I was blessed with parents who loved and respected me. I was always important, seen and heard. They gave me the confidence and strength to go out into the world because I knew they were standing right behind me in case I stumbled. They modeled generosity, loyalty and commitment.

My Sister
Tenacious, strong-willed, and determined balanced by a friendly, supportive, “I’m there for you” spirit—that’s my amazing younger sister. She’ll step out on the front line to stand up and defend you or throw on some work clothes and volunteer to help with whatever dirty work needs to be done. No questions asked . . . you need her, she’s there.

My Husband
My husband is so comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t compare himself to others or secretly long for what they have. He doesn’t get embroiled in other’s gossip or petty arguments. His loving influence has made me happier and more at peace. Every day I wake up to the joyful realization that I am his friend, wife, and life partner.

My Son
My firstborn. My son with Aspergers Syndrome. Raising him is the most extraordinary journey. He has made me more accepting, patient, and understanding. He has helped me find my passion to support and advocate for him and those just like him. He doesn’t filter or concern himself with being anything but who he is. I admire his strength to put himself out into a world he doesn’t fully understand.

My Daughter
She was born with grace and an "old" soul. From a very young age, she had an understanding and compassion for others well beyond her years. And when she was excluded for not following the crowd, she never compromised her values in order to fit in. She personifies all that is good and right in our world.

So I’m taking a pause from the hustle and bustle of the designers’ holiday season. This Christmas, and every Christmas henceforth, you’ll find me singing praises of “Gloria!” to God for the walking, breathing beautiful gifts of my family.



jodi_murphy-Headshot 1Jodi Murphy has been a freelance marketing specialist for the last 25+ years working for clients in a variety of industries, a journalist in the design/luxury lifestyle industry, and co-founder of Nesting Newbies, one of the first independent lifestyle digital magazines. But her most important role and her life’s passion is being a mom! She founded Geek Club Books to share her son’s life on the spectrum in a positive and entertaining way. Her focus is on building a community of spectrum and neurotypicals who are engaged with and inspired by the Geek Club Books’ message of self-acceptance—“I’m unique. I’m a geek.” Jodi writes original content on the blog, and, with the help of her talented kids and top-notch creative team, she produces audio stories, e-books, and interactive storybook APPs.

Monday, December 23, 2013

So, I've been busy!

I know you must be tired of seeing pictures of crochet projects (I did one blanket, 10 hats and 2 headbands for Christmas), and that's about all I have been doing. So therefore, I'm sharing more of the 12 Pearls of Christmas.


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

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


Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
by Ginger Ciminello

I have high expectations for the Christmas season. Sure the decorations, presents, and general merry-making contribute to those specific expectations, but that’s not what I’m alluding to. I have a huge fear that I will get to the candlelight service on December 24th and realize I haven’t prepared my heart for Emmanuel. While I shouldn’t allow fear to creep in, I do believe those worries are grounded in a pathetic track record.

I know my heart. No matter how much I say this season of Advent isn’t about parties and presents, I still seem to get swept away by things that don’t really matter. No part of me wants to live consumed by worry and anxiety. I don’t want to finish this season exhausted and dejected.

Last Christmas our church walked through the prophecy of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6, exploring what it means for Jesus to be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

What I’ve come to realize is that this verse isn’t just a list of titles for me to memorize or print on an ornament. This verse contains truth about my Savior and God, truth that should radically shape my day-to-day life.

Either Jesus is more powerful than my worries, fears, and frustrations . . . or He isn’t. The way I live my day proves what I believe about His power.

I talked through this concept with my husband on our way to finish up some shopping. I was frustrated: frustrated that I spend time in the Word, read my Advent devotional, pray for friends, and still end up so completely frazzled year after year.

My husband was quick to remind me that God desires my heart more than anything else and that I can’t tackle each day with the hope of perfection, only the hope of dependence upon our loving Father.

I'm focusing on 1 Corinthians 13 this Advent, one word per day. Yesterday the focus was love is PATIENT. (How perfect for spending the afternoon at a crowded mall!) I was amazed at my response to the long lines and ordinary scenarios that would have ordinarily left me completely frustrated.

Living and believing in the Mighty God just by being patient sounds like a really small thing—but can I tell you that I made friends with the cashier at Bed, Bath & Beyond? (A cashier who ordinarily tests my patience.)

Today the word is KIND. I'm working in a coffee shop and am trying to remember to give smiles readily and open doors for others as I prepare my heart for the coming of the King.

"Lo this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation." Isaiah 25:9




Ginger-CiminelloGinger Ciminello may sound like an Italian dessert, but she's actually a speaker, author and blogger from Phoenix, Arizona. She has spent the last decade encouraging young people to live up to their God-given potential and unique design. Her first book, Forget the Corsage, was just released. When she's not embarrassing herself by telling stories of her years in middle school, she can be found rollerblading, making grilled cheese, and hanging out with her daughter and husband. Learn more at gingerciminello.com.


New Beginnings
by Sharron Cosby

Christmas. The mere mention of the word sends thoughts and memories skittering like a box of spilled ornaments. Some roll toward sweet remembrances of times shared with family. Others bounce to the let’s-not-go-there corner of our minds.

I recall Christmas 2009. The one I wanted to cancel. My only son is an addict, and this was his worst year ever. I had convinced myself it would be his last, assuming he would be in prison or dead by the next Christmas. I told my daughters we would exchange gifts and have our usual holiday dinner, but no tree or decorations. I couldn’t dredge up the emotional energy to plaster contrived cheer around the house.

I’m usually the decorator, gift purchaser, food preparer, and mess cleaner-upper. Executing the necessary holiday tasks takes time and effort. Worrying about my son had left me drained of the required get-up-and-go. I couldn’t do it. Thank goodness for online shopping; at least there would be presents to hand out.

My pastor’s message four days before Christmas cut straight through my Scrooge-like attitude. His sermon points were: The holidays are too much trouble, count your blessings, and forgive someone.

Considering Christmas too much trouble reflects a selfish attitude, according to my pastor. What if Jesus had thought that way? My icy heart began to thaw.

The second point, count your blessings, stopped me dead in my tracks. Count blessings with a broken heart? I considered my husband’s love and my two daughters who have stood by their brother. I smiled as I pictured the faces of my four grandsons and the joy they brought our family. Yes, I had many blessings to number.

The third was the hardest: forgiveness. Forgive my son for the pain and suffering he had caused? “God, you can’t be serious,” I protested. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars on him, he’s broken our hearts, and he’s in worse shape than ever before.”

“Forgive him,” the Spirit whispered.

Tears slid down my face as I chose to forgive my son. No strings attached.

After church I headed home with a changed attitude. When my husband left for work, I retrieved the ornaments, dragged the Christmas tree from the garage, and set it up, my gift to the family. Decorating our tree with the children’s handmade ornaments is always a joint project, but that day I worked alone. I held the clothespin reindeers, popsicle stick picture frames, and monogramed angels and remembered the good times.

With tear-filled eyes, I watched as amazement etched the faces of my daughters when they came to our home Christmas morning and saw the decorated tree. “Mom! You put up the tree after all,” they said.

The biggest surprise of the day came when our daughter’s boyfriend knelt in front of her and asked, “Will you marry me?”

The discouragement of addiction was replaced with the joy of new beginnings, which is, after all, the message of the Christ Child.



Sharron Cosby has been married to Dan for thirty-nine years, is Mom to three adult children and “Mimi” to five grandchildren. Her family was rocked by her son’s drug addiction for fifteen years until he laid it down on February 18, 2010. She uses her life experiences to offer hope and encouragement to families caught in the chaos of addiction. Sharron is available to speak to groups on addiction related topics. Sharron recently published her first book, Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90, a ninety day devotional for families in recovery or those wanting to be. Receive weekly encouragement at her blog, www.efamilyrecovery.com, and Twitter @sharroncosby or contact her at moc.liamg@ybsocnorrahs. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 22, 2013

We need a new videographer

This morning we had donuts in class and focused on singing and looking up verses (it works with Ephesians 5!).

I thought I had clicked the video button, I sure thought I did, but instead, I took a still shot to start and one to end. This is what I got.

I lack video skills, obviously.

The good news is, you don't have to hear me sing because I was trying to help them out in some places.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The home stretch!

Here we are... able to count the days to Christmas on the fingers of one hand (or less if you're missing a thumb).

On Monday, once I mailed out all the hats I made for my co-workers (along with the ones that I sent to my Grandmother that still haven't made it there yet and now she's even come to Corsicana!), I said that if anyone who was wanting to order one for Christmas, I would try to make it.

I delivered one to church on Wednesday (I wish the color showed better)...

Then, I had one more to make to deliver to church Sunday. So, I took my yarn over to my parents' house last night to work on it while I was visiting with them and my grandmother.  Grandmother asked if she was too old for one, so I said, "you want this one." I sat there and finished it for her. 

She didn't know when I told her I had to take a picture that I was going to post it on Instagram, thus Facebook and everywhere else.

Then, this morning, I had to start from scratch on the one I need to take for church in the morning. I started it before riding with my parents' to take Grandmother home, worked on it in the truck, and almost had it ready by the time we stopped at Starbucks.

It's Christmas and I had not had my annual peppermint mocha!

I did finish the other hat when I got home while I was waiting for Paige.

Then, Paige and I had to do some shopping for treat bags for my kids at church in the morning, and her dad's Christmas present.

I bought and now I am officially done! (Unless I get headbands made between now and then.)

When Brian came to pick her up, there was this very low fog hanging over the park at the end of the street. It was eery looking.

Now that I'm done blogging, it's off to try headbands. Wish me luck!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pearls of Christmas Wisdom from Cara Putman and Steve Estes


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

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

My Gift to Him
by Cara Putman

As Christmas nears, I’m staggering under a year that’s been too full. A fall that’s been too busy. A season of good, but overwhelming days.

Does anyone else feel the same?

There’s nothing bad—life is just full. Too full.

And I feel emptied. So empty.

It would be easy to enter this season with a sense of exhaustion, feeling like I just want to get through and on to January.

Instead, I want to offer my life again. May my gift be my life. My dreams. My talents. My all. May I be available to Him to transform from the inside out. I want my life to be lived for His glory.

Yet I fail. And on the days that I am most tired and overwhelmed I seem to fail more. It is then that I take comfort in the reality that He is the King born in a manager. A King who gave up heaven in order to save me. You. All of us. He has good plans for my life. Plans that exceed my wildest dreams. Plans fit for the daughter of the Most High.

He has plans like that for you, too. Plans that may be different from your plans, but plans that are wonderful and good.

So in this season of busyness, a season when it is easy to focus on things, duties, parties, family and friends, will you join me? I’m offering myself as a gift to Him. Will you?



Cara Putman is the award-winning author of sixteen novels. You can learn more about her and her books at www.caraputman.com. You can read the first chapters of all her books there including her new novel, Shadowed by Grace, which releases on January 1st just in time for Christmas gift cards. You can connect with Cara on: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads


by Steven Estes
(Excerpt from A Better December

When my wife was little, her family was Amish. Barn raisings, buggies, high-stepping horses, shoofly pies—the whole postcard. Later, they left that life and became mainstream farmers. The suspenders and bonnets were gone, but they remained hard-working, no-nonsense, sweep-the-porch folks. As good-natured a family as homemade jam and bread.

I grew up taking in the city. Mom and I would hop the streetcar into downtown Baltimore. Lights, crowds, noise, action—the busier, the better. Birthdays were a big thing, Christmas, bigger yet. Whoop it up. Break some eggs, make an omelet.

My wife and I met in college. I first saw Verna from across the cafeteria. Popular as a lemonade stand in summer. Prettier than an evening meadow blinking with fireflies. I was hooked. Proposed on the beach. We walked the aisle, started life together.

Verna kept everything worthwhile from her childhood and folded the rest into a drawer. Worked circles around any woman you’d know. Line dried the wash, taught the kids, pinched the pennies. Joined me in whatever hoopla I wanted, but—in her mother’s meat-and-potatoes tradition—NEVER got exotic in the kitchen . . .

. . . until one December.

Wishing to please—wanting some memories for the kids—she found a recipe book. Brimming with color photos. Promises of the perfect Christmas. The kind, no doubt, her husband recalled from urban days of yore.

Sugar plums in her head, practical impulses stuffed away in an apron pocket, she purchased the ingredients to yuletide bliss. A concoction to bless the family forever.

The evening has arrived. The fortunate are assembled about the table. There is to be a holiday surprise:

“Festive Yule Log.”

Candles aglow, faces upturned. The platter of glory is borne to the table. Mother seated. Nod given.

Trembling forks sink into the first sampling mouthful. Eyes closed for concentration. The pregnant pause. . . . A searching for words. The furtive glances. The first stifled chortle. Then,

Oh, the hooting and howling.
The slappings on the table.
The witticisms.
The criticisms.

Centered on the table, the Yule Log sulks—rolled in a fine gravel posing as crushed nuts. A taste akin to cream cheese blended with toothpaste—perhaps Crest, no, Colgate. As if sautéed in soy sauce, glued into shape by an application of Crisco. The look of a food item suspected of disease, held in quarantine at Customs.

Verna smiles weakly. Rises. Whisks the mistake into exile. All the while carols from the record player begin straying off-key . . . and Misters Currier & Ives are ushered to the backyard, blindfolded, and shot.

Solomon foresaw that many designs for Christmas Eve would go awry. Why else would he write:

“Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know
what a day may bring forth”?
Proverbs 27:1

Or . . .

“You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose
will prevail”?
Proverbs 19:21 NLT

God has bigger plans for you than the perfect dinner. That’s why he lets things go wrong. He’s saving your appetite for the perfect eternity. He notices you smitten with this short life,

feeling it slip through your fingers,
trying to shake a snow-globe Christmas
out of every December.

The true holiday magic is reserved for heaven. Every delight down here is a mere taste and teaser.

Knowing that, doesn’t it ease the pressure just a bit as you flip through recipes on the 24th—biting your lip . . . pondering a go at that Festive Yule Log?

(By the way, Verna recovered nicely.)

**This excerpt is reproduced from A Better December Copyright © 2013 by Steven Estes. Used by permission of New Growth Press and may not be downloaded, reproduced, and/or distributed without prior written permission of New Growth Press.

Steven Estes is a pastor who has known “better Decembers with my family than either Currier or Ives,” but also understands a gray Christmas. A Better December draws on Estes’ twenty-three years of counseling church members through the holiday season as well his other writings on the topic of human suffering. He teaches a preaching class at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) where he completed his M.Div and Th.M. degrees. Estes is a conference speaker and on the board of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). Estes is the author of Called to Die (the story of slain missionary Chet Bitterman), and co- author (with friend Joni Eareckson Tada) of When God Weeps and A Step Further. He and his wife, Verna, have eight children. Learn more about Estes and his books at www.steveestes.net.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

More holiday pearls from Sarah Ladd and Lynn Austin


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

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


The Magic of a Christmas Moment
by Sarah E. Ladd

Ah, it’s Christmas! Just the mention of the word makes me think of twinkling trees, steaming wassail, glistening snowflakes, and happy childhood memories.

One Christmas Eve, when my sister and I were quite small, my parents were trying to get us to go to sleep. Of course, we were far too excited to think about sleep! We double checked our stockings and strained our ears to see if we could hear reindeer hooves prancing on the roof. I can still remember my mom saying, “Santa can’t come until you are asleep!”

And then—it happened!

We looked out of our kitchen window, and what should we see? Through our neighbor’s window, we saw HIM . . . Santa Claus . . . doing the dishes! Santa was only one house away! My sister and I could not believe our eyes. Within a flash, we were in our beds, blankets pulled up to our chins, eyes pressed tight in hopes we would fall asleep so Santa could stop by our house!

Of course, it took several years for us to realize that “Santa” was our neighbor hosting a Christmas party, but even after all these years I can still remember the excited thrill of that moment. Even to this day the memory brings a smile to my face, and every Christmas, someone always says, “Hey, remember the year we saw Santa doing dishes?”

As Christmas approaches, it is easy to get caught up on the busyness of the season. Shopping, cooking, traveling—it can be a hectic time of year, with crazy schedules and hurried timelines. But in the bustle of the season, do not forget to keep your eyes open for the magic in the simplest moments, especially if you have young children or grandchildren. Those special memories are gifts that last a lifetime, and just like that Christmas many years ago, it would have been very easy not to take a moment to look out the window. Keep your heart and your eyes open . . . you never know what magic you will find in Christmas moments.



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. The Heiress of Winterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Her second novel, The Headmistress of Rosemere, releases December 2013. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever. Learn more at her website or follow her on Facebook. Also, be sure to stop by for your chance to win 8 Christian Fiction novels by some of your favorite authors! Follow this link to enter the Christian Fiction Christmas Giveaway.

The Nativity
by Lynn Austin

The first time I visited Bethlehem more than twenty-five years ago, I expected to feel a sense of the beauty and simplicity of the much-loved Christmas story: a crude stable, the holy family, shepherds, wise men, and the Son of God in the manger. I was sadly disappointed. The traditional site of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is inside the Church of the Nativity—a truly ancient church built in 565 AD. It has survived enemy invasions, the Crusaders, restorations, renovations, a fire, and an earthquake, but it looks like . . . well, a church. A beautifully decorated and ornamented church, with all the sacred clutter that has accumulated throughout the centuries, but it bore no resemblance to my image of what Jesus’ birthplace was like.

But wait—the real site was down a set of stairs and inside a natural cave that has been venerated as the place of His birth since 160 AD. But even this simple cave was so gilded and bedecked with artwork and tapestries and lamps and incense burners that I still couldn’t get a sense of what it might have looked like on that first holy night. In the center of the floor was a silver-encrusted star with a hole in the middle. By putting my hand inside, I could touch the place where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. I tried it, butI left Bethlehem feeling empty, unable to make the sacred connection I had so longed for.

And isn’t that how so many of our Christmases end up feeling? In spite of all the tinsel and glitter and sparkle, all the money we spend and the stress we endure as we try to create the perfect Hallmark Christmas, we’re often left with the same let-down feeling I had inside that church in Bethlehem. We’ve lost the simple beauty of the story, that precious connection with God that is the true miracle of Bethlehem.

The year after visiting Bethlehem, I began looking for ways to recapture the simplicity of Christ’s incarnation. Santa Claus has never been invited to our family Christmases, and we’ve always celebrated it as Jesus’ birthday, exchanging presents because God gave us the gift of His Son. But year after year, the clutter and glitz had draped themselves over our celebrations, just like the religious trappings that have collected inside the Church of the Nativity over the centuries. That year, I purchased a nice but inexpensive manger set. I wanted something that wasn’t a toy but that my children could handle and touch. We placed it at their level and at the center of our holiday and began the simple tradition of gathering together as a family to fill the empty stable while my husband read the story from the Bible. Our children divided all the people and sheep and camels among themselves, and when we got to their part in the Bible story, they added their figures to the stable.

This simple tradition has become so beloved by all of us that we still do it the same way every year, even though our children are now adults. Our two married children couldn’t wait to share the tradition with their spouses, generously dividing their sheep and wise men among the newest members of our family. One year, our daughter was living overseas and couldn’t make it home for the holiday, but we still held our family tradition while she participated via Skype and a web camera.

And it’s always in those moments, with the simple stable and inexpensive plaster figures and my precious loved ones gathered around me, that I feel the holy wonder of Christmas once again—Emmanuel, God with us!



Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. Her latest novel, Return To Me, is the first book in her new series.  She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago. Visit Lynn at her website.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

12 Pearls of Christmas

I'm late to the game on this, but among the holiday insanity, I decided to go ahead and share some posts from Pearl Girls' 4th annual 12 Pearls of Christmas. I'll sprinkle regular posts in between the series. Enjoy!


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

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

A Hibiscus "Hug from Heaven" 
by Margaret McSweeney

The flurry of festivities during Thanksgiving weekend came to an abrupt halt as I began the first week of December 2013 with an empty nest. My husband was back at work. My daughters were back at college. And my brother, Claude, and niece, Mary, were back in Alabama and Tennessee. Bare branches accentuated the overcast gloom in the Chicago suburbs on what marked the third anniversary of my brother Randy’s passing. Randy had been feeding a stray cat on his deck when the fatal heart attack struck.

Walking downstairs, I whispered a prayer. “Lord, I am feeling really sad right now. Please help me experience your joy.” As I walked into the family room, my heart smiled. The pruned hibiscus plant balanced a solitary flower that had blossomed overnight! This was truly a hibiscus “hug from heaven.”

In her book When Grief Is Your Constant Companion, my late mother shared her poignant poem about a hibiscus plant. She wrote this following poem several years after losing my dad to a sudden heart attack while he was in Paris on a business trip.

By Carolyn Rhea

My love, how can it be
That I no longer think of you
Almost every waking moment
And grieve for your loving presence?

There are small spaces of time
When my life is so absorbed in present living
That you are not in my thoughts at all.
How unthinkable!
How sad that I should forget you even for an hour!

But I have not forgotten you, my dear.
You are forever a part of me.
You helped God shape my life
Into my present self.
I carry your love in my heart.
I miss you so very much and always will.

But now I’m caught up in trying to reconstruct
With God’s guidance
A meaningful life for myself.
One in which I can help,
Serve, share, love, grow.

I remember the hibiscus plant
We bought at the annual show.
It was called Teardrops,
For several perfectly-shaped white teardrops
Spattered the broad expanse
Of its gorgeous pink blooms.
How we loved it!

Then later, after it had grown much taller,
We saw a different kind of bloom:
Multitudes of small, sturdy, happy pink blossoms
Swaying merrily in the Florida breeze!
Teardrops had been grafted onto a stronger plant!

We named it Everlasting Joy.

Teardrops still bloomed at the lower level,
But as the plant grew ever upward and outward,
Everlasting Joy bloomed in profusion!

Lord Jesus, when teardrops fall,
Help me remember that through faith
I have been grafted in You –
You, the vine;
I, a branch –
Eternally secure in God’s love through Thee!
Blessed with Thy fullness of joy on earth
And the promise of everlasting joy in heaven!

Thank you, dear Father for sharing your everlasting joy with me today in my solitude. We are not alone in our grief. You are with us. “Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” John 16:20



Margaret McSweeney is well-published author (A Mother’s Heart Knows, Go Back and Be Happy, Pearl Girls, Mother of Pearl, Aftermath), host of Kitchen Chat, and the founder of Pearl Girls™. Through Pearl Girls™, Margaret collaborates with other writers on projects to help fund a safe house for WINGS, an organization that helps women and their children who are victims of domestic violence, and to build wells for schoolchildren in Uganda through Hands of Hope. For the past twelve years she has served on the board of directors and leadership advisory board for WINGS. Margaret lives with her husband and 2 daughters in the Chicago suburbs. Learn more at Margaret's website.

Christmas Musings 
by Anita Higman

I feel great joy in preparing my home for the holiday season. I love to drape boughs of greenery along the staircase, swirl spices into a pot of apple cider that’s simmering on the stove, make crafty floral arrangements, and sing along with all my favorite carols. Then when friends and family come over for brunches and dinners, I put out my finest decoration, my best china, and my sincerest smile. I go all out. These are my guests, and I want the event to be welcoming, satisfying, and festive. I want them to feel like royalty.

When Christ arrived in Bethlehem, I wish He could have had a more splendid welcoming, a more regal place to sleep than a wooden trough where animals were fed. Even though His birth was without majestic lodgings or kingly adornments, I’m so glad He overlooked our foolish blunders, our lack of hospitality, and chose to live amongst us anyway. Jesus certainly could have chosen a different route and easier way to offer redemption.

But He didn’t.

Jesus came in one of the humblest possibly ways. He had a divine approach that left humans surprised and puzzled. And it turned into a road of pain beyond anything we can imagine. When it comes to God’s extravagant sacrifice and love that Christmas represents, He deserves a standing ovation. After all, Christmas holds the true secrets we’ve all been searching for: meaning to our lives on earth, victory over death, and life eternal.Christmas gives us a reason to work, to laugh, to dream, to love. Christmas is a holiday of the heart and earth’s finest celebration.



Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. Her latest release, Marriage in Middlebury, is a tale of love, hope, and forgiveness. Anita's been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends. Visit Anita at her website.