Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are you being called to be a defender?

An interview with Beth Guckenberger,
Author of Tales of the Defended Ones
What do adopted children from Ethiopia, a child in slavery in Cambodia, a special-needs orphan from Mexico, and a foster child in the U.S. have in common? They are all real children whose lives of heartbreak and abandon became stories of hope skillfully and lovingly told in Beth Guckenberger’s latest book, Tales of the Defended Ones (Standard Publishing / January 28, 2013 / ISBN: 978-0784736975 / $ 8.99).  

Q: Tales of the Defended Ones is the second release in the Storyweaver series. Can you share more about your vision for the series and what you hope readers will gain from reading your books?

I hope it spurs between children and the adults in their lives conversations of substance about real issues. I want children to learn with God’s worldview how to pray and go and understand slavery, adoption and orphan care. I pray it takes the cause and makes it personal through these true and real stories.

Q: Who are the defended ones you refer to in the books title? How can we help be defenders?

There is a child slave girl from Cambodia, two boys adopted from Ethiopia, a sibling set fostered in the United States and a special-needs orphan boy from Mexico. We can help be defenders by listening, understanding, praying, going, acting on their behalf, understanding God will defend them and if we raise our hand, He will involve us.

Q: How do you try to explain to kids that sometimes bad things do happen, even though God is watching?

We talk about that tension right off the bat. It’s so black and white with children, as we grow we wrestle with sovereignty and free will, but as kids, it seems it should be simpler. I do my best to explain it in chapter one, but again, I hope it spurs on conversation at the dinner table, in the classroom and in a youth group so other adults can share honestly how they handle those questions.

Q: What are some of the ways we can teach our children to see God working in situations?

Look for his movements, where He provides wisdom, rest, guidance, a helping hand, encouragement, etc. I think we have the opportunity to teach children to look for Him moving and then jump in the story! He has something for each of us!

Q: How were you able to gather these stories from children around the world?

The Mexico story happened here, where I live. The foster family is from my hometown in the U.S. The Ethiopian boys are dear friends of my brother’s family, who has also adopted from Ethiopia, and the Cambodian story is from Destiny’s Rescue, a ministry to slave children with whom we have formed a strong friendship.

Q: Unlike Tales of the Not Forgotten, this time one of the stories comes from the United States. Why was it important to you to include a story from within the U.S.?

I know there are children with needs all over the world, and that includes the U.S. There are thousands of children in foster care right in our hometowns! I wanted to spur conversations about how our families and churches can reach out to them.

Q: What is a good age to start introducing children the idea of mission work and helping others who may not be as fortunate as they are?

I don’t think a child can be too young. They will hear about these realities from school or the media. They will learn about child slavery and unclean water, orphan care and famine. It’s our privilege to shape their understanding of how God sees the children impacted by these crises. It’s our opportunity to teach and engage children in the issues so they grow up not intimated by the cause, but educated about it. This is our next generation; let’s listen as God whispers to them and deposits his heart into theirs.

Q: What is the target age for the Storyweaver series?

It was written for children between the ages of 8-12, but like Tales of the Not Forgotten, I have heard of families and teachers reading the stories out loud to children younger than 8. I also get a tremendous amount of mail from adults who don’t realize until the end it was for children! I think all ages can appreciate the stories.

Q: What other resources are available to go along with Tales of the Defended Ones? How can churches and families use the book and leader’s guide?

There is a leader’s guide CD that has supplemental material on the countries and the issues each story raises, as well as great activities to use for devotionals at home or as a classroom curriculum. 

Q: How does Standard’s summer 2013 VBS curriculum (God’s Backyard Bible Camp) and the mission kit to be released this fall fit in?

We realized with the release of Tales of the Not Forgotten how hungry families and churches are to address these issues with children. The VBS highlights one of the stories from Tales of the Not Forgotten, a story about a four-year-old orphan who prays and asks God for steak (and He delivers!). This story is a launching pad to talk about prayer, about hunger, about orphans, about faith. It is our hope that VBS’ all over the country will stir in the hearts of the children a bold kind of faith that trusts God for answers to their questions. We hope it, along with the user-friendly mission kit, will facilitate for the teacher or parent these substantive conversations that encourage children to listen to God’s heart for the nations.

Q: Your own family isn’t what most people would consider “traditional.” Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

Todd and I have three biological children, have three adopted children and have raised three foster daughters.  

Q: How can families join your work at the Back2Back Ministries campus in Mexico?

If they check out the website, back2back.org, we have lots of tools and FAQs about taking a family on a missions trip! Check us out!

Learn more about Beth Guckenberger and Back2Back Ministries at www.bethguckenberger.com,  http://back2back.org, the Back2Back Ministries Facebook page (back2backministries) or Twitter (@bguckenberger).

Monday, April 29, 2013

Take a trip back to the 1893 World's Fair with Deeanne Gist


 “Gist takes intriguing historical facts and creates a world of fascinating characters, lighthearted moments and timeless crises that we can still relate to today.” –Romantic Times Top Pick (A Bride in the Bargain)

“Gist’s historicals have increasingly gained popularity, combining witty dialog, well-balanced plots, and fully developed characters who seem almost real.” –Library Journal

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair overflowed with the latest innovations welcomed by a throng of people from all around the globe. This setting replete with history, intrigue and wonder is the backdrop for beloved author Deeanne Gist’s latest release, It Happened at the Fair.

“I’m always drawn to events in our country’s past that are strangely absent from our history classes. Why the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition has been left out, I don’t know, especially since it was such a pivotal event for us,” explains Gist. “We were able to wow the world with our scientific innovations; and it gave women their first official board position recognized and approved by an Act of Congress (all before we had the right to vote). But it was technology which claimed the day as it nipped at the heels of horses, buggies, and man-powered tools.”

Click here to enter!
With every book topping bestseller charts since her acclaimed debut A Bride Most Begrudging, Deeanne Gist has sold over a half million copies, earning rave reviews and numerous awards, including back-to-back Christy Awards, four RITA nominations, National Readers Choice, and Book Buyers Best. With her trademark humor and rich historical detail, It Happened at the Fair is sure to delight her beloved fans as well as garner new ones.

Gambling everything, including the family farm, young inventor Cullen McNamara is determined to make his family proud—and earn his father’s entry money to the Fair Expo back—by selling his design for an automatic sprinkler system inspired by his mother’s death in a mill fire. Struggling with hearing loss from his previous life on the farm, McNamara finds it difficult to communicate with potential buyers over the din in the Fair’s Machinery Building. In an act of desperation, he hires attractive Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

Much like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, Cullen is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground or will he be carried away?

Gist’s unique blend of romance and historical fiction brings the past alive for her readers through her extensive period research. Readers will find themselves not only caught up with the exciting backdrop of the fair, but the blossoming love story between Cullen and Della. They will also encounter President Grover Cleveland, Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, and Ann Sullivan, actually attendees of the legendary fair.

Both the paperback edition of the book as well as the e-book include actual photographs taken at the fair between each chapter. The photographs in the paperback are different from the e-book, so whichever version readers purchase, they will have exclusive content. However, Gist’s fans won’t have to wait until April 30 to get their first look at the fair. Tempest in the White City, a 40-page short story available in a digital format released on March 19 and is available for 99 cents.

Gist will be hosting a webcast event on May 22, 2013 at 8:00 PM EST, where she will be discussing more of the story behind It Happened at the Fair and answering reader questions. During the course of the evening, a number of prizes will be given away to those participating in the discussion. More details will be available soon on the author’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/deesfriends, where the webcast will be hosted.

Readers can keep up with Deeanne Gist at her website IWantHerBook.com, as well as on Facebook (DeesFriends) and Twitter (@DeeanneGist).

About the Author:

Deeanne Gist—known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee—has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captivated readers everywhere with her original historical and contemporary novels. A favorite among readers and reviewers alike, her popular titles include A Bride Most Begrudging, A Bride in the Bargain, and Maid to Match. Her latest book, It Happened at the Fair (releasing April 2013), is her ninth published novel.

A popular speaker, Gist’s presentations have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and in other publications. The Wall Street Journal’s accompanying online video was the most watched video on the FrontPageWSJ.com website for several days following their feature.

Gist has a background in education and journalism. Her credits include People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel. She is also the creator of I Did It!®, a parenting line of products. Gist lives in Houston, Texas with her husband of thirty years. The couple has four grown children.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why I love my backyard

I'm far from an outdoorsy nature person. However, I love the tree in my backyard, and mainly that I can see up in the tree from my desk. 

It sure beats the view from over at the other place where I saw a busy street, the mail person driving by my mailbox, trash cans and the neighbors parking in front of my house. I guess part of the reason I am not blogging as much lately is I have less neighbor rants than I used to. 

There is a flock of doves in my backyard, and I usually see a lot of blue jays and mocking birds. There's a lot of small birds too - sparrows I think - and maybe another variety. Most of the time the cardinals are out front, but I see some of those too.

I've been hearing a woodpecker, but had not seen one yet. And definitely hear an owl or two at any time of the day. I saw one fly into a tree down the block one evening after walking the neighborhood, but not in my yard.

Until Tuesday.

That morning, I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye, and it was a woodpecker. The picture isn't great because of taking it through the screen door. 

That night I was up in the office later in the day than usual and heard blue jays making a raucous. I have learned it's blue jays that are so loud when they aren't happy. I looked out to see if there was a cat or something else they were "screaming" about, and it did sound like screaming. 

I finally spotted the owl in the tree. It would look right at you, and didn't mind me opening the screen doors. However, the blue jays started dive bombing him and "flew" him out of the tree. Then all the blue jays in the neighborhood started squawking. It sounded like a horror film. He's been around again, but across the street. I haven't seen him, but I've heard the other birds going nuts about it. 

Yeah, yeah, I've become the boring blogger who has now started blogging about bird watching. I know. I'm sorry. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

My family reunion was full of hot air

Today was the now annual family reunion for my dad's side of the family. We actually survived without any drama. 

(Oh, except the one time my dad yelled at me about something for no reason. Still don't know what that was all about. And one somewhat unexpected member of the family that I did avoid. We won't go there either.)

But let's just say there was a lot of hot air, this time more in the form of a blow up slide that was the hit of the day. Mainly intended for the kids, let's just say there was adult participation after the family picture was taken. I'll have to get more pictures from my mom because I only took a few from my phone. 

My uncle (whose house this was at) evidently tried it out the night before. Wish I could have seen that. It wasn't the crazy male members of the family that did it though I was trying to convince some of my cousins. Surprisingly, it was the women  (two of my cousins around my parents age, one of my dad's cousins in her 70s, another of his cousins, my sister-in-law Julie, two or three cousins' wives) I admit to sliding 3 times. The first time because Paige begged, the second time because a cousin decided she was going again even though it was risking breaking something before a two week trip to Italy, and a third time because Layton wanted me to go down with him. I need to get that picture from Mom. 

Layton decided he wanted to stay and slide more, so I said I would take him home if Julie needed to leave. He fell asleep in my car less than a mile away when we left. All that sliding wore him out. I needed a nap when I got home too. 

I just liked this pic of Peyton and my cousin Wes' daughter Abigail. They were about ready to nap together. Peyton is at the age where she wants to get ahold of all the babies. I think she almost drove Chris' daughter Meadow crazy.

Friday, April 26, 2013

What is it about Smithville?

An interview with Beth Wiseman,
author of The House that Love Built

Award-winning author Beth Wiseman has hit the best-sellers lists with each and every one of her books, and her latest, The House that Love Built (Thomas Nelson / April 2, 2013 / ISBN 978-1595548894 / $15.99), is sure to follow. In the interview below, Wiseman shares more about the story behind her newest release.

Q: Is there one particular message or “moral of the story” you hope readers walk away with?

I hope that Brooke, Owen and the rest of the gang will stay on readers’ hearts for a long time, that readers will reflect on the very different ways that the characters handled the events in their lives. And in turn, hopefully the story will inspire people to turn to God in both the good times and the bad.

Q: Forgiveness of self and others is one of the themes that runs through The House That Love Built. Why do you think it is so hard for us to forgive ourselves and let go at times?

People often say we are only hurting ourselves when we can’t forgive someone. That holds true when we can’t forgive ourselves, too. God forgives us . . . and so easily. Yet, we beat ourselves (and others) into the ground over the burdens of our past. I personally have trouble forgiving myself, so that ends up in my books a lot.

Q: Both of your lead characters have “baggage” that keeps them from wanting to pursue a new relationship. Do you think sometimes we let our past get in the way of what God has planned for our futures?

Carrying our burdens of the past is self-destructive, and my goal for this story was to have several of my characters shedding their burdens as they grow in their faith and put their trust in God.

Q: Even though she questioned God’s will, Brooke clung to God after her husband died. However, Owen did the opposite when his wife left. Do you think there’s any reason in particular some people have one reaction versus the other when something bad happens in their life?

I have no idea why people react so differently during a crisis, and I intentionally wanted to incorporate both sides, so to speak, into the story. The spiritual arc in this book is clearly Owen’s, so I wanted to show his struggles and how he eventually reaches out to God. But I also wanted to show that there are people who do not turn from God during a crisis—like Brooke—no matter how unfair things might seem.

Q: Has there been a time in your own life where you could really sense God was putting you in a situation for a reason?

That has happened to me many times, but I couldn’t foresee the reasoning — especially during the bad times. It has taken years to understand that much of what I have experienced was to give me a better understanding of certain situations so I could write about it and hopefully help others. I’m not sure I could have captured the hospital scene in my second novel if my own son hadn’t spent a month in the hospital. My character was fifteen, just as my son was when he was sick, so my emotions ran deep. I’ve witnessed a miracle, so I wrote about one. I’ve made mistakes I’m not proud of, and those seem to find a way into my stories, as well, painful as some of them might be. I’m adopted, so I’ve written about that. Each book I write ministers to my own soul, and I pray the stories will bring peace to my readers.

Q: The House that Love Built is set in Smithville, Texas, where several Hollywood movies have been set. You live nearby. What’s so special about Smithville?

I love writing stories set in small Texas towns, and Smithville is really quaint with friendly people who live there. The movie Hope Floats was filmed there, and the town is very welcoming to authors, film crews and the public in general. There are a lot of older homes like the one Owen purchases in my story. The “mystery” surrounding the house was inspired by a house in another small Texas town: Schulenburg. 

Q: You are best known for your Amish fiction, and The House That Love Built is just your second venture outside that genre. What persuaded you to try something new?

I think it’s natural to want to spread your wings a bit when you’ve written so many novels and novellas in the same genre. For me, writing about Texas comes naturally since I live here, and I love to write about a community, as opposed to just “boy meets girl.” I like a good love story, but my secondary characters usually end up with large roles because I like to show how God puts certain people in our paths for a reason, however unlikely it might seem to us at the time.

Q: What’s on the horizon for you? What will you be writing next?

I just finished book number six in the Daughters of the Promise series, releasing in October 2013. I’ll also be doing some Amish novellas for the next couple of years. But the next full-length book I will be working on jumps way outside of the box. It will take readers far away from Amish Country and Texas to a dangerous place on the other side of the world. I can’t say too much yet, just that it is inspired by a true story and something very close to my heart.

Learn more about Beth Wiseman at bethwiseman.com and follow her on Twitter (@bethwiseman). She also hangs out at Fans of Beth Wiseman on Facebook and loves hearing from readers.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Enter Ace Collins' Retribution v. Redemption Giveaway!

In his latest novel, Darkness Before Dawn (Abingdon Press), Ace Collins leads readers on an emotionally charged ride from revenge to forgiveness.

Ace is celebrating the release of Darkness Before Dawn with a Retribution v. Redemption 12-Day Giveaway!

Go {HERE} or click the button for all the details. Follow along for a new giveaway each day. (Moleskin journal, books, Starbucks gift cards and so much more!)

Click here to enter!
For more about Darkness Before Dawn, visit my previous post!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Heiress of Winterwood | Enter to win a “Downton Abbey” Kindle Fire Prize Pack

Sarah Ladd is celebrating the release of
Downton Abbey Kindle Prize Pack Giveaway!


One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Downton Abbey, seasons 1-3
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 30th. Winner will be announced on 5/2/13 {HERE}.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

About the book:

Pride goes before the fall . . . but what comes after?

Darbury, England, 1814

Amelia Barrett gave her word. Keeping it could cost her everything. An heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s baby. She’ll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father—a sea captain she’s never met.

When the child vanishes with little more than an ominous ransom note hinting at her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this little one.

Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she’s forced to examine her soul and face her one weakness: pride.

Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline. And away from the family he has sworn to love and protect.

Both must learn to have faith and relinquish control so they can embrace the future ahead of them.

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. "The 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.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Noble Groom Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Jody Hedlund is celebrating the release of A Noble Groom by giving away a Kindle Fire and hosting a Facebook Author Chat Party {5/8}! 


One "noble" winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • A copy of A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 7th. Winner will be announced at the "A Noble Groom" Author Chat Party on May 8th. Connect with Jody, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at the trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be many fun giveaways -- gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of A Noble Groom and join Jody on the evening of May 8th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 8th!

About the book:

Michigan, 1880

Annalisa Werner’s hope for a fairy tale love is over. Her husband failed her in every way and now his death has left her with few options to save the family farm. She needs a plentiful harvest. That, and a husband to help bring it in. Someone strong, dependable. That’ll be enough. A marriage for love…that’s something she’s given up on.

So her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.
Then a man appears: Carl Richards, from their home country of Germany and a former schoolteacher–or so he says. He’s looking for work and will serve on the farm until her husband arrives.

With time running out, she accepts his help, but there’s more to this man than he’s admitting. He’s also gentle, kind, charming–unlike any man she’s ever known. But even as Carl is shining light into the darkness of her heart, she knows her true groom may arrive any day.

About the author:

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling historical fiction author. She won the 2011 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Colorado Romance Writers and was a finalist for Best Debut Novel in the 2011 ACFW Carol Awards. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan, with her husband and five busy children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Duchess from Susan May Warren! Kindle Fire HD Giveaway!

Susan May Warren is celebrating the release of
Duchess with a Kindle Fire HD Giveaway.


One "glam" winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HD
  • Signed copies of Duchess, Baroness and Heiress
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 4th. Winner will be announced on 5/7/13 at Susan's blog.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

For more information about Duchess, visit my previous post about the book or check out this interview with Susan May Warren!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

One of these weeks, my Saturday is not going to be exhausting

Last weekend I yammered on about how this weekend was going to consist of a whole lot of nothing after the flurry and fury that the past two months have been. No plans. A bunch of nothing. Yeah, right. Maybe in two weeks. Maybe.

First unexpected event was my Grandmother coming to town. Her sister brought her over after a funeral Friday morning. She came to see my house, then stayed at my parents.

Secondly, Paige started texting me about 30 minutes before quitting time Friday that she wanted to go out to eat and for her, me, Peyton, Mom and Dad go see 42 at the movies. I told her maybe we could go to the movies on Saturday. When I tell Dad this, he decides to go pick the girls up and bring them into town.

So, we all gathered for dinner which was kind of a mad house of loudness and confusion. You kind of had to be there. I'll not bore you with details.

My Saturday rule is that I don't get out of bed until 9 AM. I was up before 8. I tossed and turned all night after telling all my family on Friday that I was sleeping in my old bed. I have been exhausted for two weeks which happens to be the same amount of time I have had my new bed.

So, I rolled out with a sore back and make it over to my parents' house about 8:30 AM to go to a storage action, simply for something to do and a way to entertain Peyton. It was a waste other than seeing the world's worst version of some kind of mullet. It's really hard to see without cropping, but the buy had almost a buzz cut, but long at the very bottom, mullet style. He had an attitude and bought most of the units which were all junky. Not that we were buying anyway.

Afterwards, we went to Walmart - another one of my Saturday rules... DON'T EVER go to Walmart on Saturday. Thankfully it wasn't crazytown before 10 AM. I did get after Paige for hitting me in the store. For a skinny girl, she hits hard. We were trying to find fabric and padding for this little chair/stool Dad and Peyton found at a garage sale for $1 last week. Dad refused to cut up a sheet. I don't know why. The sheets that matched my new bedspread only came in a set and only had two pillowcases, and I wanted four, so I needed to buy a cheap set of sheets to get two more the right color. We found some cheap fabric otherwise.

When we got back to my parents', we started working on the stool. Paige and I came back to my house for a minute to pick something up, then went back over to finish the stool. Paige and Peyton were crazy nuts, driving us all nuts while we were working on it, and Mom got after them, especially Peyton pretty good.

Meanwhile, Paige texts back and forth with her friend, and decides to go to the movies with her. I was all set to go to the movies, but, oh well, I guess. While waiting around until time for them to come, Paige and I kept watch over the Robins' nest over the patio, and were playing chess when her friend came by early. She went on with them, and were going to take Peyton, but Dad and Peyton went off somewhere since they had a momentary agreement that Mom was mean. I think they went to the new Whataburger, but wouldn't tell anyone where they were going.

Once they got back, we had to chase Paige and company down via Brian and they came back to get her. Once Peyton left too, it was time for Mom to take Grandmother home. Except Dad didn't really want Mom going by herself, or so he told me earlier, so I went along because I could at least get Starbucks out of the deal.

Somewhere between Corsicana and Ennis, Mom and Grandmother decided to go to Walmart, so came my second trip to Walmart (in different towns) of the day. While they are checking out, I find a pair of glass frames that I like in the vision center which is a miracle given I had spent forever in Walmart months ago unable to make a decision. Mom did not enjoy that event. They sold me the frames for $18 and had to bring them home to get the lens put in down here since I didn't have my prescription with me, of course. Have I mentioned how much I hate going to Walmart ever?

Grandmother decided she liked my frames and talked like she wanted me to let her get glass put in them. I think not.

After surviving that event (long story), we went to Starbucks. Grandmother has already voiced her "I don't like caramel" opinion which is fine. She usually likes mocha. No problem. Mom says, "yeah surprise me." I get my Salted Caramel Mocha (without the salt), a Mocha and a Hazelnut Frappachino. Hazelnut was the new thing they were promoting. My was pleased. She likes hazelnut. I asked to try it (it tastes very similar to the SCM), and Grandmother tries it deciding she likes it better than her mocha. And went on to proclaim it much like one of my nieces would, but Mom did not give in and trade with her. And she brought it up a few more times before we left her house.

As I posted on Facebook at one time... "I have spent the day with two inquisitive chatterboxes. One  is 8. The other is 80. They are related."

Once we get to Kaufman, we had to take Grandmother grocery shopping at Brookshires which I must say is so much better than ours. I almost bought my groceries there, but came home empty handed and still have an empty pantry and fridge.

I was really hungry when I got home, and went to go get a hamburger, but my car smelled like the stain dad used to redo the stool. I had to go with my window partly down due to the fumes, and my headache multiplied.

Then, I needed to catch up on some blog posts and needed to reply to a few emails before Monday. And I forgot to send Monday interview reminders at the end of the day Friday, so I had to send those.

And with the spare bedroom smelling like stain fumes, so much for sleeping without getting high on fumes.

Next weekend is my Dad's family reunion. That's not a relaxing day for sure.

Maybe Saturday after next. Maybe.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Meow mix

I like to hear the birds in my backyard chirping.

The squirrel chattter gets freaky at times.

Kittens meowing under your patio deck where you can't get to them or see them while you are working rank right up there with dogs that are scared of the dark barking while you are trying to sleep.

On Thursday, I think I went downstairs and out back at least 4 times to see if I could find the kittens I could hear meowing. When I went to the kitchen one time that evening, I saw one of my neighbors in his backyard rummaging through some of his junk. I asked him if he had kittens because I thought maybe they were coming from there and that's what he was looking for.

"I think they are under your deck."


There was a cat in the yard of the neighbor on the other side who may/may not have been the mother cat. I don't see how she would have squeezed, under, but what do I know.

Fed up yesterday, I went and blasted water via the water hose through the slats to see if it would run them out. My dad even found that cruel, thinking it would probably drown them since they probably didn't have their eyes open. I'm saying I think they are older than that and the mama cat just had them go under there when it was raining a few days ago.

Paige thought I needed a cat I could name Skittles if I wouldn't get a house dog and name it Fudge. I told her today that I might have Skittles, Reese's Pieces and M&Ms. They sure are loud little buggers.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Bodie and Brock Thoene to Celebrate the First Release in their New Jerusalem Chronicles Series

Celebrate the release of When Jesus Wept with the Thoenes by entering their iPad Mini giveaway and RSVPing to their {4/23} Facebook Author Chat party!


One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A brand new iPad Mini
  • A book club kit - 10 copies of When Jesus Wept
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 22nd. Winner will be announced at the "When Jesus Wept" Author Chat Party on 4/23. Connect with the Thoenes, get a sneak peek of the next book in the Jerusalem Chronicles series, try your hand at a trivia contest, and chat with readers just like yourself. There will also be fun giveaways - gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of When Jesus Wept and join Bodie and Brock on the evening of the April 23rd for a chance to connect with the authors and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!

About the book:

Book 1 in the Thoene’s new  Jerusalem Chronicles.

Brock and Bodie Thoene’s most powerful and climactic writing project to date, When Jesus Wept, captures the power and the passion of the men and women who lived through the most important days in the history of the world.

Lazarus occupies a surprising position in the Gospel accounts. Widely known as the man Jesus raised from the dead, his story is actually much broader and richer than that. Living as he did at Bethany, near Jerusalem, Lazarus was uniquely placed to witness the swirl of events around Jesus. When Jesus Wept, the first novel in The Jerusalem Chronicles series by bestselling authors Bodie and Brock Thoene, unfolds the turbulent times in Judea during Jesus’ ministry, centering on the friendship between Jesus and Lazarus. With rich insights from vineyard owners and vine dressers, the Thoenes explore the metaphor of Jesus as the True Vine, harvesting the ancient secrets found in the Old Testament.

Weaving the life of Lazarus, who owned a vineyard, into the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ will help you understand it is the hand of Love Divine that holds the knife, that cuts and breaks with such tender and loving touch, and that we who have born some fruit, after the pruning, can bear much more.

Purchase a copy here.

About the authors:

Bodie and Brock Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee) are bestselling authors of over sixty-five works of historical fiction. Their timeless classics have sold more than thirty-five million copies and won eight ECPA Gold Medallion Awards. The Thoenes have four grown children and eight grandchildren. They divide their time between Hawaii, London, and Nevada.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

When life knocks you down... Get back up!

An Interview with Sheryl Giesbrecht,
Author of Get Back Up
Did you know it is possible to survive a freefall from the Willis Tower in Chicago or a skydive with a failed parachute? It will hurt, and it will take some time to heal, but it is possible. Our lives can be a lot like that freefall, but we can survive whatever challenges God puts in front of us if we just get back up. In Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down (Wheatmark/March 2013/ISBN: 978-1-60494-854-7/$ 12.95/also available in e-book), Sheryl Giesbrecht shares her personal story of triumph over tragedy to help readers understand they can not only survive their adversities, but thrive.

Q: For most authors, one defining experience drives them to write their book. You’ve actually faced many obstacles that would have kept most people down for the count. Can you share with us about a difficult time in your life when you had to trust in God and Get Back Up?

Several years ago, I found a lump under my left eye; months later, the lump had tripled in size, blocking my vision. I was afraid and skeptical when I went to the doctor. I could see the concern in the physician’s eyes when sent me to another doctor, a specialist, who sent me to get further tests. You can imagine my surprise when two months later, after no warning signs, such as being tired or sick, I was told I had stage four non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. As a cancer patient, I felt out of control. My life was scheduled for tests, surgeries, doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, side-effects—everything changed. For a control-freak like me, this was very difficult. I chose to trust God, to place myself in His control every day. Psalm 73:26 says, “My body and mind may grow weak, He is my strength, all I ever need.” This was a daily choice for me. On days I was tired or sick from the medication, I chose God’s way and not my past methods of dealing with adversity.

Q: How did the words “love covers a multitude of sins” draw you out of a life of addiction?

At seventeen, I was deep into drug addiction. I stayed high as much as possible, trying to fill the emptiness in my life with the highest high or the cutest guy while my need for affection only increased. I couldn’t wait to move out of my parents’ home. My family pulled strings to get me a volunteer summer job at a Christian camp. The staff assigned me lists of chores, such as washing hundreds of dishes in the mess hall, raking piles of pine needles around the campgrounds, and even moving logs around the outdoor campfire ring. Whenever I complained or threw fits over doing my chores or smoked cigarettes and dope, the staff said, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8 [NIV]). Their words, repeated over and over, immersed me for two weeks. The staff didn’t tell me to change anything about my appearance, attitude or addictions.

Instead, they showed me what the invitation of love looked like. They were kind; they offered the true love of God without forcing me to accept it. It got me to thinking, isn’t my sin too much for God to handle? That thought plagued me day and night. Their words, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” straight from scripture, began to penetrate my hard heart and foggy mind. I began to believe God’s love could cover the things that held me captive to my addictions: drugs and alcohol, lying and stealing, promiscuity and drug dealing. It was finally clear: I didn’t need to clean up my act before coming to God; He loved me passionately just the way I was. One night in my cabin, I submitted to the overwhelming love of God. He had reached out to me, and I, a most unlikely choice, finally grasped His hand. His abundant love did cover my multitude of sins. I accepted the invitation to live a new life. The invitation was from God.

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Q: When we feel worn-out and spread thin, what are some of the ways we can best rejuvenate ourselves?

It always helps to remind ourselves what God thinks about us. We can do this by meditating on scripture and every person’s identity in Christ. When you understand your identity in Christ, you can successfully live the abundant life He promises. This is how one moves with the rhythm of God’s grace.

Another way we can rejuvenate ourselves is we should learn how to ask God for help. This happens by constantly maintaining conversation with God in prayer. In Get Back Up, I talk about the Mom’s In Touch method of prayer that has helped me learn to pray. God’s prayer book is His Word, the Bible. If you want to learn to pray, use scriptural prayers.

We can rejuvenate ourselves if we learn to nurture ourselves. This is very difficult because it requires self-evaluation. It may mean quitting several of the programs for which you volunteer. “Nurturing yourself is not selfish,” said message therapist Rachel Donaldson. “It actually gives you more energy and patience to manage all types of stress.” If you keep multitasking to a minimum and choose just two or three things each day that are realistic and tangible, you will feel successful and less stressed. Keep your calendar open, allowing for those inevitable family emergencies that would come up. During a busy season of life, when my children were young and their activities required transportation, I set aside about ten minutes every day for a prayer time or just to talk to another female friend by phone. Often my time of renewal was when I picked up my son from my sister-in-law’s house. Although she was my child’s babysitter, we became good friends, prayer partners and confidantes.

Q: Why do you think we tend to want to handle things ourselves rather than hand our struggles over to God in times of doubt, despair and disappointment?

Many men and women are wounded. They mourn in silence, yearning for freedom, yet they remain unable to acknowledge the love of God. They can’t bring themselves to reach out for the hand of God. Disabling circumstances sap their strength, often beyond their control, yet they don’t respond to God’s invitation to get back up. Why do some choose to live life in a state of numbness? Because they believe renewal is for friends, husband, parents, even children—anyone but them. Some think their damaged emotions are too ruined for God to heal. They don’t trust him with their pain. They need to see that the power to get back up begins when the believing starts. That’s what trusting God is all about.

Q: How does forgiveness and letting go of grudges play into us being able to get back up?

God wants to release us from our frozen state of bitterness to a graceful walk in the freedom of forgiveness. God asks us to forgive, but He also gives us the ability to do it. Consider Matthew 18:33: “Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as had mercy on you?” (NIV).

Remember: Forgiveness is giving ourselves a gift, not giving a gift to the person we’ve forgiven. In fact, the person we forgive may not ever know we’ve forgiven him, but God will. Forgiveness is between God and us. Confessing our forgiveness to someone who has not first asked for it can cause more problems than it solves. Forgiving others should actually begin at the time we are offended, but it can still be accomplished even if the hurt occurred years ago—even if the offender is now deceased. Forgiveness is good for us!

Letting go of a grudge is good for your health. Grudges increase tension and stress, deplete energy, cause isolation and prevent old wounds from healing. Grudges steal joy, disrupt sleep and harden hearts and arteries. Such bitter emotions can even get in the way of prayers. Resentment keeps us in chains unless we recognize it as bitterness. Give up the grudge and our right to get even, and we will gain peace, sound mind and restful sleep. We can train our minds to refuse to keep score of the wrongs others have committed against us through the power of God’s Word. Remember that 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV).

Q: Survival during a physical fall is dependent more on how you land than how you fall. How can we prepare to land on our feet when we fall figuratively?

We can prepare and plan ahead because we know it’s not if but when we will “fall.” We can spend time with God in prayer and in His word every day. In times of “peace and prosperity,” we might want to take a vacation from spending time with God. If, instead, we choose to put down our roots, we will invest in a huge spiritual return. So when we do “fall down” in the changes and challenges of life, we sense God is near. We believe God is just a prayer away and waits for us to ask Him to help us get back up when we are knocked down by life. God wants us to reach out to Him in times of difficulty, doubt, despair, depression, disappointment, disease, destruction, divorce, discouragement, domestic violence or death. God’s hand is extended to us. His will for us when we are down and out is to turn to Him and ask for a hand up. He asks us to lace our fingers into His. “God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit” (Psalm 145:14 [The Message]).

Q: Why do we feel we have to clean up our messy lives before turning to God? Isn’t the whole point that we can come to Him as we are?

We are afraid of being vulnerable before God. Some of us can hardly stand ourselves, so we wonder why God would love or how he could possibly love someone like us. We forget the church should be a hospital for the sick. We measure ourselves against others around us, masking our pain and hiding our true feelings. This belief system is an addiction; it’s called perfectionism. If we read our Bible regularly, we find the testimony of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-16 is also extended to us. It reads, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” Now that’s a great example of God’s unconditional love!

Q: You are the Executive Director of International Christian Ministries. Can you tell us more about what ICM does and your next mission trip?

I love leaders. As a pastor’s wife for more than 28 years, God gave me a heart for women in leadership and showed me the importance of the role of a pastor’s wife. Years later, opportunities came for me to work with leadership training events involving men and women. Back several years ago, I was fortunate to get involved with ICM and now am on the full-time staff.

International Christian Ministries’ purpose is to serve the church by training, equipping and discipling its leaders. We focus on top-level servant leaders and exponentially expand our training through training leaders. Leaders are the influential gatekeepers who control what their organizations will learn. We utilize our influence and resources to train leaders at every level of a denomination or ministry. Our partners are Equip, Walk Thru the Bible, Lead Like Jesus and the Purpose Driven Church.  Most of our work is done in Africa, but we also train in the Middle East, Europe and Canada. 

I am leading an ICM team in spring 2013 where we will serve the African people in Kenya and Uganda. Our team will be presenting Vacation Bible School programs at orphanages. I will also be teaching a leadership training seminar. I’m so very excited and appreciate your prayers. You can keep up with our trip via my blog (http://sherylsblog.icmusa.org/), as well as Facebook and Twitter (@SGiesbrecht).

Learn more about Sheryl Giesbrecht on her website, www.FromAshesToBeauty.com. She also invites readers to follow her on Facebook and on Twitter (@SGiesbrecht).