Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kim Vogel Sawyer's new book explores the complexity of family relationships

Kim Vogel Sawyer writes of an Old Mennonite

family struggling to survive their secrets

Bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer believes in the power of second chances — a theme she’s captured with poignant grace in her new book, When Grace Sings (WaterBrook Press/March 17, 2015/ISBN: 978-0307731333/$14.99) which follows the CBA bestseller When Mercy Rains in The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy. Sawyer says the series is based on one simple truth: “God gives second chances. We as humans make our mistakes, we flounder and err and build walls that seem insurmountable,” Sawyer reveals. “When we confess our wrongdoings and ask God to redeem us, He brings restoration.”

When Grace Sings introduces readers to Alexa Zimmerman, who has relocated to Arborville, KS, where she’s converting her grandmother’s farmhouse in Old Order Mennonite country into a bed-and-breakfast. Inspired by her own experience of running a B&B, Sawyer was able to depict perfectly the charm and challenges she details in the book. “I would never have considered writing a story including a B&B were it not for our experiences at The King’s Inn,” Sawyer admits. “We’ve met so many wonderful folks we wouldn’t have known any other way. They came as strangers and left as friends. And that brings me to the hardest part — the goodbyes. It’s nice, though, that we are still in touch with many of our guests through Facebook.”

Seen by locals as an outsider, Alexa wonders if the close-knit community will ever fully accept her and her new business. Her family roots here aren’t what anyone thought when she first arrived, but she is hopeful her culinary and hospitality skills will win the skeptics over.

However, the arrival of overly confident and dashing Chicago reporter Briley Forrester throws Alexa for a loop. Despite her suspicions of just what his sudden appearance amidst the plain folk means, Alexa agrees to allow Briley to stay as a long-term boarder. She has to — she has a lot riding on her new bed-and-breakfast — even if his flirtatious manner annoys her. Struggling to fit in, Alexa encounters more than she bargained for when her cousin Anna-Grace Braun and fiancĂ©, Steven, visit.  The presence of extended family brings out Alexa’s insecurities, and the two women find themselves on a trail to unraveling long-held family secrets.

Plans for a secure future and the sweetness of young romance hang in the balance when Alexa and Anna-Grace are forced to face that their secrets are connected, binding the two in ways they could not have imagined. Will the revelations they stumble upon shake them and their family to the core, or will they trust God to restore relationships and accept His grace?

This engaging novel will remind all readers that with God as their guide, it’s never too late for a second chance.

About the author

Kim Vogel Sawyer told her kindergarten teacher someday people would check out her books in libraries. That little girl’s dream came true in 2006 with the release of Waiting for Summer’s Return. Since then, Sawyer has watched God expand her dream beyond her childhood imaginings. With more than 30 titles on library shelves and more than a 1.5 million copies of her books in print, she enjoys a full-time writing and speaking ministry. Her books have received the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Empty-nesters, Sawyer and her retired military husband, Don, enjoy a quiet existence in small-town Kansas, the setting for many of her novels. When she isn’t writing, Sawyer stays active serving in her church’s women’s and music ministries, traveling with “The Hubs” and spoiling her quiverful of granddarlings.

Keep up with Kim Vogel Sawyer at www.kimvogelsawyer.com, on Facebook (KimVogelSawyer.Author.Speaker) or by following her on Twitter (KimVogelSawyer). 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Rethink Inner Beauty with Barb Roose’s ‘Enough Already’

Learn how to recognize your own outer and inner beauty as defined by God, not the media or others, in Barb Roose's new book, Enough Already. What would it take for you to believe you are enough already? Most women know God loves them, but might he love them more if they finally lost that last ten pounds, or got their hair to lay right, or finally found a pair of jeans that looked good and let them breathe? Well, maybe God doesn’t care about jeans, but women do, and all the talk about inner beauty hasn’t kept all of us from staring into a mirror and taking an inventory that never quite measures up.

Barb is celebrating the release with a giveaway! One reader will receive a cash card and writing supplies for her own inner-beauty weekend getaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $75 cash card for your own inner-beauty weekend getaway
  • A notepad/pencil set for your inner-beauty quiet time
  • A copy of Enough Already
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 12th. Winner will be announced April 13th on Barb's blog.



Enough Already


(Abingdon, March 2015)
Recognize your own outer and inner beauty as defined by God, not the media or others.
Most women know that God loves them, but might he love them more if they finally lost that last ten pounds, or got their hair to lay right, or finally found a pair of jeans that looked good and let them breathe? Well, maybe God doesn’t care about jeans, but women do, and all the talk about inner beauty hasn’t kept all of us from staring into a mirror and taking an inventory that never quite measures up. Enough Alreadywill:
—Elevate the soul-freeing, spiritual truth that God is the Creator of beauty and that women are called to appreciate and care for themselves as his own.
—Enable women to accept God-given beauty so that when they look in the mirror they see his handiwork, not their flaws.
—Equip women to win the ugly struggle with beauty once and for all.

Barb Roose


Barbara Roose is an African-American, wife, mother, and pastor with a passion for creatively communicating God’s truths in a manner that is relevant and easy for people to apply to their lives. In February 2002, she joined the staff at Cedar Creek Church in Perrysburg, Ohio. Currently, she is the Directional Leader and Pastor of Spiritual Formation. For the past eight years, she has had the privilege to serve as periodic teaching pastor to 10,000 (average) weekly attendees. Since 2010, she has spoken at various women’s conferences in the U.S. and Honduras. In October 2012, she was a guest speaker for best-selling author and former Women of Faith speaker, Nicole Johnson’s Seasons Weekend Experience. Barbara and her husband, Matt, have been married 21 years and live in Toledo, Ohio.
Find out more about Barbara at http://www.barbroose.com.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I'm All Wrapped Up, All Tied Up, All Tangled Up in Jesus

Wrapped Up, Tied Up, Tangled Up

I’m all wrapped up,
I’m all tied up,
I’m all tangled up in Jesus.
I’m all wrapped up,
I’m all tied up,
I’m all tangled up in God.

I’m all wrapped up,
All tied up,
All tangled up in Jesus.
I’m all wrapped up,
tied up, tangled up in God.

Repeat, faster each time

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My latest crafty projects

It's the weekend, so you know I've been working on my latest projects. I'll have more photos tomorrow. Also check out The Crafty Dad and Daughter site!

I also bought a plum tree and got my the oil changed in my car today, but that's about the most excitement I've had.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Brooks offers authentic, down-to-earth wisdom from one dad to another

 Part 1 of an interview with Tez Brooks,
Author of The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce

In The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce (Kregel/February 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443602/$14.99), Tez Brooks offers authentic, down-to-earth wisdom from one dad to another. This much-needed guidebook addresses the spiritual and emotional health of fathers as well as their financial and practical arrangements. Using the experience of his own divorce and the real-life stories of other single dads, The Single Dad Detour is a humorous and invaluable companion for single dads at all stages of their journey.

Q: The Single Dad Detour shares insights and encouragement from your time as a single dad. You’ve said it was difficult to write it because of the memories that surfaced. What led you to write it anyway?

I really struggled for several years. I didn’t want to go there, but the Lord started working in my heart, and I remembered how there just wasn’t anything out there for me when I was going through my own divorce, especially with a Christian worldview. What was available was too preachy for me. So I wrote something that would encourage guys with a little humor and offer some practical advice.

Q: Would you be willing to share a little bit about your road to becoming a single dad?

We entered our marriage with childhood abuse that had not been dealt with, which led to a lot of selfishness, unfaithfulness and even some mental health issues that had not been diagnosed. We were clueless and trying to navigate through that with little to no help.

Divorce was just not something my side of the family did, but you can’t make someone love you, and you can’t make someone stay. So although I didn’t want a failed marriage, I saw it coming. I was married almost 10 years when I found myself single again. It was a lonely, depressing time for me, but I ran to the Lord to survive.

The kids lived with me full-time about three out of the seven years I was single. They experienced a lot of loss too. As you know, no one wins when it comes to divorce. It’s a lose-lose situation. Yet here we are on the other side by the grace of God.

Click here to enter!
Q: Some believe the court system can be unfair to men in divorce and custody decisions. What advice do you have for those men on fighting resentment and bitterness?

While many states have become more progressive and friendly toward the father having custody, there are still many judicial systems that are old-fashioned. When that happens we can fight for our rights as fathers and still have a Christ-like manner about us, especially when dealing with our ex-spouse. Jesus was angry when he knocked over the merchants’ tables in the temple . . . yet he was without sin. Too often we forget to model Christ in the midst of defending our rights. Our anger toward the courts can get misdirected to others.

We often need to lay down our rights; Christ did this too. That being said, when bitterness and resentment rise up — and it will — we must fight that with prayer and forgiveness. That is easier said than done, though, which is why it’s so important we throw ourselves at the foot of the cross every day.

Q: Many men build their lives on the idea that a wife, kids and house equal success. When that crumbles, where can they find their identity?

That’s a great question because our identity needs to be grounded in Christ to begin with. If that’s not the case when tragedy strikes, we’re in trouble. That’s exactly where I found myself. I was a Christian, but I didn’t really understand my identity as a child of God. I thought my self-worth was found in the typical American dream. When that disappeared in my 30s, I suddenly felt like I had no real value to anyone.

I had embraced the world’s view of who and what I was. In essence, I had allowed the world to place a price tag on my forehead, based on my achievements. Suddenly, I was marked down 95% and thrown into the bargain bin. It can take a long time for the message of Christ to move from our heads to our hearts. That’s what needed to happen with me. Thankfully the Holy Spirit began a work that revealed to me the value God had placed on me. It was vital to my healing.

Q: Divorce often leaves a man feeling broken and depressed, yet pressured to put on a brave front. How can a dad authentically lead his children during such a dark time?

Authenticity is important, especially when you’re trying to lead your kids through some tough transitions. There’s a certain amount of safety and refuge a child experiences from seeing his or her dad strongly brave the storms. Conversely when they see a parent falling apart and becoming an emotional basket case, it does nothing to nurture a sense of security.

Still, our children need to know we are human. I need to model for my kids that I’m nothing apart from God, and I’m not capable of doing anything without Christ. The problem with the stoic “front” is it’s not real. It’s inauthentic — a mask to hide behind. True faith in God, which comes from your heart and the very core of your beliefs, is what produces peace. That peace from God is what gives men the strength to move forward without falling apart and crying like a baby. Trusting God is also going to help us in our role as dads. Kids need to see the courage and calm that come from a heart that believes God has got this. 

Q: You have now been remarried for thirteen years and have two young children. How did navigating the difficult years of single parenting prepare you for the challenge of a blended family?

As a man, I found I grew in several ways. First of all, I was stripped bare of all my pride, arrogance, selfishness and more. The Lord spent those seven years of singleness re-building me into more of what he wanted me to be. My wife, Christine, has always said she would not have been attracted to the kind of man I was before. I can’t say I blame her. Thankfully, God’s timing is perfect.

That time as a single dad also made me a better father. I consistently see how my single years changed me spiritually, emotionally and relationally so I could be a better dad both for my older kids and the two daughters Christine and I had together. It’s difficult to see that, though, when you’re in the midst of your valley. Hindsight provides a lot of perspective.

Q: What is the number-one thing you want single dads to get from reading The Single Dad Detour?

I’d like them to walk away encouraged to keep going strong. I want them to know the Lord is on their side. I want to challenge them to step up, yet still offer them the grace they’ll need to be able to laugh at themselves when they aren’t perfect. There’s too much pressure as it is! If dads can celebrate what they’re doing right while still leaning desperately on the Savior for hope, it will make the road they’re navigating much easier.

Learn more about Tez Brooks and The Single Dad Detour at www.everysingledad.com, on Facebook (everysingledad) or on Twitter (tezd63).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Does Christianity have a place in today’s world?

Professor and seasoned debater brings important
discussion about God and the public square

The concepts of tolerance and political correctness are having a chilling effect on the public practice of Christianity. That’s why readers will find Dr. John C. Lennox’s new book Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism (Monarch Books/March 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0857216212/$19.99) incredibly timely. Lennox, who has defended the Christian faith in debates against the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, gives every follower of Christ the intellectual foundation they will need to argue the role their faith should have in the public discourse. 

While anyone who has spent time in a Sunday-school classroom is familiar with the biblical story of Daniel, Lennox mines this classic historical account to encourage cultural bravery in Christians trying to find their place in a postmodern society. The story of these four young men born in the tiny state of Judah around 500 B.C. and captured by Nebuchadnezzar, the emperor of Babylon, is one of extraordinary faith in God lived out at the pinnacle of executive power. The book of Daniel describes in detail how each of them eventually rose to senior positions of administration.

Yet despite their lucrative positions, Daniel and his friends were not content simply to maintain their private devotion to God. Instead they maintained a high-profile witness in a pluralistic society that was highly antagonistic to their faith, and they would eventually be forced to face the possibility of paying the ultimate price for their religious bravery. Lennox proposes their story carries a powerful message for us today as Christians living in a society that tolerates the practice of Christianity in private homes and in church services, but increasingly deprecates and in some cases even punishes public witness.

“Strong currents of pluralism and secularism in contemporary Western society, reinforced by a paralyzing political correctness, increasingly push expression of faith in God to the margins, confining it if possible to the private sphere,” Lennox says. “It is becoming less and less the ‘done thing’ to mention God in public, let alone to confess to believing in anything exclusive and absolute, such as the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior.” Lennox believes if Daniel and his compatriots were with us today they would be in the vanguard of public debate.

Against the Flow is a truly fascinating examination of the life of Daniel from a leading expert on faith and science. In his first biblical work, Dr. Lennox provides a unique perspective on both Western society and biblical exegesis that will make Against the Flow an instant classic encouraging Christians to speak out in our modern Babylon.

Learn more about John C. Lennox and Against the Flow at www.johnlennox.org or on Twitter

About the Author

Dr. John C. Lennox is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College. He studied at the Royal School Armagh, Northern Ireland, and was Exhibitioner and Senior Scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University from which he took his MA, MMath and PhD. He also holds an MA and DPhil from Oxford University and an MA in Bioethics from the University of Surrey.

Lennox lectures on faith and science for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and has traveled throughout North America, Eastern and Western Europe and Australasia lecturing on mathematics, the philosophy of science and the intellectual defense of Christianity. He has debated Richard Dawkins at the University of Alabama (2007) and the Oxford Museum of Natural History (2008), as well as Christopher Hitchens at the Edinburgh Festival (2008) and at Samford University (2010), among others.

Lennox’s hobbies include amateur astronomy, bird-watching and walking. He and his wife, Sally, have three grown children and seven grandchildren. They make their home near Oxford.

Keep up with John C. Lennox and read more about Against the Flow at www.johnlennox.org or on Twitter (ProfJohnLennox).

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Animals smell really bad and I may be allergic to all of them

Last night after being around all the dirt and livestock at the Youth Expo, I woke up with stopped up ears and drainage gunk. Just ugh.

However, I was kind of pumped to stend a few hours away from the office to see how the girls fared at the rabbit show.

There were lots more rabbits this year and the judge was crazy meticulous. As I sat around watching the judge count rabbit toes and check all their parts, my face was itching like crazy... The same way I get around a friend's cats and dogs. We had pet rabbits when I was a kid, but I don't think I was allergic to them.

After close to four hours, the girls' rabbits were eliminated. No telling how long it took to finish out the judging, and then do showmanship. I was away from the office 5 hours and worked until close to 9 tonight because I needed to get work done and my hours in.

I barely touched a rabbit yet was trying not to smell the stank of youth expo that clings tightly to anyone that steps foot out there all afternoon long.

At least we're done with all that until next year.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Run piggy run!

It's a busy week to be a spectator.

Last night Paige won both the 1600 and 2400m at her track meet by a lot.

Tonight Peyton showed her pig. Paige was supposed to show too, but one of their pigs lost weight and didn't make the weight limit. It wasn't as exciting as last year's show where Peyton got second in her class and Paige won Grand Champion, but Peyton did well.

Both did way better than I did with my picture taking from afar.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Colleen Coble talks about the Journey of the Heart serials

An interview with Colleen Coble
Author of the Journey of the Heart series

Colleen Coble’s Journey of the Heart series take readers back to her very first book. Revised to read as a single epic novel, the Journey of the Heart serialization launched in March (2015) with A Heart’s Disguise, and an installment will follow each month through August. In the following interview, Coble shares why this story remains so close to her heart.

Q: What made you want to be a novelist? What really kick-started your career?

I wrote my first story in first grade about a horse that had twin colts. The teacher praised it, and the dream of being a writer was planted. It went underground for a while when I started raising our family, but when my younger brother, Randy, was killed in a freak lightning storm, the dream resurrected.

Q: What inspired the story in Journey of the Heart?

My first book was really a grieving book for Randy. I wanted to write a story about him if he’d lived in the 1800s as he’d always wished. When I wrote the story, it really helped me to come to grips with my grief.

Q: What was it like to write a story that came from such a personal place for you?

It reminded me in many ways that my brother isn’t really dead. He’s more alive now in heaven than he’s ever been. And I will see him again. There are always pieces of the author in every story, and these books are a prime example of that! In the first book, Rand comes back from the dead, basically. His family thought he died in the Civil War. Even now, when I reread the part where his family realizes he’s alive, I cry.

Q: How is the new release of the series different from the original?

These books have the amazing touch of my team at HarperCollins Christian Publishing on them. With their suggestions, I’ve enhanced conflict and characterization and even changed some endings.

Q: What message do you hope readers walk away with after reading the Journey of the Heart series?

We will all have trials in our lives. Trials serve to make us stronger and to point us to the One who is always by our side, no matter what we face!

To keep up with Colleen Coble, visit www.colleencoble.com, become a fan on Facebook (colleencoblebooks) or follow her on Twitter (@colleencoble). 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The B-I-B-L-E


The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God

The B-I-B-L-E

Saturday, March 21, 2015

That was a bust

Well, all the hard work I've put in the last three weeks to have stock ready for a booth today was a complete waste.

There were supposed to be 30+ vendors at the Mabank Pavilion for a Relay for Life race this morning. I was up at 5:15 this morning. That's 5:15 AM on a Saturday when I normally have a 9:00 Saturday rule.

This after seeing 2:00 AM a time or two this week.

I sold three items. Three. Like 1-2-3.

A crocheted headband that I made probably back in October.

A plaque that was one of the first I did.

A jewelry holder.

I spent what money I made after paying for a booth on paint pens at Walmart on the way back home. (Though the positive is I found colors I had not been able to get here in town.)

Once I got home, I had to put up this mess, and try to reclaim my house for a home not disaster area. (I guess it's the dining room, but it's mainly the room that connects all other rooms. You go through it to the kitchen, to get to the stairs, get to the hall to the bedrooms...)

Now that it's warmed up, I'm going to move plants back out of sunroom and have it set up to be more of a studio since my drawing table is out there. It's been too cold to be out there lately.

So, lesson learned... stop staying up all hours of the night. And here's to hoping we do better at the next two events I have scheduled.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Someone needs to go to bed earlier

I've been staying up way too late trying to finish off some projects for a booth we're doing this weekend. I really, really, really hope some of this sells!

Of course, you can mosey on over to The Crafty Dad and Daughter and order something you see!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Special needs parents need to take care of themselves too

Part 2 of an interview with Laurie Wallin,
Author of Get Your Joy Back

As special needs parents fight tooth-and-nail for the best life for their child, their mental, emotional and spiritual reserves quickly deplete. Wallin offers replenishment in her book, Get Your Joy Back: Banishing Resentment and Reclaiming Confidence in Your Special Needs Family (Kregel Publications/January 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443398/$13.99). “I’ve been married for 16 years to a man with a wicked sense of humor and an Asperger’s diagnosis,” she reveals. “Two of our four daughters have half a dozen medical, developmental and mental health special needs. Daily we try to balance their care with ‘normal’ family stuff like sports, homework and my desire to lock myself in a closet and watch entire seasons of Downton Abbey in a single night.”

Q: What makes Get Your Joy Back stand apart from other books written to special needs parents?

It’s not about the kids. It’s about the parents — the primary caregivers, specifically. There just isn’t much out there for the people who are parents of these special kids. Our lives become about getting our kids the best possible care, and we can nearly become invisible. It effects our health, life expectancy, quality of life, relationships, careers . . . and we often feel like that’s just how it is and there’s nothing to be done about it. This book says, from a fellow parent in the trenches: “You’re still there. I see you. And you matter, beyond your role as Mom or Dad.”

Q: What did you mean when you said this book will help parents “stop the madness”?

The madness is the treadmill on which we find ourselves as parents. The “keep trying harder, keep ignoring what hurts you, keep putting off your needs, keep doing, doing, doing” treadmill. This book gives parents permission to get off that treadmill and provides the practical tools to release resentments, lower stress and replace unhealthy thought patterns with ones that restore joy in their lives and relationships.

Q: Why do special needs parents often feel so isolated?

They’re isolated by their child’s needs and schedules, as well as by misunderstandings with people they know.  Every family is constrained by a 24-hour day, and even for families without a special needs child, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. However, for parents of special needs children, instead of the occasional doctor’s appointment or meeting, these families’ days are full of trips to therapists, doctors, pharmacies, meetings at the school and calls to work with insurance providers and medical suppliers.

Many of the parents I interviewed for the book have also felt judgment and misunderstanding from peers, churches and communities, such that they shy away from pursuing relationships. That was one of the primary reasons for writing this book: to invite weary parents to see a way out of the stress and isolation so they can feel whole and thrive again.

Q: Why is it so important for special needs parents to take care of their own well-being?

Airlines instruct passengers that when the cabin pressure changes and oxygen masks drop down, we’re to put on our own before helping anyone else with theirs. We lose that principle somewhere in the life-and-death, post-traumatic, stress-inducing experiences we have as parents of kids with special needs. At some point the diagnosis is made and our child’s new normal begins to form, but ours never does. We stay on high-alert forever. We know our kids depend on us, but we don’t translate that into giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves enough to support that load.

Q: Do you have moments when you aren’t sure you can make it through the day? What gets you through?

It’s a more unusual day when I DON’T have moments like that! So, yes. How do I make it through while my teen who has bipolar disorder and learning disabilities is melting down over three math problems, and her sister needs my attention because her seizures are outrunning her medications? I do it doused in reminders of God’s grace, listening to inspiring music, the audio Bible, even spoken word slam poetry from my favorite Christian artist. (Notice the theme? Audio. I’m able to stream it while doing all the other parenting stuff, if needed.) I do it by talking to God like He’s standing there with me, complete with griping, begging, crying or whatever is needed in the moment.

I do it by getting a little more sleep on the hard days, eating balanced meals (and setting a timer if I have to, so I don’t dip too low on the blood sugars), getting into the sunshine every day, using lotions with scents that evoke calm, drinking tea and having a super-secret stash of salted dark chocolate with almonds.

I also applied to public programs for respite and money to assist in having a trained caregiver in the house who isn’t just there for my kids; she is my right arm in whatever way I need help in the house . . . or if I just need a time out to walk a few laps around the block.

Q: Parents of special needs kids have unique pressures on their marriage. How have you made your marriage a priority, even in the midst of caring for your children?

We’ve made weekly date nights a non-negotiable. There is no substitute for time together, alone. Even when we’ve had little money and no babysitting options available, we’ve found morning or mid-day times while kids were at school or appointments to spend an hour, just the two of us. It’s crucial to have that regularly planned time that says, “We still matter as a couple, apart from the kids and their needs.”

Learn more about Laurie Wallin and Get Your Joy Back at www.lauriewallin.com and on Facebook (LivingPowerLifeCoaching), Pinterest (lauriewallin) or Twitter (mylivingpower).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Story of Faith and Healing from Helo Matzelle’s ‘Halo Found Hope’ (Plus a Kindle Giveaway)

This story of hope and faith in the midst of great physical and medical adversity is sure to encourage you in your faith. Helo Matzelle's Halo Found Hope is a must-read. Machines beeping, the blur of medical staff running, a crash cart whizzing into an ICU room—was there any hope? Halo Found Hope is the story of a beautiful, busy wife and mother of three whose life changes instantly with the diagnosis of a rare brain tumor.

Halo is offering a Kindle Fire to one lucky reader to celebrate the release of Halo Found Hope!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Halo Found Hope
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 3rd. Winner will be announced April 4th on the Litfuse blog.



Halo Found Hope


Machines beeping, the blur of medical staff running, a crash cart whizzing into an ICU room—was there any hope?
A young woman lay, packed in ice, as doctors attempted to somehow stop the swelling in her brain that threatened to take her life… and her family waited.
Six days turned into eight weeks. She awoke to discover that she was not the same. She saw two of everything, couldn’t feel half of her face, couldn’t hear from one ear, and could not speak. She couldn’t even tell anyone that she felt hopeless… or could she?
Halo Found Hope is the story of a beautiful, busy wife, and mother of three whose life changes instantly with the diagnosis of a rare brain tumor. An exceptional ENT, a brilliant neurosurgeon and a dedicated medical team tackle the tumor, setting off a series of unbelievable miracles. Helo’s story is not one of survival, or of salvaging a life through a broken body. It is not about endurance through pain, but victory because of it. While the family heard her silence, God heard her prayer. Helo’s story is simply this: Wherever you are and whatever you are going through, God is right there. He doesn’t need to be re cognized by you, to be there for you. He can replace fear with courage and discouragement with determination, if you let Him. Helo did, and that is how she found hope.
Helo Matzelle


Helouise “Halo” Matzelle led a charmed life until receiving a shocking diagnosis in 2011 of a rare brain tumor sitting over the main artery in her brain. Matzelle’s passion is helping those who face various challenges and afflictions discover where true hope is found. She resides in Redmond, WA, with her husband and their three children.
Find out more about Helo at http://halofoundhope.com/.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Terri Blackstock talks about her latest, Twisted Innocence

Its difficult enough to live with the consequences of your own decisions, but what do you do when those choices endanger the ones you love? In Twisted Innocence (Zondervan/ February 3, 2015/ISBN: 978-0310332367/ $15.99) beloved suspense author Terri Blackstock weaves a gripping tale of murder, mistaken identity and human frailty.

Q: In Twisted Innocence, you tackle some messy issues in the life of a Christian. Tell us a little about your character Holly, and the challenges shes facing in this book.

I wanted to tell Holly’s story because she’s my favorite character in the Moonlighters Series. Of the three sisters in the series, Holly has been the most troubled. In the first two books, she’s a taxi driver who has trouble keeping any other job, and she discovers she’s pregnant. She struggles with how to tell her sisters she’s made another mistake and even considers abortion. But she decides to do the hard thing and go through with the pregnancy, despite how it will alter her life. In Twisted Innocence, she has just had the baby and is struggling to change her life when some consequences of her past catch up to her. My hope was any reader who feels God has given up on him or her will relate to Holly’s struggles and see it’s never too late to start over.

Q: Do you think readers will be able to identify with what Holly Cramer, a young woman facing the consequences of her youthful indiscretions, is going through?

I think many readers will identify with Holly. Ever since I wrote the Intervention series, which featured a family dealing with drug abuse, I’ve heard from many, many people like Holly. I know it gives them hope to see someone who’s made all the wrong choices and still learns God hasn’t given up on them. He knows how we’re wired and why we are the way we are, and while there are no excuses for sin, God has made all the provision necessary for us to find forgiveness and salvation. It’s never too late to start over. God sent Jesus so He could wipe our slates clean.

Q: Many people feel as though theyve done things in their lives out of order. Do you think God holds those things against us?

I like to think about the biblical story of the woman at the well and how out of order her life was. Jesus pointed out she’d had five husbands and was living with a sixth. But Jesus chose her to be the one who would take the good news of the Messiah’s arrival to her village. He came that time as a savior, not a judge.

I used to have a pastor who often said churches should send an ambulance, not a firing squad. That’s what Jesus did. He looked at people such as the woman at the well and knew she needed a savior. She had plenty of judges already. He changed her life, and she was never the same after that. She’s now an example of Christ’s redemption that has been told for 2,000 years.

Q: Although Holly thought her party lifestyle wasnt hurting anyone, she ends up pregnant by a man she hardly knows. What does this teach us about how our decisions can impact the lives of others?

Holly has had many consequences throughout her life — job losses, financial collapse, relationship problems — but nothing has ever shaken her like her pregnancy. When she comes close to aborting her baby, she realizes she has to change. She cleans up her life as she carries her child but never tells the father about his child. When he learns about Lily’s birth, he comes back into her life but brings a world of trouble with him. He’s a suspect in a murder case, and when Holly uses her private investigating skills to help with the investigation, the tables turn and he takes her and the baby hostage. But nothing is as it seems. Is he a killer or a victim? His link to her family’s arch-nemesis creates an even more tangled web.

This story shows the domino effect of our decisions on others’ lives, but it also shows those decisions can be redeemed. God can use even our worst mistakes.

Q: In the first book in the series, Truth Stained Lies, Holly learns shes pregnant and briefly contemplates abortion. What stops her from making that choice?

Holly values life, and even though she dreads the thought of admitting to her sisters she’s messed up, she can’t make it through the door of the abortion clinic. In Truth Stained Lies, the first book in the series, she sits in the parking lot across from the abortion clinic and tries to convince herself to go in. She finally realizes though this child is real — it’s not a blob of tissue. It has fingers and toes and nerve endings and a brain. She decides to have the baby, even though it’s the most frightening thing she’s ever faced.

Q: What challenges do single mothers face? How were you able to capture her fears and difficulties so realistically?

I was divorced when my children were young, so I was a single mother for a while. It’s so hard to have to do every little thing yourself and be forced to navigate the rocky emotions of motherhood alone.

Q: Holly struggles with self-loathing as she surveys the rubble her life has become. Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt like youd never be able to pick up the pieces?

There have been many times in my life when I felt like I’d never pick up the pieces, but God has always given me the power to do it. One of the themes in my novels is that our crises can turn into blessings. We can feel like our world has crumbled, but ten years down the road when we look back on that time, we can see God’s hand at work. I love writing that theme into my books.

Q: After suffering the consequences of bad decisions, its tempting to try and piece together your life by yourself to get your life on-track by being good. Why does this never completely work?

It doesn’t work because we can’t “be good” enough under our own power. We can try to change our behavior for a few days or months, but eventually we stumble and fall. And why should we try to do it alone, when God has offered His spirit to empower us? He is our Helper, and it’s only through His strength we can change our lives in a meaningful, long-term way.

Q: Even after receiving the gift of grace and forgiveness Christ offers, it can be difficult to forgive ourselves. What advice do you have for the person who wants to be truly free from his or her past?

Lamentations 3:23 tells us God’s mercies are new every morning. Think about that. There is nothing we’ve done that can’t be wiped clean by Christ. I think parents understand this concept. Most of us are eager to forgive our children when they mess up. If they apologize or admit they were wrong, we can get up the next day and start over without dwelling on the bad behavior of the day before. There’s nothing heavier than the weight of sin in our lives. It’s crushing. But what a luxury to know the burden of it can be lifted off of our shoulders if we repent and give it to God.

Q: While Hollys family is supportive of her, you can tell some are just waiting for her to mess up again. Is there any way to overcome peoples perceptions of us?

It takes time, and true humility means you give the same grace to those skeptical family members as they gave to you. That means you show patience to them when they doubt you, knowing your new life is the only proof you can give them you’ve truly changed. And you take comfort in the knowledge that God knows your change is real.

Q: You have been a best-selling author of Christian suspense novels since 1994 but your journey as a writer didnt start there. What kinds of books did you write before then?

I started my career in the romance market, writing for Harlequin, Silhouette, Dell and HarperCollins.

Q: What happened that led to your decision to write only Christian novels?

I was a Christian when I went into that market, but in the interest of fame and fortune, I began to make compromises. That meant adding content to my books that didn’t reflect my Christian values, and it took its toll on my spiritual life. After thirteen years and thirty-two books, I was miserable. After intense spiritual conviction, I rededicated my life to God and gave Him that last thing I’d been holding back from Him: my career. I left that market, bought back some contracts and turned to the Christian market where I could write books that impacted lives. I had been writing under two other names, so I started over with my real married name, Terri Blackstock. And because I was reading more suspense at the time than romance, I decided to switch genres and bring faith-based suspense novels to the Christian market. The timing was perfect because Christian readers were starving for that kind of book.

Q: Do you feel like you grow spiritually as you develop the characters in your books?

Absolutely. When I’m struggling with something in my life, I have my character struggle with it. It’s a way of taking it and examining it from every angle, and it’s extremely therapeutic. I often find God speaks to me and teaches me as I’m writing through that story. I may not have any answers to my own dilemma when I begin writing, but by the time I get to the end of the book, I have more insight for my own battle. The letters from my readers indicate I’m passing that insight onto them as well. That’s one of those God-things that happens. I’m not crafty enough to engineer that, but God can use anything we give Him to minister to His people.

Q: Your stories address some of the messy issues of life that some may not expect in Christian fiction. Could you share your approach to storytelling?

A long time ago I realized Christianity doesn’t necessarily insulate us from suffering. Christ’s blessings are abundant when we trust Him, but He promised in this world we would have trouble. I like to have my characters ask the hard questions people really ask when they’re in pain, and I put them through serious trials because real people experience trials. I once had a Christian friend who was dying of cancer, and she said, “Christians need to talk about suffering.” She felt so many of us are unprepared for it, and when it comes, it shakes our faith. I hope my stories will give people courage and hope for the trials ahead and that people already in a time of suffering will relate and feel understood. If they can say, “Yes, I’ve thought that same thing,” and see God’s provision for the character, they might recognize it in their own lives.

Q: As readers experience Hollys journey as a broken woman, trying to piece together the pieces of her tattered life, what do you hope they walk away with?

I want this book to reach anyone who’s ever made bad choices and feels like God is disgusted with him or her. I want readers to come away with the realization that God knows what challenges they’ve had throughout their lives and that He understands what got them to this point. He doesn’t want to dwell on their sins or bad choices. He wants to wipe their slates clean because He has big plans for them. It’s never too late for them to start over. If people close the book inspired to start over with a clean slate and experience the unfathomable love of God for them, then I’ve succeeded.

To keep up with Terri Blackstock, visit www.terriblackstock.com, become a fan on Facebook (tblackstock) or follow her on Twitter (@TerriBlackstock).