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Sunday, December 30, 2012

That's A Wrap 2012

We've had a full couple of weeks.  I don't use the word "busy" because the fullness has been full of good times and sweet memories.  There have been lots of Christmas parties and things happening at school and church, shopping and birthday celebrations.

Mike led and Cecily sang in our church's Christmas program.
Cecily turned 15 on the 19th.  As has been her birthday tradition for the past several years, we had her birthday dinner at Olive Garden.
After dinner, we took her to Menchies for yogurt.  They have a chalkboard on one of the walls and JennaBeth was proud to write her name and Bentley drew a picture of his big sister holding a Christmas tree...strong sister he has!  In the top picture on the right, Cecily is proudly wearing her ring Bentley gave her for her birthday.  I think he paid all of $1.50 for it and was so proud to give it to her.

Cecily had a few girlfriends from church and school over to our home on the 21st for a birthday party.  I cooked chicken quesadillas and we had rotel and chips with a cupcake bar after for dessert.  The girls had a fun time playing CatchPhrase.  There were all manner of laughter and giggles and teenage girl squeals  It was a blessing to see them all having so much fun.
The cupcake bar was a you can tell from the pictures...
Our church always has a Christmas Eve candlelight service.  We come home after and have a "snack food" supper.  Bentley told us on the way home from the service that he was going to go straight to bed.  Funny how he never wants to do that on school nights!
That's the living room before the attack on presents.
The girls made Christmas cookies.
And the littlest of the bunch enjoyed her "little girl iPad" (V-Tech InnoTab2) until both she and the InnoTab ran out of batteries!
Bentley and JennaBeth wanted to show everyone their scooter moves:

Wishing you and yours a Happy and Blessed New Year,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Kingsbury Collection

Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist. There are more than 20 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including several million copies sold in the past year. Karen’s recent dozen titles have all debuted at or near the top of the New York Times Bestseller’s list. She is also a public speaker, reaching more than 100,000 women annually through various national events. Karen lives and works outside Nashville, Tenn., with her husband, Don, and their five sons, three of whom were adopted from Haiti. Also living nearby is their only daughter, Kelsey, an actress in inspirational films and married to Christian recording artist Kyle Kupecky. For more information visit Karen is also on Facebook and Twitter, where she regularly interacts with nearly half a million reader friends.  (Short bio taken from Kingsbury's website.)
*Picture by Dan Davis Photography

Most recently, courtesy of Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program, I was able to obtain a copy of A Kingsbury Collection for the purpose of review.

A Kingsbury Collection is a collection of three of Karen's stand alone novels.  The collection includes Where Yesterday Lives, When Joy Came to Stay, and On Every Side. 

Book Synopsis:
Where Yesterday Lives:  Ellen Barrett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with an uncertain marriage, a forgotten faith, and haunting memories of her picturesque hometown and the love she left behind.  The eldest of five siblings, she longs for the time, long ago, when they were a happy family.  Now Ellen's beloved father is dead, and she returns to her childhood home to make peace - with the people who still live there, with the losses and changes that time has wrought and with the future God has set before her.
When Joy Came to Stay:  Maggie Stovall is one of the golden people.  She has it all least on the surface.  Ben Stovall is a godly husband and successful attorney.  He has no idea of the darkness about to overtake his life.  Amanda Joy is a child of society - abused, broken, thrown away.  But her trust in God is still alive.  Here is the heart-wrenching story of one woman's descent into the shadows of depression, her husband's search for understanding, and a precious child's unwavering faith.
On Every Side:  Faith Evans is an up-and-coming newscaster, a woman of honor and integrity who must take a stand against the one man she never imagined would be her enemy.  A beloved, hundred-year-old statue of Jesus stands in a small-town park - but some say it's a clear violation of separation of church and state that must come down.  Jordan Riley is a powerful attorney fighting for human rights and against God, but still reckoning with bitter boyhood losses.  Amid political intrigue, social injustice, and personal conflicts, will love be enough when the battle rages on every side?

What's better than having one Kingsbury novel to read?  Well, having three in your hand all at once!  In typical Kingsbury fashion, these three books touch on every conceivable human emotion - deep sadness, inconceivable joy, angst of family conflict, forgiveness, letting go, injustice, redemption and restoration.  I dare you to sit down with a Kingsbury story without a box of Kleenex!  I just dare you!

You immediately are drawn into the characters and their stories.  Kingsbury is a master at writing stories that are believable.  My favorite out of this collection was When Joy Came to Stay.  While in some cases Kingsbury's plot lines are a bit predictable, she is still a master story teller and you can't help but finish on the edge of your seat and heart to the last page.  Her "letters to the reader" at the end of each of her books are as good as the stories told.  She feels like a long time friend.  You'll be blessed by reading her writing!

If you will take just a quick second and rank this review as to how helpful it is to you, I would greatly appreciate it!  For doing so, you will be entered to win a free copy of this book for yourself from the publisher!

Blessings and Happy Reading,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Every Perfect Gift

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
James 1:17

 "An award-winning author of novels for preteens, young adults and adults,  Dorothy Love is currently at work on her 17th novel. She is the author of the Hickory Ridge series,  historical novels set in the beautiful Smoky Mountains region of  her native Tennessee.  Her well-researched, heartwarming stories of small town Southern life, faith, friends, and family reflect the emotions, concerns, and values of women everywhere. The Hickory Ridge series (Thomas Nelson Fiction)  marks her adult fiction debut."

*Taken from Love's website found at
  You can also connect with Love on her Facebook page by going HERE.

Every Perfect Gift is the final offering in Love's Hickory Ridge Romance series.  The previous books are Beyond All Measure and Beauty for Ashes.

In Every Perfect Gift, Ethan and Sophie long to share a future together. But the secrets they’re keeping could tear them apart.
Sophie Robillard Caldwell  has spent a lifetime guarding her heart…. and a life changing secret. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the newspaperwomen she has come to admire, she returns to Hickory Ridge from Texas to revive the local paper, the Gazette.
Ethan Heyward, son of a Georgia planter has come to town to build and manage Blue Smoke, a luxury resort soon to open at the top of Hickory Ridge. He, too, is harboring a secret too painful to share with anyone…even Sophie.
It will take all of their trust and all of their faith to confront the past and embrace their future.

Love certainly embodies Southern History with Heart as her website tagline states.  I really enjoyed reading Every Perfect Gift.  Although the book read as a wonderful stand alone novel, I get the feeling the story would have been so much richer had I read the previous two books.  Love does a good job of "filling you in" on the characters from the previous books without overshadowing Sophie and Ethan's story.  I always read Christian fiction with a mind's eye toward whether the gospel is clearly shown within the story.  With confidence I can say that Love pulls this off expertly.  I will be looking to read more of Love's writing!  Absolutely phenomenal story!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson for the sole purpose of this review.

Happy Reading,

The Crimson River

The Crimson River is book four in a four part series called Mysterious Ways by Donna Westover Gallup.  The first three books of the Mysterious Ways series followed the adventures of Charlie Smith in the late 1800s, as he came of age, sought - and sometimes fought for - his fortune, and learned who to trust and who not to trust. Now, The Crimson River fast forwards to 21st-Century Denver, with Charlie Smith's descendent as a main character, and with flashbacks to the late 19th Century. The plot involves a hunt for buried treasure based on clues found in Charlie's diary. Beloved characters from the first three books enter the picture again. They struggle against greedy antagonists and their own conflicted motives. The reader is kept guessing with plot twists that provide suspense and intrigue as well as romance and inspiration.
Donna Westover Gallup is a poet and musician. She currently holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business/Pre-Law from Liberty University and an M.B.A. from the University of Pheonix. 
Donna says she is "the mother of three grown daughters, the mother-in-law of two wonderful men, and the grandmother of three of the world's sweetest boys." She and her husband, Don, live in Pueblo, Colorado with their boxer, Cheyenne. Donna enjoys living in the area where "Charlie lived." She has dedicated her time to her writing ministry; but in her free time, she likes to golf, go boating, and explore the colorful state of Colorado. Her desire is to convey God's love through her writing.


As a gift to readers, the publisher is offering White As Snow: A Christmas Story FREE on Kindle Dec. 4-8 !

Blessings and Happy Reading,

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Last Thursday evening, Bentley had his Christmas program at school.  The program was called "The Elf Factory".
Kindergarteners and First graders are just too cute!  He made a point of telling us several times, "You know mom, I'm standing by Ruby".  Ruby is a little girl in his class...her name comes up a lot!  While Bentley didn't have a major part in their little play, he was chosen as one of the first graders to play the violin before the program.
That pic is a little unfocused...I took it from the video of their violin performance.  Here's the video.  Bentley was so serious as he was playing:
At the end of the program, all the kids sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".  Their little voices were so sweet!

I may be the tinniest bit partial, but I thought my little guy sure was handsome and beginning to look more and more each day like a little man!
If only he can survive growing up with his two silly sisters :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cloud Culture

 "A person finds joy in giving an apt reply - and how good is a timely word."
That verse is from Proverbs 15:23 and these two guys have written a little book with a big message that embodies that verse so well!

Growing up on the heels of globetrotting parents, Bryce Conlan had visited or lived in more than a dozen countries before age 16.  Whether feeding the homeless or starting a new enterprise, his life is marked by the message of God's grace and the incredible love Jesus demonstrates for us.
After graduating from high school Bryce moved to Chicago where he pursued a degree in Audio Engineering; which to his surprise was far more engineering than audio.  In 2008 Bryce began work on what would later become Big Swell Media, a full service media production company located in Chicago.  Bryce loves being in front of crowds and eagerly pursues every opportunity to teach on the gospel of grace, the finished work of the cross, and healthy marriages.  He lives in Chicago with his wife Dana.  
As a songwriter and musician, Chuck Giacinto has penned songs with Grammy and BMI Award winners, and has performed alongside many multi-platinum artists.  Today, he serves as a staff pastor and worship leader at Grace Community Church in Streator, IL.  
Giacinto earned a degree in graphic design from Illinois State University and a doctorate in pastoral theology.  In 2006, following time spent in China where he and wife Lynette adopted their youngest daughter, the couple formed Adoptive Music, a record label specializing in adoption-themed music.  Chuck and his wife have three children and reside in Streator.

Giacinto and Conlan's book is Cloud Culture:  Walking the Walk & Typing the Talk - Christian Living in the Social Media World.  This little book (only 120 pages) published by Seven Leaf Press may be the most practical and timely book I've read all year; and I've read a lot of books this year!  Giacinto and Conlan write with practical insight, humor and the familiarity of a long-time friend.  You will laugh in one paragraph and be deeply challenged in the next.  But even their "challenge" is given not in a preachy or judgmental way, but with a desire that you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ use wisely the amazing an nearly world-wide platform of social media to connect with people and make Him known.

Below is part of an interview that was conducted with Giacinto and Conlan.  Hear their heart in writing Cloud Culture:

So, what is Cloud Culture about?  
Cloud Culture is about social media, but I don’t want that to scare anybody off because this isn’t a techie, computer-oriented book at all. We feel that social media, at its core, is about two things: communication and relationship. We believe God designed us with a need to know others and to be known by others and Cloud Culture, while it addresses current social sites, is really about how to develop deep personal relationships in this new and evolving landscape, and, ultimately, where our faith fits into that.
So, this is like a social media “code of conduct” per se?

Rather than a code of conduct, we want the Church to have the vision to see the possibilities and limitless opportunities available to us through social media. Cloud Culture is not intended to show you how to “do” social media. We want to start a movement, a movement that sets a foundation for relationships and communication that honors God and allows the Gospel to seep out of our lives in a real, organic way.

Why now?
Well, we feel this book could come out next year or five years from now, and still be relevant in terms of its concepts, regardless of how the landscape of social media changes. But because of the void there has been regarding a real conversation in the Church about social media, along with the approach we wanted to take, we felt a sense of urgency to be on the front end of this conversation. 
How does social media look different for a Christian versus a non-believer?

In one respect it looks the same. It’s how we communicate. It’s literally our lives and relationships on display. Where it looks different for the Christian is that we strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard and even consider how what we say will affect those on the receiving end of our posts. Are they just acquaintances or people we want to impress or stay in touch with? Or do we really SEE them, as God sees them? Are we open to reading between the lines to see people’s need and to realize that we have been handed these amazing tools that no previous generation could have dreamed of to communicate with the world? Cloud Culture isn’t really a formula. However, it is an encouragement and a reminder that you are in a relationship with God, and, if THAT relationship is strong, it will naturally spill over into social media in a real and genuine way that a formula can’t produce.
At one point, you write that it’s important to realize that our words, comments, links, and posts go out and become part of other’s daily lives—a gift and a responsibility. Do you think most people think about this when updating their Facebook?

No, I (Chuck) don’t. In my experience most people just shoot from the hip. Imagine you have all of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers in one room together and you get up in front of your audience of hundreds and say, “Now that I have your attention, I want you all to know…I’m eating a really good sandwich.” OK, there’s nothing wrong with that of course, but what we want our readers to realize is the size of the audience you have at your disposal every day. If you could say something to them all, what would it be? And the reality is you CAN do that! Social media is literally an outlet and a platform for you to speak directly into people’s lives every single day.
I’m sometimes truly surprised at what people post on Facebook—even fellow Christians. What should a Christian consider before posting a blog, a tweet, or a Facebook status update?

Always consider your audience. One of the marks of a Christian life is self-control and that means that sometimes we don’t say that thing we want to say for the benefit of others. This can be wildly difficult, and we discuss it at length in Cloud Culture. It’s so important. Another thing to consider is context. Many of the problems, disagreements and offenses via social media or texting come out of our abbreviated new sentence structure and the loss of context for the reader can be painful. So we really need to take a second and reread our postings. Taking a few extra seconds and using a few extra words for example could bring a lot of clarity to the recipients of your post.
In Cloud Culture, you write that we should strive against using social media as only a platform for voicing our beliefs and opinions. What do you think about bloggers, and particularly those who spend the majority of their time calling out what they believe are problems in the Church?

Well, it is certainly a place and a platform to express ourselves, and our views, etc. That’s part of the beauty of it. My concern is that we don’t want to get lost in all of the noise as just having another set of opinions or beliefs among many. Ours is not just one more set of opinions out there. It’s the Gospel of Christ. And because of that, we have to remember what social media is about at its core…relationship and communication. So Cloud Culture isn’t about being good at technology; rather, it’s about being biblically grounded in terms of relationship and communication. As believers, when we’re sincere and good at both, that will come out and resonate in a real and honest way. As far as the problems in the Church or disagreements, we want people to realize that what we post has a very long shelf life. Long after we may have resolved a situation, it still lives out there. As Christians, more than anyone, we should realize the power of our words.
You talk about Christians being ambassadors of Christ. How does that look on a practical level in the social media world?

(Chuck) It looks much the same as in our real lives because that’s what people are watching unfold on social media--our lives. I’ve been married for 21 years, and if there was no trace of my relationship with my wife in my social media, well, that would speak to some real issues. So, how can we conduct ourselves daily in social media and have our relationship with God nowhere to be found? And not forced or fake, or out of a sense of duty, but a natural reflection of the place the relationship holds in our lives.
What are some practical ways to reach people through social media without simply just posting daily Bible verses?

One thing we can do is work at fostering real relationships within our networks. Another thing is to reach out with a private message when we can see that someone is struggling. There are other ways too - less public ways. For example, what if everyone reading this today looked at their Facebook friends list or Twitter followers, then picked one person and prayed for them today, and did the same tomorrow. It’s a quiet act, and maybe no one would know, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a remarkably powerful. Imagine if we could get thousands or perhaps millions to do this on a daily basis.
In Cloud Culture, you write, “It’s a true sign of maturity and Christian character when you can restrain yourself from leaving remarks that will only fuel the online conversations which are neither edifying nor productive.” How does a Christian handle this type of temptation?

You know, it’s not easy. There are certainly things worth defending. But it does require some discernment. It’s easy enough to misinterpret each other speaking face to face. But when typed or texted, and we abbreviate and condense our thoughts, there is again a real loss of context, which makes it very difficult to communicate well this way. Sometimes the most constructive thing we can do is to choose a different path. Pick up the phone and talk, or speak face to face. There’s an amazing amount of healing that takes place when someone takes the time to call and resolve the issue personally rather than the quick text message of tweet. Sometimes skipping the new convenient route for the old fashioned one is the wisest choice.
What do you think social media will look like in the years to come?
It’s almost impossible to know, and I’m sure someone is already hard at work imagining and building the next big social media platform. But I am sure of two things. First, it’s not going away. Social media only stands to get bigger and hold a bigger place in our lives and culture. And second, whatever form it takes, whatever it looks like, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or the next big thing, it is still…at its core…ultimately about communication and relationship…and how we “do” both. And because of that, what we are setting out to accomplish with Cloud Culture is to lay down some principles that aren’t limited to any current or popular platform that could be out of date or out of business tomorrow, but instead we want to establish a standard as Christians for how we communicate with each other, how we relate to those around us, and ultimately how we represent the cause of Christ.

If you are a blogger, use Twitter or Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest or any other form of social media, whatever age you are, then this book is for YOU!  The enemy would love to continue to use the internet to harm many (and in many cases he does).  As a believer, Cloud Culture gives you a clear wake-up call to a monumental opportunity to literally reach the world for Christ.

Thanks to Debbie Lykins and Side Door Communications, who graciously sent me a complimentary copy of Cloud Culture for the purpose of review, I have a copy of the book to GIVE AWAY to one of my readers.  Leave me a comment answering this question and you will be entered to win your own copy of Cloud Culture.

What is your favorite form of social media to use and why?
The give away will run until Monday December 3rd.  Please leave a way I can contact you in your comment in the event you win!!