Thursday, December 31, 2009

Winter Wonders - Download N Go Unit Study


Winter Wonders
By Amanda Bennett
Published at TOS

Winter... another special season here in Ontario, Canada. We are so blessed to experience the four seasons here in my province. Each of them has something special... In winter, even though the temperature drops (going sometimes to minus 40C), we also get an amazing landscape with snow and ice.
 
This is the time to take out the skates and the sleds and enjoy the snow while it is here. When fresh snow falls onto the ground, the children are looking forward to make a snowman. It also means snowstorms sometimes as well as ice storms but regardless I think that winter is a special season in itself. That’s why when I had the opportunity to review the new Download N Go unit study titled Winter Wonders, I jumped on the opportunity.
 
 In this wonderful unit study (from which I already ordered the books from the library in town for our month of December more specifically before Christmas arrives!), you will discover with your children what is winter, experiment the science behind winter, learn more about the people and places of winter, learn more about animals during the winter and discover the winter sports – including snowshoeing. The best part is that we have  classic snowshoes in the shed. Yes in the shed... and it is packed to the max. I should have thought about it when we were looking for my skates a couple of weeks ago. Oh well! I guess I can show them to the kids when spring comes around – not practical but they can see how they were made by in aboriginal for my own maternal grand-mother.
 
Throughout this wonderful unit study, you will also discover amazing books with your children. Accompanying this unit study you will get some interesting activities and a lapbook project. What a great way to have fun during the month of December/January!
 
Personally, I can hardly wait to discover how icicles get formed and where the hot chocolate originates. As any other unit study from Amanda Bennett, Winter Wonders is well packed and you will learn quite a few things while doing it with your kids.
 
If you are interested in learning more about winter with your children, I recommend that you look into Winter Wonders.  
 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Doubts and peace

So the other day I had a difficult phone conversation with someone close to my heart - ie I care for this person but it's so hard to reach to said person...


And honestly, this person said things that made me doubt of decisions we have made - like me leaving government to work on the private sector then on our home business, me staying at home with my kids, me homeschooling... and so on.   As much as I would like this person to support me and accept the decisions that I/we make, there is no point of trying anymore.   I'm giving up.


But the doubts crept in my mind... depression hit home, tears came down the cheeks...


Things that were said:


"knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have help to pay for your master degree since it is almost as thought we have thrown the money through the windows"


" you have a master degree in IT not in teaching"


"I am not sure your kids will be equipped properly when the arrive in high school because you yourself (as in me...) have lost more than 60% of your French and don't know how to write it anymore because of the  errors you make"


and so on...


But it hurts so much when it comes from someone you love and you care for.    *sigh*


So this was my day a few days ago... depression, tears, deflated, unsure of my decisions.


Then I finished to watch a DVD I have borrowed from the library title Be Still.   It is about contemplative prayer.  And one section of the DVD is listing scriptures to ponder on. The one that caught my eye was Psalm 62:1-2.


"For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
     He only is my Rock and my Salvation, my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be greatly moved."
Amplified version


These verses were a balm on my soul the next day and since then I feel better.   Do I have teary eyes sometimes still?  You bet but I also know that God is there for me and sustain me and love me.


Further down in the Psalm it says " Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him.  God is a refuge for us (a fortress and a high tower). Shelah [pause and calmly think of that!]


Yes indeed God is my refuge and when I feel attacked and start doubting because of the lies someone throw at me (whom is guided obviously by the Father of Lies), I know that God is there to give me strength and show me the Truth.


Never forget that God is bigger than lies.   I know I got reminded of this truth over the week.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Valley of the Shadow


Valley of the Shadow

Written by Tom Pawlik
Published at Tyndale

About the book
Conner Hayden is certain he survived his near-death experience for a reason. He thinks it’s to save the life—and soul—of Mitch Kent. Mitch’s body remains on life support while his spirit is trapped with the old farmer Howard Bristol in the Interworld—a strange and dangerous dimension that Conner narrowly escaped during his brush with death in Pawlik’s award-winning debut novel, Vanish. Meanwhile, in the Interworld, Mitch receives a warning from a mysterious stranger: Howard is not who he appears to be, and Mitch must flee immediately. Pursued by Howard and a terrifying creature, Mitch soon learns the truth about what happened to him and that his only hope of survival lies at the very edge of the Interworld.

From the back cover of the book...

Conner fought his way through the woods. Tendrils of mist curled around his legs like serpents seeking to pull him to the ground. But he had to keep going.
He had been here before.
He heard no voices this time. No ghostly whispers from the dark, save one. One single, moaning plea.
Help me!

A shadowy world between life and death, where your worst fears can become reality.
One man lingers on the threshold.
Another has escaped, but he didn’t come back alone.
And a third searches for answers as his nightmares draw him back.
Sometimes, to get to the truth, you have to walk through the valley.

Who is Tom Pawlik?
Tom Pawlik has a BA in communication and works in the marketing field. He has also been active in Christian teaching, youth work, and music for over 20 years. His first novel, The Way Back, took second place in the 2004 Operation First Novel contest run by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, in association with Tyndale House Publishers. His second novel, Vanish, won first place in the 2006 contest. In addition to writing fiction, Tom is also an accomplished songwriter and musician who writes and records at his home studio. He and his wife, Colette, live in Ohio with their four children and one large dog.

My Thoughts
Here’s the sequel of the previous book I had reviewed a while back, Vanish.

Valley of the Shadow picks up where the previous book, Vanish, left us hanging. You will now learn if Mitch will be able to make it out of Interworld and how the other characters are doing. When I finished reading the first book, I was wondering what would happen. Interestingly enough, Valley of the Shadow has just being released. So I asked the publisher to have the opportunity to review it because I was quite curious about it. And they did send me a copy of the book.

Once again, the author has included suspense and thriller in his novel. I’m not a big fan of scary novels but this one is not so bad. Actually it made me think a little bit about the battle of good versus evil.

And when you arrived at the end of the novel, you are surprised by the turn of the events. Sometimes, novel always finishes on a good way. Well, prepare for the unexpected. Not that there isn’t any “I’m so happy it finished that way” kind of thought when you close the book. No because there is a happy ending. But there is also something else, sadness, when you will close this novel. And I think it is important to realize that life is not always happy and giggly. There is events sometimes that makes us wonder why this is happening but these same events, will help others to grow and trust God in their own life.

So if you are a fan a thriller stories, I would suggest that you read both Vanish and Valley of the Shadow. You might be surprised...

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This review was made possible because I have received a copy of Valley of the Shadow from Tyndale.
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Valley of the Shadow and it’s prequel, Vanish, are available everywhere even at amazon.ca and indigo.ca.

Friday, December 25, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Celebrate (Contest)

What Really Matters
by Dawn Meehan

In the hustle and bustle and commercialism of Christmas, take time to remember the real reason why we celebrate - the birth of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May you all have a blessed Christmas!

I had a VERY long day with the kids doing little but fighting. By the time we left for church, we were all short tempered, snapping at each other, and not at all in the Christmas spirit. Thankfully, once at church, we calmed down. Things were put in perspective for us. We sang Christmas songs and began to smile at one another again. The kids didn't fight once while we were there. Well, they did use their battery operated candles as light sabers for a minute, but we'll forget about that part.

I never sent out cards (sorry to all my family and friends). It just didn't happen this year. I don't think I ever completely finished my shopping, but it's a little late now. Several items I ordered online have been back ordered. I just realized that the kids have eaten all the cookies I've made and there are none to put out for Santa now. I encouraged them to leave him a glass of wine instead. And I failed to read the Christmas story to the kids before they went to bed.

But you know what? None of that matters. It really doesn't. Christmas is here! Christ is born! And He doesn't care if we sent out Christmas cards. He doesn't care if we ate all the cookies we baked. He doesn't even care if we never got around to baking a single cookie at all! He loves us no matter how much we screw up.
Now that's worth celebrating!
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Dawn Meehan (aka mom2my6pack) grew up in Chicagoland where she began her writing career at the age of 5 with her widely praised, The Lucky Leprechaun, an epic tale of a leprechaun who is- yes, you guessed it, lucky.

Dawn has six children, basically because she didn't want seven. She is the author of Because I Said So and spends her days blogging at BecauseISaidSo.com, changing diapers, cleaning pudding off her ceiling, tackling insurmountable piles of laundry, and explaining to her kids why they can't have a pet squirrel or an indoor slip-n-slide.


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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/




Thursday, December 24, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Slow Down, Pray & Give Thanks (CONTEST)

All Decked Out For Christmas
by Maureen Lang

One of the reasons so many of us love the holiday season is that it's just so...pretty! Twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, packages that glisten with bows and fancy wrapping. Our houses are trimmed with wreaths and glowing trees, and the neighborhood lights up the night with strands of icicles and glimmering reindeer.

Even we get decked out for the holidays! Chances are most of us will attend at least one party this season, and if we don't usually don clothing or jewelry with a bit of sparkle, now's the time to take a chance with something that reflects the holiday.

Smiles are another reason this season is such a popular one. They accompany that familiar greeting-Merry Christmas! Smiles go with the gifts we give and with the gifts we receive. Smiles go with the old Christmas carols and classic movies we watch every year.

The holiday season is a time when everything can seem amplified. But what if we're all decked out on the outside, from the sparkling clothing to our best effort at a smile, and on the inside we're anything but happy? If life isn't what we expected it to be, the gap between reality and our happy, hopeful expectations seem wider when everyone around us is laughing through the season.

I know there are as many reasons to be unhappy as there are to be happy, and I wouldn't begin to have the answer to make this season bearable for everyone. But I do know a few things that have worked for me:

Slow down. What? During the busiest time of the year? Yep. I know when I feel completely overwhelmed it's because I'm pressuring myself to do too much. So I try to plan ahead, settle for less than perfection, do my best without driving myself and everyone around me crazy. Choose what's really important and let go of the other things. And I've adopted my aunt's favorite saying: "However it turns out, that's how we like it." Works wonders on attitude!

Pray. As my pastor reminded me this weekend from Psalm 34:18: the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. God may not deliver us from our troubles, but He promises to stay beside us-in fact, closer than when everything seems hunky-dory.

Find a moment to give thanks for what you do have (without looking around at those who have more).

This last point deserves a moment of reflection, and is something I'm still learning to do. I have a child severely handicapped by Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. For years I thought I'd accepted his condition. I obediently said to God, "thank you even for this," since it taught me many things about adjusting to the life I've been given rather than the one I might have chosen.

But as my son gets older, I see new forms of acceptance making that feeling of gratitude more genuine. I think I'm finally letting go of some of the hopes and dreams I had for him, my oldest son. I can no longer imagine him any other way than the way he is, even though I'd be first in line if a cure is ever found.

I still think it's a good thing to give thanks in all things, even if it begins out of obedience rather than tender gratitude for whatever thorn we live with. But realizing it's okay to grow into that gratitude was a blessing to me.

Maybe some of the bruises on our spirit seem tender during the holiday season, a reminder that all the glitter on the outside might not light us up on the inside. My prayer is trust Psalm 34:18. Let's lean on Him this season-He's right here beside us!
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Maureen Lang grew up loving to tell stories, and God has blessed her immeasurably to be able to tell them to a wider audience these days. For the latest goings-on, please check her blog!

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not as often...

I guess I am not as often as I would really like on this blog.   I find it hard to be splitted in two and between the business, homeschool, family, this blog and my review blog - I am a bit out of breath.


So to my friends on homeschoolblogger and others (family and friends reading about our life), I apologize.


As I said, my review blog is keeping me busy.   Wondering what books I would suggest to read, please jump to Canadianladybug Reviews! to check it out.  I am starting to expand my review experience.   Back in the Fall I reviewed a game called TriviaThon.   Quite interesting game actually.   I would recommend it to anyone - even the people who are not too fond of trivia type of games.    In 2010, I have already two extraordinary products lined up.    I'm becoming more bold and offer reviews to various companies.    Already I know two products are coming my way but I won't tell  you what it is yet.


On the family side of things, every one is healthy.    No H1N1 so far and no we didn't take the shot either...   That caused some tension elsewhere but I prefer not to expand on this.   Business is getting better slowly so I won't complain.  Problem is when you are in contracting, you work and sometimes you get paid later.   We are fortunate to have one third-party that pays every two weeks but most third-parties pay a month later.   So for one contract we are paid as we speak while the other... we wait. 


Jérémy, Jasmine and my husband has a birthday.   Jérémy was back in November while Jasmine and Daddy was not too long ago - respectively the 19 and 21 of December.  Also on the 19th, we (my husband and I) were maître of ceremony to the wedding of our friends Rachelle and Tyler.   This was the first time we were doing, the first time I saw a bride spinning at her own reception ( for 30 minutes) and the first time I heard Tyler speak in French for more than a couple of words.   He said his vows in French in honor of Rachelle - isn`t it cute?   I thought it was very impressive and very romantic.


As I write this, they are on honeymoon so we won't see them until next year I think.  


On the homeschool front - we are advancing at a steady pace.   Math U See is more than half way done for Alexandre and Dominic, and I don't feel as stressed as as I was in the previous years.  So I guess it's good.  The kids go to AWANA and have swimming lessons.   All are doing great at swimming even Jasmine who now jumps by herself in the water - mind  you I need to catch her...!


As you can see we survived our chaotic year on multiple fronts.  


I wish all a Merry Christmas.   For now I need to get some accounting done.... *grin*


 

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery (CONTEST)

Magnificat
by Anna Joujan

Holy. Holy. Holy is the Lord. The familiar catch of breath. The sting in the eyes. And the tears begin to flow with the falling rain. Or do the tears fall with the flowing rain. What is it in these words that I whisper that wrenches at my heart so? Why does Mary's prayer touch the core of my being, so many centuries after it was spoken?

I think it must be because I know that she was just a girl, just a human being, with a woman's heart like my own. And so, when I hear her wondering words, I can feel with her the emotion she must have felt. To bear the son of God-what wondrous mystery, what glorious honour! And she was, like me, just a young woman-much younger, in fact, than I am now. And so, no matter how often I hear the story and read her words, it still has the power to bring abrupt and unsought tears.

What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!
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Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers. Since her family's move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and running to a fault. She blogs at Full of Grace.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.



12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Perspective (CONTEST)

A Soggy, Jolly, Holly Christmas
by Melody Carlson

One of my most memorable Christmases started out as a natural disaster. But isn't that a bit how a pearl is formed? An oyster's soft easy life is disrupted by the invasion of sand, but something good comes out of it. When I was eight, we experienced the worst flood in recorded Oregon history. It was only a few days before Christmas when our streets became shallow rivers and the governor proclaimed a state of emergency. My sister and I assumed the flood was simply our new water-world playground and didn't understand the seriousness of washed out bridges and downed power lines and submerged homes. But when we realized this flood was about to nix our usual three-hour trek to our grandparents' home near the coast, we were not happy.

Naturally, our mom, a single parent, protested the sensibility of holiday travel (most of Oregon's rivers were involved in the flood). But Christmas at Grandma's house was our favorite event of the year. And thanks to our persistence, Mom finally gave in. We piled into the car and headed out. Flood waters climbed higher the closer we got to the coast. And at one point the road behind us was closed and the one ahead was flooded and about to be closed as well. The state policeman told us we could cross "at our own risk." We followed a Volkswagen Bug into the water-then we actually watched the bug floating away! Of course, there was nothing to do besides plow on through the water, which appeared to be nearly two feet deep! Fortunately we had an old heavy Chevy that did not float away, but the water seeped in and pooled on the floors.

Fortunately, we made it safely to the grandparents. But once we arrived, we learned there would be no Christmas tree because the road to the woods was closed. Then my grandpa picked up his ax and led us outside where he chopped down his prize holly tree planted in the parking strip. I stared in horror, thinking Grandma was going to have a fit. But then he explained the city had told him to remove the tree for traffic visibility. So we had a twelve foot holly tree for Christmas. It was a little prickly decorating it, but with its shiny green leaves and red berries, it was the most beautiful tree ever! So what started out as a disaster turned out to be a soggy, holly, jolly Christmas after all.

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Melody Carlson, author of Limelight, Love Finds You in Sisters, The Christmas Dog, 86 Bloomberg Place, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Carter House Girls, and much more... http://www.melodycarlson.com/

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.

Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas - Help & Support (Contest)

Calling Elizabeth ... HELP!
by Tricia Goyer

Mary, the mother of Jesus is one of the most well-known women of all time. She was also a teen mom facing an unplanned pregnancy. This Christmas we will see evidence of Mary's story all around us. And as you hear it through Christmas songs and Christmas shows think of three things:

1. Mary was signed up for a big task she wasn't prepared for.
2. Mary no doubt faced criticism from people around her.
3. Mary found someone to turn to - a friend who could help Mary to succeed in her new role. It was Mary's older cousin Elizabeth.

Elizabeth played an important part in Mary's life. We know this because the book of Luke begins by telling us Elizabeth's story first. Elizabeth was the wife of a priest. She was very old and had no children, but God blessed her in her old age by allowing her to get pregnant. After Elizabeth's story comes Mary's story ... another surprise pregnancy. Can you imagine what a shock that was to everyone who knew both women? (Yes! I'm sure you can!)

The cool thing is that the angel Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth's surprise pregnancy. It's as if he was saying, "Look, there's someone in your same situation. Turn to her. She can help you."

Mary did go to Elizabeth. In fact she lived with her older cousin for three months. Elizabeth was the first one who rejoiced over the child Mary held within her womb, and I imagine Elizabeth was there to encourage Mary as she coped with the idea of becoming a teen mom.

Like Mary, each of us should have people in our lives who we turn to for help, support and encouragement. Being a mom isn't an easy thing, and facing an unplanned pregnancy is even tougher.

When I had my son Cory I was 17-years-old, and there were a group of women from my grandma's church who supported me. They were the first ones who showed me that the child that was growing inside me was a gift. They gave me a baby shower, and they fought over holding my son after he was born.

As my son grew, there were other women I looked to ... and most of the time they didn't even know I was watching. One of them was Cheryl. Cheryl was patient with her children, she gave them big hugs, she laughed with them and played with them and I modeled myself after her. The thing about finding mentors is sometimes we can observe them without them even knowing. And if we're really lucky they enjoy their role of giving us advice.

Later, when I had two kids, I met a friend named Cindy. She and I were the same age and we became quick friends. Cindy was a support to me because we traded babysitting, talked about parenting problems, and we encouraged each other. She was someone who was walking the same road as me, and her advice helped more times than I can count.

No matter who we are, or where we live, each of us can look around and see the people we have in our lives. Some may cheer us on, some may guide our parenting, and others may just be there to walk along side us. If the mother of Jesus needed someone to look to for support ... shouldn't we? Everyone needs someone to provide a little help and support.

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Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-one books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. Connect with Tricia at http://www.triciagoyer.com/.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.


12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/


Sunday, December 20, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: God Intervenes (CONTEST)

The Answer
by Susan May Warren

Whos, Here, we are Whos here, smaller than the eye can see. Whos here, we are Whos here, I'm a Who and so is she...

I've always wanted to live in a musical. When I was a kid, I loved Oklahoma, Sound of Music, West Side Story. I seriously thought that, if the moment was right, maybe the stars aligned, people would break out into song and dance.

I was sorta right. Because in my house, one needs to be able to talk in movie lines and song lyrics to effectively communicate. At any moment, someone might break out with a quip from the Princess Bride, or Finding Nemo. They might sing Tomorrow from Annie, or My Favorite Things like Julie Andrews.

But, most recently we've found ourselves speaking in "Suess"...

It's suppertime, son, and the time is near To call far and wide the sneetches who hear Just the sound of their bellies, the whir of their gear The Gurgles and Burbles that give them great fear Tell them all, tell them loud, tell them clear Their hands they should wash, check their face in the mirror Because the food is now ready and it's time to steer Close to the table, where they'll find hot gribbles here.

Why, you ask? Because David and Sarah are performing in the community theater's production of Suessical the Musical, a hilarious conglomeration of Dr. Suess' fun work, from Horton hears a Who to Horton Hatches an Egg.

As the Christmas season draws close (and the songs from the play linger in my head), one line has stood out to me... "We are here, we are here!" You know the story - that part where, after everyone has called Horton names and they're about ready to boil the speck that contains Who-ville, Horton calls out to the Whos to send up a cry to prove themselves as real. "We are here, we are here!"

It strikes me that sometimes we can feel like Whos...smaller than the eye can see. Tossed hither and yon by the wind, helpless and facing being boiled. Tired, perhaps, or alone. Wishing someone might find us and pay attention.

Someone has, and that's the good news about Christmas. Because we don't have to "make ourselves heard," like the Whos. In fact, even before we realized we were headed for the cauldron, God intervened. God demonstrated his own love for us in this - while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8). That's what Jesus is all about - he's the answer to even the unspoken cry of our hearts, saying, "I am here, I am here." Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

So as this season approaches with its whistles and bells I hope you hear the voice where the Mighty One dwells -- down deep in your hearts, so nothing can shake the knowledge of his love, given all for your sake.

Merry Christmas from Susie May Warren

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Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of twenty-one novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep's Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader's Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota. http://www.susanmaywarren.com/ Check out her Christmas Novella, The Great Christmas Bowl.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: He is Always Enough (CONTEST)

Christmas in a Barn
by Mary DeMuth

The Christmas of 2006 we were homeless. We didn't have keys. Not to a car, not to a home. We'd flown halfway around the world, leaving behind a ministry we toiled over. Much, particularly in our hearts, lay in ruins.


Some friends had a camp, and on that camp stood a barn. In the corner of the barn was a tiny apartment, flanked by this caboose and hundreds of acres of Texas pasture. We'd never been there before, so we followed directions at night, making plenty of wrong turns.

When we found the place, we drove a borrowed car over the cattle guard toward what would be our home for a month. String lights illuminated a small porch, a window and a door in the corner of an aluminum-sided barn. We hefted large pieces of luggage to the apartment.

And when we opened the door, Love welcomed us.

The place, usually completely unfurnished in the winter, was decked out with just the right amount of beds, couches and tables. The pantry was full. We had dishes and garbage cans, and cups and forks and food. But even more, we had a Christmas tree. Friends had hijacked the place, decorating it for Christmas. Cookies preened on the table.

I will never, ever forget that Christmas. We had so little. We felt the painful burden of failure. But we were loved, so terribly and wonderfully loved.

Christmas felt right there, in a barn. We heard the nickering of horses, the meowing of kittens, the clop of hooves against the barn floor. Chickens and goats and cows served as a holy object lesson of the incarnation. Although we were warm and clothed, we understood more keenly the Savior's homelessness, how He left the splendor of heaven for the sodden earth. We experienced barnyard life alongside him, without much to call our own except our Heavenly Father and our sweet family.

He was enough, that Christmas. And He will always will be.

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Mary DeMuth writes fiction and nonfiction. Her latest book, A Slow Burn released in October and she has a memoir entitled Thin Places coming out in February of 2010. You can meet her: http://www.marydemuth.com/, http://www.thewritingspa.com/, on Facebook and Twitter!




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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.


12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Friday, December 18, 2009

Primal - A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity


Primal – A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity
Written by Mark Batterson
Published at Waterbrook

About the book
Our generation needs a reformation.
But a single person won’t lead it.
A single event won’t define it.

Our reformation will be a movement of reformers living creatively, compassionately, courageously for the cause of Christ.

This reformation will not be born of a new discovery. It will be the rediscovery of something old, something ancient.

Something primal.

—Mark Batterson, Primal

What would your Christianity look like if it was stripped down to the simplest, rawest, purest faith possible? You would have more, not less. You would have the beginning of a new reformation—in your generation, your church, your own soul. You would have primal Christianity.

This book is an invitation to become part of a reformation movement. It is an invitation to rediscover the compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy that turned the world upside down two thousand years ago. It is an invitation to be astonished again.

Who is Mark Batterson?
The author of Wild Goose Chase and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. One church with nine services in five locations, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations and meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the D.C. area. Mark has two Masters degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago. He and his wife, Lora, live on Capitol Hill with their three children. http://www.markbatterson.com/

My Thoughts
I have never read any book from Mark Batterson. But I can tell you this now – I am curious about his two previous books. Primal touched me so much that I want to read Wild Goose Chase and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.

The author of the book is planting a seed that might revolutionalize the way Christians act, live and think. Throughout the book, Batterson is encouraging you to pursue God in creativity, knowledge, revelation and wonder.

We were created to be curious, to become instruments to God’s hands and to explore. Why then many Christians get bored in church, don’t take the time to see God around them and refuse to educate their mind on Him and His creation? I wonder.

I want to become more like Leonardo da Vinci and have a curious and creative mind. I want to bring the ideas that God has planted in my head to reality. I want to live for Him. I want to discover God over and over again throughout the rest of my life as if it is the first time I discover Him. I want to be part of a revolution that will touch the rest of the world! How about you?

If there was only one book you could or would read in 2010, I strongly suggest that you consider Primal – A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. I will change you when you are suspecting it.

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This review was possible because I received a copy of Primal from Waterbrook in exchange of my thoughts about it.
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Primal will available everywhere on Dec 22nd even at amazon.ca and indigo.ca.

12 Pearls of Christmas: Faith, Hope & Love (CONTEST)

The Pearls We Pass Down
by Holley Gerth

Ten years ago my Grandma Frances went home to heaven in her sleep just before Christmas.

My Grandpa carefully handed me a brightly-wrapped box on Christmas morning and said, "This is her gift. Now I want you to have it."

I opened the lid slowly and tears came to my eyes as I saw a lovely string of pearls.

My Mom gently helped me fasten them around my neck. As I ran my fingers over each one, I thought of my Grandmother and all she taught me through her life...

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
FAITH

At age twenty-nine, my Grandma contracted polio and learned she would never walk again. She had a husband, two little girls, and a future suddenly very different than she imagined.


A pastor came to visit her in the hospital. He said, "Frances, this can make you bitter or better." She often told that story with a sparkle in her eyes as she said, "I chose better." I learned through her example that faith is a choice and with God we can thrive through anything.

HOPE

My grandparents took a leap of faith and started the first Christian bookstore in their city with a small kiosk in the center of a mall. Over the next few decades that little kiosk grew into a large and successful store that touched countless lives.

Many of my favorite childhood memories are of curling up in the back room with a stack of books. My Grandma taught me hope is like a small seed and, watered with prayer, it can grow into a huge blessing for many.

LOVE

For fifty-six years my grandparents shared a life together. I adore these two pictures because one is taken when they were dating and the other just a few weeks before she died. The twinkle in their eyes is still the same-and that's not easy in this world. They faced their share of challenges, like my Grandma's disability, but always got through them together.


My Nana also loved her family deeply. When I went to college, she often wrote notes to me and signed each one, SCTH (Stay Close to Him). She showed me love is a commitment that begins with Christ and then overflows to everyone else in our lives.


I still miss my Grandma Frances, especially this time of year. Sometimes I pull out her string of pearls and hold them in my hands. Then I think about how we're all creating our legacy as we live. And while the difficulties we face may seem hard to understand now, God can turn each one into beauty that blesses our family for generations.

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Holley Gerth - Cofounder of (in)courage, editorial director for DaySpring, author of Rain on Me, wife of Mark, lover of Jesus, friend to YOU.

Visit Holley at Heart to Heart with Holley or follow her on twitter as @HolleyGerth.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!



Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Thursday, December 17, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas - God Provides A Way (CONTEST)

A Long Ago Christmas Memory
by Patricia Crisafulli

The old farm on a dirt road in the backwoods of northern New York State was described to me so many times, I can imagine the place, even though I never saw it: the big frame house with the wide porch, the pair of maple trees out front, and the barn in the back where my grandparents kept a cow or two, pigs and chickens, and a team of work horses.

That old house came alive for me in dozens of stories that my mother told, of how she and her sisters grew up there during the Depression. The stories had that long-ago feel not only because of the years that had passed, but also because of the era: tales of riding in a horse and buggy in the summer and a horse and sleigh in the winter. My grandfather owned an old Model A Ford, but the tires were patched beyond repair and there was no money for gasoline.

One story that has always stayed with me was of a particular Christmas in the early 1930s, a time my mother remember as the "depths of the Depression," and there was no money. In order to pay the interest on the mortgage, to keep the bank from foreclosing on the farm, my grandfather needed a relatively small sum. The amount I remember being told was $13, but for the little they had in those days it might as well have been $13,000.

Tested by trouble and sorrows, my grandparents relied on their deep and abiding faith. As Psalm 34 tells us, I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. The answer to their prayers was to be found right in their own backyard with gifts of the earth. My grandmother went into the woods to gather bushel baskets full of ground pine, with green sprouts like miniature boughs that spread in great patches along the earth. From willow branches she made hoops, around which she bound the ground pine to make wreathes.

She sat up all night making wreaths, enough to fill a large hamper basket, which my grandfather strapped to his back. At four in the morning, he hopped a ride on the milk train into Syracuse, where he went door-to-door selling wreathes. Night after night, my grandmother made wreaths, and day after day my grandfather sold them.

As Christmas approached, my grandmother had saved coupons that came in tins of coffee to get a Kewpie doll for her daughters. The only other things she gave them were mittens she knit herself.

Then on Christmas Eve, my grandfather came home from the last day of selling wreaths, exhausted but relieved. The farm was safe for another year. From what he had earned, he had a dime left over, which he spent on his beloved wife to buy her a powder puff. That night, my grandmother gave him her surprise: enough money from selling butter and eggs all year to buy four new tires for the Model A Ford.

Hearing this story as a child, my head was too full of the Sears & Roebuck "Wish Book" catalog to really comprehend it. As an adult, I try to fathom living with no money at all. What lingers in my heart, however, is the love of my grandparents for each other: the dashing young American soldier in World War I and the beautiful French girl he met overseas and then returned to her country to marry.

Many years, thousands of miles, and untold hardships later, that love continued. During a very dark December, they found a way together to keep the farm and the family together. And so it would always be for them.

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Patricia Crisafulli is a writer, published author, and founder of www.FaithHopeandFiction.com, a monthly e-literary magazine with stories, essays, and poetry to inspire and entertain.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.



12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas - Jesus Comforts (CONTEST)

How to Cope with Christmas
by Stacie Ruth Stoelting

Last night, I dreamed that God resurrected my beautiful adopted aunt, Mary Jo Hoffman. But morning renewed my mourning for her: Christmas trees, snow globes, and music greeted my grieving heart. Relate?

In previous years, my maternal grandpa (a.k.a. "Papa Ray") died near Thanksgiving and my adopted "Grandpa Morley" died near Christmas. Now, people cannot compare grief. But I believe we all know that the holidays challenge the grieving.

Christmas arrives like a pretty package full of grief triggers: Empty chairs, missing faces, and silent voices seem to haunt the holidays. Here are "12 Ways of Christmas" for the Grief-Stricken that have worked for me:

12 Ways of Christmas for the Grieving

1. Don't put excessive expectations on yourself. Don't expect the holidays to be the same.

2. Rest. Cut down the Christmas clutter and just get away from the typical, if possible.

3. Rearrange furniture to reduce "absence" reminders.

4. Avoid sugar highs and lows because they naturally induce emotional lows. Also steer clear of over-eating and under-sleeping. Eat well-balanced diets. Some mood enhancing natural foods include yogurt, kefir, green tea, omega-3 rich foods (i.e. salmon, cod liver oil, etc.), and lower sugar dark chocolate. One excellent resource for healthier lifestyles is First Place 4 Health, founded by the knowledgeable and kind Carole Lewis: http://www.firstplace4health.com/.

5. Admit grief. Trying to move forward while denying the reality of grief causes one to fall face forward. Does your face smile while your heart weeps? Give yourself permission to cry. Jesus wept. Weeping releases excessive tension. Address depression. Don't deny it. Pretending the nonexistence of depression only promotes its growth. (I include a list of counseling centers on my page for hurting hearts: http://prayingpals.org/linksforhurtinghearts.html.)

6. Forgive and receive forgiveness through Jesus. Release everything to the Lord -including any so-called regrets about your departed loved one. In Loved by Rebecca St. James (FaithWords, 2009), the point of God's abiding love encourages us: "He [Jesus] is ready to...stand in the gap between you and the pain, and to be your constant companion in the dark hours. He loves you."

7. Reach out to the more burdened and hang around kids this Christmas. It may not feel easy. It may even feel impossible. Ask Jesus to love thru you and get your eyes off problems and on to Him and others.

8. Understand the concept of new normalcy. The onset of new traditions and expectations may seem daunting, but God gave you your previous normal. Ask Him to give grace/hope in the face of the new normal. Let Him lead you to a place where you can relax and let Him beam His light on you.

9. Take a "hands off and hands folded" approach to the holidays. Reduce activity and increase connectivity through prayer and Christian companionship. If you're isolated, feel free to join my weekly online prayer group (http://www.prayingpals.org/). And stay in touch with your local church.

10. Face and treat chronic health issues. If you feel sick, everything feels worse. (One excellent resource for those with chronic health conditions is Rest Ministries.)

11. Reclaim your Heavenly purpose on earth. Ask Jesus to grant supernaturally His grace, hope, love, peace, and comfort this holiday season. Then don't fight His help. Be open to His opening of doors to cope and hope this holiday season. Just receive Jesus. Ask Jesus to give you a Heavenly perspective on earth. God holds good things for you! He grants you great purpose for your life hereafter...and here, too. Embrace His grace and seek His face. He's there. I know. In the face of grief, I'm with Him right now.

12. Remember: Trials don't indicate a reduction in God's love for you. He loves you and promises to make things right in the end. Spend time focusing on His unchanging love for you. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)

Holidays include lots of grief for relationships/loved ones that left, forsook, or died. But let's focus on the essence of Christmas: the present of Jesus' presence in our lives! Wow, may a relationship with Jesus be our miracle and encouragement this Christmas! "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Cor. 9:15)

Could you think of anything greater than receiving God for Christmas?

While my dream didn't come true today, I know it will: Mary Jo will be resurrected and we will be reunited. This year, focus on a different angle of Christmas: Let Christmas remind you of Jesus' birth to banish death.

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After Stacie Ruth met Jesus, her life blossomed with true joy and purpose! Life's blows hurt her, but Jesus heals and strengthens her. Now an author, actress, and recording artist, she laughs at the irony and praises God, who uses unlikely people...like herself. To find out more about her ministry visit http://www.brightlightministries.com/.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.



12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Squeezing Good Out of Bad


Squeezing Good Out of Bad
Written by James N Watkins
Published at XarisCom

About the Book:

Sour circumstances left you feeling down? Unemployment, foreclosures, divorce, bankruptcy and cancer don't even begin to peel the skin off all the bad news in our world today. At a time in history when the evening news contains more bad than good, people wonder if sweeter days will ever come. In steps James (Jim) Watkins. With a fresh perspective on life, love and the pursuit of happiness, Watkins serves readers a refreshing cup of encouragement and hope.

Written from his own experiences with cancer, unemployment and other life-puckering crises, Jim prompts readers to look at the cup of suffering with eyes focused on the true thirst quencher--Jesus Christ. Readers will be pleasantly surprised at the balance of readability and deep wisdom offered within the pages of Squeezing Good Out Of Bad. With scripture references, humor-filled lists, and a creative manuscript, Watkins brings the bitterness of hard times and blends it with the sweetness of God's presence. He's been there. His transparency is as refreshing as, you guessed it, a tall, cool glass of lemonade.

NOTE: I received a complimentary copy of Squeezing Good Out Of Bad via Kathy Carlton Willis Communications, gifted to all participants in this blog tour.

Interview:
1. You've been in the literary world for a while, give us a quick recap of how you got started to where you are today.

By second grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I felt the suspension of disbelief was stretched too thin when the real-live puppet Pinocchio became a real live boy. So I rewrote the ending having the wooden puppet die a painful, prolonged death of Dutch elm disease. (At that point, I'm sure my parents and teachers weren't sure if I'd become a writer or a life-long patient at a psychiatric hospital.) I later went on to become the editor of my high school paper, worked at a Christian publishing house as an editor during college, and then dabbled in writing while holding down a real job. Since 1988 I've been writing and speaking full-time.

2. In Squeezing Good Out Of Bad you give many insightful tips on how to turn around sour circumstances. Share a practical way we can be encouraged during tough times.

My "top ten list" of chapter titles 10-4 provide practical steps for dealing with lemons, but the real secrets are found in chapters 3-1. (Yes, like a true top ten list, the chapters are numbered backward.) Romans 8:28 promises that that God is working all things out for our good to accomplish His purpose in our lives. But we have to read on to verse 29 to find that purpose: "to be conformed to the image of His Son."

3. No life is perfect. Can you give us an example of how you got through a challenging situation and were able to use these principles to see the good in it?

I think it's so important that we take our faith seriously, but I certainly don't want to take my situation or myself too seriously. So I create a mental "top ten" list of what good can come about in this situation. For instance, last year I had radiation for cancer and it totally depleted me physically and mentally. My family dubbed it "radiation retardation." Because of that, I was fired from a wonderful part-time job because I just couldn't do it. So, "Top Ten Great Things about Losing My Job": 10. I'll be paying less taxes next year. 9. I've got twenty hours a week of free time. 8. . . .

Our family is going through something right now that is far worse than cancer, and I can't see a single good thing that can come out of it. So, at those times, you just keep hanging on--with white knuckles--to the fact that God loves you and the Romans 8:28 is still in effect.

4. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare time? What's that? I'm a firm believer in "redeeming the time" so I try to keep busy doing things that matter for the Kingdom. But after my little brain is worn out--usually around 7 pm--nothing beats a session of "Freecell."

5. What's the last book you read and why?

Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, the only real reading for pleasure is on airline flights. The King book is research for a book I'm proposing as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

6. What do you hope readers will gain by reading your book?

I wrote the first draft nine years ago, and even though I have a great agent, we just couldn't find a publisher. That was before cancer, family crisis, unemployment. . . . So it's a much more comforting, honest book. And it forced me to not be so flippant and casual about the serious issues people are dealing with. Henri Nouwen talks about "wounded healers." I think, because of the lemons that have piled up in my life, I can more compassionately offer comfort to those buried under a pile of lemons.

If Jim's disclaimer isn't enough humor for you, read on:
When life gives you lemons . . .
10. Don't confuse them with hand grenades (Identify the problem)
9. Check the delivery slip (Determine if it's your problem)
8. Sell them on eBay (Profit from the problem)
7. Paint smiley faces on them (Laugh at the problem)
6. Join a citrus support group (Share your problem)
5. Use as an all-natural, organic astringent (Grow from the problem)
4. Don't shoot the delivery driver (Forgive the problem-maker)
3. Graft to a lime tree for a refreshing, low-calorie soft drink (Take the problem to a higher level)
2. Grow your own orchard (Live a fruitful life despite—or because of—the problem)
1. Give off a refreshing fragrance (Live a lemon-fresh life)

My Thoughts
When I received the e-mail concerning this blog tour, I thought the title was interesting.   And funny enough, we had our series of lemons this year so I decided to go ahead with the possibility of reviewing this book.

Turns out that it is quite interesting, throughout the book the author will encourage you to stop and ponder on your lemons, give plenty of examples of lemons stories, help you to see the bright side of your dark days and bring a smile in your face while you read.    At the end of each chapters, a small section called Some Things to Think About will help you to redirect your ways of seeing things concerning your problem at hand.   And funny enough it will help you to get perspective as well.

So next time life brings you lemons and you loose sight of the good side, make some lemonade and grab the book Squeezing Good Out of Bad.  Then sit in your favorite chair and read it.   You might find it interesting.  And hopefully, your favorite chair won't break under you during the reading! *grin*

12 Pearls of Christmas - Just God (CONTEST)

A Tangible Reminder
by Mary Byers

Last year I read Me, Myself, & Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer, creator of the Veggie Tales video series. I was interested because my children grew up on Veggie Tales. But I was also interested because somewhere along the way I noticed Phil Vischer was no longer with Big Idea, the company he founded. I knew there must be a story there, so I picked up the book.

Though millions of children can sing the Veggie Tales theme song, Big Idea no longer exists. After expanding too quickly, the company was forced into bankruptcy. Vischer writes about the experience in his book, which is part memoir and part business tutorial. And it's a touching example of how one man encountered grit and allowed it to be turned into grace.

At the end of the book, Vischer outlines the lessons he learned from the rise and fall of Big Idea. In part, he shares, "I was ready to be done, if that's what God wanted. To just rest in him and let everything else fall away. At long last, after a lifetime of striving, God was enough. Not God and impact or God and ministry. Just God."

His words convicted me. As an author and speaker, I realized that I'm often more focused on my deadlines or my next speaking engagement than I am on God. I have it backwards. God first, then everything else will fall into place.

It's a powerful message for us as women, too. When we focus on God first, we'll have everything we need to handle whatever is happening in our families and our lives. As Vischer reminds us, God is enough. As we approach Christmas, I'm reminded that this is the time when God shared his Son with us-a tangible reminder of his love for us. And a reminder that when we have him, we have everything we need.

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Mary Byers is the author of Making Work at Home Work: Successfully Growing a Business and a Family Under One Roof. She offers advice and encouragement for moms work from home for profit at www.makingworkathomework.com.


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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Note: All people need to do is leave a comment on my blog (with a valid email address). I will email all the names of the people who commented on my blog during the 12 Pearls of Christmas series to my contact at litfusegroup the week after Christmas to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly chosen.

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Story of Cirrus Flux



The Story of Cirrus Flux

Written by Matthew Skelton
Published at Puffin Books

About the book

Cirrus is a crazy-haired foundling, an orphan boy who has never known his parents. He has grown up in the care of the Hospital, and in the company of his best friend, Bottle Top. But Bottle Top and Cirrus are soon to be apprenticed to new masters—cunning practitioners of a strange kind of science. Little do they know what sinister mysteries await them…

A phoenix-like bird in a nest guarded by crows, a daring hot-air balloon ride, and a ravishing villain—this is a thrilling and beautifully written tale for readers aged 10 and up. Matthew Skelton is that rare talent: a writer of compulsively readable plots with true literary merit.

Who is Matthew Skelton?
Matthew Skelton was born in the UK but spent most of his childhood in Edmonton, Alberta. He started writing while working as a teaching assistant at the University of Mainz and continued when he came back to Oxford to work as a research assistant. In 2002 he won Richard and Judy's short story competition. Cirrus Flux is his second novel.

My Thoughts
I have mixed feeling after reading this book. Part of me thinks the story has numerous events that would keep a young reader wanting to know what will happen next but at the same time I am saddened to see novels such as these being written for young readers. Part of the book has a taste of new age of the eighteen century since the book revolves around the time when London was craving scientific enlightenment.

Honestly, as much as this is part of history and people got sucked in such a scam, I wonder why children should be exposed to this kind of story. Mind you, the author seemed to have done quite some research to narrate about the things going on back then but part of me feel uneasy around the whole story.

There are mentions of God and the boys have biblical names given to them, while the girl character’s name is Pandora (uh? – Like in Pandora’s Box? Not good). But this is only brushed on in the story and nothing goes deeper than that.

Honestly, while I was reading the novel, I got sick in the stomach from what people would go through to try to find something that will ease their pain... Unfortunately, many children that were abandonment (foundlings) might have been use for such a show. It is sad.

This book is recommended for readers 10 years of age and up but personally I don’t recommend it. I think introducing the children to such a background at that age is unacceptable. Mind you, I think kids that age need to know about injustice in society and so on but being introduced to 18th century new age is just too much.

As for my copy of the book (which was an uncorrected book proof by the way), it found its way to my recycling bin so that the paper can be reused to create a new book... And in case you are wondering, I am not the kind of person who usually throw books away – which would be a shame – but in this case, the story and its background was just too disturbing for me to even consider sending it to a second-hand store.

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This review was possible because I received a copy of The Story of Cirrus Flux from Penguin Canada.
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The Story of Cirrus Flux available in a bookstore near you.

12 Pearls of Christmas - Home


COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
by Virelle Kidder

My mother had remarkable zeal for Christmas. Weeks in advance, she would come home from teaching school and bake late into the night. I helped clean the house and decorate the tree while my older brother Roger wired the house with Christmas lights, transforming our humble red house into a place of magical beauty. Following the church candlelight service, a crowd of happy people crunched through the snow to our house for cocoa and cookies.

We were, like many, quite alone in the years after my father left. Our Christmas open house was my mother's supreme effort to make us feel complete. It almost worked.

Despite years in church and Sunday school, God was more a distant relative I wished I knew. I grew up with a gnawing sense of incompleteness, and longed to find meaning and purpose in life. Strangely, it was shortly before Christmas years later that it found me.

My husband Steve was fully absorbed with his new job at Johns Hopkins University, and I was home with a two year old. We wanted friends, but were both hesitant when Steve's officemate his wife invited us to attend their church. We had nothing in common with "religious types," but Steve said, "Let's be nice and go just once."

Sitting in church that Sunday, my temples pounded. Hymns and Scripture verses long ago ignored called to me from my childhood. Could others tell I didn't belong here? Oddly, I felt jealous of their peace. They looked happy.

First thing Monday morning I began tearing through the unpacked boxes in our basement. At last, I found my mildewed Bible from fifth grade. I resolved to read it cover to cover. I opened to Genesis, chapter 1. Same old story; I've heard this a hundred times, and quickly slammed it shut.

No one told me God could hear my thoughts. A soft Voice whispered, Why not read as if it were true? I opened my Bible again. Suddenly I was listening to the most interesting person I had ever heard. By afternoon I was still reading in my pajamas. I couldn't stop.

I read for weeks until one day, a picture popped in my mind of a beautiful old house with wide porches, brightly lit at night. Music, laughter and lively conversation carried onto the porch where I stood in the dark, peeking in. I saw a feast and a fire on the hearth, much like the Christmas open houses from my childhood, with one important difference. There was a Father here whose face mirrored love and warmth at His children's presence. This was God's family, and I desperately wanted to be inside. But how?

A voice taunted, Why would God want you? You don't fit in this crowd! It was true. I considered giving up. Instead, I marched upstairs to our bedroom, knelt down and prayed out loud, "Lord, help me find the way! Please don't let me go!"

Verses I'd read made sense. Jesus said, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Our friends explained that God already knew I was a hopeless mess and loved me anyway. Opening the door to Heaven was a gift that cost God everything. It was on the cross Jesus died to pay for my sins. He rose again to prove forever that He is the Truth. Weeping at such love, I knelt and gave Christ my life. I found that, with or without a happy family, no one is ever complete without Jesus.

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Virelle Kidder is a conference speaker and the author of six books and numerous articles whose passion is sharing the love of God with women around the world. For her latest books, please visit her at http://www.virellekidder.com/ and http://www.meetmeatthewell.fm/

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