Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winner Announcement

Drum Roll Please....

The Winners of the Book Beyond Blue are: Marjorie, Amanda, Bonnie, Jes and Timmy.
Congrats!!! An email has been sent.

Thank You to the Hatchette Book Group.

Friday, December 25, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 25

12 Pearls of Christmas: Celebrate

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!

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

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas From The I Believe Bunny by Tish Rabe

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12 Pearls of Christmas~December 24

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

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!

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 23

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

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!

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Ultimate cloth

Ultimate Cloth® provides a more effective, eco-friendly, one-step cleaning process. No cleaning chemicals. No paper towels. Just wet it – wring it tight – wipe the surface – walk away.

As the only cloth to receive a new patent in the last 25 years, Ultimate Cloth has been tested to remove 96% of bacteria without the use of harsh chemicals.

Our 100% money back guarantee stands behind this exclusive eco-friendly technology. With just water, you’re guaranteed beautiful, streak-free clean with no chemicals left on your surfaces.

Green Cleaning Product
• Eco-friendly – no chemicals needed.
• Efficient – cuts your cleaning time in half.
• Smart – eliminates cost of expensive paper towels and toxic cleaning chemicals.

Home and business - Windows, glass, mirrors, wood, shower doors, tile, countertops, appliances (including stainless steel, corian, granite, marble), computer and TV screens, sporting equipment and more.

Vehicles - autos, motorcycles, boats and RV's - tough enough for bugs, tar, brake dust and boot marks. Effective without scratching windshields, lexan, paint or chrome. Convenient for travel – just dampen and clean – wherever you are! Results sparkle!

Money Saving Tip from an Ultimate Cloth User:
Rather than use the expensive and disposable, replacement pads for a single-use, flathead mop (such as Swiffer), try the machine-washable Ultimate Cloth.

Ultimate Cloth Benefits:
• Extreme Green Cleaning - Due to its unique attributes: Ultimate Cloths receive high accolades for their time savings and effective green cleaning:
• No chemicals are used from manufacturing the fabric through using the finished product — only water is used in cleaning.
• The same cloth is appropriate for all surfaces.
• No paper towels needed — one-step cleaning process of wiping the surface and walking away.
• High absorption capacity.
• Will not scratch, mar or blur delicate surfaces.
• Cuts cleaning time in half due to its unique attributes of efficiently grabbing dirt & grime from surfaces and trapping them in the cloth.
• Does not lose its strength or shape after hundreds of washes.
• Guaranteed safe for a baby's skin
• Long-lasting. Not disposable, but may be recycled.
• Will not release emissions or substances when incinerated or placed in landfills.

Price: $6
To purchase visit www.UltimateClothAmerica.com

My Thoughts:
Wow!!! This is Awesome. I used the Ultimate Cloth to clean my bathroom and it took me less time and only one cloth. I cleaned the bathtub,wood and tile, shower including the door, the countertop, mirror and then used to hand mop my floor. I didn't have to use any harsh chemicals, everything came out clean and I didn't have any streaks. That's what amazed me, I couldn't believe that my mirrors came out streak free. I usually have to use Windex and newspaper and go over them a few times to be streak free. This Ultimate Cloth worked so good and it saved me alot of time. Then when I was done, I just put it in the washer and can't wait to use this again. These cloths are pretty inexpensive and I know I will be buying more.
I like that I am saving time and money and I can use One cloth to clean many different surfaces with only using water (no cleansers.) I will be recommending the Ultimate Cloth to all my friends and family including You.

*Disclosure* I received the Ultimate Cloth for free to review. This is my own opinion and results from using this product.

PostCard Giveaway


UPrinting Postcards are one of the more popular products. These postcards are also invitations, thank you cards, note cards and much more! You can design them any way you would like. You can add pictures, text and logos to make them unique.
How would you use these Postcards? Do you have a business you could use these for? Would you use these for personal interests? You could use these postcards as an invitation to a party or special event. These postcards would make a nice Thank You note. You could use these for sending out Special Wishes,Or just simply to Say Hi, I'm thinking of You. The possibilties are endless. Check out UPrinting and get some ideas for yourself as one of my lucky readers can win these custom postcards.

Giveaway Prize: 100 Postcards for one (1) lucky winner
Size: 4x6; Paper: 14pt Cardstock Gloss; Printing: Full color both sides
Winners have to pay for shipping

To Enter this giveaway: You must follow me and leave me a comment letting me know how you will use these postcards.

To receive these extra opportunities for entries, you must fulfill the first REQUIRED entry. But in addition you can:

■Subscribe via e-mail (1 extra entry)
■Add Shawnmh to your Twitter -Leave me your twitter ID (1 extra entry)
■Add UPrinting to your Twitter -Leave me your twitter ID (1 extra entry)
■ Tweet this giveaway on Twitter. Be sure to include a link to this contest page and say: Postcard #GiveAway @Uprinting in your tweet(Leave me the link)(1 extra entry/this may be done daily)
■Add my button to your site AND/OR add me to your blog roll.(1 entry for each)
■Blog about this contest: Add a link to this post and to UPrinting.com (5 extra entries)

This Contest will end on 1/02/10 at 8:00 pm EST. Winner will be notified by e-mail (you will have 48 hours to reply to my email notice)
The prize will be awarded via coupon code which UPrinting will send out on Jan.8,2010
Winner is responsible for paying the shipping charges occured, giveaway prize only includes the 100 postcards.

*Disclosure: I will be receiving 100 postcards from UPrinting.com for hosting this giveaway,I will need to pay for my own shipping expenses.*

For Girls Only! Devotions ~Book Review

girls devotional book
Written By: Carolyn Larsen
Illustrated By: Leah Sutherland

This devotional will help girls ages 8-12 apply biblical concepts to their daily lives. Each devotion is written and designed with today’s tween and her issues in mind. Using a Scripture as the theme, each devotion includes a modern-day story and several interactive exercises, including a To-Do list, a quiz, related Scriptures, and quotations that reinforce the lesson. Filled with whimsical and girl-centric art, this fun devotional will be hard for young girls to put down!

Author Bio:
Carolyn Larsen has written more than 40 books for children and adults. She is best known as the author of the Little Girls Bible Storybook line of products, which have collectively sold more than one million units. In addition, Carolyn is a speaker who has taught and spoken extensively in the United States and overseas. She is the cofounder of the performing group Flashpoints, which is comprised of five women who share a God-ignited passion to encourage women and girls to know God better through drama, creative movement, signing, and humor. Carolyn is the mother of three and lives with her husband in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

My Thoughts:
This is a Great Book!! I enjoyed reading this myself and I'm looking forward to my eleven year old daughter reading this. This is the perfect book for any young girl.
This devotion book tells you what the Bible says, with the scriptures and quotes, and gives you some tips on how to live out the message. This is a book, You could read over and over, or just a few pages at a time. Each devotion includes a story about a real issue that girls these days face, then there is a self-quiz for you to see how you are doing. This is very well written and gives you some easy tips and suggestions on things to do to improve on the areas You need to work on. I feel this book should be helpful to any young girl and they would enjoy reading this.

**Thank you to Tyndale House Publisher for providing me a complimentary copy of this book. This review is my own thoughts and recommendations. **

I Review For The Tyndale Blog Network

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 22

12 Pearls of Christmas: Perspective

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!

Monday, December 21, 2009

America's Last -Minute Tax Deduction Contest

All Moms would agree that the joy that comes from having a new baby is priceless! The sweet sounds of cooing, chubby cheeks and the intimate bond between parent and child can make any family feel rich with love. But, as any new parents can attest, raising children can have an impact on your checkbook, as well as your heart. In fact, the typical family spends more than $221,000 raising a child through age 17.

Because we love to bestow gifts on new moms, MomSelect is thrilled to pass along the news of a fun contest that might lighten the load of one lucky family! Thanks to TurboTax®, one "last-minute" baby will help his or her parents save a bundle.

TurboTax® the nation's No. 1 rated, best-selling tax preparation software from Intuit Inc. is conducting its third annual nationwide search for America's Cutest Last-Minute Tax Deduction. The parents of one lucky baby, born in December 2009, will win $5,000.

To enter, parents or legal guardians should submit a photo of their baby born between Dec. 1-31, to www.cutesttaxdeduction.com. The deadline for submissions is January 7, 2010. Judges will select 10 finalists, and America will determine America's Cutest Last-Minute Tax Deduction and the $5,000 grand prize winner!

Even though I didn't bring home a bundle of joy this December, I am helping to spread the word about this fun contest to You All. And speaking of expressing thanks, there's a great gift for bloggers who help us in creating a buzz around the "America's Cutest Last-Minute Tax Deduction" Contest! If you publish a post on your blog between now and January 7th, including contest details and a link to the contest site, you'll be entered to win a $250 American Express gift card! And the first 100 bloggers who post an adorable addition to any baby's wardrobe- the "Cutest Tax Deduction" onesie!

Well...That's the information. Please visit the Contest site for all the details and Check out all the Cute Babies. And to all the New parents, Congrats on your new bundle of joy and Make Sure to enter this Great Contest.

The Christ of Christmas~Free Download

Tyndale House Publishers would like to invite you to be a part of a special holiday offer. Christian recording artist and author of 101 Ways to Give This Christmas Away, Matthew West ,(http://matthewwest.com/ ), is offering a free download of the Christmas story from Luke read by the singer/songwriter himself. In fact, our goal is to reach 1 million total downloads. You can also download a free copy of the Gospel of John in the New Living Translation.

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www.thechristofchristmas.com

Christmas Cookies and Cheap Cookie Cutters Review

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Doesn't this look like fun? This is picture is of my kids, my nephew and Grandpa decorating Christmas Cookies. They had so much fun. This was a nice family event.
Not shown, is Gramma, my sister and myself. We were busy making all the cookie dough and baking. The kids had so much fun decorating and eating the cookies.
Thanks to Chris from CheapCookieCutters.com, who gave me four tin Christmas cookie cutters to try out. I really liked these cookie cutters. They worked really good. Even the kids used these without any problems. They have a large variety of Christmas Cookie Cutters., including a cross and the Navity Scene.
Now, after the Holidays are over... Don't forget that Cookie Cutters make a Great Gift Year Round and everyone loves cookies for any occasion.
Disney Lovers, check out these cookie cutters including Mickey, Tigger and Cinderella's Castle. These cookie cutters would make the best treats for those special Disney themed Birthday parties. Do you love Dinosaurs? Check out all the Dinosaur cookie cutters. My son would love dinosaur cookies and brownies for a special treat.

*Everyone loves cookie cutters, and everyone loves inexpensive/cheap products which is why Cheap Cookie Cutters was created. Whether you’re looking for that perfect birthday gift, Christmas gift or whether you’re looking just for yourself, Cheap Cookie Cutters is your one stop shop for all you cookie cutter needs*

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 21

12 Pearls of Christmas: Help & Support

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 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!

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 20

12 Pearls of Christmas: God Intervenes

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. 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!

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

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winner Annoncement

DrumRoll Please...

The Winner of the Book: I Used to Know That is... Irene

Congrats!!!

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 19

12 Pearls of Christmas: He is Always Enough

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!

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 18

12 Pearls of Christmas: Faith, Hope & Love

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 17

12 Pearls of Christmas: God Provides a Way

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!

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Magic Warble Blog Tour

Photobucket
The Magic Warbler
Author:Victoria Simcox

Dwarfs, gnomes, fairies, talking animals, and an evil queen – all these and more can be found in The Magic Warble, an enchanting tale of adventure and friendship.

Twelve-year-old Kristina Kingsly feels like the most unpopular girl in her school. The kids all tease her, and she never seems to fit in. But when Kristina receives an unusual Christmas gift, she suddenly finds herself magically transported to the land of Bernovem, home of dwarfs, gnomes, fairies, talking animals, and the evil Queen Sentiz.
In Bernovem, Kristina not only fits in, she’s honored as “the chosen one” the only one who can release the land from Queen Sentiz’s control. But it’s not as simple as it seems. To save Bernovem, she must place the gift she was given, the famous “Magic Warble” in its final resting place. And she must travel through the deep forest, climb a treacherous mountain, and risk capture by the queen’s “zelbocks” before she reaches her destination. Guided by her new fairy friends, Clover and Looper and by Prince Werrien, a teenage boy, as well as an assortment of other characters, Kristina sets off on a perilous journey that not only tests her strength but her heart.

My Thoughts:
My eleven year old daughter, Kylee enjoyed reading this book. She could barely put it down, needless to say she finished reading this story in two days. She would've finished the first day she started reading it, but I made her put it down and get some sleep for school the next day. The Author, Victoria Simcox, did a great job writing this book. This story is enchanting and you can easily find yourself in this magical land. I hope that this is the first book in a series to come.

Kylee's Thoughts:
I really liked this book. This was fun to read and I liked all the magical creatures in the story. The main character in this story is Kristina,a young unpopular girl.
After receiving an unusual Christmas gift, she finds herself in a magical land.
Now through her journey to save this magical land from the evil queen, she becomes important and makes many friends. This story was full of adventure and I really liked the lessons in this story of friendship and loyalty. I think that my friends and other children my age would love to read this book.



To purchase this book or read more about it, please visit:http://themagicwarble.com/

You can read more about Victoria Simcox on her blog here

**Thank you so much to Victoria Simcox, Dorothy and Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tours for this review opportunity!**

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 16

12 Pearls of Christmas: Jesus Comforts

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 (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 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!

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beyond Blue~Book Giveaway 5 Winners~

Beyond Blue book
Beyond Blue
Author: Therese Borchard

Giveaway now Closed. Congrats to Marjorie,Amanda,Bonnie,Jes and Timmy
Therese Borchard may be one of the frankest, funniest people on the planet. That, combined with her keen writing abilities has made her Beliefnet blog, Beyond Blue, one of the most trafficked blogs on the site.

BEYOND BLUE, the book, is part memoir/part self-help. It describes Borchard's experience of living with manic depression as well as providing cutting-edge research and information on dealing with mood disorders. By exposing her vulnerability, she endears herself immediately to the reader and then reduces even the most depressed to laughter as she provides a companion on the journey to recovery and the knowledge that the reader is not alone.

Comprised of four sections and twenty-one chapters, BEYOND BLUE covers a wide range of topics from codependency to addiction, poor body image to postpartum depression, from alternative medicine to psychopharmacology, managing anxiety to applying lessons from therapy. Because of her laser wit and Erma Bombeck sense of humor, every chapter is entertaining as well as serious.

You can purchase the book here
Or You can Win it!! Hatchette Book Group has generously offered Five copies of Beyond Blue to Five of my lucky readers.

MANDATORY/REQUIRED ENTRY:
You need to Follow me and leave a Comment telling me if you or someone you know is depressed.

EXTRA ENTRIES:
To receive these extra opportunities for entries, you must fulfill the first REQUIRED entry. But in addition you can:

■Subscribe via e-mail (1 extra entry)
■Add @Shawnmh to your Twitter -Leave me your twitter ID (1 extra entry)
■ Tweet this giveaway on Twitter. Be sure to include a link to this contest page (Leave me the link)(1 extra entry/this may be done daily)
■Add my button to your site AND/OR add me to your blog roll.(1 entry for each)
■Blog about this contest: Add a link to this post (5 extra entries)

This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only and can not be shipped to PO Boxes. Please leave a seperate comment for each entry.(Please make sure if you are anonymous you leave your email address with your comments.)
This giveaway will end on Dec.26 at 11:59 pm Est. The winner will be notified and have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be choosen.

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 15

12 Pearls of Christmas: Just God

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!

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tinycandy's Gift~Book Review

tinycandy's gift book

Tinycandy's Gift
Written by:Susan E. Estes
Illustrated by: Mike Motz.com


Tinycandy’s Gift is a new Christmas story tracing the origins of the popular holiday treat, the candy cane. Tinycandy is an elf growing up in the North Pole who always felt left out because he walks with a limp. With Christmas approaching, Tinycandy is desperate to find his special “gift” in order to contribute to Christmas in Santa’s workshop and become accepted by the other elves. When Tinycandy does discover his gift, it creates a special sweet treat that changes Christmas forever. Included Read-Along CD and Candy Cane Recipe.

My Thoughts:
This story is about an elf named Tinycandy who makes a special treat we know as the candy cane. Tinycandy is alittle different from all the other elfs, because he walks with a limp. Santa makes him a cane to help his unsteady feet. The other elfs all have a special talent making unique toys. All but Tinycandy. The other elfs are so mean and say hurtful things, they are jealous because they think he is Santa's best friend. Tinycandy isn't a good toy maker and just wants to fit in. Mrs. Claus takes him to the kitchen where he make a sweet treat. He made this in the shape of his cane and the colors of red and white for what Santa wears on Christmas night. We call this the Candy Cane.

This is a Wonderful Christmas Story. I really enjoyed reading this book, myself and my children loved this too. This is an ispirational one and really touched my heart. I love how this story show us that we are all different and even having a disability, we can still do great things. This story is written in a fun and ryhming way and all the bright pictures catch the children's attention. I just hope that the message does too.

This is a wonderful Christmas Story to read year after year. You can purchase your own autographed copy here


I received this complimentary book from Babs Chandrasoma from PR by the Book, LLC to review.
My review is my own words and thoughts.
*I was given the opportunity to review this product because of my membership at The Product Review Place*

This book is featured in the Book Review Blog Tour
CymLowell

Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving~Please be Safe

buzzed driving campaign 2
It's holiday party season - time to celebrate all of the exciting winter holidays with our friends and loved ones. Our mailboxes are flooded with invitations to parties and dinners and other holiday get-togethers. With these parties come food, fellowship, gifts, and in many cases, festive alcoholic drinks.

While at holiday events, it's easy to lose track of a drink here or there - but this can be fatal. This holiday season, keep you and your family safe by spreading this message~Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving~


In 2008, nearly 12,000 people in the U.S. were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes - and during the periods around Christmas and New Year's, this number was particularly high, with 316 people killed in alchol-impaired driving crashes. In 2007, 162,493 women were arrested for a DUI, an increase of almost 29% since 1998. You can't help but wonder if lives could have been saved if people thought twice before getting behind the wheel. With the holidays approaching, it's important that drivers be reminded about the dangers of buzzed driving. Who knows...it could save a life.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) and the Ad Council are asking everyone to drive smart this holiday season and to pledge not to drive buzzed.
I signed the Pledge,now You can here
Other ways to help:
Become a fan of the Buzzed Driving campaign on Facebook and ask your friends and family to do the same.
And Twitter Users can follow @buzzeddriving and participate in Tuesday's Twitter Party. All the information is on the Hostess's site .

Have a safe and happy holiday and remember that buzzed driving IS drunk driving. Please Be Safe!!! Save a Life.

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 14

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 www.virellekidder.com and www.meetmeatthewell.fm

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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!

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas~December 13 *

12 Pearls of Christmas: God With Us

LISTENING FOR CHRISTMAS
by Deb Kalmbach

I used to be the queen of over-commitment, and December brought out the worst in this malady. It was as if I were poised at an imaginary starting line, and when I flipped the calendar page, I was off and running--the December dash!

You could hardly see any white space on my daily planner it was so jammed with events. Kids' Christmas programs, church programs, and endless lists of things-to-do obscured my calendar and my vision to see what really mattered. Each day when we hung another ornament on our Advent tree, I felt my chest tighten, and my breathing get shallower. Only single-digit shopping days left...Panic mode was about to set in.

Of course I was singing in the Christmas choir. I love music, and the heavenly Christmas anthems we sang. The neighborhood cookie exchange was an annual tradition. Forget about the old standards, chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies. Let's talk about jam-filled tea cookies, chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls, or iced sugar cookies with colored sprinkles. My kitchen looked like a Martha Stewart test kitchen gone awry.

My head spins just thinking about it. I usually felt so frustrated and exhausted by Christmas Day, I barely enjoyed the celebration. I repeated this drill for many Christmas seasons, before I finally decided to step back and think about why I was trying to accomplish the impossible. I learned to take a deep breath and accept the fact that I can't do it all-and I'm much better off if I don't try.

That's probably why I'm writing this. The tendency to revert to this frenzied pace by mid-December is still a challenge. I need to be reminded of the quiet simplicity of this season, so I can hear the age-old message once again.

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

Immanuel! Our God is with us. If we can stop long enough to listen-we will hear the invitation that beckons us to come, to wait, to get ready for our coming King.

No doubt, December will be as busy as ever with gifts to purchase, trees to decorate and carols to sing. But this Advent season, I pray that in the midst of everything contending for our time and attention, our hearts will be moved and our senses sharpened to rejoice in God's greatest gift.

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Deb Kalmbach is the co-author of Because I Said Forever: Embracing Hope in a Not-So-Perfect Marriage and the author of a book for children, Corey's Dad Drinks Too Much. Deb and her husband, Randy, make their home in a tiny town in Eastern Washington. Visit Deb at her website or 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!

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