Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Here's hoping 2011 is a great NEW year.
Full of fun.
Fabulous food and
Lots of NEW & Exciting things.

One Word

Are you ready for a new year? It really doesn’t matter if you answer no, because ready or not, in less than three days (depending upon when you read this), a new year is starting — with or without you!

It seems like yesterday that 2010 began full of promise and hope. Now, we stand at the end of this year, reflecting on life, and ready to jump into 365 days full of untapped possibilities.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2011? Mine can be summed up in one word — New.
Sounds simple, but keep reading. There’s more to it than just being a “new” year.

Since 2007, I’ve taken part in a movement of sorts called One Little Word, an initiative which encourages individuals to identify one word that they want to focus on or use to define the upcoming year.

I first learned about the idea after reading Ali Edward’s blog (found at Edwards, a self-described “modern memory keeper,” began choosing a word for herself in 2006 because, in her words, “a single word can be a powerful thing.”

Edwards said she wanted to find a word that she could focus on, meditate on and/or reflect upon as she went upon her daily life.

I immediately jumped on this, and since 2007, it’s become something I do each year.

Because I’m a “wordy” type of gal, I’ve ended up with two words per year. Usually I start with a word in January, and then by August, another word has woven itself into my life.

Past words I’ve used to define my life and actions have included wonder and seek (2007), simplicity and joy (2008) and dream and hope (2009).

One word.

I am continually amazed at the power that one word (or in my case two words) can to help shape and define a year.

In 2010, I began the year with “half-full” because I wanted to see life with a new, positive perspective. In August, the word began to change to simply “see” after I had a chance to read Mary Beth Chapman’s memoir, “Choosing To See.”

In that autobiography, Chapman describes how she struggled to see God at work through the pain and turmoil her family has gone through in the past few years.

Ultimately, through prayer and a lot of faith, Chapman said she is choosing to SEE God work in her life despite the yuck of the world.

Her words inspired me to focus my desire to see life, not only “half-full” but to also “see” how God is at work in my life.

This year, I’m starting off with the word “new.”

While it sounds like an obvious choice, for me it’s a continuation of what began this year, as I strive to see life as God means for me to experience it.

The year I picked, “wonder,” showed me I hope this year, using the word new, I’ll be challenged to try new things, eat new foods and well, simply break out of the rut of regular life and experience things in new ways.

So what word will you use to help define your life in 2011? What are your hopes and dreams for this new year?

A new year — 365 days as white as a page in new sketchpad — and new opportunities. What will you create this year?

Reflecting on 2010
During the past month, I’ve participated in an online journaling movement called Reverb10 (

Through a daily writing prompt during the month of December, various writers have provided ways to reflect and review things about life during 2010.

Some prompts are better than others, but one thing is for sure, reading the questions — and responding to the prompts, may help you review life in 2010 and jump start life in the new year.

I’ll leave you with one of the questions, of Reverb10: What 10 things do you need to leave behind, as you start 2011?

— Kaylea Hutson is the minister to families with children at First United Methodist Church in Siloam Springs. She is also a freelance journalist.

 Editor's Note: This column appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 29 issue of the Siloam Springs Herald Leader.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blog Tour: Little Star (Review)

 “I think I understand!” Little Star cried out. “The baby Jesus is a king! He’s just little!”

A king is about to be born! The stars in the heavens are competing to shine the brightest to celebrate his birth. But when they see the poor family, the donkey, the shabby stable, the stars all think, That can’t possibly be a king. We’ve been fooled.

All except one. The smallest, loneliest star in the sky, Little Star, is the only one to understand what the king was about to bring to the world. But what can Little Star do for him?

Certain to become a Christmas classic, this delightful tale connects the star atop our Christmas trees to the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, in the hearts and minds of young children.

What I Thought
Looking for a new way to tell the Christmas story? Then consider picking up Anthony DeStefano's newest children's book, Little Star.

I jumped at a chance to review this book for two reasons
- 1) I love picture books. I think the mixture of beautiful images and words can be very powerful. I love adding to my collection!
- 2) I wanted to see if this would be a book I could use during either a Christmas children's event at church, or maybe - depending upon length - a possible children's sermons.

I had hoped it would arrive earlier than it did (it appeared thanks to UPS on Christmas eve). So I haven't had a chance to read it to any of the kidlets in my world, just to myself.

What I Found:
This book is beautiful. Mark Elliot, the illustrator, has done a spectacular job bringing the story to life.

DeStefano's story is simple and sweet. At first reading, it seemed a bit, well, too simple. Then after watching an interview with the author (see it below), and listening to the meaning he put into crafting the story, I read it again with new eyes.

This story focuses on Little Star, the "tiny" star in the heavens, and how he gave of himself to shine a light on the Holy Family on the night of Jesus' birth. Sub themes include being true to yourself, despite your size (a good message for kids who don't "fit in" to the "main" crowd; as well as doing what you believe in, regardless of the consequences.

Overall, I can see myself using this next Christmas with the kids I work with. It's short enough, I could read it as a children's time on a Sunday before Christmas - and pass out stars to help them remember the tale. I could also see sharing it with a child as a December bedtime story.

The story, according to DeStefano, was crafted during his high school English class. It may, as the publisher's suggest, become one of those Christmas books you pull out each year, to share with children, and grandchildren, alike.

More About The Author & Illustrator
Anthony DeStefano has received may prestigious awards from religious organizations throughout the world for his efforts to advance Christian beliefs in modern culture. These include an honorary doctorate from the National Clergy Council and the Methodist Episcopal Church's Joint Academic Commission, as well as the "Defender of Israel" medal from the Jerusalem Center for Peace Studies, conferred on him in 2003.

He is the CEO of a Catholic not-for-profit organization; he lives in Long Island with his wife, Kimberly, a kindergarten teacher.
For more info, visit:

Mark Elliott is the illustrator of many picture books and novels for young readers, including Gail Carson Levine's ever-popular Princess Tales series. He lives in New York State's Hudson River Valley.

You can see samples of his artwork here:

Online Resources
Buy Little Star at Amazon

Read an online excerpt of Little Star here!

See more interviews related to Little Star here!

Fox News Interview -- Anthony DeStefano talks about Little Star

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas.
I hope everyone who reads this has a very, very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blog Tour: The Clouds Roll Away (Review)

Forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon returns home for Christmas but discovers Richmond, Virginia running low on goodness and light.

.....she lands a hometown civil rights case riddled with problems that could get her sent away again. When she helps out a fellow cop, her life goes on the line, forcing her undercover in a sting operation. As Raleigh realizes the lines are crossing and double-crossing, her domestic life starts to unravel. Her mother's mental health cracks like ice, her closest friend grows cold, and her old boyfriend DeMott comes a-calling, hoping for more than chestnuts by an open fire.

While the city glows with Christmas lights and carols, Raleigh is forced to rely on her sharpest skills to stay alive, hoping for that one clear moment when everything makes sense and the clouds roll away.

What I Thought
This is the third book featuring Raleigh Harmon as a main protagonist, but my first exposure to both this series and the author Sibella Giorello.

Honestly, I'm still trying to decide if I liked the book enough to read the other pieces of the series. First let me say that Giorello is a good writer. Her characters have depth and her story lines are strong. 

Part of my "discomfort" in reading this book is probably because it's "mid-series." I think if you "grew alongside" Raleigh through book one: The Stones Cry Out or book two: The Rivers Run Dry, you would have a chance to see how Giorello grows Raleigh as a character and as a Christian.

I liked the story line - it kept me jumping with it's twists and turns. It truly had an unexpected ending. I grew frustrated with the "back story" or information about Raleigh's past - especially when decisions she makes in this novel, are definitely influenced by the "ghosts" in her career. It was almost like I had woken up from a deep sleep, and everyone else knew what had happened, but I was left trying to fill in the missing pieces in my memory.

Raleigh is a gritty character. Someone in another on-line review, labeled her the Christian version of James Patterson's Alex Cross. I'd say, instead she's more in the line of Patterson's Lindsey Boxer in the Women's Murder Club series. She is definitely a strong, female who is trying to figure out life, despite some major roadblocks and setbacks.

If you like mystery, suspense and a Christian "worldview," but don't mind a bit of grit and grime along the way, then you will probably really like this series. I definitely recommend that you start with book one. You can find more information about all of Giorello's books by visiting her blog.

About The Author
Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she worked as a features for the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. She now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons. Find out more about Giorello and her other books at her website.

Follow The Blog Tour

It's A contest!
Win a KINDLE from Sibella Giorello!

Giorello is celebrating the release of The Clouds Roll Away by giving away a KINDLE prize pack worth more than $150!

One Grand Prize winner will receive:
  • Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to
To enter simply click on one of the icons below! Then tell your friends! Winner will be announced Monday, Jan. 3, 2011 on Giorello's blog:

About The Clouds Roll Away - "Beautifully written with exquisite descriptions, Giorello's mystery also features well-developed characters..."
—Booklist, starred review

Find out more here! 

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Kids Verson of the Christmas Story

A friend sent me the link to this on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blog Tour: Shadowed Mind (Review)

How far will some go to silence an influential Christian voice?

After the deadly investigation into the Smithsonian murders, Dinah Harris is now facing a daily battle to keep her sobriety while struggling to form a new career from the ashes of her former job as an FBI agent. From the shadows will emerge a cunning and terrifying killer, who carefully and methodically will decide whose life has value to society and whose does not.

Using her profiling and security skills as a private consultant based in Washington, DC, Harris uncovers a connection to the shadowy world of neo-eugenics, and those who publicly denounce the killings but privately support a much different view.

Against this backdrop, Harris must come to terms with her own past, as those associated with the deepening mystery face their own personal demons, and struggle with the concept of God’s inexhaustible grace and forgiveness. Old secrets are revealed, tragedies unearthed, and the devastating legacy of science without compassion is finally brought to light.

What I Thought
When the publisher describes this book as powerful, I truly believe it has hit the "mark" concerning the descriptive nature of this novel.

This is not a warm and fuzzy book. Instead, using fiction, Julie Cave has crafted another book in her Dinah Harris trilogy that tackles tough, rough subjects from a Christian perspective.

This book is definitely not mind candy, and not one you want to read lightly. The topics of euthanasia, assisted suicide, along with the sub theme the value of human life may make you stop and think about things from a different perspective.

You may also finding yourself doing further research concerning forced sterilization and eugenics,

In my first review, I said "Dinah Harris was a good anti-hero...who is in desperate need of the redemptive love of Jesus." I think in Cave continues to develop Harris' as a woman struggling with her new found faith and sobriety in this novel.

In all, I give this novel at least a 3.5 to 4. As the follow up to a strong first novel, Cave continues to build on Harris' story. The final book in this trilogy is due out in 2011.

Digging Deeper
Want to read more about Cave's first novel, Deadly Disclosures?
You can find my review and an interview with Julie Cave following her release of Deadly Disclosures by clicking here.

About The Author
Julie Cave credits her parents for introducing her to books at a young age, which fostered an enduring passion for reading and writing. As a child, her favourite authors were Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis and it wasn’t long before she began copying them, writing short stories for anyone who would read them.

At 15, two things happened which would shape her future: she heard a creation science speaker at her church which cemented her faith in God; and she finished her second novel-length story and realised she had fallen in love with writing novels.

After school, she completed a health science degree, got married, and worked in banking and finance. All the while she wondered how she could combine her love of writing and her strong passion for Christian apologetics and evangelism. One weekend at a church camp, a friend asked, ‘What if the guy in charge of the Smithsonian Institution went missing?’

The result – and the answer to that question – is Cave's maiden published novel, Deadly Disclosures. Cave has one daughter and lives in Brisbane, Australia with her family. She divides her time between being a wife, a mother and an author.

Online Resources

Follow Julie Cave on Twitter:
Find Julie Cave on Facebook:
Follow Julie Cave's Blog:
Read an Online Excerpt of Shadowed Minds
Find out more about the publisher:

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by New Leaf Publishing Group. This review or interview was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflecting on 2010: Reverb10 Day 5

Let Go
I bought this in Little Rock, as I processed this question. It really symbolizes the thought behind the prompt. It's the Angel of Freedom, and I hope it reminds me that there is freedom in simply letting go.

December 5 – Let Go.
What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley) See the original post, on here.
I’ve written this response several times in my head, as I’ve pondered just what I’ve given up this year – what I’ve “let go.”

I’m not sure I’ve “let go” of much this year.

I think I need to let go of my need for perfection.

It’s not that I expect perfection from others, so why do I expect it from myself?

The need for perfection leads to a lot of negative self-talk.

It also causes me to doubt my skills, and be afraid to try new things – because ultimately, I think, I fear disappointing not only myself, but others.

This book has been on my “to read, for pleasure” bookshelf for a few weeks now. I bought it at the recommendation of a friend. At the time, I was mildly interested in reading it. But now, it seems, as if God was just getting me ready to read it for more than just pleasure.

Perfection is paralyzing.

By letting go, I hope I’ll instead find freedom and even joy, in the imperfections of life.

I have "let go" of several things this year.

I have “let go” a bunch of clothes, that simply didn’t fit right. I keep thinking, thanks to a friend, “What if what I give away, helps a woman have the right clothes for a job, or job interview?”

I’m also striving to let go of some of my “stuff.” (Yes, that also means I’ll probably get rid of some of my books!) I’d like to have less “stuff” that clutters up my home and more “meaningful” items.

There's some other stuff I'm letting go of.... but I'm not sure I'm still processing it.

As a couple of my favorite kiddos say to make me laugh - "peace out!"

Reflecting on 2010: Reverb10 Day 4

This is my favorite "wonder" moment of 2010 so far.
I caught this moment: four-day-old Baby Grady's feet in his daddy's hands. I snapped this while taking photos for his parents. It is by far my favorite photo from the session, because I am amazed at how Grady's feet look in Morgan's fingers - and how Morgan's hands look almost "heart" like, as he cups the tiny toes.

Reverb10: December 4 – Wonder.
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
(Author: Jeffrey Davis) See original post on here.

I really thought a lot about this question. How have I looked for wonder this year?

Honestly, this isn’t the first time I’ve pondered this question.

Wonder was the first word I picked for the “One Word” idea in 2007.

That year, I deliberately spent time looking for wonder in a variety of ways – including during an ice storm and flowers emerging from the ground after a long winter.

Now, as 2010 moves to a close, can I really say that I seek out wonder.

Wonder is a huge thing.

It means looking at life filled with admiration, amazement or awe, or marveling at the different things in life – and being curious about what you find.

Sometimes, I let the everyday, ordinary, boring aspects of life dictate how I SEE life.

I forget to SEE with amazement and awe the wonderful things around me.

A life without wonder is like living a black & white existence, in a Technicolor world, because despite the amazing colors of the world, everything seems grey and bleak.

So, as 2011 starts, I hope to see life in a new way. (Yes, that word again – I think my 2011 word has picked me.)

I want to see wonder again. I want to live with a spirit of awe and marvel.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Coming Soon - More Reverb10

Yes, I'm officially behind.

But with the Christmas parade yesterday, and trying to get things done today, to be out of town for a meeting tomorrow, well, I'm two days, soon to be three days behind on Reverb.

I've written them in my head....but now, have to put them down in a post - but it's 10:54 p.m. and I have at least a 6-hr (round trip) drive to the meeting tomorrow.

So, I'll post soon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reflecting on 2010: Reverb10 Day 3

Reverb10 - Day 3: Moment.
Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards) See original post on here.

I really had to think about this. Last night, when I got today's prompt - yes, I was on e-mail at 11 p.m. - my first thought was wow, what moment did I feel most alive? What memory can I describe in "vivid detail." What memory deserves this attention.

When I woke up this morning, I some how knew, I needed to write the post about my experience "tubing" for the first time this summer.You can read the original post: Lessons from Vacation - Part 1: Laughter here.

ok, so I never got all the way up on my knees like Kim (left) I did let go of the handles a couple of times!

It was a new (there's that word again) experience this summer that was amazing. It was also terrifying and totally out of character for me. Doing this was risky. I had to put aside my reservations and well, my fear, to try something that was so physical, and well, required me to do it in a swim suit.. (insert laugh here!)

Riding on the tubes was exhilarating. Riding on top of the water, feeling the wind in your face, was powerful. It was hard - wow, I can't believe how much arm strength it took to hold on to the tubes. But when I let go and decided to have fun, and not worry about how I looked in a "skin tight" life jacket, it was awesome.

Being on the lake itself was awesome. It was so quiet - no cell phones, no laptops, no electronic devices. The weather was nice - even on the hottest days.
It was funny to be swimming in the water, and feel warm water on the surface, but pockets of cold water at your toes.

This was a new experience, that taught me to put aside everything and jump in, to do something - even if it might mean I look foolish. Because honestly, with risk comes great reward - and the reward here was priceless.

Thanks Kim, for this awesome memory and for this opportunity. Oh, and thanks for teaching me how to play  Rummy 2000, and for just being a "life-long" friend. I value your friendship beyond words.

Blog Tour: God Loves Single Moms (Review)

Teresa Whitehurst knows what it's like to be a single mom. She faced many challenging times when money was short, when her back was aching, and when her spirits sagged from trying to "do it all" without letting anyone know she needed a little rest or assistance.

Over the years she learned that both she and her children benefitted when she stopped trying to be perfect; admitted her needs, frustration, loneliness, or fatigue; and reached out to God and to supportive friends and family.

In God Loves Single Moms, she offers you down-to-earth advice on navigating the world of single motherhood with confidence and hope for the future.

Packed with practical tips, smart strategies, and ways to improve your family's well-being, this book tackles your most pressing issues, like self-care, developing a support network, organization, finances, discipline, and more.

It can feel like you're struggling through life on your own. But you have a partner who wants you to succeed and wants your children to flourish. God loves you and wants to guide and support you every step of the way.

Whether you've never married, you're divorced, or you've been widowed, you and your children deserve the best life has to offer. And while you may get weary, you need never feel alone.

What I Thought 
I picked up this book because I thought it might be a good one to refer to, when working with moms who are learning to navigate life and parenthood as a single parent.

This book, filled with tips, nuggets from various sources, and what seems helpful - an inventory designed to give moms a chance to assess the lives of themselves and their children.

With chapters broken down covering a variety of topics, this book touches on subjects ranging from self-care, being organized, children's behavior and even, dealing with the child's father.

This book is a combination of a workbook and guide. It's not a "passive" read. It is designed to help a mom process what's going on in their life, and how they can move forward with success.

I plan to pass this book on to someone I know, struggling at the beginning of her new journey of single parenthood.

This is definitely a book I will add to my "children's ministry" resource list.

About The Author
Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist who provides counseling as well as personal and career coaching. She has worked as a psychotherapist for many years in private practice, at Harvard Medical School, and at Kaiser-Permanente.

Dr. Whitehurst writes and speaks on parenting and personal development issues and is the author of How Would Jesus Raise Your Child? She is a single mom who has two adult daughters and two grandchildren.

Online Resources
Read an online excerpt of God Loves Single Moms @ Revell books
Buy God Loves Single Moms @ Amazon
Buy God Loves Single Moms @Barnes & Nobel
Buy God Loves Single Moms @ CBD
Buy God Loves Single Moms in bulk 20+ or more @

About the Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reflecting on 2010, Reverb 10: Day 2

Photo by: Nicole Holte from Stock.xchng
Reverb 10: Day 2 Prompt

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)

I'm not really sure what keeps me from writing - or being creative each day. I can make excuses, but I seem to fill my days with lots of "stuff."

I wonder if Facebook is keeps me from writing. Maybe it's my "addiction" to TV (Criminal Minds, Law & Order, NCIS, etc.)

It seems like I can find time to do "meaningless" things....

But something else keeps me from writing. Maybe it's the subconscious fear that my thoughts, written down will be imperfect. Maybe it's the fear of trying.

Maybe it's simply fear.

I've joked with friends in the "biz" about writing a novel. Actually, I've joked about it for 10 years. Wonder what's kept me from trying.


Maybe that's my goal for 2011. To step away from the fear and enter the unknown. To try something that could be a challenge.

I think I'll definitely check out this website: 750 Words or at least try this method of free writing. I have a creative friend who does this, and he talks about how freeing this is - he writes his "freehand" each morning on a yellow legal pad (I believe). Maybe this will be the way to "de-clutter" my brain.

Maybe I'll try something new....

Hum... New, that word keeps coming up. Maybe New will be my 2011 words.

I'll keep you posted.

Want to see what started this all? You can follow what others are doing with this prompt on Twitter. Just search for #Reverb10 or @Reverb10. There's also a blog list, of participants, at

Reflecting on 2010: Reverb10, Day 1

How is your year "wrapping" up? I ran across this today - one day into the "Reverb 10" prompts.

Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative that lets you reflect upon your year and "manifest what's next."

"Use the end of your year as an opportunity to reflect on what's happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead. With Reverb 10 - and the 31 prompts our authors have created for you - you'll have support on your journey."

So, I've decided that I'm going to try this. Thirty-one days of blogging. Thirty-one days of thinking about life in 2010, and getting ready for 2011.

Dec. 1's Prompt From Reverb10: One Word
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? - (Author: Gwen Bell)

My word(s) for 2010 - I never can seem to stick with one word, were: Thanks to Spell With Flickr)

letter H letter a letter L letter f
Block Letter F U letter L DSC_0202_4


letter S E letter E

I've spent the last year trying to look at life differently. To see life, not as half-empty, but rather, half-full. I've also spent time, since reading Mary Beth Chapman's memoir, to see my life though God's eyes - through his expectations (and gifts).

I'm not sure if my outlook on life has changed. But I'm trying. Yes I know, trying isn't "doing," but I'm making an effort.

I know God has a plan for my life. I'm trying to sit back and SEE what that plan is, rather than trying to "MAKE" it happen.

I'm already thinking about next year's word (or at least the word that will start my year.) I'm not sure what it will be. I'm tossing around a few ideas, but nothing has "claimed" me.

What word would summarize 2010 for you? What word do you want to capture your life at the end of 2011?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 2010 - Baby Grady's Photo Shoot

Scenes from Baby Grady's first official photo shoot - four days old!




























































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