Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blog Tour: A Memory Between Us (Review)

Can they overcome the past to find a brighter future together?

Major Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge--until he meets army nurse Lieutenant Ruth Doherty. When Jack lands in the army hospital after a plane crash, he makes winning Ruth's heart a top-priority mission. But he has his work cut out for him. Not only is Ruth focused on her work in order to support her orphaned siblings back home, she also is determined not to give her heart to any man.

As the danger and tension of World War II rise to a fever pitch, Jack and Ruth will need each other more than ever. Can Jack break down her defenses? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?

From the English countryside to the perilous skies over France, A Memory Between Us takes you on a journey through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

A Memory Between Us is the second book in Sarah Sundin's Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.

What I Thought
World War II books seem to abound right now, and Sundin has created an offering worthy to be found on your shelf. Well researched, with interesting plot lines, this novel is one that touches on a "tough" subject (Ruth's abusive, painful past as a young woman living in desperate poverty), along with themes of God's grace and redemption.

It also looks at Jack's desire to serve God - and how that desire might not mirror what is expected of him by his minister father.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, I give it a 3.5 to 4. Sundin's novel has strong, well developed characters and a solid story line. While it's the second in a series, I think it will stand alone - there's enough "back story" provide to help you know how Jack's story weaves into Walter's tale - the first book.

More About the Author
Sarah Sundin is an on-call hospital pharmacist and holds a BS in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco.

Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sundin lives in California with her husband and three children. This is her first novel.

Want to learn more about Sundin?
Visit her website at
Find her on Facebook at:

Book One In The Series: A Distant Melody
Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval--even marry a man she doesn't love.

Lt. Walter Novak--fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women--takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives.

As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

Want to read more about book one? Read my review here.

It's A Contest!
It's The Movies and Memories Giveaway in honor of book two in the Wings of Glory series.
From the English countryside to the perilous skies over France, A Memory Between Us takes you on a journey through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

To celebrate Sundin is giving one lucky winner A Movie and Memory Prize Package!
One grand prize winner will receive:
    * Make-your-own-photo book from (Capture your own Memories)
    * Netflix Subscription (New or Nostalgic Movies delivered right to your house)
    * Starbucks gift card (To keep your engine revvin’)
    * Gourmet chocolate (A favorite in the 1940’s and now)
    * British specialty teas in carved wooden box (Timeless tradition)
    * Miniature model of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber & C-47 cargo plane (Everyone needs a few toy planes)
    * Big Band music CD (Break out your dancing shoes)
    * WWII authentic poster playing cards (Cards – a perfect game for two)
    * Keep Calm and Carry On (Uplifting sayings WWII, a boost for troubled times)

Prize Eligibility:
Only persons residing in New Zealand, United Kingdom, South Africa, United States, Canada and Australia who are at least 18 years of age can enter.
Sweepstakes Starts: September 27, 2010 @ 12:00 am (PDT)
Sweepstakes Ends: October 17, 2010 @ 11:59 pm (PDT)
Need more Details? Want to Enter?

About Revell, 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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Feature Article: N2N Helps People in Siloam Springs

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 22, issue of the Siloam Springs Herald Leader.

By Kaylea Hutson
For the Herald-Leader
For a few hours, on a Saturday afternoon, volunteers of all ages came together in Siloam Springs to simply be a neighbor to those in need.

Clearing brush, trimming trees, planting bushes, spreading ground cover for a playground and even cleaning toilets — were but a few of the jobs people completed during the second Neighbor2Neighbor day of service.

Hosted on Sept. 18 by First United Methodist Church, the N2N event brought together more than 60 people, ranging in age from preschool to adults.

Working in small teams, volunteers spread out to a variety of sites including: Hunger & Thirst Ministries and Friendship Community Care in Siloam Springs, and All ‘Bout Chalk, a Western Arkansas Child Development Center in Gentry.

Others stayed at the church to help install a safety groundcover under the church playground and to complete a landscaping project in front of the remodeled sanctuary.

“Our goal is to provide a service to people in our community, that may not otherwise be able to do it,” explained Madlyn Taylor, event organizer.

Taylor said she was amazed at how many things the teams were able to accomplish, in a short amount of time.

Jim Huggins, a N2N volunteer, said he took part in the project, because it is important for the church to serve the community.

“We need to quit talking about God and show people what he wants us to do,” Huggins said. “Hopefully they start to wonder if there’s something to all of that Christianity.”

Ultimately, said Randy Rowlan, the church’s senior pastor, the project shows people how to live out the mandate found in Micah 6:8: how to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

Rowlan said he hoped people of all ages, including several younger students, learned that there is something more to life than just what the world normally expects.

“Maybe life is more than just me,” Rowlan said. “Maybe there’s more to life than what I receive.

“It’s not all about us, and that feels good.”

Reaching Into The Community
One recipient said she was excited to have the volunteers.

“It’s hard to find people in any community who are willing to just help out — with no expectations in return,” explained Carla Sikes, director of the ABC center. “I think this is just wonderful.”

Sikes asked volunteers to complete landscaping projects — something the nonprofit center would normally have to pay to have completed.

Other projects included painting a playhouse and clearing debris and leaves from the playground.

“It’s just nice to have the extra hands,” Sikes said.

Serving Students
Jason Lanker, assistant professor of youth ministries at John Brown University, asked more than 35 upperclassmen students in his “Capstone” classes to roll up their sleeves and join in the event — as a way to put practical knowledge of the Christian faith into action.

In the next few weeks, Lanker’s classes will discuss serving and becoming a servant of Christ.

He liked how the N2N project not only connected his students with people in need, but also showed them how they can be part of the larger Christian community.

“The Christian life isn’t best lived just by one person going out to serve,” Lanker said, adding that good things happen when Christians pull together to serve together.

Jake Meinzer, a JBU student, said it was nice to be able to do something for the local community.

“I grew up in a small community, about the only way you can make a small community run is to help people out,” Meinzer said. “We [Christians] are called to do it, but it’s nice to do it too.”

Bridging the Generations
For Jennifer Haught, the day not only provided her with chance to volunteer, but also teach her sons about serving others.

The boys, Logan, 10, Luke, 9, Lawson, 7, and Layton, 6, worked alongside both parents, helping to lay ground cover under the church’s playground.

Luke Haught said he liked volunteering because it showed how he can use his gifts to help others in need, despite his age.

“It’s fun and I’m happy to actually help out the church and the community,” Haught said. “We did something.”

Olivia Myers, 11, agreed.

Myers spent her first N2N project helping at Hunger & Thirst Ministries — which included volunteering to clean the facilities bathrooms.

“I like helping people,” Myers said. “I think it makes people feel good to know that there is somebody out there [they] can depend on.

“And you can’t have a dirty bathroom.”

View Pictures From The Day

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thoughts from Thomas Merton

I found this on a friend's Facebook page, it totally fits where I'm at right now in life, AND I love Thomas Merton. I'm not sure which book this appears in, but I thought it was worth sharing.

MY LORD GOD: I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 - Thomas Merton

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Kidlets Are Winning

In the last few weeks I've watched Carl and Denni's five kidlets by myself. (Insert laugh track here.)

Once it was because of an emergency pastoral thing (Carl had to go to point A, Denni to point B, which left Aunt K to go to point C also known as the Children); the other time, because well, with five kidlets, Carl & Denni decided to "run" not walk when a friend invited them out to the theatre.

I'm not sure, but I think if we're keeping score, it's Kidlets - 5, Aunt Kaylea - 0.

Kudos to Carl and Denni for having the energy and courage to raise their two daughters (Gigi - 10, and Kiki - 7.5) and the three "littles" - K - 6.5. T - 5, and J - 3.5ish). Their house is never quiet, always full of activity, and definitely full of love.

I'm not sure I'm ready to jump into full-time motherhood (or aunt hood, as this case may be), but I'll freely "jump into" (and out of) the world as needed - think of me as the relief pitcher on a ball team.

Things I've Noticed/Learned From the Kidlets
Friends will laugh when you tell them/they find out you are watching five children - but will NOT volunteer to come help, and often will not return your phone calls, just in case you are asking for help.

You start saying or doing things that you swore you would never say/do - ahem.... those things your mom said/did when you were a child......
.....Don't make me call your parents.
.....Yes, you need to go to the bathroom before bed.
.....You have 10 minutes to clean up this mess, or I'm putting it all in a bag and throwing it away.
.....Are you telling me information, or just tattling on.....
.....I don't need your version of the story, I just need "x" to tell me what happened, why they are crying, what made the noise, etc.

You began to watch and learn the "family dynamics" as one child says something, and then three others run to "correct" them....(also known as the be careful, there's always someone around to make sure you tell the truth - tattle on you - rule.)

Little boys like to flash their "junk," "wink" at you when they are getting in trouble, and always find time to pretend they are superheroes - regardless of the hour (or the need for them to go to bed.)

"Not Me" lives in a house with five children.

"Nothing" is often follows as the response to "What are you doing?.......)

Sometimes kidlets who aren't even in the house, get the blame for something....

You have several, random conversations take place at, well, random times.
--Example 1--
"I need to pee," said the 3.5 yr old.
"Ok, go pee," I replied.
(He starts to pee, then stops)
"I stop, peeing too hard. I'm go to bed now."

--Example 2 --
"Do I have to watch this movie?" asked the 5 yr old. "Can I go to bed?"
"Yes," I replied, knowing that bedtime isn't for 15 minutes.
"Nevermind," she said.

--Example 3 --
Her - "My nightlight is broken, can you fix it?" asked the almost 5 yr old.
Me, after trying unsuccessfully to fix it - it needed a new bulb.
"I'll leave this one on, (a.k.a. the desk lamp) until mom and dad get home."
Her - "But that's the working lamp," in a very distressed tone.
Her - "Can't you just put new batteries in my night light?" (um no, it plugs in and needs electricity.)
Me - "it's this, or  nothing. Sorry."
Her - "Ok, but it's a working lamp, not a night light."

Your own mother will just laugh, when you call and ask for advice/help - something about the "it's about time, you earned it rule."

I'm no longer the "fun" aunt, who comes, brings treats and then leaves.

The correct answer, no matter what is "let me check with your mother/father first" or "what did your mother/father say?"

And finally

Hugs and kisses from five kidlets are the best, especially when you need a dose of encouragement.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blog Tour: A Friend in the Storm (Review)

Looking for a way to encourage a friend, who might be going through a tough time?

Why not check out Cheryl Ricker’s newest gift book, A Friend In the Storm.

The small, hardback book may have less than 100 pages, but it is full of quotes, scripture and poems designed to provide encouragement to those dealing with difficult times.

What I Thought
This is a great little book. The fabric binding and foil stamping makes it a beautiful gift book. I really enjoyed flipping through the book to see the various quotes and Ricker’s poetry.

I believe this book will not only provide a nice gift, but it’s also a fun “coffee table” book to have, to flip through when you are needing a bit of inspiration.

About The Author
Cheryl Ricker has a degree in creative writing. She has also written columns and articles for various magazines and newspapers.

Ricker has written poetry all of her life, with many of her works winning awards in fine arts and literacy magazines.

Ricker lives in Rochester, Minn., with her husband and two sons.

For more information about Ricker, visit her website:
Find the book online at: Amazon.

Check Out This Book Trailer

or visit

It’s A Contest

Cheryl Ricker is hosting this great contest over at her website during the blog tour for A Friend in the Storm, Zondervan’s latest innovative gift book of quotes, Scripture and poetry that leads to lasting hope!

Since this book covers matters of the heart, Ricker wants to hear from YOUR heart! In the midst of any type of loss, grief or crisis, A Friend in the Storm takes you on a healing journey where you experience Christ’s love in a fresh, memorable way.

Now she invites you to submit an original poem, story or snippet about a time when someone was a friend in your storm… and she's giving you the opportunity to win a KINDLE to do it!

Head on over to her Contest Page on her website to find out how to enter!

On Sunday, Oct. 3, she will randomly select one winner to receive a brand-new KINDLE! She's also choosing five more names at random to receive a signed copy of A Friend in the Storm!

The winners will be announced at her Facebook Party on October 4th. The party will take place on Ricker's Facebook "A Friend in the Storm" Page - go here for all the details.

Share Your Storm Kindle GiveawayThe Facebook Party will be a blast!  Not only will she be announcing the
Share Your Storm Kindle Giveaway winners, but Ricker will also be chatting with party goers, hosting fun trivia contests, and giving away even more prizes every 10 minutes – including signed copies of A Friend in the Storm, and gift certificates to and!

Oh, and check this out - Ricker is also giving away a $50 Amazon gift certificate! Simply help her spread the word about the contest; Facebook Party. Interested? It’s easy to enter! Here’s how:

Share this on FACEBOOK:
Want to help someone who’s hurting? “A Friend in the Storm,” Zondervan’s latest gift book of quotes, Scripture and poetry, is helping thousands find lasting Hope! Go here to enter to win a KINDLE!

Post this on TWITTER:  (You must use hashtag #litfuse to be entered.)
A Friend in the Storm by @cherylricker heals hearts in tough times. Enter 2 win a KINDLE here! #litfuse

Share this as many times as you like – just email by Monday, Oct. 4th and let her know how many times you tweeted/shared on Facebook, twittered or blogged about the contest. Each ‘sharing’ represents one entry into the contest.

Another way to ‘share’ the contest is to add this button to your blog or website.  Adding the button is worth ten entries into the contest!

Simply copy and paste the code in the text box below into the html screen of your blog/website, then send Amy an email letting her know that you added it along with your URL and she’ll toss your extra entries into the pot.

Share Your Storm Kindle Giveaway

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.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Dose of Digi Goodness

Ok, here's a bit of a self-serving product tease....

My wonderful and creative friend, Kate Hadfield, is releasing a new product today, Ten Pen Party, at her store at the Lilly Pad - Click Here For Details!

Since I just re-designed the children's ministry blog in the last week, I decided to just to a preview of a future design using her new stuff. If you have a bowling fan in your midst, this would be the perfect kit to create a crafty gift (or two) with it!

Here's a complete preview of the complete Ten Pin Party kit! 

Not sure what you can do with it? Keep reading!
I love the look Kate's graphics give to my children's ministry blog -

Here's the current theme, using her Old Skool kit.

It's one of my favorite kits so far - although her new space kit has me dreaming of blog designs for January.... "blasting into a new year..." (so I'm sure you'll see it in the future!
The background

The Header
The Labels
Note: As a friend of Kate Hadfield's and an unofficial member of her creative team, I am often provided with her designs, free of charge, to use on my children's ministry blog.   This review was not influenced by a free items - but, I'll admit, Kate's lovely doodles do make me quite happy  - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Blog Tour: A Hope Undaunted (Review)

Step into the Roaring 20’s and months leading up to the market crash in “A Hope Undaunted” by Julie Lessman.

The novel, focuses on Katie, a young woman on the brink of adulthood and responsibility. The novel opens at the start of Katie’s last summer of freedom, before entering law school.

A bit of a rebel, Katie’s father pushes her to become more responsible by making her volunteer for a children’s aid society.

Forced to spend time with her childhood nemesis – Luke McGee  - Katie would rather be with her “dashing” yet not so nice (to other people) boyfriend Jack.

What I Though
Full of intrigue, romance and a dash of glamour, Lessman’s newest work, the first in the Winds of Change series, will capture your interest as you follow along with its main character, Katie, and her quest for independence and validation.

With strong characters and a good storyline, you may find yourself dancing a “jive” as you dive into life in the US in the early 1900s.

On a scale of one to five, with five being the best, I give this at least a 3.5.  I look forward to seeing where Lessman takes this series.

About The Author
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her white-hot passion for both God and romance.

Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and 2009 Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards.

She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever. Lessman is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied.

It’s A Contest
It's a Giveaway Extravaganza! Kindle Giveaway, Facebook Party and Book Bomb - OH MY!

Visit the Roaring 20’s with Julie Lessman in the Technology and Romance KINDLE Giveaway! Julie’s latest series has just ‘shimmied’ it’s way onto the scene with book one in The Winds of Change series, A Hope Undaunted! 

Find out more about the book, Julie here.
Enter The Technology and Romance KINDLE Giveaway!

One  Grand Prize  winner will receive a KINDLE preloaded with Julie Lessman's latest  title. The Prize Pack (valued at over $150.00) includes:

* A brand new KINDLE, with Wi-Fi
* A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman

To enter, simply click on the icons below to fill out the entry form and be sure to tell your friends about the contest.

Oh, and enter soon!  Winner will be announced on Thursday, Oct. 7.

Enter via E-mail   Enter via Facebook   Enter via Twitter

Not only is Lessman hosting the fabulous KINDLE giveaway, but also a FACEBOOK  PARTY and a BOOK BOMB!!!

Are you ready for PRIZES GALORE??? Then come to the Facebook Party!

How  does a gift certificate and a signed book given away EVERY 10 minutes  during an hour-long Facebook party sound? (Yeah, we think it sounds  pretty great too!) At 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, Oct. 7 (that's 6 p.m. MST, 7 p.m. CST, &  8 p.m. EST) Lessman is inviting you to attend the A Hope Undaunted Facebook Party!

She'll announce the winner of the KINDLE and in addition to the prizes every 10 minutes, she'll also be giving away great prize baskets filled with even more Romance and Technology (Netflix, Starbucks,, Champagne body Lotion, Pearls, & more!)!

BUT WAIT … there’s more (and no, this is not an infomercial … it’s WAY better!).  If you participate in the Book Bomb on Thursday, Oct. 7, you’ll be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to

All you need to do to participate is buy a copy of A Hope Undaunted on October 7, and send your receipt (just transaction number from store, store name & date) to! Each book purchased equals one entry, buy 10 books get 10 entries!

All this fun begins with Revell’s blog tour SEPTEMBER 19-25, when 122 blogger/reviewers will post reviews about A Hope Undaunted, followed by the Book Bomb and Facebook Party!

So mark your calendars with these important dates:
September 19-25: A Hope Undaunted will be making an appearance on blogs across the country (and beyond!) in Revell's blog tour!

September 20: The Technology and Romance KINDLE Giveaway launches (contest runs 9/20 - 10/6)

October 7: Book Bomb Day (where everyone is  encouraged to buy the book online at the same time!) and Facebook Party -  meet and chat with Julie, win some great prizes & find out who won  the KINDLE!

Want to help us spread the word about all this fun and be entered to win a $50 gift certificate?

Share Lessman's Giveaway Extravaganza on Facebook, Twitter or your blog  and we'll enter your name into our random drawing to win 50 smackers to!

Once you've tweeted, posted on Facebok or added the button to your blog/website - simple email Amy and let her know you helped spread the word. Easy.

Here is a sample post for both Twitter/Facebook:

Tweet This: @JulieLessman is giving away a KINDLE and tons more during her giveaway extravaganza! Details here: Pls RT

Share on Facebook: Julie Lessman is celebrating her  new release, A Hope Undaunted by giving away a KINDLE, having a Book  Bomb and a Facebook Party! Prizes Galore - don't miss the fun!

Or add this button to your blog or website! Simply copy and paste the  code in the box into the HTML screen of your blog or website. Then  email Amy and let her know you did!

A Hope Undaunted Facebook Party

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.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How I spent my morning

How did you start your day?
I started my morning with this amazing group of third, fourth and fifth graders at Southside Elementary School in Siloam Springs.
Photo by Kaylea Hutson
The students (you can't see them all....) took part in the See You At The Pole observance at their school. This is the third year students at First UMC - Siloam Springs have helped to organize the student-driven prayer event.

Typically, middle school and high school students are the ones who participate in SYATP, but three years ago, I asked the 3rd, 4th & 5th graders in Timothy Team, if they wanted to try it at their school.
A phone call to the school administration later, I found out it could take place, as long as the students did all of the groundwork - a.k.a promoting it at the school. (Who says you have to wait until the students are in middle or high school....)

For the last three years, all I've done is make a phone call to the assistant principal to let her know that the date is coming up, and make posters and postcard flyers for the students to hand out.

It's up to them to "spread" the word among their classmates. 

Each year, the group has gotten bigger and bigger. Some years, students feel comfortable and pray outloud, other years, students just pray to themselves..

Mostly, it's just cool to know that this is Student Driven! Some adults came (parents & teachers) but the students who participate are the ones in charge. (I just shout out the prayer topic - to help keep things "rolling.")

This year, the students asked specifically if they could pray for their classmate - Baron Meek - who is at Arkansas Children's Hospital. I said, YES! - then showed them my list of possible topics with Baron's name front and center. It was cool to see that they were thinking of their friend this morning (without prompting by an adult!)

This morning was just an amazing experience. Thanks to Melissa Gute, from the Siloam Springs Herald Leader, I have this amazing group shot (I wanted to take it, but couldn't clone myself this can see me in the midst of the students camera in hand!)

I get goosebumps when I see the number of kids who turned out for the event.

Photo by Melissa Gute, Siloam Springs Herald Leader.
I think this was the largest turnout we've had, in the three years students at First UMC- Siloam Springs have  have helped sponsor the event. Thanks to our students who helped get this organized! (Including Logan & Luke Haught, Susan Bishop, Lexi Arnold, Lincoln Myers & Ariel Leonard)

This is a great example of students living out 1 Timothy 4:12 - (The Timothy Team key verse): Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

I'm so glad that I'm in a place where students feel comfortable to be an example to others. (Without putting negative pressure on others to do the same).

Here's a flash back to past SYATP's. (Obviously, the group is growing, even as the students "age" out and go on to middle and high school.

SYATP: 2008 @ Southside Elementary

SYATP: 2009 @ Southside Elementary School

Monday, September 20, 2010

Deep Thoughts: Choosing To SEE

How do you see life?

It's a simple question, but one that I've been pondering since finishing Mary Beth Chapman's memoir, Choosing To SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope.

In the book, Chapman struggles to see God at work through the pain and turmoil her family has walked through in the past few years. (Want to read more about the book? Click here).

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.

So how do you see life?

It maybe a simple question, but when you ask people, the answers, well can be quite different.

When I posed this question to friends on Facebook, some answered with humor, others with a deep poignancy. At least two friends said they are relying on their faith as a way to see life.

I am learning to SEE life with hope and promise. I CHOOSE to SEE how God is working in my life - not if or when, but HOW - because I know God has a plan.

Quite simply, I choose to SEE.

I agree with my friend who said "every day is a challenge that brings its own rewards." Life is hard. Life is a challenge. But God is good. Some days I just have to be reminded that more and more.

So, I began 2010 trying to see life as "Half-Full." (That was my beginning word for the year.) I am spending the last part of the year "SEE"ing how God is at work in my life.

Guess I need to add a couple more charms to my "word" bracelet...

 (It's a little blury... darn iPhone)

2007 - Wonder and Seek
2008 - Simplicity and Joy
2009 - Dream and Hope 
2010 - Half-Full and See. (need to order)

A huge belated thanks to Lisa Leonard for making my amazing word tags. 
Want to see more of her designs?

BTW, the cross, a James Avery charm, was given to me by my home church - First UMC - Carthage, Mo., when I graduated from high school.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blog Tour: Making Waves (Review)

What happens when you mix sun, summer and a scrumptious sailing instructor in an 1895 Lake Manawa, Iowa setting? You get Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad.

In her debut novel, Seilstad delves into the "rich" world of Iowa, where people would escape the city in tempoary, but luxurious lodgings around a lake.

In the novel, Marguerite Westing not only spends time avoiding her boring suitor, Roger Gordon, while exploring two new loves: sailing, and sailing instructor Trip Andrews.

But the summer of fun turns to turmoil as her father's secrets threaten to ruin the family forever. Will free-spirited Marguerite marry Roger to save her father's name and fortune? Or will she follow her heart--even if it means hurting the family she loves?

What I Thought
This was an interesting book to read. Unfamiliar with this setting - 1895 Iowa - the historical aspect of the story kept me reading. I found myself looking up information to see if this was, in fact, the way life was really was during this time frame.

I enjoyed the book, and found the writing to be strong - but it was a bit "predictable" in the end. However, with that in mind, it was a good read and had a good message.

If you are looking for a fun book to take while sitting on the sidelines of a band/football/soccer/cheer leading practice, then this is the novel to slip into your bag.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, I give this book a 3.

About The Author
Lorna Seilstad is a history buff, antique collector, and freelance graphic designer. A former high school English and journalism teacher, she has won several online writing awards and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in and draws her setting from Iowa. This is her first novel.

Online Resources
 Read an Excerpt: Click here.
 Reading Guide: Click here.
Buy it Online: At Amazon; CBD; Barnes & Noble; Local Bookstores

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.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I love the motto - TEAM - Together, Everyone Achieves More. It seems to fly against the "Lone Ranger" approach that a lot of Americans seem to embrace. When we TEAM up, problems are solved and opportunities abound!

On Saturday, weather permitting of course, the plan is to try to fill a sizable "pit" with pea gravel, underneath the playground at the church. It will be one of the Neighbor2Neighbor service projects teams from the church will complete.

It turned out the money we had raised through donations will only cover the gravel (other people/businesses are generously donating the pipe/labor/supplies to build the "barrier"). That's great, but we needed something to put under the gravel to serve as a weed barrier (and that would allow water to drain away from the equipment.)

Fast forward to this morning. A Google search (got to love Google) told us that newspaper could be used - but we didn't know how we could we get enough papers gathered between now (Wednesday) and Saturday to accomplish the task.

A call to the staff at the Siloam Springs Herald Leader did the trick. Not only did they have newspapers available (the recycle truck hadn't come yet today), but they said if we got there, before the truck, we could have what we needed.

So, thanks to them, we now have a church van FILLED with newspaper, awaiting Saturday's work day. The picture above is just two seats filled with papers!

The Herald Leader staff didn't have to let us have the newspapers. They could have just let the regular recycling guys come to pick up the bundles. But instead, they stepped away from the norm and provided (we hope) enough to serve as our ground cover.

They were a vital link in the process, that includes several people and businesses, who have stepped forward to help First UMC - Siloam Springs, build a playground.

Yes, the playground is on church property, but it is open for use by anyone visiting downtown Siloam Springs.

So Siloam Springs Herald Leader, thanks for being part of our TEAM! We appreciate you.

More pictures and comments later, but today's small action was a great example of TEAM-work, that I just had to share!

Monday, September 13, 2010

DST Feature: Five intriguing scrap-related iPhone apps

By Kaylea Hutson
Editor's Note: The following article was previously published in the March 2010 issue of DST Insider, a publication of

1) Coolibah (Free with limitations/upgrade option available) “A fun way to get creative with your iPhone photos.”
One of the newest apps to reach the iPhone store is Coolibah, a “full-featured digital scrapbooking app.” Created by the sister-brother duo, Bobbie Yerkey and Scott Means, Coolibah contains two distinct parts – the application and the gallery.

Means handled the software design and development while Yerkey recruited the designers participating with
Coolibah and coordinated the scrapbooking side of the app.

With its initial release, Coolibah features more than 130 kits created by a dozen designers: Danielle Young, Isabel C. Mendez, Shelle Pukas (Designs by Shelle), Dana Frantz, Kami Leonard, Amanda Heimann, Tracie Stroud, Rachael Bullion, Zakirah Zakaria, Laura James, Jacque Larsen and Heather Manning.

The kits created for Coolibah are 96 dpi and are only accessible through Collibah.

Means says limiting access to the kits allows them to support many designers who already have exclusive agreements with various distributors.

“So far all of our kits are based on kits the designers sell separately,” Means says. “We include links to the designers’ sites in the kit information in the Gallery.”

As of now, layouts created using Coolibah can be saved in two different formats: “ iPhone” and “screen quality.”

“Basically, the low resolution export saves the image in iPhone screen format (480x320),” Means explains. “The maximum resolution that the app can produce on the iPhone is 800x522 pixels. This would produce a roughly eight-by-five-inch image at 96 dpi, but the application was designed to eventually support printing pages at 11-by-7.25-inches at 300 dpi.”

The Future of Coolibah
Means says there are several features they would like to add including: support for lower-resolution images (for imported photos); layout import/export for sharing your Coolibah layouts; partnering with a printing company to produce high-quality images from the app; and iPad support.

“Coolibah is there when you need it,” Means says. “Whenever you have a few spare minutes and wouldn’t think of firing up a laptop and creating a scrapbook page, you can pull it out, download a kit and go.”

To find out more about Coolibah, visit:

More Great Picks Mobile (Free) Mobile lets you edit your iPhone photos on the run using the basic functions crop, straighten, rotate and flip.

Additional actions include changing the color, applying filters or effects or adding boarders to your pictures. This app is definitely not a full-version of Photoshop, but is a fun way to add some “pop” to your photos.

Photobucket App (Free)
Use this application as a quick way to upload pictures from your phone to a Photobucket account. It includes all of the benefits of the regular Photobucket account combined with the ease of your iPhone.

Intuition (free)
If you are looking for a free app to track your tasks, either by category or location, this app will work for you. Developers are also working to make this program sync with your Google calendar.

Use Intuition to create a task list of scrapbook page ideas – and organize them by child, subject or location.

Words with Friends (free with ads, $2.99 for no ads)
Everyone needs a break or two. Why not expand your word knowledge with an application that lets you play a Scrabble-style game against an online friend or a random opponent.

Push notifications let you know when someone plays the next word. This is definitely a fun way to increase your word power!

A personal review of Coolibah
Coolibah is an interesting app. The kits available (both free and for purchase for 99 cents each) are quality kits. In fact, I own several of the “full size” kits from a few of the designers.

It was easy to load and the gallery view (similar to looking through your music on the iPhone) makes it easy to find a layout to purchase. It’s easy to grab a photo from your gallery/camera roll to import it into a layout.

The downside: If you want to have a photo without much re-sizing or rotating, it’s quite easy. However, I struggled with the rotation feature. Right now, you can do it if you touch three fingers to different corners of an image.

Typically, when I tried to rotate the image, I ended up resizing it. Means says they are looking at several ways to improve the rotating feature, because of the issues faced by users.

A small downside is that you can’t “crop” photos or papers to fit inside of a frame. Means says this was a deliberate decision on their part.

“We didn’t feel that we could do a great job at those tasks,” Means explains. “There are hundreds of great apps (free and paid) for doctoring your pictures and we would rather leave that to them.”

The only other thing I noticed is that the way the papers and elements “scroll” through, it’s hard to keep track of the individual kits and designers – which can become an issue should you want to import the layout into an on-line gallery and need to have an accurate list of credits.

Coolibah might not create the “fanciest” layouts, but it will give you a simple platform to create layouts without a lot of glitz.

If you are stuck on the sidelines of a basketball practice or in the carpool lane at school, you might find Coolibah fits your scrapbooking on-the-go needs.

Editor's Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of Coolibah. This column/feature was not influenced by a free iPhone app - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lessons from Vacation - Part 3: Unplugging

Lesson from Vacation - Part 3: Unplugging is a good thing.
The swim beach @ the lake.
I still remember my first cell phone. Actually, it wasn't my phone. I was in college, traveling to a friend's wedding, and well, my parents decided I needed to borrow their "bag" phone. (Boy, do I wish I had a picture of it. It was HUGE compared to today's photos.)

I laughed then at the idea of having a "car phone." It seemed like such an extravagance - completely outrageous and unnecessary.

My first "flip phone" of my own came after my first semester of Seminary. After having tremendous car trouble that plagued me from the Mississippi River bridge in St. Louis all the way to Wilmore, Ky, (all while trying to beat a fierce snow storm), my aunt decided I needed to have "some" way to contact help - beyond the my regular list of pay phones. (I drove it enough that my mom knew how long it would take me to get from the various pay phones at the designated stops.)

That first cell phone plan cost $50 per month (at least) and came with, I think a max of 50 minutes per month. I carried it in case of an emergency when I traveled - and used it vary rarely.

Again, I remember laughing at the guys who walked around on campus wearing their phones clipped to their belts. We thought it seemed extravagant and well, geeky.

Gradually over the years, my cell phone use has increased. This was especially true during my last full-time job in journalism. Because it was a web-based paper, people expected to be able to get a hold of me 24/7. I increased my minutes to more than 900 per month after a couple of huge bills.

Fast forward 15 years. My iPhone is my only phone. After the last two moves, I didn't even bother to get a home phone. It just seemed unnecessary.

My cell phone seems to go everywhere with me. Between the phone calls, texting, e-mail and web, I never completely unplug. (I know I'm not the only one who is like this.).Life is truly full of noise 24/7.
During my vacation, I set a goal to "unplug" during the week. Because I knew I wouldn't have access to Internet, I didn't even take my laptop. I tried my best to stay off Facebook and e-mail. (A really limited cell signal helped me accomplish this....)

But it seemed as if I could never really, completely disconnect from the world. It wasn't that I thought the everything would end if I turned it off, but because the phone has become such a part of my life, I found myself reaching for it, even as I craved the solitude turning it off would bring me.

Unplugging (even in my limited way) was a good thing. It's almost as if my brain was overloaded by everything in my life. It's not that I quit listening to God before my vacation, but seemed to be easier to hear things without the huge distractions my "multi-tasking," "noise-filled" life.

Do you ever completely unplug? If so, how do you do it? What tricks do you do to turn off the noise, so you can actually be in solitude? Those are just a few of the questions am still trying to answer.

A final thought - does multi tasking really re-wire how we think? Even as I type this post, the TV is on as background noise.  (I often write/work listening to music or an audio book). I honestly think being on the lake was one of the first times I've experienced "natural" silence in quite a while.

I wonder why silence has become so rare in my life?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sept 11 Lessons

Do you remember where you were on Sept. 11, 2001?

I do.

People talk about remembering where they were on certain days - when Kennedy died, when Reagan's assassination attempt took place, when the Challenger and later, the Columbia shuttle, exploded.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was in my first week as a new reporter for The Lawrence County Record - a small, but vibrant community newspaper in Mt. Vernon, Mo.

I'm not sure if it was my mom's phone call, or another persons' but in the midst of trying to get the weekly newspaper out (it was deadline day), we turned the TV on in the newsroom - in time to watch the plane hit the second tower, and later, see the damage at the pentagon.

We immediately mobilized - I think part of my day was spent trying to find local connections to NY and DC. (We did - for a small town, Mt. Vernon had an amazing global reach.)

We moved to cover the growing gas lines, the fears that the banks were going to shut down (because people were withdrawing lots of cash) and the ministerial association's emergency prayer gathering.

Somehow, we all pulled together to produce a newspaper - much different than we envisioned when we started the day, but one that began to reflect how the national story impacted a smaller community.

Unity seemed to be the lesson we learned that day. Everyone pulled together to share information, to share concern for others, and well, to simply be together as a community.

Fast forward to today. As I write this, it's the eve of the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11. The world seems to be so divided, polarized by faith, hate and anger.

We seem to be the complete opposite of Sept. 12, 2001 - absolutely not unified as a nation, let alone, as communities..

Between the actions of one, rogue pastor in Florida, and others in New York, it's almost as if we are laying the kindling down for a huge, bonfire - that could ignite into something that could lead to, dare I say, war.

What happened to the unity we felt, as we learned how members of United Flight 93 pulled together to stop hijackers from taking over the plane?

What happened to the unity we projected as a nation - as people came together despite religion or politics, to morn the losses in NY and DC?

What happened?

Maybe I'm a "Pollyanna" at heart. Maybe I think the world is inherently good. But I think we've all lost focus - and it's like we're looking at the world through dirty glasses.

We're missing the point of Sept. 11.  We should remember those who lost their lives on the day. We should unite to together and celebrate our commonalities, rather than our differences.

We need to remember that not all Christians burn the Koran and not all Muslims are terrorists.

Maybe then the world will be a little less hateful, and a bit more united.

Something to think about.....
September 11: A Day for Prayer and Peace (Statement from UM Council of Bishops)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lessons from Vacation - Part 2: Saying Yes

Vacation Lesson 2 - Be Careful What You Say 'Yes' To....
During my vacation, Kim and I took a drive and found ourselves at two different, unique Amish stores near Urbana, Missouri.

I loved looking at all of the fresh produce and exploring the various products available at the markets.

At the second market, we were able to purchase freshly made sandwiches - that give any restaurant a run for their money - in terms of quality and price (less than $4).Yes, I took a bite first.....

While we were waiting for our sandwiches I asked the woman behind the counter a simple question ....
"What is Head Cheese?"

She just looked at me with a mischievous grin and said, I'll tell you if you try it....
So, being the adventurous person I am (insert laugh track here)... I said, "why not."

Let's just say, head cheese is made from pieces (a.k.a. the head, duh) of a pig are not used in bacon. It was quite greasy and well, not my favorite thing.

But, besides giving Kim yet another thing to laugh about, it reminded me that sometimes I need to step "outside" of my comfort zone to experience something new in life.

How often do I just do the same things, because, well, it's the safe thing to do? Why is it so hard for me to try new things? What am I missing out by taking the safe route?

Sometimes, you just have to grab life by the well, "head cheese" and try something new and outrageous.

Besides, if I had stopped here, we might have missed getting the "French Onion" cheese, which tasted oh so good with those fried potatoes.

A few of my yummy finds at the store.

More soon....

Blog Tour: DIVAS of the Divine (Review)

Looking for a way to be a D•I•V•A•S?
Why not check out - D•I•V•A•S of the Divine: How to Live as a Designer Original in a Knock-Off World

The Bible study, developed by Donna McCrary and Sherri Holbert, focuses on a strategic plan that women can follow to improve their spiritual walk.
Ultimately, through prayer, accountability - hence the name: Devoted Individuals Via Accountability & Prayer - the study is designed to help women gain a confident outlook on achieving life aspiration.

The eight week study - which comes in a workbook form - includes information about developing an intimate prayer time, accountability, weekly devotions and group challenges.

Want to know more?
Check out the DIVAS' Top 10 Necessities for a Fulfilled Life 
1. A Great Bra! (Prayer Foundation)  – Even though many women don’t enjoy wearing this undergarment, it is the most critical aspect of any DIVA’S outfit! Why? It is the foundation—just like a relationship with God that offers support and is always uplifting.

2. Mirror (Real Beauty) – A DIVA looks into the mirror to check hair and lipstick but more importantly to make sure what she sees is real—to make sure her beauty is reflected from within, transparent and authentic.

3. Shoes (God’s Purpose) – The perfect designer shoes guide her daily walk with Christ. Must fit her style as an individual and accentuate the relationship that is uniquely hers in order to make every step count. Little steps help her go the distance.

4. Sunglasses (Priorities) – Oh, how important to filter the harmful rays and the worldly view of the sunlight so she is only exposed to the pure Son and all of His benefits!

5. Chocolate (Time Out) – Every DIVA’S little piece of heaven! It may be small but it’s sweetness, it’s creamy comfort, and its AHHHH factor, is enough to sustain her until she gets to experience the wonder of heaven. It’s the little pick-me-up that will remind her to sustain her eternal perspective no matter the circumstance.

6. Wrinkle Cream (Forgiveness) – It is the hottest thing on the market for any DIVA who wants to remove lines and wrinkles. The Spirit-inspired ingredients are key to erasing the fine lines of stress, worry, and bitterness to help her let go of the past. This cream is full of the healing power of forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love.

7. Watch (Commitment) – Every DIVA has a favorite watch. This piece of bling pulls every outfit together. She feels lost when she forgets to wear it. Time! Time requires commitment and every DIVA chooses wisely how she spends it.

8. Girlfriend (Accountability) - The most important necessity for all true DIVAS. She’s caring and fun to be with. She is the “speak the truth in love” kind of friend that will hold the DIVA accountable to being the true Designer Original she was created to be.

9. Purse (Balance) - Whether it’s top-of-the-line or a bargain-deal, the DIVA’S purse must be perfect to keep all her most important things close—flexible to bend when in tight spots but sturdy enough to withstand day-to day-use. Her purse contains the necessary items to stay balanced and “keep it all together.”

10. Lipstick (Positive Words & Attitude) – Positive words and a polished tone flow from her lips in pretty colors and a high-gloss shine. Her words inspire others.

About The Authors 
Donna McCrary
From high top basketball shoes to high heels, each step of Donna McCrary’s life has equipped her for a Life Coaching career. She is a challenging facilitator whose “tell it like it is” approach always incorporates a call to action from her participants.

McCrary draws from her background as a recreational therapist to create dynamic outcome-oriented keynotes, retreats, and curriculums. Her greatest passion and deepest joy is to “coach” women in realizing God’s plan for their lives and in discovering for themselves the source of genuine joy.

McCrary is a wife, mother of two, and beloved friend. Her hobbies include hiking, vacationing at the beach, and trying projects from popular HGTV home improvement shows... much to her husband’s dismay!

Sherri Holbert
Sherri Holbert invested many years with companies such as Biltmore Estate, Chick-fil-A, and Chimney Rock Park in developing new and creative programs to excel these corporations to higher levels of success.

Holbert is founder and CEO of Power-Up!, a coaching company whose mission is to take individuals and corporations to the next level of success. She works as a coach, facilitator, and speaker for a variety of clients ranging from corporate executives to stay-at-home moms.

Holbert's passion is unlocking the untapped potential within others to help them gain fresh perspectives, develop clear vision, and establish action steps that will make their dreams reality.

Holbert is a wife, aunt, and friend to many. She has a self-proclaimed addiction to shoes, purses, and Starbuck’s coffee. One of her life goals is to be on Survivor (her favorite TV reality show!).

It's A Contest
It's a prize fit for a DIVA!
Leave a comment below to be entered into the grand prize drawing (blog tour wide) for this amazing prize package....

• Turquoise purse/tote
• Silver flip-flops
• Purse and shoe picture frames
• Box of Godiva truffles
• DIVAS of the Divine book & journal

Make sure to leave your e-mail address - so they'll know how to contact you if you win. You must post by midnight CST - Thursday, Sept. 16 to be eligible.

Advice For All DIVAS!
Sherri: If life for you is like driving 100 mph in a convertible, make sure you have a map to your dream destination and a friend to keep you focused on the plan so you don’t get sucked into the tourist traps along the way. Don’t be Thelma and Louise!  Allow your passion to drive you to the mountain top of success instead of driving you off the cliff with no purpose.

The shopping mall is full of new shoes but they can only be enjoyed if you take off the old,
try on the new, and then commit to pay the price.

Online Resources
Order the book online

McCrary & Holbert's Website
Find them on Facebook
Follow them on Twitter
More info about the book - here or here.

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

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lessons from Vacation - Part 1: Laughter

It's a little late, but I promised a couple of friends I'd "report" on the lessons I learned during my August vacation. I spent a week with my wonderful friends Kim and Kevin at the their "getaway" home at Pomme de Terre State Park in south/central Missouri.

People asked me what we did - here it is in a nutshell.
We read books - ate great food - played LOTS of Rummy 2000 - took several naps - swam in the lake - went boating - took lots of naps - took a couple of drives - watched a few movies and did I mention we napped?

Vacation was good, because it gave me a chance step away from "reality" to clear my head and rest.

So here is one of the lessons I learned during the week.....

1) Be Ready & Willing To Laugh - Even If It's About Yourself.
Sometimes, I'll be honest, I'm not the most adventurous person. But hanging out with my friend Kim "challenged" me to try a few new things - including tubing - a.k.a. being pulled behind a boat on this big, giant inter tube, while you are hanging on for dear life; especially when a certain teenage boy is driving said boat - and trying to knock one of his parents off of the tubes.....

Let's just say I'm not as skilled at tubing as Kim (on the left). Most of the time, I spent clutching the handles attached to the tube.

I did learn one valuable lesson - Tankini swim suits are not really made to tube in..... and to be thankful that we chose to tube in the middle of nowhere... especially when the wave not only pulled me off the tube, but well, parts of my suit.

Thankfully, I managed to "catch" it with my ankle/foot......and fortunately, I only managed to "moon" the fish - we were out in the middle of nowhere.

But here's the deal, yes I was embarrassed at that moment, but it helped me remember to not take myself - or what I do so seriously.

No, I wasn't "perfect" on the tube, but I had a ton of fun. The moment also helped me "relax" at the start of my vacation. They say laughter is the best medicine, and I agree. Somehow that moment, and the laughter, was very therapeutic.

Besides, apparently, after reading Mary Beth Chapman's memoir, I'm not the only one to have a "mooning" experience; at least mine wasn't quite so public (she was whitewater rafting on the Nile). If Chapman can laugh (and write about) about landing in a boat in front of bunch of strangers - how could I not do the same?

Here are a few other pictures from our tubing experiences (the second time). 
Kaleb (Kim's son) and Amber (KB's girlfriend) show off how to tube - when you have skills.

How you tube when you just want to "hang on" tight.....

Take note, I did let go of the handles..... for a couple of seconds....

And, I did manage to "kneel" on the tube.....
Adventure x 2
Amber pulled out the "board" and did a few other water tricks.....

A few more shots.... 
Amber wanted to try "jumping" off the point - one of the "overlook" points at the lake, near the dam.

After climbing up to the top, she took one look and made Kaleb go first....
 Only then, did she decide to jump in.... (and no, I didn't talk myself into this part of the adventure)
The cute couple...

Another Lesson Tomorrow.....
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