Saturday, March 31, 2012

DIY Candy Cross Lollipops

I was really excited this week, to see a post on Catholic Icing, that used Jolly Ranchers to make your own cross (or flower) lollipops. You can see her original post here.

Laura and I decided to see if it really worked. It DID!

The Jolly Ranchers melted great. I might not center the "cross arms" directly in the middle of the center candy next time, but otherwise, in less than an hour, we had made 13 lollipops.

The original idea used Jolly Ranchers and Life Savers to make flowers - that's a future Saturday project!

Supplies: 
(Everything was available for purchase today at Walmart.)


Regular Jolly Rancher Candy
(The bag I purchased had green apple, blue raspberry, cheery, watermelon and grape. We had enough to make 11 full lollipops with the "five color" color scheme, and two "odds and ends" lollipops.)

Lollipop Sticks(Walmart sold them in packs of 25. You can also use wooden kitchen skewers.)

Aluminum Foil
(You'll use this to line the baking pan.)

Cheap Sandwich Bags
(Get the kind that "fold" close. - No ziplock closings.)

Ribbon
(I bought purple, so it would be a "color" of the season.)

A Cookie Sheet (or two)
(The bigger the sheet, the more you can do at once. The sheet we used comfortably made four at one time.)

Instructions:
1) Preheat the oven to 225 degrees & line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Make sure it's "shiny" side up.

3) Sort your Jolly Ranchers by color. You'll need five candies per lollipop.

4) Unwrap your candies. Put the "middle" of your cross on the cookie sheet. Make sure you space them out enough so that you can build the rest of the cross AND leave room for the stick.

5) Put the pan with the middles into the oven to give it a little bit extra "melting" time. I initially put it in for 1 minute, but it ended up needing 2 minutes for it to get "melty and sticky" so the rest of the pieces will stick to it for the remaining steps.

6) Remove your pan from the oven (this is probably not a "kid friendly" step). Arrange the rest of the jolly ranchers around the middle one in a cross shape. I kind of "pushed" them into the sticky middle, to make sure everything "blended" well. (Again, next time I'll probably build the "center" a wee bit higher so it looks more like a cross and less like a "t".)

You can have a "random" pattern, or make them all the same. For our lollipops, we did green apple (top), blue raspberry (middle), cherry and watermelon (center) and grape (bottom).

Note: It really works better if you have everything unwrapped BEFORE you start the melting process. You have a bit of time to "squish" them together, but it worked best if I had everything ready for when the middles came out of the oven.

7) Place your cookie sheet back in the oven. The original idea/post said to heat for 5 minutes. It took 7 minutes for the Jolly Ranchers to melt together - and be pliable enough to insert the lollipop stick.

8) Lay the stick on the top of the candies and push down. I kind of shaped the candy around the stick. Because it was  so long, I went ahead and put it down most of the middle - so it would have extra stability. The original idea only called for the stick to be placed from the middle piece down.

9) Allow the candy to cool. When it's hard, you'll be able to lift it off the foil with ease.

10) Use the sandwich bags to "wrap" the candies. Tie it closed with ribbon. I used purple, because it is a color represented in Lent/Easter.

Enjoy!

I'm probably going to use these as fun treats for the tween Bible study. It would also make a great gift for teachers and/or volunteers.

Now ... we just want to figure out how to make a lollipop using hard candies and Nerds.....or maybe Skittles.... hum... hum...hum...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hope

Source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1136764 
Once you choose hope, anything's possible.  ~Christopher Reeve

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good and not for disaster,
to give you a future and a hope."
- Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Judging by the comments today on the news, Facebook and more,
lots of people were hoping they would 
win the Mega Millions lottery. 

While it's fun to purchase a ticket (or two), let's face it. 
Our hope doesn't come from a series of numbers. 
If we truly believe, then our hope comes from God.

The rest is just sprinkles on the cupcake of life.

It was  kinda fun to dream with a few friends
about all of the good things we could do 
with those mega millions!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Emma

Photo captured from Emma's mom's blog was taken during the Make A Wish Trip.
Emma, the sweet girl in the pink, is now at peace. Her battle with PKAN is over. In a happier time, I was blessed to capture a moment in her life, when Emma and Alex were given the gift of a trip to Disney & Florida by the Make A Wish foundation.

Their story, which originally appeared in the January 27, 2010 issue of the Siloam Sprigns Herald Leader, is reprinted below. 

Emma, I hope heaven is full of pink shiny things and that Mr. Bill (a mutual friend who passed away a time ago) was there to meet you with lots of balloon animals and hugs.

May God give those of us left behind peace to continue on our own journey.

And may God give extra grace and mercy to your parents and to Alex. 

Until we meet again.

On a side note: Drew and Mandy have established "Happy Like This" a non-profit foundation to help others - and to share well, happies.You can find out more about it here: http://happylikethis.com/

Florida bound
Make-A-Wish helps dreams come true for 2 local girls
By Kaylea Hutson Special to the Herald-Leader
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SILOAM SPRINGS — Two Siloam Springs girls are learning this week that sometimes, wishes really do come true.

Alex and Emma Harris, along with their parents, Drew and Mandy, left Sunday for a 12-day trip to Florida, thanks to the Make-AWish Foundation of the Mid South.

The girls are receiving two separate, but complimentary wishes, through the foundation. Emma wished to meet Mickey Mouse, while Alex asked to swim with dolphins.

For Emma’s trip, the family will stay at “Give Kids the World Village,” and receive passes to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, Universal Studios, Animal Kingdom and SeaWorld.

During Alex’s wish, the family will stay at the Renaissance Resort. Alex will get to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove and receive a VIP tour of SeaWorld, as well as spend more time at the Disney parks.

Drew, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, currently deployed stateside at Ft. Sill, Okla., was given leave by the military for the trip.

It was Drew, who first contacted Make-A-Wish, after his girls were diagnosed last year with Pantothenate Kinase-Associated Neurodegeneration or PKAN, a rare genetic disorder that allows for the accumulation of iron in a person’s brain.

PKAN causes the girls to exhibit many of the symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, including a rigidity of muscles, tremors and a lack of coordination. It also affects a person’s cognitive and developmental abilities.

One to three individuals for every one million births are diagnosed with PKAN. Alex and Emma are the first diagnosed cases of the disease at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City.

Most people with PKAN only live into their 20s or 30s. Individuals, like Alex, who present symptoms early in life, often progress with the disease at a faster rate.

“We wanted to do all we could while we were able, and they could enjoy it,” Mandy Harris said.

When volunteer “wish granters” from Make a Wish came to discuss possible wishes with the girls, Harris said she initially thought it would be one wish, for both girls.

“They made it clear that each got their own wish, and they didn’t have to share it and they didn’t have to agree on a wish,” Harris said. “We didn’t have to try to figure out how to make the wishes work together.”

Initially, Harris joked, 4-year-old Emma wanted to “go shopping.” Later, she said she wanted to “see Mickey Mouse” and be a princess.

Harris thought Alex would want to meet Hannah Montana, but the 7-year-old asked to “go swimming with dolphins,” because she wants to give a dolphin a kiss. Alex also wants to see Cinderella and give Goofy a hug.

Because crowds sometimes overwhelm Alex, who now spends most of her time away from home in a wheelchair, Harris said the Make-A-Wish volunteers planned the trip for January - a slow season in Orlando.

The Harris’ hopes the trip will allow their daughters to feel “special” for a good reason and take a break from the worries of therapy, medical treatment, daddy being in the Army and life in general.

“They will get to do fun things just because they are Alex and Emma,” Harris said.

Finding a diagnosis
Harris said they knew that something was different about Alex, from the moment of her birth.

Initially, doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital suspected Alex was not hitting normal childhood milestones because she was born with clubbed feet and hip dysplasia. Doctors believed she would begin to develop normally once corrective surgery was completed.

The possible diagnosis of an unknown, but genetic disease came when Alex was 24 months old. At that time, Mandy was 6-months pregnant with Emma.

Initially, doctors thought Emma was disease free, but after a year, she began to develop symptoms similar to her sister.

When Alex was 4-1/2, the Harris’ decided it was time for a medical “fresh start” and made an appointment for Alex with doctors at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City.

For two years, doctors continued testing Alex, trying to determine what disease caused her symptoms.

In February 2009, Alex’s case was referred to Dr. Jean-Baptiste Le Pichon, a child neurology specialist at Children’s Mercy.

After extensive testing, which again, ruled out all basic genetic diseases, a new MRI revealed an accumulation of iron in Alex’s brain. Those tests were sent for further examination, which led to the diagnosis of PKAN.

Emma, although her symptoms are not as severe as Alex, exhibits the same iron patterns in her brain and has been diagnosed with PKAN as well.

Life with PKAN
A self-defined “information junkie,” Harris limits what she reads online about PKAN, for her own mental well-being.

Instead of looking ahead at the possible life expectancy of her children, Harris relies on her faith, living in the present “one moment at a time.”

“My children are not defined by this, they are Alex and Emma,” Harris said. “They just happen to have this disease.”

The Harris’ are striving to raise Alex and Emma like two, regular little girls, who like pizza, the colors pink (Emma) and purple (Alex) and ask to eat at Chili’s restaurant.

The girls receive occupation, physical and speech therapy three days a week at Friendship Pediatric Clinic in Siloam Springs.

After the diagnosis, the Harris’ met with a developmental child psychologist after the diagnosis, to help chart a future for her girls.

The psychologist encouraged them to develop a list of things they wished to experience and make memories with their girls, to maintain a functioning, quality of life.

At times, Harris said, she likes to remember the Abraham Lincoln quote that states, “It’s not the years, in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Home schooling has allowed Harris to tailor her daughters’ learning experiences to their physical, developmental and cognitive ages, rather than chronological ages, 7 and 4-1/2.

Harris said participation in the children’s ministry at Elm Springs United Methodist Church, in Elm Springs, Ark., provides her daughter with a social outlet and a network of friends.

Drew Harris will finish his second deployment since Alex was born in April. His first deployment, when Alex was an infant, was to Iraq.

With 11 years of service behind him and retirement less than 10 years away, Harris most likely will re-enlist for reserve duty. The Harris’ will take a future deployment as it comes.

“There’s no guarantee with life,” Harris said. “We just happen to know our [years] are shorter than most, so we’re enjoying the time we have.”What is Make A Wish?

Founded in 1986, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-South, grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions to “enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”

According to information released by the Mid-South Foundation, the Make-A-Wish mission is about the life-affirming, hope-giving aspects of the wish experience. The words “terminal” or dying” are never used to refer to a wish child, nor do they emphasis a child’s illness, medical treatment or death.

Alex and Emma Harris’ wishes are among the 275 that the Mid-South Foundation plans to grant this year.

One of 65 chapters across the United States, the Mid-South group generally follows a fourstep process when granting a wish.

Children, between the ages of 2-1/2 and 18, who have not had a wish granted by another organization, are eligible for a wish. Medical personnel, parents or even a child can make a referral to Make-A-Wish.

Once the child’s acting physician helps determine medical eligibility - a life-threatening medical condition - the child (and his/her family) meets with volunteer Wish Granters.

The Wish Granters help identify and create the child’s wish. Wishes typically fall into four categories: to go (on a trip), to meet (a famous person), to be (a job/person) and to have (an item).

The average cost of a wish is $7,100. Seventy-eight cents of every dollar donated is allocated to wish-granting. Cash and in-kind contributions helps grant additional wishes.

During the wish, the Foundation covers all expenses, to give the wish kid and family a respite from the stress of dealing with the life-threatening medical condition.

For more information, call (501) 376-9474.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hitting the pause button

I know I'm trying to write on this blog every day - by posting a quote/picture combo, writing a "deep thought" or even reviewing a book or two.

An unexpected writing opportunity dropped into my lap today. So I'm hitting the pause button on my blog tonight.

I'll resume regular ramblings (and book reviews) hopefully tomorrow....

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grief

Photo by Claudia Rose Moody
Lots of friends are grieving tonight. I just don't know what to say, except I'm crying with you and praying for you.

A few random quotes I found....
Every evening I turn my worries over to God.  He's going to be up all night anyway
~Mary C. Crowley

May God take your worries tonight and give you peace.

Let your tears come.  Let them water your soul.
~Eileen Mayhew

Remember, tears provide healing. It's OK to cry. Even Jesus wept.

A human life is a story told by God
~Hans Christian Andersen

The story told by your loved ones, is amazing. I am blessed to know them - and you.

When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.
~Author Unknown

How very true. May you find a treasure richer than gold and more precious than silver. May your tears eventually turn into laughter, as the memories grow sweeter and sweeter.

May you find peace. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blog Tour: 88 Great Daddy Daughter Dates (Review)

Daughters. For some dads, the word "daughter" sends shivers down their spine. A bundle of ribbons and lace and a smile that could melt your heart.

Rob Teigen knows what raising a girl is like. In fact, the father of three girls has poured out his experience (with some help from his wife, Joanna) and captured 88 moments that a dad can do with his daughter to make a memory.

This book is sweet. Flipping thru the dates, I found a variety of things a dad could do with his gal to encourage conversation and interaction.

I loved one, that involved an egg timer and a 30 minute drive. In fact, I think it might even make a fun "tween time" mystery trip this summer.

The more I dived into the book, the more I thought - I need to share it with a couple of friends who have daughters. I could see them totally getting into the dates.

I also appreciated how each date also includes some questions to ask each other, and even a way to get the dad thinking about things at a deeper level.

This is a great book. On a scale of one to five, I give this book a three. It's a great resource for dads. Practical, hands-on and easy to do.

Think of this as a road map to your daughter's heart - one date at a time.

More About The Book
(From The Publishers)
Start making memories that last a lifetime

This innovative book gives dads a wide variety of fun ideas for spending quality time with their little girls. Each date tells you what to grab (any needed supplies), where to go, and how to grow together while having a blast. You'll also find Scriptures and questions for each date to get conversation flowing. From bird-watching and making paper airplanes to bowling and photo scavenger hunts, there's something for every dad and every little girl ages 6-12.

She'll be your daughter for life. But she'll only be your little girl for a while. Make the most of this special time with the help of 88 Great Daddy-Daughter Dates.

About The Authors
Joanna Teigen is the homeschooling mom of their teenage son and three younger daughters. The Teigens enjoy church, foster parenting, books, music, and laughter. They live in West Michigan.

Rob Teigen has been a publishing professional for more than fifteen years. The author of Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids (under the pseudonym Rob Elliott), Rob met his wife, Joanna, when they were students at Moody Bible Institute. The Teigens enjoy church, foster parenting, books, music, and laughter. They live in West Michigan.

Online Resources
Buy it at Amazon
Read an Excerpt Here

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 www.RevellBooks.com.

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.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Thoughts: A Beautiful Day

Woke up singing/thinking about this song today....

Friends helped me remember where I knew it from....U2....

Enjoy

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Surprise

I've been working up photos today from Destination: Fort Smith.

This photo from Friday's outreach carnival is one of my favorites.

I snapped this right after Emma handed the Salvation Army rep (Terri) the Visa gift card(s) with the donations we set aside for the ministries we help during the mission trips.

We gave the Salvation Army "two" donations ($100 each) for the two different ministries we helped with this week. The first, primarily for the shelter/thrift store side of their ministry. The second, for the community outreach ministries (like the carnival we helped host at the apartment complexes.)

They (Salvation Army folks) were completely blown away by our students and the way they helped out. They also were surprised that our team not only made a donation with their service but also with funds (part of the money kids pay to go on the mission trip.)

It was a good experience. At least half of the students involved in Destination: Fort Smith were completing their first mission trip. They grew. They learned. They stepped out on faith - and they had fun.

I'm sure I'll have more as I continue to process this experience.

For now, Destination: Fort Smith is in the books.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Opens Today: October Baby (Review)

Opening this weekend is a movie with a powerful message.

October Baby.

It's a movie that emphasizes one message.

Every Life Is Beautiful.

The movie focuses on Hannah, a college student, who finds out due to a series of illnesses that she is not only adopted, but also a survivor of a failed abortion. Her illness is due to her traumatic birth.

What follows is Hannah's efforts to find herself and her birth mother, all while trying to chart a path for her future. It also includes a side story of a father who learns how to let go of the past (watching his daughter struggle for life) so he can let her sour into the future.

Watch The Trailer Here


The movie is gritty. It is authentic and it has a solid plot.

It will leave thinking about the issues of abortion.

You may find yourself not only crying at the powerful moments, but also laughing at the humor.

Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, the movie is supported by a variety of ministries including American Family Association, Bethany Christian Services, Care Net, Concerned Women of America, Focus on the Family, Heartbeat International, Hope for Orphans, Family Life, Fathers.com, OptionLine, Students for Life of America and The Hope Line.

Among the stories captured by the Erwins' (about the film's impact) since it was completed is the story of Shari Rigby, the actress who plays Hannah's biological mother.

You can see a portion of her story here.



Regardless of your political stance and beliefs, I think the over arching message of this movie - that EVERY life is important and beautiful - is a great thing.

I'll be honest. This is a gritty movie. It doesn't pull the punches - but the grit isn't gratuitous. It's an honest, authentic story. It's not preachy.

But I probably wouldn't show it to middle schoolers and/or younger. I think high schoolers could handle it, if there's some "debriefing time" afterwards. I'll be honest, it was a tough movie for me to process.

But, I'm glad I saw it. . If anything it made me think. It also made me consider how to minister to families who might have this issue in their family story.

On the scale of one to five, I give this movie a solid four.

Online Resource
http://everylifeisbeautiful.com/
http://octoberbabymovie.net/

Note: As a freelance journalist and as a children's pastor, I was given a chance to see this movie in a preview event. This review was not influenced by a free movie ticket - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gratitude

One of the things/people I've been blessed with this week, is getting to know Zoe - a high school student from one of the participating churches.


Zoe came on the Destination: Fort Smith trip as a "Girl Friday" - also known as a "can you do this" or "can you do that" helper.


Zoe came on the trip to help organize the "Happies" and to be our "right hand gal." She gave up three days of her spring break to help a group of younger students have a good experience.

For many of the students, this is their first mission trip.Zoe said - in passing today - how her trips like this have meant to her - and that's why she wanted to be part of this experience.

Oh, an explanation for the costume - the Salvation Army really wanted to have a "clown" type person to be at the outreach carnival tomorrow. They had been praying about it - and a costume was donated this week that would make it work.

The only question left was who would be this person.

Zoe stepped up to the challenge. She was more than willing to dress up, and be a bit silly, all for a good cause.

Tonight I'm grateful for Zoe and her willingness to come on this trip.

Her enthusiasm for life and for faith is a huge encouragement to me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Destination: Fort Smith Has Begun

Or How I'm Spending My Spring Break .....

 Hanging out in Fort Smith, Arkansas with these kiddos. 
26 kids, 11 adults, 1 youth "girl Friday" and 3 mascots (also known as the Palmer kidlets)
The Destination: Fort Smith team.

 The team in their natural action...

The St. James UMC team.
Jack & Allison were the brave souls who came to see what everything is about, to help spread the word about the summer trip.

At least half of the group are taking part on their first mission experience. 

That is AWESOME.

God is good.

Tomorrow - service projects with the Salvation Army.

You can keep up with our updates here:
https://www.facebook.com/Destination.Mission 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Blog Tour: Gabby's Stick With It Day (Review)

Gabby is back, ready to conquer the day - or at least Sophie's decision to quit jobs without finishing them.

But Gabby, the little guardian angel, has a plan. She wants to share with Sophia that God wants her to stick to it - and finish her job, even when it gets tough.

Using this passage from Galatians 6:9 (NCV) as the basis of the story, Sheila Walsh has created a story that truly focuses on perseverance. 

Using a study of a passage in Matthew, Walsh has created a series of books (this is book two) that teaches children that God has angels watching out for them.

This story is simple - Sophia learns the importance of finishing a task. The illustrations, created by Natasha Kuricheva, are beautiful and whimsical.

If you have a young child who needs to learn how to stick with it, this book will at least give you something to start them talking - especially when Sophia sticks with her task even when her brother throws spaghetti at her.

On the scale of one to five, I give it a solid three and a half. I love collecting children's picture books. This book is going into my collection - which also means it might eventually be used during a preschool chapel. 

About The Book:
Gabby is a little guardian angel with a big job to do! Watching over Sophie is hard work, but Gabby knows that God wants her to stick to it.

Gabby, God’s Little Angel, flies to the rescue as Sophie attempts to help others but has a little trouble sticking with things. Sophie tries to be helpful by washing the family dog for her mom, but she gives up when she’s the one who ends up all wet. She then tries to be kind by reading to her little brother, but he has plans of his own, which include a splash of cereal right in Sophie’s face! When Sophie is ready to quit once again, it’s up to Gabby to encourage her to keep trying and to teach her what the Bible says about perseverance: “We must not become tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NCV)

More About The Author:
Sheila Walsh is a Bible teacher, speaker, singer, and best-selling author with more than 4 million books sold.

She is the creator of the award-winning Gigi, God's Little Princess® brand, which has sold over 1.5 million units and won two National Retailer's Choice Awards.

As a featured speaker with Women of Faith®, Walsh has reached more than 3.5 million women by artistically combining honesty, vulnerability and humor with God's Word. She resides in Dallas with her husband Barry and son Christian.

Visit www.sheilawalsh.com for more information about Sheila, her other books or Women of Faith.

Online Resources

Link to buy the book:
At Thomas Nelson
At Amazon

Follow the blog tour:
http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13464258/sheilawalshgabby

Visit Sheila Walsh's website:
www.sheilawalsh.com

Fun freebies to go with the book
http://www.tommynelson.com/free-goodies/

More about the book:
http://sheilawalsh.com/gabby/

Share on Social Media
Share this on Facebook:
Gabby, God's Little Angel is back and she's brought a Kindle Fire Giveaway with her. Sheila Walsh is hosting to this fun giveaway to celebrate the release of the latest book in the Gabby series - Gabby's Stick-to-It-Day! Click to enter the giveaway, download the free coloring pages, read what parent's are saying about the Gabby series, and more! http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13464258/sheilawalshgabby

Share this on Twitter:
@SheilaWalsh's Gabby is back & she's brought a Kindle Fire Giveaway with her. Gabby's Stick-to-It-Day http://ow.ly/9BpRe @litfuse

It's A Contest
Gabby's back ... and she's brought a Kindle Fire Giveaway with her!

Meet Gabby for yourself here. || Read what people are saying here.

Enter today - Sheila and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have put together a prize package worth over $200!

One lucky winner will receive:
  • A brand new KINDLE Fire with Wi-Fi
  • Gabby, God’s Little Angel 
  • Gabby's Stick-to-It-Day
But wait! There’s more …
The winner will be announced on the Gabby Landing page on 4/2/12. In the meantime, enter to win the Kindle Fire then head over to the Tommy Nelson site and download the Gabby coloring sheets, watch Sheila's Gabby video, sign up for news about upcoming Gabby and Thomas Nelson products, and much more.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

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, March 19, 2012

Quote of the Day: Kindness

Source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1205770 
"Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, 
more beautiful than perpetual kindness."
~ Leo Tolstoy

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blog Tour: You're Already Amazing (Review)

Holley Gerth wants women to know that they are already amazing - regardless of the little voices in her head.

Gerth has created a book "You're Already Amazing" and packed it full of stories, illustrations and even some self-quizzes that a reader can use to do a self examination for personal growth.

Written in an extremely easy to understand style, it seems as if Gerth is sitting down next to you as you read the pages.

Gerth has a life coaching ministry and interacting with the book is almost like having a personal session with her.

Besides her work as an author, Gerth creates a line of cards with DaySpring, a subsidiary of Hallmark. As an "added thanks" Gerth included a hand-signed copy of one of her cards with the review book.

The card - and the warmth of the words - were the balm that my soul needed the day I found it. (The picture doesn't give the card justice.)

Honestly, I found that same warmth and honesty - call it authenticity - in Gerth's book.

The book is intriguing and inviting. It could work as both a personal and a group study.I could see completing the book as a personal study along side an accountability partner.

On the scale of one to five, with five being the highest, I give it a three.

More About The Author
Psst . . . pull up a chair and I'll tell you a secret. You'd better lean in close for this one.

Ready?
You don't have to do more, be more, have more.
I'm sure there are security alarms going off somewhere. You should probably hide this book when your in-laws come over.
But it's true.
It's the kind of true that will change your life, set you free, and make you wake up smiling for the first time in a long time. I know because that's what it did for me. . . .
So watch out, sister. If you keep reading you just might be next.
With this heart-to-heart message, Holley Gerth invites you to embrace one very important truth--that you truly are already amazing. Like a trusted friend, Holley gently shows you how to forget the lies and expectations the world feeds you and instead believe that God loves you and has bigger plans for your life than you've even imagined.

More About The Author
Holley Gerth is an award-winning writer, licensed counselor, certified life coach, and speaker. She is cofounder of (in)courage, an online destination for women, which received more than one million page views in its first six months.

She also reaches out to readers through her popular blog, Heart to Heart with Holley and through her partnership with DaySpring, a subidiary of Hallmark. Holley lives in Arkansas with her husband, Mark.

Online Resources
Check out her website: http://www.holleygerth.com/
Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/HolleyGerth
Read an Excerpt Online here.
Buy You're Already Amazing @ Amazon

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 www.RevellBooks.com.

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.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wye Mountain Daffodil Festival

My friend Laura and I journeyed to the Wye Mountain Daffodil Festival, hosted by Wye United Methodist Church, in Wye, Arkansas.

Even though most of the flowers have "peaked" because of our extremely warm winter and early spring, it was kind of fun to people watch. We had fun watching all of the families taking photos in the flowers that were still blooming.


I took the "big" camera (insert laugh from Laura) and captured a few shots of the flowers. It was fun and even relaxing to take photos just for fun. No reason. I need to do this more often. (Hum... I see visions of the 2012 word - rest peaking in here.)

Anyway, here's a few more pics I took.

I think this was my favorite, because I caught a tiny bug perching on the flower. I'm not sure what it was, but hey, it's an "action" shot!

Some other pics....




Blog Tour: Song of My Heart (Review)

Kim Vogel Sawyer's newest release weaves together a story featuring a young woman devoted to her family and a young man who is convinced that his life's calling is to enter the ministry - even while he serves as a sheriff.

The story, set in the small town of Goldtree, Kansas, dives into Sadie's life and what happened when her work turns out to be something different than she expected. It also explores Thad's desire to be a minister and if it is truly a calling from God or a desire fueled by guilt.

This is a good, simple read. If you like historical novels set during the "old west" time period, then you will enjoy this book. Vogel Sawyer's words create vivid pictures of life in Kansas in the late 1800s.

Song of My Heart is a well written novel with several layers. The problems faced by the characters may be set in the 1890s, but in reality, the issues translate to 2012 with ease - especially when Thad struggles with his calling into the ministry and Sadie makes employment choices in order to support her family.

In all, I give this novel a three out of five. If you are looking for a nice read for Spring Break or a vacation, then this will fit the bill.

About The Book:
Sadie Wagner has always been devoted to her family. So when her stepfather is injured and can't work, she decides to leave home and accept a position as a clerk at the mercantile in Goldtree, Kansas. Goldtree also offers the opportunity to use her God-given singing talent--though the promised opera house is far different from what she imagined. With her family needing every cent she can provide, Sadie will do anything to keep her job.

McKane comes to Goldtree at the request of the town council. The town has been plagued by bootlegging operations, and Thad believes he can find the culprit.

After he earns enough money doing sheriff work, he wants to use it to pay for his training to become a minister.

Thad is immediately attracted to the beautiful singer who performs in Asa Baxter's unusual opera house, but when he hears her practicing bawdy tunes, he begins to wonder if she's far less innocent than she seems. And when Sadie appears to be part of the very crimes he's come to investigate, is there any hope the love blossoming between them will survive?


More About The Author:
Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of nineteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award.

Vogel Sawyer is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. She resides with her husband, Don, in central Kansas. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.

Online Resources
Link to buy the book:
http://ow.ly/9uLOD 

Follow the blog tour:
http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13461539/kimvogelsawyer%C2%A0

Visit Vogel Sawyer's website:
http://www.kimvogelsawyer.com

Share on Social Media
Share this on Facebook:
Song of My Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer heartwarming historical romance. To CELEBRATE Kim is hosting a fabulous Nook Tablet giveaway!

Then on 3/29 she'll be announcing the winner at a fun "Song of My Heart" Book Chat Party where she'll be connecting with readers and giving away a ton of great prizes (books, gift certificates  and so much more)! Click for details and don’t miss the fun. http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13461539/kimvogelsawyer 

Share this on Twitter:
Win a Nook Tablet and chat with author Kim Vogel Sawyer during her "Song of My Heart" campaign @litfuse @Bethany_House http://ow.ly/9uM2V

It's A Contest
Win a Nook Tablet from Kim Vogel Sawyer and RSVP for her "Song of My Heart" Facebook Party {3/29}!

Celebrate with Kim by entering to win a Nook Tablet and connecting with her at the Book Chat Party on 3/29!



One "songbird" winner will receive:
  • A Nook Tablet
  • Song of My Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 3/28/12. Winner will be announced at Kim's Book Chat Facebook Party on 3/29. Kim will be hosting an evening of chat, fun trivia and more! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and much more!
So grab your copy of Song of My Heart and join Kim and friends on the evening of Thursday, March 29 for an evening of fun.

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP TODAY and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.
Hope to see you on March 29!

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.

Happy St. Patrick's Day


May the sun shine, all day long,
everything go right, and nothing wrong.
May those you love bring love back to you,
and may all the wishes you wish come true!

...and may you capture a rainbow or two today!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Service and Worship

The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless. - Billy Graham

Working on the mission trip book and I ran across this quote. Next week 27 students from seven churches from Northwest and Central Arkansas will gather together in Fort Smith for Destination: Fort Smith.

Using their hands and feet, the students - ranging in age from third to seventh grade - will help the Salvation Army (our host site) with two different mission projects.

Hopefully they will learn how to be the hands and feet of Jesus next week - serving those who are lost and helpless (in both body and soul).

My prayer is that they will learn how their service can and is, a form of worship.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blog Tour: Love's Sacred Song (Review & Interview)

For Mesu Andrews, the journey to her newest book began as she began  to study the book of Song of Solomon (or Songs, depending upon your translation).

The intriguing nature of those scriptures, caused Andrews to dive into the pages of the Bible and create an allegorical-based study in workshop formats.

"I've learned that God has a whole lot bigger plan than we do," Andrews said. "When I tried to get [the study] published, I hit roadblocks because I had no formal credentials. A dear friend suggested (actually, sort of nagged) that I write the story as a novel instead of a Bible study.

"Love’s Sacred Song was actually my first manuscript, but Revell asked that we wait to print it until after Jill Eileen Smith’s Wives of King David series released. They asked if I would write a second book during the wait—and that’s how my first release, Love Amid the Ashes, was born!"

Andrews' said her Biblical fiction includes as much fact as possible.

"I maintain the details of Scripture; then weave in the historical data; and lastly, I fill in with the “mesu” fiction," Andrews explained. "The names of Solomon’s advisors, the concept of twelve new districts, Solomon’s Ammonite wife and firstborn son—all these are scripturally accurate.

"Solomon’s blotting out the tribal divisions and some of King Hiram’s involvement was gained through historical research.

"The Sons of Judah, the Daughters of Jerusalem (as individuals rather than a non-descript chorus), a secret conspiracy—these were fiction. Pulling all three levels of information together in a believable story is accomplished through much prayer and trembling!"

In Love's Sacred Song, Andrews tells the story through the life of Arielah - Solomon's treaty bride. The story serves as an allegory of it's own - representing Christ's love for us.

"Now, I know that’s exactly the opposite of every commentary on Song of Songs," Andrews said. "I’m not advocating any strange female Christ-figure or anything. I’m going with the Good Shepherd image Jesus gave us and thinking of Arielah’s pure, unyielding, sacrificial love and how it so closely mirrors Jesus’ love for us.

"No matter how many times Solomon messed up, she forgave. However, there were consequences to his betrayals—as there are consequences to our sins. His poor choices created long-term difficulties on their relationship—as do some of my poor choices on my lifetime.

"But my Savior loves me in spite of it all. Forgives me, accepts me, delights in me—and then calls me to do the same with others. Ugh. Yep, I learned a lot from Arielah’s love...can you tell?"

Andrews said she also learned a lot from Solomon by diving into his story.

"My first rough draft shed a pretty gruesome light on poor Solomon. I didn’t like him because, in my mind, he represented all the sinful choices I make," Andrews admitted. "But my FABULOUS editor helped me rethink this charming, lovable, young king.

"God adored this man. From birth, He named David’s son, loved by God, and then He anointed Solomon with one-of-a-kind wisdom. I needed to re-think sinful Solomon—and perhaps re-think sinful Mesu. I was so busy loathing the sinfulness, I had lost sight of the love that overcame the sin—much like Solomon does at crucial points in the story. Whenever our eyes focus on US rather than on the Lord, life goes downhill pretty quickly. Solomon taught me that—maybe I should say re-taught me that."

Andrews said she hopes, by exploring the story, her readers will grasp (as Paul says) how "wide and long and high and deep" is the love of Christ.

"I had always heard, 'God loves you,' but I never felt absolutely cherished by God until I studied Solomon’s Song of Songs. Yahweh pursues each one of us with a passion and relentless abandon that seems reckless to us," Andrews said. "Some have even called Him a god of wrath in the Old Testament. But it is His love that drives the LORD in both the Old and New Covenants—the same God, yesterday, today, and forever."

A Look Ahead
Andrews plans to release two more stories in her current series. Love is a Broken Vessel (March 2013) and Love's Saving Light (March 2014).

Love in a Broken Vessel shines a light on the story of Hosea and Gomer: Can Hosea’s faith overpower Gomer’s unfaithfulness?/i>

Love's Saving Light tells the story of Queen Athaliah and Baby Joash: Will Jezebel’s daughter snuff out the last king on David’s throne.

Connect with Mesu
Andrews' writes a free weekly e-devotional on Mondays. Folks can sign-up to receive them by visiting my website: http://www.mesuandrews.com/. She also loves to connect with readers on Facebook (Page), Facebook (profile), Twitter, or Pinterest too! "You can check out my “Character Faces” Pinterest Board to comment on my celeb nominations of a potential Solomon and Arielah!"

What I Thought
Once again, Andrews has created a novel which makes me want to dive into the scriptures. Like Love Amid The Ashes - the story of Job and Dinah; Love's Sacred Song sheds new light on King Solomon's life.

Andrews has a unique way to showcase a Biblical story with a new twist. I truly love her writing style and the lyrical narrative she weaves.

The story is simple - the tale of love between Arielah and King Solomon. The layers of intrigue, some Biblical and some "Mesu" fiction, give it an amazing depth.

While Love Amid the Ashes continues to be my favorite of her two releases, Love's Sacred Song is a great read. On the scale of one to five, with five as the highest, I give it a solid 3.5.

I can't wait to read the novel she's writing next - Hosea and Gomer's love story. The only disappointment - I'll have to wait a year to read it.

More About The Book
Wisdom came as God's gift, but sacred love was forged through passion's fire

Standing in the shadow of his famous father, young King Solomon wavers between fear and bravado, longing for a love that is true and pure--a love that can be his cornerstone.

A shepherdess in the northern city of Shunem, Arielah has known since she first laid eyes on Solomon that it was her destiny to become his bride. When her father secures a promise from Solomon to marry Arielah as a treaty bride to help unite the kingdom, it seems her dreams will come true.

But how can this simple shepherdess live as part of Solomon's harem? Can Solomon set aside his distractions to give himself completely to just one woman? Or will he let duty, deception, and the daily routine divide his heart?

More About The Author
Mesu Andrews is the author of Love Amid the Ashes and is an active speaker who has devoted herself to passionate and intense study of Scripture.

Harnessing her deep understanding and love for God's Word, Andrews brings the biblical world vividly alive for her readers. She lives in Washington.


Online Resources

Check out Mesu's Website: http://www.mesuandrews.com/
Buy Love's Sacred Song @ Amazon
"Like" Mesu's Page on Facebook
Click here for a Bible Study for Love's Sacred Song
Click here for a reading group guide for Love's Sacred Song
Read my review of Love Amid the Ashes (The first book)

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 www.RevellBooks.com.

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, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Funny: Easter Egg App?

For all my friends who are children's pastors, and getting ready for the upcoming Easter Egg Hunts.
There's an app for everything!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Twelve on the Twelfth: March 2012

It's time again to take 12 photos on the 12th....
This month, I decided to snap 12 (ok yes, more than 12) photos
of things that made me smile (or laugh).

Technically I snapped this on the evening of Sunday, March 11.
Spencer lost his first tooth - and it took me all day to get him to 
a) smile and b) show me his missing tooth.
So seeing this photo on my phone on Monday,
made me smile again.

Several days a week, in the room across from my office, the
preschool students have music class. It's hard to have a bad
day when you are listening to them sing!

One of the Upward dads forwarded me a YouTube video
he made with the pics of his son's team. I even make a 
cameo in the first scene.

Getting ready for the mission trip. One of my friends, 
a dentist, provided tooth brushes for the mission trip.
We're going to use them as "prayer joggers."
We'll write the prayers on the brush (with sharpie)
and then it is geared for the kids to think about the
prayer request each time they brush.

 It's that time of year again, time to really dig in and
get things ready for VBS. 
Ready or Not, it's time!

One of my favorite beverages - slightly sweet tea 
from McAlister's. (I generally do unsweet tea
with a hit of sweet tea yummy.)

You just never know what you'll see at St. James.
Today it was "Elvis" singing for the Senior Lunch Bunch.
Elvis was in the building today.

Outside my office window is the playground for the 
preschool. I went outside on this beautiful day just to 
snap a few pics. Again, it's hard to be sad with the 
kiddos playing outside your window.

I went with some of my girls (pictures below) to serve
the first meal at Geyer Springs UMC.
We're going to have to earn some "street" cred with 
the people we're trying to serve, but we were able to send 
several meals to the homeless camp nearby.

Delaney and Lucy. These girls 
- and their passion for service - 
make me smile.

Allison and her dry sense of humor makes me smile. 
Before I got out of the car, she wanted to make sure I 
saw the app on her dad's phone that talks when you hold
it up to your mouth.

I don't usually have Skype activated on my laptop, 
but I happened to today. It let me catch Gretchen 
online so we could chat for a few minutes.

Ending the day with a cup of hot tea.
Even the cup makes me smile because Shelly Moran
gave it to me as a thank you while she worked 
for the Siloam Springs hospital.

The newest book on my Kindle App.
I "borrowed" it from the library and my turn finally
came up today. I've been wanting to try it, but 
decided I would read it first before buying.

Ending the day wrapped in the prayer shawl that the 
St. James Prayer Shawl Ministry team gave me 
during "eye gate." last fall. 
(The lamp also makes me smile because dad bought 
it for me - it's made from an old milk bottle.



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