Thursday, 31 December 2009

Relz Top 10 Reads of 2009


What a year 2009 has been for me ~ filled with a lot of sorrow, anxiety, stress and difficulty ~ as it no doubt was for many people. Life has been tough, no question, but then I think of the many blessings in my life ~ God, my refuge, my loving family, my faithful and caring friends (including my fellow bloggers), an accommodating employer, my home and my church ~ and it provides me with a better perspective.

Added to those blessings are the fantastic publishing folk and devoted publicists who have been a joy to work with and last but not least, the engrossing stories I have read and the amazing authors who pour their heart and soul into the words they grant us the privilege of reading. I have "met" a number of new authors in 2009 and can't wait to introduce you to their books in 2010.
It really is a joy and privilege to do what I do and share with you, my wonderful readers, the books, their authors and characters ~ looking forward to continuing the fun!

Those of you who take the time to stop and read my blog, I am forever grateful and amazed you do! When you share your thoughts in your comments, I am encouraged and always love reading your thoughts so thank you, thank you, thank you!


Now to my top ten reads of 2009! I said last year that choosing these books gets harder every year and not a bit has changed! These books are in no particular order and I have chosen them because of the joy, encouragement or challenge they have brought to me (click on the links for my reviews):~


The Blessed by Lisa Tawn Bergren


Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills


Deadlock by Robert Liparulo


The Moment Between by Nicole Baart


Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones


An Eye for An Eye by Irene Hannon


Veiled Freedom by Jeanette Windle


The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson


Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh


City of the Dead & Guardian of the Flame by T L Higley (snuck in two, I know!!)


And just like last year because it is way too hard to stick to only ten, I'm adding some extras:


Critical Care by Candace Calvert


Never the Bride by Cheryl McKay & Rene Gutteridge


The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

Beyond this Moment by Tamera Alexander


The Enclave by Karen Hancock


Lost Mission by Athol Dickson


Please share your favourite reads for 2009.

And finally, I hope 2010 brings you much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Thicker than Blood by C.J. Darlington

Synopsis:~

Christy Williams finally has her life on track. She's putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn't commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged younger sister, May, whom she abandoned after their parents' untimely deaths. Soon, Christy's fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God.

Could May's Triple Cross Ranch be the safe haven she's searching for?

Will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before it's too late?


My take:~

I had the privilege a couple of years ago to read the first few chapters of Thicker Than Blood and have been waiting with baited breath since to read the rest of the story! When Thicker Than Blood won the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest, I was delighted for CJ and thrilled that I would be able to read the rest of May and Christy's journey.

CJ creates a fascinating premise for her story based on her own experience as an antiquarian book buyer, with Christy running from the law, unfounded accusations and a vengeful boyfriend. Estranged from her sister by her own volition and battling unsuccessfully the damaging effects of her poor choices, Christy is tormented and afraid. Conversely, her sister May has led a dedicated and responsible life, all the while yearning for Christy to return and reestablish their sisterly bond, yet finds her own struggles overwhelming.

With complex characterisation and authenticity, CJ gives readers a book that satisfies the soul and evokes heartfelt emotions as Christy attempts to deal with past transgressions and May desperately seeks a way to forgive. Thicker Than Blood is a story of two sisters, their bond shattered by tragedy and self absorption, set against the backdrop of their respective loves, for Christy, the world of literature and books and for May, her horses and beloved ranch. CJ's supporting characters are equally intriguing, from faithful Hunter to reformed Jim, down to earth Ruth and the fatherly Harvey, all with a depth that could easily be fleshed out in subsequent novels!


Thicker than Blood reveals the author's love of family, her commitment to great storytelling and the importance of faith in any journey towards forgiveness and healing.

With thanks to Tyndale for my review copy

Relz Reviewz Extras

Visit CJ's website and blog

Check out TitleTrakk.com, founded by CJ and her sister, Tracy

Buy CJ's book at Amazon or Koorong

Check back on 18th January for a Character Spotlight on Christy & May

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall & Aussie Giveaway

Publisher's Synopsis:~

Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people’s wares. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fiancé. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work–including Lizzy’s dry goods store. But she doesn’t know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry.

Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it’s not that simple–will Lizzy’s elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love–
or just more heartbreak?

What I thought:

Cindy Woodsmall’s most recent offering of ‘The Sound of Sleigh Bells’ further secures her place as a favoured Amish Fiction author with the gentle tenderness of this beautiful story. This seemingly ‘easy read’ and mere 194 pages belies the depth of the message contained within.

Cindy delicately unfurls the inner turmoil Beth suffers after withstanding deep personal tragedy. I was deeply touched by Beth’s story and was eager to discover the secret that holds her in a state of mourning and inability to move beyond her deep wounds. None of us travel through life unscathed by its difficulties, but throughout ‘The Sound of Sleigh Bells’, Cindy demonstrates the value of people who are willing to be open with us when we’re stuck in those dark places. Lizzy was willing to go to any length, even suffering Beth’s wrath, to see that her niece would experience healing. Beth’s driver, Gloria, was lovingly honest with Beth when dispensing advice. Finally, Jonah was prepared to pursue a relationship with Beth in a manner that went beyond his own desires and provided evidence of his deeper desire also for Beth’s healing and wellbeing.

Throughout ‘The Sound of Sleigh Bells’ I was reminded that God cares even more deeply for our wellbeing and goes far beyond what we are able to imagine for ourselves. Indeed He pours out His abundant mercy, grace and love in ways that we could never dream possible and we experience immeasurably enriched lives.

With thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for the Tracy's review copy



Guest reviewer:~ My friend Tracy from Beyond My Picket Fence


Relz Reviewz Extras

Visit Cindy's website and blog

Enter Cindy's Amish quilt contest for continental US & Canadian residents

Buy Cindy's books at Amazon or Koorong

Giveaway

I have a copy of The Sound of Sleigh Bells to giveaway to one of my Aussie readers ~ my final giveaway for 2009! To enter, please leave a comment by Thursday 31st December, 2009 and be sure you have an Aussie postal address :)

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas....

Wishing you and your family peace and joy this Christmas....


Love and hugs, Rel

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas in Australia!

I couldn't resist posting this video from world renowned Australian photographer, Ken Duncan. While his voice leaves a lot to be desired, I hope you enjoy his photos of my amazing country!

Merry Christmas!

Ken Duncan Christmas In Australia from Mountain High Media on Vimeo.

Coming in 2010 from Harvest House

Wanted to let you know about these releases from Harvest House next year!

Enjoy :)


Walker's Wedding by Lori Copeland

Abandoned by his fiancée hours before their wedding, Walker McKay is determined to never let a woman near his heart again, but he needs an heir to inherit his ranch after he is gone. Courting someone new is out of the question, so he’ll have to find a wife another way.

Wealthy heiress Sara Livingston wants to be married, but her suitors
are deemed unsuitable by her unreasonable father. When the opportunity to fill the bill for a mail-order bride comes her way, she grabs onto it with both hands.

Will Sara’s deception and Walker’s wounded heart keep them from finding what they are looking for? Or are they truly meant for one another?

Releasing June, 2010



Ransome's Crossing by Kaye Dacus

Charlotte Ransome, desperate to reach Jamaica to see her secret fiancé, disguises herself as a midshipman for a convoy led by her brother, Captain William Ransome. Meanwhile, William and his new bride, Julia, face the rough swells of the sea and of marriage as they try to adjust to life together.

When yellow fever befalls Charlotte and her identity is discovered, she begs first officer, Ned Cochran, and Julia to keep her presence and illness from her brother. But could this secret create insurmountable waves between Julia and William? And will Ned’s tender care of Charlotte change the tide of her affections forever?

This smart, engaging tale is about holding on to faith during the journey to love and be loved.

Releasing June, 2010



Secrets of Harmony Grove by Mindy Starns Clark

When New York marketing executive Samantha Collins finds herself unemployed, she moves out of her pricey Manhattan apartment to sleepy Harmony Grove, Pennsylvania. She plans on running the bed-and-breakfast she had bought as an investment in Lancaster County. However, when the manager she lets go is later found murdered on the property, Samantha’s troubles take a serious turn. A handsome local wishes to befriend her, but can she trust him? And when her ex-boyfriend shows up, wanting to reconcile, can she cope with him in the middle of this crisis?

Samantha must learn to depend on the Savior she has recently taken into her heart. And she’ll need all the help she can get, because the secrets she uncovers in Harmony Grove threaten her livelihood, her safety, and ultimately her life.

Releasing October, 2010

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

All Decked Out For Christmas
by Maureen Lang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe some of the bruises on our spirit seem tender during the holiday season, a reminder that all the glitter on the outside might not light us up on the inside. My prayer is trust Psalm 34:18. Let's lean on Him this season-He's right here beside us!

______________________________


Maureen Lang grew up loving to tell stories, and God has blessed her immeasurably to be able to tell them to a wider audience these days. For the latest goings-on, please check her blog!

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

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

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

Magnificat
by Anna Joujan

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

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

What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!

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

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

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

The winner of Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana is....



Chloe~Anne
- selected by a random number generator.

Congratulations!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Author Alert ~ Graham Garrison


I've been told that debut author Graham Garrison is a writer to watch! Having paged through his first novel, Hero's Tribute, I am certainly intrigued and looking forward to delving into the story.

Melissa Willis, writing for The Christian Manifesto had this to say about the story ~ "What set it apart from many books in the Christian fiction genre is its honesty."



Hero's Tribute is available now from Kregel. Check out the synopsis below:~




Much admired for his athletic ability, military service, and community work, local hero Michael Gavin is dying from cancer. When he asks a sports reporter he's never met to deliver his eulogy, Wes Watkins accepts. But as he researches Michael's life, a different legend emerges. How will Wes describe Michael? And how will he define
himself?



I will be reviewing the book in February, 2010 during a blog tour ~ can't wait!


Author Alert Info

Visit Graham's blog

Buy Graham's book from Amazon or Koorong


12 Pearls of Christmas: Perspective

A Soggy, Jolly, Holly Christmas
by Melody Carlson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 21 December 2009

Character Spotlight ~ Julie Klassen's Olivia Keene & Edward Bradley


Today the spotlight shines on.....................Olivia Keene & Lord Edward Bradley



Julie Klassen's third historical romance is the perfect gift for Christmas and is available now. I read historical romances sparingly but Julie's books are always on my 'must read' list so I was delighted that Julie was willing to share the background to Olivia and Edward ~ enjoy!

Brief physical description: Heroine

Olivia Keene is a slight young woman with an oval, fair face, dark curly hair, and blue eyes. She looks something like Samantha Morton in Jane Eyre, but with the dark hair and bright blue eyes of actress Alexis Bledel.

Strengths and weaknesses

Olivia is a clever, educated young woman who longs to be a teacher at a time when female education was not valued. She has a difficult time believing God loves her, because she tends to view her heavenly father as she does her earthly father: wrathful and unforgiving, rather than merciful and unconditionally loving.

Quirk (if any)

Olivia is a genius with numbers. Given a complex arithmetic problem, she “sees” the solution as though on a slate in her mind. Wouldn’t that have been nice back in school!

Your inspiration for the character

I think I have wanted to write about a governess ever since my sixth-grade teacher read Jane Eyre to us. My own depiction of a 19th-century governess was also inspired by my research, especially journals of real-life governesses of the day.

Brief physical description: Hero

Edward Stanton Bradley, Lord Bradley, is tall and athletic with blond hair and pale blue eyes.

Strengths and weaknesses

He is intelligent, capable, and responsible. But he is also proud and rather haughty. When Miss Keene overhears a secret that threatens to rip apart his life and his very identity, his sense of self-preservation leads him to treat her with suspicion. Can he overcome his pride and doubt and learn to trust her?

Quirk (if any)

Though an earl’s son, Edward likes to build things. He also grew up in fear of his father’s old gamekeeper. And, illogically, fears him yet.

Your inspiration for the character

For my inspiration for Edward Stanton Bradley, you need look no further than Rupert-Penry Jones. Sigh. Think I’ll go watch Persuasion again…

Background to the story

The Silent Governess is my third, stand-alone novel set in “Jane-Austen-Era” England. It’s about Olivia Keene, a young woman fleeing her home. She stumbles onto an estate and overhears a dangerous secret. The lord of the manor compels her to accept a position there, so he can make certain she does not spread what she heard.

Keeping an eye on Olivia as she cares for the children, Lord Bradley finds himself drawn to her, even though he doesn’t trust her. The clever Miss Keene is definitely hiding something.


Loved this insight, Julie ~ so looking forward to reading this one :)


After a short Christmas break, my character spotlights will return with Colleen Coble's Addie Sullivan from her newest release, The Lightkeeper's Daughter.

Relz Reviewz Extras

Reviews of The Apothecary's Daughter & Lady of Milkweed Manor

Character spotlight on Lilly Haswell

Visit Julie's website

Buy Julie's books at Amazon or Koorong

12 Pearls of Christmas: Help & Support

Calling Elizabeth ... HELP!
by Tricia Goyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 December 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: God Intervenes

The Answer
by Susan May Warren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas from Susie May Warren

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

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

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

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Christ of Christmas


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

Click here to download your copy today!

12 Pearls of Christmas: He is Always Enough

Christmas in a Barn
by Mary DeMuth


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

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

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

And when we opened the door, Love welcomed us.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Friday, 18 December 2009

Candace Calvert ~ What's Cooking at Christmas?



I’ve used this Pillsbury recipe several times—looks pretty on your appetizer table and tastes yummy.

Ham and Veggie Wreath

Ingredients

2 cans (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

1 container (8 oz) pineapple cream cheese spread

1/3 cup chopped cooked ham

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh broccoli florets

1 tablespoon chopped red onion

6 grape tomatoes or small cherry tomatoes, quartered

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Turn 10-oz custard cup upside down on center of ungreased large cookie sheet. Remove dough from 1 can, keeping dough in 1 piece; do not unroll. (Keep remaining can of dough in refrigerator.) With hands, roll dough in one direction to make 12-inch log. Cut log into 20 slices. Arrange 16 slices, slightly overlapping and in clockwise direction, around custard cup on cookie sheet.

2. Repeat with second can of dough, cutting log into 20 slices. Arrange remaining 4 slices and slices from second can (total of 24 slices) slightly overlapping each other and in counterclockwise direction, close to but not overlapping first ring. Remove custard cup.

3. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Gently loosen wreath from cookie sheet; carefully slide onto cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4. Place wreath on serving tray or platter. Spread cream cheese spread over wreath. Sprinkle with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving.

Enjoy!

Delicious “Taco” variation for Wreath:

Mix:

1/3 cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cumin

small can diced mild green chiles (add amount to personal preference)

Spread over cooled crescent wreath

“Decorate” with:

1 diced avocado (sprinkle with lime juice to avoid turning brown)

½ cup chopped fresh tomato

½ cup finely shredded cheddar cheese

2 ½ oz. sliced black olives, drained

extra chopped fresh cilantro

Place small bowl of salsa in center. Ole!


Wow - this does look pretty, Candy, and I like the sound of the Taco variation :) I knew you were the author to go to for a Christmas recipe!


Candace's Books

Critical Care ~ Disaster Status (April, 2010) ~ Code Triage (some time after that!)


Relz Reviewz Extras

All things Calvert @ Relz Reviewz

Visit Candace's website and blog

Buy Candace's book at Amazon or Koorong


Book Trailer for CJ Darlington's Thicker Than Blood

CJ Darlington, co-founder of TitleTrakk.com and now published author, is one amazing lady! It has been my absolute pleasure to work with CJ, and sister Tracy, as a reviewer for TitleTrakk.com.

CJ's debut novel, Thicker Than Blood, is available now and I can highly recommend it. Check back for my review soon but in the meantime, check out the book trailer below.




12 Pearls of Christmas: Faith, Hope & Love


The Pearls We Pass Down
by Holley Gerth

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

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

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

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

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

FAITH

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


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

HOPE

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

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

LOVE

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


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


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

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

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

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


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