One God One Plan One Life by Max Lucado ~ A Book Review and Giveaway



Max Lucado
Juvenile Nonfiction / Devotional

Back of the book:

LIFE COMES WITH A LOT OF QUESTIONS . . . BUT JUST ONE ANSWER.

Life can be a challenge to figure out, especially with all the changes and craziness in your teen years. In a world full of pressure, you need daily reassurance that God is with you, no matter what. These 365 devos for teens, based on bestselling author Max Lucado's writings, offer meaningful ways to connect with God and live the life He has planned for you.

One God One Plan One Life addresses important topics like faith, obedience, and self-control as well as difficult-to-discuss-with-your-parents issues like purity, bullying, and alcohol and drug use. Each day includes a short devotion and scripture as well as a straight-to-the heart idea that will inspire you to trust the one God who will love you through it all despite it all.

You've only got one life. And there's only one God who can make that life into something amazing.

Take A Peek Inside The Book!


My thoughts:

The teen years can be so difficult. One of the best things to combat that is to instill a firm foundation in your teen. Helping them become grounded in the Word of God at an early age won't necessarily shield them from all that life throws at them but it does give them Someone to turn to during those times.

One God One Plan One Life is a great way to introduce your teen to a daily habit of reading and dwelling upon God's Word. Each day begins with a scripture passage and then has a short devotional thought from Max Lucado. 

In his masterful storyteller way Max speaks relevant truth to his teenage audience. The devotions come across as a caring older uncle just having a conversation with a favorite niece or nephew. I was pleased to see the variety of subjects that are addressed in the book. The book doesn't come across as preachy or judgmental but rather it will be okay because there is One that loves you and wants what's best for you.

Connect with the author:




Giveaway:

The wonderful people at Tommy Nelson have partnered with us to host a giveaway of this book. For your opportunity to win a copy for your family use the following Rafflecopter form to enter. Giveaway ends 1/14/2014 at 12:00 am EST.



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Every Day a Blessing: A Year of God's Love by Jean Fischer ~ A Book Review & Giveaway



Written by Jean Fischer
Illustrated by Carolina Farias
Juvenile Nonfiction/ Devotional

Suggested Age: 6-10

Back of the book:

Look around and see the blessings of God--each and every day!

GOD'S LOVE IS ALL AROUND in the blessings He showers upon us. But teaching your child to see those blessings in a world that clamors for the 'latest and greatest' is no easy task! Yet it's these everyday blessings that remind us of God's constant presence.

AS CHILDREN LEARN TO BE GRATEFUL, they will begin to see that although everyday isn't perfect, God blesses us each and every day! Every Day a Blessing teaches children to recognize ever-present blessings of God even in the simplest of things, like counting fireflies on a summer evening. Daily devotionals and scriptures along with thoughtful questions and activities encourage children to be Christ-centered and to develop a spirit of thankfulness.

Take A Peek Inside The Book!

My thoughts:

Even the youngest of our children can realize that they are blessed. In fact the Bible says that we are blessed to be a blessing. Every Day a Blessing is intended to help you teach your young child how blessed they are. 

Through a daily scripture and simple reading you can have a conversation about very specific blessings. Each day ends with a suggestion for discussion or action that will help ingrain the principle that was just taught through the devotion.

An important principle that is taught throughout the book is that life doesn't have to be perfect for your children to see God’s blessings and love for them. The daily readings also help you children realize that all their blessings come from God

If you are looking for an easy way to begin the habit of daily devotions with your young child, I highly recommend this resource. 

Connect with the author:





The wonderful people at Tommy Nelson have partnered with us to host a giveaway of this delightful book. For your opportunity to win a copy for your family, use the following Rafflecopter form to enter. Giveaway ends 1/13/201 at 12:00 am EST!




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God Is Able by Priscilla Shirer ~ A Book Review & Giveaway




Priscilla Shirer
Nonfiction/Bible Study

Back of the book:

Nothing Is Impossible with God. Nothing.

Not even that thing. Your thing. The one thing that seems to defy all attempts to defeat it, restore it, heal it, change it, overcome it, undo it, or just to get through it.

If you've lost even an ounce of confidence in the power and loving attention of God--if experience has told you that faith must simply acquiesce to impossibility--it's time somebody told you different.

Bible teacher and best-selling author Priscilla Shirer explores two power-packed verses of Scripture, displacing your doubts and rebuilding your assurance--not in a blind attempt to deny life's adversities and troubles, but to show you that God is always up to great things. Amazing things. He's a God who cares, and a God who CAN!

Believe it.

Experience it.

God Is Able.

My thoughts:

In her plucky down-to-earth way, Priscilla Shirer takes us through a phrase by phrase journey of Ephesians 3: 20-21. Yes it is only two verses, but those two verses pack a whole lot of truth in them.

I had the privilege of watching a simulcast from Lifeway Women where Priscilla spoke on this topic. It was a powerful presentation so I was especially looking forward to getting my hands on the book. I looked forward to delving deeper into this particular portion of scripture.

Priscilla begins by introducing us to this portion of scripture by reminding us that it was written by Paul when he was in prison. Talk about thinking things seemed hopeless! But of course that wasn't the case for Paul nor is it for us.

Through the use of humorous as well as serious stories Priscilla guides the reader on a journey of understanding that nothing is out of God's reach. No matter what your particular situation, God knows about it and He is able to bring about a result that is best for you. One of my favorite lines from the book is this, "Just because God can doesn't mean He will. But just because He hasn't doesn't mean He won't. The bottom line is that He is able."

I know that I will personally never think about the ability of God in the same way again. I came away from this study with not only a deeper understanding of the scriptures but also an assurance that no matter what, GOD IS ABLE!

Connect with the author:





Giveaway:

The wonderful people at B&H Publishing have partnered with us to offer you an opportunity to win a copy of God Is Able. For your opportunity to win it use the following Rafflecopter form to enter. Giveaway ends 1/13/2014 at 12:00 am EST!



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The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning & Greg Garrett ~ A Book Review



Brennan Manning & Greg Garrett
Contemporary Fiction

Back of the book:

From the inspirational author of The Ragamuffin Gospel comes a powerful contemporary retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Jack Chisholm is “the people’s pastor.” He leads a devoted and growing megachurch, has several best-selling books, and a memorable slogan, “We have got to do better.” Jack knows how to preach, and he understands how to chastise people into performing. What he doesn’t know is anything about grace.

This year, when it comes time for the Christmas sermon, the congregation at Grace Cathedral will look to the pulpit, and Jack will not be there. Of course, they will have seen plenty of him already---on the news.

After an evening of debauchery that leads to an affair with his beautiful assistant, Jack Chisholm finds himself deserted with chilling swiftness. The church elders remove him from his own pulpit. His publisher withholds the royalties from his books.

Worst of all, his wife disappears with their eight-year-old daughter.

But just as Jack is hitting bottom, hopeless and penniless, drinking his way to oblivion, who should appear but his long-estranged father, imploring his prodigal son: “Come home.”

A true companion piece to The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Prodigal illustrates the power of grace through the story of a broken man who finally saw Jesus not because he preached his greatest sermon or wrote his most powerful book, but because he failed miserably.

Jack Chisholm lost everything---his church, his family, his respect, and his old way of believing---but he found grace. It’s the same grace that Brennan Manning devoted his life to sharing: profound in nature and coming from a God who loves us just as we are, and not as we should be.

My thoughts:

The Prodigal is the last written work of Brennan Manning and as such it becomes an important legacy to his life work. I personally think it does him justice. Greg Garrett has done a masterful job of putting to paper the words that we have come to know and love from Brennan Manning.

The book is obviously based on the infamous prodigal son from the Bible. The story of Jack Chisholm could belong to any of us. Jack is at the pinnacle of a successful ministry and yet a seemingly momentary decision leads to the destruction of his life and those around him.

Through a very humbling and gritty tale we watch the love of a father rescue his son. This is a father that was always there just waiting for Jack to turn to him. We get to see redemption and restoration but we also see consequences to the sin that destroyed so much.

The story ends but the reader is left contemplating the truths that are contained within the work. You just can't help but do some self reflection and evaluation when you turn the last page. The reader is not only left knowing that we are all in need of salvation but the Source of that salvation is clearly pointed to.

I would be remiss if I didn't point you to the beginning of the book and the 'Note From The Author'. Greg Garrett's very moving tribute to Brennan Manning is not to be skipped. In fact I found it to be as uplifting as the book itself.

Let me leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

"What do I know about people who don't have it all together?" Frank fixed him with his gaze. "Only that I am one. But there is grace, Jack. Amazing grace. When we acknowledge that we are all just beggars at the door of God's mercy, God can make something beautiful out of us."
". . . broken and worthless as we are, we are nonetheless loved beyond all reckoning."
 "God is not some customs officer rifling through our moral suitcases to sort out our deeds. He sees through the smoke screen, through the deeds good and bad, to our deepest selves."

Connect with the authors:


Brennan Manning
April 27, 1934 – April 12, 2013



Greg Garrett





 



Pumpkin Cornbread ~ The Perfect Compliment To A Warm Bowl Of Soup

The holidays are over but do you still have some of the staples left? Besides pumpkin pie what can you do with a can of pumpkin?

One of our favorites is Pumpkin Cornbread. Pair it with a yummy bowl of vegetable soup and you have the perfect cold winter night meal.


Pumpkin Corn Bread

2 tsp greek yogurt (or oil)
1/3 C honey (or brown sugar)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 C pumpkin 
1/4 C cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C dry milk powder

  • Mix together the yogurt, honey, eggs and vanilla.
  • Stir in the pumpkin.
  • Combine the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and dry milk powder in a separate bowl.
  • Mix together the dry and wet ingredients.
  • Bake in a greased 9x5x3" loaf pan at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. (Ovens vary so use a knife to check for doneness.)
  • Cool for 15 minutes in the pan then invert it onto a wire rack to continue to cool.

Cook's Notes:
If you use canned pumpkin like we do you will have leftover pumpkin. We just add the leftover pumpkin to the vegetable soup. It makes the soup have a creamy texture and takes an ordinary can of veggie soup up a notch to gourmet status.



A Teenage Pregnancy by Robin Jones Gunn ~ 12 Pearls of Christmas

12pearlsofxmas


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

A Teenage Pregnancy by Robin Jones Gunn

It was early, early morning, that delicate time of day just before sunrise when it seems as if all of creation is still asleep.

In the cold, gray light she gazed at the infant in her arms. He was less than an hour old and so, so small. Instinct prompted her to draw her newborn close that he might feel the rhythm of her heart. He curled his tiny hand around her finger and she smiled. His eyes closed, and with feathered breath he gave way to the blessed sleep that follows such a long journey.

In weary awe she studied his face, his ears, his nose. He was here. He had come at last.

A single tear fell from her eye and rolled across his cheek. She kissed the tear away but could not kiss away the memories that came with the tears; memories of the day she found out she was pregnant. How exhilarated she felt and yet how terrified. She was young, and there was much she didn’t understand.

Trying to justify her condition to her parents proved more difficult than she’d hoped. But the most excruciating memory was the moment she stood guileless before the man she hoped to one day marry. She had no words to make him understand the awful truth—the child she carried was not his.

Leaving seemed to be her only option. A gracious aunt took her in and welcomed her with open arms. From the moment she arrived she was showered with motherly words of hope and sisterly touches of love. Week by week, month by month, the child inside her grew.

Was it a miracle when she returned home, her belly round, her face flushed, and found him there?

What prompted this man to take her back and make her his bride? Did he now believe what she had tried to explain all along, that none of this was her own doing?

When the time was right they left their small town together, as husband and wife, with her due date rapidly approaching. The labor began—tightening her abdomen with a force she had never before imagined. Perspiration streamed from her forehead. The contractions multiplied with a frenzied urgency until the need to push overwhelmed her young body, and the baby was born.

Nothing of the past mattered anymore. He was here. Naked, perfect, quivering in her arms. With a thrill of hope, she believed that her life, her world, would never be the same.

Now as the first silver streaks of dawn pierced through the cracks in the stable, she tenderly wrapped her sleeping babe in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.


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***

Robin Promo Photo Close Up 2013Robin Jones Gunn, bestselling author of the much-loved Christy Miller Series and the award-winning Sisterchicks® series, has had more than 4.5 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her frequent speaking engagements have taken her around the globe. Robin and her husband live in Hawaii and have a grown son and daughter. You can learn more at Robin's website.





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The Christ Candle ~ Advent on Christmas

Photo Credit: freefoto.com

We begin this Christmas Advent in our family with a re-reading of The Prophecy Candle ~ The First Week of Advent,  The Bethlehem Candle ~ The Second Week of Advent, The Shepherds Candle ~ The Third Week of Advent and The Kings' Candle ~ The Fourth Week of Advent.


The Christ Candle
(Christmas)

Grandfather: “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

Grandchild: Light the center white candle and ask: Why do we light the Christ candle?

Grandfather: It reminds us that Jesus told us He is the light of the world.

Here is what the Gospel of John tells us about Jesus’ coming into the world.

Adult: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.  There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:1-9)



Everyone sing: O Come, All Ye Faithful
                O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
                O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!
                Come and behold Him, born the King of angels!
                O come, let us adore Him,
                O come, let us adore Him,
                O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Grandfather: Almighty God, you have poured on us the new light of your son, Jesus: Grant that this light burns in our hearts and shines in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Christmas Movie Marathon: Day 27 ~ A Christmas Story


Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without watching 'A Christmas Story'. In recent years TBS has been airing it as a 24 hour marathon that starts Christmas Eve night. In our family we have a tendency to watch it in snatches. While channel surfing someone comes across it and stops. We all help the characters recite their lines and then we laugh. Eventually we do sit down and watch it from start to finish. Such a fun tradition! I can hardly believe this but 2013 marks the movie's 30th anniversary. 

Movie description:

It's Christmas time and there's only one thing on Ralphie Parker's Christmas list this year: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot, Range Model Air Rifle, but many obstacles stand in the way of his dream because every adult that he confronts keeps telling him he'll shoot his eye out. Meanwhile The Old Man just got a major award (a lamp shaped like a woman's leg), and Mom is making sure The Old Man doesn't come near her turkey, Ralphie's friend gets his tongue stuck to a flag pole, and Ralphie utters the f-word infront of his father. Christmas is drawing nearer and Ralphie visits Santa at the department store in hopes of asking him for his dream gift. Will he receive it? Let's hope so.

Rating: PG

Runtime: 1 hour 34 minutes 

Where to watch it:

Starting tonight at 8p/7c on TBS (24 hr marathon).
Amazon Instant Video
Google Play
Netflix 

Here are a few more suggestions for today:

The Twelve Trees Of Christmas
Channel: Lifetime
Time: 6p/5c

Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus
Channel: Hallmark
Time: 6p/5c

The Santa Clause 2
Channel: ABC Family
Time: 7p/6c

It's A Wonderful Life
Channel: NBC
Time: 8p/7c

Meet The Santas
Channel: Hallmark
Time: 8p/7c

Finding Mrs. Claus
Channel: Lifetime
Time: 8p/7c

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Cartoon)
Channel: ABC
Time: 8p/7c

A Christmas Story
Channel: TBS
Time: 8p/7c

Christmas In Connecticut
Channel: TCM
Time: 8p/7c

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Channel: ABC
Time: 8:30p/7:30c

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
Channel: ABC Family
Time: 9p/8c

Christmas Crash
Channel: Lifetime
Time: 10p/9c

Hats Off To Christmas!
Channel: Hallmark
Time: 10p/9c

A Christmas Story
Channel: TBS
Time: 10p/9c


A December Bride by Denise Hunter ~ A Contemporary Fiction Novella Review


A Year of Weddings Novella
Denise Hunter
Contemporary Christian/Christmas

About the book: 

What started as a whim turned into an accidental - and very public - engagement. Can Layla and Seth keep up the facade in Chapel Springs this holiday season - for the sake of her career . . . and his heart?

Under normal circumstances, Seth Murphy, the best friend of Layla O'Reilly's ex-fiance would be the last person she'd marry. But the news of their upcoming (and phony) nuptials convinces a big client that Layla may be high-society enough to work for his agency, a coup that would put her fledgling home-staging business on the map. Seth has secretly loved Layla for years, even when she was dating his best friend. Maybe she'll never forgive him for the way he hurt her back then, but he has to try. And Layla is willing to keep up their engagement farce until she's landed her client. For Layla, it's the chance to save her career. But for Seth, it's his last chance to win her heart. A year's worth of novellas from twelve inspirational romance authors. Happily ever after guaranteed.

My thoughts:

One of my favorite things this time of year is Christmas novellas. Zondervan has put together a series of novellas called A Year of Weddings. Each book will have a different author but they all will center around a wedding. I think that will be a nice little treat each month of the year! Forget the jam of the month club, I'll take this thank you!

A December Bride is such a fun start to this series. I found it amusing because I could relate to it on several levels. Who hasn't made a statement out of spite only to be trapped by it? The perfect part about the untruth was that Seth did it to protect Layla. Did he have ulterior motives? You'll have to read the book to find out! 

The chemistry between Layla and Seth was delicious, a little spicy and a whole lot sweet. The storyline flows and actually makes you feel like you are reading a full length novel. One of the great things about this series and this novella in particular is that if you enjoyed the story and you are longing for just a bit more, you can have it! For more of the characters and what happened to them before and after A December Bride you can read Denise's full length novel Barefoot Summer.

The only possible drawback to this series is that it comes only in ebook or audiobook. I personally read it on my Kindle and didn't mind it a bit.


A Year of Weddings Series

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Cynthia Ruchti ~ 12 Pearls of Christmas

12pearlsofxmas


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Cynthia Ruchti

To shepherds? Really, God? You crafted a birth announcement that was delivered first to shepherds? The story’s become so familiar to us, so easy for us to visualize because of all the Christmas pageants we’ve witnessed over the years—all the fourth-grade boys in plaid robes with a homemade shepherd staff, carrying a cloth lamb from the toy department that plays “Jesus Loves Me” if you pull the ring where an umbilical cord should be.

Theologians speculate the reason for shepherds as the audience for the holy pronouncement could be as intricate as a genetic retracing of the Baby’s heritage back through history to King David, who started his career as a shepherd.

Or it could have been simpler than that. Maybe shepherds were the only ones listening that night.

“Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night,” Luke 2:8, CEB. The biblical story tells us that the shepherds weren’t sleeping but were on guard, watching, when the news about Jesus came to them.

Distractions were few. Hills, sheep, other shepherds, a low fire, and a wide expanse of sky overhead—a dark sky that held the same stars night after night, until this one.

I wonder if any of the shepherds brought their families to the fields. I wonder if in the tent was a hardworking woman nearing the end of an exhausting day. She’d barely gotten the evening meal cleaned up when she had to start thinking about what her family and the other shepherds would need for breakfast. Soak the grains. Check the progress on the sheep’s milk cheese. And try to get those kids to settle down.

“Stop annoying your brother. Caleb! Last warning. Josh, get your fingers out of your sister’s ears. Turn down that video game. You can’t listen to the radio and watch TV at the same time. Turn one of them off. Better yet, both of them! Who’s singing? What’s that sound? Do you hear what I hear?”

What noise do I need to turn off in my life in order to hear the first notes of the angel’s song?

Another noisy Christmas party. Another trip to the department store for stocking stuffers. Another round of Christmas CDs. Another Christmas special on TV. Another Facebook post to share—the true meaning of Christmas. A text about the practice time for the Christmas program at church. Another phone call about travel plans. Brain waves clanking into each other, making a cacophony of noise.

Shutting down one layer at a time. Unplugging. Keeping even "Silent Night" low so I can silence my night and hear the downbeat of “Glory to God in the highest.”


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***


Cynthia Ruchti is an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. Of seven books on the shelves currently, her latest releases are the novel When the Morning Glory Blooms (Abingdon Press Fiction), the nonfiction Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (Abingdon Press Christian Living), and several dozen of the devotions in Mornings With Jesus 2014 (Guideposts). Spring of 2014 will see the release of another novel—All My Belongings, also from Abingdon Press Fiction. You can connect with her at www.cynthiaruchti.com or on Facebook.

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Where In The World Is Santa? ~ NORAD Tracks Santa



Starting at 1:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve (that's today!) you can track Santa as he makes his way around the world! There are several cool ways to follow his progress:

Watch videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their trip around the world. The videos can be seen on the NORAD Santa Cams at Noradsanta.org

You can also like NORAD Tracks Santa on Facebook.

You can see +NORAD Tracks Santa on google.

Don't forget to follow with the live Twitter feed @NoradSanta for news from the North Pole.


Book Review ~ A Simple Christmas Wish by Melody Carlson



Melody Carlson
Contemporary Fiction/Christmas

About the book: 

One girl in need of a home. One woman in search of a home for her heart. One Christmas where it all seems possible.

It felt strange to be out here in the middle of the night, still wearing the Amish dress--a dress that had belonged to Miri. Rachel's footsteps crunched in the snow, and halfway between the barn and the house, she paused to look up at the night sky, wondering if more snow was in store, but all she saw was velvety black and stars. Millions of twinkling stars. She had never seen stars like that before, so bright and so close, almost as if she could touch them with her hand.

Rachel Milligan never imagined that she and her seven-year-old niece would spend the week before Christmas on a quaint Amish farm in Ohio. But with so many unexpected occurrences of late, perhaps she shouldn't have been surprised.

With her young niece Holly in tow, Rachel anxiously makes her way from Chicago to Ohio's Amish country. As love begins to blossom, family secrets emerge, and old wounds are healed, Rachel realizes that she will do whatever it takes to ensure that Holly has the loving family she needs.

Join bestselling author Melody Carlson on an emotional journey into the heart of what family truly means at Christmastime.


My thoughts:

Each year I look forward to reading Melody Carlson's Christmas novella. This year's offering is A Simple Christmas Wish.  It is a beautifully moving love story. It is about the love of an aunt for her niece, the love of a man for a woman and most importantly the love of a Father for His children.

As I said before it is a novella so it is easily finished in an afternoon. Just grab your favorite warm beverage and curl up for a delightful couple of hours. The nice thing about this story is that it felt complete. I want to know what happened next, as in I'd love to see a sequel, but all the particular threads of this tale were neatly tied up. The story didn't feel rushed especially at the end but flowed to a natural conclusion.

I found that Melody's introduction to the Amish lifestyle was honest in its portrayal of the strictness but not derogatory. While the story-line does deal with death it also celebrates life. I liked the characters and felt that they came across as genuine.

I highly recommend this book as a great getaway in the midst of all the holiday craziness!

Connect with the author:








Doc McStuffins All Better! Game from Wonder Forge

The delightful people at Wonder Forge sent us this game to facilitate our review. 
The opinions expressed are our own and no other compensation was provided.

Make the boo boos go away like Doc McStuffins! Each slap bracelet bandage is a different mystery ouchie. Take turns trying to figure out which doctor tool will make things all better! It’s a fun game of pretending and playful problem-solving!

We at Rambles of a SAHM have come to love the games from Wonder Forge. Not only do they teach specific skills but they foster an expanding imagination. The games can be played and enjoyed just as instructed in the clear directions that come with the game. But the wonderful part is that the games can also be used by children for imaginative play.

Doc McStuffins All Better! game is a simple game designed for preschoolers. The pieces are sturdy and durable for those little hands to manipulate for hours. I would mention that the tiles are small and the guideline of 3+ should be adhered to. 


The game uses a spinner that can easily be flicked by your little one. It was so cute to watch my grand try to mimic how I flicked the pointer. By the end of our first game it was mastered! 


Another thing that I appreciate about this particular game is that it was designed so that an adult could play with the children. One of the components of the game is wearing a slap bracelet. I'm pleased to say that it not only fits little wrists but it fit my adult one as well.




The wonderful reviewers over at TimeToPlayMag.com have put together a great video that describes exactly how the game is played. 

This game would be a perfect fit under the Christmas tree! I can practically guarantee hours of indoor play over the cold days of winter. You can pick this game up at most of the major retailers. 

Connect with Wonder Forge on Twitter & Facebook!



Wrapping Paper and Fancy Bows Not Required by Jodi Murphy ~ 12 Pearls of Christmas

12pearlsofxmas


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

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Wrapping Paper and Fancy Bows 

Not Required 

by Jodi Murphy

For more than a decade I worked in the luxury design field, and every year around Christmas time there were holiday show houses and charity events where the designers would hold nothing back to create the most beautiful displays for the Christmas season—trees with baubles and sparkles, swags of fresh greenery festooned with handmade bows, every room dressed to the nines, dining and breakfast tables set for imaginary entertaining, and hundreds of perfectly wrapped packages that would make Santa’s elves go green with envy.

The sights, sounds and smells were magical! And though I enjoyed the "eye candy" and appreciated all of the creativity, I often left these events on a "sugar high" of the season’s pufferies and feeling disconnected to the spiritual significance of Christmas.

As we begin to count down the days toward December 25th, I will do my share of simplified decorating as a way to mark such an important day, and I will be celebrating Christ’s birth with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the gifts God has given to me . . .

My Parents
I was blessed with parents who loved and respected me. I was always important, seen and heard. They gave me the confidence and strength to go out into the world because I knew they were standing right behind me in case I stumbled. They modeled generosity, loyalty and commitment.

My Sister
Tenacious, strong-willed, and determined balanced by a friendly, supportive, “I’m there for you” spirit—that’s my amazing younger sister. She’ll step out on the front line to stand up and defend you or throw on some work clothes and volunteer to help with whatever dirty work needs to be done. No questions asked . . . you need her, she’s there.

My Husband
My husband is so comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t compare himself to others or secretly long for what they have. He doesn’t get embroiled in other’s gossip or petty arguments. His loving influence has made me happier and more at peace. Every day I wake up to the joyful realization that I am his friend, wife, and life partner.

My Son
My firstborn. My son with Aspergers Syndrome. Raising him is the most extraordinary journey. He has made me more accepting, patient, and understanding. He has helped me find my passion to support and advocate for him and those just like him. He doesn’t filter or concern himself with being anything but who he is. I admire his strength to put himself out into a world he doesn’t fully understand.

My Daughter
She was born with grace and an "old" soul. From a very young age, she had an understanding and compassion for others well beyond her years. And when she was excluded for not following the crowd, she never compromised her values in order to fit in. She personifies all that is good and right in our world.

So I’m taking a pause from the hustle and bustle of the designers’ holiday season. This Christmas, and every Christmas henceforth, you’ll find me singing praises of “Gloria!” to God for the walking, breathing beautiful gifts of my family.


12pearls-murphy

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jodi_murphy-Headshot 1Jodi Murphy has been a freelance marketing specialist for the last 25+ years working for clients in a variety of industries, a journalist in the design/luxury lifestyle industry, and co-founder of Nesting Newbies, one of the first independent lifestyle digital magazines. But her most important role and her life’s passion is being a mom! She founded Geek Club Books to share her son’s life on the spectrum in a positive and entertaining way. Her focus is on building a community of spectrum and neurotypicals who are engaged with and inspired by the Geek Club Books’ message of self-acceptance—“I’m unique. I’m a geek.” Jodi writes original content on the blog, and, with the help of her talented kids and top-notch creative team, she produces audio stories, e-books, and interactive storybook APPs.


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