Wednesday, November 30, 2016

'Tis the Season to be Kind

I love Christmas. The lights, decorations, music, and movies bring a sense of magic and fun. Thinking about the baby the season surrounds brings me joy, but also sears my heart with pain. That baby, Jesus, grew to be a man who would be tortured, mocked, and eventually killed. And he did it all for me and for you. When I think about what Jesus went through it hurts my heart. But then I ponder on why he chose to come to earth and go through humanity and pain. Because he loves us.
Christmas is a time of joy, but may also be a time of sorrow, heartbreak, stress and sadness for many people. Even as I enjoy the glitz of the holiday, I want to pay attention and reach out to the downhearted. Pray for the folks who are going through stressful times. Hug the hurting. As you go about the hustle and bustle of the season, give the gift of kindness to everyone. Jesus gives eternal hope, the least I can do is give a smile and a helping hand.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Book Tree Tradition

As a lover of books, I cringe when one is damaged or worse yet, destroyed. Yet, part of my job is withdrawing books and sending them either on to a new home or to the recycle bin. But one December brought new hope for old books and created a wonderful holiday tradition.

The former director of the library where I work set the tradition into motion. She'd gathered a cart full of books that would be discarded for various reasons. With some ingenuity and a photo, one of the student assistants took the books and built a Christmas tree. The job is harder than it seems, and usually requires someone who thinks like a mathematician. Which leaves me out. 

Every year since, I've admired and appreciated the calculations and work that goes into bringing the adornment to life. This year though, I did get to decorate the tree. From one of the worn and torn dismantled literature books came some delicate, thin pages. I used skills I learned in grade school art class to fold and snip snowflakes. Now we have a recycled tree from top to bottom. My co-workers and I look forward to the tradition of the book tree and plan to continue it for years to come.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

And the Fruit of the Spirit is Love

Romans 12: 9-10
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

The holidays bring out the best in us and sometimes the not so good. As I say good-bye to another Thanksgiving and hello to Christmas, I want to focus on the fruit I'm to produce as a follower of Jesus.

I was telling my husband the other night, as we checked out a few early Christmas lights, how much I love the spirit of the holidays. Happiness that seems to float in the air. The holidays are a time of love. A time to honor family and friends. And a time to give love to the people we don't know by giving. God calls us to love, not just those who are easy to love, but all people. I need to pour my love over each person as in turn I spill out Jesus' love.

Jesus tells his disciples, in John 13, to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He knew that when he went to heaven he needed to leave his followers with a direct command. Those words are for us, too. Jesus wants us to love each other and to show that love by listening, showing compassion, meeting needs and sharing Jesus. Loving others is not always easy, but God gives us the tools we need. If we tap into his tool box, the Bible, we find love enough to share.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Jubilant Little Tree

Hebrews 12:28
...So let us be thankful. Then we can worship God in a way that pleases him. Let us worship him with deep respect and wonder.

As I drove up the long, winding driveway to the college where I work, I noticed a tree. Not a profound statement I know. The grounds are covered with several wooded areas. But something stood out to me about this little tree. The golden leaves still clung to it, even though we're halfway through November. The deciduous trees that surrounded it had lost their leaves over the course of the previous month. But here in the midst of the bareness stood a pretty golden-leafed tree.

My heart filled with joy and wonder when I drove around the curve and caught sight of the jubilant little tree. With leaves still glowing, it was like it was shouting, "see what our amazing God can do. He can turn my leaves into rays of glory." The next day I stopped and took a photo of the beauty I'd seen. And again I witnessed the incredible creativity of the God who loves me. The natural world is full of God's extraordinary imagination. I hope as you celebrate Thanksgiving this week you take a moment and worship the God of wonder. Praise God for the beauty he created and the joy it brings!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fiction Book Review: Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post

About the book: 
Grant McAllister arrives in Murphy, North Carolina, with one aim: to sell his inherited property and leave as quickly as possible.

The big-city lawyer has no interest in his late, estranged grandparents or the dilapidated mansion he just acquired. After his high-profile divorce, he should be avoiding perky reporters, too. But Jami Carlisle is honest, funny, and undeniably appealing.

After breaking up with her safe-but-smothering boyfriend, Jami is determined to ace her first big assignment. A story about the McAllister estate is too intriguing to ignore---much like its handsome, commitment-phobic heir. Thanks to her digging, the pieces of Grant's fraught family history are gradually fitting into place, but also upending all his old beliefs.

The two draw closer as they share their dreams, until misread signals and misunderstandings begin to test their trust. But in the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there's healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what's needed to finally guide him home...

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed Jami and Grant's story. The beginning seemed a little slow, but picked up about a fourth of the way in. I'm glad I stuck with it. The beauty of North Carolina shined through as the story developed. The small town setting was perfect. I liked Jami's character. She appeared to be care free, but in reality was quite responsible. I loved her walks in the woods and her connection to God through nature. Grant is a sweet man damaged by life. I appreciated his changes throughout the story. The theme of forgiveness, threaded through the story, was refreshing and insightful. If you enjoy a good romance featuring regular people, you'll like Trust my Heart. I received this book for free from Litfuse.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:
From medical secretary to court reporter to property manager to owner of a special-events decorating company, Carol J. Post's résumé reads as if she hasn't yet decided what she wants to be when she grows up. But one thing that has remained constant through the years is her love of writing. She started as a child composing poetry for family and friends, then graduated to articles for religious and children's publications. Now she pens fun, fast-paced inspirational romance and romantic suspense stories. Her books have been nominated for an RT Reviewers' Choice Best Book award and selected as an RT Top Pick. When Carol isn't writing, she enjoys sailing, hiking, camping---almost anything outdoors. She also plays the piano and sings with her music-minister husband. Their two grown daughters and their grandkids live too far away for her liking, so she now pours all her nurturing into taking care of a fat and sassy black cat and a highly spoiled dachshund.

Connect with Carol J. Post:

Carol J. Post’s ‘Trust My Heart’ $75 Cozy Cash Giveaway

Will an unplanned detour finally guide Grant home and find love with an honest, funny, and undeniably appealing reporter named Jami? Find out in a heartwarming romance by Carol J. Post, Trust My Heart. Grant McAllister arrives in Murphy, North Carolina, with one aim: to sell his inherited property and leave as quickly as possible. After breaking up with her safe-but-smothering boyfriend, Jami is determined to ace her first big assignment. A story about the McAllister estate is too intriguing to ignore—but as the two draw closer as they share their dreams, misread signals and misunderstandings begin to test their trust.

Join Carol in celebrating the release of Trust My Heart by entering to win her $75 Cozy Cash Giveaway.


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Trust My Heart
  • A $75 Visa cash card
  • A basket full of goodies made in North Carolina to keep you cozy in the cooler fall weather

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 23. The winner will be announced November 28 on Carol's blog.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

What is Unseen

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving
 to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
The music from the chimes on my back porch tinkles through the air. Dried leaves bustle across the lawn. The bush's branches sway and shake. All of this happens because of an element of nature I can't see. A crisp autumn wind plays a note as each tube strikes the chimes' clapper with its own note. The flowing air whisks brown, yellow, and red leaves about like children playing tag. A brisk breeze shakes the almost bare branches. The current of air that flows through on this fall day moves all of these objects. I can't see the breeze, but I know it exists.
The Apostle Paul shared with the Corinthian church his thankfulness for the unseen. He understood that whatever happens on this earth is temporary. He appreciated the grace that was given by the sacrifice of Jesus. As a result he kept his eyes on the unseen, on eternity. I can't see the breeze that moves my chimes, nor can I see eternity in life on earth. But I can place my hope in and fix my eyes on Jesus, the King of life. Today I am thankful for God's plan for eternity. I'm thankful God loves his people enough to prepare a home in heaven. Praise God for his sovereignty!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nonfiction Book Review: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: A Countdown to Christmas by Ace Collins

About the book: 
Celebrate 31 days of a Christ-filled Christmas season.

For Christians worldwide, the month of December is filled with joy and wonder as we anticipate the celebration of Christ's birth. There is no other time of the year that can compare to the Christmas season for both the young and young at heart.

From December to New Year's Eve, reawaken the wonder, joy, and magic that is Christmas with daily scripture and inspirational readings of stories behind popular Christmas traditions, carols and movies. Enjoy a wealth of fun activities to help make the most of the season, including heartwarming holiday recipes and homemade gift ideas.

With this soon-to-be-cherished holiday devotional, best-selling author Ace Collins will capture your imagination and help to make each day of December more memorable and meaningful to you, and those you love, by shining a light on the real spirit of the season.

My Thoughts:
Christmas can be a hectic time. I try to keep up with everything I want to do, but in reality I long for time to sit and reflect on the reason I celebrate Christmas. Ace Collins has created a lovely devotional book for the month of December. I like that each read for the day includes a devotion, a song and a little bit of fun. Some of the fun includes things you can make as gifts. This would be great to share with the family. I think my favorite part is the history behind the songs. Music is such a big part of the Christmas season and for many they've never heard what the songs mean or where they originate from. Grab a copy of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to enhance the holiday and bring cheer to the season.  I received this book free from Litfuse.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:
Ace Collins defines himself as a storyteller. He has authored more than sixty books that have sold more than 2.5 million copies. His catalog includes novels, biographies, children's works as well as books on history, culture and faith. He has also been the featured speaker at the National Archives Distinguished Lecture Series, hosted a network television special and does college basketball play-by-play. Ace lives in Arkansas.

Connect with Ace Collins

Ace Collins’ ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ Giveaway

Make this upcoming Christmas holiday a Christ-filled season of joy and wonder with the help of Ace Collins' new devotional, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. From December to New Year’s Eve, reawaken the Christmas season with daily scripture and inspirational readings of stories behind popular Christmas traditions, carols and movies. Enjoy a wealth of fun activities to help make the most of the season, including heartwarming holiday recipes and homemade gift ideas. Download a free sampler of the book by clicking here.

Join Ace's Christmas festivities by entering to win the Magic of Christmas Prize Pack. Create new traditions this holiday season with your family and friends with the goodies included in the giveaway.


One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 21. The winner will be announced November 22 on the Litfuse blog.



My dad served in WW2. He never talked about his service much. When he did we knew he spoke with a humble heart. No matter what role a service person plays, they have chosen to sacrifice their life. Be it a life given in war, or a life given in time away from family. Each person who serves chooses to sacrifice so much.

I'm thankful to all who have and still serve our country. My dad, husband, and brothers and the many friends and extended family who gave their time and energies to keep America safe. It's time to honor the ones who put their patriotism on the line. With a thankful heart and prayer for peace.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Book Review: NIV Holy Bible For Girls, Journal Edition

Book Description:
The NIV Holy Bible for Girls, Journal Edition is the perfect way to apply Scripture to your everyday life. Designed with the thoughtful writer in mind, a whimsical cover and journaling lines inspire reflection in God’s Word. This Bible contains the full text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) translation. 

Features include:
  • Lines on each page for journaling and notes
  • Thick paper perfect for any writing utensil
  • A presentation page for gift giving
  • A “How to Use This Bible” page to get started on the right foot
  • Ribbon marker
  • The complete text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) 

My Thoughts:
The hard cover of the The NIV Holy Bible for Girls is decorated in pretty mandala designs that are popular right now. The little pink butterflies and lovely blue background will appeal to pre-teens and teens. Inside on each page there's plenty of room for notes. This would be great for anyone wanting to write thoughts as they read the scripture. The product is marketed to teen girls, but I believe adult women would like it too. Another nice feature is the elastic band that keeps the Bible secure. This would be a great gift for Christmas or at baptism. With so many pretty Bible's for girls, this one stands out because of the space for journaling. I received this book free from Zonderkidz. 

Children's Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Christmas Fun Sticker & Activity Book

Book Description:
The Berenstain Bears come to life this holiday season with puzzles, activity pages, and more than 50 reusable stickers in The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Fun Sticker and Activity Book.
Featuring Papa, Mama, Brother, Sister, and Honey and the rest of the Bear Country gang, kids are sure to find lots to do helping Honey Bear find the missing piece of the Bear family Nativity scene, doing crosswords and word searches with Brother and Sister, and even helping out at the Christmas Eve service at Chapel in the Woods.

My Review:
The Berenstain Bears Christmas Fun Sticker & Activity Book is a fun way for children to learn about Jesus birth. Jan and Mike Berenstain created activities that will keep children busy while they enjoy the holiday. The book will entertain kids for hours while mom and dad prepare for Christmas or would be a great family time activity to do together. Either way your child will enjoy this colorful book. This would be a great gift before Christmas. I plan to share it with my grandchildren and have some holiday fun. I'm tempted to work a few of the puzzles myself. So get out the crayons and pencils and have fun with your little ones with this fantastic book. I received this book free from Zonderkidz.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Some of my friends have taken the November challenge. They're writing a thankful post each day and sharing on Facebook. This is a great practice and I find it uplifting considering the negative and controversial posts I've seen. As I follow along and read all the wonderful things people appreciate, I can't help but consider my own blessings and trials. Yes, I said trials.

Jesus' brother James penned these words in James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” As I am thankful for the good God pours in my life, I'm appreciative of the trials that make me stronger. Without them I wouldn't be as satisfied with life or able to struggle through day-to-day challenges. Because God strengthens me, I want to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Praise God for the opportunity to show gratitude and grow in him!

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Children's Book Review: The Lord's Prayer: Words Of Hope And Happiness by Rick Warren, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson

Book Description:
This iconic prayer is paired with flowing illustrations by award-winning artist Richard Jesse Watson and thoughtful insights by bestselling author Rick Warren, resulting in a book that rejuvenates the familiar prayer for a younger audience. Using poetic scripture from the King James Version, The Lord’s Prayer: Words of Hope and Happiness helps familiarize children with real biblical text while also presenting contemporary illustrations and insightful words that make this beautiful prayer come alive.

My Review:
The Lord's Prayer is a beautiful picture book for young children.  I'd say it would be good for ages three through eight. Divided into natural segments per page spread, Rick Warren shares a brief and personable reflection of what Jesus' words mean. I like that he added a sentence prayer with each one, too. Mr. Warren is known for encouraging and uplifting people. He does this for his young audience, too.  Mr. Watson's illustrations are colorful, lively, thoughtful, and well done. This would be a great teaching tool to introduce children to the Lord's prayer either individually or in a class. And what a comfort and joy for a child to hear how much Jesus loves him or her through this beautiful prayer. I received this book for free from Zonderkidz.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Children's Bible: NIV Wonders Of Creation Holy Bible

Book Description:
The NIV Wonders of Creation Holy Bible explores the wonders of our created world though detailed black-and-white illustrations—each one ready to be filled with the hues of your imagination. From amazing Eden-esque gardens to the creatures God made, this Bible features over 50 ready-to-color pages alongside the full text of the New International Version (NIV) translation.

My Thoughts:
I think one of the best ways for children to relate to God is through nature. The Wonders of Creation Bible offers great drawings that will appeal to boys and girls. Each coloring page has a scripture, too. This would be a great gift Bible with a set of colored pencils. I'd recommend it for children ages nine through young adult. The hard cover is attractive and sturdy. I would have loved this Bible when I was a young girl. I received this book for free from Zonderkidz.