Here’s What’s Going on in My Neck of the Woods

Well, we’re inching up on Christmas. It went fast after Thanksgiving, didn’t it? 

I’m done shopping. I’ve wrapped pretty much everyone…well, their gifts, not them. I don’t have that much wrapping paper and what’s the point of wrapping people you know? Or people you don’t, though I’m not sure you could convince them to let you, or even hold them down long enough. 

I’ve made cookies, cinnamon spiced pecans which are crack delightful and addictive because they’re crack delightful and yummy. 

I spent the weekend in IL with my family. We opened an insane amount of gifts, ate to the point I need to make a trip to the altar to confess I am a glutton, but dang if I’m not too lazy to trudge up there. I think laziness might be wrong too. I’ll have to look into that.

I’m kind of diggin the Enya Christmas station on Pandora. What? Don’t laugh. 

Last Tuesday, I sent off my second ms (a first in an FBI series) to my agent so I’m taking the next few weeks off to spend time holiday-ing it with friends and family. I’ll pick back up after Christmas with polishing another ms (a first in a saga ) while praying she likes my second ms as much as she did the first. 

And if my crazy jacked trapezes muscles don’t get their act together and quit giving me fits, I’m stuck doing physical therapy at the first of the year. Sometimes anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers don’t work. Sigh. Any other writers have this problem? 
And I think that may be all that’s going on around here, which is not much I guess. In fact, you may have stopped reading at Enya  Christmas. I can understand. Only I can’t, because it’s pretty cool. 

I’m taking a blogging break until January 2nd, (this is where everyone begs encourages me not to and I consider it) but I’ll still be posting a devotional at Living By Grace this Wednesday, so “like” the devotional community at the right side panel (scroll down some) and don’t miss out each day as a godly woman shares the Word! Great stuff!

What’s going on in 
your neck of the woods?
Have a Merry Christmas!

Guest Post by Jessica Dotta: How a Little Can Change A Lot

We have much to be judged on when he comes, slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are the symptoms of our illness and the result of our failures in love.” — Madeleine L’Engle

When my brother traveled to the Sudan he had an encounter that changed his life—and as it ends up, mine too.
He stood in Darfur at an orphanage filled with children leftover from the genocide. There were over 800 children, and during the night wild dogs were dragging them off and killing them.
My brother already felt shell-shocked from the travesties he’d witnessed in Uganda.
The day was hot. The sun beat down upon him. His camera had nearly been ruined from all the dust. He’d barely slept. His gear was heavy. Yet his conscience was seared by the numbness he felt, so he turned and confessed to a Sudanese pastor.
“We shall pray right now that your heart will be opened,” he was told.
Not long after that prayer three young children approached Joshua and started to follow him. After a bit, his father nature kicked in and he stopped and sang Father Abraham. It didn’t take long before the four of them were dancing and going through the motions.
When they finished, he asked the children to tell him how they came to be there.
The oldest, a girl, answered. “The soldiers came and shot my mother and father, so I came here.”
The two other children nodded in agreement. “Me, too.”
He was grief struck, but it was what transpired next that tore my heart. “Do you have a Mommy?” The little girl asked my brother.
“Yes,” he answered.
“And a Daddy?”
Again, his answer was yes.
“Oh,” she said, her voice hinting at a strange intermingling of numbness and grief.
Her question stirs me still. For I believe it came from her soul and revealed the thoughts of her heart. She didn’t want to know what his country was like, what kind of food he ate, or what he did for a living. She had her own bullet holes leftover from the genocide. Her world consisted of this single question: Who still had parents and who didn’t?
In her questions I heard her worry and fear. Imagine being trapped in a war-torn country, a land of famine, drought and disease. Imagine trying to survive it as an orphan with death threatening you every hour. No matter how much she’s endured, at the end of the day, she’s still just a little girl. And all she really wants is her Mom and Dad.
I imagined my daughter living as an orphan in the Sudan. If I were shot and dying, it would be my hope that my brothers and sisters would care for her. But what if her aunts and uncles were killed too? What was it then, that her parents hoped?
As members of the body of Christ these children are not alone. They have aunts and uncles. Multitudes and multitudes and multitudes of them. Talk about staggering! These kids are our nieces and nephews! Mine. 
So who, I wondered, within the church has the responsibility to step in?
I didn’t like the answer that came. Earlier that week I was shocked to learn that globally I was one of the richest people in the world—even though as an American, I’m pretty poor.
Like it or not I was the rich aunt. I had knowledge of the situation. That made me accountable.
I wasn’t comfortable with the knowledge then, and I’m not comfortable with the knowledge now. But I am determined to do something. Anything.

That day Joshua had in his possession a picture book that someone had asked him to give to someone in the Sudan. It was a children’s book with a story about how we have a Heavenly Father who always loves and cares for us. Joshua read the book and gave it to them.
An American woman took it upon herself to raise the money to build shelter. Every person who donated, even a dollar, helped to create a place where the little girl now sleeps safe from wild dogs.
When Joshua told me he’s going to start a branch of Watermelon Ministries called Media Change, a non-profit encouraging Americans to give up a portion of the money spent on entertainment to serve those fighting world hunger and thirst, I wanted to support it.
For seven years he’s helped non-profits raise money that serves the “least of these.” He’s seen the impact a small investment can have. This is a brand new initiative. He’s not quite ready to launch, but you can sign up and be kept updated at His first goal is garner the support of 10,000 people who are willing to give $10 a month. I’m number #3.
This is only a blog post, but who knows what one blog post can do.
What if the task of helping others isn’t 
as overwhelming as we make it?
Jessica Dotta, Sr. Editor of Inspire a Fire, has earned the right to wear the title of: Social Media Specialist, Consultant, Publicist, Brand Manager, Editor, Writer, Social Activist, and Business Manager. But the only titles that matter to her are: Called – Redeemed – Beloved – Known by the Father – Daughter – Accepted. . . and Mom. Her life has recently undergone a shaking—one that uprooted nearly every trace of her former life. You’ll have forgive her unconventional posts, as she’s still trying to work out her perspective. She knows one thing though. The most humble and worthy person she ever encountered lived in near obscurity—but sent ripples of change into the world. All because he took the time to care about each hurting person he met. He wasn’t Jesus, but he followed the Great Shepherd and left a legacy. She wants to follow that path.

The #1 Gift You Can Give for Christmas

Have you ever wondered what it may have been like for our Savior as He grew from an infant into a Man? I’ve always dreamed about that night, the night he received three special gifts…
The star shone bright in the East as the three men traveled in expectation to see the young Child –the King of all Kings. Their journey was long and stressful, as they had to be careful, for Herod the great earthly king desired to see the young babe slaughtered, unable to grow and usurp his throne.
They came upon an ordinary home, but it had to be the one; the star bathed it in light. The sleepy town of Bethlehem didn’t seem to notice they’d arrived. They knocked on the door of Joseph and his wife Mary. The door opened, the man’s curious eyes studying them.
“May we come in,” the man standing in the middle asked. “We’ve come to worship the Child.” The other men craned their necks to see inside, to simply get a first glimpse.
As Joseph opened the door for the men to enter, they saw the young child sitting on His mother, Mary’s lap.
How precious.
His raven locks covered His head like a cap of soft feathers and his rosy cheeks glowed with delight in seeing visitors. His eyes, that matched his hair, were round and wide with wonder as the men reverently entered the home.
Mary put her Son down and stood as the men of wisdom came before her. The toddler clutched his mother’s tunic with His tiny, chubby hands and peered at the men from behind her. She smiled gently and spoke to the babe. “Come, Yeshua, you have guests. It’s okay.” She urged her Child to let go of her; He was barely two.
The men knelt and continued to stare in awe. Their lips trembled , their throats tightened as they tried to suppress sobs of joy.
How beautiful.
The same man who had asked to come in the home spoke worshipfully. “We’ve brought You gifts, look!” Two of the men opened their gifts before the little King and chuckled as the small baby boy clapped His hands in delight. The boxes alone were stunning and His eyes flickered with joy.
“Go ahead, Yeshua, see Your gifts,” Mary said.
The baby Lord toddled closer to the men, looking each of them in the eye, causing their hands to tremble, as if He was looking right into their hearts. The larger man of the three took from his box a crystal bottle, expensive and exquisite. He carefully took the lid from it and motioned for the tiny Boy to come.
“This is frankincense. Can You say frankincense?”
Yeshua only smiled, showing all eight of His perfect little new teeth.
“Smell it! It smells good.” He held the bottle of oil out for the Messiah. Yeshua leaned in and instead of sucking in through His nose, He blew out, like all little ones do when learning to smell.
The room’s silence was broken in laughter and the King looked about and squealed with laughter as well.
“He enjoys being the center of attention. You’ve just made His day.” Mary shook her head and smiled at her Firstborn.
Yeshua turned His attention to the smallest man, the quietest of the three. He toddled over to Him, His balance still unsteady from only learning to walk, and looked into his box again. It shone with brilliance. “Gold, Child. For You.”
He gazed at the gold, touched it, and then looked at the man with earnest eyes. “Pretty,” He said and He touched the man’s hand; it trembled under the small Child’s and a tear rolled down his cheek.
With puckered lips, the Child inched toward the man’s face, as if to kiss his tears away. The wise man flinched when his tiny hand caressed his cheek. Confusion filled the wonder on his face and Mary picked her Son up.
“I’m sorry. He saw you cry and wanted to kiss you. He’s a very tenderhearted Child.” She kissed her Babe’s nose. “Beloved, not everyone wants a kiss.”
The Baby turned his lips down, a few silent tears streamed down His face; as if the rejection broke His little Baby heart.
“Wait, I would love nothing more. It’s just, His touch…I can’t explain it. I felt—something…”
Understanding brimmed her eyes and she beamed. “He has that effect on all of us. Just a touch is all it seems to take.”
She put her Son down and He toddled over to the man, his balance not quite perfected. He placed his palm on the man’s face and kissed his cheek. The wise man tousled His hair and wiped another tear away.
“We appreciate you bringing our Son these gifts. May your travels home be blessed and safe.” Joseph held the door as the men started to file out.
“Wait!” Mary called out after them. She picked up her Son and brought Him to the door. 
“Yeshua, what do you tell the nice men for bringing you presents?”
He clapped His hands and wiggled with joy in her arms. After blinking a few times, he stretched His hands out to His sides, showing them how much He loved them and their gifts—identical to the way He would stretch His hands out to show His love for us, as He hung on the cross—as a Man yet fully God.
“Thank you.”
Mary nodded with approval at her Son for being polite. They waved the men good bye and gave their own thanks to God the Father for supplying them with all their needs, in most unexpected ways.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
He’s not a baby anymore, but He still desires to touch you. He still desires to be the center of attention. He still delights in the gifts you bring Him. The greatest gift you can give Him this season is yourself.

 *This is a fictional story based on biblical truth.

Hoping your holidays are Christ-filled!
Tell me, what was your favorite gift you received as a child?

I’m hosting at Living By Grace today! Come by and tell me how you plan to give yourself as a gift to Jesus this upcoming year!

Sweetly…and How to Gain Loyal Readers

Tell me that’s not a fantastic cover! Sweetly is a companion book to Sisters Red, both mainstream Young Adult novels by the sickly talented Jackson Pearce.

My daughter is a hard sale when it comes to books. 

One day at the library, she settled on Sisters Red. A paranormal book about two sisters who hunt Fenris–werewolves. And not the good kind that protect young girls, but lure them with their hot looks and devour them. 

After hours of searching the library, my daughter couldn’t put this one down. Unlike me, who will give an author a chance through about 100 pages, Bailey won’t. You get one shot. One page. Sometimes, literally, one line. Period. I’ve tried to encourage her to keep reading, because it might get better, but that’s not her style. 

She’s now read Sisters Red, 3 times! I haven’t had the chance to, because Bailey is the kind of reader all of us writers want! She told all her friends and they checked the book out. One downloaded it on her kindle. For her birthday, she asked for Sisters Red and the companion, Sweetly. So that was part of her gift. She’s loaned out Sisters Red to her piano teacher!

Word of mouth works best!

Jackson Pearce was a stumbling accident at the library. She’s now a household name around here. And if Bailey has her way, the region will know about Jackson Pearce. There won’t be a book written by her that Bailey won’t jump on the chance to not just read, but to own!

I read Sweetly. I started at 7:00 p.m. and at 11 p.m., I knew if I didn’t put it down I’d be exhausted the next day. But I thought about it while I was working. At noon, I came home, made a sandwich and went straight to my room to finish it.

5 stars.

What does a 5 star rating mean in my reader world?

From page 1 I was sucked in. The very first line! The characters were fun, unique, interesting, hilarious. The dialogue was real, witty, and flavorful. The emotions were deep.  I didn’t not skim pages. I couldn’t or I’d miss something and frankly, I wanted to hang on every word. 

The romance was well written, the theme? While not a Christian book (there are a few curse words, one scene that alludes to sex (not graphic at all), and a sprinkle of taking the Lord’s name in vain, the theme was about making changes, overcoming fear and not staying in the same place forever. A positive theme. This may not be something you want your young teen to read because of those things. I used my parental discretion; some of you may have just thought, “Oh, so she doesn’t have any.” I do. Some… 

The mystery! As a voracious reader, I can pretty much guess what’s going to happen in most books. I could not figure out what was going on to save my life in a good, good way! Is she a witch or not? Is someone I care about going to die? Why are they after XXX? I did figure out 2 small things, but the big twists, I never saw coming, therefore I could. Not. Stop. Reading.

Also the fact that chocolate was involved in the story line added numerous points! 🙂 
And when I put the book aside, I knew I’d become a faithful reader–like my daughter. I thought about the book and marveled over the genius. And when the piano teacher brings back Sisters Red, I’ll suck that one down too.

In a time when fairy tales are popular i.e..Grimm & Once Upon a Time, Sweetly is a timely book. A modern day Hansel & Gretel. 

Here’s a peek!

As a child, Gretchen’s twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch’s forest threatening to make them disappear, too.
Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They’re invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.
Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past– until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn’t gone– it’s lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak’s infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.
Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.
What about you? Do you give an author a chance to woo you, or do you expect to be wooed on page 1? Why or why  not? 

What’s On Your Christmas List?

My husband is the worst person to buy for when it comes to the holiday. Like seriously. The worst. I want to poke his eyes out. And it’s because he never needs anything.

But Christmas isn’t really about what we need is it? It’s about wish lists and wants. Although, we all have the grandma that buys us the plain white Hanes panties and socks, because they’re practical. Why do they do this? 

Why after hounding asking us for a list, do they chunk it, only to buy us plastic tablecloths with florescent yellow flowers on it. Why do they insist on buying us those super thick potholders that feel like astronaut gloves and won’t pick a dern thing up? 

Granny, I love you. But for the love of all that is good and holy, stick to the list! A cranberry candle isn’t hard to find! Really. It isn’t!

I digress.

Okay Christmas is really about Jesus, but I’m talking about presents today. And I want to know:

What do you want for Christmas? No, you don’t need it. No, you may not even get it. But you want it! It’s possible. So dish!

What To Do When Your Calendar Seems Bigger Than God

I look forward to Christmas every year. I love the neighborhood lights, the music playing in the stores and the sweet commercials of little kids leaving cookies out for Santa. Kids in jammies are plain ole’ adorable.

And every year, my calendar seems to get fuller, my days shorter, my to-do lists longer. 

I want to remember “the reason for the season”, put “Christ in Christmas”, have “Ho Ho Hope for the Holidays”. 

But as the days go by, I feel like I’m running out of time. Time to meet my deadlines, fight the crazy crowds to buy a 3 inch barrel iron for my daughter, a Web-blaster for my son, find the perfect gift for my girlfriends, one they won’t re-gift. I’m running out of time to bake my famous Christmas cookies that everyone wants a bag of, get my website text to the designer, get my hair done, get my next manuscript to my agent.

I have Christmas parties to attend, programs to sit through (yes, I’m going to make fun of the children who squeak their clarinets–it’s what I do), and library books that are close to overdue. 

And in all that hysteria and feelings of walls closing in on me, I’m reminded, early in the morning–when I’m barely awake–between yummy dreamland and the first thoughts of sipping coffee that Someone wants to spend time with me, to help me organize my day, to make this season smooth and wonderful, not dreadful and busy.

I’m reminded that if I’ll give up a couple hours of sleep to sip coffee and share the breaking dawn with the Lover of My Soul, the panic will turn to calm, the walls that are closing in–removed– and the joy and peace I crave will be lavished upon my soul.

I’ll remember:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
And I’ll remember the One who took off robes of righteousness, for a robe of tender infant flesh, broke through an ordinary girl’s womb for me. I’ll remember the infant flesh that grew into a Man’s and that it was His joy to allow it to be torn and shredded…for me.
And I’ll remember the gift He gave to me. 

What do you do to remember what this season is all about? Do you wake and tiptoe  into the living room before the house is up? Do you put your kids to bed and enjoy an hour or so at night? 

Come by Living By Grace, an online devotional community for women. On facebook! We’ll be chatting over there! 

Faith Readers Group Review: A Stranger’s Wish by Gayle Roper

A rain and snowy mix falling steadily, temperatures dropping in the low 30s and wind stinging like a horse’s tail against your face.

That’s the weather these ladies fought to get to book club, but homemade bread pudding, coffee cake and piping hot coffee with hazelnut creamer, good friends, and laughter  made it worth the trek to the Cornerstone cafe to discuss faith and fiction. We missed those who couldn’t come and always make book club night special! 

What’d we read? This month was Amish fiction. Many, including myself, had never read an Amish story. Oh, we’ve bought their bread and cheese and wondered. We may have watched an episode of Law and Order when one got killed on Rumspringa, but never read a story.

 So this was an experience. Especially for many who enjoy a fast-paced thriller with romance that makes us want to fan ourselves but not so edgy we have to take a trip to the altar on Sunday. But seriously, are we responsible for our subconscious dreams? Another blog. Another day.

We chose A Stranger’s Wish. It sounded mysterious. A key given to a Englishwoman. Not from Britain, as I thought at first. But what Amish people call, you know… us.

Here were some of our thoughts:

“I liked how the Amish parents didn’t give up on their son, even when he chose not to become a devout member.”

“I liked the main character’s quirkiness and her creativity.”

“I wanted more meat, but this book was mostly light-hearted and quick.”

“I thought there was going to be a bigger twist, but then it wasn’t and I was disappointed.”

“I couldn’t relate to the characters. Any of them.”

I asked, “Did you discover anything interesting about the Amish?”

“I didn’t realize the Amish were so works-based and not faith-based.”

“I think they should live by faith and drive a car. Seems easier.” 

I admit, we giggled at that. 

Overall, I have to say, this wasn’t the groups’ favorite read, but we didn’t hate it. And we all said we’d read more Amish fiction! After taking a poll, the rating for this book came in at 2 stars out of 5. 

We chose (out of 14 Christmas novel choices) to read A Christmas Note by Donna VanLiere for December, who we have never heard of. Have you? 

Do you read Amish fiction? Or write it? What fascinates you about these books or doesn’t? Here’s a peek at A Stranger’s Wish:

Englischer Kristie Matthews’ move to an Amish family farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, starts on a bad note as the young schoolteacher is bitten by a dog. A trip to the local ER leads to an encounter with an old man who hands her a key and swears her to silence.
But when Kristie’s life is endangered, she suspects there’s a connection to the mysterious key. While solving the mystery (and staying alive), Kristie must decide whether her lawyer boyfriend, Todd Reasoner, is really right for her….or if Jon Clarke Griffin, the new local man she’s met, is all he seems to be.

Breaking Dawn: It’s All Over the World!


As you might know I went to the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn with one of my gal pals. It’s kind of our thing. I’m also glad we only have one more movie left as I’m not getting any younger and I poop out at 8:00 p.m. 

But I threw on my most PJ like attire, my Volturi cloak was at the Cleaner’s, and we made our way to one of the 8 screens showing the flick. We sat in our seats from 10:30 p.m. until showtime at midnight. We laughed. She ate smelly hotdogs that made me want to throw up on the Twilight moms in front of us, I ate a pretzel that had probably been over-microwaved. 

Good times.

My take on the movie? I liked it. I thought  the wolves talking through thought in the book was cool, but in the movie, it was kind of silly. But overall, I really enjoyed it.

 In fact, I went and saw it again with my husband, who yes, happens to like the movies and yes, I pray every day he doesn’t leave me for another man. I’m kidding. Not that I pray he will leave me for another man or even that he’ll leave me, I’m just saying he likes chic flicks and anything with vampires and wolves. It does annoy him that they sparkle, so I feel mildly safe. I did have to get all over some middle grade girls for flapping their gums and driving me nuts! 

“This can’t be possible,” Bella said.

“Mmmhmmm, yes it can, too,” the annoying middle grade brat said for every theater in a fifty mile radius to hear (not that I know how wide that is, it just sounds good). 

“If ya’ll don’t cut out the commentary, I’m going to go crazy on you,” said Jesse Patch as she thought, by getting the manager.

They shut up.

Earlier in the month, Hubster went to Thailand on a Missions trip and I do plan on sharing that trip with you when I can make him send me the pictures, ugh, but he did send me these because I nagged. I know guys hate it, but…it works. Although that could be grounds for leaving me for another man. 

Check this out:


Yep, he took these in Thailand, and yep, I hope they were for me and not him, but then, I did have to nag to get my grubby paws on them so…

 Have a great weekend! 

Did you see Breaking Dawn? What did you think?