Sticky Note

I'm on a blogging break, but will be checking in from time to time. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays ~ Gifts

Here's what Amy says for Faith 'n Fiction today:

As you may know, I launched a campaign to encourage people to buy books for the holidays (you can visit that site here) and there are some fantastic blogger who have really contributed a lot of great ideas into the blog. I hope you check it out.

But now it's your turn to share some ideas! What books should be others be buying for Christmas? Do you need any gift help? You can handle this topic in two ways....either make a list of recommended books to give as gifts this year OR ask a question about what book you should get someone. (for whom you have been unable to think of a book gift for).

Keep it about books!

I'm giving my parents and in-laws The Shack by William P. Young. None of them are really readers so I hope they like it (and I hope they aren't reading this blog!).

My daughter loves the Millie books from the Life of Faith series. She's not into the scary/tense kind of books and there seem to be quite a few out there these days. There are several sets of series in A Life of Faith and each one follows a different girl: Elsie, Violet, Millie, Kathleen and Laylie. If these are new to your young reader I suggest getting the 4 in 1 volume that has the first book of 4 different series (Elsie, Violet, Millie, and Laylie) so she can see which set she would like to pursue. I think the suggested level for these books is ages 9-14.

As for other books that I recommend:

Chick lit - Sweet Caroline and Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck

Historical - Heirs of Montana series by Tracie Peterson and Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin

And the three more recent books I've read and really enjoyed: Enoch by Alton Gansky, The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner, and Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins (I haven't posted my review of the latter two, but I highly recommend them!).

Most of those will appeal to women, so for the guys I recommend Enoch by Alton Gansky and also Try Dying and Try Darkness by James Scott Bell.

Come join in on Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays! What would you recommend??

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Teaser Tuesday ~ Dark Pursuit

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

~Grab your current read.

~ Let the book fall open to a random page.

~ Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

~ You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

~ Please avoid spoilers!

Here are my two three teaser sentences:

"Too late. She had no where to go. Kaitlan pressed her cheek to the ground and froze."
~Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins, page 169

Get more teasers over at Should Be Reading!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Enoch by Alton Gansky

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


Realms (October 2, 2008)

He lived long ago, he never died, now the most powerful woman in the world is trying to own him...

From the Back Cover:

An unusual message is popping up in unexpected places around the world - in radio commercials, movies, TV shows, even within the pages of the New York Times.

Believing that someone is playing an elaborate prank, FCC agent Gene Manford and FBI agent Katherine Rooney begin an investigation. But nothing in their training has prepared them for what they are about to encounter...

A contemporary novel dealing with real spiritual warfare issues, Enoch will take you on a mind-bending, fast-paced journey through a story of good versus evil.

My Thoughts:

This is no casual read. Get ready to squirm in your chair and lock yourself in the bathroom to avoid distractions because you won't want to put it down!

The first of the book takes you to visit various people who are going about their daily lives, but then the "message" they see/hear sends them on a quest to find out what is going on. Sometimes changing scenes like that can be tricky but I never felt lost and it wasn't too hard to keep up.

Henick (Enoch) finds himself in west Texas and has been sent as a messenger from God. He has a message for the whole world, but along the way he is sent to help certain individuals for reasons only he understands (actually, even he doesn't understand all of them). The first guy he helps, Eddie, goes after Henick to find out more about him, but then finds himself in mind-bending situations as he helps Henick along his journey.

Mary-Martha Celestine pastors a mega "church" (if you can call it that) called Church of New Revelation, but the "revelations" are all made up from her corrupt mind. She claims to talk to spirits and soon finds out what a dangerous game she is playing when she hears about this "message" going around.

This book is full of action and suspense. Henick continues to get himself into situations he may not get out of and has the FCC, the FBI, and Mary-Martha's goons trying to find him. It's a matter of who is going to find him first...and what will they do to him when they do! I won't be getting rid of this book and would love to read more from Gansky. Very intriguing!

Enoch shows how God can be working on the bigger picture, but still care about and be very involved in individual lives. It also reminds us that we don't have to know why God wants us to do something, but to trust him and do it anyway.

Read the first chapter below and see if you're not curious!

Also, check out some of the other reviews for Enoch:

Window To My World (also has author insights!)
Pam's Private Reflections
Sips 'n Cups Cafe
Enroute to Life


Alton Gansky is the author of twenty-one published novels and six nonfiction works. He has been a Christie Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies and has served as senior pastor for three Baptist churches in California, with a total of over twenty years in pulpit ministry. He and his wife live in the High Desert area of Southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 307 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159979344X
ISBN-13: 978-1599793443


He first thought of his feet.

It seemed an odd first thought, but there it was. His gaze drifted to a pair of soft-topped shoes, each with a symbol stitched to the side.

"N." He wondered why anyone would stitch a letter on footwear.

He raised a foot, then wiggled it. The shoe felt good. He dug a toe in the sandy dirt, then raised his head. A field surrounded him. No crops, no buildings, no people. Just a wide expanse of rugged scrub that shivered in the cold wind.

A full-circle turn revealed nothing but the same: miles of empty land. He blinked against the wind and the bits of dirt and dust it carried. To the west the sun lowered itself to the horizon. In the opposite direction, darkness crawled up the sky, keeping pace as if the descending orb pulled a curtain of night behind it.

Turning to face the sun again, he saw a break in the expanse of near-barren ground. At its edge ran a thin fence. He moved toward it, amused at the soft crunch the earth made with each step of his N-shoes.

Something scampered to his right. A covey of quail sprinted away and then took to the air, flying a short distance before making contact with the earth again. The sight made him smile.

Henick wrapped his arms around himself to ward off the chilling breeze. The material of his multicolored shirt felt soft against his arms and palms. He kept his gaze down, protecting his eyes from the sun's glare and looking up only long enough to get his bearings and check for holes or rocks that might cause him to stumble.

The fence was a simple series of metal stakes supporting four strands of metal wire punctuated with evenly spaced barbs. He extended a finger, touched one of the points, and frowned. The knife-sharp tip drew a drop of blood. He stuck the offended finger in his mouth. A quick scan of the fence's length revealed no gate.

A short distance from the fence ran a wide, smooth, black surface with a series of white dashes down the middle. He marveled at its unerring straightness.

He returned his attention to the fence. He wanted to be on the other side but preferred to arrive there with skin and clothing intact. Placing a hand on the top strand, he pushed down. The metal wire moved, but not enough to make straddling the thing acceptable. He tried again, this time using both hands. The wire fence gave more but still too little.

Henick decided on a different approach. He stepped to the nearest metal upright and tested it. It looked old, as if it had spent a lifetime stuck in that one spot. Seizing it with both hands and careful to avoid the stinging wire, he shook the thin metal pole. It wiggled. He leaned into it and then pulled back, repeating the motion twenty or thirty times. The metal felt cold against his bare hands, and gritty rust tinted his flesh.

When he had worked the pole loose, he lifted its base from the ground, then moved to the next upright and reenacted the procedure. With two posts loose, Henick could step across the barrier without injury.

Once on the other side, he replaced the posts, stomping the surrounding dirt with his foot until the soil was as compact as he could make it. In time, weather would reseal the posts to their original strength.

The exertion had warmed him enough to raise a film of perspiration on his brow and beneath the black hair that hung to his shoulders. The breeze found each moist area and chilled it. He could expect a cold night.

Stepping to the middle of the black path, he bent and touched the surface. It appeared smooth but felt coarse beneath his fingers. The black material radiated gentle warmth. He straightened and looked up and down the long road. It seemed to have no end in either direction. Deciding that one direction was as good as the other, Henick began to walk, choosing his course so the wind would be at his back and not in his face.

When the last of the sun's disk fell beneath the horizon, Henick had made two or three miles. He passed the time by counting the white dashes in the middle of the strange path or wondering about the letter N on his shoes. He liked the shoes; they made walking easier.

A quarter moon replaced the sun in the sky but offered little light. Soon the final light would follow its source below the distant horizon. If he had remained in the open field, he would have had to stop his journey. Walking over uncertain and irregular terrain with no light would be foolish, but the hard path with its white lines made it possible for him to continue.

Just before the sun said its final good-bye, Henick saw a black and white sign with a puzzling, irregular shape and the words Ranch Road 1232. Sometime later he saw a sign that read Don't Mess with Texas.

The air moved from chilly to cold, but the breeze had settled.

Henick kept moving.

Lights and a rumble approached from behind. The light split the darkness and gave Henick a shadow that stretched impossibly long before him. He stopped and turned, raising a hand to shield his eyes against the glare.

The roar grew louder. The lights neared.

A sudden blaring assaulted his ears, but Henick stood his ground.

"What are you? Nuts?"

The voice came from behind the glare. A large metal device pulled alongside. The words pickup truck entered Henick's mind.

The vehicle stopped. "Have you plumb lost your mind, boy? I coulda run you down and not even known I hit ya. What are you thinking?"

In the dim light, Henick could see two people seated in the truck: a man in his sixties and a woman of the same age.

"Go easy on him, Jake. He looks confused. Maybe he's lost." The woman's voice rode on tones of kindness.

"That it, boy? You lost?"

"I am just walking," Henick said.

"In the dark? Where you headed?"

Henick thought for a moment. "That way." He pointed down the long stretch of road.

"Ain't nuthin' that way but Blink, and there ain't much reason for going there unless that's your home. I'm guessin' it ain't. Pretty small town; I think I'd have seen you before."

"I don't live there."

The man the woman called Jake exited the truck and eyed Henick. "It's a bit cold to be out in nuthin' but blue jeans and a flannel shirt. It's supposed to drop into the forties tonight."

"It is true. I am cold."

"Give him a ride, Jake." The woman had slid closer to the driver side door. "We can't leave him out here. He's liable to step in some pothole and break a leg."

"More likely he'd step on a rattler. They like the warm asphalt."

"Either way, Jake, we can't leave the man out here."

"All right, all right, just keep your shoes on." Jake looked at Henick. "Turn around."

Henick raised an eyebrow.

"Turn around, boy. I jus' wanna make sure you ain't packin'."


"Totin' a gun. You sure you haven't wandered off from some kinda home for the slow?"


"All right, Eleanor, I don't mean no disrespect." He motioned for Henick to turn in place. Henick did. "OK, here's the deal. I'll give you a ride, but that's all. Me and the wife were going into town for a meal. Friday night is our evening out. Been doing that for thirty-five years."

"I would like a ride."

"Yeah, well, don't have no room for you up front, so you'll have to ride in the back. I got some blankets to keep the wind off you. It's the best I can offer."

"Thank you." Henick climbed into the bed of the truck and leaned against the cab.

"Blankets are behind my seat. I'll get 'em."

A few moments later, Henick, snug in two wool blankets, turned his face heavenward, gazed at the stars, and wondered what a "Texas" was.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays ~ Movie Time!

Today's Faith 'n Fiction Saturday Question:

We've been blessed to finally start seeing some of our favorite Christian books come to life on film. So far, these have been largely low budget films, but they generally get the heart of the books across. But my question for you is...if you had an unlimited budget, what Christian fiction book would you like to see made into a film? Who would you cast in the main roles? Would you have a preference on director? Any songs you'd like to see on the soundtrack?

Oh...well I'll have to choose more recent books because that's what I've read. One that comes to mind right away is Enoch by Alton Gansky. Maybe it's because I just finished it and it's fresh on my mind, but it was really good! I don't want to spoil it if you haven't read it, but seeing/hearing the "message" played during those scenes would be wild! It had quite a bit of action and drama that would hold anyone's attention and keep them guessing. It would also have to be done right, though.

Main roles...hmmmm. I'm not so great at that kind of thing. The actor who plays Henick would have to look good both with long hair and bald, of course! *wink* Matthew McConaughey, anyone? Eddie would have to be a young hot-head. None come to mind right now, though. Where is Rel? She's always so good at these things!

I don't have any directors or songs in mind. Since it is set mostly in Texas and New Mexico you bet there will be country songs!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips by Stephen Baldwin and Mark Tabb

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips

FaithWords (November 5, 2008)


Stephen Baldwin
Mark Tabb


STEPHEN BALDWIN - actor, family man, born-again Christian - makes his home in upstate New York with his wife and two young daughters.

Equally adept at drama and comedy, Baldwin has appeared in over 60 films and been featured on such top-rated television shows as Fear Factor and Celebrity Mole. He has his own production company that is developing projects for television and the big screen. These days, however, his role as director, co-producer and host of Livin' It - a cutting-edge skate video is bringing out his white hot passion for evangelism.

Writer and communicator Mark Tabb calls himself an “internationally unknown author.” Although his books have been published around the world, he is best known for his collaborative works. His 2008 release, “Mistaken Identity”, written with the Van Ryn and Cerak families, hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks, and remained on the list for over two months. He and actor Stephen Baldwin teamed up on their 2005 New York Times bestseller, “The Unusual Suspect,” and with their first work of fiction, “The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips,”


Even years of experience haven't prepared Officer Andy Myers for this case---

When Officer Andy Myers met Loraine Phillips, he had no interest in her son. And he certainly never dreamed he'd respond to a call, finding that same boy in a pool of blood. Even more alarming was the father standing watch over his son's body. Myers had never seen a man respond to death-particularly the death of a child-in such a way. When the father is charged with murder and sentenced to death, he chooses not to fight but embrace it as God's will. Myers becomes consumed with curiosity for these strange beliefs. What follows is the story of the bond these two men share as they come to terms with the tragedy and the difficult choices each one must make.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips, go HERE


My thoughts:

This was a very interesting story and I haven't ever read one quite like it. The main character, Andy, spends most of his time trying to escape from his thoughts only to have them catch up to him full force. I could relate to that part (not for the same reasons, of course). Too many times I try to handle things myself and let them consume me instead of letting God.

I have mixed feelings about this book, though. It won't appeal to everyone, but it does have it's audience. It is full of profanity. Full. I kept thinking it would taper off as the book went on, but it didn't. Personally, I was turned off by that considering it's Christian fiction. I can handle some profanity, but it had more than "some." Granted, the profanity used was the more "mild" ones, not the stronger, more highly offensive ones. This is what the publisher said about it:

Normally, it is not the policy of FaithWords to include foul language in our fiction titles. The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips has dialogue which reflects the heart of the main character. His transformation and ultimate conversion to Christ throughout the book is key to the story and the author’s intention was to make that transformation clear. We apologize if this inclusion offends our readers. We are committed to publishing fiction that depicts the power of Christ’s love in even the darkest life and situation. ~Harry Helm, Associate Publisher, FaithWords

So, you can read the first chapter (click the link above) and decide for yourself. But the profanity becomes more frequent after that.

It's told from a third person's perspective, which was a little confusing at times, but also gave an interesting perspective (and side comments). It was also a fairly easy read and wasn't so complex that I had to keep stopping to catch up.

The story itself addressed something that many people struggle with: finding justice for the death of a child. Andy's reaction seemed fairly typical for a non-believer and he couldn't understand how John (the boy's dad) could be so calm. Honestly, I thought John's response was strange too. Christians mourn the death of a child, too, not just accept it calmly.

It also showed how if we're not truly seeking the truth on a matter we can twist our perceptions to see what we want to see and prove what we want to prove, right or wrong.

I thought the ending was very creative. It doesn't end in a typical Christian fiction way, but you can see how Andy finally "got it" and the lengths he went to in order to make things right.

All in all, if the profanity doesn't bother you then I'd recommend it based on the interesting storyline and ending. But if you're turned off by profanity, you'll want to stay away from this one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thank You, Thankyouverymuch

My only very first blog award!! Lindsey over at A Kindred Spirit's Thoughts presented me with the Superior Scribbler Award. Thanks, Lindsey!

I do love to scribble and it's so nice to know there are other scribblers like me out there.

Find out about the Superior Scribber Award over at The Scholastic Scribe.

The rules for this award are:

1: Post the award on your blog
2: Link to the person who gave it to you
3: Link to the originating post (and leave a comment saying you were given the award)
4: Pass the award on to 5 people
5: Post the rules for the recipients

It was hard to choose just 5 scribblers because there are so many. I decided to choose a couple of NaNo writers (keep up the great work!) and also some blogs I've been really enjoying recently. So here are the 5 scribblin' people:

Debbie at Creative Soul
Kara at Ramblings & Writings
Kelly at Enroute to Life
MizB at Should Be Reading
Wendi at Wendi's Book Corner

Congrats, scribblers!

Booking Through Thursday ~ Honesty

This week's Booking Through Thursday says:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

This has been kind of a hot topic lately because of some recent communications between an author and some bloggers. I may be all wrong here, but I think that most authors are aware and are ok with the fact that they may get some negative reviews from bloggers who received their book in return for a review. We just tend to hear about the minority of them who protest.

As I mentioned on Saturday, I don't at all feel obligated to write a glowing review of a book just because it was sent to me free. I do feel obligated to be honest about what I thought. However, I don't agree with writing harsh or mean reviews, either. If I didn't care for a book I can still write something positive about it and get my thoughts across without bashing the author. I'd like for whoever reads my reviews to be able to determine whether they think they would like it, even if I didn't (or vice versa).

I do not currently have a disclaimer but I've thought about writing one. Although, I feel like my "negative" reviews still keep the author's dignity in tact. Kind of like it's not what you say but how you say it. I wouldn't tell my best friend that her craft project was crap. I might, however, tell her it could be better and why.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wyn's Sunday Meme

I was tagged by Kelly from Enroute to Life, who was tagged by Jewelz of Reviewz by Jewelz, who was tagged all seemed to start with Wyn from Wyn is Reading Books!

Here's what she says:

I would like to know what people keep close by their computer for books. So I was thinking that I would start a Sunday feature of my own that includes tagging 4 other bloggers, not necessarily book bloggers. My meme is:

1. What book is on the left hand side of your computer or closest to the left hand side?

2. Are you reviewing it, is it your favourite, or is it there for some other reason and specify.

3. Go to page 38 and write down from the 2nd paragraph, the first 4 sentences.

4. Tag 4 friends and pass them this avatar.

Well, actually the book that is to the left of me is Enoch by Alton Gansky (I just finished it!). But since that happened to be the very same book that Kelly did, I'll cheat a little and use the next closest book to me.

This one is The Best Christian Short Stories edited by Bret Lott. I picked it up at the local used book store recently and thought I'd give it a try. I haven't gotten far into it yet, so I can't say how good it is or isn't.

Now for page 38. There is dialog right there, so I'll do my best...

"I've been thinking," Craig said when he came up. "You're my father, too, you know? Not just hers anymore."

Wilf lifted his cap and wiped back the sweat. "That's true in the books," he said.

Oh hey! What a good teaser! I haven't read that far yet but now I'm interested.

And to tag 4 others:

Well, I'm in a rush so if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged!

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life by Joyce Meyer

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Publisher: FaithWords; Lrg edition (November 12, 2008)

My Thoughts:
I think just about all of us get frazzled with our lives at some point (or lots of points!). We're always so busy or stressed or frustrated with everything we have to get done, or what we're supposed to be.

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life has straightforward suggestions to help get your life back in order so you can enjoy the life God gave you. I was concerned that this book would be just another self-help book filled with things that would make me feel worse instead of better.

However, I was happy to discover that each of the 100 "ways" were refreshing and easy to read. They are all just one or two pages long and instead of being preachy or condemning they are encouraging and uplifting. Many are things we already know, but we just need to be reminded. It's so easy to loose yourself in the shuffle of life.

So, think of this book like an old friend who will let you cry on her shoulder, but will also give you some timely advice and reminders.

Be sure to read the introduction and first chapter, Do One Thing at a Time, below.


JOYCE MEYER is one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. A #1 New York Times bestselling author, she has written more than seventy inspirational books, including The Confident Woman, Look Great, Feel Great, and the entire Battlefield of the Mindfamily of books. She has also released thousands of audio teachings as well as a complete video library. Joyce's Enjoying Everyday Life® radio and television programs are broadcast around the world, and she travels extensively conducting conferences. Joyce and her husband, Dave, are the parents of four grown children and make their home in St. Louis, Missouri.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99

Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: FaithWords; Lrg edition (November 12, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0446509396

ISBN-13: 978-0446509398



Everyone has them: those days where nothing seems to get done, except maybe what you’ve added to your already lengthy to-do list. Are you tired most of the time? Are you spent? Do you find yourself wish- ing for a better day—a simpler day? Too many things compete for your limited resources of attention, energy, and time. You may be suffocat- ing and not even know it. If you feel like this, you’re not alone.

Most people today live complicated lives that leave them frustrated and confused, weary and worn out. But I have good news: your life does not have to be that way. You can choose a life of simplicity, fruitfulness, fulfillment, peace, and joy. I want to warn you, however, unless you are determined not to, you will do what everyone else does. You will get sucked up in the system and spend your life wishing things were different, never realizing you are, in fact, the only one who can change things. Unless we are resolute and remain undaunted in our quest for simplicity, we are destined for complication and frustration.

I recall a time when I was complaining to God about my schedule being absolutely insane. How could anyone be expected to do all I had in front of me? Then the realization hit me that I was the one who made my schedule and nobody could change it but me. You can spend your lives wishing things were different, but wishing won’t change anything. Smart decision making and decisive action is what changes things. If you picked up this book looking for change, are you willing to make a decision and follow it up with action?

I wasted many years hoping life would change and things would calm down until I finally realized life itself doesn’t change; in fact, it has the potential to get worse. I understood my only real option was to change my approach to life. I had to say no to another day of rushing around and feeling frustrated. I didn’t want the doctor giving me another pre- scription to mask another symptom of the real problem—stress.

In my search for simplicity, I have come to believe life can never be simple unless I learn to approach all things simply. It is my attitude toward each event in life that determines how easy or complex each situation will be. Perhaps life is complicated because people are compli- cated. Is it possible that life is not complicated, but rather, individuals complicate life in the way they approach it?

I discovered it wasn’t really life or circumstances or other people as much as it was me that needed to change. My problem wasn’t the problem—I was the problem! When you spend your life in frustration trying to change the world and everyone in it, you fail to realize it could be you just need to change your approach to life. It can be very easy for someone to live an entire lifetime and never entertain the notion that the way they do things is the real problem.

Have you ever attempted to have friends over for what you initially intended to be a simple afternoon of food, fellowship, and fun, but somehow, it turned into a complicated nightmare? I remember those days vividly. I’d be at church on Sunday and, without much forethought, invite three couples over for the following Sunday to a barbecue. My initial thought was hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, baked beans, potato chips, and iced tea. My motive was fellowship and fun, but by the time the guests arrived, I didn’t even want them there. Fun was not going to happen, at least not for me. Why? I turned my simple get- together into a nightmare of preparation, expensive food, and fourteen people instead of the original six. My complicated approach to life and my complicated thought process convinced me hot dogs and hamburg- ers weren’t nice enough so I bought steaks we could not afford. My potato chips turned into a huge bowl of homemade potato salad. The simple baked beans became four side dishes I labored over.

Insecure and wanting to impress everyone, I had to spend the week cleaning and getting everything in the house to the point where I thought it would be impressive. Of course, the lawn chairs were old, so I bought new ones. I got angry at Dave because I thought he wasn’t help- ing me enough, and by the time our friends arrived, I resented them, wished they hadn’t come, and had a miserable day of pretending to be the happy hostess when in reality I was frustrated and miserable.

I could not figure out why I wasn’t able to enjoy much of anything in life until God revealed to me I was killing my joy with complication. For years, I prayed God would change the people and circumstances around me when, in reality, He wanted to change me and my approach to life. He wanted me to simplify so, ultimately, He could be glorified.

Let me share with you 100 ways to approach living that can simplify your life and, in turn, release and increase your joy. I believe they will dramatically improve the quality of your everyday experience if you incorporate them into the way you do things. Jesus said He came so we might have and enjoy our life in abundance (see John 10:10). His prin- ciples are simple. Faith is simple! Trusting God is simple! A childlike approach to Him is simple! The plan of salvation is simple!

Jesus offers us a “new way of living,” and I believe it is a simple, yet powerful way that enables us to enjoy everyday life. Are you ready to simplify your life? Are you ready to say good-bye to the complexities you’ve allowed to take over? Let’s get started.

Do One Thing at a Time

The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything elseówe are the busiest people in the world.


Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].

—Hebrews 12:2

When we do things without truly focusing our minds on them, we immediately decrease our strength to do the work before us and do it well. By putting our hands to one thing and our mind to another, we divide the muscle behind our abilities and we make the task much more difficult. It’s like removing an egg yolk from the egg white—both can be used separately but the result isn’t as effective (or tasty) as it would be if we leave the egg whole. However, by directing all of our faculties to the one thing we are doing on a particular day, at that hour, at that moment, we find it much easier to do. The ability to concentrate and stay focused can only come from discipline.

The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 to be anxious for nothing. Anxious people are always trying to live ahead of where they currently are. They spend today trying to figure out tomorrow and the result is the loss of simplicity. God expects us to trust Him with tomorrow just as He instructed the Israelites to do when they crossed the barren wil- derness, pressing toward the Promised Land.

Practice living one day at a time; give yourself—your thoughts, your conversation, your energies, every part of you—to the day at hand.

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life

1. Develop an ability to give yourself to what you are doing. You will sense an awareness enabling you to enjoy the current activity, instead of going through each day in a blur of activity and confusing thoughts which leave you drained and exhausted.

Do you fear you will not accomplish as much if you try to live this way? It’s true you may not do as much, but you will also enjoy what you do a whole lot more. One key to simplicity is realizing that quality is far superior to quantity.

Monday, November 17, 2008

White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

White Christmas Pie

Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)


Wanda E. Brunstetter


Fascinated by the Amish people during the years of visiting her husband's family in Pennsylvania, WANDA E. BRUNSTETTER combined her interest with her writing and now has eleven novels about the Amish in print, along with numerous other stories and ministry booklets. She lives in Washington State, where her husband is a pastor, but takes every opportunity to visit Amish settlements throughout the states.

This year Wanda also publishedA Sister's Hope


Step into Amish country for this bittersweet holiday romance. Here you'll meet Will Henderson, a young man tortured by his past, and Karen Yoder, a young woman looking for answers. Add a desperate father searching for his son, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class romance that will inspire and enthrall.

Abandoned by his father, Will Henderson was raised by an Amish couple. Now he's about to marry Karen Yoder but is having second thoughts. Can Will overcome the bitterness of his past in order to secure his future? Karen cannot break through the barrier her fiance has suddenly constructed around his heart. When she seeks the advice of an old boyfriend, Will begins to see green. Has he already lost his chance for happiness?

When an accident threatens Will's life, the strength of blood ties is tested. Will a recipe for White Christmas pie contain the ingredients for a happily-ever-after?

If you would like to read the first chapter of White Christmas Pie, go HERE

Watch the book trailer:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays ~ Reviewing

The past couple of days there has been a big flare-up in the broader book blogging community regarding review policies and a blogger's obligation to an author once they've received a review copy. For those of you who belong to the blogging alliance FIRST, we've also discussed this issue a little bit.

I decided to make today's question about this, because I think this is an even tougher situation for Christian reviewers who review Christian books. So here you receive review copies of Christian books? If so, do you review them honestly? How do you handle it when you don't like a book but are obligated to provide a review? Who do you see your first commitment being to in book reviewing (besides God)? Yourself? The author? Your readers? Does your review change based on the spiritual content of the book or is it solely based on technical or artistic merit? Have you ever had a negative experience with an author after giving them a negative review? (please don't name names)

I do receive review copies of Christian books from a few different sources. I have never felt any kind of obligation to post a completely favorable review of any books I've been sent. But I'm not the kind of person to slam a book or author if I didn't care for what I read. Now, I haven't "hated" anything I've read (so far) but there are some I didn't enjoy as much as others.

I always review them honestly and feel that the point of reviewing a book is to tell what I thought of it. If I were to say I loved every single book, people wouldn't believe me (for good reason!) and wouldn't trust my reviews. Then they would stop reading them. I want to be able to point people to the books they will enjoy and not just give a glossy review to everything.

Instead of bashing a book I try to include what I did and didn't like about it and why. I won't just say what I didn't like; I can always find something positive to add as well. I also know that even though I didn't enjoy it as much, other people may love it so I don't want to give a bad image when really it's just a matter of taste. In those cases I try to say something to the effect of "if you enjoy ____ then you'll like this book."

The spiritual content of the book isn't so much a factor for me (adding: of course as long as it's Scripturally sound). I review based on the entire work. However, I don't care for "preachy" books and if it feels preachy I will state that in my review.

I've never had a negative experience with an author after giving a less-than-glowing review. The only comments authors have left me have been positive (or neutral) ones. I can completely understand pouring yourself into your work and then feeling bummed by a negative review, but I appreciate authors who stay professional in their response.

Check out Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays for more responses to this question! Feel free to join in on the fun and post your response on your blog. Be sure to add your link to the Mr. Linky on Amy's post.

Godly Love by Stephen G. Post

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)

The feature author is:

and his book:

Templeton Foundation Press (September 26, 2008)


Stephen G. Post has spent a lifetime studying love in its theological, scientific, and practical dimensions. He is president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL) and professor of bioethics and family medicine in the School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Post has published one hundred thirty articles in peerreviewed journals and has written or edited fifteen scholarly books on subjects relating to the dynamic of love in our lives. His most recent book is Why Good Things Happen to Good People, coauthored with Jill Neimark. Dr. Post has chaired nine national conferences in his field and has received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Board of the Alzheimers Association. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his wife, Mitsuko, and their two children, Emma and Andrew.

Product Details

List Price: $12.95
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Templeton Foundation Press (September 26, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599471515
ISBN-13: 978-1599471518


Godly Love and Human Hatreds

In March 2007 I had the honor of spending several days north of Paris with the great Jean Vanier, then in his early eighties. Jean had founded L’Arche (“The Ark”) some four decades earlier, when he was inspired by an experience of Godly love to invite two men with cognitive developmental disabilities into his home. Over the years, L’Arche homes have flourished worldwide as volunteers dwell with the disabled in communities of faith, prayer, and Godly love. I had attended meals in L’Arche homes in Cleveland on a number of occasions, and I had heard the grace said before eating, the hymns sung, and the energy of love that was palpable in the lives of those caregivers and in the experience of those they cared for and lived with.

Jean struck me as one of the most loving, Godly, and humble men I had ever met. He spoke quietly and brilliantly, and he exuded an infectious sense of fun. On one Sunday evening there was a Catholic Mass in an old renovated chapel from the fourteenth century. About one hundred people had gathered there, mostly L’Arche volunteers and people with disabilities. I saw a volunteer wheel one older man named David up to the priest for communion. That night, at dinner, I asked Jean what he thought David had gotten from receiving communion, for David was probably the most severely disabled and agitated person I had encountered there. Jean said, “Whenever David receives communion, he becomes more peaceful, and that is the power of God’s love. Remember, Stephen, we do not know much about the mystery of God’s love and presence.” Jean’s pure, enduring, and expansive love clearly encompassed such a severely disabled man, and counted him among God’s blessed.

Evil in God’s Name

When I encounter a man like Jean Vanier, I feel that we must all stop thinking of God as the epitome of awesome power and strength in the conventional sense. This convention may be partly true, but we need to set it aside; otherwise, we begin to think of God primarily in terms of might, and human arrogance propels us into thinking that because my God is stronger than your God, violence is justified in God’s name. If we think about God in terms of power, then religions become tainted with human arrogance. Far too many prayerful people are carrying rifles in the spirit of pure hatred and pretending that their hatred is somehow divinely sanctioned. This amounts to shallow religiosity, which only causes pain and undermines Godly love. The Lord of power and might is first and foremost the author and giver of all good things, the Divine Entity who nourishes us in love and brings forth from us good works.

We need to stop thinking that our definitions of God are finite and that our knowledge of God’s will is total. Our definitions, even if divinely inspired, are still products of the human mind, and we can never fully understand the Divine. Religious doctrines, if adhered to arrogantly, tend to separate us from one another and shatter the unifying spirit of Godly love that all spirituality seeks to cultivate. When religions place doctrine and force above love, they foment massive evil—from torture to terror, from coercion to conflict. Religious wars exemplify human tribalism and arrogance, both of which bring out the worst in us.

Hatred, hostility, and revenge are such strong emotions that they can crush our fragile sense of Godly love. The pseudospirituality of hatred runs counter to all genuine spirituality, which is always an adventure in love, an expression of love’s deepest desires.

Countering Hatred with Godly Love

The love of power can sometimes overwhelm the power of love, so we must remain humble and guard against this. No matter how little we know about God, we can still experience Godly love. Only by taking Godly love much more seriously than we do now—even inculcating a profound love for one another among ancient, sworn enemies—can we expect to head off a spiral of widespread destruction.

Most of religion and spirituality is rooted in healing emotions, grounded in love. We will never achieve sustained peace in the twenty-first century unless all religions live up to those intrinsic ideals of Godly love, applying those ideals to all of humankind without exception.

The world shows no signs of becoming any less religious; we as humans will always have a passion for Ultimate Truth that provides safe haven and emotional security in times of distress. Yet we will only have a human future if we infuse universal Godly love into the rituals that religions create, and express through our actions spiritual emotions such as forgiveness and compassion. If our religions fail to promote universal Godly love, violence will sweep us all away in a cataclysmic firestorm.

Promoting Harmony and Peace

Godly love alone can realign the world in harmony and peace. Too many kill in God’s name, claiming that they alone know the destiny God intends for humankind. Our limited human knowledge of any divinely inspired destiny to be played out on the human stage belies this specious—and dangerous—claim.

Love is the source of our greatest happiness and security; therefore love is the Ultimate Good, the Supreme Good. Nothing else comes close, for love underlies the creative energy that propels us from birth to death. The withholding of love drives to destruction those deprived of love’s nurturing, its compassion, and its life-giving blessings. This occurs most notably in critical developmental periods during childhood. And it holds just as true for a child in a nursery as it does for an older adult in a hospice.

Our religions, which offer models of righteous living, must put into practice their visions of Godly love, or they risk becoming sidelined, or, worse, irrelevant.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Gift That Transforms Lives

Sometimes it's hard to find that perfect gift for someone either because they seem to already have everything or they're just plain hard to shop for! I also struggle with getting gifts that are just going to sit around not being used.

Well, here are three wonderful gift ideas that will 1) not collect dust, 2) honor the person you give it to, and 3) help save lives! (And for those of you with kids in school...think teacher gifts!)

Hands of Hope, a charity of Women Helping Women A World Away, is announcing that their Holiday Gift Cards are available for purchase.

These cards provide food, income and water for impoverished women and children in Zambia, Uganda, and Southern Sudan. They can be purchased on the Hands of Hope website for $15.00, $30.00 and $50.00.

Purchasing these cards will provide goats, chickens or wells to help change lives. What could be a more meaningful gift for holiday giving for family, friends, and customer appreciation?

Hands of Hope helps mobilize communities to respond to the needs of women and children around the world. With an ever-expanding support base in the Chicago area, Hands of Hope works to raise community awareness regarding poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa and its relevance globally. We are confident in the integrity of the channels we have established so that contributions provide the highest possible impact for the most critical needs.

Chicken Cards

These lovely cards each represent a gift of twelve chicks. Help an impoverished family with a gift of chicks. $15.00 each.

The inside of the card reads:
A gift of twelve chicks has been purchased and given to an impoverished family in Africa in your honor by __________________

As the flock multiplies, a struggling family will be given the hope to survive. Your gift will help those in need for generations to come.

Goats Program Gift Cards

These lovely cards each represent an actual goat being purchased for a needy family. Beyond providing much needed milk, a few goats can quickly become a herd, providing sustenance and additional income that can make the difference between whether a child goes to school or not. $30.00 each.

The inside of the card reads:
A gift of a goat has been purchased and given to an impoverished family in Africa in your honor By___________________

Offspring from your goat will be passed along to other needy families in villages where people are struggling to survive. This gift will bring hope and survival to many a continent away.

Well Gift Cards

Donations from these cards will go toward digging wells in the Western Province of Zambia. $50.00 each.

The inside of the card reads:
A donation has been given towards funding a well in the Western Province of Zambia in your honor by_______________

Statistics show that nearly half of all people in developing countries suffer from health related problems caused by unsafe water. In addition, African women and children spend several hours every day collecting water which is often miles away and may or may not be contaminated. This well will provide clean and safe drinking water and will go a long way to ease a heavy burden for hundreds of village people who struggle daily with basic physical needs.

If you're interested in purchasing any of these cards, please visit the HOH website here and scroll to the bottom of the page for purchasing information.

Be sure to check out how Hands of Hope got their start, and also see what their current projects are right now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Booking Through Thursday ~ Why Buy?

This week's Booking Through Thurday says:

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

I try to do a little of all of it. I love using the library because we have a great interlibrary loan system where I can borrow books from libraries across the state (very nice since MT is a rural state!). So I can get most of what I'm looking for there. But knowing I "have" to read it in a certain amount of time, along with worrying about messing up the book, I am more nervous about reading a library book than one that I own. The pressure!

I also love to buy used books. I mostly get them from the local book exchange or sometimes from or (but I hate paying shipping). I haven't really bought from Goodwill because there is no method to the madness. There are just random books everywhere and my toddler is somehow not very patient while I peruse the shelves. Go figure.

Sometimes, though, I hear about a book and I've just GOT to have it! Now! That's when I buy brand spanking new books. It's not very often I do this, but it does happen. Mostly it seems I do this for non-fiction spiritual growth type books, since I like to write in those.

Since I started reviewing books I don't buy as much now. I have a steady flow of incoming books that keeps me busy (and happy!).

I like owning books that I really enjoyed reading. Even though I'm not much of a re-reader I guess I like having them there to remind me of the story. I can look at the book and remember it. And maybe I like having the option to read it again if I want to. I don't know. I just like seeing lots of books on the shelf. That warm fuzzy feeling!

One Holy Night by J.M. Hochstetler

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Holy Night

Sheaf House (April 1, 2008)


J. M. Hochstetler


J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published three novels.

One Holy Night, a contemporary miracle story for all seasons, released in April 2008. Daughter of Liberty (2004) and Native Son (2005), books 1 and 2 of the American Patriot Series are set during the American Revolution. Book 3, Wind of the Spirit, is scheduled for release in March 2009. Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and Historical Novels Society.


In 1967 the military build-up in Viet Nam is undergoing a dramatic surge. The resulting explosion of anti-war sentiment tears the country apart, slicing through generations and shattering families. In the quiet bedroom community of Shepherdsville, Minnesota, the war comes home to Frank and Maggie McRae, whose only son, Mike, is serving as a grunt in Viet Nam.

Frank despises all Asians because of what he witnessed as a young soldier fighting the Japanese in the south Pacific during WWII. The news that his son has fallen in love with and married Thi Nhuong, a young Vietnamese woman, shocks him. To Frank all Asians are enemies of his country, his family, and himself. A Buddhist, Thi Nhuong represents everything he despises. So he cuts Mike out of his life despite the pleas of his wife, Maggie; daughter, Julie; and Julie s husband, Dan, the pastor of a growing congregation.

Maggie is fighting her own battle--against cancer. Convinced that God is going to heal her, Frank plays the part of a model Christian. Her death on Thanksgiving Day devastates him. Worse, as they arrive home from the gravesite, the family receives news of Mike s death in battle. Embittered, Frank stops attending church and cuts off family and friends.

By the time a very pregnant Thi Nhuong arrives on his doorstep on a stormy Christmas Eve, Frank is so filled with hate that he slams the door in her face, shutting her out in the bitter cold. Finally, overcome by guilt, he tries to go after her, but driving wind and snow force him back inside. With the storm rising to blizzard strength, he confronts the wrenching truth that what hate has driven him to do is as evil as what the Japanese did all those years earlier, and that he needs forgiveness as desperately as they did ...

Frank doesn't know that what God has in mind this night is a miracle. As on that holy night so many years ago, a baby will be born and laid in a manger--a baby who will bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Holy Night, go HERE.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Buy Books for the Holidays!

It's that time to start thinking about Christmas. Or...maybe it's just time to start thinking about thinking about it? Either way, I started seeing Christmas commercials right after Halloween, so it's coming no matter what!

I don't know about you, but I love Christmas! I love all of it! First and foremost I love the reason we celebrate it - the birth of our Savior. But I also really love the sounds, the sights, the smells, the tastes of the season.

Used to, when I was on the ball, I'd start making gifts in September so that I'd be finished on time. Well, 4 kids later that doesn't happen anymore. I still try to plan ahead, but sometimes I'm rushing around last minute trying to get my shopping done (and figuring out what to get).

What kind of Christmas shopper are you?

Well, here's a great idea! Amy over at My Friend Amy got together with some other book bloggers and came up with the idea to buy new books for the people on your list!

This has some great benefits: 1) you don't have to rack your brain thinking of what to get the people on your list, 2) the recipient gets the joy of diving into a great book, and 3) it will help the struggling book world.

In this technology hyped world today, the book industry has started to show negative effects as people are turning from books to gadgets for entertainment. What a sad, sad thing.

Amy has also made it easy on us to participate. They started a blog called Buy Books for the Holidays where you can get information about it, sign up (and grab the button for your blog), and they are also posting recommendations for various age groups. You can also ask for a recommendation if you're feeling stumped on a certain hard-to-shop-for person on your list.

So there you have it. Christmas shopping made easy!! Check it out!

Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Until We Reach Home

Bethany House (October 1, 2008)


Lynn Austin


For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. She has published twelve novels. Three of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, and Fire by Night have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, and 2004 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005.

Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

Among her lastest books are A Proper Pursuit and A Woman's Place


Life in Sweden seems like an endless winter for three sisters after their mother's and father's suicide. Ellin feels the weight of responsibility for her sisters' welfare and when it circumstances become unbearable, she writes to her relatives in Chicago, pleading for help.

Joining sixteen million other immigrants who left their homelands for America between 1890 and 1920, Ellin, Kirsten, and Sophia begin the long, difficult journey. Enduring the ocean voyage in steerage and detention on Ellis Island, their story is America's story. And in a journey fraught with hardships, each woman will come to understand her secret longings and the meaning of home.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Until We Reach Home, go HERE

My thoughts:
I had a hard time with this story - a hard time putting it down! I love historical fiction but even
Deena (who doesn't care for it so much) really enjoyed this book, too.

Until We Reach Home is about three sisters from Sweden who decide to move to America in 1897 after their parents die and living conditions become unbearable. As the oldest of the three, Elin is responsible for her sisters' safety and struggles with her role as big sister instead of mothering them. Kirsten is fun-loving and carefree and struggles with being too trusting of men. Sophia is the youngest and is tired of being told what to do but at the same time doesn't know how to take care of herself.

This book is so much more than a historical tale about moving to America. Within the span of a few months we see how each sister grows and changes beyond what any of them could have imagined previously. They have to deal with shame put upon them and mistakes they have made. They figure out who they should and shouldn't trust, how to make it on their own, and whether or not they can count on God.

Along their journey things keep going from bad to worse and their future is getting to be as bleak as their past. The bond between the sisters is strong, yet they all harbor secrets from each other. Their greatest strength is how they stick together no matter what, but will their secrets end up tearing them apart?

I highly recommend Until We Reach Home and can't wait to read more from Lynn Austin! She wrote this story so beautifully and it all flowed so naturally. I have no nit-picky complaints on this one! Loved it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Plain Perfect

Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)


Writing has always been a part of Beth Wiseman’s life. When she was introduced to the Amish, she gained an appreciation for their simpler way of life and began writing novels featuring this endearing group. Her first novel was Plain Perfect. She and her family live in Texas.

As a newspaper reporter, Beth has been honored by her peers with eleven journalism awards in the past four years - most recently, first place news writing for The Texas Press Association. She has been a humor columnist for The 1960 Sun in Houston and published articles in various publications. However, writing novels is where her heart is. Following completion of five manuscripts, Wiseman's inspirational fiction series set in Pennsylvania Dutch Country is where she found her voice.

"It took me a while," she says. "But I knew right away that Plain Perfect was the one. Writing about the Amish lifestyle within a fictional love story has been a wonderful experience. The Amish and Mennonite contacts I have established in Lancaster County help me to keep the books authentic. These very private people might dress differently, avoid the use of electricity and modern conveniences, but they are just like everyone else. They love, hurt, have daily challenges and struggles, and strive to be the best they can be. An often misunderstood sect of people, it has been a privilege to learn about their ways."

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546308
ISBN-13: 978-1595546302


LILLIAN PEELED BACK THE DRAPES AT THE FRONT WINDOW and squinted against the sun’s glare. She’d called the taxi almost an hour ago. If her ride didn’t show up soon, she would have to forego her plan and spend another night with Rickie. Biting her lip, she worried if she would have enough cash to change her flight if she didn’t make it to the airport on time.

She lowered the drape and paced the living room in Rickie’s house, silently blasting herself for ever moving in with him in the first place. Her stomach writhed at the thought of one more day under the same roof with him. And yet her window of time for her departure was closing, she realized, glancing at her watch.

She tugged at the drapes again. Relief fell over her when she saw the yellow cab pull into the driveway. Snatching her red suitcase and purse, she bolted for the door, shuffling toward the driver as he opened the trunk.

“Please hurry,” she said to the driver, handing him her suitcase.

The driver stowed her luggage without comment and was climbing into the driver’s seat when she saw Rickie’s black Lexus rounding the corner and heading up the street. Her heart sank.

“Where to?” the driver asked.

“Intercontinental Airport,” she answered. “Hurry, please.”

As the driver made his way down Harper Avenue, Lillian watched out the rearview window. Rickie’s car slowly neared the house.

The cab driver turned at the corner. She’d made it. A clean getaway.

Irma Rose Miller couldn’t help but notice the bounce in her husband’s steps. The cancer kept him down and out on most days, but not today. Today Lilly was coming, and his anticipation and joy were evident.

“Danki,” Jonas said as Irma Rose poured him another cup of coffee.

“You’re welcome.”

Her tall husband, once muscular and strong as an ox, sat hunched over the wooden table between them. His healthy load of gray locks and full beard were now thinning and brittle. Dark circles under his eyes and sunken features revealed the many sleepless nights of pain he had endured over the past few months. God had given her husband of forty-eight years a challenging road to travel, and he was making the trip with dignity and grace.

“Our Lilly will be here this afternoon.” Jonas smiled and raised the cup to his mouth. His hands trembled, but his eyes twinkled with a merriment Irma Rose hadn’t seen since the first mention of their granddaughter coming to stay with them. She hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed. They hadn’t seen the girl in seventeen years, since she was ten years old.

Irma Rose stood to retrieve some donuts from a pan atop the wooden stove.

“It will be wunderbaar gut to have her here.”

Irma Rose placed two donuts on her husband’s plate. “Ya, that it will. But, Jonas, you must keep in mind how different our ways are. We will seem like foreigners to our Englisch granddaughter.”

“These donuts are appeditlich,” Jonas said.

“Danki. But, Jonas, you need to prepare yourself. Sarah Jane raised Lilly in the outside world. We don’t know her. As a matter of fact, we don’t know exactly how Sarah Jane raised her.”

The thought twisted Irma Rose’s stomach in familiar knots. It had been hard enough when her daughter chose to leave the Old Order Amish community at the age of eighteen, but even more difficult when she wrote to tell them she was in a family way soon thereafter . . . with no husband.

“She was a glorious child,” Jonas said. “Remember how quickly she learned to ice skate? What a joy she was. What a gut Christmas holiday we all had.”

Irma Rose shook her head at her husband’s ignorance of the obvious. Lilly wasn’t a child any more. She was a grown woman. Jonas had talked about that last Christmas together until the next season came and went. When Sarah Jane and Lilly didn’t show up the following year, he merely shrugged and said, “Maybe they will visit next year.” And each Christmas thereafter Jonas anticipated a visit that never happened.

Jonas never uttered a negative word about Sarah Jane’s choices. But she’d seen the sadness in his eyes when their daughter left home, and she knew the pain dwelled in his heart over the years. But he only said it was impossible to always understand God’s direction for His children—their child. Their only child. The good Lord had only seen fit to bless them with one. A beautiful daughter who had chosen a life rife with hardship.

Irma Rose had prayed hard over the years to cleanse herself of any discontentment with her daughter. Sarah Jane’s choice to leave the Amish faith was prior to her baptism and church membership. Therefore her daughter was never shunned by the community. She had chosen to avoid visits with her parents. From the little Irma Rose gathered over the years, Sarah Jane and Lilly had lived with friends and moved around a lot.

An occasional letter arrived from her daughter, to which Irma Rose always responded right away. More times than not, the letters were returned unopened. It was less painful to assume Sarah Jane had moved on and the letters were returned by the postal service. Although sometimes it cut Irma Rose to the bone when she recognized her daughter’s penmanship: Return to sender.

She was thankful her last letter to Sarah Jane had not been returned. She couldn’t help but wonder if the news about Jonas’s cancer had prompted her granddaughter’s visit. When Lillian’s letter arrived over a month ago, Irma Rose had followed her instructions not to return a letter but to call her on the telephone if at all possible. She wasted no time going to the nearby shanty to phone her granddaughter. The conversation was strained and the child seemed frantic to come for a visit.

“I’m a teacher and when school is out in May, I’d like to come for a visit,” her granddaughter had said on the phone. “Maybe stay for the summer. Or maybe even longer?” There was a sense of urgency in the girl’s tone.

Irma Rose feared her faith had not been as strong as her husband’s and that a tinge of resentment and hurt still loitered in her heart where Sarah Jane was concerned. She didn’t want any of those feelings to spill over with her granddaughter. She would need to pray harder.

As if reading her mind, Jonas said, “Irma Rose, everything will be fine. You just wait and see.”

It wasn’t until the plane was high above the Houston skyline that the realization of what she’d done hit Lillian. After landing in Philadelphia, she caught a train to Lancaster City and hopped a bus to Paradise, which landed her only a few miles from her grandparents’ farm. She was glad there was a bit of a walk to their property; she wanted to wind down and freshen up before she reacquainted herself with her relatives. Plus, she’d had enough time on the plane to wonder if this whole thing was a huge mistake. Her mom hadn’t wanted to be here, so why think it would be any better for her?

Not that she had much choice at this point. She had no money, no home, no job, and she was more than a little irritated with her mother. When her mom had begged Lillian to loan her the money she’d painstakingly saved to get away from Rickie and start fresh, Lillian reluctantly agreed, with the stipulation she got her money back as soon as possible. But her mom had never repaid a loan before. Lillian didn’t know why she thought it would be any different this time. When the promised repayment never came, Lillian quit her job and made a decision to distance herself from her mother and Rickie by coming to a place where she knew neither of them would follow: Lancaster County.

Lillian shook her head, wondering if she was making a bigger mistake by coming here. She didn’t know if she’d ever understand what ultimately drove her mother from the Plain lifestyle. From what she read, it rarely happened—Amish children fleeing from all they’d ever known. The circumstances must have been severe to drive her mother away.

Although . . . it didn’t look so bad from Lillian’s point of view, now that she was there. Aside from having a dreadful wardrobe, she thought the Amish men and women strolling by looked quite content. They seemed oblivious to the touristy stares. The women wore simple, dark-colored dresses with little white coverings on their heads. The men were in cotton shirts, dark pants with suspenders, and straw hats with a wide brim. Box-shaped, horse-drawn buggies were abundant.

Ironically, it all seemed quite normal.

She took a seat on a bench outside the Quik Mart at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Black Horse Road and watched the passersby. Clearly, Paradise was a tourist town, like most of Lancaster County, with everyone wanting to have a look at the Amish people.

Watching them now, she wondered if the Amish were all as peaceful as they appeared. Despite her initial thoughts, she decided they couldn’t be. Everyone had stress. Everyone had problems. Surely the Plain People of Lancaster County were not an exception.

But they could have fooled Lillian.

Samuel Stoltzfus gave hasty good-byes to Levina Esh and Sadie Fisher and flicked his horse into action, hiding a smile as his buggy inched forward. The competitiveness of those two widow women! First Levina had presented him with her prize-winning shoofly pie. Not to be outdone, Sadie quickly offered up her own prize-winning version. Stalemate. The two of them had stood there glaring at each other while he tried to think of ways to escape unhurt . . . and unattached.

He might have to rethink his shopping day. Both women knew he went to the farmer’s market on Thursdays . . . Once he cleared town, he picked up the pace. The road to his farm near the town of Paradise was less traveled, and he was particularly glad of that on this day. It was a glorious sunny afternoon, perfect for a buggy ride through the countryside.

Pleased he had chosen his spring buggy instead of his covered one, he relished the warmth of the late afternoon sun. Rachel had loved this time of year, when spring gave way to summertime and all the world felt full of promise.

God’s soil was tilled, and corn, alfalfa, and grain had been planted. Life would be busy as he awaited the bountiful rewards of spring’s labor. There was the garden, with peas to pick. The strawberries would be ready. Lots of canning and freezing. Much time went into preparing a garden for harvest.

And Rachel’s garden had always been lush and plentiful. Gardening was work for the womenfolk, but Samuel had done the best he could the past two years. He was thankful his sisters took care of most of the canning and freezing.

He closed his eyes, his shoulders lifting with his sigh. He missed Rachel the most this time of year.

Lillian felt like a fool. Didn’t “down yonder a spell” mean right down the road? The friendly Amish boy had pointed down Black Horse Road and uttered those exact words when she’d asked for directions to her grandparents’ farm. She’d thought the walk would do her good—help her shed some of the calories she ingested while sitting at the Quik Mart with a large cinnamon roll and cola.

Evidently, she’d mistranslated “down yonder a spell.” There wasn’t a farmhouse in sight.

She really should have considered the strappy sandals she was wearing before opting to venture down the road to nowhere. Her capri blue jeans and short-sleeved pink-cotton shirt were good choices, however. The clement sun mixing with a soft breeze made for a perfect day. An excellent day for a walk . . . if only she’d had better shoes.

Setting her red suitcase on the grassy shoulder of the paved road, she plopped down on top of it and scanned the farmland surrounding her. It was so quiet. Peaceful. She could only hope that some of the peacefulness the Amish were known for would rub off on her during her stay. She needed it. Life had not been easy to her the past few years.

Her mom’s idea of parenting had left much to be desired— jumping from one man to the next looking for something she never seemed to find. All the while she’d toted Lillian along. Lillian had grown up changing schools, saying good-bye to friends, and continually hoping Mom’s next boyfriend would be better than the last. At the first chance, Lillian had bailed on the situation, telling herself she could do better.

Despite her good intentions, she’d ended up close to following in her mother’s footsteps. After putting herself through college while living with three other girls in a small apartment, she’d landed a teaching job. There had been boyfriends, and she’d definitely made her own share of mistakes.

But always, something had whispered to her that there was another way to live. Sometimes she’d listened, sometimes not. But she never felt comfortable enough to ask herself just where that voice was coming from—she just didn’t know enough to form an opinion. She didn’t listen to the voice when it cautioned her not to move in with Rickie. But when the voice became too strong to ignore, she knew it was time to get out of that situation.

Despite the complete lack of religious upbringing, she always suspected there might be a God looking down on her. But in light of her mom’s thoughts on church, she couldn’t ask her about it. Her mother seemed angry at religion. While she heartily encouraged Lillian to attend various churches with her friends when she was a child, she herself would have no part of it. It was a huge contradiction in parenting, and Lillian didn’t understand it to this day.

Now, knowing the Amish to be solid in their faith, Lillian decided it might be best to keep her suspicions about a possible God to herself around her grandparents.

“Guess I better get moving and find out how far ‘down yonder a spell’ really is.” She jumped off the suitcase, gave it a heave-hoe, and started back down the paved road, gazing to either side where the acreage stretched as far she could see. The sun pressing down on the horizon left her a tad worried about how much further the farm was.

“Whoa, boy!” Samuel yelled to his horse. The animal slowed his pace to a gentle trot, bringing the buggy alongside an Englisch woman cumbersomely toting a bright-red suitcase. She was minus a shoe . . . if you called a flat-bottom sole with two small straps a shoe. Certainly not a good walking instrument.

“Can I offer you a ride?” He pulled back on the reins and came to a complete halt, as did the small-framed woman. When she turned, he was met by radiant green eyes in a delicate face.

Delicate, that is, until she grimaced and blew a tendril of hair out of her face.

Then she smiled, and her face transformed, lighting up like the morning sun. He was momentarily struck dumb.

It didn’t matter. The woman was focused on his horse. Deserting her suitcase on the side of the road, she stumbled over to Pete and reached out to stroke his nose without so much as a “May I?”

Thankfully, Pete was a gentle giant.

“He’s beautiful,” she said, glancing briefly in Samuel’s direction, eyes sparkling.

He cleared his throat. “Ya. And a fine work horse too.”

What an interesting woman this was. Unafraid. And beautiful, he had to admit. He watched as her long brown hair danced in the wind, framing her face in layers. She wore no makeup and seemed lacking in the traditional Englisch look, although her brightly colored blouse and calf-length breeches certainly gave her away. A tourist, most likely. But a tourist walking alone down Blackhorse Road?

The woman’s mouth curved upward in delight as she cooed over Pete. The horse gently snorted, nudged her, and she laughed heartily, her head thrown back. It was a thoroughly enchanting scene.

Suddenly uncomfortable at his thoughts, he straightened and coughed. It was enough to bring the woman’s attention back to him.

“I would love a ride!” With a final kiss on the old horse’s muzzle, she went back for her suitcase. “Where should I put this?”

“Ach, my manners.” Samuel jumped out of the buggy and made his way to the woman. “Let me.” He took the suitcase from her, quite surprised at how heavy the small bundle was. After stowing it behind the double seat, he offered his hand to assist her into the buggy.

“Thank you.” Now she was studying him . . . seemingly from head to toe. At her open glance, he felt a flush tint his cheeks.

“I’m Samuel Stoltzfus,” he said, extending his hand but avoiding her questioning eyes.

“I’m Lillian Miller.”

Her hands were certainly that of an Englisch woman, soft and void of a hard day’s work. The Plain women in Lancaster County tilled gardens, shelled peas, kneaded bread, and a host of other necessary chores uncommon to Englisch women from the city. City women’s hands were not only smooth and manicured, but pleasing to the touch.

Returning to his seat, he started up the buggy again. The woman was obviously tired and happy to be resting; with a slight groan she stretched her legs out. He found his eyes wandering her way and silently remonstrated himself.

“Where are you from, Lillian? Or, more important, where are you going?”

“I’m from Houston.”

“Ya, Texas,” he said, slightly surprised. They didn’t usually get Texans walking the roads out here. “Lots of farms in Texas. What brings you to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania?”

“I’m coming to stay with my grandparents for a while.” She smiled. “They’re Amish.”

Amish? He was once more at a loss for words. Not to worry— the Englisch woman wasn’t.

“Actually, I guess I’m Amish too,” she added.

Discreetly glancing at her Englisch clothes, he wondered how that could be so.

“My grandparents are Irma Rose and Jonas Miller. I’ll be staying with them for a while.” She looked his way as if waiting for a response that never came. “I’d like to adapt myself to the Amish ways. I need a peaceful, calm lifestyle away from the city. Anyway, I’ve decided to be Amish for a while.”

Samuel had been trying to connect this vivacious outsider with the staunch Irma Rose and Jonas he knew, but these words jostled him out of his musings. “You’d like to be Amish for a while?”

“Yes. Although I don’t plan to wear one of those dark-colored dresses or white caps like the women I saw strolling by earlier.”

In spite of himself, Samuel chuckled. “Do you even know what being Amish means?” He didn’t mean the remark as harshly as it sounded.

Lillian slanted her eyes in his direction, as if slightly offended.

Unexpectedly, the buggy wheel hit a rut. With an oomph, his new friend bounced in her seat. She was a tiny little thing. Luckily, she didn’t catapult right off the seat and onto the pavement.

“Yikes!” she said when her behind returned to the seat. And then she giggled. As Pete’s ears swiveled back to catch the commotion, Samuel couldn’t help but grin. The woman’s enthusiasm was contagious.

He decided to drop the subject. He knew Irma Rose and Jonas well enough to figure they’d set her right about being Amish and what it really meant. Samuel reckoned they’d have their hands full with their granddaughter.

As Samuel righted the buggy, he asked, “When is the last time you saw your grandparents?” He hadn’t even known Irma Rose and Jonas had a granddaughter.

“When I was ten. Seventeen years ago. It was the first time I saw snow. Real snow.” Her eyes twinkled from the memory.

“Anyway, I know things will be different from what I’m used to. But I can live without television. There’s too much bad news on TV anyway. And I know Amish women cook a lot. I’m a great cook.” She shrugged. “I’m a hard worker in general. I know Amish get up early and go to bed early. I know they work hard during the day. And if that’s what it takes to feel peaceful and calm . . . I’m in!”

Samuel found her enthusiasm charming, no matter how misdirected it was. “Lillian, I’m sure Irma Rose and Jonas will appreciate you helping with household duties, but it will take more than chores and giving up worldly things to provide you with the peacefulness you’re lookin’ for.”

“Well, it’s a start,” she said, sounding optimistic.

As for that . . . who was he to argue?

Lillian remembered the Christmas visit with her grandparents at their farm, especially the snow. Unlike the icy mix of sludge found rarely in her hometown state, snow in Lancaster County glistened with a tranquil purity. Almost two decades later, she could still recall the towering cedar trees blanketed in white and ice skating on the crystalline pond in her mother’s old ice skates.

The presents had been few. She remembered that. And while she recollected her grandparents as warm and loving, she also remembered the tension between them and her mother. Her grandfather had kept the mood festive, suggested the ice-skating, and seemed to make it his mission for Lillian to have a good time—even carting her to town and back in his gray, horsedrawn buggy. It had been the highlight of her trip.

“I remember liking the way my grandparents talked,” she recalled to Samuel. “I didn’t understand a lot of things they said. Things like ‘Outen the lights until sunrise when we’ll redd-up the house.’ And ‘It wonders me if it will make wet tomorrow.’ Mom translated those to mean ‘Turn out the lights until in the morning when we’ll clean up the house’ and ‘I wonder if it will rain tomorrow.’”

“That would be right,” Samuel said.

Grandma and Grandpa both spoke another language she’d later found out was Pennsylvania Deitsch. Lots of times they would commingle their language with English. “Danki, Sarah Jane, for bringing our little kinskind for a visit,” her grandfather told her mother that Christmas. To which Sarah Jane Miller forced a smile and nodded.

“Grandma, why are you and Grandpa wearing those costumes?”

Lillian recalled asking her grandparents.

Grandpa had just laughed and said, “It is our faith, my kinskind. We wear these plain clothes to encourage humility and separation from the world.”

At ten, Lillian had little understanding of what that signified. Except somewhere in the translation she knew it meant they couldn’t have a television or a phone. Several times after their one and only trip, Lillian had asked her mother if she could call her grandparents. Mom reminded her no phones were allowed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

“Evidently, my grandparents came to Houston a couple of times before our visit at Christmas, but I don’t remember,” she told Samuel. “That Christmas was my last trip to Lancaster County and the last time I saw my grandparents. Until now.”

“I reckon Irma Rose and Jonas are really looking forward to seeing you.”

“I hope so.”

Lillian tried to keep her gaze focused on the road in front of her. But her eyes kept involuntarily trailing to her left. Samuel Stoltzfus was as handsome a man as she had ever seen in the city. His plain clothes did little to mask his solid build and appealing smile each time she glanced in his direction. But it was his piercing blue eyes Lillian couldn’t seem to draw away from.

“So, how long have you been married?” Nosey, nosey. The astonished look on his face confirmed her worry. She was crossing the line. “I’m sorry. I just noticed that you have the customary beard following marriage.” She’d done her research before arriving here. “And . . . I was just . . . curious.” And curious why? He’s Amish, for heaven’s sake.

“I’m not married. I’m widowed.”

“Oh,” she said softly, thinking how young his wife must have been when she died. “ I’m so sorry. When did your wife die?”

“Mei fraa, Rachel, passed almost two years ago,” he answered without looking her way.

“Again, I’m so sorry.”

Samuel continued to stare at the road ahead. “It was God’s will.”

There was no sadness or regret in his tone. Just fact. Lillian knew she should leave it alone, but . . . “I’m sure you miss her very much.”

He didn’t glance her way. “There’s Irma Rose and Jonas’s farm,” he said, pointing to their right. “I better take you right up to the house.” He coaxed Pete down a long dirt drive leading from the road to the white farmhouse.

“Oh, you don’t have to do that. I can walk.” She wondered if Samuel Stoltzfus was ready to be rid of her. His eyebrows edged upward beneath his dark bangs and he glanced at her shoeless foot.

Point taken. “A ride to the house would be great.”

As Pete trotted down the dirt driveway toward the farmhouse, reality sank in. This would be her new home for the summer—or however long it took to accomplish her goal. At first glance, everything seemed lovely. The prodigious fields on either side of the lane were neatly mowed, and the white fencing in good repair. But unlike the farms she passed on the way, there were no signs of new life planted. It wasn’t until they drew closer to the farmhouse that she spotted a small garden off to her left enclosed by a wire-mesh fence. Parallel rows of greenery indicated vegetables would be forthcoming.

Also off to her left was a large barn, the paint weathered and chipping. Another smaller barn to her right also was in need of a fresh paint job. She recalled the barns they had passed on her journey down Black Horse Road. Most were a bright crimson color.

The white farmhouse appeared freshly painted, but with flowerbeds absent of flowers or shrubs. They must have been beautiful at one time. But now they—and the rest of the yard—lent an air of neglect to the farm.

A wraparound porch with two rockers looked inviting. But while the idea of curling up with a good book in one of the rockers was appealing, Lillian knew it was the inside of the house and its inhabitants she feared most. Her grandma had seemed pleasant enough on the phone, but what if she and her grandfather were too set in their ways to make room for her? And what if she couldn’t adjust to their ways? No electricity meant no hairdryer, curling iron, or other modern convenience she considered a necessity. How would she charge her cell phone? And she couldn’t imagine a summer without air conditioning.

Grimacing as the thoughts rattled around her head, she reminded herself why she’d come. She’d had a month to consider all of these factors. She thought she had. But as her fantasy of leaving everything behind for this became absolute, her tummy twirled with uncertainty.

She was still attempting to envision her new way of life when Samuel brought Pete up next to a gray buggy parked on one side of the house. Samuel moved quickly to get her suitcase from behind the seat and extended his hand to help her out of the buggy. Towering over her, he promptly released her fingers.

“Thank you for the ride. Maybe I will see you again.” She could only hope. But his lack of response as he quickly jumped back in the carriage left her wondering.

Lillian waved good-bye and watched until horse, buggy, and man were back on the paved road. She knew she was stalling. Her grandparents would be strangers to her, and she would be a stranger to them. Yet they had encouraged her to come and stay with them. “For as long as you like,” her grandmother had said.

Striving to cast her worries aside, she turned around, picked up her suitcase, and headed up the walk toward what would be her new home . . . for a while.