Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

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


A Christmas of Kindness
By Suzanne Woods Fisher

"You can give without loving, but you can¹t love without giving." Amish proverb

I do it every year.

I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by Christmas EveŠ I'm exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-to-make traditional Swedish meal to honor my husband¹s relatives (think: Vikings), it's time to head to church. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but the last few Christmas Eve's, I have sent my husband and kids head off without me. The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong as a magnet.

It's odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn't you think that Christmas would be simpler? Instead, it's just the opposite. Jugging schedules to share the grandbaby with the in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the best time of day for them, dancing carefully around recently divorced family members whose children are impacted by the shards of broken relationships.

The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can't really simplify people. We are just a complicated bunch.
Here's where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It's easy to get distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there's so much more to learn from these gentle people if you're willing to look a little deeper.

Yes, they live with less "stuff" and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered life. But it's the reason behind it that is so compelling to me: they seek to create margin in their life. Not just empty spacebut space that is available to nourish family, community, and faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours or mine, but what they do fill it with is Šoh so right.

Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of the holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room corner. A few modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place settings, covered by a dishtowel. Waiting first for Dad to read the story of Christ's birth from the book of Luke. Waiting until after a special breakfast has been enjoyed. Waiting until Mom and Dad give the signal that the time has come for gifts.

Later, if Christmas doesn't fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will gather for another big meal. If time and weather permits, the late afternoon will be filled with ice skating or sledding. And more food! Always, always an abundance of good food. Faith, family, and community. That is the focus of an Amish Christmas.

And it's also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a young family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish couple, Jaime and C.J. Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An unlikely and tentative friendship develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol hold most dear disappears and thenŠ. Ah, but you¹ll just have to read the story to find out what happens next. Without giving anything away, I will say that I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season. Mattie knew inconveniences and interruptions that come in the form of people (big ones and little ones!) are ordained by God. And blessed by God.

Creating margin probably means that I won't get Christmas cards out until the end of January, and my house won't be uber-decorated. After all, something has to give. But it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his Alzheimer's facility. And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-crowded event. And time to invite a new neighbor over for coffee. Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won't get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda. Only by God's agendathe essence of true simplicity.

And that includes taking time to worship Christ's coming at the Christmas Eve service. You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and The Keeper, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Christy Award nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Pearls of Christmas

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Pearl Girls™ 12 Pearls of Christmas blogging series!

We've gathered several of today's most beloved authors to share their Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along beginning tomorrow (Wednesday the 14th) through Christmas day as Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Rachel Hauck, Sandy Ralya, Sibella Giorello, Susan May Warren and more, share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

If you'd like to share the 12 Pearls of Christmas with your blog readers too, just email Christen and she'll send you the series.

AND of course there is a giveaway! Beginning tomorrow you and all your friends can enter to win a PEARL NECKLACE and EARRINGS valued at $450! The winner will be announced on New Year's Day! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

Just a quick note before the series begins on the 14th ...

As I write this, I imagine that we are sitting at my kitchen table and chatting over a cup of coffee while familiar Christmas carols celebrate the Season. My twelve year old Chihuahua, Pongo, barks for a pinch of pound cake while my Shih Tzu, Lilly, patiently sits by the chair and waits for a crumb to fall.

My name is not Martha Stewart, and I will never receive a neighborhood beautification award. Just look at my front stoop. Yes, my never-had-time-to-carve-the-pumpkin-that-now-suffers-from-frostbite slouches next to the front door which is decorated with a Christmas wreath. I plan to roll this large orange ornament to the garbage pile tomorrow. For now, however, I will pretend that my front stoop is a contemplative modern art exhibit capturing the essence of contrast.

Actually, I love the concept of juxtaposition – placing things together that don’t seem to belong together, yet somehow ultimately make sense being paired. A personal example for me this season is the phrase: “comfort and joy.” Having just completed my manuscript for New Hope Publishers about the aftermath of grief, I fully understand the contrast of those two words. How can comfort bring joy? How can one find joy in loss?

Perhaps, dear reader, you have experienced loss this year – loss of a loved one, loss of friendship, loss of health,  loss of financial security, loss of trust, loss of love, or loss of direction. Even with the best intent, words of encouragement shared by others can somehow seem insufficient to address an inconsolable loss.  A spoken word cannot fully restore joy to a broken heart; however the Word can. And that’s the bottom line message of Christmas! God gave us the most amazing gift: His Son -  the Word of God, the Holy Comforter.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

You are not alone this Christmas, dear friend. Juxtaposed to the unexpected grit in life is the gift of God’s grace wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This year I purposely placed a pearl in the Nativity scene as a metaphoric reminder. When we place our grit into the hands of the Lord, His grace transforms our pain into a pearl.

 “Joy to the world!”  

Thank you so very much for sharing the JOY of the Season with us this year.

God Bless,
Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs. She is the founder and director of Pearl Girls. For more information please visit Margaret is fast at work on several fiction manuscripts. Her book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace was written to help fund the Pearl Girl Charities. She is also the host of weekly radio show, Kitchen Chat. Connect with Margaret on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, December 5, 2011

An exciting new idea

I have always wanted to be part of a book club or book group. Almost two years ago I went online to find an online book club/group...and that's how I found the world or book blogging / book reviewing and fell in love. I was real excited when a fellow blogger started an online book club and I join whenever life allows me. But I still wanted an in-person book club to be part of. One where we met up once a month or so where we did fun things attributed to the club (like dressing up to the theme of the book or having a buffet with the food based on the time and or theme of the boo). One where the books chosen to read are mainly ones where I would pick them up anyway to read but the added fun is that there is a group of people reading at the same time with me so I can talk about the book with them...believe it or not I have had no luck at trying to find this. I have even tried to start one at no luck. People thought it to be juvenile or didn't have the time or don't read that genre.
Well, last weekend my niece spent the night and I was finishing up a book for review (soon to be up:). She asked me how I got into book/product reviewing so I told her the story I just told you. She then told me she wanted to create a book club. We got to talking about that and even made an outline for it. Later on my younger sister called me and I told her what Lilly (niece) and I were thinking about with the book club. She thought it was ironic because she was thinking about the same thing. We all started to get excited about it...we spread the word around and some seemed excited about it. We have our first official meting for our group this Saturday:) We are the Reading Guild. What do you think? We have decided to read a book once a month, once a year we read a classic and we dress to the year/theme of the book, at the end of the month we get together to discuss the book and have a potluck, every Christmas we have a gift exchange; we read a Christmas read every December.If we choose a book from a series we must start at the beginning and read the entire series with a celebration for reading the entire series. We are open to all genres except paranormal and self help.  My younger sister, Bethany and I are co-leaders. Our first club read is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
So...waddya think? you like it? What would you have changed or done? Any books you would suggest for a group read? I am going to start a blog for our book group so if you'll stop by that would be awesome!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Common Denominators for Success by Kenny J. Anderson REVIEW

For centuries people have sought to find the secret to achieving lasting success. Common Denominators for Success reveal the seven universal formulas for getting the results you want from life. Whether you are pursuing a lifelong dream or wish to develop deep, meaningful relationships, enjoy optimal health, or make the most of your time and money, application of these seven timeless principles holds the key to reaching your full potential and turning your dreams into reality. Ordinary people in all eras have achieved extraordinary results as they have applied these seven powerful formulas. Now is the time for you to live your dreams and get the results you want.

There are times when I see someone my age who has accomplished a lot more than I have and I feel behind and lazy because I haven’t gotten to that point yet. There are times when I see a couple my husband and my age living in a very nice house with a couple nice cars, nice clothing, etc…then I see my husband and I…we are happily married, with a happy beautiful child and we at times live off of ramen, sandwiches and canned goods to make rent and bills. My point is; I find myself wondering, when is our hard work going to pay off? My adopted grandmother told me that when she and her husband were first married they were grateful for the two for one deals on burgers at the burger joint otherwise they would have gone hungry. And later when they had two kids they had to trade in the bottles to get the money for milk for the kids. They now live very nicely.
My point in saying all of this is I was glad to review this book because I was hoping for ideas and inspiration on how to make our dollar stretch a bit further. For my eyes to open up to what we are doing wrong. And it’s funny because reading these guidelines was sort of an eye opener but so simple. Like stop making excuses. Be real. If you want it, especially if you know it will improve your lifestyle, make it happen. Another obvious tip that people tend to break all the time is spend less money than you make. Stop spending beyond your means. Also, you need to believe that you will make it to your goal. You will obviously have your down moments or days and feelings which is why you need to give yourself reminders why you’re doing this. Because remember, success is not a matter of chance but of choice.
One of the things I can be glad to have been brought up with is “if it’s something you really want, than go for it even if there are roadblocks. Because after that first roadblock you will feel more energized to get to your goal.” That was something else in the book that is a great tip.
After reading this book I felt like using it as a day-to-day how-to guide to help our finances and help our success rate at wanting great credit, a home, car, etc. I haven’t quite figured out how I would do that but if you have any ideas, let me knowJ
I fully enjoyed this book even though it was a self-help/financial book. I have gotten tired of reading only self-help books but I did enjoy and recommend this one and I hope you pick it up get something from it as well.

                                                                                I  received this book for review from Media Guests

How to Get a Married Woman to have Sex with You...If you’re Her Husband by Stephan Labossiere REVIEW

I like the title of this book first off. It was funny to see the reaction I got while reading the book. Getting “the look” with eyebrows raised. I point out the rest of the title and “the look” isn’t as strong but it isn’t all gone. I think because it’s not the typical title to a marriage/intimacy help book. At first I thought this was going to be a comedy read of sorts. But it was actually very enlightening to get a man’s opinion on what is going on inside the wife’s head.  Actually, that part is funny to think about.  But in all seriousness the author, Stephan had quite a few good pointers for men to take into account. Such as security, and that alone has a few sides to it. She wants to know he will protect her physically, verbally, emotionally and financially. If she doesn’t feel secure she isn’t going to be into being vulnerable in the bedroom or out of the bedroom. So…if she feels secure emotionally, physically, financially, etc…she is more than likely to be more open in the bedroom. Also, women wanted to feel connected to their husbands outside of the bedroom as well. Intimacy is not just the physical part of the relationship. That is the tip of the iceberg. After marriage the charm, manners, and work at the relationship should not fly out the window. We still want and need romance after marriage. Just because you “have” us doesn’t mean chivalry goes out the window. We don’t just flip a light switch whenever you want to “get it on”.
I do appreciate Stephan bringing God into the book. Because I as a Christian, I believe that God created sex for husband and wife. Like Stephan pointed out, sex is a beautiful thing to be cherished. Not just for baby making but for enjoyment as well.
All in all, this was a quick read but very enlightening and quite fun to read. I recommend and encourage all married couple to read this book. Only took me about an hour to read this book with it only being 85 pages.

                                                                   I received this book for review from Pump Up Your Book

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Place to Belong by Lisa Troyer REVIEW

Looking for “a place to belong”? Find it in a community of women fostering relationships through authenticity, affirmation and accountability—find it in the Circle of Friends. Your outlook will never be the same as you explore the ministry potential of a dynamic group of “women helping women,” and catch their vision to be women committed to Jesus Christ, obediently seeking God’s will, and fulfilling their life mission as Christ-followers.

I really enjoyed the forward by Carol Kent…I think they should make that into a book…
I did enjoy the rest of A Place to Belong, I loved that she brought many biblical stories to the surface for us to remember that Jesus knows all and is aware of all even when we think He isn’t aware. That He did not care if you were the village whore and nobody would talk to you or look at you (even though they most likely did when she wasn’t looking or in earshot or there). I like that Lisa reminds us that we need a group, a circle of friends, a cadre to be able to talk to, have real talks, be able to have someone to call and vent to, not hide anything, to be accountable to, to help you stay on the correct path, to be in good company with people who truly love you and care about and for you, only want the best for you. That won’t sugar coat or be too harsh and kick you when you’re down, but give you tough love when you need it. For you to lean on.
She also reminds us to be real with God. People try to lie and hide things from God which is funny in its self because that is impossible. There are so many great things in the book to take from, use in your life, your marriage, your parenting, friendship. Though for me, the biggest thing in this book and the biggest thing I took from this was what she and her friends started; called the Circle of Friends. They are there to keep you in the right path, to call on anytime for anything. They keep you accountable and vice versa. You talk about anything and everything, the joys and struggles in your life; etc. etc. My own church has that, but we use what I believe is the French term, Cadre. You get together with the main person once a week, one of the leaders of the church that is in that cadre to talk one on one about whatever you want to discuss. You go out to eat or for a cup of coffee or go book shopping or whatever it may be.
There is a bit more in the book than what I am discussing here but this is the main of what I got from it. I do have to admit though, that I was hoping to get engrossed in this book. I was really looking forward to this book coming. But I found it hard to keep my attention on the book. I found my mind wandering to other books and things. I’m hoping that it was just my mood this time and the stresses of life at this moment. I am going to re-read this book in about six months to a year and maybe do another review on it or touch up this review. Please don’t take my criticism wrong, I do recommend this book for anyone and everyone. And even though this is a Christian book on women’s life issues, I do believe a man could read this and get something from it.  If you want inspiration to not throw in the towel or give up, this is the book for you.


                                                         I received this book for review from The B&B Media Group

Monday, November 7, 2011

Creatures of the Night that We Loved So Well by James M. Fetters REVIEW

Over 200 photos, many never published before, TV Guide ads, movie listings by date, scans of actual scripts, Interviews with the Hosts and writers and identities of the hosts revealed for the first time. Many you’ve seen on other TV series and movies and didn’t even know. What famous comedian was the side kick of Famous Morris in 1976? What two Horror Hosts, one in 1957 and one in 1982 had lawsuits brought against them because of their own TV shows?

When I first heard the title and synopsis of this book I was very interested. For a few different reasons: I wasn’t allowed to watch these shows growing up. I was too young and they were on too late. When I was old enough to watch them I got nightmares. Or I was too scared to go to sleep. It was the worst when I or one of my friends had a sleep over and they wanted to watch one or more of them…I couldn’t sleep then woke up from a nightmare….Oh those days lol. Also I have never been into horror. Whether it is movie or book. I came to realize that most if not all horror books/movies are so unrealistic. I like a little scary…but not too scary and a lot of reality. I could never watch The Matrix because of the unreality of it all.
But when I saw this book I thought it would be a lot of fun to find out who those people were that played those scary characters and all the behind the scenes stuff. And even though I am not into horror, even older scary, Like Hitchcock; even though I watch Alfred Hitchcock once in a while….where they use chocolate syrup for blood…I had a lot of fun looking at all the pictures and manuscripts with the producers’ editing, or about reading about the lawsuits that happened.
There is a ton of the scary shows with their synopsis’ and credits and things. Such as The Invisible Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein, Sealed Lips and so many more! This book is jammed packed full of pictures, facts, neat stories and fun oh so interesting tid-bits of information that anyone who saw any of these shows/movies will love to read this book. You will have a lot of fun going through the pictures alone. It’ll definitely take you back into time! I know I am not doing this book justice and I am sorry for that. But I do recommend this book for any of you who watched any of these pictures. It was a lot of fun for me to go through each page of information and picture.

I received this book for review from MediaGuests

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Married Mom, Solo Parent by Carol Anne Coroy REVIEW

For married women who feel like single parents.
Bookstore shelves are full of parenting resources for moms who are newly divorced or widowed. But where do moms turn if they feel like a single parent--but they’re not? Whether he is away on business, deployed in the military, or obsessing over a computer game, dad may not be available for a variety of reasons. Moms who parent in this situation still need help and don’t necessarily relate to the advice given in divorce recovery or single parenting resources.
Married Mom, Solo Parent is a common-sense, down-to-earth look at the struggles wives and mothers face when their husband is not actively involved in family life. Writing from her own experience as a married single mom, Carla Anne Coroy will help wives and mothers sort through their questions, such as: Can I do this alone? How do I raise kids to honor their father? How do I give my children a healthy perspective of marriage if they never see one in action? With practical suggestions, anecdotes, and biblical teaching, this book will encourage moms to see their position as a high calling, to find healing for their worries and frustrations, and to tap into God’s strength for help in facing the daily challenge of being a married mom, solo parent.

I really enjoyed Carla Coroy’s book. I feel she has hit the nail on the head with this one. There are plenty of single parent, widowed parents etc… books. But not one book for those parents who are married and feel like they are parenting on their own; this is the first of its kind that I know of. Being a Christian, I was and am very happy that it is Christian based with Biblical and Scriptural guidelines.
This book is great for those who have a spouse that works full time (which is the majority lol) or more; especially in this economy. I know I have personally felt like a single mother at times because my husband does work full time and tries to get as much overtime as possible to make the dollar stretch longer. And when he comes home he is tired and sore from being up so early and being on his feet all day, etc…
For those parents who are stay-at-home mothers or fathers, we are waiting for our spouse to come home every night to help out with the kids and house. For that relief, help, partnership. So when our spouse comes in the door, we’re thinking ‘thank God! Help is here!’ But our spouse is wanting downtime as well so we continue to work as the single parent.
I can only imagine how much harder it is for those parents who have a spouse but they are off working on boats, ships, flying planes, driving trucks or fighting in other countries.   
I feel that this book would help tremendously especially for those parent who deal with their spouse being gone for long periods of time.
This isn't going to necessarily end your feelings of feeling like your a single parent, but it will give you the patience, strength and understanding you probably didn't have before. 
But I also think that it would be great for both parents to read this book, another line of communication, I think. I enjoyed her book, it was easy to read and understand.
I would recommend this book to any and all parents who have ever felt like a single parent; so initially, all parents out there, this is an excellent read…And make sure to have a highlighter lol…

Carla Anne Coroy runs the Married Single Mom blog at She speaks regularly and serves as a staff writer for an online Christian women’s magazine Mentoring Moments for Christian Women. Carla Anne lives in Canada with her husband and four homeschooled children. For more information, visit
If you would like to buy the book, go to Amazon