Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Mailbox - Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Marybeth Whalen is the general editor of For the Write Reason and The Reason We Speakas well as co-author of the book Learning to Live Financially Free. She serves as a speaker for the Proverbs 31 Ministry Team and directs a fiction book club, She Reads, through this same outreach. Most importantly, Marybeth is the wife of Curt Whalen and mother to their six children. She is passionate about sharing God with all the women God places in her path. She has been visiting the mailbox for years.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403693
ISBN-13: 978-0781403696

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Sunset Beach, NC

Summer 1985


Campbell held back a teasing smile as he led Lindsey across the warm sand toward the mailbox. Leaning her head on Campbell’s shoulder, her steps slowed. She looked up at him, observing the mischievous curling at the corners of his mouth. “There really is no mailbox, is there?” she said, playfully offended. “If you wanted to get me alone on a deserted stretch of beach, all you had to do was ask.” She elbowed him in the side.


A grin spread across his flawless face. “You caught me.” He threw his hands up in the air in surrender.


“I gotta stop for a sec,” Lindsey said and bent at the waist, stretching the backs of her aching legs. She stood up and put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes at him. “So, have you actually been to the mailbox? Maybe the other kids at the pier were just pulling your leg.”


Campbell nodded his head. “I promise I’ve been there before. It’ll be worth it. You’ll see.” He pressed his forehead to hers and looked intently into her eyes before continuing down the beach.


“If you say so …” she said, following him. He slipped his arm around her bare tanned shoulder and squeezed it, pulling her closer to him. Lindsey looked ahead of them at the vast expanse of raw

coastline. She could make out a jetty of rocks in the distance that jutted into the ocean like a finish line.


As they walked, she looked down at the pairs of footprints they left in the sand. She knew that soon the tide would wash them away, and she realized that just like those footprints, the time she had left

with Campbell would soon vanish. A refrain ran through her mind: Enjoy the time you have left. She planned to remember every moment of this walk so she could replay it later, when she was back at home, without him. Memories would be her most precious commodity. How else would she feel him near her?


“I don’t know how we’re going to make this work,” she said as they walked. “I mean, how are we going to stay close when we’re so far away from each other?”


He pressed his lips into a line and ran a hand through his hair. “We just will,” he said. He exhaled loudly, a punctuation.


“But how?” she asked, wishing she didn’t sound so desperate.


He smiled. “We’ll write. And we’ll call. I’ll pay for the longdistance bills. My parents already said I could.” He paused. “And we’ll count the days until next summer. Your aunt and uncle already said you could come back and stay for most of the summer. And you know your mom will let you.”


“Yeah, she’ll be glad to get rid of me for sure.” She pushed images of home from her mind: the menthol odor of her mother’s cigarettes, their closet-sized apartment with parchment walls you could hear the neighbors through, her mom’s embarrassing “delicates” dangling from the shower rod in the tiny bathroom they shared. She wished that her aunt and uncle didn’t have to leave the beach house after

the summer was over and that she could just stay with them forever.


The beach house had become her favorite place in the world. At the beach house, she felt like a part of a real family with her aunt and uncle and cousins. This summer had been an escape from the reality of her life at home. And it had been a chance to discover true love. But tomorrow, her aunt and uncle would leave for their home and send her back to her mother.


“I don’t want to leave!” she suddenly yelled into the open air, causing a few startled birds to take flight.


Campbell didn’t flinch when she yelled. She bit her lip and closed her eyes as he pulled her to him and hugged her.


“Shhh,” he said. “I don’t want you to leave either.” He cupped her chin with his hand. “If I could reverse time for you, I would. And we would go back and do this whole summer over.”


She nodded and wished for the hundredth time that she could stand on the beach with Campbell forever, listening to the hypnotic sound of his voice, so much deeper and more mature than the boys at school. She thought about the pictures they had taken earlier that day, a last-ditch effort to have something of him to take with her. But it was a pitiful substitute, a cheap counterfeit for the real thing.


Campbell pointed ahead of them. “Come on,” he said and tugged on her hand. “I think I see it.” He grinned like a little boy. They crested the dune and there, without pomp or circumstance,

just as he had promised, stood an ordinary mailbox with gold letters spelling out “Kindred Spirit.”


“I told you it was here!” he said as they waded through the deep sand. “The mailbox has been here a couple of years,” he said, his tone changing to something close to reverence as he laid his hand on top

of it. “No one knows who started it or why, but word has traveled and now people come all the way out here to leave letters for the Kindred Spirit—the mystery person who reads them. People come from all over the world.”


“So does anybody know who gets the letters?” Lindsey asked. She ran her fingers over the gold, peeling letter decals. The bottom half of the n and e were missing.


“I don’t think so. But that’s part of what draws people here— they come here because this place is private, special.” He looked down at his bare feet, digging his toes into the sand. “So … I wanted to bring you here. So it could be our special place too.” He looked over at her out of the corner of his eye. “I hope you don’t think that’s lame.”


She put her arms around him and looked into his eyes. “Not lame at all,” she said.


As he kissed her, she willed her mind to record it all: the roar of the waves and the cry of the seagulls, the powdery softness of the warm sand under her feet, the briny smell of the ocean mixed with the scent of Campbell’s sun-kissed skin. Later, when she was back at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, she would come right back to this moment. Again and again. Especially when her mother sent her to her room with the paper-thin walls while she entertained her newest boyfriend.


Lindsey opened the mailbox, the hinges creaking as she did. She looked to him, almost for approval. “Look inside,” he invited her.


She saw some loose paper as well as spiral-bound notebooks, the kind she bought at the drugstore for school. The pages were crinkly from the sea air and water. There were pens in the mailbox too, some

with their caps missing.


Campbell pointed. “You should write a letter,” he said. “Take a pen and some paper and just sit down and write what you are feeling.” He shrugged. “It seemed like something you would really get into.”


How well he had come to know her in such a short time. “Okay,” she said. “I love it.” She reached inside and pulled out a purple notebook, flipping it open to read a random page. Someone had written about a wonderful family vacation spent at Sunset and the special time she had spent with her daughter.


She closed the notebook. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She couldn’t imagine her own mother ever wanting to spend time with her, much less being so grateful about it. Reading the notebook made her feel worse, not better. She didn’t need reminding about what she didn’t have waiting for her back home.


Campbell moved in closer. “What is it?” he said, his body lining up perfectly with hers as he pulled her close.


She laid the notebook back inside the mailbox. “I just don’t want to go home,” she said. “I wish my uncle didn’t have to return to his stupid job. How can I go back to … her? She doesn’t want me there any more than I want to be there.” This time she didn’t fight the tears that had been threatening all day.


Campbell pulled her down to sit beside him in the sand and said nothing as she cried, rocking her slightly in his arms.


With her head buried in his shoulder, her words came out muffled. “You are so lucky you live here.”


He nodded. “Yeah, I guess I am.” He said nothing for a while.

“But you have to know that this place won’t be the same for me without you in it.”


She looked up at him, her eyes red from crying. “So you’re saying I’ve ruined it for you?”


He laughed, and she recorded the sound of his laugh in her memory too. “Well, if you want to put it that way, then, yes.”


“Well, that just makes me feel worse!” She laid her head on his shoulder and concentrated on the nearness of him, inhaled the sea scent of his skin and the smell of earth that clung to him from working

outside with his dad.


“Everywhere I go from now on I will have the memory of you with me. Of me and you together. The Island Market, the beach, the arcade, the deck on my house, the pier …” He raised his eyebrows as

he remembered the place where he first kissed her. “And now here. It will always remind me of you.”


“And I am going home to a place without a trace of you in it. I don’t know which is worse, constant reminders or no reminders at all.” She laced her narrow fingers through his.


“So are you glad we met?” She sounded pitiful, but she had to hear his answer.


“I would still have wanted to meet you,” he said. “Even though it’s going to break my heart to watch you go. What we have is worth it.” He kissed her, his hands reaching up to stroke her hair. She heard his words echoing in her mind: worth it, worth it, worth it. She knew that they were young, that they had their whole lives ahead of them, at least that’s what her aunt and uncle had told her. But she also knew

that what she had with Campbell was beyond age.


Campbell stood up and pulled her to her feet, attempting to keep kissing her as he did. She giggled as the pull of gravity parted them. He pointed her toward the mailbox. “Now, go write it all down for the Kindred Spirit. Write everything you feel about us and how unfair it is that we have to be apart.” He squinted his eyes at her. “And I promise not to read over your shoulder.”


She poked him. “You can read it if you want. I have no secrets from you.”


He shook his head. “No, no. This is your deal. Your private world—just between you and the Kindred Spirit. And next year,” he said, smiling down at her, “I promise to bring you back here, and you can write about the amazing summer we’re going to have.”


“And what about the summer after that?” she asked, teasing him.


“That summer too.” He kissed her. “And the next.” He kissed her again. “And the next.” He kissed her again, smiling down at her through his kisses. “Get the point?


“This will be our special place,” he said as they stood together in front of the mailbox.


“Always?” she asked.


“Always,” he said.


Summer 1985


Dear Kindred Spirit,


I have no clue who you are, and yet that doesn’t stop me from writing to you anyway. I hope one day I will discover your identity. I wonder if you are nearby even as I put pen to paper. It’s a little weird to think that I could have passed you on the street this summer and not know you would be reading my

deepest thoughts and feelings. Campbell won’t even read this, though I would let him if he asked me.


As I write, Campbell is down at the water’s edge, throwing shells. He is really good at making the shells skip across the water—I guess that’s proof that this place is his home.


Let me ask you, Kindred Spirit: Do you think it’s silly for me to assume that I have found my soul mate at the age of fifteen? My mom would laugh. She would tell me that the likelihood of anyone finding a soul mate—ever—is zero. She would tell me that I need to not go around giving my heart away like a hopeless romantic. She laughs when I read romance novels or see sappy movies that make me cry. She says that I will learn the truth about love someday.


But, honestly, I feel like I did learn the truth about love this summer. It’s like what they say: It can happen when you least expect it, and it can knock you flat on your back with its power. I didn’t come here expecting to fall in love. The truth is I didn’t want to come here at all. I came here feeling pushed aside and unwanted. I can still remember when my mom said that she had arranged for my aunt and uncle to bring me here, smiling at me like she was doing me some kind of favor when we both knew she just wanted me out of the picture so she could live her life without me cramping her style.


I tried to tell her that I didn’t want to come—who would want to spend their summer with bratty cousins? I was so mad, I didn’t speak to my mom for days. I begged, plotted, and even got my best friend Holly’s parents to say I could stay with them instead. But in the end, as always, my mother ruled, and I got packed off for a summer at the beach. On the car ride down, I sat squished in the backseat beside Bobby and Stephanie. Bobby elbowed me and stuck his tongue out at me the whole way to the beach. When his parents weren’t looking, of course. I stared out the window and pretended to be anywhere but in that car.


But now, I can’t believe how wonderful this summer has turned out. I made some new friends. I read a lot of books and even got to where I could tolerate my little cousins. They became like the younger siblings I never had. Most of all, I met Campbell.


I know what Holly will say. She will say that it was God’s plan. I am working on believing that there is a God and that he has a plan for my life like Holly says. But most of the time it feels like God is not aware I exist. If he was aware of me, you’d think he’d have given me a mom who actually cared about me.


Ugh—I can’t believe I have to leave tomorrow. Now that I have found Campbell, I don’t know what I will do without him. We have promised to write a lot of letters. And we have promised not to date other people.


A word about him asking me not to date other people: This was totally funny to me. Two nights ago we were walking on the beach and he stopped me, pulling me to him and looking at me really seriously. “Please,” he said, “I would really like it if you wouldn’t see other people. Is that crazy for me to ask that of you when we are going to be so far apart?”


I was like, “Are you kidding? No one asks me out. No one at my school even looks at me twice!” At school I am known for being quiet and studious—a brain, not a girl to call for a good time. Holly says that men will discover my beauty later in life. But until this summer I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t admit that no one notices me at school because, obviously, he believes I am sought after. And I knew enough to let him believe it. So I very coyly answered back, “Only if you promise me the same thing.”


And he smiled in that lazy way of his and said, “How could I even look at another girl when I’ve got the best one in the world?”


And so now you see why I just can’t bear the thought of leaving him. But the clock is ticking. When I get home, I swear I will cry myself to sleep every night and write letters to Campbell every day. The only thing I have to look forward to is hanging out with Holly again. Thank goodness for Holly, the one constant in my life. In math class we learned that a constant is something that has one value all the time and it never changes.

That’s what Holly is for me: my best friend, no matter what.


I wonder if Campbell will be a constant in my life. I guess it’s too soon to tell, but I do hope so. I’m already counting down the days until I can come back and be with Campbell. Because this summer—I don’t care how lame it sounds—I found my purpose. And that purpose is loving Campbell with all my

heart. Always.


Until next summer,

Lindsey

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.




My thoughts:
I love a good love story. I also like stories where the people are childhood sweethearts. That's the romantic in me. Add in some folklore and faith and we've got it going on.

But what happens if that love is torn apart? And then years later they are reunited and given a second chance? It makes for an excellent story that's what!

One thing I really enjoyed was how this is based on a real landmark on the coast of North Carolina. It makes me want to go visit this famous mailbox and leave a letter of my own. Telling deep dark secrets, well if I had any. But you get my point. It would be AWESOME to be a part of that.

Anyways...

I read this book in one night. It was sooooo good. I think you'd enjoy it too. So go get it!!!




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Monday, June 28, 2010

SodaStream Review


I kept seeing so many reviews for this product and I though to myself does this really work? What does it taste like? Is it going to be any good? I wanted to try it.

So I contacted SodaStream and asked if I could do a review. They said yes. And I said Wahooo! :)

When it arrived I was so excited. I kinda might have squealed a little. Just a little. :) I tore into the package after I lugged inside. It was a lot heavier than I expected. I didn't take into account everything that was inside.


Here's what I got.
  • Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker
  • 1 60 liter Carbonator
  • 2 Carbonating Bottles 
  • MyWater Flavor Essence - Variety 3 pack 
  • Sodamix Variety 12 pack (includes Cola, Diet Cola, Energy Drink, Diet Energy Drink, Root Beer, Lemon-Lime, Orange Mango, Diet Lemon-Lime, Diet Root Beer, Diet Cranberry-Raspberry and Diet Pink Grapefruit, Lemon Iced Tea)
Wow, huh? Yea. I kinda didn't know what to do first. It all sounded good. But I was still skeptical. How was this going to taste?

So I decided to fix the Root Beer first. ♥ Root Beer. I was a little nervous about making it. Even though the company said it was easy to make. It really was easy though!

All you have to do is fill one of the carbonating bottles with cold water to the fill line. Screw it into the soda maker. Push the carbonation button on the top (it says 3 times, but the more you push the more carbonation in the soda - I usually went with 5. I like it bubbly.) Unscrew from soda maker. And add the flavoring.


Then it was time to do a taste test. Slowly, I took a small sip. Not bad.

Now a bigger drink. Hmmm, it was very tasty. I was surprised. I really didn't know what I was getting into.

I will say this. It is not going to taste exactly like your regular pops (I say pop not soda...it's a southern thing). It's not as carbonated. But it is very flavorful and it really can cut down on the amount of money you spend on your pop.

It might take you a little while to get used to but I liked it.

Now you can also do flavored water. But I really didn't care for the taste of that. You however may not mind it. It's all a matter of preference I think.

If that's not enough to make you try it...

The nutritional value is beneficial as well. It has less calories then regular pop. Regular flavors contain no high-fructose corn syrup, and diet flavors are sweetened with Splenda® brand sweetener, not aspartame.

SodaStream is also earth-friendly and convenient.
  • Less packaging waste from cans and bottles.
  • Less pollution caused by transport of bottled beverages.
  • Save space with concentrated soda mix and reusable carbonating bottles
  • No more lugging and storing heavy, bulky bottles and cans
  • No more hassles with empties in the trash or recycling bin
  • No batteries, no electricity, no plumbing
  • Over 30 flavors at the touch of a button
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants an alternative to regular soda.


*Disclaimer: I was provided this product for review from SodaStream. The opinion is my own.*


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Cat Sitter: Mystery of the Siamese - Review & Giveaway

Description:
Meet Cat.  She is a 12 year old pet sitter, who mainly pet sits cats.
In this first adventure, Cat needs to pet sit her neighbors siamese cat Percy....but for some reason Percy is not acting like his adorable self. Can Cat discover what is wrong?

While doing this job, Cat also attends school where she is taught to write a haiku poem and she writes one about cats.   
This book can be purchased as a PDF, a Kindle edition, or paper back from Amazon.  If you are a homeschooler, it can also be purchased here. Cost varies from $2.00 to $6.50.

The author of this series is Teresa Ives Lilly   you can see her at www.hshighlights.com/freebird

My thoughts:
I had the great pleasure of reading this story. It was such a fun book. My daughter LOVES cats. She thought it was cute and funny (her words (: ). She's just now learning to read and I had to help her with it a little bit. It's a chapter book so it's a little longer (but not TOO long) than what she was used to but she enjoyed it a lot. I would recommend this for any child that has a love of cats, mysteries, and funny stories. I really liked how the author added the element of learning in this book. It's not only a story but a learning experience.

AND I have a treat for you!

TWO lucky readers will each win a PDF copy of their very own. :)

To enter to win just leave me a comment below telling me why you'd like a copy of this e-book.

For additional entries...
* Follow & Tweet about it @lesleypeck

* Follow me using Google Follower

* "Like" Dragonflies 'n Daydreams on Facebook

* Subscribe to receive updates via email


Please make sure you leave a comment for each so they can be counted. :)


This giveaway will end on July 4th, 2010 at 11:59PM EST. Winner will be chosen using Random.org.


*Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book in e-book form for review & giveaway. The opinion is my own.*


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Way Back in the Country Garden - Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Hannibal Books (May 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Author Kay Wheeler Moore has written and spoken widely on the subject of relationships and family life. She is the author of Way Back in the Country; When the Heart Soars Free, a book of Christian fiction; and Gathering the Missing Pieces in an Adopted Life, based on her Houston Chronicle newspaper series that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She has also been a newspaper city editor and a reporter for United Press International.



Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (May 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749710
ISBN-13: 978-1934749715

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter 1: “We Were Rich”


The screen door to the farmhouse creaked open and then quickly slapped shut.


Without glancing up from her ironing board Grandma Harris knew the next sound would be that of feet pit-patting from the front porch into the living room and halting abruptly at her dining table.


Those feet, Grandma knew, could belong to any of several of her grandchildren, whose stopovers at her house were part of their regular home-from-school itinerary.


“Oh, yum, she’s got a fresh bowl full,” Grandma heard a high-pitched squeak emerge. That would be Mable, the youngest of Grandma’s daughter, Mattie, who lived across the pasture with her family.


“I was here first, Mable,” a slightly older voice cajoled. Frances, Grandma’s namesake, got irritated easily with her smaller sibling. “Don’t hog the crackers so I can have the first dip.”


“We’ve all gotta be quick before the others get here,” the oldest one, Bonnie, warned her younger two sisters. They glanced over their shoulders to see whether any of their cousins were hungrily making their way onto Grandma’s porch.


“Girls, I got plenty of tomato preserves fer ever’one—for you and yer cousins,” Grandma gently chided. She stepped from the kitchen to hug her granddaughters, who competed for the first taste of the thick, sweet treat that awaited them as an afternoon snack. “Take turns, now, so I won’t have t’ tell yer mama ya didn’t share politely.”


Grandma Harris had put out the new batch of tomato preserves earlier that day after Grandpa fetched several jars from the storm cellar which had housed them since the summer’s canning. Grandma’s long, hot days of putting up delightful red tomatoes from their garden had yielded a treasure trove of preserves Grandma could share throughout the fall and winter.


In mid-afternoon Grandma had opened the first jar and ladled its contents into a wide-rimmed, cutglass compote that stood on a gleaming, glass-stemmed pedestal in the center of her dining table. The cutglass glistened like diamonds as it reflected the sun’s light filtering through the room. Into a separate dish Grandma had set out some saltine crackers. On this particular afternoon her red-haired granddaughters—Bonnie, Frances, and Mable Miller—were the first snack-seekers.


No doubt they’d soon be followed by some of the youngsters of her other sons and daughters whose homes were also nearby.


Ultimately Grandma Harris would go on to begat 52 grandchildren in all, but she never ran out of treats for them or resourceful ways to prepare the many vegetables that she and Grandpa Harris grew in their everlastingly prolific garden. Every Sunday Grandma prepared an enormous, after-church dinner for all of her 11 children and their families who could attend.


Because their farmhouse was closest to Grandma’s, the “Three Red-Haired Miller Girls”, as many in their community of Brushy Mound knew them, hardly ever missed a Sunday—or an after-school afternoon—at Grandma’s house, where her good cooking always abounded.

* * * * * * * * * *


A century later the Harris farmhouse built on the rich, black soil of Delta County, TX, has long ago crumbled down. Grandma’s abundant garden has been plowed under with only a few derelict weeds to mark the spot where those sweet-ascandy tomatoes grew so bountifully. For more than 65 years grass has grown unbidden around the tombstone marked “Frances E. Harris”—the Miller girls’ beloved “Grandma”.


But down all the decades, the memory of Grandma’s delectable tomato preserves served in the sparkling, pedestaled compote would remain fresh in the mind of her namesake—little Frances, who was still recounting the tomato preserves story well into her 103rd year on this earth.


“We were rich,” Frances recalled to us nieces and nephews, who discreetly pumped her for just one more of her “olden-days” country tales before night would fall on her memory forever. This font of family lore was the last surviving member of that generation of our kin. At 102 years and 1 month of age Frances could still describe picking melons the size of basketballs, okra rows that were city blocks-long, and cornstalks that seemed to stand tall as skyscrapers.


Although farm families such as hers usually lacked financial means, the garden insured that no one would go hungry. Just before supper each night Mama faithfully sent Frances and her sisters out to see what was ready to be plucked from the vine and cooked up for that night’s meal.


“We had no idea we were poor,” Frances mused from her wheelchair, “because we always had food from the garden.”

* * * * * * * *


At the time Frances related her last tomato preserves story before her passing in May 2009, people everywhere were turning to backyard patches of earth again for the same reason the Miller girls and their mama and grandma did in the early part of the last century.


Economic woes in the United States and around the world have caused family incomes to plummet. Home-gardening has become a passionate new interest for people who have never planted a seed or worked a hoe. Even the wife of the U.S. President at the time, as an example for others, grew vegetables in her own White House garden. Heads of households can gaze on small stretches of garden dirt and comfort themselves in the same way Frances’ family did. After all, the Great Depression, which clouded the Miller Girls’ youth in rural northeast Texas, did not sting as much to those who could till the soil and cultivate its yield. With food from the garden, they could always feed their families and feel “rich”, no matter how lean the times or how thin the pocketbook.


My earlier cookbook, Way Back in the Country, emphasized that food, the recipes for how to prepare it, and the stories of people who cooked them are all interwoven into the fabric of family life. Way Back in the Country encouraged families to preserve not just their legendary recipes but the lore of the loved ones—such as the indomitable Grandma Harris—who made them popular. Through tales of the Red-Haired Miller Girls—my mother, Mable, and her two sisters, Frances and Bonnie—and six generations of their farm kin and the recipes that have been regulars at family gatherings for decades, Way Back in the Country inspired others to get their tape-recorders out and investigate why “Great-Aunt Gertie” always brought lemon pound cake whenever their extended families dined.


With gardening surging in popularity once more, the time seems right to revisit the Miller-Harris legends and recipe chests—this time to celebrate the role that food from one’s own soil has always played in American homes and how, in the Tight Times of this Great Recession, it makes us feel “rich” with hope and comfort afresh. Way Back in the Country Garden again will intertwine six generations of my family’s anecdotes with cooking instructions that will probably remind you of some of your own family favorites.


So prepare to laugh, cry, and traipse down memory lane once again with the Red-Haired Miller Girls and their progeny—through yarns my family told—yarns that I didn’t always witness firsthand but can try to recreate as I can envision them happening in my mind’s eye. May you soon be preserving some country gardening tales of your own and savoring the memories and tastes of yesterday.


Copyright © 2010

All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without the express written consent of the publisher.

My thoughts:
I have always been fascinated with the past. I think it would be so great to be able to travel back to when our grandparents and great-grandparents lived. They had such struggles, but mainly they were happy. The loved the simple things in life. Family and faith were of utmost importance.

This was a great book because it shared real life stories from a family who lived in Texas. One of the things shared is how they used the garden for many of their needs. There are A LOT of recipes. Yummy sounding recipes. I want to try them all. :)

If you like history, family, and food - this is the book for you!


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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Claim - Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Lisa T. Bergren is a best-selling author who offers a wide array of reading opportunities ranging from children’s books (God Gave Us Love and God Found Us You) and women’s nonfiction (Life on Planet Mom) to suspense-filled intrigue (The Gifted Trilogy) and historical drama. With more than thirty titles among her published works and a deep faith that has weathered dramatic career and personal challenges, Bergren is excited to add the Homeward Trilogy to her resume as she follows God’s direction in her writing career. Bergren lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband Tim (a graphic design artist and musician) and their three children.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143476706X
ISBN-13: 978-1434767066

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


1 August 1888

Gunnison, Colorado


“Keep doing that you’ll get yourself killed,” Nic said to the boy. Panting, Nic paused and wiped his forehead of sweat. For an hour now, as he moved sacks of grain from a wagon to a wheelbarrow and into the warehouse, he’d glimpsed the boy daring fate as he ran across the busy street, narrowly escaping horse hooves and wagon wheels.


“Where’s your mother?”


The brown-haired boy paused. “Don’t have a mother.”


“Well then, where’s your father?”


The boy cast him an impish grin and shrugged one shoulder.

“Around.”


“Is he coming back soon?” Nic persisted.


“Soon enough. You won’t tell ’im, will ya?”


“Tell him what?” Nic tossed back with a small smile. “Long as you stop doing whatever you’re not supposed to be doing.”


The boy wandered closer and climbed up to perch on the wagon’s edge, watching Nic with eyes that were as dark as his hair. Nic relaxed a bit, relieved that the kid wasn’t in imminent danger.


Nic hefted a sack onto his shoulder and carried it to the cart. It felt good to be working again. He liked this sort of heavy labor, the feel of muscles straining, the way he had to suck in his breath to heave a sack, then release it with a long whoosh. A full day of this sort of work allowed him to drop off into dreamless sleep—something he hungered for more than anything else these days.


The boy was silent, but Nic could feel him staring, watching his every move like an artist studying a subject he was about to paint. “How’d you get so strong?” the boy said at last.


“Always been pretty strong,” Nic said, pulling the next sack across the wooden planks of the wagon, positioning it. “How’d you get so fast?”


“Always been pretty fast,” said the boy, in the same measured tone Nic had used.


Nic smiled again, heaved the sack to his shoulder, hauled it five steps to the cart, and then dropped it.


“This your job?” the boy asked.


“For today,” Nic said.


Nic loaded another sack, and the boy was silent for a moment. “My dad’s looking for help. At our mine.”


“Hmm,” Nic said.


“Needs a partner to help haul rock. He’s been asking around here for days.”


“Miner, huh? I don’t care much for mining.”


“Why not? You could be rich.”


“More miners turn out dead than rich.” He winced inwardly, as a shadow crossed the boy’s face. It’d been a while since he’d been around a kid this age. He was maybe ten or eleven max, all wiry muscle and sinew. Reminded him of a boy he knew in Brazil.


Nic carried the next sack over to the wagon, remembering the heat there, so different from what Colorado’s summer held. Here it was bone dry. He was sweating now, after the morning’s work, but not a lot. In Brazil a man soaked his sheets as he slept.


“Listen, kid,” he said, turning back around to the wagon, intending to apologize for upsetting him. But the boy was gone.


Nic sighed and set to finishing his work. As the sun climbed high in the sky, he paused to take a drink from his canteen and eat a hunk of bread and cheese, watching the busy street at the end of the alleyway. He wondered if he’d see the boy again, back to his antics of racing teams of horses. The child was probably letting off steam, just as Nic had done all his life—he’d been about the child’s age when he’d first starting scrapping with others.


But that was in the past. Not since his voyage aboard the Mirabella had Nic indulged the need, succumbed to the desire to enter a fight. Several times now, he’d had the opportunity—and enough cause—to take another man down. But he had walked away. He knew, deep down he knew, that if he was ever to face his sisters, Odessa and Moira, again, if he was to come to them and admit he was penniless, everything would somehow be all right if he was settled inside. If he could come to a place of peace within, the kind of peace Manuel had known. It was the kind of thing that allowed a man to stand

up straight, shoulders back, the kind of thing that gave a man’s gut peace. Regardless of what he accomplished, or had in the past. Thing was, he hadn’t found that place of comfort inside, and he didn’t want what Manuel tried to sell him—God.


There had to be another way, another path. Something like this work. Hard manual labor. That might be what he needed most.


Nic heard a man calling, his voice a loud whisper, and his eyes narrowed as the man came limping around the corner, obviously in pain, his arm in a sling. “You, there!” he called to Nic. “Seen a boy around? About yea big?” he said, gesturing to about chest height.


“Yeah, he was here,” Nic called back. He set his canteen inside the empty wagon and walked to the end of the alleyway.


“Where’d he go?” the man said. Nic could see the same widow’s peak in the man’s brown hair that the boy had, the same curve of the eyes … the boy’s father, clearly.


“Not sure. One minute he was watching me at work, the next he was gone.”


“That’s my boy, all right.”


“I’ll help you find him.”


The man glanced back at him and then gave him a small smile. He stuck out his good arm and offered his hand. “I’d appreciate that. Name’s Vaughn. Peter Vaughn.”


“Dominic St. Clair,” he replied. “You can call me Nic.”


Peter smiled. His dimples were in the exact same spot as the boy’s. “Sure you can leave your work?”


“I’m nearly done. Let’s find your boy.”


“Go on,” Moira’s sister urged, gazing out the window. “He’s been waiting on you for a good bit now.”


“I don’t know what he sees in me,” Moira said, wrapping the veil around her head and across her shoulder again. It left most of her face visible but covered the burns at her neck, ear, and scalp. Did it cover them enough? She nervously patted it, making sure it was in place.


Odessa stepped away from washing dishes and joined her. “He might wonder what you see in him. Do you know what his story is? He seems wary.” Their eyes met and Odessa backtracked. “Daniel’s a

good man, Moira. I think highly of him. But I’d like to know what has burdened him so. Besides you.” She nudged her sister with her hip.


Moira wiped her hands on the dish towel and glanced out at him as he strode across the lawn with Bryce, Odessa’s husband. He was striking in profile, reminding her of the statues of Greek gods the French favored in their lovely tailored gardens. Far too handsome for her—since the fire, anyway. She shook her head a little.


“Moira.”


Irritated at being caught in thought, Moira looked at Odessa again.


“Trust him, Moira. He’s a good man. I can sense it.”


She nodded, but inwardly she sighed as she turned away and wrapped a scarf around her veiled head and shoulders. A good man. After Reid and Max and Gavin—could she really trust her choice in men? Odessa was fortunate to have fallen for her husband, Bryce, a good man through and through. Moira’s experiences with men had been less than successful. What made Odessa think this one was trustworthy?


But as Daniel ducked his head through the door and inclined it to one side in silent invitation to walk with him, Moira thought about how he had physically saved her more than once. And how his gentle pursuit both bewildered and calmed her. Daniel had done nothing to deserve her suspicions.


She moved over to the door. He glanced at her, and she noticed how his thick lashes made his brown eyes more pronounced. He shuffled his feet as if he were nervous. “You busy?” he asked.


“No.” Moira felt a nervous tension tighten her stomach muscles.


“Can we, uh …” His gaze shifted to Odessa, who quickly returned to her dishes. “Go for a walk?” he finally finished.


Moira smoothed her skirts and said, “I’d like that.” Then, meeting her sister’s surreptitious gaze, she followed him outside. It was a lovely day on the Circle M. The horses pranced in the distance. She could see her brother-in-law riding out with Tabito, the ranch’s foreman.


“So, you wanted to talk,” she ventured.


“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t want to talk to you, Moira,” he said.


She looked up at him and then, when she saw the ardor in his gaze, she turned with a sigh.


“Don’t look away,” he whispered gently, pulling her to face him. He reached to touch her veil, as if he longed to cradle her cheek instead.


“No, Daniel, don’t,” she said and ran a nervous hand over the cover. He was tall and broad, and she did not feel physically menaced—it was her heart that threatened to pound directly out of her chest. Perhaps she wasn’t ready for this … the intimacies that a courtship brought.


She’d been dreaming about what it would be like to be kissed by him, held by him, but he never made such advances before. Never took the opportunity, leaving her to think that he was repulsed by

her burns, her hair, singed to just a few inches long, her past relationship with Gavin, or her pregnancy—despite what he claimed. Her hand moved to the gentle roundness of her belly, still small yet making itself more and more prominent each day. “I … I’m not even certain why you pursue me at all. Why you consider me worthy. ”


He seemed stunned by her words. “Worthy?” he breathed. He let out a hollow, breathy laugh and then looked to the sky, running a hand through his hair. He shook his head and then slowly brought his brown eyes down to meet hers again. “Moira,” he said, lifting a hand to cradle her cheek and jaw, this time without hesitation. She froze, wondering if he intended to kiss her at last. “I only hesitate because I am afraid,” he whispered.


“Afraid? You think I am not? I come to you scarred in so many ways, when you, you, Daniel, deserve perfection.…”


“No,” he said, shaking his head too. “It is I who carry the scars. You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am. Who I once was. What I’ve done …”


“So tell me,” she pleaded. “Tell me.”


He stared at her a moment longer, as if wondering if she was ready, wondering if she could bear it, and Moira’s heart pounded again. Then, “No. I can’t,” he said with a small shake of his head. He sighed heavily and moved up the hill. “Not yet.”


An hour after they began their search for Everett Vaughn, Peter sat down on the edge of the boardwalk and looked up to the sky. His face was a mask of pain. “That boy was hard to track when I wasn’t hurt.”


“He’ll turn up,” Nic reassured.


Peter nodded and lifted his gaze to the street.


“What happened to you?” Nic said gently, sitting down beside the man. His eyes scanned the crowds for the boy even as he waited for Peter’s response.


“Cave-in, at my mine. That’s why I’m here. Looking for a good man to partner with me. I’m onto a nice vein, but I’m livin’ proof that a man’s a fool to mine alone.” He looked at Nic and waited until he met his gaze. “You lookin’ for work?” He cocked his head to the side. “I’m offering a handsome deal. Fifty fifty.”


Nic let a small smile tug at the corners of his mouth. He glanced at the man, who had to be about his own age. There was an easy way about him that drew Nic, despite the pain evident in the lines of his face. “That is a handsome offer.” He cocked his own head. “But I don’t see you doing half the work, laid up like you are.”


“No, not quite. But I’ve already put a lot of work into it in the past three years, and I’m still good for about a quarter of the labor. To say nothing of the fact that my name’s on the claim.”


Nic paused, thinking about it, feeling drawn to help this man, but then shook his head. “I’m not very fond of small dark spaces.”


“So … make it bigger. Light a lamp.”


Nic shook his head, more firmly this time. “No. I’d rather find another line of work.”


Just then he spotted the boy, running the street again. “There he is,” Nic said, nodding outward. The boy’s father followed his gaze and with a grimace, rose to his feet. As they watched, the boy ran under a wagon that had temporarily pulled to a stop. Then he jumped up on the back of another, riding it for about twenty feet until he was passing by them. His face was a mask of elation.


“Everett! Ev! Come on over here!”


Everett’s eyes widened in surprise. He jumped down and ran over to them, causing a man on horseback to pull back hard on his reins and swear.


“Sorry, friend,” Peter said, raising his good arm up to the rider. The horseman shook his head and then rode on.


Peter grabbed his son’s arm and, limping, hauled him over to the boardwalk. “I’ve told you to stay out of the street.”


“So did I,” Nic said, meeting the boy’s gaze. The child flushed red and glanced away.


“We’d best be on our way,” Peter said. “Thanks for helpin’ me find my boy.” He reached out a hand and Nic rose to shake it. Peter paused. “It’s not often a man has a chance at entering a claim agreement once a miner has found a vein that is guaranteed to pay.”


Nic hesitated as he dropped Peter’s hand. “I’ve narrowly escaped with my life on more than one occasion, friend. I’m aiming to look up my sisters, but not from a casket.”


Peter lifted his chin, but his eyes betrayed his weariness and disappointment. What would it mean for him? For his boy, not to find a willing partner? Would they have to give up the mine just as they were finally on the edge of success? And what of the boy’s mother? His unkempt, too-small clothes told him Everett had been without a mother for some time.


He hesitated again, feeling a pang of compassion for them both. “Should I change my mind … where would I find you?”


A glimmer of hope entered Peter’s eyes. “A couple miles out of St. Elmo. Just ask around for the Vaughn claim up in the Gulch and someone’ll point you in our direction.” He reached out a hand. “I’d be much obliged, Nic. And I’m not half bad at cookin’ either. I’d keep you in grub. Give it some thought. But don’t be too put out if you get there, and I’ve found someone else.”


“Understood,” Nic said with a smile. “Safe journey.”


“And to you.” He turned away, tugging at his boy’s shoulder, but the child looked back at Nic, all big pleading eyes.


Hurriedly, Nic walked away in the opposite direction. He fought the desire to turn and call out to them. Wasn’t he looking for work? Something that would allow him to ride on to Bryce and Odessa’s ranch without his tail tucked between his legs? The man had said the mine was sure to pay.… I’m onto a nice vein.…


Was that a miner’s optimism or the truth?


Not yet?” Moira sputtered, following him. She frowned in confusion. He had been coaxing her forward, outward, steadily healing her with his kind attentions these last two months. But now it was as if they were at some strange impasse. What was he talking about? What had happened to him?


She hurried forward and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop and turn again to face her. Her veil clung to her face in the early evening breeze. “Daniel.”


He slowly lifted his dark eyes to meet hers.


“This is about me, isn’t it?” she asked. “You attempt to spare my feelings but find me repulsive. I can hardly fault you, but—”


“No,” he said, with another hollow laugh. “Contrary to what you believe, Moira St. Clair, not everything boils down to you. You are braver than you think and more beautiful than you dare to believe. I believe we’re destined to be together.”


Moira held her breath. Then what—


“No,” he went on. “This is about something I need to resolve. Something that needs to be done, or at least settled in my mind, my heart, before I can properly court you.”


“What? What is it, Daniel?” she tried once more.


He only looked at her helplessly, mouth half open, but mute.


She crossed her arms and turned her back to him, staring out across the pristine valley, the land of the Circle M. It hurt her that he felt he couldn’t confide in her as she had with him. She stiffened when he laid his big hands on her shoulders. “I don’t need to be rescued, Daniel,” she said in a monotone. “God has seen me to this place, this time. He’ll see me through to the next … with or without you.”


“You don’t understand.”


“No. I don’t. We’ve been courting all summer, whether you realize it or not. And now you say that there is something else that needs to be resolved? You assume much, Daniel Adams. You think that I’ll wait forever?” She let out a scoffing laugh. “It’s clear you do not fear that any other man might pursue me. Not that I blame you …” She turned partly away and stared into the distance. “Please. Don’t let this linger on. I cannot bear it. Not if you do not intend to claim me as your own.”


He was silent for a long minute. Oh, that he would but turn her and meet her lips at last …


But he didn’t. “We both have a lot to think through, pray through, Moira,” he said quietly.


“Yes, well, let me know when that is accomplished,” she said over her shoulder, walking away as fast as she could, lest he see the tears that were already rolling down her cheeks.


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Claim by Lisa Bergren. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.


My thoughts:
I loved, loved, loved it. I was so excited to get this book, because earlier I had reviewed the previous book, Sing. I really wanted to see how this family drama ended. And I was NOT disappointed. It was awesome! Just the way I though it should be. I just love when it's like that. LOL :) But now I'm wishing for another book about this family. I hate to leave them!!


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Family Photos

I was just over on Marsha's blog Other Such Happenings reading her latest post "family pictures" and boy did she make me think about my family's last portrait.

I hated that picture.

I mean I only gave way 3 copies; my mom, my sister, and his parents. The rest are packed away where no one can see it. Until now. Yes, I'm going to be brave enough to show it to God and everyone. *sigh*

It wasn't even meant to be a family portrait. It was just suppose to be Gracie. However, she cried and pitched a fit and I didn't want to leave with nothing, so Robby & I jumped right in. Neither of us were dressed right, he refused to take off his hat, I looked fat. My hair wasn't fixed. Oh the list goes on.


But you know now I look back and I think this was the picture before - before so much changed. His accident happened about a month later, you can see his elbow has no scar. We both look so much younger. You sure can age a lot in 5 years. :/ So much stuff has happened since this picture. Some good (like the arrival of our little guy) and some bad... It's amazing how many memories one single picture can evoke.

Marsha was sweet enough to remind me (and you) that we may not get another chance for that perfect picture. And if we are honest with ourselves, we know it's not going to happen. Nothing is perfect.

Be grateful for what you have today and NEVER take it for granted.


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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rayovac Powers Your Summer

30 PRIZES IN 30 DAYS!

Rayovac wants to help you and your family to have fun this summer. Starting June 21st (yesterday) through July 20th you can enter their giveaway on their website - www.rayovac.com/PowersYourSummer.

All you have to do is tell them how you will power your fun this summer by answering one question a day. There is NO right or wrong answer. :) You will be given a chance to win prizes ranging from Cameras and Bikes to Camping Supplies and a Summer Supply of Rayovac Batteries! How cool is that? I've already answered my question for the day....now you need to go do yours!

And don't forget about the...

Rayovac Powers Your Vacation Summer Promotion Twitter Event
Date: Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Time: 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. CST
Location: #rayovac
Follow: @Rayovac_Battery, @5minutesformom, @CirclePRMary

Please join in with us for the fun! 

*Must be a US resident and 18 or older at the time of entry to enter this Promotion or the Twitter Event.


*Disclaimer: The first 99 bloggers to promote the Rayovac Powers Your Summer Promotion won a prize package from Rayovac.*


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Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough? - Book Review

What does it look like when believers dare to radically love those who are the hardest to love but most desperate to be loved?

In Stumbling Souls, former Army captain and recent seminary graduate Chris Plekenpol tells the compelling story of his interactions with a HIV-positive, homeless man, James. Chris asks James to move in with him, and then Chris and his friends try to help James get back on his feet. In reality, James helps Chris get back on his feet by finding out what happens when believers risk living out their faith in a tangible way.


Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough? by Chris Plekenpol
Biblica, May 2010
ISBN: 978-1-93406-821-2/240 pages/softcover/$14.99


About the Author:

Chris Plekenpol is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, experienced as a platoon leader and executive officer in the 82nd Airborne. After being called to the ministry, Chris attended Dallas Theological Seminary. He is learning to balance the rigors of academia while pursuing what it means to be a Christ follower living ChristÂ’s life in reality. A dynamic public speaker, Chris speaks to the hearts of those searching for what God has created them to be. He encourages them to choose the harder right over the easier wrong while facing the challenges of everyday life. He has authored one previous book, Faith in the Fog of War: Stories of Triumph and Tragedy in the Midst of War (Multnomah, 2006). 
 
Become a fan of Chris Plekenpol on Facebook.

 Q&A with Chris Plekenpol

Q: Stumbling Souls tells of the lessons you learned about faith after having met James, a homeless man off the street who attended the newcomers’ meeting at your church one day. Why did you reach out to him? When you saw him walking away from church that day, why did you call after him?
A: For any disciple, there comes a time when learning Christ must become living Christ. As much as I was enjoying learning and being at seminary, the greatness of my seminary experience was complete only when the miraculous intangibles of God’s character became real in me. That day something awakened deep inside of me—maybe in the place where a small filling of the Holy Spirit resides. I couldn’t take my eyes off the figure walking away, and something inside me stirred. I tried to quell the desire to stop him and find out about his life. And before I knew it, my legs started walking after this stranger who had no idea of the welling up of something in my soul.

Q: How did you know God was leading you to reach out to James and serve him in the radical manner that you did?
A: One of the ways God really revealed his leading to me was through the encouragement of others, both friends and strangers. I began blogging about James and one reader contacted me and said he would like to help financially. He literally tracked me down to tell me in order to give something to help James. Not only did he give something for James. He personally encouraged me. There were moments like those when God intervened and let me know he was watching. No, they don’t come every day, but they serve as reminders that he wants me to live by faith.

Q: As readers make their way through Stumbling Souls, they will find themselves rooting for James, wanting him to change and turn his life around, and impatient when it doesn’t happen quickly and he seems to take some wrong turns. Why did you not give up on him?
A: I knew, as I said, that God was calling me to live by faith, but of course that was, at times, so difficult because I wanted to see results. I wanted to see life change, and when that didn’t happen, I got frustrated. But in one of those moments of discouragement this thought hit me. I don’t serve James because of James; I serve James because of God. So James’ actions don’t matter. If James never gets on his feet and I do an exercise in futility, it doesn’t matter, because my God told me to always remember the poor. So here I am doing it. Here I am living this thing called faith.

Q: “Is Love Enough?” is the subtitle of Stumbling Souls. But isn’t that exactly what we’re called by God to do, to love others?
A: Yes, we are. We are called to love and to serve. But I’ve found that our human love isn’t perfect. Selfishness and pride leave much to be desired, and, therefore, our love is never enough. I don’t have the ability to love unconditionally outside of Christ. That is why the only love that will ever be enough is the love of God. He gave his only Son to die on a cross for the sins of the world, and then he gets involved in the mess of ministry, of our working out our salvation with fear and trembling, by using flawed people to piece together another person’s redemption so that only he gets the glory.

Q: How do you believe God changed you through this experience?
A: I went from a Christian ideologue to a person who has an understanding of life on the streets and an understanding of how Christ makes believers righteous on the basis of grace, by means of faith. Through this process I really saw my own growth and I hope that those who read this story will see that too, the way that God used James to change me. I can’t help but notice the difference. I have more compassion. I have a deeper love for the lost. I have a better grasp at how rotten I can be in my own sufficiency. There wasn’t just one stumbling soul in this book; my sins were pretty apparent, and God is still working on my selfishness and pride. I know that with God all things are possible.

My thoughts:
WOW! What a book! Written beautifully! Sometimes in life we run across someone who just seems totally unlovable, but that doesn't mean they don't need to be loved or ache for it. Can you imagine bringing such a person into your life? Have you ever thought of helping someone but then wondered what others would think of you? Did you ever think you knew what was best, only to find out you still have lots to learn? 

Lots of questions, huh? But it's real. You know you've probably had these thoughts. But what did you do about it?

Chris tells of how he brings one such person, James - a HIV positive, homeless man, into his life and how he he has changed his way of thinking about God's grace and how to live life full of faith because of it. It's full of adventures in which you'll question what you've done and what you want to do.

This book is amazing and I think that everyone should read it. :)


*Thank you to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy and the use of this interview.*


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Real World Parents: Christian Parenting for Families Living in the Real World - Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Zondervan/Youth Specialties (February 23, 2010) 

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Matlock has been working with youth pastors, students, and parents for two decades. He speaks to hundreds of thousands of students around the world each year, and presents biblical truths in ways that motivate people to change. Mark is the vice president of event content at Youth Specialties and the founder of WisdomWorks Ministries and PlanetWisdom. He’s the author of several books including The Wisdom On - series, Living a Life That Matters, Don’t Buy The Lie, Freshman, and Smart Faith. Mark lives in Texas with his wife Jade and their two children.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Zondervan/Youth Specialties (February 23, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310669367
ISBN-13: 978-0310669364

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


What Are Real World Parents?

I have a vivid memory of being a teenager and sitting at the dinner table with my family, rolling my eyes and pretending to gag behind my dad's back.

Why?

He was trying to do family devotions with us. But my three younger brothers and I just weren't buying it.

Every four or five months my dad would hear some program on Christian radio about family devotions, and he'd come home with another new idea for making it work with our family. After all, that's what Christian families are supposed to do, right? But it just never worked in our house. It felt completely forced and unnatural.

Still, somehow all four of us Matlock boys ended up in ministry. My youngest brother, Jonathan, helped me start WisdomWorks Ministries, and now we both do pretty much the same kind of youth ministry and youth minister support through Youth Specialties. Our brother Josh is a senior pastor in Southern California, and our brother Jeremy is a missionary in Russia. And still to this day, whenever Dad tries to bring us together for Òfamily devotionsÓ during the holidays, we mock him a little. It's become a kind of tradition because it isn't genuine for who we are as a family.

Now, I'm not saying that having kids who serve in some area of ministry means you're a successful parent. The point I'm making is that all four of my dad's sons grew into men with a real passion and appreciation for God's Word--even though he couldn't get us to sit still and take the reading of the Word seriously during repeated failed attempts at family devotions.

Why? Because we knew he had a real passion and appreciation for God's Word. We saw Dad reading the Bible. We saw him struggle to apply it to his life. We saw both of our parents base their decisions on their understanding of what the Bible teaches.

Ultimately we were convinced of the worldview contained in the pages of Scripture because we saw our parents openly endorsing it, talking about it, learning from it, and living it out day after day, year after year. That was enough for us--despite the failed attempts at family devotions.

That's what this book is about. We're not interested in presenting more artificial techniques and methodology to ÒfixÓ our kids or do what Christian families are Òsupposed to do.Ó Rather we want to help you discover how to live for God in a real way, right in front of your kids, so they can't help but catch the big picture that God and his Word mean the world to us and that living for Jesus really works in the Real World.

Don't get me wrong. Not all families are built to the same specifications. We each have our own family DNA. So if family devotions fit who you are, more power to you! Organized, structured, traditional family devotions are a great tool for some families. Now that my wife, Jade, and I have two kids of our own--our son Dax is in middle school, and our daughter Skye is 10--we've tried to have a family Bible hour around the table. It kind of worked off and on when the kids were younger, but we eventually realized it wasn't a good fit for the natural rhythm of our lives. It's not who we are right now. So instead we've found ways to talk about God's Word that are a better fit for us.

As we work together through the concepts in this book, one thing we'll discover is that Real World Parents are real in the sense that they do what best fits their families, and they genuinely adjust their own lives to fit into God's story.

Is God Happy with My Family?

In the church today, there's some really good teaching on parenting. My wife and I have benefited from writers, conference speakers, and pastors who've opened God's Word and helped us connect with what it means to raise up our children in the way they should go, how to provide godly discipline, and ideas for reinforcing good behavior. But again, that's not what this book is about.

And, honestly, over the years I've been frustrated with some teaching on parenting that's built around making parents feel guilty. These teachers, authors, books, and programs build parenting models based on our common fear that we're going to mess up our kids--or that we've already messed up our kids. That's an easy road that plays on our fears and our guilt over the areas in which we struggle as parents. Then they suggest that their programs or perspectives are our final hope to Òget it rightÓ or, worse, to do it the only way God wants it done.

That's not what this book is about, either. I promise not to use your parenting fears and anxieties against you. And we all have those feelings. I know I have them. If you could spend a little time with my family, you'd quickly see that we have issues, too. Those prone to critiquing parents would have no trouble criticizing my wife and me. So, no, I'm not interested in beating up other parents in order to somehow make them feel better or more motivated in their parenting.

In fact, I'd like to communicate exactly the opposite.

In our Real World Parent seminars, held around the United States, our teachers use a self-diagnostic tool to help attendees identify what they believe God thinks of their families.

It goes something like this:

What do you think God sees when he looks at your family? Do you think God grins or grimaces? (Place an X on the line.)


God Grins God Grimaces

This can be a challenging question if you take it seriously. On one hand, those of us who've grown up in Christian churches understand the idea of God's grace. We understand that our relationship with God isn't based on our performance. God sacrificed his only Son--the Son whom God loves so deeply--to pay for our sins on a cross. And God did this long before we even knew we wanted that gift from God. Thus, we'd always check the box that says God's love is unconditional for those of us in Christ.

Still, we have trouble carrying the idea of God's grace into our parenting. We can talk ourselves into believing that failing our kids is an unforgivable sin, that God could never be pleased with us if we've been guilty of sloppy or harsh or inconsistent or selfish or fearful or overprotective or neglectful parenting.

We may wonder how God could ever look at our families and grin. And the problem is that, as parents, we sometimes forget that we're also children--that our God is our Father, and that God is more lovingly inclined to smile at us than we are to smile at our own kids. Our Father loves us, and he forgives our parenting shortcomings and our family failings.

I will say this more than once: Nothing you read in this book will make God the Father love you and your family any more than he does right now, no matter what's going on with your family today.

I made this statement at one of our Real World Parent seminars, and I noticed that one of the women began to cry. She came up to me later and explained how inferior she's felt as a mother in her local church. Her husband isn't a believer, her kids get into trouble, and she just felt like such a failure--like a second-class parent in a church where most of the other parents were both Christians, still married, and raising such ÒniceÓ children.

I tried to assure her that God's grace applies to us as parents, and that in Christ she is forgiven and fully accepted as a beloved daughter (and mom!). The idea that God loved her family right now--in its present condition--was a reality she wasn't living in. She felt she was ÒunderperformingÓ as a parent and couldn't keep up. So she said the idea that she's forgiven, accepted, and loved as a parent gave her immense comfort.

Ernest Hemingway's short story called ÒThe Capital of the WorldÓ begins with an anecdote about a man in Madrid who put an ad in the newspaper to contact his estranged son. The ad read, PACO, MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY. ALL IS FORGIVEN. PAPA. The story then describes how at noon on Tuesday, 800 young men arrived at the hotel to make peace with their fathers.

The joke was that there are lots of guys in Spain named Paco. But the other message is that wanting our dads' approval, specifically, is a universal human experience. Taking nothing away from the indispensable role of our mothers, we all long to have our fathers sign off on who we are and what we're doing.

It's what psychologists call Òfather hunger.Ó

As Christians, followers of Jesus, we have that hunger even in our roles as parents, even if we've made mistakes along the way. Our Father has forgiven us. We live in God's grace. God approves of us in Christ. And, yes, God loves us.

I want to make it perfectly clear--again--that you'll find no directives in this book that will make God love you or your family even a little bit more than he already does. God's unconditional love for your family was established long ago. It is full. It cannot grow. Romans 8:1 declares, ÒTherefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Ó And that includes Christian parents.

I hope you've heard that. But I also hope you aren't satisfied to leave your family where it is today. Because while I'm convinced that God will never love or accept you any more than he does right now, I'm also convinced that God loves you so much that he won't leave you where you are right now, either.

No matter how good or bad you believe your family is, God has plans for you that will unfold in the Real World. God will continue to move your family along in the journey he has in store for you. Which is why this book is designed to help Real World Parents understand that journey--or story--and communicate it to our kids.

ÒHow Will This Book Fix My Kids?Ó 

As long as we're talking about things this book isn't, I should mention again that in the following pages you won't find any tips or tricks or techniques to fix your children's bad behavior. (We'd probably sell more copies if that's what we were promising, but we're not.)

In my experience, books full of tips, techniques, and tricks succeed at making readers feel good for a while. They make us feel hopeful. They make us feel as though we're doing something about the problem. But they often fail in the long run because we just can't keep it up. We can't change the personalities of our families to fit the models of the new programs on an ongoing basis.

When my kids came along, though, and I started making my way through all the different kinds of Christian parenting books, I noticed that a lot of them focused on helping me raise well-behaved, well-mannered kids. And while that's an important element, there wasn't much focus on raising kids to have hearts that seek after Christ. Of course we can't force that kind of spiritual openness and connectedness with God onto our kids--but in our Real World homes, we can create environments that promote such growth.

In a sense we become gardeners tending the spiritual development of our kids. God places the spark of life in the seed. We can't control that or how the plant eventually matures. But we can make sure the soil is rich, the ground is generously watered, the weeds are kept at bay, and the opportunity for sunlight is freely available. We can raise our children in environments where having a heart for God is the norm and not the exception.

What we don't want to generate are well-behaved kids who mindlessly follow our directions without ever willfully owning the faith in Jesus that they see in us. In the long run, the goal of parenting isn't for our kids to be known for how well-behaved they are, but for how well they know and respond to God.

Part of our challenge is to communicate to our kids a worldview that supports right actions. It's true that we (and they) will be held accountable for our behavior based on God's instructions to us. But whether or not we obey those instructions has a lot to do with whether or not we really believe God's story--a biblical worldview--and whether or not we walk in God's power.

In that way, our children's behavior is kind of like the tip of an iceberg. From countless illustrations we all know that the part of the iceberg that rises above the waterline is just a fraction of its total size. As such, you could conceivably make all kinds of alterations to the exposed part of the iceberg--in other words, the outward stuff (behaviors)--without significantly altering the iceberg itself.


What we've got to get at--in our own lives and in the lives of our kids--is the 80 percent of the berg that's under the waterline. In our illustration that represents one's worldview. We believe our behavior is ultimately driven by our understanding of the way the world works, of what we believe to be true and false about the universe, of our perception of reality.

And that's what we want to focus on as Real World Parents. How can we communicate God's worldview to our kids? What story are we telling them about the universe, both intentionally and--more importantly--in the way we live with and for God over time?

Before you move on to the next chapter, ask yourself these questions: 

1. When you imagine God looking at your family, what do you think God sees? What do you believe God's desire for your family is?



2. When you look at the world your children are living in, do you believe it's better or worse compared to when you were growing up? Why?



3. Which matters more to you--that your children demonstrate good behavior, or that your children understand and believe in a biblical worldview? Why?



4. In your own life, what has mattered more in the long run--your behavior on any given day or your foundational beliefs about God and the world?

Q & A with Mark Matlock, author of Real World Parents


Q:  How is Real World Parents different from other parenting books and philosophies?

A: There are several big differences. I've been frustrated over the years with some teaching on parenting built around making parents feel guilty. There are teachers, authors, books, and programs that build parenting models based on our common fear that we’re going to mess up our kids—or that we’ve already messed up our kids. That’s an easy road that plays on our fears and appeals to our guilt over areas where we struggle. Then these authors suggest that their program or perspective is our final hope to “get it right” or, worse, to do it the only way God intends for it to be done. 

That’s not what Real World Parents is about. As an author, I’m not trying to use parents’ fears and anxieties against them. We all have those feelings. I have them. If you could spend a little time with my family, you’d quickly see that we have issues of our own. Those prone to critique parents would have no trouble finding things for which to criticize us. So, no, I’m not interested in beating us all up to somehow make us feel better or more motivated as parents.

Real World Parents is not so much about the things we do as parents. It’s about who we are. That's what this book is about. We’re not interested in presenting more artificial techniques and methodology to “fix” our kids or do what Christian families are “supposed to do.” Rather we want to discover how to live for God in a real way, right in front of our kids, so they can’t help but catch the big picture that God and His Word mean the world to us and that living for Jesus really works in the Real World.

Q:  It often seems like the world is more dangerous and that parenting is more challenging in this time than it ever has been. In Real World Parents, you reveal some startling statistics that suggest this is a wrong assumption—that in fact, the world is not getting worse. Why haven’t we heard this news lately, and why does it matter what we believe about “what’s out there”?

A:  Sometimes Christians are absolutely convinced of the big truths of God’s story of the universe—creation, the virgin birth, God’s love for the world, Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins—but still arrive at the wrong conclusions about the way that story is playing out in the world right now. And sometimes the church—and those who market messages to the church—doesn’t help parents come up with the right story, either.

Let’s put it this way: When it comes to teen drinking, smoking, and sexual choices, do you think things have gotten better or worse in the last twenty years? Our answers to these questions are shaped by the stories we’re being told by the secular media and even by Christian writers and speakers. Those of us who live in church subculture have even more people telling us stories than those who don’t, because we’re listening both inside and outside the walls.

Frankly, sometimes the messages that come from inside the walls are distorted or just flatly untrue. Why? A certain segment of Christian storytelling is heavily dependent on selling books, filling chairs, and raising money. That segment is driven to tell stories that sell, that motivate a specific kind of action. And it’s easy to slant the story in ways that don’t line up with reality. In other words, it’s sometimes helpful to those trying to sell a story if that story demonstrates that everything is constantly getting worse—because that motivates well-intentioned people to pay attention and/or write checks. The fallout for parents, though, can be a lot of fear and misperception about the world their kids are growing up in. We end up telling them the wrong story.

Why does this matter? If we’re parenting out of fear based on incomplete stories, we’re less likely to make the right decisions. We need to be open to reevaluating our assumptions and rethinking the stories we’ve believed for so long. The truth is parenting is not harder now than it has ever been. Things aren’t necessarily getting better, but they’re not worse either. Things are just different.


Q: Why don’t you devote more time in the book discussing kids’ behavior? Shouldn’t parents teach their children to behave?

A:  That’s a good question. When my kids came along, though, and I started making my way through all the different kinds of Christian parenting books, I noticed that a lot of them focused on helping me figure out how to raise well-behaved, well-mannered kids. And while that's an important element, not much focused on raising kids to have hearts that seek after Christ. Of course we can't force that kind of spiritual openness and connectedness with God onto our kids, but we can learn to create in our Real World homes environments that promote such growth. 

In my experience, books about tips, techniques, and tricks succeed at making readers feel good for a while. They make us feel hopeful, like we’re doing something about the problem. But they often fail in the long run because we just can’t keep it up. We can’t change the personalities of our families enough to fit the models of the new programs on an ongoing basis.

What we don’t want to generate are well-behaved kids who mindlessly follow our directions without ever willfully owning the faith in Jesus they see in us. The goal of parenting, in the long run, isn't for our kids to be known for how well behaved they are, but for how well they know and respond to God.

Q: Since changing our children’s behavior is not the point of parenting, what should parents be focusing on?

A:  In a way, our children’s behavior is kind of like the tip of an iceberg. From countless illustrations we all know that the part of the iceberg that sits above the waterline is just a fraction of the object’s total size. As such, you could conceivably make all kinds of alterations to the exposed part of the iceberg—i.e. the outward stuff (behaviors)—without significantly altering the iceberg itself. 

What we've got to get at in our own lives and in the lives of our kids is the 80 or so percent of the berg that’s under the waterline. In our illustration, that represents one’s worldview. We believe that our behaviors are ultimately driven by our understanding of the way the world works, of what we believe to be true and false about the universe, of our perception of reality. 

And that’s what we want to focus on as Real World Parents. How can we communicate God’s worldview to our kids? What story are we telling them about the universe, both intentionally and—more importantly—in the way we live with and for God over time? 

Q: Why don’t more parents communicate God’s worldview to their children? What would you say to those parents who aren’t sure where to begin?

A: Too often we believe it is the church’s job to tell our kids God’s story, to make sure they know God, Scripture, and their responsibility to follow both. But research shows that the teenagers who really take ownership of their parents’ understanding of the story of God are the ones who have heard and seen it at home. As researcher Christian Smith puts it, a parent is “the most important pastor a teenager will ever have.”

But don’t worry! This is not about holding family devotionals or any other prescribed “spiritual activity.” Every four or five months my own dad would hear some program on Christian radio about family devotions, and he would come home determined to make the idea work for our family, but it never worked because in our house. That felt forced and unnatural. And yet, all four of my father’s sons grew into men with a real passion and appreciation for God’s Word.

Why? Ultimately we were convinced of the worldview contained in the pages of Scripture because we saw our parents openly endorsing it, talking about it, learning from it, and living it out day after day, year after year. That was enough for us—despite the failed attempts at family devotions.

I don’t know of any other way to communicate God’s story than living in it ourselves day after day—to make talking about God and God’s Word as natural a part of our family life as talking about school or sports and what’s for dinner. If our kids don’t hear and observe that God’s revelation through His Word is important to us, why would we expect it to be important to them?

My thoughts:
As a parent we want to raise our children right. Sure we want them to eat their veggies and do good at school. Do their chores without fussing. But really if you ask a mom what she wants for her child she's going to say I want them to be happy and be a good person. I think for that to truly happen they have to follow Jesus.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. - John 14:6

This book is not meant as a way to fix our children, it's not meant to make us feel guilty or fear the way we have parented so far. But it shows us that by becoming proactive and showing them how to live as a Christian in the world we live in today that they will prosper in life. It's more than shielding your child from "the evils of the world" but instead how to teach them how to live a Christian life by telling them God's story and living it ourselves. It's a very good book that makes you ask questions yourself. The author gives us guidance not a fix-all book. Very nice!


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