Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kindle Fire Giveaway

Enter Today and Save the Date-3/15!

What you focus on grows.

This is a guest blog from Sandy Ralya, author of The Beautiful Wife.  She makes a pretty impacting point that might step on the toes of some of us "less-than-beautiful" wives.

Want a Growing Marriage?

My husband and I were reading a financial book about how to make your money grow when one of the principles jumped off the page at me: 

What you focus on grows. 

Because it’s such a simple principle, I couldn’t get it out of my mind and began applying it to all areas of life, especially relationships.

Most women have the desire to grow a more intimate relationship with their husband yet few focus their desire long  enough to do anything about  it.  Thus, nothing changes.
Ignorance, distractions, and/or hopelessness are often to blame.

I should know. Just 19 when I said, “I do”, I was ignorant about how to grow my marriage.  Our pre-marriage counseling consisted of one two-hour meeting with my pastor and that wasn’t enough to prepare me for the emotional, spiritual, and verbal abuse my husband doled out on a regular basis.  The abuse produced pain and grief.  I could think of little else than surviving.  Hope for our future crumbled.

Over time, I began sharing my pain with a few trusted, godly women.  Venting my pain and hearing their honest feed-back helped me see that the abuse I was suffering wasn’t my fault. 

I  began seeing a Christian counselor who gave me tools that helped restore me to a place of strength and dignity. 

The best choice I made was to dig into God’s word and find out what He wanted to say to me about my marriage.  In the Bible I found the following verses which applied to my situation:

 “…Your godly lives will speak to them [husbands] better than any words.  They will be won over by watching your pure godly behavior.” (I Peter 3:1,2) 

In place of preaching to my husband, I began entrusting my difficult situation to God through prayer—listening for His instruction.

“Instead, we will hold to the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:15)

I began to exchange preaching for speaking the truth in love—in as few words as possible.

“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good…” (I Thessalonians 5:15)

On my new path, I chose to respond in kindness and enforce healthy boundaries in place of angry retaliation.

When I dug into the word, I learned that my husband wasn’t the only one sinning.  My responses to Tom were often sinful and my response was the only thing I was responsible for. 

(What I wanted was to change my husband but I couldn’t find a biblical reference to support my desire and neither will you)! 

Focused on God and His Word, I was able to reverse negative behavioral patterns in my life which had long plagued me. 

When I did what I could do—keeping my focus on God, HE DID WHAT I COULD NOT!  He healed me and ultimately my marriage—to the praise of His glorious grace!

What you focus on grows.  Are you focused on growing your marriage?

Sandy Ralya is the founder and director of Beautiful Womanhood, a marriage mentoring ministry based near Grand Rapids, Mich. Her marriage testimony was the focus of a popular three-day interview on FamilyLife Today, TV's Walking by Faith, and Time Out for Women. Sandy is a sought-after speaker, presenting Beautiful Womanhood seminars to hundreds of women each year at MOPS groups, women's retreats, and church leadership conferences across the country and in Canada. Sandy and her husband Tom have been married since 1980, and have a growing number of grandchildren. www.beautifulwomanhood.com

Sunday, February 26, 2012

iPod Giveaway

Here's a chance to win an iPod.

Save the Date! 2/28!

What does it mean to be beautiful?

What wife doesn't want to be beautiful . . . in the eyes of her husband most of all.  In The Beautiful Wife, Sandy Ralya shares some very practical principles, based in scripture, on how to reach that goal.  The lessons have little, if anything, to do with outward beauty so coveted by many.  Sandy directs her readers to go deep and get down to the nitty-gritty hard work of making marriage work, leading women to the inner beauty that really matters. 

Sandy tackles the "biggies" -- things like communication, money, romance, sex.  And she comes from a down-to-earth perspective, admitting her own flaws and problems and the lessons she has learned through experience.

The Beautiful Wife can easily be used as a tool for individual reading, and it is well-designed for small group study.  It also comes with a mentor's guide and prayer journal.  The mentor's guide gives helpful instruction for anyone who might serve as a leader of a study group.  The prayer journal leads the reader to delve more deeply into scripture and to put into action the lessons from the main book.

I look forward to spending more time studying back through the lessons and perhaps having the opportunity to study these important topics with other women at some time in the future.

More about the book:

The Beautiful Wife uses inspiring stories along with biblical principles to guide and encourage any wife looking for God's best in her marriage. The Beautiful Wife answers serious questions women have about their roles as wives. Discussing everything from romance and money to beauty, communication, and sex, Sandy challenges women to open up and share their journeys so that together they can see God's plan for their marriages. "It is my passion to help women discover God's heart for their marriage, just as the other women helped me," writes Sandy. "When women share with each other the details of their journeys with God as wives, it's a beautiful thing indeed."  The Beautiful Wife has two companion resources -- Prayer Journal and Mentor's Guide.

More about the author:

Sandy Ralya is the founder and director of Beautiful Womanhood, a marriage mentoring ministry based near Grand Rapids, Mich. Her marriage testimony was the focus of a popular three-day interview on FamilyLife Today, TV's Walking by Faith, and Time Out for Women. Sandy is a sought-after speaker, presenting Beautiful Womanhood seminars to hundreds of women each year at MOPS groups, women's retreats, and church leadership conferences across the country and in Canada. Sandy and her husband Tom have been married since 1980, and have a growing number of grandchildren. www.beautifulwomanhood.com

View Sandy's testimony here and learn more about Beautiful Womanhood ministry here.

You can read more about what others think about The Beautiful Wife by visiting Litfuse.

(The Beautiful Wife and its companion resources were provided free for my honest review from Litfuse Publicity Group.)

Celebrate with Sandy by entering her Kindle Touch Giveaway and coming to her "Beautiful Womanhood" Facebook Party {3/8}!

One beautiful winner will receive:

A Brand new Kindle Touch with Wi-Fi
  • The Beautiful Wife By Sandy Ralya
  • The Beautiful Wife Prayer Journal and Mentor's Guide
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 3/7/12. Winner will be announced at Sandy's "Beautiful Womanhood" Facebook Party on 3/8. Sandy will be hosting an evening of chat, laughter and encouragement - bring your friends! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, prayer journals and a live chat with Sandy for your Bible study or small group!

So grab your copy of The Beautiful Wife and join Sandy and friends on the evening of March 8th for an evening of fun.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on March 8th!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New thriller by Terri Blackstock

View the trailer for Downfall, book 3 in Terri Blackstock's Intervention series.  Downfall is due to be released on February 28.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Unexpected Conflict -- The Scent of Cherry Blossoms

Cindy Woodsmall's The Scent of Cherry Blossoms is a sweet romance built around an unusual conflict that I would never have considered.  Annie Martin and her family, including her beloved grandfather, Moses, are Old Order Mennonites.  Aden Zook and his family are Old Order Amish, part of a church district that does not allow the use of electricity, even for business purposes.  Years ago, Annie's grandfather partnered with Aden's family in a diner business.  Moses' involvement allows the diner to have the electricity required by governmental codes.

Through the years, Annie has often visited her grandfather in Apple Ridge and at times has worked alongside Aden at Zook's Diner.  Their friendship has been a special one, but when both Annie and Aden admit that they have feelings for each other beyond friendship, their lives become complicated.  Since both have been baptized and joined their respective churches, there are definite lines drawn between them that can't be crossed without risk of being cut off from their communities.  Is it possible for Annie and Aden to find a way to follow their hearts and act on the feelings they share in the orchard amidst the cherry blossoms?

This story points out a situation that is interesting to me as an outsider.  It is easy for those of use who are "Englisch" to look at "Plain" people and lump them all into one category.  I have understood for a long time how difficult it could be for an Amish and an "Englisch" person to have a relationship, but I would not have thought about the same challenges between Amish and Mennonite people. 

Recently, Cindy Woodsmall shared in a newsletter the experience that provided inspiration for this story.  With her permission, I'm sharing that portion of her newsletter.  Understanding this backstory made The Scent of Cherry Blossoms more meaningful to me.  I hope you enjoy the connection as well.

Amish Connection

My husband and I had driven seven hundred miles and were traveling through a very rural area of Pennsylvania on our way to visit with some Amish friends. It was lunchtime, and we were hungry, but we didn’t want to arrive at our friends’ doorstep feeling that way.

As we traveled down a narrow, two-lane road, we saw a rather dilapidated marquee sign indicating that the small, older brick building was a restaurant. We decided we had no choice but to give it a try. While pulling into the parking lot, we noticed a horse and buggy at a hitching post.

We walked into the diner, grateful to have found a place to eat. A cowbell dangled from the handle of the glass door and it clanged loudly as we went inside. It was lunchtime, but the place didn’t have any customers.

A young Amish woman stood inside the kitchen, looking out the pass-through. A young Amish man stood behind the grill, flipping burgers. He didn’t have a beard, so I knew he was single. But it’s harder to tell if an Amish woman is married.

As I took in the sights and delicious aromas, I realized we’d entered an Amish diner. Suddenly I was even hungrier. Amish diners typically serve a variety of hearty, homemade meals. You’ll often find an assortment of German dishes, such as sausage, schnitzel, or sauerbraten, in addition to English meals, such as meatloaf, pot roast, or turkey. You can also expect a large assortment of sides--corn pudding, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, and fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden. But one of the best parts of eating at an Amish diner is the homemade pies. My taste buds were screaming with excitement!
The young woman came out of the kitchen, welcomed us, and guided us to our table.

We took seats at a booth. We’d eaten at numerous Amish restaurants in our travels, but never in one like this. It looked old, reminding me of a fifties diner, and it looked as if it’d been passed down from one generation to the next. I fell in love with its unusual charm.

Another Plain woman came into the restaurant. After years of research and staying among the Plain folk, I can recognize enough of the subtleties in their clothing to know that the young man and woman who’d been in the kitchen when we arrived were Old Order Amish, and the young woman who’d entered behind us was Old Order Mennonite. The man peered through the opening, greeted the young Mennonite woman with a shy but welcoming smile, and called her by name.

The moment I saw the spark between the Amish man and the Mennonite woman, I wasn’t nearly as hungry as I was interested in watching the interaction between two people who should not, by the standards of their societies, have feelings for each other.

While my husband looked over the menu, I watched the young man and woman talk between the pass-through.

Because of the complicated nature of merging Amish beliefs with the needs of a business, it’s rare to find a restaurant solely owned by someone in the Old Order Amish sect. The Ordnung, which is the German word for order, doesn’t allow Old Order Amish persons to have electricity in their homes or businesses. So I knew that although an Old Order Amish man and woman seemed to be running the restaurant, someone else was owner or co-owner, perhaps someone from a Plain sect that does allow the use of electricity.

The Ordnung contains the guidelines for living separate from the world. An Old Order Amish person who is in good standing with his or her church and community follows the Ordnung.

It’s common to find many Old Order Amish working at restaurants. In fact, at the best Amish diners, you’ll find them not only serving customers, but cooking and baking. I knew that the owner or co-owner of the restaurant must be a non-Amish, a new order of Amish, or a Mennonite person.

As I sat there, all this information churned inside my head. And I wondered what would happen if a single man from one sect fell in love with a single woman from the other sect? What would it do to their families? What would it do to the business?

Inside that Amish diner I was served much more than a delicious meal. My curiosity over the couple was piqued, and I took my questions to an Old Order Amish friend who lived nearby and an Old Order Mennonite woman who lived farther away. Their answers, which told me a bit about the couple I’d seen as well as a story of love one had witnessed between an Old Order Amish man and an Old Order Mennonite woman, soon developed into The Scent of Cherry Blossoms.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mixed Review -- A Sound Among the Trees

I had never read a book by Susan Meissner and decided to give A Sound Among the Trees a try.  After finishing the book, I’m left with mixed feelings about the story.

Marielle marries Carson and moves with him and his two children to Holly Oak, the historic Virginia home of Adelaide, the grandmother of Carson’s deceased first wife.  Shortly after moving, Marielle hears stories of the ghost of Susannah Page, Adelaide’s great-grandmother, who haunts Holly Oak.  Adelaide doesn’t believe there is a ghost but is convinced that the house itself has some sort of hold over its inhabitants.  Marielle finds herself on a journey to sort out the truth about Susannah, Holly Oak, and the generations of women who have lived there.

The story has a lot of depth, and is told through the eyes of multiple generations --  particularly, Marielle, Adelaide, and Susannah (through a number of letters she wrote to a cousin during the Civil War).  Meissner’s writing is very descriptive, allowing the reader to see and feel the atmosphere the characters are in.  The plot, though, is slow-moving and is sometimes rather dark.  Although there is some light and healing at the end, I’m not entirely sure I ever found the whole story.

Find out more about this book here and more about the author here. 

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for an honest review.

WARNING! Don't start this book too close to bedtime! -- When the Smoke Clears

Lynette Eason’s When the Smoke Clears is hazardous to your sleep!  When I was reading the book, I kept thinking, “OK.  I’ll go to bed at the end of this chapter.”  But I would get to the end of the chapter and . . . WHAM! . . . another cliff-hanger that just wouldn’t wait until morning!  I finally – and very reluctantly – just had to put it down and go to bed and wait until the next evening to finish the story.

Alexia Allen has put her hurtful past behind and moved on.  When she is forced to take some time off while a failure with her firefighting equipment is investigated, she decides  to go back “home” for a school reunion.  As soon as she steps into her mother’s house, she is met with murder . . . and that is just the beginning of her troubles.  As more deaths and damage happen, evidence mounts against Alexia, all while her own life is at risk.  In addition to the growing present danger, Alexia’s return to her hometown forces her to deal with ghosts from her past.  And then there are her growing feelings for Detective Hunter Graham and the promptings toward God from family and friends where she least expects them.

If you like good, clean suspense with a Christian message, I would highly recommend When the Smoke Clears.  The bad news . . . Lynette leaves you hanging, and you have to wait until October for the second book in the series, When a Heart Stops. 

Available February 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided free from Revell for my honest review.