Friday, December 19, 2014

WINNERS CHOSEN!!

The giveaway for Every Bitter Thing is Sweet is over!  It ended yesterday, and the computer chose two winners at random today.  Fabiola McDonald and Janet Young are the lucky winners!  Janet, I still need to hear back from you!  Thank you to all who registered - there were over fifty unique entries for Sara Hagerty's special book!

Have a lovely Christmas, everyone!  I am taking next week off from posting.  I pray we are all able to relish the unique joy this special season brings in the coming days...Sending love and warm wishes for Christ's light...


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meet the Author of Your Next Free Book: Sara Hagerty

Sara Hagerty and her family

I am delighted to share my exclusive interview of Sara Hagerty, the author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.  She is a fellow mom and Christ seeker who has discovered the true meaning of these words:  "The satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet" (Proverbs 27:7).  If you missed my review of her book on Monday, click here to learn more about it.  Reading her book will reignite your faith; reading this interview will give you insight her life as a Christian mom.

Sara, you have four adopted children and one son by birth.  How do you stay connected with God while raising five children?  I'd love to hear how you protect and adapt your times for prayer, scripture, and adoration in daily living.  What does that look like for you - and do you have any tips that you can pass on?

I’m slowly learning that communing with God really can happen over dishes and laundry and in between reading books on the couch and refereeing children’s squabbles. As a recovering cynic – worst-case scenario thinker – I’ve found that I desperately need His Word to inform my thoughts and my conversation with Him. I have a lot of lies about who He is and “what I’m not” bouncing around in my head on any given day. Adoration – speaking God’s Word back to God, in my own language – up the stairs, and down, and out to the mailbox, and over laundry, has been a great entry point for talking over my heart with God. These tiny prayers (as I’ve heard them called before) have been a lifeline for me during my day.

Bedtime seems sacred in your book.  It's a time for snuggles and teaching your children about faith.  I like how you describe going through the alphabet and using each letter as a way to adore God.  Can you give us an example of a poignant time that you have seen this particular practice resonating with one or all of your children?

Just the other night as we were adoring “The One Who Directs My Heart” from 2 Thessalonians 3:5, my son prayed: “Jesus, thank you that you take us where we don’t want to go. Thank you that you have us do things other people don’t want to do.” I think it spoke more to me than maybe even to him at the moment – it felt like words too big for him – but I love how God is informing His understanding already, at seven.

That being said, we have nights like this maybe one out of four. We continue to show up – with our children – regardless of the words they say or the impact it seems to be making on their hearts. Yup, even on the nights they’re elbowing each other or falling into a giggle fit. I think God enjoys it all.

Your conviction that faith is the salve - and hope - for wounds is uplifting.  What has been the most effective way that you have presented that "salve" to your adopted children?  I am curious what avenue you've opened that you've witnessed God utilizing the most (journaling, family prayer, Sunday school, etc.) in light of their painful past.

At this stage, so much of their healing is seemingly passive. Most of my children don’t yet have the bandwidth for processing the history that brought them to us. In the meantime, we pray over them and for them. And we hug and hold and try and build a bridge of trust with the way we enjoy them -- that one day it will allow us to have the deeper conversations that introduce His fuller healing to their hearts.

You can discover more about Sara's compelling story by visiting her website or joining her in adoration on Instagram.  Don't forget to register for your chance to win a free copy of her book!  The contest ENDS tomorrow at 7 pm EST.  Either scroll to the bottom of this blog page or click here to register.

Can you name five scriptural promises to live by?  You can receive a *free printable* of those promises by subscribing by email to this blog!  You can do so on the top right hand corner of this blog page.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Win a Book That Changed My Faith


Every once in a while you come across a book that should do more than remain on your "one day I'll read it" list.  It begs you to create the space for it, and once you do, you can't put it down.  Today, I'm writing about such a book.

Face it, our schedules are full and our lives are harried as moms.  Especially this time of year, my mind races with internal lists even when I'm not ticking tasks off of my to do list. But there is something sacred about this season that begs us to slow down and notice its wonder, and if we don't, we'll miss it.

The writer of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet is well aware of these whispered invitations to delight in God's presence.  But she hasn't noticed them in the quiet glow of Christmas lights. She has noticed them through pain and struggle in her life - through the bitter things.

Writing with boldness and vulnerability, Sara Hagerty invites us into a world - her world - where things are not working out as she'd planned.  Her marriage is rocky, her finances are strained, and her infertility leaves her broken.  She writes in short vignettes akin to personal journey entries as she seeks God in the darkness.

But in the darkness, she finds a great light.  She discovers the bitter things are developing a hunger within her.  It's a hunger for a genuine faith relationship with God, one which is rooted in adoration.  Yes, in the midst of the darkness, she begins to adore.

It is through adoration that her story becomes so compelling and life changing for her readers.  I felt motivated to reach for God in the hardened recesses of my being as I saw her strain for God through her tears.  I was inspired to enter into an increasingly intimate conversation with our Creator as I saw Sara do the same - and as I saw God subsequently lift her up.

In the pages of her book, readers will discover the great lengths God will go to to be faithful and answer our every prayer.  If you have been feeling listless in your faith relationship, look to Sara's book to ignite a new passion between you and Jesus.  If you are hardened or in darkness, reach for its hope.

The gift of faith journaling is that our experience of God's faithfulness will forever live on the page.  The gift of Sara's is that now it can also minister to us.  Jesus indeed is coming to Earth to be born in a manger this Christmas.  By reading Sara's book, he's now even more at home in my heart.

This week I will be giving away TWO copies of Sara's book.  To register for this giveaway, simply scroll down this blog page and enter your information or click here.  You will also get a prompt for bonus entries when you do!  Tune in on Wednesday for my exclusive interview with Sara! The contest ends on Thursday evening, 12/18, at 7 pm EST.  
Please note, these books will be coming straight from the publisher, so they may not get there by Christmas.  



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WINNER CHOSEN!!

I just wanted to thank you all for the many entries I received for Laura Sassi's book this week.  The computer chose a winner at random today, and the lucky winner is Lindsay F. of Indiana!  In addition to receiving a free copy of Goodnight, Ark straight from the publisher, Lindsay will be receiving a personalized autograph sticker from Laura to put inside the front cover.  Laura, we're grateful for your spirit and fun writing for our children - such a blessing!

Please tune in next week for my next Christmas giveaway.  This book is for YOU, moms, and it is such an ENCOURAGING gift on faith to read.  Especially if you're going through a hard time right now and wondering if God is really beside you and working, you won't want to miss it.  You will read bold, vulnerable words from a fellow mom that will bring tears to your eyes and hope to your hearts.  I can't wait to tell you more about it, and announce TWO lucky winners next week!  Register, register!  Until then...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Meet the Author of Your Next Free Book: Laura Sassi


I am delighted to share with you my interview of a fellow author and new friend, Laura Sassi.  Laura's book, Goodnight Ark, is a captivating children's book that's illustrated by the award-winning Jane Chapman.  Readers enter the delightful world of Noah's ark.  If your children have ever been frightened in a storm, then they will find animal friends aboard it. Although her book is not expressly Christian, what follows is a  "behind the scenes" look at how her Christian faith and life as a mom shaped her writing!  

To register for a chance to win a free copy of her book sent to you, either scroll to the bottom of this blog page or click here.  The contest ends tomorrow, 12/10, at 10 am EST. If you'd like to read my review of her book before today's interview, check out yesterday's post.  To see the book trailer, click here.  

1.  What attracted you to entering the world of the biblical story of Noah?

Since I was not raised in a Christian home until I was in 2nd/3rd grade, my first introduction to God and Jesus was through the invitations of a very dear neighbor to attend AWANA and vacation bible school. It was there that I first heard about God through the skilled kid-friendly storytelling of the teachers and camp counselors. In addition to the story of Christmas, one of my early favorites was the story of Noah. Indeed I loved it so much that the first story I ever wrote (as a first grader) was a funny illustrated retelling of Noah and his ark which I still have, thanks to my mom. Given all this, when I got the idea to write a stormy, yet ultimately soothing, bedtime story, the world of Noah and his ark seemed a natural and fun setting.  

2.  Do you see any resonances between your Christian faith and your book?  Explain.  

While Goodnight, Ark is not religious other than the setting, it reflects my deep faith in God as a loving father. After all, just like Noah in the story, God comforts us and loves us through every storm. When looking at Jane’s delightful depictions of all those animals, I also can’t help but think about how creative and amazing our Creator is.

3.  How has being a mother yourself shaped your authorship of this book?

We’ve had some mighty ferocious storms around here in the past few years including two hurricanes and lots of blustery snow and rain storms.  My daughter and the dog have both wanted to climb into our bed. Getting them back to their own beds, in the midst of howling winds and pounding rain, however, has sometimes been challenging, especially when my daughter was younger. So the mother in me thought it might be helpful and fun to write a story that would address some of those fears in a humorous, yet soothing way. 

4.  What do you hope will be the biggest take away for readers of your book?

First and foremost, I want kids (and their parents) to enjoy the story! There’s so much to see on every page, and the rhymes and sound words are fun to read aloud.  Second, I encourage my readers to interact with the book.  It lends itself well to a little game of “I Spy.”  It’s great fun for practicing counting by twos as well.  Third, I’d like children to come away knowing, that like the animals in the story, they too are loved by their parents.  And for anyone seeking a deeper truth, it’s also great reminder that, like Noah in the story, our God is a loving father who comforts us and loves us through every storm.  

ABOUT THE  AUTHOR: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in rhyme.  She writes daily from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. Her poems, stories, articles, and crafts have appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and elsewhere. GOODNIGHT, ARK is her first picture book.  

If you'd like to take advantage of her book's educational opportunities, click here for the exciting ideas Laura has complied from her background as a teacher.  Also, to see another interview I've done, check out what I learned when I met my first CNN Hero by clicking here.

Be sure to tune in next Monday for another giveaway, except this one isn't for your children, it's for YOU!  Win a book that will reinvigorate your faith in the goodness of God, even in the midst of trial. Subscribe by email to my blog so that you don't miss this news AND to get a free printable today!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Children's Book GIVEAWAY: Goodnight, Ark

Me and Author Laura Sassi of Goodnight, Ark

One of the first church camp songs I remember singing told the tale of Noah's ark.  The song was especially popular for its memorable repetition and nifty hand motions.  The beginning went like this:

The Lord said to Noah: there's gonna be a floody, floody
Lord said to Noah: there's gonna be a floody, floody
Get those children out of the muddy, muddy
Children of the Lord...

Perhaps you or your children have sung these lyrics too.  But the story of Noah is more than a classic Christian camp song.  It's more than a captivating tale spun in Sunday school classrooms.  It's one of the first times we learn that God's deliverance from life's "storms" is real, and we can see it in a rainbow.  

As we look into the sky, we never outgrow the wonder of a rainbow - and it's promise.

We have all had to navigate life's storms.  Sometimes these storms are scary.  But when there is no rainbow in sight, we can still reach for a hand to hold.  The more I think about it, the ark represented safety for Noah not only through its physical structure, but through the community housed within.  Noah, under God's direction, was not alone - he had his family and all those animals!

Laura Sassi has crafted a compelling tale about what exactly that community was up to.  If your children have ever been frightened in a storm, then they will find animal friends aboard her ark.  And she spins rhymes even more memorable than that early Christian camp song.

My children not only loved her rhymes, but the endearing pictures by award-winning Jane Chapman.  They were already familiar with Chapman's illustrations in Bear Snores On.  The combination of Sassi and Chapman together is magical as it brings to life a familiar tale and demonstrates the power of community.

Want a free copy of Goodnight, Ark sent to you?  Then register for this giveaway through the entry form below or by clicking here.  It's fast and easy, with bonus entry options too!  

The contest will run from 10 am Monday, December 8th to 10 am Wednesday, December 10th EST.

Stay tuned tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Laura!  Although her book is not expressly Christian, we'll get a "behind the scenes" look at how her Christian faith and life as a mom shaped her book!  

For more encouragement as we journey through life's storms, read my post entitled What to Do in a Storm.  For the full lyrics to the "Rise and Shine" song quoted above, click here.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reclaiming Christmas


I live in a neighborhood that really gets into decorating.  Inflatables were everywhere in our neighborhood last Christmas.  And by inflatables, I do not mean small ones.  No.  There were penguins in a life-sized sleigh, a six-foot Frosty, an eight-foot Snoopy, and a traveling twelve-foot Santa who graced several lawns...that was curious.

Our kids loved riding around and seeing the characters, huge outdoor ornaments on trees (we never had those growing up), and lights.  But on one drive by, I was disappointed to see an inflatable Santa in an outhouse.  He would move to peek his head out as the sign above him read, "Occupied."

I get the joke, three shades more crass than the beloved movie classic Christmas Vacation.  But we can choose when to turn a movie on and off in our house.  When something's on a neighborhood lawn, it's a different story.  Every child who saw the Santa was mesmerized, and even if they didn't fully understand the joke, they were still learning.

That inflatable struck me as representing everything wrong with Christmas celebrations in our culture.  Jesus has been replaced by Santa, and even that generous elf isn't safe anymore.  It makes me wonder:  Are we at risk of losing the sacredness of Christmas?

Click here to continue reading this article on iBelieve.com.  
Find out how we can steer clear of emptiness and cultivate rich spiritual meaning with our families this Christmas.

If this article resonates with you, here is a prayer to say this week as we seek to intentionally ground our Christmas season:

Dear God, Thank you for sending your precious son Jesus into the world.  Help us to honor that gift as we teach our children.  Give us insight into establishing meaningful traditions that breathe new life and hope into our families and bring us closer to you.  Make us your witnesses, for we praise your glory and marvel at your love.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

*****

I hope you enjoyed this Christmas encouragement from the archives!  Be sure to tune in on MONDAY next week and the next.  I have two exciting book reviews with free giveaways coming up - the books would make perfect Christmas stocking stuffers! Next week is something for the KIDS, and the next week is something for YOU!  Please spread the word and stay tuned!

{Photo by KB35 at Flickr, Edited}

TODAY Video Clip