Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year's Resolution you may actually keep.

A good friend of mine from Spark People was kind enough to allow me to use this post she wrote a few weeks ago.

I stumbled upon this quote from Yo-Yo Ma, which I very much appreciate. It gives direction! "Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there's got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you're at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together." I'm ready to jump. Want to jump with me?

The New Year is upon us, and I am thrilled. We now have an opportunity to look back on 2009 with lovingkindness, decide what we'd like to change and what goals we'd like to set, and move forward into a new year!

At the same time, I recognize that the statistics for people actually reaching their New Year's goals aren't very encouraging. Research shows that more than half of those who set goals fall off the resolution bandwagon by mid-February. What's up with that? Why do we abandon our goals? It's because we take on too much, and we make it all so complicated! We are overwhelmed and under-motivated. Take the leap of faith.

Statistics show that 75% of what we write down happens. Putting your goals on paper both alerts your brain that you are "open for business," as well as sending a strong and positive message to the universe, declaring that you are, indeed, "in the game!”

No Procrastinating Jump right into change. Now is as good a time as any to start working toward a more satisfying future. If not now, when? Create a Plan In order for you to manifest your goals, you need to create a series of clear and simple steps that you can put into action. Set your mind It starts and ends in the mind. If you resolve to walk every day, don't let the rain dissolve your resolve! There are always the stairwells at work or at home! And there's even rain gear!

Be Specific. Don't write or say, "I'm going to lose weight ." Instead say, "I am going to permanently remove 10 pounds."

Visualize. When you visualize, your brain "practices" your action. See yourself eating less, exercising more, relaxing, succeeding, smiling, being in a happy relationship, making money, singing, dancing, etc! Woo hoo!!

Less is more. The more things you try to change in a short period of time, the less likely you are to change anything over the long term. Pace yourself. Don't try and change 50 things at once.

Find a resolution buddy and share your goals with them. You are now accountable to someone other than yourself, and you will also feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment from helping your friend reach her goals!

Set a Timetable. The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline! It can make all the difference. Specifically, when were you going to reach your goal? And how are you going to do that?

Create a Vision Board. Find inspiring quotes, motivating pictures, or anything that reminds you of your goal and collage these bits n' pieces together on paper and place it where you can see it!

Take a Risk. Resolutions are not just about 'fixing' something or getting something; they are about stretching a bit outside of your comfort zone. Go for it!

Write your goals on Post-It notes and place them on your fridge or bathroom mirror, or write your goals in your date book, or on your calendar. You don't want them to fall off your to-do list, do you?

Accentuate the Positive. Looking at the bright side of things will definitely generate more energy and enthusiasm that will help you to go after your dreams. And actually celebrate failure If at first you don't succeed, try again! Reassess the situation, tweak it, learn from it and celebrate your moving forward.

Start a Journal. Record your successes and your failures. Your thoughts and a-ha! moments. Give yourself a gold star, while you're at it. Steer Clear of Negativity. Just as you will find people who will support you, you will also come across those who are negative and are likely to stop you from moving forward. Smile and walk away.

BE PATIENT! People want immediate results, but change takes time. Remember that it's the journey that's important. Remember YOU matter! Carve out time to give yourself the love and attention you need, and be sure to compliment yourself daily. Fully acknowledge all that you've accomplished and how special you are!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Hero

I’m sure we all remember the heroes of books from olden times. Square jawed, aristocratic nose, shoulders that started out as broad as a barn and tapered to a flat stomach with chiseled abs. As if. (Without workout equipment that targeted certain muscle groups, how did these guys manage such a physique? Powerful biceps and a bull like neck I get. But those abs? Get serious.) And don’t even get me started on his gleaming, perfectly straight choppers. How in the world did that happen? A fortunate few are born with straight teeth that never require a dentist or at the very least fluoride, but in those days? Everybody knows what the lack of proper prenatal care does to bones and teeth.

But I digress. In days of yore the hardest part of creating the hero of a dime store novel or bodice ripper was deciding on which color to paint the thick mane that fell in glorious waves past the requisite broad shoulders, even in his waning years.

Villains were just as easy. Their hair was always thin and greasy to match their lecherous smile. They generally had bad teeth and equally poor hygiene. They were usually thin. No ripped abs or rippling biceps on these guys.

Most discerning readers today expect a little more. We want a hero with meat on his bones. No, now wait a minute. Not that kind of meat, though a little is acceptable, especially if he’s married. We still want our heroes handsome, mysterious and in halfway decent shape. But he needn’t be perfect. In fact, if he is we don’t buy it.

Besides a few physical flaws that add to his charm and good looks, he better have an issue or two. A little baggage is good as long as it isn’t too grievous. Life has been tough on our hero but it can’t have turned him into heartless jerk. That’s what villains are for.

I’m currently rewriting my hero as if you couldn’t tell from the tone of this post. He has a job, a past—including an ex-wife and an obnoxious teenage daughter—and obstacles to overcome. No ripped abs, but no beer belly either. Somewhere in the middle is good. Powerful arms and calloused hands are a given. I like those on a man. But he hasn’t yet told me exactly who he is. Besides the obvious, I’m unclear on what he needs to accomplish by the end of the book. How will he grow? What will he learn about the man he is and who he hopes to become that he didn’t know before?

I’ve been dwelling on my hero for several weeks. He keeps me awake at night. I can see him when I close my eyes, but he’s still a little blurry. I need to know him better before I can adequately tell his story. Of course he will become clearer as the story progresses. At least that’s what I’m counting on.

Isn’t that the fun of writing? When the story is a journey of discovery for the writer as much as for the reader. Enough stalling. Back to work. Speak to me, Brock. Tell me your story. What’s on your mind? Where do you need to go…….

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Learning How to Write

I couldn't log in to my You Can Write a Novel blog to post this article. I am posting here instead to see if I can figure out the problem. Hope it inspires or motivates someone today.

Is writing easy? That can be a tough question to answer because it can be both easy and difficult simultaneously. A great and legendary writer like Stephen King admits he has his good points and his tough points and by no means is writing a new novel easy for him. Of course, the mere fact that Stephen King is enormously successful leads one to reasonably conclude that he does not make the common mistakes that beginning writers commonly make. So, here are some tips on learning how to write while avoiding some of the common mistakes that are often embodied by new writers. Actually, a few seasoned writers make these errors as well.

All works of writing need to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. This is true of both fiction and non-fiction. Fiction needs to present a clear narrative with writing that yields a direct path to the conclusion of the work. Non-fiction will usually introduce a concept, spend the middle of the material developing it, and then tying it all up in a proper conclusion. Beginning writers have a tendency to meander in their material and present an unfocused work. That confuses the readers and turns them off rather quickly.

Be sure you know and understand the audience you are writing for. Those that are crafting works designed for a young audience need to be sure the material is written at their level and not above it. If it is, they won't understand what they are reading. On the other hand, you would not want to write oversimplified material to an older audience that they reject. Again, you always need to tailor your writing to the age bracket of the reader.

It is also important to maintain the same point of view in the work. Yes, there are some famous novels such as THE SOUND AND THE FURY that violate such principles, but these books are complex even for those that study them on an academic level. Also, Faulkner knew what he was doing when he was changing the narrative and structural point of view of his novel. This is not an easy task to pull off! When done improperly, changing a point of view can thoroughly confuse a reader. So, avoid doing it!

Avoid making every character in a fiction piece sound the same. This is often the result of using too much exposition. When all the characters sound the same, they can have a tendency to blend together. When you can't tell the protagonist from the antagonist, you have a major structural flaw. Keep this in mind when you are learning how to write.

When learning how to write, it is quite helpful to invest a lot of time practicing how to improve your material. Consistent practice is something that you never lose sight off and something you never stop no matter where in your writing career you may be. Setting aside the time to practice so you hone into your craft is always a recommended plan when seeking to correct common beginner writing mistakes.

Lastly, it should almost always go without saying that proper syntax and grammar are a must. Those learning how to write always need to pay attention to the proper wording of their material. If not, the material will not be well received. That's just the way it goes!

Article Source:

About the Author:
Lisa Brunel
Planning on writing a book? Have you considered writing for children? Learning how to write can be a rewarding and fun experience! Sign up for our free newsletter at and receive regular writing tips and articles. From story development to publishing tips to much more in between. Get the support you need become a successful writer.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Celebrate with Dawn Meehan

What Really Matters
by Dawn Meehan

In the hustle and bustle and commercialism of Christmas, take time to remember the real reason why we celebrate - the birth of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May you all have a blessed Christmas!

I had a VERY long day with the kids doing little but fighting. By the time we left for church, we were all short tempered, snapping at each other, and not at all in the Christmas spirit. Thankfully, once at church, we calmed down. Things were put in perspective for us. We sang Christmas songs and began to smile at one another again. The kids didn't fight once while we were there. Well, they did use their battery operated candles as light sabers for a minute, but we'll forget about that part.

I never sent out cards (sorry to all my family and friends). It just didn't happen this year. I don't think I ever completely finished my shopping, but it's a little late now. Several items I ordered online have been back ordered. I just realized that the kids have eaten all the cookies I've made and there are none to put out for Santa now. I encouraged them to leave him a glass of wine instead. And I failed to read the Christmas story to the kids before they went to bed.

But you know what? None of that matters. It really doesn't. Christmas is here! Christ is born! And He doesn't care if we sent out Christmas cards. He doesn't care if we ate all the cookies we baked. He doesn't even care if we never got around to baking a single cookie at all! He loves us no matter how much we screw up.

Now that's worth celebrating!


Dawn Meehan (aka mom2my6pack) grew up in Chicagoland where she began her writing career at the age of 5 with her widely praised, The Lucky Leprechaun, an epic tale of a leprechaun who is- yes, you guessed it, lucky.

Dawn has six children, basically because she didn't want seven. She is the author of Because I Said So and spends her days blogging at, changing diapers, cleaning pudding off her ceiling, tackling insurmountable piles of laundry, and explaining to her kids why they can't have a pet squirrel or an indoor slip-n-slide.


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Thursday, December 24, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Slow Down, Pray & Give Thanks

All Decked Out For Christmas
by Maureen Lang

One of the reasons so many of us love the holiday season is that it's just so...pretty! Twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, packages that glisten with bows and fancy wrapping. Our houses are trimmed with wreaths and glowing trees, and the neighborhood lights up the night with strands of icicles and glimmering reindeer.

Even we get decked out for the holidays! Chances are most of us will attend at least one party this season, and if we don't usually don clothing or jewelry with a bit of sparkle, now's the time to take a chance with something that reflects the holiday.

Smiles are another reason this season is such a popular one. They accompany that familiar greeting-Merry Christmas! Smiles go with the gifts we give and with the gifts we receive. Smiles go with the old Christmas carols and classic movies we watch every year.

The holiday season is a time when everything can seem amplified. But what if we're all decked out on the outside, from the sparkling clothing to our best effort at a smile, and on the inside we're anything but happy? If life isn't what we expected it to be, the gap between reality and our happy, hopeful expectations seem wider when everyone around us is laughing through the season.

I know there are as many reasons to be unhappy as there are to be happy, and I wouldn't begin to have the answer to make this season bearable for everyone. But I do know a few things that have worked for me:

Slow down. What? During the busiest time of the year? Yep. I know when I feel completely overwhelmed it's because I'm pressuring myself to do too much. So I try to plan ahead, settle for less than perfection, do my best without driving myself and everyone around me crazy. Choose what's really important and let go of the other things. And I've adopted my aunt's favorite saying: "However it turns out, that's how we like it." Works wonders on attitude!

Pray. As my pastor reminded me this weekend from Psalm 34:18: the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. God may not deliver us from our troubles, but He promises to stay beside us-in fact, closer than when everything seems hunky-dory.

Find a moment to give thanks for what you do have (without looking around at those who have more).

This last point deserves a moment of reflection, and is something I'm still learning to do. I have a child severely handicapped by Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. For years I thought I'd accepted his condition. I obediently said to God, "thank you even for this," since it taught me many things about adjusting to the life I've been given rather than the one I might have chosen.

But as my son gets older, I see new forms of acceptance making that feeling of gratitude more genuine. I think I'm finally letting go of some of the hopes and dreams I had for him, my oldest son. I can no longer imagine him any other way than the way he is, even though I'd be first in line if a cure is ever found.

I still think it's a good thing to give thanks in all things, even if it begins out of obedience rather than tender gratitude for whatever thorn we live with. But realizing it's okay to grow into that gratitude was a blessing to me.

Maybe some of the bruises on our spirit seem tender during the holiday season, a reminder that all the glitter on the outside might not light us up on the inside. My prayer is trust Psalm 34:18. Let's lean on Him this season-He's right here beside us!

Maureen Lang grew up loving to tell stories, and God has blessed her immeasurably to be able to tell them to a wider audience these days. For the latest goings-on, please check her blog!


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas with Anna Joujan

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

by Anna Joujan

Holy. Holy. Holy is the Lord. The familiar catch of breath. The sting in the eyes. And the tears begin to flow with the falling rain. Or do the tears fall with the flowing rain.

What is it in these words that I whisper that wrenches at my heart so? Why does Mary's prayer touch the core of my being, so many centuries after it was spoken?

I think it must be because I know that she was just a girl, just a human being, with a woman's heart like my own. And so, when I hear her wondering words, I can feel with her the emotion she must have felt. To bear the son of God-what wondrous mystery, what glorious honour! And she was, like me, just a young woman-much younger, in fact, than I am now. And so, no matter how often I hear the story and read her words, it still has the power to bring abrupt and unsought tears.

What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!

Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers. Since her family's move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and running to a fault. She blogs at Full of Grace.


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas by Melody Carlson

A Soggy, Jolly, Holly Christmas
by Melody Carlson

One of my most memorable Christmases started out as a natural disaster. But isn't that a bit how a pearl is formed? An oyster's soft easy life is disrupted by the invasion of sand, but something good comes out of it. When I was eight, we experienced the worst flood in recorded Oregon history. It was only a few days before Christmas when our streets became shallow rivers and the governor proclaimed a state of emergency. My sister and I assumed the flood was simply our new water-world playground and didn't understand the seriousness of washed out bridges and downed power lines and submerged homes. But when we realized this flood was about to nix our usual three-hour trek to our grandparents' home near the coast, we were not happy.

Naturally, our mom, a single parent, protested the sensibility of holiday travel (most of Oregon's rivers were involved in the flood). But Christmas at Grandma's house was our favorite event of the year. And thanks to our persistence, Mom finally gave in. We piled into the car and headed out. Flood waters climbed higher the closer we got to the coast. And at one point the road behind us was closed and the one ahead was flooded and about to be closed as well. The state policeman told us we could cross "at our own risk." We followed a Volkswagen Bug into the water-then we actually watched the bug floating away! Of course, there was nothing to do besides plow on through the water, which appeared to be nearly two feet deep! Fortunately we had an old heavy Chevy that did not float away, but the water seeped in and pooled on the floors.

Fortunately, we made it safely to the grandparents. But once we arrived, we learned there would be no Christmas tree because the road to the woods was closed. Then my grandpa picked up his ax and led us outside where he chopped down his prize holly tree planted in the parking strip. I stared in horror, thinking Grandma was going to have a fit. But then he explained the city had told him to remove the tree for traffic visibility. So we had a twelve foot holly tree for Christmas. It was a little prickly decorating it, but with its shiny green leaves and red berries, it was the most beautiful tree ever! So what started out as a disaster turned out to be a soggy, holly, jolly Christmas after all.


Melody Carlson, author of Limelight, Love Finds You in Sisters, The Christmas Dog, 86 Bloomberg Place, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Carter House Girls, and much more...


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas with Tricia Goyer

12 Pearls of Christmas: Help & Support

Calling Elizabeth ... HELP!
by Tricia Goyer

Mary, the mother of Jesus is one of the most well-known women of all time. She was also a teen mom facing an unplanned pregnancy. This Christmas we will see evidence of Mary's story all around us. And as you hear it through Christmas songs and Christmas shows think of three things:

1. Mary was signed up for a big task she wasn't prepared for.
2. Mary no doubt faced criticism from people around her.
3. Mary found someone to turn to - a friend who could help Mary to succeed in her new role. It was Mary's older cousin Elizabeth.

Elizabeth played an important part in Mary's life. We know this because the book of Luke begins by telling us Elizabeth's story first. Elizabeth was the wife of a priest. She was very old and had no children, but God blessed her in her old age by allowing her to get pregnant. After Elizabeth's story comes Mary's story ... another surprise pregnancy. Can you imagine what a shock that was to everyone who knew both women? (Yes! I'm sure you can!)

The cool thing is that the angel Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth's surprise pregnancy. It's as if he was saying, "Look, there's someone in your same situation. Turn to her. She can help you."

Mary did go to Elizabeth. In fact she lived with her older cousin for three months. Elizabeth was the first one who rejoiced over the child Mary held within her womb, and I imagine Elizabeth was there to encourage Mary as she coped with the idea of becoming a teen mom.

Like Mary, each of us should have people in our lives who we turn to for help, support and encouragement. Being a mom isn't an easy thing, and facing an unplanned pregnancy is even tougher.

When I had my son Cory I was 17-years-old, and there were a group of women from my grandma's church who supported me. They were the first ones who showed me that the child that was growing inside me was a gift. They gave me a baby shower, and they fought over holding my son after he was born.

As my son grew, there were other women I looked to ... and most of the time they didn't even know I was watching. One of them was Cheryl. Cheryl was patient with her children, she gave them big hugs, she laughed with them and played with them and I modeled myself after her. The thing about finding mentors is sometimes we can observe them without them even knowing. And if we're really lucky they enjoy their role of giving us advice.

Later, when I had two kids, I met a friend named Cindy. She and I were the same age and we became quick friends. Cindy was a support to me because we traded babysitting, talked about parenting problems, and we encouraged each other. She was someone who was walking the same road as me, and her advice helped more times than I can count.

No matter who we are, or where we live, each of us can look around and see the people we have in our lives. Some may cheer us on, some may guide our parenting, and others may just be there to walk along side us. If the mother of Jesus needed someone to look to for support ... shouldn't we? Everyone needs someone to provide a little help and support.


Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-one books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. Connect with Tricia at


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Sunday, December 20, 2009

12 Pearls of Wisdom---God Intervenes

The Answer
by Susan May Warren

Whos, Here, we are Whos here, smaller than the eye can see. Whos here, we are Whos here, I'm a Who and so is she...

I've always wanted to live in a musical. When I was a kid, I loved Oklahoma, Sound of Music, West Side Story. I seriously thought that, if the moment was right, maybe the stars aligned, people would break out into song and dance.

I was sorta right. Because in my house, one needs to be able to talk in movie lines and song lyrics to effectively communicate. At any moment, someone might break out with a quip from the Princess Bride, or Finding Nemo. They might sing Tomorrow from Annie, or My Favorite Things like Julie Andrews.

But, most recently we've found ourselves speaking in "Suess"...

It's suppertime, son, and the time is near To call far and wide the sneetches who hear Just the sound of their bellies, the whir of their gear The Gurgles and Burbles that give them great fear Tell them all, tell them loud, tell them clear Their hands they should wash, check their face in the mirror Because the food is now ready and it's time to steer Close to the table, where they'll find hot gribbles here.

Why, you ask? Because David and Sarah are performing in the community theater's production of Suessical the Musical, a hilarious conglomeration of Dr. Suess' fun work, from Horton hears a Who to Horton Hatches an Egg.

As the Christmas season draws close (and the songs from the play linger in my head), one line has stood out to me... "We are here, we are here!" You know the story - that part where, after everyone has called Horton names and they're about ready to boil the speck that contains Who-ville, Horton calls out to the Whos to send up a cry to prove themselves as real. "We are here, we are here!"

It strikes me that sometimes we can feel like Whos...smaller than the eye can see. Tossed hither and yon by the wind, helpless and facing being boiled. Tired, perhaps, or alone. Wishing someone might find us and pay attention.

Someone has, and that's the good news about Christmas. Because we don't have to "make ourselves heard," like the Whos. In fact, even before we realized we were headed for the cauldron, God intervened. God demonstrated his own love for us in this - while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8). That's what Jesus is all about - he's the answer to even the unspoken cry of our hearts, saying, "I am here, I am here." Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

So as this season approaches with its whistles and bells I hope you hear the voice where the Mighty One dwells -- down deep in your hearts, so nothing can shake the knowledge of his love, given all for your sake.

Merry Christmas from Susie May Warren


Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of twenty-one novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep's Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader's Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota. Check out her Christmas Novella, The Great Christmas Bowl.


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: He is Always Enough

Christmas in a Barn
by Mary DeMuth

The Christmas of 2006 we were homeless. We didn't have keys. Not to a car, not to a home. We'd flown halfway around the world, leaving behind a ministry we toiled over. Much, particularly in our hearts, lay in ruins.

Some friends had a camp, and on that camp stood a barn. In the corner of the barn was a tiny apartment, flanked by this caboose and hundreds of acres of Texas pasture. We'd never been there before, so we followed directions at night, making plenty of wrong turns.

When we found the place, we drove a borrowed car over the cattle guard toward what would be our home for a month. String lights illuminated a small porch, a window and a door in the corner of an aluminum-sided barn. We hefted large pieces of luggage to the apartment.

And when we opened the door, Love welcomed us.

The place, usually completely unfurnished in the winter, was decked out with just the right amount of beds, couches and tables. The pantry was full. We had dishes and garbage cans, and cups and forks and food. But even more, we had a Christmas tree. Friends had hijacked the place, decorating it for Christmas. Cookies preened on the table.

I will never, ever forget that Christmas. We had so little. We felt the painful burden of failure. But we were loved, so terribly and wonderfully loved.

Christmas felt right there, in a barn. We heard the nickering of horses, the meowing of kittens, the clop of hooves against the barn floor. Chickens and goats and cows served as a holy object lesson of the incarnation. Although we were warm and clothed, we understood more keenly the Savior's homelessness, how He left the splendor of heaven for the sodden earth. We experienced barnyard life alongside him, without much to call our own except our Heavenly Father and our sweet family.

He was enough, that Christmas. And He will always will be.


Mary DeMuth writes fiction and nonfiction. Her latest book, A Slow Burn released in October and she has a memoir entitled Thin Places coming out in February of 2010. You can meet her:,, on Facebook and Twitter!


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jesus in the Christmas Cookies

Since adopting a healthier lifestyle in 2008 and losing almost 20 pounds I never want to see again, I don’t bake nearly as often as I once did. Nor do I bake in such large quantities.

You may think that just because I don’t want to gain over the holidays, I shouldn’t punish my whole family. To that I say if it’s in the house I’m going to eat it. My only hope of not gaining the usual 5 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is to limit the presence of temptation in the house.

But I love splurging as much as the next gal. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without star shaped cookies and homemade fudge. Not to mention the men who work the nightshift at my husband’s job have come to expect a huge platter of cookies from me.

Yesterday my four-year-old grandson arrived just as my kitchen counter had become a landmine of cookie preparations. My prayers are with you if you’ve ever had to bake a large quantity of food around a four-year-old.

But it offered a chance to impress upon him the true meaning of the season. When I told him the cookies were for Papaw’s work party in honor of Jesus’ birthday, he asked; “Is Jesus going to be there?”

What a good question. Is Jesus going to be there? Will he be here for any of our Christmas rituals? Whether baking and obsessing over maintaining a goal weight, sending cards, hanging lights, singing carols, or attending parties, is Jesus there?

I am thankful for the opportunity to share my faith with my grandson. And I’m thankful for that nugget of wisdom out of his mouth. When we wear our “Jesus is the reason for the season” pin, may we truly embrace the sentiment. As our special guest at our Christmas rituals, let us feel His presence and honor Him in everything we do.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Last Full Workweek of the First Decade of the New Millennium

This is the last full workweek before Christmas. Actually it’s the last full workweek of the first decade of the new millennium. At least it is for me. Doctor’s appointment this week and party this weekend to plan, shop, and clean for. Besides the usual gift wrapping, last minute shopping, and all the other things that need done well before the twenty-fifth, squeezing in writing time is going to be tough.

But this is Monday. We have a full week to make something happen in our writing before the relatives descend—or we catch the plane to their house—before the kids begin rifling through our closets in search of bounty, before the dog needs taken to the kennel and the cookies need to go in the oven.

What tips have you picked up along this writing journey that keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard? The key things for me are routine and discipline. I wake up before six every morning and jump right in. I eat half a granola bar while watching Joyce Meyer and then do an hour long exercise routine. After a shower and phone call to a friend, I eat my real breakfast and get straight to work. On days when I can’t keep this routine for whatever reason—like aforementioned doctor’s appointment—my entire day is shot. Even if most of the afternoon remains, my productivity level drops to nearly zero. I can't explain why I get nothing done simply because of an appointment or unscheduled visit from friends, but it always happens that way.

It’s the end of the year, dear writers. Two weeks and 2009 will be a memory. I have several projects to wrap up before then. If I don’t hustle this week, my totally manageable tasks will follow me into the New Year to be added to what needs done in the next decade.

Let’s practice some discipline and routine this week. Consider this your last workweek of the first decade of the new millennium. Now let’s get cracking.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good News of Great Joy!

I am so happy to bring this devotion to you today from the desk of my good friend Penny McGinnis. More of Penny's devotions can be found at Encouragement Journey.
You can sign up there to receive her weekly devotions in your inbox.

Good News of Great Joy!
by Penny McGinnis

Luke 2:8-11

vs.8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

If I were outside at night sitting on a hill preoccupied with my job and an angel (or anyone else for that matter) appeared to me, I'd be terrified too. And, I would wonder why on earth an angel is telling me, a lowly shepherd, news that the whole world longed to hear. Of course God knew what he was doing, he always does. He knew that the shepherds believed, and that through their faith they would spread the news. Later in the scripture we learn that the shepherds did indeed spread the story and glory of Jesus. They lead others to see him in the manger outside of Bethlehem, where they worshipped him.

What message has God given us to share this season? Perhaps through our greetings and cards, he wants us to remind the world that Christmas glorifies his Son. Penning an encouraging email to brighten someone’s stressful day, or using words to create inspiring stories and essays may bring the joy and peace of the season to a reader’s heart.

Where are you in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday? Are you a shepherd minding your own business or a shepherd spreading the news of the glorious King's birth?

Best wishes for a joy-filled Christmas.
Penny McGinnis

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Free Books for Christmas

From now until December 31st, buy two of Teresa’s books and get one free. There is no limit to the number of books you can get free and no specific combination of books. Much fewer restrictions here than you’ll find on those BONUS gift cards you buy at your favorite restaurant.

Cost per book--$15.00. Additional savings: I have reduced shipping and handling costs to the absolute minimum. Only $1.00 shipping per book. Again, no limit.

So take the hassle out of your gift shopping this Christmas. Books are a no-brainer for the reader on your list. I will happily autograph each book any way you like. Email me for more information or to place an order. I will put your books in the mail within 2 business days of placing your order.

Description of each title:

Streams of Mercy—— On the day of her father’s funeral, seventeen-year-old Jamie Steele discovers he was the prime suspect in the disappearance and possible murder of an old girlfriend. All too familiar with his violent reputation and hard-fisted lifestyle, Jamie has to find out for herself if he was capable of the crime everyone in their small town thinks he committed. What will she do if he’s proven guilty? How can she forgive someone who never asked to be forgiven or admitted any wrongdoing? Can she find the mercy in her heart to forget the past and mourn the father she has lost?

Redemption’s Song—— One woman stands on the precipice of change and discovery. The other carries a twenty-year-old burden of sin in her heart that threatens to destroy everything she holds dear.

Jamie Steele and Abigail Blackwood share nothing more than love for one man. When heartbreak and tragedy test their faith beyond what either can imagine, will they trust the God of purpose, or will foolish pride drive them to take matters into their own hands?

Two women who share nothing more than love for one man. When their lives are shaken and faith tested beyond what either can imagine, will they trust the God of purpose who promises to stand closer than a brother? Or will foolish pride drive them to take matters into their own hands?

Evidence of Grace—— A phone call from a potential eyewitness leads Noel Wyatt to believe the real killer of Sally Blake got away with murder. He enlists the help of a young attorney and his old friend, retired prosecutor and judge David Davis, to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Was someone else involved in the events of that fateful night? Since the convicted killer is already serving time for the murder, is it too late for justice to be served?

A Tender Reed—— Michelle is a 33-year old never married nurse. She leads an uneventful, predictable life, but her calm exterior hides unresolved resentment and emotional insecurity. When Nicole, her irresponsible younger sister, abandons her two young children in Michelle's front yard, she's forced to recall her own mother's abandonment of her.

How Michelle faces her childhood demons while building a family with Nicole's kids offers a thought-provoking examination of family relationships. The author deftly handles Michelle's spiritual cynicism as she struggles to find acceptance and love.

Infused with humor and practical insights, A Tender Reed and its characters will capture the hearts of readers who love children, understand their challenges, and appreciate the many definitions of family.

The Ultimate Guide to Darcy Carter——Considered an expert on every conceivable topic, Ultimate Guidebook guru, Darcy Carter, can’t guide herself out of a paper bag. When her editor suggests she write The Ultimate Guide to Finding Mr. Right, Darcy wants no part of it. To avoid Mr. Right and hopefully find out where the discontentment with her life is coming from, she heads south to research one last ultimate guidebook. Soon she discovers there’s more to life than telling other people how to live theirs.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Finding Christmas

I have had so much fun bringing the Revell Christmas releases to your attention this week. Today I want to tell you about Finding Christmas by James Calvin Schaap.

Christmas is everywhere . . . even where you least expect it.

Join award-winning author and storyteller James Calvin Schaap as he uncovers the grace, joy, and love of the season through seven heartwarming tales of miracle moments in a messy world. This beautiful and inspiring collection of contemporary Christmas stories will remind you what grace looks like--and where to find it.

Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

"Jim Schaap knows our lives. He re-fires our memories. He draws us into settings familiar. He causes us to inhabit the worlds of plain folk struggling with the problems of an ordinary life--and he makes it all so very, very important. . . . Schaap writes sacred mystery into our common lives."--from the foreword by Walter Wangerin Jr.

James Schaap is a professor of English at Dordt College and president of the Chrysostom Society and the award-winning author of twenty-two books. He lives in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh

I received a review copy of The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh a few weeks ago. I immediately fell in love with the story and couldn't wait to let readers know about it.

From the back cover: Can a gift from the past mend a broken heart?

Ian Collins is an old man without his son. Patrick Collins is a young boy without his father. On his Christmas list are only three items. He wants the army to find his father. He wants to leave his grandfather's house. And he wants the dusty wooden soldier in Grandfather's attic--the one he is forbidden to touch.

Set at Christmastime in 1943, The Unfinished Gift is the engaging story of a family in need of forgiveness. With simple grace, it reminds us of the small things that affect powerful change in our hearts--a young boy's prayers, a shoe box of love letters, and even a half-carved soldier, long forgotten. This nostalgic story of reconciliation will touch your heart.

It is easy to let little hurts and misunderstandings escalate into huge obstacles in relationships with the ones we love most. This is the case of Ian Collins and his son Shaun. When Ian's daughter-in-law dies unexpectedly, his grandson Patrick has nowhere else to go except to Ian. Out of obligation to his late wife's wishes, Ian begrudgingly accepts the boy into his home.

Thus begins The Unfinished Gift and a relationship that will change both of them forever.

One for the keeper shelf! Dan's book is a fabulous story of redemption and forgiveness. I couldn't put it down, and it made me cry, which is hard to do. ---Colleen Coble, author of the Rock Harbor and the Lonestar series

Click the link below to read an excerpt from The Unfinished Gift.