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Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year's Prayer

Below is part of a devotional I received at the bottom of a forwarded e-mail.  I thought it summed things up nicely- a way to spiritually wrap up the past year and move forward.  Though the words were penned long ago, they are just as applicable today:


(James Smith, "Marvelous Mercy!" 1862)

The following is an excerpt from the diary of James Smith:


And now, Lord, I desire to confess before you the sins of this past year:

I have sinned with my tongue--and with my temper.

I have sinned in my heart--and in my life.

I have omitted duties.

I have committed sins.

My motives have often been impure.

My aims have not been sufficiently high and holy.

I have been impatient, fretful, irritable, rash, jealous, envious, discontented, and ungrateful.

O may the blood of Jesus wash out every stain!

I renounce all hope--but what centers in Jesus!

I have no refuge, no hiding-place, no strong tower, no place of safety--but Jesus.

Christ in His person,
Christ in His finished work,
Christ in His glorious intercession--
is all my hope, all my confidence, all my joy!

I am His servant--and wish to serve Him alone.
I am His subject--and wish to be ruled by Him alone.
I am His purchased property--and wish to be consecrated entirely, eternally, and altogether to Him
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Scripture and a Snapshot

 
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."   ----Luke 2:9-11


Scripture and Snapshot

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Luminescence 2012

In late November, the kids and I spent the day at Disney.  Then, the Hubs met up with us (he was working near there) and picked up the boys so that the girls and I could go see Luminescence at the Gaylord Palms.  They have several shows a night until January 1st,and it's totally free (well, except for the $15 to park your car there--oy!).  We got there in time for the tree lighting, which features a singing performance with the Edge Effect.  They actually light up the whole atrium area, and it's very impressive. Then we watched the actual show, which also features the Edge Effect and one of Mimi's teachers from Metro Movement and Aerial Arts doing a performance on the cube.  First let me say the Edge Effect is AMAZING.  And of course, Miss Christye was great (on nights when Miss Christye doesn't perform, Miss Stacy does, and she's great too).  The show was so good, we stayed to watch a second one, and Sari was begging to stay for the last one too! 

Here are some pictures:


 At one point, the drummer is clipped onto wires and raised up to an aerial drum set above the stage. He has no seat up there- just "sits" suspended in his harness.  Too cool!

Here's the drummer above the stage.

 Miss Christye's cutie-patootie husband Danny.  Yes, they're a very talented family.
 




 
 The girls with Miss Christye
 
The girls with Edge Effect
 
If you live in the Orlando area, you really should try to make it down there before the show ends for the season.  You won't regret it!

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012



Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.  "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."  Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
 
Join us as we celebrate the birth of a baby who would change the world.  A baby whose death 33 years later would mean eternal life for all who believe.  The baby whose blood would atone for our sins and reconcile us with God forever.  Jesus.

Happy Birthday to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, our Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Provider, and most of all Emmanuel...Jesus.


God's love and peace to all of you,

Scott, the Hubs, TJ, One Blessed Mamma, Sari, and Mimi
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Ooka Island Discount Just in Time for Christmas




Wondering what to get the young reader on your list?  Want something fun, instructive, and totally different from any other reading program out there?  Well, here's your chance to check out Ooka Island for 30% off the normal price!  Ooka Island is geared toward children ages 3-7, and my daughter loved it when we reviewed it last year.  You can click this link to read my full Ooak Island review, and be sure to click here for your 30% off Ooka Island offer.
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Preparing Our Hearts for Christmas with a Jesse Tree

As I grew up, we marked the days until Christmas with this advent calendar that my mother made.  I have fond memories of my siblings and I competing to get to put up our favorite ornaments, and of course to put up Santa on the 24th.  But once my own children came along, I wanted a way to mark the days until Christmas that keep their focus on the reason for the celebration--the birth of our Savior Christ--and not just on the anticipation of presents to be opened as soon as they can coax us out of bed on Christmas morning.  And that desire to focus on the real reason for the season is what led us to the Jesse Tree.

So what is a Jesse Tree?  Well, the name comes from Isaiah 11:1-2, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse and a branch from his root will bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him"  That shoot from the stem of Jesse?  It was Jesus.  So in essence, a Jesse Tree traces the story of our Savior.  How the plan for our salvation was crafted before any of us were even a gleam in anyone's eye but God's.  And while Jesse Trees are somewhat new to modern Christmas tradition, they actually were in use in churches centuries ago.  Allow me to share with you this explanation from The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean:
Jesse trees were the Bible-storybooks of unlettered people.  A priest could point to the figures or symbols and tell the stories of the Old Testament kings, prophets, heroines, warriors.  And the tree itself served to show how the New Testament grew out of the Old; how, for Christians, the birth of Jesus was not just a beginning, but a completion.
 

    Through the years, I've used three different resources and two different tree incarnations for our Jesse Tree.  The first resource I used was the book I mentioned above, The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughean, and it remains dear to my heart.  It's the story of an old wood carver carving a Jesse Tree for a church and a persistent boy who intrudes on the carver's quiet solitude and draws out of him the stories that go with each carving.  While the carver is quite gruff at first, both he and the boy are transformed by the end of the story--both changed for the better by their chance encounter with each other and their shared time remembering, sharing, and celebrating the stories of the lineage of Jesus.  It's a beautiful book, and has 24 stories--one for each day in December.  The only drawback was that it contains beautiful illustrations, but no templates for you to use for ornaments on your own Jesse Tree- so you have to either be creative and make your own, or find clip art to represent each one.
The completed Jesse Tree that the carver carves.
 
     Thinking I would just get around the ornament problem by ordering a booklet that contained templates, I ordered The Jesse Tree by Linda Lawrence and Donna Hubbard.  That features 20 days worth of Jesse Tree stories, each with a short scripture reading and meditation, suggestions for covering that story with young children, and a Bible study on related ideas.  Some also have suggested family activities.  They give instructions in the back of the booklet for making your own ornaments and the booklet also contains ornaments printed on card stock that you can just color and use. The reason this one has only 20 days is that there is no devotion for each of the 4 Sundays in Advent.  I'm not sure why that is, but maybe because church is meant to negate the need for a devotional on Sunday, or maybe because liturgical church folks typically mark the Sundays in Advent with an Advent wreath.
 
     Whatever the reason, did you catch that there are only 20 days in this second book, and the other book had 25?  Yes, that was my first introduction to this truth--no two Jesse Tree devotionals are alike!!!  Remember I said I have 3 resources?  Well, all three of them commemorate different stories on their Jesse Trees.  Sure, some of the stories are the same-- Creation, sin entering the world, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, etc.  But each also uses some unique stories. 
 
     Which brings me to my third resource, "A Jesse Tree Journey" by Ann Voskamp.  This is a free download if you sign up for her blog e-mails.  It is the most comprehensive and longest of all the Jesse Tree devotionals I have.  It is meant to begin on November 29th, and there is a devotional for each day including Christmas.  It is beautiful; just move-you-to-tears breath-taking in its focus on God and His love for us that would lead Him to reach out to a fallen world with a plan of redemption that involves the death of His only begotten Son.  It too includes color ornaments that you can print and use, or black and white ones that your own family can add the color to.  I chose to print the color ones and laminate them. Each day in Ann's devotional has the complete Scripture text printed for you to read, a devotional to go with it, a prayer, and one action step you can take to apply the lesson to your day that day.
 
     Finally, you may be thinking, this is all great, but WHAT exactly should a Jesse Tree look like?  The answers to that are as varied as the devotionals themselves.  Some people use a real tree branch, or tree branches, in a pot to hang their ornaments from.  Some simply hang the ornaments on the normal Christmas tree.  Others, including myself, use some sort of tree silhouette made from paper or fabric, or even painted on glass like a sliding glass door, to attach their ornaments to.  I've had two different paper trees.  The first one below was more of a true "Jesse Tree shape" in that it had a stump and then this long thin shoot growing out of it.  Because I taped it to the wall, I used it year round, and the only picture I have is the one below of our fall leaves on it!
 
 
 
     The most current tree I have is this more traditional tree shape.  It better suits the "year round tree" idea, but it not nearly as representative of the "shoot from Jesse".  It's working for us right now though, and that's what's important.  It doesn't look very impressive yet, but wait until it has all 27 ornaments on it!


 
    The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what your tree looks like.  And it doesn't matter how many days your devotional has or what stories it contains.  The purpose of the Jesse Tree is to point our hearts toward the heart of God.  To remind us of His love for us, and His plan for our salvation.  A plan whose roots go as deep as Creation itself, and whose growth can be clearly traced through the history of His people from the Old Testament right through the birth of Jesus.  No matter what method you choose for your own Jesse Tree, your family will be blessed by the time you spend reminding yourselves of the real reason to celebrate Christmas--God's promises fulfilled in the birth of our Savior.  Celebrate His faithfulness, His love, and His grace this holiday season!


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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Merry Christmas-Scripture and a Snapshot

Luke 2:14:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."

Scripture and Snapshot

Scripture and a snapshot is hosted by my friend Jennifer at a glimpseofourlife.com.  She says, "Welcome to Scripture and a Snapshot. Click through the shared posts, comment on a few others, and be encouraged. Grab the code if you would like to share it and join in each week with your own snapshot and Scripture."
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Kind of Jazzed and Feeling Blessed

One of my reviews from this past Crew season was selected to be published in the newest issue of The Old Schoolhouse magazine.  The magazine is free, and can be read online or on an e-reader.  Of course, if you are reading this on my blog, you could also just read the Speekee review here too, but just so I can remember, the direct link is below.
http://www.thehomeschoolmagazine-digital.com/thehomeschoolmagazine/201212#pg125

And, back in November, the Crew leaders were asking for people to write holiday related posts for the Crew blog.  I offered to write about the Jesse Tree, and they said yes, so that went live today at this link:
http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/celebrating-advent-with-a-jesse-tree/

Last, I had a family photo shoot the other day, and I just have to share a few pictures of this one little angel (actually, they were all angels, but this one just looks like a little cherub):



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Hello!!!

For those of you landing here because of The Old Schoolhouse magazine or the Schoolhouse Crew blog, hello, and welcome to One Blessed Mamma!  And for those of you who follow my humble (and lately not very exciting) blog, thanks for sticking around.  Here's a little bit of an introduction for anyone new, and a bit of catch up for anyone wondering if we were, in fact, still alive ;-).

This is Scott.  He's 15, and he has Asperger's...and a host of other disorders.  He's a freshman this year, and I've never been so challenged as a homeschool mom as I am right now trying to meet his needs where he is at but also give him an education that will equip him for his future.  He's quite decent at piano, and it's therapeutic for him, so after a 3 year hiatus, he recently began lessons again.  Here he is playing at a local nursing home this past Saturday.  He was so nervous he was shaking, but he did it.  If you watch the video, you can hear one of the residents taking (loudly) to one of the other girls who was playing.  I love how he's totally oblivious to the fact that Scott's playing until about half way into the song!

This is Mimi, my endlessly creative child.  She's 13 and her current passion is for aerial arts--silk and lyra.  There definitely have been days in our homeschool where I've wanted to run away and join the circus, but I never dreamed I'd have a child actually want to do it!  She has such amazing teachers, and they are great with the kids.  Mimi loves it, but she's at a distinct disadvantage since most aerialists were either dancers or gymnasts first.  She has done neither, but the director of her school is graciously allowing her to attend ballet classes there so that she can learn to carry herself like a dancer.  Below is one of her newest drops- the star drop.

This is TJ.  He's my soccer player.  He's also my "obedient child" and by far my strongest student.  He's easy going, and a delight to be around, and I could just gush on and on.  Soccer is finished up for the fall (his team did very well this season), but building Legos doesn't follow any sort of calendar, and that's what's currently occupying his time.  He loves Ninjago the best, although Star Wars Legos are a close second.  In fact, he just spend all his money to buy a Star Wars Lego Advent calendar, and he is truly delighting in it.  Besides that and school, he can usually be found outside where he disappears for hours just playing on his own. 

And last but not least, this is Sari.  She's 7, and I am thankful for all the delayed education studies that show that children really learn better later because with three older siblings (and one of them high needs) school for her is catch as catch can.  She just finished up level one of All About Reading (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this program!!!) and we are starting level two.  We are doing Right Start Level B for math, although mostly she just wants to play the games, and mostly, I'm okay with that.  Her favorite subject is glitter.  Yes, I know, you had no idea glitter is a subject, but trust me, it is in our house.  She takes it to the level of alchemy--blending this color with that to create just the right combination.  She truly sparkles all the time, LOL.  She's definitely got a creative streak, and would be content to paint and color and glitter her days away.  She'd like to do ballet, but for right now, she has to settle for watching Angelina Ballerina.  Her chance will come though!
She just lost both her front teeth-my kids lose their teeth late!

Thanksgiving day with one of her favorite people in the world--my brother's friend Plum

Both girls with one of Sari's newest "favorites"--Miss Christye, one of Mimi's aerial teachers and the aerialist for the Luminescence show at the Gaylord.
And me?  Well, I'm just One Blessed Mamma.  Married to a wonderful man for 20 years, blessed to be able to stay home and homeschool my crew...And speaking of crew, I've decided to step down from the Schoolhouse Review Crew for now.  I've been on since the beginning, but the daily schooling demands on me are getting greater and greater, and for the sake of my oldest child especially, I had to step down.  It's bittersweet, as I've "known" some of those folks for years, but I'm confident it was a decision that God led me to. 

In addition to homeschooling and driving my kids all over the place, I am honored to sing and sign in a choir made up of people from over 30 churches.  We've been together for 10 years now, and these men and women are dear to me.  You can read more about United in Praise and see pictures from this fall's concerts on Facebook.  I also am a pseudo-professional photographer, and an avid reader, but most importantly, I'm a child of God, and I'm just a mess that God is still patiently working on daily.

So welcome, or welcome back!  Either way, I'm glad you stopped by :-).

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spring Meadow Sanctuary by Lynnette Bonner 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:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990.

That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


He broke her heart.

Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.

Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.

Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.
Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….

Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.

Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.



Product Details:
List Price: $14.77
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1480156949
ISBN-13: 978-1480156944



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.

Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.

She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.

The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.

For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.

Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.

A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.

Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.

Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.

All her life she’d wanted only one thing.

Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.

Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.

Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.

She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”

Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!

Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.

Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.

“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.

“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”

He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”

“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”

“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”

“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”

“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.

Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?

She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.

Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.

Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”

The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.

A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.

UV



Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.

The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.

He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.

“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.

“Whiskey. Make it a double.”

The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.

Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.

The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.

Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”

Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”

Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.

Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”

Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.

Good. He had the man’s attention.

“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”

Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”

The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.

Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.

Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.

One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”

No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.

Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”

Judd cleared his throat loudly.

Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”

Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.

Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”

"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”

Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.

The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.

Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.

They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.

Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.

Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.

Lord I hope we were right on that count.

He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”

Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”

Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”

“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.

Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”

Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”

Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.

Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”

Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”

Judd glowered at him.

Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.

Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”

Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”

Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.

Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.

“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.

Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.

Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.” He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.

“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”

Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.

The report was a little loud, but about right.

Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.

Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.

Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”

Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.

Rocky’s eyes narrowed.

“Four… three…”

“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.

This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.

He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”

Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”

Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.

Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”

Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.

Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”

Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.

Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”

With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.

A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.


OBM says:  This is book four of The Shepherd's Heart series, but it was the first one of them I had read.  It was very easy to follow the story even though I had not read the other books. I enjoyed this book very much and would love to read others that Ms. Bonner has written.
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Vocal Coach Singer Review

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I've been a singer all my life...but I've never had any formal voice training.  And I don't have an amazing voice by any means.  Mostly, I have a decent harmony voice, and mostly I sing in a choir or as part of a worship team.  I'd love for it to be more than that.  So I was very excited to have the chance to review The Vocal Coach Singer.

The Vocal Coach Singer is a CD or mp3 based program for voice lessons.  It is appropriate for ages middle school to adult.  Your "coaches" are Chris and Carole Beatty, who have over 40 years of experience teaching people to sing.  Vocal Coach Singer teaches the fundamentals needed to become an accomplished singer--things like how to expand your range, or how to control your voice, or even proper exercises for your voice.  How does it do that?  Well, here are all the elements the program contains:

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Vocal Coach Singer Includes:

7 Training CDs:

  • Getting Started
  • Complete Breathing
  • Complete Warm-Up
  • Complete Tone
  • Complete Expanding Your Range
  • Complete Diction
  • Complete Performance

4 Workout CDs:

  • Daily Workout High Voice 1 & 2
  • Daily Workout Medium/Low Voice 1 & 2

Plus these great educational tools:

  • Guidebook – Full-size Instructional Guidebook to Ensure Success
  • Printable Lead Sheets – each exercise in our course, plus track lists
  • Personal Singer's Journal (Getting Started Journal & Workout Journal) to Track Your Progress
  • Vocal Coach Song Evaluation – Evaluation form to enable you to make more intelligent song selections
You can also get the Vocal Coach Singer as a downloadable mp3.

The pros:  I love their focus on "Practice makes permanent."  So many times we hear practice makes perfect, but it doesn't.  PERFECT practice makes perfect.  Any practice will make something permanent...only correct practice makes it correctly permanent.  To achieve correct practice, lessons are relatively short, exercises build one upon each other, and journaling is part of the process so you can record what works for you and what doesn't.  I also love their heart--the focus on singing better to worship God better--which can be seen on their website as you read through the different resources there.  And as a homeschooler, I really appreciate that they have an entire page on the web devoted to answering homeschool f.a.q.s about teaching voice and suggesting a course of study to use with their programs.  The program is WAY more affordable than voice lessons, and you can repeat lessons over and over.  Plus, there is no performance anxiety since you aren't singing for a "real person"--at least not one who is there with you. 

The cons:  Without a real live person there with you, you can't ever be sure you are really doing it right because no one is listening to you but you.  There is no feedback for your singing-unless you are singing in another venue and someone offers you some critique.  And there isn't really a good "lesson plan" to follow.  If you went to voice lessons, the teacher would give you assignments to work on week by week.  Because this is the whole program, you have ALL the information upfront, and not much help knowing how much you should tackle at one time, and what pace you should progress at.

The bottom line:  The Vocal Coach is $199.99 for the CD set or $99.99 for the mp3 downloads (which play in iTunes- or at least that's how I played them).  I think it's totally worth it even despite the cons.  That price is like 2 months of in person voice lessons, and you get SO much more than 2 months worth of material.  There is definitely enough here to make it worth your while and your money.  I can already see some improvement for both myself and my daughter, and we've only scratched the surface of what the program offers.

The Vocal Coach also offers in person lessons, internet consultations, choral warm ups, some teaching DVDs, and a product aimed toward younger singers, which some of my Crewmates received to review.  To see what other members of the Crew had to say, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  I received the mp3 downloads of Vocal Coach Singer for the purpose of giving my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own. 
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Growing Up Wild Review

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Growing Up Wild is a collection of 5 DVDs that introduce you to the Wild family, who are currently serving as missionaries to the Wano people in Papua, Indonesia.  Each volume contains 3 episodes and each episode focuses on one particular aspect of the lives of the 4 Wild boys (and their parents) in jungles of Papua.  Each volume also includes an activity guide on a separate CD.  You can click here to view a sample of some suggested activities to go with Home Sweet Hut.
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The DVDs are narrated by Mrs. Wild, and the entire family is involved in making of each episode.  They took over 3 years to produce.  While they are targeted toward children ages 5-12 (similar to the Wild boys), they are interesting to people of all ages.  It is the Wild's hope that an entire new generation might be influenced to become missionaries by watching their adventures. 


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The pros:  Growing Up Wild answers all those questions you ever wanted to know about HOW missionaries do what they do.  Volume 1 showed us how they built their hut, what conveniences they have, and what the Wano people's dwelling looked like.  It also shows you a supply run, and how they have to track how much of something they use and then project how much more they will need since trips to the store are made by plane!  The third episode shows how they pipe in fresh water from a stream to allow for a flushing toilet and running water at the sink.  And that's just ONE volume.  Plus, each one is laden with spiritual truths and teaches how they minister to the Wano people.  I especially liked how each episode ends discussing some truth God that ties in to the subject of the episode.  Homeschoolers in particular may find it interesting to see how these four boys are homeschooled in a jungle, but these videos certainly have a much broader appeal than that.  I can see them being used in churches, Christian schools, and in Christian families--anywhere people want to learn more about how modern day foreign missionaries live and serve. 

The cons:  None

The bottom line:  Here's what the Wild family has to say about these videos: "Our main teaching object in Growing Up Wild is to spur one another on as followers of Christ. We would like to share with you a glimpse of our world, but mostly to testify to the greatness of the God we serve and how he is working in the remote corners of the world".  And it is the combination of  both of those things--the glimpse into their world and the testimony of God's greatness--that I think makes these a wonderful resource to any Christian looking to learn more about foreign missionaries or to teach their children about the lives of missionaries, or just about the awesome God we serve!

You can order any of the Growing Up Wild DVDs for $18.99 each, or all five for $80.99.  To see what other members of the Crew had to say, you can check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  I received Volumes 1 and 4 tn exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Susanna's Christmas Wish- A FIRST WIld Card 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:

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

From the pen of bestselling Amish fiction author Jerry Eicher, (more than 350,000 books sold), comes a truly delightful and inspiring Christmas novella. A perfect holiday delight for lovers of Amish fiction…and those who love a heartwarming and tender Christmas tale.





Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736951512
ISBN-13: 978-0736951517



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Susanna Wagler stood by the living room window watching Herman’s broad shoulders as he guided the team of horses into the field. Was he really her husband? The thought raced through her mind, and she pushed it away. These were not the thoughts a woman of God should have. Of course Herman was her husband. They had said the marriage vows in front of Bishop Jacob not three weeks ago. She could still hear Bishop Jacob’s voice intoning, “Do you, sister Susanna, believe Da Hah has given our brother Herman to you as your husband?”

The words had hung in the air only for a moment before she whispered, “Yah.”

Herman was the husband Da Hah meant for her. She had been certain of it. As certain as she could be. He was a man deeply loved by the community for his honest ways, his open face, and his dedication to the faith of the fathers. This was why she had said yah to Herman’s first timid request when he’d asked her home from the hymn singing. And so far Herman Wagler hadn’t let her down. Not like someone else had…Susanna also pushed that thought away.

She had forgotten about him—shut his memory from her mind. But even now she shouldn’t think badly of Matthew Yoder, though he had broken her heart. The truth had come out, and it was better this way. How awful would it have been if the truth had waited to appear after they were married? That was what her sister Mary told her, and she was right. Mary was wise about Matthew, having married his brother Ernest. Even before Matthew had left, Mary had seemed unsure of his intent. Older sisters were good for something after all, it seemed.

Still, Susanna tried to give Matthew the benefit of the doubt. He must have had his reasons for leaving the community. Even though she couldn’t understand them…or follow him into the Englisha world. And his reasons were obviously greater than his love for her. That was what hurt the most when he’d informed her he didn’t plan to stay in the Amish community. He hadn’t been able to tell her before, he’d said, though he’d assured her he hadn’t been playing her along all those years.

But a man didn’t suddenly make up his mind to leave, she figured. Such a desire had to have been there for a long time. Matthew had known something, regardless of how much he insisted he hadn’t. If she had loved him enough, she would have gone with him, she supposed. But how could a woman love a man who loved the Englisha world more than he loved her? Still, she had wavered for weeks over the matter. Struggled with the agony of it. Was she at fault? Did love require the sacrifice of everything…of all she held dear? Things like this land of her people? These open fields she’d grown up in? This place where she’d been born?

Matthew seemed to have no problem leaving all of it, and he’d soon put his words into action, getting himself placed in the bann in the process. As if she could face something like that. The cutting off of all contact with her past. This couldn’t be love, she’d finally told herself. She could not choose this.

So Matthew was gone.

And slowly she had put the fragments of her heart back together. Finding a piece here and a piece there that fit. Herman, with his tenderness, had helped. And her heart had healed somewhat, hadn’t it? She wouldn’t have married Herman if it hadn’t, would she?

She loved Herman. She did. Herman was the kindest man around. She should be thankful he had even considered her. Especially after Matthew left and caused such a stir in the community. No Amish young man would have been blamed for avoiding her completely, like she was a second-rate, cast-off shirt. And yet Herman hadn’t thrown her away. He had asked her home from the hymn singing and eventually asked if she would be his frau. Someone to love and cherish forever while they lived on this earth. Herman had done that, and was that not love?

Susanna’s eyes lingered on Herman’s face as he turned the team of horses around. The prancing hooves left tracks in the light dusting of the overnight snow. For a moment Herman glanced toward the house, and she ducked behind the drapes. It wouldn’t be decent for him to see her staring at him from the window. Not yet. Even if he was her husband. They should learn to know each other better first.

When Susanna stole another look, Herman was headed out over the open fields, hanging on to the lines. He is a handsome man, she told herself. And one she was thankful to have as her husband.

There was at least one brokenhearted girl in the community that she knew of. Herman had left behind Ruth Byler. She sure hadn’t kept her desires to have Herman take her home from the hymn singing a secret. And if there was one who did so openly, there had to be others who had hid their feelings. Yet Herman had chosen her.

Susanna turned back to the kitchen with a sigh. This had to stop. This wondering and puzzling over things. She had expected it would be over after the wedding. In fact, there had been plenty of signs during the weeks before the wedding that her doubts had flown away. Now they apparently were back in force.

But they would live through this, Susanna told herself. Herman loved her and she loved him. He had made that plain enough in the days since the wedding. And she had no reason to complain. She was sure Herman was aware that her heart hadn’t totally healed from Matthew, but he was being kind and understanding. What woman wouldn’t love such a man?

Susanna ran hot water into the kitchen sink while she brought the last of the breakfast dishes to the counter. Herman’s plate was sopped clean—it looked almost washed, like it always did. Even though it had been a large breakfast of eggs, bacon, and home fries she’d fixed him. Herman would have made a gut bachelor, that was for sure. The way he kept everything tidy around himself. And yet he felt the need of her, felt it necessary to bring her into his life.

But why?

Because he loved her, of course, Susanna told herself. There didn’t need to be a reason beyond that. Perhaps it was the conversation at the breakfast table this morning that was bringing this indecision up again. Well, it was more of an argument, really. Their first timid disagreement. And she had been shocked at the feelings that rose up inside of her. The insistence that Herman see things her way. And she had even grown angry, though Herman hadn’t, even as he remained firm. There would be no celebration of Christmas in their new home. And they wouldn’t be going to her parents’ place to celebrate either. It was not the way of his family, and it would not be their way.

Susanna washed the dishes and stared out the window at the snow. Soon the snow would be falling in earnest, the flakes floating past this very window. The joy and hope of Christmas would be in the air. The celebration of the Christ child in the manger would be coming. Was this feeling just an Englisha thing, like Herman claimed? He said her family had given in to worldly influences and his family had not.

Yet how could this be true? Her family didn’t celebrate Christmas like the Englisha did, with their Christmas trees and lots of store-bought presents. Nee, their celebration was simple. They began by gathering on Christmas morning for breakfast. In his deep voice, Daett would read the story of the Christ child’s birth. Then the day would be spent together visiting, eating candy and goodies galore, and letting the children race around the house. Maybe that was a little like the Englisha, but she would be willing to adjust something, like leaving early, if that helped Herman get used to her family’s ways.

But Herman had said no. No hesitation, right out, flat no.

And she had gotten angry. Even her cheeks flushed and her fingers tingled. She had stood up from the table to get a drink at the sink even though her glass was still full of water. His eyes had followed her as he seemed to be waiting for harsh words from her.

But she had not spoken them. She knew that Herman, being her husband, was in the right. And she knew what he would say further on the matter—that she knew before the wedding what his feelings were. He had made no secret of them. And there had been the talk with his mamm. Herman’s mamm had made two or three special trips to the Keim farm before the wedding to visit Susanna. From that first visit, it seemed as if his mamm was sizing her up as a daughter-in-law. Would she be good enough for her Herman? That was her purpose in that first visit. She must have passed the test because there had been the second visit. That’s when Mrs. Wagler told Susanna what Herman’s favorite dishes were and how important it was to honor their family traditions. That was when she mentioned their longstanding abhorrence of the celebration of Christmas that had somehow infiltrated the community. Those visits had been uncomfortable enough, but then only two days after the wedding Herman’s mamm had showed up to help her organize her kitchen. Hadn’t it occurred to her that if Susanna needed such help she would have asked her own mamm?

Nee, she couldn’t say she didn’t know how Herman and his family felt about Christmas, Susanna acknowledged. And now with their first Christmas together approaching, Susanna was realizing it would also be her first Christmas without the joy she had experienced at home. Nee, she would never get to be at Mamm and Daett’s for Christmas morning again.

Knowing about his objections beforehand wasn’t making it any easier, no matter how often she’d told herself it should be. She had thought maybe there was some sort of compromise possible. Surely there had to be. Susanna sighed. It was useless, really. She already knew that. Hermann was handsome and nice and calm, but he was “Amish stubborn.” That was just how it was. And she was his frau.

Well, she could imagine that Christmas was no big deal. Perhaps she was being silly about such a small matter. They would find something else to do on Christmas morning.

Susanna dried the plates and placed them in the cupboard above her. She would have to learn submission, that was the only answer. This was the first big test being placed before her by Da Hah, and she would have to pass somehow. Oh, if she only could. Who would have thought she would have trouble with being a gut frau? That had been the least of her expectations. A sloppy housekeeper, perhaps, or being unable to keep up with the sewing once she had a bunch of kiener. Those things had worried her, but letting her husband have his way about Christmas had not been on her list.

Susanna closed the cupboard door. She would learn this lesson by Christmas morning. She still had time. Thanksgiving was this week, and that left nearly a month until Christmas. Yes, that’s what she would do. She would set her whole heart to the task. This would be her gift of love to Herman. She would learn to keep her mouth shut, and even if she didn’t succeed right away, it would happen. She would apologize until it did happen. Surely by Christmas the task would be done. Herman would see on that morning how much progress she’d made in fitting herself into his family’s lifestyle.

By Christmas Day she would love him fully, with all of her heart. What better wish to aim for than to live in total harmony with your husband, she decided. And love would keep growing in her heart for him. Perhaps not exactly the love she used to feel for Matthew, but a better love. A higher love. One that would grow from suffering.

Hadn’t Matthew shown her how shallow their love used to be? He’d sure been able to cast it off as if it didn’t matter.

Running to the window again, Susanna peeked out. Herman was a dim figure now, almost lost from view in the distant field. He looked intent on his work, his head bent toward the ground as his plow turned up the black dirt. Susanna turned away. How like plowing her plan was. Turning her old life under like Herman was doing to the ground today. Preparing for the spring when things come alive again. She would do the same. Plow under her selfish desires to plant a future spiritual harvest. Here was the sign as to what she should do as plain as day and right before her eyes. How like Da Hah to show her so quickly that He liked her plan. He would surely be answering her wish soon.



OBM says: I really enjoyed this book. I admit to having a great love for Amish fiction, and I particularly enjoyed how this book explored Susanna marrying someone who was "right" from an Amish perspective even though he wasn't "Mr. Right" from the perspective of her heart. Though it is a fictional book, I think there are many wonderful lessons to be learned from her submissiveness and the way God blesses her and her husband for it. Mr. Eicher is quickly becoming an author whose work I very much look forward to reading!

Legal Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Susanna's Christmas Wish in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Melissa and Doug Suspend Game Giveaway!!!



Remember how I blogged about Melissa and Doug's Terrific Twenty Holiday Gift list?  Well, they have a 20 day giveaway going on via their Facebook page.  But they also are allowing a select group of bloggers to host our own giveaways!  So just for you, my lucky readers, I have the chance to win a totally cool game called "Suspend".


Geared toward ages 8+, this is the ulitmate test of balance...and more than a little skill...and luck!
Want to win it?  All you have to do is sign up through the rafflecopter below!  Be sure to complete each step, as the winning entry will be verified before the winner is announced. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And just in case you'd rather win a different gift from the Terrific Twenty list, here are some of my fellow bloggers and THEIR giveaways.

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Giveaways and More Giveaways!

Congrats to Jenn who won my giveaway for The Sparkle Box.  Now for some more exciting news...I have not one, not two, but THREE more giveaways coming up!  I should have the next one posted later today.  Very exciting!  I have been so blessed through my blog, and I'm deeply grateful to be able to pay it forward and let my humble blog bless others too.  This next one will be a fun gift for the whole family- and just in time for the holidays! 

Hint- it has to do with the Melissa and Doug Terrific Twenty post below ;-).

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Melissa and Doug's Terrific Twenty Holiday Gift List



I have been a fan of Melissa and Doug products for years.  In fact, we have their calendar hanging above my 7 year old's desk because she just LOVES to change the magnetic dates and months and events every month.  Well, they've released their "Terrific Twenty" Holiday Gift list for 2012, and to go along with it, they are doing a give away on their Facebook page- a lucky winner gets one item from the list EACH DAY for 20 days (starting November 6th). 

I have to say, reviewing the list of their Terrific Twenty left me wishing my kids were little again.  But there was even something on the list for bigger kids- a game called "Suspend" which looks like lots of fun.  I'd love to win today's giveaway- it's for that adorable lion in the picture above!
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