Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

A First Thanksgiving….



I’m sitting in my friend’s house, preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving, our first, with her husband and three children and her BIL and SIL.

You read that right, our first Thanksgiving. My children’s first Thanksgiving without their dad. My first in 14 years without my husband.

There have been several firsts – we’ve already had our first Christmas but it was so soon after the funeral that we were so numb and just went through the motions. I’ve had our first anniversary with my better half.

We’ve all been through the first birthdays, our first Easter, 4th of July, Groundhog’s Day (this was very important to us, hubby always joked that if his job gave him the day off he’d effectively have every holiday off work), trick or treat and now we’ve come to the first Thanksgiving.

We began our marriage by traveling to the in-laws’ house, my mom’s side and then my dad’s side – it was too much especially as the children came along. So we decided to just stay in for Thanksgiving, family could come over if they wanted, or not. Usually my mom and one of my brother’s would come. Don would get up early to put the turkey AND ham in the oven. I’d make the deviled eggs, Don would peel the potatoes for me so I can get them boiling and add my sour cream and chives. I’d make from scratch pumpkin pie and apple pie. We had a HUGE spread with hubby doing most of the work, thankfully.

I know he wouldn’t want us to be sad which is honestly easier said than done. There is a person missing – a HUGE missing spot in our Thanksgiving. Not be sad? Not grieving? It isn’t possible. Yes, we will strive to be happy, joyful, thankful but there will also be memories, sadness, and grief.

Be thankful? We can be thankful that we’ve made it this far, that we’ve almost a year without a dad, without a husband, friend, confidant.

I can be thankful my husband no longer has any health concerns.

I cannot, however be thankful that he isn’t here. That he was taken too soon.

I won’t pretend. I won’t plaster a fake smile – if tears come, we’ll let them come.

If grief rears it’s ugly, but sometimes necessary, head we’ll deal with it.

I’m not sure how this first Thanksgiving will go – I know that the Pilgrims gave thanks, even though there were losses that first year, so we’ll try, we’ll try to give thanks –

Thanks that we’re still surviving, still putting one step in front of the other.

Thanks that even while one is missing that we have our memories.

Thanks that the four of us are together, and it seems we are stronger than we were before.

One thing to remember that as we come together to celebrate and be thankful, we need to be mindful of those hurting hearts – whether it’s from a loved one missing, a health diagnosis or other hurt – we need to be mindful of those who are hurting. If tears come, if a memory comes to mind – give a tissue and a shoulder and a listening ear. Often times, holidays make the hole bigger, it’s like ripping off a scab and re-opening the wound – they may appear fine on any other day but then Thanksgiving arrives and it’s all fresh, like it just happened.

Be thankful? Yes.

Thanks for our faith, that we have a Heavenly Father, that keeps us surrounded in His love, keeps us in His hands and protects us – and that is ultimately what we all should be thankful for.

(c) 2015, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws


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Odyssey Adventure Club


What’s on your children’s Christmas wish list? As excited as they might be about that new toy, as every parent knows, the thrill of the gift will eventually wear off. Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey have created the perfect gift for those who want to give their children or grandchildren a present that will provide year-round fun with eternal impact.

The Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC) offers families 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) episodes in a safe online environment where children can explore and learn. Christmas really is the perfect time to tap into your children’s imagination while infusing faith and fun into their day . . . and every day of the year.

To celebrate the holidays this year, the OAC is offering free content for everyone, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts and Christmas stocking stuffer cards. Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.

In keeping with AIO’s rich heritage of teaching children about biblical principles — such as the importance of giving — a portion of each OAC membership benefits Focus on the Family partner organizations. Here are a couple of examples of what has been accomplished through Odyssey Adventure Club members:

The Odyssey Adventure Club wants to reach beyond fleeting entertainment this Christmas, partnering with parents in helping their kids grow deep in faith and find their place in God’s story.


Speaking of the holidays, you can prepare for Christmas with Thriving Family‘s 2015 Advent Activity Calendar — Tales of Christmas Past: 25 Inspiring true stories of the season. Assemble a beautifully designed Advent poster to help your kids focus on Christ this Christmas. Then read Scripture passages and stories that relate to individual flaps on the poster. You can also create easy-to-fold booklets for each story. Get more information about this year’s free Advent calendar at, or sign up to download it.

To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Litfuse Publicity: A Thousand Shall Fall (Shenandoah Valley Saga #1) by Andrea Boeshaar

About the Book:

A story of love, hope, and healing set in the midst of the Civil War

Nineteen-year-old Carrie Ann Bell is independent and spirited. The only thing she really fears are the Union soldiers fighting against her Confederate friends. When her youngest sister runs away from home, brave Carrie Ann is determined to find her and bring her back. Disguised as a soldier, she sets off—only to find she’s fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Her childhood friend Confederate Major Joshua Blevins has warned her against these Yankees: they’re all devils, ready to inflict evil on unsuspecting young women. When Colonel Peyton Collier arrests her for her impersonation of an officer, it seems to confirm all her fears.

Soon, though, she finds herself drawn to the handsome, gallant colonel. He rescued her, protected her, and has been every inch the gentleman. Carrie Ann discovers that her foe has become her ally—and more than that, someone she could love. But the arrival of Joshua in the Union camp as a spy will test her loyalties. Will she protect someone who has been like family or be loyal to this stranger to whom she wants to offer her heart? When her world is being torn apart around her, whom should she trust?

Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, A Thousand Shall Fall is framed around compelling characters and a very romantic setting in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Andrea Boeshaar’s extensive research guarantees historical accuracy and romance genre enthusiasts and Civil War buffs alike will enjoy the Christian perspectives on actual historical events.

Purchase your copy here.

About the Author:

Andrea Boeshaar is the cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers and runs “The Writer’s ER,” a coaching service for writers. She is the author of thirty published works, including Threads of Faith, a finalist in the Inspirational Readers Choice Awards. Andrea is also the author of a popular devotional and regularly blogs on a number of sites.

You can connect with Andrea on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


My Opinion:

I am a huge Civil War history buff, visiting the historical sites and reading books set during that time or about that time gets my interest piqued so when I had a chance to read A Thousand Shall Fall by Andrea Boeshaar I had to join in the tour. The book takes place in the Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia, which ironically enough is where I’m writing this review at – in a city that is mentioned in the book several times – and others that I’ve actually visited. Carrie is the heroine that most of us like to read about, strong and confident and sure of her ability to save everyone – she dresses as a man in order to go after her runaway sister and in the hopes her mother may finally love her and welcome her back home. Colonel Peyton Collier is a changed man, although the only ones who believe that is his Aunt and her freed slave, Tabitha.

The book kept me turning the pages quickly and even waking up in the middle of the early morning to get more reading in, a source of frustration that there is no down time at work to read or I would have had it read sooner. I was swept up in the tale of the North and South forces as they battle to take town after town and those who are neither side and terrorize the citizens. Carrie’s story feels so real, the romance that forms after a lapse when she sutures the Colonel’s arm and her struggle to be a caring, loving daughter and sister even after the truth of her familial heritage is revealed. I can even ‘see’ some of the landscape, especially Harper’s Ferry that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting – the writing of Andrea Boeshaar is rich with feeling and descriptions that make it a wonderful read.

If you’d like to see what other bloggers thought please visit the Litfuse Landing Page.



The search for her runaway sister goes awry when Carrie finds herself arrested during the Civil War for impersonating an officer in Andrea Boeshaar’s A Thousand Shall Fall. Soon, though, she finds herself drawn to the handsome, gallant colonel who arrested her. Carrie Ann discovers that her foe has become her ally—and more than that, someone she could love. Will she protect someone who has been like family or be loyal to this stranger to whom she wants to offer her heart? When her world is being torn apart around her, whom should she trust?

Andrea is celebrating the release of A Thousand Shall Fall with a Kindle Fire giveaway!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of A Thousand Shall Fall
  • A Kindle Fire HD 6

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 10th. The winner will be announced December 11th on Andrea’s blog.

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Family Christian: A Christian Guide to the Classics by Leland Ryken (review and giveaway)

classic I’ve always enjoyed reading the ‘classics’ from Gone With the Wind, Les Miserables to Lady Chatterly’s Lover (okay, I’ve probably now scandalized myself with that one!) I’ve enjoyed them. I also have a growing list of the ones I want to read such as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Phantom of the Opera and more. So when I had the chance to review A Christian Guide to the Classics from Family Christian I knew I needed to read it as I desire for one day, my children to also enjoy the classics as I have and continue to do. Obvisouly, not every single classic is Christian but does that mean that Christians should shy away from reading a secular classic? No. I’ve always maintained that but in this book author, Leland Ryken, tells the reader about the whys and hows of Christians reading the secular classics.

The book is short, just a mere 102 pages, so it’s also a quick read and it’s divided into 10 chapters that are:

  • Misconceptions about the Classics
  • What Is A Classic
  • Why We Should Read the Classics
  • The Greatest Classic: The Bible
  • How Not to Read a Classic
  • How to Read a Classic
  • Christian Classics, Part 1
  • Christian Classics, Part 2
  • Secular Classics
  • Where to Find the Classics


There is also an afterword called Reflections on Reading, which are quotes from authors like C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and more. I think this book is great for adults who struggle with whether or not Christians should read the classics, whether they are known as Christian or secular, as it will give a Biblical stance on why Christians should and how to do that. If a parent struggles with when or how to introduce the classics to their children this would also be a great starting point for that – I know my now 11 year old daughter was asking when she was 9 to begin reading Les Miserables, since she’s now a bit older I’m considering allowing her to read the actual book versus the child’s adaptation I bought.

Not everyone will agree that we should or should allow our children to read the classics but they contain so much richness and language that is lost in today’s books that we and our children need. Les Miserables for instance tells of the history of France and their struggles between the poor and upper class – something that can speak to those in America or France. Other books can take us to other worlds or countries where we can explore our faith and stretch our understandings, even those that aren’t expressly Christian in nature can help us in our walk of Faith. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the author included the Bible because as he says, it is the greatest classic. Be sure to visit Family Christian on Facebook to see all they have to offer.





Open to U.S. residents 18 and over. All entries will be verified. Contest ends 11/29/15 at 12:00a.m. Winner will be randomly selected and must respond to winning email within 48 hours or a new winner will be selected. Open the form in a new tab.

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Litfuse Publicity: The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

About the Book:

The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower. . . .

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry.

Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again—this time, to the large city of Hagenheim.

The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight—Sir Gerek—Rapunzel, in turn, rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to him than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?

As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery are about to be revealed after seventeen years. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?

You can purchase your copy here.

About the Author:

Melanie Dickerson is an award-winning author who earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama.

She has taught in Georgia, Tennessee, Germany, and the Eastern European country of Ukraine.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), she now spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama.

Connect with Melanie on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

My Opinion:

If you enjoy fairy tales but want a more modern take on them then Melanie Dickerson’s, The Golden Braid, is one that you must get. It’s a young adult (YA) novel but I became thoroughly engrossed in it from the beginning even though at times I found Rapunzel to be quite annoying the book was fast paced and engrossing. During one of their many moves, Mother Gothel and Rapunzel run into some thieves and so also meet up with Sir Gerek, he saves their lives and then in return Rapunzel ends up saving his. All Rapunzel wants is to learn how to read, Latin and German, so she can study the Holy Writ for herself and marry. Mother Gothel is opposed to both and will go to extreme lengths to make sure it is so, even lying as to how Rapunzel came to live with her.

Taking place in the year 1413, this modern day tale is set in the past, and will quickly remind you of some of the original story such as Rapunzel’s beautiful singing voice, her artistic ability, however there are no fantastical healing or the ability to make Mother Gothel young by simply touching her hair. I enjoy Melanie’s ability to take a classic tale and turn it into something new and fresh, while also weaving the faith aspect into it – as Rapunzel learns to read she begins to explore more of what the Bible has to say and forms her own ideas and sets out to be free of her “Mother” even as her guilt makes her feel obligated. This classic tale of Rapunzel made new and fresh will pull you into her world and see a faith that is usually absent from these fairy tales.

If you’d like to see what other bloggers thought, please visit the Litfuse Landing Page.

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Litfuse Publicity: An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

About the Book:

Christmas takes a very different turn when the guests of honor break up instead of announcing their engagement. Trapped with his family, they learn that love
looks different than either imagined.

Both in their eighties, Dodie and Wilson Binder celebrate every Christmas as if it were their last. This year, their grandson Micah is planning to ask his girlfriend, Katie, to marry him so they can celebrate with the whole family. But things go very wrong when she says, “no.” Now they are stuck. Too many people, too much snow, and too little room should be a recipe for disaster. But sometimes too much is just enough. Especially when it’s Christmas.

You can purchase your copy here.

About the Author:

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories “hemmed in hope.” She’s the award-winning author of sixteen books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. She serves as the Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers, where she helps retailers, libraries, and book clubs connect with the authors and books they love. She lives with her husband in Central Wisconsin.

Connect with Cynthia at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.


My Opinion:

I love, love, love Christmas novellas even in the summer and I’ve read other Cynthia Ruchti books and her writing draws you in as you enter the characters lives, and while this is a novella, so it’s short, you feel like you’ve always known the characters. Dodie and Wilson Binder host Christmas at their tiny country house with all the children and grandchildren every year – it’s crowded and Katie, Micah’s girlfriend is relegated to the window seat in the living room. Micah asks Katie the question most young women want to hear, “will you marry me?”, but her answer isn’t one he or his family was expecting – and it’s all because of Katie’s ancestry. She’s scared she’ll repeat the sins of the past, so to speak.

Join the Binder family as they explore Christmas and let go of their regrets from the past year (a neat idea that I think would be fun to add to our family’s traditions) and live each day and each Christmas as it’s their last. I won’t give away all the book but grab your tissues, a hot cup of tea or coffee, and cuddle up on your couch or bed and begin to get engrossed in a book that will leave you wanting to live every day like it’s your last – and not just live but love. A story of healing, redemption and love that runs deep and true – a perfect short book for the Christmas season. I highly recommend this novella to anyone who is looking for a book set during the Christmas season.

If you’d like to see what other bloggers thought about this book please visit the Litfuse Landing Page.


There’s no getting out of Christmas now, despite Katie rejecting Micah’s marriage proposal. Cozy up this holiday season with Cynthia Ruchti’s new novella, An Endless Christmas. The Binder family celebrates every Christmas as if it were their last. Too many people, too much snow, and too little room should be a recipe for disaster. But sometimes too much is just enough. Especially when it’s Christmas.

Celebrate the holidays with Cynthia and An Endless Christmas by entering her $100 Target gift card giveaway!

endless christmas-400

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of An Endless Christmas
  • A $100 gift card to Target

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 30th. The winner will be announced December 1st on Cynthia’s blog.

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Litfuse Publicity: A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J.A. Myhre illustrated by Acacia Masso

About the Book:

A Boy Named Mu, an African Journey, and You

Mu, a ten-year-old orphan, has lived his entire life in the heart of Africa. For as long as he can remember he has served in the household of a great-uncle where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness, and little hope that anything will ever change.

But one day, everything does change. On his way to draw water one morning, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces that they will embark on a quest together. And what a quest it turns out to be! Mu faces danger and finds unexpected allies as they journey through a fascinating and ever-changing landscape.

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest blends magical realism with a compelling story. The exciting story line combines an orphan’s journey to find a home with the plight of child soldiers and the dangers of the Ebola virus and, along the way, highlights universal themes of integrity, loyalty, faith, and love. Written by long-time medical missionary J. A. Myrhe, the artful story is laced with subtle gospel themes and handles cross-cultural issues with grace and sensitivity. Kids will encounter good and evil and learn the truth about hope, happiness, and what it means to be human in this page-turning first book in a new series.

What you’ll find in A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest:

  • A page-turning children’s action and adventure story set in a fictional African land
  • Blends magical realism and compelling storytelling with gospel themes to draw kids gently into the truth
  • Deals with real-life but (seemingly) faraway themes like the plight of orphans, the duties of child soldiers, and the reality of the Ebola virus
  • Written by a long-time medical missionary to Africa who handles cross-cultural issues with grace, sensitivity, and love

You can purchase a copy at New Growth Press.

About the Author:

J. A. Myhre serves as a doctor with Serge in East Africa where she has worked for over two decades. She is passionate about health care for the poor, training local doctors and nurses, promoting childhood nutrition and development, and being the hands of Jesus in the hardest places. She is married to her best friend and colleague Scott, and together they have raised four children for whom many of her stories were written as Christmas presents.

Visit Jennifer at her website, Paradox Uganda.

My Opinion:

It’s not often that I read a children’s book and think this book is a keeper – but A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest is one that is a keeper because of it’s high quality writing and also the theme of redemption, grace, forgiveness and family. Written for children ages 8 to 14, I do wonder if maybe it should be a high age range, some of the language and words used may be unfamiliar to most 8 year old children and maybe even some 12 year old children. One example is from page 29 “He’s young enough that he might recover completely from the coma; I don’t think he has any intracranial bleeding.” this is a discussion between two nurses as they treat and care for Mu. I know mine would understand this term but we also come from a very medical minded family and we also discuss a lot of what we read, so if one doesn’t understand something we take the time to look it up and talk about it.

I think what I liked most was the rich African culture that is introduced in the book, yes there is some violence as child soldiers are very much a real part of life in Africa, but again that is something my children and I would discuss and not just toss out the book on that idea alone. Written in a form of an allegory, this book is rich with meaning, so a younger child may need more help in understanding the deeper meaning of the book while older children may latch on quickly. Like in other allegorical books, this one uses rich symbolism to ultimately point to Christ and what He can do in our lives in only we let Him in as our Lord, or at least that is what I got out of it! I have not read this our loud to my children but I’m going to add it in a daily read soon, the chapters aren’t long and reading a chapter a day is a good goal, even two if the children will listen that long. I do highly recommend this book and think it will make a great Christmas gift – or a joint one for the whole family if you enjoy reading out loud.

If you’d like to see what other bloggers thought please visit the Litfuse Landing Page.

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Kregel Tour: 52 Original Wisdom Stories by Penelope Wilcock

About the Book:

These 52 loosely related fictional stories about the large themes of life, nature, and faith follow the liturgical year and are an ideal resource for public worship.

Sid and Rosie are an older married couple with several children and grandchildren. Through a series of short, engaging narratives, we learn about their faith, their feelings for one another, their hopes and dreams, and their perception of how God speaks to them through the events of their lives.

Each story stands on its own; their sequence follows the rhythm of the church’s year from Advent through Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and Harvest Thanksgiving. With an open tone of wonder and reflection, author Penelope Wilcock explores the ordinary and extraordinary topics of daily life: falling in love, marriage, birth, education, illness, farming, adversity, hospitality, homemaking, and work.

This beautiful large-format paperback is suitable for personal reflection or as a refreshing resource for church and small group discussions.

Permission to photocopy is included.

Purchase your copy at Kregel Publications.

My Opinion:

I was excited to get this book and maybe learn more about celebrations that aren’t necessarily ideas that my church celebrates such as Pentecost. However, as I started reading many, many red flags went up – such as knowing the fictional Rosie has left the church and sometimes goes but doesn’t really see a need for it and then her husband, Sid, converting from Catholicism to Quaker and their embracing of all different thoughts and religions as long as it points to Christ. They forget the line in the Bible from Christ that no one gets to Him except through the Father – that means no Mohamed, Buddha or astrology – there is only One Way to God and ultimately to Heaven.

Knowing that the Wise Men used their knowledge of astronomy when the star pointed the way to the Christ child and the followed it had me shaking my head as the author has Rosie and Sid discussing how, Christians hate astrology but yet we believe the wise men used astrology. Astrology and astronomy are two very different ideas – one being science based and the other based in mythology and the occult. There was much more I found wrong about this book so I urge caution should you read it and use a discerning attitude and weigh everything discussed against the Word of God.


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