Monthly Archives: January 2015

Dear Mom.. Worried about your daughter’s reading material?

I wrote this in reply to a mother looking to see if Karen Kingsbury was right reading for her 16 year old. I think as you can see in my reply, that it will vary from child to child.

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There are books that are inappropriate for young adults. Why? The romantic content? Most often, it is because of the true life content. True life is gritty and often not neat and clean. Here is the letter I wrote, but it is a message for all moms looking to help teach their daughters to choose good reading material. Be careful that you don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Dear Mom looking for reading material and wondering if Karen Kingsbury is appropriate, 

Well, it depends what you are looking for. They are not romance novels, in fact that is highly offensive to even classify them as such.

One thing that I often see Christian parents of readers do is worry about content of romance in books. Karen Kingsbury, her newer series, I would not recommend. However, most of her books are deep.

They are written for adults. They do have some romance in them, but they are well known for inducing prayer and tears. It depends what you want your daughter to learn.

For example- When Joy Comes to stay – subject matter, young woman that desires children and has severe depression. She spends some time in a mental hospital over the course of the book as God works in her heart and mind.

-A Moment of Weakness- The story of a godly couple that fall into sin- “a moment of weakness” and the consequences which are lifelong and lasting. Sin doesn’t pay.

-Just beyond the Clouds- The main characters are disabled children, one of which is terrified when the sun goes behind the clouds. At one point, another young man with down’s syndrome, comforts her saying “Daisy, it is still there. It is just Beyond the clouds.” There is a romantic thread with the workers that work with the children with disabilities which are going through many hard things. This speaks to them as they realize that when things seem dark and dreary, God is there..”Just beyond the clouds”.

-The Redemption Series- This is written for adults. This was written with Gary Smalley and is a self help/marriage book series in a fiction form. A married woman discovers her professor husband is cheating on her. Can she forgive him and go through the steps a Christian woman should do to save her marriage? What about when a friend from the past that is seemingly perfect shows up and it would be easy to leave and start over?

As you can see, they are not “romance novels”, but deal with harsh issues of life which you may not want your 16 year old reading yet. I would recommend instead she may look to some other authors. There are many amazing Christian fiction authors out there with, yes, some light romance (but that is part of life, and not something we can avoid. It is inate nature that we long for love). If she liked Jane Austen, check out Linore Burkard.

As a conservative mom, you may appreciate this blog, as she denotes every minor detail which may be a problem for any conservative mom. She rates books as romantic that have very minor threads of romance and details bad language if they call a woman a “biddy”. http://booksforchristiangirls.blogspot.com

This is another one with detailed/strict reviews of books. http://ctfdevourer.blogspot.com

One thing I would try to stay away from, is generalizing and calling people that work hard on their craft of writing detailed Christian books “romance novels”. Work on teaching your daughter instead as she reads, when a book crosses a line that should not be crossed. In 2 or 3 years, she could be married and dealing with real life romance. The majority of Christian fiction on the market, actually deals with real life romance type lines now, not the cheesy “handsome guy meets lovely lady, they fall in love and live happily ever after.” Yes, there are some still, but they are not as common. As I am working in this industry, meeting the faces behind the books, you would be amazed at the amazing Christian truths spoken in Christian fiction. You miss out on a whole lot of wonderful teaching by skipping christian fiction. The other day, a young woman read a book “Dear Mr. Knightley” by Katherine Reay. It is written in a similar style to “Daddy Long Legs”. I was so blessed when her mother came to me and said “You would not believe what God did in her life by reading that book. She was able to release something that she had been holding onto for years. In tears and prayer, she has moved on. That book has changed her life!” There are so many transforming Christian fiction out there. That is what you want to look for for your daughter without the fear of that a small about of a romantic thread will damage her. I hope this helps.

We as moms have a serious job ahead of us, We however can stunt our daughters by worrying at times, protecting them to the point that they end up naive. We miss out on the  glorious  teen years before they leave home, are married,  by sheltering them from all the things we believe they should not think about. Do you honestly believe that by not reading a book without romance is going to prevent her from thinking about? I will give you human nature, which God created in us. We are born to love. It is normal and natural. Yes, it should not consume us. We should be teaching self discipline, control,  and the fruits of the spirit to our children. However, we also should be teaching them by good Christian literature, what it can look like. Discuss with your children when you see something that is not real life. Don’t cheapen Christian fiction. Remember you are accusing your brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you are ever looking for a group to just ask a question about a particular Christian fiction book, check out this FB group! They are Avid Christian readers, with many different opinions! They can give you the answers.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/AvidChristFicReaders/

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Focusing on the Positive

I often hear it spoken out loud, online or during visiting times. “I am focusing on the positive.” or “Keeping my focus on what is good right now.”

Other times I hear “I don’t want to speak of the bad.” “I would rather not bring you down. Let’s talk about puppies!”

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We praise people when they post topics on FB that are things they are happy about. We all quirt our eyebrows when someone posts something that is TMI.

My question would be, when is it right to not be positive? Is there a time when focusing only on the positive can actually be wrong?

I believe so.

We all have issues in our lives. Every single one of us can have major issues in our lives, and if you do not, it is likely coming one of these days.

Our lives are spun on the wheel of humans. Human beings, since they are flawed cause a lot of issues by just being themselves. However, there are times when we are exposed to more than our fair share of trials. In these cases, often I have seen some people keep silent. The silent sufferers are generally the ones that have the mental breakdowns, fall into severe depression or end up with health issues. I am not a medical doctor, but I believe that is because when we internalize our pain, it manifests often physically.

This does not mean shouting out our issues on FB, blogs, or other public media sources. It can mean talking to a trust friend, relative or even a trained professional. There is not a shame in this. There is often more shame when something comes out later. Friends, relatives or co-workers that say “But she always seemed like she had it all together. I never knew she was so down or she needed help. I wish she would have just asked.”

Our lives can be convoluted. We all have past struggles, present struggles and sometimes they can be so layered and complicated, it seems easier to forget them. However, the thing to remember is that we are not alone. We should walk through life with a support by our side. Women need friends. For some of us, that can be an online support system. I would encourage you to look in your local areas for a support system you can build around you. It can be tough to do this.

I was the picture of an introvert. I didn’t mind being at home, alone at a park, eating alone… I had it down.

But, suddenly realizing that you were parenting four sons, alone, a husband with severe health issues that may never be able to come home again, was enough to send me into a depressive state. I realized I needed to change my personality. I did need others, even if I believed I could live without them.

I tried to be positive with my support system. I didn’t want them to know anything that was going on in my life. I remember while volunteering at a MOPS meeting, one of my boys dropped the info that my husband was in the hospital. I was so embarrassed. You see, my husband was in a mental hospital and no one knows what to do with that. Their kindness surprised me. They didn’t know what to say, but they tried. It spoke to me.

Sometimes being positive can be pretending. It can be protecting yourself from criticism, but also keeping yourself from a lot of blessings. I have learned to be more open about some of the hard things. I don’t share because it is a lot of fun to share. But I share because I have found often the last person I assumed often needed to hear it. They were someone I needed to let them know I could relate.

Be discreet. Don’t over-share. But give yourself over to watching and listening to others. Remember before you judge someone that shares on FB or other places for being “negative”, think of the pain that must have caused that post. It is likely worse than they shared. Instead of writing private messages letting them know how they could fix the problem, give them a cyber hug. If you know them in person, let them know in person. Drop some chocolate in the mail to them.

Let them know that despite their struggles, there is someone who cares, even if you don’t understand completely.

Remember sometimes positive can be negative.

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All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description:

Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.

But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself—her—is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat’s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.

My Review:

I love fun chick lit books sometimes and this book fills that need. I will say that you will have the urge to go and bake cupcakes after you read this. That is even in the case when you dislike cake! The descriptions of the cupcakes are as rich as their real life counterparts. I enjoy watching cooking shows as well, so this book really touched on so many fun topics. If you enjoy a light read, baking, and a romance brewing between two friends, you will enjoy this one.

I found it a delightful break from the heavier reads that I also enjoy.

This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers. The opinions contained herein are my own.

About the Author:

Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana with her young daughter and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God’s grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.

 

I review for BookLook Bloggers

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Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

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About This Book:

What if the title, the estate, the life of security and splendor… what if it isn’t enough?

Strong-willed and beautiful, debutante Katherine Ramsey feels ready to take the London social season by storm, and she must. Her family estate, Highland Hall, has been passed to older male cousin Sir William Ramsey, and her only means of securing her future is to make a strong debut and find a proper husband. With her all-knowing and meddling aunt as a guide, Katherine is certain to attract suitors at the lavish gatherings, sparkling with Great Britain’s elite.

When a shocking family scandal sidelines Katherine, forcing her out of the social spotlight, she keeps a low profile, volunteering with the poor in London’s East End. Here Katherine feels free from her predictable future, and even more so as a friendship with medical student Jonathan Foster deepens and her faith in God grows. But when Katherine is courted anew by a man of wealth and position, dreams of the life she always thought she wanted surface again. Torn between tradition and the stirrings in her heart for a different path, she must decide whom she can trust and love—and if she will choose a life serving others over one where she is served.
– See more at: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781601424983#sthash.M0yQqFcS.dpuf

My Review:

I have never seen Downton Abbey, but I hear that fans of the show will like the book for that reason. I enjoyed this book on it’s own merits without the show! This second book in the series, had me enjoying hearing the next piece of this regency story. Her pushy and annoying Aunt really was getting to me though. I don’t think I would have done well with that. Well, maybe when I was 18, I would have. I don’t know.

This book was another great regency read from this author, and one you will enjoy if you like books from that era. It is like a modern Jane Austen novel. =)

This book was provided for me for review from Blogging for Books. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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Menu for the week

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Whenever I ask the boys what to make for dinner, I generally can expect two replies! “Lasagna!!” and then when I tell them I don’t have the stuff for it, the next on the list is “Pizza!!” Homemade pizza is always a hit, although I have to make a few more to fill them up for the night. So, this week, we will put Lasagna on the menu. I got some lasagna noodles cheap, so maybe we can swing the rest. It is always fun creating a menu on a budget. Limited resources, high food costs (which I am hoping will drop with gas prices) and hungry boys are an interesting combo for a tight budget. This week, I will be looking to stretch it a bit, but be creative!

Monday: French Dip, salad and carrots

Tuesday: Fried Rice, homemade potstickers, cabbage salad

Wednesday: Chicken Enchiladas, rice, salad

Thursday: Lasagna, salad

Friday: Sloppy Joes, carrot sticks

Saturday: Biscuits and gravy, with green beans

Sunday: Biscuit sandwiches, Popcorn, leftovers, salad

Monday: Easy Creamy Vegetable soup (i am going to try this in the crock pot), biscuits (set aside and hidden)

Tuesday: Cheesy pesto rice pilaf with chicken, salad

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The Weight of the World

Worn. Tired. Confused.

Sometimes you have those feelings that shoot through the veins of a mother. As I rest from another day, I think aloud on this piece of paper.

My heart feels heavy with the weight of the knowledge of pain in this world. I know there are things that I can do, yet often I feel powerless.

I wake up each day, and complete my tasks. Cleaning, cooking, school, and repeat again. At the crux of it all, lies the question that haunts my thoughts. Could I do more?

What is my job in this life?

As I teach my children, I ask…”Should I do more?”  or “Should I do less?”

I have learned that sometimes in our effort to help, we can harm. I have seen in our efforts to teach, we handicap. Our beliefs can be strong. We know what is right, for us, for our children. We know and we seek to convince them, and anyone else that will listen.

We have the internet, blog sites, Facebook, our own personal platforms. Conspiracy theories are not restricted to the hills of the north country anymore, they are rampant online. Not only rampant, but rampantly believed as truth. We can teach our ideas to those beyond our own families if we choose.

But I ask myself if it is right. Is this really what we should be doing?

I teach math, history, science, language arts and other subjects every day. I input memories into my sons heads and pray that I am teaching them to think for themselves. It is not that I think they will always make the right choices. I pray they do. But I know that through pain and mistakes, we often learn to ask for help.  I want to be the one they ask for help from, not the one that says “I told you so.”

Something I have learned, when you seek to teach the world, start with yourself. Examine your thoughts, beliefs. Then when you teach others, stop and question them again. Ask yourself if this is really something worth pushing? There are things to be black and white on. And there are others, where you need to remember that even when you completely and totally disagree, love sometimes rules over all.

Raising children is hard. Teaching children is hard. Living with the lifelong knowledge that you drove your children away from you because you had an unflinching attitude on something, that may not have even been right? That is really hard.

Everyday I see families. I see their lives. I know others see mine. I am sure that others form their opinions of me as well. I find that I always have more to learn. I can be wrong.

But the pain that hurts the most is often when the unflinching refuse to realize they were wrong. When death comes, it is too late. There is no chance to say “I was wrong. Forgive me.” The pride that you had from knowing you stood firm and “won”…that won’t matter when you are gone. There are times when you have to walk away from someone you love.

I lost someone I cared about today. Someone that never did to my knowledge realize the pain he had caused. I pray that he did at the end. I forgave him, and moved on, even though we could not have a relationship after that. But it still hurts. I hurt because I care.

So, tonight, as the weight of the world rests on my shoulders, I ask myself, have I done enough? What can I do different when I wake up tomorrow? Can I teach my children to think for themselves? Can I teach them to take responsibility for their actions? I pray so.

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Always On My Mind by Susan May Warren

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the Book: (From the author’s website)

A Christiansen Family Novel:Book 4

After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.

Heartbroken, especially when he discovers the identity of the baby’s father, Casper tables his dreams and determines to be dependable for once, helping his older brother, Darek, prepare the family resort for its grand reopening. Casper longs to be the hero of at least one family story, but a never-ending Deep Haven winter and costly repairs threaten their efforts—and the future of the resort.

Worse, one of Casper’s new jobs constantly brings him into contact with Raina, whom he can’t seem to forget. A tentative friendship begins to heal fresh wounds, but can they possibly overcome past mistakes and current choices to discover a future together?

(Read the first Chapter here… Susan May Warren)

My Review:

Book 4 in a much beloved series for me. Was it worth the wait? I would say that it was. We have traveled through the different family members of the Christiansens. When we finally have made it to Casper, it found me waffling between anger for him and feeling sorry for him. I have to admit wanting to shake Raina a bit.

This book is not different than Susan’s other books. There is a good mixture of light humor, deep topics, all the while weaving a deep spiritual message throughout. You experience the pain of the characters throughout.  I loved the secondary story with Darek and Ivy. It is so nice to follow characters through the next books that you fell in love with in previous books. I could feel the frustration and almost smell the leaking propane with the beautiful word imagery that Ms. Warren used in these scenes.

Overall, I am not looking forward to this series ending. This is a series that I want to own each one and re-read them over time. It has some deep life lessons that are valuable to each marriage, family or single person. These books will reach into your soul and cause you to search there. You will be asking “What can I learn from this?” with each story that you read.

The unwed mother scenario addressed in this book, the shame she felt, unspoken or spoken is often an issue which Christians deal with. They may mean to be accepting or un-accepting, but often they come out driving away the very people they were meant to minister to.

Today, it was Sanctity of Life sunday, and the focus was on abortion, as it always is. Often though, I wonder how much we actually support the moms that choose to keep their babies. It could be that it would not be 1 in every three women that feel like they have to have an abortion if we did better at that. Adoption is a wonderful thing, but supporting mothers so they know the healing of the Lord, can raise their children in the way of the Lord rather than feeling shame and seeking absolution in the only ways they know how.

Raina’s story touched some nerves in me and I hope that others that read this story will be encouraged to look around and reach out to someone that may need a friend.

I highly recommend this series of women’s fiction for adults.

This book was provided for me for review by the author. The thoughts are my own.

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Veiled at Midnight by Christine Lindsay

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description:

(Taken from book publisher)

The British empire draws to an end…
but the turmoil has only just begun.

The Partition of India has sent millions to the roads, instigated riots as uncontrolled as wildfire…and caught up in its wake Captain Cam Fraser, his sister Miriam, and the beautiful Indian Dassah. Cam has never been able to put Dassah from his mind, ever since they played together at the mission as children. But a British officer and the aide to the last viceroy cannot marry a poor Indian woman, can he? For a while, Dassah believes that Cam loves her. But as the impossibility of a future with him becomes clear, what choice does she have but to run? He may hold her heart—but she cannot let him break it again. Miriam rails against the separation of the land of her birth, and as British forces prepare to leave India, she struggles. She finds purpose in teaching, in helping…but is Lieutenant Colonel Jack Sunderland her soul mate or a distraction from what God has called her to do?

My Review:

There are some books that stick with you. Christine Lindsay’s first books in the series were some of those. When I saw there was a third, I just had to read it. You will be transported to India, during the British/Indian conflicts. I learned so much about the history of the time period, while seeing it through the characters eyes.

These people are not without faults. The book is a bit gritty in places, talking about struggles with alcoholism, prejudice, and bloodshed. It is not a book for a teen to read, but not graphic in the unseemly sense. The topics are handled with grace and purity.

I will be seeking out and looking for more books by Christine Lindsay as they are written!

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Like a Flower in Bloom by Siri Mitchell

Like a Flower in Bloom

By Siri Mitchell

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 Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

My Review:

Charlotte’s life is happy. She wants for nothing when you open this book, but in the first chapter, I was intrigued. Her uncle’s description of Charlotte caused me to laugh. “You’re a handsome girl, Charlotte. Sturdy. Sound. Snugly put together. It shouldn’t be too difficult to launch you.”

This paragraph will give you an idea of the humor and characters you will be reading in this hilarious novel. The romance is light, like light enough that a family that chooses not to read any books with romance will still find this reminiscent of Jane Austen’s classics. This means, it is there, but more unspoken and very discreet.

This book is hilarious! Charlotte is a very unique character. She is logical, pretty, but doesn’t see herself that way. She loves botany in a time period where it was not popular. She is unskilled in etiquette of proper society. Her life has been fulfilled with her writing, organizing her father’s writing, but each of you will see yourself in her. This is even if you are totally different!

Siri Mitchell can take a character that is nothing like yourself, and you will see yourself in it. This talented author will not disappoint. She takes the study of plants and has woven in a romance without telling you. You create the story in your mind’s eye and it is good!

What did I love about this story the most? I related to Charlotte’s love for her family, writing and a desire to make them happy. You will ask yourself if she will make others happy, or realize that her decision will affect her life for the future. It was something that I related to and hopes you would as well.

This book was given to me for review by the author. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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20 Things to Experience or Accomplish this year to Spread Cheer

Goals, ideas, fun things to do!

We often when thinking about a new year, forget that it can be the time to make a difference in someone’s life. What kind of goals can you make that might make a difference in a relationship or someone’s life?

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What about things that might cheer up your own life?

  • Read a genre that I would never pick up on my own
  • Cook a dinner completely from a cookbook that I have never used before
  • Replace batteries in smoke detectors
  • Replace headboard in my bedroom
  • Invite someone over for tea
  • Invite a family over for dinner
  • Extend hospitality to a stranger (or near stranger)
  • Take a kick-boxing class
  • Take an online class
  • Read a book with the title starting with each letter of the alphabet
  • Try a food that is unusual to you
  • Work on reading the Russian Language
  • Visit with an old friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile
  • Write a letter
  • Send a birthday card to someone
  • Send a surprise cheer package to someone
  • Offer a word of encouragement to a stranger
  • Drop off a bag of groceries with someone that could use it.
  • Tell someone how much they mean to you
  • Take my vitamins and give my children vitamins

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