Striving to create a home strong in the foundations of love, respect, and God's truths ...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finish Strong

Featured authors

There Are a Lot of Reasons to Give Up, but There Are Greater Reasons to Finish Strong 

The Grand Finale
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
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When you have dedicated your life to loving, encouraging, praying for, and pouring yourself into your husband, only to watch him, in a moment of weakness, destroy the foundation you worked so hard to build, you may feel as if your entire world has been wiped out. If this describes you, I invite you to read a real-life love story that I believe will give you the passion you may need to persevere under any and every trial. It will also give you a true picture of what love looks like when lived out with a legacy perspective. I call this story "The Grand Finale."

John and Marie were college sweethearts who dreamed of furthering God's Kingdom together. During the first decade of their ministry, God blessed them with a growing church, two beautiful children, and a strong and loving marriage. Because of their commitment to God and each other, they became one of the most respected couples in the community. Their marriage was a beacon of hope to other young couples who wondered what marriage could be. John loved the ministry, and he loved the life God had given him. He was passionate about the call of God on his life, and he truly loved his wife.

One day as John was busy working at the church, a young lady burst through the door of the church office. She was crying hysterically, and John came out of his office to see what he might do to help. As she struggled to catch her breath, she told John about her desperate attempts to escape from her abusive husband. She was sure he would kill her if he found her, but she didn't feel safe going to the police because they had failed to help her in the past. John quickly called Marie and asked her to take the young lady to a safe place. After Marie helped this distraught young mom gather her kids and some clothes, she brought them home to spend the night with her and John.

In a matter of days, Marie and John's love for this young woman led her to become a Christian. After spending a few weeks in their home, she seemed like a new person. She was hungry for God and at peace. John and Marie felt great, knowing they had made such an impact on this young woman and her kids.

When this woman and her children were still staying in John and Marie's home several weeks later, many of his good friends and family approached John and recommended that the woman find housing with another single mom. He was blinded, saying, "Marie is really helping her. I can't ask her to leave now; she may fall away from the Lord."

John's good intentions without wisdom and his unwillingness to heed the warnings of others left him unguarded against the enemy's attack. One night when Marie was out leading a Bible study, John was home alone with this woman. She had fallen for Marie's husband and was determined to have him for herself. Tragically, Marie walked into her home to find John and the young woman in their bed together. Everything John and Marie had built was destroyed.

Unable to handle his guilt, John felt like such a failure that he left his marriage, his children, and his church to marry this young, attractive woman. Two years into his new marriage, however, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia and given only ten weeks to live. His second wife, who was still in her early twenties, decided she did not want to take care of a dying man. After emptying his bank account, she left him alone to die. He had no family and no loving church body to rally around him. In fact, he had nothing to show for his years of hard work and dedication to ministry.

As tragic as this story is, the ending is proof of God's amazing grace. Marie decided that when John died, he should be free of guilt and shame. She went to his bedside, not gloating with condemnation, but offering to care for and forgive him. Her kids seemed almost angry at her for loving her ex-husband after all he had done. Her friends from church asked her why she was helping him. However, Marie wanted her children and church to remember, not how John had left them, but how she took care of him, never leaving his bedside until he drew his last breath.

On the day John died, his children and members from his church gathered around his bedside with Marie. They held hands and shared memories of how John had touched others' lives when he was walking with God. Marie got a greater gift. By her sacrifice, she began the healing in her own heart and in her children's hearts. Today they can all live free of regret and anger because they said a final good-bye to their father in a setting of God's glorious love.

Marie finished strong in spite of the devastation, and she gave John and their kids an amazing final gift: she gave him her forgiveness and the opportunity to finish what he had started, even if it had to take place on his deathbed after their marriage had ended.

If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:19)

For more teaching from the Your Heart's Desire book and Bible study,

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

GratiTuesday - A Child's Heart

After reading Beth Guckenberger's Tales of the Not Forgotten this summer, I have been working with our church's elementary-aged youth group.  They memorize scripture, play games, and, thanks to Beth, learn about ways that we can reach out to orphans.

I was worried about working with this program.  I've never really taught faith lessons before, and I've been out of a formal classroom for several years now - working with the older elementary kids made me feel way out of my league, especially since I taught first grade.

And then we began.

From the first the kids were great - excited, enthusiastic, ready to go.

Not just about the games or the scripture, but about the life of orphans, too.

They're open and asking questions, really listening and going deeper than I expected them to.  And a few weeks ago, when we were talking about ways that we could help others, one immediately asked to have a bake sale.

The timing just happened to be perfect as the men of the church were holding an event, and so they allowed us to set up a table with them and make their customers our own.

The kids made signs, hung out beside the doors, and politely asked each person if they would like to help the orphans and buy some dessert.  Some looked at them and clearly said, 'no,' but many more agreed to come to our table and look.

We nearly sold out that morning, and with one bigger item still remaining, our pastor made an announcement after church the next day - and our pretty desserts were snatched up immediately.

The kids made a generous amount of money, especially considering that the majority of it was earned through the sale of cookies and brownies.  They will be able to make a real difference in the lives of orphans!

What stands out to me, though, is that they have already made a difference in their hearts.  They are beginning to seek out ways to show others the love of Jesus - whether by sending money to an international orphanage or by smiling at their neighbors.

If you'd like to make a donation to an orphan ministry, here are three that are very reputable, simple to work with, and make big differences around the world:

We're seeing that it doesn't take a lot to make a difference.  We don't have to be millionaires or missionaries - we just have to be willing.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - October 29, 2012

With few activities on the schedule and cooler temperatures outside, we're going for comfort food this week!

- Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal
- Scrambled eggs and oranges

Steal-Good Pumpkin Bread

- Yogurt parfaits with Cinnamon Almond Granola


World's Easiest Fried Chicken (CCC), crashed potatoes, filling, roasted carrots

Chili, cornbread, oranges

- Spaghetti with Easy Bolognese Sauce, steamed broccoli
Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken, oven fries, applesauce
- Baked potato bar with leftover chili and broccoli
Grandma's Biscuits with turkey sausage, oranges, and scrambled eggs
- Leftovers

What are you cooking up this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Guest Post: Shari Rose Shepherd on Marriage Conflict

Featured authors
Sheri Rose Shepherd
We Are on the Same Team and Fighting the Same Enemy
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
learn more ▶
Think about what makes your heart melt when you watch a great love story. It's not the hero's physical strength or his beloved's beauty, is it? No, you and I are drawn to the power of true love and its inexplicable ability to prevail over tragedy and adversity. The greater the conflict, the stronger the love must be in order to resolve the issue. When the hero does whatever it takes to save the relationship, our hearts soar with renewed hope. Likewise, as we seek to truly listen and understand our men when differences between us create friction, we set ourselves up for more satisfying and loving relationships.

The Author of love and life and the Designer of our differences knew there would be conflict between men and women. The real problem comes, though, when we get accustomed to seeing relational problems solved in the time it takes to eat a bag of popcorn. Our hero and his beauty have less than two hours to defeat the dragons and overcome unspeakable challenges. You and I are not going to magically resolve deep relationship conflicts in our own wisdom and definitely not in less than two hours.

When I met my husband, Steve, I was sure we were a match made in heaven. In fact, we have had the privilege of being in ministry together for most of our marriage. I wish I could tell you it's been an effortless, wonderful life for the two of us, but I would be lying to you.

I learned to fight loud and strong by watching my parents. My brother and I would hide together in my bedroom as our parents tore into each other during arguments, often screaming and throwing things. Because of my broken family, when I first got married I was sure that every conflict between me and Steve would end our marriage.

Steve was raised by parents who had stayed married, so it was impossible for him to relate to my fears and worries. He was raised in quieter surroundings. His parents dealt with conflict quite differently from mine. There was no rage. No yelling. No broken furniture. His parents rarely fought—and never in front of their children. But his family also had no system to resolve conflict. That meant issues went unresolved—though not unnoticed.

Steve's and my fighting techniques were drastically different. However, neither of us had been equipped to deal appropriately with marital conflict. That led to major challenges early in our marriage whenever we attempted to resolve a disagreement. To make things even more difficult, when I married Steve I was a new Christian and had not yet learned how to channel my anger properly.

I tried everything to get him to react or resolve conflict with me, and as I waited, I became more bitter and he became more distant. One day I couldn't take Steve's calm, cool responses anymore. From my perspective, he obviously needed some lessons on how to fight for our marriage. I'd had enough of his "let's work it out peacefully by ignoring our problems" act. In my mind, he was being polite only to annoy me.

"Why don't you ever show some emotion and prove to me you care about our marriage?" I yelled.

Steve stood there quietly, shaking his head and looking down at the ground. Then suddenly, he turned toward the mirror on our bedroom closet door and kicked it as hard as he could, smashing it to bits.

Wow, I thought, what a performance. He sure learns fast.

Suddenly I began to laugh hysterically through my tears. I was so shocked I wasn't sure if I was relieved or ready to run from what I saw. His toenail was jutting out at a bizarre angle as he asked me, "Is that enough emotion for you? If it would help, I could probably throw myself on the floor and work up a good cry." We both began to laugh together as we attempted to pick up the glass fragments scattered all over our bedroom floor. In that moment I realized how much we had shattered each other just because we were different and had not been trained on how to resolve conflict. Our marriage was not the problem; it was our hearts. Neither of us had a teachable spirit.

It took several years, a lot of tears, and one expensive closet door mirror to repair the damage inflicted during those early years. We still have conflict, as all couples do, but we now understand that we are on the same team and that it's okay not to agree on everything.

After twenty-five years of marriage, we've decided it's worth letting go of the little things and fighting to understand one another. Conflict comes no matter who we marry. We may be fighting about different things with different men, but there will always be major differences between men and women. I once heard a pastor say that if spouses agreed on everything, only one of them would be needed. Let's not allow our differences to divide us any longer!

For a sneak peek of Sheri Rose's Your Heart's Desire Group Experience, or to learn more about her ministry, visit

Watch the trailer:

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Friday, October 26, 2012

"A Merry Little Christmas" by Anita Higman


Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds.

Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who's preparing to spend the holidays alone...again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny's farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she's more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart-that sometimes love comes when you're least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?

Anita Higman writes like Grace Livingston Hill.  She writes of characters with real problems and issues, clearly placed in distinct settings, but there's almost a rosy glow about them.  Though their problems are big, both personal and culturally speaking, you just know that everything will be okay.  There are no tears, because no matter how horrible the situation gets, Higman writes peace into every line of the story.  

While that peace contrasted harshly with Franny and Charlie's desperate situation, the story only improved with the wacky elements written into the characters' personas.  From squirrel attacks to mud sliding, this element of fun added visible hope throughout the book.

A Merry Little Christmas is a rather short story, and the book is smaller in dimensions than most, too, which would make it a great stocking stuffer or family read -aloud.  

I often prefer books that are fast-paced and suspenseful, but A Merry Little Christmas is the perfect book for those times when you want to slow down and relax.  While it's certainly full of drama, the serenity will help you recharge.

A Merry Little Christmas is available for purchase here.

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She's been a Barnes & Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Find out more about Anita at

I received a free copy of A Merry Little Christmas from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"My First Handy Bible" Review

My First Handy Bible: Timeless Bible Stories for Toddlers

When my kids were toddlers, we bought them toddler Bible story books that we were super excited about.  We were sure that they'd love them and would want to keep them forever.

They rarely wanted to keep them past the first week.

My First Handy Bible isn't like the others.  This book they would've wanted to keep.

Unlike many other Bible storybooks, there are more than just three or four pages in this book.  There are lots - and the chosen stories go beyond Noah and Abraham.  Each page features a different Bible story, and a summary of the story is printed on each.  Your children will meet both Old and New Testament characters and will learn why each one is so important.

The variety of stories in the book is not the only characteristic that makes it stand out.  The illustrations are bold and bright, with big people, strong facial features, and dark lines.  They are designed especially to catch and hold a toddler's attention.

The last feature that makes the My First Handy Bible perfect for toddlers is the strong outside covering.  It has a plastic handle on hinges, making it easy to carry from place to place.  While the inside pages resemble regular board book pages but are thinner, the outside cover is thick and sturdy, with a magnetic clasp that keeps the book closed when in transport.

If you're looking for a great storybook for toddlers, this is a great option!

I received a free copy of My First Handy Bible from B&B Media in exchange for an honest review.

GratiTuesday - Climbing a Mountain

This weekend we went mountain climbing.

We live in the Piedmont section of North Carolina, so I wasn't expecting too much.  The land is really rather flat - no rolling hills in the distance, no beautiful ridges and mountains like I'm used to from my Pennsylvania home - so I was expecting, maybe, a big hill.

At first, that's what I got.  We hiked up somebody's long driveway ...

then on a path through the woods ...

and then faced a huge pile of boulders with this scary message spray painted on the side.

What looked rather innocuous at first glance

was bigger than I thought

and for this flat land, the views were incredible.

We spent some time exploring the rock formations, too, because there were just so many of them.

The kids loved looking for caves and areas that could serve as shelter for someone desperate in a storm.

Of course, just hanging out was fun, too.

But there was nothing quite like standing on top of that amazing pile of rocks and looking out at all that God has created.  It makes me wonder what He must think of us, as He looks out over us each day, so busy, going about our stuff, when this is out there.  How often do we really see it?

PS - There used to be a house right there where my husband was standing.  Can you imagine?

We feasted on sandwiches and fruit before heading back down the mountain.  While our PB&J will soon be forgotten, the view from the tops of those rocks won't be.  It was an amazing afternoon together - one I hope we can repeat soon.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Planning Ahead - Shutterfly Christmas Cards - & Giveaway!

**This contest has now ended.  Congrats, Jennifer Isbell!

I realize that most of us are busy carving pumpkins and maybe thinking about roasting turkeys, but it will be time to plan those Christmas cards before you know it!  

I hopped over to the Shutterfly website to see what's happening there, and they have lots of new designs available now!  From Hanukkah to Christmas, kids or pets, you can find a fun design to meet your needs.  I love the new color sets out this year, and there are over 600 cards from which to choose.  With those kinds of numbers, you're sure to find the perfect card for you.

Here are a few of my favorites (apparently I'm really enjoying the brown theme this year):

I love that I can use my great fall pics and order these now!

Isn't this a fun way to include a "Christmas letter?"

You can't leave anyone out with this many pictures - and a "Christmas letter" all in one!

Love this - I could send it as-is!  It looks just like our Bailey.

Rather retro ... cool blues and reds ..

More formal and serene, thoughtful, peaceful.  

Just plain cute.  A great way to feature a new addition!

Be sure to check out Shutterfly's Special Offers here!

I've ordered from Shutterfly in the past, and I've always been pleased with their products.  So, would you like to give their holiday cards a whirl?  Shutterfly will send one lucky entrant a coupon for $50 off his.*  Just enter in the Rafflecopter giveaway below!  Giveaway ends October 28th.

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*Prize doesn't include shipping.  Can't be combined with any other offer.

Want to follow along with Shutterfly?  You can find them here:
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This is a sponsored post.  I will receive free product in exchange for sharing my honest opinions with you.  Thanks for entering - and for sharing yours with me!

Menu Plan Monday - October 22, 2012

I'm very excited about this week.  We have only two evening activities and a few daytime ones, all spread out, with beautiful weather predicted overall.  I'm hoping that our slower activity pace means lots of time outside!  We went hiking on a nearby "mountain" on Saturday and the weather was beautiful - I'm not ready to come inside yet!

Here's the plan:


- yogurt parfaits with fruit and Cinnamon Almond Granola
- Baked oatmeal
- Scrambled eggs and oranges
- White Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins - I'll be playing to make this a bit healthier
- Breakfast enchiladas

- Spinach Roll
- Baked Potato Bar with cheese, broccoli, black beans, salsa
- Pepperoni Rolls, carrot sticks
- Chicken & Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

Perfectly Pumpkin Pancakes, sausage

Pizza Casserole, carrot sticks
- leftovers

I'm hoping to fit in a bit of baking this week, too.  Some cookies would be great!  Maybe I can get two batches made - one to eat now and the other to freeze as dough for the holiday season?  I'm going to try for these Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies (CCC).  Maybe a batch of these Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars, too?

What's on your Meal Plan this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Welcome to the series launch of Tricia Goyer’s brand new Amish series, Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors! The first book, The Memory Jar, takes Goyer’s readers back to Big Sky country. To celebrate Tricia is hosting a fun Amish Kindle Gift Pack Giveaway (including a custom-made Memory Jar Kindle cover and authentic Montana Amish-made items!) and a Facebook party on November 7th. Be sure to click the link below to watch the video trailer or try your hand at one of the simple, keepsake crafts Tricia has put together on her website.
The-Memory-Jar-giveaway300.png (300×250)
One fortunate winners will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Custom-made Memory Jar Kindle Cover
  • Amish-made decorative items {Wall hanging, horse/buggy and Amish houses}
  • The Memory Jar {Be swept away by this captivating series.}
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 6th. Winner will be announced at the “Memory Jar Author Chat Party on 11/7. Connect with Tricia for an evening of book chat, Amish trivia, and a live video chat! There will also be a chance to win gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!
So grab your copy of The Memory Jar and join Tricia on the evening of the November 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book – don’t let that stop you from coming!)


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GratiTuesday - A Pumpkin-y Fall Day

When fall comes, I miss home more than ever.  

I miss being outside.  Seeing all of the leaves change color, having the option of heading to the farm and walking in the woods, visiting family, going on hayrides - those things are harder to find in this little town.

But last week our homeschool group headed to a small, local farm for a day of pumpkin fun - and it was great!

The weather was perfect - cool breeze, warm sun, blue sky - and the farm itself was beautiful.  The farmer was well prepared for our visit, and we had a great time.  

Photo by Susan B.

We rode on wagons back from the field of pumpkins, where we could choose and pick our own.  

A large sandbox was filled with kernels of corn - much better than sand, to my way of thinking, and the kids loved playing with it!

It's much easier to clean up, too - trust me.  ;-)

A large "playground" made out of stacked bales of straw made for a fun climbing experience.  Even my non-climbers got into this ...

and had a blast. 

This guy really got into it.

There were also areas set up around the farm and decorated to be prime picture-taking locations.  I had fun with these.

Of course, we had to pick pumpkins while we were there ...

and the pumpkins were big and beautiful!

Heavy, too!

Our farm tour included visiting these chickens, the newest update to the farm.  They'll only be in residence for a few weeks, however, and then they'll grace someone's table.

After a few more pictures ...

we headed home for lunch, 

grateful for a day at the farm.  Can't wait 'til next year!

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.