Sunday, February 28, 2010

Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer by Dr. Lew Sterrett Review

I love horses and always have. I dabbled in English Style horseback riding a little when I first got married and loved every moment of it. I only stopped because I got pregnant again and didn't feel that riding while pregnant was for me. My husband and I loved to just go and be with the horses though and we would. Someday if we can I would love to have a horse or pony of my own. I think I have talked about it on here before, but we would love to own a mini pony and train it to help our disabled daughter do things.

I wasn't sure quite what to expect when I started reading this book. I didn't know much about Dr. Lew Sterrett except that he was the horse whisperer and that I wanted to read this book because it was possibly about horses. I enjoyed reading the Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer by Dr. Lew Sterrett. He is an expert in the field of horsemanship. He has so much patience and skill to know how to gain the trust of so many horses...from the wild ones to even the tame ones trained into sophistication. He is also a pastor and owns the Sermon on the Mount Ministry and Miracle Mountain Ranch. He is a man that is not only close to his horses, he is close to God as well. He tells his sermons regularly while a top a horse and draws from life lessons he has learned from being with and training horses. He also uses these parallels in his book. His approach to working with and living with horses is very similar to his approach to working and living with people. This book is highly recommended and will help with building relationships on trust and motivation.

Help Litfuse Publicity Group spread the word and win a $50 gift card and signed copies of Lew's book from them! (ends March 1st, 2010 so hurry!!)

TWEET THIS: (must use hashtag #lewsterrett to be entered - no limit on entries! Tweet away!)

Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer: not just for horse lovers! RT to win $50 to @amazon #LewSterrett

This book was published by Monarch Books and Kregel Publications and provided to me for review purposes by the Litfuse Publicity Group.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sprout and Magic Cabin Giveaway Winners

The winner of the Sprout Lend a Helping Hand DVD is #12 Erin. Erin said her daughter adores Barney and she thinks it's because she loves all the signing and dancing!

The winner of the Magic Cabin Apple House Play Set is #52 Jennifer T.! She said that she loves the Klick Desk Set because it's compact and would be great for doing schoolwork and art.

Congrats again to all the winners! I will contact each winner by email. If you did not have your email posted please post it here so I can email you! Thanks to all those who participated and don't forget to enter in my contests/giveaways that are going on now! I will also be adding more posts and giveaways soon so stay tuned!

*All winners are chosen by my True Random Number Generator.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bailey’s Cave Adventures by Nina Meier FIRST Wild Card Tour Book 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:

Bailey’s Cave Adventures

Tate Publishing (August 5, 2008)

***Special thanks to Nina Meier for sending me a review copy.***


New author Nina Meier is an incredibly talented preschool Sunday school and VBS teacher, having 10 years’ experience in her own church doing just that. Ask anyone under the age of 5 about Miss Nina’s handmade green lizard bag that holds her lessons on love and respect for God’s creation, each other, and ourselves. With fresh, new ideas always at her fingertips, even at a moment’s notice, no child is ever bored in her class, and she is able to laugh and dance them through a Bible lesson effortlessly.

Nina has been enjoying a career in Medical Transcription for the past 15 years, having gone back to school when her 2 sons were both in college. Her husband is a talented wood craftsman and has, on many occasions, brought her VBS ideas to life. He also builds sets for church plays that are of professional quality.

Many of Nina’s lessons on missions come from firsthand experience on the field during short-term mission trips to West Virginia, the interior of Mexico, Moldova near Romania, the Gulf Coast, and an Indian reservation in Ontario, Canada.

With such multi-faceted talent, anything this new author puts her pen to is a guaranteed winner!

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 68 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing (August 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1604628766
ISBN-13: 978-1604628760


Bailey’s Cave Adventures

Video/Puppet Show

Scene 1 – Day 1: Bailey comes flying and crashing into the room. When dust settles, you can see him more clearly.

Bailey: “Hi boys and girls, my name is Bailey, and I’m a brown bat. Bet you never saw a bat who was always flying into things! That’s because most bats have sonar. Let me explain what that word means. Bats can see with sound better than light. They send out a sound so high-pitched that human ears can’t hear it! The sound bounces off whatever is in front of them, and comes back to their ears. This happens really fast. That’s how they find food, and keep from flying into things.”

“Well, something went wrong when I was born, and my sonar has never worked! Anyway, it’s okay because my Mom and Dad gave me a seeing-eye dog, you know, the kind blind people use, and he helps me get around, and keeps me from falling, when he’s with me. Sometimes I try to go off on my own and, well, you can imagine. He’s my best friend! Would you like to meet my dog? (Yes!) OK. Here Radar, where are you boy?”

Out from under a curtain Bailey knocked down comes a large black Lab wearing a harness w/handle.

Radar: “I see you’re doing okay, no lumps or bumps? Well, climb on up and grab hold of my harness. I have a few things to tell these boys and girls here.”

Bailey climbs up on Radar’s head, to the harness, hangs onto the handle upside down with a sigh of relief, and falls asleep.

Radar turns to audience and says, “My job is to keep Bailey on the right path, and warn him of danger. Sometimes he listens, other times he goes off on his own without even seeing where he’s going. He has to learn to trust me completely. That’s like what the Holy Spirit does for you. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “ ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’ ”

Bailey wakes up.

Bailey: “Radar, I almost forgot. While I was out flying”--Radar whispers to the audience, “And crashing”-- “I heard some kids talking about going spelunking, that’s cave exploring, and someone who does that is called a spelunker. Anyway, I was thinking I’d make a great spelunker, and I’ve never been very far into the cave, I could go all the way down to the dark zone! It would be a real adventure!” (Getting excited).

Radar: “Now hold on Bailey, that sounds pretty dangerous to me. I’d feel a lot better if you let me go with you.”

Bailey: “Sure, okay, that’d be fun, who’s going to carry the flashlight?” (Turns to audience). “Could you help us with flashlights boys and girls?” (Yes!) “Great, let’s get ready to go then!”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Our Dog, Prince

If you are participating in Wordless Wednesdays, click on the Mister Linky image, enter your name and URL in the form, and press Enter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ola Loa Review and Giveaway

Cold and Flu season is still underway in most places of the world, especially places that got dumped on with a lot of snow recently. As the weather becomes colder and we stay indoors more and people often catch colds or other viruses from others. The cold and flu season can begin as early as October and usually ends sometime in April. While there is no way to cure the common cold or the flu, keeping your body healthy during cold and flu season can help you avoid getting sick.

I recently was introduced to a "new to me" product called Ola Loa that is very much like Emergen-C but boasts that it is better for you because of having more vitamins and less sugar. Ola Loa has 1/6th the sugar of Emergen-C and provides 20 more nutrients (including amino acids), not to mention 5 times more B1 and 4 times more B2 and B12. This effervescent drink mix is 100% all-natural with no preservatives, artificial colors, flavors or fake sugars.

I took the challenge to try the product and they sent me a variety pack to try many of their flavors for free. I received 5 each of the Ola Loa Sport in mango tangerine, mixed berry and lemon lime flavors and Ola Loa Energy Multi Vitamin in orange, cran-raspberry and tropical. I love the flavors and they taste similar to Emergen-C. My favorite flavor was the mango-tangerine and the cran-raspberry. They mix and dissolve well in water and juice and don't leave a gritty aftertaste that some drink mixes do. They, like Emergen-C, come in individually wrapped packages and are easy to carry around in your purse, pocket or wallet until you are ready use them. What I really like about this product is that you can drink your vitamins instead of having to take a pill. The Ola Loa Energy is their multi vitamin drink mix that provides hard to get nutrients like TMG, NAC and CoQ10, plus vitamins A through K, 1000 mg of Vitamin C, 40 mineral complexes and 6 amino acids. It helps with energy production and protects antioxidants so your body can bounce back from stressors and not get sick as often. the Ola Loa Sport is a hydrating drink mix that provides a thirst quenching beverage for active people. Compare Ola Loa Sport with other sports drinks. They also have these other drink mixes that I have not tried out: Ola Loa Repair which is their healthy bone and joint mineral formula and Ola Loa Kids which is the multi vitamin for growing kids.

You can try out FREE SAMPLES of Ola Loa by filling out the form on their website.

Melissa from ONIT Marketing has generously offered a Ola Loa Variety Pack to give away to one of my readers!

1. Go to the Ola Loa website and tell me which what drink mix kind and flavor you would love to try and why.

Additional entries:
1. Subscribe to my blog by email and let me know. (2 extra entries)

2. Become my fan on Facebook. (1 extra entry)

3. Blog about this giveaway on your blog and provide me with the link. Make sure you have the link to this post and Ola Loa in your blog entry or it won't count. (2 extra entries)

4. Grab My Button (see sidebar to the left) AND/OR Put My Blog URL in Your Blogroll - Leave Your Link. (1 extra entry)

5. Technorati my blog and let me know your link. (1 extra entry)

6. List this giveaway on any giveaway listing website or blog and tell me where you listed it. (2 extra)

7. Follow me on twitter and retweet this: @finamoon: @OlaLoa WIN: Ola Loa Drink Mix Variety Pack #giveaway
(Daily Extras are Available)

8. Fave me on Momfaves. (2 extra entries)

9. Comment on one of my other of my posts and tell me which one. (2 extra entries per post)

10. Fan Ola Loa on Facebook. (1 extra entry)

11. Follow Ola Loa on Twitter. (1 extra entry)

Make sure you leave me your email in all posts so that I can contact you. If you subscribed by email, blogged about this, listed it, commented on another post, or faved me on Momfaves leave 2 entries saying you did. This contest ends on Friday March 12, 2010 at midnight (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada). This Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada!!

DISCLAIMER: Thanks to ONIT Marketing for letting me know about this product and Ola Loa for sending me a variety pack free to try out and review. This giveaway is also provided free from Ola Loa. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Teaposy Review

Teaposy is a wonderful company that sells blooming flower teas and accessories for your blooming tea enjoyment. If you have never heard of blooming tea you really should try it because not only is the tea delicious, it is also a work of art. Once you place the blooming tea bundle in the bottom of the glass teapot and pour the boiling water over it the magic starts and the leaves slowly unfurl into a beautiful, mesmerizing bloom. The Teaposy glass teapots are hand blown Borosilicate glass (glass with a high and low temperature durability) so they are great for steeping the tea as well as storing in the fridge. The teaposies are each hand-crafted in the Fujian Provence in China with dried silver needle white tea bundles and sewn together with jasmine, calendula, rose, lily, amaranth, camellia, chrysanthemum, or carnation flowers to form one of Teaposy's 8 patented blooming tea designs and they are also naturally and repeatedly infused with the scent and flavor of freshly picked jasmine flowers.

I received the celebrate gift set from Teaposy for free to test and review. This set includes a 24 oz hand-blown glass teapot with lid and loose-leaf filter, a selection of eight assorted teaposies and 2 decaf herbal tea sachets. Teaposies and sachets come individually vacuum sealed for maximum freshness.

Included in the set I received these teaposies and sachets:
*butterfly - jasmine, amaranth, silver needle white tea
*falling water - jasmine, calendula, silver needle white tea
*heart of love - rose, lily, silver needle white tea
*calendula - calendula, silver needle white tea
*crown me - chrysanthemum, jasmine, amaranth, silver needle white tea
*lady fairy - jasmine, lily, silver needle white tea
*let it snow - chrysanthemum, coconut fruit fiber, silver needle white tea
*red song - carnation, silver needle white tea
*spring sonata sachets - hibiscus, lily, rose, lavender, chinese globeflower, stevia leaves, forget me not

I love these blooming teas! The flavor is full and rich. I did taste the jasmine in the background of the teas, but it was pleasant and not too flowery. They take just 3-6 minutes to fully bloom and steep and they are such a delight to behold. Once I am done with these I am going to have to buy more to steep in my glass pot. It is so meditative and peaceful to wake up and watch one of these bloom in the morning. It just makes the rest of the day so much better. The glass teapot is lovely as well and is the perfect elegance to show off what's inside. Not only can you use it for blooming teas, but it lends itself very nicely to brewing loose leaf teas too because it has a stainless steel spiral strainer that is built right into the spout and catches the leaves as you pour your tea. It is eco-friendly too since it is made from 20% recycled material. Since it is glass, however, one does have to be careful with it...especially around kids so it won't end up broken.

I brewed the "let it snow" one first and got a few pictures of it blooming to show here. It was a fun one to see bloom and my children delighted in watching as well. It actually sort looks like the bloom is in a snow globe. Really quite a neat effect. I also have the video off the Teaposy website to share with you as well, because then you can actually see some of the teaposies bloom yourself. Take a look...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mommy Tags Review and Giveaway

Mommy Tags makes personalized jewelry that is handcrafted and created from silver that has been recycled from film. They make beautiful silver jewelry that is hand stamped with names, initials, dates and my favorite, doodles!! They have: Mommy Tags (Main "Bebe Love" tag with one baby name tag), Daddy Tags (Main initial tag with one baby name tag. Fits up to three names and birth-dates), Tot Tags (One initial tag and one name tag. Not recommended for children under the age of 4), Wagg Tags (Choose from cat or dog. Your pet's name is engraved on the front. Your phone number may be engraved on the back for additional cost), Doodle Tags (you can wear your child's (or your own) art! Simply upload a scan of a doodle or personal signature and they'll make it into a tag for you), Circle of Love Tag (Choose "Forever," "Cherish," or "True Love" on the front. Personalize with your first names and date of union on the back), Remembrance Tags (honor loved ones who have passed on as angels. Personalize with the date of passing or name) and Accessories (additional tags, chains, anti tarnish bags, etc.). They also do custom work if you need something done that they don't have listed contact their sister site called Maize Hutton.

I received a Mommy Tags necklace with the main Bebe (french for baby) Love/Heart tag, which represents a mother's love for her children, and all four of my child name tags stamped with each of my child's first names and dates of birth on them. They were so very generous and offered to do all of this for free for me to test and review their product. When I received the Mommy Tags they were in a small ziplock bag with anti-tarnish strip and packaged in a nice reusable tin. The very cute label on the tin is made from a corn based material called EarthFirst PLA, a renewable resource that is grown here in the USA. The tags are beautiful and I know that I am going to cherish this necklace always and wear it often! I think I am going to make them a beaded necklace to separate them out more so they will hang where you can see all of them at once. I was having fun with this photo shoot as you can see :) I laid down on my new ottoman and my son took this picture from above.

My other very favorite product on Mommy Tags is the Doodle Tags! I haven't done one yet, but I think one may be in my future!! It will definitely go on my wish list! Not only is this a very unique personalization of your child's scribble or drawing, but it also comes with a wood mounted rubber stamp of the artwork along with a black stamp pad to use for stamping your own note cards, scrapbooking or t-shirts. I love this concept!!

Kirsten from Mommy Tags has generously offered a Mommy Tags Set ($75 value) to give away to one of my readers!

1. Go to the Mommy Tags website and tell me which what other product you really love and why AND what you would personalize the Mommy tag with if you should win.

Additional entries:
1. Subscribe to my blog by email and let me know. (2 extra entries)

2. Become my fan on Facebook. (1 extra entry)

3. Blog about this giveaway on your blog and provide me with the link. Make sure you have the link to this post and Mommy Tags in your blog entry or it won't count. (2 extra entries)

4. Grab My Button (see sidebar to the left) AND/OR Put My Blog URL in Your Blogroll - Leave Your Link. (1 extra entry)

5. Technorati my blog and let me know your link. (1 extra entry)

6. List this giveaway on any giveaway listing website or blog and tell me where you listed it. (2 extra)

7. Follow me on twitter and retweet this: @finamoon WIN: Mommy Tags Set #giveaway
(Daily Extras are Available)

8. Fave me on Momfaves. (2 extra entries)

9. Comment on one of my other of my posts and tell me which one. (2 extra entries per post)

Make sure you leave me your email in all posts so that I can contact you. If you subscribed by email, blogged about this, listed it, commented on another post, or faved me on Momfaves leave 2 entries saying you did. This contest ends on Friday March 5, 2010 at midnight (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada). This Giveaway is open to U.S. Only!!

DISCLAIMER: Thanks to ChicExecs, a company which was created to promote small business campaigns, I was able to let you know about this product. I received a sample from Mommy Tags free of charge. All information about the products I received from the products, ChicExecs, and information from the Mommy Tags website. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Uprinting, Sodastream and Safeway GC Giveaway Winners

The winner of the Uprinting 500 Business Cards is #17 Shelby Barone! She said she would love to make these business cards into "literacy cards" where I would list the benefits of literacy on them and leave them at the libraries for the librarians to pass out!

The winner of the Sodasteam Fountain Jet starter kit with 4 SodaMix flavors is #45 andrea v! She said she would love to try out the diet Pete's choice, diet fountain mist, diet ginger ale and cream soda.

The winner of the Safeway $50 gift card is #71 Heather! She said she would love to try Vanilla! Her tips are to drink lots of water, eat fruits + veggies, and stay active everyday!

Congrats again to all the winners! I will contact each winner by email. If you did not have your email posted please post it here so I can email you! Thanks to all those who participated and don't forget to enter in my contests/giveaways that are going on now! I will also be adding more posts and giveaways soon so stay tuned!

*All winners are chosen by my True Random Number Generator.

Friday, February 19, 2010

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay FIRST Wild Card Tour Book 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:

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes

David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Lisa McKay and her husband, Luke, serve at a thriving church in Alabama. Together they are happily – if not always properly—raising three rowdy boys and one dramatic girl. In addition to being a wife and mom, Lisa is also a popular conference speaker.

Visit the author's website.

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes, by Lisa McKay from David C. Cook on Vimeo.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767264
ISBN-13: 978-1434767264


My Husband’s Calling is My Calling Too

Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.—Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)

I once had an interesting conversation with a woman whose husband had enrolled in seminary to prepare for ministry. “He can take classes all he wants, but I didn’t sign up for the preacher’s wife thing,” she said. Since she didn’t believe her husband would actually follow through, she went on to tell me she planned on humoring him until the day his calling affected her. And if that day ever came? Well, she’d just cross that bridge when she came to it.

He is still in school. She is still in denial.

Around that same time I attended a pastor’s wife conference that included a panel discussion at the end. Lined across the stage, five women in different seasons of ministry shared the thing they found most difficult about being married to a minister.

I’ll never forget the response of the youngest woman. She was the mom of toddlers and was obviously distressed. “The hardest thing for me is everyone wanting a piece of my husband and not acknowledging me in the least,” she said. “I feel like the person in the background who is only here to take care of the kids so he can be free to take care of everyone else.”

I was grieved by her raw response. All I wanted to do was wrap my arms around that girl and assure her she had it all wrong. That she was an integral part of her husband’s ministry. That her calling in that season was her children. That no amount of public success possibly mattered if her heart and home were in shambles. The sad thing is that I’ve met many more like her in the past fifteen years during my own life as a minister’s wife. If anything, this has intensified my desire to embrace and encourage women whom God has charged with supporting the men He has ordained to proclaim His Word.

The fact that I just typed that last sentence still baffles me. You have no idea how surreal it is for me to be writing this book. There are many of you reading who have been Christians as long as you can remember and always knew you would marry a preacher. Many more of you grew up as the child of a minister and swore you would never marry one yourself, only to find yourself eating your words. Some of you have pursued callings to various vocational ministries and met your mate in college, seminary, etc. Some of you married men who were already serving in the church. However, based on my blog surveys, a lot of your serene lives were turned inside out when your husband experienced God’s call to ministry some point after you were married.

And then on the lunatic fringe are girls like me whose life and marital background weren’t exactly résumé worthy.

A Match Made In Heaven?

My husband, Luke, and I married young. I was a mere eighteen and he a strapping twenty-one. Can I just be honest and tell you there were never two individuals any more needy or any less likely to be serving behind a pulpit?

I always cringe when we run into old high school friends. The question of what we’re doing now always comes up, and there is one response that we can count on when we share that Luke is a pastor—after the laughter dies down, that is.

“Luke, you are a preacher? And Lisa? You are a preacher’s wife?! Okay, joke’s over. Now what are you really doing?”

We would be offended if we weren’t just as baffled.

I forgive our flabbergasted friends because I can’t hold their excellent recall against them. They remember the dangerous combination of the wild boy and the bitter girl whose marriage was tumultuous at best. Surely, the future they envisioned for us was set in a divorce court rather than a sanctuary. They were within days of being absolutely correct.

There is no human reason why Luke and I should still be wed today, much less serving the body of Christ. Even though we were not yet believers, our union started off well enough. But we soon faced the heartbreaking yet all too common reality of many young couples: The stress of working different shifts, having more month than money, and living the separate lives that developed in the midst of it resulted in our parting ways and filing for divorce two short years after the ceremony.

I despised the not-yet-preacher, and the truth is I loathed myself as much as him. We had hurt each other in a million ways, and all I could think of was getting away and starting over. We were within a week of our divorce being final when one night I received a bizarre phone call from him. He told me he had started going to church and wanted us to rethink what we were doing.

I went off the deep end! I spewed, “So you are turning into a religious fanatic—and you think that is going to fix everything?” I was so full of hate and bitterness, and it still makes me blush to think of all the horrible things I said to him about his newfound religion. He continued, very patiently, to call and tell me he was asking God for a miracle as the clock ticked toward the day our marriage would be legally over.

One night during the critical week before the divorce was final, I had gone to bed, still convinced divorce was the only answer. For some reason, I woke up around two a.m. and the tears began to flow. I missed my husband so badly I could barely lay there. I remember thinking, “What is wrong with you? You cannot stand him! It’s almost over, just hang in there.” I realize now that voice was Satan’s, bent on thwarting God’s plan for us. If you ask me how I know prayer works, or how I know God can turn a cold, black heart into one that can feel love, laughter, and joy (Ezek. 11:19), I will point you to that night because it is the one that changed everything.

I called Luke the next day. One conversation led to another, and we called the lawyer to stop the divorce proceedings. I tentatively moved back home with him, and we began visiting churches. I was still not very thrilled about the “God thing,” but I knew for some reason I wanted my husband back and this would play a part. Would it ever!

One night soon afterward, my hubby came to me in our living room and told me he had just prayed for salvation. He’d gone to church his whole life, but it was only at that time he truly accepted Christ as his Savior. I grew up in a totally different denomination, so this Baptist way of doing things was a little traumatic for me. I was glad for him, but I still wasn’t so sure what that meant for me. For personal reasons, organized religion held no real appeal, so I was very afraid of how having my husband become so radically different was going to affect me and our life together. Seemingly out of the blue, I began having feelings of not being good enough for this new man, and shame over my own sin slowly entered my heart.

For me, salvation was not a lightning-bolt experience but rather an intellectual process at first. I needed to understand it. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the Cross is foolishness for those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” I know the Spirit of God enabled me to believe what I was hearing because obviously I could have still walked away a scoffer. We were attending my husband’s childhood church, and the pastor became a dear friend and mentor to us both. He started a small group in his home, and I was able to ask all my questions in a very nonthreatening environment. That man was very patient with me as I asked everything from “What does ‘once saved, always saved’ mean?” to “When do you think the rapture will happen?” Sometime in the midst of those sessions, I realized I had already made a decision. That decision was for life—both for Jesus Christ and until-death-do-us-part with my husband. I asked the Lord to “officially” save me and soon afterward made that public in the body of people who had prayed so faithfully for us both.

If this had been the end of the story I would have been happily-ever-after indeed. Little did I know our tale was only beginning.

The Call

Over the next weeks, I watched Luke transform in front of my eyes. Where once stood a rough-around-the-edges construction worker, I now found a softened gentleman. Where turmoil had churned, peace now reigned. A thirst for the world was replaced by an unquenchable longing to drink up every bit of the Word that he’d neglected for the past years.

I’m in no way suggesting that a called minister is on a plane above any other Christian, but what I will say is that even in my own spiritually immature state, what I saw happening in Luke seemed to be so much more fervent than what I saw in other men. And as for my own walk, Luke’s desire made me long for more. If I can be so biased, Luke was special—an opinion I still hold.

I tell you this because I want you to understand that after Luke finally told me he believed God was calling him to minister, my head was shocked, but my heart wasn’t. Something in me perceived our life had taken a twist that surpassed simply returning to our old lives a renewed version of our previous selves. We both were experiencing intense restlessness in our jobs. I had just left an entire career on a lark. And Luke, who had always loved his trade and coworkers, began dreading the alarm clock every morning.

Have you ever read the book The Return of the King in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy? In the end Frodo the hobbit leaves his home, the Shire, after risking his life to save it. When explaining to his best friend, Sam, why he has to go, he says, “There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same.” In much the same way, the dailiness of our lives had taken on a sense of not-quite-belonging in the place that had always been familiar. Accepting the fact that God was calling us to serve Him in some capacity was like turning a dial to the last number on a combination lock. The “rightness” of it clicked, and suddenly the future was wide open.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Luke and I began to pray and seek God for what He wanted us to do—definitely a first in our married lives. I have no biblical basis for what I am going to say next, but I believe God answers the prayers of baby Christians with a shout instead of a whisper. God has taught us how to discern Him more through prayer and His Word now, but in those early days He had to throw out the flashing neon signs before our own lightbulbs lit up.

The first two of those signs were named Al and Doyle. Both of these men mentioned the name of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College within two days of one another. Al had just returned from a Constructors for Christ project, during which they had built new one-bedroom duplexes for married students without children. Doyle was a longtime supporter of the school. These days I call that type of communication from God a double affirmation, but then we were still thinking, “Hmmm.… That’s odd. I wonder if we are supposed to look into this?”

And God was saying, “Ya think?” while restraining Himself from knocking our foolish heads together.

Luke hesitated contacting the school to request information because he had no hopes of getting in. What I’ve not yet told you is that he didn’t graduate high school. What dropout had any kind of chance to go to college? He finally mustered the nerve to call, and we scheduled a visit. We still didn’t know for what. Both of us realized we wouldn’t be able to go right away but thought maybe the school could give some pointers on what Luke could do to become a student someday.

We traveled to the college and were in love at first sight. The campus was set in the mountains and was absolute lush, peaceful perfection. Arriving there felt like coming home, which at the time was heartbreaking because we knew this place couldn’t possibly be in our near future.

The following day we met the director of admissions, Jay. He was and remains one of the most boisterous, joyful, encouraging people we have ever known. Luke explained his full situation—particularly the part about not having a diploma. Luke expected to hear, “Sorry, son, but you don’t belong here. Come back in a year or two when you are good enough.” Instead Jay chuckled and said, “No problem!!”

No problem? How is not having a high school diploma not a problem?!

Brother Jay enthusiastically went on to explain there was a special program in this college for men who did not have a high-school degree. They would take regular college courses and also be tutored for high school in the freshman year. Students had two semesters to pass the GED, at which point they would have official student status and all classes would count toward a fully accredited degree.

And just like that, there was Neon Sign Three, and it blinked wildly, “Road Open!”

One patient, gracious God gave us three signs in an overwhelming answer to our many prayers—and they all pointed toward our new home. (One of the homes Al built, no less!)

Absolutely Certain (I Think)

Well, enough about us—for now anyway! Since I’ve shared a little backstory with you, I’d like to talk about what I believe is one of the foundational principles of our lives as ministry wives: the nature of our own call.

I realize each of our inductions into a life of ministry was met with different levels of enthusiasm. It’s not every woman who looks forward to low salaries and high expectations. Of frequent moves and misunderstood children. Of criticism and conflict. These are just a few stereotypical pitfalls that can understandably cause a woman to put the skids on any plans her man has for serving in vocational ministry.

As Luke was processing the call God placed on his life, I was blessedly ignorant of all the things I just listed. My church experience was limited to a few years of attendance as a child, so I really had no comprehension of the chew-’em-up-and-spit-’em-out reputation of churches where ministers are concerned. Naïveté is not always a bad thing—especially when knowing all the details could result in being too fearful to take the leap into God’s plan for your future.

But what part do you play in what God is asking your husband to do? Has God called you in the same manner as him? My short answer is to state plainly that every wife has the God-given role of being a faithful helpmeet no matter if her husband is a banker, a mechanic, or a schoolteacher. However, there are unique challenges and more assured uncertainties for the wife who has the high charge of supporting a man directed to leave the familiar behind and follow God’s call into the unknown. What are some of those challenges, and how should we who find ourselves in this situation react? Let’s learn from someone who has gone before us—Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

A Woman Out of Control

We meet Sarah in Genesis 11:30 and are told simply, “[She] was barren; she had no children.” In the Middle Eastern culture, Sarah’s dignity was directly tied to her being married and having babies. Since she was childless, she would not have risked staying behind without her husband, no matter how unsure she may have been about Abraham asking her to leave Ur. There was nothing but shame for Sarah in Ur without Abraham.

And conversely, there was nothing in Canaan for Abraham without Sarah. It was out of Sarah’s infertility that God would perform one of His most awesome works—the miraculous birth of a nation consecrated to Himself. Abraham could have found any number of women who weren’t suffering from the heartbreak of barrenness to be his wife. However, the supernatural birth of Isaac was the requirement for properly illustrating God’s glory through human hopelessness.

Long before Abraham met Sarah, God purposed for the two of them to be the human agents through whom He would bless the nations. Neither of them could have participated in God’s plan alone—each needed the other. That concept is no different for those God continues to call today to spread the good news throughout the world.

When I think of all the quirks and hang-ups that Luke and I both have, it is amazing to realize that for the most part we do not have the same ones. Luke is painfully shy; I’m the social extrovert. Luke is compassionate to a fault where I am more critical. Luke doesn’t understand drama, and I am a master of it; therefore, I am able to help him comprehend the underlying issues women have when he has no clue how to proceed. God placed us together as a team to complement one another’s weaknesses and to nurture the spiritual children He has entrusted to our care. I have total and complete faith in Luke’s ability and he in mine, and yet neither of us believes for a second we could have any measure of ministry success without the support of the other.

To the reluctant ministry wife, I understand your fear. I know your need to have some input on how and where you are going to raise your family. Even the wondrous event of God entering into covenant with Abraham on the assurance of an heir was not enough to keep Sarah from trying to control the way in which the promised child would come into the world. And thirteen years later, Sarah laughed when they were told once again she would have a son. Abraham’s seed could only be reckoned through Sarah, and that required a separate faith on her part—a willing participation in what God purposed to accomplish through their son, Isaac. Sarah wasn’t perfect. She could be harsh and unbelieving and manipulative. However, Hebrews 11:11 tells us God gave her strength to participate in the creation and blessing of nations because “she considered Him faithful who had promised” (NASB).

My personal feeling is that we can make the idea of serving in ministry way more complex than God ever intended. In the case of Abraham, God promised children more numerous than the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore, but He didn’t ask him to birth them all! He gave Abraham charge over one piece of that promise—beloved Isaac. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the enormity of what God is asking us to do that we forget the Big Picture is composed of individual frames of obedience. I’m guilty of shutting down physically and mentally when the job seems way too big—and all God has asked of me is to trust Him one day at a time. It’s much easier to walk into the unknown if we can focus on being faithful with what is required of us today, trusting God for His faithfulness in all our tomorrows.

It’s Simple, Really

Are we called alongside our husbands? Absolutely. Is the life we are called to complex? You bet. But, based on my personal experience and the example of Sarah, I believe we are asked to do three things that will simplify our thinking and therefore help us to not only accept but look forward to a certain future.

We are called to trust.

1 Peter 3:6 says, “Just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, … you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear” (NASB).

This verse is found in a passage describing how a woman’s beauty is to be found internally instead of externally (verses 1–5). Among other things, Peter describes how a woman should be in willing subjection to her husband, even if he is not a believer. Dread shouldn’t motivate her in yielding to him, but rather a healthy fear of God’s mandate to honor her husband. Sarah’s singular obedience was dually blessed. She wanted to obey God by following Abraham. God’s laws are not arbitrary and are not given without benefit attached. Sarah’s reward was the gift of inclusion into the blessing of the nations that God had intended through Abraham. If we seek to surrender our lives to God’s will through His call on our husbands, we will be given the blessed distinction of being a daughter of Sarah.

So what does this type of obedience look like in a minister’s wife? Certainly the amount of reluctance you are feeling towards this role will dictate the type of faith it will take to accompany your husband into the unknown. Hear me well when I say that no matter how much initial trepidation I feel when God asks something of our family, He has yet to call Luke to a task without also piercing my own heart. It is always heartbreaking for me to talk to ministry wives who do not express any sense of calling toward their husband’s work. The reasons are endless, but most often the wife incorrectly believes that his ministry is just another vocation and has nothing to do with her, or she absolutely wants nothing to do with a life with trappings holding no obvious appeal.

You may ask, “Is it wrong if I don’t want my husband to be a preacher? Can anyone blame me if I don’t want to leave what is comfortable and predictable? What if I don’t want to move away from my extended family?” And bigger still, “What if I don’t trust my husband to discern God’s voice?”

If you find yourself feeling this way, then it is time to look past your wants and even those of your husband and straight to the face of God. Ask Him what He requires of you. Are you willing to trust Him with your unknown? Are you willing to obey even if you believe your man has some static in his radio? I wish I had an easy answer here, but in reality these questions can only be hashed out in some sincere facedown time with the Father. Because I continually remember the comfort and reassurance He has offered me with these same fears, I can promise you He’ll invade your heart with a much-needed peace in the midst of the pain that often goes along with hard-fought obedience.

Luke and I had no idea in the beginning what our exact ministry would look like. Would we be missionaries? Would he be behind a pulpit? Would we work in a parachurch organization? We had no clue. In the same way, be assured you won’t always know every detail of what God is asking of you. However, though the what may be unclear, we can always trust the motivation of the Who. Our faith in His promises and the assurance of His continual blessing upon the nations through our obedience in spreading His Word is enough to follow our man wherever God leads.

We are called to participate.

Hebrews 11:11–12 says, “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore” (NASB).

I can identify with Sarah on so many levels. Though she is heralded as a model of faithfulness, we know she behaved badly in her doubt. Just think about her side for a bit. God made these covenant promises to Abraham but never mentioned Sarah’s name once until she was ninety years old—some twenty-five years after God first appeared to her husband. She knew God promised Abraham an heir, and when the plan she hatched to speed that along resulted in Hagar’s pregnancy, Sarah may have felt left out by God entirely.

Are you like the girl in the beginning of this chapter who felt no one needed her? Do you ever feel left behind to cook, clean, and take care of babies while your husband spends the better part of his days ministering to everyone but you? Are you convinced he is having a blast crusading for the kingdom while you are stuck at home in the castle—as Cinderella no less?

Obviously the season of life you are in dictates to what degree you are able to participate in the work of the church. Listen closely, young mothers! Your ministry in this stage of life is to those precious babies in your care. If you have your own desires to serve in things such as women’s ministry, Bible study, administration, etc., your day will come. Some of you are able to soldier on and do these things in addition to caring for your toddlers, but many are just not able to do it all. And you know what? You aren’t supposed to. If you find your home is suffering and your kids are begging for your attention, then they—not church ministry—take absolute precedence. Never, ever apologize for making your family first!

My children are no longer babies, but I am just as busy with them in other ways. Diaper changing and bottle feeding have given way to homework and taxi service to whatever sport they are playing at the moment. Though I consider myself active in ministry, there are many things I don’t do. For example, I don’t always make it to the funeral home every time someone passes, due to the simple fact that I would have to bring my kids and I don’t particularly think they enjoy going any more than I enjoy having to get them dressed and wrangling them once there. I do have a tradeoff, however—I help with the meal if we are hosting one for the grieving family. The kids can hang out in a back room, and the stress is greatly relieved for them and for me. Not to mention our darling church ladies always fix the kids a plate from the leftovers. This is my way of letting the family know I love them, I care, and I am taking part to the best of my current ability without making myself crazy.

No matter if you are a seasoned ministry wife or a relative newbie, there is always one thing your congregation will pick up on loud and clear—your willingness to serve despite your inability. Do you work outside the home but do your best to participate in the body when possible? The church knows this and for the most part will understand. (Oh, there will always be exceptions!)

However, what they will not easily forgive is when you take a seat in the back and refuse to play a part—able or not. There are many women who are embittered by the demands the church has placed on their family’s life and time, therefore they refuse to support their husband’s ministry or the church body in any way, shape, or form. We’ll discuss in a later chapter the delicate balance between home and church life, but let’s just say for now that this attitude is extremely unhealthy and can be a huge detriment to your husband’s relationship with the church. The support the congregation perceives your husband receiving from you and your willingness to care for them even if you aren’t able to do all that you’d like is a bridge between their hearts and your man’s. Just like Sarah, your participation in his call is not only nice but necessary for him to effectively live out what God will do through him, whether you realize it now or not.

We are called to hope.

A life in ministry ultimately calls us to one thing: a hope for a greater glory than current circumstances reveal. I can’t think of a higher charge than the invitation to participate in God’s good intentions toward His creation. Sarah considered God faithful in His promises towards her, and because of that, she was able to look past the difficult years of childlessness and hold the manifestation of God’s blessing in her own arms.

Many years ago I watched a mafia movie (I don’t have any idea what it is called) where a gangster was teaching his young son about trust. The boy was on a ladder, and the father repeatedly told him to fall backward into his arms: “Don’t worry! I’m your father. Do you really think I’d let you be hurt?” The boy was more frightened of his dad than the fall, so he let go of the ladder. As he fell the dad stepped to the side and let him crash to the ground. His son stared up in surprised pain as the father said, “Never trust anyone.”

I think many of us have the mindset that God is the father who is setting us up for a huge fall and that we can’t trust Him to keep something painful from happening to us. The difference is He is standing in your unknown saying, “You can ALWAYS trust me!”

He never promises our lives won’t hurt, but you know what? He will always cushion us. Certainly there are hard days but in the midst of them you will find laughter, just like Abraham and Sarah. Sometimes those giggles you share will be born out of pure joy and at other times from incredulous unbelief. The thing to always remember is that you and your husband are in this thing together. There is no part of what God intends to do through either of you that isn’t intimately intertwined with the love and support of the other. God has appointed your husband according to his gifts, and your first priority as his wife is to affirm him in this role. However, many of you have desires for ministry that will involve taking off in your own direction. That doesn’t mean you supplant your hubby, but in the appropriate season, there will be many ways in which your own talents will broaden the scope of what he is able to do alongside you versus going it alone.

If You Say So

One of the coolest things about this book is the fact that these are not just my own observations! I mentioned in the introduction that I have a blog called The Preacher’s Wife ( Blogs are explained in greater detail in Appendix A of this book.

As part of the research for this project I asked a series of survey questions to the ministry wives who hang out with me online. (I’m excited to tell you there are a lot of them!) These Round Table discussions provide advice and encouragement from women who are serving in the trenches just like you. More than anything, I pray this book confirms the fact you are not alone in your circumstances, your joys, your struggles, or your opinions. I am so thrilled to introduce you to an online community of women who absolutely understand where you are coming from. I’ve also gathered comments from laypeople. I think it is imperative that we hear from both perspectives in order to understand one another’s hearts and hopefully build stronger relationships.

Now let me be clear: I am in no way saying that “virtual” friends should replace your flesh and blood ones. What I can tell you is that I have met many women in person that I’ve first made contact with online through my blog and they’ve become my dearest confidants. Blogs are but one fresh and relevant way to establish connections with women who will support you in your role as a ministry wife. We’ll discuss those various avenues in a later chapter centered on friendships.

For ease of identification (and to show off my excessive-texting-abbreviation skills), my blog friends will be known as the M2M Girls (as in, Married to Ministry Girls). Make sense? Let’s see what they had to share about their perspectives on calling.

Round Table

“I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife. When my husband felt called (before we got engaged) I had doubts. But, what God wanted and had planned was far greater than I knew at the time. He eventually convinced my heart to follow Him.”—Sarah @ Life in the Parsonage
“I feel like my highest calling is to be my husband’s supporter, his encourager, his helpmate. I believe that my service in the home, especially at this season in our lives with small children, is the biggest call in that ministry. He could not focus on doing the greatest part of his calling—preaching the gospel—if I didn’t do mine.”—Crystal @ Life Is Nothing Without Him
“As a layperson, I think it is obvious when a wife doesn’t share her husband’s passion for ministry. I don’t believe a pastor’s wife has to be everyone’s friend or attend every church event. But I do think you can tell by her general demeanor if she is ministry-minded. And, rightly or wrongly, the vibe I get from her reflects on her husband.”—Lori (layperson)
“I felt a call to ministry years before I met my husband, and deep down I hoped that call meant I would marry a minister. My challenge came several years later when he started thinking about leaving the ministry and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. I married you as a minister, so you have to stay one!’ I came to realize that I was married to him—a person, not his title—and I would love him no matter what.”—Kecia @ Kecia’s Journey
“I don’t know of any other occupation that my husband could have that would require me to be a part of the ‘package deal’ (for free) except the ministry. That took some getting used to!”—Sherry @ Life at the Parsonage
“It’s easy to spot a woman who’s happy for and proud of her husband’s life/accomplishments/calling. It may not be easy for her to ‘follow’ when she is in the background with young children (early on), but she is proud of her man’s walk and character. That is a beautiful thing to see.”—Darnelle (layperson) @ All Things Work Together

Now That You Know:

How are you responding to God’s call on your husband? Seek out a seasoned pastor’s wife and ask her to share her experience with you for reassurance.
Take the power away from the vague fears Satan will give you about the uncertainties you face by writing down what scares you. Search out the truth of God’s Word to apply to each. Afraid of moving away from family? Claim Matthew 19:29. Worried your family will not be provided for? Pray Psalm 37:25.
Laypeople: Has a man in your congregation announced a call to ministry? He is often congratulated and much is made over his decision, but his wife may be struggling in his shadow. Take the time to encourage her by pointing out the gifts she has that will be an asset to him. If there isn’t a new minister in your midst, consider writing a note of encouragement to your existing pastor’s wife to let her know what a vital part she plays in her husband’s work.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The New Rainbow Brite Review

80's cartoons, some that we hold dear to our hearts and remember fondly, have one by one been coming back. It has gotta be true that the 80's had the best things because why else would they be bringing back things like: My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears and now Rainbow Brite. These endearing cartoons have not only been showing up again, but they have also all been having makeovers. These makeovers have not only been seen here, but Dora the Explorer had one not too long ago to try and keep up with the growing toddlers interest. The new cartoons and merchandise all have similar re-designing characteristics. They have all been through the slenderizer. This is nothing new to the Barbie doll...who has always been slim since her debut in 1959 with her unrealistic proportions...even after the change to her waist around the year 2000. At any rate, we as parents of young children might find this all a little unwelcoming and hope that the media and marketing doesn't make our children grow up anorexic or bulimic. It seems that Hallmark tried re-marketing the 80's look of Rainbow Brite back in 2003-2004, but apparently it didn't do so well....hmmmmm I wonder if that was because most the merchandise was exclusive to Hot Topic stores in 2003 and little kids never really saw them??

But, enough of my thoughts on that. I remember Rainbow Brite when I was a little girl growing up in the 80's. I had the original 10" Rainbow Brite doll that came with her sprite Twink to Velcro to her hand. I also had her horse Starlite that was plastic with yarn hair and felted body and a Color Cottage. My sister had a Color Buggy car and her own Rainbow Brite doll with sprite plus a Lurky plush that my sister and I wished we never received as a gift. I loved playing with Starlite the most because I wished I had my own horse. I still wish I had my own horse or pony! I also thought the Color Cottage was really cool because I could put everything in it and take it with me. Possibly starting my infatuation of fabric zip-up houses that I have today :)

I was sent some information at the beginning of this year that Hallmark was at it again and were going to be releasing Rainbow Brite with a whole new look to the toy line and whole new cartoon adventures coming to DVD. I was also sent a teaser DVD and I have noticed they have changed some things in this new series. Besides her look Rainbow Brite doesn't seem to use her rainbow belt as much anymore...instead she and her friends use wands to ward off lack of color and save the world from evil. The Color Kids seem to also have been narrowed down to only two so far...Moonglow and Tickled Pink, their companion horse friends: Shimmer and Sunriser and their sprites: Nite Sprite and Twilite. Rainbow still has her horse, Starlite, and her puppy, Puppy Brite, but they have renamed her sprite Twink to Twinkle. I guess we shall see what else has been changed and what is still the same. You can go to their website for the new Rainbow Brite and see what you think. It has animated videos, a contemporary theme song, coloring pages, wallpapers, games and more. The DVD I received and watched looks like the new animated shows will have a good message. Even though I believe that the changes in appearance are a bit unwarranted, if the story is still filled with positive messages of courage, kindness, and hope I will be letting my kids watch.

Check out the newest Rainbow Brite toys. I wish I still had my Rainbow Brite doll with sprite, Starlite horse, and Color Cottage to share with my youngest daughter, Teela...she would love them!

DISCLAIMER: Thanks to MomSelect and BSM Media for giving me information about the new Rainbow Brite and for sending me a special Rainbow Brite DVD for free to watch and review. The DVD contains Rainbow Brite games and activities. They sent me a free Pak of ten (10) identical DVDs nine (9) to share with friends and family. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Tatiana and Her Pink Hooded Cape

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Zatarain's Mardi Gras House Party and Review

I had the chance to host a Zatarain's® Mardi Gras House Party ™ sponsored by Zatarain's on Tuesday, February 16th, 2010. I had fun putting the whole thing together and since I was already a big fan of Zatarain's I knew our party was gonna be a big hit with my family and friends. It turned out great and we had a lot of fun!

Zatarain's, for those of you who are not familiar makes zesty boxed meals and other products that are New Orleans based. They have been around for more than 100 years and their wonderful products are definitely part of the New Orleans tradition of distinctive flavorful cuisine. I love New Orleans food! Even though I didn't make any at this party one of my favorite New Orleans dishes is gumbo because I absolutely love soups, stews, and chowders and can't get enough okra! I love that Zatarain's has a recipe section. They also have cooking tips that will make your authentic New Orleans meal a success! New Orleans definitely has a rich cultural heritage and when my family and I were living in Florida we were saddened to hear about Hurricane Katrina that had past through there and caused so much damage and loss of life in 2005. We were hopeful that Zatarain's would be along with the survivors of Katrina because we love their food. We were very glad to find out that they overcome the struggle that was put before them and still prosper regardless of the trials they had to face during that time.

Before I received the party kit I was only aware of the Zatarain's boxed mixes that Zatarain's made. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the kit and it had Zatarain's Creole Mustard, Zatarain's Creole Seasoning and Zatarain's Root Beer Extract along with the Red Beans and Rice and the Jambalaya Mix. I was also surprised to see that the Red Beans and Rice was the Reduced Sodium variety. The reduced sodium mixes are new to Zatarain's and contain 25% less sodium than their regular counterpart. They also have a number of other very yummy products.

My FREE festive party pack included:

For me:
* 5 Zatarain’s Products to try:
Jambalaya Mix (we dressed this up with Italian sausage and pineapple for a different zing)
Reduced Sodium Red Beans & Rice (I really love the new reduced sodium varieties...they taste just as yummy!)
Creole Mustard (yummy! We are going to enjoy this later on Brats!)
Root Beer Extract (my Sodastream soda maker came in real handy and we enjoyed the root beer floats!)
Creole Seasoning (very good in a lot of dishes...just jazz it up!)

* 1 Zatarain’s Apron (I love it! See me wearing it in the first picture?)
* 1 Mardi Gras Party Guide
* 1 Sample Mardi Gras Menu
* 5 Mardi Gras Masks (sweet feather masks! My kids especially had fun trying these on!)
* 6 Mardi Gras Recipe Cards (yum! I am going to have to try these later)

Stuff I shared with my guests:

* 15 sets of Mardi Gras Beads (nice set of gold, green, and purple beads with a Zatarain's logo hanging from them)
* 15 sets of 3 Doubloons (also the royal jewel colors of Mardi Gras and stamped with the logo of Zatarain's and Mardi Gras 2010)
* 15 Money Saving Coupons for Zatarain’s Products (manufacturer's coupons for 50 cents off any one (1) Zatarain's rice or pasta mix)
* 75 Gift Cards for 35 Free MP3 Songs from E-Music (I didn't give these out because unfortunately you have to sign up and then if you don't cancel the service you are obligated to pay money...bogus!! I did listen to some righteous jazzy tunes though through Radio Free New Orleans.)
* And other downloadable party favors.

Here is a Fun Fact:
*What is the difference between Cajun and Creole?
Cajun is the robust country-style cooking of the descendants of the French Acadians (now known as Cajuns). Cajun cooking uses a dark roux as the base of many dishes. It relies on the culinary “trinity” –equal parts of chopped green bell peppers, onions and celery. Many Cajun dishes are spicier than Creole dishes. The most famous dish of Cajun origin is Jambalaya (a rice dish that contains the trinity, tomatoes and various meats, poultry and/or seafood).
Creole is a full-flavored cuisine of refined European settlers of New Orleans -- the best of the French, Spanish and African cuisines. Creole cooking also relies on the culinary “trinity”– chopped green bell peppers, onions and celery. Creole dishes typically use more butter, cream and tomatoes than Cajun dishes. A famous dish of Creole origin is Etouffee (a spicy and delicious stew traditionally made with crawfish or shrimp, vegetables and a dark roux). The word Etouffee means "Smothered."

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So, Jazz it up with Zatarain's!

DISCLAIMER: Thanks to House Party ™ for providing me with this opportunity to host a Zatarain's® Mardi Gras House Party ™. I received the above samples and coupons to hand out to hand out to guests and test and review myself. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review. House Party connects people through parties. You too can use the helpful tools to plan your party, create invites, join sponsored events, share pictures and video, and explore thousands of parties being held in homes around the country.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet FIRST Wild Card Tour Book 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:

Raven's Ladder

WaterBrook Press (February 16, 2010)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***


Jeffrey Overstreet is the skilled author of Auralia’s Colors, twice-nominated for a Christy Award, and Cyndere’s Midnight. His award-winning film reviews have appeared in Image, Books and Culture, Paste, and Christianity Today, and his “moviegoer’s memoir” Through a Screen Darkly is a popular exploration of faith and film in the U.S. and Europe. His website––––draws many thousands of readers each month. Jeffrey has recently spoken to large audiences in bookstores and universities across the U.S. and The Netherlands, including recent appearances at the Calvin Festival of Faith & Writing. Jeffrey and his wife Anne live in Shoreline, Washington.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (February 16, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400074673
ISBN-13: 978-1400074679




Auralia reached out to Cal-raven. As he approached, the flame of the candle he carried flapped like a flag in a hard wind.

Her smile was mysterious, just as he remembered it. That detail had proved most difficult. Other aspects had come easier as his hands sculpted the stone. Her humble stature. The tiny knob of her chin. Her feet—ten small toes emerging like a row of beads beneath a leafy skirt.

Cal-raven was not a tall man, and yet Auralia, slight for sixteen, had stood only to his shoulder. He could see her open hands pressing through the span of fabric that she offered to any visitor.

Almost a year had passed since he’d found her in the Abascar dungeon, wrapped in a magnificent cloak. Their fleeting conversation was burned in his memory more vividly than yesterday. Unflinching, Auralia had voiced her faith in phantoms dreamed and legends whispered––like the Keeper, that benevolent creature who haunted dreams, a silent guardian, a listener.

Cal-raven had sculpted, erased, and then reshaped Auralia’s lips, her eyebrows with their question pinched between them, her whole face filled with trembling hope that others would receive and understand her vision. She had been more than human. Or better, she had been more fully human than anyone around her.

The king’s hunting hound, his golden tail wagging, sniffed at the statue’s ankles. “Hagah.” The dog slumped down to the floor and sighed, resigned to wait.

That fabric the statue held––Cal-raven had not even tried to give it the textures and colors of Auralia’s cloak. How could he? Its threads had glimmered with colors no eyes in Abascar had ever seen.

“Tell the Keeper,” he whispered, “that I don’t know where to go from here.” He ran his fingertips along the span that spilled like a waterfall from her upturned hands. “When I was a child, I’d have called out myself. It was easier then to believe.”

Auralia’s expression did not change; it would not unless he changed it. Her polished eyes would not return his gaze for, in the tradition of House Abascar portraiture, they lacked detail. While each statue in the cavern was distinct––the beloved and the burdensome, the wise and the foolish, the soldiers and the miscreants––they shared that same indecipherable gaze, an affirmation of something altogether unnamable, inimitable. The mystery of the heart.

Embarrassed at his habit of addressing this likeness, he knuckle-knocked Auralia’s forehead. “Last visit. Watch over these worn-out people for me, will you?”

Something shifted in the cavern behind him. Hagah lifted his head and followed his master’s gaze through the long rows of statues.

“Wynn?” Cal-raven waited.

Hagah’s huge black nose emerged from flabby rolls of fur and sniffed. Then the dog set his chin back down on the ground.

“You’ll catch our pesky shadow in a dream, won’t you?” Cal-raven said, but he gave another look back.

Why am I so agitated tonight? he wondered.

Because some of them are turning against you, replied his father’s ghostly voice. It’s been almost a year. You’ve mentioned New Abascar, but you still haven’t shown them a plan.

The statues that crowded the Hall of Remembering listened. These extravagant stone monuments gave shape to Cal-raven’s promise that he would never let his people forget the lessons they’d learned and that they would build a new house to honor those lost in Abascar’s cataclysm.

But the name grudgers, once given to those who had rebelled against their previous king’s oppressive ways, now applied to people distrustful of Cal-raven. Grudgers objected to his embrace of the foolish along with the wise; his equal concern for the weak and the strong; his insistence that every person, no matter how “useful,” be fed and shown the care of their healer. Moreover, grudgers grumbled about the way Cal-raven gambled their futures on possibilities revealed to him in dreams.

Tonight Cal-raven had taken the fire walk. Lesyl’s turn had come, but he had offered to patrol the passages for her. He wanted to hear her sing the Evening Verse one last time before his departure the next sundown.

“I’ve written a piece that can only be played by two, ”Lesyl had said when the fire walk brought him to the chamber of Auralia’s gallery. Sitting against the wall decorated by an array of colorful weavings, she tuned the twelve stringed tharpe, a formidable, sonorous instrument. She seemed relaxed, even happy, and oblivious that this was a farewell.

“Here.” She picked up a wooden spiral. “You remember how to play the hewson-pipe, don’t you? Oh, come now, don’t tell me you lack the time. You need the practice. ”When he did not approach, she persisted. “Scared?”

“No,” he laughed. Yes, he thought.

He had torn himself away from that conversation to continue the fire walk for fear of losing his fragile restraint. Not now. Not yet.

So while she sang, he paced that routine progress, ensuring that torches would not spark any mishaps, that candles burned within the spheres prescribed, that everything was in its right place.

He had led these survivors through a hostile winter and a dispiriting spring. Just as they had begun to define a possible departure, a visit from the mage sent him scrambling in another direction. Tomorrow he would slip away and venture north to pursue the vision his teacher had given him.

The day will come, Cal-raven, when you’ll have no choice but to leave Scharr ben Fray’s imagination behind and live in the real world. His father’s fury buzzed in his ear like a skeeter-fly. If you don’t, the ground will crumble beneath you.

Facing his father’s likeness, Cal-raven felt his throat tighten. “Whose inventions plunged into the earth?”

Listen to me, boy!You’re too old for toys.Who will lead the people when I’m gone? Someone whose head is full of children’s stories?

“Show me someone better prepared for the task,” he said. “I do not enjoy the burdens you’ve left me. ”He took the shield from where it was draped over the shoulder of the king’s likeness.

The statue’s lips were parted, and a strange feeling of discomfort crept up Cal-raven’s spine. He did not know what scared him more—the thought of the stone speaking or the thought that his dreams might prove false.

Hagah’s inquisitive nose bumped the edge of Cal-marcus’s shield, and he woofed.

“You’re not waiting for him anymore, are you?”

A rough tongue exploded from the hound’s expansive smile, and his tail thumped against the floor.

“You’ve given up on them both.” Cal-raven’s gaze strayed to the statue of his mother. The runaway.

It was a good likeness, or so he’d been told. Jaralaine’s appearance seemed an echo lost in time’s clamor. But troubled scowls from older folk told him that they recognized this imperious beauty. He did remember occasional tenderness and sighs of insatiable loneliness before her disappearance. He also remembered a fury against any suggestion of a will greater than her own.

He found himself suspended between the gravity of these statues and the forested world beyond, which called to him like a feast to a starving man.

“We’re all ready to be runaways now, Mother. If we don’t leave soon, the bonds that bind us will break.”

Hagah sniffed the base of the queen’s statue.

“No!” Cal-raven shouted.

Disappointed, the dog lumbered off through the rows to settle on the lanky figure of a hunter known by his nickname—Arrowhead.

Go ahead, Cal-raven thought. Arrowhead was a grudger. He threatened my father’s life. Wouldn’t hurt him to take some abuse for a change.

Hagah would have merrily complied, but the sound of something slithering sent him bounding back to Cal-raven’s boots, fangs shining beneath his retracting lip. Cal-raven blew out and dropped the candle, held his father’s shield close, and knelt to withdraw the throwing knife at his ankle.

There was only silence. Cal-raven tiptoed through the statues, Hagah stalking low before him.

The dog led him to the western wall, where a corridor ran along the inside of the cliff. Hagah put his snout down to a crack in the floor, noisily drawing in air. His tail stopped wagging.

“What have you found, boy?”

Hagah stiffened. Then he began to back away from the fissure, a low, rolling growl changing into a worried squeal.

“Something nasty?” Scars like burns from rivulets of hot oil marked the floor all about the break. “Let’s go. This place is giving me jitters tonight.”

A puff of wind touched his ear and then––thung! He turned to see an arrow embedded in the wall beside his head.

He sprang forward, leaping over the dog, and ran through the corridor. Down the stairs. Through tiers of tunnels.

In the distance Lesyl sang the Evening Verse. But his pursuer—pursuers, he could hear their footsteps now—did not falter.

Hagah turned around snarling. “No!” Cal-raven knew the dog was no match for an arrow. “Run, boy!” He pointed, and the dog bolted ahead just as he had been trained.

Cal-raven did not follow. He faced the rugged wall, placing his hands against the rock. His fingertips sought hidden inconsistencies, and finding those points, he applied pressure and heat in a way he could never explain.

The stone awakened, rippling in a sudden wind.

Cal-raven’s body clenched like a fist, forcing energy out through his hands. Then he pressed himself through the wavering curtain.

A midsummer evening’s breeze cooled his burning face as the sand sealed itself behind him.

The grudgers are out of patience. He brushed grit from his garments. It would not take long for his hunters to find their own exit. They were watching.Waiting for me to be alone.

“Keeper, protect me,” he murmured. Crouching, he moved away from the cliffs into narrow paths through thorn-barbed thickets that blanketed the plains.

Several turns into that maze, he sat down to catch his breath. I must get back inside where it’s crowded.

He thought about standing up and calling for the guards on the tiers above. But they would not see him here in the brake. And what else might come in answer?

A strange wind moved through the shallow sea of thorns. Bramble bugs skrritch-skrritched across the plains. Something wriggled under his foot. He set his father’s shield aside, tugged off his boot, and shook loose a rock spider.

He looked up through the brambled frame. A shooting star scratched a line across the night’s black dome. As if excited by the mysterious sign, faraway wood dogs shrieked in song.

When he jerked his sleeve free of a bramble and stood, his rustling stirred up a cloud of twilight-suckers. These insects were always a help to hunters, for they uttered tiny shrieks of delight as they descended on fresh dung or carrion.

Sure enough, as the pest cloud dissipated, he saw two copper coins. He knew that reflective stare from a hundred hunts. A lurkdasher. A year ago the sight of this swift, bushy-tailed creature would not have surprised Cal-raven. Lurkdashers were common burrowers in beds of brush. But Abascar’s best hunters had been catching little more than weakened scavengers, rodents lean for lack of prey. Across the Expanse the land had gone quiet, as if emptied by some mass migration.

If Cal-raven had been out for any other purpose, he’d have thrown his knife so fast the dasher would have fallen mid sprint. But he stayed still. Something wasn’t right.

The lurkdasher vanished. Cal-raven stood in the quiet, just another secret in this complicated night.

Then he felt a chill. He could sense a presence, fierce and intent.

He turned his head slightly and drew in a deep breath. Only a stone’s throw to his right an enormous animal, many legged, lurked in the thick web of boughs. He held that breath and waited, eyes slowly translating the contours of darkness and deeper darkness all around him.

Like a mighty hand, the creature clutched the ground, tensing knuckled legs. The bushes around it shivered as the lurkdasher stole away, and like a spider the creature raised two of its front legs from the brambles, bracing the other five against the ground. It was as big as a fang bear. Cal-raven felt a faint tremor. Then he heard a hiss, and the creature shifted its weight slightly, turning those raised limbs toward him.

Considering the sword at his side, he flexed his hand.

A crush of branches sounded to his left. His heart fluttered, a trapped bird, frantic. He turned and saw the second creature—the very same kind—with its feet planted as if it might pounce. In terrified confusion he saw the wind disturb a canvas that the creature drew behind it, a dark black sheet covering the thorns.

He did not know these monstrosities. They looked like they could outrun a viscorcat. And the forest was a long, long run ahead of him through a narrow, winding passage that he could not see clearly. But the cliffs—he might just make it back to the wall. The solid stone wall.

Ever so slowly he planted his hand on the hilt of his sword. He stepped backward, placing his foot down soundlessly.

The creatures stood as still as sculpted metal.

He took another step, drawing his sword half out of its scabbard. No, he thought. The starlight. They’ll see the reflection.

At his third step the creature on the right planted its two raised feet down on the ground, digging in as if it might spring.

He heard movement behind him and felt a blast of air like a bellows. His feeble hopes went out. But something deeper than his mind, stronger than his will, unleashed a cry. He called out, as he had so many times in nightmares, for the Keeper.

The creatures leapt from the brambles and seized him. His sword never escaped the scabbard.

He had a moment to think of Lesyl, interrupted in her song, looking up to receive unexpected news, the hewson-pipe coiled beside her.

Hot limbs wrapped around him, and his feet left the ground. The creatures were shelled, bone-tough, their bellies cushioned with bundles of hair. He struggled, limbs flailing. He was falling skyward, upside down. The pressure did not increase. Nothing pierced or stung or bit. The ground, faintly chalked in moonlight, spread like the sky over his head, and beyond his feet the heavens glittered like Deep Lake at midnight. The creatures held him suspended, their vast canvases snapping in the wind as if they were wings.

And then he saw that they were wings, spread out from a towering creature.

His captors were not animals at all but hands. He hung unharmed in the clawed clutches of a monster and was carried up toward its massive equine head.

Its eyes, glassy spheres full of stars, were fixed upon the northern horizon. Flames lined its nostrils. Its mane wavered as if it were creating, not surrendering to, the night wind. And the scales on its golden neck caught more than moonlight.

A helpless toy in its hands, he watched its attention turn to him, and his fear turned to confusion.

He recognized this creature. This shape had been fixed in his mind since he first drew breath. It had moved at the edges of his dreams. In nightmares it had come when he cried out for help, and sometimes when he could not call at all. During the long days of learning, he had pillaged his father’s history scrolls and hunting journals for evidence.

Nothing had prepared him for this. The creature drew in a cavernful of air, the shield-plates of its chest separating to reveal a soft lacework beneath. It held that breath. He knew it was reading him, reading the night, the skies. Then the curtains of its eyelids came down.

Are you kind? he thought. Dreams…speak true. Let the Keeper be kind.

The creature was stranger than anything he had sculpted when imagining its shape and dimensions. He felt embarrassed by his simplistic appeals, his feeble prayers. He was a mouse in the talons of a brascle, and as the creature reared up on the pillars of its hind legs, wing upon wing upon wing unfolding from its sides like sails on a great ship, he waited for judgment.

A sound like deep recognition ran tremulous through its form. Calraven thought it spoke his name––not the name given by his mother, but the name given by the powers that had crafted him—and every thread of his being burned with attention. As the eyes opened again, the stars within were moving.

It exhaled a scattering of sparks, but gently. The sound was like the Mystery Sea, roaring as it received the river flowing out through the Rushtide Inlet.

The air about the creature shuddered. A wave of noise beyond the range of Cal-raven’s hearing stunned him, conveying a word as clearly as if the creature had spoken. He would not, in the aftermath, know how to translate such a word. But it provoked in him an immediate resolve, a reverent promise.

He would follow. What else could one do when commanded by the Keeper?

Smoke and spice clouded the air and dizzied him. He was passed from clawed hands at the edges of the creature’s wings to one of its enormous, rough-fleshed feet, which held him like a woman’s hand cradling a bird. The creature set him down within a footprint on the path, and a wind whirled fiercely about him. Squinting up through the storm, he saw that the creature had taken flight.

In the space of a sigh, it was gone, a succession of lights darkening across the sky, northward over the Cragavar forest. Cal-raven lay helpless and numb like a discarded doll in the Keeper’s footprint.

Breath burst back into his lungs. He heaved, folding and fighting, a bird shaking away the shards of a shell.

It came when I called.

Never more invigorated, never more single-minded in purpose, he smiled back toward the cliffs. He had been changed.

In that moment everything changed for House Abascar as well. It began with a jolt, not a tremor.

Tabor Jan had been yawning as he reclined atop a boulder and counted the brightening stars. Sleep, out of reach for many nights, had seemed almost possible.

But then the ground beneath him bucked like a furious steed.He scrambled to the path, unsheathing his sword as if he might smite the earth in reprimand. From deep within Barnashum came a sound like hundreds of drums. The shaking intensified. The refuge exhaled clouds of dust through shielded entryways.

“Not part of the plan,” he muttered.

Rubble spilled down the cliffs in the quiet that followed, dust sighing into the thickets below.

“Cal-raven,” he said. Another name came to mind. Brevolo.

Then came a distant cacophony of voices. Rivers of people were rushing out onto the open ledges.

Even as he scanned the scene for the woman he loved, Tabor Jan pushed his way through the crowds, shouting to soldiers that their first priority was to find Cal-raven.

Hagah bounded suddenly into Tabor Jan’s path. The soldier seized the dog’s flabby neck. “Hagah—Cal-raven!”

Thrilled by the command, the dog turned as if jerked by a chain and almost threw himself off the cliffs. It was all the captain could do to keep up with him.

He found himself running toward the sound of triumphant yelps beyond the base of the cliffs. Dog had found master. The king was alive.

Kneeling among the brambles, Cal-raven embraced Hagah, blinking as if he’d been knocked silly by a falling stone.

“Are you hurt?” Tabor Jan scanned the shadowed ground.

“Didn’t you see it?” Cal-raven pointed north toward the Cragavar.

“See it? I felt it. I think they may have felt it in Bel Amica. We may have cave-ins. I’m taking you back.”

“No, not the quake,” said Cal-raven, exhilarated. “Didn’t you see it?”

Tabor Jan braced himself. “See…what?”Then the exuberance of Calraven’s

expression triggered a spasm of alarm. “No! Don’t say it!”

“But Tabor Jan, I saw—”

“Swallow that story, my lord!” He would have preferred a beast man sighting. “Don’t speak of it to the people. Especially not tonight.”

“Not tonight! What could bring them more comfort than to hear—”

“If the grudgers hear you respond to this quake with some wild description of a phantom on our doorstep—”

“Grudgers attacked me tonight.”

“Did you see their faces?”

“No, but I became acquainted with their arrows.” He laughed. “I also became quite familiar with the Keeper. Nose-to-nose, in fact.”

Tabor Jan scowled. “I haven’t slept for so long I’m having nightmares while I’m awake.”

“It pointed me north, Tabor Jan! We’ve got to ride—”

“We’ll ride tomorrow, Cal-raven. Just as you planned.” He urged Cal-raven back toward the cliffs, and they clambered over piles of rubble newly shaken from the heights. A tumult of voices filled the sky.

Hurrying down a steep ridge, an enormous guard came stumbling to meet them.

“Bowlder, how many are hurt?”

“Cave-in!” he wheezed. “Must…dig out…three people.”

“I assume you’ve called for Say-ressa. Without her healing hands we…” Tabor Jan stopped, stricken as he read Bowlder’s expression.

He turned to Cal-raven, but the king was strangely preoccupied with the moon above the northern horizon.