Author/Editor Mishael Austin Witty – Hope & healing in the face of "real life" struggles


Tuesdays with Yeshua: Treasury of Bible Stories (Book Review)

tuesdays with yeshua jesus

As a Christian mother, I’m always on the lookout for good tools to help me teach my children about Christ – you know, things that will help build and grow their faith. I recently had the opportunity to read and review a fabulous book that does just that. It’s the TREASURY OF BIBLE STORIES: RHYTHMICAL RHYMES OF BIBLICAL TIMES from the Magnificent Tales series by Kelly Pulley, published by David C. Cook.

Treasury of Bible Stories one sheet (1)You can check out the book trailer on YouTube.

There are so many things I love about this book. The rhymes are fantastic. The pictures are amazing. And this book really does a fabulous job engaging its target audience – four- to eight-year-olds. My own girls are three and five, and they both love hearing the stories from this book. My five-year-old wants to read it every night before she goes to bed, and I’m more than happy to oblige her. Even my husband enjoys reading this book, and he’s not nearly as big a reader as I am. That, I think, says a lot about this charming book’s wide appeal!

treasury of bible stories review

This book has done exactly what the author and the publisher intended. It’s instilled a keen interest in God’s Word in my own little girl’s heart, and I’m praying that seed grows massively over time. I’m so thankful I was fortunate enough to receive a free review copy of this book.

But you know what’s even better? I’ve been given permission to give away ANOTHER copy to ONE LUCKY WINNER on this blog. And I’m making it super easy for you to enter. All you have to do is leave me a comment on this blog post. That’s it! The winner will be chosen and notified no later than 11:59 PM, Friday, September 26th..

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Friday Free-for-All: Music Review: THE IDENTICAL Motion Picture Soundtrack Sampler

Friday Free-for-All


I’m taking a break from talking about books this week to discuss something a little different – still fun, but really different. I recently signed up to be part of the FlyBy Promotions Blogger Network, and as such I get access to some fabulous faith- and family-based DVDs, books, Christian music, and more.

One of their most recent offerings was a CD sampler of soundtrack music from the new movie, THE IDENTICAL, which comes out next Friday, September 5th (the CD of the full soundtrack also becomes available on that date).

The IDENTICAL tells the compelling story of twin brothers unknowingly separated at birth during the Great Depression. DREXEL HEMSLEY becomes an iconic 50’s rock ’n’ roll star, while RYAN WADE (Blake Rayne) struggles to balance his love for music and pleasing his father. The Reverend Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd) are sure their adopted son has been gifted and called by God to be a preacher. But Ryan challenges his parent’s vision for his life, and unflinchingly chooses to launch his own music career with his best friend (Seth Green). Encouraged by his wife (Erin Cottrell) and employer (Joe Pantoliano), Ryan embarks on an unpredictable, provocative path – performing the legendary music of Drecel Hemsley in sold out venues all across the country. As the brothers’ destinies tragically collide, Ryan discovers that Drexel is his identical twin, which leads him to question everything he’s ever believed about God, family, and his own identity.

Click here to go to the official movie website or its Facebook page.

And check out the official movie trailer.

I got a free review copy of the soundtrack sampler, and one lucky winner of my Rafflecopter giveaway (click on the picture below to enter) will receive their very own copy.

G L A D S W O O D  C N R  -  D R I N K S




About the soundtrack sampler:

THE IDENTICAL ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK SAMPLER features 12 of the 20 original songs by Jerry Marcellino and Yochanan Marcellino from the film. Including “Your Love’s Keepin’ Me Tonight,” “City Lights,” “Angel of Mine,” “Everybody Knows It” and “Nashville Tonight.”

Here are my thoughts on the CD:

Honestly, at first, I wanted to turn off the CD as soon as I started it. It didn’t give me a good first impression, but that’s because I was expecting something completely different, based on the 50’s-inspired poster image. I was expecting young, cool Elvis, but the CD starts off with “City Lights,” which is more representative of old, fat Elvis.

However, this CD quickly grew on me, and the second time I listened to it, I loved it even more. “City Lights,” for all its “Fat Elvis” vibe, has a VERY catchy tune, and I sing it to myself often. :-)

There are some real gems on this CD – “Your Love’s Keeping Me Tonight,” with its haunting melody, is one of the CD’s best songs. And I LOVED the bluegrass number “Burnin’ Rubber.” I listened to that song a few times in a row, I loved it so much. The updated soul version of Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” was fairly well executed, and the song itself is solid. “Angel of Mine” was another one of my favorites. It has a nice melody and some great harmonies, but it has a funky, metallic-sounding background to it that I didn’t really care for much. Still, it was easy enough to focus on the vocals and ignore the background. And the last song, the instrumental “One Child,” was simply gorgeous! A perfect way to end the CD on just the right note.

Do I recommend this CD? Yes, I definitely do. And the movie looks like it will be very good too. Check it out when it hits theaters next week. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to win your own copy of the sampler. Click the image above, or you can visit my Facebook page and enter there (look for the “Giveaway” tab).  Leave a comment on this blog post, and you automatically earn three entries. I love it when you guys interact with me. :-)

And don’t forget to share this post with your friends to let them in on all the fun too!

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for a giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Wedding Planner Wednesdays: Benedictine Sandwiches

Wedding Planner Wednesdays

When I was about 10 years old, my grandmother introduced me to something called benedictine. She said it was made from cucumbers and cream cheese. I tried it and instantly fell in love with it, and it’s still one of my favorite foods today. 

It turns out, benedictine is a local concoction (local to me, that is). It was created at the beginning of the 20th century by Ms. Jennie Carter Benedict, a Louisville caterer and cookbook author. Here, in town, we can buy it pre-made in most grocery stores, but I hear this isn’t the case in many other places.

So, since we’re getting ready for the big release of our SAN FRANCISCO WEDDING PLANNER SERIES II tomorrow, I have my character, Skye (and her obsession with cucumbers) on the brain, so this seems like the perfect time to present this benedictine recipe.

This would make a delicious sandwich spread for an elegant afternoon wedding reception, and it could even be served as an appetizing dip at an evening reception. This recipe makes enough for 24 full sandwiches (or 96 finger sandwiches), so you might have to tweak the ingredient amounts a bit for a larger or smaller affair.

This recipe is slightly different from Ms. Benedict’s original recipe, but it’s still delicious.

ky benedictine sandwich

Here’s what you’ll need to make this  

  • 2 (8-oz.) packages Philadelphia Whipped Chive Cream Cheese
  • 1 medium seeded, finely chopped or grated cucumber (makes up about 1 cup prepared) 
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp dill seed
  • 2 tbsps mayonnaise 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 drops green food coloring
  • 48 white, wheat, or rye bread slices

Here’s what you’ll need to do to make this

Blend the first 9 ingredients together. Spread the mixture on 1 side of 24 bread slices. Then, top with the remaining 24 bread slices. If desired, trim the crusts off the sandwiches (I usually don’t do this because I like the crusts), and cut each sandwich into 4 pieces, either diagonally or horizontally/vertically. These can be served immediately, but they can also be refrigerated (in aluminum foil) for 8 to 12 hours.

Cucumber, cucumbers, and more cucumbers

Did my early attraction to benedictine inspire me to give my character, Skye, a cucumber obsession? Not consciously, but maybe it did on a subconscious level. It’s funny how our brains work sometimes, even when we don’t really know that they are. 

If you’re as interested in cucumbers as I am (or even half as interested), and you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think of it, so leave me a comment. And, if you want to learn more about THE SAN FRANCISCO WEDDING PLANNER, check out the awesome new series tab at the Helping Hands Press website. We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday Free-for-All: God’s Sense of Timing

Friday Free-for-All

I found out yesterday that another story I submitted to CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL was rejected (because one of my Facebook friends posted about her acceptance notification). So far, with them, I’m batting 0 for 5. My point? Don’t come to me asking for advice about how to break into that series of books. I obviously don’t have the answers. ;-)

Last night (as I was driving home in my car with the low gas light blaring at me with a bag full of Pull-Ups for my girls that I took from my mother because we didn’t have the money in the bank to get any at the store), I thought about that story. I’d written about how my husband and I always count the bunnies we see as a sort of good omen…but “omen” isn’t really the right word. It’s more like a little love note from God, saying, “Hey. I love you. I’ve got your back. Don’t worry.” Around our house, if it’s a “bunny day,” it’s a good day.

So, I’m driving and complaining to God about how there STILL doesn’t seem to be money coming in, and I’m STILL not getting accepted by CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, when everyone else I know is… blah blah blah. (What did they have against my bunny story, anyway? You DO want me to be a writer, right? Where’s the pay-off?) Boo-hoo. Wah! BLECH!

At that precise moment, there, on the side of the road, I see a HUGE bunny rabbit. Not like “Harvey” huge, but bigger than the ones I normally see. And I smiled…and then I got angry at myself…and then I cried tears of brokenness and repentance. I’m fussing and complaining and doubting God, and there He is…dropping me yet another little “love note”: Hey. Speaking of bunnies…Remember Me? I love you. I’ve still got your back. I’m not going to let go. Stop doubting and worrying. Believe Me.

And I started thinking: Maybe millions of people weren’t meant to read that bunny story. Maybe it’s only meant for me and my husband. But, since this is my blog, I thought: Hey. Why not post it here, so at least someone can read it. Not that I’m expecting fame and fortune from it…but I want others to be blessed. I want to point others to God, more than anything else. And, maybe I’m wrong, but I think this little story does that pretty well. So, here’s my latest CSFTS reject:

Counting the Bunnies

The call came in just before 9 PM, jarring me out of an exhausted slumber. Groggily wiping the sleep from my eyes, I glanced at the caller ID. If I didn’t recognize this number, no way was I answering the call.

My father’s cell phone number glared back at me. I sighed and tapped on the cordless handset’s “Talk” button. “Hello?”

“I hate to ask you to do this, but do you think you can go over to the house and let Carrie out to go to the bathroom?”

“Right now?” I asked, half-asleep.

“Yes. I’m still up here at the hospital, and it’s been hours since I was home. She really needs to go out.”

I nodded, knowing how pointless it was because he couldn’t see it. “Okay, sure. I’ll go right over.” What else could I say? I grabbed my car keys and purse, kissed my husband, gave him last-minute instructions for getting the girls into bed, and rushed out the door.

Driving for once without the distraction of two screaming kids in the backseat, I decided to use the time to voice my frustrations to the one person (besides my husband) who would let me express myself honestly without judging me. “I don’t understand why this is happening. I can’t do this anymore. I’m tired, and I want things to get back to normal!” I prayed out loud, punctuating each phrase by slamming my palms against the steering wheel.

As rough as the day had been, the previous weeks had been even harder. Just nine days after my mother had major heart surgery—valve repair and a double bypass—that only improved her heart’s functioning to 40%, instead of the 60% they were hoping for, her mother had a stroke, rendering her incapable of even answering her phone. My mother and I were the ones who found her and called 911.

Mom was still unable to drive and my father had to go in to work very early, so I was the one who had to make sure Mom got to the hospital, and then later to the rehab facility, every morning so she could be with Grammy. And then I went back to Mom’s house and made sure I let her dog out to go to the bathroom and ensured that her cats had enough food and clean litter pans—every day, all while trying to take care of my four-year-old and two-year-old daughters.

I was tired—physically, mentally, and emotionally. And, to be honest, my spiritual life was suffering as well, my time with God having been reduced to these screaming, crying temper-tantrum diatribes in the car on the way to my next responsibility. There was no “quiet time” for me anymore; only chaos and cacophony.

That Saturday night, though, a wonderful thing happened as I drove toward my parents’ house to let the dog out yet again. A rabbit hopped across the path in front of me, far enough away that there was no danger of me hitting it, but close enough that I saw it definitely was a bunny rabbit.

I gasped and sighed in relief. The bunny was safe. Smiling, I glanced up into the darkened sky, tears streaming down my cheeks. “Thank You, God.” It was a “bunny day”.

I’m not sure when I first started noticing bunnies in yards, or on the street, and equating this with “having a good day”. It was certainly before I was married, maybe even before my husband and I started dating. I know it was part of our normal dating routine—counting the bunnies we saw as we drove.

He was working as an over-the-road truck driver when we first started dating, so any time we got to spend together was precious. For this reason, he’d drive me to work and pick me up, giving us some extra time each day he was in town to talk and get to know each other better. It was on one of these trips that I told him about the “bunny days”. I think I caught a glimpse of two together in the same yard. Pretty soon, he was looking for them too. He’d pick me up from work and proudly announce with a big smile on his face, “I saw three bunnies today, so it’s definitely a very good day!”

Where we live, squirrels are all over the place, but rabbits are much less common and, because of that, they’re much more special. My husband and I are both animal lovers, so it’s natural we would get excited about seeing these cute little furry critters at either the start or end of every day. Each one of those bunnies we counted was even more thrilling than the previous one, and because we were doing this together, it became one of “our things”—and it still is today, ten years later.

During that decade, a lot of good things have happened to us—we got married (obviously), we both got higher-paying jobs, we bought a bigger house, and we had two beautiful, healthy baby girls. A lot of bad things have happened to us too, though—I had a miscarriage, my mother-in-law died eight months after we were married, my husband also lost both an aunt and an uncle, my job was eliminated, we were foreclosed on twice, forcing us into bankruptcy, and then my mother and grandmother got seriously ill at the same time, so now we’re coping with that. But, through it all, I keep seeing bunnies and counting them, and so does my husband.

Those bunnies have become bigger symbols to us over the years. More than just cute, furry little animals, they’re emblems of God’s provision and blessing. Bad things creep in, sometimes daily, but so do the “bunnies”. By counting physical bunnies every day for so long, my husband and I were training ourselves (without really knowing it) to count the figurative bunnies, the blessings that come with each new day that help to ease the pain of the trials. They’re there—always—you just have to learn to look for them.

And you know what I’ve discovered? The more you search for them, the more you’re going to find. Even in the midst of heartache, agony, and earth-shattering loss, the “bunnies” are there, just as God reminded me by having the physical bunny cross my path that Saturday night as I drove to my parents’ house. I saw it. I counted it, and it reminded me that God is always with me, and His blessings are always available to me, no matter what’s going on around me. All I have to do is look for them, count them, and thank Him.

Tuesdays with Yeshua: A Beautiful Defeat by Kevin Malarkey (Book Review)

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Kevin Malarkey, in his book, A Beautiful Defeat: Find true freedom and purpose in total surrender to God, handles a tough subject: surrender. It’s not one many people (myself included) want to even think about, let alone apply to their own personal walk with God. But it’s something that God calls us to – and something we need to be doing on a daily basis, if we truly want to live lives that are totally sold out to Him. 

beautiful defeat cover

In this book, Malarkey provides 10 actionable steps anyone can take to move toward surrendering to the One who is worthy of all our devotion, love, trust, and service. I understand that this book is going to make some people uncomfortable, but that’s just what it’s meant to do. If we’re truly surrendered to God, that’s going to make us uncomfortable. I don’t have a problem with that at all.

Yeshua said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23, NASB). 

See that? We must deny ourselves. We have to, if we’re really going to live in a way that is pleasing to God. Malarkey makes this point in a number of different ways, using scripture, his own personal experiences, and the experiences of others. The writing is engaging, and the message is powerful.  

This was another instance of God putting the exact book I needed in my hands at the exact right time. No big surprise, since God’s timing is always perfect. He’s been dealing with me for a while now about faith and surrender, and this book is just one of the many tools He has used to draw me closer to Him. It’s a fabulous, life-changing book, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to go deeper with God by getting rid of the parts of themselves that don’t honor Him.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Mommy Memoir Mondays: I Want to Look Like You

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A couple of weeks ago, our church had a big kick-off for their upcoming Vacation Bible School. My husband and I took our two girls, and they had a blast!

One of the activities was a face-painting booth. The girl in charge of the booth asked my five-year-old if she wanted to get her face painted, and my little girl shook her head vehemently. She wanted no part of that. The three-year-old was game, though.

“What picture do you want painted on your face?” the girl asked.

Without missing a beat, my little three-year-old said, “Mommy.”

“Aw, how sweet! I’m sorry. I can’t draw your mommy, but how about a star?”

So we settled for the star.

Then, the face-painting girl looked at me and said, “That’s really a wonderful tribute to you.”

And the more I think about it, the more I absolutely agree. My little girl wants to look like me more than anything else. :-)

But that also reminded me of how we are supposed to want to look like our Heavenly Father more than anything else. We’re created in His image, but we’ve gotten so far away from our original design because of sin that it’s hard for us to even imagine that it’s possible for us to look like Him. Except it is…

He’s made it possible by giving us His Son, Yeshua.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers,” Paul tells us in Romans 8:29 (NIV). 

We, as Christians, should want to look like Yeshua…but even more than that, the Holy Spirit is working inside us to make sure that we do grow to look like Yeshua. What does this look like? Paul gives us a glimpse in his letter to the Galatians. The “fruit” (work) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (5:22-23).

Ultimately, though, Yeshua showed total obedience to the Father – total surrender. And He laid down His life for all of us. That’s what it means to look like Yeshua in the very purest form of imitation: surrender and sacrifice. Neither one of these are easy things to do, but they’re absolutely crucial if we’re going to be who God wants us to be.

Most likely, my daughter won’t have to surrender or sacrifice to look like me. I think she’ll grow to look more and more like me as she gets older because she looks quite a bit like me now, as does her older sister. My main job now is to lead them to want to look like Yeshua more than they want anything else, and I pray every day for that to happen.    

Mommy Memoir Mondays: Book Review: The Berenstain Bears – God Shows the Way

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Today I’m going introduce a book I just recently became acquainted with, and I had the pleasure of sharing it with my children – The Berenstain Bears: God Shows the Way (3 Books in 1).

This is an I Can Read! Level 1 (Beginning Reading) book for children. The stories in this book all feature the beloved Berenstain Bears family and one other bear named Fred. My daughter asked who he was, and I couldn’t remember him from my own days of reading Berenstain Bears books. Friend? Cousin? I don’t know. I just told her he was a friend. In these stories, the little bears (and the little children reading them, as well) learn all about how having faith in God will get you through any difficult situation, how you don’t need to fear because God is always with you, and how you can be a good steward of the money God has blessed you with…and how you can even use it to bless others.

berenstain bears.cover

I have one beginning reader (she’s just started recognizing some words and phrases on her own) and one preschooler who is not yet ready to read by herself. So, when the opportunity to review this book came along, I had a feeling it might have been too advanced for them, but the title mentioned God, and it was a Berenstain Bears book, so I decided to give it a try, anyway. I was not disappointed!

The illustrations were typical Berenstain drawings – engaging and of very high quality. The stories were well structured and entertaining and they all had a good message; however, at times I felt that the biblical message was a bit contrived. I mean, the almost constant quoting of the Bible (the Good Book, as Mama Bear calls it – I had to explain that to my five-year-old) seemed to be just a bit unnatural and sometimes slightly out of context. I loved the fact that the verses were included, I just wish that they had been fit into the stories a bit better.

Still, my five-year-old loved this book. She made me read the whole thing to her twice in one sitting, and anytime a book gets more than one read in a session at our house, it’s a sure winner. The three-year-old was less interested, but that’s to be expected – both because of the level of the book and because she’s never been as interested in books as her sister is. She did, however, come around during the second reading and sit and listen for a bit. I took that as a good sign!

I have no problem recommending this book to anyone who has small children. It’s a great family read!

Ralene Burke, Author

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