Wedding Planner Wednesdays: TEAM US – MARRIAGE TOGETHER by Ashleigh Slater (Book Review & Giveaway)

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What are you agreeing to when you say “I do”? When a couple promises “I do,” they agree to more than just a shared last name, a joint bank account, and no more dateless nights. This husband and wife duo forms a new team. “Life together” becomes their mantra. Nothing can come between them. At least, that’s the plan. But then real life sets in. With it come disappointments and frustrations. If the couple isn’t intentional in their day-to-day interactions, that once enthusiastic “we” can slowly revert to “you” and “me.” Before long, the couple’s left wondering what happened to their team spirit.
Team Us: Marriage Together offers couples practical ways to cultivate and strengthen unity in their marriages. Author Ashleigh Slater shares from her own marriage as she presents couples with realistic ideas on how to foster cooperation, deepen commitment, and exercise grace on a daily basis.
 “Finishing your marriage story well is definitely within your reach, no matter what your history tells you.”
Check out the book trailer HERE & hear from Ashleigh Slater HERE.
 
Check out Ashleigh’s blog HERE
 
Check out the official website HERE (you can read an excerpt here to see if you’d like it!)
My personal take:

There were some good parts to this book – some good pieces of advice. I loved the curling analogy. The personal stories were interesting, and I did enjoy hearing from Ted. In fact, I kind of wished we’d heard more from Ted and less from Ashleigh. Her “voice” grated on my nerves after a while. At times, she seemed quite shallow and self-centered, and I began to think Ted must be a super-amazing man for staying married to her as long as he has. But that’s what you do (what you’re supposed to do) when you’re married. You stay together no matter what…as long as you’re not putting yourself in danger by doing so (As in the case of a truly abusive relationship, which this book didn’t touch on at all – but then, that’s not a team. It’s not an “Us” vs. “Them” mentality; it’s a “me” vs. “you” mentality. ).

The thing I really disliked was her idea of “payback.” As in, Ted “made” her sit through THE BLACK HOLE, so she made him sit through a Cary Grant movie or two…or three – as payback. I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong. If you have different tastes or interests, you don’t force the other person to get into them…and you certainly don’t use it as blackmail or a manipulation tool to get what you want later on.

A personal example: my husband is a die-hard Southern gospel fan. I’ve always felt like Southern gospel (for the most part) was a horrific mix of twang, whine, and cheesy soundtracks that should never have made it to the mainstream. But I let him listen to it in the car because I love him, and I know he loves Southern gospel music. And sometimes he changes the channel to the contemporary Christian music station or the classical station because he knows I prefer that music, and he loves me. Sometimes he even lets me play my old CDs – including Nirvana (but I asked him first – I didn’t tell him he had to because I was tired of him “making” me listen to Southern gospel all the time), which he stood for all of about two minutes before he couldn’t take it anymore…and I shut it off without grumbling because (I repeat) I love him, and I realize that life is not all about me and what I like or want all the time. My marriage shouldn’t be either.

Also, I would have liked to see a section on how to deal with meddling (and sometimes completely hostile) in-laws. But I get the sense that both Ted and Ashleigh come from very loving, supportive families – which is great for them, but it’s not the reality for most of us. There’s a hole there that I think needs to be filled.

Another thing that bothered me about this book was the ongoing “lament of the rich white girl.” I couldn’t relate well to it. My husband and I have experienced many of the same things Ashleigh and Ted have faced – except when we went from a two-paycheck household to a one-paycheck household we didn’t already have a nice nest egg tucked away to fall back on. We were living two-paychecks to two-paychecks…and then we had to go without with two little mouths to feed, so we lost both the houses we couldn’t make payments on because one of them wouldn’t sell). But we stuck it out together without questioning because to us, it’s not about what we have materially. It’s about what we have relationally. There was no blaming or shaming. That’s just life. It happens, and you deal with it, and you move on. You don’t end the most important human relationship you’ll ever have just because of a few setbacks. It’s a no-brainer.

I don’t know. I’m sure this book could be helpful to some people (my husband says he knows of a few people he works with who could benefit from reading this), but it’s not really for me (maybe because I’m already in a good “team” marriage?). I can imagine it would be an excellent gift for a young newly married couple or a recently engaged couple…just to give them a sense of what might be in store for them later on. Give them some things to think about and time to plan their responses to the difficulties they might face in their marriages. But marriage isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Other couples may experience different trials, but they have to be committed to working through these trials together (indeed, if they’re not willing to commit to this, they shouldn’t get married in the first place). So, I agree wholeheartedly with the premise of this book, but the execution was severely lacking.

Still, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can win a copy of this book for yourself.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post. Push back. Tell me I’m being too hard on the book or whatever. Make sure you watch the trailer and read the book excerpt (check out the links above). Comment any time from now until Friday, February 6, 2015 @ 11:59 PM EST, and you’ll be entered to win.

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.

Tuesdays with Yeshua: The Animal Self vs. the Diabolical Self

Mishael Austin Witty:

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I ran across this post the other day, and it struck me that this girl doesn’t really have a very clear understanding of what C.S. Lewis was trying to say.

Yes, sin is sin, but he’s not trying to say it’s not. He’s making the distinction between two parts of every human being…the “Animal Self’ – that is, the part of us that acts on instinct (going in search of food and drink, sex/intimacy, companionship, shelter, etc.). This part (to my way of thinking) is not INHERENTLY sinful, but it can BECOME sinful if we do not put these instinctual wants and desires under the control of the Holy Spirit.

And then there’s the “Diabolical Self,” which (again, as I understand it) is our SIN NATURE. It is INHERENTLY evil. It is the part of us that (thanks to Adam) has gone against God from the beginning. But (thanks to God and His free gift of grace through His Son, Yeshua) even though Adam ruined it for us all, Yeshua’s perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice made it possible for us all to be righteous in God’s sight (Romans 5:12-21).

Our instincts don’t blind us to the truth of who we are and what we need, but our own prideful, spiritual self-righteousness can. I think that’s Lewis’s point (and, indeed, Yeshua made a similar point in Luke 18:9-14). But, thank God, we can put to death both the Animal and the Diabolical Selves by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Originally posted on Living Out Loud:

Excerpt from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis 

“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither. “

Me Thinking Out loud: 

C.S. Lewis makes the comment that there are two forces with in us trying to make their dominance known.  They are the Animal Self and the Diabolical…

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Friday Free-for-All: Happy Birthday Freebie

Friday Free-for-All

Today is my firstborn’s sixth birthday. Here she is. Isn’t she cute? This was when she was still five. :-)

amanda loves God

So, to celebrate the six glorious years I’ve been able to call myself her mother, I’m going to offer my sweet Christmas romance novella, BELIEVE IN ME (normally 99 cents), absolutely free. It’s currently available on Smashwords, and here’s the coupon code (good until the 25th): ZZ59F.

The thing I love about Smashwords is you can download any version ebook you want: Kindle, Nook, or PDF…and more! Here’s a little about my book:

Believe in Me by Mishael Austin Witty

Here’s a little bit more about the book:

Reconciliations can occur. Broken hearts can be mended. If you believe…

For the past year, twenty-something radio producer Trina Gray has been focusing on her career and trying to forget that her once idyllic marriage is soon coming to a heartbreaking end. Almost a year ago to the day, Trina caught her husband, Walt, kissing her sister in her mother’s kitchen under the mistletoe.

But it’s Christmas time again, and Trina feels the familial pressure to
return to the nest for the annual holiday celebrations. It’s only for a week.
Surely she can tolerate being in the same house with her sister for that long. What she doesn’t bargain for,
though, is that her mother has invited Walt to stay with the family for the holiday season, as well.

Walt’s presence sends Trina running to her old friend, Mim’s bed and
breakfast, where she runs into her high school boyfriend, Kurt. Trina quickly
realizes the attraction is still strong between them, and the temptation to be
with him is stronger still, even if he is only looking for a one-night stand.
But, as Trina discovers, Walt’s not willing to give up without a fight this
time.

Will Trina and Kurt rekindle their juvenile romance? Or will she repair her
relationship with Walt? Who can she believe in?
Here’s what other people are saying about BELIEVE IN ME:

“A very refreshing, warm and fuzzy little book which I would recommend.”

“A must read for women who like to read LOVE stories.”

If you enjoy sweet romance books by authors like Debbie Macomber, then
BELIEVE IN ME is for you!

I’d love for you to check this book out, if you haven’t already. And please feel free to leave a review – either good or bad. It seems like sometimes I learn more from the negative reviews than I do the positive reviews. Of course, I hope every reader enjoys what I right, but I know that’s not always going to be the case.

But, love it or hate it, you can’t beat this price. Everyone loves free books, right? Click over to Smashwords and grab your copy now!

Tuesdays with Yeshua: A Man Named Anah

tuesdays with yeshua jesusI was going through my daily Bible reading (I haven’t missed a day yet this year – don’t know how long that will hold, but we’ll see), and today’s portion was from Genesis 36. Admittedly, this is not a terribly thrilling chapter since it goes though a long list of Esau’s descendants. But there is one intriguing verse in this chapter – v. 24 – “These are the sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah; he is the Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness when he was pasturing the donkeys of his father Zibeon” (NAS).

Zibeon was the son of Seir the Horite, a Canaanite chief whose family intermarried with Esau’s family. They were most likely pagans – not followers of Yahweh…and yet there is a fascinating detail about at least one of their lives in this verse – “Anah (Esau’s father-in-law) found the hot springs in the wilderness when he was pasturing the donkeys of his father, Zibeon.”

He was just going on about his day, tending to his father’s donkeys, and he happened to come across this major oasis in the middle of a desert. Here are just some of the benefits offered by bathing in hot springs

      • Your body temperature is increased enough that harmful germs and viruses are killed off.
      • Blood circulation and cell oxygenation is increased, which means that more blood flows throughout your body and helps dissolve and eliminate toxins from the body while better nourishing your vital organs and tissues.
      • Body metabolism is stimulated, and this leads to an improvement in digestion.
      • Repeated hot springs bathing can help normalize endocrine functions and improve the body’s autonomic nervous system.
      • Hot springs contain many negative ions that can help promote feelings of physical and psychological well-being and may improve sleep quality.
      • The direct application of mineralized thermal waters to the skin can treat psoriasis, dermatitis, and fungal infections. Hot springs water can also be used to heal wounds and other skin injuries.

So when Anah found this hot spring, he found something pretty amazing! Still, I wondered if there could be more here than met the eye, so I did some digging and a little scriptural cross-referencing.

For instance, in Isaiah 35:6, the prophet proclaims a message of hope for those who are discouraged, frightened, or sick. Yahweh will save and heal. “Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert” (NIV).

This verse reminded me of two things: (1) The life-saving water springing up in the wilderness for Anah; and (2) Yeshua’s healing ministry on earth – and, indeed, the man Himself.

Consider what He said of Himself in John 7:37-38 (NIV): “…Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Just like the hot springs burst from within the ground for Anah, so do springs of living water burst forth in us who believe in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ) through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Did Anah know he’d be written about for posterity when he found those springs? Probably not. Did he understand, I wonder, how his story would tie into Scripture thousands of years after he was dead and gone? I doubt it. It’s not even very clear whether he was a believer in Yahweh.or not, although some people seem to think that the Horite god and the God of Israel are one and the same.

Nevertheless, this one verse in Genesis 36 tells us about something larger than just one man and a stream. It points to the living water that exists in every believer who ever has, and ever will, live – the True Healer and Life Sustainer.

Friday Free-for-All: My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

Friday Free-for-All

So, as we’re entering a new year, 2015, I think it’s a good time to look back at my 2014 writing accomplishments.

As for this blog? Well, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for it…and the results are somewhat surprising.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,400 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Of my 10 most popular posts (see the list below), 3 weren’t even written by me…and several of them include giveaways. This isn’t all that surprising. People like free stuff. And that’s good because I certainly intend to keep sponsoring giveaways on this blog, so keep watching.

1. This is, by far, the most popular post on my blog (accounts for at least half of all the traffic I get)…and I didn’t even write it (although I kinda wish that I had now): The Five Most Common Types of Sentence Errors. This one was first published in 2012, so that’s evergreen content right there.

2. Rory’s Story Cubes: Who knew that my little review of a writing aid/game would have such staying power? First published at the beginning of 2013, this one is still one of my biggest hits.

3. Another one that wasn’t written by me is 5 Tips for Writing Speech Essays in College. This one was published in April of 2013, so this topic is apparently quite evergreen, as well. Why wouldn’t it be? There’s always someone in college who needs to know how to write an essay or give a speech, right?

4. Five Tools to Organize Your Research: Likewise, this one (published in May 2013) is evergreen because there’s always going to be someone we needs help in organizing their research…and some of these tools can be useful to fiction writers, as well as academic writers. This post is definitely worth a look.

5. Now this one’s a fun one: Announcing the 12 Days of Christmas Paperback Release and Blog Tour. Finally, something I published in 2014 made it to the Top 10! Remember I mentioned my story above, PROTECTING ZOE? Well, that was actually part of a larger series: Kathi Macias’s 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. My story focused on Day 11, and there were eleven other stories in there with it – each written by a different author. This paperback brings them all together…although each one is a complete story in and of itself. It’s a delightful, uplifting collection guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit no matter what time of year you might happen to be reading it.

6. Music Review: THE IDENTICAL Motion Picture Soundtrack Sampler: This one is even more recent than my 12 Days of Christmas paperback release announcement, and I’m a little surprised it made the Top 10 cut. Still, there was a giveaway attached to it (that no one entered), so I suppose that might have had something to do with it.

7. This is another fun one – all about cryptograms. This was another one published at the beginning of 2013, but I imagine the fact that I mentioned Sherlock Holmes and THE DANCING MEN had something to do with its popularity…and its staying power. Everyone loves Sherlock Holmes. He’s not going away anytime soon, and the fact that this post made it to my Top 10 of the year proves it.

8. Remember I mentioned THE SAN FRANCISCO WEDDING PLANNER series? Well, during the second part of that series we each took a character and wrote a (somewhat connected, but slightly separate) backstory “episode” for him/her. I chose Heather’s (the wedding planner’s) best friend, Skye Jansen and introduced her in this blog post. I really like Skye, and I’m thrilled that she made it into the Top 10. This post has also been eliciting some interesting comments from people who are (apparently) actually named Skye Jansen, although my Skye is completely fictional and unrelated to anyone with the same name.

9. I’m also thrilled to see that the book review I did of one of my little girls’ favorite new books of this past year also made the cut. The TREASURY OF BIBLE STORIES is a favorite at our house, and I urge every one of you to check it out, if you haven’t already.

10. Finally, (hee hee) another fun word post – this one based on a blog post I read by Kristen Lamb.  Maybe I gained a little link juice from her amazing blog. Who knows? But I really did think this was a fascinating topic (with my psychology background, I can’t help but be intrigued by all things psychology/personality-related).

So, there you have it folks: My Top 10 Posts of 2014. What will 2015 entail? Hopefully, more regular blogging from yours truly, but that remains to be seen. Every year I try to do more (and I do, compared to the year before), but I always feel like such a terrible failure because I don’t blog as regularly as I think I should.

I’m gonna aim for once a week. That seems like a good, safe goal. And if I do more than that, fantastic. If I don’t, I’m gonna try to not beat myself up about it. That doesn’t do anyone any good. So, I hope you’ll stick around for 2015. You never know what will happen on this blog!

XOXOXOX

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Mommy Memoir Mondays: A LOVE LETTER FROM GOD (Book Review and Giveaway)

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One of the things I love best about being a mommy is the fact that I get to share things with my children – important things…like books and God…and books about God! Those are my favorite.

So, when the opportunity came to review this new children’s book from Ideals Publications (a Guideposts company), you better believe I jumped at it. The title alone was enough to draw me in. What could be better than A LOVE LETTER FROM GOD?

love letter from God

I opened this book up and eagerly started reading – before I even showed it to my two little girls. And, the very first page had me questioning the biblical truths contained inside it.

Oh, the first line, “I love you, My child! What more can I say?,” was true enough…but the second line (“To Me you are perfect in every way”) gave me pause. Perfect? Really? Um, not so much. That was why He sent His Son to die on the cross for us because we are all tainted by Original Sin from the very beginning.

I mean, yes God loves us as we are, but (as my pastor is fond of saying – see, I don’t disagree with everything he says!) He loves us too much to let us stay that way. That’s the Gospel. And the use of the word “perfect” here just waters that down, in my view.

But, thankfully, the rest of the book is solid. So, I read it to my little girls (adding in a small caveat at the end of that first page), and they enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, the five-year-old asked me to read it again and again…and that’s always a good indicator of a winning children’s book, in my estimation.

amanda loves God

Then, after we’d read this book a couple of times, the five-year-old was inspired to compose her own love letter back to God, which I thankfully had the foresight to record. I took the audio, added some pictures, and made this little YouTube video of Amanda’s love letter to God.

Somewhat questionable doctrine behind that one line notwithstanding, this is a delightful, charming children’s book that introduces them to God’s love in an accessible way. …And it might even work to inspire a love response in their hearts, as was the case with my five-year-old. Moments like that are priceless, and for that reason alone I think this book is a treasure.

So, I’m happy to announce that the good people of FlyBy Promotions have not only sent me a review copy of this book, but they’ve given me the opportunity to give away a copy of this book to one of YOU. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post by 11:59 PM WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7th, 2015, and you’ll be entered to win.

About the book:
Author P.K. Hallinan
Illustrator: Laura Watson
In this story, the author supposes what God might say in a personal letter written to a child. The unconditional and unlimited nature of God’s love is revealed through simple and lyrical language. Rich and textured illustrations, along with heart-shaped die-cuts, will make this uplifting book a family favorite. It is a great message for little ones on Valentine’s Day, or for everyday inspiration. Love Letter from God will remind children of God’s eternal love and how He demonstrates that love through everyday miracles and by the wonder of His presence. Thanks to the colorful and touching illustrations of Laura Watson, children will also learn how to appreciate their own individuality and how to use their unique gifts to be a blessing to others.
About the author: 

P. K. Hallinan has been creating books for children since his wife first asked him to write for their two boys more than 30 years ago. Today Hallinan writes uplifting stories about holidays, relationships, and life values. “When I started this project, I felt that God told me to ‘Just let children know how much I love them.’ So I asked Him to speak the words Himself, through my heart, and I would put them to paper. And I believe He did this. This book’s message reinforces the presence of God in a child’s life by showing how God manifests Himself at every moment of every day,” said Hallinan.

Click here to view the official website!

And be sure to check out this special offer!

For the month of January, every book from www.idealsbooks.com with the word “Love” in the title will be 20% off! Be sure to Search “LOVE2015”  for a complete list of books.

Promotional Code to apply at check out is LOVE2015

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.”

Thriller Thursdays: SHATTER POINT by Jeff Altabef

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Shatter Point by Jeff Altabef is on sale from 12/8-12/12 for only $0.99!

Pick up a copy of this spellbinding thriller.

You can also enter the giveaway at the end of this post with no more than a click of the mouse for a chance to win a $75 Amazon or B&N gift card! Extra entry points will be available for anyone who posts a verified review before 1/23/2015!

“A thriller that grabs readers and doesn’t let go, skillfully twisting, turning, and manipulating its plot for maximum impact.” – Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

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3D-ShatterPointEvolved Publishing presents a gripping glimpse of the near future, in which a twisted serial killer finds power in a corrupt political culture.

When her 19-year-old son Jack miraculously recovers from a serious head trauma, Maggie is sure her luck has changed. But when she’s abducted by a shadow from her past – a phantom with dangerous sapphire eyes – it’s up to Jack and his younger brother Tom to unravel the mystery and save their mom from a deadly psychological battle.

The brothers seek help from their colorful great aunt, who exposes them to a world of nefarious family secrets, explosive government conspiracies, and a series of horrific murders. Together they must navigate a dark underworld full of political subterfuge and class warfare.

Yet as they search for their mother, Jack changes—raked by skull splitting headaches and weird visions. How exactly did he recover from his coma, and how does this tie into the psychopath who’s abducted their mother?

Will Jack and Tom save Maggie before her abductor reaches his shatter point? Does Jack have enough time left?

~~~~~

Shatter Point is an exciting novel of suspense, action, drama and even a little bit of horror…. It’s definitely one of the best novels out there right now.” – Next Page Reviews

“When I reached the last 100 pages no one was going to be able to stop me reading until I knew the ending!” – Olivia’s Catastrophe

~~~~~

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