Wednesday, February 27, 2013

By Shelley Hitz

About the Book:

A Life of Gratitude: How to Overcome Self-Pity and Negativity During a season of transition in my life, I found myself overwhelmed with negative emotions like self-pity and a complaining spirit. It was as if a dark cloud had descended over me. I prayed and asked God for wisdom on how to overcome these negative emotions. As I did, I sensed Him leading me to do a 21 day gratitude challenge. Over the course of the 21 days, God began to change me as I spent intentional time being grateful for all I had been given. I did this through writing in my journal each day and also sending a hand-written thank you note to someone different each day. This also led me to writing out 21 prayers of gratitude and compiling 21 stories of gratitude. I want to share what I learned with you in the pages of this book which includes:
  • 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge
  • 21 Prayers of Gratitude
  • 21 Stories of Gratitude
What to Expect On Each Day:
  • Read my personal stories, struggles and reflections.
  • Read one scripture and one quote about gratitude.
  • Apply one personal application step from the challenge.
  • Read one prayer of gratitude
  • Read one story of gratitude
Get Accountability and Encouragement Along with the 21 day challenge, I also started a private Facebook group to provide accountability and encouragement for myself but also for others who decide to join me in the challenge. You will get access to this group as well. It has been amazing to see God at work in each of our lives. Will you join me on this journey to gratitude?  
FREE on Kindle 2/27/13 & 2/28/13)
  Shelley Hitz Shelley HItzShelley Hitz is an award-winning and international best-selling author. Her openness and vulnerability as she shares her own story of hope and healing through her books will inspire and encourage you. Shelley has been ministering alongside her husband, CJ, since 1998. They currently travel and speak to teens and adults around the country. Shelley's main passion is to share God's truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements.
Follow Shelley Hitz Website | Facebook | Twitter

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And Now...The First Chapter

“Only two more days till Christmas!” Hope danced around the kitchen chanting while getting underfoot. She was good at getting underfoot, but she was not always a whole lot of help.

“Yes, we know!” Hope’s twin sister Faith said, while frosting some of the cookies she had baked earlier in the day with their mom.

Hope picked up the cookie as soon as Faith put it aside to let the frosting set.

“You didn’t burn these did you?”

“I haven’t burned anything in a long time!” Faith said.

“Yeah, it’s been at least a week!” Hope said sarcastically, taking a bite out of the cookie.

“We’d get more done if you helped a little more besides eating everything,” the girls’ mom, Karin, said to Hope without looking up from what she was doing.

“I’m taste-testing,” Hope said with her mouth full. “And taking pictures.” She held up her other hand, which contained a camera. It was an older camera that used film, but she found taking pictures enjoyable and she was good at it. She used her talent and became the photo editor of their school newspaper. She would often get right up in people’s faces to get a close-up shot. Karin and Faith hated that, which made Hope do it all the more.

Hope and Faith were identical twins who would turn sixteen the next July. While they looked alike, they made every effort to look different. They had the same honey colored hair and green eyes as their mom. The three of them looked so much alike that their father often called them his triplets.

Karin wore her hair long, down to her waist. Faith had hair that came down past her shoulder blades, but more often than not, she had it up in a ponytail to keep it out of her way. Hope kept her hair only to her shoulders and she would straighten hers since she didn’t particularly like the waves that her mom and sister kept.

As far as their personalities were concerned, the twins could not have been more different. Faith was the no fuss twin. Hope was the one who was more concerned about her appearance. She always took the time to do her hair and put on trendy clothes and make-up before she took out the garbage.

Faith liked to cook alongside of her mother. Although she used to burn a lot of meals, after the last couple years of practice she had become a much better cook. Faith liked to play sports and hated shopping. Hope liked shopping and hated sports. Hope was more popular at school and had a lot of friends. Faith was well-liked, but she was much quieter than Hope and was loyal to her small group of close friends. Hope was much more talkative and more interested in the latest everything.

Hope talked incessantly, while Faith was a listener. Faith saw and heard things that Hope had no idea were there. Hope’s personality was more like her dad’s and Faith’s was more like Karin’s.

Faith was baking and frosting cookies while Karin was preparing Christmas dinner. When she pulled the ham from the oven she said as much to herself as to the girls. “I don’t know why I’m getting all this food ready now.” She had pretty much cooked everything so that on Christmas Day it would just have to be reheated.

“Well, now we can enjoy more time together as a family this year,” Faith said. “We always get up early, open presents, spend a few hours cooking, an hour eating, and the rest of the day sitting around doing nothing.”

“Yeah,” Hope agreed. “We can sleep in. We aren’t little kids anymore who are so anxious to open presents that we can’t wait until daylight.”

“We can sleep in as long as Dad doesn’t wake us up,” Faith laughed.

It was true, their dad, Rob, was always the first one up on Christmas Day. He often got up and unsatisfied to be alone and to wait patiently, he would go and wake up the entire household. It didn’t matter that it was only four o’clock in the morning, it was Christmas and it was time to open all the presents that waited under the tree. If only he would leave everyone alone they could sleep in a little longer and still have plenty of time to enjoy the day and eat all the delicious food they were preparing.

Just then the front door opened. All three of them looked to see who had entered. A little boy shyly stood there with a big smile. “Are you baking cookies?” he asked.

“We sure are.” Karin was always amazed at how Matt could show up at exactly the right time. “You’re a little late, Matt. I cracked the eggs a while ago!” Karin smiled.

One time when he came over while Karin was baking cookies, he told her he had heard her cracking the eggs. That was their own little joke now. He also heard her cracking the ice cube trays in the summer when he was hopeful of getting Karin’s famous lemonade.

Karin felt sorry for Matt. He was often at home alone. Matt was only ten years old. He had a single mom who worked extra hard just to make ends meet. Karin knew Matt’s mom’s schedule and they had an agreement that Karin would keep her eye out for their young next-door neighbor when he wasn’t in school.

Karin knew that if she offered to watch Matt his mom would feel obligated to pay her. Karin wasn’t looking for payment; she just wanted to be a good neighbor. Karin also knew that money was tight for Matt and his mom, so she often sent a plate of food home for her after Matt had eaten dinner with them. This arrangement worked well and kept them all happy.

Matt fit right in with the family, filling the role of little brother. Faith took him under her wing and nurtured him. Hope took him under hers and conspired with him. Right now Hope and Matt sat on bar stools on the opposite side of the counter from where Karin and Faith were working. Hope was picking up two cookies; one more for herself and one for Matt.

None of them could resist Matt’s bright, blue eyes, blonde hair and the fattest cheeks anyone could ever imagine on a skinny, little kid. He was cute, of that there was no doubt. This was one reason Karin found it hard to resist his smile when he showed up on her doorstep hoping for a cookie. He happily chewed on his treat as the three girls talked and sang Christmas songs as they played on the radio.

The four continued their baking, decorating, and eating. When Hope’s favorite Christmas song came on the radio, she ordered everyone to be quiet so she could listen and sing, when actually her singing ruined the song for everyone else. She grabbed a wooden spoon out of the crock on the counter and used it as a microphone as she sang and danced around the kitchen. Neither her singing nor her dancing was pleasant entertainment, but she ignored anyone who told her so.

Fortunately, the phone ringing interrupted her performance. Since her mom and Faith were both busy, Hope answered the phone without turning down the music.

“Hello? Merry Christmas!” She just about shouted into the phone. “Just a minute, please.” She handed the phone to her mom. “It’s Mrs. Carter, from church.”

Karin took the phone from her daughter. “Hello?” It only took about two seconds for her whole demeanor to change. Hope was still singing, stealing cookies, and sharing them with Matt who had by now acquired a cup of hot cocoa, too.

Hope may not have noticed the change in her mom, but Faith, the one who saw everything, did see it. She also saw her mom walk into another room to avoid the noise. Faith turned down the volume on the radio not only so her mom could hear better, but also so that she could hear what her mom was saying.

“Hey!” Hope said as Faith turned the music down.

“Shhh!” Faith responded.

“I’ll take a meal over to them tonight,” Karin was saying. “I’ll also go ahead and set up meals for at least the rest of the week.”

When she hung up Faith asked what was wrong.

Karin put her hands on her hips like she was thinking. “Mrs. Lloyd broke her leg this morning,” she said.

“How did she do that?” Faith asked.

 “She slipped on some ice and fell,” Karin answered.

Faith already knew exactly what was going through her mom’s mind. When Karin heard of a need she automatically went into high gear. During the next few moments Karin spoke, but only to herself. The girls, and even Matt, knew not to interrupt.

“They are going to need food. There is no way Lisa is going to feel like cooking anything let alone a fancy Christmas dinner. I wish I had time to bake some cupcakes. I can do that later, instead of today. I don’t know how many people will be able to fix meals the week of Christmas. Hmmm. She’s going to need more help than that, too. She has five small children.”

When she looked up, the girls knew that they were now included in any further discussion. The funny part is that there wasn’t any actual conversation. The three of them looked at each other for a few moments. They broke eye contact long enough to scan over all the food that was spread out on the counter and the tables. There was ham, sweet potatoes, apple and pumpkin pies, herbed corn, and homemade rolls. When their eyes met again the decision had been made, all without saying one word. Hope grabbed one more cookie before the deal was sealed.

“Your dad doesn’t particularly care for ham anyway. He’s always saying he wants pizza for Christmas dinner; that we should go against tradition. How about we give him what he wants this year?” Karin asked the girls without expecting an answer. “Now I know why God had me prepare Christmas dinner early. See, girls, everything happens for a reason,” she commented. “Isn’t God amazing?” Karin just beamed.

Faith smiled. Hope acted a little disappointed. Both of the girls knew that their own Christmas dinner would be a little bit less than what was originally planned, but they both also knew that Mom would make it special, even if it was just pizza.

“Mom’s got to feed the world!” Hope said. Her tone was sarcastic, but she said it with all the love she had in her heart for her mother. Everyone who knew her knew that Karin Miller had an innate need to feed everyone she met. And everyone she met was more than willing to eat at Karin Miller’s table, for her food was a treat for all to thoroughly enjoy.

Hope grabbed a couple more cookies. Faith went and got out one of the pretty plates her mom kept for such occasions. Karin would buy these plates when she found them on sale or at second hand stores or yard sales. It was one of those extra touches that was purely Karin. The plate was a gift along with whatever food was placed on it and was not to be returned.

“Here, Matt,” Faith began to hand him another cookie, but changed her mind when she looked at him. “Can you cram anymore cookies in those cheeks of yours?”

Matt tried to smile, but had to cover his mouth with his hand to keep cookie crumbs from falling out.

Faith continued, “Which cookies do you think the Lloyds will like?”

While munching on his own cookies, Matt helped Faith choose some of the prettier looking cookies to give to a family who would be in need of Christmas treats.

Faith arranged the cookies on the plate so they looked attractive. Then she covered the whole thing tightly with plastic wrap so the cookies wouldn’t slide around. This would be dessert for the Lloyds to go along with the dinner her mom would soon be packing up.

Faith also grabbed a large plastic bag and filled it with cookies.

“What’s that for?” Matt wanted to know. Even though he didn’t live there, he knew Karin always put cookies on a nice plate and not in a plastic bag.

“These are for you and your mom,” Faith smiled.

“Oh, boy!” Matt said excitedly, rubbing his hands together.

“Yeah,” Hope interjected. “Make sure you save some for her. I heard she didn’t get any of the last batch,” she teased.

Matt just grinned. He knew he was guilty as charged. The last time Karin sent Matt home with some cranberry-ginger cookies, Matt ate them all. He paid for it the next day with a horrible stomach ache.

“Hope, since you aren’t doing anything but eating, grab me some of those foil pans that are in the pantry,” Karin said. “That way Mrs. Lloyd won’t need to worry about washing or returning any dishes.”

The Lloyds were a family at their church. They were relatively new members and Karin would do her best to make them feel like a part of the family.

When Hope came back with the foil pans in hand, Karin gave her another order, “Go get me that box of cards that is on the desk in my bedroom.”

That was another thing for which Karin had a talent. Whenever she gave anyone food she also sent a card with much needed encouragement written in it. Somehow she always found the right Bible verse for every occasion. Karin didn’t know it and she certainly wasn’t keeping track, but she had touched many hearts with her efforts. Karin was well-loved by everyone. A few people had even told her she should write greeting cards because the notes she wrote were so encouraging.

“There we go!” Karin said as she finished packing up the ham dinner she thought she had been preparing for her own family. She smiled from ear to ear. Where many people would have been upset to put all that work into a meal and not be able to eat it, Karin was the opposite. She was in her glory, or God’s glory as her husband had come to call it. He may have teased her about all the food she prepared for other people, but he was known to help by telling her about people he knew who were in need. And he had delivered more than one meal in their twenty years of marriage.

“Hope can start putting stuff in the van if she ever comes back.”

“I’ll help,” Matt offered.

Faith handed him the bag of cookies. Matt happily carried his bag of cookies outside.

Hope came into the room, “There aren’t really any cards that are appropriate.”

Karin quickly looked through them. “You’re right.”

“Want me to go to the store and pick one out for you?”

Karin just looked at her daughter. “You can’t drive.”

“Yeah, but in seven months I’ll be able to, so why don’t you let me start practicing now?”

“Because it isn’t legal. I’ll stop and get a card on the way. Let’s go.”

“Are we going to the dollar store?” Faith wondered.

“Yeah, probably. That way I can see if they have any more pretty plates. I’m running low.”

The dollar store was one of her favorite places to find those small treasures. Often she would also find small pieces to use on the table as decorations for all of her entertaining. She often said, “Entertaining doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can still be beautiful.” And her table was often very lovely.

print copy -

ebook - ."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

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:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


Jerry Eicher (nearly half a million copies sold) returns with the first book in another of his delightful series centering on Amish life.

Here is the story of a young Amish girl, Katie Raber, who finds she wants more from life than to be known as simply “Emma Raber’s daughter.”

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736952519
ISBN-13: 978-0736952514

I really enjoyed this book. All Katie wants is to fit in and be loved. However, she feels that neither will ever happen as long as her mother is standing in her way, refusing to allow her the chance to live a normal life. She finds hope in the local Mennonite youth that invite her join their activities and befriend her. This is just one of the problems her mamm has with her.

Having a daett wouldn’t be so bad either since Katie’s died when she was very young.  Katie believes that if her mother can find love again, everything would be different, better. While Jesse Mast has his sights set on Katie’s mamm, Emma, Ruth Troyer has her sights set on Jesse.
This is a great story showing how God can work in the hearts of those who love Him if He is only allowed.


The early morning sun was rising over the well-kept farms of Delaware’s Amish country as Katie Raber drove her buggy toward Byler’s Store near Dover to begin her day’s work. She squinted when she spotted an approaching buggy in the distance. The horse had its neck arched high in the air. Katie didn’t have to think long before she decided who was coming toward her. Ben Stoll would be holding the reins. It was his buggy. She was sure of that. Ben was one of the best-looking Amish boys around. Blessed was any girl who was invited to ride with him in his buggy—something Katie figured she would never experience. Ben was without a doubt the catch among the community’s Amish young men. A cloud crossed the sun, and Katie held the buggy lines tight as she kept her eyes glued on the approaching buggy. Perhaps she could catch a glimpse of Ben this morning. That was all she could hope for. He was from another world. Ben never spoke to her, and she only saw him at the Sunday meetings and the Amish youth gatherings Mamm allowed her to attend. There he would be laughing and talking with someone else—someone more suited to his taste than “plain Katie,” the out-of-step daughter of the odd widow Emma Raber. Katie could walk right under Ben Stoll’s nose, and he wouldn’t even know a shadow had gone by.

Yah, she was Emma Raber’s daughter. That’s how most people in the community thought of her. She even thought of herself that way—just an extension of her mamm. Mamm was nice enough, and Emma really loved her. So, nee, she wasn’t really complaining. But sometimes her mamm did unusual things, and that made Katie seem so…well, weird to the other young adults in the Amish community. For one thing, there would be no rumspringa for Katie. Everyone else she knew among the Delaware Amish would have their time to run around and try out the ways of the world. But not Katie. Emma Raber wouldn’t even consider such a thing for her daughter. And the Amish youth gatherings were few and far between. Mamm was suspicious of even those. “Too much socializing,” she had said.

She could live without rumspringa. Or without Ben Stoll, for that matter. So what, Katie told herself, it might even be best for her if Ben were unobtainable. He might not be all that wunderbah if she ever got to know him. Katie sighed. These were desperate excuses, and she knew it, but lately Mamm’s restrictions were becoming harded and harder to bear. She was only trying to make herself feel better. Ben was wunderbah. Even her friend Arlene Miller wasn’t above stealing a glance at Ben—and that with her boyfriend, Nelson Graber, sitting right across from her at the Sunday night hymn singings!

Katie wondered if all the girls were as taken with Ben as she was. She was aware of everything about him. She noticed when he wore a new black suit at communion time every spring. She noticed the way his buggy shone when the sun rays bounced off the sides at the Sunday meetings. The boy must spend hours waxing the black vinyl of his buggy, she thought. And most of all, she noticed the way Ben smiled when he was happy, which seemed like most of the time. What would it be like to be the kind of girl who made Ben smile that smile? Ha! Certainly a simple, plain soul like Emma Raber’s daughter couldn’t be such a girl…ever.

Katie tried to look away from the fast-approaching buggy. She was way too fascinated with the boy. If Mamm knew her feelings, Katie knew she’d be given a lecture the size of the state of Delaware and right at the kitchen table after supper. Yah, Mamm would not understand how she felt. Life had been hard for Mamm, especially when it came to men. Hadn’t Daett passed away when Katie was still a young girl? The loss had been so painful for Mamm that she might never marry again.

The beat of horse hooves on pavement grew louder. Katie eased open her buggy door just enough to make sure that whoever was in the passing buggy could see it was her in case a greeting was forthcoming. With her hands on the reins, Katie held her breath as the buggy approached and passed without its buggy door opening even an inch. Katie saw the unmistakable outline of Ben’s face through the small window. His hat was tight on his head, and his eyes were looking straight ahead. The moment passed in a flash without the smallest flicker of a hand wave through the window. And then the buggy was gone.

It was the sun in his eyes, Katie told herself. That’s why Ben hadn’t slid open the buggy door or bothered to wave. But she knew better. Ben wasn’t being mean. No, she just wasn’t worth the effort. He had greater and better things on his mind than paying attention to Emma Raber’s odd daughter. Now if she were beautiful, or charming, or funny, or even talkative at the Sunday-night hymn singings, it might be different. With such qualities, perhaps her plainness could be overcome. But all that was a dream that would never come true. She couldn’t be what she wasn’t.

Perhaps she should settle for Joe Helmuth from down the road. Joe walked with a limp from a hay wagon accident when he was five. He would take over his daett’s farm someday, but the scars from that long-ago day would never leave him. The problem was that Joe didn’t pay Katie any attention either.

Well, at least thinking about Ben Stoll helped ease the pain a little, Katie decided. She was only Katie Raber, after all. The girl who could barely open her mouth without dumb words falling out all over each other. If she could only be more like the rest of the Amish girls in the community. But that could never be either, not with how Mamm felt about things.

Katie slapped the reins against her horse as her thoughts swirled through her mind. She couldn’t remember much about Daett. He’d been gone since she was three years old. She could remember happy times though. Going to the barn with him when they did the evening chores. But that was so long ago. If she only had a daett, Katie decided, life would be different. If Mamm married again, Katie figured both of them would be better accepted in the community and Mamm might change her ways. The most obvious possibility was widower Jesse Mast. And he’d come calling on Mamm again just the other evening. Mamm hadn’t said anything about the visit, but Jesse had surely spoken of marriage.

Yah, Mamm should marry again, Katie decided. Mamm’s sorrow over losing her husband was still written on her face after all these years. Was it not high time things changed? Yah, and Katie would pray about the matter.

Da Hah must already be thinking the same thing if He was sending Mamm a suitor in the person of Jesse Mast. So why couldn’t Mamm see this and accept Jesse’s offer of marriage? Was she turning him down because he wasn’t much to look at? Yah, he was a little rough around the edges. But it wasn’t like Mamm to be so concerned with outward appearance. She went more by a person’s kind heart than how he looked on the outside. Perhaps it was the fact that Jesse’s frau, Millie, had died and left him with a family of five children. Was that why Mamm objected? She didn’t want her household increased so dramatically?

Nee, Katie decided that couldn’t be the reason either. Mamm didn’t mind hard work. And if a large family was the problem, she should have been happy after turning down Jesse. Instead, Mamm had walked around the house with the lines on her face running deeper than ever. So why had she turned Jesse down? That was assuming Mamm had turned him down. The proposal of marriage was just a guess on Katie’s part, but she was sure she was right. It couldn’t have been anything else. The two had talked for a long time while sitting on the porch swing. Afterward, Jesse had stood in the yard for a few moments longer, still speaking with Mamm. He’d held his hat in his hand, the sweat ring in his hair still apparent from where the hat had been pressed tightly on his head. Then Jesse had walked back to his buggy, his head bowed. Even Jesse’s horse, Lucy, had looked depressed as they drove down the lane.

Katie had been ready to ask Mamm what Jesse wanted, but one look at her face caused her to change her mind. Mamm looked troubled and yet, at the same time, ready to give someone a piece of her mind. A question from Katie could easily have resulted in another lecture she didn’t want to hear. A lecture about being satisfied with one’s lot in life and not reaching for the stars. That was the standard lecture Mamm always gave when Katie dared complain about attending more of the Amish youth gatherings.

“You don’t know how nice you have it,” Mamm would say. “We have enough to eat, a roof over our heads, and horses to drive us to work and church. What more could we ask for?”

Well, Katie thought, there was plenty more to ask for. All kinds of things a young woman could want. Things that were out there just waiting to enrich one’s life—and, happily, things that were not forbidden by the Ordnung. Like liking a boy. Like someday loving a man who would love her back and consider his life empty without her. Someone who’s eyes would light up when he saw her. Someone who called her sweet things on Sunday nights as he sat on the couch beside her. Wasn’t that what dating couples did? Mamm wouldn’t say when Katie asked, other than muttering something about useless talking until all hours of the night.

How could such time be considered wasted? Katie wondered. It would be glory indeed to sit beside a boy—a soon-to-be man so near she could touch him. What delight it would be to hear his deep voice rumble when he spoke or feel his eyes watching her long before she looked up to meet his gaze. Nee, this couldn’t be wasted time. It would be a touch of heaven, and the most worthwhile thing a girl could set her heart on. Especially if the boy were Ben Stoll…

Katie sighed. So had Jesse Mast asked for Mamm’s hand? Had she turned him down? She’d sent him away looking disappointed, so something was going on. And then there was that look on Mamm’s face in the evenings after the sun had set and the house was quiet. Mamm didn’t like the loneliness of their house either—the hours without a man’s voice being heard. She’d been silent after Jesse left that night, staring at the kitchen wall and seemingly more troubled than usual.

What could she do to help? Katie wondered. She should do something, yah.

A car passed Katie’s buggy, its engine roaring. Katie forced her mind back on the road ahead. Her horse, Sparky, knew the way to Byler’s Store. He should after all this time she’d worked there. But even so, he mustn’t be allowed to go his own way.

Ahead of her, Bishop Jonas Miller’s place was coming up. His wife, Laura, was out in the yard hanging wash on the line. Katie leaned out of the buggy to wave, and Laura paused long enough to wave back before bending again to her work. At least the older Amish folk didn’t think she was strange, even with her Mamm the way she was.

Katie settled herself in the buggy seat again. If Mamm married Jesse, she might have to stay home from her job at Byler’s and help with the added work five children entailed. But that would be an attractive kind of work—more normal almost. And it could lead to other kinds of normalness in her life. And perhaps even to a boy sitting on the couch beside her some Sunday night after a hymn singing. Yah, somehow Mamm must be persuaded to accept Jesse’s offer of marriage.

Katie turned into the parking lot at Byler’s and pulled Sparky to a stop at the far end of the hitching rail that was located on one side of the store. She climbed down, unhitched the buggy, and led Sparky around to the back where he could munch at stray pieces of grass during the day. She tied him to the fence with a long rope before walking back to the buggy. She pushed both doors shut before heading to the employee entrance of the store.



It’s said that the way we are raised forms who we are as adults. It’s all the experiences we have had in life that make us who we are. Mom was no different. Her experiences definitely shaped who she was.

I learned at an early age that it was my mom’s goal in life to feed everyone. She believed that food connected people and made them happy. Many of my own most vivid memories come from when we were sitting at the table eating with friends and family. Besides just inviting friends over for dinner, Mom would have someone over to eat in payment for a good deed. Mom would always make a meal for someone who was sick or in need. If she knew that someone was depressed, they would be the recipients of a plate of cupcakes. It was her signature touch of love that made all her food special. Mom never failed to include a card along with the food with a few words of encouragement. If dessert was given, it was always presented on a pretty plate intended for the receiver to keep. Mom was famous for her cooking, especially for her cupcakes that were decorated individually. 

It wasn’t until the year that my sister and I turned sixteen that we realized why Mom had an underlying need to feed everyone. She wanted everyone to know they were loved - by her and by God. I remember that year as being one of the best of our lives. I don’t exactly know why because it was a year of great difficulty for my parents and for us as a family. In spite of those difficulties, I remember that year as being fun and good.

Mom was one of those people that didn’t realize all the good she did or the number of people she touched. She did what she did because she felt God told her to. She didn’t do it for show. There was something deep down inside her that made her want to reach out to others. She never wanted anyone to feel as she had felt as a child, which was unloved. It wasn’t until the project for school our sophomore year that my sister and I found out why Mom was the way she was.

It’s a story I will never forget because it was one that was difficult for my mom to tell and for us to hear. She wanted to shade my sister and I from her past, but I think I’m better for knowing it. I think you will be, too.

You still have a few days to pre-order the book and not pay any shipping.

Monday, February 25, 2013

In the Beginning...

Ever since I was a child I have always loved writing. My mother also enjoyed writing and she would help me tremendously by taking me to writer’s conferences and introducing me to people who could teach me things. Over the years I have tried my hand at many different genres of writing and I enjoy many of them.  

One thing I always wanted to do was write a novel. I have started many, but finished few. I think the problem was my method of writing. Writing blindly doesn’t work for me. Structure and organization are my style in life so it would seem obvious that it would be the same in my writing. I found a new way to write by organizing everything first. While the kids were out of school one summer I was bound and determined to have something to show for my efforts. Almost every day I would take the kids and friends to the pool. While they played I wrote. By the end of that summer I had a completed the first draft of my novel. Yes, it still needed a lot of work, but the base was there.

After a few more years, the book is FINALLY done! I am so excited to be able to share it with you. 

My writing often contains tidbits of real life. There are lots of scenes and situations that had a part of my life at one point or another. Along life’s journey I have met a lot of interesting characters where I have taken notes to use in my writing. After all, you know that real life is better than anything I could make up sometimes.

Don't forget about the contest. Time is almost up, but you do have four more days to earn entries to win prizes. You can earn entries for the drawings by first of all following my blog if you haven’t already. For those of you who already follow – you get a bonus entry! You can also earn entries by commenting on the posts and sharing them with your friends. You can share through Facebook, Twitter, or however else you want; I just need to be able to see it. You can also receive entries by pre-ordering the print edition (You get free shipping if you pre-order, too!). Yes, you will also receive an entry by ordering an ebook copy as well.

Come back tomorrow for a tiny teaser of Come Eat at My Table.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where Do Ideas Come From?

People often ask me where I get ideas for writing. Quite frankly, it’s real life. Often times I run into characters, I mean people, who make me smile or cringe. Those are the kinds of characters I like to include in my stories. I got the idea for Come Eat at My Table when talking to a friend of mine. She had some dreadful things happen to her as a child. Then she made a comment that set my imagination in motion.

Many of the little scenes throughout Come Eat at My Table really took place. I’ll give you one example, Karin tells of a time when she got a sliver in her shin. Yup, that really happened to me. It was about 4 inches long and it got infected. My mom and my brother had to hold me down while my dad dug it out. (We didn’t go to the doctor’s for every little thing when I was a kid.) I incorporated that into my story with a few additions and subtractions.  

Don’t forget about looking to the kids for ideas. One of mine, who will remain nameless, once put a tissue in a candle I was burning “just to see what would happen.” What would happen is he/she dropped the burning tissue and burned a hole in the rug. My son is forever spewing out statements that make me wonder if I brought home the right baby from the hospital or not. Just the other day he was watching a young man and woman. “He’s flirting with her.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked. 

“I know that look on his face. I've had the same look on my face many times.” He then looks at me with a smirk. 

Keep in mind, The Boy is 13.  

Then there is a story I would LOVE to tell about my husband, but he won’t allow me to plaster it all over the Internet. I’m respecting his wishes as much as it pains me.

Of course I grew up with three siblings and some of their experiences have made an appearance in my writing ventures. Hey, Mar, does the name Mary Lou Retton bring back any memories? I actually saw something from our lives on a TV show recently. The characters in the show were seeing how many grapes they could fit into their mouths. I have pictures of another sister with I believe 17 grapes in her mouth. It was funny when I was a kid and it was funny the other night. My brother has had more accidents than most normal people, putting my parents on a first name basis with the Emergency Room staff.

I find real life…real. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s not. Real life invokes the entire spectrum of emotions. That’s where I get my ideas. 

Will you ever find a bit of yourself in my books? Possibly, but I’ll try not to make it too obvious. However, you might have to read to find out for sure!
Come Eat at My Table is still available with free shipping through the end of the month. Visit my web page to order.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Speaking to the Masses

I remember when my very first book came out. It was a devotional I had written with two of my friends. We worked for months writing devotions and then sharing them with each other. We labored long and hard over that first book and I still see many things I would go back and change. I guess that’s the way it is with many authors – the book is never good enough.

Anyway, we were patting each other on the back for our accomplishment and dreaming of all the books we would sell and the speaking engagements we would get. I nonchalantly said, “I’ll just sit at the book table while you guys do your thing.” You see, they had both had several invitations to speak before we actually wrote the book. I figured their chances were way better than mine at getting an invite. 

Me and my big mouth!

It wasn’t a week later that my telephone rang and someone asked, “Have you ever done any speaking before?” This terrified me a little bit. I wasn’t at all sure it was something I wanted to do. After praying about it I realized God had already been preparing me. I had a job where I had to speak in front of crowds at least a couple times a week.  

I agreed to speak, not thinking I would really like it at all. However, I loved it! It was more fun than I ever imagined it would be. Now when someone asks me to speak to a group I have to refrain myself from jumping up and down and answering “YES! without even consulting God.   

So…if you ever need a speaker for your women’s or writing events, please feel free to ask. I love being able to share my stories and being able to interact with others.  

Something I thought I would hate, God made me love.

Monday, February 11, 2013


One of the themes running through my book is forgiveness. There are so many people out there who are waiting to receive forgiveness or waiting to have forgiveness asked of them. Maybe you are one of those people. 

God is just waiting to forgive you for ANYTHING you may have done. All you have to do is ask. 

If you are waiting for someone to come to you begging forgiveness on bended knee, don’t wait any longer. Forgive them anyway. You will be better for it physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

I have chosen a song from Casting Crowns as the theme song of the book. If you have never heard the song before follow the link below to listen. If you are familiar with it, listen again. Close your eyes as you listen to the words.  

Is there someone in your life who needs forgiveness? Forgive. 




Don't forget to earn more entries into the contest by following/subscribing to the blog, (look to the right for the "Follow by email" icon), commenting on the blog posts, liking my author page on Facebook, sharing my author Facebook page status updates on your Facebook page so your friends can see it, commenting on status updates, sharing this blog through twitter, ordering an ebook copy or pre-ordering a print copy. Spread the word!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Who Am I?

Here are some of the questions you guys sent me. You had some good ones! Although I think my life is really an open book, I hope you learn something new about me.

How long have you been writing?

Professionally for over 20 years, but I began writing little stories long before that. I remember writing a story called “The Hunchback Bug” when I was little. I was so excited that my mom let me use her typewriter. Somehow what I had typed out came up missing. Years later, after my mom passed away and we were helping my dad clean some things out of the house, we found our baby books. Dad said we could have them. Guess what I found in mine? Yup, my story. Mom had saved and treasured it all those years ago. I think I was about 9 when I wrote it.  

Who was your greatest inspiration for writing? 

That’s easy. That was my mom. She also enjoyed writing. She belonged to a writer’s group when I was in high school. She brought me to all the meetings and did everything she could to encourage me to write. For my graduation present she bought me an electric typewriter. It was my best present ever! 

Where do you get your inspiration for writing?

From everyone who has ever been a part of my life. I’m not really that creative. I take bits and pieces of everyday life and incorporate those into my stories.  

What’s your favorite book?

I’m not sure I have an answer to that one. I read A LOT of books and my tastes change from time to time. I read a lot of fiction. I think I need that to escape the real world once in a while. I like things that make me laugh or cry. Perhaps that’s why I try to make people laugh or cry when they read my writing. 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I guess the most challenging part for me is to find time. Many times I only have small amounts of time to write. My time is broken up a lot between homeschooling, chauffeuring kids to work and activities, keeping up with things around the house, and then there is the wife thing that I feel I fail at on a daily basis. I just do what I can when I can and take advantage of the time that I do have.  

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

If you feel the urge to write, then do it. Even if you only have small bits of time you can still accomplish a lot. Make it a habit to always have a notebook and pen with you. You never know when you will have to wait and you never know when an idea will come to you that needs to be written down right away. I also host Writer’s Forums where I can help other writers. A couple forums I have done include “Getting Started Writing” and “Paragraph Method for Writing a Novel.” I love these sessions as it allows me to interact with those that might be new to writing.
If you have any more questions please feel free to ask, either in the comments section or through email (, and I can post them later this month if space allows. By the way, you will get an entry into the contest for your questions - so ask away!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Prizes! Prizes! Prizes!

As promised, I will be giving away some prizes in order to entice you into being a part of the contest this month in honor of my novel Come Eat at My Table. I tried to think up prizes that actually related to the book somehow. There will be a couple of vases, framed art, and of course a book (or two or three). A grand prize winner will win one of everything.  

In case you can’t remember, or didn’t see how you can win entries, here is a blurb from yesterday’s post: 

You can earn entries for the drawings by first of all following my blog if you haven’t already. For those of you who already follow – you get a bonus entry! You can also earn entries by commenting on the posts and sharing them with your friends. You can share through Facebook, Twitter, or however else you want; I just need to be able to see it. You can also receive entries by pre-ordering the print edition (You get free shipping if you pre-order, too!). Yes, you will also receive an entry by ordering an ebook copy as well.

The next blog post will be everything you ever wanted to know (or didn’t) about me. Some of you know me better than others. If you have a question you would like to ask, please write it in the comments and I will answer it. (Be nice, please!) Each person who asks a question will get an entry into the drawing. 

I hope this is going to be as fun for you as it has been for me in the planning stages!

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Hold on to your diapies, Babies!"

My February calendar is filling up at an extremely fast pace, so much so that I am reminded of a phrase from the Rugrats cartoons that my kids used to watch: “Hold onto your diapies, babies!” Thank goodness for a calendar to write things on and keep close at hand! 

This month is an exciting month for me. My first novel is coming out in print. It came out around Christmas time as an ebook, but now comes all the big marketing campaigns and the reality of being able to hold that book in my hand. That never gets old!

In honor of my newest book, I am going to be posting a little more than usual this month. I am also going to be hosting a contest with prizes up for grabs. You can earn entries for the drawings by first of all following my blog if you haven’t already. For those of you who already follow – you get a bonus entry! You can also earn entries by commenting on the posts and sharing them with your friends. You can share through Facebook, Twitter, or however else you want; you just need to let me know. You can also receive entries by pre-ordering the print edition (You get free shipping if you pre-order, too!). Yes, you will also receive an entry by ordering an ebook copy as well. Earn as many entries as possible by commenting and sharing on all posts throughout the month.
The contest will continue throughout the month and will culminate on the 28th. Prizes will be distributed after that. The last week of the month I will take a couple days to post some excerpts from the book to tease you a little bit.

"Like" me on my Facebook Author page to see additional things, not posted on the blog.!/RuthONeilAuthor

Many of you have been on this journey with me for quite some time. I want to thank all of those who took the time to read my manuscript and give me feedback. You know who you are. Writing is never just about the author putting words to paper; writing is about the readers who are moved by the story later.  

“Hold onto your diapies, babies! We’re going in!”

Follow think link to order:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Parenting on Your Knees – Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years by Vicki Tiede

There are so many things a new parent doesn’t think about. Praying for your new baby’s future is probably one that you don’t think of as imminent. However, it’s never too early to start praying for every aspect of your child’s life. In her book Parenting on Your Knees – Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years Vicki Tiede gives suggestions on exactly how to pray for your children during the most formative years of their lives. She focuses on social skills, behavior, character development, and most importantly the salvation and spiritual growth of your little one. New parents or parents of young children can often feel overwhelmed and unproductive. This book humorously helps put many things into perspective. Some parents may even believe that Vicki had a camera monitoring things that go on in their home as the stories she tells are so relatable.  

Each chapter includes a suggested prayer where you can fill in the name of your own child. She also leaves a space where parents can write in the answers to those prayers. There are encouraging Scriptures throughout the book as well as resources that many parents might find extremely helpful when working through an issue with their preschooler. 

Vicki helps parents enjoy the journey of raising children instead of focusing on the end result – the kids moving out of the house. If you know someone who is expecting or has preschoolers at home now, this book would definitely be welcome. It is easy and quick to read for busy parents. The best part is it's FREE on Kindle today!

To order this book go to

Look Vicki up: