30.12.16

No Resolutions--Just Asking for a Dance

by Sally Matheny

Like most people, I’m planning to lose weight this year. Again. You can forget it being a resolution. It’s more like asking for a dance.

This extra fifteen-ish pounds and I have been swing dancing back and forth for years.  For the past two months, food has led the dance. When my desire to be healthier overrides my desire for chocolate, then I’ll take the lead again. 

Usually, I tire of toting the holiday heaviness around mid-January. 

However, a big snow can stretch that out.

17.12.16

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


by Sally Matheny



It was the best Christmas pageant ever. Not because of the angels in their white poster-board wings and crooked tinsel halos. 

Nor was it the tiny, shepherds carrying ninja sticks. Or the wise men wearing refurbished Burger King crowns. 

Even though Mary held the baby doll as if it was Jesus himself; that year, it was all about Joseph.

Three siblings began attending our church. They came to VBS in the summer and continued to come almost every Sunday, as long as they had a ride.


They didn’t maintain a rowdiness like the Herdman family in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. However, like the Herdmans, they did come from a less fortunate home.
Cigarette and kerosene fumes infused their faded clothes. Caring Sunday school teachers often washed dirt from their little hands and faces. Others brought the children coats for the winter.
The three-year-old boy was, of course, the most energetic. The raspy-speaking four-year-old girl always wore a sheepish grin . Nick, the oldest, seemed quiet and reflective for a six-year-old boy. All three appeared to enjoy coming to church.
Since a parishioner usually brought them, we never met the children’s parents. That is, until the night of the Christmas pageant.
Someone offered to pick up the children but Nick declined stating his parents would be coming to watch them in the program. We were excited about finally meeting the parents of these precious children.
A sea of red and green Christmas-attire in the congregation made the children’s parents obvious. Their pierced, tattooed body parts donned black leather for the occasion. Welcomed warmly—by most—they settled in to watch their children transform into an angel, a shepherd, and Joseph.
The play went well. The children were adorable; the story and songs were sweet.

5.12.16

A Twist of Faith on Random Acts of Kindness

by Sally Matheny
    
A Twist of Faith on Random Acts of Kindness
 Kindness. It breaks through barriers. One act of kindness can turn a person's day around. Just one thoughtful deed has the potential to open up a whole, new life for someone.  


There are many stories about random acts of kindness. I recently read about a family waiting until a neighbor went to work. Then, they secretly placed a festive welcome mat at her front door. The children especially liked giving in secret; much like that St. Nicholas fellow did long ago. 

    

Not expecting anything in return, not even recognition, helps keep the giver humble and focused on the giving.

Doing kind deeds is a great way to help us concentrate on other people rather than ourselves. Children, who are constantly adding to their wish lists, are prime candidates for this type of project.

There are tags available on-line to leave for the recipients of random acts of kindness. But I don't care for the slogan ,"You've been R.A.C.K.'ed!" (Random ACt of Kindness) 
    
I wanted to create a different kind of tag. I desired to add a twist of faith—something that told about the ultimate act of kindness—that of Jesus Christ. The result is a card that begins: “You’re B.A.C.K.! (Blessed by an Act of Christian Kindness). The card ends by sharing about God's greatest act of kindness and how it isn't random at all, but intentional.

28.11.16

Bible Basics: A Baby Believer Counting Primer Review & Giveaway

by Sally Matheny

Bible Basics 
My last book review and giveaway in November is a board book for toddlers. The content in Bible Basics is just as robust as its construction.

The author, Danielle Hitchen, and the illustrator, Jessica Blanchard, are mothers who care about the spiritual formation of little ones. Hitchen’s book grew out of her need to find books that teach theological basics of the Christian faith to the youngest members of the family.  


Bible Basics “teaches the Bible and core tenets of Christianity” using quotations mostly from the Bible (ESV) and (NIV). Also included is a quotation from St. Augustine and one from the hymn, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

This is a meaty book. Babies and toddlers will enjoy the bright pastel illustrations while being exposed to theological concepts and six passages of scripture.

27.11.16

The Fears & Joys of Adoption (Part 2)

by Sally Matheny

Adoption
  (Pixabay Photo)
What's the adoption process like? I’d compare it to riding your first-ever roller coaster ride. While waiting in line, you see the process. Your desire to do it is beyond measure. But the excitement and eagerness mingles with an ever-increasing anxiety in the pit of your stomach. 


In honor of Adoption Awareness Month, I shared the first part of our adoption story in my last post.

Today, I'm sharing the rest of our adoption adventure. 

Just like waiting in line for a roller coaster, it helps to hear the excitement of others’ as they finish. However, ultimately, there’s no way to prepare fully for your first experience. When it’s time, you simply take a step forward, and away you go!

The First Call

Eighteen-months of waiting on a call from the adoption agency left me with ample time to wonder. Wondering how our lives would change with a new addition to the family. Wondering if we would measure up to birthparents’ expectations. Wondering if anyone would ever choose our family for their child.

The home study required for adoption is only valid for eighteen months. After our initial home study expired, we questioned if we were doing the right thing. The agency told us the eighteen months was the world’s timeline, not God’s. After much prayer, we felt at peace. We began the process of renewing the home study. 

Within three weeks, a call came from the adoption agency. A birthmother wanted to meet us! The baby’s due date was only a month away. And it was a boy!

What if we had given up and not renewed our home study? The adoption agency was right. It had been the world’s timeline—not God’s.

Our meeting with the birthmother was indescribably beautiful. At first, we were all nervous, but as we began to talk, an overwhelming peace and joy filled our hearts. We shared our story with the birthmother, what led us to adoption, and how God was working through it all.

The birthmother cried as she told us we were the answer to her prayers. Life had not turned out as she’d hoped. She had made unwise decisions but was working at getting back on track.

She said the baby’s father was also struggling. She spoke with love and compassion as she spoke about him. He never had a chance to witness what a good husband or father looked like.

Even though his life was tough as a kid, he “never chose to turn things around, to work, or show responsibility” as an adult. His choices in life continued to spiral downward until, for the safety of her and the baby, she finally had to leave.

She loved the baby but there was no way she could take care of him. More than anything, she said she wanted him to have a good daddy. He would not get that if she kept him. She wanted to protect her son from negative influences, from possible harm, and place him in a loving home. Her greatest fear was that the baby would grow up resenting her. Through my tears, I assured her that as he grew, he would hear how much she loved him.

My heart was totally unprepared for this part of the adoption journey. I had been praying in general for all birthmothers making tough decisions. Up until then, my perception of our child’s birthmother had been very abstract. Now, she had a face, a name, and a personality. Best of all, she had an enormous heart of love.

As we all sat in a circle, the adoption counselor asked my husband to close our meeting in prayer. I was sitting beside the birthmother. I asked if we could all hold hands. I desperately wanted to hold the hand of this precious woman. A woman who loved her son so much she would part with him in order to provide for him.

As my husband prayed aloud, I prayed additional, silent prayers for this woman. I prayed for God to protect her health, her mind, and her heart in the days ahead.

We hugged and cried some more before leaving. But the smiles on our faces showed the evidence of God’s presence.

There was still the challenge of getting the birthfather’s consent. With every passing week, I continually asked God to calm my nerves. There was nothing we could do but trust God with the outcome.

26.11.16

The Winner of the Journal the Word Bible

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
And I'm happy to announce the winner of the Journal the Word Bible.
Congratulations Jennifer R. of N.C.! Jennifer, I'll contact you about delivery of your Bible.
Thanks to all of you who shared comments on how God's Word has influenced your life.

I am thankful for each of you,

Sally

21.11.16

The Fears and Joys of Our Adoption Journey (Part 1 of 2)

by Sally Matheny

(The Fears and Joys of Adopting)

Our son was nine days old when we first met him. As soon as I entered the room, I saw a large, white basket on the sofa. Like a strong magnet, it pulled my heart.  

My husband said, “Wait. Let me get the camera.” I shook my head replying, “I have waited for years, and I cannot wait a moment longer!”  


Gently, I scooped up the tiny miracle and nuzzled him in for a kiss. In that moment, an amazing peace and overwhelming love swaddled us together. Every previous concern, every fear melted away.

Many uncertainties had emerged during our adoption adventure. Nonetheless, more delights resulted. In honor of Adoption Awareness Month, I'd like to share with you a few of our adoption fears and joys. Perhaps they'll encourage you if you're considering adoption.

17.11.16

Journal the Word Bible--One for Me & One for You!

by Sally Matheny
Photo: Journal the Word Bible

How sweet the season is—a time of thanks and giving! Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson sent me, not one, but two, NKJV Journal the Word Bibles. One to keep, and one to give away. First, let me tell you how awesome this Bible is!
Every cream-colored page contains wide margins of lightly ruled lines. You can either journal your thoughts or illustrate the meditations of your heart.


I’m doing a little of both in mine, but mostly journaling. No more writing on the back of church bulletins or loose papers! Everything will be in one spot, ready for future reference by me, or the next generation.

12.11.16

The Winner of the Children's Book--More Giveaways Ahead

I Won?
Public Domain Photo
Congratulations to Melinda Roberts on winning A Night of Great Joy by Mary Engelbreit! Melinda, contact me with directions of where to mail your book.

Thanks to all of you who shared your Christmas ideas. You'll have several other chances to win books this month. 

Right now, author, Carrie Daws, is offering five copies of her book, The Warrior Bride: Biblical Strategies to Help the Military Spouse Thrive to one of my blog readers. You can find out more about this fantastic giveaway on this week's post.



Wouldn't it be wonderful if you won these to give to military wives or to donate to churches and libraries? Carrie is selecting a winner on Nov. 18, so read her great article on my blog and get in on that drawing.

Also, in about two weeks, I'll be reviewing an awesome journal Bible and I'm giving one away. It's a NKJV and one of those that has room on the side of every page where you can journal or illustrate what you're meditating on in God's Word.

I'm thankful for the publishers and authors who donate these books for my readers. 

Also, I'm thankful for you, dear friend. I appreciate your involvement in my blogging ministry and the Christian encouragement you share with others.


                                      "Every good and perfect gift is from above,
                                       coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
                                       who does not change like shifting shadows."
                                                                   James 1:17

6.11.16

A Night of Great Joy- Children’s Book Review & Giveaway

Photo: Make it A Night of Great Joy

Christmas is less than seven weeks away. Can you believe it?
Before the little ones become enraptured with twinkling lights and toy displays, snuggle them in for a story. The picture book, A Night of Great Joy, written and illustrated by Mary Engelbreit, would be a delightful choice. Allow me to share with you a little about the book, and how you can possibly win it.

This beautifully illustrated book is sure to captivate young children's attention. Engelbreit chose to tell the nativity story through a children’s Christmas pageant.  Children of all ethnicities, clad in colorful costumes, tell the story of Christ’s birth, on a stage using handmade props.
The story unfolds with one to three free verse sentences per page. The message is sweet and simple.
The illustrations are precious. Two children tug over a stuffed lamb. Another child seemingly wants to draw attention to herself. And one is an eager participant in the beginning, but later loses interest.
How fitting for Christmas to illustrate our sinful nature and our need for Christ.
Who wants to win this book?
All you have to do to get your name in the drawing is share something you’ve done, or plan to do, to help children focus on the Reason for the season.
I’ll announce the winner of the book on Saturday, Nov. 12. Leave a comment and get your name in the drawing!
**(Make sure you visit the blog on Veterans Day! I have a wonderful guest blogging for me that day and she has an AWESOME giveaway planned.) 

*MELINDA ROBERTS- You're the winner! Please contact me by Nov. 26 with directions for where I need to mail your book. Congratulations!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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.”



31.10.16

Trusting God Through a Miscarriage (Part 2 of 2)

by Sally Matheny



October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In my last post, I shared with you the excitement of my third pregnancy, and the devastation of a miscarriage.

Today, I want to encourage you by sharing another portion of my miscarriage journey.

If you’re dealing with an infant or pregnancy loss, you already know some days are hard.  Really hard. I promise you, it will get better. I hope you'll find encouragement here and in a resource I've included at the bottom of the post.



And, if you’re someone who has never experienced a miscarriage, and are at a loss of knowing how to help someone who has, there’s something here for you as well. It helps to have friends and family support while trusting God through a miscarriage.

24.10.16

Trusting God Through a Miscarriage (Part 1 of 2)

by Sally Matheny

Trusting God Through a Miscarriage
(photo by Pixabay)
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  In remembrance of that, I want to share with you a portion of my own miscarriage journey. Perhaps you can relate. Hopefully, you'll be encouraged.
Not even the startling, cold lubricant squeezed onto my belly could stifle my excited chatter.
I was on the verge of being the first one to hear a great secret—the gender of our third baby!

Earlier that day, I had taken our seven-and nine-year old daughters to a sitter. They wanted to go with me for my 12-week check up. I told them the following month’s appointment would be an ultrasound. I assured them they could go with me, and their daddy, to see the baby growing inside my tummy then.

Now, here I was, by myself about to hear the big reveal earlier than expected. Finding it difficult to locate the tiny baby with his stethoscope, the doctor asked how I felt about an ultrasound to see if I was as far along as we thought.

I happily agreed but told him he’d have to do another one next month because I’d promised my girls. Plus, my husband was out of town on business, so there was no way he could get there in time to see today’s ultrasound.

So, I felt rather special since I was about to receive some exciting news before everyone else. What a nice gift after enduring three months of nausea!

“If I’m not as far along as we expected, will you still be able to tell if it’s a boy or girl?” I asked.

“Maybe. We’ll see,” the tech said as she slid the probe around.

A few seconds later, she added, “There’s the baby.”

“Awww, it looks like it’s waving,” I said, noticing five, distinct, widespread fingers held in front of a profiled head and nose.

My heart pounded, waiting for her to tell me the big news. Boy? Or girl?
A few more swipes. She announces on her way out the door, “Okay. The doctor will be in to see you in just a minute.” 

Odd. Maybe the tech isn’t allowed to say anything and has to wait for the doctor.

A few minutes later, the doctor comes in and repeats the same movements over my belly. It’s awfully quiet in the room until the doctor grunts a low, short, “hmm.”

I feel my enthusiasm fade in the dimly lit room. Something isn’t right.

23.10.16

Announcing the Winner of the Children's Christmas Book: Operation Birthday Blessings

Congratulations, Janey G. from South Carolina! You've won a free copy of Angelika Martin's children's book.

I'll give Angie your full name as the winner from my blog. Go ahead and contact her on her website at http://www.jesseandbongo.com/contact.html. Contact her before the end of October so she'll have plenty of time to personalize your book for you.

Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway. I've got several more fantastic giveaways coming up soon!

I hope you all have a week full of joyful blessings and a peace that passes all understanding,

Sally

17.10.16

Operation Birthday Celebration--Book Review & Giveaway

 by Sally Matheny

Photo: Operation Birthday Celebration--
A Journey to the Manger


I stumbled upon a gem for you all while reading Vonda Skelton’s blog the other week. 


She was interviewing author/illustrator, Angelika Martin, about her Christian children’s book, Operation Birthday Celebration—A Journey to the Manger.








I knew I wanted to review this book when the author said,

“Christian parents want creative resources that capture a child’s imagination and fuel curiosity while staying true to biblical teaching. Operation Birthday Celebration is entertaining while supporting Christian values and doctrine.”

Martin initially wrote the book for her grandchildren because she “didn’t want Christmas hijacked by an elf.” 

Soon, however, other families, and writing professionals, were reading her book. They highly recommended she offer it to the public. I think many Christian families will be glad to hear Martin has Operation Birthday Celebration ready to go for Christmas 2016.

So many things make this book special.

16.10.16

Winner of 66 Ways God Loves You Book

Photo: the Honest Hat
Congratulations to Linda C. of North Carolina! Her name was drawn from the Honest Hat as the winner of Jennifer Rothschild's beautiful book, 66 Ways God Loves You. Plus, she will receive the matching tote bag.

Linda had tried numerous times to post her comment with her computer that day without success. She finally contacted me via facebook, and I posted it for her. Your perseverance paid off, Linda!

Thanks to all who entered. You have a chance to win another great book this week. Be sure to check my next post.




Until then,

Sally

11.10.16

66 Ways God Loves You Book Review & Giveaway

by Sally Matheny

66 Ways God Loves You Book and Tote Bag
Oh, dear friends, I want to share with you about a wonderful book I’m reading. And, I’ll tell you later how one of you can win the book, plus a matching tote bag!

Jennifer Rothschild infuses her new book, 66 Ways God Loves You, with beautiful wisdom and loving thoughts.
  
Her passion comes from her own understanding of the Bible.

“One profound, unavoidable, irreducible, soul-quaking effect—I feel the love of God.
I want that for you too. God deeply loves you—He loves you with an everlasting love.
So God tells you in sixty-six ways . . . in each and every book of the Bible.”




Rothschild points out God’s message of love from Genesis to Revelation. Two to three pages are devoted to each book of the Bible. The passages are scripture-infused meat, but concise enough to be read in five or ten minutes. It’s a perfect beginning or ending to your daily Bible reading.

5.10.16

Bring Your Bible to School Day Means More Than You Think

by Sally Matheny

Students with Bibles
The effect of supporting “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” is greater than you think.

There are 195 independent countries in the world, plus approximately 60 dependent areas and five disputed territories.

According to Open Doors USA, the following countries are where Christians endure the most severe persecution for their faith:




 1.    North Korea
 2.    Iraq
 3.    Eritrea
 4.    Afghanistan
 5.    Syria
 6.    Pakistan
 7.    Somalia
 8.    Sudan
 9.    Iran
10.        Libya

Bibles in their native languages are banned in many of these countries. Persecution includes oppression, imprisonment, and death. While we sympathize, many of us choose to isolate ourselves from the terrors abroad. Those countries are far away from us.

Guess which country ranked #40 on the list for persecuting Christians?

Our next-door neighbor, Mexico.

We can visit Open Doors USA and Voice of the Martyrs for better understanding and learn ways to help.

But, what does all that have to do with our country and Bring Your Bible to School Day?

3.10.16

The Winner of With All Due Respect

Congratulations to Gail C. of Spartanburg, S.C.! Your name was drawn from my blog subscribers. You've won the book, With All Due Respect, by Roesner and Hitchcock.

I'll contact you for a mailing address.

A big thank you to all of you who subscribe to the blog, either through your email or RSS feed.

I've got another GREAT giveaway coming up soon. so stay tuned!

Have a joyful day,

Sally


27.9.16

With All Due Respect Book Review and Giveaway

by Sally Matheny

Book Review: All Due Respect
Nina Roesner, the executive director of Greater Impact Ministries, Inc. has teamed up with co-worker, Debbie Hitchcock, to write With All Due Respect:40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens & Tweens.

I’ll be giving away a copy to one of you readers this week! 

There's something for everyone for a variety of topics are covered. A sampling of the forty chapter titles are:

Communicate Respect Early
Take Care of the Temple
Use Humor When Things Get Hot
Be True to Your Word
Coach Your Kids on Navigating Conflict
Separate Your Identity




Two of my favorites are Talk Your Kids Through Disappointment, and Deal With the Person Before the Issue.

While I appreciate the one or two scriptures at the beginning of each chapter, I don’t think the overall content is “scripturally saturated” as stated in the beginning of the book.

However, the content is good, and written with a Christian worldview.

Each chapter opens up with a scene illustrating some type of situation or problem. The authors use the dialogue between characters as a tool to teach parents how to respond in certain situations. In some parts, the dialogue sounds like it’s coming from a Christian psychologist more than a parent, but nonetheless, it’s helpful. Each chapter closes with a prayer for the parent.

This book is not a Bible study. But rather a resource for parents, specifically moms, on how to communicate effectively with their tweens and teens during life’s stressful moments.

During those difficult times, if you struggle with controlling your emotions, speaking before thinking, or acting rashly, this book will challenge you to pause and pray first. Then, it gives you a springboard of ideas on how to offer guidance as you begin a healthy conversation.


Want to win this book?

Every person who has subscribed to this blog, or is following it by email, will have their name entered into the drawing. If you’re already doing one of those, you don’t need to do anything at all.

Otherwise, you can find the “Subscribe to” button and the “Follow by Email” section over there to your right. Thanks and I can’t wait to see who wins. I’ll announce the winner on Oct. 3, 2016.

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



17.9.16

Why Christians Are Afraid to Speak Up & How to Squash Those Fears

by Sally Matheny

Photo by Pixabay
Why are some Christians afraid to speak the truth of Jesus Christ when they are at school, at work, or even at church? 

I believe it boils down to three fears. Fear of rejection, fear of persecution, and fear of inadequacy. How do I know? A few of them have crept up on me, too.

Let’s consider our “what if” fears and talk about ways to squash them.






Fear of Rejection

You’ve heard these—maybe even said a few.

“What if kids stop talking to me, because I’m talking about Jesus?”

“I could be ostracized in the group.”

“If I talk about God, won’t people say I think I’m better than everyone else?”

We may see eyes roll, hear snide remarks, or feel as if we’re invisible. We may be denied access to the popular group at school. Overlooked for a job promotion.

Former friends now

keep

their

d i s t a n c e.

Rejection may lead to persecution.


Fear of Persecution

“The kids will make fun of me if they know I’m a Christian.”

“If I speak the whole Truth, they’ll say its hate speech.”

“No one will respect me. They’ll think I’m a fanatic. I might even lose my job.”

Persecution to most American Christians means being singled out, harassed, perhaps bullied.

Persecution to Pakistani, Asia Bibi, meant a beating for sharing her faith to Muslim women. Imprisoned for violating subsection C of Pakistan’s 295 blasphemy law - blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad, she was sentenced to death. The death sentence was not carried out, but she’s been imprisoned since 2009. Even though she is sick and misses her family, she will not renounce her faith.

Asia's story takes our perception of persecution to another level.