Saturday smiles: vacation scrapbook edition

Looking at vacation pictures, reliving the memories, has been a delight for me this week, especially now, when at the end of the week, I’m ready for a solo vacation — me without my family — or a new life. (I’ll be okay, I promise. Just hit a rough patch of reality this week.)

So, to share the love, here are my favorite pics from our family vacation. Check back on  Monday for a “best of” vacation post.

Girl meets ocean. I couldn’t catch a moment like this on purpose, so I’ll just be grateful that the camera clicked at the exact right time.

Another Kodak moment, save for the guy on the picnic table in the background. Still, I’m lovin’ the look on my son’s and dad’s faces. Precious is an understatement.

Enter land of the princesses. Isabelle is eating her first course at Cinderella’s Table in THE castle at Magic Kingdom. The bliss is written all over her face, and she’d only met one princess up to this point.

What I love about this picture is Isabelle’s imitation of Princess Aurora, right down to the holding of the skirt. Little did I know, the princess magic rubbed off. The day after we got home from Florida, we were grocery shopping and Isabelle said this in a sweet, sing-songy voice:

Well, hello, olives. How are you today? I’m very well. Well, hello, pickles. So nice to meet you.

As if I didn’t already have a drama queen on my hands. Lord, help me.

Thank you, Disney, for allowing me a trip to the future. Twelve or so years into the future. I am NOT ready for my 4-year-old to be a 16-year-old driving anything resembling a car, much less a race car. But we had fun. I worked the pedal. Maybe by then, they’ll have invented a car like that, too.

And the smile moment at the end of EVERY day, not just the fun vacationy, ones.

Kids. Asleep.

Happy Saturday, friends. Hope you’ve found some smiles this week. If not, feel free to borrow some of mine.


Anthem Thursday: God Gave Me You

I can’t get this song out of my head this week. Phil and I are approaching our fifth wedding anniversary — five years full of ups and downs with more of each to come, I’m sure.

I know a guy sings this song (both versions) but I feel the words are true from either partner in the marriage.


And for the country version …

Stuck in the middle: a review of Special Delivery by Kathi Macias

Since reading Deliver Me from Evil, the first in Kathi Macias’ Freedom Series, which focuses on human trafficking, I’ve been eagerly awaiting book two. When it finally arrived, I had to patiently wait before digging in to the continuing story of Mara, who had once been enslaved, and Jonathan, a Bible college student who aided her rescue.

Sadly, I discovered that Special Delivery suffers from middle child syndrome — not that its story is any less important, but it seems to be a link between the first book and what will be the last. The story started slow, including a lot of background from the first book. Two years have passed in the story since the first book ended, so I can understand the need to catch the reader up with what’s been going on in the characters lives, but I felt the build-up took too long.

That said, I finished the book in a day because Macias crafts a story that is hard to put down. I knew that sticking with the story would be worth it by the end. And it was, though it leaves me with an even greater taste for the final book in the series.

FAVORITES: Macias takes her readers to uncomfortable places and issues challenges through her writing to care about people — and their issues — who might fly under the radar of mainstream society. I know when I pick up one of her books I won’t be the same when I put it down. This, to me, is her strength as a writer.

FAULTS: The Christian families in these books seem to have it all together. Especially in this second book, I was tired of Jonathan’s family. They were so sweet to each other and perfectly “Christian” that I wanted to skip ahead to the other parts of the story. The series’ focus is on human trafficking, which is heartbreaking enough, so maybe we need the Flannery family to counteract all the ugliness of a modern-day slave trade. Still, enough was enough for me.

IN A WORD: Satisfactory. Special Delivery provides a bridge from the start of the story to what I’m guessing will be the end. It fills in gaps and sets readers up for the finale. This isn’t the best thing I’ve read from Macias, but it’s still worthwhile.

Check out the book trailer below and read on for an interview with the author.

Special Delivery is book two in the Freedom (human trafficking) series. For anyone who may not have read book one, Deliver Me From Evil, can you fill us in on the focus of the series in general, and Special Delivery in particular?

The Freedom series is a three-book fiction series built around the horrifying topic of human trafficking. People often ask me why I decided to write about such a dark topic. First, I explain that I’m not writing about a dark topic; I’m writing about the Light that shines in that darkness. And second, I believe the Church should be at the forefront of the modern-day abolition movement to set the captives (modern-day slaves) free. The three books in this series specifically follows the life of a young woman named Mara, who was sold into sexual slavery by her own parents in Mexico, and then smuggled across the border into San Diego by her uncle who then served as her pimp. A strong sub-plot throughout the series tells of two sisters in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Chanthra and Lawan, who are also trapped in a brothel. Finally, a teenage girl named Francesca, kidnapped in Juarez, Mexico, and forced into prostitution, is introduced in book two. Special Delivery picks up two years after book one, Deliver Me From Evil, ends, and continues with the stories of Mara and Lawan, as well as others carried over from book one. Mara hopes she is finally free to pursue her own life because she was rescued from the brothel and her testimony helped lock up her uncle for life. But the man has underground connections and is driven by revenge to reach out from behind bars and deliver the ultimate punishment to his niece.

This isn’t the first fiction series you’ve written on nationwide and even worldwide social issues, the one previous to this being the persecuted Church. What draws you to these difficult topics?

As a Christian, I believe I am compelled to use my God-given gifts to honor God in all I do—and that includes exposing the deeds of darkness, calling sinners to repentance, and taking a stand for righteousness by doing all I can to help rescue those who are suffering. I dare not turn my back on “the least of these.” I also believe that God placed this sort of burden on my heart even before I became a Christian at the age of 26. I’ve always been a champion of the underdog, a “soap-box” preacher, if you will. When I met Jesus, I simply redirected that passion toward His people, realizing I couldn’t effect real change in my own strength anyway.

With your obvious passion to right social and moral wrongs through the power of the Gospel, how did writing and speaking enter into that?
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was a child—never wanted to do anything else. When I was a teenager I told my then boyfriend (now husband) that I was going to be a writer one day. What a blessing that God allowed me to fulfill that dream! After becoming a believer and growing in my faith, it was natural to take my passion to fight for others and incorporate it into my writing. Speaking, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. I was terrified of public speaking when I was young, and the day I received Christ I made a “bargain” with God, promising to do anything He asked of me—so long as it didn’t include public speaking. (Does God have a sense of humor or what???) Now, when I stand in front of audiences where I believe God has called me to speak (and actually find myself enjoying it!), I tell my listeners that if God has called them to do something and they feel it’s impossible, they can consider me their “visual aid” that NOTHING is impossible with God IF we will simply take that first step of obedience and let Him fulfill His purpose in and through us.

With the topics of the worldwide persecuted Church and human trafficking under your belt, what other issues are you dealing with in your writing?

My Christmas 2011 book, A Christmas Journey Home, dealt with the immigration/border problem, and my Christmas 2012 novel, Unexpected Christmas Hero, will be about homelessness in America. The next issues-related fiction series I have on tap—which I am just starting to write, by the way—is called the “Patches of Courage” series and will begin releasing in late January 2013. Book one is The Moses Quilt, based on the life of Harriet Tubman, and will be followed by The Christmas Quilt and The Impossible Quilt. This series of books will highlight historical American women whose Christian faith enabled them to walk in great courage and make a difference in the lives of countless people.

Where can people find out about you and your books/speaking/appearances?

They can go directly to my website ( or or my Easy Writer blog: I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, and various other social sites. Would love to hear from all of you!

Where can people find out about free book giveaways on this blog tour?
The blog tour host is giving away a set of two books from the Freedom Series –  Book 1 (Deliver Me From Evil) and Book 2 (Special Delivery). Also, readers can follow @ChristianSpkrs on Twitter or follow on Facebook at for more book giveaway locations on the tour.

I was given a complimentary copy of  this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview  on my blog. This blog tour is managed by Christian Speakers Services (

Anthem Thursday: Ocean

We’re on vacation, at the beach, so it’s no surprise that songs about the ocean are stuck in my head.

Here’s one of my favorites, by Ten Shekel Shirt.

I don’t know exactly what it is about the ocean, but I want to lose myself in it. I don’t really like to swim, and I don’t dwell on drowning, but when I see the ocean, I’m drawn to it and I want to go deeper into it and let it overcome me. I’m literally in awe of it. I don’t think I could study the ocean enough to ever really understand how big it is, how vast, how rich in life and wonder. It’s a mystery. Beautiful, wild and unpredictable. Yet also refreshing and calming.

Like God.

The more I know Him, the more there is to know. He calls me into deeper relationship with Him, yet I won’t know all there is to know about Him in a lifetime. He is wild and calm, beautiful and terrifying, unpredictable yet unchanging.

Want to hear another ocean-themed song that’s been in my head? Click here. You can listen to it free on Spotify.

Born and raised in the Midwest, living in the mid-Atlantic, I need to be reminded about this side of God.

What songs are in your head this week?

A long-term relationship: Review of the One Year Chronological Bible

Two Christmases ago, my in-laws gave me a copy of the One Year Chronological Bible (Tyndale). This version of the Bible arranges the books and chapters of the Bible into a beginning-to-end sort of timeline. For example, if a story appears in all three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), you would read those on the same day instead of reading all the way through Matthew, then Mark, then Luke.

It’s hard to follow sometimes, with a Psalm here and there in the middle of a historical narrative, and it takes some getting used to — the idea that the books are out of the order we normally would think them in. But I have to say, I was enriched by using this Bible. It took me 14 months to get through because I had some weeks where I didn’t read the Bible for several days, but I’m so glad to have read the Bible all the way through and to have gained some understanding about the time when things took place.

FAVORITES: Each day’s readings were doable, although some days I thought they were long. But the flow of reading the stories chronologically made even long passages bearable. At times, I felt like I was reading a biography or memoir, which admittedly is not always how I feel about reading the Bible.

FAULTS: Really? I’m going to fault the Bible? No, not the Bible itself. My only real criticism is that when talking to my seminary-student husband, I learned that some of the scholars’ decisions about chronology could be questioned. Just because this version bills itself as THE chronological Bible doesn’t mean it’s perfectly compiled.

IN A WORD: Fresh. I was excited to read the Bible each day, and I picked up on things I hadn’t seen before because of the way familiar stories were presented. I heartily recommend the One Year Chronological Bible to anyone who wants or needs a fresh look at God’s Word.

Vacationing with kids: top five reflections

So, if you’ve been visiting the blog recently and noticing a blatant lack of new material, I offer you this explanation: we’ve had family in town and were getting ready to go on vacation. We traveled the east coast and are now on vacation.

I have much I want to blog about but who can blog when it’s sunny and 80 degrees and the ocean is literally outside our window? I’ll be back on track soon with some book reviews and other thoughts on life.

For now, though, I offer you my top five reflections from our first vacation as a family.

1. I’ve become my mother. I take pictures out the front window of the car as we drive, and I have vivid memories of my mother’s while-in-motion photography skills. It may not always be pretty, but it gets the job done. Am I right?

We’re crossing the Chesapeake Bay on the bridge-tunnel here.

2. I no longer care about skinny women in bikinis. We’re vacationing in Florida, where I spent several vacations as a teenager. Beach + teenager insecure about her body (okay, maybe that should just read “woman”) = deep hatred of swimsuits. Fast forward 20 years and I have two very good reasons (not to mention the stretch marks) for why I don’t look good in a bathing suit.

You know. These two reasons.

3. Vacation is not about what I want. I’ve never been a big fan of beach vacations because I burn easily and don’t like being overheated. And I’d rather sit by the pool under a beach umbrella and read a book than swim. That’s all changed with the kids. We’ve been here two full days and I’ve spent the better part of both days either in the pool or on the beach. And my skin shows it a little. Confession: I’ve never had more fun in the pool or on the beach. How do you say “no” to a 4-year-old who grabs your hand and begs you to jump into the deep end with her? Again. And again. And again. Her enthusiasm is contagious. And how do you convince the 2-year-old that the ocean is fun if you don’t get out there and get your feet wet, too?

4. In addition to bearing much of the sunburn, my shoulders (and my husband’s) bear the responsibility for pulling off a great vacation. Partway through our trip down the coast, he realized that he’s the dad (he’s had four years for this to sink in) now. He does the driving and the planning and the getting us safely from place to place. At my parents’ condo, I’ve slipped into the role of mom, even though my mom is with us. I buy groceries. I cook. I do laundry. Meanwhile my parents enjoy the grandkids they don’t see often enough.

Oh, how times have changed.

5. I can appreciate how much work my parents put into our family vacations, especially in the dark ages before Google Maps could show you your hotel from a satellite picture or the Internet could help you find an out-of-the-way bird farm in somebody’s backyard in North Carolina. (It’s a real place, the subject of a blog to come.)

Surely we whined and asked “are we there yet?” a million times. Surely they wished we’d just fall asleep so they could have some peace and quiet. Surely they smacked themselves on the forehead when they realized they forgot to pack swim diapers for the toddler. Surely they wondered, at times, if it wouldn’t have been easier to stay home.

But surely, they also would have thought about how great the memories would be and maybe someday their kids would take their kids on vacation and make great family memories.

We’re having more fun than I thought was possible.

How has family redefined your idea of vacation?