Content from this blog has moved to www.michellerayburn.com.

12.30.2010

10 Things I'd Change About the Last 21 Years of Marriage


Today, my husband and I celebrate 21 years of marriage. We started dating 25 years ago and I can hardly remember life without him. 21 years is a great feat considering where our society is. And yet, when I look at his grandparents who have been married for 73 years, I can hardly process it in my mind. To think that 52 years ago they were like us and to think that they've been together three times as long as we have...well, it's just unbelievable. It makes us look like babies yet.

Speaking of babies, now that I look back at our wedding picture, we really were babies then! Wow. At the time, my age of 20 and his of 23 seemed old. Now that Phil is older than my own father was when we got married, I see things from a different perspective. But we were in love and time has proven that we had what it takes to stay married. However, as I look back, there are some things I'd do differently if I had the opportunity to re-live our first 21  years.
  1. I'd spend more time listening and less time talking.
  2. I would  hand out more compliments and a lot less criticism.
  3. I'd be more patient with the differences between my mother-in-law and me. And I'd put my husband in the middle less.
  4. I would say "I love you" more and "You forgot to.." or "Why didn't you.." less.
  5. I would spend less time in my office and more time on the couch with him.
  6. I would smile more.
  7. I wouldn't pretend I didn't hear him when he says his back hurts and a massage would be nice.
  8. I wouldn't be so bossy.
  9. I'd try harder not to expect him to be perfect.
  10. I'd let him pay all the bills and balance the checkbook. Hee, hee.
Looking at my list, I realize that I still can do most of those things. And if we end up with another 52 years together, like Grandpa and Grandma had, wouldn't it be like having the chance to do it all over again, twice?

How about you? What would you do differently? How many years have you been married? If you aren't married, what have you observed in married couples that you would do differently in your own marriage someday?

Respond in the comments on this blog post and get your name entered into the December drawing. Today is your last day to enter! And if you've already entered before, your comments on this post will get you another entry.

12.27.2010

Muted Monday - Photo of the Week

The view from my front door. This is why I love snow.

Book Drawing: All readers who leave comments on posts this week will have their names added to the December book drawing.

12.23.2010

The Innkeeper's Wife

I've always struggled with the parts of the Christmas story that have become tradition, but which aren't specifically spelled out in scripture. One of those is the whole concept of the innkeeper and his wife. Last week, at a Christmas party, fellow writer Sheila Wilkinson read a piece that put my heart to rest. Rather than focusing on details about what's in the story and what isn't, she focuses on our response to the Christ Child and his family. I asked Sheila to guest blog today with her piece about the innkeepers wife because I wanted you to see just what moved me in her story. Thanks so much Sheila for guest blogging today!

-Michelle

The Innkeepers Wife
by Sheila Wilkinson

Who is she? Ever wonder? She shows up in December in some of the Christmas programs. You know – the same old, same old retelling of a story that we add so many details to. Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem to be counted because Caesar Augustus has called for a census in order to tax the people. (That is another whole story.)

When they get to Bethlehem, was the ‘no vacancy’ sign on the door or did the innkeeper direct them to the stable? Was there a stable? Was there an innkeeper? How could the innkeeper’s wife let that poor pregnant girl go sleep in a barn? Imagine that!

Well, we do not know these details. We know there was no room at the inn. So, imagine this innkeeper’s wife. Her name might have been Miriam. The house is full. Everybody is tracking in the dust and dirt. The cook is sick and the dishwasher broken.

Then Mr. Innkeeper calls to her, “Miriam, we have two more people here, soon to be three – and a donkey. What room do you want them in?”

“What room? There are no more rooms. Two families in each one already. The rest have taken all the bedding and are sleeping all over this dirty floor. I think I’m going to lose my mind. The food is gone. The kids are hungry. The babies are crying. I cannot care for one more person. Tell them to go away.” And Miriam turns, stomps off and promptly steps on the foot of a child who immediately screams, more from the confusion than the pain.

Or, was her name Adina? What would the difference be?

When Adina overhears her husband, the innkeeper, sending the young couple away, she pushes and shoves her way through the crowd. “Stop, tell them to come back. Wait!!!” In horror she says to him, “We cannot send them away. Look at her. Poor child will give birth any time now. She looks so tired. Remember how frightened I was? We must help them.”

“How?” he asks, “we are full. We have no room, no bedding and no food.”

“Our Lord would not want us to send them away. We must put them somewhere. They are helpless in a strange town.”

 And, so, they ended up in the stable. Or, was it a stable?

We do not have the facts about this place. Scripture does not even call it a stable. It says she laid Him in a manger.

Archeologists tell us that in these Jewish homes the ‘stable’ was probably part of the house, maybe even a room, where some of the animals were kept at night. Thus, it would have a manger. The house probably belonged to some of Joseph’s relatives.

The real question? Would I have been a Miriam or an Adina?


You'll find Sheila on the web at Sheila's Tidbits of Truth


All comments on this blog post will be entered into the December book drawing. Leave your name and either a link to your blog, or your e-mail- example: michelle (at) michellerayburn.com so I can contact the winner.

12.22.2010

Need Help With Christmas Recipes?

Goosberry Patch just released several free Kindle versions of their cookbooks. This means you can use your Kindle, laptop, iPad, or iTouch to view digital recipes in your kitchen. If you don't have a Kindle, Amazon has a free application for reading these free books on other electronic devices. 

Meatloaf Recipes

Happy Cooking!

How Do You Pay for Your Christmas Shopping?

I've found a way to earn some gift cards for next year's Christmas shopping. If you haven't tried Swagbucks, and you do a lot of searching or shopping on the internet, you can earn money for doing what you already do. In just two months, I've earned $30 in Amazon gift cards by searching and shopping via the Swagbucks site instead of my usual Google.

It's kind of like frequent flyer miles for internet users. By installing and using the toolbar (no spam or spyware included) I get daily points. And by clicking my favorite places to shop from the Swagbucks page, I'm getting paid a little to do what I would do anyway.

Sometimes you find a code on the Swagbucks blog and enter it on the home page. Other times, you just get points automatically when you're using the search engine. There are many ways to get points.

This week, you'll earn 20 bonus points on sign-up if you include the code SignUp2010 at registration (remember it has to be added during sign-up, not after). That means you'll start with 50 sign-up points instead of 30. Then, watch the Swagbucks facebook page, the blog and the messages on your toolbar for ways to earn points in addition to shopping and the search engine. You'll also see the widget above where you can find codes. You can cash in points for all kinds of stuff, but my favorite is the $5 Amazon gift card for 450 points.

The bonus expires on Sunday, so if you've thought about trying Swagbucks, now is the time. I know how I'll be paying for next year's Christmas shopping!

12.21.2010

The Best Gift Ever

I love giving Christmas presents. And I enjoy watching people open the gifts that I have carefully selected or hand made just for them. I like to shop throughout the year so I can put more thought into the gifts.  Okay, I’ll admit it.  It’s so I can find the best bargains and I can avoid the oppressing crowds in December.

As we look at our holiday traditions such as gift giving, we can add new significance by making a habit of looking for ways we can keep the story of Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas in the forefront. As I wrap my Christmas gifts and tuck them under the tree, one example comes to mind and I’d like to share it with you in the form of an object lesson that you can share with your own family or your Sunday school class. It’s my gift to you.

Before unwrapping gifts on Christmas—maybe after you have read the nativity story from the Bible—hold up a gift from under the tree and have a short discussion that goes something like this…

I know you are eager to open this gift and find out what’s inside. But before we do that, this present reminds me of why we have Christmas in the first place. In fact, there are some things that come to mind about our Christmas presents that make me think of an extra special Christmas gift. Does anyone know what the extra special gift is? (Allow them to answer: Jesus)

Let’s talk about the five things that our Christmas presents and the gift of Jesus have in common. (For those with younger children, have them hold out one hand and use their fingers to count off the five things as you talk about them).

1.    Prepared a long time ago.  Just as mom and dad shopped carefully for the gifts under our tree ahead of time, God had the gift of Jesus prepared a long time in advance. In fact, He promised that he would send a savior way back in the book of Genesis.

2.    Waiting for the gifts. We wait until the right time comes to open our gifts and God waited until just the right time to send Jesus as a little baby. The people had waited for so many years, and when an angel came to the shepherds and told them the time had finally come, they were so excited! Think about how we feel right now because we know it is time to open our gifts.

3.    All wrapped up. Sometimes, the gift inside a package isn’t what we expected.  Sometimes exciting things come in tiny packages, and fancy gifts come in plain brown paper. Have you ever opened shoebox that contained a toy?  Or has anyone ever disguised one of your presents by wrapping it in something unusual? Jesus didn’t come in a way that people expected him to come. They expected a king, and they thought kings were born in castles and wore crowns and jewels.  Jesus was born in a stable—a barn for animals—and he didn’t have a throne or a crown.

4.    Gifts are extravagant. A present is something we wouldn’t normally just go out and buy for one another. It is something extra special and over the top of our normal spending. When something is extravagant, it is unbelievable, incredible and amazing!  When God sent his Son Jesus to earth, he was giving us an extravagant gift, something so amazing that we cannot understand it.  Jesus came so that he could take our punishment for sin.  That blows our minds.

5.    Given in love. A gift is not given because we are obligated to give it or because someone deserves it.  It is given out of love.  God didn’t send Jesus because we deserved his gift of salvation. God knew that we could never be good enough to get to heaven on our own. He sent Jesus because God loves us so much (John 3:16) and if we receive his gift and believe in Him, we can be called God’s children.

Many people rejected Jesus when he came and many people still don’t understand God’s gift. They don’t want to believe in Jesus and receive God’s gift of salvation. Can you imagine if we left our gifts under the tree and never opened them?  We’d miss out on something very special.  Now as we open those presents, let’s remember Jesus, the best gift ever!

Reprint of Michelle's article that appeared in Wisconsin Christian News, December 2008

All comments on this blog post (posted below, not via e-mail) will be entered into the December drawing. Yes, you may get your name in twice if you've already entered by commenting on one of the other posts. 

Watch for a special guest blogger later this week and more opportunities to get your name entered.

12.16.2010

Books, Books, Books

I've been reading a lot of free books on Kindle lately and I'll post the latest Kindle freebies below. But for those of you who don't have a Kindle or don't care to read from your computer, I'm giving away a good old fashioned print book at the end of the month. 

So far, Margaret and Chris have been entered into the December drawing for a hardcover copy of "Christmas Miracles". You can get your name entered into the drawing by being one of the first three people to comment on this post. What book is on your nightstand or next to your laze-e-boy right now? Tell me in the comment section below this blog post.

Now, for the free Kindle books from Christian publishers this week. Remember, they are only free for a little while. Check back to my previous blog posts for other books that might still be available for free.

Also, if you like classics, most are in public domain and this means they are always free for download. Here's a link to the top best-selling free classics (listed on the right side). You'll also find many of them if you search the Kindle store and then sort them by price so that the free ones show up on the top of the list.

I write reviews on most of the books I read and you'll find the 70+ reviews I've written at my Amazon profile page HERE.

12.11.2010

Snowed In

You never know when plans might change when you live in Wisconsin. This afternoon, I was supposed to go speak at a ladies Christmas tea. However, 18 plus inches of snow intervened for me and I stayed home all day. Sometimes, it's just nice to be snowed in. Looks like we'll be snowed in yet tomorrow, so we'll be relaxing at home instead of venturing out to church.

It would be easy to be disappointed when plans don't do the way we want them to. But sometimes, being snowed in, or snowed under provides an opportunity for something we'd otherwise never have made time for. So when plans change because of weather, instead of getting upset, I like to make the most of it and look for the blessing. Looks like it took a few feet of snow to get me to catch up on some things I've been wanting to get done forever. It was great to get the Christmas tree decorated today and get a bunch of little cleaning projects done. 

Most of us don't mind a snow day. But what about when life snows us under? Some might be facing a health problem or a surgery that will make it impossible to get normal work done. It might be appendicitis. A breakup. Temporary or permanent layoffs at work. An unexpected pregnancy. Whatever the circumstance, it might be difficult to accept when it wasn't part of our original plan. But just like a snow day, sometimes the unexpected might just provide an opportunity to do something we'd never have taken time for otherwise.

A job layoff might mean more time for family. Or it might spur a career change that you'd never dared try before.  A surgery might be the only way some people will get off their feet for a time of rest. That time of rest could lead to a spiritual reawakening. You never know what opportunity might come out of the unexpected.

Tonight, I had to make some cancellation phone calls regarding plans for tomorrow and for the first time in as long as I can remember, every person was home and answered the phone On a Saturday night. It takes a heap of snow to get people to stay home with family and set aside their crazy schedules, but I'm sure some of them are doing something tonight that they never find time to do otherwise--talk.

What circumstance has you snowed in or snowed under? Have you been able to find a hidden blessing?

Leave your comments below. The first three people to comment will be entered into the December Book Drawing.

12.09.2010

What's on Your Reading List? PLUS Book Giveawy Opportunity


The snow falling outside my office window swirls with each gust of wind. The plow has been by several times already this afternoon and I'm reminded of my favorite recreation for this time of year. Reading. I love to read, but I feel guilty when I spend too much time in a book during the summer when the garden needs weeding, the grass needs to be cut, and my to-do list of outside chores continues to grow. But when it snows, I have no guilt about curling up with a fuzzy lap throw and a good book.

Usually, on Thursdays, I tell you about what I'm reading. But today, I have no reviews to post and no Kindle freebies to share, so I want to know what you're reading. What's on your to-be-read pile? What's on your night stand waiting for you to delve into the next chapter. What should I put on my must-read list?

Share your comments below and include the book titles and author names of your must-reads, and I'll choose the top three that look the most intriguing to me next Thursday (so you have a whole week to comment). You may list more than one book on your favorites list. PLUS, I'll enter the name of the three people who submitted the three most intriguing sounding books into my December Book Drawing. Watch for other opportunities to be entered all month.

If you want to be part of my give-away, be sure to identify yourself and include an e-mail address. This format is fine: michelle (at) michellerayburn.com .

If you receive these posts via RSS feed or E-mail, jump over to http://www.faithcreativitylife.com to leave your comments.

December Book Drawing


We love FREE books, right?

At the end of December, I'll be giving away one copy of Christmas Miracles by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson ($10.19 value). Watch for posts that mention opportunities to have your name entered into the drawing. Christmas Miracles is a hardcover gift book with heartwarming stories from more than 40 authors.  Your first opportunity to enter will be in a post later today.

12.01.2010

Creatively Cramped- 5 Ways to Cope

It's ironic to me that in the season where I need to get working on little handmade Christmas gifts, my writing, and other creative pursuits, I'm feeling creatively cramped. My brain is on pause. I've had a few minor health problems in the last 3 weeks. Nothing more severe than two head colds and a terribly sore neck, but it makes me wonder how people with much more challenging problems can be so productive.

I'm trying to cope with my lack of creativity and normal energy without becoming vegetative, and I've come up with a list of five ways to cope when you don't have the energy or the brain power to do the larger projects on your to-do list.
  1. Tackle tiny to-do tasks. (Hmm... was that a spark of creativity that came through with the alliteration on that "t"-laden statement? ) I've discovered that when I'm creatively cramped, I can still accomplish something. So I've tackled little cleaning tasks, returning phone calls, and sorting through my files and e-mails.
  2. Rest. I've given myself permission to rest and I've enjoyed reading several books over the past few weeks. I've become more acquainted with my fluffy white robe and we like each other. We part every morning by ten, but I like my robe so much better than my workout sweats.
  3. Let the guilt be gone. I've struggled because I have so much writing I could be doing and I feel guilty about my lack of progress. However, I've banished guilt and accepted this brain fog as a season.
  4. Encourage someone else. I've sent out a few cards and letters in the past few weeks and it feels good to encourage someone else. So often, I'm so busy that I can't find time to send notes to everyone I'd like to. Having a few down days gave me some time to catch up.
  5. Ask for help. I hate asking for help, but when my neck was stiff, I had some days where I could barely move around without pain. I had to ask my boys for help, which brought on a healthy dose of their kidding me about getting old. Sometimes it means reaching out and asking someone to pray. Sometimes it's physical help. Either way, it's important to enlist the help of people who can encourage when we're struggling.
How about you? How do you cope when you're not functioning the way you normally would?

11.29.2010

11.24.2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

What Are You Thankful For Today?


Since today is my husband's birthday, it's appropriate to say I'm thankful for nearly 21 years of marriage to my best friend. He's truly a treasure from God and a man who is very patient with my shortcomings. I'm also thankful for our two sons who will be off to college faster than we can blink!
Me and my guys
How about you? Please share your gratitude in the comments section below. And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

11.23.2010

Swagbucks- A Practical Way to Earn Internet Cash


I Love Swagbucks!
I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard of Swagbucks. In fact, I ignored the information for a long time. But recently, I received another invitation to join and I decided to check it out. Turns out, it really does work!

I joined just a month ago and I've already earned enough points to cash in for $15 in Amazon gift cards. Considering I'm earning those points by doing something I already do on the web, shopping and searching, I think it's super. And this week, they've added even more ways to earn points. Haven't checked it out? Here's a link to get you started.

I've found the best way for earning points is using the toolbar which I installed using the link on the Swagbucks Website. The great news is that the toolbar has not increased the spam in my inbox or raised any spybot red flags. The toolbar has a search box similar to Google and Yahoo and just by using that for my regular internet searches, I receive points randomly throughout the day.

The other way I have earned points is by shopping. Most of my favorite retailers are listed on the Swagbucks site. Just as it works with your frequent flyer miles for an airline, if I begin my online shopping by clicking on the retailer on the Swagbuck's site, I will earn 2 swagbucks points for every dollar I spend. 

The special offers also provide points. For example, I earned 500 points for a $18 purchase on Vista Print because it was a special offer. And just this week, Swagbucks added a coupon feature. There are coupons to print and take to the store and users will receive 10 points per coupon when they are redeemed. 

There are many other ways to earn points including daily polls, surveys, watching videos similar to something like YouTube and much more.

I'm thrilled to earn bucks for what I've already been doing on the web. How about you? Ready to try it? Follow any of the text links or pictures in this post to get you connected to Swagbucks

Search & Win
Have questions about how it works? Just leave a comment and I'd be happy to try to answer them or point you to the page on the website that answers your question.

11.19.2010

Considering Our Creator


When I Consider

Have you ever wondered why the earth wasn’t square and plain like a big box? What if it was more like a giant racquetball court or a gymnasium? Just six boring walls. Imagine a flat and two-dimensional world with little color or variety. No flowers. No trees. No hills or mountains. Could it have been this way? Sure. God could have created anything he wanted. But that isn’t what he did.

Sunset at Denver International Airport
Instead, he created geography that blows my mind. I’ve flown over the Rocky Mountains at sunset and driven to the top of Mount Baker in the state of Washington. I’ve been to Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. I’ve traveled the shores of Lake Superior and hiked the trails along swift rivers and peaceful streams. Not one acre of land is exactly like another and the contrast in the contour of mountains and valleys is almost more than I can fathom sometimes.

It isn’t just the magnificent formations that grip my thoughts. I’m amazed at the fine detail that God didn’t overlook even in my own back yard. As I meander my garden I see intricate flowers and a glorious display of color. As hummingbirds buzz around me and the blossoms bend and sway in a strong breeze, I can’t help but wonder, “God, how and why did you create this world with such attention to detail?” 

Those are the moments when my heart sings with the words of David in Psalm 8. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers…what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” It makes sense that David would say, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,” when he stopped to consider what God created. When I stop to think about why God didn’t create a giant racquetball court of a world, I can see several reasons, as if my little mind could even begin to understand the mind of God.

I think one reason he created the world with immeasurable beauty and awe is that it reflects his own beauty and awe. I’ve traveled so little in my lifetime, yet I’ve seen enough to make me realize that it must surely be a tiny sample of the glory of God.

In addition to reflecting his own glory in his creation, I think God created the earth the way it is simply because he enjoyed creating it. As an artist, I thoroughly enjoy the process of creating and designing a work of art. I can almost imagine God forming the world like a potter forms clay and splashing it with color in flowers and trees. His artistry shows in thunder and lightning, snow and rain, sun and blue skies. I imagine his satisfaction when he stepped back and he “saw all that he had made and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). As a gardener, I understand his delight when he “planted a garden in the east, in Eden…and the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9).

He made it pleasing to our eyes too, not just his own. Surely, he created it for our enjoyment. For the sense of peace and joy we receive when we spend time hiking in the beauty of rocky hills, canoeing the wilderness, flying into a sunset in an airplane, and resting by the side of a peaceful lake.
As if all of these weren’t reason enough, I think God created this world in such a way that not one human being could say, “I did this.” If the world were flat and square, we’d have less reason to believe in a creator. We wouldn’t be blown away enough. We’d believe that a random accident created the box. Although many still refuse to believe in God the Creator, I find it impossible to believe that a random accident made life sustaining water, photosynthesis for oxygen, and vast amounts of plants, animals and fruits for food. How could our round earth spin on a perfect axis, orbit the sun, and change seasons in order without a perfect creator?

As I consider the wonder of creation, I can’t help but think that if God created something so splendid in seven days, what will heaven be like?

Reprinted from Michelle's "Habits for Quality Living" column in the September 2010 issue of Wisconsin Christian News.

11.16.2010

Kate-The Princess Bride

Just this morning, Prince William of Wales announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton. There's nothing to stir the imagination of women around the world like a royal wedding. I remember watching Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981. Regular broadcasting set aside, 750 million viewers watched the timid bride in a puffy dress so big it nearly swallowed her up in ruffles as she wed the prince. I was 12 years old, young enough to still dream of what it would be like to be a princess myself.

With William second in line to the throne, his bride will be next in line as queen, and rumors of a pending engagement has had the press all a buzz for weeks. Now that it's official, speculation begins about how lavish the affair will be. She's already wearing the engagement ring his father gave to his mother so many years ago. But what I find most romantic and fascinating about the whole princess story, is that she's a commoner. Although her parents' wealth hardly qualifies them as lower class, they aren't royalty. Which means, Kate has no title.

Many will criticize her lack of a pedigree, but others will defend that true love won out over a title. Some reports call her an unfit princess, claiming she's not really in love with William. But however others look at it, somewhere in me, today's announcement woke up my inner 12-year-old and I can't help but delight in the fairy tale story of a middle class girl who swept the heart of the prince.


11.15.2010

New Book by Andrea Boeshaar

Book Review Uncertain Heart

Andrea Boeshaar is on a roll. Book two in the Seasons of Redemption series is even better than book one! Uncertain Heart is the story of Sarah McCabe, a sister to the McCabe brothers from book one. Sarah is tired of life in rural Missouri and she wants some adventure, so she accepts a position as governess to a wealthy captain in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here Sarah learns to fend for herself and she also learns to take the faith she learned as a child and translate it to actions and decisions as an adult.

Sarah finds herself in a wealthy culture that is nothing like her simple roots. It doesn’t take long for Sarah to get her emotions caught in between two men—her captivating wealthy widower employer Brian, and his honorable and trustworthy business assistant Richard. Sarah’s innocence leads her to potentially compromising situations, but Richard and his faith-filled loving family provide a refuge for her, if she doesn’t overlook what she has with them.

I enjoyed the historical side of this novel, even though I’m usually not a huge fan of historical romance. I also enjoyed the nurturing side of Sarah that comes out when she interacts with the four children in her care. She’s charming enough to soften the crusty German housekeeper as well. The story is well-written with a good balance of humor, adventure, faith and entertainment.

If I had to find something I didn’t like about the book, I guess it would be related to Sarah’s actions in the relationships between the two men. Perhaps fewer stolen kisses and skipping her boldness in initiating more than one kiss would have protected the sweet innocence she portrayed. Also, at one point I wanted to take her over my knee and spank her for provoking a ridiculous number of arguments with Richard.

All of that said, I was pleased with several unexpected events that kept the plot lively. After reading the sample chapter for book three, I’m even more eager to read that book because of an unexpected twist in the continuing plot. Boeshaar also does a great job of weaving faith into the story without making it cheesy.

I highly recommend this series to readers.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publicist, Glass Road PR, for review purposes. I was not obligated to write a favorable review and my review is both objective and honest.
About the Author

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar has been married for more than 30 years. She and her husband, Daniel, have three adult sons, daughters-in-law, and two precious grandchildren. Andrea's educational background includes the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, where she studied in English, and Alverno College where she studied in Professional Communications and Business Management. Read the rest of Andrea's bio at www.andreaboeshaar.com.

11.12.2010

Workplace Gossip- Guest Blog Post

Have you ever asked questions like these? My coworker loves to gossip about the rest of the staff behind their backs. How do I deal with it when she wants to unload the dirt on me? What if I’m the subject of her chitchat?

See what author Rosemary Flaaten has to say in the following guest blog post. Then check out my review of A Woman and Her Workplace.

Workplace Gossip
by Rosemary Flaaten

Gossip is a nemesis that runs rampant in workplaces. A tantalizing snippet of information or a morsel of exaggerated juicy news goes a long way to spice up a humdrum work environment. But, left unchecked, it creates a toxic environment that will suck the health out of workplace relationships.

The effects of gossip can only be felt when they are passed from one coworker to another. When your gossiping coworker starts to share with you the latest bit of office gossip, it is best to simply stop it. Interrupt her monologue and say “I really don’t want to hear this about this person. I don’t want to get drawn into gossip”. You’re not slamming her behavior; you are simply setting boundaries on your involvement. Chances are she will be surprised and may even mutter something like “Well, you’re no fun.” or sarcastically exclaim, “Aren’t you all high and mighty.We’ll give you the Miss Perfect award.”

Unfortunately, you may find that your unwillingness to participate in her gossip circle may make you the brunt of her gossip. But, know that doing the right thing is always the best rule. Perhaps your courage to stand up and stop being engaged in the gossip will make a positive impact on the workplace environment.

Jesus had a great deal to say about how to get along with the people in our lives who are our enemies – people who gossip about us and even slander our character. Jesus evidenced for us the value of speaking the truth in love but He went even further to give us relational pointers that will reverse the toxic nature of gossip. C.S. Lewis referred to the topsy‐turvy nature of God’s kingdom and these four points from Luke 6:27‐28 are indeed counter‐cultural:

1.    Love your enemies ‐ If loving your coworkers is too high of a hurdle to stride, use the work care instead. Caring for this coworker means that you will not force your convictions on her; you will forgive her for the offensives she has made against you and you will take pleasure in only the truth about her. If this seems impossible – you’re right, it is, on our own. We must open our heart to God and allow His love to flow into us so that we can become the conduit of Love to those people who desire evil against us.

2.    Do good to those who hate you – Kindness disarms hostility. Find ways to show kindness to her, even while she continues to gossip or slander you. Raise the bar. You have the opportunity to bring kindness and benevolence into the workplace.

3.    Bless those who curse you – blessings involves desiring good things to happen to and for others. Blessing is the antithesis of retaliation. When given a chance to say something unkind about someone who has been spreading gossip, choose to find something good to say about them. Follow the adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

4.    Pray for those who mistreat you – As Christ hung on the cross, he prayed for those who had orchestrated his crucifixion. Praying allows God to transplant our bruised heart with a supple heart that turns our focus to God rather than the mistreatment we have received by the words of others. True heart change will occur when we start praying.

 It is never our responsibility to try to change the gossiping habit of our coworkers. We are simply responsible for our behavior. Deciding that we will not even be a receiver of gossip will break the cycle. Being on the receiving end will necessitate a decision between retaliation and love. Treating our enemies the way we would want to be treated is living out the Golden Rule.

Rosemary Flaaten’s successful book,
A Woman and Her Relationships helps women process their outside-of work relationships, so now she’s delving into these 9-5 relationships in A Woman and Her Workplace. Her Relationships book won The Word Guild Award, which is Canada's top Christian literary honor. A dynamic speaker—Rosemary challenges women of all professions to view their work as a calling and their workplaces as opportunities to live out Christ’s love. Rosemary lives with her husband and three children in Calgary, Canada.

11.11.2010

New Book for Working Women

Read all the way to the end to find out how you can win a special gift basket including this book...
Book Review of A Woman and Her Workplace

If we spend more than 40 hours each week with the people at work, why is it there are so few books dedicated to improving work relationships? In A Woman and Her Workplace, Rosemary Flaaten approaches the subject from a biblical perspective. It isn’t so much about conflict resolution as it is about examining our own attitudes to see where we can improve. She focuses on topics such as humility, forgiveness and grace, honesty, team building, and leadership.

Each chapter contains a practical story example of a woman who demonstrates the struggle which Flaaten will address in the chapter.  I liked these examples because it made the ideas more practical and real. Flaaten boils everything down to one biblical concept—love. However, since we won’t typically find it appropriate to tell our co-workers that we love them as we would for family members, we need to use a different approach in showing that we care. I see another biblical thread through the book as well—the golden rule. Flaaten teaches that we should put others first and treat them as we’d want to be treated.

At the end of each chapter, the author has included a list of verses to study and questions for reflection. I could see this section used as personal Bible study, but it would also make a great after hours Bible study for female co-workers who share a desire to improve their office interaction. Although it isn’t likely that most people in an office will share beliefs, it would work well for ministry based organizations and churches with a larger staff. This book offers solid advice on learning to work well together. The author has woven the story of Esther throughout the book, comparing the reader to a modern-day Esther in a section at the end of each chapter called “The Esther Connection.”
A Woman and Her Workplace: Building Healthy Relationships from 9 to 5
The author is thorough in the topics she covers. She’s even included a chapter addressing interactions with men, appropriateness of mannerisms, and sexual integrity. The writing is organized and well thought. It’s practical, useful, and biblical.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author’s publicist, KCW Communications for review purposes. My opinions are objective and unbiased.

About the Author
 

 
ROSEMARY FLAATEN’S successful book, A Woman and Her Relationships helps women process their outside-of-work relationships, so now she’s delving into these 9-5 relationships. She writes from a fully equipped life-experience toolkit. In it we find her varied work experience, a counseling and educational background, and a deep love for God as well as a passion to help others. Her Relationships book won The Word Guild Award, which is Canada's top Christian literary honor. A dynamic speaker—Rosemary challenges women of all professions to view their work as a calling and their workplaces as opportunities to live out Christ’s love. Rosemary lives with her husband and three children in Calgary, Canada.
 
Basket Give-Away!

GRAND PRIZE:  
Give your desk a facelift
—transform your desk and your relationships!
  • An autographed copy of
    A Woman and Her Workplace
  • Hard cover journal
  • 40 piece stationary set
  • Handbag styled refillable note dispenser
  • Photo frame
  • Stainless steel travel mug
  • Mini stapler, pen, pencil and highlighter
  
HOW CAN YOU GET ENTERED TO WIN?
 Comment below (on the blog post, please- E-mail comments do not count), and tell me why you'd like a copy of this book. On November 19, I'll draw the name of one reader and send that name in to KCW Communications for entry into the grand prize drawing. That person will also win my copy of the book. Please make sure I'm able to contact you in the event that you win. (Please note:My copy of the book was damaged in the mail, and therefore pages are bent. However, you'll still get the great benefit of reading the book.)
 

11.09.2010

New Book by Chris Fabry

Book Review - Almost Heaven

This was the first book by Chris Fabry that I’ve ever read, although I’ve been familiar with his work with Focus on the Family and with the Left Behind kids series. I really enjoyed the book.

Almost Heaven
is the story of Billy Allman, a man with a big heart and a small ego. The world needs more Billy Allman’s. The story takes place in West Virginia, and Fabry does a great job of setting the scene. Although I’m from the Midwest, the story transported me to the hills and I felt like I was right there hearing Billy’s mandolin and driving the dirt roads. Billy is certainly eccentric and he’s seen his share of heartache. But this is a story of redemption and of how God heals old wounds. God used Billy in a big way to touch the lives of many people, but Billy doesn’t seem to realize just how much he is appreciated. Almost Heaven  is a fictionalized story based on the real life of a man named Billy Allman who had a radio station in West Virginia.

I’m inspired by this story in that it shows how God uses people who others might cast aside to accomplish that He wants to accomplish. It’s humbling. I’m also moved by the depth of hurt that so many people carry buried deep inside. I think many who have been abused in their past will find hope and healing in the stories of the characters in this book.

Chris Fabry knows how to weave a story that draws in a reader with just the right balance of drama, description, and emotion. The one thing that I didn’t like quite as much about this book was the dual story. Let me explain. Most chapters in the story are told first person by Billy. But interspersed are chapters written from the first person view of Malachi, Billy’s guardian angel. A change in font distinguishes the point of view of each of these characters. I thought that Malachi’s story actually interrupted Billy’s story too much. I’d have enjoyed the book just as much, if not more, without Malachi’s story.

The chapters written from Malachi’s point of view were flat and the description was more telling than showing. Whereas, the chapters written from Billy’s perspective shone. It didn’t matter to me that Malachi intervened sometimes. I could have lived with simply knowing that Billy sensed something supernatural took over that he couldn’t explain. I give this book four stars despite my disappointment with the parts about the angel. I give the main story a 5 and the sub-story a 3, so I’ll average them. I also issue the disclaimer that some parts of the story are too mature for young readers because they tackle sensitive issues.

The end of the book contains a sample chapter from another book, and I found it so intriguing that I can’t wait to read it. It spins off Billy’s story and focuses on another character from this book.


Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publicist, Glass Road PR, for review purposes. I was not obligated to write a favorable review and my review is both objective and honest.

About the Author
Chris Fabry and his wife Andrea are the parents of nine children. Chris says:
"I'm also a writer. I began writing early in my life, but I didn't come back to this until much later. I've published more than 60 books since 1995, many of them fiction for younger readers. I collaborated with Jerry B. Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye on the children's series Left Behind: The Kids. My two novels for adults, Dogwood and June Bug, are published by Tyndale House Publishers. Dogwood received the 2009 Christy Award in the Contemporary Standalone category."

See the rest of Chris's personal story on his website, www.chrisfabry.com .

11.01.2010

Inspiration Monday

We had the privilege of attending the Wisconsin Music Association Honors Band concert this past week. Our son Dallas was a member of the band and it was such a great experience for him and for all of us. For the Monday inspirational photo, I'm featuring a picture from inside the Overture Center in Madison, WI as the band was warming up for the concert (no photos were allowed during the concert). Can you imagine how fun it would be to perform in such a place?
Think of the experiences you've had that were "once in a lifetime" opportunities. Have you ever stopped to thank God and appreciate those experiences for how they shaped your life?

You'll find more photos of our experience on my Shutterfly page.

10.26.2010

Weathering the Wind


The wind has been ferocious today. I'm not sure exactly what all the clunking and thumping on the outside of the house and the roof is, but I'm thankful to be inside. I'm also thankful we had the dying tree removed from our yard over the summer. Nearby, some residents have lost power multiple times tonight, but ours has only flickered.

As I listen to the wind howl and roar, I'm reminded of the power of the weather. Despite the four walls surrounding me, in many ways I'm still at the mercy of the wind. At a moment's notice, it could gust hard enough to compromise the structure of my home. As I watch the words scroll across the bottom of the television screen, it's clear that I'm not alone tonight. Others are at the mercy of the weather too. In counties south of me, they're waiting out a tornado watch. And north of me, a sinkhole caused by the rain prompted a warning to local residents about the dam on the river. It could blow any time.

More than anything, this wind reminds me of the power of God. He's not only more powerful than the storm, but He's our shelter in the storm. I'm reminded of the lyrics of the old hymn by Vernon J. Charlesworth, " A Shelter in the Time of Storm."
The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
Refrain:
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
A shade by day, defense by night,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes afright,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
The raging storms may round us beat,
A Shelter in the time of storm
We’ll never leave our safe retreat,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper ever near,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
Tonight, as I drift to sleep to the sound of the wind, I'm clinging to the promise that God is my refuge, no matter what situation threatens my soul. I'm also meditating on the words of Psalm 91,

 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
       will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
       my God, in whom I trust."

10.19.2010

Overwhelmed?

Do you ever feel like everyday life is just too much? Perhaps your calendar looks like mine. I'm guessing yours is even more crowded most of the time.

Some days, I wonder why I don't go insane. Yesterday was one of those. After a morning appointment at the courthouse with the housing commission, I chowed down a quick sandwich and yogurt and then raced off to parent teacher conferences at school. Then I drove faster than I allow my teenagers to drive to get back home for my three afternoon piano students. Before the last one was even buckled into her mom's van, I was grabbing my purse and Bible to head in for women's Bible study. After that, I taught one more piano lesson and then whipped up some eggs and a pancake for an 8:00 supper before making my weekly Monday night phone call to the other music coordinator from church to plan worship for Sunday. When the rest of my family got home, they cleaned out the leftovers and made up some ramen noodles for a side dish. Confession: I don't cook on Mondays! And if that makes you think I'm a terrible wife, I'm perfectly okay with that.

I'm not a fan of Mondays because what I just described is how they typically go. I'm so thankful that I chose to relax on Sunday afternoon this week in preparation for Monday. I took a two hour nap with the Bears and Vikings game for background noise. Then I propped my feet up on the armrest of my chair and read a book. When the guys came in from hunting, we enjoyed a family movie together. By 10:00, I was conked out again.

If it weren't for the days when I take a sabbath rest, I'd never survive a typical week. Some Sundays are just as crazy as my Mondays and I miss that rest time. Of course, I never get an entire day off (even Sunday morning I'm up early for music team), but any amount of dedicated rest time is priceless.

Do you make time to rest and refresh? How do you recharge when your calendar is packed with obligations and activity? If you don't, I encourage you to schedule some time to relax. Soon!

10.16.2010

Photo of the Week

I thought I would get a head start on my Monday photo of the week and post it on the weekend instead. Last Saturday, Dallas and I got up before the sunrise so that we could shoot some of his senior pictures over at Arrowhead Bible Camp. As a result, I captured some shots that I would have missed if I had slept in.

If you haven't take the time to watch the sun come up in a while, I highly recommend it!

10.11.2010

Transforming Church in Rural America

Shannon O’Dell wants to change the way rural congregations do church. When he arrived in Arkansas, he had a congregation of 31 people. Now, the church has over 2000 people on multiple campuses. Most rural churches are tradition oriented and not change oriented. Drawing from his own experience at what was renamed Brand New Church (BNC), O’Dell challenges churches to be ministry minded and focused on reaching people—even some people who make conservative believers uncomfortable.

I received a copy of “Transforming Church in Rural America: Breaking All the Rurals” from the publisher through BookSneeze.com. O’Dell offers some common sense ideas with practical examples that contrast with how most churches operate. He isn’t afraid to break the rules, or “break the rurals” as he refers to it. Using the acrostic V.A.L.U.E., he helps the reader see the value of vision, attitude, leadership, understanding, and excellence. He also gives practical steps to transformation for those going through a change.

The author offers a lot of free helps for the reader to save some of the steps that his church went through. For example, they saved their research from the bylaws of various churches and has those available for download for churches researching constitutions to write their own. Throughout the book there are also links to video clips available on his website. I had technical problems at first but after a Java update, I did get most of the videos to play. Refreshing the page whenever I received an error message seemed to work too.

Shannon O’Dell has thought this out well and has given many good examples from his own church. There are a few things that caught me off guard a little, despite my progressive attitude towards change. First, some people will be taken back by his casual use of words like “dang” and “sucks”. He’s of a new generation and some will not like this. O’Dell is confident, but in a few places he comes across as a bit arrogant. This too might hinder some from seeing the good ideas that fill this book. He doesn’t address how to honor the people who are hanging on to tradition while still moving forward. He implies that letting them get mad and leave is a simple solution to growing. I’d like to see him address how to make it work without making them walk.

Finally, I wasn’t on board with his pastoral driven style of leadership. I think there is a compromise between congregational leadership and top down leadership. Although O’Dell does talk about replacing committees with teams, he still places almost total authority in the hands of the pastor. Even when it comes to building projects, he suggests that the pastor should be in charge. This can rob people of using their gifts, especially if there is a contractor or expert in the church who knows much more about building or finances. He says his system won't work with a pastor who is a control freak, but it seems that this style of leadership would be the very thing that produces control freaks.

All in all, this is a book to stimulate ideas. Churches will find changes that they can attempt in their own congregations as well as some things that they will disagree with. No church is perfect. O’Dell has had his share of staff troubles and ministry problems too. But the idea that rural church needs to be shaken up is relevant and timely. This book is a launching place. A lot more had to happen behind the scenes for Brand New Church to get where it is today.

In Chapter 7, there are is a problem with paragraph spacing that the publisher must have missed. This isn’t the author’s problem, but it’s something I’ll mention to the publisher.

I had the opportunity to review this book compliments of the publisher through the BookSneeze.com review program. My reviews are objective and honest.

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