I’m determined to believe there is something magical about ‘Mommy kisses’ and ‘band-aids’. They are like small, daily miracles God gives moms to make the little traumas of life a bit easier to bear. It’s… More
What do you think of?
Before reading The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon, I could only pull images from movies I’d seen (Hildago being one of my favorites). Sarah’s beautiful novel reintroduces me to a world and culture quite different than my own, so let’s learn a little more about this landscape, beautiful in its own way.
Sarah used Arabia as her canvas for painting her beautiful story about Karim and Hannah, two people from two cultures and faiths, who allow love to, not only save Karim’s people, but also bind their two hearts together.
Arabia is a peninsula which is framed in by the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. So…three sides of it meet water, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s like Hawaii. Arabia is known for it’s dry, dessert climate, but usually boasts a pleasant spring and autumn (my two favorite seasons). Mountain ranges run throughout it with an elevation as high as 9000 feet in some places. The combination of the rugged terrain and climate make for a perfect setting for the nomadic life Sarah’s describes.
In so many of the photos, the sands appear almost like ocean waves on a vast golden horizon. The wind shifts the sands, changing the scenery with a sky that modulates from amethyst mountains, copper skies, jagged peaks, golden sands, and aqua seas. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Though, from what I understand, it’s not for the faint of heart or the lover-of-cold-weather or rain 😉
Sarah recreates this unpredictable and vast landscape for us through her novel The Esther Paradigm. The danger, beauty, heat, and nomadic life are portrayed to the point where I could almost feel the wind whipping around the tents. You can read my full review HERE.
Have you ever watched a movie that featured Arabia? What would you like to see if you could go to such a place?
I love it when God gives you one of those brief moments of clarity.
Of what it really feels like to be loved.
Sometimes, we have to go through our days reminding ourselves of God’s truths in the Bible. Forcing our logic to overcome our feelings.
But occasionally, we’ll have those moments where what we know meets a moment where we ‘get it’ – the glimpse of God’s amazing love through Christ. And in that moment, we feel his freedom.
We know it. We have faith in it – but because God loves us so well and so much, He will give us moments where His love becomes clear – and it’s beautiful.
It’s the reminder that the trial is temporary. That the pain won’t last forever. That no matter how hard, how long, how difficult, how shaken, battered, or scarred – we are completely free in His love.
And it helps us see the bigger picture.
For just a moment.
But…thank the good Lord – that’s enough…
Sometimes writers can highlight truth through the avenue of story that others cannot. Sarah Monzon accomplishes this in her beautiful novel, The Esther Paradigm. Here’s a little about the story:
The daughter of missionaries, Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan with whom she spent her childhood. After completing her education in the United States, she returns to the desert to pursue that dream—only to learn her parents have been receiving threats from within the community they serve. As the danger escalates, Hannah must decide how far she’ll go to stay faithful to a calling that could cost her everything.
As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravages the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, some of his people believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep Hannah and her parents safe—even if the only solution is to be found within marriage vows.
In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, where Christianity is outlawed and foreigners suspect, will Karim and Hannah’s union heal wounds . . . or inflict a final, fatal blow?
Interesting premise, right?
And impressive story concept – to step into two worlds that appear very different and show how there are many things that are the same, one being the heart’s search for love.
Monzon creates a captivating tale by painting an almost fairy tale like world of colorful tents blowing in a heated wind, sandstorms, forbidden romance; it even has a prince 😊 (okay, he’s a sheikh, but you get my point 😉) Add a commoner to win his heart (who isn’t really that common, by the way) and you have a beautiful tale that resembles the ancient Biblical story of Esther.
Hannah cares deeply for the Gospel and for the people in the Bedouin community she’d grown up in as a child. Her missionary parents, and her love for Jesus, have nurtured a beautiful compassion in her “adopted” people. Karim is the Muslim leader of the community, determined to bring honor to his father’s memory and Allah, and he includes Hannah’s family in that community.
When a disease attacks their livelihood and Hannah’s family is blamed for the blight (due to their Christian faith), Karim’s only way of protecting her in his own strength, is to marry her.
The beauty of their friendship-turned-romance, Hannah’s innocence and trust, and Karim’s protectiveness is sweet. Karim is strong, serious, and bound by a generations’-old duty and Hannah…well, she brings color into his life. Karim doesn’t see it as her faith at first, but as the story moves forward, and as dangers threaten to destroy the tenderness of their newfound love, Hannah’s faith is tried, Karim’s authority is challenged, and their lives are put to the test.
Monzon’s brave pen-dip into the Muslim-Christian dynamics results in a beautiful story of romance, not only of two human hearts, but also the romance of a loving Father for His people. The Esther Paradigm is a stand-off-the-bookshelf kind of story that you’ll want to discover.
About the Author
Here is a wonderful quote/prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson, the 19th century author who penned the books: Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Kidnapped (and so many more).
Am I willing to be….
If you’re looking for a movie with thought provoking depth, The Greatest Showman isn’t for you, but if you want to watch a movie that is optimistic, fun, exciting, and plays upon the trope of rags-to-riches…with panache, then you will enjoy this story based on the life of entrepreneur and showman, P.T. Barnum.
This movie does exactly what it advertises. Entertains. I think it tries to capture the bigness of PT Barnum’s imagination by bringing that creativity, charisma, and larger than life character, into the 21st-century.
It’s a magical adventure sprinkled with more fairy dust than reality, but oh, what a treat! The music, to my surprise, was more modern than historical, but I found myself enjoying most of the songs. They really set the stage (no pun intended) for the emotional power of the story.
The choreography? WOW! There were so many beautiful moments in the blending of song and movement that told their own stories I wanted to watch it again!
Hugh Jackman’s excitement about this movie comes through in every scene. The sweetness of a childhood romance that blooms to adulthood, the strength of family, the power of imagination, And the bonds of finding community are all elements that bring this musical to life.
With a stellar cast, a heart-warming storyline, a message about family, acceptance, and the love for what’s important, and the show-stopper tunes, this movie is a delightful step into the world of entertainment.
Is it predictable? Yes. Are their deeply developed characters? No. Are we left with a heart-stirring truth to ponder for the rest of eternity? Definitely not. But it was never touted as such a movie.
Show business entertains – and The Greatest Showman does just that. It’s a family friendly, energy-packed, sing-along adventure that will be worth another watch or two.
The older I get the more I appreciate priceless gifts.
No, I don’t mean the grand English estate of my dreams
The perfect dress size despite the food intake (though this one continues to vie for top on my Christmas wishlist every year)…
or the one publishing contract to rule them all 😉
I mean the sweeter, longer lasting, more eternal type things, like…people, kindness, laughter, memories…time.
There are SOOOOO many precious people who’ve joined the journey of my life with me.
My family is awesome – and I’ve really had the opportunity to watch my kids bloom this year after recovering from a really hard move in 2014 – yeah…it took this long to recover!!
I’ve watched hubs blossom in his calling as a music minister. He truly has a gift to not only create beautiful music, but also encourage the hearts of the people he ministers to.
I’ve seen God save my brother’s life from a horrible car accident – and though there’s been a long recovery, God’s grown my brother’s faith and his family’s closeness in the process.
I’ve experienced another year of awesome sisterhood with the Alleycats, who have added more books to the world, but (more importantly) more sweetness to my heart.
I’ve developed some of the most wonderful friendships through the writing journey – with amazing people like Carrie, Beth, Rachel, Marisa, Meghan, and Rachael…and got an amazing virtual assistant in the process.
I’ve met new inspirations – like Kim Duffy, Hope Welbourn, Denise Hershberger, Erica Hogan, Amanda Wen, Jennifer Rodewald, Becky Hrivnak and so many more… and been inspired by faithful inspirations like Rebecca Maney, Ane Mulligan, Deb Rainey, Mikal Hermanns, Laura Frantz, Beth Vogt, Rachel Hauck, Caryl Kane, Lindsey Brackett, Rachel McMillan, Sarah Monzon, and tons of others (too many to name).
I’ve been able to bathe in the beauty of long-time friendships from sweet friends like Teresa, Marie, Lindsay, and Jessica.
I’ve enjoyed finding ways to ignite my day job with creativity for my kiddos who have social communication disorders (and work with a few of the BEST spec-ed teachers on the planet)
I’ve been boosted, encouraged, and loved by an AMAZING street team of AMAZING ladies 🙂 (You ARE AMAZING!!!!!!) They’ve celebrated two novel releases and a novella release with me this year – and they’ve put up with my craziness like the champs they are!
I’ve gotten to celebrate a big contract with my super-encouraging agent, Julie Gwinn (and have hopes for more exciting stuff in 2018)
And my extended family from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia have just wrapped their love around me with encouragement, sweetness, and loads of prayers.
None of these things are tangibly measurable, but they’re more precious.
I suppose Dr. Seuss says it best:
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
Thank you so much for being a part of this journey with me in 2017 – whether through emails, conversations, hugs, notes of encouragement, a listening ear, talking me off ledges (Carrie, Rachel, and Krista), guidance, reviews, prayers, or a varied number of other ways. Presence (through your kindness) trumps presents any day!!
I’m looking forward to journeying into 2018 with you all!!
This week fellow author Melissa Tagg shared some wonderful news about her brother-in-law and nephew, Chip and Ollie Reece. Chip, dad to Ollie, wrote a book for his son with Down syndrome about a super hero with…you guessed it, Down syndrome.
Evidently, Ollie LOVES superheroes and I bet Ollie already knows he’s living with one 😊
You see, in my twenty years of working with children who have special needs, I’ve met real-life super heroes. People who do extraordinary feats on a daily basis.
People who learn to think super creatively to help their child transition from the car into Walmart
People who are scared of next week but draw on super-human courage to step into tomorrow
People who have to wake up throughout the night well beyond the ‘baby’ days to help their kid out and STILL get up to face the next day.
People who cry themselves to sleep at night because they felt weak, but somehow garner strength to hope in tomorrow.
People who love tirelessly, provide boundaries so their kids learn how to be responsible adults, give with seemingly endless reserves, laugh even when they’re hurting, dream bigger than circumstances, take the stings of reality and bathe them with the balm of possibility.
Superheroes lives among us.
I’ve met them.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing more than one.
They’re parents of little superheroes like Ollie.
Like the ones I’ve had the honor to know throughout my career as a speech-language pathologist and Autism expert.
Many of them found hope and strength in their faith.
Most of them found courage and optimism from their communities.
And they walk among us. Loving their kids. Living their lives. Sacrificing in ways we can’t even imagine to unassumingly inspire. Yes.
I’ve met super heroes.
They’re those people who are helping their children feel like heroes too.
And I’m honored to live and work among them 🙂
Welcome! Welcome! Swoony Saturdays are your opportunity to be introduced to a book hero who fits high quality hero characteristics. (okay, so he just makes us weak in the knees for all kinds of reasons, but you get the point)
The photos involved are chosen as the most representative of the heroes featured, so IF they look like someone you’ve seen before, that’s almost entirely accidental.
Who? Alex Murdoch
Where can we find this dreamboat? Charming the Troublemaker by yours truly.
Personality summary: Alex Murdoch! The guy surprised me from the very beginning! His flirty front covers a sweet heart that’s been wounded by some deep struggles of life. He was such a fun character to write because, really, I never knew what he was going to say. Why did I fall in love with Alex? Well, he already had a hero’s heart, he just needed someone to believe in him A lot of times, in life, we see a very crinkled reflection of ourselves through the criticism or mistreatment of others, when that ONE person with clear vision can pinpoint the person we are on the inside and bring him/her to the forefront. Alex’s tender heart, charm, and humor had always been there, but Rainey (with some Holy Spirit inspiration) was able to make him shine up his armor for the rest of the world to see
What makes us swoon? A HUGE thank you to my Dream Team for sharing what YOU love about #AdorkableAlex!
There are SO many good things to say about this amazing man, so I had to limit the responses I shared.
Rachel M.: What I adored about him was his sweet self-control. Oh there was some steamy scenes but because he wanted to honor her and God, he kept all things pure. AND that is really really romantic.
Angi: His sense of humor, how he was always trying to protect Rainey and Sarah. LOVED his interaction with Sarah. His willingness to learn.
Buffy: His kindness & compassion are a big draw. Plus he knows about My Little Ponies.
Rebecca: At his core, he was a very protective, loyal, loving and winsome character!
Courtney: He hides a VERY humble heart behind his flirtatious front, so when he finally lets himself be vulnerable…. SWOON. This vulnerability stretches into his interaction with little Sarah, which makes him even sweeter. He’s ever the gentleman when with Rainey (who could be described as a sassy level 5 kisser herself, HA!). AND, he unabashedly talks about period dramas and Hallmark movies.
Carrie: Is ‘underoos’ an acceptable answer? (You really have to read the book now right?) Pam and Katie agree with this statement…STRIPED Underoos to be specific!
Andi: His kissing ability . . . the closet scene.
Which brings me to….
Kissing level of such swooniness: There is NO doubt in anyone’s mind (especially Rainey’s) that Alex is a solid 5 on this scale! His tenderness is breathtaking. And..this is funny, but I love how he talks throughout kisses. And don’t get me started on the storage closet! #ClosetKisses
Basic hero type: He is a Henley! A combo of Henry and Mr. Knightley. His genuineness, friendship, and humor fit both of them. His care of his own family and Rainey’s reminds us of Knightley.
How can I meet this swoony mister?
When Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell.
Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne. When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?
“Rainey Mitchell is doing just fine. She has a great job helping children in need, her family is around her, she is mother to a fabulous little girl, and is getting over the betrayal of her ex-husband. Dr. Alex Murdock is not doing so well, as he is forced to work at a rural university, his life is full of secrets surrounding his family, and he has to start over in a new town. Luckily, Rainey, the daughter of his landlord, is there to get him settled. Rainey just wants to stay away from the new professor, who has the same charm as her ex. Unfortunately, they seem to need each other. Rainey needs his grant-writing ability to save her program, and Alex is terrible at the lecturing at which Rainey excels. The two must work together to fulfill their goals, but will they be able to do it? Rainey’s insecurities and Alex’s obsession with protecting his family could be their undoing. A well-written love story filled with suspense, mystery, and a loving family.” ~ Library Journal Review
Kissing Levels & Hero Types
Creating fictional worlds is one of my favorite things. My 19-year-old, who is also a writer, says that his favorite part of writing is world building and BOY does he love world building. He has documents upon documents about his fantasy worlds, along with languages, cultures, histories, etc.
Now, I’m not too sure I go as in-detail as my son, but I sure do like to know about my fictional places. So instead of taking you on a book journey of a ‘real’ place, today I’d like to introduce you to the town of Ransom from my Mitchell’s Crossroads series.
Ransom is a small town in the southwestern part of Virginia. Surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s located about 2 hours (give or take) any direction from a sizeable ‘city’. Ransom boasts somewhere between 7500-9000 people, depending on which old-timer you ask in the General Store.
Originally a lumber town, because of the Tali River, the town housed mostly hardy Scot-Irish immigrants and a few Cherokee until about the Civil War when wealthy southerners wanted to get away from their war torn lands and disappear. Businessman, Anthony Everett discovered Ransom when his northbound train broke down halfway to Richmond. With the benefits of the river, the somewhat temperate climate, and the abundance of natural resources and lumber, Everett bought property and built his country home he called Windermere House. The house was sold in the 1930s to the Adderly family, who soon turned it into an inn with a fantastic view of Canopy Falls and the Tali River.
Another famous person moved into Ransom’s vicinity. Timothy Crescent, an Englishman from a wealthy family, discovered Ransom when he was passing through on a hunting expedition with some of his friends. He immediately fell in love with the location surrounding Ransom and purchased one hundred acres of land from the surrounding Appalachian people to build The Havens, a sprawling estate passed down for generations. Now a tourist’s dream, the late 1900s Gothic Revivalist manor showcases a bygone age with beautiful gardens and a country house as lovely as any in Europe. Owned and operated by family, The Havens provides continued revenue for the town of Ransom and a historical experience for guests around the world.
The township of Ransom sits on a level property surrounded by mountains, with the Tali River wrapping around it on two sides. Houses are scattered throughout the mountains and forests surrounding the town, which is where you’ll find Mitchell’s Crossroads. Just take a left at the movie theater and follow the road out through the countryside. 😊
In my imagination, Ransom became a combination of two of my favorite towns near where I grew up. Wytheville, VA and Mt. Airy, NC (Mayberry). Ransom has all the modern conveniences, but Main Street keeps a sense of a “place out of time”. You’ll probably find a Wal-Mart back off the main road. A hospital tucked away from the town closer to the highway, and several schools in various locations outside of the downtown, but Main Street keeps its timeless appeal with a movie theater, ice cream shop, bookstore, etc. Tree lined streets and a fountain in the middle of the town make it almost iconic 😉 Hey, I’m the author, I can make it that way, right?
What do YOU think are some buildings that MUST be on Main Street in a small town?
Check out Ransom in Minecraft! It is hard having only blocks to build with, but this will give you a visual!
Christmas is just around the corner, right?
Chestnuts and ornaments and fire’s glow.
Stockings and wisemen and fresh snow.
It also means… MOVIES!
Any of you who know me, realize that I’m a big fan of movies, and Christmas movies? Oh YEAH!
There are SO many options and Hallmark usually kicks off the season with a whole host of fun, sweet, magical, and sentimental options. Then, of course, there are the all-time favs, The Holiday, It’s a Wonderful Life, and my brother would add Elf to the list 😉
But there’s one that I’ve watched around Christmas ever since I was a little girl. Music, family, Austria, a few of my favorite things… yep, you guessed it! The Sound of Music.
Julie Andrews, a class act and beautiful lady, paired with the devilishly handsome and charming, Christopher Plummer, bring to life a story of opposites attracting, conflict, hope, finding your dream, and embracing plan Bs.
This holiday season Christopher Plummer is teaming up with another talented (and quite handsome) actor to bring us a new Christmas favorite about one of the most well-known authors of history. Charles Dickens.
Although Mr. Dickens doesn’t have the most glowing personal history, his stories have become classics and one of his classics really brings about the beauty of second chances…and throws a few ‘spirits’ into the mix. A Christmas Carol
But this year, we get a chance to look behind the scenes of this iconic Christmas film in the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas.
Here’s a little about the film:
The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.
THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS releases in theaters on November 22.
Want a sneak peek? Check out a film featurette here.
LEAVE a comment and you’ll be entered to win 3 Christmas DVDs – The Sound of Music, A Christmas Carol, and Beauty and the Beast (2016)
So…as we start into this holiday season, what is one of your favorite Christmas movies?