Monday, December 13, 2010

Friendship is always good! (review)

Today I received a delightful little book about friendship! Roger the turtle loses his way to his house when playing pretend. When his new friend Padraig the dragon happens along, he helps Roger find his home. Roger doesn't give up even when it isn't easy to be helpful. This is a great little book to share with children concerning about the ins and outs over friendship. It even includes suggestions on how to extend the story into discussion, and a related Bible verse. After sharing this story with my child, I look forward to sharing it with the children at our church! Thank you, WaterBrook Press!

Friday, December 3, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Baby Bible Christmas Storybook

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Baby Bible Christmas Storybook

David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Rev. Dr. Robin Currie is the Early Childhood Librarian/Preschool Liaison for the Glen Ellyn Public Library and serves on the staff of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She is also the retired pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. Before and during seminary she was a children’s librarian for public libraries in Illinois and Iowa. She holds master’s degrees in Library Science from the University of Iowa and in Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, as well as a Doctor of Ministry in preaching from LSTC. Her published books include seven resource collections for librarians and over a dozen children’s Bible story collections.

Visit the author's blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Board book: 36 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403685
ISBN-13: 978-0781403689

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER (Click on pictures to see them larger):

My review: I love love LOVE this book! Not only have I been reading it to Robbie, so have his big brothers! I love that I have a sturdy book with which to start introducing him to this beloved story of our faith! What a wonderful introduction for him to Our Savior! Highly recommended!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Infantino Mash & Serve Bowl

This is one of my new favorite products! This thing couldn't be easier to use! I have used the Mash & Serve Bowl to prepare several foods for Robbie, from potatoes to bananas to macaroni and cheese! It really makes it simple to make sure that I am properly mashing up food and making it easier for him to eat food we prepare for him.

I must admit, I was a skeptic over this preparing foods for him ourselves thing, but we have come to realize several things as we have experimented. First, we realize how much cheaper it is to prepare fruits and veggies ourselves instead of paying for prepackaged foods. Second, we have discovered new foods and ways to prepare foods we never would have tried ourselves! We have been eating more acorn squash and sweet potatoes than we would have without trying out these products with the help of MomCentral and Infantino!

Remember, you can always interact with Infantino on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter

“I am a participant in a Mom Central Consulting campaign for Infantino and have received various Infantino products as part of my participation.”

Review: Then Sings My Soul

I was recently given the opportunity to read the book Then Sings My Soul: Special Edition by the kind folks at Book Sneeze. Oh, how I have enjoyed it, and will continue to for years to come! This book gives a short description of either the basis for the beloved hymn or a devotion on the song. It also includes a scripture related to the song, and a copy of the hymn that can be easily played or sung.

I find it very interesting to read about the author of a favorite hymn or what was going on in his/her life or the world at the time of its writing. I think it makes the hymn even more real, and we are able to relate to it even better. I am especially enjoying reading about my favorite Christmas hymns!

I first saw this book when my husband's uncle was reading it about a month ago. It looked interesting to me, and I commented as such to him. So when I saw this book being offered through Book Sneeze, I jumped on the opportunity to review it! I think anyone who loves traditional hymns or church history would love this book as well.

Though I was given a copy of this book to review, all statements and opinions herein are my own.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Little Star by Anthony DeStefano

I recently received the book Little Star by Anthony DeStefano, and fell in love with it on the first reading. The story tells about stars learning that a king is soon to be born, and how they prepare themselves, hoping that each of them will be the chosen star to receive a special reward if it shined the brightest on the night the King was born. Little Star was sure he would not be the chosen one since he was so small, but he soon realized that this king, too was little. In fact, Little Star was the only star to understand the message that Jesus was bringing to Earth!

This book makes understandable to children the idea that Jesus chose to humble himself as a baby when He came to save us from our sins. It is simply yet beautifully illustrated, and the language is age-appropriate for a 2nd-3rd grade reader. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am sure it will become a family favorite in years to come!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Airwear Lenses by Essilor

I recently was given the opportunity to review Airwear lenses by Esslior. The only person in our family who is currently wearing glasses is Adam, so we got his prescription updated and sent off his glasses to be fitted with the lenses. We have been very pleased with the results! Being a 7 year old boy, Adam isn't the easiest on glasses, and they stay dirty...or at least they did before we got these lenses! According to the Airwear website, these lenses combine the Airwear material with Trio Clean, which makes them more resistant to smudges and scratches. I can vouch that this is true!

Adam has been very happy with these new lenses, and I am very happy that we are using materials that are more eco-friendly and lighter on his face! I also appreciate that these lenses are 12 times more impact resistant than standard plastic lenses.

Another factor that pleases me about Essilor is that they also support Eyeglass Recycling through Lions Club International. As the wife of a Lions Club member, I appreciate this effort. As a teacher and parent, I appreciate it even more!

As we all know, we need to protect our eyes from UVA and UVB damage. My parents are in their 70s and have both had cataract surgery, so this is a very real experience to me. I appreciate that the Airwear lenses have 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays!

Do you or your child have need new lenses? As your eyecare provider to fit your frames with Airwear lenses by Essilor, and I am certain that you will be as satisfied as I am!

I was provided with Airwear lenses to review, but all opinions are my own.
Late again! UGH! This working and having three children thing puts a serious cramp in my blogging time! :)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

A Season of Miracles

Kregel Publications; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Rusty Whitener is a novelist, screenwriter, and actor. His first screenplay, Touched, won second place at the 2009 Kairos Prize at the Los Angeles Movieguide Awards and first place at the Gideon film festival. That screenplay soon became A Season of Miracles. The movie version of this book is now in production with Elevating Entertainment.

Find out more at

Read more about the book, get discussion questions, and see Rusty’s chapter videos at

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825441919
ISBN-13: 978-0825441912


I didn’t set out to believe in miracles. Nobody does. That’s what makes them miracles.

The events of 1971 would pick me up in a tornado of changes and set me down in an amazing place of grace. As with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it would be a kind of homecoming, except that I would be coming home for the first time.

Around the middle of March, about the time my hometown of Silas started to escape the gray Alabama winter, Little League baseball would crowd out everything else for my attention.

I wasn’t alone. Those days, Little League in our county was akin to a small-town parade down Main Street. Everybody went, not really expecting to see the remarkable so much as the familiar. Pretty near every boy in town played the game. And most every player’s parents went to watch, clap, groan, and cheer.

Little League is a game played by Charlie Browns and Joe DiMaggios. Most children that age are Charlie Browns, still struggling with how to handle an oversized pencil, let alone how to grip a baseball and hurl it a particular direction. They are likely to throw the ball farther from their target than it was when they retrieved it. They even look like you imagine Charlie Brown would, running in preadolescent distress to recover the ball they just threw in the wrong direction. On the weaker Little League teams, Charlie Browns mosey around the outfield, and DiMaggios man the infield. Players who hit the ball over the infielders’ heads usually have an easy double. Stronger teams have a DiMaggio anchoring center field, or maybe left. If anyone better than Charlie is in right, then either the team is stacked with talent or something magical is going on. Maybe both.

I don’t remember ever not being able to hit the ball into the outfield. I didn’t think much about it, really, except for the basics: relax, breathe, don’t swing so hard, don’t pull your head. Bring the bat to the ball and drive it on a line. I was a little tall for my twelve years, but I also had something much better than size. Confidence. I knew I could hit the ball, and hit it hard. Not every time, but most of the time. And batting over .500 with power will scorch any league.

I was the best hitter I had ever seen. Until 1971.

It was a cool Saturday in mid March. I called my best friend, Donnie White, and he called Batman Boatwright and Jimmy Yarnell. I really didn’t spend a lot of time with Batman and Jimmy throughout the rest of the year. Just spring and early summer. When Little League season came into focus, so did Batman and Jimmy.

I always took the back way to the old field, cutting through woods so thick and dark it was like traveling and hiding at the same time. My wicked cool Sting-Ray, with butterfly handlebars and a fat banana seat covered in leopard spots, gave me an edge in races with the guys. But in woods that thick, I’d just get to pumping the pedals hard before I’d have to dismount and negotiate the bramble bushes and low hanging, cobwebbed pines that duped nature by growing with so little sun.

Sawdust wasn’t real keen on those woods. A hound-collie mix, he had followed me home two summers before and decided I needed him. Through these woods, along the rough path of moss and bracken, he got nervous when I had to stop the bike and walk. He looked back and forth and around, seemingly wary that something might sneak up on us. He barked his approval when we climbed the last ridge and tumbled out of the sun-spun shadows crisscrossing our wooded trek and into the sun’s soaring shine over the ancient baseball field behind Mill Creek Fire Station.

It wasn’t a real baseball diamond anymore, just a big space of worn-down grass. But it was enough of a practice field for us. There was even an outfield fence of sorts, a lot of chain no longer linked. A backstop someone put up years before helped us out. If the ball got by the hitter, it caromed off the chain links and dribbled in the general direction of the pitcher. If it didn’t get a good enough carom to send it close to the mound, the batter picked it up and tossed it back to the pitcher. Who needed a catcher?

Donnie, Batman, and Jimmy were already there, tossing the ball in a triangular game of catch.

“It’s about time, Pardner!” Donnie raised his arms in a “what’s the deal?” gesture. “We’re startin’ to take root here.” He dropped his arms and threw the ball too high in Jimmy’s direction. Jimmy threw his glove after the ball, and then turned to look at Donnie like he couldn’t believe he put up with a friend who threw that poorly.

“Sorry,” said Donnie with a big smile. “Too high, I guess.”

“Zack,” Jimmy said, turning to me, “can you tell this guy about cool?”

“What do I know about cool?” I said, not really asking.

Sawdust barked at Jimmy and Batman, darting between the two. He made quick little circles around Jimmy, like they were old friends. They weren’t.

“Whaddya always have to bring the mutt for?” Jimmy sounded seriously miffed.

“Sawdust likes chasing the balls,” I said.

“I know that,” said Jimmy. “He gets ’em all slimy.”

Batman drawled, “He’s got your glove now, Hoss.”

Jimmy gave a squawk and bounded after Sawdust, who was running in large circles back and forth across the field.

“I’ll make a glove outta you, ya mutt!” Jimmy’s threat broke us up, and I laughed pretty hard until I saw the new kid. At first, I thought something was seriously wrong he was so still. He sat at the base of a tree, his back ramrod straight against the trunk, his legs straight out from his body, arms at his sides. He looked almost unreal, not moving his head, stock-still, eyes frozen. Not moving anything.

“Whatcha looking at, Pardner?” Donnie gave nicknames to people he really liked, and people he struggled to like. Come to think of it, that’s just about everybody. He once told me it was hard to call someone by a good nickname and still not like them. Donnie wanted to like everybody.

“That boy,” I said, “over there.”

“Oh man, he don’t look so good.” Donnie stared. “He even . . . is he alive?”

“What kind of a question is that?” I said, still staring at the kid under the tree, who still had not moved. “Of course he’s alive. I mean . . . don’t you think?”

Batman jogged up to us. “Are we gonna play or what?”

“Look at that kid over there.” Donnie pointed with his gloved hand.

“I see him,” Batman said. “So what?”

“Is he alive?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“I mean he doesn’t look alive.” Donnie said the words slowly, as if he were announcing something important, like the moral at the end of a story.

“Well he’s not dead,” said Batman.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because he sits there like that all the time. I’ve seen him before, when we come here to play.”


“Lots of times,” Batman said. “I think he’s a retard.”

“Come off it.” Donnie looked at Batman and shook his head, like he was disappointed in him.

“It’s the Forrester kid,” Batman said. “Everybody knows he’s touched.” Batman was blowing massive bubbles and struggling to move the gum to the side of his mouth so he could talk. “Don’t tell me ya’ll haven’t seen him at school.”

“I seen him,” said Donnie.

“I don’t think I have,” I said. “How come, you reckon?”

“Maybe ’cause you’re always looking at Rebecca Carson,” Batman joshed. “Anyway, he’s touched.”

“Okay, he’s got some problems . . . ,” Donnie started.

Batman decided to pluck the wad of gum out of his mouth and hold it in his free hand, a rare move he reserved for emergencies. “Serious problems,” said Batman.

“Okay,” said Donnie, “serious problems, but we don’t have to call him—”

“Hey guys,” I said. “Guys, I think he’s coming over here.”

The Forrester kid was on his feet, walking toward us.

“Holy metropolis,” Batman whistled. “Look alert, Batfans.”

Jimmy ran up, holding his glove away from his body, between a thumb and forefinger, the leather shiny with Sawdust drool.

“This is so foul, ya’ll. I can’t play with this nasty thing. Do ya’ll . . . do ya’ll know that fella is coming over here?”

“Yeah Jimmy, we know,” I said.

“Do ya’ll . . . do ya’ll know he’s a retard?”

“He’s not a retard. He has some problems, that’s all,” said Donnie, loudly.

“His problem is he’s a retard—and his dad’s a drunk, ’cording to my folks.”

I really don’t think Jimmy meant to say anything mean. That’s just the way he was. Shoot from the lip and take no prisoners.

“Shut up, Jimmy,” Donnie’s voice was a sharp whisper now. “There’s nothing wrong with his ears.”

Rafer Forrester walked straight up to me, stepping up close, his face no more than a foot from mine. The other kids instinctively took half-steps back, clumsily trying to give me more space. Sawdust sauntered into the picture, sat down razor close to Rafer and put a paw on the boy’s shoe. Without looking, Rafer put his hand on the dog’s head and stroked it.

“Hey,” I said quietly. “How’s it going?”

I guess I hadn’t really expected an answer. But I did expect him to say something. After some long seconds he did.


“You wanna hit?” I asked.


“You wanna hit?” I said again.

“Hit. Rafer hit.” His face was still devoid of expression.

I heard Jimmy’s voice behind me. “I think the fella wants to try to hit the baseball.”

“You mean the ball?” I held it up in front of me, about six inches from his eyes.

“I don’t think he’s blind, Zack-man,” Batman said, his voice joining Jimmy’s in a nervous flutter of laughs.

“All right, guys,” said Donnie. “Hey, Pardner, why don’t you let him try?”

“Oh, come on, Donnie,” Batman said. “Jimmy and me gotta go in about thirty minutes. We don’t have time.”

“Let him try, Pardner. Just a couple of tosses.” Donnie was already walking toward home plate. “I’ll catch so we don’t have to keep fetching the balls.”

I looked right in Rafer’s eyes. “You want to hit the baseball a little?”

“Rafer hit.”

“Okay, Rafer. Do you wanna take the ball yourself”—I pressed the ball gently in his hand—“and just toss it up in the air and hit it?” I figured he could do that. Hitting a pitched ball didn’t seem plausible, no matter how slow I tossed it.

“Rafer hit.” He pushed the ball back at me.

Batman moaned and sat down on the ground. “C’mon guys, we’re wasting time.”

“Okay, I can pitch it,” I said.

Rafer walked slowly toward home plate and picked up the bat. Donnie was already crouched behind the plate calling to me. “Okay, Pardner. Toss it in, and Rafe here is gonna knock the cover off the ball. Here we go, Pardner.”

Rafer stopped in front of Donnie and said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Zack pitch. No Pardner.”

Behind me I heard Jimmy’s chuckle. Batman, sitting on the ground behind the pitcher’s mound, laughed so hard his gum started slipping down the back of his throat. “Oh . . . oh, my gosh. I almost swallowed it, ya’ll,” he managed to say.

Donnie just smiled real big at Rafer. “That’s right, Rafer, my buddy. He is Zack.” Then, rocking back and forth in a low catcher’s crouch, he called to me. “Okay, Zack, just toss it in gentle-like.”

So I did. I tossed the ball underhand, as slow as I could, across the plate. As fat a pitch as I could make it.

Rafer didn’t swing. He watched the pitch the whole way and the bat never left his shoulder. Donnie threw the ball back to me, and I tossed it again. Again, no swing.

From his spot now reclining on the ground, his head resting on his glove, Batman’s groans were like a sick boy’s. “Oh, guys. We’re gonna be here all day. And we gotta go home soon.”

“Batman,” said Jimmy, “if we gotta go home soon, then we can’t be here all day.”

Jimmy crashed on the ground next to Batman, resting his head on his glove. Then an odd expression invaded his face. He bolted upright, frantically wiping dog spit from the back of his head. “Oh, that’s stinking! Oh, that’s so raw!”

Batman just groaned again.

Donnie called to me, “Maybe you need to get closer, Pardner . . . I mean Zack. You know, toss it from a shorter distance.”

As I started to step off the mound, Rafer bellowed, “No!”

I froze.

“No!” he said again. “Zack pitch. Rafer hit.”

“Okay, okay.” I got back on the mound. I tossed it again, underhanded, only this time as the ball was crossing home plate, Rafer caught it with his right hand. He dropped the bat. For several seconds he did not move. “Zack pitch,” he said again as he started moving through an elaborate windup, turning his body like Tom Seaver and kicking his leg high like Juan Marichal, coming down with his throwing hand over the top. The ball rocketed from his hand to my glove, which I reflexively raised to protect my face.

Dead silence.

Then Jimmy drawled, “Well, good night, ya’ll.”

Donnie, barely audible, said, “He wants you to pitch it fast, I guess. God help us.” I wasn’t sure what to do. I had a strong arm from playing third base.

“Come on, Zack. Fire it in here.” Donnie was suddenly confident about the situation.

“Can you catch it?” I asked him.

“Oh, come on, of course I can catch it. You’re not that fast, you know.”

That was all my adolescent ears needed to hear. I wound up and released, letting the ball spring naturally out of my grip. The ball crossed the heart of the plate in a white blur.

At least it would have.

Rafer dropped the head of the bat, quick like a cat, just in front of the ball. Coaches tell hitters to focus on getting the barrel of the bat on the ball, and let the pitched ball do all the real work, ricocheting off the bat. That’s what Rafer did. And my perfect strike was now a perfect line drive, streaking into the gap in left center field. It had just started to drop when it banged off the old outfield fence.

“Throw him another one, Pardner!” yelled Donnie.

“He Zack,” said Rafer.

“I know, I know, he Zack! I mean, he’s Zack. Throw him another one, Pardner! And put some real zip on it this time.”

I wound up and put everything I had into the pitch. Again, Rafer swung as if he were simply dropping the bat onto the ball in one quick, measured motion. The ball left his bat and left no doubt. It cleared the fence in left field, disappearing in trees ten or fifteen feet past the fence. We had never seen a ball travel that far off this field. Not even when Jimmy’s brother, a starter on the high school JV team, had tossed a few in the air and socked them as far as he could.

“Don’t throw him any more,” Jimmy hollered, climbing over the fence with Batman after the ball. “These are my brother’s balls, and he’ll kill me if I don’t bring ’em all back.”

Donnie ran out to me at the mound. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking? We can get him. I bet he ain’t on a team . . . I bet my silver dollar he ain’t. We can get him.”

I walked up to Rafer, still standing in the batter’s box, expressionless. “Rafer, how old are you?”

“Rafer twelve.”

Donnie went into a silent victory dance, a kind of jump and twirl.

“Do you wanna play on our team, on our Little League team, the Robins?”

“Yeah. I play.”

“Great,” I said, trying to stay calm. “Great, Rafer. We’re going to have tryouts, right across the street, at McInerney Elementary School. I pointed in the direction. Right on that field, this coming Monday after school. Can you be there?”

He didn’t seem to get what I said. Just when I thought he wasn’t going to say any words, he said three.

“Mack . . . and Ernie.”

“Who are they?” said Donnie. “No, no, you tell him we just want him.”

Donnie was standing right next to both of us. I didn’t know why he thought I was Rafer’s interpreter, except that I kind of felt that way too. Like I was a bridge between Rafer and Donnie and whomever.

“Who are Mack and Ernie, Rafer?” I asked.

“Mack and Ernie School.”

“Oh.” I smiled. “I get it. Hey, that’s pretty funny, Rafer.”

Only Rafer wasn’t smiling, and I worried about him not showing up for the tryouts.

“Rafer, can you be here”—I pointed to the ground—“next Saturday?” I figured I could walk across the street with him to the actual tryouts.

“Mack and Ernie,” he said without expression.

Donnie started to laugh and I gave him a sharp look. I was trying to get something important done.

“Rafer, I will meet you right here, next Saturday, by your tree.” I pointed. “Then you and me will go to tryouts . . . I mean, play some baseball together. All right? Saturday morning. Is that okay?”

“Rafer hit.”

“That’s right. Saturday morning, you’ll hit.”

“I hit Saturday.” I probably imagined it, but it looked like his mouth was turning at the corners in a small smile. Then he turned and started to walk. He passed his tree.

Watching Rafer disappear into the woods, I heard Donnie’s anxious voice. “We can’t let the other coaches see him bat. We gotta find a way to make him a Robin without, you know, without the others seeing him bat.”

“I know,” I said. “I’ll think of something.”

From a long ways off we heard Jimmy, sounding like someone you hear hollering when you’re in your house with the windows closed.

“I found it. Hey guys, I . . . found . . . it.”

My review: GREAT book! I highly recommend it! It reminds me of my childhood, and would be willing to be that it has glimmers of each of ours in it. I could vividly picture the baseball fields of my elementary school when I was reading it. Check it out!

Monday, November 15, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: The Marvel of It All

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

The Marvel of It All

Hannibal Books (August 15, 2010)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson of Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***


Joe E. Tarry was born near Lovington, NM, and his wife, Leona, was born in Fort Sumner, NM, but considers Portales, NM, to be her hometown. Joe graduated with a double major and received a bachelor of arts in religion and history from Eastern New Mexico University and a master of divinity from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Leona also attended Eastern New Mexico University, during which she worked at the Portales Daily News; she then received a certificate from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Joe and Leona spent nearly 3 decades as missionaries in Brazil, and are now retired in Ruidoso, NM. Joe has written numerous books, including, Did Paul Approve of the Tongues Spoken in Corinth?, Created to be Spiritual: Understanding God’s daily battle with Satan for the hearts and minds of His people, and Jesus Restores True Spirituality: Understanding Satan’s Subtle Schemes to Hamper the Testimony of Christ’s People. This new book, The Marvel of It All, is Joe and Leona’s first co-authored book.

Product Details:

List Price: $34.95
Paperback: 542 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (August 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749907
ISBN-13: 978-1934749906


Our Journey to a Foreign Land

For whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

(Rom. 10:13-15).

The Marvel of It All

Have you been impressed in such a way spiritually

That you have stopped, lingered in meditation recently

Long enough to be enamored, thrilled, or stricken in awe

About the Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus,

and the marvel of it all?

Many occasions are in the entire Holy Bible—

In fact so many that it is factually undeniable—

In which individuals or peoples were amazed

and overwhelmed

When they felt God’s mysterious presence all around.

They reflected on their experiences with God and pondered

About life, God’s grace, His power and glory, and wondered

As to their purpose of life and management of resources

in their hands,

Also of the mysterious and spectacular things

they did in the land.

We finally were standing on the deck of the cargo/passenger ship Del Norte. Each passenger held thin, colorful paper streamers that flapped in the breeze as the ship began to move. The captain seemed to enjoy blowing the deep bass foghorn to announce the ship’s leaving the New Orleans harbor. The multicolored streamers began to flow instead of flap in the breeze as the throbbing engines gained momentum. We finally were participating in the Del Norte’s departing ritual from the North American continent. Figures on the dock grew dimmer until they were unrecognizable. We were saying goodbye to our country, our lifestyle, and our friends and loved ones that we did not expect to see again for five years. At the same time we felt a mixture of joy and loneliness. Most of the passengers would return in a month, so for them this was not as great an event as this journey was for us. Time had arrived to turn our minds to the future.

Three new missionary couples and 10 young children finally were on their way to Brazil, the land they would adopt for their new home. Three-month-old Charlotte Tarry and 11-month-old Jonathan Richardson seemed to be excited about whatever was going on and all the attention they were getting from everyone on the ship. Bill and Kathy Richardson from Oklahoma and Missouri had four boys; Billy and Noreta Morgan from Memphis, TN, had two boys and one girl; and we—Joe and Leona Tarry from New Mexico—had two boys and one girl. God had joined together these three families to add to the South Brazil mission, the largest of all Southern Baptist mission groups in the world, with more than 300 missionaries including their children. Our mission goal was to help bring more Brazilians to Jesus Christ as soon as possible in a country that was ripe for the harvest.

Traveling by ship posed some concern for safety for those of us with small children. One danger was found in the heavy, thick doors to our rooms. A disaster could happen if a door closed on a finger or a child. The second danger was the deck. The parents were warned not to allow the children on deck without supervision. Our son Jonathan loved to look over the side to see the water. We held his hand whenever we walked on deck. Then the third danger was found in the stairwells because of the swaying of the ship.

Although the ship principally was for cargo, the 150 passengers were treated royally; the trip was great. One other American couple, which hailed from Vanderbilt University, was on board with a boy and a girl. The husband was traveling to teach for a couple of years in a Brazilian university. On the cruise children were the main attraction, because most of the other passengers were older; many were grandparents. Some were appalled that we would take our precious children to live in a third-world country.

Many of the tourists enjoyed the drinking, dancing, movies, and parties. We missionaries spent the two weeks getting to know each other and playing games after the children were in bed. We found that we all were different in some ways. The Morgans believed that breakfast was not complete without grits. Since they were told that Brazil didn’t have grits, the Morgans had packed some with their household goods. One night Billy expressed amazement that peanut butter was on the breakfast trays. “Who would ever eat peanut butter for breakfast?” I replied that my kids and I use peanut butter with toast and jelly as well as with pancakes. After that Bill Richardson and one or two of his boys learned to eat peanut butter for breakfast. Bill’s favorite expression was “Great day!” That expression rubbed off

on us.

We missionaries tried to get acquainted with others on the ship so we could witness to them. We played shuffleboard, swam in the small swimming pool, and participated in a few other activities.

The ship’s captain granted permission for us to have worship services on the two Sundays at sea. One of those Sundays was Easter. Billy or Bill preached, I led the singing, and Noreta played the piano. We had good attendance. A Jewish lawyer gave each of us men $10 to buy a flower vase for the first mission that we started in Brazil. On Easter each child received a big, beautiful basket filled with goodies. That afternoon the children had a special party.

The biggest event on a South American cruise is a special party planned by the social director when the ship crossed the Equator. At the initiation as pollywogs all participants were to wear costumes or to do something silly for the crowd. Leona had an Indian dress (which at the time was popular in New Mexico). My sons, Carl and Jonathan, and I took off our shirts and I painted our bodies and faces as Indian warriors, even though the boys’ hair was blond. We prepared Charlotte’s carrier as a cradle board; I carried her on my back. Crossing the Equator makes one a pollywog.

The meals on the ship were fabulous. The noon meal was a buffet on deck; we ate as a family. At night babies were not allowed in the main dining room, so an attendant took care of Charlotte. The evening meals were planned around a theme of a different country, with decorations and the food that corresponded to the country chosen. Even the waiters’ costumes followed the theme. Birthdays and wedding anniversaries were commemorated with a special decorated cake presented to the honored guests. Everyone but me enjoyed the food. Most of the two weeks aboard I was sick. The ship’s doctor, a retired military man, thought what I had might be appendicitis; however, I did not have a fever. This was so unreal—the one time I had the opportunity to dine on delicious, fancy food, most of the time I could only eat soup and ice cream. While we were on board the ship, Leona and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary, but the servers mistakenly took the cake to another couple.

The ship stopped for one day in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I went to a doctor for a second opinion to make sure my problem was not appendicitis; then each of the three families rented a Volkswagen. Billy had the map and planned our trip. All the street signs were in Spanish. At one point Billy turned onto a one-way street but did not know we were traveling the wrong way. At the end of the street we had to turn right; a police officer jumped into the street. He waved his hands and blew his shrill whistle. The officer was shaking his fist at Billy as Billy zoomed around the corner. When the officer saw that the car wasn’t going to stop, he jumped back up onto the sidewalk. Suddenly the officer realized another car was traveling down the street the wrong way. Bill could not let the Morgans get out of his sight, so he buzzed past as the officer in disbelief waved his hands frantically. We had no idea where we were in the city and couldn’t risk getting separated from the others. Leona and I also didn’t want to miss the ship, so we, too, blared past the officer, who at that moment may have swallowed his whistle in amazement. In seconds three Volkswagens had defied him and left him dazed. Our tour was cut short; we returned to the ship. We all were thankful to be back on the ship and sailing out of the harbor without having to answer for our actions.

The ship stopped for a short visit on the gorgeous island of Barbados. Some of us took taxis to a very beautiful beach to swim for about three hours.

The Stress Test Before We Sailed

I tried to understand why I was unable to eat the delicious food. I remembered the stress we had in getting everything ready. The months after our appointment on June 17, 1964, had been hectic. The Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) wanted us to sail for Brazil in September, but we had girls’ and boys’ camp to supervise and unfinished plans to be completed for the church. First Southern Baptist Church in Porterville, CA, was to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Leona was expecting our third child in January, so the next sailing in December was too close to the due date of our baby. The next sailing date after that was the first part of April, so we made plans for that departure date. We made our plans to leave Porterville the third week of December so we could visit with our families for Christmas. Staying until December 1964 enabled us to complete three-and-a-half years at the church.

Packing our things to ship to New Orleans, LA, was hectic. Not that we possessed so much, but the FMB had given us an allowance to buy necessities such as a refrigerator, mattresses, a washing machine, a dryer, and a few other things. Based on projections for the next five years we bought clothes for the children. We stuffed most of the clothes into the box-spring mattresses. Getting these things crated and getting paperwork done for our visas was pressing, since we also had activities to finish our ministry in Porterville.

We celebrated Christmas in New Mexico with family. We visited my father in Lovington, 90 miles south of Portales. A widower since my mother died in 1942, he had reared his five children and now was alone; we needed to spend time with him. As we waited for our daughter’s birth, we visited relatives in the area and got documents together for our trip. The paperwork done in California for our visas was not valid, because with our move to New Mexico we now needed to go to the Brazilian consulate in Houston. We had a frustrating snag in getting police clearance from Roosevelt County in New Mexico. Since Leona’s dad, Mr. Isbell, had lived in the county for more than 25 years and was a well-known farmer, we thought the proper law-enforcement agency would be the county sheriff. The recently elected sheriff did not know us and was not sympathetic with our problem. Leona grew up in the county, but we had been out of the state for 6 1/2 years. The clearance from the California police department did not mean anything to him. He refused to give us a clearance because we had not been in New Mexico long enough to establish a record. The fact that we had been in California for seminary and that I had served as pastor of a church there did not matter. His attitude was obnoxious. When she arrived home, Leona shed tears of dismay and frustration. Since the sheriff rejected us, Mr. Isbell suggested that he go with Leona to the city police department. The chief had known the whole Isbell family for years and knew of Joe because he had been to the university in Portales. The police chief had no problem in giving us the police clearance.

Charlotte was born on January 25, 1965, in Portales. Five weeks later she became sick with a cold. We took her to our doctor on Monday. Dr. Coleman examined her and told us she had a virus and that antibiotics would not affect it. The only thing to do was let the virus run its course. We watched her and often used a syringe to clean her nose of the thick mucus. On Wednesday she was not better, so we took her back to the doctor. He told us we could put her in the hospital but said the people there couldn’t do more for her than we could. We just needed to watch and keep her nose clear with a syringe. The thick mucus made breathing or nursing difficult.

Dr. Coleman was the Isbell family doctor; he knew that Mr. Isbell was a farmer and had welding equipment for repairing broken farm machinery. The doctor told us that in the worse-case scenario we were to use Mr. Isbell’s oxygen tank. Later the doctor said that if he had realized how seriously ill Charlotte was, he never would have allowed us to return to the farm 10 miles in the country. We know that even at that point God was directing. This was the first of March; the nights still were cold. The house didn’t have central heating, so we slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room in which the gas stove was situated.

All day Leona had been taking care of Charlotte. At about 11 p.m. she asked me to watch Charlotte while she got a little sleep. With every intention of staying awake I laid Charlotte on my chest. Somewhere around 1 a.m. I realized I had nodded off; Charlotte was not breathing. In her face she had no color of life. My commotion awoke Leona; her first thought was the oxygen tank. She ran to her parents’ bedroom door, knocked, and asked her dad for the oxygen tank. He immediately dressed to go get it. I gave Charlotte to Leona and ran to the telephone. I was so frustrated that I could not find the doctor’s number. I knew Leona could find it faster, so I took Charlotte. God guided me to give Charlotte rescue breathing. I put my mouth to her tiny mouth and blew, but the air would not go in. Her lungs were blocked. I blew more firmly but still saw no results. I blew still a little more firmly. Suddenly the obstruction moved; air went into her lungs. The Lord oriented me not to blow too firmly because of her tiny lungs.

By now Leona had Dr. Coleman on the phone; he gave us three options. He could travel to the farm, 10 miles out of town; we could take her to the hospital and meet him; or he could send an ambulance and he would meet us at the hospital. Leona thought the last suggestion was best. Mr. Isbell arrived with the oxygen tank; Dr. Coleman gave instructions on how to use it by giving a phrase of instruction at a time. Leona repeated each phrase for me to hear. He advised me to hold Charlotte up close to the oxygen tank. Mr. Isbell was holding the tank; Mrs. Isbell was praying and watching. I was to gulp the oxygen and blow it into her mouth.

Meanwhile Leona was at the door waiting for the ambulance. She could do nothing but pray and wait. She poured her heart out to God as she presented our case. We gladly had answered the call to go to Brazil. We were on our way to be missionaries. Why was this happening to us? Our prayers had been answered when God gave us a girl—our family was complete! Charlotte was such a beautiful little baby! “Why, oh why, God is this happening to us?” Leona prayed urgently. “Besides these things, oh Heavenly Father, you know what a difficult time I had in my pregnancy and delivery! God, you know my pregnancy with Charlotte was more difficult than with the boys. Then I had thrombophlebitis. You cannot take our baby!” The Lord gently guided Leona to a calmer understanding of the situation. What if Charlotte lived but as a vegetable without the mental capacity to ever do anything for herself? Leona finally was able to surrender Charlotte to God. She concluded her prayer by saying, “Lord, she is Yours more than ours. Your will be done.” At that moment a great peace swept through Leona’s entire body. I think this might have been the moment that Charlotte began giving the first signs of life.

After I started giving Charlotte rescue breathing, I thought she would recover quickly. Five minutes passed without a sign of life except her body accepting the air. Ten minutes passed; still nothing happened. Fifteen minutes passed; she was still and silent. I remember that my back and arms began to ache because the oxygen tank was only about four-feet tall at the air spout, so I had to elevate my arms a little to get her body near the spout. I am amazed that I did not stop trying. God gave me the calmness and determination to continue blowing oxygen into her mouth. Twenty minutes passed, then 25. Finally Charlotte gave a tiny moan or groan, so I stopped and looked at her face. Her eyes fluttered but then closed again. I put my mouth to hers and started blowing oxygen again. About that time the ambulance zoomed past the house even though the porch light was on. Leona could not believe it! Who else at 1 in the morning would have on house lights? Soon the ambulance driver realized he had passed the house and returned. Charlotte was getting stronger, but if I stopped, she could not breathe alone.

Moments later the paramedics rushed into the house. Suddenly one paramedic saw we were standing near the stove; he immediately was horrified. He screamed, “Get that fire out! Get that fire out! What do you want to do, blow up the whole house?” He partially was right. In our confusion about Charlotte’s condition we were standing right in front of the big propane gas stove while the oxygen tank spewed out oxygen. Even though one could see the fire, the flame was enclosed. That did not matter; the paramedics were frightened. If the flame had been open, none of us would have been around to tell this story. The Lord had protected us. The paramedics placed a tiny mask connected to a small oxygen tank over Charlotte’s nose. As she received the pure oxygen, Charlotte’s color began to improve. We rushed to the hospital.

Charlotte’s hospital room was next to the nurses’ station. They put our daughter in a tent that had oxygen blowing in. The next day at noon she stopped breathing again. Leona pressed the panic button; the nurses ran in alongside Dr. Coleman. At that moment of our crisis Dr. Coleman had just walked into the hospital. He was prepared to do a tracheotomy on Charlotte but worked on her first and got her past the danger again. He remembered a new medicine that in that hospital had been used only two times. This medicine was named “mucomist” and worked to loosen and dissolve the mucus. As this new medication dripped, the oxygen blew it into the incubator. It formed a mist for Charlotte to breathe. Three days later we were able to take Charlotte home. She had a hoarse cough that Dr. Coleman said probably would continue until warm weather arrived, but as far as he could tell, she would be normal. Because of her weak situation the doctor wanted her protected from germs as much as possible.

Later Dr. Coleman told a close friend of ours that the night we called, he didn’t think Charlotte would survive; he said he wouldn’t have given a dime for her life. I personally think that she died and that God gave her back to us. I do not tell this for any reason other than to praise God for His special blessing to us. Our confidence in God’s ability to do anything He desires became a reality. We were not special people just because we were willing to go to Brazil. We are no better than others that have suffered the death of a child and for whom God did not answer their prayers. God is a just God; unworthy as we were, God chose to give Charlotte back to us. Our daughter graduated from University of New Mexico and from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. For seven years she and her husband, Jim Whitley, served as missionaries in Romania with the Roma (Gypsies) before the Whitleys transferred to Brazil to work with the Gypsy people. They have twin daughters and a son. Praise the Lord!

The day after Charlotte was put in the hospital, we were supposed to be in Houston with our documents so we could visit the Brazilian consulate to get our visas. I called the consulate, which graciously gave us more time. A week after Charlotte left the hospital, by train we took her from Clovis, NM, to Houston. She enjoyed the rocking train. The Brazilian consulate officials were kind and sympathetic about the cause of our delay, but the situation rushed them to get the visas ready for our departure date.

One week before the date for our departure from New Mexico, I called the Brazilian consulate; it could not confirm whether it could get the documents to us. We began to be concerned. The passages had already been bought for the voyage on the Del Norte ship. We did not want to miss it. Our train tickets from Clovis to New Orleans went through Houston. On Friday morning I called the consulate to see whether the passports had been mailed. The passports were ready but had not been mailed. Another miracle! The consulate agreed to allow Kenneth Wise, a Houstonian who had been Leona’s classmate in Portales, to pick up the documents. We called to ask him to pick up our passports from the consulate and to meet us at the train station on Sunday. Again, in this development, we saw the hand of God working.

On Saturday afternoon we left Clovis, NM. When we arrived in Houston about 10 on Sunday morning, Kenneth Wise was on the platform and waited for us with our passports. Trusting that this plan would work we had gone by faith. We didn’t know we would have to go to a different train station to continue our journey to New Orleans. Kenneth and a taxi took us and all our luggage to the other train station. We arrived in New Orleans and found two taxis to get us and the luggage to our hotel. We were making our way up the sidewalk to the hotel just as the Morgans and Richardsons were leaving for a stroll. With these two missionary families we were to journey to Brazil. This was not just a journey to Brazil but a life journey of Christian love, fellowship, and experiences.

Yes, God was present with us all along the way, to the most minute detail. Now more than 45 years later I still have my appendix. I began to understand that I have a very sensitive nervous system and that emotional stress can show up in various parts of my body, especially my stomach, even though I think I am calm. One thing I really enjoy is eating, but under stress my digestive system does not accept food. Despite all that wonderful food on the voyage to Brazil I could eat only ice cream and soup.

Arrival in Brazil

Late in the afternoon of April 21, 1965, we were advised that the ship was entering the famous Rio de Janeiro harbor. We were eager to set our feet on Brazilian soil. As the passengers stood on the deck, one could hear exclamations of ooh’s and ahh’s. We had a clear view of the spectacular panorama of the world-famous Rio de Janeiro Bay. Corcovado, the great statue of Christ the Redeemer, towered over the area. To the right and below was Sugar Loaf Mountain, also a famous landmark of the bay. The famous Copacabana beach also became visible as we neared the dock. The background of towering rugged mountains, bluish and green in color, made a spectacular panorama for the gleaming maze of skyscrapers that crowded right to the docks.

The ship was to be at this port only until midnight. Our destination as missionaries was further down the coast, about 200 miles south to the Port of Santos. The missionaries in Rio had planned a welcome and get-acquainted meal at the South Brazil Seminary dining room. At that time about 20 missionary couples were stationed in Rio de Janeiro, because the all-Brazil mission headquarters, the largest of three seminaries, the Baptist publishing house, the women’s training school, and other Brazilian Baptist organizations were situated here. The Morgans, Richardsons, and Tarrys—all except for me—were taken to the seminary. Missionary colleague Dr. Lester Bell took me to see a doctor at the Evangelical Hospital. That was some ride! By the time we left the ship, darkness was setting in. As he drove, Dr. Bell zoomed in and out of the crowded lanes just as the Brazilians do. Motorists don’t use their headlights at night unless they want to warn the approaching car of some maneuver. Dim streetlights represented all the light they needed. Anyway, I had never seen such a ride—nor was I prepared for it. Dr. Bell didn’t try to scare me, for he was a very kind and considerate man. I later learned how to drive in the Brazilian traffic, too; doing so simply became natural. But that ride did not lower my blood pressure any. The doctor assured me that I did not have appendicitis. Whatever the problem was, I would just have to live with it.

By the time Dr. Bell and I returned to the seminary, the meal and most of the welcoming celebrations were over. The mission treasurer gave each of us three new couples a package of money. We all became instant millionaires. Inflation was so bad in Brazil that our monthly salary in their currency was worth more than a million cruzeiros. We were taken back to the ship. By the time the kids were in bed, the tugboat had pulled the Del Norte far enough into the bay that the powerful engines could be turned up into a dull, throbbing noise. Forward progress began; the loud bass foghorn began its ritual of warning the ships and fish that we were picking up speed and leaving Rio de Janeiro Bay.

“Last call for breakfast; last call for breakfast,” the steward called as he rang a little bell in his hand. As the steward’s voice faded down the corridor, I remembered that this was the last day aboard the ship. Because of our small children we missionaries received our breakfast in our rooms. Joy and anxiety raced through my body and mind as I thought of reaching our destination. The other missionary families on board seemed to experience the same feeling. Not that we were complaining about our ship, because Southern Baptists provided us with an opportunity that we might never have again. With high-class food, excellent service, and time for leisure, why the anxiety? Well, appointment service, two weeks of orientation, getting physicals, getting proper shots and documents for passports and visas, buying clothes and even Christmas presents for a five-year term in Brazil all were exhausting. Add to that the crating process to ship all these things while we were busy completing the plans on the church calendar. We packed and moved to New Mexico things that we didn’t want to take to Brazil. We had three months with our parents as we waited for Charlotte to be born and for time for our ship to leave. We had two weeks on the ship, which should have been restful, but I began to feel my nerve fibers pulling. We were ready to settle into our new location. We were not accustomed to being unsettled so long. And of course we were eager to be in the land God had laid on our hearts to serve Him.

On this last morning a birthday party was planned for Carl. Carl’s 5th birthday really was the next day, April 23, but the ship’s social director had planned a party for him before we reached Santos. Carl had a birthday cake and several presents the ship’s social department provided. The attendant that cared for Charlotte each evening during the dinnertime was very good to us. She gave us a box of baby bottles and a box of baby food that had been bought for Charlotte.

As we descended the gangplank on Friday, about 30 language-school missionaries, including their children, met us. We three men would return to Santos on Monday with a veteran missionary to begin the paper work to get our things out of customs. We ate our first Brazilian meal at a restaurant. The first thing the waiters brought was a drink unfamiliar to us. Everyone was drinking the same thing: Guarana. I examined the label on the bottle and read champagne. My heart sank! I could not believe that my Baptist colleagues could sink so low as to drink champagne. When they poured their drinks into their glasses, white foam rose to the top. I put mine down with the resolution not to drink it. Soon some of them started laughing. They explained that it had no alcoholic content. Guarana is made from the Guarana berry and is perfectly harmless. Well, that became a favorite joke the Tarrys later played on visiting guests from the States.

The language students took us to a beautiful beach and made a full day out of the trip to meet us. We had a great time on the beach, but the fun ended when jellyfish stung two of us. Darkness was setting in as we left Santos for Campinas. As we left the coast, we started climbing a curvy, mountainous road. We discovered a new custom: when a car wanted to pass, the bus driver turned off his lights. Our driver could see a little from the lights behind us and from the moon. By the glow of lights about to top the hill in front of us, the car behind could see whether another vehicle was approaching. According to the custom the driver felt safe to pass if he didn’t see any approaching lights. After the car passed, our driver turned his lights on again.

We arrived in Campinas about 10 p.m. Arrangements had been made for us to stay with Gene and Aleene Wise (brother of Kenneth Wise, who had helped us in Houston) when we arrived in Campinas. The Wises had not gone to Santos to meet us because Aleene was sick. They graciously welcomed us. Our assignment in Brazil officially had begun.

My review: I'm not completely finished with this book, so a review will follow, but so far it is very interesting!!

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Joy to the World! Advent Activities for Your Family

Guess what?! Another one I'm late in posting! But better late than never, right?! Hope so!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Joy to the World: Advent Activities for your Family

Liguori Publications (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Rebecca Molen of Liguori Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Kathleen Basi is a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer, flute and voice teacher, composer, choir director, natural family planning teacher, scrapbooker, sometime-chef and budding disability rights activist. She puts her juggling skills on display on her website (see below).

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $5.99
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Liguori Publications (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764819372
ISBN-13: 978-0764819377




Call it December madness: On the day after Thanksgiving 2008, a seasonal worker was trampled to death by shoppers swarming a department store at opening time. In mid-America, two women got into a fist fight over a toy, and the store personnel had to pull them off each other.

At this time of year, it’s hardly possible to escape feeling rushed, harried, and overwhelmed. It seems like every year the Christmas decorations at the mall go up a little earlier, and all the news reports dwell on how much money retailers are (or aren’t) going to make. The ad inserts get fatter and the TV shouts: “No need to wait! Zero down! No interest for thirteen months! Hurry, hurry, hurry!”

Just about everyone gripes about it, but no one seems to know what to do about it. Some families throw out the whole secular celebration in an attempt to prevent materialism from overwhelming both Advent and Christmas. But most families feel—rightly so—that they shouldn’t have to choose one over the other. It’s supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but often families feel stressed as the calendar fills up with recitals, shopping, parties, and housecleaning. In this atmosphere filled with distractions, the idea of Advent as a season in its own right has been overwhelmed. How can we wait for Christmas when we never have to wait for anything else?

Christmas is not about children, gifts, cookies, or trees. It’s about a love so powerful that God came to earth to dwell among us: human and divine intertwining—a holy union of wills that reaches its apex not in birth, but in crucifixion and resurrection. In salvation.

And we spend December fighting over Blu-ray discs and toys?

It’s time to reclaim Advent—that season of holy hush, of waiting, of light and anticipation—that season that helps make Christmas so special. We can’t withdraw from the world, but we can take the trappings of the season and infuse them with a deeper meaning. Joy to the World: Advent Activities for Your Family outlines a way to reconcile the secular with the sacred—to celebrate them side-by-side, to mold them into a single, month-long “liturgy,” and in so doing, to enrich both celebrations.

Chapter 1 presents a brief overview of Advent and why it is important. Chapter 2 introduces the three parts of the Advent Reclamation Project, which are explained more fully in Chapters 3 through 5. Chapter 6 offers suggestions for other traditions that families or parish communities might choose to adopt as their own, and in the appendices, you will find resources to flesh out the earlier chapters.

Early childhood is the ideal time to start developing family traditions, so this book is aimed at young families. Each chapter contains a short italicized section to be read directly to children, explaining some part of the celebration. As your family grows, you can adapt the traditions to fit your own circumstances. Many of the ideas will also translate to the classroom. Remember that Advent, like Sabbath, was not created for God’s sake, but for ours (see Mark 2:27). God doesn’t need it. We do.



The Case
For Advent

Advent holds a unique place in the Christian calendar. For Catholics, it is the beginning of the liturgical year. It is a season in which the church is decked out in purple—a sign of penitence—yet the Scriptures also speak of joy, hope, and light.

The word “Advent” comes from a Latin word meaning arrival or coming. In the earliest days of the Church, all of life focused on the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. After all, the Apostles expected the Second Coming during their lifetimes.

At this time, the ancient pagan cultures structured their seasonal celebrations on nature. The celebration of the winter solstice was the biggest festival of the year in ancient times. It centered upon the shortest day of the year—the day when the “unconquered” sun began slowly to take back the days. Gift-giving, feasting, lights, and greenery all originated in these pagan celebrations. As Christianity expanded into these lands, the Church adopted many of these traditions, infusing them with Christian meaning in order to ease the transition for its new members. Thus, sometime in the fourth century ad, Christmas—and Advent—made their appearances.

Originally, Advent was a forty-day period of fasting and penitence—a parallel to Lent. In the early centuries, the Church focused on preparing for the Second Coming. Not until the middle ages did Advent begin to point toward the birth of Christ. Over the centuries, many traditions cropped up surrounding the season. The Advent wreath grew out of a Pagan tradition of lighting candles to signify the hope of spring. The Jesse tree probably originated in Northern Europe, where lineage and genealogy determined one’s place in society. The Jesse tree taught the faithful about Jesus’ royal lineage. Over time, these customs (and the meanings associated with them) have evolved. Some grew more important, others less so.

Nowadays, the secular culture and many Protestant denominations make no distinction between Advent and Christmas. The Sundays of December are filled with the story of the Christ Child, and the Christmas celebration is over and done around New Year’s. But in Catholic tradition, the season of Advent focuses on the two “comings” of Christ—the Incarnation, when God came to Earth as human child, and the glorious Second Coming at the end of time. In fact, the readings for the first two weeks of Advent speak of John the Baptist “preparing the way” for Jesus, the grown man who turned the world upside down. Only in the later part of Advent does our focus zero in on Bethlehem.

This duality is something we experience even with our senses. Catholic churches are hung with violet for these four weeks—the color traditionally associated with penitence. But the purple we use at this time of year is different from the purple of Lent; it is meant to be a richer, royal purple, reminding us also that Christ is King.

Advent gives us a chance to meditate on:

Hope—for deliverance;

Expectation—for the coming of one who will bring justice to an unjust world;

Preparation—so that we may prepare our hearts to receive Christ, who is

Light—the light of the world.

These are beautiful themes. Why should Advent be shoved into a corner, nothing more than four weeks of filler before Christmas? Advent can be a magical time, if we approach it the right way.

Advent does not need to become a “second Lent,” but the violet hangings and vestments remind us that penitence remains an important part of the season. Advent gives us the chance to examine our hearts and “defrag” our scattered souls. To reorder our thinking and our priorities. To point our lives, for four weeks, toward Christmas, so that when we reach the holiday, it has meaning and beauty that is distinct from the four preceding weeks.

Nor is Christmas the end of the journey. Without Holy Week and the resurrection, the manger in Bethlehem would be unremarkable: just one more baby born in poverty. For Christians, the destination is Easter. Glorious as it is, Christmas is a stop along the way.

For the children:

Even though all the advertisements on TV are about Christmas, right now we are actually in the season of Advent. During Advent, our job is to get ready for Jesus to come and live in our hearts. At Christmas, we will celebrate Jesus being born as a baby—but he has promised us that he will come back again someday, and we need to be ready. One way we do this is by remembering our sins and trying to do better. This is called penitence, and it is why the church is decorated in purple. But Advent is also about looking forward to Jesus coming. We are excited because Jesus is the light of the world, and when he comes, he will make the world fair for everyone.

My review:
How is this for an endorsement?! My 7 year old is anxiously awaiting being able to put this book to use! He wanted to start in on it when it arrived, but I've been successful in holding him of thus far. I am really looking forward to having this as a resource to use year after year with my sons!

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Everything Christmas!

Another late one....but worth checking out!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Everything Christmas

WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Doubleday Religion / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


David Bordon and Tom Winters are partners in Bordon-Winters, LLC, a book concept and packaging company that produces successful books and gift products. Their previous titles include the 101 Things You Should Do series, especially the popular 101 Things You Should Do Before Going to Heaven.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 030772929X
ISBN-13: 978-0307729293


December 1

Let Us Keep Christmas

Grace Noll Crowell

Whatever else be lost among the years,

Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing;

Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,

Let us hold close one day, remembering

It’s poignant meaning for the hearts of men.

Let us get back our childlike faith again.

The History of Christmas

Many of our Christmas traditions were celebrated centuries before the Christ child was born. The twelve days of Christmas, the bright fires, the yule log, gift giving, carnivals, carolers going from house to house, holiday feasts, even church processions can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians. These traditions were passed down throughout the known world and were popular in Rome long before the birth of Christ.

Most historians say that some three centuries after the birth of Christ, Christianity was spreading rapidly. Church leaders were alarmed that their converts continued to honor the ancient celebrations honoring pagan gods. Early Christians had chosen to keep the birth of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, without merriment. For centuries they had forbidden their members to take part in those ancient celebrations. But now it seemed it was a losing battle. As a compromise, they agreed to allow their members to partake in a demure and respectful celebration of the birth of Christ. Thus, the Christian celebration we know as Christmas was born in Rome, near the date 336 AD.

The actual date of Christ’s birth is unknown, so the early Christians chose December 25, probably to compete with the wildly popular Roman festival of Saturnalia. Eventually, most of the customs from the festival of Saturnalia were adopted into the celebration of Christmas and given new and sacred meanings.

Today, Christmas is both a holiday and a holy day. In America, it is the biggest event of the year, celebrated by people of all ages.

Christmas Every Day

William Dean Howells

The little girl came into her papa’s study, as she always did Saturday morning before breakfast, and asked for a story. He tried to beg off that morning, for he was very busy, but she would not let him. So he began:

“Well, once there was a little pig—”

She stopped him at the word. She said she had heard little pig stories till she was perfectly sick of them.

“Well, what kind of story shall I tell, then?”

“About Christmas. It’s getting to be the season.”

“Well!” Her papa roused himself. “Then I’ll tell you about the little girl that wanted it Christmas every day in the year. How would you like that?”

“First-rate!” said the little girl; and she nestled into comfortable shape in his lap, ready for listening.

“Very well, then, this little pig—Oh, what are you pounding me for?”

“Because you said little pig instead of little girl.”

“I should like to know what’s the difference between a little pig and a little girl that wanted Christmas every day!”

“Papa!” said the little girl warningly. At this her papa began to tell the story.

Once there was a little girl who liked Christmas so much that she wanted it to be Christmas every day in the year, and as soon as Thanksgiving was over she began to send postcards to the old Christmas Fairy to ask if she mightn’t have it. But the old Fairy never answered, and after a while the little girl found out that the Fairy wouldn’t notice anything but real letters sealed outside with a monogram—or your initial, anyway. So, then, she began to send letters, and just the day before Christmas, she got a letter from the Fairy, saying she might have it Christmas every day for a year, and then they would see about having it longer.

The little girl was excited already, preparing for the old-fashioned, once-a-year Christmas that was coming the next day. So she resolved to keep the Fairy’s promise to herself and surprise everybody with it as it kept coming true, but then it slipped out of her mind altogether.

She had a splendid Christmas. She went to bed early, so as to let Santa Claus fill the stockings, and in the morning she was up the first of anybody and found hers all lumpy with packages of candy, and oranges and grapes, and rubber balls, and all kinds of small presents. Then she waited until the rest of the family was up, and she burst into the library to look at the large presents laid out on the library table—books, and boxes of stationery, and dolls, and little stoves, and dozens of handkerchiefs, and inkstands, and skates, and photograph frames, and boxes of watercolors, and dolls’ houses—and the big Christmas tree, lighted and standing in the middle.

She had a splendid Christmas all day. She ate so much candy that she did not want any breakfast, and the whole forenoon the presents kept pouring in that had not been delivered the night before, and she went round giving the presents she had got for other people, and came home and ate turkey and cranberry for dinner, and plum pudding and nuts and raisins and oranges, and then went out and coasted, and came in with a stomachache crying, and her papa said he would see if his house was turned into that sort of fool’s paradise another year, and they had a light supper, and pretty early everybody went to bed cross.

The little girl slept very heavily and very late, but she was wakened at last by the other children dancing around her bed with their stockings full of presents in their hands. “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” they all shouted.

“Nonsense! It was Christmas yesterday,” said the little girl, rubbing her eyes sleepily.

Her brothers and sisters just laughed. “We don’t know about that. It’s Christmas today, anyway. You come into the library and see.”

Then all at once it flashed on the little girl that the Fairy was keeping her promise, and her year of Christmases was beginning. She was dreadfully sleepy, but she sprang up and darted into the library. There it was again! Books, and boxes of stationery, and dolls, and so on.

There was the Christmas tree blazing away, and the family picking out their presents, and her father looking perfectly puzzled, and her mother ready to cry. “I’m sure I don’t see how I’m to dispose of all these things,” said her mother, and her father said it seemed to him they had had something just like it the day before, but he supposed he must have dreamed it. This struck the little girl as the best kind of a joke, and so she ate so much candy she didn’t want any breakfast, and went round carrying presents, and had turkey and cranberry for dinner, and then went out and coasted, and came in with a stomachache, crying.

Now, the next day, it was the same thing over again, but everybody getting crosser, and at the end of a week’s time so many people had lost their tempers that you could pick up lost tempers anywhere, they perfectly strewed the ground. Even when people tried to recover their tempers they usually got somebody else’s, and it made the most dreadful mix.

The little girl began to get frightened, keeping the secret all to herself, she wanted to tell her mother, but she didn’t dare to, and she was ashamed to ask the Fairy to take back her gift, it seemed ungrateful and ill-bred. So it went on and on, and it was Christmas on St. Valentine’s Day and Washington’s Birthday, just the same as any day, and it didn’t skip even the First of April, though everything was counterfeit that day, and that was some little relief.

After a while turkeys got to be awfully scarce, selling for about a thousand dollars apiece. They got to passing off almost anything for turkeys—even half-grown hummingbirds. And cranberries—well they asked a diamond apiece for cranberries. All the woods and orchards were cut down for Christmas trees. After a while they had to make Christmas trees out of rags. But there were plenty of rags, because people got so poor, buying presents for one another, that they couldn’t get any new clothes, and they just wore their old ones to tatters. They got so poor that everybody had to go to the poorhouse, except the confectioners, and the storekeepers, and the book sellers, and they all got so rich and proud that they would hardly wait upon a person when he came to buy. It was perfectly shameful!

After it had gone on about three or four months, the little girl, whenever she came into the room in the morning and saw those great ugly, lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents around everywhere, used to sit down and burst out crying. In six months she was perfectly exhausted, she couldn’t even cry anymore.

And now it was on the Fourth of July! On the Fourth of July, the first boy in the United States woke up and found out that his firecrackers and toy pistol and two-dollar collection of fireworks were nothing but sugar and candy painted up to look like fireworks. Before ten o’clock every boy in the United States discovered that his July Fourth things had turned into Christmas things and was so mad. The Fourth of July orations all turned into Christmas carols, and when anybody tried to read the Declaration of Independence, instead of saying, “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary,” he was sure to sing, “God rest you merry gentlemen.” It was perfectly awful.

About the beginning of October the little girl took to sitting down on dolls wherever she found them—she hated the sight of them so, and by Thanksgiving she just slammed her presents across the room. By that time people didn’t carry presents around nicely anymore. They flung them over the fence or through the window, and, instead of taking great pains to write “For dear Papa,” or “Mama “ or “Brother,” or “Sister,” they used to write, “Take it, you horrid old thing!” and then go and bang it against the front door.

Nearly everybody had built barns to hold their presents, but pretty soon the barns overflowed, and then they used to let them lie out in the rain, or anywhere. Sometimes the police used to come and tell them to shovel their presents off the sidewalk or they would arrest them.

Before Thanksgiving came it had leaked out who had caused all these Christmases. The little girl had suffered so much that she had talked about it in her sleep, and after that hardly anybody would play with her, because if it had not been for her greediness it wouldn’t have happened. And now, when it came Thanksgiving, and she wanted them to go to church, and have turkey, and show their gratitude, they said that all the turkeys had been eaten for her old Christmas dinners and if she would stop the Christmases, they would see about the gratitude. And the very next day the little girl began sending letters to the Christmas Fairy, and then telegrams, to stop it. But it didn’t do any good, and then she got to calling at the Fairy’s house, but the girl that came to the door always said, “Not at home,” or “Engaged,” or something like that, and so it went on till it came to the old once-a-year Christmas Eve. The little girl fell asleep, and when she woke up in the morning—

“She found it was all nothing but a dream,” suggested the little girl.

“No indeed!” said her papa. “It was all every bit true!”

“What did she find out, then?”

“Why, that it wasn’t Christmas at last, and wasn’t ever going to be, anymore. Now it’s time for breakfast.”

The little girl held her papa fast around the neck.

“You shan’t go if you’re going to leave it so!”

“How do you want it left?”

“Christmas once a year.”

“All right,” said her papa, and he went on again.

Well, with no Christmas ever again, there was the greatest rejoicing all over the country. People met together everywhere and kissed and cried for joy. Carts went around and gathered up all the candy and raisins and nuts, and dumped them into the river, and it made the fish perfectly sick. And the whole United States, as far out as Alaska, was one blaze of bonfires, where the children were burning up their presents of all kinds. They had the greatest time!

The little girl went to thank the old Fairy because she had stopped its being Christmas, and she said she hoped the Fairy would keep her promise and see that Christmas never, never came again. Then the Fairy frowned, and said that now the little girl was behaving just as greedily as ever, and she’d better look out. This made the little girl think it all over carefully again, and she said she would be willing to have it Christmas about once in a thousand years, and then she said a hundred, and then she said ten, and at last she got down to one. Then the Fairy said that was the good old way that had pleased people ever since Christmas began, and she was agreed. Then the little girl said, “What’re your shoes made of?” And the Fairy said, “Leather.” And the little girl said, “Bargain’s done forever,” and skipped off, and hippity-hopped the whole way home, she was so glad.

“How will that do?” asked the papa.

“First-rate!” said the little girl, but she hated to have the story stop, and was rather sober. However, her mama put her head in at the door and asked her papa:

“Are you never coming to breakfast? What have you been telling that child?”

“Oh, just a tale with a moral.”

The little girl caught him around the neck again.

“We know! Don’t you tell what, papa! Don’t you tell what!”

William Dean Howells (1837—1920) Best known as an editor and critic, this American fiction writer produced more than forty novels and story collections. He challenged American authors to choose American subjects, portray them honestly, and create characters who use native-American speech. As a critic, he helped to introduce writers like Mark Twain, Hamlin Garland, and Stephen Crane to American readers.

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past,

courage for the present, hope for the future.

It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow

with blessings rich and eternal, and that

every path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pharo

Scented Applesauce-Cinnamon


3 cups applesauce

3 cups ground cinnamon

Mix applesauce and cinnamon together until it is thick enough to hold a form. Flatten the mixture on a flat surface and cut into cookie-cutter shapes.

Place cookie shapes on a cookie sheet to dry for 3 to 4 days depending on the size and thickness of the cookies. If using as a hanging ornament, make a hole with a toothpick before drying.

Makes 15 ornaments.

Chestnut Dressing

8 Tbsp. butter

3 ribs celery with leaves, chopped

16 ounces chestnuts

1 large chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 pound sourdough bread, cubed

3 cups turkey stock

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut a deep X into the flattest side of each chestnut and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, or until outer skin of chestnut splits. Wrap roasted chestnuts in a towel to keep warm. Peel off the tough outer skin of the chestnut and thinner inner skin with a sharp knife. Chop the chestnuts coarsely and set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Empty skillet contents into a large bowl. Add cubed bread, parsley, and enough stock to moisten the mix, about 2 1/2 cups. Stir in chestnuts and add salt and pepper to taste.

Use to stuff poultry or place in a buttered baking dish, drizzle with 1/2 cup more stock, and bake 30 minutes to an hour.

Makes 10–11 cups.

Roasted Goose

1 goose, 10–12 pounds

1 orange, halved

kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

For giblet stock (used in gravy):

2 onions, quartered

1 carrot, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 pints of water

2 sprigs of sage

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 Tbsp. cornstarch (to thicken)

The goose should be defrosted and left at room temperature for at least 2 or 3 hours before cooking to bring it to equilibrium. This will improve the overall texture of the finished product. Remove the giblets from the goose and set aside. Wash the bird thoroughly inside and out with cool water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut away any loose pieces of fat. Then rub the orange inside and outside of the bird. Mix the salt and pepper and rub into the skin and inside the cavity of the bird to season it.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Truss the bird by folding the wings back under the body. Then tie the legs together with butcher’s twine. Lightly prick the skin of the bird several times with a fork to allow the fat to adequately render during the cooking process. It is important not to pierce the flesh of the bird. Place the goose breast-side up on a rack in the roasting pan, and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes to develop some initial color. Then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue cooking for approximately 3 hours.

Make a simple giblet stock to fortify and enrich the gravy while the goose is roasting by placing the giblets in a saucepan with some goose fat and cooking over low heat until browned. Add chopped onion, carrot, celery, herbs, and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for about one hour. Strain and cool until needed.

The goose is done when the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 175°F. For a visual test to see if the goose is cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear, then it is ready. If not, then return to the oven for additional roasting time.

Once the goose is cooked, allow it to rest for 20–30 minutes. This will allow the meat to firm up and will help retain the juiciness of the bird. Remove all of the drippings from the roasting pan, strain, and remove the fat. Add these defatted drippings to the giblet broth and season to taste. To thicken the gravy, combine 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch with 3 Tbsp. of water and add to the gravy. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1–2 minutes or until thickened.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Phillips Brooks

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,

While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.

O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,

And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav’n.

No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,

Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;

Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,

The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Historical Note:

On Christmas Eve, 1865, Phillips Brooks was in Jerusalem, a trip intended to inspire spiritual rebirth after the horrors of the Civil War. Just a few months earlier, he had spoken at the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln. That clear night as he walked the streets of the Holy City, he had a sudden inspiration. Renting a horse, he set out for Bethlehem. After a solitary journey under the clear night sky, Brooks reached the tiny, remote village and was surrounded by the spirit of the first Christmas. His impoverished soul was refreshed as he considered what had happened there so many years before. Three years later on Christmas Eve, 1868, as he sat alone in his study preparing his sermon for the next day, he felt inspired to pen the words to this beautiful carol.

I, the Lord All-Powerful,

will send my messenger

to prepare the way for me.

Then suddenly the Lord

you are looking for

will appear in his temple.

The messenger you desire

is coming with my promise,

and he is on his way.

(Malachi 3:1, cev)

My review:
I love this book! I love the variety of information in the book and especially the SIZE of the book! So many books are ideal for coffee table use but not so much for easy handling. However, this book is the exception! I love that each time I open it, I find a new story, recipe, or such that I hadn't noticed before. This will definitely be a favorite for years to come!