Thursday, February 24, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Review: Meet Mrs. Smith

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:

Meet Mrs. Smith: My Adventures with Six Kids, One Rockstar Husband, and a Heart to Fight Poverty

David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Anna Smith is a wife and mother of six children. Her husband Martin was the lead singer for the band Delirious? for over sixteen years. Smith and her husband founded CompassionArt, a nonprofit organization built to raise money through art and music to help orphans and the poor around the world. Meet Mrs. Smith is Smith’s first book. She and her family reside in the seaside village of Rustington, England.

Visit the author's website.


Are you tired of just feeling bogged down by your daily life? Do you wonder if your life will have an impact on your family or, even yet, the world? Come join Anna Smith as she encourages you to live a life of abandoned love for Christ.

Meet Mrs. Smith is Anna Smith’s life story—the story of how God used her, alongside her husband Martin, to raise a family, live a wild life for God, launch the worldwide phenomenon that is Delirious?, and start a ministry to orphans around the world. With a good dose of spiritual insight, parenting advice, and wry humor, Anna shares the hard lessons she’s learned. She also shares stories from behind some of Delirious?’s most popular songs while encouraging readers with her warm authentic voice.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702030
ISBN-13: 978-1434702036



The phone rings just as I’m straining the potatoes and promising the waiting tribe that supper’s nearly ready.

“Indi, get back to the table.… Noah, try not to spill the water, my love.… Elle, can you encourage Levi not to arch his back in the high chair?”


I’m feeling slightly nauseous, and I wish the pregnancy hormones would take mealtimes into consideration—it’s far too inconvenient for me to have my head down over the toilet right now. I hear ringing from the other room.

I rush to pick up the phone.

“Helloooo, Anna here.”

“Hi, love, how are you?” Martin says.

“Yeah, good … general supper-time craziness, but we’re all fine. How’s your day been? What’ve you been up to?”

As he replies, I sense something different in Martin’s voice tonight. I don’t know, he seems bothered or troubled … just different. But there’s no time to chat.

“Can’t you phone in a couple of hours?” I ask him.

“Probably not,” he replies. Later I guess that he’ll be onstage or fast asleep in his hotel—I don’t know; I get confused with the time zones. He starts to talk about everything he’s experienced in India and how his heart’s caving in at the poverty he’s seeing.

What can I say?

“Sorry, honey, must be awful,” I say. “Right, got to go, the broccoli’s disintegrating.”

My words sound pathetic. And I can’t quite hear him anyway as the line is breaking up.

“Bye, I’ll call again soon, I love you.”

What horrible timing! As Martin wrestles with the impact of this great poverty he’s seeing and experiencing, I’m here trying to hold down the fort. He’s getting “all emotional” about someone else’s kids, but all I can think of in that moment is how I need him here. Our children miss their daddy.

But every trip to India seems to ratchet up the intensity inside Martin—something’s breaking his heart: He’s moved, challenged, and provoked by everything around him there. What’s God saying? What’s shifting? Martin’s seen poverty before, but this is something else altogether. It’s another telephone call we’ll have to resume later when the kids are in bed and my head’s clearer.

The thing is, I want him in the kitchen with me now, pouring out his heart to me, like a proper married couple going on this journey of discovery together.

Not tonight though. He’s somewhere in India, and I’m watching Pop Idol on TV.


We have been on a journey of so many paradoxes.

I’m on this adventure with my kids and my husband, Martin, who toured the world with the band Delirious? On this path I discovered both the joys and the chaos of family, but along the way, we

found that our chaos was little compared to the chaos of the poverty in the world.

The clash of emotions and heartbreaking stories led my children and me to a rubbish dump, a slum where people live, outside Hyderabad, India.

What am I doing here? I thought as I stood there in the refuse and dirt. Why did I bring my children to this place? Then I saw the children run up to us with huge smiles on their beautiful faces—and I wept when they sang to us.

As I said before, this has been a journey of paradoxes.

The book in your hands is about this exhilarating, enriching, exciting, and downright exhausting journey. It’s about being a wife, mother, friend, auntie, and sister. I’m a mother to six children, and due to that fact, it’s a miracle that this book has actually been published and that I’m not yet wearing a hairnet to bed and putting my dentures in a plastic cup! Rather than wait until my life calms down, I want to tell someone my story while I am right in the middle of it.

This book is about not wishing away the time or waiting until the house is empty before we look out to the world beyond our own. It’s about seeking God in all of the mess and exhaustion.

On this path, we look back on key events as turning points. For me, one of those moments came fifteen years ago. That moment accelerated my passion to embrace life to the fullest and birthed a band that played to hundreds of thousands of people around the world and spread a powerful message to the nations.

After three house moves, seven pregnancies, numerous flights with children in tow, many trips to India and Africa, dozens of tour buses, hundreds of gigs, thousands of earplugs in little ears, and too many dirty nappies (some might call them diapers!) to mention, I’m here to share a little of my story, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Thanks for coming along!


Chapter 1: The Longest Night

Little did I know that one moment would change everything.

I sit motionless in the passenger seat. Frightened and disorientated, my muddled brain tries to make sense of my surroundings. Slowly I turn my head and look across at Martin lying semiconscious, his inert body collapsed in a heap next to me. His head is slumped against the steering wheel, his foot in perfect synchrony, pressed down flat on the accelerator.

I don’t know what to do.

My head feels fuzzy and my thoughts move in slow motion.


At the time it seemed like a great idea to drive through the night. Waking up at home sounded sweet. There’s nothing like your own bed, and after spending a week cooped up in a leaky caravan, sleeping under what I can only describe as soft cardboard, my bed called to me.

The green Ford Sierra did us proud, and the thought of seeing my sister’s baby, Abigail, who’d been born ten days early (which was the motivation for our early departure), gave Martin and me lots to chat about on the way. My brother Jon fell asleep as soon as we left the campsite, so we had the whole journey to talk while eighties classics pumped out of our dilapidated stereo.

The A1 motorway continued on forever.

Martin had endured a hectic week, as part of his job was recording live music and seminars at conferences around the country, and this week we’d been at Grapevine in Lincolnshire. So it wasn’t long before we’d exhausted all conversation and stared at the road, willing the journey to come to an end. Jon snoozed away in the back of the car—he looked peaceful, albeit a tad uncomfortable, curled up next to a load of musical equipment, trying to muster up an agreeable position with the seat belt across his face.

Five hours later we drove onto the A259 to Littlehampton. Waves of excitement came over me at the thought of seeing baby Abigail. I remember the delight of seeing the familiar Windmill Pub with the patrons long gone and the feeling that we were the only ones awake in this sleepy village. We were so nearly home.

The next few moments would change our lives forever, but the God who does not slumber watched over us.


My eyes photograph the scene. One by one, images develop to make sense of things: a green car turned the wrong way round; a crushed and crumbling brick wall; smoke swirling in the foreground; the driver motionless, covered in blood. My other senses start to kick into gear: Intoxicating fumes creep into my nostrils; the hiss and crackle of the engine whisper in my ear.

These impressions become clearer, and my thoughts accelerate—I need to get Martin and Jon out of the car. I desperately kick my chair back, but it stubbornly refuses to move. Every part of me clambers and scrambles to escape, but I can’t get free.

“Someone call for help!” The words tumble out of my mouth and race into the cold night air, frantically searching for help.

Finally, I manage to force open my door. I tentatively step out of the car. My two-inch plastic heels crunch underfoot as fragments of glass break like icicles with every step.

I nervously survey the scene, but the dark gives nothing away. A ten-minute eternity passes. I wait, a thousand thoughts sparking a thousand fears. Suddenly, two fire engines and an ambulance careen around the corner, and the stillness is swallowed by a voracious urgency: lights and people, questions and confusion.


I’m ushered into the ambulance, the paramedics buzzing around me, assaulting my weary brain with questions. Jon somehow managed to get himself out of the car, but now he’s dressed in a green surgical

gown, hallucinating and singing “Yellow Submarine,” the shock of it all messing with his reality.

But what about Martin—what about my husband?

Their answer is a constant, unsatisfying repetition: “We are doing all that we can.”

The firefighters cut the roof off the car, the harsh grinding of metal against metal, battling to free the fragile body inside. I’m riveted to the action but can’t watch—my heart needs protection, but my head doesn’t want to miss any important detail. Fear and panic and emptiness and shock wrap around me like an oppressive shelter. Then in the midst of all the craziness, I see my dad running toward me, abandoned in panic. All I can think is that I need to tell him it’s going to be all right. He holds me; he’s shaking with fear, a thousand questions falling from his trembling lips.

The hours drag on heavily. People move around me in a haze, and nothing seems to change. I feel exhausted, confused, scared, and numb. The firefighters finally cut Martin free from the wreckage,

and they are relieved to find that his feet are still attached to the legs that have been hidden from sight for two hours. Now that he’s free, the paramedics are desperate to get him to the surgeon to repair his

broken and battered body.

Blood is everywhere.

As we’re leaving I hear one of the firefighters asking about the fourth passenger. Where is she? he asks. The blonde girl in the backseat?

To this day no one knows who she was. Either Jon had smuggled a new girlfriend home, or heaven made sure we weren’t alone on this night.

Maybe she was our angel.

©2011 Cook Communications Ministries. Meet Mrs. Smith by Anna Smith. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

My review: I'm still behind in my reading! :) I'll get a review up for this as soon as I finish reading it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Review: Delirious

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:


David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Martin Smith is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter from England. He was the front man for the Christian rock and worship band Delirious? for seventeen years. Delirious? released numerous records, with some of their songs hitting the top twenty UK charts. In their career, Delirious? played many major conferences, festivals, events, and crusades. They won numerous Dove Awards, were nominated for a Grammy Award, and produced songs such as “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” and “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” Smith collaborated with the other members of Delirious? for the book I Could Sing of Your Love Forever and with other artists to complete The Art of Compassion book and the CompassionArt CD and DVD.

Visit the author's website.


Martin Smith, one of the men behind the modern Christian worship movement, challenges readers in his autobiography, Delirious: My Life, Mission, and Reflections on the Global Worship Movement. Martin Smith fell in love with God early in his life. By his teen years, he was captivated by songs that expressed true intimacy with God. As he grew, he married a pastor’s daughter and became involved in his church’s outreach events. He began playing his own songs with a band at the events. Then, in 1995, Smith was involved in a near-fatal car accident. During his weeks of recovery, he decided to become a full-time musician. His new career quickly took off and he became the lead singer for the band Delirious?. Touring with groups such as Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Matchbox Twenty, and Switchfoot, Smith’s life became a whirlwind of balancing work and family.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702375
ISBN-13: 978-1434702371



I never really knew what people meant when they said that their hearts had been broken. It had always seemed to me that people were exaggerating, that the description was all a bit too over the top. But on January 10, 2007, I found out exactly what it feels like to have your heart so comprehensively messed with that you know beyond all doubt, the rest of your life will be different as a result.

For me, though, it wasn’t that my heart broke. It was still beating—and faster than ever. It felt more like my heart had been ripped out. My head, on the other hand—now that was well and truly broken. Thoughts flew out like water from a broken pipe, and nothing made sense anymore.

I was a mess.

I sat in a hotel, waiting in the room for someone to take us to dinner. Nothing new there. But nothing could ever be the same. After what I’d seen that afternoon, I knew that if my world as Martin Smith carried on without any change, I’d be making the biggest mistake of my life.

We’d been in India for a day or so. In Hyderabad the band and I played to a crowd made up of four hundred thousand people, quite a few cows, and a whole lot of duct tape holding the PA system together.

Delirious? had toured India before, and we’d seen poverty around the world: We’d visited slums in Mexico and seen it from car windows on numerous drives to and from airports, but in India we always felt the greatest impact. Knowing that even our suitcases—not including the stuff inside them—cost more than a year’s wages for some of these people was enough to wipe the smiles off our faces.

Mumbai was different. The sounds, smells, and general chaos overwhelmed the senses, and somehow the children’s begging felt more intense and disturbing there than anywhere else. Every time we stopped at a red light and children approached the airtight windows of our cars, I wanted to empty my wallet and hand the contents over to them. It would have made the kids’ pimps happy, I suppose, and

I knew it was a bad idea.

So perhaps I should have known that I’d find it emotionally charged when we visited Prem Kiran, a project supported by Joyce Meyer Ministries that provides the children of prostitutes with food, education, and support. I should have known that their smiles and effervescent singing would lift my smile higher than the clouds, and I should have guessed that when we fed the children their lunch I would be fighting back tears.

But nothing could have prepared me for Farin.

You pronounce her name fa-REEN. For some reason she couldn’t stop looking at me all the time that she and the rest of the children sang.

I suppose I’m a little bit used to the “strangeness” of people looking at me, but this was different. At the same time that she was looking, God’s Spirit prodded me deep inside, taking my guts and wringing them out.

Once they finished singing and eating lunch, we spoke with the pastor. He told us that this project worked with more than seventy children, helping their mothers and families as well. He shared that Farin’s mum—like so many of the others there—worked as a prostitute.

I felt the air leak from my lungs.

Pastor Umale went on talking. This was a red-light district, and the chances were good that, yes, Farin would end up working as a prostitute just like her mother. Seeing as she was eleven years old then, that day might not be far off.

I looked back at Farin. She was so much like my eldest daughter, Elle: same age, same height, same way of moving, same big eyes, and a similar smile. But Elle’s future is one of possibilities and peace. Farin’s is a parent’s worst nightmare that never ends.

Pastor Umale invited us to walk across the street and visit the homes of some of the children and their mothers. We trod over the open sewer that ran between the brick and tin buildings; we wandered inside when invited and stood around looking like fools. There we were, a rock band that shouted about our faith in Jesus, standing in one room where the whole of life was played out: sleeping, feeding, playing, and working.

What did our faith mean in that place? We could take to the stage in front of hundreds of thousands, but what did our faith mean as we stood next to a bed on which a prostitute sold herself for a few rupees, and beneath which her children hid, in fear and silence, sometimes even drugged so that they would sleep? What did our faith mean, and what impact could it make? Were we out of our depth, or was that just the sort of place—and were those just the sort of people—that Jesus would have been found amongst, dealing in compassion, transformation, and restoration?

Our trip ended, and we got back on the bus. But it wasn’t enough to drive off and forget about it. It wasn’t enough for life to go on as before.

Back in the hotel all I know for sure is this: I am dying inside. Something has happened and I cannot find peace. All I can think of is Farin and the horrors that lie ahead unless some minor miracle takes place.

What would I do if she were mine?

The question makes me stop. What do I mean if she were mine? I realise the truth in that moment: There is no if in this scenario—I feel like I am Farin’s father and I am as responsible for her future as

I am for my own daughter’s.


That day we spent as a band in Mumbai changed things for me, though perhaps not in the way that I first thought it would. As I grabbed a few snatched phone conversations with my wife over the coming days, all I could tell her was that something amazing, disturbing, and beautiful had happened. I tried to tell her about Farin, but the words came out all wrong.

It wasn’t until the band and I got home that I had any sort of plan in place and the time and words to convey it to Anna.

“We need to adopt her,” I said. “We need to bring her back here to live with us, to be a part of our family.”

Anna was very good with me. She knows me well enough to let me talk and get the ideas out before those become actual plans, but she also knew that something different was going on. This wasn’t just

another case of Martin getting excited by someone he met at the end of a long tour.

But as I thought about it more and more, I grew even more convinced. We needed to adopt this girl. And the more I thought about it, the more I missed her. It was as if my heart—so blatantly ripped out from my chest upon seeing Farin for the first time—had now been put back but was wired up all wrong. I was constantly aware of the fact that she was still back there, living in a slum, surrounded by poverty and danger. This little girl was at risk, and I was doing nothing about it, other than looking at the photo of her that I’d placed on my piano while failing to put these feelings into song.

Eventually Anna laid it all out for me. My kids—the five we had then, sharing the house I’d been floating around in ever since I’d returned from India—needed me, but I wasn’t there. Physically I might have been in the room, but that was about it. I was drifting away, and it was starting to become a problem.

I wondered if I was having a breakdown. I struggled to concentrate and found it hard to connect with my loved ones, and all I could think about was this girl I’d only ever met once. What was going on?

Within a couple of weeks the air began to clear. The songs started to come—one about Farin herself and the other about her mother and her friends—and the adoption forms that I had ordered remained unopened on our kitchen table. Bit by bit I was starting to return to my body, to reconnect with the family, to come back to “normal,” whatever that meant. Being in a band means that life is a strange dance. You travel a lot and develop a life made up of stages, studios, and interviews that is far removed from the realities of family life. You have to work hard to smooth the transition between these two parts of life.

But coming back from India the landing was even bumpier.

Part of me liked that idea of everything getting back to how it had been. Part of me thought it was the most frightening thing that could ever happen.

Six weeks after meeting Farin, I found out that Farin’s mother had changed her mind. At the start she had been happy for Farin to leave India, for us to adopt her and bring her to England with us. Then she changed her mind. She couldn’t let Farin go.

How could I blame her? Honestly, I felt partly relieved, partly upset and sad. But then, finally, something like progress presented itself to Anna and me: If we can’t adopt Farin, then let’s take care of her and the other children in her neighbourhood. The pastor told me what the project in India cost to run, and we decided to contribute: We wanted to help with the care and education of all seventy children. After all, if we couldn’t bring Farin home, we could certainly help care for her along with all of her friends.


That is not the end of the story.

And it certainly isn’t the beginning either.

The day I met Farin was one of those points in life when so many threads come together. It was a junction box, with so many different experiences and influences colliding, and so many outcomes blossoming as a result. And part of the reason I wanted to write this book was to share a little of that bigger story.

But before we jump in, I need to do some confessing. Starting with a story like meeting Farin can sound impressive. That line about having my heart ripped out and my head broken makes it sound like I’m halfway towards being a saint. Don’t get me wrong—the feelings were absolutely genuine, but those were rare. On so many of the other trips our band made to projects that worked amongst the poorest people, life often went back to normal after a while.

I know lots of people who have experienced the same thing. Maybe you have too. After seeing the firsthand reality of what life is really like for so many of our neighbours here on the planet, you feel stirred up. You try your best, you try to respond to the compassion stirring within you. Most artists and creative people are by nature sensitive to suffering, and we often want to jump in and help, without thinking about whether there’s a lifeline. And even if you’re not a creative type, having faith in Christ more than sets us in line with compassion as a way of life.

Well, that’s the theory. Or, at least, that’s the start. What comes after the outpouring of emotion or the awkward feeling when you look in your wallet, that’s where I think we make the hard choices.

For those of us living in the West, when we come face-to-face with poverty it can be a problem. Especially when a trip feels more like a holiday romance than a blinding light on the road to Damascus.

For example, we fly into India, stay in a nice hotel, go visit these projects, go back to the hotel, have a shower, and eat a nice meal in a restaurant, and then, if we’re lucky, we get an upgrade on the flight home. In our culture, where selfishness is at worst a character quirk and at best a sign of inner strength, there is a real disconnect between head and heart, between passion and lifestyle. So we can be engaged in an issue, we can use our voices as our currency, and we can give cash. But the greatest tragedy is that we can come home from the short-term mission trip and get straight back into our everyday life and forget.

Not that there’s anything wrong with everyday life. For me that might range from driving one of the kids to a dance lesson today and piano lessons tomorrow, to taking out the rubbish bins; from getting the car fixed, to thinking about where we want to go on holiday next summer. Everyday life for me might be planning what I’m going to be doing this time next year or thinking about how to release these songs within me for others to hear. You can forget the pain, and you can forget the faces. That breathless feeling you get when you’re surrounded by life-and-death poverty can evaporate like the vapour trail left by the jet as you fly home.

I found this all to be true after my early trips to India. I didn’t like the way I, like the Israelites, could so quickly forget about what God had done just days before. It might not have been a miracle like the parting of the Red Sea, but facing children whose lives were on course for abuse, neglect, and horror stirred my compassion in powerful—but sadly, kind of temporary—ways.

Eventually I found what I thought was a perfect remedy for my wandering heart. Taking photos, and lots of them. All around my house now are pictures of many of the children—God’s children—through whom I have glimpsed more of life than I had known. As I sit at the piano or eat breakfast, all I have to do is look up to be reminded of their faces and to reconnect with their stories.

The truth is, though, that while the photos are a neat little device that I came up with, God had a better plan for helping me hold on to the sense of purpose that rose up after those days of seeing poverty up close. And that plan was Farin.

In one of those wonderful, God-only ways that showed how well my Father in heaven knows me, God broke into my heart and left it in pieces. Through Farin God made it all personal. And once that happened, there was no way I could ignore His call.

I’m not trying to sound like a saint again, but it’s true that one day in Mumbai back in January 2007 made the rest of my life different. Of course I still have one foot in my everyday life—the world in which I find myself getting more excited about the World Cup than about rescuing kids from sex trafficking. There are many, many times when I feel as though I just don’t know how to do this thing called compassion when there’s so much geography in the way. All those old temptations to go back to normal. But Anna and I have come so far down a new track that I’m not so sure I remember what “normal” looks like. I don’t think we can ever really go back to life being our own again.

So here we are, at the start of this book. Read it, and you’ll see that I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve tried to be honest with you throughout—honest about the good as well as the bad.

But, thanks to the grace of God, this book is about more than just my failings. It’s about an amazing journey that I’ve been on. I’ve seen miracles, heard armies of Christians cry out in faith, and seen what happens when ordinary men and women decide to live their faith out loud.

And I hope that this book helps you unleash more of the same.

©2011 Cook Communications Ministries. Delirious by Martin Smith. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

My review: I'm behind in my reading, so a review will come soon!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review: Dei Fratelli products

Thanks to the Family Review Network, our family had the opportunity to try several Dei Fratelli brand products: two flavors of salsa, two flavors of pasta sauce, and pizza sauce. This is not a brand that we usually purchase, so it was a treat to get to try something new and different!

Dei Fratelli Salsa is notable for one feature that stands out immediately...fresh. The salsa has a very fresh tomato taste that is uncommon in bottled products. There is no hint of vinegar and no overcooked vegetables. The medium salsa has great flavor with just a hint of heat. The salsa focuses more on complex flavor combinations than on the straight jalapeno flavor of other brands. The medium hot is similar to the medium with more heat. It has a spicy kick but still does not overpower the flavor of the salsa. The black bean and corn salsa is truly a notable product. It is thicker and has a more robust flavor than the standard salsa. It has little heat but the thicker consistancy makes chip dipping easier.

Dei Fratelli Pizza Sauce is “saucier” than the other products. It has a good flavor, but has trouble standing out from other pizza sauces. It is smooth and spreads well. It is thick enough to set on the crust and not run during baking.

Dei Fratelli Pasta Sauce, like the salsa, brings one immediate feature to light, that of fresh tomatoes. The sauce has an excellent flavor. It my be too chunky for some customers, but compares well to national “chunky style” sauces. The sauce heats well and is good both on and tossed with pasta. The sauce stands well on its on or can be combined with meat, cheese, or vegetables.

I would recommend Dei Fratelli salsa to anyone. It is obviously a premium product that stands head and shoulders above the competition. The salsa is good in recipes or just on chips. Enough variations of heat and flavor are available to suit any pallet. Dei Fratelli pasta sauce is an excellent product, just not as superior to its competitors as the salsa. Dei Fratelli pizza sauce is a very good product, but has trouble standing out when compared to similar products.

This post was written for Family Review Network & Dei Fratelli, who provided the complimentary product for review in exchange for my honest opinions.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Words

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:


B&H Books (February 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn, Trade Book Marketing, B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***


Ginny L. Yttrup is an accomplished freelance writer, speaker, and life coach who also ministers to women wounded by sexual trauma. Her blogs include Fiction Creator, My Daily Light, and Crossings Life Coaching. She has two grown sons and lives in California. Words is her first novel.

Visit the author's website.


“I collect words. I keep them in a box in my mind. Whenever I wanted, I’d open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box. But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can’t take them.”
Ten-year old Kaylee Wren doesn’t speak. Not since her drug-addled mother walked away, leaving her in a remote cabin nestled in the towering redwoods-in the care of a man who is as dangerous as he is evil. With silence her only refuge, Kaylee collects words she might never speak from the only memento her mother left behind: a dictionary.

Sierra Dawn is thirty-four, an artist, and alone. She has allowed the shame of her past to silence her present hopes and chooses to bury her pain by trying to control her circumstances. But on the twelfth anniversary of her daughter’s death, Sierra’s control begins to crumble as the God of her childhood woos her back to Himself.

Brought together by Divine design, Kaylee and Sierra will discover together the healing mercy of the Word—Jesus Christ.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433671700
ISBN-13: 978-1433671708


“In the beginning was the Word.”

John 1:1

“All those things for which we have no words are lost. The mind—the culture—has two little tools, grammar and lexicon: a decorated sand bucket and a matching shovel. With these we bluster about the continents and do all the world’s work. With these we try to save our very lives.”

Annie Dillard

Chapter One


I collect words.

I keep them in a box in my mind. I’d like to keep them in a real box, something pretty, maybe a shoe box covered with flowered wrapping paper. I’d write my words on scraps of paper and then put them in the box. Whenever I wanted, I’d open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box.

But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can’t take them.

The dictionary is heavy on my lap. I’m on page 1,908. I’m reading through the Ss. When I finish the Zs, I’ll start all over again.


I like that word. It means something extra, something special, something you don’t need. It’s super. But you don’t need super. You just need good enough.

How does it sound when someone says it?

I didn’t really think about how words sound until I stopped talking. I didn’t mean to stop talking, it just sort of happened.

My mom left.

I got scared.

And the words got stuck.

Now I just read the words and then listen for them on the little radio in the kitchen, the only superfluous thing we have.

As I read, my hair falls across my eyes. I push it out of the way, but it falls back. I push it out of the way again, but this time my fingers catch in a tangle. I work for a minute trying to separate the hairs and smooth them down.

When my mom was here, she combed my hair most mornings. Our hair is the same. “Stick straight and dark as soot.” That’s what she used to say.

It hurt when she pulled the comb through my hair. “Kaylee, stop squirming,” she’d tell me. “It’ll pull more if you move.”

Sometimes I’d cry when the comb caught in a knot and she’d get impatient and tell me to stop whining.

Maybe that’s why she left. Maybe she got tired of my whining.

That’s what he says. He tells me she didn’t love me anymore—that she wanted out. But I don’t believe him. I think something happened to her, an accident or something.

She probably has amnesia. I read that word in the dictionary.

That’s when you hit your head so hard on something that you pass out and have to go to the hospital and when you wake up, you don’t remember anything. Not even your name.

Not even that you have a daughter.

I think that’s what happened to my mom. When she remembers, she’ll come back and get me.

So I just wait. I won’t leave. If I leave, she won’t know where to find me.

And when she comes back, I’ll be good. I won’t whine anymore.

I was nine when she left. Now, I’m ten. I’ll be eleven the day after Christmas. I always know it’s near my birthday when they start playing all the bell songs on the radio. I like Silver Bells. I like to think about the city sidewalks and all the people dressed in holiday style. But Jingle Bells is my favorite. Dashing through the snow on a one-horse open sleigh sounds fun.

It’s not near my birthday yet. It’s still warm outside.

As the sun sets, the cabin gets dark inside, too dark to read. He didn’t pay the electric bill, again. I hope he pays it before Christmas or I won’t hear the songs on the radio.

Before I put the dictionary away, I turn to the front page and run my fingers across the writing scribbled there. “Lee and Katherine Wren. Congratulations.

Lee and Katherine are my parents. Were my parents. Are my parents. I’m not sure.

My mom told me that the dictionary was a gift from her Aunt Adele. Mom thought it was kind of a funny wedding gift, but she liked it and kept it even after Lee left. We used it a lot. Sometimes when I’d ask her a question about what something was or what something meant, she’d say, “Go get the dictionary Kaylee, we’ll look it up.” Then she’d show me how to find the word, and we’d read the definition. Most of the time she’d make me sound out the words and read them to her. Only sometimes did she read them to me. But most of the time when I asked her a question, she told me to be quiet. She liked it best when I was quiet.

I miss my mom. But the dictionary makes me feel like part of her is still here. While she’s gone, the dictionary is mine. I have to take care of it. So just like I always do before I put the book away, I ask a silent favor: Please don’t let him notice it. Please don’t let him take it.

I put the dictionary back under the board that makes up a crooked shelf. The splintered wood pricks the tip of one finger as I lift the board and shove the dictionary under. The shelf is supported on one end by two cinderblocks and by one cinderblock and three books on the other end.

I remember the day she set up the shelf. I followed her out the front door and down the steps, and then watched her kneel in the dirt and pull out three concrete blocks she’d found under the steps. She dusted dirt and cobwebs from the cracks and then carried each block inside. She stacked two blocks one on top of the other at one end of the room and then spaced the last block at the other end of the room, under the window.

“Kaylee, hand me a few books from that box. Get big ones.”

I reached into the box and pulled out the biggest book—the dictionary. Then I handed her the other two books. She stacked them on top of the block and then laid a board across the books and blocks.

Even at seven, I knew what she was doing. We’d move in with a boyfriend and Mom would get us “settled” which meant she’d move in our things—our clothes, books, and a few toys for me. She’d rearrange the apartment, or house—or this time, the cabin—and make it “homey.”

After she made the shelf, she lined up our books. Then she placed a vase of wildflowers we’d collected that morning on the end of the shelf. She stood back and looked at what she’d done. Her smile told me she liked it.

The cabin was small, but of all the places we’d lived, I could tell this was her favorite. And this boyfriend seemed nice enough at first, so I hoped maybe we’d stay this time.

We did stay. Or at least I stayed. So now I’m the one arranging the shelf and I’m careful to put it back just as it was. Our books are gone. In their place I return two beer bottles, one with a sharp edge of broken glass, to their dust-free circles on the shelf. I pick up the long-empty bag of Frito Lay corn chips and, before leaning the bag against the broken bottle, I hold it open close to my face and breathe in. The smell of corn and salt make my stomach growl.

Once I’m sure everything looks just as it was on the shelf, I crawl to my mattress in the corner of the room and sit, Indian-style, with my back against the wall and watch the shadows. Light shines between the boards across the broken front window; shadows of leaves and branches move across the walls, ceiling, and door. Above my head I hear a rat or squirrel on the roof. Its movement scatters pine needles and something—a pinecone, I imagine—rolls from the top of the roof, over my head, and then drops into the bed of fallen needles around the front steps.

This is the longest part of the day—when it’s too dark to read.

When I read…

I forget.

That’s how it works.

Once the sun goes down, I don’t leave the cabin. I’m afraid he’ll come back after work and find me gone. He’s told me not to leave because he’d find me and I’d be sorry.

I believe him. believe --verb 1. to take as true, real, etc. 2. to have confidence in a statement or promise of (another person).

My legs go numb under my body and my eyes feel heavy, but I don’t sleep. Sleep isn’t safe. Instead, I close my eyes for just a minute and see flames against the backs of my eyelids. They burn everything my mom and I brought to the cabin.

I remember the hissing and popping as the nighttime drizzle hit the bonfire. And I remember his laughter.

“She’s gone for good, Kaylee. She ain’t comin back.” He cackled like an old witch as he threw more gasoline on the flames.

The smoke filled my nose and stung my lungs as I watched Lamby, the stuffed animal I’d slept with since I was a baby, burn along with most of our clothes and books.

The only exceptions were the three books he hadn’t noticed holding up the shelf. My tears couldn’t put out the fire, and I finally stopped crying. I wiped my nose on my sleeve and stepped away from the blaze. I squared my shoulders and stood as tall as I could. Something changed in me that night. I couldn’t be little anymore. I had to be grown up.

I open my eyes and reach my hand under the corner of the mattress. My fingers dig into the hole in the canvas, feeling for the music box that had been inside Lamby. I’d found it in the ashes the morning after the fire. I tug it free, then wind the key and hold it up to my ear. As the music plays, I remember the words of the song that Grammy taught me just before she died. Jesus loves me, this I know…

The song makes me feel sad.

I don’t think Jesus loves me anymore.

Eventually, I must fall asleep, because I wake up startled—mouth dry, palms damp, and my heart pounding.

I hear the noise that woke me, the crunching of leaves and pine needles. I listen. Are his steps steady, even? No. Two steps. Pause. A dragging sound. Pause. A thud as he stumbles. Pause. Will he get up? Or has he passed out? Please let him be out. A metal taste fills my mouth as I hear him struggle to get back on his feet.

“Kay—leeee?” He slurs. “You up? Lemme in.”

He bangs his fist on the front door, which hasn’t locked or even shut tight since the night he aimed his .22 at the doorknob and blew it to pieces.

The door gives way under the pressure of his fist. As it swings open, he pounds again but misses and falls into the cabin. He goes straight down and hits the floor, head first. A gurgling sound comes from his throat, and I smell the vomit before I see it pooled around his face.

I hope he’ll drown in it.

But he won’t die tonight.

Instead, he heaves himself onto his back and reaches for the split on his forehead where, even in the dark, I can see the blood trickling into his left eye. Then his hand slides down past his ear and drops to the floor. At the sound of his snoring, I exhale. I realize I’ve been holding my breath. Waiting…waiting…waiting.

Chapter Two


Cocooned in crocheted warmth, I slip my hands from beneath the afghan and reach for my journal—a notebook filled with snippets of feelings and phrases. I jot a line: Like shards of glass slivering my soul. I set pen and journal aside and warm my hands around my ritual mug of Earl Gray, considering the phrase. I like the cadence of the alliteration. I see shining slivers piercing an ambiguous soul. I see a canvas layered in hues of red, russet, and black.

A memory calls my name, but I turn away. There will be time for memories later.

I close my eyes against the flame of color igniting the morning sky and allow my body the luxury of relaxing. I breathe deep intentional breaths, exhaling slowly, allowing mind and body to find a like rhythm. With each breath I let go, one by one, the anxieties of the past week.

Prints—signed and numbered. Five hundred in all.

Contract negotiations with two new galleries. Done.

Showing in Carmel last night. Successful.

Mortgage paid. On time for once.

Van Gogh neutered. What did the vet say? “He’s lost his manhood—be gentle with him. He’ll need a few days to recoup.” Good grief.

A whimper interrupts my reverie. The afghan unfurls as I get up and pad across the deck back into the bungalow. Van presses his nose through the cross-hatch door of his crate—his woeful expression speaking volumes. I open the cage and the spry mutt I met at the shelter a few days before staggers toward the deck, tail between his legs. I translate his body language as utter humiliation and feel guilty for my responsible choice.

“Sorry pal, it’s the only way I could spring you from the shelter. They made me do it.” His ears perk and then droop. His salt and pepper coat bristles against my hand, while his ears are cashmere soft. He sighs and drifts back to sleep while I wonder at the wisdom of adopting an animal that’s already getting under my skin. I consider packing him up and taking him back before it’s too late. Instead, I brace myself and concede “Okay, I’ll love you—but just a little.” He twitches in response.

The distant throttle of fishing boats leaving the harbor and the bickering of gulls overhead break the morning silence followed by the ringing of the phone. I smile and reach for the phone lying under my journal.

“Hi, Margaret.” No need to answer with a questioning “Hello?” There’s only one person I know who dares calling at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday.

Laughter sings through the phone line. “Shannon, when are you going to stop calling me Margaret?”

I dubbed her that after the indomitable Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of her homeland. Her unwavering British accent, even after nearly half a century in the United States, and her strength under pressure inspired the nickname. It fits.

“Well, as I’ve told you, I’ll stop calling you Margaret when you stop calling me Shannon. Need I remind you that I haven’t been Shannon in over a decade?”

“Oh, right. Let’s see, what is your name now? Sahara Dust? Sequoia Dew?”

I play along. “Does Sierra Dawn ring a bell?”

“Right, Sierra Dawn, beautiful name. But you’ll always be Shannon Diane to me.”

The smile in her voice chases the shadows from my heart. “Okay, Mother. I mean Margaret.” I pull my knees to my chest and reach for the afghan as I settle back in the weathered Adirondack for our conversation.

“Sierra, I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Of course not. What is it you say, ‘You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.’”

“That’s my girl. Your daddy’s been out in the fields since 6:00 but he let me sleep. I just got up and thought I’d share a cup of tea with you.”

I do a quick pacific/central time conversion and realize with some alarm that it’s 9:00 a.m. in Texas.

“You slept until 9:00? You never sleep that late. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, darling, I’m simply getting old. I had to get up three times during the night and by this morning I just wanted to sleep. So I indulged.”

“Well, good for you. I’m glad you called. You know my favorite Saturday mornings are spent with you and Earl.”

“I’m not drinking Earl.”

A startling confession. “You’re not? What are you drinking?”

“Sierra, I’m drinking Lemon Zinger!” Her declaration is followed by a giggle that sounds anything but old.

I stretch my long legs and cross them at the ankles and lean my head against the back of the chair. I feel as though my mother, with gentle skill, has distracted me while she’s worked to remove a few of those slivers imbedded in my soul. But unless I stop brushing up against my splintered history, the slivers will return—or so she tells me.

Just before we hang up, she says, “Shannon—” there’s such tenderness in her voice that I let the slip pass— “are you going to the cemetery today?”

Her question tears open the wound, exposing the underlying infection. I imagine her practicality won’t allow her to leave the wound festering any longer; instead she lances my heart.

I lean forward. “Yes, Mother. You know I will.” My tone is tight, closed. But I can’t seem to help it.

“Darling, it’s time to let go—it’s been twelve years. It’s time to grasp grace and move on.”

The fringe of the afghan I’ve played with as we’ve talked is now twisted tight around my index finger, cutting off the circulation. “What are you saying? That I should just forget—just let go and walk away— never think about it again? You know I can’t do that.”

“Not forget, Sierra— forgive. It’s time.”

“Mother, you know I don’t want to talk about this.”

“Yes, I know. But you need to at least think about it. Think about the truth. Ask yourself what’s true.”

I sigh at my mother’s oft repeated words and grunt my consent before I hang up— or “ring off” as she would say.

I left Texas at eighteen and headed to California, sure that was where I’d “find myself.” On the day I left, my daddy stood at the driver’s door of my overstuffed used station wagon gazing at the hundreds of acres of soil he’d readied for planting in the fall and gave me what I think of now as my own “Great Commission.” In the vernacular of the Bible Belt, my daddy, a farmer with the soul of a poet, sent me out into the world with a purpose.

“Honey, do you know why I farm?”

At eighteen I’d never considered the “why” of what my parents did. “No, Daddy. Why?”

“Farming’s not something that can be done alone. I till the ground, plant the seeds, and irrigate. But it’s the rising and setting of the sun and the changing of the seasons that cause the grain to grow. Farming is a partnership with the Creator. Each year when I reap the harvest, I marvel at a Creator who allows me the honor of co-creating with him.”

He’d stopped staring at the fields and instead looked straight at me. “Look for what the Creator wants you to do, Shannon. He wants to share his creativity with you. He wants to partner with you. You find what he wants you to do.”

With that, he planted a kiss on my forehead and shut the door of my car. With my daddy’s commission tucked in my heart, I left in search of my life. My older brother, Jeff, was already in California completing his final year in the agricultural school at Cal-Poly in San Luis Obispo. Tired of dorm life, Jeff and two friends rented a house in town and told me I could rent a room from them for the year. I was thrilled.

Our neighbors and Mother and Daddy’s friends couldn’t understand why they’d let me “run off” to California. In their minds, California was a dark place where drugs and sex ruled. But Daddy assured them California was not the Sodom and Gomorrah they imagined. He should know. His roots were in California. He was born and raised there. Jeff and I grew up hearing about the Golden State and were determined we’d see it for ourselves one day. College in California seemed a logical choice to both of us.

As I headed west, I thought of my parents and what I’d learned from each of them through the years. Daddy taught me to see. Where others in our community saw grain, Daddy saw God. He always encouraged me in his quiet and simple way to look beyond the obvious. “Look beyond a person’s actions and see their heart. Look for what’s causing them to act the way they act, then you’ll understand them better.”

When I was about twelve, Mother and Daddy took us with them down to Galveston for a week. Daddy was there for an American Farm Bureau meeting. After the meeting, we stayed for a few rare days of vacation. I remember standing on the beach and looking out at the flat sea, Daddy pulled me close and pointed at the surf and asked, “What do you see?”

“The ocean?” I asked it more than stated.

“Yes, but there’s more. You’re seeing God’s power.”

I must have seemed unimpressed because Daddy laughed. “It’s there Shan, someday you’ll see it. But, I’ll admit it’s easier to see it in the crashing surf and jagged cliffs of the California coastline.”

I didn’t understand what he meant then—and I’m still not sure I fully understand—but back then my daddy’s description of the California coastline followed me as I was off to see it for myself.

My mother taught me to look for something else. “What’s the truth, Shannon?” she’d ask over and over, challenging me to choose what was right. She taught me to analyze a situation and then make a decision that represented the truth foundational to our family.

Most often the truth she spoke of was found in the big family Bible she’d brought with her from England. She’d lay the book out on the kitchen table and open it to the book of John in the New Testament and she’d read from the King James version: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

“There’s freedom in the truth, Shannon. You remember that,” she’d say.

Again, I’m only now beginning to understand what she meant. But these were the lessons from home that I carried with me to California.

So why hadn’t I applied those lessons? Why I had I wandered so far from my parents’ truth?

Those are questions I’d ask myself many times over. I’d yet to find the answers.

My Review: Riveting is the word that comes to mind, along with riveting, heartwarming, heartbreaking....all of these! Highly recommended!