WhiteFire Scavenger Hunt Stop #14

Welcome to the WhiteFire Publishing Scavenger Hunt! You’ve reached stop number 14! If scavenger-hunt-full-meme.jpgyou’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to go back to stop #1 and collect all the clues in order. Once you have them all, you’ll have uncovered a secret message. Turn that in at the final stop for a chance to win one of THREE amazing prize packages!

  • The Hunt begins at Roseanna White’s site
  • Take your time! You have all weekend to complete the Hunt—entries will be counted until Monday June 26—so have fun reading all the posts along the way and getting to know each author
  • Lots of extra prizes! Many of the authors are featuring unique giveaways as well, for even more chances to win!
  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes back at Roseanna White’s blog.

My WhiteFire Novels

I had the honor of having two of my novels published with WhiteFire Publishing. I’d love to tell you a little bit about them!

Paint Chips is the story of a mother and daughter separated by harsh circumstances and their journey back to each other. Domestic abuse, human trafficking, and major loss fill the pages of the novel. However, hope carries the characters through to what — I believe — is a satisfying ending.

Paint Chips stack

My Mother’s Chamomile is perhaps my most personal novel and one which is dear to me. It’s the story of a family in the funeral business and address the question of who takes care of the helpers when they are in need. It’s a novel of mercy, comfort, and love. It’s a novel written out of my own grief and because of that, it is a piece of my heart.

My Mother's Chamomile Front

Here’s the Stop #14 Scoop: 

You can order my books online through Baker Book House, CBD, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Here’s your Stop #14 Clue:

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Next stop is #15: Susanne Dietz. Visit her stop by clicking HERE.

All finished with the stops? Submit your entry HERE.

Now for MY give-away!

I’m excited to give one lucky winner a copy of Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile! Click  a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter! I’ll choose a winner by random on Monday, June 26, 2017.

 

 

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: A Trail of Crumbs

Check out Alexis De Weese’s blog post about A Trail of Crumbs. Then stick around for a chance to win a copy of the book!

And yes, smart reader you, Miss De Weese (the teacher in A Trail of Crumbs) is indeed named after this lovely friend of mine.

Go, friends! Go!

Alexis De Weese

After a not-so-long wait that couldn’t end soon enough, the sequel to A Cup of Dust is out and ready for readers! (Please note that I did not review Cup as it released during the hiatus…) A Trail of Crumbs lives up to every ounce of anticipation.

Susie Finkbeiner’s historical fiction series centers on Pearl Spence, a young girl growing up in the dust bowl during the great depression.

A Trail of Crumbs picks up exactly where Cup left off—Palm Sunday—known in the dust bowl as Black Sunday.

I won’t give anything away, but tragedy strikes the Spence family, sending them reeling both emotionally and across the country. We watch Pearl grow up as the Spences settle into a new community in Bliss, Michigan. (Go MI!)

The story is told in first person from Pearl’s perspective. The author uses Pearl’s child thoughts to build suspense and speak honestly in…

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Rules of the Great Depression: Do Without

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For the past two days we’ve talked about the rules of the Great Depression.

  1. Use it up
  2. Wear it out
  3. Make do

And today’s is possibly the hardest.

Do without.

Sigh.

Do without.

There were many things folks went without during the years of the Depression. As unpleasant as that may seem, it couldn’t hurt for us to think about what we could do without…as painful as it may be.

  1. Eat at home: I know. I know. It can be so tempting to pick up something quick from the local drive-thru on the way home. And it’s okay to. But just not all the time. I crunched a few numbers and found that feeding my family of 5 at Chic-fil-a would cost nearly $40. To make a similar meal at home (which would yield leftovers) would cost me less than $15 (plus, it’s WAY healthier and I throw in some veggies as a side). It takes planning and a little creativity to cook at home. But if you cut one of your drive-thru escapades per week you could end up saving up to $100 a month! That’s $1200 a year. Adds up fast, huh?
  2. Meatless Mondays: This was an idea started during World War I (then called The Great War) to conserve meat so more could be sent to the troops in Europe. (It was actually Tuesdays for supper and one meatless meal the rest of the week making a total of 9 no-meat meals per week). It’s a great way to save a little on your grocery bill (and on your cholesterol total). Get your protein from eggs, beans, or dairy products.
  3. Sleep on it: Before you buy that big ticket item, give yourself some time to ponder it. Consider why you want that item and if you truly need it. Write out a pro/con list and do some research into the item (specifically check into the quality of it. It’s not worth buying if it isn’t going to last).
  4. Enjoy time at home: If you’re trying to keep expenses down you know how tough it is to afford a night out. So, be creative and figure out some cheap fun at home. Dig through the closet for the board game you haven’t played in 20 years, watch a dvd you just dusted off from the shelf, read a book out loud, or turn on the radio and have a dance party! (I have friends who run their own cooking contest with random ingredients from their cupboards!).
  5. Learn the art contentedness: It’s a beautiful thing when we can look around us and be pleased with what we have. When we aren’t constantly in the pursuit of more, more, more we are able to allow ourselves to feel a certain measure of peace. It’s extremely freeing when we can honestly say, “I’m okay with it and I’m okay without it” (that I got from Jeff Manion’s book Satisfied).
  6. Decide what’s important to you: During the Depression often the choice was between buying a pair of shoes or putting food on the table. They sometimes had to choose between paying the rent and getting medical attention. Not many of us are in such tight places as they were (although some are). However, when we say “yes” to spending money on one thing, we’re saying “no” to purchasing another. What we all have to do is figure out what it is that’s important to us and say “no” to those things which aren’t so important. Maybe that’s paying off bills or upping your giving to charitable organizations. Whatever it is, commit to going without the less important things so you can achieve your goals.

I’m sure you have some ideas of how to do without. I’d love to hear them! Or maybe you’ve been in a situation of having to think of creative ways to watch the pocketbook. Feel free to share below!

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I’d love to extend an invitation to you! If you’re in West Michigan, I’d love to see you at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids for a book release party TOMORROW! I’ll be there talking about the Great Depression, giving away some fun prizes, sharing some snacks, and signing books. It should be a great time! Sign up for your free tickets HERE. 

Rules of the Great Depression: Make Do

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There were four rules of The Great Depression that helped folks make it through those tough economic times.

  1. Use it up
  2. Wear it out
  3. Make do
  4. Do without

Yesterday we talked about using up what we’ve got and wearing it out. Today, we’re going to discuss making do.

We live in a culture of disposables. Nothing is made to last anymore, not like they were back in the 1930s. In those days, things were made to be fixed at some point. Now they’re made to be replaced after a short while.

Another disadvantage we have is that we’re sold many items we don’t need. We’re told that we need the newest, the shiniest, the updated version.

Still, we can use this rule of the Depression to our advantage. Here are some ideas how:

  1.  Learn to fix things (or marry someone who does): Our grandfathers knew how to fix their old jalopies regardless of what might have busted on them. Our grandmas could glue the handle back on a tea cup like a pro. Just because something was broken didn’t mean it needed to be tossed. If it could be fixed, they found a way. (NOTE: These days I drive a minivan that is over ten years old, it’s made it over 200,000 miles, and is rust red from so many Michigan winters. But when something breaks on it, my hubby fixes it. It’s paid off. We’re going to make it do until we have enough saved up for a new vehicle. NOTE #2: This is not to my credit. It’s all about my husband. He’s the coolest.)
  2. Make use of multi-purpose items: That vinegar in your kitchen? GREAT for washing windows. Baking soda? Fantastic for killing odors. Vicks Vapo Rub? Superb for healing those little cracks on your fingers from dry weather. When you can eke out more purposes out of what you have the value doubles!
  3. If you need something, make it: As far as I know there was no Ikea in 1930s America. Not even a Target or Walmart. If somebody needed a bookcase they got some wood out of the scrap pile, hammer, and used nails out of their old coffee can and put one together. If they needed a new shirt/dress/etc. they used the fabric from the flour sacks they got from the store. They used the materials they had on hand (or could borrow or trade) to make what it was they needed, saving them a mint. This is also GREAT when you want to give a gift! People love handmade things (just as long as they’re nice). Etsy is a testimony to that! (NOTE: My husband decided that we needed an antenna for our house since we don’t have cable. He didn’t want to spend between $40-$80 on one at the store, so he made his own!  He used some scrap wood he had in the shed and attached old wire hangers all up and down it. Voila! Free! And it works great! NOTE #2: Again…my hubby rocks.)
  4. Play to your strengths: Don’t forget your number one resource! YOU! Folks in the 1930s were aware of their strengths and worked with that. They’d trade for services they needed (doctor visits, lawyer meetings, etc) with what they were skilled at (baking, gardening, child care, etc.). Know what you’re good at and make do with your skills. Don’t be afraid to learn something new, too. (NOTE: This is one reason I’m so glad that my husband and I have different talents. We’re able to work together to get things done for our home and family. Team work makes the dream work, friends.)
  5. Decide to be content: It’s a great temptation to get the brand new, the bigger and better, the newest and fastest. We want the newer house in the nicer neighborhood (which comes with a hefty mortgage). We desire the newest version of technology (which will just be outdated in six months). We can spend a whole lot of time and even more money chasing after satisfaction in things. BUT, we’ll be far happier (and better off financially) if we can decide to be content. This was something those in the Great Depression understood. They were able to be okay without the newest and shiniest. (NOTE: My pastor Jeff Manion wrote a great book about learning to live a life of contentment called Satisfied. It’s worth checking out if you’d like to find value in life aside from what we have.)

So, what are some of your ideas for making do with what you have? Any tips or tricks to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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9780825444463-1I’m excited about my newest novel A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression which releases next week! You can pre-order today.

If you live in West Michigan, you’re invited to a release party at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI. Get details and register for your free online tickets HERE.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook for more book release details and fun!

 

I found home here.

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From the day I moved into the college dorm my freshman year until the day of my wedding I lived the life of a nomad.

From dorm rooms to summer housing on campus to an apartment to a spare room to sharing a room with a six year old (who is turning 20 this year…yowch), I moved around a whole lot. Some days I wondered why I ever unpacked my boxes just to load them up again after a handful of months.

I went years without having a place that truly felt like home.

But then after my wedding I stepped into the home my husband had bought for us. I remember standing in the living room, knowing that I didn’t have to move any time soon. That I belonged in that house.

I’d found home.

In A Trail of Crumbs, my soon-to-release novel, Pearl and her family are uprooted from their home. They have to travel over a thousand miles away to stay in the spare rooms until they can find a place of their own.

It’s in this book that you’ll meet Gus Seegert (you’ll love him, I just know it). At one point he speaks of why he never went back to where he was from after so many years of being gone.

“I found home here,” he says.

When I typed those lines for Gus, I had the same anchored feeling that I experienced the day of my wedding. And I feel it again as I sit here writing this post.

I found home.

And it’s amazing.

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What about you? Do you remember ever having a concrete sense of home? I’d love to hear your story. 

11 Facts about Black Sunday

If you read A Cup of Dust you know that the story ended on Palm Sunday, 1935. All seems well. Sunny, bright, blue sky, the dust is over.

If, however, you know the history of the Dust Bowl, you are aware that the day didn’t end the way it started.

A Trail of Crumbs (releasing March 27) picks up Pearl’s story right where A Cup of Dust left off, April 14, 1935. A day also known as “Black Sunday”.

Want to know more about that day, the setting for the beginning of my new novel? Here are 11 Facts.

  1. On that day many people took advantage of the clear day to go on picnics, visit family in neighboring towns, or air out their houses. The people affected by the dusters (living in states including Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas) believed that they’d seen the end of all dust storms. They decided to celebrate.

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    Photo by Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress, Historic Adobe Museum

  2.  By 4:00 pm the skies turned black. The monstrous dust cloud came barreling on them without warning. Some even said the sky above the black “roller” was bright blue and that the sun shone as bright as before high in the sky.

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    US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain

  3. The high winds reportedly displaced 300,000 tons of topsoil. That’s 461,538 African elephants. Or 150,000 minivans. Or 3,141,361 men of average weight. Friends, that’s a lot of soil churning and turning over everything.
  4. The cloud was over 1,000 miles long. That’s 182 Mount Everests. Or 17,600 football fields. Or the distance from my house to the town where Stephen King lives (not that I’ve mapped it out or anything).
  5. Winds whipped that soil at up to 100 miles per hour. 

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    Courtesy of the Associated Press

  6. The swirling dust built up static electricity. Folks had to drag a chain behind their cars to keep the battery from shorting. The barbed wire fences glowed blue with electricity. People shocked each other when they touched.
  7. The storm submerged the entire region in darkness so thick, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Hens, thinking it was night, went in to roost in the middle of the day. Eyewitnesses said they couldn’t see the street lights or even their hand held up in front of their face.
  8. Many people were stranded away from home. They took shelter in abandoned homes, their cars, or with kindly strangers. Some even formed a human chain, holding hands and leading each other to safety.
  9. Of those who survived that day, many came down with “dust pneumonia”. Much like a coal miner’s “black lung”, this was a build up of dust in the lungs, leaving the sufferer with lifelong asthma and other respiratory ailments.

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    Masks worn to protect the lungs from the dust. Courtesy Getty Images.

  10. This storm earned the region national attention. The dust blew all the way to Washington D.C. where it fell on members of Congress as they met to decide whether or not to pass soil conservation legislation to help the people caught in the plague of dust. They did, indeed, pass that bill.
  11.  It earned the region the title “The Dust Bowl”. Robert E. Geiger coined the title in his report for the Associated Press on the storm. Fun fact: It may have been an error. Some thought he meant to call it “The Dust Belt” instead.

Have any questions about that day (or anything during the Dust Bowl era)? Go ahead and write it in the comments below. I’ll do my very best to answer!

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To learn more about the Dust Bowl, check out Ken Burns’ documentary The Dust Bowl or read Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time.

Also, pre-order your copy by calling Baker Book House at 1-866-241-6733 or online at the Kregel website (or if you must, on Amazon). Better yet, if you’re in the West Michigan area, plan on joining me for my release party at Baker Book House on March 23! Claim your free ticket to the event HERE.

 

Finding friends in books.

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I remember the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I was in eighth grade and going through a rough time. My best friend had just decided that she didn’t want to be my pal, let alone my best one. I had a terrible perm, out of style clothes, and a whole headful of insecurities.

But there on the page was a girl who was every bit what I’d been when I was younger. Plucky, brave, and with a side of sass (which I’d never released upon the world but kept in my head). Scout felt like an instant friend.

That same year I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Ponyboy and Johnny were as different from me as they were from the “Socs”. Still, their vulnerability, their love of Robert Frost, their depth of sadness was so very familiar.

The next year I read The Scarlet Letter and wept over the horrible treatment of Hester and Pearl. I wanted to scoop them up out of that awful town and help them find a place where they would be loved and afforded mercy.

From those days of early teenage life to today I have found countless friends within the pages of fiction. Owen Meany and Luna Lovegood, Jem and Merinda, Doug Swieteck and John Coffey. Reading their stories (and the stories of hundreds of other characters) remind me that I’m not so alone in this world.

Reading these stories makes me feel at home.

In A Trail of Crumbs (releasing March 27) eleven year old Pearl’s mother tells her to go out and make friends soon after they move to a new town. So, where does Pearl go? To the library, the place where all bookish kids go to meet new friends.

And there she does. Not just of the fictional sort, but also of the kindly librarian type.

Readers bond together, quietly, over dusty tomes. Don’t they?

And as we grow in these friendships – both in real life and in fiction – we learn that life is truly a beautiful gift. And we share in the story of this life.

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What fictional characters are like friends to you? Which ones do you come back to over and over to feel that connection, that kinship? Do you have bookish friends you like to talk story with? How have you bonded over books? I’d love to hear from you. Your story matters. 

5 Depression Era Tricks for Saving on Groceries

 

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Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division : LC-DIG-fsac-1a34273

I consider myself a frugal shopper. I clip coupons, compare prices, shop the sales. But my accumulative savings are nothing – NOTHING – compared to the housewives of the Great Depression.

While researching for my novel A Trail of Crumbs, I learned how the women of the 1930s managed their shopping budgets during those tough economic times.

Those ladies put me to shame!

They knew every trick to skimp and save. They pinched every penny as if their lives depended on it. Why? Because, quite literally, their lives (and the lives of their families) did depend on every penny saved.

So, how did they do it? How did they make the most of their grocery budget?

Here are 5 Depression Era Tricks for lowering that grocery bill.

  1. Buy the whole chicken: Our grandmothers never, ever would have bought chicken breasts. She would have been disgusted to pay nearly $4 per pound for boneless/skinless chicken breasts when she could get a whole chicken (skin, bones, and all) for $1.05 per pound (by today’s prices. In the 1930s she would have paid 22¢ a pound). Oh, the meals she could get out of that chicken. Chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, chicken soup, chicken sandwiches…you get the point. Chicken for DAYS!
  2. Less meat. More filler: With ground beef about 10¢ a pound, our grandmothers would have thought of the very best way to make it stretch. She would have used filler to make a little meat seem like a whole lot more. Oatmeal, lentils, bread crumbs – all perfectly good things to add to meat to make it stretch. It’s also a great way to get more veggies into your diet! Add some diced onions and green peppers!
  3. Buy the cheap coffee: My grandma swore by cheap coffee. She was an instant crystals kind of girl. The bad thing about cheap coffee? The flavor. It can be overly bitter and just plain old skunky. So, what did grandma do? She’d add a pinch of salt to the grounds before brewing. The salt takes the bitterness out and makes for a smoother cup of mud. (Still, there’s no way…I’m too snobby about my coffee)
  4. Work the system: The Depression Era housewife knew how to play the system. She knew to get her fresh foods (produce, baked goods, meats) on Saturday evenings when they’d be steeply discounted for the end of the week (grocers were never open on Sundays). They knew to ask for soup bones because they could get them for next to nothing if not free. You can work the system, too! Sign up for the rewards programs at your grocery store, figure out when items are most likely to go on clearance, stock up on nonperishables that are on sale (bonus points if you have a coupon!). But be sure to only work the system for things you need/would usually buy. It’s not a good deal if it sits on your shelf collecting dust for a year.
  5. STICK TO YOUR LIST: When my grandma got older she wasn’t able to shop for herself anymore. She’d send my sister and me to the grocery store with a list and a stack of coupons. If we deviated from the list – oh, doggy – were we in for it. Why? Because the off-the-list items were almost never on sale, weren’t needed, and usually ended up being potato chips/ice cream/chocolate. If you take the time to plan your list and stick to it, you’ll save money in the end. No kidding.

How about you? Any tips for saving the big bucks at the grocery store? Any bits of wisdom you learned from a grandma/aunt/grandpa/parent? I’d love to hear them!

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Learn more about the Great Depression! Read my novel A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression releasing March 27!

Truth Still Matters

We have a winner of Amelia Rhodes‘ amazing new book Pray A to ZCongratulations, Amy Nemececk! I’ll be emailing for your address and I’ll get your book in the mail soon!

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A week ago I read an article that the Oxford Dictionary had decided on their word of 2016. As a bit of a logophile (someone in love with words), I am intrigued with the language trends of each year.

I mean, 2015 was the year of emoji. And 2013 it was selfie. Fascinating.

This year, though, I’m not so happy snappy about the word of the year. It holds no whimsey for me, no fun. This year’s word makes me sad.

2016’s Oxford word? Post-truth.

Here’s the cringe-worthy definition.

Post-truth: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

So, essentially, how you feel matters more than truth. How you believe, even in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary, is more relevant than truth.

In other words, truth is slimmed down. Anemic. Impotent. Unimportant.

To that I roll my eyes and sigh deeply.

Friends, truth still matters. Always has, always will. Lies are destructive. Always have been, always will be.

Our words matter. The words that come from our mouth or fingers or thumbs. Every single one holds power for good or harm.

Choose truth.

Truth still matters.

 

But how do I teach my children that truth still matters when what’s swirling around our culture is a whole bunch of post-truth mumbo jumbo? How do I teach them that their integrity is valuable when we see so many leaders and soon-to-be leaders lying at every turn? How do I instill in them that honesty is important when even some who claim to be church leaders excuse this post-truth notion as being all right?

You know how I’m going to try it?

By being the best example I can be. By holding truth as a virtue – a God honoring virtue – in our home. By doing my very best to help them discern truth from lies. And by calling post-truth out for what it is.

Post-truth is empty and dark. It’s a hole that will suck us in if we let it. It’s a vacuous, dangerous, soul-diminishing trap.

But we don’t have to even approach that hole. We’d do best not to even tip toe along the edge. Our best bet is to listen to what Jesus had to say about truth.

That when we hold to His teachings and follow Him we will know the truth. And that truth will liberate us. It will set us free.

Friends, cling to what’s true with all you’ve got.

Truth still matters.

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When We Pray

its-just-8When I was in first grade my friend Stephanie was diagnosed with a rare disease. Now, I don’t remember what it was called, but I know that at the time I didn’t realize how serious it was. I remember, though, that she had to undergo bone marrow transplants and that she had more than a few close calls.

She’d missed a lot of school in first grade. If memory serves, we sent her handmade cards to cheer her up and prayed for her during class (I attended a Christian school). I missed her, though. Stephanie was always pure sunshine. She always had a beautiful smile on her face and her dark eyes were kind.

Our teacher told us one day that Stephanie would come for a visit. A brief one, but still, she was coming. We planned a bit of a party. We all looked forward to seeing her.

But as the day neared, we learned that Stephanie might not come after all. That she wasn’t well, not strong enough for the visit. I was so disappointed. I sat at my spot at the work table and asked God to please let Stephanie come. I prayed every day that she’d be all right. And I prayed that she’d be able to be at our party.

That is the first concrete answer to prayer that I remember.

I’ve prayed for Stephanie many, many times since then. God has blessed her life by letting her beat all the odds. She’s doing well, sharing her pure sunshine and beautiful smile with everyone around her.

Stephanie was my first answer to prayer.

I could list for you hundreds and hundreds of answered prayers I’ve experienced since then.

My brother-in-law and his family raising enough money for him to receive a radical treatment for his M.S.

Winning the heart of the man who would become my most excellent husband. 

The gentle passing of someone I loved.

When I think over the times when God has answered my prayers and the prayers of others, I am reminded of one very important truth:

God listens.

And even when those answers are vastly different than I would have expected, I still have reason to be grateful. Because God is el roi. The God who sees me. Who knows me. Who hears and acts in my life and in the lives of others.

God listens.

Prayer matters.

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My good friend Amelia recently released a book called Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray img_20161126_115325.jpgfor your Community. As I read through the Scripture verses and the prayer prompts, I was reminded of all the times God has honored my prayers and I was moved to joy and thanksgiving.

I would LOVE to share that joy with one of you. I’m giving away one copy of Pray A to Z. All you have to do to enter this give away is comment below. I’d love for you to share a time when you saw prayer answered in your life. Let’s use this to encourage and lift up one another!

I’ll draw a winner next Monday (12/5/16).

*Please note: This giveaway is only for those living in the continental United States.