A quick giveaway: Christmas books

12Great news! You have a chance to win six Christmas books from the generous folks at Zonderkidz. All you have to do is visit the Simply Faithful page on Facebook and tell us what your favorite Christmas book is by Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Easy, right?

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(Also, we are all already winners because we can get  30% off ALL kids books and Bibles from Nov. 17 to Dec. 1. To shop, visit www.Zondervan.com, click the tab at the top that says “Children,” and choose the category on the left side that best fits what you are looking for. Once you’ve selected and added all of your items to your cart, click Checkout. Type CHRISTMAS2015 as the discount code. Enjoy!)

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Summer books: The Plain Choice

Sherry GoreEditor’s note: This is the first in a series of four author interviews.

The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live an Amish Life tells how Sherry Gore, who moved several times across the country looking for a new beginning, finally found one – in faith.

Gore’s book, which releases next month, walks the reader through her difficult childhood, her six months of homelessness and her eventual focus on living for God.

She graciously tells us more:

What do you hope readers take away from the difficult parts of your story?

All my life I knew God was real. I could see Him working in the lives of others. But my feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth were overwhelming. I couldn’t see an end to my emotional pain. The bad choices I continually made in the past left me thinking I’d missed any chance there was for me to ever have a personal relationship with God. I thought I was unforgivable. I had no faith. What I learned when I did give myself over to God – and every day since – is that His grace is powerful enough to redeem anyone. Including me.

Sometimes the Amish life – and even just choosing to live more simply – seems so far away. What are some steps people can take to begin to shift priorities?

Living with a sense of community in your heart can do wonders for your psyche. This is easily achieved by turning our attention away from things that drain us of our time, and giving more of ourselves – be it a listening ear, or offering a helping hand where needed for others. … Being present for others is what makes a community.

How common is it for an adult to join the Amish? What was it that the Amish offered that spoke the most to your heart?

Hosting visitors is fairly common in the Mennonite church. Actually joining the church is not. Most of the letters and emails I receive from those seeking the Plain community entail a desire for a lifestyle that appears romantic and ideal. Once the “romantic” aspect of living Plain wears off – this often happens in six months or less – they’re left feeling unsatisfied. The path that led me to the Plain church was any but romantic. My discovery that there were people in this world who were living a life parallel to my own (based on my own bible reading and convictions) was what set my search in motion. Once there, I knew I was in God’s will. I’m exactly where God wants me; in a place where I can fellowship with like-minded individuals allowing me to flourish in my relationship with Him every day.

When I go in Christian bookstores the shelves are full of novels that feature the Amish. Why do you think people are drawn to that subject?

I think the initial attraction to Amish fiction is the longing readers have for a simpler life. … I believe what keeps the readers coming back for more is that most Amish fiction books are written with wholesome, clean storylines, and have characters with surprisingly every day, true-to-life problems readers can identify with. At the same time they offer a look into the lives of a culture not readily understood by most people in society. Amish fiction is here to stay.

Your chance to win a cookbook from the Berenstain Bears


Have you heard what the Berenstain Bears have done? They’ve created “The Berenstain Bears’ Country Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult,” and it’s full of fun food, pictures and lessons.

(I told Benjamin he could mark six things for us to try and he asked for eight… and then nine!)

If you’d like the chance to win your own copy, just visit us at the Simply Faithful Facebook page and post a picture of your little one in the kitchen. It’s that simple.

You can also watch Brother and Sister prepare some of the recipes. I’ll post links to the videos on Facebook.

I’ll draw a winning name on Monday, March 16, and then the nice people at Zonderkidz will send it right to you!



A dozen great books for Easter (win some!)

My addiction to holiday books started six years ago when a dear friend told me she read a book every night leading up to Christmas. And, well, once I started collecting Christmas books for my sons… I naturally wanted Easter books, too.

Visit the Simply Faithful Facebook page to see an album of our favorites — and then, if you’d like to add three free books to your own Easter book collection, click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway! The contest ends Monday morning at midnight. Enjoy!

Zonderkidz giveaway

 

Day 3: Welcoming the story

13AdventLogoSquareFor almost six years now I’ve been collecting Christmas books. Some from garage sales. Some for a pittance at Ollie’s and other discount stores. And one or two from my mother-in-law’s  house. My goal had been to have 25 so we could read one each day of Advent — and to have those 25 focus on faith and good character — because stories are powerful. They welcome us and draw us in. They introduce us to different perspectives and show us new ways to see and love. They take big theology and they paint a clear, tangible picture. 

Many of our books tell of a King coming to the small and forgotten, of a crowded place making room for one more to come in out of the cold, of love. That’s why I did a small thing: I invited a couple of friends to read with us on the first Sunday of Advent. I wanted our little family to be part of something bigger, even if just by two.

I almost canceled the night before. My husband and I were arguing over ridiculous things. The kids were being so very loud. All. The. Time. And the Christmas decorations? Well, the bins were stacked in the living room.

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Don’t cancel, said the husband. We need to be more social, and they could care less if the tree is up.

So, I did it. I opened the door, and I welcomed in my friend and her witty son into my real life.

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We took off our shoes and ate spinach dip and read books and laughed and forgot that things weren’t perfect because our time together was perfect.

And I was the one who felt welcomed.

Would you like to start your own collection of Christmas books? I’ve created a photo album of our family’s books on Facebook, and if you’ll comment on the album or in the comment section here at the Simply Faithful blog, I’ll enter you for a chance to win two books. “The Perfect Christmas Pageant” by Joyce Meyer offers a sweet lesson in keeping what’s most important, most important. A lesson that’s good for all ages! Mary Engelbreit’s “Peace on Earth” is gorgeous. It is full of quotes, songs and pictures that you’ll be tempted to tear out and frame. Leave a comment by 7 a.m. Dec. 4 and I’ll draw a name.

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Day 10: An illustrator’s view of hope in Psalm 23

 

As much as I love words, sometimes a picture — an illustration — conveys a message that might not otherwise get through. That’s why I’m sharing some snapshots I took of a book that just released this month, “Psalm 23,” illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson. Take a look at these images and see if you can find hope…

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And some of my favorites are the children inside the front and back covers:

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I had planned to use a journal page from a friend today, but due to technical difficulties, you’ll find one that I pulled together this morning. I’ve pulled words from Sandra Fox’s devotional, “Lord Renew My Hope.” I’ve been so enjoying her book, and she has written a piece just for you. Expect that in mid-March.

To download, click here.

Here’s a glimpse:

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A chance to meet the crazy, cooky writer behind ‘Jackson Jones’

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Don’t forget: We’re chatting with author Jenn Kelly at 7 p.m. EST Dec. 3 on the Simply Faithful Facebook page.

She is a delight to visit with.

Witty.

Wise.

Caring.

I promise it will be time well spent.

If you have young ones — elementary age — consider letting them join us, too. Even if they haven’t read “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” ($12.99, Zonderkidz) they will enjoy learning from her.

A few of us are planning to meet in person at the Greece Public Library, so feel free to join us in person!

Read more about Jenn Kelly and the Simply Faithful book club here…

‘Jackson Jones’ offers laughs and lessons

To hear Jenn Kelly tell it, it was a very fancy wedding where you had to stand through the whole thing. Somewhere amid all the pomp and circumstance her gaze fell upon a woman with hair piled high. (No, think higher than that.)

The woman was maybe 5 feet tall and looked like she usually carried a small dog with her. She was probably mad that the dog couldn’t come to the wedding, Kelly thought. But wait!

Maybe she was carrying her dog… in her massive hair.

That’s how it started, this idea to write about a boy who falls into his great aunt’s hair and discovers a whole new world of elves and bubble-gum chewing crubbies. A book about a boy who – like many of us – doubts himself a little too much and has to be reminded that the Author has a plan and a purpose for him.

“I want readers to know that life can be funny and amusing, and they are indeed loved,” said Kelly, author of “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” ($12.99, Zonderkidz).

And somewhere between crazy Chapter 37 “In Which We Learn about the Book, the Author, and Fred the Turtle” and Chapter 38 “A Chapter that Is Not Nearly as Long as the Last One” we find gems like this one, where Jackson has had a glimpse into the future. He has improved at baseball, become a professor and won a prestigious writing award.

“So, what I saw in the mirrors, that was true?” he asked. 

“Unless you see yourself differently from the truth,” she said softly. “Unless you forget.”

Lines worth underlining.

This time all of the books in the Simply Faithful book club touch on purpose, on remembering who we are and whose we are. I hope you’ll join us and encourage the young readers in your life to give these books a try. They’ll also have the chance to ask their own questions and chat live with Kelly at 7 p.m. Dec. 3. We’ll meet online at the Simply Faithful page on Facebook.

“Jackson Jones” is written for elementary students but my almost 14-year-old laughed at some of the chapter titles, and the book practically begs to be read out loud to a classroom.

“That book is me to a T,” Kelly said. “That’s how I talk. Anyone who reads it knows me… ish.”

Jackson’s adventures continue in “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, a Troll, and a Rather Large Chicken” and Kelly has more adventures in her head, ready to escape on paper.

I can’t wait.

Meet Jenn Kelly

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Learn more about author Jenn Kelly at her Website: www.JennKelly.com. You can also find her page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Look for @JennKellyauthor.

Readers have the chance to chat live with her at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 on the Simply Faithful Facebook page.

 

About the Simply Faithful book club

For about a year Marketta Gregory, author of the Simply Faithful column, has invited readers throughout the Rochester community to join her in reading and discussing books with spiritual themes. So far, the community has read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and “Rooms” by James Rubart. The current selections – all four – were chosen to encourage younger readers to participate in the conversation. They are:

  • “Who Built the Stable?” by Ashley Bryan ($16.99, Simon and Schuster).
  • “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” by Jenn Kelly ($12.99, Zonderkidz).
  • “Replication [The Jason Experiment]” by Jill Williamson ($15.99, Zondervan).
  • “Graceful: Letting Go of your Try-Hard Life” by Emily P. Freeman ($12.99, Revell).

 

Interested in teen fiction? Join us for a chat with Jill Williamson on Friday

Photo courtesy of Jill Williamson

Jill Williamson, author of “Replication [The Jason Experiment],” will be available at 7 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 16. You’ll be able to join the chat live on the Simply Faithful Facebook page.

For about a year now I’ve invited readers to join me in reading and discussing books with spiritual themes. So far, the community has read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and “Rooms” by James Rubart. The current book club picks — like “Replication” — were chosen to encourage younger readers to participate in the conversation.

In “Replication,” one of Williamson’s six Christian teen novels, Abby discovers her scientist father is working in a hidden human cloning facility called Jason Farms. One of the clones, J:3:3 (aka Martyr), escapes in her father’s pick-up truck because he desperately wants to see the sky and the outside world before he expires on his 18th birthday. Eventually Abby and Martyr work together to try to free the other clones, especially Baby because Martyr protects Baby and the other “broken” clones in the facility.

“Everybody loves Martyr,” Williamson said, “and I’ve had a lot of readers tell me that they have had to think about the things they have taken for granted. It’s made them pause and notice the world.”

To learn more about Williamson, visit her Website: www.JillWilliamson.com, where she offers a free monthly manuscript review. You can also find her page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Look for @JillWilliamson.

To read other articles I’ve written about her, click here and here.

 

A chance to visit with Jill Williamson, author of ‘Replication’

My newspaper colleagues and I used to joke that there was always a local angle to national – and even international – stories. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised that one of the authors we’re featuring in the Simply Faithful book club has Rochester, NY, ties.

Jill Williamson, author of “Replication [The Jason Experiment],” used to visit the area when her sister lived here. During one of those fall visits they went to pick apples and as Williamson looked out the window at the passing orchards she wondered what it would be like if there was a farm that grew people, a farm that created clones.

She answers that question in her teen book “Replication” ($15.99, Zondervan), where she takes her readers inside a hidden human cloning facility. As the adventure unfolds, she delves into questions about the value of life and about forgiveness, even of ruthless captors.

Even though the idea for the book came from Western New York, it is set in Alaska where Williamson grew up. It features characters who are working to find their purpose in life and struggling to live a life of faith that’s really examined, that’s more than black and white.

“Being legalistic can become a habit,” Williamson said from her home in eastern Oregon. “It can get us in rut.”

And that’s not where Williamson wants her characters to be.

You can hear more about her characters, her passion for helping other writers and her upcoming books during a Facebook chat with her at 7 p.m. Nov. 16. Join us at the Simply Faithful Facebook page and feel free to jump in with questions of your own. This is your time with the author. 

I hope you give the book a try, even if it isn’t your go-to genre, and I’d love it if you would discuss it with friends and make an effort to include younger readers in the conversation. Soon I’ll be sharing more about the other three books I’ve selected:

  • Who Built the Stable?” by Ashley Bryan ($16.99, Simon and Schuster).
  • “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” by Jenn Kelly ($12.99, Zondervan).
  • “Graceful: Letting Go of your Try-Hard Life” by Emily P. Freeman ($12.99, Revell).

Even though we’re focusing on younger readers, I think you’ll find there are lessons in these books for every age.