Monday, November 30, 2009

Jesse Tree Day #2

I have my ornaments done for the first eight days and my devotions done for tonight. I will try to get the rest of the week's devotions up tomorrow morning. My brain did not want to rhyme today. . .so I need to come back to the devotions tonight. If you missed the Introduction to the Jesse Tree you can click here. Some busy families do a week of stories in one family time sitting per week. With little ones, it is easier to do one per day.

I made our ornaments out of Sculpey clay and baked them per the instructions. Here is a picture of how they turned out.

Day One: Dove
Day Two: Apple Tree
Day Three: Rainbow
Day Four: Field of Stars
Day Five: Ram
Day Six: Ladder
Day Seven: Coat
Day Eight: Burning Bush

Tonight's Devotion:
Day One: Creation

God created the Heavens and Earth.
In the Beginning before anyone’s birth.

The earth was empty, wet and dark,
The Spirit of God hovered before making a mark.

God spoke and said, “Let there be light”.
He called the light day and the dark He called night.

God separated the waters and the sky along the way,
This completed the second day.

The waters were over all that God could see,
He created land with vegetation for you and me.

Before the fourth day was done,
God created the stars, moon and the sun.

The skies were filled with birds of air,
The waters had fish swimming everywhere.

Five Days were completed, but He was not done,
Earth had no animals or people, not even one.

So the sixth day God was busy filling the land,
With all of the animals and one special man.

In God’s image he was created at birth.
Adam’s job from God was to rule over the earth,

God looked at all He had created from where He stood,
And he said that “it was very good.”

The seventh day came and God knew He was done,
He blessed this day and made it the Sabbath one.

Read Genesis 1:1-2:3

After the devotion we will hang the Dove ornament on the tree. While we are reading the scripture, our littlest one will have these pictures to color. (She needs a little distraction so she sits still and is quiet). If you have little ones you could just have them color these pictures while you talk to them about God's Creation. You can save all of the pictures and put them into a 3-ring binder as a reminder of the Jesse Tree.

The Jesse Tree

Last night we did our introduction to The Jesse Tree. We have celebrated this Christmas tradition in our home for a few years. Every year I try to add to it and revise it so the girls stay interested in the stories. I will try to post the devotions later today for the week if you would like to add this tradition to your family celebration.

The first year we did the Jesse Tree, I made a tree out of construction paper and put it on an open wall. Each night my girls colored pictures from the Bible Story and we cut them out to hang on the tree. This year we are going to do a combination of pictures and ornaments to hang on their tree.

Here is the scripture and devotion from last night.

We began our devotion by filling out a family tree that I printed off here. We talked about how Jesus also has a family tree and Jesse the father of King David is where our Jesse Tree begins.

Isaiah 11:1: "A shoot will spring forth from
the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots."

The Jesse Tree begins today,
many stories we will share along the way.

It starts in the beginning when God created earth,
until we reach the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth.

We will hear stories from many years ago,
Many of the stories you will already know.

Adam and Eve and the apple tree,
Moses and the Israelites when God parted the Sea.

The wise men with gifts following a Star,
Mary and Joseph and their trip from afar.

The Christmas celebration lasts more than one day,
When we open the Bible to see what God will say.

Christmas means more than gifts under the tree,
Jesus came for a reason to save you and me.

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Isaiah 11:1-10

Touching Wonder

I love to find Christmas books that I can add to my home library and share with my family and friends during the holiday season. One of my favorite gifts for Sunday School Teachers, helpers and School teachers are books. John Blase shares scripture from The Message Bible, he elaborates on the story and adds his thoughts. He paints the Christmas Story picture beautifully in your mind. It tells of the amazing miracle of Jesus' Birth and the journey leading to His birth.

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:

Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of the The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


John Blase’s work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children’s Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764656
ISBN-13: 978-1434764652

AND excerpt:


Angelic Visitor

Luke 1.26–38

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning!

You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,

be called ‘Son of the Highest.’

The Lord God will give him

the throne of his father David;

He will rule Jacob’s house forever—

no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

the power of the Highest hover over you;

Therefore, the child you bring to birth

will be called Holy, Son of God.

“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now:

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.

Let it be with me

just as you say.

Then the angel left her.


The theologians have rendered us mindless God-slaves, wisps of cloudy wings, doing nothing but the bidding of the Mighty One. Theologians. There is so much they do not know.

I found her just as He said she would be found: sitting on her bedding, barefooted, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her knee-tops. I saw why she had gained the favor of the Mighty One. I liked this daughter-of-Eve-to-bethe-mother-of-God.

“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

I expected this. But unlike that old priest’s, hers was not the doubting of a skeptic but rather the wondering of a child.

“But how? I can’t see it.”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. Mary, you have nothing to fear.” The Mighty One had expressly said, “Herald the news, Gabriel. Don’t report it.” I would have liked to elaborate further, but Mary would have to live out the details of my news in days to come. Truths unlived are not truths.

Then she paused and looked away. I have spoken to many of God’s children, and their eyes are always transfixed on me. They should be. I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God. But Mary’s gaze wandered for a moment. But what I initially took for a distracted mind was rather a devoted heart.

Her eyes returned to me. “Let it be with me.” Ah, the Mighty One had chosen well. Her words were not

resigned, but faith-full. The faith of a child. Of such is the Mighty One’s kingdom.

“Cousin Elizabeth? Really? Old Elizabeth? But how?”

I laughed.

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God. Mary, you have nothing to fear. I have told you all you need to know for now. You are more ready than you realize, stronger than you know. God is with you. Now I must go.”

But I did not want to go. Faith is rare, at least true faith. Yes, the word is often used, but the reality is hard

to find. Yet here I found it, in an earthen vessel surrounded by an earthen room. I liked Mary.

I left her just as He said I would: barefooted, sitting on her bedding, knees pulled up to her chest, arms

wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her kneetops. She looked older now. Human eyes would not

recognize this, but mine have seen much.

The Mighty One had revealed glimpses to me, what days ahead would hold for this glorious girl. Her cousin’s leaping womb. Joseph’s broad shoulders. The back of a borrowed burro. Herod’s jealous-red face. The cries of the innocent. The breath of stable animals. The agony of pushing the Mighty One out into this world.

I found myself praying for the favored one. Mary had so much to carry.

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Touching Wonder by John Blase. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Celebrating Advent

advent Pictures, Images and Photos

It is hard for me to believe that we are closely approaching the advent season. As a child I remember through the month of December the candles at the front of the church that were lit until all five were glowing. It was a tradition that I loved. About 6 years ago my husband and I decided to do our own advent celebration at home with our girls.

Today I will get out the candles and the evergreen and set up the arrangement. Tomorrow we will gather around it and light the first candle of the Christmas Season. Since there are five of us and five candles, everyone gets one week to light their own. We start at the smallest and save the white candle that represents Jesus for Daddy.

I am often curious if any other families celebrate this tradition in their homes. Do you celebrate Advent?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Novel Idea

One of the reasons I started blogging was because I felt that I had so many words in my head that were screaming to be written down. I have aspirations to write a book and I have started to formulate some characters and plots in my head. When I saw the opportunity to review the book "A Novel Idea", I jumped at the chance. Great authors have come together to help people like me. I know that if I want to be a published author it takes a lot of work and this book is a great resource to help me along the way!

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

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

Today's Wild Card authors are:

Various Best-Selling Authors
(contributions from best-selling authors including Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt and more)

and the book:

A Novel Idea

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel “Christian” and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and many other beloved authors. All proceeds will benefit MAI, an organization that teaches writing internationally to help provide literature that is culturally relevant.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414329946
ISBN-13: 978-1414329949


Chapter 1: Plot

The Plot Skeleton

Angela Hunt

Imagine, if you will, that you and I are sitting in a room with one hundred other authors. If you were to ask each person present to describe their plotting process, you’d probably get a hundred different answers. Writers’ methods vary according to their personalities, and we are all different. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.

If, however, those one hundred novelists were to pass behind an X-ray machine, you’d discover that we all possess remarkably similar skeletons. Beneath our disguising skin, hair, and clothing, our skeletons are pretty much identical.

In the same way, though writers vary in their methods, good stories are composed of remarkably comparable skeletons. Stories with “good bones” can be found in picture books and novels, plays and films.

Many fine writers tend to carefully outline their plots before they begin the first chapter. On the other hand, some novelists describe themselves as “seat-of-the-pants” writers. But when the story is finished, a seat-of-the-pants novel will (or should!) contain the same elements as a carefully plotted book. Why? Because whether you plan it from the beginning or find it at the end, novels need structure beneath the story.

After mulling several plot designs and boiling them down to their basic elements, I developed what I call the “plot skeleton.” It combines the spontaneity of seat-of-the-pants writing with the discipline of an outline. It requires a writer to know where he’s going, but it leaves room for lots of discovery on the journey.

When I sit down to plan a new book, the first thing I do is sketch my smiling little skeleton.

To illustrate the plot skeleton in this article, I’m going to refer frequently to The Wizard of Oz and a lovely foreign film you may never have seen, Mostly Martha.

The Skull: A Central Character
The skull represents the main character, the protagonist. A lot of beginning novelists have a hard time deciding who the main character is, so settle that question right away. Even in an ensemble cast, one character should be featured more than the others. Your readers want to place themselves into your story world, and it’s helpful if you can give them a sympathetic character to whom they can relate. Ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” That is your protagonist.

This main character should have two needs or problems—one obvious, one hidden—which I represent by two yawning eye sockets.

Here’s a tip: Hidden needs, which usually involve basic human emotions, are often solved or met by the end of the story. They are at the center of the protagonist’s “inner journey,” or character change, while the “outer journey” is concerned with the main events of the plot. Hidden needs often arise from wounds in a character’s past.

Consider The Wizard of Oz. At the beginning of the film, Dorothy needs to save her dog from Miss Gulch, who has arrived to take Toto because he bit her scrawny leg—a very straightforward and obvious problem. Dorothy’s hidden need is depicted but not directly emphasized when she stands by the pigpen and sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Do children live with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em if all is fine with Mom and Dad? No. Though we are not told what happened to Dorothy’s parents, it’s clear that something has splintered her family and Dorothy’s unhappy. Her hidden need, the object of her inner journey, is to find a place to call home.

Mostly Martha opens with the title character lying on her therapist’s couch and talking about all that is required to cook the perfect pigeon. Since she’s in a therapist’s office, we assume she has a problem, and the therapist addresses this directly: “Martha, why are you here?”

“Because,” she answers, “my boss will fire me if I don’t go to therapy.” Ah—obvious problem at work with the boss. Immediately we also know that Martha is high-strung. She is precise and politely controlling in her kitchen. This woman lives for food, but though she assures us in a voice-over that all a cook needs for a perfectly lovely dinner is “fish and sauce,” we see her venture downstairs to ask her new neighbor if he’d like to join her for dinner. He can’t, but we become aware that Martha needs company. She needs love in her life.

Connect the Skull to the Body: Inciting Action
Usually the first few chapters of a novel are involved with the business of establishing the protagonist in a specific time and place, his world, his needs, and his personality. The story doesn’t kick into gear, though, until you move from the skull to the spine, a connection known as the inciting incident.

Writers are often told to begin the story in medias res, or in the middle of the action. This is not the same as the Big Incident. Save the big event for a few chapters in, after you’ve given us some time to know and understand your character’s needs. Begin your story with an obvious problem—some action that shows how your character copes. In the first fifth of the story we learn that Dorothy loves Toto passionately and that Martha is a perfectionist chef. Yes, start in the middle of something active, but hold off on the big event for a while. Let us get to know your character first . . . because we won’t gasp about their dilemma until we know them.

In a picture book, the inciting incident is often signaled by two words: One day . . . Those two words are a natural way to move from setting the stage to the action. As you plot your novel, ask yourself, “One day, what happens to move my main character into the action of the story?” Your answer will be your inciting incident, the key that turns your story engine.

After Dorothy ran away, if she’d made it home to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em without incident, there would have been no story. The inciting incident? When the tornado picks Dorothy up and drops her, with her house, in the land of Oz.

The inciting incident in Mostly Martha is signaled by a ringing telephone. When Martha takes the call, she learns that her sister, who was a single mother to an eight-year-old girl, has been killed in an auto accident.

Think of your favorite stories—how many feature a hero who’s reluctant to enter the special world? Often—but not always—your protagonist doesn’t want to go where the inciting incident is pushing him or her. Obviously, Martha doesn’t want to hear that her sister is dead, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a mother. She takes Lina, her niece, and offers to cook for her (her way of showing love), but Lina wants her mother, not gourmet food.

Even if your protagonist has actively pursued a change, he or she may have moments of doubt as the entrance to the special world looms ahead. When your character retreats or doubts or refuses to leave the ordinary world, another character should step in to provide encouragement, advice, information, or a special tool. This will help your main character overcome those last-minute doubts and establish the next part of the skeleton: the goal.

The End of the Spine: The Goal
At some point after the inciting incident, your character will establish and state a goal. Shortly after stepping out of her transplanted house, Dorothy looks around Oz and wails, “I want to go back to Kansas!” She’s been transported over the rainbow, but she prefers the tried and true to the unfamiliar and strange. In order to go home, she’ll have to visit the wizard in the Emerald City. As she tries to meet an ever-shifting set of subordinate goals (follow the yellow brick road; overcome the poppies; get in to see the wizard; bring back a broomstick), her main goal keeps viewers glued to the screen.

This overriding concern—will she or won’t she make it home?—is known as the dramatic question. The dramatic question in every murder mystery is, Who committed the crime? The dramatic question in nearly every thriller is, Who will win the inevitable showdown between the hero and the villain? Along the way readers will worry about the subgoals (Will the villain kill his hostage? Will the hero figure out the clues?), but the dramatic question keeps them reading until the last page.

Tip: To keep the reader involved, the dramatic question should be directly related to the character’s ultimate goal. Martha finds herself trying to care for a grieving eight-year-old who doesn’t want another mother. So Martha promises to track down the girl’s father, who lives in Italy. She knows only that his name is Giuseppe, but she’s determined to find him.

The Rib Cage: Complications
Even my youngest students understand that a protagonist who accomplishes everything he or she attempts is a colorless character. As another friend of mine is fond of pointing out, as we tackle the mountain of life, it’s the bumps we climb on! If you’re diagramming, sketch at least three curving ribs over your spine. These represent the complications that must arise to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.

Why at least three ribs? Because even in the shortest of stories—in a picture book, for instance—three complications work better than two or four. I don’t know why three gives us such a feeling of completion, but it does. Maybe it’s because God is a Trinity and we’re hardwired to appreciate that number.

While a short story will have only three complications, a movie or novel may have hundreds. Complications can range from the mundane—John can’t find a pencil to write down Sarah’s number—to life-shattering. As you write down possible complications that could stand between your character and his ultimate goal, place the more serious problems at the bottom of the list.

The stakes—what your protagonist is risking—should increase in significance as the story progresses. In Mostly Martha, the complications center on this uptight woman’s ability to care for a child. Lina hates her babysitter, so Martha has to take Lina to work with her. But the late hours take their toll, and Lina is often late for school. Furthermore, Lina keeps refusing to eat anything Martha cooks for her.

I asked you to make the ribs curve because any character that runs into complication after complication without any breathing space is going to be a weary character . . . and you’ll weary your reader with this frenetic pace. One of the keys to good pacing is to alternate your plot complications with rewards. Like a pendulum that swings on an arc, let your character relax, if only briefly, between disasters.

Along the spiraling yellow brick road, Dorothy soon reaches an intersection (a complication). Fortunately, a friendly scarecrow is willing to help (a reward). They haven’t gone far before Dorothy becomes hungry (a complication). The scarecrow spots an apple orchard ahead (a reward). These apple trees, however, resent being picked (a complication), but the clever scarecrow taunts them until they begin to throw fruit at the hungry travelers (a reward).

See how it works? Every problem is followed by a reward that matches the seriousness of the complication. Let’s fast-forward to the scene where the balloon takes off without Dorothy. This is a severe complication—so severe it deserves a title of its own: the bleakest moment. This is the final rib in the rib cage, the moment when all hope is lost for your protagonist.

The Thighbone: Send in the Cavalry
At the bleakest moment, your character needs help, but be careful how you deliver it. The ancient Greek playwrights had actors representing the Greek gods literally descend from the structure above to bring their complicated plot knots to a satisfying conclusion. This sort of resolution is frowned upon in modern literature. Called deus ex machina (literally “god from the machine”), this device employs some unexpected and improbable incident to bring victory or success. If you find yourself whipping up a coincidence or a miracle after the bleakest moment, chances are you’ve employed deus ex machina. Back up and try again, please.

Avoid using deus ex machina by sending two types of help: external and internal. Your character obviously needs help from outside; if he could solve the problem alone, he would have done it long before the bleakest moment. Having him conveniently remember something or stumble across a hidden resource smacks of coincidence and will leave your reader feeling resentful and cheated.

So send in the cavalry, but remember that they can’t solve the protagonist’s problem. They can give the protagonist a push in the right direction; they can nudge; they can remind; they can inspire. But they shouldn’t wave a magic wand and make everything all right.

For Dorothy, help comes in the form of Glenda the Good Witch, who reveals a secret: The ruby slippers have the power to carry her back to Kansas. All Dorothy has to do is say, “There’s no place like home”—with feeling, mind you—and she’ll be back on the farm with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Dorothy’s problem isn’t resolved, however, until she applies this information internally. At the beginning of the story, she wanted to be anywhere but on the farm. Now she has to affirm that the farm is where she wants to be. Her hidden need—to find a place to call home—has been met.

In Mostly Martha, the bleakest moment arrives with Lina’s father, Giuseppe. He is a good man, and Lina seems to accept him. But after waving good-bye, Martha goes home to an empty apartment and realizes that she is not happy with her controlled, childless life. She goes to Marlo, the Italian chef she has also begun to love, and asks for his help.

The Kneecap and Lower Leg: Make a Decision, Learn a Lesson
Martha realizes that her old life was empty—she needs Lina in her life, and she needs Marlo. So she and Marlo drive from Germany to Italy to fetch Lina and bring her home.

You may be hard-pressed to cite the lesson you learned from the last novel you read, but your protagonist needs to learn something. This lesson is the epiphany, a sudden insight that speaks volumes to your character and brings them to the conclusion of their inner journey.

James Joyce popularized the word epiphany, literally the manifestation of a divine being. (Churches celebrate the festival of Epiphany on January 6 to commemorate the meeting of the Magi and the Christ child.) After receiving help from an outside source, your character should see something—a person, a situation, or an object—in a new light.

When the scarecrow asks why Glinda waited to explain the ruby slippers, the good witch smiles and says, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” The scarecrow then asks, “What’d you learn, Dorothy?” Without hesitation, Dorothy announces that she’s learned a lesson: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard.” She has learned to appreciate her home, so even though she is surrounded by loving friends and an emerald city, Dorothy chooses to return to colorless Kansas. She hugs her friends once more, then grips Toto and clicks her heels.

The Foot: The Resolution
Every story needs the fairy-tale equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Not every story ends happily, of course, though happy endings are undoubtedly popular. Some protagonists are sadder and wiser after the course of their adventure. But a novel should at least leave the reader with hope.

The resolution to Mostly Martha is portrayed during the closing of the film. As the credits roll, we see Marlo and Martha meeting Lina in Italy; we see Martha in a wedding gown (with her hair down!) and Marlo in a tuxedo; we see a wedding feast with Giuseppe, his family, and Martha’s German friends; we see Martha and Marlo and Lina exploring an abandoned restaurant—clearly, they are going to settle in Italy so Lina can be a part of both families. In the delightful final scene, we see Martha with her therapist again, but this time he has cooked for her and she is advising him.

Many movies end with a simple visual image—we see a couple walking away hand in hand, a mother cradling her long-lost son. That’s all we need to realize that our main character has struggled, learned, and come away a better (or wiser) person. As a writer, you’ll have to use words, but you can paint the same sort of reassuring picture without resorting to “and they lived happily ever after.”

Your story should end with a changed protagonist—he or she has gone through a profound experience and is different for it, hopefully for the better. Your protagonist has completed an outer journey (experienced the major plot events) and an inner journey that address some hurt from the past and result in a changed character.

What Next?
Now that we’ve reached the foot of our story skeleton, we’re finished outlining the basic structure. Take those major points and write them up in paragraph form. Once you’ve outlined your plot and written your synopsis, you’re ready to begin writing scenes. Take a deep breath, glance over your skeleton, and jump in.

Taken from A Novel Idea by ChiLibras. Copyright ©2009 by ChiLibras. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Delighting in the Lord

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

The scripture that we discussed last night with our girls is listed above. As I was going upstairs for the third time tonight trying to get my little one to bed, this verse popped into my head. I was on the verge of getting frustrated because I have a million things to do before we leave town for Thanksgiving and she did not want to go to bed.

As I handed her, her blanket and laid down next to her in bed I thought of the verse again. . ."and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Three and a half years ago I was trying to serve God to the best of my ability, supervise 17 employees in a high stress career, be super mom and a wonderful wife. I was failing! I was very unhappy and I was taking it out on my family. At first we contemplated a move with my job. It was a move to a new town, but in the same position I was already in. I thought for sure I would get the job. I had the interview. It was horrible. I could not answer their questions, I was at a loss for words.

I usually have no problems in interviews and I bombed this one. I accepted that we were not going anywhere and I settled back in to my unhappiness. Out of the blue my husband told me that his company had asked him if he would be willing to transfer. We had not even considered that. The only catch was that it was to a small town (one that in the beginning of our marriage I had said "I will never move there").

One of the first things out of his mouth was, "The only way we will move is if you can be a stay-at-home mom". I asked him in the next breath, "When can we leave?"

I had never really considered being a stay-at-home mom. I had my sights set on being a career mom. God had different plans for me.

I realize now that in this whole season of transitioning from working to staying home that God was giving me the desires of my heart. I was growing in my relationship with Him in this whole process. Spending more time in my Bible, praying, learning about Him and trusting in Him. I was delighting in Him.

The more my relationship with Him grew, the more my desires changed. I thought my desire was to be a Super Career Mom, but after I started putting more focus on God that was not the case.

As I walked up those stairs tonight and cuddled my daughter in bed I was praising God. I am so thankful this Thanksgiving season to walk up those stairs a million times to tuck my little ones into bed. I am so thankful that in the morning I am not frenzied trying to get myself ready for work and them shooed out the door to school and daycare. I am so thankful that my littlest loves the days that we get to spend all day together.

Can you think of how God is giving you the desires of your heart? Are you delighting in Him today? I know that he is taking great delight in you.

One of my favorite verses that I just came upon recently is in Zephaniah 3:17, "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

I am unwrapping this day with Emily over at Chatting at the Sky. Check out more Tuesdays Unwrapped.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bo's Cafe

Another book brought to you by Windblown Media, the publishers of The Shack. You will not be disappointed in this book. Below you will get sneak peek into the first chapter and a look at the authors. Real Life, Real Relationships and learning to Let Go and Let God.

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:

Bo's Café

Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)

***Special thanks to Miriam Parker of Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***


Bruce McNicol is president of Leadership Catalyst, Inc. and an international speaker and consultant. He holds a master's in theology and a doctorate in organizational and leadership development. Previously he served for ten years as president of the international church planting organization Interest Associates.

Bill Thrall serves as vice-chair of Leadership Catalyst, mentor, and coauthor of the bestselling TrueFaced resources (, The Ascent of a Leader, andBeyond Your Best.

John Lynch is a national conference speaker and writer for LCI, holds a master's of theoology from Talbot Seminary, and has twenty years' experience as a teaching pastor of Open Door Fellowship. He's also cofounder and playwright of a theater troupe in Phoenix.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193517004X
ISBN-13: 978-1935170044


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lonesome Prairie Review

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of listening to author Tricia Goyer on MomTV's show Madre Minutes. She shared her story. I had not started this book co-authored by her at the time. After listening to her I couldn't wait to get it started. She has an amazing story. She shares it in another book written by her titled Blue Like Playdough.

I was sent the book Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie from Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group. It is a historical novel set in Montana. It reminded me of Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly Series. It was a heart-warming story that kept me interested until the end.

This is the first book that I have read by this author and Ocieanna Fleiss. I am excited to read more.

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

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

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author's website.

Ocieanna Fleissis a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer's historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296


The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Child's Walk

When I was in the kitchen doing the dishes yesterday I heard a little voice behind me say, "Holy Cow, Jesus really did die on a cross."

I had to contain a little giggle before I turned around. My little one was holding a ceramic cross that her older sister had painted. After I said to her, "Yes, Jesus did die on a cross." She continued, "He is naked, he isn't wearing a shirt or pants."

Oh to be so young and innocent. I got a good little chuckle out of our conversation. And although it was a great story to share with my husband, it also made me realize something else. She really is listening, too.

On our family devotion nights, she is usually being silly and the comments she shares really have nothing to do with the topic. But, she goes to Sunday school and kids church. She attends a Christian preschool, too. All of those things are starting to impact her faith walk, even though she is only three.

I know the next time we talk about Jesus on the cross she will have a picture in her mind and in her on way, she believes that it is truth.

She sees an image and doesn't doubt the stories we tell her are truth. It makes me wonder why as adults it is so easy for us to believe sometimes. It is so hard for us to trust sometimes. My girls' faith is so much stronger than mine some days. It is because they are filled with doubt like I am on days that are not going my way.

I am so thankful to be a part of their walk, they truly are a gift from Him.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thirsty Review & Giveaway

For some of you, you are very excited for a movie release this week. For some of the rest of us, we are not sure what all of the hype is about.

Yes, I am talking about New Moon from the Twilight Saga.

I am a lover of books and I have read almost every genre, but for some reason, I still have not picked up any of the books from this series. For one thing, when I start reading a series, I think I need to read the whole thing, one book right after the other. Have you seen the length of some of those books, I don't have that kind of time right now.

When I had the opportunity from Liz at Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing to review a book by Beth Felker called Touched by a Vampire: Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga, I decided to take it.

Since I have not read the books, I was glad that she summarized the books in her book so that I knew what messages she was writing about. After reading this book, I still have mixed feelings about the Twilight Saga. I still don't know if I will ever read them. If you are curious about the Twilight Saga from a Christian view, I encourage you to pick up this book.

Here is summary of the book from Waterbrook Multnomah:

People around the world are asking the same question, enraptured with Edward and Bella’s forbidden romance in the Twilight Saga, a four-book serial phenomenon written by Stephenie Meyer. The bestsellers tell the story of a regular girl’s relationship with a vampire who has chosen to follow his “good” side. But the Saga isn’t just another fantasy–it’s teaching girls about love, sex, and purpose. With 48 million copies in print and a succession of upcoming blockbuster films, now is the time to ask the important question: Can vampires teach us about God’s plan for love?

Touched by a Vampire is the first book to investigate the themes of the Twilight Saga from a Biblical perspective. Some Christian readers have praised moral principles illustrated in the story, such as premarital sexual abstinence, which align with Meyer’s Mormon beliefs. But ultimately, Beth Felker Jones examines whether the story’s redemptive qualities outshine its darkness.

Cautionary, thoughtful, and challenging, Touched by a Vampire is written for Twilight fans, parents, teachers, and pop culture enthusiasts. It includes an overview of the series for those unfamiliar with the storyline and a discussion guide for small groups.

The second book I received from Liz at Waterbrook Multnomah was called Thirsty by Tracey Bateman. This book is about vampires, but their is so much more to the story and it is written by a Christian author.

I really enjoyed this book by Bateman. The story has a lot to it that kept me intrigued. The story of Nina, a recovering alcoholic and her teenage daughter has depth and meaning. I think that if you are intrigued by the Twilight Saga, this is a great Christian alternative that you can pick up here.

Here is a summary of the book from Waterbrook Multnomah:
There's no place like home, they say.
"Hello, I'm Nina Parker…and I'm an alcoholic."
For Nina, it's not the weighty admission but the first steps toward recovery that prove most difficult. She must face her ex-husband, Hunt, with little hope of making amends, and try to rebuild a relationship with her angry teenage daughter, Meagan. Hardest of all, she is forced to return to Abbey Hills, Missouri, the hometown she abruptly abandoned nearly two decades earlier–and her unexpected arrival in the sleepy Ozark town catches the attention of someone–or something–igniting a two-hundred-fifty-year-old desire that rages like a wildfire.

Unaware of the darkness stalking her, Nina is confronted with a series of events that threaten to unhinge her sobriety. Her daughter wants to spend time with the parents Nina left behind. A terrifying event that has haunted Nina for almost twenty years begins to surface. And an alluring neighbor initiates an unusual friendship with Nina, but is Markus truly a kindred spirit or a man guarding dangerous secrets?

As everything she loves hangs in the balance, will Nina's feeble grasp on her demons be broken, leaving her powerless against the thirst? The battle between redemption and obsession unfold to its startling, unforgettable end.

The best part is that Waterbrook Multnomah gave me a copy of each of these books to giveaway to one of you! All you have to do is leave a comment in this post. You can comment until Sunday, November 22nd at midnight. I will announce the winner on Monday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unwrapping Blessings

It is only Tuesday. . .

We have had a couple of rough mornings in our house. A few tears, a little attitude and a lot of deep breaths.

This morning as I walked back into my house after taking my daughter to school while I was still in my pjs, (which I usually don't do because she walks. . .don't even ask), I glanced at the wall in my family room.

There it was, everything that really matters.

For the past week we have taken time as a family to write down our blessings. Sure some of them are not real deep. Things like, "I am blessed that my mommy makes good cookies" - Nadia.

But there are things on that tree that make my heart complete. Things like: "I am blessed that my family knows Jesus Christ because He is an awesome God." - Taylor and "I am blessed to learn about God." - Madelyn

I am reading through our blessings and I know that the crazy mornings are part of being a mom. However, knowing that my kids love the Lord, that makes every crazy morning worth it.

I am joining Emily over at Chatting at the Sky for Tuesdays Unwrapped. If you need a little encouragement today, stop by and read all the other blog posts about all of the other women that are Unwrapping the Beauty of the little things in life.

Friday, November 13, 2009

White Picket Fences

Last night I stayed up late to finish White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner. I am tired this morning but it was worth it. It was an engaging story with an interesting ending. This is the second book that I have read by Meissner. Her story telling has twists and turns and keeps you engaged until the last page.

White Picket Fences is a story of secrets. The story reveals that secrets can hurt those you love. It is also a story of Holocaust survivors, their story and their pain. This element of the books adds depth and meaning to the story.

God is not a main theme in the story, but it does reveal how God can help you in times of desperation.

Special thanks to Staci at Waterbrook Press for providing me with a review copy of White Picket Fences.

Here is a little more about the book from Waterbrook Press:
Amanda Janvier’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay while her vagabond brother is in Europe, but the white picket fence life Amanda wants to provide is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son Chase, is haunted by the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will love White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?

You can get your own book by going here.

Going to curl up with another good book,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Prayer of a Child

Last night as we were doing our Blessing Tree before bed, our middle daughter said, "I am blessed to learn about God". She went on to tell us that she learned at church that night that not everyone is going to get into heaven. She said we have to ask Jesus into our hearts and as Him to forgive our sins.

We finished talking about our blessings and then we went upstairs to tuck them in to bed and say our prayers. Madelyn asked if she could say the prayer. This is what she prayed.

"Dear Jesus, we ask you into our hearts. Lord, we ask you into our hearts because we believe in you. We ask you into our hearts. We ask you to forgive our sins, forgive us for all of the bad things we have done. We ask you into our hearts. Help us to have a good day tomorrow. Help me to dream about Rainbows, Butterflies and Flowers. In your name we pray. Amen."

As her mom, my heart was filled with joy as she prayed. Can you imagine how filled with joy God was in heaven? I bet He was beaming, too.

"Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

Enjoy Your Money

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:

Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It

Wisdom Creek Press, LLC (March 11, 2009)

***Special thanks to Blythe Daniel of The Blythe Daniel Agency, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


J. Steve Miller - educator, investor, entrepreneur, and speaker - has taught audiences from Atlanta to Moscow. He’s known for drawing practical wisdom from serious research and communicating it in accessible, unforgettable ways.

Steve is the founder and president of Legacy Educational Resources, providing global resources for teachers of life skills in public schools, churches, and service organizations at A self-styled "wisdom broker," he collects wisdom from many fields and packages it for teachers and writers via his published books and the Web. His wife, Cherie, and their seven sons continually remind him what works and what doesn’t.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Creek Press, LLC (March 11, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 098187567X
ISBN-13: 978-0981875675



This book will help you to:

get out of debt and accumulate wealth.
get ahead, even when the work you love doesn’t produce big bucks.
find your strengths and passions and make a living with them.
live a more fulfilled life.

You'll discover the wisdom of the great makers and accumulators of wealth, presented in a story form to help you understand, internalize and have fun in the process. You’ll learn investing from Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor and wealthiest man in the world. You’ll learn principles of business success from Sam Walton, the uber-successful founder of Wal-Mart. You’ll find advice on landing and succeeding in a dream job from experts in career guidance.

Is This Book for Me?

You're never too young or too old to discover these ageless principles. They apply to the seasoned business executive as well as the entrepreneur with his first lemonade stand. Warren Buffet caught his vision at age five and started investing at age 11. My grandmother started multiplying her money in her mid-60's. At age one hundred and two, with her sharp mind intact, she's accumulated a small fortune.

What's Unique About This Book?

Many books teach personal money management. Some of them are good. But, as Paul A. Samuelson (MIT Professor of Economics and Nobel Laureate) said:

"The same surgeon general who required cigarette packages to say 'Warning, this product may be dangerous to your health' ought to require that 99 out of 100 books written on personal finance carry that same label. The exceptions are rare." 1

I strove to be one of those exceptions by basing my advice not just upon years of personal experience, but upon the knowledge and experiences of well over one hundred wise people. In the process, my house at times bore more resemblance to the famed library of Alexandria than to a home. But each new book or interview seemed to offer new angles or fresh insights, often pointing to new paths just begging to be traveled. 2

After writing my first draft, I put it into the hands of over forty smart people I respect, asking them, "If you could put a lifetime of financial wisdom into a book, is this what you'd say? Be ruthlessly honest!" Their input proved invaluable.

Essentially, I distill the wisdom of the wise on working hard, working smart, saving, investing and giving - all the ageless basics - applied to today's world. I was especially fascinated with the counterintuitive nature of so much of their advice. The more you study the successful, the more you see why most people aren't very successful. The path to financial freedom isn't the path that initially appears obvious. Thus, the need for books to challenge the conventional thinking of popular culture.

I cover critical topics often left out of books of this nature. For example, the excellent studies of millionaires by professors Thomas Stanley and William Danko found that character traits such as integrity, diligence and thrift are shared by most who accumulate wealth.3 The massive Gallup study of managers and people at work helps us discover our passions and strengths and put them to work in a fulfilling career.4

Finally, people usually seek money, not as an end in itself, but as a way to find peace and happiness. Funny that so many money books assume that lots of money will automatically cure our ills and put smiles on our faces. When does money help lead us to happiness? When does it hinder our happiness? Social scientists have studied happiness extensively and drawn some fascinating, counterintuitive conclusions.5 Isn't happiness important to consider in handling your money?

Money management can be exciting! I believe that this story of Antonio, Akashi, James, Amy and their mentors can build some of that excitement. It's fun to beat the system. It’s fun to see your money grow. It’s fun to feel successful. It’s fun to have enough money to help others. To this end, I hope you have fun reading my book.

Table of Contents




Part One – Investing Money

Breakfast 1 – Discover the Basics……………………………………………

Breakfast 2 – Catch the Vision………………………..…………………

Breakfast 3 – Don’t Lose Money in Stocks……………………………………

Breakfast 4 – Make Money in Mutual Funds……………………………

Breakfast 5 – Diversify with Real Estate and Prepare for Hard Times ……

Breakfast 6 - The Breakfast that Almost Wasn’t…………………………

Part Two – Saving Money

Breakfast 7 – Live WAY Beneath Your Means…………………………

Breakfast 8 – Save on Food and Clothes ………………………

Breakfast 9 – Save on Cars…………………………………………

Breakfast 10 – Save on Houses……………………………………

Breakfast 11 –Ten Popular Ways to Lose Loads of Money………………

Part Three – Making Money

Breakfast 12 - Find Jobs You Love………………………………………

Breakfast 13 – Excel at Your Job…………………………………………

Breakfast 14 – Invest in your Mind………………………………………

Part Four: Enjoying Money

Breakfast 15 – Look for Happiness in the Right Places…………………

Epilogue: Where Are They Now?

Web-Based Complementary Resources


Bibliographical References


From Cliff Hanger to Hash Brown’s Breakfast Bar

August 15, 2005, Somewhere in the Montana Rockies…

Dangling off the edge of a massive rock, something had to give. Antonio could no longer hang on to both his well-chalked handhold and his struggling, neophyte climber - a Down ’s syndrome teen named Chad.

Antonio shot a piercing glance directly into Chad’s fear-filled eyes. “I’ve got to let go of ya, Chad! Trust in what you’ve learned and hang on to that rope!”

After the briefest silent prayer, Antonio let go….

Chad let out a blood-curdling scream, which quickly shifted into quiet concentration as he relaxed his death-grip on the rope and let it slide through the carabineers. He pushed off of the rock and began bouncing down the cliff. Rappelling with newly found confidence and his own distinctive style, his silence erupted into laughter. Chad had conquered yet another challenge during his week-long retreat with Extreme Wisdom Wilderness Adventures.

Antonio free-climbed his way down the adjacent rock, shouting triumphantly to the cloudless sky, “What a job! The wilderness is my office. My clients love me. I’m changing the world, one person at a time!”

Then, he chuckled to himself as his mind rewound to a decade earlier, to “In School Suspension,” “The Counterculture Club,” and that loony old Mrs. Kramer, who turned out to have more sense than anyone he’d ever met.

“Without them,” Antonio thought, “I could have never landed this dream job. Not the way I handled my money back in high school. When I get back to civilization, I’m calling a reunion of the “The Counterculture Club.”

11:00 PM, Two Months Later, Hash Brown’s Breakfast Bar in Acworth, Georgia…

Second-shift manager Larry Wiersbe was experiencing a rare lull in customers until four rowdy twenty-somethings suddenly charged in, looking like they’d stepped straight out of a culturally-sensitive brochure: an Asian girl, an African-American guy, an alternative-looking Caucasian girl and a Hispanic guy.

Larry introduced himself, took their orders and retreated to the grill until a sudden movement forced him to glance at the crowd. The Asian had jumped up suddenly and was swinging her glass Ketchup bottle over her shoulder like the start of a tennis serve. Then, she brought it down forcibly toward the table. Before he could intervene, she stepped back just far enough to miss the table. Riotous laughter followed, until an elderly lady appeared in the entranceway. She pointed her cane at the small party and announced at the top of her lungs, “I christen thee, ‘The Counterculture Club!’”

“Mrs. Kramer!” the Hispanic shouted, as they sprang from their seats to hug their old mentor and friend. High fives, hand slaps and severely dated hand-shakes followed. After all the commotion, Larry half expected them to boost the old lady overhead and body surf her to the table. Instead, they led her gently by her hands, respectfully seating her at the head.

His curiosity piqued, Larry followed their loud conversation from the grill.

“You crazy kids!” Mrs. Kramer began. “What in the world have you been up to? You kept me up-to-date with e-mails and an occasional meeting for a few short years, but then you fell off the face of the earth, you ungrateful bums!”

“You were never one to beat around the bush,” Antonio said sheepishly. “I’ll be the first to plead guilty to the charge of not writing…”

“Enough with the boring confessional,” Mrs. Kramer broke in. “I’m dying to catch up with your lives!”

For the next hour, Larry listened intently to some incredible success stories. Although far from perfect, these people seemed to “get” something that Larry didn’t. They exuded vision, goals, purpose. Much of the conversation revolved around finances – refusing debt, making, saving and investing money. But then the conversation would move seamlessly to finding fulfillment in serving others with their time and money.

Larry knew he didn’t fit in. He shared their age, but that was it. The three credit cards in his wallet were stretched to the max. He worked two dead-end jobs just to keep his head above water. At this rate, he’d never own his own home, much less have the time and resources to help others. And he resolved to never marry a girl who was stupid enough to choose such a loser. Finally, he got the nerve to break in.

“OK guys, it’s midnight, closing time. But you’ve obviously got something I desperately need. Unless you’re all high or suffering from delusions of grandeur, you’ve achieved a freedom that’s eluded me all of my life. Can you tell me what you learned from this lady that made your lives into something I’m envying?”

They looked at each other and shrugged.

“I’ll cut a deal with you,” Larry continued. “If you’ll tell me in one hour how you’ve achieved this…“financial freedom” as you call it, I’ll let you hang out as long as you like. Plus, I’ll serve you whatever you want. No charge.”

“Why not?” said the old lady. Obviously the mouthpiece for the group, she seemed to enjoy taking charge once more. “It would be a hoot to reminisce about old times, and a helpful review for these slow learners. Keep that order pad handy, because you’ll need to jot some of this down.”

“And you’d better pull up your chair,” chuckled the black fellow, “because once you get us started, we’ll take more than your hour.”

In School Suspension

“I’ll start,” volunteered the alternative-looking blonde. “I remember that first day vividly because I’ve relived it in my mind a hundred times since. You wouldn’t have recognized me back then. As a fifteen-year-old, I didn’t have the cheek-ring or tattoos that today help jump-start conversations while volunteering at the Juvenile Center. Back then, I was a reluctant cheerleader. This unlikely group first met in ISS.”

“In School Suspension?” queried Larry.

“If you don’t know, you must have been one of the good boys!” teased the Asian.

“So, I walked in to find these three students, but no teacher. I’d hoped someone I knew would be there, but no such luck. An assistant principal broke the ice by stepping in and explaining that our teacher would arrive shortly. Then she asked for our names and wrote them on a legal pad:

Antonio, Amy, Akashi, James.

She took another sheet and began to read our crimes, something like this:

Flash Back to High School

“Antonio: Fourteen tardies? We’re only into the fifteenth school day!”

“I’m not a morning person,” Antonio offered.

“Akashi, sleeping through Algebra again? I figured you’d be good at Math.”

“Not all Asians can be Math geniuses, you know,” Akashi responded, showing more than a hint of attitude.

“James, caught in the hall without a pass.”

“The teacher wasn’t around, and when you gotta go, you gotta--”

“Spare me the details. And Amy, what’s with parking in the teacher’s lot?”

“I was late, and a visitor had taken my spot.”

“Typical teens: all victims, none responsible. Anyway, Coach Helms will be in shortly.”

As the door closed behind her, Akashi mocked, “typical teens…all victims, none responsible. And since I’m Asian, of course I sit around studying Math for fun. I’m so tired of this prison of a school. And here I sit in house arrest with a couple of jocks and a cheerleader.”

“So you resent being labeled a stereotypical Asian Math whiz but have no problem labeling us as stereotypical preps and jocks?” shot back Antonio. Can you say “hypocrite?”

“We’re getting off to a bad start,” offered James. “If coach Helms walks in and finds us in a rumble, we’ll be stuck in ISS the rest of the year. Obviously, none of us want to crack a book until we have to. Let’s break through the stereotypes and get to know each other a bit. Surely we have something in common. Amy, you’re a cheerleader, right?”

“I hate cheerleading,” complained Amy. “It’s not me at all.”

“What do you mean?” asked Antonio. “You so look the part.”

“I’m a rebel living in a preppie world. You see, my brother started dressing goth in high school about the same time as he discovered drugs. My parents, fearing the same would happen to me if I got with the ‘wrong’ crowd, won’t let me near a Hot Topic or thrift store. I understand their concern, but I’m not about to do drugs. I see what they’ve done to my brother. But I’m not comfortable with jocks and preps.

My parents want the best for me. I don’t want to hurt them. But I’m counting the days till I go off to college, shed these Abercrombies and join a punk band. Alone in my bedroom with my bass, I can keep up with almost any song you give me.”

“Amazing. And you guys probably think I play Soccer,” teased Antonio. “It’s never interested me. I’m more into weightlifting and wilderness adventures, like rock climbing and caving.”

“If you’re into stereotypes, I do like basketball and fried chicken,” offered James. “But I don’t like watermelon, and I’m not on the school basketball team. I spend my after school hours making money. My parents always fight about money, so I plan to make a million by the time I’m 40 so that it won’t be an issue in my family.”

“Parents with money problems, now that’s something we’ve got in common,” replied Akashi. “My parents are so obsessed with ‘getting ahead’ that they work day and night and weekends. We live in a nice neighborhood and have great cars, but they can’t enjoy life. They have to work all the time to pay the bills. I’d much rather live in a one room apartment and have time to travel and hang out with my family. Amy, what about your parents?”

“They’d love to teach at the University and write on the side, but they can’t quit their corporate jobs. They need the money. They’ve never been savers. They max out their credit cards over Christmas, pay them off by the end of summer and start the cycle over again the next Christmas.

When my brother went into drug rehab and insurance wouldn’t pay, Mom and Dad had absolutely no savings to draw from. They took out a second loan on the house and are now in worse financial shape than ever. It’s depressing. They’re always tired and worried. I can’t see how they’ll ever dig themselves out of this hole. Antonio?”

“Mom works day and night to support the family. Dad’s a deadbeat. He’s always either looking for a job or complaining about the job he has. Money’s definitely a big issue at home. Mom and Dad argue all the time about it. It gets so bad that I fear Dad will eventually pack up and leave.”

(Enter Coach Helms.)

“Okay class. Sorry to be late. I recognize all of you from previous suspensions, so I’ll dispense with introductory matters. Please open your text books and get to work.”

“Coach Helms, we’ve got problems,” interjected Akashi.

“Hello! That’s why you’re in ISS, Right?” offered Coach Helms.

“Not those problems,” explained Akashi. “I’m talking about family problems. Our parents suck with their money.”

“Tell me about it,” said Coach Helms. “I wish I had some answers, but I overslept this morning because I work a night job to make ends meet. I can’t seem to make it on my teacher’s salary.”

“Is everyone in this town hopeless with their money?” asked Akashi. “If you don’t give us some answers, we’ll end up just like our parents – broke, tired and whining all the time. You’re supposed to be our teacher. Give us some direction here.”

Coach Helms thought for a moment, tapping his pencil nervously on the desk. Without looking up, he said, “What about Mrs. Kramer?”

“Old widow Kramer, the Social Studies teacher?” asked James. “I had her for a class. She dresses worse than my grandma…and her car isn’t anything to brag about.”

“She may not look the part,” said Coach Helms, “but my banker says she’s the best money manager he knows. She’s got all kinds of investments going. Besides Social Studies and Business, she also teaches Money Management.”

“Come to think of it,” continued James, “I remember her being hyped about her world travels. I wondered how she paid for it on a teacher’s salary. Maybe she got a big life insurance claim when her husband died. But she can be a little scary…and those riddles….”

“Her personality…,” continued Coach Helms. “She’s definitely a work of art. More Picasso than Norman Rockwell. Been around students so long that I think she’s more comfortable with teens than adults. Hardly ever see her in the teacher’s lounge. Speaks your language.

She eats second lunch. How about this? I’ll let you eat second lunch. Try to connect with her. Until then, get out those notebooks. I want to see some progress.”


1. What are your friends and relatives doing right with their finances that you’d like to emulate?

2. What are your friends and relatives doing wrong with their finances that you’d like to avoid?

3. What would you like to learn most about making and managing your money?

4. For more free discussions and activities for each chapter, visit

Old Widow Kramer

Fast Forward to Reunion

“So we met her for lunch, and she told us her story,” Amy continued. “Tell him about it, Mrs. Kramer.”

“At thirty years of age, my husband died of cancer, leaving me, not with a fat life insurance pay out, but with over $20,000 in credit card debt and funeral expenses. The monthly payments on those debts were killing me. Every time the phone rang, I knew a debt collector would be on the other end, hounding and threatening me.

So I sold my house and moved into a condo to pay down my debts and reduce my expenses (and avoid mowing that blasted yard). Then, I took a weekend job. The extra job also helped keep my mind off of my grief. I worked like a dog to dig my way out of debt and get those accursed creditors off my back. In a little over four years, I paid those debts in full, on a day I refer to as ‘one of the best days of my life.’ I felt soooo free!

From that experience, I got a bad taste in my mouth about debt. I avoided it like the plague. I vowed to never again make credit card payments unless it was absolutely necessary.

I still owed about $15,000 on the condo, so I kept my weekend job, putting all my extra money into paying it down. I was amazed at how quickly I paid it off. I was totally debt free! Nobody could take my home from me. It was mine.

With very few expenses, I quit my weekend job and divided the money I used to make in payments into investments, travel and giving to worthy causes. So far, I’ve saved up about $500,000 toward an early retirement.”

“From $20,000 in debt to $500,000 in savings!” reiterated Amy. “That was quite an impressive story – actually, a bit unbelievable at the time.”

Amy continued. “From that short lunch, we knew that there was a lot more wisdom where that came from. And it was more than book wisdom. It came from her experience. She had beaten the system that was killing our parents. If we could learn her lessons at age 18, she could save us tons of headaches along the way.”

“More than that,” added James, “I decided that she just might hold the key to my dream of making a million dollars by my fortieth birthday and taking early retirement.”

“My needs were more emotional,” admitted Akashi. “My older siblings were academic overachievers. My parents drilled into me that ‘A’s in school would set me up for an ‘A’ career and an ‘A’ life. But somehow I’d botch up every class with ‘C’s and ‘D’s, which I thought would guarantee me a ‘C-Minus’ life. I was a loser, and felt that everyone saw a huge ‘L’ tattooed on my forehead. I acted tough, but was scared stiff at the thought of meeting with Mrs. Kramer. Yet, I felt that she offered a glimmer of hope. I was desperate. What did I have to lose?”

“We asked her if she would meet us for breakfast once a week,” continued Amy, “to ask questions and learn more. She said that she’d love to, if we’d pay her $5.00 each per breakfast. She explained that it would be a good lesson for us to pay for wise counsel.

For the next year, we met with her every Saturday morning, here at Hash Brown’s. Sometimes, we’d discuss a book for a month of meetings. Other times, we’d just ask questions. We’ll just tell you about the meetings where she pulled out her notebook and covered new topics. Each week, she exposed us to stuff we’d never learned, either at school or at home. Those meetings changed our lives.”


Was it really possible for Mrs. Kramer to go from $20,000 in debt to $500,000 in savings in a span of about 30 years?

What keeps most people from making such a dramatic turnaround?

What could have kept Mrs. Kramer from getting into her predicament in the first place?

Part One

Investing Money

Breakfast #1

Discover the Basics

“I remember that first meeting well,” volunteered Antonio, wincing. “I’ll tell about the first two breakfasts.

So, I stroll in at 9:04 to find everyone there, waiting on me.”


Kramer: You’re four minutes late!

Antonio: I have a hard time getting places on time.

Kramer: When you’re late, you waste our time. Half of success, financial or otherwise, is showing up…on time. It’s so important that I’ll lay out some incentive. If you’re late next week, you pay for the entire breakfast by yourself.

Fast Forward to Reunion

“Everyone but me thought it a splendid idea, so my resistance was outvoted. I was more than a little ticked off, threatening that I just might not show up at all next week. Kramer nonchalantly replied that it was my choice. We learned quickly that if we wanted her advice, it would be on her terms, not ours. She ignored my pouty expression and continued.”


Kramer: So you want to learn how to handle your money. Well, if I talk the entire time, I don’t get to eat. So let’s do it this way. We order our food. While we wait for it to come, I tell a story or throw out five to ten minutes of advice while you think and jot down notes.

After the food comes, everyone throws in their thoughts. I want to know your experiences with the concept, good or bad. Take your best shots at my ideas. Too much education these days is merely transferring a set of notes from the teacher to the students, without it going through the minds of either.

I’m not easily offended. Tell me why it won’t work for you. Your objections and comments will help us distill each concept into something that will work for you. At the end of each session, tell us what you want to deal with the next week. That way, we stay practical. Sound good to you?

(Everyone agreed as the waiter arrived to take our orders.)

Kramer: First, I’ll pass out a sheet that should help you to lighten up on your parents. I know that you think they’re totally incompetent buffoons with finances. I want you to understand the bigger picture of our culture, a big part of the reason for their money issues. Your parents’ neighbors, friends and relatives probably handle their money the same way. They’re just doing what their culture has taught them. When everybody’s doing it, it’s hard to question your way of life.

James: You’re saying that if I were to live with my neighbors for awhile, I’d likely find the same financial problems that Mom and Dad have? I’ve assumed that their nice cars and smiling faces meant that they were better off than me.

Kramer: Wrong assumption. Here’s the way many of your friends and neighbors manage their money.

Personal Finances in America

According to surveys:

Ninety-seven percent of workers over 45 say they regret how they spent their money, in light of how much they could have saved.1

Almost one in four adults live paycheck to paycheck.2

Fifty-nine percent of Americans don’t save regularly.3

We’re getting worse and worse at saving.4

Twenty-five years ago, Americans saved over ten percent of their income.

Ten years ago, we saved 4.5 percent.

By 2005, for the first time since the Great Depression, we spent more than we earned.

Approximately 1,500,000 Americans declare personal bankruptcy each year.5

The average college student graduates with over $20,000 in debt.6

Most Americans haven’t even calculated how much money they need to retire.7

Personal debt is reaching record highs, and personal savings is reaching all time lows.8

James: That’s insane! I'd hoped that retirement would be the time for me to say goodbye to the eight to five grind and relax at a beach house. If I follow the crowd in finances, I’ll be worrying about money the rest of my life!

Akashi: One in four adults living paycheck to paycheck? Talk about risky living! And adults complain about teens’ risky behaviors! A short-term job loss or illness could put them in serious debt and make them lose their houses.

Amy: The scary side of it for me is that if we don’t do something different, we’ll all be over $20,000 in debt in about six years. Then we’ll go to work and live paycheck to paycheck, until we retire in a low rent district, watching Wheel of Fortune on one of our four antenna stations, constantly whining about how we regret the way we lived our lives and don’t have enough money to have any fun.

Akashi: Our kids will probably hate our visits, assuming we’re there to ask for another handout!

Kramer: Exactly! Somehow, you’ve got to break loose from a culture that’s gone crazy with its finances. Many dig themselves into a deeper hole every day, enjoying life less and less as they spend everything they’ve got to pay off past debts. In the land of the free, they’ve become financially enslaved.

(Kramer gets a wild look in her eyes, more animated with each sentence as she rises from her seat.)

You’re already different from the mainstream. That’s why I relate to you. I challenge you to extend your independent thinking and counterculture attitudes to your finances.

And to that end (she pulls back a glass ketchup bottle high overhead with both hands, waving it menacingly in the air), I christen this group (she brings the bottle back down with increasing speed, aimed directly at the table), THE COUNTERCULTURE CLUB!

(She pulls back the bottle at the last second, missing the table, but sending her students scattering all directions. Kramer erupts into laughter.)

Amy: You scared me to death! Did you really have to embarrass us in front of all these people to make that point?

Kramer: A little adrenaline is good to help cement points in your memory. You’ll never forget this moment. Plus, if you never get over the “Oh my gosh, what’s everybody gonna think?” thing, you’ll find yourself living everyone else's life, the life of your culture, rather than your own life. I like a little drama now and again to spice things up. Later today I’ll get a good laugh out of picturing your faces as you envisioned ketchup exploding all over the restaurant.

James: (Settling back into his chair.) A good laugh at our expense! Don’t be surprised if you find toilet paper in your yard from your favorite club to test your own embarrassment index. So where were we? Something about how our culture sucks at finances?

Kramer: From the stats on my handout, you know how NOT to handle your finances - the way most others handle their finances. You’ve seen it in your parents and now in the culture at large. Let’s transition to how we can do finances right. This being the first breakfast, let’s start with an overview - some basics of financial wisdom. In the coming weeks, we’ll devote entire breakfasts to each principle.

But instead of handing out the list, I want you to draw out the basics from a real person who went counterculture with her finances. From decades of teaching, I’ve found that students remember stories better than lists; plus, stories are more interesting. As I tell the story, jot down the principles that you think made the person successful.

Oseola Enjoys Life and Saves a Fortune

Some of us might fear that we'll never have enough money to make ends meet and enjoy life. What if your job doesn't pay well, and you can't seem to get ahead? I want to introduce you to Oseola, who has a lot to teach us. She didn't have the advantages of most of us, yet she enjoyed life and saved a ton.

Oseola grew up in a simple house with her grandmother, mother and an aunt. As an eight-year-old, she would wash clothes after school to help make ends meet. Her school education ended at age 12, when she dropped out to care for her sick aunt and work full time at washing.

So far, she's not on anyone’s “most likely to succeed” list.

Her work was hard, but she enjoyed it. She washed the old-fashioned way: building a fire under her wash pot, then soaking, washing and boiling a bundle of clothes. Rub. Wrench. Rub again. Rinse. Starch. Hang out to dry. She worked Monday through Saturday, for 75 years, until arthritis forced her into retirement at age 86. She never got to finish school, never had a car and owned few possessions. Her TV received only one station. But that didn't bother her because she never watched it very much anyway.

I can hear you thinking, ''Get a life, woman!'' But, you see, Oseola did have a life - a great life. She didn't desire travel or possessions. She loved her God, her family and her work. Singing and storytelling filled her days with joy and laughter.

She never bought on credit so that she would be financially free. And since she didn't need money for a lot of possessions or travel, she invested it, a little each month. By July 1995, a half year after her retirement, she had saved - get this - $280,000. That’s over a quarter of a million dollars! Then, she stunned the world by giving away over half of it, $150,000, to establish a college scholarship for needy students, offering others the education she never had.

Until recently, Oseola McCarty referred to herself as a ''poor little old colored woman who walked everywhere.'' No one paid her much attention when she was out. But when the word leaked out about her donation, the world took notice.

She has since received numerous awards, been interviewed on ABC, CNN, NBC, BET and MTV. She's been featured in Newsweek, The New York Times, People, Life, Ebony, Essence and Jet. But all that recognition never changed her simple life. You see, she didn't need all the recognition. In her own words, ''I think my secret was contentment. I was happy with what I had.''9

Now, compare her to most Americans. Many with huge salaries haven't managed to save a cent. Many are worth less than nothing, worrying constantly about their debts. But Oseola shows me that if she can save over a quarter of a million dollars by washing people's clothes in boiling water over a fire, I can save money as a schoolteacher.

So, what do you think?

Reflections on Oseola

Akashi: I’ll start. I think her life sucked. She spent her entire life in a hovel working the same crappy job day in and day out, with only one TV channel for entertainment. She didn’t even own a car. What kind of life is that?

Antonio: Akashi! Mrs. Kramer is trying to help us out here. Don’t be so hard on her!

Kramer: I’m the one who sets the ground rules, and I challenge you to be just as outspoken as Akashi. If you other three sit there smiling at each other and sipping your juice while disagreeing in your gut, we’re getting nowhere. Say what you think. Be ruthless.

Jack Welch, one of the greatest business leaders of our time, devoted an entire chapter of his book Winning to push for candor.10 He observes that we usually don’t tell it like it is, fearing we’ll hurt people’s feelings. He thinks lack of candor is deadly to business.

Lack of candor may be easier in the short-run, but it hurts us in the long-run. Without candor, we don’t face reality. Be honest, guys! Do you agree with Akashi?

Antonio: I’ll be candid with you, Akashi. In ISS you complained about your parents being so wrapped up in their work and living in a ritzy neighborhood that they didn’t have time for the important stuff, like family.

Oseola chose relationships over things. She enjoyed working at home, spending time with her relatives and helping others. She didn’t secretly desire to get the latest version of Halo or go to Disneyland. She lived life the way she wanted to, had lots of fun and can look back with the satisfaction of knowing she helped others along the way.

Think of Einstein. He never drove a car. He enjoyed thinking more than mansions and hot cars.

Akashi: You nailed me. As much as I complain about my parents’ obsession with things and money, I’m pretty hooked on some of my things, like always upgrading to the latest cell phone, playing online games till late at night and the freedom that my car gives me.

But fun is different for everyone. I do admire Oseola for bucking the crowd, choosing her own path, finding financial freedom and putting people first.

Kramer: We don’t have to adopt everything about her life. But what can we learn from her financial success?

James: I’m astounded that she could accumulate such wealth from what must have been a pitiful salary.

Amy: I think it’s actually pretty simple. She spent less than she made. With no car, low-cost housing and no frivolous spending, she could save more than a lawyer who has a great salary but spends it all on his ritzy house and payments on his Porsche. The first thing I learned from Oseola is: Live beneath your means. All of our parents make tons more than Oseola, but I’ll bet you that everything they get on Friday is spent by the next Thursday. You can’t save if you spend all that you make.

Akashi: Look not only at what she did, but what she didn’t do. She didn’t own even one credit card. Whereas most of us spend outrageous money in interest, she waited till she could pay cash. I’ll bet that one habit saved her thousands and thousands of dollars.

Kramer: You bet right, Akashi. In Oseola’s own words,

''I save my money till I can buy something outright.''11

Akashi: So, principle number two is: Avoid paying interest.

Antonio: Principle number three: Save for the future. If she had a medical emergency, she wouldn’t have to sell her house to pay for it.

James: She took the money that she would have been paying the credit card companies and invested it, so that she was receiving interest rather than giving it away. Over time, it all added up. Principle number four: Invest over time.

Antonio: She worked hard at something she enjoyed. Even a small salary adds up when you put in the hours.

Kramer: I think you’ve summed up the basics of financial wisdom. Think about those principles this week, and see how they apply to your personal finances. In future weeks, we’ll talk in much more depth about each principle. What do you want to cover next week?

James: I’m fascinated with how Oseola multiplied her money. I want to be financially independent as quickly as possible. How can investments multiply my money so that I can retire in my 40’s?

Kramer: Is that okay with everyone else?

(Nods all around.)


What facts from the “Personal Finances in America” sheet bother you the most? Why?
Why do you think Americans struggle with their finances?
How would your personal finances be different if you handled them more like Oseola?
Are you living above or below your means? How could you begin living below your means and saving some money each week?
What can you do this week to start handling your money better?

This week, ask your parents to tell you what they know about investments. Go on the Internet and read some basic articles on stocks and mutual funds. You’ll need to bring your calculators. What I’ll tell you is so extraordinary that you won’t believe it unless you see the numbers yourselves.

One more thing! I have a riddle for you to solve:

To some I’m their greatest nightmare
To others their greatest friend.
Neither spirit nor flesh
I’m not hard to comprehend.

I increase the wealth
Of both paupers and kings,
Rewarding the wise,
Robbing fools of their dreams.

I work when you work
Just as hard when you sleep.
With me Buffett made billions
If you sow, you can also reap.

I’m slow at the beginning
‘Till my power is unfurled.
It’s why bankers and investors say,
“You’re the eighth wonder of the world.”

Resource to Take You Deeper

Read Oseola McCarty, Simple Wisdom for Rich Living, (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1996).

Please do not construe this book as the author’s or publisher’s prescription for your personal finances. Only a qualified financial counselor who knows your specific life circumstances, your personality, your goals and your objectives might be qualified to advise you in these matters.

Enjoy Your Money! Copyright © 2008 by Wisdom Creek Press, LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher, except for brief reviews. For information contact Wisdom Creek Press, LLC, 5814 Sailboat Pointe, Acworth, Georgia, 30101,

Cover design by Carole Maugé-Lewis
Front Cover Photography by Rasmus Rasussen

Author Photo by Christina Cosenza

Typesetting by Callisa Ink & Co and Carole Maugé-Lewis

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Miller, J. Steve, 1957-

Enjoy Your Money! : how to make it, save it, invest it and give it : the adventures of the Counterculture Club/ by J. Steve Miller.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

LCCN: 2008941060

ISBN-13: 978-0-9818756-7-5

ISBN-10: 0-9818756-7-X

1. Finance, Personal. I. Title.

HG179.M4919 2009 332.024


My Review:Being Married to a banker means money is a hot topic in our home. I knew that when I had an opportunity to read Enjoy Your Money, it would be a great one. I am in the process of getting through this book. It is a tool that can be used with your older kids to teach them about money. I can't wait to get through all of it to see what I will learn.