Monday, November 29, 2010

Cyber Monday Giveaway

Girls, it's cyber Monday - the best day of the year to find fabulous deals online.  And I've got one to share.

Two summers ago I met Hillary at P31's She Speaks conference and instantly liked her. She makes me laugh, plus her kids are so cute I could smooch their cheeks for hours - but she might feel the need to call the cops if I did that.  I missed seeing her at She Speaks this year because she was busy birthing a beautiful baby girl and launching a new business.

She has combined her love of cute gifts and personalized items to create Mint Julep Monograms -- an online monogrammed boutique. She offers original gift ideas for babies, teachers, girlfriends, bosses or family members.  What could be better than giving a custom, personalized gift this Christmas? 

How about giving it at little or no cost to you?


Mint Julep Monograms is offering 15% off your entire purchase, plus free shipping today.  Just use the code CYBER15. But wait, there's more ... Hillary agreed to give away a $30 shopping credit to one of my readers this week! So let me tell you how to enter, and gain multiple chances to win!

For your first entry, follow this link to visit Mint Julep Monograms and comment here telling me which item is your favorite. For additional entries, do one or more of these and leave another comment for each:

• Tweet, blog and/or Facebook about this giveaway

• Follow me on twitter (@ RachelOlsen)

• Follow Hillary on twitter (@theothermama)

• Follow my blog - you can use the button in my sidebar

• Follow Hillary's blog where she sometimes talks shop, sometimes post pics of her adorable kids, and sometimes writes funny posts.

• Purchase a copy of my book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know for your sister, teacher, co-worker, women's ministry director, or friend. (You could tuck it in a personalized tote from Mint Julep's for a sure-to-be appreciated gift!) Or just buy a copy for yourself - I'll be blogging on it in the new year.

If you're not from the southern half of the United States, you might not understand the deep-seated desire many southern gals possess to monogram everything from tote bags and towels, to aprons and charm bracelets. I can't explain it; I can only confirm it's true.
And I'm so glad Hillary stands ready to help us gals out with cute stuff.

Whether or not you're from the South, I think every woman would enjoy giving or receiving a swanky, colorful, personalized gift. So enter to win - I'll draw and post the winner on Wednesday.

Thankful for the kindness of friends like Hillary.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Giveaway

UPDATE: Here are your random numbers: 63 Timestamp: 2010-11-28 01:00:34 UTC
That makes commenter #63, Misty P, the winner.  Please email me your address, Misty.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Leave a comment below sharing something you are thankful for today and you'll be entered to win a drawing on Saturday for a copy of my book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know. If you've already read it, this copy would make a terrific gift for a girlfriend.

I ate a full Thanksgiving meal last night (see last post if you're wondering why a day early) and have I got a new recipe for you! It's so good - seriously good  It sounds like it wouldn't be but it is, and it tastes like dessert! It's a butternut squash casserole - stay with me, I promise it's sweet and delish.

It would be great with a Christmas meal, or with roasted chicken any time of the year.

It starts with a jar of organic butternut squash puree from Williams-Sonoma.  And right now, you can get a $12 jar of this for just $5.99.  Check your local store or follow that link and buy online.  Here's the recipe:


1 jar Williams-Sonoma organic butternut squash puree
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs. all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract


1 cup crushed vanilla wafers
1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425 F. In large bowl, combine the jar of puree, sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, orange extract, salt, flour and melted butter. Pour into a small 4-6 cup casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until set.

In medium bowl combine crushed wafers, melted butter and brown sugar. Sprinkle over top of cooked casserole and return to oven to brown about 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

To wrap up, let me restate one of the power verses from today's devotion. Psalm 107:1: "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." I found a touching poem that does that - could be read aloud as a Thanksgiving prayer. Try each reading a stanza around the table.

I Thank Thee

O Thou whose bounty fills my cup,
With every blessing meet!
I give Thee thanks for every drop—
The bitter and the sweet.

I praise Thee for the desert road,
And for the riverside;
For all Thy goodness hath bestowed,
And all Thy grace denied.

I thank Thee for both smile and frown,
And for the gain and loss;
I praise Thee for the future crown
And for the present cross.

I thank Thee for both wings of love
Which stirred my worldly nest;
And for the stormy clouds which drove
Me, trembling, to Thy breast.

I bless Thee for the glad increase,
And for the waning joy;
And for this strange, this settled peace
Which nothing can destroy.

 ~ Jane Crewdson (1860)

Thankful for my blessings both bitter and sweet.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I need your help

Yesterday afternoon, shortly before heading into the university to teach for 3 hours, I found out we'd be eating spaghetti on Thanksgiving. Not turkey and stuffing, but noodles and sauce. I know. But my very pregnant sister-in-law is cringing at the thought of turkey, and craving marinara.

I can roll with this change in plans, I thought.  I'll just make a Thanksgiving dinner at my house on Wednesday, and then we'll all eat Italian there on Thursday.  Problem solved.

By the time I was done with class and dinner last night, the thought of producing a whole Thanksgiving less than 24 hours later -- I need to go grocery shopping, do some cleaning, cook all the food, and the kids will be home by noon -- overwhelmed me. Plus I have half a day's work to do for Proverbs 31.

When I'm overwhelmed, I sleep.  I went to bed last night at 7:50 PM.

It's now 4:00 AM and I'm up, ready to produce Thanksgiving. Here's the menu:

Turkey - I will do a fresh breast in a crockpot
Cranberry sauce - I like it with whole berries
Butternut squash casserole (got recipe from Williams & Sonoma)
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Sweet Potato casserole
Deviled eggs (as appetizer)
Pumpkin pie
Sparkling cider

You see what's missing from this starch and carbfest?  Yes, a green veggie. Can you help a girl out and offer me a good veggie recipe in the comments below? Maybe something with broccoli or green beans??

And, I want to be polite and recipe-reciprocal, so you can pop over to LeAnn Rice's She Cooks site today and get one of my family's favorite recipes: Glazed Chocolate Chip Sweet Potato BreadMmmmm.

Thanks, girlfriend!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Devotional Carnival - Gratitude

Last week I heard a woman say Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday.  Thanksgiving, really? How could Thanksgiving possibly out-trump Christmas? I wondered.  She explained, "I like to cook and to gather the people I love around my table. The house smells good.  Everyone is relaxed and happy.  And I know that everything will fit, nothing will have to be wrapped, taken back, or exchanged for another size."

I was glad she said that - hearing her talk increased my own appreciation for Thanksgiving.  Lessening my tendency to make it a pit-stop on the way to December 25th.  But I noticed she said nothing about the joy that comes when you take time to count your blessings, realize where you've been fortunate this year, and thank God for it all. That's what makes this carb-loading holiday so sweet to me.

It awakens me to God's grace.  His goodness.  His gifts.

Oftentimes, hearing other people talk about what they are grateful for helps me to see my blessings and find my gratitude. So I've been looking forward to this month's devotional carnival all month. The topic is, you guessed it, GRATITUDE.  I even pushed the carnival back a week so we could run it right up to Thanksgiving Day.

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.
 ~ Psalm 105:1

And that's precisely what I invite you to do. Write a post sharing your thankful thoughts, your gifted tidbits, your cornucopia of blessings, or your feelings about God and His greatness. And post your link here. Share with us in this season of gratitude what you are experiencing of God's loving-kindness, and in the process, we'll lift each other's spirits along with the name of God.

And let me just say, for the record, I am thankful for you.  For every one of you who take the time to stop by here.  To read. To ponder. To comment. To encourage. To participate. Or just to silently "amen" something said. You enrich my world.  Blessings to you!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Opportunities to Bless

For all you who decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International this week after Monday's devotion - I'm rejoicing with you, that child, the child's family, and Jesus!

For each of you that prayed for a child in need this week - I add my prayers to yours and thank you!

For those who wanted to sponsor but can't swing it financially at this time, I have a solution.  Two actually.  The first is, you can make a one-time donation to Compassion International in any amount. Don't let Satan tell you it has to be a big amount before you give!  These one-time gifts help. And when you follow the link to the site, you'll see you can even choose what your donation will do.

Me with a young boy in Quito, Ecuador
The second idea is to partner with my friends over at Dayspring and for just $2 or $3 dollars create a Christmas card to be given to an Ecuadorian child.  When you follow that link, you'll see what to do but basically this is what will happen: "You design the card, Compassion will translate it, DaySpring will print it, and a team from both organizations will travel to Ecuador to deliver all the cards in person to unsponsored children of Compassion International just in time for Christmas!"  How great is that?!

Create your card by Nov. 29th to participate in this.

I've been to several Compassion projects in Ecuador and I have seen first-hand how much these kids cherish cards and letters. It's so rare for them to receive one.  Think how excited you feel when a hand-addressed small envelope arrives in your mailbox and you know it's a personal correspondence and not a bill or junk mail.  Multiply that excitement times 3,000 and that's how these kids feel about getting personal notes that speak hope and love to them!

It makes them realize they are not forgotten people.
Not forgotten in your sight, and not forgotten in God's sight.

And now to announce the book winner ... but before I do, let me just give you a heads up that a devotional carnival on the topic on gratitude will begin here on Friday and run through Wednesday of next week so I hope you'll join in.
The winner of a copy of It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know is commenter #8 as chosen by a random drawing.  That's KYM - congrats Kym.  Email me your address.

 Here are your random numbers:  8 
Timestamp: 2010-11-18 03:00:16 UTC

May God continue to move in our hearts concerning the poor. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lending to God

Welcome if you are finding this post from this devotion on lending to God.

To enter to win a copy of my new book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know, simply follow this link to Compassion International, and choose a child there to pray for today.

me & a sweet Ecuadorian girl
Leave the child's name and county in a comment below and you'll be entered for the book, as promised in my devotion at P31 today. I trust you'll both be blessed as you pray today.

What are others saying about the book? One my favorite reviews simply says, "I totally loved, loved, loved this book!! Once I opened it, I couldn't put it down! Rachel is so down to earth and REAL about her struggles and failures, that it felt like she was writing my story."

I hope you win!

Thankful for a God that is known as The Father of Compassion.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chewing on Thankfulness

I'm feeling ready for Thanksgiving.  Which is good because it's only about two weeks away. 

(Anyone besides me feel like time is speeding up?)

In truth, this whole year has been a Thanksgiving of sorts for me. Not that I've eaten roast turkey and stuffing with any regularity - although I have fallen asleep in the recliner watching football a couple times -  but that I've tried to continually notice and give thanks for the good things in life. In life in general and in my life, both big and small.  Perhaps you noticed I've ended many of my blog posts this year with a line of thankfulness. I'm finding gratitude a powerful thing.

So here's a quote I've been chewing on of late - one that you might want to chew on as you celebrate Thanksgiving at your table.  It's by Francis Frangipane:
"When God give us less than we desire, it is not because He is teaching us poverty but He is teaching us thankfulness.  You see life, real life, is not based on what we amass but on what we enjoy. 
At the core of our lives God seeks gratitude."

I highly recommend adding that thought to your mulling spices this month. Read Luke 12:15 as you do. 

Thankful that when my thoughts grow confused, or my priorities become skewed, 
God's Word always points me to what is real.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writers, "Haters" and Hope

Earlier this week I posted about the NaNoWriMo project happening this month.I signed up and began posting my word count totals for the (non-fiction) book I am working on. 

I also started  following the #nanowrimo hashtag on Twitter.  So every couple of minutes - night and day - someone tweets about their current word count, or their current plot twist, or their current procrastination technique .... it's interesting, fun and motivating to see all these other people attempting what you're attempting at the same time.

A few days back I noticed a change in the #nanowrimo tweets. They started talking about the "haters" in the media who said this project was a waste of time.  I ignored it awhile - if I followed every tweeted link with this hashtag I'd never get one word of my own written! When the discussion persisted, I tracked down its origins.  It was this article by Salon's Laura Miller - pop over and read it.

When I read the article I had mixed feelings. One one hand, I agreed with some of the points this sharp if a bit snarky woman made. As a writer, as a reader, as an editor - even as a woman somewhat riding the edge of this year's nanowrimo bandwagon.  I'm sure many of these quickly written novels will have plot holes and poorly developed characters - but that's what the rewriting process is for. EVERY writer must revise their first draft.

Besides, a flawless novel in 30 days isn't the goal or the point. The point is in attempting it.  In the discipline of making yourself stay with something difficult for 30 days.  In the process of the journey. And in the pleasure of trying to scale this mountain "together."

Mostly, I was saddened that she'd just kicked in the teeth a community project aimed at helping people try something new, nurture their creativity, or fulfill a goal they've long held. What's the matter with her? I wondered. She's a writer herself.  Exactly when did cynicism become the calling card of today - making snarky tear downs applauded?  When did it become a crime to try your hand at something, to be a beginner, an amateur.  To find out what you're good at and what you enjoy through trial and error?

I also came across Seth Godin's assessment of laziness this week and couldn't help wonder if the type of attitude displayed in the Salon article drives our fear-based laziness. Seth wrote:

"I think laziness has changed. It used to be about avoiding physical labor. The lazy person could nap or have a cup of tea while others got hot and sweaty and exhausted. Part of the reason society frowns on the lazy is that this behavior means more work for the rest of us.

When it came time to carry the canoe over the portage, I was always hard to find. The effort and the pain gave me two good reasons to be lazy. But the new laziness has nothing to do with physical labor and everything to do with fear. If you're not going to make those sales calls or invent that innovation or push that insight, you're not avoiding it because you need physical rest. You're hiding out because you're afraid of expending emotional labor."

Then I came across this rebuttal article to Salon's and I wanted to stand up from my office chair and clap. I wanted to thank Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times for being both a clear, critical thinker and an affirmer of courage and hope.

Hope is a precious commodity. And I for one want to be sower of it. Call me a freckle-faced Annie, but I'd prefer to believe the sun will come out tomorrow.  I'd prefer to keeping writing this manuscript I'm working on with the belief that - no matter the outcome - it will be worth the ride. And I prefer to dream that perhaps the next NY Times best-selling novel will be written by someone whose Tweets I read this week.

Thankful that with God, hope is always available.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Mountain Between Us

If you read my devotion, you might assume that any review I write of a Charles Martin book is going to be glowing. That I’m not capable of giving you an unbiased review because I know the author personally. And think he’s pretty great. You may be right; maybe my review should be taken with a half shaker of salt. But read on and decide for yourself - I think I’m pretty fair with this one.

First thing I have to say is: Read this novel TO THE END. Seriously, you have to finish this one or you will have missed the whole thing. Just trust me on this and finish it. All the way. Don’t judge it until you’ve read to the last page.

Second, DRESS WARM when you read it. Here is where I’m totally honest about my good friend’s new novel. I didn’t want to read it until the end. Several times I wanted to put it down, take a hot shower, and never pick it up again.

You see, Charles’ previous novels were set in the south. In fact, he’s known as a talented southern fiction writer, which he is. Charles can paint a southern setting like Renoir paints a dancer. I’ve always felt that the locations in Charles’ novels function like an additional character. You feel them, and they come to life. You get to know their intricacies. Because you’ve read it, you’ve been there.

This novel is no different in that sense. Only Charles set the majority of this story in Utah. Snow-capped Utah. Here’s what he said was the impetus for that, and the plot of  The Mountain.

       Survival Stories from Author Charles Martin on Vimeo.
(BTW, Rick was not the guy with Charles on that NC mountain)

I’m a southern girl, and a cold weather wimp. I do not like feeling cold, and I get cold easy. Rick says in the winter I regularly take his breath away in bed – with my icy feet. Several of my girlfriends also reported this novel making them feel chilly. So climb in a Snuggie, settle in by the fire, and sip a cup of hot cocoa when you read The Mountain Between Us.

Another thing you should know is I’m also a medical wimp. I spent one day after graduation as a dentist’s assistant. One day, y’all.  By the 6th tooth extraction I was on the floor with my head between my knees. I cannot handle needles, broken bones, cuts that need stitching, or even cuts that don’t. I would rather clean every toilet in every bathroom in my neighborhood for a month than watch or hear about medical stuff like that. And one of Charles’ characters gets badly injured - twice. In the snow-capped Utah mountains. (Speaking of bathrooms, they don’t have those in these mountains – can you imagine?!)  Now you understand why I wanted to stop reading.

But I’m so glad I didn’t. Because the ending is touching and unexpected. And worth the forty cups of cocoa I drank.

Rick read the novel in the week he was serving as summer camp counselor to a group of six year-old boys in a cabin with no air-conditioning. In the sweltering North Carolina sun. So he loved the snow-capped mountains. Rick said he also enjoyed reading the main character’s systematic approach to dealing with the crash, the cold and the wounds. Well, he would.

And that’s why I think this novel is perfect for you and your husband both to read. Even if he is a non-believer. Even if he doesn’t tend to read novels. When was the last time you two read the same book and could talk about it over breakfast, or on a date night? I’m betting he will love the adventure/survival story, and you will love the love story. This novel has both running through out.

And I can guarantee you that every married woman on the planet in her right mind would wish for her husband to read pages 231-232. In fact, I think every mother would want her young adult son to read it too. That part will preach, as we say here in the south. Powerful truth there about purity, integrity and faithfulness. This story, as all of Charles’ tend to, subconsciously teaches our hearts about love.

                Themes from Author Charles Martin on Vimeo.

Charles is known for love stories. And female book clubs everywhere adore him! This novel, however, I felt was more of a man’s novel than a woman’s novel if there is such a thing. But that is precisely its strength in my eyes. If Rick hadn’t already read it, I’d be buying him a copy for Christmas and wrapping it up along with a voice recorder gadget.  I’ve already passed my extra copy on to my brother-in-law.

Don’t be thinking you won’t enjoy this novel too because I said your man probably will. Spend some evenings or a weekend finishing this book and I’m willing to bet you won’t soon forget The Mountain Between Us – its setting, its characters or its love story. And that’s my honest review. You can check out 54 other reviews of The Mountain on – from men & women, from believers and some who may not be - they’re all pretty much glowing.

Now pop over to She Reads for more info plus chances to win two copies – and a cashmere scarf to keep you warm while reading, plus several copies of Charles Martin’s other novels!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What will you write this month?

Anyone out there participating in NaNoWriMo?

Not heard of National Novel Writing Month? It's a program that encourages you to complete a novel by November 30th - along with lots of other would-be novelists.

During the month of November, thousands of writers will work toward the goal of completing a 50,000-word novel. The ideal participant has been described by NaNoWriMo organizers as anyone "who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved."

The idea is that the short deadline actually makes the task more manageable. The "kamikaze approach" is supposed to force participants to "lower ... expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

NaNoWriMo was launched in 1999 by founder Chris Baty and his friends. That year 21 people gave it a try and six completed novel-length manuscripts. Last year, 167,150 writers participated worldwide, with 32,178 achieving their goal. Sound insane to you? Or like a dream come true?

Well here are Five Reasons Why You Should Consider Participating according to book editor Marjorie Kehe of the Christian Science Monitor.

1. If you think about the goal as 1,667 words a day, it doesn't seem quite as daunting. And 50,000 words is more or less a perfect length for a short novel: longer than a novella (defined as 40,000 words or under) but long enough to more or less measure up to "The Great Gatsby" (about 197 pages).

2. Officially participating in NaNoWriMo means that you will be working as part of a global community. More than 175,000 writers across the planet are expected to participate this year, all linked together by the NaNoWriMo website. In some cities, NaNoWriMo participants will even meet up in groups.

3. There is a huge celebration planned at the end.

4. It must be fun or people wouldn't keep doing this. Last year NaNoWriMo organizers estimated that more than 60 percent of the writers registered were repeat participants. "Making big, messy art is a fun, reviving experience, and once you've done it once, you tend to want to do it every year," Baty told Writer's Digest.

5. We all have a novel hiding in us somewhere. Will there ever be a better time to set yours free?

So go ahead and give it a try. If you’ve always wanted to write a novel, what are you waiting for?  Be an artist this month! Enjoy the messy, creative process. Then, after the holidays, you can go back to prune or polish what you wrote. Or maybe you can have your book bound by Kinko’s and give it to friends and family for Christmas (along with a nice gift card perhaps).

To officially participate, you'll need to register with NaNoWriMo. Their free software will track your progress. I’m thinking of hopping aboard with my non-fiction book.  Not quite the same, but I may join in anyway.  This is geared for mid-length novel writers but you could join in writing anything – a young adult novella, a children’s book …

So what will you write about this month?