“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

A Wepeat for "W"

This post is part of Patty Wysong's 
 A to Z meme. This week's letter is "V."
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

One of the very best days of my life was my WEDDING. Not only did I become the WIFE of a WONDERFUL, fun, giving, and special man, but I got a new name.

That name? SHER. In case you're curious, it's pronounced like "sure" - as in "Sure, WHY not?" Some people think it's funny for just that reason. I suppose it WOULDN'T be too hard for folks to find a WAY to make fun of it.

WHEN I'm asked to spell my last name, nine times out of ten, I get to the end and folks are WAITING for "the rest" of it. You know: Sherman? Sherwood?

But, do you know WHAT? I WON'T ever complain about it. WHY? Because the last name I traded in on May 29, 1994 was, in a word, WORSE. Much WORSE.

Wiener Dog Hot Dog Pictures, Images and PhotosYou think "Raise Your Hand if You're Sure" is embarrassing? Try having kids sing a certain commercial jingle to you as you WALK by. Try having your surname be an..um..unmentionable part of the male anatomy.

Try teaching - middle schoolers  - WITH this WINNER of a last name. (Yeah, I feel sorry for my brother, his wife, AND his precious children. But they're more self-confident than I am anyway.)

Of course, I could always have folks pronounce it another WAY. It DOES allow for another "sounding out." But even that implies I'm an annoying complainer.

WienerMobile Pictures, Images and PhotosThankfully, it's no longer an issue WITH me. It's in my history. I WON'T be using my maiden name unless I need to (it WILL certainly NOT be my pennname). Sher sure is fine with me.

WELL - are you WISE enough to figure out WHAT my last name WAS? If not, keep WONDERING: and check out my graphic "hints." And if you don't care? WHATEVA!

I wrote this post for a previous round of A to Z a bit more than two years ago. Since it's a holiday week, I thought I'd redo it - for those who have never read it (cuz it's a favorite post of mine) and to lighten my own load.


My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1
Read more W posts below, or add your own!


Are You Pondering Enough This Season?

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 

Tis the season to be busy. With Christmas preparations, kids home from school, plus life's regular stuff has many of us moving at the speed of light (or at least wishing we could!).

A to-do list as long as your arm is not conducive to relaxation, is it?

But in the midst of your busyness, be sure to take the time to reflect - to ponder - all that is going on. Mary did - and she'd just given birth in a stable, in a too-crowded town.

Stop by Jewels of Encouragement today, and read my devotional about the need to ponder - especially at this time of year. And also join us for a discussion at the Facebook group Living by Grace. And have a wonderful, ponderous Christmas!

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1


This post is part of Patty Wysong's 
 A to Z meme. This week's letter is "V."
 A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
My kids (my daughter especially) have been looking forward to today (actually, this afternoon to be more specific) for quite a while. You see, once school gets out for the day this afternoon, school is out for winter break: or, as I remember from my childhood, Christmas Vacation.

Time to sleep in. To have big breakfasts with plenty of time to eat them. To, if you choose, do nothing at all. And sometimes to pack up the car and have a vacation.

We have no plans to take a "real vacation" over the two weeks of Christmas break - though Christmas eve will be spent at my husband's brother and their family's an hour and a half drive away. But just because we aren't taking a trip over the next couple weeks doesn't mean we haven't in the past.

So, for "V," I thought I'd share a few pictures from previous vacations, with a brief bit of info about each trip. Hope you enjoy it!

We went to Sleeping Bear Dunes this past summer. This is is my hubby and kids, digging in the dunes. Was lots of fun!
We visited Oregon to spend time with my side of the family this summer as well. Here are my kids with their cousin at Crater Lake. Beautiful!

During the summer of 2012, we took a very fun trip to Cincinatti. We went to King's Island, the Underground Railroad Museum, and the Creaation Mueum. This is an exhibit at the latter. Great stuff!
And now a travel back in time - a few years before, with a trip to Muskegon. They had tons of fun on the beach!
And even FARTHER back - a trip (we think!) to a little place called Deer Park not terribly far from Flint. Annika is approaching two in this pic, and Andrew's about 4 1/2.

Yes, it appears we take most of our vacations in the summer. But that's okay :)

Are You Vacationing Over Christmas Break?

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1
Read more V posts below, or add one of your own! 


With You All The Way

We've all had folks who promised to stand by us through thick and thin, through good and bad - and then left. Whether it was intentional or not, it happened. But there is One who will never leave.
I'm over at the Internet Cafe talking about just that today. Hope you'll stop by and learn about the one who will truly be With You All The Way.
My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1

Advent Season Gems

 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV

Christmas is nine days away.  And, at this very moment (could change in five LOL), I am not feeling rushed. I am enjoying the season, and the anticipation of celebrating the birth of my - our - Savior.

Graphic source
Since the first of December, I have been working through an advent study from SheReadsTruth called Emmanuel. And my pastor has been preaching some wonderful, thought-provoking messges on Christ's coming. And I've really been relating to Mary - cuz I've been pondering many of these truths, and treasuring them. They're like precious gems to me.

And though it's likely I will have more of these before the Advent season is over, I thought I'd share some of these jewels with you today.
  • Nothing we can do - no matter our scope or motive, is good enough to atone for our sin. But that's okay. Jesus did it for us.
  • Jesus always was. He is eternal. He created His own mother. Have you ever thought about that? Does it blow your mind as much as it does mine? 
  • Our darkness may be thick, but it is ever transformed by the light that is Jesus Christ! 
  • God became poor so we could be rich. We are imperfect vessels, ready to be filled with the perfect God. 
  • The manger and the cross: Both are needed - and both are EMPTY.
  • Our joy is only as satisfying as our repentance is deep.
  • Every time I hear God's message, I have a responsibility to hear it and act upon it. EVERY time. We are required to respond.
  • Baby Jesus was placed in a feeding trough. In Bethlehem (which means "house of bread"). And He IS our spiritual food.
  • The Old Testament folks waited even longer for His first coming than we have thusfar for His second. Just because He isn't here yet doesn't mean He isn't coming at all. He is God with us now, and He WILL come again - in triumph. We can count on it. 
  • God willingly marred His perfect Son, so we imperfect men and women could be perfect in His sight. 
So much to learn - and ponder!

We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Which of these gems do you most treasure? Have one of your own to share? 
My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1

An Upside-Down Christmas

This post is part of Patty Wysong's 
 A to Z meme. This week's letter is "U."
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.For this week, I'm combining my a to z post with a contest I've decided to enter. And it even fits! :)

The PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) community has introduced me to lots and LOTS of children's book sites, authors, blogs, and other stuff. One of them is Susanna Hill's Third Annual Holiday Writing Contest. We are challenged to write a children's story about a holiday mishap, mix-up, miscommunication, mistake, or potential disaster. The story must be 350 words or less (not including the title), and must be posted and linked to her blog post by 11:59pm ET on Friday (yeah - today :D). Finalists will be posted on the blog next week and winners will have a choice of some FABULOUS prizes (see details in the post here - VERY cool)

I'll be sure to let you know if I made the cut (though I sincerely doubt I will, one never knows LOL). But now, for your enjoyment (or something :::roll::: ): my entry!

An Upside-Down Christmas
By Joanne Sher

Annika loved everything about Christmas. The tree, covered with lights, tinsel, and ornaments. Presents beneath it, wrapped in beautiful paper with sparkling bows. Christmas carols. The stockings. The nativity scenes. Everything.

As soon as the first snowflake fell (usually in November), Annika got anxious, excited, and bouncy. She knew Christmas would be perfect – just like always – and she couldn't wait.

But this year, Annika wasn't so sure. It was already Christmas Eve, and it hadn't snowed. No carolers had come. It just felt different. Still, Christmas was Christmas, and she went to bed that night, a kiss from mama on her head, with anticipation.

Photo Source (right side up)
Christmas morning, as usual, she was up first. She ran out to the tree, and her smile turned upside-down. It was gone! Instead, a pile of ornaments, tinsel, and lights lay on the floor. But then she looked up, and she found the tree – trunk on the ceiling and branches hanging down, with presents dangling from its limbs.

How could this be? Even the nativity scene was mixed up. Joseph was scrunched into the manger, Mary was perched atop the stable, and baby Jesus was holding a shepherd's crook and leaning against a lamb. And who knew where the angel was?

A hand rested on her shoulder. Her parents stood behind her, mouths agape.

Annika turned around. “What happened?”

Mama shrugged. “Hmmm.... John, did you remember to pay the gravity bill last week?”

Daddy slapped his head. “I knew I forgot something! Now we'll have to wait until the office opens to get everything back to normal.” He knelt down, placing his hand under Annika's chin. “I'm sorry, precious.”

“It's all right, Daddy. I know this won't be a perfect Christmas, but I know we'll never ever forget it.” And she smiled as wide as the morning was strange.

And Annika was right. They would never forget that upside-down Christmas, when they sat under the Christmas tree (instead of around it), reached up for their presents, had dessert first, and ate breakfast for dinner.

And Daddy never, EVER forgot to pay the gravity bill again.


I hope you enjoyed my silly little story. Be sure to pop over to the contest and read others' entries too! There are some great ones over there, I'm sure!

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1
Check out more U posts below, or share one of your own! 


Lisa Lickel and The Potawanomi Boy

Lisa Lickel is a dear writer friend of mine (and a Midwesterner to boot!) - and when I saw she had a new children's book out, I couldn't help but toot her horn a bit. These look great - don't you think??
Green Leaf, The Potawatomi Boy
Lisa J Lickel, illustrated by Brenda Hendricks

About the Book:
Green Leaf’s cousins are all older than he and don’t like to play fair. He longs for a friend his own age he can play with, explore and fish with. When he meets a Luxembourger boy, Henri, Green Leaf is sure they could become friends, but Henri’s words are strange to Green Leaf. How can they play and explore together?

Green Leaf’s mother says, “Friends learn to speak one another’s words.” But will Green Leaf learn to say his friend’s words well enough to save Henri when he falls into danger?

Kindle- on special sale during December 1- 16, $.99
Also available in print from online retailers or from your favorite bookseller. $5.95

Ten years in the making, The First Children of Farmington series of early reader books has finally reached book sellers. I spent two years researching and writing this series. Several years after I worked with other community historians to collect and record our early pioneer history, I realized that we had quite a diverse ethnicity to Farmington, Wisconsin. Although these stories are based on real people and real events, they are representative of issues and struggles and joys families face every day everywhere.  

The Potawatomi Boy is a character with a running thread through all the books. When I first startedout with the project I was taking classes from the Christian Writers Guild. I set out to put together a series of picture books and connected with a couple of different artists. I wrote the text, but learned over several years that it’s harder to get the attention of a publisher for children’s books than it is for adult books. I’d never considered self-publishing, but through connections with my current illustrator and publishing partner, Brenda Hendricks, and others at the John 316 Marketing Network, learned a lot about not only self-publishing options, but how to publish well. The second book in the series, The German Girl, is now available, as well, about a curious young girl who becomes lost while searching for the family cow, and the third book, The Saxon Boy, about a young boy who must learn to accept a stepfather, may be out by Christmas. I was quite surprised and pleased to have won a prestigious Jade Ring award for the Saxon Boy from the Wisconsin Writers Association. The other three stories, The Yankee Boy, The Irish Girl and The French Girl, are planned for release in 2014.

The books include references, glossaries, and special illustrations and a picture search. They are suitable for early to middle grades, ages 7-9 or so.

From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and The Potawatomi Boy is a featured book. As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to http://bit.ly/Christian_Books and enter the Rafflecopter toward the bottom of the page.

About the Author:
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her published novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin magazine. Lisa also is an avid book reviewer, a freelance editor, a writing mentor, a hostess at Clash of the Titles.com, and enjoys blogging at theBarnDoor.net and AuthorCulture.blogspot.com. She loves to encourage new authors. Find more at LisaLickel.com.

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1

Lessons from Elizabeth

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1:5-7 NIV

During the advent season, we often focus (rightly so!) on Jesus and His birth in Bethlehem. The wonder of God becoming man is certainly worth meditating on. Mary and Joseph with God in a manger is deserving of our discussion and worship.

But Mary wasn't the only blessed mother (Luke 2:19) in this story. Less than a year before, another woman had her own miracle baby, and has much to teach us.

Elizabeth was the wife of Zechariah the priest and, eventually, the mother of John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner. We are not told how old this new mother was, though Luke 1:7 tells us that she and her husband were “well along in years.”

It may be my own modern perception, but this phrasing has me assuming that she was beyond (or quickly reaching the end of) childbearing age. She also knew, it seems, what other women had been saying about her before she received the gift of a son. In her society, you see, children were considered a sign of God’s blessing and favor. And Elizabeth was barren (Luke 1:7).

Despite the ridicule and lack of honor she may have experienced, she was upright in God’s sight. She continued to serve the Lord and follow his statutes (Luke 1:6). She was honoring God despite her circumstances, and despite what others thought.

How often do we follow Elizabeth’s example this way? Perhaps not as often as we should. Have you ever been criticized for following a Biblical view of parenting? For forbidding your kids certain “worldly” things? For going against popular opinion on some issue?

Have you ever let peer pressure make you bend your standards? Do you sometimes complain about, or get frustrated with, God’s plan or workings in your life? Not Elizabeth – at least not to the extent that the Lord would mention it. What an excellent model of serving God in, and despite, our circumstances. These traits, it seems, are ones she passed on to her son.

And then her circumstances changed for the better. She got pregnant and was carrying a son. She wasn’t just happy. She gave God the glory, and thanked Him for saving her from others’ shame. (Luke 1:25)

Do we remember to thank God for our blessings? I know I forget much more often than I’d like to admit. It’s entirely too easy to take the credit for what happens in our lives. And when I do, those around me get a warped view of my power and the Lord’s. And what kind of a lesson of God's power am I to them?

Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Elizabeth. Help us to stay fast in our honor and obedience to You, no matter our circumstances; and help us remember to give You the glory for all you do for us. Help us to be faithful and thankful, just like this wonderful woman of God. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

 What do you need to learn from Elizabeth?
My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1

When I Knew Michigan Was My Home

I'm a California native now living in West Michigan. And, contrary to popular belief, I was not dragged here kicking and screaming. In fact, it didn't take long for "home" to be the Midwest to me. And I can pinpoint the exact day - the exact moment, in fact - when I knew Michigan wasn't going to be a problem.
The Barn Door

I'm over at the Midwest blog The Barn Door today, talking about that day, two decades ago, when I knew I was destined to be a Michigander. Stop by and see!

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1

Technology Breaks

This post is part of Patty Wysong's 
 A to Z meme. This week's letter is "T."
 A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
Three years ago next month, I started something in my life that, at the time, scared me to death. It overwhelmed me for a while (especially the very first time), but has come to be an event that I truly look forward to, and that has benefitted me in so many ways.

What is it? My biweekly (currently) tech-free day.

You may have heard me refer to it here on occasion - more often when I was first starting it than recently. On my tech-free day, I refrain from use of my computer (other than an AdAware scan that takes several hours), texting on my phone (my phone is "dumb and dyslexic" - the only thing I CAN do on it is text and make phone calls), and most uses of my Kindle Fire (my daily Bible reading is on there, so I still do that, and I'll check/add to my online calendar if necessary). Basically from bedtime the night before until I boot up the morning after, I am unplugged.

Made this button myself 3 years ago
My first one, back in January of 2011, went fairly well (see this post I did on "how I survived" if you're interested), though I missed the interaction, and "catching up" the day after was crazy (I still remember - and I must say I downplayed it in the post I link to up there). It took a while for that to get settled, but soon my "tech-free Tuesday" was something I looked forward to each month - and that benefits me greatly.

  • When "online" was overwhelming me and/or I was ready to toss my computer out the window, I knew I had a day coming up when I could completely and totally ignore it.
  • It forced me (sometimes kicking and screaming!) to spend some time in the "real world" every once in a while.
  • I ignore housework day-to-day as a rule - and do much better with it when I have a large chunk of time to invest in it. Guess how I spend much of my tech-free time?
  • It has helped my mood AND productivity.
In the past three years, my tech fast has changed some. I've gone from once a month to twice a month, and most recently to every other week (when it's basically the only time you clean, it DOES make a difference! :::r::: ). The day has switched from Tuesday to Thursday. I've gone from announcing it on my blog to not. The "rules" had to be adjusted when I added my Kindle Fire to the mix (note - it isn't pictured in my original graphic above). Probably other things I'm not remembering.

But it's a part of my life now - and a very, VERY beneficial one. No matter how terrified I was of it back when my first one was still on the horizon. In fact, this post was written early, because yesterday, I was on my first tech fast of December. :)

I recommend them for everyone. Truly.

So, when are YOU going to take your next (or first!) technology fast?

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1 
Check out more T posts below, or share your own!

Heads and Heels - and Hope

And I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. Genesis 3:15 NKJV

Advent, the time of preparation before Christmas, has officially begun. A time to think of Christ's coming - and His coming again. And twice in five hours yesterday, I found myself in the third book of Genesis.

Graphic source
The first time was in my quiet time reading. Yesterday was the first day of "Emmanuel," an advent SheReadsTruth. (Join me - it's sure to be great. Click on the SheReadsTruth link or sign up through YouVersion here.) We talked about how even as Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God provided - and announced - a reason for hope. A plan to make us right with Him again.
study by the ladies at

Just a few hours later, the Sunday morning sermon at Good News Baptist Church was about the hope of this verse - the promise of the hope in her Seed.
“No sooner was the wound given than the remedy was provided and revealed.” - Matthew Henry
Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and had a perfect life - they walked with God, and talked with them in the beautiful Garden of Eden. But they sinned, and because God cannot bear to be near sin, the fellowship was broken, and they were expelled from His presence.


Though Satan the serpent would bruise the heel of Eve's seed over and over again, her pinnacle Seed, Jesus Christ, would do much worse to Him. Still, even the Son of God would be bruised in the heel -
Graphic source
pick a chapter of the gospels, and I can almost guarantee there will be a bruising of some sort. But in the end, it is not a blow to the heel that destroys the Seed. Instead, His blow to Satan's head is the fatal one. The one that allows us to be seen as righteous in God's sight. The one that gives us the hope of Heaven.

The one that was foretold to the very first man and the very first woman - and so to us.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this season of advent, for the reminder that you had this all planned from the beginning - and that you never leave us without hope. Help us to remember Satan's wounds are never fatal to our faith, and that we, and You, have already won. And help us to celebrate Your Son's first coming in a way worthy of its splendor, and to anticipate His second with hope and encouragement. In His name we pray. Amen.

We're discussing this here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Does this generally "negative" passage now give you hope? What other Bible verses give you encouragement in unexpected places?

 My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1

My One Word: 2016 and 2017

Most who know me know I am a very goal-oriented person (in fact, I already shared my goal wrap-up for 2016 and my new ones for 2017 on this...