Sunday, February 11, 2018

Book Review: Free Of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller

Kicking off the first post of 2018 with a book review!

This year, I've added two things to my Goals List:

#1. READ MORE! 
I was shocked at how few books I read last year! In 2018, my goal will be to read two books a month. I won't review them all, but I'll do my best to share some of my favourites with you.

#2. WRITE MORE! 
Just like with the reading, I let my writing fall by the wayside last year. Yes, it had a lot to do with the massive undertaking of recording a New CD, but there are always excuses not to write. My goal this year: one solo writing date each week. Generally in a cafe, and always with a big mug of foamy caffeine!


Today's book review is Free Of Me, by Sharon Hodde Miller. The premise of this book is pretty simply laid out in the subtitle: "Why Life Is Better When It's NOT ABOUT YOU."

Like many simple ideas, however, the living out of this mantra is a more challenging matter.

Miller breaks the concept down into two basic components. The first are all the things we try to make about us and in the image of us: God, church, our family, our friendships, to name a few. As she details each aspect, there will be things that will seem obvious - yes, we try to make our families about us - but others that will surprise you. How can we make our calling, our passions, or even our physical appearance not about us? There were definitely ideas in these chapters with which I didn't personally agree. However, I think just the process of evaluating these parts of your life in this light could be extremely valuable.

The last part of the book explores practical ways to take the focus off of ourselves. How can we turn our point of view outwards, towards God and towards others? This is a great section to take notes and mark down ideas to integrate into your personal life.

The structure of this book leans towards practical application, and maybe even group discussion. Each chapter ends with a focus Scripture verse, a prayer, and a series of personal questions. The prayers, in particular, are beautiful, and would be a great addition to your personal prayer journal.

In a selfie-obsessed world, we need a message like Free Of Me. 

One of my favourite themes that runs throughout these chapters is the idea that "_____" is created for us, but that doesn't mean it has to be about us. 

Imagine how that one shift alone could change everything...


I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book Review: Christmas: Stories & More, by Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship

The Christmas book reviews continue!

A few days ago, I shared with you my favourite new children's book, 
Beneath That Star, by Sally Meadows.

(Full disclosure, as revealed in my previous review: Sally and I are friends, but I also promised her an honest review. Thank you for trusting me with that, Sally!)

Sally gave me her book when we visited her as part of our latest Infinitely More Western Canada Tour. As we chatted about our recent projects, she showed me a copy of a Christmas anthology that features two of her stories. Of course, my heart leapt when I saw a whole book filled with Christmassy things, so I asked if I might review that one as well!



I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but look at that face!! 
How could I not be excited to read Christmas: Stories & More??? 

Inscribe Christian Writer's Fellowship (ICWF) exists to "stimulate, encourage and support Christians who write, advance effective Christian writing, and promote the influence of all Christians who write." It has members from all provinces, writing at all levels and in all genres.

Christmas: Stories & More features over 40 ICWF writers sharing their thoughts, memories, and dreams for the Christmas season. Because of the range of storytellers, each piece is unique in scope, subject, and voice. The "Stories" include both fiction and real life accounts, giving sweet, and sometimes bittersweet, insight into different festive moments. The "More" is what really makes this anthology special - a collection of devotions, poems, recipes, gift ideas, and even dramatized readings!

What I love most about this anthology is how it's structured and organized. This isn't a book you sit down and read in one sitting. It's a lovely collection of festive bon-bons, designed to be tasted and treasured one at a time. (Of course, if you like to indulge in a whole box of bon-bons in one sitting, be my guest! I'm certainly not the one to judge... )

Each piece is short enough to be read on your afternoon break, or as you take the subway, or just before bed. It would make a lovely book to include in your Advent devotions, or to read one story a day during the 12 Days of Christmas. Even the recipes include a bit of family history to give them a personal perspective.

Sometimes, it can be a challenge to get people excited about reading a book by unknown writers. Let me ask you to get excited! Not only is this a lovely book, but it's so refreshing to read stories about Christmas told by Canadian voices.

Christmas: Stories & More is a charming and beautiful addition to your Christmas reading list.
I hope it finds a spot under your tree this holiday season!




To learn more about ICWF and Christmas: Stories & More, please visit 
https://inscribe.org/press/christmas-anthology-2017/ 





Thursday, December 07, 2017

Book Review: Beneath That Star, by Sally Meadows

Today's book review combines two of my favourite things: 
Christmas and a children's picture book!


I have a long held love of children's literature. As a child, I wore out my parents' car driving back and forth to the Arts & Culture Centre Library. As an adult, I spent many years teaching music and creative arts to young children, and I loved poring over their books to help translate the stories into songs and art projects.

I was thrilled when I received the opportunity to review Beneath That Star
written by Sally Meadows and illustrated by Sarah E. Nickel.

In full disclosure, I have to confess that Sally is a good friend of mine. I offered to review her book because I believe in her talents. That said, I wouldn't have made the offer if I didn't feel I could offer an honest review!

Beneath That Star has an interesting origin story. When the idea first came to Sally, she wrote it into a song, which she recorded on her Christmas album. Sally shares, "It was when I was in the studio recording my Christmas CD, Red & White, when the idea of expanding on the song’s story through a children’s picture book came to me."

I love this idea! In song form, the story can reach the adults who bought the CD, but in book form, we have the chance to inspire young readers with a new Christmas tale.

The heroine of our tale is Saray - a young girl living in Biblical times with her loving family. Saray has big dreams, but her family sees only her limitations. A tragic accident has left her dependent on a cane, and as a girl, her path in life is firmly set.

But Saray loves God and seeks his presence in her life. One night, she hears a strange voice calling to her. Was is God or a dream? Then, she sees a star in the sky and dares to follow it. What happens next changes her life forever.

Sally's attention to detail paints a engaging portrait of what happens when the divine enters the everyday. Sarah's beautiful illustrations highlight the story, and would easily allow even the non-reading child to follow along.

There are two added bonuses at the end of the book. One is a set of questions, designed to spark conversation and allow you apply the themes of the book to real life. The second is a Sally's behind-the-scenes account of creating Saray and Beneath That Star. (The keen reader will also notice that she includes the inspiration behind our Infinitely More name!)

Beneath That Star is an uplifting and inspiring story for any child (or adult) who has felt invisible to God. I hope you'll consider sharing it with a child you love this Christmas!








To learn more about Sally Meadows' books and music, please visit www.SallyMeadows.com


Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Say Goodbye, Say Hello - a World Vision story...

Five years ago, Gerald and I decided to start something new - we wanted to sponsor a child.



We'd fallen in love with Costa Rica on our honeymoon, so we picked a little girl from there named Keilyn. I knew most people would probably pick the cute little babies, so I decided to pick an older child. At 11 years old, Keilyn would be entering those always challenging preteen years. I thought it would be wonderful to offer her friendship and support during this phase of her life.

Keilyn came from a small family - just her and her Mom, Maria. In a way, it felt like we weren't just sponsoring a little girl, we were sponsoring a whole family.

Over the years, we exchanged letters and photos. At Christmas, I would send her a package of small gifts. Through words and images, we watched our little girl grow up.



Then, this summer, we got amazing news from World Vision. Keilyn's community no longer needed outside support! They had become fully self-sufficient. They could raise their own food, educate their children, and create their own jobs.

Our little girl didn't need us anymore.

It was time to say goodbye.

This summer, we exchanged our final letters with Keilyn, sharing how much we'd come to mean to one another, and how we would keep praying for one another.

She told us that this year, she'll graduate from high school! I beamed when I read that. And then, I started to tear up:

"Because of the programs, my Mother, Maria, was able to go to school. This year, we're going to graduate from high school together."

We'd read all the updates about the work World Vision had done in the community, but there was something about this image that made it all seem so realistic and powerful.

A mother and daughter, accomplishing this great feat together, ready to change the world.


So this fall, we're starting something new: we're sponsoring a new child.

This time, we're sponsoring Carlos, a 4-year-old boy from Columbia.


Many years ago, I was on a cruise with my parents. It was a glorious week of entertainment, midnight buffets, and exotic day trips.

On one of those day excursions, we stopped in Cartagena, Columbia. In the midst of this gorgeous day, we turned a corner to come face to face with a child soldier. He was in a line up with all the adult soldiers. He wore full military regalia, had bullets draped across his chest, and carried a gun the size of my arm. His face was like stone.

It's one thing to read about child soldiers, but to see one in the flesh was shocking. Fifteen years later and I can still see his face.

It broke my heart because I couldn't help him.




But we can help Carlos.

We can give one child a different chance in life.

This fall, I hope you'll consider starting something new, and sponsoring a child with us.


As Gerald's favourite quote confirms:


Want to save a life?
Please contact us to sponsor a child today!






Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Book Review - Doing Busy Better, by Glynnis Whitwer

As someone who loves to take on ambitious projects and fill my life with a plethora of activities, I jumped at the chance to review this beautiful new book, Doing Busy Better - Enjoying God's Gifts of Work and Rest, by Glynnis Whitwer.

I should also point out that I received this book months ago! I started it some time in June. I finished it today. Why? I've been too busy to read it.

No, the irony is not lost on me...

Once I had made the time to dig into it, Doing Busy Better is an engaging and practical book about reevaluating the ways we approach busyness and relaxation.

Whitwer doesn't just want you to manage your calendar better (although there are tips for that). This is about studying and using God's model for work and rest as a guideline for healthy, balanced living.

Two chapters in particular resonated with me:

Hurry Is A Heart Condition

As I finished this book, Gerald and I are on our annual Western Canada Tour. We're driving roundtrip through five provinces over seven weeks, singing concerts, leading worship services, and logging in countless admin hours along the way. The schedule is tight! "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life" has become a potentially life-changing mantra for us.

How To Be Peaceful and Productive

This should be the goal of every super-productive person. Oh, to get it all done and still feel calm at the end of the day! Whitwer writes, "I don't want to get more done. I want to get more of the right things done." Yes, please!

This is the kind of book I read with a pencil in hand. I can't tell you how many corners I turned down and how many notes I made in the margins. I hope to revisit my favourite ideas and find ways to make them practical in my own life.

There is so much good work to be done and so much good rest to be enjoyed. This book will help you find the value and God-connection in both.



I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Our New CD - An Important Announcement...

Last week, we shared important news through our mailing list. 
Today, we wanted to bring you all into the loop...

As you know, we've had a very full season of recording, as we create a brand new album of original music. It's been a lot of work, and we're incredibly excited about sharing this new project with you.

This August, however, we faced a difficult time in our family when Gerald's mother, 
Sandy Flemming, passed away.

Sandy had battled heath issues for years, but her death very sudden and unexpected. We stopped all recording for several weeks as we prepared for her funeral and spent much needed time with Gerald's Dad and our family.

Many of you heard the news on Facebook
and we are so grateful for your prayers and messages of love. 

Needless to say, this put us far behind on our recording. We could have rushed the process, but to be honest, what's happening in the studio has been so exciting, and we're committed to making the best recording possible for you!

For this New CD, we sat down and thought, 
"Who would be our dream duets for this album?"

We thought of four amazing Canadian artists whom we admire and love. 
In a bold move, we invited each of them to sing on the project, hoping one of them might say Yes.

We can't tell you how humbled we felt when 
ALL FOUR SAID YES!

For this new album, we're thrilled to sing 'duets' with:

Drew Brown - Juno nominee
Ali Matthews - 20 time GMA Covenant Award Winner
Hiram Joseph - Juno nominee
Kevin Pauls - 100 Huntley Street musical host

All four artists gave incredible performances on their songs!

Just before we left home to start our Western Canada Tour, we completed recording all the performances for the album! As we travel, our producer, Andrew Horrocks, is mixing the tracks and adding more instrumental parts. Then, he'll master the album to give it a beautiful, finished sound. While that's happening, we'll have the graphics designed. Then, the CDs will be manufactured and prepared for shipping!

The final CDs will now be available in mid to late November.
We are so grateful for all of your support with this new album!

The only question left is:


Preordering your CD guarantees you get one of the very first copies available.
Also, your preorder helps us with the financial challenges of creating the final parts of the album.

As our THANK YOU for preordering, 
we want to give you some FREE GIFTS! 

Please visit this page to preorder your CD:


Thank you for all you do to support our Infinitely More ministry!



Saturday, October 07, 2017

Thanksgiving With Strangers


This weekend, we'll do something that has become a bit of a quirky tradition:

We'll spend Thanksgiving with strangers.


The first time we did this was in 2007, during our first year of living in Nashville. October approached, and we realized we would be away from our families for Thanksgiving. We were still new to the city, but everyone there celebrated Thanksgiving in November. We made plans for Skype calls to family and a quiet dinner at home.

The last weekend of September, we attended a songwriter party and met a woman originally from Nova Scotia. As we chatted, she said, "You know, I'm attending a Thanksgiving dinner with some other Canadian friends next week. If you want, I'm happy to get you an invitation."

And that was our first Thanksgiving with strangers. 

We gathered, ate heartily, laughed boisterously, and far from our families and country, we shared our blessings.

Once we returned to Canada, our Thanksgiving became a movable feast. For a few years, we celebrated with our immediate family. As we began our fall concert tours, we were blessed to celebrate with our extended family in Newfoundland.

But then a few years ago, our touring schedule changed. Instead of traveling east each fall, we started to travel west. That first tour was an epic feat to plan - four very large provinces with lots of driving and absolutely no friends or family between home and Alberta. We were literally on the road for over a month before we saw a familiar face!

As we got closer to the holiday weekend, I realized that I had completely forgotten about Thanksgiving! We were destined to spend this great day of celebration alone, in a hotel room, searching for a 24-hour roadside stop to feed us... The whole thing just felt too depressing for words...

So, I did what we do in the modern age - I turned to social media!

"Hey everyone! We're going to be alone in Manitoba for Thanksgiving. Does anyone know of a church or community dinner we could attend?"

What happened next was more than we could "ask or imagine" ...

The host of our Winnipeg concert came to me, "I realized you're going to be around for the long weekend. Would you like to stay an extra night and join us for Thanksgiving dinner?"

Amazing. We gathered with almost a dozen people who, a day before, had been complete strangers to us. In a wonderful twist, the host family was from Newfoundland, so the dinner was filled with familiar traditions and delicacies.

Then, I got a note on Facebook. "I have friends with a ministry retreat in Dauphin. They'd love to have you for Thanksgiving!"

So Monday morning, we drove to Dauphin to find a beautiful house on the edge of the lake. Again, we met strangers who welcomed us into their home for a wonderful night of feasting.

In gratitude to the family, we sang a short concert for their guests and, wouldn't you know it, there were Newfoundlanders at that table, too!


As we tour this beautiful country, we continue to marvel at this great truth:

The family of God is a real thing. 
In every community, we arrive as strangers, 
and yet, we are bonded by a love far greater than ourselves. 


So this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to welcome strangers to your table, and to celebrate with those who might be far from home. In this way, let's show the love of God to one another, and truly celebrate the blessings of our "home and native land."


"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, 
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

Hebrews 13:2 ESV


Happy Thanksgiving!