Suggested Title: Cynthia Ruchti’s ‘A Fragile Hope’ Blog Tour and Giveaway

When your life’s work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages, what happens when your own marriage begins to fall apart? Find out what happens to Josiah Chamberlain in Cynthia Ruchti’s new book, A Fragile Hope. Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

Celebrate the release of A Fragile Hope by entering to win Cynthia’s Sign of Hope Giveaway!

 

One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 3. The winner will be announced May 4 on the Litfuse blog.

“A Fragile Hope” by Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia Ruchti

Hope grows when seeds are planted-even in the muddy middle of life.
Josiah Chamberlain’s life’s work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages. When his own is threatened by his wife’s unexplained distance, and then threatened further when she’s unexpectedly plunged into an unending fog, Josiah finds his expertise, quick wit and clever quips are no match for a relationship that is clearly broken.
Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?
 Ruchti has written a sweetly dramatic story of forgiveness and love in her newest novel A Fragile Hope.  Josiah reads as fully realistic and completely clueless.  This combination works well as a vehicle for exploring the roles that we play in marriage.
Ruchti shares important insights about marriage throughout the story, but you’ll never feel preached at or taught.  Instead, I read the book in a single afternoon, never once picking up my phone or putting down the book – I read it straight through.  I was completely caught up in Josiah’s story:  his care of his wife, the trauma he endured as he struggled to figure out his wife’s actions, and the pain he felt as he reconciled those with the role he played in their marriage.  I thoroughly enjoyed these lessons, and Josiah’s insights would provide provocative discussions.
I can’t imagine writing an entire story in which one of the main character is unable to communicate, but Ruchti not only did so, but she knocked it out of the park. A Fragile Hope is quietly introspective.  It’s a journey through the lowest depths of marriage and the faith required to rebuilt it, and it’s one everyone should take along with Josiah.
 

 
About the author:
 
Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope through her novels, novellas, nonfiction books, articles and devotionals, drawing from 33 years of on-air radio ministry. Ruchti has written more than 20 award-winning novels, novellas, nonfiction books and devotionals. Her books have received numerous awards and nominations, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year nominations, two Selah Awards, Christian Retailing’s BEST, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist and a Christy finalist, among other honors. Her latest release is the novel A Fragile Hope.
 
One of Ruchti’s greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. To that end, she has served as worship and devotions staff and faculty for the Write-to-Publish conference and teaches at other writers’ conferences across the country and internationally as opportunities arise. She also serves as the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers.
 
Ruchti speaks frequently for women’s groups and serves on her church’s worship team. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.
Find out more about Cynthia at http://www.cynthiaruchti.com.
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

A Fragile Hope Cynthia Ruchti

Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog Hop – April 12, 2017

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Spring has sprung, and it has been beautiful here this week!  I can’t wait to start planting my gardens.

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was The Day My Daughter Said She Liked Math: A Mr. D Math Review.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

13 Easter Activities for Kids

20 Garden Themed Activities for Children

Six Easter Unit Studies You Can Download and Use

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 


Please share your family friendly posts with us!

The most clicked posts of each week will be featured on all of our hosts’ blogs! So, be sure to share the link to Encouraging Hearts & Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 

Easy Strawberry-Cheese Danish

Breakfast

I’ve loved breakfast pastries for years, and especially cheese Danish.  Although I don’t remember ever eating the cream-cheese variety until an adult, they fascinated me immediately.  I enjoy the sweet, rich cream inside flaky, buttery dough, and I’ve always wanted to try to bake it.

I didn’t, though.  It seemed quite intimidating, and while I’ve pinned lots of recipes, I never went ahead and tried it.

Until this week.  I had some extra strawberry filling on hand and decided to throw some stuff together and see what happened. 

The result?   This is the best picture you’re going to get, because we fought over every piece until it was gone.  That didn’t take long.

Of course, the rich creaminess is my favorite, but in this Danish, it’s complemented by the sweet, full flavor of the strawberry sauce.  We’ll definitely be making these again – and soon!

Easy Strawberry-Cheese Danish

Ingredients

  • 1 tube crescent rolls
  • 1 8-oz block of cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 c. strawberries, washed, capped, and mashed
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 3 T. water

Instructions

  1. Butter the bottom of a 8" baking dish.
  2. Spread 1/2 of the crescent rolls across the bottom.
  3. Soften the cream cheese. Mix in the powdered sugar.
  4. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the crescent roll layer.
  5. In a small saucepan, stir together the strawberries, cornstarch, and water.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for two minutes, then chill.
  7. Spread the strawberry mixture on top of the cream cheese layer.
  8. Spread the last crescent rolls on top of the strawberry layer.
  9. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.
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Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop – April 5, 2017

 Spring has spring, and that means we’re spending as much time outside as we possibly can.  Today that included meetings and lessons outside, as well as some frog-catching, too.

 

Exciting news!  The weekly blog hop formerly known as Hearts for Home has been updated with a new name and logo!  While we’re still dedicated to sharing encouraging and inspiring ideas for your home and family, there are a few new features.  Isn’t the new logo beautiful?

Blog Hop

That’s not the only new feature; the most clicked post each week will be entered to win a monthly prize package!  So share your favorite posts and link up your own to increase your chances of winning these great prizes. 

Tweet: Find encouragement for your heart and home at A Nest in the Rocks. This week’s blog hop is live! https://ctt.ec/epe5O+

All of this excitement is one reason I’m excited that …

A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for the weekly Encouraging Hearts and Home Blog link-up, which means that every Thursday you’ll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post. If you’re a blogger, we’d love to have you link up your posts and join us. You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

The most clicked post from last week was 10 Homeschooling Strategies to Use with Your Resistant Child

Some of my favorite posts from last week were: How to Get Rid of Wasps and Hornets Without Chemicals.

Harry Potter Unit; Making Golden Snitch Snacks

Sonnets: Free Poetry Notebooking Pages

My Best Vintage Sheet Quilt Yet!

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our ‘Featured Blogger’ buttons! Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

Please share your family friendly posts with us!

So, be sure to 1) include your email when you link up and 2) share the link to Encouraging Hearts and Home via social media with your readers, fans and followers! 

By linking up you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs that we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post. 


Please share your family friendly posts with us!

 

Why My Kids Enter Competitions

Competition

I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as I was this past Saturday, when My Big Helper entered her first district History Day competition.  Even though I competed myself for years, and have had kids, gotten married, and faced all sorts of other major life events, watching my daughter nervously await her interview with the judges after six months’ worth of work was hard.

So why do I make her – and, when the time comes, my son – enter these things?  Because yes, this was her first year, and it was part of her school requirements.

There are lots of reasons.  Here are some of them:

  1.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn how to make your work worthy of presentation.  It’s easy these days to do something and move on.  To read a biography and rush the report.  To  study something in class and hurry through the assignment.  I think that polishing our work is becoming something of a lost art; as the curriculum becomes more difficult, there’s less time for review or for real projects, and instead we hurry on to the next thing.  Even though we homeschool, and we aren’t as rushed as those in other educational situations, we have a different problem:  my kids have only family members with whom to display their work.  National History Day competitions, and others like it, provide them the opportunity to understand what it’s like to have others formally judge their work.  To know how to polish and put forth their best efforts.
  2. It’s a chance to win.  This might sound silly, but many outlets have removed all competition from their arena.  I’ve heard of kids’ sports teams not keeping score, of coaches giving trophies to the team with the most losing record, of principals requiring that every student gets an award, and of clubs where every child is an officer.  On the surface, that seems great; however, the reality is that we do sometimes receive a benefit for hard work and performing well.  Everyone wants to win sometimes, and this is the time to put your best work out there and be recognized for it.
  3. It’s a chance to lose.  Sound contradictory?  I don’t mean it to be.  If we have the chance to win sometimes, then we also should have the chance to lose, too.  The important thing to remember is that losing doesn’t make us losers – instead, it helps us to understand how to process disappointment, to look critically at our own work and analyze how to make it better, and how to move on.  I would much rather my kids face disappointment on a project like this, after all their hard work, and learn how to handle it appropriately than be blindsided by not being accepted to the college of their dreams or missing out on their dream job.  If we start processing disappointment in small ways when we’re small, then it stands to reason that we’ll be better equipped to handle life’s bigger disappointments when they come. 
  4. They’ll come to understand the value of hard work.  You can learn this in many avenues, of course, but I think that these types of academic competition can be some of the best for pushing yourself here.  It’s certainly more fun than a test, and test results can be very questionable, anyway.  Going over and over your work, correcting mistakes, finding ways to improve finding new ways to research … it’s hard, but incredibly valuable.
  5. They’ll learn determination and stick-to-it-iveness.  There comes a point in most projects when you want to quit; when you’re tired of the work, when something goes wrong, and you’re ready to throw in the towel.  Most of the time, that’s not the best course of action, and this is a great time to learn that.  You might have teammates cheering you on, teachers encouraging you , or a win waiting for you, but sticking with the project will teach valuable lessons.
  6. It’s a meaningful way to learn.  Seriously, think about it:  how much do you really remember from those textbooks you had to read in seventh grade?  From the teacher who droned on in a monotone in an overly-warm classroom? – but if you had to play the role of history detective and find the information yourself; if you took field trips to college libraries, wrote letters and received packages of information from historians and museum curators; if you took the time to develop theories and then find facts to prove your ideas, wouldn’t you have a vested interest in your project, and thereby the history behind it?  Wouldn’t you know your facts inside out and upside down?
  7. You learn how to communicate your ideas clearly.  At a National History Day competition, your historical work is worth only 60% of the judges’ score.  Clarity of presentation is another 20%.  While the historical work is obviously much higher, both have to be present to win.  I love that NHD provides the opportunity to compete in five different areas – historical paper, exhibit, documentary, website, or performance – so you can compete in the area of your strengths and talents, but no matter which one you choose, you must be able to communicate your ideas clearly.
  8. You learn how to conduct yourself in an interview.  This was the part of NHD I hated the most as a competitor, and it was hard to see just how nervous my students were when they faced their own; and yet it was situations like these that helped to prepare me for job interviews, college interviews, and other professional and business opportunities that came my way.  I’ll never forget my very first one:  although our teachers had discussed professional dress and conduct with us, one of my teammates sat in a chair with one foot behind her head while our judges interviewed us.  I was mortified!  I wouldn’t want my students to make that mistake, and so we role-played this type of scenario.  Nothing is as good as the real thing, however.
  9. You learn how to dress professionally.  What would you wear for a job interview?  This goes right along with #8, I know, but it’s an important part.  Don’t wear your t-shirt for the scholastic interview.  ‘Nuff said.
  10. You have to plan ahead.  How often do kids forget their lunches?  Lose their shoes, library books, etc?  If you forget an important part of your project, you’re out of luck.  Planning ahead is an important skill to have, if only for these big events.

So, there you have it – why my kids enter scholastic competitions.  Do yours?

Want to know exactly how My Big Helper’s first competition went?  Read about it here.

Entering a National History Day Competition

When I hit middle school, I was encouraged to compete in our local National History Day competition.  I was hooked from that very first event:  I loved the research, the preparation, the work to analyze historical events and to share their importance, and, yes, the competition.

That’s why I was so very excited when I found out that the National History Day organization has events in North Carolina, and that our district competition isn’t too far away.  I was determined that my kids would compete when they came of age, as well.

NHD

Are you familiar with National History Day?  It’s sort of like a science fair, in that you create projects/entries that are judged for competition, only about history, instead.  Each year there’s an annual theme, and students choose a topic that fits that theme and create projects/entries in the exhibit, documentary, historical paper, performance, or website categories.  Students must explain the significance of their topic in history and in relation to the theme, as well as showcase their work through process papers and annotated bibliographies.  It’s a big deal.  It’s fabulous.

For My Big Helper, that was this year.  She’s now in middle school (where has the time gone??) and so last October she and another brave young man chose topics and began to research.

As this was their first year, and as this level of competition and historical research was new to them both, we did our best to keep it fun.  We traveled to the Davis Library at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for a lesson from a librarian about how to use their Library of Congress cataloguing system.  She also taught them how to use their many online databases, and the kids searched for materials relevant to their topics.

We had pizza parties and got together to check progress and discuss competition rules.

NHD

Finally, though, the big day arrived, and it was time to head off to Greensboro for the district competition.  Held at the Education Building on the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, the competitors took over that part of campus and were college kids for the day.

NHD

Competition days are a big deal.  You must check in, have your paperwork in order, and get set up.  After that, when it’s your scheduled turn, a team of judges will interview you about your work and conclusions.  For anyone, that time of ‘interview’ is stressful, but for kids new to that type of experience, it can be rough, despite the judges’ kindness.

NHD

One of the highlights for us was always having lunch in the cafeteria.  The UNCG café where we ate was nothing like any college cafeteria I’ve ever seen before, but with Chick-Fil-A and other fun restaurants on site, the kids seemed to enjoy their faux-college kid status.

Late in the afternoon, the award ceremony arrives.  Filling up an auditorium, a professor greets everyone, and the winners in each category are finally announced.  We were all really nervous by this time.  We thought our kids had created solid entries and had a good chance of placing, but, really, who can tell?

It’s not just about winning, either – because winning entries advance to the state competition, and winners there, to the national one.  Competition increases at each level, and everyone wants to advance, but, of course, not everyone can, so … one hopes hard and works harder.

Our friend’s category was announced first, and … he placed second!  We were so very excited, and My Big Helper was hoping even harder for own name to be called at that point.

Yet, her category wasn’t.  They seemed to be calling them in no particular order – junior individual website, senior group performance, junior group project, etc. – and we were starting to think hers would never be announced, when they finally called ‘junior individual exhibit.’

I’m not sure why it works this way, but three entrants in each category advance to the NC State History Day competition – except for in exhibits; then five advance.  My Big Helper didn’t place fifth.

She didn’t place fourth.  Or third.

You know how it goes – each time they prepare to call a new name, you think that now, they’ll call her name now, and she’s going to win, and then it’s someone else.  Your heart falls into your shoes, and you despair that she’s not going to be called, that she didn’t win.  And while it’s not the winning or losing that you care about, she’s oh-so-excited, and you so want her to continue being that excited at that point …..

Not second.

And then, at the very last moment, they called her name!  She placed FIRST in her category!

NHD

It was wonderful to see her so excited.  To know that she’s worked hard and is getting a tangible reward from someone else.  That she’s learning to finish what she starts, and a whole host of other lessons.NHD

Our two competitors are super excited, and well they should be:  they’ve done fantastic work.  It’s not over, though, for now they have the opportunity to take the criticism from the district-level judges and make improvements to their entries before the state competition in a few weeks.

For now, though … yay!  They won! 

Do your kids enter competitions?  Share in the comments below – and come back soon to see why I encourage my kids to compete in these types of events.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Wild Rice

I was a super picky eater as a kid.  I didn’t like anything that had multiple types of ingredients.  I was rather happy about having eating patterns that resembled my great-grandfather’s, and we happily avoided things like vegetable soup. 

Then I went to college.  While it was still very possible to eat well with my former eating plan, I decided it was time to add some new things to my foodie repertoire.  Since it was rather limited, that wasn’t hard to do.

My very favorite new food quickly became something the cafeteria called “Minnesota Wild Rice Soup.”  I carefully picked out all the mushrooms, but the soup itself was amazing:  thick and creamy, full of flavor, and the rice varieties were amazing.  I loved it, and I ate it for every meal it was offered.

Since then, I’ve searched high and low for a recipe that might mimic that taste, but it’s surprisingly hard to find good wild rice soup recipes without chicken.  Nothing I’ve made has even come close – until now.

Honestly, it’s been so long since I tasted that yummy Minnesota Wild Rice Soup that this might be nothing like it; however, it has all the notes I remember, and I love it!  Best of all, it’s super easy to make, so we’ll be eating it often.

Why now?  When it’s warming up?  Because pollen.  It’s pollen season here in the south, and my sore throat and stuffy nose is enjoying this creamy, hot soup.  Give it a try – it might cure what ails you, too.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cans green chilis
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 boxes Zatarain's Wild Rice Pilaf
  • 3 cups shredded Pepper Jack Cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a stock pot.
  2. Saute the onions in the oil. Stir in the garlic and the chilis.
  3. Add the chicken stock.
  4. Add the rice pilaf with seasonings and the called-for amount of water.
  5. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer fro 25-30 minutes.
  6. Stir in shredded cheese.
  7. Serve hot.
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Easy Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili

I love finding easy recipes, and ones that we all like are even better.  My kids like this Easy Chicken Chili so much that they fight over who makes it – and I love any recipe that makes that happen! 

If you’re really in a hurry, you can use prepackaged ingredients that, while still whole, make throwing this together super easy. You know – a rotisserie chicken, boxed broth, and canned beans.  If you have a bit more time, you can cook your own chicken, broth, and beans, and still have a fast, easy, healthy meal on the table in a short amount of time.

One of my favorite things about this chili is its versatility.  The broth is really rich and thick, and it tastes great on it’s own.  I happen to love putting crunchy things into meals like this, though, and both crackers and tortilla chips work here. I like to top mine with a bit of extra cheese, too, but sour cream could also work if that’s your thing.

Even though the weather is getting warmer, with springtime allergies and runny noses plaguing us, we’ve been enjoying the fragrant steam from our bowls.  Give it a try – and let us know what you think.

Easy Chicken Chili

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked, chopped chicken
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3 small cans of diced green chilis
  • 3 cans white beans
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1.5 t oregano
  • 3 c. shredded Monterey Jack r cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in pan.
  2. Add onions and garlic.
  3. Sautee until clear.
  4. Add chilis and spices. Stir.
  5. Add broth and undrained beans.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  7. Add chicken and cheese.
  8. Stir until hot and thickened.
  9. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, and your favorite chili toppings.
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“Smurfs: The Lost Village” Opening Soon! + Giveaway

Smurfs

When I was a kid, I watched the Smurfs every Saturday morning.

I loved the Smurfs.  They were friendly, funny little creatures who loved being together and were always seeing the good in life.  I had all the Smurf gear, too – an alarm clock, bank, and more, and I took it all to Smurf Day at school, where we even ate Smurf cereal for breakfast.

Obviously lots of other kids loved them, but we weren’t the only ones.  Sometimes my dad would watch with me, too, and I loved those times.  Often, after the Smurfs, we’d head out to roller skate or to the farm to spend time with family, but somehow we managed to catch the Smurfs first.

That’s why I was so excited to hear that there’s a new Smurf movie coming out on April 7, called Smurfs:  The Lost Village.  The trailer is funny, and it puts some twists into the Smurf story.  The animation looks beautiful, too.  You can watch the trailer here.

Another thing that has me super excited about this new Smurf adventure, though, is the faith-based discussion guide that you can download here.  It’s set up almost like a devotional, with scripture, a short lesson, and questions for discussion, and I like that a regular, secular movie is being examined this way. 

So, who’s up for seeing Smurfs:  The Lost Village?

Enter to win your own tickets to see Smurfs:  The Lost Village here!