A Gift. . .of Life (Guest Blog and Recipe by Denise Simmons)

Denise Simmons is a preacher’s kid, church hostess, women’s ministry director all wrapped into one person.  She is also a wife, a mother to two, and a helping hand in a time of need. If you ask her for something, she will try her best to help. I’ve discovered she is also a great pray-er who lifts up the shared concerns of others to our heavenly Father and sits at His feet, waiting for the sometimes-difficult answers. Read below for her thoughts on God’s gift of. . .life.

Also, a real treat. . .Denise is gifted in the kitchen, as well. She’s included a healthy recipe for all us New Year’s resolutionists to try in 2012. Enjoy!

Lookin’ up,


As I opened my devotion today, the title struck me tenderly, especially in light of the holiday season and all of the events of this week.  I have several very dear friends that are experiencing crisis of monumental proportions; injury, serious illness of close family members, untimely death, financial ruin, family away from home during the holidays for the first time, or perhaps an empty seat at the table for the first time at Christmas–the list could go on, I’m certain.  But in the face of such adversity there is HOPE, there is LIFE…

The title of my devotion so ‘spot on’ stated… MY PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE…   His plan unfolds before us if we but stop, look and listen.  Sometimes the road we travel seems blocked or is opening so painful slow that it appears we are abandon and all alone.  That is the farthest from the truth for the believer in Jesus.  For when the time is right the way before us suddenly clears through NO effort of our own.  Many times it is not as we have planned or even pictured it to be, but often better than we can hope or imagine. Ephesians 3: 19-21  says, to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen

A more pure gift can not be found, I am constantly in awe by the ease with which my Heavenly Father operates in my life when I yield to him and to see glimpses of His power and glory in every situation He is allowed to work in is a wonderful GIFT.  Today I choose to claim, Psalms 62: 2 He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.  It is in our weakness and often our fears, that God’s power and glory can be so brilliantly displayed.  As we persevere and depend on His strength, my pray for all of us is that there will be strength beyond measure and miracles beyond explanation.  Living by faith rather than by sight we will see His greatest glory.  Oh, what a gift!!!

As you spend time with your family and friends this holiday season giving and receiving tangible gifts, linger a little longer, love a little deeper, hug a little tighter, savor every moment, for these moments we have here on earth together are quick and need to be cherished for the gifts that they are in all of our lives.  Among the many personal blessings in my life God has blessed me beyond measure with a precious family.  Parents that raised me in a Christian home and taught me to love and fear God, a husband that cares for me, protects me and provides for my every need.  To count the greatest accomplishments in my life are my two precious children (some days they fall a little short of such great accolades) but God chose them for me and me for them and to just look at them everyday is humbling to me, knowing that having them in my life is truly a ‘God thing’ and they are my richest gifts and blessings and I am so honored that God chose us to be a family unit and saw us through every detail in making that happen.

God bless you and your family, Merry Christmas 2011…

Denise Simmons

Quick Asian Chicken Wrap Ups 

Prep 20 Minutes

2 cups chopped cooked skinless chicken breast (chopped-up strips from pre-packaged chicken breasts or from a Costco Rotissere Chicken)

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup crispy rice noodles

Seasoned salt and pepper

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shredded broccoli slaw

Four to six butter lettuce leaves  (Costco uses Spinach Pita Wraps)

1/3 cup Peanut sauce (store-bought)

1/3 cup Asian salad dressing for dipping sauce (store-bought or Optional recipe below)


In a medium glass bowl, combine chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, , green onions, and almonds. Mix well. Season to taste with seasoned salt and pepper. Cover and let set in the refrigerator for an hour.

Add small containers each of peanut sauce and Asian dipping sauce to platter. (

On platter, arrange lettuce leaves. Divide up the chicken mixture and place a mound of it on each leaf. Top with crispy noodles, carrots and cabbage. Roll up the leaf and dip in one of the sauces.

Serves 4 as appetizers, 2 adults as a main course


3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup warm water

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 teaspoons garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

A Gift of. . . A Wedding Invitation (Guest Blog by Alice Wisler, author)

Today, a real gift for you readers of Christian inspirational fiction. Alice Wisler, author of three published books by Bethany House Publishers, has graciously agreed to share about her newest book, A Wedding Invitation, available now at Barnes & Noble, Family Christian Bookstores, Lifeway, and online. Welcome, Alice! I’m so excited that you’re taking time to talk with us today.

AW: Thanks, Jean! I’m glad to be here.

SS: Tell us a little bit about your latest book, A Wedding Invitation.

AW: A Wedding Invitation is loosely built on my stint as an English teacher in a refugee camp in the Philippines in the 1980s. While the camp had refugees from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, I focus on the Amerasians, children of Vietnamese women and US soldiers during the Vietnam War. Their plight is tough and I take one girl, Lien, and carry her through so that readers can get a glimpse of her life. Since my novels with Bethany House all take place in North Carolina (my state!), I also set the story in Winston-Salem.

SS: Was there a specific thing, person, or event that triggered the writing of this book?

AW: Once I received an ornate wedding invitation that was not for me! It was for the former home owners of my house. From there, I thought of how I could incorporate a refugee camp, a romance and a boutique in Falls Church, VA, as well as a butterfly-raising aunt in North Carolina into a story.

SS: I especially like your portrayal of the complex relationship between the main character, Samantha, and her mother Cecelia. How do you feel their relationship is typical? How is it atypical?

AW: I think many daughters have a tough time with their moms. Samantha wants her mother to be more vocal and demonstrative with her love. But Cecelia is more candid, reserved. The two do care and love each other, they just show it in different ways.

SS: Explain to us who Carson is, how he and Samantha met, and how he extends the “gift of grace” to others.

AW: Carson sees life as a glass half full. He and Samantha met at the refugee camp where they worked together, teaching English-as-a-second language to Southeast Asian refugees. Carson not only teaches, but learns Vietnamese so that he can better communicate with his students and their families. When Lien is accused of theft, he believes in her, and not in the accusations. He steps out to speak in her favor even though he is reprimanded for his actions.

SS: Samantha herself bestows a “gift of grace,” when she tries to help Lien, the young Amerasian girl she knew in the Philippines. How does she do this?

AW: When asked to help Lien find her birth mother, Samantha has to spend more time with the young girl. Samantha learns to forgive and to see that there is beauty in Lien. Lien might be loud and rowdy, but she is also loving and grateful. Lien also is seeking after God, wanting to be more trusting of Him, and like most of us, she wants to be accepted and to belong. Gradually, Sam’s heart changes. I think she is the most surprised by the change!

SS: Thank you so much, Alice. We’re eagerly looking forward to your next book, which will be–?

AW: My next novel is Still Life in Shadows, coming out with Moody Publishers in the early fall of 2012. It’s about an ex-Amish man who helps other dissatisfied Amish escape the old lifestyle. Lots of twists and turns and even a murder, so a bit different from my novels with Bethany House. However, Still Life in Shadows is still about relationships and seeking God’s help, as well as filled with southern-isms and humor.

SS: I look forward to reading it, Alice!  May you have a blessed Christmas. . .

Lookin’ up,


A Gift of . . . God’s Presence

Don’t get lost in the busyness of the season. . .  Slip into God’s throne room and sit at Our Heavenly Father’s feet, for just a moment. . .  He’ll refresh you with the Gift of His Presence. . .  Lookin’ up, Sislyn~



Seeking Child,

I don’t play hide n’ seek.

I listen to you when you call upon Me.

When you eagerly seek Me,

You will find Me! Even when it

Seems like I’ve forgotten about you, you’re

Never off my radar screen.

I am always aware of you and I intimately know you.

You’re never out of the reach of My Spirit.

No matter where you are, you have the Gift of my Presence!

My hand will guide you! When you need wisdom, just ask Me

And I’ll generously give it to you




Making a Way where there seems to be no Way,

Your Father and Sovereign Lord.

(Jer. 29:12-13, Ps. 139:7-10, James 4:5-

adapted from Lean Weiss’s book,

Christmas Promises)