Christmas Wrapping …

If your family is anything like mine, there is a reason for which wrapping paper is used for each person. Everyone gets their own and it usually coincides with that person’s personality. My mom gets poinsettias as she loves flowers, my dad gets Santa Claus paper as he loves to “help out the Big Guy,” and my nephew gets something to do with sports.


Those similarities and differences spill over to each family member also. Whenever my extended family gets together, we love to sit around talking about how my niece is just like me and my son shows traits of my sister, and how even my adopted nephew takes after his grandmother at times, despite no true biology (goes to show nurture is as important as nature).

Sometimes the differences can seem huge and tensions can flare. Your family is used to rising at 5:00 a.m. and rolling into bed again around 8:00 p.m. Your brother’s family rolls out of bed around noon and stays up past midnight. The patriarchs of the family want to eat three square meals a day but you are lucky to be hungry once or twice only. The babies need quiet and consistent naptimes. Your aunt likes things organized and you are more carefree with how you keep your house.


So, how, especially around the holidays, do you make it all work? How do you keep tempers from flaring and harsh words from ruining not only family togetherness but possibly lifelong relationships?


My personal opinion is that if you can keep the real reason for getting together in the forefront of your mind, it helps. What is more important – a spotless house or a Dicecapades tournament (if you have never played this game, it is hilarious, especially with a large group of people.)? Getting a chance to stay up late and getting a glimpse into your sister’s heart again or getting the allotted eight hours of sleep you usually need? Most little ones (there are always exceptions) can usually adapt to a different schedule temporarily also without too many meltdowns.


When family togetherness occurs this year, I issue you a challenge. Why not be the first one to make relationships the priority this year centered around an environment of fun? You might be surprised. If you take time to invest in your family, digging a little bit deeper into their personal lives, taking time to talk about more than just surface topics, you might be surprised that what you leave with this year is more than a store bought present. Instead, you might leave with a better understanding of why your brother, sister, aunt, grandmother reacts or acts a certain way. You might have a better understanding of why your brother has always hated spiders, you might learn what exactly childhood was like for your parents and your kids might gain a better appreciation for why Grandma and Grandpa spoil them (or withhold treats and presents).


I admit – I struggle sometimes in this area (because I really like my sleep and I’ve been running full speed ahead for the past decade) but I want to make relationships a priority this year … because sleep is overrated and I can always try and catch up in January. Who knows? We might have another polar vortex!


© Cheri Swalwell 2019

About the Book

Book:  In the Cradle Lies

Author: Olivia Newport

Genre: Christian Fiction

Release Date: November, 2019

Book 2 in the Tree of Life Series: A Father-Daughter Genealogy Team Link Faith Journeys on Family Trees

On a solo ski vacation in Canyon Mines, Colorado, Tucker has a love-hate relationship with his wealth, spending indiscriminately while skiing fearlessly and preparing to conquer the overgrown slope of Hidden Run, a dangerous run not attempted in decades. As genealogist Jillian tries to uncover enough of Tucker’s family tree to understand his charming nature but reckless resolve, Jillian’s equally charming father, Nolan, cajoles Tucker into giving him ski lessons to get him talking about the suspicious circumstances surrounding his grandfather’s life in St. Louis in the 1930s.

On the surface, Tucker’s family’s history seems too perfect. The secret may lie in the sealed envelope Tucker carries with him at all times—even on the ski slope. When no one can find Tucker to tell him the fiancée he never mentioned turned up in Canyon Mines, they realize he must be off attempting to ski Hidden Run alone in a snowstorm. And they may be too late.

In the Cradle Lies is the second book in the Tree of Life series by Olivia Newport. You’ll want to return to the lovely Colorado mountain town of Canyon Mines again and again to explore and celebrate unforgettable family stories that will inspire you to connect with your own family histories and unique faith journeys.


Click here to get your copy!

My Review:

It was really nice continuing this journey in the Tree of Life Series. The characters are well-developed, the plotlines are intriguing and kept me reading and it’s nice to know it’s a series so that we can continue to return to the Colorado mountain town of Canyon Mines. Anyone and everyone who enjoys historical Christian fiction and/or genealogical books or books about people’s past will absolutely love this book – delving into the character’s past as well as enjoying a great story about their present. The characters draw you in and make you feel a part of the family, the community.

I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit but was not under any obligation to write a review. All opinions are strictly mine.


About the Author

Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and twenty something children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak.


More from Olivia

True confession. I live in Colorado and don’t ski.

In the Cradle Lies includes several references to “How can you live in the Colorado mountains and not ski?” Jillian, a main character in the Tree of Life series, has lived in the mountain town of Canyon Mines since she was two, and by the time she was eight she knew she didn’t want to ski.

I grew up in Illinois, and while my high school had a ski club and somehow found places to ski (I’m not sure where; um, not exactly mountain territory), I was sure I would break something. Arriving in Colorado in my forties did not persuade me to take up skiing at that age. I live at the base of Pikes Peak, not in the mountains like Jillian. I do love the views!

But one of the fun things about being a writer is learning a lot about things you know little about. Enter Google and YouTube. And more YouTube. And … you get the drift.

Some quick facts about Colorado skiing to help get you in the mood for In the Cradle Lies:

  • Colorado typically leads the country in “skier days”—days of skiing purchased in ski areas.
  • Actually, most people in the state don’t ski. By a large margin. Like 90 percent. (So I feel better and so does Jillian.)
  • People visiting the state to ski or snowboard are important to our economy. (So thank you!)
  • Colorado has hosted about 175 ski areas since it became a state in 1876. Today, we have only about 30 operating resorts—so there are lots of dormant, lost, and hidden runs like the one in my story.

I hope you’ll check out In the Cradle Lies—and find out why Tucker came from St. Louis to Canyon Mines to ski an abandoned run that put his life at risk.


Thanks for stopping and connecting here at Spoken from the Heart: If you want to subscribe to my email to receive the latest updated information or to just be encouraged, sign up here: www.cheriswalwell.com

As my way of saying thanks, you will receive a free eBook – Spoken from the Heart: Choosing Grace

Just sign up at: www.cheriswalwell.com


Blog Stops

Through the Fire Blogs, December 3

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 3

Inklings and notions, December 4

Daysong Reflections, December 4

Genesis 5020, December 5

Godly Book Reviews, December 5

Just the Write Escape, December 6

Pause for Tales, December 7

For Him and My Family, December 7

For the Love of Literature, December 8

Mary Hake, December 8

Betti Mace, December 9

Bigreadersite, December 9

A Baker’s Perspective, December 10

Hallie Reads, December 10

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 11

Spoken from the Heart, December 11

Older & Smarter?, December 12

Texas Book-aholic , December 13

Blogging With Carol, December 13

janicesbookreviews, December 14

Tell Tale Book Reviews, December 14

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 15

A Reader’s Brain, December 16

With a Joyful Noise, December 16



To celebrate her tour, Olivia is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a free copy of In the Cradle Lies!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


Christmas Lights …

All of my children are unique. One is quiet and reserved. Another is energetic and playful. The last is a combination of both – shy sometimes but with “eyes that tell a story.” They all share the traits of kindness, being responsible, thoughtfulness, and generally are terrific kids. And I cannot forget their dad. Strong, level headed, a great sense of humor, compassionate, hardworking, and all around amazing are just a few traits that characterize him.

Would I want a family where everyone was exactly the same? Where we all shared the exact same characteristics and personality traits? No, I wouldn’t. I have a tendency to get bored easily so to have everyone exactly alike would not be very fun.

I like the diversity that comes with having a bigger family. My children share traits with both their father and I, but they also have traits that are uniquely theirs. That is such a blessing.

I compare our family with the multicolor strands of Christmas lights that are sold at the store. Each color is uniquely itself; some colors are a blend of two others (green is made up of blue and yellow), but each color combined with the others helps to create the final result. If one bulb is missing or broken, the entire strand is compromised. It is only when all the colors are working together, each in their own unique way that the masterpiece is complete.

That is the way it is with our family. If one person is missing or tries to be someone they aren’t, our picture is broken. I would not change the shy, reserved, carefree, funny, energetic, playful, quiet, relaxed blend that makes up our own unique family.

God gave me this picture of our family, and I was able to write this analogy into my The Redeeming of Green Pines Series, Book One (Journey Back Home). It fit perfectly with what the family was dealing with and was a great description of how different they all are. I can’t wait to officially introduce you to them, but until then, know I’m working hard at edits and hope to get the book into your hands in 2020 (if that’s God’s timetable).

So take time to celebrate and really embrace the wonderful qualities that make up your own family, making sure to tell each other how important he or she is, in his or her own special way, to your family as a whole.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019


About the Book

Book:  Building a Ridiculously Great Marriage

Author: Gil Stieglitz

Genre: Christian Non-fiction

Release Date: November 2019

Building a Ridiculously Great Marriage: Pre-Marital and Marital Habits

It’s no secret that couples in great marriages do different things than couples in bad ones.

But what are those things and how do ordinary folks start doing them? How can couples take a struggling marriage or even one that is “pretty good” to one that is, quite frankly, ridiculously great?

Based on thousands of counseling hours and personal practice, Gil Stieglitz spells out the 15 essential habits found in great marriages that aren’t found in difficult ones. Building a Ridiculously Great Marriage provides the short and dirty version of what it takes to have a marriage that is so great, other couples will stand up and notice—they might even call it “ridiculous.”

This book is a real game-changer for engaged couples just starting out, couples who are struggling, or couples who just want to take their marriage from good to ridiculously great. It is also a terrific resource for pastors, ministry leaders, and counselors who work with couples for pre-marriage and marriage counseling.

My Review:

This is a wonderful book. It’s encouraging, yet challenging. There are tons of stories throughout which I love – reading about others journeys encourages me on mine. While we already have a great marriage, I am always eager to read how to make it even better. Some of the tips he gave are things we already do, but others showed me a different way to approach what we do or helped in areas that are good but can get better. I read this book as a Bible study with a friend and that was even more encouraging.

I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit but was not under any obligation to write a review. All opinions are strictly mine.


About the Author

Dr. Gil Stieglitz is a prolific author, engaging speaker, and insightful pastor who has spent thousands of hours helping, coaching, and strengthening marriages. Gil has written over twenty-five books on marriage, parenting, soul development, and spiritual warfare, including top-seller Becoming a Godly HusbandGod’s Radical Plan for Wives, and Marital Intelligence. He speaks to thousands of people each year about the wonders of God’s principles. Gil now serves as Discipleship Pastor at Bayside Church, a dynamic multi-site church near Sacramento, CA. He is on faculty with Principles to Live By, a nonprofit organization that helps people connect to God’s principles in everyday life. He and his wife, Dana, enjoy a ridiculously delightful life in Northern California. For more information, visit ptlb.com.


More from Gil

After thousands of hours counseling couples for marriage and pre-marital issues, I had a few couples who just wanted to know the very basics of what they needed to do differently to have a much better marriage. These concepts, coupled with some pre-marital counseling I was doing at the time, allowed me to develop a quick and dirty list of the top ten habits couples should develop if they really wanted a terrific marriage. I asked them to trust me in what I was telling them, and they did what I requested. The results were amazing.


For the purposes of this book, I have added five more habits great couples do to make the material even more robust and effective, and I included the exercises I used in my counseling sessions for couples to practice and work out. Think of this book as the low down of what makes a marriage “ridiculously great.” This is the kind of marriage that will constantly surprise you with delight, love, growth, energy, longing, and connection. It is beyond the norm—where you feel like you lucked into this great relationship with this amazing person.


If you showed up in my office and asked me to give you the bottom line, these are the things I would tell you to do. Many people know what they are doing is not working, and they just want to know what to do. These fifteen things are what work…no joke.


Thanks for stopping and connecting here at Spoken from the Heart: If you want to subscribe to my email to receive the latest updated information or to just be encouraged, sign up here: www.cheriswalwell.com

As my way of saying thanks, you will receive a free eBook – Spoken from the Heart: Choosing Grace

Just sign up at: www.cheriswalwell.com


Blog Stops

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 6

Holly Jo Morris, December 7

Spoken from the Heart, December 8

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 9

Mary Hake, December 10

Stories By Gina, December 11

Artistic Nobody, December 12 (Author Interview)

Discipling4Life , December 12

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 13

Texas Book-aholic, December 14

janicesbookreviews, December 15

A Reader’s Brain, December 16

Inklings and notions, December 17

A Diva’s Heart, December 18

Simple Harvest Reads, December 19 (Author Interview)

For Him and My Family, December 19



To celebrate his tour, Gil is giving away the grand prize package of a $100 Amazon Gift Card plus a signed copy of Gil’s book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


Candlelight Eve …

As you think ahead to what you envision your holidays looking like this year, do you want to make them more simple or do you have creativity ready to ooze out?


For the last few years I have enjoyed simplifying our celebration and spending time relaxing and refreshing with simple things like movie marathons, game nights, and puzzle marathons.


Probably one of my favorite Christmas traditions is our whole family attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service before beginning the celebration at my in-laws house.

It’s the perfect way (for me) to usher in the festivities by focusing on God and the reason we celebrate. Singing Silent Night while the sanctuary is bathed in candlelight is by far something I look forward to every year. And it never fails – I always end up crying from the emotional impact it has on me as I prepare my heart.


What is one family tradition you have that you look forward to every year?

Ornaments …

Do the weeks between cutting the turkey for the Thanksgiving feast and opening presents on Christmas morning feel like a blur every year? Do you vow to stop and take time to really enjoy the holidays with friends and family or do you just try to survive until January 1st?


Every year, like many Americans, I try to find the happy balance between teaching my children the real meaning of Christmas while still sharing in fun holiday traditions. Today I want to talk about one tradition our family loves.

This particular tradition started in my childhood home when I was approximately 12 years old. My parents wanted to help my sister and I collect ornaments so that when we were grown and starting our own family, we had some ornaments to take with us that held special meaning to them.


That tradition has since been carried over into my sister’s family, our family, and still continues with my parents and their many grandchildren and now great grandchildren.


Each year’s ornament for each person signifies something to remember that year – either a favorite new sport, hobby, interest, animal, or saying. For my parents, each year they take a cruise, we get them an ornament centered on that year’s destination.


Do you have any special traditions you celebrate in your family?




Favorite traditions …

Every year, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my daughter and I indulge in the same tradition. It started approximately four years ago and it’s one I’ve come to look forward to weeks ahead of time.

Our kids go to different schools and her school happens to be off the day before Thanksgiving, whereas our youngest has a half day. Being the only two females in a house full of males, we take the opportunity the day before Thanksgiving to rent a “movie of her choice” from the library and have the house to ourselves for a few hours.

Sometimes we buy donuts (since it’s early in the morning) and sit together eating them while sipping coffee (for me) and whatever drink of choice she prefers that day. Other times we just come home, curl up with blankets, and enjoy what’s on the screen.

We usually pick a movie that stays with us long after the credits are done. We both like movies that make us think, sometimes cry, and start conversations with many rabbit trails.

Those four hours in the morning set the stage for five days of family togetherness and a host of more Thanksgiving traditions our famly indulges in every year.

Do you have certain traditions you enjoy with your spouse, children, extended family, or friends? May you spend this holiday weekend embracing those things you’re thankful for and getting to let those in your life know how much you love them.

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!

© Cheri Swalwell 2019