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on August 9, 2011
My suitcase was overflowing with summer outfits and matching swimwear as I did my best to make room for Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God's Fiesta. Would I really take the time to read this book while on vacation? After all, my objective was to gaze out at the deep blue sea,take long walks on the soft white sand and soak up Caribbean paradise. I opened the book, turned off my cell phone and found an even better paradise. The words soothed and settled me in my lounge chair for two straight days. It's the best read of 2011.
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on June 26, 2012
Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God's FiestaCaution: at first glance, the title of this book appears misleading. Simply Salsa sounds like the author, Janet Perez Eckles, is sharing tips and recipes for hosting a Cinco de Mayo party. Then you move on to the subtitle. Dancing and God's Fiesta take these hints to a cosmic level. But wait a minute; what about the phrase, Without Fear? That changes the tone completely. So you go back and read the title in its entirety. "Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God's Fiesta." By now, you're intrigued and maybe a little defensive. She's probably never faced what I've faced, you think, yet she's encouraging people to dance without fear?

Really? What have you faced? A challenging childhood? Janet Eckles was born in Bolivia and immigrated to the United States when she was a young child. Without knowing a person in this country and not one word of English, her family had to begin again with nothing.

Financial? The company her husband worked for went under, leaving him and two other men financially responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

Physical challenges? At 31, Eckles went blind.

Relational problems? Shortly after going blind, her husband announced he wanted to leave her for another woman.

Tragedies? When her son was 19 years old, he was murdered and the man who killed him would later be acquitted.

Any one of these would be a mountainous burden to bear; but all of them? Now, maybe you're facing other situations, but it's obvious that Janet Perez Eckles is in a position to speak from on overcoming life's challenges?

"Simply Salsa" is an amazing book. Written with a bit of sassiness, humor, and an amiga-to-amiga style, it encourages women to accept God's call to dance. Eckles shares her own story and the stories of other women who have faced insurmountable odds. Cancer. Infidelity. Loss. Addictions. The stories are heart-breaking and their grief, shock and pain knock them to the floor. Yet, these women did not stay down.

With a foundation built on the truth of Jeremiah 29:11-14, "`For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, `plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future,'" the author encourages women not to stay in the trap of their own circumstances; but grasp the hand of God, stand up, let go of the past and learn not only to live, but to live joyfully.
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on August 5, 2011
Janet Eckles lost her eyesight at thirty, became the victim of an unfaithful husband, and endured the horrendous murder of her precious 19-year-old son. Who could endure all of that and not be bitter, angry, and hopeless? How could a loving God allow this to happen?

In "Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God's Fiesta," Janet Eckles shares her very personal story and tackles these probing questions--and many more that we have all asked when going through unimaginable crises. With Biblical insight, rare sensitivity, appropriate humor and Latino wit, "Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God's Fiesta" will help you to know God's perfect love in the quagmire of tragic circumstances.

Some of my favorite quotes included:

"But amigas, joy has nothing to do with a trouble-free life. Joy has everything to do with the absence of fear."

"In all areas of life, unfairness abounds. And justice may be blind. But injustice allows us to discover the beauty of forgiveness."

"No amount of fear can increase our bank accounts, and no amount of losses can decrease God's provision."

"Those bumps aren't all bad. If they jostle us, that means we're moving ahead. And we're not broken down on the side of the road of grief."

"And with the same strength we use to remove the cheese stuck at the bottom of the tamale casserole, we must scrape away the "loves" that give us a false sense of purpose and satisfaction."

Are you a woman who longs for a deeper relationship with God? Are you a desperate wife who has been spurned, suffering in silence, or groping through the nightmare of abandonment? Are you reeling from the bruises of broken dreams, shattered goals, financial ruin, or strained family relationships? Are you on the road of dead ends, confusion, and personal mistakes? Have you dug your own grave of despair? Is hopelessness your middle name?

"Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God's Fiesta" will help you to learn the power of forgiveness and the secret to being made whole. Janet Eckles, through her physical blindness, has given those of us who see an uncanny spiritual vision into God's redemptive love in a fallen world.
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on August 8, 2011
How do you respond when tragedy strikes - you lost your job, your home, a child, or your health? Some commit suicide. Some transform into cynics and lose all zest for life. Others, after a time of realistic grieving, rethink life and still find time to dance. Such a person is Janet Eckles.

In Simply Salsa, Janet walks us through the thought process that gave her hope, purpose and peace after tribulations of a variety and intensity that few face, including the loss of her eyesight, the infidelity of her husband, financial disaster, and the murder of her child. As I read, I find not only wisdom, but the hope that "If Janet can keep playing the game of life with the hand she's been dealt, then there's hope for me." Having lost my wife to breast cancer in her 30's, leaving me with four young boys to raise on my own, I understand a bit about loss and grief, and identify with Janet's struggles and solutions.

Some who deal with profound disappointments need to struggle deeply on a philosophical or theological level. They may appreciate the works of C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain) or Philip Yancey (Where is God When It Hurts?). But others prefer answers offered through a more personal approach, from someone who's willing to share her inner struggles and the rethinking of life that helped her emerge from the ruins to find a life of hope and joy. For the latter, Janet's experiences can start the healing process.

In one section, Janet observes that answers to life's problems often require waiting. How we handle that waiting can make all the difference. As she puts it,

"There are two groups of people. One group exudes peace even in difficult circumstances. The other group includes the folks who go into hysterics over small things like a long line at the post office. The difference between the two kinds of people is the way they decorate their waiting rooms."

That's wise advice, straight from someone who's intimately acquainted with years living in the waiting room. Simply Salsa is a well-written, heartfelt message from one who's been there to those who are there. Don't give up! There's Light at the end of your tunnel. And not only Light, but a bright Light and a personal Light who cares for you deeply.
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on March 12, 2012
Janet bares her soul in this wonderful book. I read a lot of her writing as a devotional before going to bed. She gave me much to think about. We can all feel sorry for ourselves when bad things happen, but there's another way--a better way that brings joy. My life has had its struggles--nothing like the loss Janet experienced--completely blind as a young woman and the murder of a son. She shares not only her heartache, but how she overcame her hurt, anger, fear and resentment. I even learned some Spanish along the way. Janet was thoughtful enough to place a glossary of the Spanish terms she uses in the back of her book. Espera un momentito (wait a minute)--this book was written to mujeres(women) and I'm a senor (man)! Pon atencion (pay attention)--we are all, male and female, part of the familia (family) of El Senor (the Lord God). Yes, Janet suffered a great deal when she received the malas noticias (bad news), but in the end--caramba (surprise), this chica (woman) knows how to Salsa (dance). I plan to ask her to Salsa with me in Heaven.
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on August 8, 2011
Janet Eckles' Simply Salsa pulsates to the beat of God's heart. With wit and in beautiful Latino metaphors, Janet, shows how God leads us to him step by step until dramatic changes take place in our hearts. Janet is cheerleader, friend, mentor, and example as she helps us say, "Si to Jesus."

What a delightful but dig-down-deep book you've written, Janet. As I read, it kept reminding me of my own struggles and pointed me to solutions, and I also kept thinking of women I know who would benefit from this book.

I also love not only Janet's outright teaching, but I love the sweet undercurrent teaching, too, such as when she writes, "a time to celebrate might make your penciled eyebrows arch in surprise," and "wringing your manicured hands." By using details such as those about women's outward lives (to which we pay such attention), she gently reminds readers/me about the greater worth of the well-groomed inner woman.

Cathy Messecar, Author of "A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment" (I received an advance PDF file of this book for review, under no obligation to give it a favorable review. This review is genuinely what I think of this work.)
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on August 9, 2011
After a career as a counselor and Psych/Soc teacher, I can say with confidence that Jan Eckles has achieved what most professionals only dream of doing. With exquisite gentnleness she takes the reader's hand and goes with them into the dark and painful places of their lives to open the way for God to heal them. The beauty of her words eases the path to awareness and her love and humor helps keep eyes clear to see the truth within our hearts. God has prepared her to be able to take us where we fear to go. The path of her life was filled with agony, so intense, a lesser person might have fallen never to rise again. Yet, Jan has come through whole and filled with the joy of our Lord. Join her in the dance of her journey and while you salsa, put forth your hands and gather fruit from God's abundant garden.
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on August 9, 2011
I had been married to my first husband for 17 years when everything in my world crashed down on my. I'd been a Christian for almost twenty years by then, but I had doubts, questions, fears, and roller coaster emotions. Simply Salsa embraces the truths and promises of the Bible, while embracing the humanness of feeling emotions. If you or someone you love are traveling a rough road, you may really relate to the words written on these pages. There's hope and there's healing. What a great reminder!
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on April 19, 2015
A story of a Hispanic woman, her disability, her endurance, and her joy in the Lord. A worthwhile read, however, I think it could have been shorter. I also had difficulty with her Spanish quotes, but did learn a bit by the end. She overcomes extreme disability with grace and humor. I read this with my book club, and I saw that others enjoyed it much better than I did.
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on August 8, 2011
This book is an amazing read! From the first chapter Janet had me hooked, and before I knew it I was half-way through. Her beautiful prose is both eloquent and inspirational, with a clever use of metaphor in its message of faith and trust in the Lord. She peppers the book throughout with her unique Latina flair! Janet also has the uncanny ability to make the reader feel as if she is intimately familiar with one's own unique personal trials. She speaks directly to the reader's heart (and soul) with the sage wisdom and wise advice of one who has faced her own crushing trials and tragedies, yet through her unyielding faith in God, has been healed in only the way He can heal.

"Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God's Fiesta" is truly a gift from Janet to us! As she intimately shares her insights, personal trials (not the least is losing her eyesight as mother to 3 small and active boys), coupled with a renewed awakening of her Christian beliefs and dedication to the Lord and His word, we learn that truly He does not give us more than we can handle. When one begins to feel defeated or lost in life-- always searching for the elusive "more" (which seems never to be enough), take a quiet moment and reflect on the inspirational words of Janet Perez Eckles. Learn what true emotional devastation, sense impairment, loss, heartbreak and grief look like. If Janet can overcome all life's harsh obstacles and still learn blessed forgiveness and peace, especially in the most unimaginable circumstances, why can't we? She teaches one to listen in one's heart to the heavenly "music" of God's word. Let Him "lead" you on the dance floor of life, and fill your dance card with His grace. No other dance partner is needed.
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