Friday, November 21, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

I was beyond excited when this book came in the mail this week. Even better? A snow storm arrived at the same time. What's a girl to do when snowed in with a great book? Lose herself in it:) Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she's left destitute and with no place to stay.

An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He's just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other's dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household.

Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife's death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.

This story took off at a great pace with Emma's boat sinking and her near drowning. I immediately loved the relationship between her and her brother. When they are rescued and brought to town, Emma's plight continued. Young and single, always desiring a home of her own, it made sense for her to marry Patrick. Still, I did struggle with how quickly the thought was introduced to the two and how they both went through with it.

That struggle was a very minor blip on my enjoyment of this book. Patrick was so incredibly sweet and true, and yet possessed such strength. I loved seeing the theme of forgiveness woven through his story and his never-failing integrity. Each decision he made was true to his character and made sense with the outside circumstances, even if it didn't immediately seem to. Hedlund made sure to tie up all the threads.

As for Emma, her journey of finding a home drove all she did. She's loyal and loving, and though she makes mistakes, she learns. Her biggest lesson? Home is found with God. She and Patrick were a pair I won't soon forget.

All together I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I shouldn't be surprised. Jody Hedlund has a way of weaving a tale that always pulls you in. She never delivers needless angst, but rather let's the plot develop in an authentic way. And she's great at romance. Like amazing.

I happily give Love Unexpected 5 out of 5 stars. If you'd like to purchase it, you can here. After all that shopping next week, you'll want to curl up and relax with this wonderful book!

Jody has written novels for the last 20 years (with a hiatus when her children were young). After many years of writing and honing her skills, she finally garnered national attention with her double final in the Genesis Contest, a fiction-writing contest for unpublished writers through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).
Her first published book, The Preacher’s Bride (2010 Bethany House Publishers), became a best seller and has won multiple awards.
Since then she’s gone on to publish numerous best-selling and award-winning books. You can learn more about Jody at her website, here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

I love this quote. Yes, I know CS Lewis used it in relation to the story of Narnia, but as with everything in that book it also points to our relationship with God. This quote reminds me to keep my eyes on God rather than what I'm seeking (because really, isn't he all we should seek?) and somehow in doing that, He'll get me right to where I need to be. And it's never by the same path I took last time, and definitely not a path someone else has taken. 

Love that!

Anyone else experience this in their life?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Who Needs to be Still?

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

A few months back this verse came up in our Sunday service and our pastor served it up with a twist. After going home and looking at the context of this Psalm along with several commentaries, I could see this verse in a different light, and it's stuck with me ever since.

See, we believe this verse is written to us. Encouraging us to be still and know that God is in control. To stop our worrying and working and simply be in His presence allowing Him to do His work. And I believe that idea to be Biblical. It's something we see over and over in Scripture and such an important part of our walk to learn. But that's not what I believe this verse is referring to anymore. If you study this verse you see it's God talking to those who oppose His people. It's His commanding voice saying to those who dare fight against His beloved:

Be still and know that I am God!

In other words, quit it! Stop it! Back off! Do you hear His voice here? Can you see Him saying this to our enemies? How often we forget His power! How often we forget that in His presence ALL must bow. That with one word He can calm any storm. He doesn't simply have authority, He is authority! Oh, amen!

So whatever you are facing today know you don't have to face it alone. Understand that with one word from His mouth God can bring stillness, peace, reconciliation, wholeness, victory, because He is God. And the enemy knows it.

Now we need to believe it. I challenge you today, for whatever circumstance that feels like it is advancing on you, speak back to it: Be still and know that HE is God! And I am His!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - A November Bride by Beth Vogt

First, the winner of my October Bookshelf is Sarah Monzon! Sarah, catch me here or message me on Facebook which of my October Books you'll like, and I'll get it to you.

As for what's on November's shelf...
Wrapping up the Year of Weddings novellas by Zondervan's is Beth Vogt, and I just love her:) One of the sweetest ladies you'll meet, a friend, and a wonderful writer, I was super-excited to pick up this book. Here's a short blurb:

Can a decades-long friendship marred by two romantic missteps ever lead to happily ever after? Sadie McAllister's clients know how lucky they are to have her: an ultra-fastidious personal chef who leaves behind a spotless kitchen and a week's worth of mouth-watering meals. Erik Davis, her best friend since middle school, is content to enjoy Sadie's culinary skills too while maintaining their "friends only" status. Most of his energy is focused on his just-launched freelance business and casual dates that never come close to a commitment. But when Sadie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime cooking job across country, Erik realizes maybe he's taken his best friend for granted. 
Even more, he's about to lose his only chance for lasting love. How can Erik convince Sadie that the well-known adage "Marry your best friend" just might apply to them? With God's help, can they both move past their assumptions about each other and their future? Should Sadie and Erik risk taking their relationship to the romantic point of no return? If they do, their decades-long friendship is as a good as done... unless it ends at the altar.

Let me start by saying how much I've loved the covers of these novellas, and Beth's is no different. Absolutely gorgeous! Personally I think a girl should get to wear a wedding dress every decade or so:) As for the story. I'll admit the idea of two friends falling in love grabbed me since I married my "just friend" and we've been happily-ever-after ever since, so I have a soft spot for these stories. Beth's characters didn't disappoint. I loved their laughter and their relationship that already was, so I was quickly invested into what would happen if they tried to navigate it into something more. They had good reasons for hesitation, knowing each other as well as they did and their weaknesses, but doesn't that make love stronger? Knowing the weaknesses and loving in spite?

Sadie and Erik were two very likable characters who you'll root for. The story, being a novella, was truly short and sweet. Another great read from Beth, and a great way to wrap up a fun year of this collection. You can purchase A November Bride here.
Beth is also writing a destination wedding series which she'll lead into with another novella called Can't Buy Me Love in spring, so watch for it! In the meantime you can learn a little more about Beth below:)
Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A nonfiction writer and editor who said she’d never write fiction, Beth is now a novelist with Howard Books. She enjoys writing inspirational contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Connect with Beth on her website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

It's a hard truth, but a truth nonetheless. But an even bigger truth is that God is in every single low point with us. He walks through the valleys just as much as he does over the mountaintops. We are never alone. And the lessons from the valleys often become our most cherished.

Praying you feel him holding you close today:)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tilling the Ground

So we're working on a few home improvement projects around our house. It keeps snowballing too! Hubby and I tend to be a bit OCD, so having things all over the place tends to make us feel a bit out of control, but this weekend I looked around and realized we had to have the mess if we were ever going to enjoy the finished project.

Isn't that true about life? It made me think of all the verses about planting, watering, and harvesting. There's one specific step that came to mind as I was reading these; tilling. Breaking up the ground. It's hard work. It causes a mess. It's destructive...but with a purpose. And I see that in our lives and relationships at times.

Sometimes in life we get to plant seeds in others; we're there but for a moment, dropping into their lives something that will begin to germinate. Other times we get to water; be the encouragement, the laughter, simply the fun and love in their lives. Still at different times we get to reap the harvest; walk them into a relationship with the Lord. Oh the pure excitement and joy! But there's one other step that none of us really like. It's when we're the tillers. Our role is to break up that ground, be the friction, cause disruption. No, not purposefully out of spite, but for whatever reason it's the role you play in someone's life in that moment.

You're causing a mess so that God can clean it up.

And let me be clear, I've been on both ends of this tilling. That's because for God to do a work sometimes he needs to break things in us first, and he often uses others to do this. But he never leaves things broken. He smooths it over and cleans it up.

Where are you at today? Planting, watering, harvesting, or tilling? Wherever it is remember, God is working his best in your life. Even when it doesn't look it, even when things around you are a mess, he's bringing order smack dab into the middle of it. Wait for it:)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall (and my monthly giveaway)

Earlier this year one of my dear friends released her first book, The Hesitant Heiress, to amazing reviews. Now her second book in this series is being released. Here's a blurb on The Bound Heart, and we'll chat on the other side!

One accidental kiss—that was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt’s world upside down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn’t have the time or desire to fall for her best friend Lawry Hampton. But with Vance out of the country, and with Lawry at her side nearly every day, teaching her what the world is like through the eyes of a little orphan girl named Wynn—Meredyth can’t deny that what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from her past. Will she marry Vance once he returns from Europe? Or will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web of deceit she’s convinced she deserves, and accept that God’s plan for her life includes redemption…and, quite possibly, Lawry Hampton?

I'll admit to this one being my favorite of the bunch. There was just something so sweet about Meredith and Lawry's relationship. Add to it the redemption of Meredith as she realizes God's forgiveness and grace in the middle of her was a beautiful story! I love stories that give hope, that show that no one is perfect and then use that backdrop to bring in God's all-consuming love, removing chains and setting captives free. That's exactly what The Bound Heart does.

It's also an amazing romance between two characters you root for from their first kiss in chapter one. One kiss truly did throw both their worlds upside down, and the rest of the book is them tilting back to exactly where they belong. 

If you're looking for a heartfelt weekend read, you'll love The Bound Heart and can purchase it here. Dawn's doing a giveaway on her blog too, which you can enter here!

Also, it's time for my monthly bookshelf giveaway. If you need to read any of the reviews off my October bookshelf, the links are below. Just leave a comment if you're interested in winning your choice of one of them! Winner announced next Friday:)

Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Kept by Sally Bradley

Unraveled by Heidi McCahan

Streams in the Desert by LB Cowman