Friday, May 1, 2015

Bookshelf Friday - The Thornbearer by Pepper Basham

I met Pepper through my critique partner, Dawn Crandall. Dawn had recommended Pepper's debut novel, The Thornbearer, and after reading the description I knew it was a book I'd want to snag. I'm kinda, maybe, just a little happy I did, too:) Here's the blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all.

When her fiancĂ© leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed – who could ever love a soiled woman?

In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn’t traveling alone.

Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend’s former fiancĂ© and his own childhood companion.

As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.

When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough – or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.

I'm a lover of history, so the setting of this book captivated me. Pepper does an amazing job of putting the reader smack dab into the middle of The Lusitania, the city of Queenstown, and eventually a hospital/orphanage in a small European town. I enjoyed each character I met, including the secondaries.

Sam and Ashleigh are an amazing pair. Having married my own best friend, I was immediately attached to this couple. I rooted for them from page one and loved watching their attraction move from friends to more. They had their own rough road to navigate, and Pepper authentically handled their struggles. The motivation surrounding their choices all made sense, and their character development was neither rushed or drawn out. The core message that God is more than enough for any situation and can heal even the deepest wounds is one that many will relate to.

Add to all this, I simply enjoyed Pepper's voice as an author. Her characters' dialogue flowed easily as did their internals. Her descriptions were colorful but not overdone--she left more than enough for the reader to fill in with their own imagination, which I always enjoy. Working within this historical period and having her characters navigate many of the struggles that occurred during this time frame only deepened the plot and setting, snagging and keeping my interest. If you're looking for a book for this weekend, you can purchase The Thornbearer here.

Happy reading, friends!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blessings & Beauty

What I found beautiful this past week was watching a church-full of children using their talents to praise Jesus. This past weekend was our annual Kid's Fine Arts festival where children from all over Michigan show up to dance, sing, act, play an instrument, give a sermon, display art, even work with puppets! What an amazing blessing these kids were to my heart this week. It wasn't about perfection, it was about laying their talents at the feet of Jesus and pursuing him wholeheartedly with those gifts. They encouraged me in ways many will never know. Love, love, love this amazing show of beauty:)

My daughter's dance group!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Say Yes to the Dress

I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. Hosea 2:19-20

There is nothing quite like watching the face of a groom as his bride walks down the aisle to him. Have you ever seen such radiant love? It truly is one of the most beautiful things to behold. You know in that moment how much that bride is loved and desired.

It’s no different with Christ’s love for us. Well, actually it is, because his love is infinitely more than any earthly love you’ll encounter. When he looks at you, he looks at you with a love and desire unmatched by anything you’ll ever find here.

Did you know that? You are desired. Wanted. Valued. The Bride of Christ. He has such a tender compassion toward you. When he looks at you all he sees is the woman he loves. He doesn’t see our mess, our brokenness, at least not in the way we believe people see it. We think those things mar our value. To Christ, they make him love us all the more. His tenderness desires to heal those places in our lives. His unmatched love desires to make us whole. And when we step into his salvation, he wraps us in the most gorgeous white robes of salvation that rival any wedding gown you’ve ever seen. What a dress to say yes to!

Beloved, you are desired.
Just look at that verse. He wants you for his bride. Today. Right where you are.

Father, help us to know that you desire us to be yours. That you accept us right where we are but never leave us there. Allow us to feel your cleansing salvation today, to know we are robed in its white folds and washed clean. Let us see your glowing smile and feel your tender compassion as we acknowledge you as our Lord.

And today, if you have never acknowledged him as Lord of your life, it’s so easy. He’s not looking for flowery words or a laundry list of all your perceived sins, all he’s looking for is you to ask him. If you need some help, you can pray this prayer:

Jesus, I want you to come into my life. I acknowledge you as Lord and Savior. I’ve made messes and things aren’t perfect, but you don’t desire perfection, you desire a heart that longs to be Yours. Come into my life today.

If you made that decision today, let me know here or inbox me on Facebook. I'd love to chat with you and pray for you!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bookshelf Friday - From the Start by Melissa Tagg

I thoroughly love Melissa Tagg, which makes it no surprise that I also love her books:) So I'm so happy to be sharing with you her most recent release. Here's the blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.

Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley. 

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?

This is the first in Melissa's new series about the Walker family, and once you read it you'll be waiting for the rest. Like she is wonderful at, Melissa easily weaves in wit, romance, and laughter throughout her book. Set in a fictional town, Maple Valley, you'll get the flavor and feel of the t.v. show Gilmore Girls with a whole new cast of characters.

From the start (lol, see what I did there) I enjoyed Kate and Colton. Their first meeting is one of my favorite of all times. The two played well against one another for the remainder of the pages, making it easy for me to keep flipping them. I also loved meeting the Walker clan. I'm a huge fan of books where there are large families, knowing I'll get to see more and more of them as the series progresses. With Melissa's ability to craft well-rounded, flawed, and relatable characters, this series opener is no different.

The story from beginning to end pulled me in. Once again Melissa has produced a book that is more than entertainment. There's a heart-message involved, and we are lucky enough to get pure fun on the side. That, to me, is a winning combination.

I highly recommend From the Start and give it 5 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here. Happy reading, friends!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blessings & Beauty

Happy Wednesday, friends! I'm not even going to lie over here, this month has been incredibly busy for us. Spring always is as we have children going in multiple directions for sports and practices. Each of our children get to basically pick one extra-curricular for the year...they just happen to all pick the same season! But it's just that, a season, and we can do anything for a season.

So for me this week, one of the things I've found beauty in is TIME. A moment here or there to rest and relax, whether it's a quiet fifteen with a cup of coffee, or it's the last few minutes of the day when everyone is asleep. I find if I remember to commit my ways to the Lord each day, that he helps me find pockets of time that I'd normally blow past.

What do you do for quiet? How do you spend those moments of recharging? This morning in my found quiet-moment I've been working on a challenge I received in the Bible Study I'm currently doing. It's called Red Hot Faith (seriously a great study!), and this week we were asked to make a list of the alphabet then come up with one attribute for God for every letter. I may not make it through all 26, but what an amazing time it's been to sit with Jesus and think about his hand in my life. All the ways he's worked in me, on me, and through me. It's been a true walk in beauty to study his impact over my years and how much he truly loves and cares for me.

I guess I'd like to challenge you to the same thing today! As you find pockets of time: taxi-mom, folding laundry, exercising, waiting for a game to start, or your coffee-break at work...pick a letter and pair it with an attribute of God in your life. Start a list. Keep it in your pocket, purse, or desk drawer and add on to it. Reflecting on all God's done and been to you will fire-up your faith and make you fall even deeper in love with him. And that will not only help you see a boatload of blessings, but it's also an amazing thing of beauty.

Have a day, dear ones!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trusting in God's Best - Jill Kemerer

Hey all! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming another dear friend, Jill Kemerer. I reviewed Jill's book, Small Town Bachelor, on Friday, and she's here today to speak some words of life into us. Wonderful wife, mom, writer, and organizer extraordinaire, Jill's testimony of trusting in God even when things weren't going as she planned is one we can all relate to. Praying her words encourage you today!

I spend a lot of time walking. My favorite places to hike are nature trails in nearby parks. Within minutes of soaking up the fresh air, the colors of the season and the sounds of birds, I find myself praying. All the worries on my mind pour out. Often I grin, thankful for life and blessings. If something is heavy on my mind, an hour might pass with me begging for help and direction.

I have a tendency to expect that life will let me down. I was an optimistic kid, but we all have disappointments and heartbreaks as we age. Life doesn’t turn out exactly the way we hoped, and we lower our expectations, trying to protect ourselves from pain.

But walking—prayer walking—has lifted me and my expectations. Giving my troubles to God, truly trusting Him with my problems, has made a tremendous difference in my life.

About eighteen months ago, I spent an hour walking, struggling with problems, worried about things I had no control over but that affected me and my loved ones. I’d been trying to get published for almost seven years and truly was at the end of my rope. My father had chronic, heart-breaking health problems. Money was tight. My kids were getting older and their problems could no longer be solved with a cookie and a hug.

As I approached the end of the trail, I felt a deep peace in my heart. I truly trusted God would work everything out for my best. The next six months were very difficult on multiple levels, but daily prayer kept me from falling apart. Many times my mind drifted back to that walk and the peace I felt.

Even as life got worse, I trusted in God’s best.

My life isn’t perfect, but God has blessed me in so many ways since that day. My publishing dream came true this month with the release of Small-Town Bachelor. My dad still has chronic, heart-breaking health problems. Money is still tight. My kids are teenagers and their problems can’t be solved with a cookie and a hug. And all of it is okay, because God works everything—positive or negative—out for our good.

We have less control than we think. Acknowledging God’s power and trusting in His best is the only way I want to live my life!

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Do you struggle to trust in God’s best?

Have a wonderful day!

Thanks so much, Jill! I know I struggle at times to trust in God's best, but when we see how much we mean to Him and that He only wants what's best for us, it becomes easier:) Love your heart and how you've trusted in Him.

About Jill ~

Jill Kemerer writes inspirational romance novels with love, humor and faith. A full time writer and homemaker, she relies on coffee and chocolate to keep up with her kids’ busy schedules.

Besides spoiling her mini-dachshund, Jill adores magazines, M&MS, fluffy animals and long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children.  Jill loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bookshelf Friday - Small Town Bachelor by Jill Kemerer

Before I start with today's book review, I need to let you know who won a copy of Dawn Crandall's book!

Michelle Faile

Ladies, if you could, click on over to my Facebook page (link is on the right there under "Connect With Me") and inbox me your email addresses. You have YOUR CHOICE of any of Dawn's books. Let me know which it is, and she'll email it to you!

Now onto today:) And I'm so excited about this book! Jill Kemerer's debut, Small Town Bachelor, is not only a wonderful read, but Jill's story to publication is a sweet journey of faith. She'll be here Monday to share it, but for now, here's the blurb on her book and we'll chat on the other side!

When Reed Hamilton arrives in Lake Endwell for a family wedding, he expects to do his part as best man then head back to the big city. But when a a tornado postpones the wedding, the town is in shambles and Reed is injured. Thankfully maid of honor Claire Sheffield offers him one of her cottages to recuperate in. Dedicated to her family and her dream job at the zoo, Claire is all about roots. She's this city slicker's opposite, yet as they help the town rebuild, Reed is captivated by her stunning looks and caring ways. He can't ask Claire to leave the life she loves for him, but he also can't imagine ever leaving her behind…

So does he? Ask her to leave? Guess you'll have to read it to see how everything works out:) And I have to say, I really loved this book.  It only has me waiting for her next in this series. Already this charming town feels like home. I loved Jill's characters, her flair for humor, and her ability to reel you straight into the heart of this book. She provided flawed and realistic leads with believable growth that was neither rushed nor held back. This provided for the perfect story pace that prevented you from wanting to set the book down. A wonderful debut with witty dialogue and unique characters, you'll definitely want to check this one out!

If you're in the Midwest like me, you can find Small Town Bachelor at your local Meijer, but it's also at Walmart stores too! And, of course, you can catch it on Amazon. And stop by Monday to meet Jill. She's another friend who's visiting during this year of focus on the word Masterpiece. She'll be sharing all about her personal faith journey and how trusting in God in ALL things helps us keep our focus on who we are in HIM, not in what we accomplish. 

Happy Friday, friends!