Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Sabbatical


Hey friends,

I've been writing here for seven years. I know. It doesn't even begin to feel like it! Things have morphed and changed throughout those years, and I've loved every second of it. But these past few weeks God has been stirring in my heart that it's time for a rest. Resting is a hard thing for me to do, but so needed. It refreshes us, and I can tell that is needed. 

So this summer I'm taking a break. I'm digging my toes into the sand. I'm opening the Word and sitting outside with it. I'm playing...because we're never too old to play:) And I'm asking God to refresh me. I'll still be around on my Facebook author page--you can connect to it through that little Facebook button on the right there--posting some fun questions, info on books to read this summer, and just simple encouragement. 

Otherwise, you can find me outside in the sun:) And I'll see you back here in the Fall!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Old Habits Die Hard

This past week I was reading Genesis. Sometimes I just like to go back to the beginning. Anyway, I came to the whole Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery part and dove into the familiar story. But it was once I arrived at the end that I stumbled on a few little words that I didn't remember seeing before. I love how God always makes his word new to us:)

So as you'll recall, Joseph's brothers were jealous of him. It didn't help that his daddy, Jacob, showered him with special attention and gifts. To say Jacob lavished him with more love than his other siblings would not be an understatement. Joseph was Jacob's favorite (his little brother Benjamin was a close second) and it was a well known fact. This led to fighting and eventually Joseph's brothers selling him off to rid themselves of him.

If you're familiar with Scripture, you know it worked out all right for Joseph--and his family--in the end. What they'd intended for evil, God wound up using for good. Joseph wound up as second-in-command in Egypt and helping the country through several years of famine. Even his brothers came to him for help, although they didn't realize it was Joseph at first.

Through God's grace, Joseph forgives his brothers. And then he bestows gifts upon them. He gives them animals, clothing, and money while asking them to journey home and bring their father back to him. But while he's bestowing them all with gifts, he gives a heftier portion to his little brother Benjamin. Hmmm...the brothers have been here once before. And here is where the words came in that I've missed so many times before.

You see, as Joseph is sending off his brothers to go retrieve their father, he calls after them, "Don't quarrel on the way!"

Why were these his parting words?

Because Joseph knows how hard it is to change behavior! He knew this situation mimicked the exact one that had gotten them into trouble years prior. And he knew their natural bend would push them toward old actions. Actions they'd been forgiven of and found freedom from. So he was warning them. Reminding them to react differently this time because they were different.

Oh, that we can learn from those few words. Friends, once we know freedom from our pasts, don't go back! Yes. We may be faced with similar situations, but that doesn't mean we have to react in old patterns. God has changed us. So live in that change. Let your old habits die--even if it's hard.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hit the Mark

I've been hanging out in Acts this week and came to verse twenty-six where Paul is representing himself in court. See, the Jews were angry with him because he was preaching the Gospel, and they didn't like it very much. They didn't believe Jesus was the Son of God, crucified, and raised on the third day from the dead. And they didn't want Paul preaching any differently.

So Paul is arrested. And when he stands before King Agrippa, he represents himself. He starts right off owning the fact he used to persecute people for the very beliefs he now stands on trial for. But then he moves into preaching. Because Paul never let a moment pass him by. He's passionate about his brothers realizing what they missed.

Paul turns to the king and says,

"And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" vs. 6-8

Basically he's saying "You all have been sitting around waiting for a promise that's already come, and because I'm preaching that it has, you're wanting to shut me up. But listen, you've studied all about God. Are you really telling me you don't believe it? That He can't raise His own son from the dead?"

Paul was challenging them, because for all their studying, memorizing, watching and waiting, the Jews still missed Jesus.

They'd missed their promise.

Oh. Have you ever been there? It might have been a whisper or maybe thunderous, crashing waves, but God spoke to you. He gave you a promise for your future. And you prepared. Watched. Studied. Waited. But somehow in all your preparation, you missed it.

For the Jews, their missing it was all part of fulfilling the prophecy, but once the prophecy was fulfilled, they refused to admit maybe they were wrong. And in our stubbornness, we can be much the same. It's humbling to admit we were wrong. That we so completely missed the mark. But here's what I so love about our God.

He loves us too much to let us continue shooting arrows that miss. He sends us help to get us back on track.

For the Jews, He sent Paul. Listen to what Paul goes on to say: (And here Paul is giving us the very words God spoke to him when He sent Paul.)

"I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." vs. 18

Oh! See this! God loved them so much. He knew they'd messed up. He knew their hearts were hardened and they were totally walking blind in the dark. But He wasn't about to let that anger and darkness allow them to keep missing the promise He'd sent--or His forgiveness.

And why?

Because He wanted them with him. That "place among those sanctified by faith in me" is Heaven. His home where He so desperately wants us. The ultimate promise of eternity spent with Him.

God wanted their aim corrected, and He provided a voice to point them back to their bullseye. And that's totally His personality. He never leaves a promise unfulfilled. He seeks us out. Shines a light so we can see the mark we're aiming for and steadies our hand, but it's up to us to release the shot.

And while this story is talking about the promise of Jesus Christ--a promise given and fulfilled for each and every one of us--we can also use it to apply to our individual promises in our lives. God created each and every one of us with a specific plan and purpose. He has specific promises He wants each of us to claim.

So what about you? Are you waiting for a promise, watching one being fulfilled, or being called back to one you may have overshot? Today let Him guide your hand, rest in His perfect aim, release the shot, and let your arrow hit its mark.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - True to You by Becky Wade

Becky Wade has started a new series about three sisters and her first book, True to You, came out this week. I could not wait to read it and cracked it open yesterday. I could not put it down:) Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.


After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he's diagnosed with an inherited condition, he's forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother. 

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John's already dating someone and Nora's not sure she's ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they're seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Wade has opened this new series with a new style. There is something fresh and yet familiar with her writing, and it was that juxtaposition that I loved! From the first pages this book reads unlike any other Wade book, and yet her voice is evident. Wade remains a master at believable chemistry and pacing between her characters. Her heroes have her signature voice all over them, and that remains true in True to You. She also maintains the beauty of family in her book, only this time it's with three sisters. While never perfect relationships, the bond of a family is something she keeps in tact, which is refreshing. And her faith element is woven in organically, another piece Wade seems to do effortlessly which can only stream from her own love of God. It's simply a part of her, so it's a part of her writing.

What's new is her style of writing. She's introduced small snippets of emails and texts which allow us to see pieces of background information in unique ways that don't stall the progress of the story but rather enhance it. And even her wording and beats are different here, creating a unique flow to the story that completely suits these new characters. And yet, it's still 100% a Wade novel. This, to me, is the mark of an amazing author, and Wade is most definitely one of those.

As for the meat of the story itself, I thoroughly enjoyed Nora and John. Pairing a historian with a Navy Seal brought about some fun moments. And the fact that these two established a friendship first allowed only had me rooting for their relationship all the more.

I happily give True to You 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

***I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions here are my own.***

Monday, May 1, 2017

Planted

Life is full of seasons, and dry ones are the hardest. Those moments where the hard-packed ground around you is rutted with deep cracks fingering out in all directions and no moisture can be found anywhere. There's no oasis. There's no rain. There's only dust and maybe a tumbleweed or two drifting by. (Okay, I may be waxing a tad poetic with my description of a dry season, but there's some truth to be found in those exaggerations.  Anyone who's ever experienced one is probably nodding with me.)

And it always seems like making it through the dryness is nearly impossible. Struggles that aren't normally an issue suddenly loom large. Our brittle spirits can't quite handle battles with the strength they once did. How do we stand firm in our faith when issues arise, and we aren't fresh enough to face them?

The answer is found in where we're planted. I love Psalm 1:3. It tells us that when we draw near to God, we will be like "a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither...."

Friends, do you see that? We can yield fruit in all seasons, and we won't wither! Dry seasons will come, for sure, but that should describe our outside location not our inside experience. Yes, we'll have times where everything around us is cracked and broken, but we can remain internally strong if we draw near to Jesus. He is our source. He will renew us. He will keep us fresh. And he'll produce fruit in us, even when everything around us is barren. He's able to because he's our water! Drinking from him ensures we will never run dry (John 4:14).

So today if you're struggling through a desert, check to see where you're planted. If needed, move your roots closer to the Well that never runs dry. Dig into the Word. Spend time in prayer. Spend time simply listening to him. Your external circumstances may not change, but your internal ones will--and that's all you need to make it through. No, it's not easy. Dry seasons never are. But you can be victorious in them when you tap into the only Source that will give you the necessary strength to make it through.

Plant yourself in Jesus, and let him drench your dry places.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Laughter and Joy

Life can be busy. It can be hard. It does its best to steal our joy and sometimes, just sometimes, it succeeds. I'm going to lay it all out there people, I've been struggling lately. Not in knowing in the depths of my core that God loves me. Not in knowing I'm saved by grace. Not even in my love for God. I've simply be struggling with retaining my joy.

Oh, there's several reasons that can claim responsibility. A very busy schedule. Not enough time in the Word. Too much time on social media. Cloud-covered days. Troubled relationships. And even a few discouraging moments that were like well placed flaming darts to my faith. Things like this create the perfect concoction to strike at the core of our joy and remove it from us.

Thing is, our joy comes from the Lord, and when we let outside circumstances pull us out of alignment with him, we end up off track and in a ditch. It's not a fun place to be. And though we can often stand back and pinpoint what the contributing factors were, it's not until we do something about them that things begin to change. For me that meant dedicating my mornings this week to time in the Word. I set aside my Bible study and went straight to sitting at God's feet. Bible studies are wonderful tools, and I love them, but when I'm drained it's time to go straight to the source. It also meant less time on social media and more time with real-life friends this week. And this is when something wonderful happened.

Laughter.

Pure, free, wide-open laughter.

Do you know what I discovered? Laughter lightens something inside of us. It restores our joy. It releases the heavy cloak of oppression. Friends, we forget we need to laugh. We need to surround ourself with people who stoke our joy. Rather than pulling away, we need to dive into moments with people who love us. We need to drop our heads back, open our mouths, and laugh like when we were little kids. As I drove away from those encounters with my friends, I truly felt lighter yet stronger at the same time. I mentioned it to God who reminded me that "The JOY of the Lord is our strength."

So for anyone who's struggling this week, first dive into the Word. Immerse yourself within his presence. Then make a date with a friend. Get off the couch. Turn off your phone. And seek actual connection with someone who can listen and who you can play with. Yes, play. Sometimes we forget as adults to simply be childlike. But we are children of God. Go out. Have fun. And laugh--even if it's forced at first.


Because joy may not be restored in one moment, but in a collection of them. It involves work and choices on our part. Some days may bring success, some not. But keep digging, keep discovering, and keep holding to God. He is ever so faithful to do what he's promised, and he's promised us joy friends. So go after it with all you've got. Even if you have to fake it till you make it first, the real thing will take hold because God never breaks his promises.

(And dear friends please know, there are times where we need outside help too. I know and understand that. Depression is a very real thing that may require more than we have on our own to contribute. God has given us wisdom and amazing medical advances. While this post wasn't aimed at that level, don't be afraid to seek Godly counsel and help if needed.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading Pepper Basham's books, so I happily snapped up the chance to read Just the Way You Are and review it. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!


Single mom, Eisley Barrett, prefers to keep romance housed within a centuries-old mystery, but when she travels to England to unearth the secret, an actor with a sordid past offers her heart a very different type of discovery.

Wes Harrison has a past he's ashamed to confess. Suspicious and cynical, he's managed to avoid romantic entanglements since a tragedy upended his career and life, that is until American Eisley Barrett comes along. Her authenticity and kindness upend his bitter assumptions and send his heart into unscripted territory.

When his past threatens to ruin a second chance at love, can some Appalachian matchmaking and letters from the grave salvage their unexpected romance?

Something I've really grown to love about Basham is her ability to straddle two genres effortlessly. It reminds me that good stories don't have any particular shelf space. Historical or contemporary time periods don't matter. What matters are characters you connect with, timeless romance, and plots that take you on a journey you don't want to end. Just the Way You Are delivers all these things.

I loved the characters in this story. They paired together so very well. I also enjoyed the natural conflict that arose from placing these two together. The reminder that we are new creations in Christ and also that we can heal completely from old hurts was a spiritual thread that will speak to many. And as usual, Basham delivers her romance sprinkled with laughter. OH! And I have to mention that Basham was recently touted as The Queen of Swoony, and after reading even one of her books, you'll know why:)

All together I loved this book and happily recommend it. You can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!