Monday, October 23, 2017

Who Are You Trying to Please?

I've been reading in Matthew lately, and I was stopped by Jesus repeating something. You see, when Jesus repeats something we need to take note. Not that we don't on everything he says, but you know what I'm getting at ;) So anyway, Matthew 6 has some wonderful points in it. Jesus is talking about giving, fasting, and praying. As he teaches about each of these he encourages us to do them in quiet.

Why? I mean, is Jesus telling us it's bad to receive acknowledgement from others? No. He's not. It's okay to receive approval from man. What's not okay is to only want approval from man. To believe that's where our identity and reward lie. To allow that approval to be our motivation in doing what God has called us to do. None of that is okay.

You see, God is a jealous God--but he's also a God who loves us lavishly. All he wants is for our motivations and desires to center on him. So he cautions us to do things quietly so that we don't fall into the trap of pleasing man rather than him. What amazed me in these verses is what Jesus said three times to people who have fallen into that trap:

"I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get..."

In other words, sure, they'll receive the accolades of man, but that is all they will ever receive. But to those who quietly go about what they're doing with only pleasing God in mind he says this:

"And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you."

Friends, if we have a choice between receiving the accolades of man verses the rewards of Christ, why would we ever choose man? God's rewards far outweigh man's. They are eternal. And they are SO much better than anything man can give, so why would we want to miss them? Because, take note, while Jesus isn't saying we will miss out on the rewards of man when we seek to please only God, he is saying we'll miss out on the rewards of God when all we seek is to please man.

So today when you embark on what God has called you to, fix your eyes on him and only him. Trust me, you don't want to miss what he has for you!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bending and Swaying

This summer I took a dune ride out through Saugatuck, Michigan. Such a fun place! Once we'd made it through the sandy hills we dipped into a forest behind them. Quiet and dark, it was amazing to think this enchanted area lay behind all that sand! But what grabbed my thoughts as the guide toured us through the birch, oaks, and maples were how many of the trees bent and turned at unique angles. I'd never seen anything like it! The guide called it phototropism, and though I had never heard that term before, I was immediately intrigued by its meaning.

You see, some of the trees had shot straight up and created a canopy over the forest floor making it hard for sunlight to reach below. And what is one thing a tree needs to grow? Light. So instead of staying in the dark, the new trees bent until they found the sunlight. Then when that sunlight was cut-off and the tree found itself in darkness again? Well it took another turn--sometimes in the completely opposite direction--so that it could find the light again. What an amazing phenomenon. After years of growth these trees didn't have a straight trunk, no, their trunks spoke of the story of how it bent, dipped, and swayed to remove itself from darkness and return to the light. That tree made seeking and remaining in the light at all costs its main goal, because it knew without that light, it wouldn't thrive.  Of course it made me think of our walk with God:)
I never took a picture that day! This is the closet
I could find online to a picture of phototropism:)

Friends, our walk with God is never a linear path. Life happens. Darkness presses in at times. And we have a choice; do we adjust to remain in God's light, or do we continue in the dark? God is always there. He's always beckoning us and ready to engulf us with his love and light, but there are times where we have to change the direction we wanted so that we can follow the path he's calling us to grow along.

Bend. Dip. Sway.


And never stop seeking him.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bookshelf Friday: Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Politano

Friends, I am so excited about this book! You see, it's one I had the pleasure of reading in its infancy, and it's only grown better since! Joanna Davidson Politano's debut from Revell, Lady Jayne Disappears, is a wonderful addition to the historical fiction genre. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

When Aurelie Harcourt's father dies in debtor's prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father's unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother's disappearance--and perhaps even her father's death.

From the first page to the last, this book captivates. I'm typically a romance reader (honestly, I think Jesus is our biggest romancer of all!) and when a book isn't strong in the romance thread, I can sometimes skim it. Yet Politano's writing and characters are so strong that even though romance isn't the central focus of this book, I couldn't stop turning the pages! Politano's ability to sink her reader into the setting and tug at their heart through her characters is a strength that makes her writing sing. The mystery rolling through this book keeps you asking questions. The plot moves at a perfect pace and through it all, hints of a humorous voice pop through that perfectly matches the time period this book is written in. And for the romance lover, it does makes its way on page with enough doses to keep a lovely smile on your face. Best of all, this book is full of hope and faith.

All together, Politano's debut is one that will leave the reader adding this author to their TBR lists for all her future books. I happily recommend Lady Jayne Disappears and you can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - All This Time by Melissa Tagg

Boy oh boy! Today I'm reviewing the fourth book in Melissa Tagg's Walker Family series. All This Time has been much anticipated and it released yesterday! I was super blessed to receive an advanced copy of this book, so here's a short blurb and we'll chat on the other side:)

Bear McKinley’s past refuses to let go. 

Ten years ago, Bear gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. But after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him once again. Suddenly he finds himself back in Maple Valley, charged with the care of his missing brother’s children, convinced he’s out of second chances to make his life count. And yet, with every day that passes, these kids, this quirky town and the woman he never stopped missing help patch the holes in his heart. Maybe this is the fresh start he’s been longing for all along. But as his newfound hope grows, so does the mystery surrounding his brother’s activities—and when the threat reaches into the lives of those he loves, it’s clear he can’t run away this time.

Fear holds Raegan’s future captive. 

Raegan Walker is fine. She’s happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more than fine. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending?

I want to start by reassuring you that this novel can function as a stand alone. are going to want to read the entire series if you haven't already. Melissa Tagg only continues to grow better and better as a writer.

I loved the stories of both these characters. Them navigating all of their past junk that they've tried to ignore only makes the story richer. While Bear is seeking to outrun his past, Raegan is outrunning her fear, but what is so great is how they help one another face and overcome their struggles. It makes the reader root for them all the more. And for those readers who've read the entire series, the payoff of finally seeing Bear and Raegan come together is even greater:)

And these two are meant to be a pair. They compliment each other so very well. Their story is fresh and the plot is perfectly paced without being forced. There's a depth to the characters Tagg pens that makes them feel like friends you could sit down with over coffee--and Bear likes his coffee:) The love story is sweet and lined with the slightest of mystery/suspense following Bear's storyline. All the layers create a read that you don't want to put down and bring not only a sweet ending to Bear and Raegan's story but also to the entire Walker Family series.

I happily recommend All This Time and you can purchase it here. (Ooooh, and it's currently on sale. $3.99 for the Kindle version!) Also, Melissa has a giveaway going on here, so you'll definitely want to check that out! Happy reading, friends:)

***I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not paid or obligated to write a positive review.***

Friday, September 15, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason

Summer sabbatical is over! We are already knee deep in all things fall:) I had a great rest and read many books, and while I'm still praying over my blog format here, one thing I'm 100% on is Bookshelf Fridays! Reading and writing are two of my largest loves, so shouting out about amazing authors and great reads will always be something I do. Let's start off with Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan may be in South Carolina, but when a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, her life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she's made a career out of taking care of others. But after an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her--and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he's not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.

In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories--and the depths of the heart--Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley's past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won't quit.

Let me start by saying this is the final book in a series. Let me follow that by saying you do NOT need to have read the others to pick this one up. Oh, reading every book in the series always rounds the storyline out for you, but it is not necessary with Eason's books. I picked this one up only having read book number 1, and I absolutely enjoyed every moment of this read!

Eason is a master with twists and turns that keep you turning the page. She has a way of making your heart race without freaking you out. Her main characters are always strong and well matched--and this book remained true to that. I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of women bodyguards who were smart, trained, and still accepted help while maintaining that strength. And in this story, I loved Haley's past and how it comes to light. It was intricate and handled believably. The touch of romance was sweet as well, evenly creating a balance between love and mystery. All together, a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

For a romantic suspense that is fast-paced and keeps you up at night for all the right reasons, you'll love Chasing Secrets. You can pick it up here.

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.