Friday, October 28, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

Hello friends!

After a short break, Bookshelf Friday is starting back up today with one of my favorite books! The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall. Oh, and a giveaway!! So let's chat about the book and then I'll let you know how you can get it in you hands:)

Violet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents' New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks, but when Violet's own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries. In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance: Vance Everstone. As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU. With danger stalking her and a new fiance who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust, and who to leave behind.

If you've read any of Crandall's books, you'll know she writes in first person and loves romance--and this fourth book in her series is being touted as her best by those who've read it. I tend to agree. Crandall deftly mixes a slightly suspenseful plot, a reformed hero, and a stronger-than-she-looks heroine with a group of secondary characters who only enrich this cast. She also continues to have strong spiritual and emotional threads while maintaining sigh-worthy romance. And somehow she manages to do it all with a voice that was created to write historical. There's something lyrical and old-fashioned about her writing, and yet it's fresh and new at the same time. Her books are ones I never expected to enjoy (I'm not a first-person fan and I prefer contemporary to historical) and yet have every one of them on my shelf.

And so...I'd love to give you the same chance! I'm not only giving away a copy of The Cautious Maiden, but Dawn Crandall is helping me give away the entire series. OH! And she's signing The Cautious Maiden before sending it out. I'll be running this contest here and on my Facebook page. All you need to do to be entered to win is comment here or there. I'll randomly pick a winner next Thursday night and announce who it is right here next Friday.

But if you cannot wait until then, you can always purchase The Cautious Maiden here.

Happy reading, friends!

Contest Rules:
Must be 18 or older to enter. Contest open to US Residents only. This contest is not sponsored by, affiliated with, or endorsed by Blogger or Facebook. Contest open until 11/3/2016 at 11:59 p.m. Winner will be randomly drawn from all eligible participants.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Leave Nothing on the Field

No one really likes going to battle, at least I don't really know of anyone who does. Personally, I'd love it if life was a daily walk in the park. But we don't live in a world like that yet. One day we will, but until then we have to contend with sometimes fighting battle we'd rather avoid.

For some of us, those battles are results of generational sins rearing their ugly heads. Others, those battles stem from personal choices and struggles. Whatever the root, we find ourselves staring down an enemy that wants to devour us. Yet we know we fight with armor given by a victorious God. He fights with us, for us, and in Him we are more than conquerors. AMEN! (Need some verses today? Look up John 10:10Romans 8:37Isaiah 41:10Exodus 14:14Ephesians 6:10-18)

But today I want to talk about what happens after we battle, when God brings victory after a long-fought war and we're dusty and tired. A few years back I did a study called Gideon by Priscilla Shirer. During one of the teachings she said "You should never leave a battle without taking something from it." This moment stuck with me, because the point she went on to make was so right. What we do after a battle is as important--maybe even more important--as what we did to win that battle. Let's take a look at David:

David took the gold shields carried by the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. From Tebah and Cun, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, David took a great quantity of bronze, which Solomon used to make the bronze Sea, the pillars and various bronze articles. 1 Chronicles 18:7-8

I read this verse this week and it brought back the point from that teaching on Gideon. I love how God makes his scripture alive to us. See, David had just fought a battle, and he wasn't leaving it empty handed. He took spoils with him. Gold and bronze, and not simply a little but a "great quantity". And why? For his son to use.

So stick with me here. Many of us are fighting spiritual battles in our lives. As I mentioned above, some of those may be rooted in sins or struggles that have dogged your family for years, and you're not willing to let it move on to your children. You want more for them. Winning that battle is not enough if you walk away empty handed and don't pass anything down to your children. We need to do what David did. Finish the battle then take our spoils of war--wisdom, knowledge, freedom, a deeper love for Christ--and pass them on. To our children. To our nieces and nephews. To our friends. To anyone around us who'll listen.

Why? Because it's meant to be used! Look at Solomon. He didn't simply take the bronze that his father handed him. No. What did he do with it? He used it to build a temple to God. He finished what his father began, giving glory to God and growing even deeper. What the enemy had intended for harm, God used for good!

Today, if you're fighting a battle, don't walk off that field empty handed once the victory comes. You've grown. You've learned. You've gained priceless spoils of war that can be handed down to those around you. That wisdom was hard earned and is intended to be passed on, not left on the field. Don't let the enemy have one precious piece of it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

But With Prayer...

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 3:6

Social media and the news outlets are crazy right now. It's enough to make you want to bury your head in the sand and ignore everyone and everything. And I'll even admit to a few days spent like that--but then today's verse burrows right into my hiding place.

Friends, our anxiety changes nothing. Giving into it only achieves one thing: to render us useless in this battle. The only thing that we have is the power to pray to the One who holds all power in his hands. Lay all your fear, frustrations, desires, and hopes at his feet. Give thanks that we live in a country where we're even allowed to have the discussions that are occurring...that we can still choose who will be elected into offices. And seek His wisdom before you step into that booth.

These candidates aren't a surprise to God. No breaking news story catches him off guard. He is the only sure thing in the midst of all the craziness going on. And that leads us to the very next verse:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7

The only way we're going to make it through the next month with any sense of peace is to sit at the feet of the One who offers peace in all things. Let's stop allowing man's word to speak louder than God's voice. Be anxious over nothing...pray...and bask in his peace.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Beauty in Worship

I saw something yesterday that stopped me. It was Sunday morning and our worship team was leading us in music. Looking to my right, I watched the section of deaf ministry as someone led them with sign language. I’ve always loved watching this. I think it’s so beautiful. But this morning I caught two of our leaders sitting, facing two of our congregation. They held their hands and signed while those hands were clasped together. I quickly realized that not only were these two deaf, but also blind or severely limited in their sight.

But they were worshipping. Unable to hear the music or see the interpreter, one still swayed in time with the woman holding their hands, signing. And it captivated me.

See, so many of us have our own favorite style of worship. Be it hymns or rock, acoustic or full band, bright-light show or dark venue; we all have a style that is perfect for us. (I’m speaking to myself here too, people.) And when our style isn’t the one on stage, we don’t engage in worship. We fold our hands and close our mouths, sometimes even our hearts. Oh! We are missing out!

I watched these two on Sunday and was brought to tears. They didn’t hear the music. They couldn’t see the lights. They had no clue what was going on around them—but they worshipped. In their own quiet and darkened world, they entered into the beauty of God’s presence and worshipped Him in a way so many of us miss through the distraction of our own desires.

Worship has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God. It’s our offering to him. When we rely on the person on stage to create our perfect atmosphere before we can worship God then we are 100% missing the point of worship. God is God no matter the song that’s playing. He is the same God who resurrected the dead things in our lives. He is the same God who forgave our sins. He is the same God who died so we can live—and live abundantly.

Worshipping God should be something we cannot contain. It goes beyond our earthly senses and focuses on our hearts. And that’s what I saw yesterday. That’s what will stay with me. The beauty in true worship.

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Little R&R

So August was beyond crazy around my house. Lots of good crazy, but crazy none-the-less. And I'll admit, I'm tired. That's why things around here have been a little quiet lately. See, in the middle of all the busyness of August I let something slip--my personal time with God. If I'm honest, it had been growing smaller and smaller all summer until it somehow became non-existent. Something I didn't even realize until I became bone-weary exhausted in my very spirit.

If I'm being even more honest, a huge reason behind that slip was struggling with how God sees me. Oh, I am assured he loves me, and I'm crazy in love with him. But when another rejection came in early summer for a project I had worked on, it began to feel like a rejection from God. Like what I thought was my purpose, well, wasn't. And I started to grow weary. Weary in my calling to writing and my heart for ministry. A version of Galatians 6:9 says, "Do not lose heart..." and that's what was happening to me. I began to flounder.

But God is so good to us, isn't he? Always calling us to him. Ever faithful and never wandering. It's us who wander:) So this month of September, while school begins again and everything pumpkin spice pops up in stores, I'll be spending it burrowing back into my time with God. Things will be quiet around here as I work on the last part of that verse: do not give up. It's time to take a break, soak up some Living Water, and pray about direction and next steps.

Have a wonderful beginning of Fall, friends!

Monday, August 15, 2016

God is Bigger

I've had the amazing opportunity to go on a cruise with my hubby a few times now. Typically in the winter the sun disappears, and we sometimes go searching for it:)

While onboard most mornings I'll wake and head up to a top deck where you can walk the entire perimeter of the ship. I love it. Outside, the sun shining, the salty air coating my lips. I'll put on my worship music and walk, sometimes for more than an hour. There's something about being in the middle of the ocean, nothing around, that starts to give you a unique view of God's creation. That's a lot of water he put down here!

I can remember one morning that was a bit windy. Ok. A lot windy. As I came to the front of the ship, the wind increased so much that I could literally lean into it and be supported. Honestly, it was difficult to even take a step forward. Powerful. The waves crashed beside the boat and the sunshine beat down. I stood there and suddenly the story of Jesus calming the storm ran through my mind. He stood on the front of a boat and told the waves and wind "Quiet. Be still!" and they listened!

The waters calmed.

The wind stopped.

I could stand in that wind all day, the force of it nearly stopping me from taking a step, and tell it to be still all I wanted. That wouldn't stop it from blowing though. And as it threatened to topple me, I was amazed again at the power of God. One word. Just one word and all of nature obeys him!
The force of that wind was unlike anything I've ever encountered...except God. And that thought settled into my core, nearly bursting my soul. An awesome, physical reminder that we serve a God who commands not only nature with one word, but any force that may come against us. Things may threaten to topple us, but God has control. He'll either walk us through it, or he'll speak into it.

Because no matter how strong that wind feels, God's stronger. He's bigger. And he's in control.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - One Plus One Equals Trouble by Sondra Kraak

I love discovering new-to-me authors! So when I heard friends buzzing about this book, I knew I had to snap it up. Here's a small blurb and we'll chat on the other side:)

The one room schoolhouse isn’t big enough to hold thirty-four students, let alone the egos of two teachers. He can’t afford to lose the position, and she refuses to lose her heart. Washington, 1891 Humiliated after her broken engagement, Claire Montgomery flees her comfortable life in San Francisco for a teaching position in Pine Creek, Washington, a dot of a town nestled in the rugged Cascade Mountains. She’s determined to succeed—for once in her life—only to discover, upon her arrival, that success will have to be won. Thanks to a school board error, two teachers have been hired. When scandal forces professor Barrett Clarke from his position, he returns to Pine Creek where his uncle, chairman of the school board, sets forth an irresistible offer: teach one year in return for ranchland. For this would-be rancher, nothing is more tempting than resurrecting his childhood dream, and nothing can deter him from earning that land. Except perhaps Claire Montgomery. Losing the battle for the classroom means losing the ranchland, but winning may mean losing Claire’s heart. With large doses of humor and romantic tension, this Christian historical love story offers a picture of grace, forgiveness, and finding true worth.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book right from page one. The initial interaction between Claire and Barrett had me smiling and laughing, only making me continue to flip the pages. These two characters are meant for each other--even if they don't want to immediately admit it. 

The conflict in this book makes sense once you understand each character's backstory. The plot flows at a comfortable pace, filled with moments that have you laughing or cheering on Claire and Bennet. You truly want them both to win the position, but realize they can't! Kraak does an amazing job of making the reader sympathize with both Claire and Bennet, and yet crafts an ending that leaves you happy only one of them receives it. The growth of both characters makes perfect sense and leaves us with a happily-ever-after all romance readers long for.

I am happy to not only have found Sondra Kraak and her smooth, witty writing, but also to know this is the first in a series I'm sure to continue reading.

You can pick One Plus One Equals Trouble up here just in time for your weekend!