Monday, November 6, 2017

Harvest Time

I'm still in Matthew, just taking my time and enjoying the book. I was recently in Chapter Thirteen reading the parable of the sower, and though I've read it many times, something new (at least to me) jumped out. That's why I love reading and rereading the Bible because God always has something fresh to say to us even in passages we're incredibly familiar with:)

Twice in this parable Jesus talks about when the seed falls on good soil it will yield a crop. And oh, do I want to have good soil so that something can grow in me! Something that reaches others and points straight to Jesus. What's so interesting to me is that Jesus goes on to talk about the size of the crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

Those are the words that stopped me this time around. You see, we all have potential to bear fruit. To haul in a harvest for Christ. We all were born with a purpose woven uniquely into us. But not all of us were created to have the same reach. And that's okay! In fact, that's exactly God's design. Unfortunately, in this day and age we play the comparison game all too often. We look to the side and see someone else's reach, the size of the platform they're speaking from, the diameter of their circle of influence; and we think if it's larger than ours then what they've been called to do is vastly more important.

But look closely, friends. Never in this parable does Jesus say the size of the crop matters. No. In fact the entire parable is about ensuring you have good soil so that the seed will grow and you will produce a harvest. That's where the importance lies. Jesus tosses in those sizes to ensure we know and can be confident in the fact that the size of my harvest is going to be different than the size of yours. He doesn't want us so caught up in comparing that we stop producing, so he lays it all out there for us in no uncertain terms. We simply need to remember it:)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper Basham

Basham's newest book released this week, but I'd already received a sneak peek:) Now it's time to share that peek with the rest of you! Here's a short blurb and we'll chat on the other side...

When Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell. 

Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne. When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?

"Rainey Mitchell is doing just fine. She has a great job helping children in need, her family is around her, she is mother to a fabulous little girl, and is getting over the betrayal of her ex-husband. Dr. Alex Murdock is not doing so well, as he is forced to work at a rural university, his life is full of secrets surrounding his family, and he has to start over in a new town. Luckily, Rainey, the daughter of his landlord, is there to get him settled. Rainey just wants to stay away from the new professor, who has the same charm as her ex. Unfortunately, they seem to need each other. Rainey needs his grant-writing ability to save her program, and Alex is terrible at the lecturing at which Rainey excels. The two must work together to fulfill their goals, but will they be able to do it? Rainey's insecurities and Alex's obsession with protecting his family could be their undoing.

While this is the second in her Mitchell's Crossroads series, you can read it as a stand-alone. Though don't be surprised if you wind up snapping up book number one if you haven't already. The Mitchell family is one you'll love getting to know.

Let's start by acknowledging that Basham uses classics as the base for her contemporary romance novels. She spins an Appalachian twist on them and ushers them into the twenty-first century in a way that still maintains their classic beauty while also making them all her own. So while there's echoes of classic romance in them, the reader is treated with a beautiful story in Basham's incredibly romantic and fresh voice. Charming the Troublemaker is no different!

Rainey and Alex are quite a pair with enough of their own hurts and hang-ups to prevent an easy path to their happily ever after. Still, they handle them like adults and with growth all along the way. Simple misunderstandings don't become large stumbling blocks, but rather they provide ways for each character to step forward and shed their past while being so incredibly relatable. Alex and Rainey are far from perfect, but they make perfect progress together:) And oh, does Basham do swoon-worthy for her romance. She's not shy in writing her love stories but rather embraces the genre, diving full-force into it while maintaining clean lines. So if you love a heart-fluttering romance where the characters have chemistry yet restraint, Basham's books are for you.

I happily recommend Charming the Troublemaker and you can purchase it here.

(PS...just so you know, I received a complimentary copy of this book but was under no requirements to post a review. While I read many books for review, I ONLY post reviews on books I can happily recommend. That's why you'll only find positive reviews from me. Authors work very hard on their books, and while some may not be my cup-of-tea and I'll note that here, I won't post negative reviews.) 

Happy reading, friends!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

It's always bittersweet to read the last book in a series, and Kristi Ann Hunter recently released hers. An Inconvenient Beauty was a wonderful addition to her Hawthorne House series, and while it was the last, it can also function as a beautiful stand-alone title. So for those who've read the entire series and for those who are new to it, here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He's certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can't seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she'll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.
Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?

All right. Can we first simply talk about how gorgeous the covers to this series have been? Some of my favorites. And the writing on the inside matches the beauty on the outside perfectly! This series about four siblings has entertained me with each addition, and finally reaching Griffith's story was a delight.

Griffith has been a mainstay in all his sibling's books. The eldest and the protector, he often came across as the wisest one who also had it all together. Those elements are in this book too, yet we also gain a glimpse into his own internals which show us Griffith isn't quite as sure of things as we've been led to believe. Like what to do when his ordered ways fall prey to the unplanned desires of his heart.

I loved watching the storyline unfold in this book between Griffith and Isabella. It was a well-tuned story with two leads who are perfect for one another. The interaction between siblings and friends in this book bring heartfelt moments and ones full of laughter. The romance is sweet and endearing, one you'll definitely be cheering for. While I've loved all of Hunter's books, I must say of the two brothers, Griffith's story has been my favorite. The plot was a tad faster and more intricate than with Trent's book, which I prefer. 

All together, this is a strong ending to a wonderful historical romance series and I look forward to seeing more from Hunter in the future. You can purchase An Inconvenient Beauty here on Amazon or find a local store near you here.

Happy reading, friends!

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.***