Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I'm taking a blogging break until the new year starts. I hope to drink lots of hot cocoa, eat cookies of all shapes and sizes, overdose on Christmas movies, and--once I finish my current WIP--catch up on my reading! All this while spending time with my family and friends.

I LOVE this season!

A very Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year. What will the next few weeks be filled with for you?

Monday, December 16, 2013

What a Gift!

I was thinking of John 3:16 this week. Well, can't say I was really thinking of the exact words, but I was thinking of gifts. Which made me think of God's big gift: His son. Which then led me to the words I learned before I can ever first memory verse...probably yours too:

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NASV

Now that's the version I learned it in and still the one that rolls through my mind, but I have to say I do love swapping out the "begotten" for "one and only". Jesus was God's "one and only" son.

Anyway, as I sat there with those familiar words, God does as only He can do and gave me a new insight on them. It's stuck with me this week, and while this may be an insight you've already been given, it was powerful to me and I wanted to share. You know, sometimes the most obvious of things we don't see. So here it is...

We envision this verse through our eyes today. Eyes that haven't really observed the offering of our children toward gods as a sacrifice. But back then? gods demanded sacrifice and so often it involved the peoples' children. What a price to pay...and they did! But the One true God flipped that on its end when He sent his son. See, while all the other gods asked for the peoples' children as a sacrifice to please them, God sent His as a sacrifice to save us.

Can you even imagine how they read this verse? What it meant to them? What God truly did? Oh what a bottomless love for us! And it wasn't the first time. Go back to the foreshadowing of all this, when Abraham took Isaac up to that mountain, and God had him put his son on an altar. Only He didn't allow Abraham to sacrifice him, instead He sent a ram. And the blood of the animals for years to come would have to try to meet what no one could until Jesus Christ came and died on that cross.

The one true sacrifice. Perfectly blameless and holy. Infinite wrapped in finite clothing. The only One who could truly pay the cost for our sins. God's son.

God didn't hold back. He gave once--to us--what all the other gods had asked for repeatedly, from us. And His gift still gives today. It still covers every mistake, every dark moment, every sin we've every even thought of. The gift of His son is one that cannot be taken back or exchanged. It's one-size-fits-all and can be afforded by anyone. All you have to do is ask, and then believe in faith. The only sacrifice God wants on your part is to lay down your will and take his. That's it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #25

This is it. The final verse of the year. I've finished the second half of this year concentrating on the names of God and this last verse is not only perfect for this time of year, but also is chocked full of His names:) Here's our last recap followed by our last verse:

El Shaddai - The All Sufficient One (Isaiah 46:4)
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner (Proverbs 21:31)
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace (Psalm 34:14)
El Roi - The God Who Sees Me (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Jehovah Jireh - Our God Provides (Philippians 4:19)
Immanuel - God With Us (Matthew 28:20)
Our Portion - (Lamentations 3:24)
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord our Healer (Psalm 30:2)
Our Comforter - (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)
Our Advocate - (1 John 2:1-2)
Our Cornerstone - (Isaiah 28:16)
Our Refiner - (Psalm 66:10-12)

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Lists vs. Prayer Lists

My kids love to make Christmas lists. I did too. I remember laying on the orange, fuzzy carpet in my family room and pouring over the JCPenny catalog, writing down all my heart's desires. I didn't just write a list, I wrote a phone book! My kids are no different, only now they point at the endless TV commercials or ads on the computer.

It's all in fun, and they know they're not getting everything on their list. In fact, they don't even let me say it anymore, they stop me. "We know, Mom, a Christmas list isn't a check-off list." And honestly, they love whatever they receive. (Ok, they didn't used to, but they're getting older.)

This year it got me thinking how sometimes we approach God with our lists. We write down everything we want and hand it off in a prayer, and we do expect it to be a check-off list. But God's not Santa. Not even close. And prayer isn't about a list, it's about an active relationship that we take part in.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

Earnest means an intense mental state or an impressive amount. We approach God with our prayers in a serious way, engaging him and seeking him...not simply hand him a list and walk away. After all, he wants a relationship with us and prayer is our time to talk with him. Thank him. Praise him. Seek him. I'm not saying we can't have a prayer list. In fact, it's wonderful to keep a list of things you pray for and then note when those prayers have been answered. That's an account of the things God has done in your life and a reminder of things to give thanks for. It's an encouragement as you're still praying for other desires, deliverances, and needs. I am saying that your prayer life consists of more than that list. Prayer is knowing God's Word (which is our sword) and calling it out, applying it to our situation, believing with our faith (our shield) that God can and will do what he says he will do and fervently seeking him to be in the middle of our situation.

Prayer unleashes the power of Heaven.

It produces wonderful results.

And is so much more than a list to check twice.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #24

I've been working lately on moving past my feelings to follow God's word in all things, at all times. So when I read this verse, two things stand out to me. First, the determination of the "I will". When David wrote this, he was in a cave, fleeing for his life. God had promised him he'd be king...and he was in a cave. Things weren't lining up so well in his God-given destiny at that moment. I can't believe he felt much like being thankful or praising. Yet he determined that he would. That's the same determination we still need in our lives today. No matter what, "I will...." Sometimes we need to force our wills beyond our feelings and simply do the Word of God. Our feelings will follow. They aren't supposed to lead.

Second, what stands out to me is the order. First, we give thanks. Not just a little but with our whole hearts. And while doing that, we don't simply give thanks for the moment we're in, but we remember all our other blessings. All the other moments God has brought us through or delivered victory. It's so important to recount our blessings, to remember God's faithfulness. There's power in speaking victory and life, in recalling God's faithful history with our lives. I think it pulls us into the next part of the verse, being glad, exulting and praising him. And there is a reason for us to do that. Two really, because God's Word also says his joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) so we grow strong, and he inhabits the praise of his people (Psalm 22:3)which means he floods our current situation. I don't know about you, but I want him in the middle of all my moments.

So join me today in not simply committing this verse to memory, but committing it to our ways. In all things, in every situation, even beyond what we are feeling...give thanks.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Best

So last week I was reading out of The Message and I came across Romans 16:20.

Enjoy the best of Jesus.

Five words. Simple. To the Point. And they have stuck with me unlike few others have for quite some time. Made me stop and ask, "Am I enjoying his best, or just his good-enough?...what is his best for me?"

I know this much, it starts with Him, because Jesus didn't come to give us good-enough. He came to give us his best. He came that we would have an amazingly abundant life that is wilder than anything we can ask or imagine. Which makes me wonder, If we're where we imagined we'd be, then perhaps we're not at his best. I'm not preaching discontentment, oh please, don't think that. I'm simply saying, God wants to exceed our expectations. Okay, think of it this way...

I homeschool. Which makes me the local teacher. What this also means is I set the break schedule. Unbeknownst to my kids, I'd planned on nearly a week off for Thanksgiving break. To achieve this, we had to accomplish our studies earlier and stay on task for when we finished break. My son, however, likes to believe he knows my plans. As such, he put off some of his work in anticipation of doing it today--a day I planned off. I wanted to exceed his expectations of a short break, while he was simply happy where he was at. Had he not listened to my voice telling him to be sure to get it done, he'd have missed the extra time off. He'd be right where he expected, doing his schoolwork today, never realizing I'd planned on giving him the blessing of one more day of vacation.

See, sometimes I think we miss the best of Jesus because we settle for the good things around us. We think we know where we're going, but if we're in that driver's seat then there's no need for him. And oh, do we need Jesus! We need him to exceed our expectations, because it's there that our strength is no longer enough and we have to fully rely on him. It's there where we grow in our faith. It's there where we learn more about him and deepen our relationship with him. It's there where we reach his best.

Think about it. If I'm only doing what I can imagine is possible, then I rely on me, not God. And I don't want my best, I want his best. 

Abundant forgiveness.
Abundant joy.
Abundant strength.
Abundant confidence.
Abundant patience.
Abundant healing.
Abundant talent.
Abundant love.

Go ahead and add to that list. You name it. He'll supply it. Because he came that we would have life abundantly in every area. It's his best. HE gave us his best. And I'm ready to enjoy every ounce of him!

I've no doubt God placed this verse in my path to help me close up my year which has been centered around my One Word: Abundantly. It's been an amazing year full of many sweet lessons. I'd love to be reminded of your 2013 words and how God's worked them into your lives. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Learn the Word - verse #24

Keeping with our thankfulness this week, I"m deviating a bit from our focus on the names of God to bring a verse centered on giving thanks.  Here it is, and have a blessed Thanksgiving tomorrow full of turkey, laughter, and wonderful memories and I'll see you next week!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks

I've been a little overwhelmed by the busyness of life lately, so I'm slowing it down this week. I'm spending the week in the Word and also with my family. And I'm taking time to not only be thankful for things, but to enjoy those things I'm thankful for. I don't want this season to fly by in a blur. I hope you'll join me...:) So today I'm doing a throw-back to my Wednesday posts from last year and listing a few of those things I'm thankful for. Here goes...

I am thankful for:
~Christ, his forgiveness and his grace. (I was going to leave this one off because it seemed to go without saying, but I believe he always deserves the firsts of my everything, especially of my thanks.)
~my family...each and every crazy member
~the roof over my head.
~dear friendships God has blessed me with
~food on my table
~clothes to wear...and wash
~a body that moves and a mind that thinks clearly...most of the time:)
~the country I live in
~that I can worship without persecution
~easy access to modern medicine
~clean water that I can run any time of the day

And my list could go on, but I'm hoping you'll join in. I'd love to hear what you're thankful for! It'll be a great start to a great week:)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - What I'm reading this weekend...

While I'm didn't participate in NaNo this month (National Novel Writing Month), I have been working on finishing my current project, and can I tell you, the characters are not cooperating! One thing that can get me unstuck is to read. As a writer, reading is one of the best tools you can use. It gets your brain flowing, keeps things fresh, and can often remind you why you write.

So this weekend while I'm also going to up my word count, I'll also be reading a new book a few friends put out. It's a compilation of four novellas called A Brave New Century and you can find it here on Amazon. Here's the cover and a very short blurb:

Four young women each brave challenges at the dawn of the 20th century. Will they overcome their hardships and find love?

Three Rings for Alice 
Love and respect in 1899 Milwaukee is as close as a phone call.

When Henry and Jessie meet, it seems to be love at first sight until a shocking revelation tears them apart.

The Pocket Watch 
Looking for the past, an orphan and a young doctor find love and hope for the future.

Flames of Hope 
Love ignites in the midst of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Though I haven't finished the book yet, one thing I do know is each story is faith-based and a clean, sweet romance. I know these ladies hearts and why they write, so if you're looking for a book this weekend, check out these four stories all in one! 

Happy Weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #23

We're on our second week with this verse, so here it is again:

I can't say I really have too much to add to that verse this week. Simply that it's been a huge rope for me to grab onto at times. What a promise it is. We don't burn in the fire, we don't drown in the deep waters--God brings us through them to a place of His abundance.


And we aren't the same when we reach that place. We've been shined by the very things that would seem to harm us. Because God uses ALL things for good.

Know that--remember that--today. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Inward vs. Outward

So I recently had to get ready for pictures. On a normal day, I'm in yoga pants with a pony tail and no make-up, but what lady wants a picture in that condition?

I took my time. Did my hair. Painstakingly applied my make-up. Choose a cute outfit. Then another. Brushed my hair again. Used some hair spray and then some more. Even put on perfume--not that anyone can smell it through the photo, but hey, it sounded good.

All the while my youngest stood watch wondering why mom was getting "pretty". I certainly didn't look that way every day.

As I put on my mascara, and my little girl perched beside me, God took the time to speak to my heart. It was fun for her to see mom get all dolled up--we girls love to do that--but was I showing her the same dedication to my inside? Was my heart always dressed-up for her, or was it only on certain days that she saw me making my inside beautiful?

Because while there's nothing wrong with working on my outward appearance, none of it will matter if my inside doesn't outshine it.

Anyone else out there know what I'm saying? Which means we need to daily apply his patience to our short-tempered areas. His grace and mercy to our unforgiveness. His unfailing love to our expectations. His soothing words onto our tongues. Do we spend the time needed with him to change our inward appearance? Because a picture may last several years, but how we treat others will last for an eternity.

Simple thoughts today? Yes. But sometimes taking it back to the basic is exactly what we need. Hoping as you get ready this morning you put Christ on above all else~it'll make the biggest impression on those around you:)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
(Now that's a perfume that is always noticed.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Paint Chips by Susie Finkbeiner

I had the pleasure of sitting with Susie at a recent writer's conference we both attended. It was one of those amazing moments where you realize how small God's world is. We both sat at a table in Dallas, complete strangers, only to discover with our first get-to-know-you question that we lived maybe 20 minutes apart. When I found out she'd published a book recently, I knew I had to read it. So I tucked it away until my recent vacation when I pulled it out to dive into. Here's the beautiful cover and blurb, and we'll chat about it on the other side!

What lies beneath the layers of hurt?

Though haunted by her troubled past, Dot has found a safe haven. She has a fierce protector and a colorful collection of friends...but sometimes she wonders if her life will ever be normal again. Though college and romance await her, embracing them requires a new kind of strength one she isn't sure she has.

Emerging from years of confusion, Cora struggles to latch hold of the sanity she needs to return to the real world. She yearns to find a place of peace...but first she must deal with the ghosts of her past.

Can this mother and daughter overcome abuse, betrayal, abandonment, and the horrors of sexual trafficking, and make it back into each others arms?

Facing the past is never easy. But as they chip away the layers, they might just find something beautiful beneath the mess.

After closing the last page of Paint Chips, I didn't quite know what I'd write. Deeply moving, it's a hard read with such a great reward. God's love shines through this book, his redemption of broken lives...his hope. At times I was near tears, at others I was awed by the forgiveness and renewal for the characters in this book. It is a story that showcases God's healing power at its best. There is truly no hurt that cannot be healed and no past that cannot be forgiven. There is no life God cannot make new. Paint Chips shines with these truths.

If you haven't had a chance to read this book yet, I encourage you to add it to your TBR pile (to-be-read) and find the time to read it...with a kleenex or two beside you perhaps:)

And here's a little about Susie herself. (note: I am insanely jealous of her huge blue eyes. BEAUTIFUL!)

Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write. A novelist and short story writer from West Michigan, her first novel "Paint Chips" released in 2013. Her second novel "My Mother's Chamomile" releases February 1, 2014. She worked with WhiteFire Publishing on both novels. Currently, she is working on her third novel.

If you'd like to know more about Susie or her next release, My Mother's Chamomile, you can visit her at her site: And, if you live in the West Michigan area, Susie will be at Baker Book House on November 19th  from 7-10 for a book signing and give-aways. 

Have a great weekend, friends!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #23

I'm back! And just in time for our next verse:) Here's where we're currently at for this second half of the year:

El Shaddai - The All Sufficient One (Isaiah 46:4)
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner (Proverbs 21:31)
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace (Psalm 34:14)
El Roi - The God Who Sees Me (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Jehovah Jireh - Our God Provides (Philippians 4:19)
Immanuel - God With Us (Matthew 28:20)
Our Portion - (Lamentations 3:24)
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord our Healer (Psalm 30:2)
Our Comforter - (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)
Our Advocate - (1 John 2:1-2)
Our Cornerstone - (Isaiah 28:16)

For the next two weeks we're concentrating on Our Refiner and using Psalm 66:10-12. Here it is:

There is so much I love about this verse. For now, you know the routine, pin it up, start learning it, and we'll talk about it next week! 

Happy Wednesday, friends. It's great to be back, even if I left the warmth down South:)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #22

It's time for a new verse, but I always like to start with reviewing where we're at. So here goes!

El Shaddai - The All Sufficient One (Isaiah 46:4)
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner (Proverbs 21:31)
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace (Psalm 34:14)
El Roi - The God Who Sees Me (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Jehovah Jireh - Our God Provides (Philippians 4:19)
Immanuel - God With Us (Matthew 28:20)
Our Portion - (Lamentations 3:24)
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord our Healer (Psalm 30:2)
Our Comforter - (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)
Our Advocate - (1 John 2:1-2)

I don't know about you, but I have loved having these verses to pull down in times of need. To know that these are all part of the characteristics of our Father, it's an overwhelming comfort and empowering too. We serve an amazing God!

The next two weeks we're working on our Cornerstone, using Isaiah 28:16 to go with it. Here's our pin:

Oh! We will not be shaken! Now that's one I'd like to take with me every day:)

Normally, I'd come back next week and talk about this verse, but I'm actually taking a bit of a break while spending time with my family. So. I'll see you back here in two weeks. Tuck this verse away with the rest of them from this year and when I come back, it'll be time for our next verse!

Be blessed, friends!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spoils of War

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.
photo credit:

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 10:10, Romans 8:37, Isaiah 41:10, Exodus 14:14, Ephesians 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. I recently finished a study on 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 resounded with the point that had been bouncing in my head since 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. In fact, you can share some of them right now. Leave a comment to encourage others! Pass on those spoils!

And if you're in the middle of a battle, I'd love to pray for you. Leave a comment below or email me. You don't stand on that field alone.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #21

It's our second week on this verse, and I chose it really for one reason...then the more I looked at it, that reason changed. God's so good about opening our eyes to His Word as we study it.

When I originally chose this verse it was for the aspect of God's character as our Advocate, and that hasn't changed. However, when I read this verse and chose it, I was focused on my need for an advocate. I mean, let's be honest, I cannot make it through the day without sinning. I tend to run on the short-tempered end of the stick, I'm insecure, I can be selfish...and though God has drastically softened those edges in my life, it is still my natural bend. Catch me when I'm tired and it's only amplified. So the reminder that every day, every single moment, I have someone sitting at the throne of God, speaking on my behalf, covering me with His blood so that I can be clean, well, it is an amazing reminder of God's grace.

So that's why I chose the verse. But as I read, God really spoke about it being bigger than me. Yes, I need the reminder that He is my advocate, but there are others out there who need to KNOW He's there advocate. If we keep this news only for ourselves, we are missing the whole point of it! He's not simply our advocate, but the entire world's. And there is an entire world of hurting people out there who need to know that.

Which brings us full circle to why we're memorizing Scripture this year. Yes, oh yes, it's so we can wield that sword in our own lives. We have daily battles that need winning. But it's also so we can bring the Word to a hurting world around us and point them to the Advocate who is just waiting to cover them. To love them. To make them whole and new.

So add this to your list. Commit it to memory. And be ready to share it, because it's a life-changing message.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Patience is a Virtue...even when it's forced on us.

I've recently been doing a study on Gideon, which of course is in Judges, which of course begins with the death of Joshua, which of course made me think of the life of Joshua...and because my mind is always chasing the rabbit trails, that's how I wound up headed down a trail toward Joshua and into today's post.

Joshua was an amazing leader brought up under Moses. The things he witnessed...well, I know I'm not supposed to covet, but how I'd love to have seen some of those things! The battles won. The miracles seen. Standing at the foot of the mountain while God gave out the Ten Commandments? And then there was leading the Israelites into the Promise Land. Wow.

But let's back up, because it's stepping into the Promise Land that I want to talk about. See, Joshua had stepped into that land forty years before he lead the Israelites there as one of the twelve spies sent to check it out under Moses. He'd seen the land and he'd seen the giants, yet his faith did not waiver. He came back to report that the land was good, and they could take it. He fully trusted God to deliver the land as He promised. Which makes this point in his life so hard to bear.

See, Joshua was only two of the twelve. Israel sided with the other ten, allowing fear to steal God's promise from them. And as Joshua tried to change their minds (along with Caleb) he was nearly stoned to death. While he was spared from death, it was because of these men and women that Joshua would not enter the Promised Land for forty more years. Forty. As in four decades.

When he'd seen the land he should have been in. When he'd believed in God's promise. When he'd had the faith. And yet he had to sit and wait...

Knowing God would have given them the land.
Still being respectful to the leadership over him.
Still being faithful to God.
And eventually leading their descendants into the very land their parents hadn't had the faith to enter.

Talk about patience. Talk about character building. Joshua didn't badmouth Moses for not taking a stronger stand. He didn't allow bitterness for his fellow Israelites to grow. He didn't rage at God for making him wait with the rest of them. And he didn't give up on those around them--he waited. See, Joshua realized he couldn't control the fact that he was waiting, but he could control his attitude during the wait.

And his actions after.

Forty years pass and then Moses dies. Joshua is placed in leadership. It's finally the moment he's waited for. And because he handled the waiting correctly--growing in God, remaining faithful, focusing on the promise God had given--he was positioned to fulfill God's plan for his life.

Sadness over Moses' death would not stop him. The raging waters of the Jordan would not stop him. Giants in the land would not stop him. Joshua had waited, knowing, for forty years that the land was theirs. He'd waited forty years to exercise his faith and grab God's promise for him. He'd allowed God to work in his life even when it was painful and seemed unfair, and when God finally said go, Joshua ran.

Oh, I want to be like Joshua! We all have a promise land. A place God has prepared just for us. Some of us have caught glimpses of it, and for whatever reason we are on hold, waiting to enter it. Our faith is ready, but things around us may not be. Maybe a few things around us have to die first. Maybe others who need to take the journey with us just aren't ready. Possibly, if God's molding us into a leader, we aren't ready quite yet. Whatever the reason, we need to approach the wait with the same character of Joshua. Not growing bitter over the glimpse we received of the land, but allowing that to flame the fire in us to reach it. Using the wait for our character and faith to continue to grow, so that when God has everything prepared, when God says GO, we don't just idly walk to that place, but we run.

Where are you today? In the waiting or the running? I'd love to hear. Leave me a comment and I'll be praying for you:)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Restock Time and My Favorite Things!

It's been a very busy few weeks around here, and I'm restocking my bookshelf. I've got a few books stacked at the top of my TBR pile, so I'll be back to my regularly scheduled Bookshelf Friday soon. For now, I thought I'd take part in the

A to Z blog hop at Patterings. blog hop!

This week's letter is "M" so I'm going with a few of MY favorite things:)

1. FALL! I love this time of year!!  Colors bursting. Cooler temps. Slippers, blankets, and sweatpants. And the approaching Holidays.

2. FOOTBALL! Yep. I love it. University of Michigan and Detroit Lions. They're my teams.

3. BROWNIES! Warm, chocolatey, and slightly undercooked. The only thing that compares is a warm chocolate chip cookie and cold glass of milk.

4. COFFEE! Specifically...Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks. Best drink ever!

5. SWEATERS! The bigger, chunkier, cozier it is, the better. Hubby says I have a problem with cardigans. I prefer to call it a love affair.

6. READING! I know, I know...I have no books on my shelf today, but it's because I like reading so much that I had to take a break. I can lose myself in a book quite easily, to the point where nothing gets done. As in "kids, let's have an all-day read-a-thon" for the third day in a row...not so good to do when you're homeschooling!

7. WRITING! Yeah. See above. Pretty much the same thing will happen, so I have to stay away from my laptop during school hours, but on the weekends, watch out--my imaginary friends get to come and play! (side note: when my imaginary friends are no-shows, this can quickly turn into one of my least favorite things. No lie.)

8. LONG WALKS! And now I'm sounding like an advertisement for Christian Mingle, but I really do like them. Especially with my headphones and Pandora. I may or may not have been seen around my neighborhood getting my groove on. Just sayin'.

9. MY FAMILY! Yes. They drive me crazy, but I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual. Still, there's nothing like them. I've got the best kiddos and hubby ever and I simply adore them.

10. FRIDAYS! Because the weekends usher in lots of time with all my favorite things! least this time of year it does. Fall and football will fade away, Starbucks will put away their specialty salt (which I will protest to no avail) and I'll have to fold up my cardigans...but right now I'm loving it all!

Happy Friday, friends!
What are some of your favorite things?
And check out a few other bloggers that are hopping around this weekend:)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #21

Hey all, it's time for a new verse! Let's quickly review the ones we've learned for the 2nd half of 2013:

El Shaddai - The All Sufficient One (Isaiah 46:4)
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner (Proverbs 21:31)
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace (Psalm 34:14)
El Roi - The God Who Sees Me (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Jehovah Jireh - Our God Provides (Philippians 4:19)
Immanuel - God With Us (Matthew 28:20)
Our Portion - (Lamentations 3:24)
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord our Healer (Psalm 30:2)
Our Comforter - (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)

For Verse 21 we're tackling the characteristic of God, our Advocate, using 1 John 2:1-2. Here's the verse that goes along with it:

I took a snapshot of my screen this week for our verse picture. This is from the app FighterVerse. I mentioned it at the beginning of the year and wanted to remind you of it. If you're trying to memorize Scripture, it's a great way to go!

Have a great Wednesday and I'll see you next week to chat about this verse:)

Monday, October 14, 2013

In the White Space

So we're finishing our time in Haggai today. If you've missed the past two weeks, you can check them out by clicking on:

Give Careful Thought
No Comparison

Also, before we start today, I want to challenge you. If you've never spent time in just one book of the Bible, I encourage you to do so. Pray about it. Pick one book and settle in, just you, God, and your pretty pens and highlighters. Maybe a notebook too. There's just something about savoring his word in a new way that you don't want to miss.

All right, now on to today. We're talking about white spaces. Come take a look.

If you check out the top of that passage I posted, (I made it super big so you could) you see Israel stepped into their obedience on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month. This happened just prior to chapter two. Then there's a bit of white space before chapter two, but for Israel that white space equaled a month of hard work. Read it. The story picks back up on the twenty-first day of the seventh month. Like we touched on last week, God sends Haggai to encourage them with "be strong and work". But if you're looking, their situation hasn't changed. No fruitful harvests, no warm clothes, their bills still aren't paid. In short, they've been obedient in what God called but have yet to see one of their circumstances change.

And yet God wants them to "be strong and work."

Then there's more white space. This time it's two months of hard work. Back breaking work. Obedient work. With no change in their surroundings.

And that's where I finally gave pause. That's where those words "be strong and work" reverberated in my mind. Right there in that white space. Because I've been there. I am there. And I know I'm not the only one.

God calls us into obedience. Sometimes, like Israel, it's to do a job. Other times it's to hit our knees in prayer. It could be to start giving in a way that stretches you. Maybe it's to fast or possibly it's to wake up early and begin a new habit of Bible study with him. Oh, I may not name it here, but you know what God has called you to obedience in. And you've taken a deep breath and stepped out.

Only your situation hasn't changed. The healing hasn't come. The Bible study hasn't grown. The breakthrough for you child hasn't occurred. The bill wasn't paid. And you're left in that white space wondering, how long God? If I'm being obedient in my work, why hasn't my situation changed? And he comes and whispers

Be strong, and work...for I am with you.

He doesn't change the situation, but he does encourage. Because ultimately, he's after out hearts. He's after our sold-out, passionate trust in him, not his works. That doesn't mean he won't bring blessing, because our God loves blessing his children. It brings him joy. But those blessings are never more important to him than the work he is doing in our lives.

So let's go back and look at that second white space. Like I mentioned, their story doesn't pick back up again until when? The twenty-fourth day of the ninth month--exactly three months from the day they stepped into obedience. And what's so cool about that isn't simply that it's the exact day, but what God goes on to say through Haggai. He once again asks them to give careful thought (check out the first post in this series here), only this time it's too look at what God's going to do. Listen:

"From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought...from this day on I will bless you." Haggai 2:18,19b

All right, there's just so much cool about this part of the story. First, God's perfect timing. I loved that it was exactly three months to the day. No, that doesn't mean we mark it out on our calendars to be the same--some of us have already waited far longer--but it does mean we can rest assured that his timing is always perfect. Always.

Second, it's that he brings them full circle. The story began with Israel being called to give careful thought to their ways. They weren't walking the path God called them to. Their priorities were messed up, and God used that phrase to point it out. But now he's rewriting their story as only he can. Now he's using the same phrase to point out the change in them and his love for them. And now when he says "give careful thought" it's to mark down this day as a spiritual victory. I encourage you to do this. When God finally breaks through in the area you've been patiently and obediently walking in, mark it down. A notebook. Your Bible. Wherever it needs to be so you never forget it.

Finally, it's the end of their white space. We read the story, and we barely have to skip that white space, but they had to live it. And if you're there right now, you know those white spaces can last far longer than you ever imagined. You wonder if God's still writing your story on the other side. If you even heard him correctly. If you even have the strength to keep going.

You do.

Be strong and work, for I am with you.

He's right there in the white space with you. He's working something you can't even imagine. As my mom always says, just keep on keeping on, because at exactly the right time, God will move. And on that day, give careful thought, because you'll have come through the white space to the other side, and it will be time to celebrate and remember.

If you've recently come through a white space, leave a note here so I can celebrate with you! And if you're in that white space today, how can I pray for you? Leave a comment or email me. I'm all about the power of prayer. Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Critical Pursuit by Janice Cantore

With Critical Pursuit, Janice Cantore begins a new series. This one is based on Brinna Caruso and her K-9 search and rescue dog, Hero. Here's a short blurb:

Officer Brinna Caruso has built a reputation at the precinct as the cop to call when a child goes missing. For Brinna, it’s personal because she was once one of them. Brinna and her K-9 search and rescue dog, Hero, will stop at nothing to find a missing child, no matter the stakes.

Detective Jack O’Reilly isn’t ready to return to his homicide duties, after losing his wife to a drunk driver. He’s on the downside of his career, and bent on revenge, when he’s assigned as Brinna’s partner. While on patrol, Jack struggles between his quest for personal justice and his responsibility to those around him, especially his partner.

Skeptical of Jack’s motives, Brinna isn’t sure she can rely on her new partner, whose reckless abandon endangers the safety of those around him. But when a man surfaces with an MO similar to the criminal who abducted Brinna twenty years earlier, Brinna and Jack must cast aside previous judgments and combine efforts to catch the kidnapper, and finally allow Brinna the peace stolen from her as a child.

I enjoyed the suspense of this book as Brinna chases after not only full healing, but also a monster from her past. Brinna's character is well fleshed out, her emotions and questions about God true to the struggles her character has been through. And they're not handled easily. I found the same with Jack as he mourns the death of his wife. Having been a Christian until she was killed in an accident, he now grapples with God's will for his life and if he can still believe in a God who would take his wife from him.

The spiritual ties in this book are tied up beautifully by the end. That arc was well written and tackled some very tough questions with very solid answers. Also, the suspense story for this book came to a full conclusion. But one area was opened and I believe we'll be waiting through the entire series for an answer, and that was Jack and Brinna. A romance between them was very lightly--and I mean very lightly--hinted at and may begin to develop more in book two. This wasn't billed as a romantic suspense, and at the point in their lives that this book opens to, it would have been untrue to the characters if they'd fallen in love within this book. However, the romantic in me wanted to see that!

My only true issue with this book was at times I felt the author narrated the story. I didn't get the feeling of being in the main character's skin, rather that I was being told a story about her. A very well-told story, mind you, but I prefer a closer style of writing when it comes to the characters I read.

Overall, I thought the story was well-written, I truly liked Jack and Brinna, and I'll pick up the next one in the series to see where they're headed. I give Critical Pursuit 4 out of 5 stars.

If you'd like to see a break-down of what my stars equal, check out my page My Ratings System to the right there. And a big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #20

Here's the verse we are currently memorizing:

The second half of this year we've been focusing on verses to help us remember the many names of God. Those names speak to His attributes, and for verse twenty I chose Our Comforter.

And there was a specific reason I also chose this picture to go along with it. That lovely white down comforter right there. It's how I pictured God when I see Him as our comforter. Pure white, hiding all my darkness under Him. Soft. Warm. A place to curl up into and rest.

In our days we find all sorts of trouble. Maybe some days it finds us. Depression. Loss. Sickness. Torn relationships. And I'm sure you can add to the list. But we have a Father who is full of compassion and always open-armed, waiting to wrap us up in Him.

There is no trouble too big for Him.

And no moment where He doesn't want to snuggle you close.

He's crazy in love with you.

Let Him wrap you in His arms today.

Monday, October 7, 2013

No Comparison

We're still in Haggai this week, and I want to pick right up where we left off.

Israel had taken care of their own homes and left God's in ruins. It was symptomatic on how messed up their priorities were, and God sent the prophet Haggai to bring them a word. It was give careful thought to your ways because they are what is messing you up.

He reminded them that they were to build his house.

And Israel obeyed.(You can read all about it in last week's post here.)

We left them on the cusp of their obedience. Twenty-three days after Haggai brought that word, Israel began their work. And they worked for an entire month. During that month, as the temple began to rise, something happened.

Discouragement set in. Why? Because they were playing the comparison game. This had also happened a few years beforehand. See, Israel had actually begun to rebuild the Temple years before. They'd even managed to get the altar built. This all takes place in the book of Ezra, and when that altar took shape, listen to what happened:

Many of the old priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid...Ezra 3:12

And it wasn't tears of joy. It was comparison, pure and simple. The temple they were rebuilding didn't compare to the one of old (Solomon's Temple), and when opposition mixed in with their discouragement, they gave up. And that's where, years later, Haggai picks up.

Problem is, while they are being obedient and resuming their work, they were also falling back into the same trap. Comparing their works to another time and place and not seeing any fruit rising from their current work. Can't you just hear the rising grumblings of defeat starting back up?

But, oh, the love of God. It is strong and fierce and exactly what they needed.

He doesn't yell at them or chastise their attitudes. And he doesn't leave them in their discouragement. No, this time, he encourages them. He asks them to continue with their obedience, to continue following his word.  Listen:

'Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,' declares the Lord. 'Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,' declares the Lord, 'and work. For I am with you,' declares the Lord Almighty. 'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.'

God didn't swoop in and fix everything for them, and he certainly didn't tell them this temple was bigger and better than the last--because it wasn't supposed to be. He's doesn't make all things the same, he makes all things unique, and then he uses them. He gave credence to their feelings, then showed them what his amazing plan was. He didn't have to offer this encouragement, this glimpse, but he did. Listen:

In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory.

Did you catch that? The desired of all nations: Jesus Christ. He was going to fill this house with the ultimate glory. The very house their hands were building.

While they were playing their comparison game, God was preparing to do amazing things through them. No. They couldn't see it yet, but He was preparing what they thought was meager to be amazing.

So often we step out in obedience and when we don't see immediate results that mirror the person next to us, we want to give up. All the while, God is coaxing us "be strong, and work"...because what seems like a long time to us has only been a blink on his eternal calendar, and he's still preparing the good works he created in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We can't give up short of his plans and purposes for us.

But all too often we compare what our offering is with what another's was and defeat sets in. We need to remember, however, that God doesn't play that game. He takes simple and makes it intricate. He takes small and gives it a huge impact. He doesn't look horizontally across what all his children hold, comparing their offerings. He looks vertically to see where it fits into his kingdom plans.

When our faces are downcast. When we want to give up. He whispers to us, "Be strong. I am with you. Be strong and work, because in a little a little while, I'm going to shake the heavens and the earth through what you are doing."

Today. I encourage you. You may not be seeing progress, but if you are walking in obedience, I promise you--progress is being made in His ultimate plans for you. Hold on. Be strong. And keep working. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Trapped by Irene Hannon

I picked up Trapped with the idea that I had a week to read it. I finished it in twenty-four hours. Should have known that'd be the case with another Irene Hannon book. Here's a little blurb:

When librarian Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned PI James "Dev" Devlin to help. But the deeper he digs, the more he begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl's disappearance. And the closer he gets to uncovering the truth, the clearer it becomes that the situation isn't just dangerous--it's deadly.

Trapped is the second in Irene Hannon's Private Justice series. These books do not need to be read in order. In fact, I have yet to read the first of the series but will definitely be returning for it. She's an author I always look forward to reading.

As for Trapped, Irene did a fantastic job with the bad guy in this book. I loved digging into his psyche and watching him unfold. We learn a little about him with each interaction which kept me turning pages. I also really liked both Laura and James. They were true to character and their budding romance gave me plenty of smiles. Another thing I typically enjoy with romantic suspense is the ability to see the story through multiple sets of eyes (or different POVs as some say) though in this book there was one in particular I felt could have been left out. That was of a minor character named Faith who was introduced later in the story. The only other time I had an issue with this book was at the end. There was a moment of what felt like author convenience as James rushes to Laura's rescue. I won't spoil it for you, but it gave me a pause of disbelief and pulled me momentarily from the story.

However, both were small issues in the middle of a great story and hardly enough to keep me from returning to Irene's books. She's great at romantic suspense and definitely delivers with this one. I happily give Trapped 4 out of 5 stars and cannot wait for the third book in this series.

If you'd like to see a break-down of what my stars equal, check out my page My Ratings System to the right there. And a big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #20

So it's time for a new verse. Cannot believe we're already to verse #20, but we are! And of course, before we get our new verse, let's recap the old:

El Shaddai - The All Sufficient One (Isaiah 46:4)
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner (Proverbs 21:31)
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace (Psalm 34:14)
El Roi - The God Who Sees Me (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Jehovah Jireh - Our God Provides (Philippians 4:19)
Immanuel - God With Us (Matthew 28:20)
Our Portion - (Lamentations 3:24)
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord our Healer (Psalm 30:2)

For the next two weeks we're going to concentrate on the characteristic of God, our Comforter. Here's our verse to go with that name: (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)

Pin it to your board, write it in your journal or on a 3x5 card and start learning it. We'll talk a little about it next week.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Giving Careful Thought

Ever wind up in a spot and you’re not quite sure how you got there? Yeah, me too. Been there, done that, pretty sure I’ll wind up doing it again at some point or another. Because as much as I’ve drawn closer and closer to God on this walk of mine, I know sometimes I still get things wrong. Sometimes I focus more on my problems—and trying to fix them—then I do on God’s strength.

Which is why I think I recently fell in love with the book of Haggai. It’s a great book—no lie. I mean, so often we think the Old Testament really takes after it’s name and is, well, old and dry. But the more I dig into it, the more I find it is just as alive as the rest of the Bible.

Haggai opens with Israel living it up after their captivity. Or at least trying to. They’d rebuilt their homes and were living in style. Only problem? God’s house was in ruins and their prosperity wasn’t exactly working out for them.

They didn’t see a connection between the two, but God was about to show them.

See, Israel was focusing on their own needs, trying to meet them all on their own, and at first it seemed to be working. After years in captivity, they wanted stability. Made sense to first focus on their homes and enjoy their freedom. Yet sometimes the taste of freedom can wash the taste of God from our taste buds. When things are going poorly, we cling tightly to Him. But when things start to loosen up, so does our grip on God. But what Israel soon discovered—and we do too—is that when we move from God we are never satisfied. Listen to this:

“Give careful thought to your ways. You’ve planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it…Give careful thought to your ways. You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away.” Haggai 1:5-7, 9a.

Did you see how serious God is about making sure they get the connection? He uses the same phrase twice, and when he repeats something, we'd better listen.

"Give careful thought to your ways."

In other words, look at your part in this. Are you doing what I called you to do? You wonder why things aren’t going well for you, but are you putting me first or trying to solve all of your problems on your own?

Hmmm…anyone relate? (I’m raising my hand here.) Sometimes in our walks, we take over the reins. We decide we know the best way to go about things and head on down our own path. Then we’re surprised when God doesn’t follow. When the path springs up thorns, when abundance isn’t found, when our talents seem to suddenly shrink and not be enough. But we cannot go someplace God hasn’t called us to and then expect him to equip the journey—he doesn’t work that way.

And that’s what Israel had done. God had made it clear that he wanted them to rebuild the temple, but they’d given up (we’ll talk more about this next week), and instead focused on their own homes. They put their trust in what they knew, in what felt sure to them in this world and its ways. Then when it didn’t work, they wondered why.

Do you find yourself here today? Maybe you’re coming out of a season of captivity and enjoying the freedom, but forgetting it’s God who gave it to you. Maybe you’re trusting in yourself and how to make things happen now that life is a little smoother. Maybe you’ve taken a few steps away from God because you don’t need to cling to him each day for support. Whatever it may be, today if you’re struggling with where you’re at, “give careful thought to your ways.” No, not every hard spell in life is because we’ve taken over the reins, but maybe, just maybe, this one is.

And if you discover it is, then follow what the Israelites did:

“…the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” Haggai 1:12b 

He refocused them on the first task he asked them to do--rebuilding his temple. He pulled them back to him and what his plan was, and when they obeyed...well, that's what we'll talk about next week, but I can't leave without putting out there God's next words after they obeyed.

"I am with you." Haggai 1:13

Love those words, don't you?

This week, I challenge you to give careful thought to your ways. Sit with God and ask him to look at them with you. Then listen. Because he's with you, and he's ever-faithful to answer.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Be the Blessing by Paula Mowery

Ok. Before we move on to today's bookshelf, I need to announce the winner of Melissa Tagg's Made to Last.

Cathy! You are the winner:) I'll be emailing your "sunshine" email address (love that address!) to get your information.

And now for today's book...

This is the second novella from Paula and it returns us to Addy Townsend's life as Conrad visits her again. Here's a short blurb:

Addy Townsend hadn’t strolled with Conrad or had a vision in five years. Now Conrad has returned to challenge her to be a blessing to those around her. The Holy Spirit begins to nudge her into service in new ways and she follows.
But when she is blindsided with personal problems, can Addy learn to be a willing vessel even in times of struggle and suffering?

At just twelve chapters, Be the Blessing is a short read packed with powerful lessons. Conrad shows up again (angel that he is) offering encouragement and spiritual challenges for Addy to take on. Having grown through the first book, Addy knows she can trust God to be there as she steps beyond her comfort zone and is stretched once again. And God, ever-faithful, does just that. He uses her in the midst of her own struggles and challenges to bless others, growing Addy once again along the way.

I loved the faith aspect in this story, but I also really loved the relationship of Addy and her husband Griffey. They are a strong couple with a long marriage that shows how two people should love one another. There were such tender moments between them, one in particular that nearly brought tears to my own eyes. This book both entertained and challenged me, and I could feel the Paula's heart for God as she wove His love and faithfulness through each page.

If you've got a few hours to relax with this weekend, I highly recommend this small read. It will leave you with a big smile.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learn the Word Wednesday - Jehovah Rapha verse # 19

So our current verse is:

And it's to remind us that He is our Jehovah Rapha, The God Who Heals.

I have seen amazing, miraculous healings in my lifetime. Even experienced some in my personal family. And in those moments it's so easy to remember He is our Jehovah Rapha. But for the past year and few months we've been praying for a physical healing and have yet to see it manifest. We are doing the crying, but we've yet to see the healing.

So the question starts to bounce around in our minds, "Is He really Jehovah Rapha?"

And the only answer we can give to that question is "yes."

God is who he says he is in the good and in the bad. He is who he says he is even when the days stretch on longer than we'd ever thought we'd have to wait, and when the answers aren't what we want to hear. He is still Lord. He is still Jehovah Rapha. He is still working all things for the good of those who love him.

And in that there's healing. Healing of our raw emotions. Healing in the security of his unchanging character. Healing of our hearts as we rest in him. Because he's not just our physical healer, but with such an amazing tenderness in his hands, he also heals those wounds that cannot be seen. He has yet to leave us or forsake us, rather he walks through it all beside us.

So cry out to him, because he truly is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Is It Worth It? A Guest Post by Melissa Tagg

My friend, Melissa Tagg, graciously agreed to guest post this week, and you need to buckle in because it's a great post! It nailed me between the eyes, and though she used the example of writing, we all can relate to what she has to say. That's because we've all got a purpose, one that takes work to achieve and at times we can't see the results. Sometimes it even looks like we're failing. So the question becomes, is it worth it?

Here's Melissa to answer:)

Telling the story is worth it

I am not often overly melodramatic. But there’s one huge exception…

…when I’m working out.

Just ask my sister, Amy, who every once in awhile plays personal trainer to me when I’m down in Wichita visiting her. I turn into a complete drama queen. I’ve mastered the exaggerated sighs when it’s time to do lunges. I get all whimper-y and “woe is me” during sit-ups.

And I just plain cry when we get to the push-ups.

But the thing I tell myself over and over when I’m resolutely powering barely making it through a workout is that it’s worth it.

It’s worth it to feel healthy. To know I’m taking care of myself. Well, and to prove to my sister than I’m at least forty percent as in shape as she is. :)

But seriously, it’s worth it.

There was a time when I started to wonder if writing was worth it. Serious writers who are out to make a career of this thing know there’s so much more than a little hob-nobbing around with a laptop that goes into writing. There are mega investments of time, energy and even money.

A couple years ago, I’d been writing seriously for about a year and a half, maybe two years. I’d had some great moments—winning a contest, finaling in another, getting some agent/editor requests for my first story. But I hadn’t seen a lot of traction beyond that.

And I started thinking…is all this time and money and mental craziness worth it? What if no one ever reads my writing? What if this story languishes away on my laptop for years to come? Is it worth it?

Obviously I eventually decided yes. I’d love to say I had some mega epiphany of epic spiritual proportions. And while I did have some truly cool moments with God as I moved forward on my writing journey, I’m not sure I ever actually answered that “is it worth it?” question until just recently when a friend expressed the same thoughts about her own writing…

As I pondered my friend’s questions, I started thinking about Jesus…about the stories he told to thousands of people. And how in some cases, thousands responded, yes. But in others…they didn’t. Sometimes He was disdained. Sometimes He was outright betrayed.

Eventually He died for the eternal story His very presence on earth represented. (And rose again, of course. That’s the happy part!)

But I started asking myself, I wonder if there were times when it might not have felt worth it to Jesus. Did He ever think, “God, what am I doing here? People aren’t listening. They aren’t getting it. My closest friends don’t even comprehend this story I’m living. Is it even worth it?”

But the more I thought about it, the more something told me Jesus would’ve told those same stories for one person. He would’ve lived that same story for one heart.

Because it’s who He is. He was and is the Christ. The salvation story He lived—the one we get to live today—is part of who He is as God’s anointed.

Thus, we were and are worth it to Him—even despite the pain it caused Him.

Which brings me back to that question about writing. Is it worth it when we’re not seeing immediate results? When we’re wondering if anyone’s life is really changing? When we get bad reviews or negative reader reactions. Or especially if we’re the only ones who will ever even read our stories?

I think the answer is yes.

I think the answer is yes because it’s who we are.

We have this amazing example in Christ of someone who knew the task set before him, who followed after it despite the pain, and who believed—I think—that even just one heart was worth it.

And you know, maybe the heart that changes most when we’re following this writing journey is our own. I’ve heard Susan May Warren, one of my favorite authors, say many times: “If God doesn’t change you on the writing journey, you’ve missed the point.”

So I can’t help thinking, maybe I’m the one heart God means to most change as He fuels my own writing dream. Maybe you’re the heart your story is meant to most impact.

And it’s worth it.

Tagg6.jpgMelissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and total Iowa girl. Her first novel, Made to Last, released from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, Melissa is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at 

And for anyone who missed my Friday book review, you have until tomorrow night midnight to leave a comment here and your email address to be entered to win a copy of Melissa's debut novel, Made to Last. 

Happy Monday everyone! And a HUGE thanks, Melissa, for guesting today and bringing the Truth!:)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

All right, first I have to say...

Michelle Tuller! You are the winner of Stranded by Dani Pettrey. Email or FB me your address and I'll be sending you out a copy this weekend.

Now onto today's book, Made to Last, which I am super excited about! I've gotten to watch Melissa on this journey towards her debut and now it's here! And one of the best parts was getting to actually hug her on her release day. (See. There's even a glow about her.) Love how God works tiny details out.

So, here's the blurb and we'll chat on the other side.

Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?

All right. The characters in this book latched onto me. Melissa's dialogue was fresh and witty, which knowing her didn't surprise me. I found myself chuckling often but also having those swoon-worthy moments. It really was a romantic comedy in book form. Don't let it fool you though, there was also a great message subtly woven into this story of becoming who God created you to be, which was another reason I liked it so much. So did it entertain me? Oh yes, definitely with a huge smile on my face. Did it give me a great romance? Uh-huh. Heart flutters and all. And did it make me think? Yep. There was a take-away from it that made me dig a little deeper into my faith. 

I guess you could say I loved this book, because I so did:) I know you can say that I cannot wait until Melissa's next one comes out. However, since we'll have to wait a little while, I thought I'd share my book-love on this one and give a copy away to one lucky commenter. Leave a comment below and include your email address! You have until Tuesday at midnight and I'll announce the winner on next Friday's bookshelf.

Happy reading everyone!

A to Z blog hop at Patterings. And here's a few more blogs to check out on our hop today!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #19

It's Wednesday and time for a new verse. First let's continue to recap the names of God and verses we've been learning for the second half of this year:

El Shaddai - The All Sufficient One (Isaiah 46:4)
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner (Proverbs 21:31)
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace (Psalm 34:14)
El Roi - The God Who Sees Me (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Jehovah Jireh - Our God Provides (Philippians 4:19)
Immanuel - God With Us (Matthew 28:20)
Our Portion - (Lamentations 3:24)

For the next two weeks we're going to concentrate on Jehovah Rapha - the Lord our Healer. The verse I chose is Psalm 30:2.

Add it to your verses and we'll chat about it next week:)

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Conference Break!!!

I am on my way home from ACFW conference right now. Please pray for safe travel today as I drive home from Indianapolis, tired from too many late nights with writer friends, appointments with editors, and encountering God in big ways. Loved this mini-retreat:)

I'll be back on Wednesday with a new verse, and then on Friday I'll be reviewing my friend, Melissa Tagg's, debut novel Made to Last PLUS giving away a copy to one lucky commenter. If you love humor-laced contemporary romance, you won't want to miss this!

See you Wednesday!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Stranded by Dani Pettrey AND a Giveaway!

All right, first thing's first! We've got a book to give away! Last Friday I reviewed Jody Hedlund's Rebellious Heart with a chance to win an autographed copy. I used a random picker online to enter everyone's name and the winner is...


Timothy, your wife is going to give you a huge hug:) So sweet to enter with a chance to win for her. Congrats to you both! I'll send your name and email to Jody and she'll contact you. Thanks for stopping by Steps:)

And now for today's Bookshelf Friday...

Well, if you've been around here long it's no surprise to you that Romantic Suspense is my favorite genre, and I love a series. So when Bethany Publishers announced Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage Series a little over a year ago, I was beyond excited, but a bit trepidatious too. My forever favorite grouping is Dee Henderson's O'Malley series and through the years I've hoped to find something similar but never quite did. Oh, I found several books I fell in love with, but nothing that mixed suspense, page-turning thrills, and a family that you saw across all the pages. You get to know them a little more with each book and even when one couple's story is finished, you still get to see where life takes them--even if they're on the backstage.

Knee deep into Book Three of the Alaskan Courage Series I knew I didn't need to look any longer. These books would find a place on my bookshelf right next to Dee Henderson's. Oh who am I kidding? I knew it after book one. Which makes me all the more excited for each book to arrive. Here's a little blurb on Stranded:

Darcy St. James returns to Alaska to join a journalist friend undercover on the trail of a big story. But when Darcy arrives, she finds her friend has disappeared. Troubled by the cruise ship's vague explanation, Darcy uses her cover as a travel reporter to investigate further.

The last person Gage McKenna expects to see during his summer aboard a cruise ship leading adventure excursions is Darcy. And in typical Darcy fashion, she's digging up more trouble.

He'd love to just forget her--but something won't let him. And he can't help but worry about her as they are heading into more remote regions of Alaska and eventually into foreign waters. Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they push, the more Gage fears they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg.

Was it a little coincidental that Darcy and Gage happened to end up on the same ship? Sure. But I've got to be honest, I was willing to go with it because the story itself and the relationship between the two was page-turning. I knew after book two that Darcy and Gage would be thrown together again, and the plot worked for both of their jobs, so all was well:) And I cannot wait for Book Four, Silenced. It's the story I think I've been waiting for all along, which is yet another aspect I really like about Dani's books--the backstory set-ups for the next couple. This time was no different.

If you haven't read any of the books in this series, you can definitely start here. However, I'd highly recommend reading from the beginning--you'll want to go back anyway because you'll fall in love with these characters!

You can purchase Stranded here, but for one lucky friend, I'll be sending you a copy! All you have to do is leave me a comment and your email address. You must be entered by Wednesday 9/18 at midnight. I'll announce the winner on next Friday's Bookshelf.

As for my rating, I happily give Stranded 5 out of 5 stars. And if you want to get to know Dani better, or learn more about her books, she has an amazing website here with pictures and bios of her characters. Seriously cool and you should check it out:)

Have a great weekend everyone!

If you'd like to see a break-down of what my stars equal, check out my page My Ratings System to the right there. And a big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.