Friday, June 28, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - The House That Love Built by Beth Wiseman

I looked at The House that Love Built for pretty much the month of May and finally decided to request it from Netgalley. Honestly, I was on the fence whether I would enjoy it or not, but the cover and title intrigued me so I thought I'd give it a try. Here's a short blurb:

In the charming town of Smithville, Texas, Brooke Holloway is raising two young children on her own, supporting them by running the family hardware store. The last thing on her mind is falling in love. But she’s intrigued when a stranger moves to town and buys the old Hadley mansion. She’s always heard that house holds a secret—maybe even a treasure—and she can’t wait to see inside. When she meets the new owner and they spend time together, she can’t deny the attraction. Could God be giving her another chance at happiness? Or is she betraying her late husband’s memory by even thinking that way?

Owen Saunders bought the Hadley place to spite his cheating ex-wife. She’d always wanted to restore an old house in Smithville. Now he’s going to do it without her. But if anything needs restoration, it is Owen’s heart. Then he meets Brooke and her kids and finds himself tempted by love. Can he bring himself to trust a woman again?

Throw an eccentric uncle into the mix, along with the town’s teenage troublemaker, and even a finicky cat—and one thing becomes clear: God is bringing them all together for a reason.

Ok. I loved this book for so, so, so many reasons! The title and cover were a great starting point. They were what kept me coming back and checking this book out. The back cover seemed to promise a small town and fun characters, but I was hesitant as other books have made me promises they haven't kept. This one kept its commitment! 

The little town is actually the one Hope Floats was filmed in--one of my favorite movies. Beth does a great job of drawing you into it, making you relax as if you were on vacation there. I truly liked the slower pace of this book. Now, don't confuse that sentence with boring, because this book is far from it. You don't find out everything about the characters in the first two pages. Each page allows you to get to know them a little better, peeling their personalities back and also adding new characters along the way. You truly become a part of the family this book is creating. And Beth even adds in a few surprises  and a little mystery along the way. All the aspects combine to make an incredibly sweet, entertaining read that I'll be adding to my permanent bookshelf at home.

I happily give The House that Love Built 5 out of 5 stars and encourage you to not be like me--waiting and wondering--but go out and grab it today.


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, June 26, 2013

Learn the Word #13 - and May's winner

So the second half of this year we are dedicating to verses that call to mind the names of God. Last week we learned about El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One. This week I want to pull the name Jehovah Nissi which means The Lord is My Banner, and the verse I want us to memorize is:


Next week we'll talk about how the two go hand-in-hand, but for now, pin it to your list and start committing it to memory. And if you're struggling with something this week remember: Victory belongs to the Lord!

For those of you who have been following along this year and memorizing with me, I've got the name of May's winner:

Michelle Tuller

Michelle, check out the grab bag on the right of the screen there and then email me or Facebook me your choice:) 

Blessings everyone!


Monday, June 24, 2013

What is Love?

What is love?
And no, I'm not asking these two for the answer:

Come on, I can't be the only one whose mind went there:)

Anyway, love is a theme that's been swirling over me of late. Naturally, that brought up the question of "what is love", which lead me to the Bible, which lead me straight to 1 Corinthians 13. A very popular passage, go to most weddings and you'll hear it--pretty sure it was even read at mine. But just because something is familiar doesn't mean we can't glean something new from it. After all, the Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) which keeps it fresh.

So I began to take apart 1 Corinthians 13 starting at verse 4 where it talks about what love is. Today I want to focus on just the first sentence:

Love is patient, love is kind.

And here comes the homeschooling mama in me. Bear with me:)

The word "IS", is a verb.  It can be helping, linking, or being. When we read love is patient, we automatically think of the "is" as a linking verb, linking patient back to love as its adjective. In other words, we think patient describes love.

But that's not what's going on here. The word "patient" is the Greek word makrothumeó, which is a verb. If you remember, verbs are actions. Makrothumeó means longsuffering or deferring anger. In fact, it comes from these two root words:

makros:  long, distant, far
thumos: outburst of passion, wrath, often used when speaking of rage

So what it's saying here is that patience is the action of pushing your outbursts of wrath or rage a long distance away from you. Hmmm...anyone relating here?  Patience doesn't describe love, but rather is the action of love. Moms can you hear me on this one? When your child disobeys or pushes your button for the hundredth time before you've even finished your morning coffee, you are still called to the love's action--which is patience. This action does not say we cannot be angry or hand out consequences to their button-pushing. It does, however, say we must push the outbursts of anger far from us. This is often where I need to remind myself I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and you can too. Take a deep breath, remember love is what we want to model and fill our homes with, suck in another mouthful of coffee to keep your tongue occupied, and when your blood pressure returns to normal, then deal with the situation. (And I know it's not only moms who need to practice this:) )

The next part of the sentence we're looking at today says love is kind. I don't think it's coincidence that patience and kindness are in that sentence together. Let's look at the Greek again. The word "kind" here is the Greek word chrésteuomai, and again it's a verb--which means action.

chrésteuomai: gentle, to show oneself mild; service to others, kind

Basically, the first part of that definition piggy-backs on the patience portion. There needs to be a mild, gentle part of us when dealing with others. Outbursts of anger don't demonstrate gentleness, so patience and kindness go hand-in-hand here. But the second part speaks to helping others. Love doesn't ask if they deserve it or not, love just digs in and helps, because that's what love is.

So let's recap. We're talking actions here, not descriptions. Love holds back outbursts. Love demonstrates gentleness. Love helps those around us.

Out of these, which is the hardest aspect for you? I pray today that God overflows you with an abundance of His strength in that area so you can actively LOVE those around you:)








Friday, June 21, 2013

Bookshelf Friday -Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer


My first Karen Witemeyer book was Short Straw Bride. Reading it, I fell in love with Karen's wit and romance and couldn't wait to read more of her books. Her newest, Stealing the Preacher, recently released and it didn't disappoint. Here's a short blurb:

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he's forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man's daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he's haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind--a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna's outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?

All right. First off I was beyond excited to get to see Crockett again. He is one of the Archer brothers introduced in Short Straw Bride, and I'd hoped to see again. As a reader, I love it when a strong secondary character gets his own book. I love meeting them again, watching them take center stage and capture their very own Happily Ever After. Crockett was no exception.

I also loved the backwards way Crockett and Joanna met. The way it was written had me chuckling, while immediately endearing me to Crockett and Joanna, along with her father Silas. His story was integral to this book, setting a strong bond between Crockett and Joanna and lending a beautiful spiritual thread to the pages.

As I read, it became clear that Stealing the Preacher was a perfect title, not only because of their initial meeting but because of the way Joanna slowly steals Crockett's heart. Not only does their humor match well, but so do their hearts for God. Both seem to have a similar mission in life, this fact drawing them even closer to one another. Both were strong characters individually who only became stronger together.

Now for my suggestion...if you haven't read Short Straw Bride (where you'll first meet Crockett), may I suggest you do? No, it's not necessary before reading Stealing the Preacher, but Karen Witemeyer's writing is something you don't want to miss. Even for my friends who aren't big into Historical, Karen's books pull them in. So start with these two, then while you're waiting for her next release, you can move on to her others. You won't be disappointed.

Check out more about Karen and her books at: http://www.karenwitemeyer.com/

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Learn the Verse - Week #2


Remember we're working on verses that help us with the names of God. This week I pulled on El Shaddai, or All Sufficient One, Lord God Almighty.  I chose to focus on the All Sufficient aspect because it's so important to remember that all you need, forever, will be found in God.

That's why I love this verse so much. I'm no spring chicken, more like a fall one. Pretty sure I mentioned last week that I've begun to discover gray hair. Ah well, I count each one a strand of earned wisdom:) But this verse starts right off by telling us that God is with us always. He has our life and our needs covered, from birth right on through. 

Then he goes on to reassure us the he made us. What's so neat about this reminder is the intimate way he knows us. If he created us, he dreamed us up and put us together. He knows how each part works, why it's there, and its function. There was no accident in how our lives and bodies were formed. Not only that, but as our Creator, he knows how to fix anything that breaks. Love the image those few words give.

Still, he goes on with three important points.

I will carry you.
I will sustain you.
I will rescue you.

When we're wandering. When we're hurting. When we're tired. Oh what a comfort to know that the very one who created us remains there for us--with all we'll need. In fact, he says "I will sustain you" twice, and when God repeats something, you better be sure to listen!

He is El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One. He has all you need to sustain you. The next time you wonder, even if you cannot remember this verse, remember that name and its meaning. 

Happy Wednesday friends! Keep pinning, keep learning, keep hiding away His Word in  your heart. I'll be pulling a name for May next week! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Expert Marksmenship

So I'm still in Acts. I've been enjoying reading and re-reading passages and just camping out in this book. This week I came to Acts 26 where Paul is representing himself in court. See, the Jews were angry with him because he was preaching the Gospel, and they didn't like it very much. They didn't believe Jesus was the Son of God, crucified, and raised on the third day from the dead. And they didn't want Paul preaching any differently.

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

Paul turns to the king and says,

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

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

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

They'd missed their promise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And why?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Learn the Word Verse #12

So we are half-way through the year. This is where the rubber hits the road. Where we have to give ourselves--and by ourselves I mean me--a kick in the pants and remind us why we're doing this.

My word for the year was ABUNDANTLY!

I want to live life to the fullest. I want God to enrich my life abundantly with His presence. I want abundant joy, blessings, protection, laughter, happiness, love...all those good things that reside in Him and obedience to Him.

I'm going to guess I'm not the only one who wants these things.

But we can't just sit back and ask Him to hook us up to a Holy IV. We have to do our parts too. Because satan came to steal, kill and destroy and one way we combat that is through the Word of God. It's part of our armor. It's alive and active. It's what we throw back at satan when he throws lies at our mind.

Knowing that, I want the Word of God embedded in me. And that's what the whole year of memorizing Scripture was about. But I'm not even gonna lie. It's not easy. I've fallen a few times and I'm still struggling to catch up. But I refuse to give up because then satan wins. And that ain't gonna happen.

So I sat in prayer over what verses to do for the next half a year. God didn't give me all twelve of them, but He did give me a direction. For the next six months our verses will center around His many names. Because He has all we need, and we need to know how to call on Him.

Thinking on that, today I'm using El Shaddai as the basis for our verse. El Shaddai means: All sufficient one; Lord God Almighty. If you'd like to see a breakdown of this name, click here and scroll down. I'm focusing strictly on the "all sufficient one" portion today--which points to how He sustains us. Here's our verse to go with it:

Even to your old age and grey hairs, I am he, he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

I'm starting to get grey hairs, so this really spoke to me :) I love each and every part of that verse and we'll talk more about it next week. For now, I want to encourage you to keep learning. Keep working at it. Even if you're not getting every comma in place, you are still steeping in His Word and His Word never returns void.

Have a great week, friends!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Satisfied

This verse has stood with me for about a week now:

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:14

I stumbled on that verse again this week and fell back in love with it. Who doesn't want to sing for joy and be glad ALL our days? Ok...so maybe my family doesn't want me singing for all THEIR days, but I can get down with the joy and gladness parts for sure.

And--can I be honest--there are days our house can use a dousing in happiness. Raising kids is hard on all of us. Like the hardest thing I've ever done. So I'll take joy and gladness wherever I can get it. Anyone else?

Well, since it's in God's Word, it's a promise. And God always keeps His promises. Look:

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are all "yes" in Christ. And so through him the "amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 1:20

But did you catch that? The promises of God are already "yes", but there's action on our part. We have to speak the "amen", or claim, that promise. Amen literally means, "so it be, truly." It's an affirmation. An agreement. We stand in faith and agreement that God is going to do what He promised.

So let's go back to that first verse I'm currently camping out in. It asks Him to satisfy us in the morning. For that to happen there also has to be action on our part. We have to meet with Him. I mean, you can wake up hungry and stare at that toaster all you want, but your hunger pains are not going to go away. You have to take the action of making your toast and then ingesting it--and coffee, let's not forget the coffee.

Well, it's the same with God satisfying our spiritual hunger with His unfailing love. We can stare at our Bible all we want. We can think about prayer all we want. But until we sit down and feed on Him, nothing will change. And just like you don't only eat one meal in your lifetime, you have to keep coming back for more. Daily. To be satisfied.

THEN all our days will be filled with joy and gladness. Because when  you're near God, you can't help but be joyful.

Maybe today, like me, you're seeking that core of joy. Or maybe you're looking for healing, forgiveness, patience, courage...fill-in-that-blank. I encourage you to seek out His Word and promises on it. Use the back of your Bible to look it up or go to Biblegateway.com and enter some keywords. Find verses on it and speak them with an AMEN. Be in agreement that God has this thing covered. Stand in faith on it. And be fully satisfied in Him.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Talon by Ronie Kendig



As you may or may not know, I'm a huge fan of Ronie Kendig. I recently read the second book in her A Breed Apart series. Here's a quick blurb on Talon and we'll chat on the other side!

Aspen Courtland is out to find her missing brother. Only his combat tracking dog, Talon, knows where to look. Problem is, after a brutal attack that separated dog and handler, Talon’s afraid of his own shadow. The search is on, but when one mistake means disaster, can Talon muster the courage for one last mission?

All right friends, I'm not even gonna lie. I was incredibly skeptical about reading books based on dogs. Or at least that was my impression. Not to mention I wasn't in love with the covers, so I skipped the first book in this series, Trinity.

But it was Ronie Kendig. And I love her stuff. So I kept sneaking back to this series, thinking I had to give it a try. I am beyond tickled pink that I did!

Ronie owns her tag line "Rapid-Fire-Fiction" and this book did not disappoint. I loved the aspect of Aspen looking for her twin, somehow that seemed even closer than just a brother. And I loved not knowing the entire time if I could trust her brother or not. Also, the tension between Aspen and Dane--the hero of this book--was well paced, as was their stories. My only slight issue was the way Dane's past was dealt with in small backflashes. I normally don't mind them, but in this story it seemed to pull me out at times. However, I enjoyed both characters' story arcs and the overall intrigue of this story, especially Ronie's trademark fast pace.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I plan to go back and grab Trinity to read and am waiting for Beowolf, the third and final in this series to be released--in January 2014! Way to make us wait:)

I happily give Talon 4 out of 5 stars. If you're a fan of fast-paced, contemporary romance fiction with a heavy dose of suspense, you'll love this series, dogs and all!

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, June 5, 2013

Learn the Word Wednesday - Verse #11


Okay. This verse grabbed me for oh-so-many reasons.

1) "I will extol"...extol means: "to praise enthusiastically"...this verse challenges me to not simply give lip service but to connect my emotions to those words. To lift up my hands and my voice and PRAISE him.

2) "at all times"...that means that in every situation: fear, anger, tiredness, sadness, happiness, put-your-emotion-in-here, in all those moments of my day, I need to commit to praising Him. Not when those feelings go away, but to MAKE those feelings go away. Praising ushers in His presence like a blanket when we need comforting, a wind when we need issues blown away from us, a fire when we need traits burnt off of us. You get the picture.

3) "his praise"...because ALL praise belongs to Him and if I'm praising Him it shifts the praise from me. Forcing me to be humble and remember anything I have--gifts, talents, blessings--belongs to Him and come from Him.

4) "be on my lips"...Oh! So need this part. If His praise is on my lips then there's no room for gossip, lying, angry words, or any other thing that shouldn't be coming out of my mouth to escape. I'm discovering lately that when I find myself at a loss for words I can use, praise is an awesome substitute:)

Praying this verse touches you today as you commit it to heart and mind. We're halfway through the year, don't give up! Not looking for perfection, just progress. And there's nothing better than soaking yourself in His Word. 





Monday, June 3, 2013

I'm dealing with a mess-up this morning. A whole "I know you were asking me to do that God, but I completely ignored you," moment.

Oh sure, I cloaked my ignoral in a "if you really want me to do it, then give me a shout-out", and when He didn't I conveniently figured He wasn't really calling me out of my comfort zone.

But He was--and He and I both knew it. (No hiding my heart from Him, He sees it all)

What's so amazing is after the moment passed and I left the situation, He confirmed the calling. AFTER I disobeyed. And I looked up and said, "Really? Now you're confirming it?"

And He replied, "I'm not confirming anything you didn't already know. You simply chose not to act and I'm showing you what you missed."

Ouch.

Sometimes the truth hurts. But it's sure necessary for growth. Because let me tell you, after grieving that moment I resolved to never do that same thing again. And while I would have rather grown my faith by leaping out in it, this time I guess I chose to do it the hard way.

***Sigh***We are going to be human. We are going to mess up. Be frail. Need a re-do. And then still mess up again. And yes, sometimes it's even in the same area. Here's the amazing thing though, even as I grieved, His grace covered me. He reminded me that His grace was enough, that His mercies are new every morning, every hour, every second if need be. He reminded me that I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me--including leaping out of my comfort zone. Then He reminded me of all the times I've done that, overshadowing my mess-up. Because He's God. And He loves me. And He's sees my successes, not my failures.

And He sees you the same way. So if you're dealing with a mess-up this morning remember His mercy is NEW right now. We may fail a thousand times, but His mercy remains. And you can have a re-do right this very moment. Just ask Him:)