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 www.melissatagg.com. 

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 DOTSON!

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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #18 God IS our portion!!

Like I said last week, I hadn't planned on using Lamentations 3:24 for verse #18, but God did:) Here it is and then we'll chat!


I love this verse on so many levels. Biblically, it comes right on the heels of the verse that says His mercies are new every morning, then we go into this verse saying He is our portion. Every day He is more than enough. In every situation.

It's like when we're hungry. Our stomach rumbles and we search for food. My kids do this all the time. They don't want to wait for the healthy meal I'm fixing. No. If their stomach is growling, they want whatever is in front of them. (Come on, you've gone grocery shopping when you're hungry. What do you come home with?) 

God knows we're going to grow hungry. Hungry for that answer. The deliverance. The next step in our journey. But He also knows only He can satisfy our hunger, and just like sometimes we need to wait for that meal to hit the table, we need to wait on Him--not fill ourselves up on empty spiritual calories.

So pin this verse. Add it to your arsenal of sharpened swords. Because the next time you start to hunger for what only God can fill remember--He alone is your portion. Wait on Him and be satisfied!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Autopilot

So last week I tweeted the following:

"Only I can manage to get lost even while knowing exactly where I'm going."

I was heading to help Hubby at a race he was putting on...in my hometown. And yet, I managed to completely overshoot the exit and continue on down the highway.

Why, you ask? Because I went on autopilot. I'd checked the location before leaving home and--satisfied I knew where I was going--I hopped in my car and checked out. When I finally checked back in I was way off course, running late, and wondering how exactly to get back on course.

As I tweeted my mistake with a chuckle, God nudged me. I mean, isn't that how we can be in our spiritual life? We pull close to God seeking direction. We want to know where he's taking us and while we seek him about it, we grow. We stay focused on what he's calling us to, and then we catch a glimpse of it and think we know where we're going. So we relax, go on spiritual autopilot...and then wake up one day to realize we are so far off course!

Fact is, you may know what God has called you to, but you don't know the path he's laid or the address of the final destination. To keep headed in the right direction, you need to keep your spirit engaged with his direction.

And stay off autopilot:)



Friday, September 6, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund and GIVEAWAY!

Around last year I stumbled upon Jody Hedlund in the blogosphere someplace and was immediately snagged by the fact that she is a fellow Michigander. I picked up what was her third book, Unending Devotion, and was immediately hooked. While I read historicals, they aren't the first genre I usually gravitate toward. However, Jody is an author I'd read regardless of genre because she is an amazing writer.

Her newest book, Rebellious Heart, is releasing on September 15th but I was lucky enough to get a preview of it. Here's the blurb:

In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she's ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she's a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She's determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Ben Ross grew up a farmer's son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn't see how he'll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he's drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna's decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben's growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

Jody has said this book was loosely based on John and Abigail Adams, and if so, then they are a couple I'd loved to have met. Their pairing, the beautiful friendship they forged, and their devoted love for one another drew me into this story. Susanna's strong character and loving heart for those less fortunate made me root for her. And Ben, well Ben...he won me over almost immediately and is a wonderful leading man. Swoon-worthy, really:) Jody did an amazing job with the chemistry between these two, and as is normal for her books, I didn't want it to end. But it did. And so I wait for the next one.

So will you.

Until then, pick this one up here and enjoy. OR, leave me a comment below with your email address, and I'll enter you into the drawing for an autographed copy. Yes! That's right! Jody is giving one lucky reader an autographed copy of Rebellious Heart. Woo-hoo! So leave me your info in a comment below before Tuesday 9/10 at midnight.  I'll announce the winner on next Friday's Bookshelf.

And if you want to learn more about Jody, connect with her at her website or her Facebook page.

Have a great weekend everyone:)!

Check out the other blogs in this week's blog hop!
A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Learn the Word - Verse #18

It's officially September. I can barely even believe it. For us, school started yesterday, our eighth year homeschooling. Back to schedules--a good thing for this mama:) And keeping with schedules, it's time for our next verse. Remember we're working on the names of God this second half of the year, and here's a quick review:

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)

Verse 18 I'm making a last minute switch. I'd had a name and picture placed here, but sometimes our best laid plans aren't God's:) So I'm going with His nudging and changing my verse and name without a picture even ready yet.

This isn't even a typical name, but the reason I'm going through those names is so we can claim the attributes of God. The one He keeps bringing to mind in the past 24 hours is: Our Portion, along with this verse:

"I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." Lamentations 3:24

Someone besides just me needs to hear that today.

Come on back next Wednesday, and we'll talk more about it. I'll even have the picture all ready for you to pin. Praying you have a wonderful Wednesday today and God shows up in a big way. He IS your portion today, more than enough for anything you're going through. AMEN!