Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Learn the Word Wednesday

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

This is our verse for week four and as I studied it this week, slowed down and read it, the wording  and order really stood out to me. First we trust in Him. In the Greek they actually use the word pisteuó which means, "I believe or have faith in." So, first we have belief in God, then He will fill us with all joy and peace, and this then leads to hope.

And that's what stopped me. I mean, He's the God of hope, and yet instead of filling us right off with that hope, He fills us with joy and peace. Why is that?

I think it's because joy and peace are things that can be given, but hope is an expectation we must carry. It's a trust we extend. It's a part of our faith we implement and offer back to Him, He simply gives us the tools:

joy: gladness in the midst of every situation.
peace: calmness even when storms rage, no worry

With those two things, we can overflow with the hope that in all moments, in all things, God is working for the good of those who love and believe in Him. The Greek word for hope here is eiréné, which not only means trust and expectation, but also can be translated as confidence.

So we overflow (which means we have more than enough, it'll be dripping off us) in confidence that He is who He says He is. He is big enough to carry all our situations, walk us through any fire, stop any storm, deliver us from any evil, break any chain that binds us...and He's also the God who has a vision for your life and is bringing you to it.

That's the kind of confidence I want. It's not prideful, and it cannot be torn down by my insecurities because it doesn't stand on my own abilities at all--but His.

How has this verse stood out to you this past week?
Source: dribbble.com via Susan on Pinterest

Monday, February 25, 2013

Unfailing

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:22

I was listening to a song the other day and it had a line in there about God's unfailing love. I sang along with it, stopping on that word.

Unfailing.

Do we even really understand that?

I mean...there are several verses in the Bible that talk about this characteristic of God, and I think many of us know His love is unfailing. I think we also realize that on a daily basis we fail. I know I do. I get upset. I get jealous. I doubt...you name it, I'll feel one (or more) of those on a daily basis. One day I'll be perfect, but it won't be until I get to heaven.

But God is already there. He is the ultimate picture of perfection. Which means He never fails...never.

But do we always believe that?

See. Years ago God spoke to me, rather clearly, that Doug was going to be the man I would marry. Problem was, we were just friends. Good friends. And I didn't see him as more than that. Then God changed my heart in a big way and I fell in love. It took about a year for Doug to agree we were in love :) And then we decided to date.

Well, I don't have to tell you, since God had already let me in on the secret that Doug and I were made for each other, I knew that now we were dating it was only a matter of time.

Wrong.

Doug broke up with me. And it didn't just happen once. We dated. Broke up. Dated. Broke up...and they weren't nice break-ups. What had happened to the promise God showed me? I was, after the second break-up, rather sure God had failed somewhere along the line. Um...there was no diamond on my finger, and the man He told me I was going to marry had just said (rather un-calmly) "We are never, ever, ever getting back together." (No lie. You can only imagine what happened in our house when Taylor Swift's song came out! I am still laughing!)

Either God had failed in the message delivery, or He'd failed in delivering the promise...either way, He failed.

Only He hadn't.

See. God had given me a promise of my future, but not so I could figure out how to get there on my own, but so I'd have something to cling to when nothing else made sense. If anyone had failed, it was me in making the road map to His destination for my life. And at one point, I had to decide, was I going to believe in His promise for me--even when it looked impossible--or would I sulk off, upset in His perceived failure, and wind up missing all He had for me.

It took me a while. I have to say, I did sulk some. But when I finally gave in, God could bring me to where He wanted me to be. It still took time. There were still bumps in the road, but boy did my faith grow. And can I say, once Doug and I married, I could look back and see so many, many reasons God brought us together in the way He did. God hadn't failed. Not at all.

And I could trust Him. Because His love for me--because HE--is unfailing. Which means constant, sure, reliable, everlasting.

Are you in a spot right now where you're struggling to hold to one of God's promises for your life and you think He's failed you? Remember this: God has a purpose and plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11) and His love is unfailing. Search the phrase "unfailing love" on Biblegateway.com. Read those verses. He may not have given you the complete road map, but His word is true and He will never fail you. You will get there, put your hope in Him, it's the safest place to be.



Friday, February 22, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Forsaken Dreams by MaryLu Tyndall

The first chapter of this book immediately drew me in. It began in a moment of action and had me flipping pages. But then I hit chapter two and for a bit this book moved backwards in time. I struggled to remain attached to the story. Though it was interesting to see how and why certain things happened, for me I wished the forward momentum of the storyline had continued.

However, I did like the wide cast of characters and the two main stars of this book--Blake and Eliza. The conflict between them was real, as was their chemistry. Here's a quick blurb on the book:

Colonel Blake Wallace has seen enough death to last a lifetime. Weary and disillusioned, he slumps beneath the weight of defeat and loss. With his entire family murdered by the North and his name appearing on a list of officers wanted for war crimes, Blake organizes a shipload of southerners who, like him, long to escape the horrors of war and start a new life in a verdant land called Brazil.
Eliza Crawford can barely remember the days of her youth spent in opulence and comfort at her Georgian home. She can’t help but wonder how different her life would be had she not met her late husband, Stanton Watts, a general in the Northern army. Now a war widow, Eliza is rejected by both North and South. Desperate to keep her marriage a secret and escape her past and pain, she hopes to start over again in Brazil.
But once the voyage begins, troubles abound. Dangers at sea and enemies from within threaten to keep Blake and Eliza from the new life—and love—they long for.

Once the book moved back into its forward momentum, I found myself sucked into the story. Again, I liked the characters and the conflict, and MaryLu definitely delivered on a happily ever after. I would have liked to see the story end one scene earlier as the final scene seemed tagged on and a bit disjointed. However, I enjoyed the way MaryLu wrapped history into this story, the rich characters, and the overall story line. If you've read her books before, this is another adventure on the high sea and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. 

Overall, I give Forsaken dreams 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's available for pre-order here and will be in bookstores on March 1st.

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, February 20, 2013

Learn the Word Wednesday - Verse #4

Today's Bible verse is all about hope, joy, and peace - LOVE that! Praying this gets down deep in you over the next two weeks. Here it is:
Source: dribbble.com via Susan on Pinterest

You should be able to grab it right there from the picture and pin it to your Pinterest board. Be blessed this week - and keep filling yourself up on His Word!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Remember to Celebrate

Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him. Psalm 147:1

Many of you saw my Facebook post this past week that I recently signed with literary agent Linda Glaz at Hartline Literary Agency.  It was a huge step in walk toward publication, and I am beyond thankful to God for what He's doing.  And I wanted to say thank you to everyone for their WOO HOO's and CONGRATS--they meant a lot:)

But today's not so much about signing (one day I may write a blog on all the ways God got me there--it was ALL Him), but it's about the act of celebrating God's accomplishments in our lives.

See. I had no intention of telling anyone I'd signed at Hartline. I was worried if I did it would sound like...well, I'm not sure...but I worried it would shift the focus from God to me--like maybe I wasn't being holy enough if I celebrated. I didn't know how to say "look at this awesome thing that's happened!" and accept people's congratulations when really, I had nothing to do with it.

But I was challenged by a friend to remember to celebrate.

And in praying it over, I realized NOT celebrating takes something away from God.

God doesn't bless us for us to remain quiet. He blesses us to let it run over and share with others. When I am quiet rather than shouting His praise, I'm holding in something that isn't even mine to hold--and God deserves our praise. In fact, Revelation 4:11 says:

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor, and power, for You created all things and because of Your will they existed, and were created.

Praising doesn't point to me...no, the very act of praising points people to God. By staying silent I've allowed fear to creep into what God is doing and put a strip of duct tape over my mouth--and I've robbed God of the praise He is due, all the while thinking I'm doing it for humble reasons (satan is soooo sneaky!)

So today I'm pulling a David and doing a little crazy praise for all God's doing in my life right now (seriously, look at how David praised God in 2 Samuel 6:14). Not only because He deserves my praise, but because He inhabits it and delights in it. Imagine that! Our praise not only draws Him closer, but it puts a HUGE smile on His face!

Praise the Lord! He is at work in mighty ways, using me to do things that on my own I could never accomplish. Thank you, Lord! He's showing His faithfulness to promises He whispered to me, and I am beyond thankful for His character and power at work in my life. I'm lifting my hands, doing a little dance, and singing to my God, and sharing it all here with you to say:

Look! Look at what God can do! And if He can do it with me, then He can most definitely do it with you!

So will you join me? Big or small, God is at work in your life today. Let's give Him a shout-out!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Home for Good by Jessica Keller



I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica last fall at our ACFW Conference. At that time she was waiting for the delivery of two special items: her debut novel Home for Good and her first baby! Both arrived just this month, and in the same week no less!

I have to say, I read Jessica's book in one long, lazy Saturday afternoon. Her main character, Ali Silver, captured me on the first page, and I was hooked from there. An easy ready, Home for Good is packed with a great message on forgiveness--and lots of romance:) I especially liked how Jessica shows that when we hold to our anger and bitterness, it only hurts us, but with forgiveness, freedom is found. Here's a short blurb:

"I made a promise to protect you."

But pregnant Ali Silver's husband broke his vow and walked away from her. After being injured in combat, Jericho has finally come home to Bitterroot Valley to make peace with his father and regain Ali's trust. But the single mom's keeping secrets of her own. And someone's killing off Ali's cattle and sabotaging her horse therapy business. Jericho will do whatever it takes to protect his wife and be a real father to his son. Because when it comes to love and second chances, he's one determined cowboy.

And Jericho holds true to his word--even while waiting patiently for Ali to forgive him. That's another aspect I liked: reconciliation. It's different than forgiveness, and it takes two people. Jessica does a great job of showing the path to reconciliation in Home for Good. 

You can pick Home for Good up here--hope you have a great weekend! And if you want to learn more about Jessica, you can meet her at her website here.


As a child Jessica possessed the dangerous combination of too much energy coupled with an over-active imagination. This pairing led to more than seven broken bones and countless scars.
Oddly enough, she’s worked as a zookeeper, a librarian, camp counselor, horse wrangler, housekeeper, and finance clerk, but now loves her full-time work in law enforcement.
Former editor of both her college newspaper and literary journal at Trinity International University, Jessica received degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies.
She lives in the Chicagoland suburbs with her amazing husband and two annoyingly outgoing cats that happen to be named after superheroes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Learn the Word Wednesday

Hey all. Before we go into the verse we're learning this week, I wanted to give a shout out to Jessica Patch. Jess, you are the name drawn for the month of January! Look over at my pages there and you'll see my gift bag for Learn the Word. Take a look, pick your prize, and email me what you chose. I'll be mailing it to you this week.

For everyone else--keep learning the Word! I don't know about you, but I've already put those verses to use in my life this past month. I love how God brings them to mind and how I've begun to meditate on them. God is gonna reward you a million times more than I ever can. So please, keep learning!

And here's our current verse: (if you haven't already pinned it, you'll find it on Pinterest here.)




I LOVE this verse! Fullness of JOY. I'm not sure about  you, but that's what I want. And this verse completely spoke to me because when I looked up the word "fullness" here in the Hebrew language, it's  Soba--which also means ABUNDANTLY--which just so happens to be my word for 2013!

Abundant joy! That means we will always have enough. Now, there's plenty in this world to drag us down, but we are not OF this world, right? Our God abundantly gives us the joy we need. So today, as you're going through your steps, claim this verse and the joy waiting for you:)

What about this verse has spoken to you this past week? Is it starting to stick?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Release That Weight

satan can so easily mess with us, can't he? I mean, he's all about tempting us, hitting us where we're weak and pushing us toward sin. Really, he wants us to miss the plan God has for our lives. But he doesn't need sin to do this. No, he can achieve his goal in another way, too.

Ever fight discouragement? Use the words "I can't" or "Never going to happen"? These can be just as detrimental as sin in our lives--sometimes even more so, because often we can see the sin in our lives and fight it. We're on guard for the temptations satan may throw at us and stand ready to fight them. But defeat? That one can sneak in and weigh us down before we even realize it.

Look at what Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

Photo from here.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith....

I've always read the word weight in relation to the word sin. Even though they are two separate nouns joined by that very nice conjunction "and", I read them as one and the same--but they are not. There's the sin that entangles us, and then the weight that holds us down. Those things in life that seem to drop on our shoulders, push us down in defeat and despair...but God says "Throw them off. Look to me. And run this race!"

We've got to stop carrying that weight. We need to put it on God's capable shoulders. Stop saying, "I can't" because He can!

People! Do you know what that means? What power is alive in you?

He is the God who raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:43)

He is the God who made dry bones live again.(Ezekiel 37--totally cool story!)

He is the God who says we can accomplish all things through him. (Philippians 4:13)

He is the God who speaks into existence that which is not. (Romans 4:17)

He is the God who began a good work in you and has every intention of seeing it come to fruition. (Philippians 1:6)

And He is the God who desires to be alive and working in you. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

So stop letting satan weigh you down, gaining a foothold in your mess-ups or your dreams yet unfulfilled. Just because God hasn't said yes yet does not mean He's said no. Don't let the weight of unanswered prayers and dreams push down your shoulders in defeat. God is still at work.

Fix your eyes on Him and keep running the race.

Can I get an AMEN?!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - In the Shadow of Sinai by Carole Towriss

I have not read much Biblical Fiction, but I'm so glad I had the chance to read this book. In the Shadow of Sinai is Carole's debut novel, and it is amazing. I had the privilege of reading it in its infancy stage, and the story completely drew me in. It made Scripture come alive in ways I hadn't before experienced, and I loved it!  Here's a short blurb with a bit of a teaser:

Bezalel is a Hebrew slave to Ramses II. An artisan of the highest order, Ramses has kept him in the palace even when all other Israelites have been banned. Bezalel blames El Shaddai for isolating him from his people.

When Moses and Aaron appear one summer, and El Shaddai shakes Egypt to its core, Bezalel must reexamine his anger. Over the course of the next year, Bezalel's life becomes intertwined with those of an Egyptian child-slave, the captain of the guard, and especially a beautiful, young concubine.
 
When spring arrives, all of them escape with the young nation of Israel. But that's only the beginning... 

If you love Biblical Fiction, or if you're newer to it--like me--then this is a place you'll want to start. Carole has made the characters in this story come alive, and she paints the picture of the exodus from Egypt, the building of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle in amazingly bright colors. Pick it up today here and enjoy!



Carole Towriss lives just outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and their four children. In the Shadow of Sinai is Carole's debut novel. You can connect with Carole at her website here to learn more about her and her upcoming books.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Learn the Word Wednesday - Verse #3

It's February! Up here in Michigan it is the longest month to get through--I don't care if it's actually the shortest :) So I want to focus on JOY this month. Because while we Michiganders need it to get through these last grey days of winter, who doesn't need joy, really? (And that picture with the verse on it is what I wish it looked like here. We've got the snow part down...now just for the blue skies!)

Verse #3 is:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

That verse is packed with a lot, isn't it? I can't wait to dig into it these next two weeks. And don't forget to pin it to your Pinterest page--you can grab it from mine, here:)

I pray your memorization is going well. And for all of you who worked on January's verses--let me know! Leave me a note here or on my Facebook post before Monday night. I'll be pulling one of you for a special treat, and I'll let you know next week who that is!

Blessings:)





Monday, February 4, 2013

The Dance

Last week my friend, Jessica Patch, had us fill in some blanks on her blog. Here was her question:

If God came down (again) in the flesh, I'd want Him to take me to_____________ and we would _____________.

In answering this question, I remembered my morning devotions a few months ago, and I smiled, because God had already given me a picture of what I'd want. So here's how I'd fill in the blanks:

photo: www.freedigitalphotos.net
I'd want Him to take me onto the dance floor, and we'd dance.

That ballroom floor, me in my gorgeous ball gown fit for His princess...He'd hold me in His strong sturdy hands and tell me to keep my eyes on Him. He'd twirl me around the floor, safe in His grip, cherished in His presence. Everything around us would dim against the light shining from Him, radiating over me. I'd follow His lead, and if I stumbled, His arms would catch me.

Isn't that what following Him looks like? It's a dance, isn't it? One He knows every step to, and all we have to do is trust. Everything off the dance floor dims away as the dancers are cast in a bright light. It reminds me of that old song;

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

I'm not the most graceful or girly of girls. But with Him holding me, I'm bathed in grace and beauty...and I love it:)

If you get a chance today, ask Him to whirl you across the dance floor. He's the best partner you'll ever have.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bookshelf Friday - Shattered by Dani Pettrey

I had the chance to read Shattered early thanks to Netgalley...and I couldn't have been happier! Having read Dani's debut novel, Submerged, I'd already been introduced to the main characters, Landon and Piper. (Submerged is not required reading material, you could easily start here, but you'll want to go back!)  And with that small introduction, I was left hungry for more.

In Shattered, Dani delivers another fast-paced, action packed mystery only this time with Landon and Piper front and center, though the rest of the McKenna clan shows up on plenty of pages too. I love the feel of an entire family coming around each other, and the McKenna clan is a protective bunch. But no one is more protective of Piper than Landon is and watching the two of them travel toward the realization that they are in love--not simply good friends--was a treat. (Maybe it's because I married my best friend) :)

Here's a little blurb on the book:


Piper McKenna couldn't be more thrilled that her prodigal brother, Reef, has returned to Yancey, Alaska, after five years. But her happiness is short-lived when Reef appears at her house covered in blood. A fellow snowboarder has been killed--but despite the evidence, Reef swears he's innocent. And Piper believes him.

Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he's also sworn to find the truth. Piper is frustrated with his need for facts over faith, but he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth may mean risking Landon's career.

With Piper waging her own search, the two head deep into Canada's rugged backcountry--and unexpected complications. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step.


I happily give Shattered 5 stars out of 5 and even more happily let you know that Shattered releases today! Pick it up, snuggle in, and enjoy your weekend.

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.