Monday, March 31, 2014

My Jelly Donut Life

Ever feel like you’re stuck in the middle? Like the room moves around you, but you don’t have a spot to sit? Like people wave and say hi, but then pair up with other friends? Or perhaps you see where you’re at with your career, and you can never really achieve the next level while others around you are moving up every day. There’s so many reasons we can feel stuck in the middle, not quite at the bottom any more but never quite reaching the top. And it can mess with out minds, and our hearts.

But here’s the thing with our positioning...our spots. God has us spread all over the place so we can reach people all over the place. Each and every spot has its importance and if you ask him, he'll show you. He did with me. See, I confess I have struggled with feeling like I’m stuck in the middle, but God decided to start working with me on it, showing me that he had me right where he wanted me. Not only did he reveal how my heart and eyes changed to see others in the same position, but as I sat complaining about being a “middler” he whispered, “Just like the jelly in a donut, you’re right in the sweet spot.”

No lie. He compared me to a jelly donut.

I so love a God who brings it home to us in such relatable terms—plus he had me giggling. And that’s just it. God loves us that much. He doesn’t see our lives in levels, he sees them in all the sweetness with which he created us. He sees the purpose and the position he created us for. Each of us unique. Each in a spot best situated to reach people for him—if we stop fighting it and let him use us.


So where does God have you? And are you content with it?



Friday, March 28, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - The Mistaken Heiress by Shelba Nivens (and my monthy giveaway)

I'm so happy to post today's book! Shelba is an agency mate of mine who has persevered a long time to finally get her book published. She is a such an example to those of us who are still waiting on God's timing as we place our work into His hands. Love her heart!  And her book:) Let me give you a blurb about this sweet story, and we'll chat on the other side.


Who's the man in Kate Sanderson's woods?

Kate misses her grandfather to whom she was very closer. She plans to start a landscaping business on the property that he promised would be hers. But there's a stranger living on the land and he insists the land is his. Kate is ready for a fight in spite of the fact the stranger is very handsome. 

Steve Adams has other ideas for the idyllic setting--a place for troubled kids. In steps a red-haired beauty to try and take his land as well as his heart.

From the moment they first meet, Steve and Kate have a turbulent relationship (I mean, he's messing with her plans!), but with Steve's patience and Kate's continual movement toward God, they begin to fall in love. Not only was their relationship sweet to watch develop, but Kate's understand of who she is in Christ and that He has a plan for her was full of encouragement and tender moments. But it wasn't all serious. There were moments of lighthearted laughter as Kate tends to be a bit of a klutz, and Steve likes to banter with her. The two made a fun couple that the reader roots for all the way up to their well-deserved Happily Ever After:)

The Mistaken Heiress was a wonderful debut and a delightful read. You can purchase it here.

MONTHLY GIVEAWAY:
Ok, because yes, I have to keep showing my social media presence, and because I'm so thankful for every "like" or "follow", I wanted to find a way to say THANKS! You have no idea how much of a help your simple click of a button is to authors, especially those of us still working to get published. Plus, sending out one of these books helps support those authors I've reviewed. Sharing the love:) So, for the rest of this year, I'll be doing a monthly giveaway from my Bookshelf. At the end of each month, you'll have a chance to enter to win one of your choice of any of the books I've reviewed that month. Here's how you enter:

1)like my Facebook page
2)follow me on Twitter
3)leave a comment below

Any one of those will snag you an entry, so you have a possibility for up to 3 entries. If you need directions to my Facebook or Twitter pages, check out the buttons toward the top right side of my page. And if you leave a comment (or visit my pages) please leave your email address so I can contact you if you win! It's a very small thank-you for all the support and help each of you gives:)

You have until Wednesday, April 2nd at midnight to enter. I'll be using Random.org to choose the winner and will let you know on Friday who that is. The winner can choose one of the following March Bookshelf Friday books, and I'll send it out! Here's your picks (including today's Bookshelf)

            My Review                    My Review             My Review

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Quotable Wednesday


Oh, to be the me he created me to be! Now that's a personality I'd love to possess...working on it. :) Anyone else?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Running Late

So I had a crazy week followed by a crazy day, which is why my Monday post isn't up yet. As I came home this afternoon, I heard this song and thought, yep...that's right where I am. Trusting in him. Some days the craziness can get to us. Some days we can look at every hurt, everything undone, every piece of the chaos around us, every pebble or mountain that causes us to stumble and forget that all we need to do is lay it all at God's feet and trust him.

The words of this song began to settle into me as I quietly listened, so I wanted to share them with you today. One, because it's late in the day and I need to do dinner for the family:) And two because the few minutes I spent silently listening to this song pulled me back from the craziness of my day, and I hope it will for you to.

Ahh...nothing like a good old hymn:) Be blessed today, friends!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley

The moment I read the first page of this book, I purchased it. Yep. For this suspense fan, Patricia's opening was that good. Problem was, I couldn't read it for a few weeks, so there it sat, taunting me. I finally picked it up last week and took the ride I was waiting for. Here's the blurb:



Psychology professor and criminal profiler Taylor Martin prides herself on being able to solve any crime, except the one she wants most desperately to solve--the disappearance of her father twenty years ago. When she finally has a lead on his whereabouts, Taylor returns home to Logan Point, Mississippi, to investigate. But as she is stalking the truth about the past, someone is stalking her.

Nick Sinclair pens mystery novels for a living, but the biggest mystery to him is how he can ever get over the death of his wife--a tragedy he believes he could have prevented. With his estranged brother the only family he has left, Nick sets out to find him. But when he crosses paths with Taylor, all he seems to find is trouble.

Join the chase as this determined duo search the murky shadows of the past for the keys to unlocking the present and moving into a future filled with new hope and love.

While action leaps out at you from the first page, the romantic build-up takes time. There were plenty of reasons for this, and it read true to life. Nick and Taylor have a lot to overcome to reach their happily-ever-after and that alone keeps you turning pages. Balanced against a backdrop filled with twists and turns, Shadows of the Past will suck you in.

As a suspense fan, there were aspects of the book I would have liked better hidden so I could fully be rocked by the surprise at the ending. I had a fairly strong suspicion of how things would wrap up and--though it did end the way I predicted--it still was written at a fast and strong pace.

Patricia's voice was easy to read and her characters well fleshed out. The motivation behind their actions and decisions made sense. I also connected well with the secondary characters and cannot wait to see it they show up in the next book of this new series.

All together, I truly enjoyed Patricia's debut novel and am excited to add another author to the list of contemporary romantic suspense writers on my bookshelf! I happily give Shadows of the Past 4 out of 5 stars, and if you haven't read it, you can purchase it here.

Pat is a Romantic Suspense writer living in the Deep South. Her short-stories have been published in Woman’s World, and she has finished one book, Shadows from the Past which is set in Memphis and the surrounding area. It won several awards…the 2008 Maggie (Inspirational Category)…1st Place in the 2012 Touched By Love and Daphne du Maurier contests…finaled in the 2012 Genesis…bronzed in the Frasier. Currently, she is working on a second book, Shadows of Love set in the same area but featuring different characters. She also is an abstinence/healthy relationship speaker and have spoken to many students…and adults. When Pat's not writing or speaking, she throws mud on a wheel and tries to make something beautiful.

You can learn more about Pat at ptbradley.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

Love this quote. It's something I think many of us can relate to. You may be in the middle of a hardship, or with it in your rear view mirror, but this reminds me that God uses all things. ALL.

Praying your Wednesday finds joy in many moments big or small!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Parenthood

Nothing, and I mean nothing in my life, has been harder than being a parent. From when they are little and you feel your own heart beating outside your chest, you watch their every breath and meet their every need just waiting for a smile, a hug, a sloppy-wet kiss...to as they grow and you want to go all Mamabear on the kids who dare hurt them, throw out every computer from your house to protect them, and tug out your hair because everything you say seems to meet an eye roll.

I long ago made up my mind that my first priority was not being my children's friend. I cannot be that and also parent them to become who God created them to be. I can be their biggest champion, their source of bottomless love, their protector here on earth, their imperfect role model and hopefully the beacon that points them to God...but I cannot be their friend.

Not going to lie, that not-a-friend-thing sounded good when I first reconciled myself to it, but at the front-end of these teenage years, it's proving to be the hardest thing in my life.

I don't like it. Not one bit. And that surprises me. See, while I knew parenting was going to be hard, I hadn't experienced it. Head knowledge and knowledge from the trenches is proving to be two different things entirely. It's enough to take a mom out!

Luckily, I serve a God who knows every emotion rolling through me before I even experience it. I serve a God who is my biggest champion, my source of bottomless love, my protector and perfect role model. A God who has equipped me and who only grows stronger in my weakness...because let me tell you, parenting has dragged out every single one of them for display.

So, today--because I know I'm not the only one in these trenches--I want to encourage you. Pray daily. It's a powerful weapon. Love. Laugh. Tuck into God when the going gets tough...I find my bedroom closet makes a perfect prayer closet:) You are not parenting alone. You are not parenting on your own strength. You will make mistakes. You will feel overwhelmed. You will get things wrong. But God's mercies are new with every breath of forgiveness. Your children want to see real, and--as much as it gets you eyerolls and heavy sighs--they need boundaries. Crave them. (even though they don't know it, lol).

Our goal is not to be friends with them right now--and I HATE that--but it's to raise young men and women of God who as adults will cherish a friendship with us. Parenting is the longest marathon of your life...but luckily we can run it with perseverance, setting our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. And what an amazing finish line it will be when we see our children walking in faith, passing it to our grandchildren, living in freedom, lifting their hands in praise and crazily in love with Jesus.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter

I was so excited to get my hands on this book! After reading Barefoot Summer, I could not wait to see Daniel and Jade's story, so when I finally had it in my hands, I finished it that day. Let me give you the blurb so we can chat about it.
Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt." Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

Let me start by saying, for me, no one writes contemporary romance better than Denise. Her on-page chemistry between her characters is always amazing. Her characters are fully fleshed out and alive, and her dialogue is always real, never forced. Dancing with Fireflies was no exception.

I loved Daniel and Jade and the complications of their relationship. From the beginning of this book, my heart broke for Jade. Knowing how deeply Denise can write her characters, there were moments I wanted more from Jade and the struggle she was going through. However, those moments were few and far between. The sweet romance that she wove between David and Jade, the way David cared for her...well, it only strengthened my belief that Denise always delivers a hero to swoon over. And I'm not typically the swooning type:)

While I did, late in the book, want to sit these two down for an honest conversation with each other, I still understood why they held back in moments. Their troubles propelled me forward, knowing that they'd be resolved, and yet enjoying the journey along the way. Having secondary characters I'd already seen in Barefoot Summer (and continue to fall in love with) only made this book all the more fun to dive into.

I happily give Dancing with Fireflies 4 out of 5 stars, and you can purchase it here. And...if you haven't already, I highly recommend you scoop up the other two books in the series,  Barefoot Summer and December Bride (a novella) while waiting for the next story to come out.


Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 20 books, including "Barefoot Summer" and "The Convenient Groom". She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.

 In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too! When Denise isn't writing she's busy raising three heroes-in-the making with her husband.

If you'd like to learn more about Denise, visit her website, here.

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, March 12, 2014

Quotable Wednesday


Well, that about sums it up, doesn't it? Go after your dreams today! God gave them to you for a reason, and he's the only voice you should be listening too. Start shutting out the rest of them.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hope

You are enough.

You are loved.

You do belong.

You have a purpose.

You are beautiful.

You are chosen.

You are His.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world...we are his workmanship...included in Christ...you have a hope which he has called you to..and I pray that you may grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge...Ephesians 1-3

His lavish love for you is that mind-blowing. Praying you're wrapped in it today.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

I'd heard a lot about this book from fellow friends, but didn't have the time to pick  it up until recently. I'm so glad that I did. Let me give you the blurb and catch you on the other side:)

Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell. 

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

There was so much to like about this book. First, the setting is breathtaking, and Carla does a fantastic job of bringing us along to Scotland. It's fun to travel to other places when reading, and this book definitely delivered a mini-vacation:) But there was so much more to it. I loved the characters of Andrea and James, especially their dialogue. The easy banter between characters is what often draws me in to a book, and Carla wrote those lines effortlessly. When dialogue is done well, the characters and their personalities jump off the page, pulling laughter and tears from me straight from their conversations--and in the case of this book, it was more often laughter.

Not that this is a comedy, but Andrea and James both have a healthy sense of humor, and that came off the pages beautifully. As does their chemistry. From the moment they first meet, the air between them crackles in such a good way. It's a romance that leaves you with plenty of smiles and heart flips.

I also enjoyed the spiritual growth of these characters. They both had concrete issues they needed to work out and those issues played off each other well, creating a solid conflict. While at moments the narrative seemed a bit drawn out, and a few of the issues were handled a tad too easily, the story still eagerly pulled me to its end, leaving me with a contented smile on my face. I'll definitely read whatever romance comes next from Carla.

If you've yet to pick up Five Days in Skye, you'll want to do it now. You can purchase it here. I happily give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Carla Laureano has held many job titles--professional marketer, small business consultant, and martial arts instructor--but writer is by far her favorite. She currently lives in Denver with her patient husband and two rambunctious sons, who know only that Mom's work involves lots of coffee and talking to imaginary people. To learn more about Carla, visit her blog, here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Quotable Wednesday


Dearest, grandest, and most precious thing...love that!

Happy Wednesday, friends:)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fighting Faith

I got caught in Mark the other day. I'd been flipping through stories and stopped on the Mount of Transfiguration. Pretty neat recounting. One I wish I could have seen. But it's what happened after that grabbed my attention.

See, only three disciples went up with Jesus. That meant there were nine left waiting for them. And while Peter, James, and John were having a mountaintop experience, the other guys were faced with a father who wanted them to cast a demon out of his son while the teachers of the law argued with them about it.

Big difference.

Top of the mountain seeing Christ lit up and hearing the voice of God. Or foot of the mountain in a heated argument.

Just so you know, I'd chose the mountaintop.

Anyway. We don't always have a choice about our position, but we DO have a choice over the arguments we'll enter into and the voices we'll listen to and believe. The disciples had sat at Christ's feet. Listened to his teachings and watched him perform miracles and healings. They knew what he was capable of. They also knew what he'd given them authority to do:

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. Luke 9:1 (also see Matthew 10:1 and Mark 3:14-15)

And they'd exercised this power before:

They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. Mark 6:13

Yet look at what happens. While Jesus is at the top of that mountain, this man shows up with his son. In fact, he brought his son to see Jesus specifically for healing. "Teacher, I brought you my son..." he says to Jesus later. But when the father arrives on scene, Jesus isn't there, only the disciples are. So he asks them. Yet they were unable to drive out the demon from this man's son.

Why? They had the authority and they'd done it before. What was different this time? They actually ask Jesus later on in the chapter, and he replies it was because they lacked faith. So what had shaken that faith?

I can't be sure, but I found it very interesting that when Jesus came off the mountain, he sees his disciples in the middle of an argument with the teacher's of the law. I think they let that argument chip away at what they truly believed. That they allowed the voices of those teachers to be louder than the voice of their Teacher, and it shook their foundation. Suddenly the questions raised and arguments given became their own until they no longer stood on a firm foundation of the authority God had given them.

They listened to the wrong voice.

And it didn't only shake their belief, it shook the boy's father's as well. He came seeking Jesus for healing, but by the time Jesus showed up, look at what the man says.  IF you can heal him...This father had arrived on scene so sure, and now is reduced to shaky faith.

What got me about the story is that the disciples aren't the only ones to ever encounter a situation like this. If we're not careful, we can enter into arguments that soon become the truth we believe. Did God really say that? Did God really give me this ability? Can God really do that? And once our faith is shaky, satan can strike, preventing us from not only believing God's truth but acting on it. He can paralyze us until that lie becomes a distorted reality.

This is why it's so important to know God's Word. When another voice rises and challenges your belief, it's so important to haul out the Truth and fight for your faith. Don't allow yourself to be drawn into an argument that will speak louder than God's voice. Stand firm. Know who you are in Christ. Know who He is. And speak those truths out loud. So that when an argument rises, you can fight it with a faith that only comes out stronger.


photo credit: hin255 on freedigitalphotos.net