Monday, September 29, 2014

One Kind Word

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

I was having a bad week a couple weeks back. So much had piled up and I felt the walls closing in. I knew I needed to spend time with God. I knew I needed to make my feelings catch up with the knowledge of what the Word says, but it just wasn't happening. I asked friends for prayer, and I also texted my hubby who was out of town for the week, because anxiety was weighing me down. Big time. Like a weight pressing against my chest, and while I knew I didn't have to live with it, I needed help fighting it.

And that is why we are all here.

God has already won the battles before us, but sometimes we need other warriors to join in the fight. For me, I received several kind words, one in particular from my husband. In fact, he referenced today's verse in an email he sent me. Then he went on to simply speak life over me and my situation. He offered several kind words, and while the weight didn't disappear, it began to lift. And as friends prayed for me and spoke to me, my anxiety level dropped while my joy rose.

We all need that some times. We need to know that we are not in the trenches alone. So today I'm issuing a challenge. Look around you at your friends, family, co-workers...ask God to show them to you in a new light and listen to his voice as he points out who could use an encouraging word. Point out their beauty. Notice their special talent. Remind them you see all the work they've done. Say thank-you. Smile.

Be a kind word to someone today.

It really does bring cheer. And we could all use a little of that:)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - The Wounded Warrior's Wife by Hannah Conway

I had the pleasure of meeting Hannah Conway across a dinner table at the ACFW conference last year. She was an incredibly sweet woman working hard on her story and after hearing about it, I volunteered to read it when she was finished. And then she got contracted! So I volunteered to be an advanced reader:)  She sent me the book this summer, and I read it quickly. Here's a blurb, and we'll chat on the other side:)

Battles Raging Within Are Those You Must Fight to Win 

Whitleigh Cromwell dreamt of a happily ever after with her newlywed soldier husband. Collier Cromwell loved God, his wife, and his country, though military life exacted a demanding toll. An unexpected deployment during the height of war sends Collier away for yet another year. Their lives tumble down a path marked with struggle, and fatalities.Burdened with unseen emotional wounds and crippled faith, Collier's homecoming only increases their trials. The angry, defeated hermit at Whitleigh's side barely resembles the loving, faithful hero she married two years earlier. Concerned about possible career repercussions, admitting his need for help proves difficult for Collier and his behavior worsens. Angry outbursts — and his cold, callous nature — isn't all that provokes Whitleigh to pack her bags. Collier seeks solace for his private suffering in the worst possible place leaving Whitleigh to walk away from shattered pieces of broken trust. Will Collier seek the healing he desperately needs in time to save their marriage, or is it over? Are
there wounds too deep, marriages too broken, and lives so far gone they fall beyond even God's ability to restore?

Can I first off just say I love the names she gave her characters? Crazy little thing, but yeah, it made me like them even more:)

This story opened up a world to me that, while I knew existed, I have never viewed from this angle. That Hannah is an Army wife herself lends a credibility to this story and authenticity to the voice she writes with. It allowed Whitleigh and Collier's story to leap of the page. And the colorful secondary characters only deepened the enjoyment for me.

I loved the story of healing and redemption woven throughout Whitleigh and Collier's marriage. I loved even more the beauty in seeing them fight for staying together when at moments it would have been so much easier to give up. Marriage can be hard. It can be wonderful. It can take twists and turns we never anticipated, and Hannah shows all these moments in the story she created.

And still delivers hope and a happy-ever-after for these two. They fought for it. They deserved it:)

The Wounded Warrior's Wife is a wonderful debut by Hannah Conway, and if you're looking for something to add to your TBR pile, I'd place it right on there. You can purchase it here. But for one lucky person, Hannah is giving an e-copy away! Just leave a comment on my blog today, Facebook page, or even tweet a shout out to Hannah's book and tag me in it, and I'll announce the winner next Friday!

Happy Friday!

Hannah Conway, a Kentucky native, is an Army Wife of eleven years, and a Stay at Home Mother of two. She is an author, speaker, member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My BookTherapy. She and her family are currently stationed at Fort Campbell, KY. Her debut novel, The Wounded Warrior's Wife, will release this fall through Olivia Kimbrell Press. Hannah has spent many years in ministry working with both youth groups, and women's ministry groups. In her time in ministry, she served two years as a Youth Director, and one year as a Co-Coordinator of the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group at her church in Clarksville. She holds a BA from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in History with licensure in Secondary Education. She enjoys volunteering at her son's Elementary School, community service projects, jogging—slowly, gardening, and the challenge of a Pinterest craft. A good book, a piece of chocolate, Chai tea latte, and an outdoor setting have also been known to take her captive on more occasions that she likes to admit. The most important thing about Hannah, is that she's a follower of Christ. It's her prayer that you will be blessed through her words. Hannah LOVES meeting new people! You can meet Hannah at

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

Oh, that we would never forget! God did not ask for us to take on sorrow and pain alone, nor did he ask it from us without walking through it himself. 

Pain and sorrow often produce the sweetest fruit. The biggest blessings. While we cannot see it during the growing season, we will taste it once the harvest has ripened.

Praying that if you are walking a difficult road today, that God will give you a foretaste of the fruit sprouting up from this moment and bring encouragement into your life today.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sweet Fruit

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:8

I love blueberries. In fact, I'm rather sure they are my favorite fruit. They are like little pieces of candy, even straight from the freezer! Love them.

My second favorite fruit? Mangos. Their tropical sweetness is like a special treat. Pure deliciousness.

But do you know what those sweet fruits grow out of? Acidic soil. Yep. For them to grow into healthy plants and develop that delectable fruit, the roots need to be sunk into soil that is bitter.

Isn't that how life can be? Look back up at today's verse. Drought. Heat. Those achingly tough moments in our lives, and yet when our roots sprout toward him, we never fail to bear fruit. And that isn't the only place in the Bible where we are compared to trees or plants whose roots need to seek out the living water of Christ. We are encouraged over and over again to grow our roots toward him so that he can develop useable fruit in our lives. And sometimes it is the bitter soil of life that produces the sweetest fruit in our lives.

We minister most deeply out of our hurts.

Our lives speak the loudest out of our pain.

Some of our sweetest moments can come from our most extensive sorrows.

No, that doesn't mean we always like the bitter soil. In fact, I cannot think of one time I've found my roots in that acrid place and automatically rejoiced. If there was another way to grow sweet fruit in me, I'd gladly sign up. But that's not how the fruit I love, the fruit that is sweetest on my tongue and pleasing to others, is grown.

And the truths I've discovered in my toughest moments is that God is always enough.

Joy is a choice sometimes made minute-to-minute.

Bitter soil can be made sweet through the hands of the loving, tender Gardner of our lives.

Father, grow sweet fruit out of our heartbreak, and until this growing season is over, tend our hearts and make us strong. Help us to find joy in the midst of our days. Bring encouragement that we can see and feel. And sink our roots so deeply in you that we are daily refreshed with your living water.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Yesterday's Tomorrow by Cathy West

I was asked if I'd like to read Yesterday's Tomorrow by the wonderful Casey Herringshaw. Trusting her taste in books, I accepted. I am so glad I did! Here's a blurb, and we'll chat on the other side:)  

She’s after the story that might get her the Pulitzer. He’s determined to keep his secrets to himself. 

Vietnam 1967. 

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent, and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. 
Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something. 

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts. 

I'll be honest, the thought of reading a book set during the Vietnam era didn't immediately intrigue me. I'm happy, however, that it didn't stop me from reading it. Cathy does an amazing job of placing you into both the jungles and beauty of Vietnam while also treading through the war that occurred there. While we see the deep impact this war creates in the main characters' lives, she never allows the reader too far into the actual horror of it. Her descriptions of what they encounter in certain scenes spaced throughout the story play more with the characters' reaction to it than the actual visual of it, and as a reader I was thankful for that.

I did struggle at times with the last one-third or so of the book which, to me, moved at a slower pace than the beginning and middle. However, I truly loved the natural progression of each character. Both Luke and Kristin had their individual journeys of healing from the time we first meet them, and Cathy doesn't string along these hurts or use them as a stumbling block in their relationships any longer than necessary. She balances their internal conflicts with the external ones driving the story in a fantastic manner, keeping their romance right on track.

Because while Vietnam is the setting of this story, the relationship between Luke and Kristin takes center stage and keeps the light firmly on them. I loved their interactions and banter, timeless regardless of the era they were in. Cathy wraps Luke and Kristin into each others' lives with a love that grounds itself in a friendship first, and as a reader it was a sweet progression that tugged me along. With the twists and turns of the story I begged for them to be together and wondered if, in the end, they would receive their happily-ever-after. If two people ever deserved one, it was Luke and Kristin. Hard earned and such a long time in coming, well, I'll let you read The End yourself:) 

You can pick Yesterday's Tomorrow up here and enjoy a great read this weekend! And don't forget to check out Cathy's Facebook party on the 22nd right here. Go ahead and click on over, she's giving away some pretty snazzy pre-party gifts!

Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Catherine loves to connect with her readers. You can find her at:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

I love this quote! I'm sure in part because I so love Chronicles of Narnia:) But I also love the idea of our Lord as a lion. So tough and fighting for us. Knowing the raw power those paws possess, and yet they are gentle enough to hold us within them.

What a Protector.

How can we not have courage knowing He's the one holding us?

Praying whatever you're facing today you feel his strength around you, fighting for you and protecting you all in the same breath.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Living Masterpiece

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

I've learned when God repeats things, he's pretty serious about me listening. So lately as he's been pushing me into the word masterpiece, I decided to really stop on that word. I've been doing a lot of digging into it, pondering, and writing, and today I wanted to simply share the tip of what he's been showing me.

You are a living masterpiece.

I am too. (Believe me you, I need this reminder. Daily.)

We are works of outstanding artistry. We are our Artist's best piece of work.

It doesn't matter how anyone else views us. It doesn't matter what they title us. It doesn't even matter if they like us. Just like the hundreds of people through an art gallery in a day, not everyone shares the same taste in art. Yet their opinions don't change the paintings on the wall or the reason behind the artist's hand in creating them. Not one person can walk through and slap a new name plate on the display. No patron can diminish the artist's love or intent behind the creation of that piece of art, or change the purpose with which it was created for.

Only the artist can.

And the Artist that created you considered every brush stroke, every angle, and every color that went into you. God knew what he was doing when he formed you, and when he finished he stood back in awe.

Because you are breathtaking.

There is nothing like you.

And while you may not be everybody's cup of tea, you are God's masterpiece. Now we simply need to live like it:)

Do you struggle with believing you are unique and created with a purpose? Oh, dear one, we all do at times. I challenge you to write out today's verse and memorize it. Let it sink into your heart that you have value beyond measure and a purpose God planned out specifically for you before time even began. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason

First off, my August Bookshelf winner is:

Jackie Layton!

Jackie, email or FB me which book from August you'd like and I'll be sending it on its way!

As for today...I picked up this book last week and wanted to chat about it! So here is a little snippet, and I'll see you on the other side:)

The day Danielle Harding takes her 11-year-old son, Simon, and flees from her abusive husband, is the same day Kurt Harding dies. A relieved Dani believes she and her son are finally safe--but in reality, the danger has just begun. When Kurt was alive, he took something important to a mysterious person. That person wants the item back and believes Dani now has it. As she and her son run for their lives, they have nowhere to turn, until she hires Adam Buchanan of Operation Refuge and goes into hiding. Unfortunately, she won't be able to hide for long . . . 

From the first breathless scene, this tension-laced story will hold readers in its iron grip. Bestselling author Lynette Eason propels readers along at a breakneck pace in a race to discover the truth and a better future.

I'll admit, I have not finished this book, but it's not because I don't love it or Lynette Eason. It's because we've started school back up, and I'm still getting used to my new schedule. Fall hits harder every year. Anyway, my reading time is slim, but there are too many wonderful books out there to give up those few moments I have! So, I may be slow, but I will be finishing it soon.

That said, as usual, Lynette Eason knows how to open a book with a bang. Nowhere to Turn is no different. She immediately drew me into Dani's life, and I can say my heart was pounding right from the beginning. While the tension doesn't remain that high (good thing, my heart couldn't handle it) there are still plenty of moments that will have you flipping pages as fast as the characters run through them!

I'm excited to finish this story and figure out who's behind everything for sure. As I haven't read "The End" yet, I won't be handing out any stars. However, as of this moment, I'm definitely enjoying this book. What you need to know is while this is the second in Lynette's newest series, it is not imperative to read them in order. You'll also find Lynette's voice as strong as it's always been, so it's like opening pages to an old friend as she unwraps the story for you. 

If you're looking for a suspense that will keep you up at night for GOOD reasons, you'll want to pick this one up here. It's the weekend. You can sleep in tomorrow!

Happy Friday:)

I finished reading Nowhere to Turn and loved it. My one problem is at times it felt a bit predictable, and I couldn't place my finger on whether that was the storyline or the fact that I've read other of Lynette's Books. Still, she remains on of my favorite authors, and I will definitely pick up the next in this series and any other book she writes. I give Nowhere to Turn 4 out of 5 stars.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

I talked a little on love on Monday, so when I saw this quote I knew I wanted to use it. The more I read it, the more I loved its truth. Love has a way of allowing us to see the best in someone and give grace to their worst. Sure, I've heard the saying of rose-colored glasses, and those are never a good thing to wear. But when we love someone, honest flaws and all (we all have them) there's something beautiful about that type of love.

It's the type of love God gives us.

See. Beautiful:)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Algebra and God

This year I'm doing Algebra with my son. (Follow my tangent here) As I sat down to explain equations, two verses popped into my head. 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:8, and I saw them in this little equation. See, 1 John 4:8 tells us "God is love." And if that is true, then we could actually write it like this:

Now don't go leaving just because I'm throwing a little math at you. God made numbers too...and I'm not even using any. I'm simply showing 1 John 4:8. And if God is/equals love, then we can replace the word "love" in 1 Corinthians 13 with "God" and read it this way:

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth...God never fails.

I love that, don't you? Those attributes of God? And I'd like to clarify the "God does not envy" one. Oh, to be sure, he is a jealous God. The Bible even tells us that. But what he isn't is envious or covetous of anything we possess. And why would he be? He owns it all anyway. He is jealous, however, when our affections place anything above him in our lives. That's because he is jealous for us.

He's also patient, kind, never concerned with himself but sacrificing everything for us. I especially love the last two...not easily angered and keeping no record of wrongs. Oh, do I need those on a daily basis because I screw up. All the time. I let people around me down. I can be so selfish. I can be demanding. I'll say the wrong thing or get upset rather than forgive. I'll even be short with my kiddos. And I get so down on myself when I do. In fact, I record my wrongs and replay them in my mind. I'll never be as perfect as I want to be.

But God doesn't expect me to be, or you to be. What he does ask is that we take on his attributes to the best of our ability, and where we feel the stretch and inability in our lives we need to let him take over. Where we are weak, he is strong (2 Corinithians 12:9). If he is in us, then his attributes will begin to shine through us (Ephesians 5:1-2).

God is love.

He expends that love on us. We are beyond blessed to receive it. And when he lives in us, we have the ability to pass that love onto others. I said it above, I mess up on a daily basis. Yet I cannot allow his forgiveness to become an excuse to not try harder. Grace is a marvelous thing, but rather than expecting it to cover all my shortcomings and never grow, I chose to work on loving people the way God called me to.

I'll get it wrong at times. I'll be a lifelong work-in-progress.

But if God = love, and he is in me, then Me + God = love too.

See. Who ever told you you'd never use math?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant (and my August Bookshelf Giveaway)

Today I've got a book that looks good enough to eat! Take a look and we'll chat on the otherside:)

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.

But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself—her—is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

I'll admit it. I love shows on HGTV and Food Network, so when I saw this book (after just reading Betsy's Bride novella) I was eager to snap it up!

As before, I really enjoy Betsy's voice as an author. She writes engaging characters who are easy to like with just enough quirks to make them real. Her dialogue moves smoothly and often makes me laugh. And, having married my best friend, the relationship between Lucas and Kate was one I could relate to! At times I did wish they'd open up more with one another. There were moments where their internal fears or worries could easily have been solved with a good conversation. Because of that I'd have liked to see a bit more of the external conflict the show produced. If that angle had been more prominent I think I would have liked the book even more.

That said, this was a fun read and I'll definitely pick up Betsy's books again. Her wit and romance are a wonderful match and as mentioned above, her characters are people I enjoy seeing on the page.

I happily give All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes 3.5 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here.

Betsy St. Amant is one Good Girl who enjoys writing about Bad Boys in her YA fiction novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable kindergartener, is often found consuming massive amounts of chocolate, and is an avid reader who is constantly wondering where Mr. Darcy went. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her ninth Love Inspired novel will release January 2014, while her first YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, released 2012 through Barbour Books. She recently contracted a 2-book deal with Zondervan. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.Betsy is proud to be represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. You can find Betsy at her website:

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.

It's also time for my August Bookshelf Giveaway. Leave a comment here or on Facebook and I'll announce who wins next Friday. If your name is chosen, you can pick one book I've reviewed in August and I'll send it your way just as a thanks for being here:)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

I love this quote. It's so true. Often my view of what God is doing in my life is so much smaller than His plan for my life. Anyone else relate?

Well today just know, His plans are perfect, and He's constantly building in your life. Building takes time, but the final product will be more than worth the wait:)

Monday, September 1, 2014

End of Summer Lessons Learned

This past week we took off as a family to enjoy the end of summer. We started off the week helping hubby at the MiTi, a triathlon race he puts on:

Lesson Learned:

The sun still burns. You don't outgrow this, no matter how often you think you have. So when spending 10 AM - 4 PM outside in the blazing sun, wear sunscreen. Every time. Or yes, you will look like a lobster by that evening.

Next we went to Cedar Point where I learned lots of new lessons:

1) When your hubby finds a hole in the fence, don't follow him through. I've now had my first ride in the back of a cop car...with all my children AND one of their friends. Yes. We are the responsible group.

2) Though mentally I'm still an adrenaline junkie, physically I'm older than I realize. If over 35, buy stock in Dramamine and Advil before you go.

3) When a coaster gets stuck with you on it and after a loooong period of time they roll you back and say they're "re-launching" you, pray. And hold on tight.

Our "selfie" after we'd been sitting in this position for 15 minutes.

Then we celebrated my Hubby's 40th. That along with our homeschooling year beginning tomorrow and the recent passing of my father-in-law has taught me this:

1) Life goes SO fast. This is our 9th year homeschooling. When we started this venture, they all looked like this:

and now they look like this:

And yes, that's one high schooler and one junior higher in the mix now. Which means, yes, Chemistry and Algebra all over again. Can you feel my uncontrollable excitement dripping through this computer? But...

2) I truly CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And...

3) He IS all we need. Even still, He's blessed us with some pretty beautiful relationships around us. We need to enjoy every single second with them. Because time is constantly moving.

So for all of you who are bidding good-bye to summer and for those of you who already have, I'll be praying this fall is a wonderful one for you! And that it's full of a few more lessons and certainly a lot of laughs.

Oh. And salted caramel mochas. Because life is just sweeter with them:)