Friday, October 31, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay's debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was one of my favorite reads last year. And I wasn't the only one to love this book. Katherine has won several awards for her debut, and they were all well-deserved. So when her second book came out, I knew I had to snap it up! Here's a blurb, and we'll chat on the other side:)

Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you've run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She's lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvyc elebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she's losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?

Ok. First off, this book made me hungry--and in a good way! I'd love to actually meet Lizzy and let her cook for me, because the woman has skills. Setting all that aside though, let's talk about the rest of this book; Lizzy's slow evolution in releasing her past, reestablishing her future, and reclaiming a relationship with her sister...along with finding a handsome man along the way.

One of the things I really enjoy about Katherine's books is how the romance she adds to her stories is always at a slow burn.  It's not the central theme, yet it is still 100% there. I so enjoy watching her characters' lives progress as they work through change and sometimes pain, yet still find happiness--and not simply by falling in love. Lizzy & Jane was no different. Of course with Jane having cancer, this was a hard read, but Katherine handled the situation beautifully. I loved how these two sisters find healing in their relationship after years. I also really, really loved how caring for Jane helped Lizzy rediscover why she's a chef and how she can use that talent.

All together I loved this book. The characters were all rich and so well written. The romance well placed and incredibly sweet. The plot full of healing and restoration. And the ending brought them all full circle and into a new place that left me with hope and joy for their futures. Always a great way to read The End:)

I happily give Lizzy & Jane 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase Lizzy & Jane  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.

Meet Katherine Reay:
What to say? . . . I am a writer, a wife, a mom, a runner, a tennis player, a tae kwon do black belt (how random is that?), a wanna be chef, a disorganized housekeeper, but compulsive vacuumist, and a horrific navigator. One of my son’s favorite stories to tell friends is that I tend to argue with the car’s GPS before going my own way — sure that I know better. It’s a gift…

It’s hard to introduce myself in a few adjectives. We are all such a complex and unique jumble of attributes — God made us that way and he isn’t done yet. So I may have some new adds tomorrow. I started my professional career in marketing and I’ve morphed into a novelist. I like this much better. Fiction is powerful stuff, I think. It allows us to convey truth in meaningful and palatable ways — one reading of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and you’ve got the whole gospel Narnia-style without ever leaving an amazing adventure.
But to have a really good story — you have to engage a complex and authentic character. If I can relate to/empathize with/care about a character, then her journey becomes mine and I learn about myself and the world around me — perhaps in ways I never imagined. And that’s provocative…

You can connect further with Katherine at her website:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

I loved this quote. It piggy-backed on my Monday post and as a parent, was something I needed to hear. Some days I feel like motherhood has stripped me of all my personality and abilities. I feel like it's not enough. But you know what? That is a lie.

Straight from the pit.

We need to know and understand the Truth of raising these little ones with deep roots in God, fully assure of their purpose for what they were created and full of an unshakable faith. It doesn't matter if you're a mom that works or a mom who stays home, we are all moms and we are all shaping lives of those precious little ones we've been blessed with.

And we are still these amazing women God created us to be. He wove into our purpose and life stories this moment of motherhood. It will be over in a blink. It's not the beginning or end of our story, but only a part of it. A huge part. An incredibly important, shape-your-life-forever part. But it is not all you are.

You are God's. His daughter who is raising another of his children, and in the process he's still raising you:)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tired Mama?

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Life as a mom is busy, isn't it? Work. Car lines. Taxi cab. Soccer practice. Homework helper. Homeschool mommy. Chef. Dry cleaner. know the list goes on. And in the midst of it all, you're trying to raise a little one. 

Trying to make the right decisions on behavior, what they read, who they hang out with, when to say "yes" and when to say "no", it all can just become one big drain. There are plenty of kisses and hugs, but there are also days where you are their least favorite person. Where tantrums, eye rolls, huffs, and sarcastic comments abound along with tears--from both of you. You simply want to lay your head down and give in, give up.

But we can't. See, we're planting seeds in their life. Watering them and caring for them. Feeding them, and I'm not simply talking their veggies. It's messy and tiring, but it's what needs to be done for a harvest. Think about a farmer. Think about not only the dirt and grime they accumulate when getting their crop ready but how tired they are. The long days and nights without anything to show until slowly, they see a little green peeking above the ground.

It can still be covered by dirt on a windy day, but it's there. And it starts to grow. The harvest, however, won't come unless that farmer continues to care for it.

And that's us. Like that farmer, we must continue caring for our seeds. We cannot grow weary in doing good for our children. Tired, for sure, but not so weary that we give up. Not if we want to see the harvest of their life grown strong for God. It won't happen overnight. Many days it'll feel like what we're doing makes no difference. But it does.

Every time we discipline in love. Every tough "no" we have to say. Every responsibility we issue that meets an eye roll. Every thing we have to take away because we know it cannot be in their life. And yes, every laugh and all counts.

So keep on doing good, mama. For at the proper time you will reap a harvest sweeter than anything else ever planted.

What do you do to combat the mommy-weariness you sometimes feel?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Kept by Sally Bradley

Today's book is another I literally stumbled across. After reading the blurb I snapped it up, and the timing was perfect! I got a cold and needed to rest, so I curled up with this book. Tough times, I tell ya, but somebody had to do it:) Here's the blurb for you all, and we'll chat on the other side!

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago's lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman. 

Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father's sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can't help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she's longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again. 

When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who's gone too far and done too much. 

There was so much to love about this book. First off, the setting of Chicago was well described. I actually want the apartment Miska lived in, and that's saying a lot because I'm not a city girl. Second, the plot delivered a huge dose of hope. It may have come out of dark places, but isn't that where hope is needed the most and the backdrop with which we see it the best? And the characters? They were fully fleshed out and incredibly believable. Because of this, at times the book was hard to read. It's not a light, fluffy story, though Bradlely does an amazing job with layering in humor throughout her dialogue and character interactions. It was one thing I loved about Miska and Dillan, they'd make each other laugh which made me laugh. Still, it was hard to watch the choices Miska made, even if they were completely believable. Also, I struggled at times with Dillan's internals. It wasn't the negative thoughts or biases he portratyed internally at times--because as Christians we can all struggle through those thoughts--it was that I'd like to have seen him come to grips with them in a more concrete way. To acknowledge that perhaps, his heart needed a little changing too. While this was shown by the end in his actions, I'd have liked to see the full internal of these changing thoughts as well.

All that being said, this was a very well written and truthful book. It doesn't shy away from any of the hard issues many people are facing today. The lies they believe as truths and the actions they think are perfectly normal to take. It also deals with forgiveness and redemption in a beautiful way, and the hope that it leaves with the reader is the entire point of this story. God is seen in a big way, and that made me enjoy the story all the more.

I happily give Kept 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quotable Wednesdays

I think this quote hits at the heart of one of the hardest things for us humans to do. Forgive ourselves. Our mistakes can play over and over and over again in our minds. But what if we looked at forgiving ourselves as CS Lewis suggests here? That to not forgive ourselves is setting ourselves above God?

If you've sat at his feet and asked for forgiveness, no matter what it was for, he's forgiven you.

Now it's time to stop playing God and forgive yourself.

Let it go.

And move on.

In complete freedom. Yes, there are consequences to our sin and poor choices, but there's also freedom when we release them.

I challenge you to lay it all at his feet and live in that freedom today:)

The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through. John 8:36 (MSG)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spiritual Reflexes

I'd planned on posting last Friday, but due to being under the weather and my internet being down, well, I just missed it:) But I'm back today, feeling tons better and with wi-fi that works. So let's get a move on!

I took my kiddos to the doctor lately, a trip we all look so forward too...but it's necessary, so we go. While there, he performed this little test:

Praisaeng on Free Digital Photo's.

and my daughter's leg went flying.

She didn't think about it. It was a reflex. That is because a reflex, as defined in the dictionary, is an action "performed without conscious thought as an automatic response to a stimulus".  My Little didn't put any thought into her reaction, her body was conditioned to react the way it did.

Made me think. When I run into tough times in life or moments where I'm at a loss what to do, what is my spiritual reflex? Do I reach for my Bible? Hit my knees in prayer? Seek God's wisdom? Or do I fold under pressure and stress?

What about you?

Because we all have moments where life is hard. Sometimes it can seem to hit us from all angles, and the only way we'll make it through is if our reflex is to reach for God. No thought, no hesitation, but an immediate response to cling to Him. 

And He'll be there. Every time.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Short Break:)

I am currently with my BFF taking our youngests on a short trip to visit The American Girl Store while they're still young enough to want to go. Time moves too fast! And I don't want it to pass me by, so that means I'm gone today and Wednesday from here, but will be back Friday.

Breaks are good. Breaks to spend time with the people around you are even better! Take a second this week and have coffee with someone dear to you, call your mom, or hug your kiddo extra close. Stop and breath in the moment and take a mental picture! They're the best photos around.

Have a great week, friends!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Unraveled by Heidi McCahan

First off, the winner of my September Bookshelf giveaway is:

Carol Alexander!

Carol, email or Facebook me your choice from last month's Bookshelf Reviews, and I'll get it to you:)

Now onto building October's bookshelf...
I actually found Unraveled on Twitter when I connected with the author, Heidi McCahan. So for all you authors out there, Twitter does work:) Here's a blurb on the book, and we'll chat on the other side!

Blind-sided by her questionable fiance, Lauren Carter returns to the one place she's been avoiding, the place she used to call home. As she's forced to look into the eyes of her past and even worse, her unraveling future she discovers that running only leaves you out of breath on a dead end street. Will she choose to unveil the secrets that haunt her? Or will she bury them once and for all and embrace a new life so different from the one she once held dear?

Blake Tully, wildly successful and breathtakingly winsome owner of a new rafting business, finds Lauren's unexpected reappearance confusing. As he torments himself with what if's and what should've been's, he can't mistake the feeling that crawls down his spine every time he looks at her. Although she broke his heart once, he longs to give his childhood sweetheart another chance, but can he convince her to stop running away when life gets tough? And can he forgive her when he discovers the reason she's been hiding?

Follow the story of these two shattered hearts as they discover the beauty of grace and forgiveness.

There was so much to enjoy about this book. The rugged and beautiful state of Alaska as the setting, an old love reawakened, a small hint of mystery in our main character's past and the curiosity of what her future held. All those elements played together wonderfully in a mixture that pulled you forward through the book.

Blake and Lauren still very much have feelings for one another, but are the feelings simply nostalgia for the past or are they still in love today? And can they overcome the hurts from when Lauren left to build a future? 

I enjoyed getting to know these characters along with the town they lived in. There was just enough going on with secondary characters that the story felt fully fleshed out and three dimensional. There were a few editing issues, but not enough to bug me too much. Also, at times during the second half of the story things were not as smooth as the first. The story elements were all there, but at moments they felt rushed or not as seamlessly connected as the author stitched together in the beginning. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed this story and would definitely read another of Heidi's books. Neither points were enough to stop me from picking up her work again. Her characters were intriguing, the setting was gorgeous, and the story was full of forgiveness and love.

I happily give Unraveled 4 out of 5 stars, and you can purchase it here.

Happy Friday everyone!

Here’s the scoop from Heidi: I am a Northwest girl recently transplanted in the South, where I’m cultivating a writing career in the midst of mothering our three fabulous boys. When I’m not stepping on Legos, chauffeuring the fellas around suburbia or folding laundry, I like nothing more than to curl up with a great cup of coffee and a compelling read.

You can meet her at her site:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

Kind words make such a difference. They don't have to be flowery or full of beautiful prose, they simply need to be, well, kind.

Thank you
Good job
Cute outfit
Gorgeous smile
You CAN do it
You're such a help
and so on...

Their echoes truly are endless. Not only that, they spread. People who receive kindness are quicker to pass it on. So who can you pass kind words on to today?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Like a Pack of Wild Animals

So last week I was teaching my littlest all about environments, ecosystems, and all the living and non-living things in them. Not my favorite subject, but someone has to teach it and there were no subs available in the Tuttle household that day:)  Then that night a good friend of mine posed a question about church: why do we attend?

I watched the answers she received with great interest, and the question so stuck with me I was even thinking about it the next morning. It was as I lay in bed pondering that my youngest's science lesson collided with my friend's question.

Have you ever watched a pack of wild animals? Take zebras for instance. They travel in a herd and with good reasons. For food, raising their young, and most of all, protection. They circle around the youngest and weakest when lions come prowling for their dinner. Made me think of:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

And that then paired in my mind with this verse:

If one person falls, the other can reach out and help him up. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Ecclesiastes 4:10

And then I began to think about how in Titus it talks about the older teaching the younger, being examples for them as they grow. As verse after verse about how we are called to help one another rose in my mind, I began to think how smart that pack of zebras was. What amazed me even more is how God truly created everything in nature as a picture of His perfect plan.

Bottom line? We go to church to praise, for sure. We go to church to take a dedicated moment of our busy weeks to connect with God. We go to church to grow and learn. But we also go to church for the community it builds around us. God is relational. He didn't create us to be alone on this earth. I mean, if that were the case he'd never have created Eve. But God didn't think it was good for man to be alone.

Can people in the church hurt us? For sure. Whenever you're dealing with people there's the chance of getting hurt. They are messy, imperfect, and rough on the edges...just like a pack of wild animals. But those wild animals seem to be onto something, because even when church resembles the rough edges more than the smooth, hopefully the people there are growing and connecting with grace.

Holding one another accountable.

Circling around those under attack.

Using their wisdom to help those spiritually younger than them.

And actively loving.

They are out there. I've seen both sides and can honestly say to you, loving churches are out there. Not perfect churches, but churches so full of God's love that it spills over from them and splashes all over you the minute you walk through their door.

Don't let yourself wander alone because of a bad experience when God so wants you to be part of a community. For someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Be where a hand is waiting to hold you up. Church.

If you live in the West Michigan area come check out Grand Rapids First.  But if you're from out of town and looking for a church in your area, check out Faith Happenings.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman (& my monthly giveaway)

First off! The winner of The Wounded Warrior's Wife is Eva North! Eva, I'll be in touch with you today!

Now for today's bookshelf...
I stumbled across this daily devotional while reviewing another devotional that hasn't been released yet. The author used one of Lettie Cowman's quotes from Streams in the Desert, and it struck such a chord with me that I went to look the book up. Here's a small blurb and then we'll chat:)

In a barren wilderness, L. B. Cowman long ago discovered a fountain that sustained her, and she shared it with the world, Streams in the Desert ® -- her collection of prayerful meditations, Christian writings, and God's written promises--has become one of the most dearly loved, best-selling devotionals of all time since its first publication in 1925. Filled with insight into the richness of God's provision and the purpose of His plan, this enduring classic has encouraged and inspired generations of Christians. 

Now James Reimann, editor of the highly acclaimed updated edition of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, again brings us the wisdom of the past in the language of today, by introducing this updated edition of Streams in the Desert. With fresh, contemporary wording and precise NIV text, the timeless message of the original flows unhindered through these pages, lending guidance and hope to a new generation of believers. We never know where God has hidden His streams. We see a large stone and have no idea that it covers the source of a spring. We see a rocky areas and never imagine that it is hiding a fountain. God leads me into hard and difficult places, and it is there I realize I am where eternal streams abide. Day by day, Streams in the Desert will lead you from life's dry desolate places to the waters of the River of Life -- and beyond, to their very Source.

As you can see, this is the classic in an updated form. I actually looked at the original and found I enjoy reading them both, however some mornings if I haven't had my coffee yet, the original wording can be a bit much for my muddled brain:) So this updated version still packs the insight, wisdom, and truth that Lettie penned in 1925 while wording it smoother for today's reader.

I have loved these daily devotionals that are short and pointed. Lettie had an immense faith in God and that translates so well in each day's passage. She always brings her words together under a Scripture, using God's Word as the base for the truth she helps impart. It's been a great addition to my morning quiet time.

You can find Streams in the Desert here. Have a blessed weekend, friends!

Also, it's time for my September Bookshelf Giveaway! So leave a comment here or on my Facebook page (if you haven't already liked it, I'd love you to! You can get to it by that pretty button under "Connect With Me" toward the top right of this page) and next Friday I'll announce the winner. That person can pick one of the books pictured below from my September reviews, and I'll send it right to you. If you missed any of the reviews, just click on the titles below.

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason

Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West

The Wounded Warrior's Wife by Hannah Conway

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

Last year we read The Hiding Place during our homeschool year. I remembered how much I loved Corrie TenBoom and the wisdom she shared from her life. Then this past week this quote came up in church and it was such a great nudge to me, I knew immediately I wanted to use it.

Because it's not that I don't know the truth of this statement, it's that sometimes I struggle to put it into practice, but I'm working on it. And just like any other habit, it gets stronger and more ingrained each time I do it.

What about you? Where is your focus today? Praying it's right at that sweet spot where you find rest:)