Monday, June 29, 2015

A Love Song

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

If you look up the Hebrew word for delight here you find it means joy or extreme gladness. Its root is found in the verb “samach” which means: to give joy or make happy. So do you catch what that means? Basically, you give someone great pleasure. Just by being you, you make someone happy.
All too often we hear about our shortcomings. Whether it’s from people around us, social media, or our own voices, we can find ourselves listening to a running dialogue in our minds about how we are not enough. Not only do we feel we don’t measure up or bring happiness to anyone, but we start to lose our own joy in the process. Our worth doesn’t seem to amount to much. We blend in to our surroundings.
But picture this. You’re at karaoke night with friends, and this amazing man picks up the mic and starts singing about you. To you. A love song written just for you about how beautiful you are. How you completely delight him. How his love is centered on you.
Corny? Yeah, maybe a little. Yet what woman wouldn’t want a love song written just for her? Well, that’s exactly what this verse is saying. Christ only has eyes for you. Not only that, but you bring him such delight he cannot help but burst into song. He cannot contain his love for you. Nothing you’ve done can stop his love song. Nothing you’ve done can inspire it. It’s simply there because he created you and fell madly in love with you in the process.
You are worth enough for him to die for, and still sing a beautiful love song to simply because you delight him just by being you.
You are more than enough.

Lord, today help me to see that I am more than enough for you. Open my eyes to notice how much you love me and find joy in me. Open my ears so I can hear your love song to me. Quiet all my doubts and fears with your love, and let your melody become the song that replays in my mind. Amen.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bookshelf Friday - Nothing but Trouble by Susan May Warren

I'm going old school today. It's summer, and some nights I simply like to sit up all night and read just because I can. Those nights it's fun to pull out an old friend, something that's been on my shelf for years. Something I can remember the characters because they've stayed with me, maybe even a few highlights, but the details have grown fuzzy enough for me to enjoy a reread. Nothing But Trouble fulfilled that bill. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

It's not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her home town, looking for a fresh start. Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend's husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder—who also happens to be PJ's former flame—is convinced it's an open-and-shut case, PJ's not so sure. She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend’s husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right.

This was the first in a three book series and I immediately fell in love. PJ Sugar was a fun, well-rounded character who's wit and charm made me not only like her, but laugh and cry with her. Each book has its own mystery and even forward movement in PJ's life as she tries to figure out who she is...where her worth comes from...can she ever walk out of her past?

Surrounding PJ are wonderful secondary characters who keep you entertained as well. Between her sister's Russian in-laws and PJ's old friends, there's enough moments that have you shaking your head--in a good way.

But the best is the hero in these books. He's strong and honest, a bit mysterious, and he sees PJ for who she truly is. Not only that, but he encourages her to grow. To change. To become all God has for her to be. Their banter is pretty amazing, something I personally always look for in books. And seeing as she has two different guys pursuing her, I'm not telling you his name here. But you'll figure it out:)

All together this series of books has stayed on my shelf and will continue to for years to come. I'm sure it's one I'll pull out on another long summer night simply to enjoy:) You can purchase Nothing But Trouble here and look into the next two books, Double Trouble and Licensed for Trouble while you're at it.

Happy reading my friends!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ooze Confidence

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19, 22

Confidence. You see people who have it; it’s a noticeable trait. They walk straighter, speak clearer, laugh more. They’re not afraid to jump into or over anything that falls in their path. They don’t worry if people accept them or not, they’re good either way.
People without confidence are as noticeable. They doubt themselves. Doubt their value. Their moods change depending on if they succeed at a task or if people like them or not. And while this is bad in friendships and the workplace, it’s the worst when we lack confidence in our relationship with God.
We focus on our past and our mistakes. We quake when we speak with him, or we run in the other direction because we believe all he can see is our screw-ups. We truly believe we aren’t anything he could use. But we have it so very, very wrong.
Our mistakes? He views as our testimony. Our weakness? He sees his strength. Our sins? He sees his cleansing blood. He paid such a high price to make us whole and new, and he wants us to walk boldly in it.
Ooze confidence.
Don’t let the enemy use his voice or others’ to shake you. Know who you are in Christ. Keep your shoulders back. Step with purpose. Come into God’s presence and let him show you your purpose, your worth, and then believe it.
He saw it, and he died for it so that you could live in abundance and strength with confidence.

Lord today let me see myself how you do. Help me to walk straight and with a purpose, fully knowing my value and strength in you to take on anything that comes my way. Let me fully shed my past at your feet and walk away unhindered to fully live today.

Monday, June 15, 2015

You Are Pursued

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”John9:3

We can feel like the outsider in this world, can’t we? As if no one wants us. Maybe in your life you’ve been thrown out or discarded. Maybe you were part of a group and now you find yourself on the outside. This happened to the blind man. He’d been a part of a family, a part of a village and its synagogue, but when Jesus healed him the man found himself on the outskirts of his once full life. He refused to change his story that he’d been healed, and people who were once his friends suddenly didn’t want him around. Even his own parents distanced themselves from him.
But not Jesus.
Jesus pursued him.
That’s what he does. When others discard, Jesus seeks. Our lives have value to him. He desires a relationship with us, and he sees us among the many. This man could have been lost in the sea of faces around Jesus, but instead Jesus sought him out to have relationship with him.
I love that! Jesus desires relationship with us. We are worth his time. This man had been physically blind, a beggar, nothing special about him, and yet Jesus saw his value. He didn’t stop at merely healing him, he went after him until he was in relationship with him.
He cares so much more than about our physical. He’s after our heart. And your heart is worth everything to him. When others throw you out, Jesus comes running after you. Let him find you today.

Lord, help me to let go of the hurt of others not wanting me and realize that you’re pursuing me. Let me see how much you love me and discover the beauty of relationship with you. Today let me focus on moments with you that deepen our relationship so that I can grow in you.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Bookshelf Friday - Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund makes me want to read historical romance. Normally, I gravitate towards contemporary first, but there are a handful of authors who I wait for their historical to come out so I can snap them up. Jody is one of them and her newest release, Hearts Made Whole, only reinforces why she's one of my top picks. Here's the blurb and we'll chat on the other side.

After her father's death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren't supposed to have such roles, so it's only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper--even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He's secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation--the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He's not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who's angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he's in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope...and possibly love?

I loved revisiting Ryan in this story, however if you haven't ready Hedlund's first in this series, you won't be lost. The Civil War has taken place between these two books, and we find a very different Ryan in this book. As the description says, he is haunted by the horrors of war and he's simply looking for peace and quiet. He finds Caroline and her siblings instead.

As I've come to love with Hedlund's books, her settings are beautiful and create amazing backdrops to her stories. You can tell she's done her research. And, as a Michigander myself, I enjoy hearing about the history of my state. While her settings are colorful, her characters are even more so. Ryan and Caroline are thoroughly developed, as are their journeys--journeys that at first are facing off against one another. Caroline is fully capable of running the lighthouse on her own, but is denied the chance simply because she's a woman, while all Ryan wants to do is run the lighthouse in solitude. This leads to sweet moments filled with smile-worthy bantering.

There's more than banter, however. Throughout the pages these two characters struggle with realistic problems as they're pulled closer together and eventually fall in love--though not too quickly. The pacing of this story is fast enough to keep the reader turning pages but not so fast that it's unbelievable. A story full of hope, I happily give Hearts Made Whole five out of five stars. You can pick it up here. Happy reading, friends!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Blessings & Beauty

Encourage one another daily as long as it is called "today." Hebrews 3:13

I read this verse this morning with the words, "what are you waiting for?" and it challenged me. So often we exchange who we are today, in this moment, for who we want to be tomorrow. We're so busy "becoming" that we miss the sweet moments of living and learning surrounding us today.

And who you are today is lovely.

In all your imperfection. In all the mess. In all the waiting and growing and your today. These moments are once-in-a-lifetime, and they shape you into your tomorrow. Don't miss them.

Monday, June 8, 2015

When You Forget How to Do Math by Melissa Tagg

Somewhere along the time I joined ACFW and the blogging world, I ran into Melissa Tagg. I don't remember the exact date, but I do remember her making me uncontrollably. Not only did that keep me coming back to her blog, but it opened the door to friendship. Then her first book debuted and not only was she a friend, but one of my favorite authors. She's an amazingly sweet, funny, talented, kind (and several more adjectives) person and I'm super excited she's here today sharing from her heart.

So, without further's Melissa:)

True confession: The other night I tried to multiply. On paper. Without a calculator.

And I literally could not remember how!

I wish I were joking. I really do. But after about five minutes of staring at the numbers on paper, I gave up and opened the calculator app on my phone.

Now, I have a minor excuse for my lapse in basic arithmetic skills: That night I was just coming off a three-day writing binge. And by binge I mean I spent between nine and ten hours each day writing, rewriting and editing. I racked up 22,000 words at the end of it all.

And also, clearly, killed off a ton of brain cells. Because, I mean, come on…math might be the academic version of beets (gross!) in my world, but still. I should be capable of a basic three-digit-number by two-digit-number feat of multiplication, shouldn’t I?

However, even as I laughed at myself that night (and wondered what my elementary school teachers would think of me now), I had a moment of intense happiness at the thought—the knowing, really—that I’d just spent three days doing what I was meant to do.

Oh, I know I’m meant to do more than write. I know writing doesn’t define me. I know “writer” is not the sum of my identity.


But writing, storytelling, spending hours of my day using the creative (and obviously very non-mathematical) bent God gave me to produce a story that is hopefully fun and funny and swoony and maybe even a little thought-provoking…it’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I just know it.

I’m not sure it’s what I’ll be doing in a couple decades or a couple years or even a couple months. I’ll be honest, as someone who both writes and works full-time at a nonprofit, some days I think it’d be smarter—and a heck of a lot easier—to stop having two lives and just pick one career once and for all.

But right now, today and tomorrow and for the next few weeks, I am supposed to be writing Logan Walker and Amelia Bentley’s story. (It’s called Like Never Before, by the way, and I might be more gushy about these characters than, well, ever before. It’s the follow up to my book that just released, From the Start.)

And if I have to kill off a few brain cells, if I have to get down and dirty and tired writing this thing—tired enough that simple math looks like rocket science—it’s worth it.

There’s a brand of joy that comes from throwing yourself whole-heartedly into the task before you. An energetic kind of exhausted. And I’m experiencing that right now.

And I’m truly, truly grateful.

What do YOU throw yourself into? What makes you exhausted in a good way?

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. She writes romantic comedy for Bethany House, and is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Her latest book is From the Start, the first in her new Walker family series. Check out the FREE enovella prequel, Three Little Words.

Connect with Melissa at www.melissatagg.comFacebook, Twitter (@Melissa_Tagg) or Instagram (melissatagg).