Friday, October 30, 2015

Bookshelf Friday - Love in the Details by Becky Wade

 I love Becky Wade's books, and normally they only come out once a year. But this year she joined in Zondervan's "Year of Weddings" novella series, so we have a special treat from her this Fall! Here's a short blurb (check out that cover!) and we'll chat on the other side:)


Eight years have passed since Holly last saw her high school sweetheart, Josh. Now the wedding of Josh’s best friend has brought him back to Martinsburg, Texas.  His duties as best man and Holly's as the church's volunteer wedding coordinator link them together.  As they work behind the scenes to plan a beautiful November wedding for their friends, they're forced to confront painful reminders of what might have been.
Holly broke up with Josh all those years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. However, she never told him the true reason behind her actions and now must decide whether to keep her secret hidden.  She's terrified of letting herself fall for him because she barely managed to piece her life back together after losing him the last time.
Not a day's gone by since Josh parted from Holly that he hasn't thought about her.  The pain of the past eight years has been too much to bear and he doesn't want to make himself vulnerable to her again. But the more time he spends with her, the harder it is to deny the love he still has for her.
Will Josh and Holly risk their hearts on the hope that God's timing really can be best?

What I've so enjoyed about this e-series from Zondervan is the ability to fit a great book into my short amount of free time. I was deliriously happy to see that Becky Wade had added her name to the list of authors this year, and I've counted down the days until her Fall release.

As is typical with Wade's books, there's plenty of romance and laughter woven into the story. In Love in the Details she once again balances a story of growth and faith with falling in love, and she does it immensely well especially given the short length of the book. Wade is expert at not preaching at her readers but rather allowing her characters to simply live out their faith in organic ways, struggles and all. Her characters are real, and that is a fact I've always appreciated.

Oh, and she does romance very, very well.

If you've read Wade's books before, you'll definitely enjoy finding her voice wrapped into this shortened version of her storytelling. While her full-length books allow more room to extend the complexity of the plot and characters (something she excels at), this was still a wonderful read in a series I hope she'll continue contributing to in the coming years.

I happily give Love in the Details 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it 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.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Known

“What more can I say to you? You know what your servant is really like, Sovereign Lord.” 2 Samuel 7:20 



Perfect.

So many of us want to obtain that one huge word in our lives. Whether it’s how we dress, how we keep our homes, the grades we strive for, or the relationships we hold, we believe anything short of perfection is a fail. But perfectionism isn’t what God is looking for because he knows the only one who can meet it is himself.

That’s why I love today’s verse so much. See, God knows what we are really like. He’s sees the smudges and streaks that mar our lives…and he’s okay with it. We cannot hide our imperfections from him, and that’s okay. In fact, he expects us to have them because he knows that we’ve all fallen short of his glory—it’s why he sent his son to save us.

Our worth isn’t measured in how close we come to being perfect—thank you, Lord! And we don’t need to hide our imperfections from him—he already sees them. While we may be able to put on a mask for the people around us, God knows what we are really like. He knew it before we came to him, and he knows it even after he folds us in his arms. It doesn’t stop his love for us or prevent him from accepting us. Oh, he wants his best for us, so he’ll coax us to change anything that isn’t in his perfect will, but it will never stop him from calling us his very own.

Isn’t there comfort in knowing that someone sees you just as you are and loves you unconditionally even still?

Let that love surround you today.

Lord, you see me for who I truly am. You know my successes and failures all in one glimpse, and yet you love me. Today help me to let go of anything that is out of your perfect will and to feel your grace and mercy for my imperfections. Above all, let me feel your unconditional love for me today. Thank you, Lord. In your name, amen.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Comparison the Thief of Joy - Casey Herringshaw

Today I am excited to welcome Casey Herringshaw to Steps. I met Casey through ACFW, and she wears many hats; one of which is a homeschool graduate! As a homeschooling mom, I love this fact! But the biggest hat she wears is of a woman fully in love with Jesus, so when the word Masterpiece was laid on my heart this year for a blog topic, I knew I wanted Casey to contribute. Here's what God placed on her heart to share:



Comparison: every woman understands the undertow of this word all too well.

It’s the ugly stepchild of jealousy and the close twin sibling of inadequacy.

Some of us struggle with this more than others and for some of us the fight is a daily battle that shows 
up on our doorstep wearing combat army boots, taunting at our soft underbelly and ready for a fight.

And too often we answer that door only wearing our thin pajamas and sleep-mussed hair.

Comparison seems to stalk up on me for nearly any and all reasons:
My faith/walk with Christ.
My ability to relate to other people (or not relate, since we’re comparing.)
My ability to understand a certain topic or hold a heated discussion with witty dialogue and clever insights.
Crafting abilities.

The list can go on and on…and the statement: if you can do something, I can do something better, applies by our ugly stepchild flipping it on its ear against us.

It all stems back to the root of this lie: I’m not good enough.

If we call into question how good (or how not good) we are, are we not also calling into question the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross?

Are we also not calling into question the grace that is sufficient for you?

Are we not also calling into question that love that flows deep and wide, rich and true stemming from the blood shed on Calvary’s cross?

When we call into question and compare who we are with someone or something else, no matter what that is, we’re telling God that He didn’t do a very good job. He failed when He was knitting us in our mother’s womb and that the gifts He has given each one of us are not sufficient.

So that gift of encouragement that you have? The woman sitting next to you in your Bible study, really wishes she had.

That gift of hospitality that makes someone feel ultimately warm and welcome in your home or your embrace? Your next door neighbor envies.

The thing with comparison? Someone is always doing it with you. Always comparing themselves to you. Probably the same person you are holding a mirror to.

And it steals your joy. Devalues the gifts that only you can uniquely do because God has given you those roles. Those people to reach. Those lives to touch. And because there is no one else like you, only you can do this job.

God is still working on you in that. Still growing and molding you.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Jesus isn’t done with you yet. And He’s not done with the person you’re comparing yourself to. So stop. Breathe in. Exhale.

Jesus isn’t done with you yet.

He has gifted you richly. Don’t throw them away wishing for something someone else doesn’t even want.

Be bold, sister.


And kick that ugly little stepchild to the curb with a well-aimed spiky heel.

What a word, Casey! One we all relate to, so thank-you for sharing:) And for those of you who'd like to get to know Casey a little better, here's a little bit about her and where to connect:

Casey is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is an Eastern Oregon native transplanted into the city of Colorado Springs nestled in her own 1904 bungalow apartment just below the lovely Pikes Peak. Taking the words and stories God has placed on her heart and putting them on paper is one of her highest passions in life. Casey is a member of ACFW and their Carol Awards Coordinator. You can connect with her through her personal blog, Writing for Christ.


Follow her on Twitter: @C_Herringshaw
And on Facebook: Facebook.com/caseyherringshaw

Friday, October 16, 2015

Every Bride Needs a Groom by Janice Thompson

Janice Thompson isn't an author I read often, but whenever I do she always makes me laugh. This book was no different. Here's a small blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!


Small-town girl Katie Fisher is planning her wedding. Sure, her boyfriend hasn't managed to pop the question just yet, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't enter a contest in Texas Bridemagazine to win the dress of her dreams, right? But when her boyfriend breaks up with her and takes a job in another town--the very same day Katie wins her dream dress--her world is turned upside down. Should she claim her prize? And will the hunky former pro-basketball player who runs the swanky Dallas bridal shop--yeah, you read that right--catch on to her humiliation if she does?

With her typical flair for unique characters, Janice not only fills the primary roles in this book with delightful people, but the secondary roles as well. As I said above, she never ceases to pull laughter from me with her dialogue, and it's one reason I enjoy her books. The premise of this book snagged my interest, but I'll be honest, there were moments I wished Katie would have shared her secret earlier with those at the bridal shop. Each time she tried, something or someone interrupted and towards the middle it felt a bit forced. My only other complaint is that I wish she'd have met Brady a little sooner in the story, but that's because I enjoyed his character so much.

Those few minor issues aside, I truly enjoyed this read. Between Katie's family and Brady's "family" of women who worked at the bridal shop, there was enough characters to enliven each moment on page. Thompson drops them into funny situations and nails their personalities so well that you can picture these people standing beside you. And layering their different stories beneath the main one not only added depth to it, but kept my interest as I wondered how everything would wrap up for each person involved. 

All together another great book from Janice Thompson. I happily give it 4 out of 5 stars, and you can purchase it 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.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Can't Earn It, Can Only Receive It

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved…” Genesis 29:31



The story of Leah and Rachel has always tugged at my heartstrings. That we know of, Leah never asked to be given in place of her sister in marriage to Jacob. We don’t see her hand in the deceit. And yet she somehow becomes the “switch” in the “bait-n-switch” that Laban executes on Jacob.

I think of her. What it must be like to wake up the morning after her wedding to a husband who doesn’t want her. She did nothing wrong—it was her father who had—and yet she’s virtually cast aside. Leah had to have witnessed the love of Jacob for Rachel even before the wedding, but was there a part of her that longed to believe he’d love her once he found himself as her husband?

My guess is yes. My guess is that Leah simply longed to be loved, yet that open place in her heart remained unfulfilled. In fact, Jacob turned right around on the first day of their honeymoon and asked for Rachel to be given to him instead. Laban’s response? Sure, but you have to finish out your honeymoon with Leah first. I bet those were some very tense days. To be with someone all they while knowing they want another in place of you…heart-wrenching. And let’s be clear, Jacob made no bones about it. In fact the Bible says, “…and he loved Rachel more than Leah.” (Genesis 29:30)

Even though this story happened ages ago, Leah's struggle is not a one-time occurrence in life. She's not alone in her experience. Oh, how it happened might be unique, but the result is something many of us can relate to. The pain of unrequited love. The hurt of feeling isolated and alone. Many of us can relate. That's because we were made to give and receive love, and when either one of those two is missing, our lives are out of balance. Poor Leah's life was way out of balance. She had no trouble giving her love at first, but as the years slowly crept past without receiving it in return she began to feel desolate. She began to try to earn that love, but it never worked.

That's because love isn’t meant to be earned, and trying only creates pain in our lives. It wears on us. Even worse it begins to weave into our core the lie that we are unworthy of love. Friend, nothing could be farther from the truth.

God loves freely. People may not, but God always has and always will. Countless verses in the Bible attest to this, you can even Google it. And right here in Genesis, he answers Leah’s hurting heart. “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb….” Leah may not have received love from man, but God never once lost sight of her. He lavished her with his love, ministering to the deepest desires of her heart, and filling her arms with blessings.

And he sees you today too. You don’t have to earn his love, you only have to step into it. Don’t wait a moment longer.


Lord, today let me feel your love. It’s deeper and wider than any earthy emotion can compare. Help me to stop trying to earn that which you give freely. Open my eyes to see I am worthy of love, and open my arms to embrace the boundless love you desire to lavish upon me. Fill me with your presence today, Lord. Amen!