Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Isn't a Holiday

Ok, so technically, it is a holiday, but that whole idea got me thinking...

See, as we all put away our plastic eggs today, hang up our pretty dresses, and rush out to get good deals on candy, I can't help but really think that's not what this all is about. Easter was never meant to be a day to go on egg hunts and fill baskets with chocolate (though I am all about chocolate and we still do egg hunts at our house)...Easter--Resurrection Sunday--is about celebration.

Celebration of LIFE.

Jesus, God, he's all about life. From making dry bones live again to raising Lazarus from the dead (and several others), to raising himself from the grave, he is constantly speaking life. John 10:10 even specifically says it's what he came to give us: abundant life.

And we can celebrate that every day. In fact, we should celebrate that every day, because the same power that raised Jesus from the grave is alive, active, and available to us today. All we have to do is ask Him.

Ask Jesus into our hearts.
Ask him into our lives.
Ask him into the middle of our addictions.
Our sickness.
Our finances.
Our dreams.
Our celebrations.

The cross isn't merely a pretty symbol simply to be displayed...it is the power of what Christ did for us two thousand years ago. And when we get that deep in our bones, we cannot help but burst forth in praise. We don't have to live defeated, because God didn't stop the story on Friday. We are meant to live in power, fullness, and freedom. Not because of anything we've done, but because of everything that he gave--that's what the cross reminds us of. And that's what we can carry with us all year long.

Not just on Easter, because Easter isn't a holiday, it's a celebration!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Bookshelf Friday & Giveaway - Her Small-Town Romance by Jill Kemerer

I met Jill Kemerer prior to her becoming a published author, and I know the journey God took her on before she received "the call". And as excited as I was for her debut, I'm equally excited with each book that follows because I know how much she loves this passion for writing that God has rolled into her now career. So today I'm happy to review Her Small Town Romance. Here's the blurb and we can chat on the other side. AND Jill will be giving away a copy to someone either here at the blog or on my Facebook page.


Cozy Lake Endwell, Michigan, seems the perfect place for Jade Emerson's new T-shirt shop—and perhaps a fresh start. After a lifetime of letdowns, she is finally ready to face the future on her own. So when local wilderness guide Bryan Sheffield offers to help Jade overcome a past trauma, she warns him they will remain strictly business. But soon, with the help of Bryan's big, complicated family and a boisterous St. Bernard named Teeny, Jade's frozen heart begins to thaw. Now Jade wonders if she can return the favor, bringing a little happiness to a man who has long kept his own sorrow under wraps…

First, as a Michigander, I love that Lake Endwell is set in Michigan:) It was fun to return to this setting with two characters that you'll quickly find yourself rooting for. Both Jade and Bryan are trying to overcome hurting pasts that have left them wounded--but not in a way that creates a victim mentality. I love the strength of both of these characters and their desire to grow past their fears and hurts. I also love the wit and banter that Kemerer seems to effortlessly write, giving plenty light moments and laughter. 

If you're preparing for spring break or just a relaxing weekend, I highly recommend Her Small Town Romance as a wonderful read. You can purchase it here, or leave a  comment here or on my Facebook page for a chance to win a copy. I'll reveal the winner next Friday!

***Contest only open to U.S. Residents***

Monday, March 21, 2016

Doubt and Fear - a Guest Post by Jill Kemerer

I'm out of town this week, so my good friend Jill Kemerer is taking over my devotional time for today. She's talking about detours and fear in her own life and the life of the characters in her newest release, Her Small-Town Romance. On Friday I'll review the book, and Jill is going to give away a copy as well! For today, here's Jill:)


Have you ever taken a walk in an unfamiliar park and gotten confused which path to take? A few years ago, my girlfriend and I thought we were on the Brown path at a local metropark, but after forty-five minutes we had to admit we were lost. Unsure what to do, we decided to backtrack. Unfortunately many trails intersected the Brown path, and at one of these spots we stopped and stared. There were only two options, but which one was the right one? Right or left?

The choice made me nervous. We needed to pick up our daughters. Time was running short. Another wrong turn could have us in circles for hours. What to do?

We noticed hikers in the distance on the path to the right. Fear almost made us take that route, but we had no idea if they were on their way back to the parking lot or away from it. Bicyclists rolled by, and we asked them if they knew how to get back. They couldn’t help us.

Finally, I texted my daughter (she’d been running with my friend’s daughter) that we were lost. She called me and was able to help us figure out where we were and how to get back. Boy, was I relieved when we saw the parking lot!

In my new book, Her Small-Town Romance, Bryan Sheffield is convinced he will never find happiness with a wife and children, and his fear of getting romantically involved after a humiliating divorce threatens to detour his life. Jade Emerson also deals with fears, but she’s doing everything she can to overcome them—with Bryan’s help. They both have strong faith in God, and it’s only by God’s grace they can find the right paths for their lives.

If fear threatens to detour your life, help is at hand. Much like my text to my daughter, all we have to do is pray for help. God wants to guide us. Why not let him?

Psalm 56:3(NIV) “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

HER SMALL-TOWN ROMANCE
Finding Her Way Home 
Cozy Lake Endwell, Michigan, seems the perfect place for Jade Emerson's new T-shirt shop—and perhaps a fresh start. After a lifetime of letdowns, she is finally ready to face the future on her own. So when local wilderness guide Bryan Sheffield offers to help Jade overcome a past trauma, she warns him they will remain strictly business. But soon, with the help of Bryan's big, complicated family and a boisterous St. Bernard named Teeny, Jade's frozen heart begins to thaw. Now Jade wonders if she can return the favor, bringing a little happiness to a man who has long kept his own sorrow under wraps…

Interested in purchasing Her Small-Town Romance? Purchase links available at http://jillkemerer.com/books/her-small-town-romance/.



About Jill Kemerer

Jill Kemerer writes Christian romance novels with love, humor and faith for Harlequin Love Inspired. Jill loves coffee, M&Ms, fluffy animals, magazines and her hilarious family. Visit her website, jillkemerer.com, and connect with Jill on Facebook, Twitter and sign up for her Newsletter!



Friday, March 18, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Siren's Song by Mary Weber

When I picked up the first book in this series, I remember reading it in one day. What was written for my teen became one of my favorite books! After that, with book #2 and now Siren's Song, there has been a battle over who gets to read the newest release in the series. My daughter somehow always wins out. It was no different this time. So, this review is from her perspective because I won't be cracking it open until this weekend. Here's the blurb, and we can chat on the other side!


After a fierce battle with Draewulf, Nym barely escaped with her life. Now, fleeing the scorched landscape of Tulla, her storm-summoning abilities are returning; only . . . the dark power is still inside her.
Broken and bloodied, Nym needs time to recover, but when the full scope of the shapeshifter’s horrific plot is revealed, the strong-willed Elemental must race across the Hidden Lands and warn the other kingdoms before Draewulf ’s final attack.
From the crystalline palaces of Cashlin to the legendary Valley of Origin, Nym scrambles to gather an army. But even if she can, will she be able to uncover the secret to defeating Draewulf that has eluded her people for generations? With a legion of monsters approaching, and the Hidden Lands standing on the brink of destruction, the stage is set for a battle that will decide the fate of the world.
This time, will the Siren’s Song have the power to save it?

First let's talk about that cover. Honestly, this entire series has contained some of my favorite covers of all time, but this one tops the series. The color and intensity of it...I'd pick the book up even if I hadn't already pre-ordered it!

As for the review, I went to my daughter for that:) She has loved every word of this series and snagged the book before I ever had a chance. In speaking with her, she once again fell in love with a setting that is so well written it wraps around your imagination and comes alive right before your very eyes. When she was reading the book, she was IN the book.

Nym's journey continued to be an authentic one as she continued to learn not only the depths of her powers, but how to control them. In this book she also worked toward becoming a leader--and this was an aspect of Nym my daughter loved. The secondary characters continue to bring additional life and depth to the pages, and the entire cast is one the reader invests themselves into.

While a few parts of the middle were heavier on dialogue than action, this is still a book that glues itself to the reader's hands and infiltrates their hearts. And while this is supposedly the ending to the series, my daughter is putting in a plea for Weber to penn more stories about these wonderful characters.

We happily give Siren's Song 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Stay Fresh

I sat listening to our pastor’s message recently, and as he spoke on worship, three little words dropped into my heart…keep us fresh! The picture of withered flowers came to mind, and I wrote a quick note to return to later.

As that picture and those words lingered, I started to think more about them. Dried flowers are brittle. They lose the vibrancy of their color and their fragrance slowly evaporates. Sure, we may dry out a meaningful bouquet to frame or put in a shadowbox as a great memory, but they aren’t what were given to us—and they certainly aren’t what we purchase to brighten someone’s day. Memories are meant to be a part of our story as we keep moving forward, but they will never impact another's life the way they impacted our own. To do that we need fresh, alive, vibrant...bursting with color and fragrance moments that reach others.

Friends, I have entered what many would call “middle age”. There are ways I grew up doing things, music I listened to, worship I am used to, and ways of receiving the Word that bring back wonderful memories. But the way I used to do things—while it reached me—may not be the way to reach those around me! (And for a person who dislikes change, that’s HUGE to recognize and admit.)


We have to be willing to stay fresh. We need to be in God’s Word, in his very presence, seeking HOW he wants us to reach others, and then be willing to step out in new ways. We’ll never compromise the Message, but the delivery can change! That may mean the music is louder or the lights are brighter. It might mean some torn jeans in church, Bibles on screens instead of paper-thin pages, or sayings we don't quite understand. Maybe even some of the traditional events we've loved in the past are tweaked to open the door for a new way to reach the lost and hurting. And that's okay. Yes, change is hard, but please don’t become dry, brittle flowers clinging to the moments of the past! Be fresh! It might stretch you—but it also just might impact a generation.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Nature by God


Looking outside recently, I was amazed at the picture. A fluffy white landscape, powder covering every surface, sunshine streaming through ice crystals on the trees, and a crisp cobalt sky. Isn’t God amazing? Only he can paint a picture with the color white. Take nothing and make it something. It is truly inspiring. I find that I am often inspired by His nature.

I am lucky enough to live in a place with four distinct seasons. Each year I get to watch God’s story of our lives unfold around me. It starts with Fall, a season where things are dying, making me think of our sinful nature. Now, we all know sin. Whether we’ve been saved or not, we have a sinful nature that brings death. Yet look what happens with God’s power in our lives. We call on Him, profess Him as Lord, BELIEVE in Him, and “Though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Winter. It is the season where all that death is covered with a blanket of white. Cleansing. A place for a fresh start. Beauty in it’s simplicity. This is the picture that caught my eye this morning. It was like standing in the middle of God’s grace. And the entire time we’re admiring it, something new is taking place. Life is getting ready to break forth.

Spring. It’s name says it all. Life is springing up new around us in brilliant bursts of color. Sounds explode as everything comes alive, singing God’s praises, showing it. He's doing a new work in us. Making all things new again. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up…” (Isaiah 43:18) And He doesn’t just stop there with life beginning. He shines the son on it, grows it, deepens its roots so it can thrive.

Summer. Life in full swing. Days full of light and warmth. Productivity. Beauty. Hardly any night. It is an amazing place to be. One we wish could last forever, and someday will.

See, He will be the Light of our world. It’s not just the seasons He’s given us as a picture, but even each day. Night comes, blocking out the light and there are times in our lives where it feels like the night has won. But just hold on. Dawn is coming. It never fails to do so. And with it a promise that one day, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelations 22:5) (Can I get an AMEN!)

So when life is buzzing around you, when you feel overwhelmed, just stop. Look around you at the painting God has placed you in. See the reminders He’s given you that you are not alone. That time keeps moving forward. Daybreak comes. Life springs forth again. It can't help but have to. It's God's nature.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Thin Ice by Irene Hannon

I purchased this book having been a fan of Irene Hannon's for some time even though I've missed a few of her more recent releases. So I thought it was time to pick one up. Here's the blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.


After losing her parents in a car accident and her sister to a house fire, Christy Reed has been mired in grief. Life is finally starting to feel normal again when an envelope arrives in the mail--addressed in her sister's handwriting. And the note inside claims she is still alive.

FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor, a former Delta Force operator, is assigned to reopen the case, but he's coming up with more questions than answers. If Ginny Reed is still alive--who is the woman buried in her grave? Where is Ginny? And is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game--or the target of a sinister plot? As he digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: whoever is behind the bizarre ruse has a deadly agenda.

Bestselling author and two-time Christy Award finalist Irene Hannon warms readers' hearts as they root for a romance between Lance and Christy, but she pulls out all the stops as this high-stakes thriller chills to the bone in a race to the finish.

If you've read Hannon's romantic suspense books before, you'll note they take a similar pattern--which I believe is more due to the genre guidelines and expectations than the author's writing ability. So for those of you who have loved her books in the past, this one will be no exception.

Hannon creates fresh characters in each of her books, typically with her male lead in law enforcement of some kind. Lance is no exception. Still, he carries his own voice and backstory, and I found I liked him very much. I also enjoyed that Christy is a figure skater, which was a new background Hannon has yet to explore with her characters. You could tell she'd researched this sport, and it added a depth to Christy's story that only made her more enjoyable to read.

The suspense aspect of the story unfolded at a nice pace, as did the romance angle. While I can't say there were too many surprises, the plot kept me turning pages, and I was always happy to pick the story back up whenever I'd been forced to set it down for any period of time. Hannon is a trusted author whose books always deliver and one I will happily read again.

I give Thin Ice 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.