Friday, April 29, 2016

Bookshelf Friday Winner

And the winner of last weeks Bookshelf Friday giveaway...

Jackie Layton!

Jackie, send me an email with your choice of book and your address and I'll get it out!

I'll be back next week with another review:)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Listen First, Ask Later

So I was reading Jeremiah the other day and chapter 32 stopped me. Mainly because of it’s title: Jeremiah Buys a Field.


Smack dab in the middle of all his prophecies and Israel’s destruction by Babylon, Jeremiah stops to buy a field. And not just any field. One that’s in the middle of the rubble. That’s like buying a block of London right in the middle of the bombing during WWII. Crazy.

But that’s what’s so cool about Jeremiah. He did crazy because God asked Him to. Make no mistake. He didn’t fully understand it at first either, but He did it.  In fact, listen to his response:

“See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine, and plague the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.’”(vs. 24-25)
Thing is, that response came after he obeyed.

Here’s his initial response:

“I knew this was the word of the Lord; so I bought the field…” (vs. 8 & 9)

Here's the thing, there will be times where God calls us to do something that we don’t fully understand, but all He’s asking for is obedience. That takes a huge amount of faith. It also means we better know His voice. Jeremiah shelved his questions until after he responded because he knew God’s voice.

And that’s what I want—to know His voice so intimately that I don’t even have to ask. I can jump, no matter how crazy it sounds to me. I’m not always going to have the full picture, but I’m not supposed to because that’s His job. All I need to do is be willing.

Ultimately, God does answer Jonah’s question. It’s all one big object lesson. He’s punishing Israel by handing them over to Babylon, but that punishment won’t last forever. Yes, He was angry, yes they were being punished, but then He was going to hug them. He would “bring them back to this place and let them live in safety.” (vs.37) They’d return and “fields [would] be bought” again. (vs. 44) 

And He demonstrates this promise through Jeremiah purchasing the field.

Good thing Jeremiah listened first. It allowed God to bring hope in the middle of what appeared a hopeless situation.

Are we willing to do the same? Even if we don't understand the "why" in the moment, will we still listen AND follow? Praying we all have Jeremiah's boldness!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bookshelf Friday

No review today. Instead I'm doing a giveaway of one of the books I've reviewed this year. Head on over to my Facebook page and "like" the post or comment here for your chance to win your choice of one of these books! Winner announced next Friday both here on on my Facebook page. 

Happy reading friends, and enjoy this beautiful weekend!!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lessons in Laundry Items

My youngest brought me her prized possession yesterday. Its name is Uni. Uni has been a part of our family for seven years now. She goes everywhere with Little Girl. And Uni is well-loved. Held onto with a secure grip, she is now tattered and torn but loved even more than the day she arrived. So Little Girl brought her to me for a much-needed cleaning. It's so hard for her to part with this treasure, but it needed to be done. As she placed Uni in my hands, she asked me to be careful. Quickly followed by needing reassurance for Uni’s safety and a promise they wouldn't be apart for long. Little Girl doesn't trust her unicorn to just anybody. Not everyone recognizes the importance of such a worn out creature, but she knows I do. And yet it was still hard for her to release her grip.

It made me think of the things we hold most dear. Not our possessions, but our dreams or our loved ones. Oh, so much of what we hold can be frayed, ragged, and tattered; well-worn by years of relentless love. It's those very things that can be the hardest to release. But God’s hands are the safest place for those things. Just like my daughter had to loosen her grip on what she held most dear, we must do the same. There comes a time where we’ve done all we can, and it’s only in God’s hand where the remaining work can be completed. It’s only there things can truly be cleaned, repaired, shined, or renewed.

So are we willing to give him our most treasured items today? Those things we’ve worn out in prayer because our love for them runs so deeply? He knows how much they mean to you, and he’ll handle them with the most tender care because He deeply loves you.

“…you guard all that is mine.” Psalm 16:5b NLT

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - An Opportunity to Review!

Hey readers! I'm in the middle of reading a whole stack of books while also finishing the school year and a novella I'm writing, so I didn't have a review for today. BUT I do have a great opportunity for those of you who love to read--particularly inspirational historical romance. My dear friend and critique partner, Dawn Crandall, has just handed in the fourth book in the "Everstone Chronicles" to her editor. It's titled The Cautious Maiden and will release his fall. In the meantime, Dawn is looking for readers who haven't already read her award-winning first three in the series! Take a look at these gorgeous covers (with a sneak peek at the cover for The Cautious Maiden!)

SO! If you haven't read the first three in this series, and you're looking for a great series to read this summer, and you have an e-reader, then this is a great opportunity for you! Dawn will send you the first three books to read for FREE. All you have to do is review them on Amazon once you're finished. Easy peasy! An Amazon review only has to be a sentence or two. I loved this book! even counts as one:) And as a quick side note, reviews are one of the biggest ways you can help an author.

If you're interested and able AND wind up loving the books (I have a feeling you will) then you'll also be eligible to help review The Cautious Maiden when it releases. That book you'll have the opportunity to get as an electronic file OR an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). All the links to sign up are listed below, and all the books can be found on Amazon if you'd like to look at their blurbs. If you love historical, you are going to LOVE these!

Message Dawn Crandall on her Facebook Author Page to receive and review all 3 over summer: here

Sign up for a chance to review The Cautious Maiden in ebook or paperback form when it releases this fall: here

Monday, April 11, 2016

Not Your Old School Gym Picking

Remember good old gym class? If you are anything close to the naturally athletic person I am (please inject sarcasm here), you remember it well. You'd line up against the wall, and two of your classmates would start picking who they wanted for their team, whittling down the class until only two people remained. Hint: I was often one of the two. Then the lucky captain would take the best of those two, leaving a situation that typically resulted in the last captain looking at the last pick and saying, "Guess I'll take you."

Yep. Fun times.

And while in all honesty, I chuckle at those memories now, they weren't such fun then. And even if it wasn't gym class, I bet many within the sound of my voice can recall similar moments that shaped within them a feeling of being unworthy. Unwanted. But I'm here to tell you that isn't true!

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders..." Luke 15: 4-5

You might wonder what sheep have to do with being the last one picked in gym class, but look again at that verse because Jesus is flipping everything we know on its head. He not only pursues the last one standing, but he rejoices over them! Friend, he's never been "stuck" with you. Your worth is of such great value to him that he goes after you because he desires you.

Our value on earth might be missed. But God cannot miss it because he is the one who created you. We need to stop looking at painful moments of the past that have coated our memories with lies about who we are, and start looking to the One who set our value and speaks truth over us. The One who chases after us because his love for us is so great, there's no place he'd rather we be than safe in his arms.

You aren't the last one picked. You are the one he pursues.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Ever since seeing the cover of this book, I've been excited to read it. That and the fact it's another Melissa Tagg book and a continuation of the Walker Family series. Here's a small blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley's haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher...if only she knew who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime--a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he's inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She's scrappy, but wounded. He's dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley's quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

I loved the start to this book. The first few pages consist of an email exchange between Amelia and Logan that sets the tone for these characters. It's a fantastic glimpse into who they are and produced a unique way to hear their voice before we even really get to know them. Plus it made me laugh--which is one thing I love about Tagg's books. I know somewhere in them I will always, always laugh. We can all use more of that.

There was so much to enjoy in this book. From a sweet love story to a small mystery to revisiting the wonderful town of Maple Valley, Like Never Before is one of those reads you simultaneously can't put down and yet want to simply so it doesn't end. Personally, being a lover of history, I immediately latched on to this aspect of Amelia's character. I honestly thought between the two she'd be my favorite, but then Logan kept reveling layers of himself, and the more he was on page the more I liked him. Then it slipped into a perfect dynamic between the two which made them a pair I won't soon forget.

Add to it the snappy dialogue between our leads that still made room for serious conversations and honest moments, and we once again see how Tagg balances humor and depth oh-so-well. The issues facing both Amelia and Logan are real, as are their struggles to overcome them. The secondary characters are as well fleshed out as the primary ones, and the town is one you wish you could visit. Tagg is only becoming better with each book she writes. She's quickly become one of my favorite voices in contemporary romance, reminding me why I love the genre so much.

While Like Never Before is the second in the Walker Family series, it can also be read as a stand alone. Though I would recommend, simply for the joy of it, reading the first. There's a prequel novella as well! So bonus time with this wonderful family and town. I happily give Like Never Before 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

Thank you to the publisher for supplying me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Seeing is Believing

I posted this picture a few years back, but it's recently been making a few laps in my mind. In the past nine months God has made huge changes in my life. Good changes. Changes that required leaps of faith and have called me farther, deeper in my walk with him. Some of these changes have come to completion, while others I'm still in what you'd call the "planting" stage--you know, that spot where you know what he's called you to, but you're still walking completely by blind faith on the path to get there.

And one thing I've noted is when God calls us, Satan always appears to knock us off track. Because if Satan can't stop us from hearing, receiving, and stepping into God's plan and purpose for our lives, he will try everything to prevent us from reaching it. Typically his attacks bombard areas we've struggled in before. I happen to have a whole host of them, but this time around his attacks have flown straight in the face of my identity.

Why? Because if Satan can get me to forget who I am--Whose I am--then I lose the source of my power to be effective not only in what God has called me to, but in my very own life. I'm no longer a warrior. I'm no longer pressing forward. I'm no longer claiming access to the very tools I need for survival. My salvation remains in tact, but my usefulness is gone.

So that picture up there started resurfacing in my mind. Oh, friends, if we could keep at the front of our viewpoints the mirror image of who we truly are in Christ it would make all the difference in our lives.

We are strong. (Philippians 4:13)
We are beautiful. (Song of Solomon 4:7)
We are daughters. (2 Corinthians 6:18)
We are chosen.(2 Peter 2:9)
We are purposed. (Jeremiah 29:11)
We are redeemed. (Ephesian 1:7)

And it's not enough to simply know these things. We need to act on them! We need to stand straight and tall, holding our sword and advancing into the territory God has for us. Don't let Satan snow you. Don't let him mess with you. Don't let him take what God has given!

Daily be in the Word. Daily be in prayer. Daily put on your armor.

And daily look at your reflection in Christ and believe what you see there--you are one fierce warrior.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann

Before I start, I need to let you know who won a copy of Jill Kemerer's latest release:


Inbox me your address, and Jill will send you a copy!

Now onto today's bookshelf. I hadn't read a book by Kristen Heitzmann in some time, so when I saw her newest release I decided it was time to revisit her. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.

From the minute Grace Evangeline throws her sweet tea in Devin Bressard’s face, their battle of wits and cross-purposes overtakes their lives. Sassy “angelic” Grace Evangeline will stop at nothing to see her romance novel produced for Broadway. Devin Bressard knows all about the commercial success of Ms. Evangeline’s “novels”—as far from his literary, nerve-striking plays as anything could be. 

Grace intends to pull his head out of the rarified air long enough to make her point, even if it involves stalking him and infiltrating his friends and colleagues. Devin knows she’s trouble, but who would guess the spokesperson for strength and virtue would be a calamity vortex? He mounts a fierce resistance, but when he’s forced to work with Grace, his profession and sanity aren’t the only things at risk. Collapsing walls on both sides bring a d├ętente that could shatter their bond—or resound through more lives than their own. 

The cover, blurb, and author name all pulled me in. The first line snagged and kept me. Even the first several chapters. I loved the snappy dialogue and unique characters along with the conflict between the two leads. It was honest and moved the plot at an easy pace. Grace and Devin often described themselves as combustible, and they were spot on. They couldn't seem to be in a room together without a very natural tension surrounding them. At first I didn't want to put this book down--which is not unusual for a Heitzmann novel. 

Somewhere in the middle, however, that began to change. The center chapters uncharacteristically slowed and the plot began to slide into different directions. While the story was layered, those layers did not always connect or flow with me as a reader. Also, while I'm all right with characters making choices I disagree with (it's how they grow), I felt more could come out of choices both Grace and Devin made. For me, the spiritual thread wasn't as fleshed out as I typically like to see.

All that said, I enjoy Heitzmann's writings and would definitely read her again. She does craft characters who are real and flawed, nails dialogue, and sets scenes with great tension. I give Told You So 3 out of 5 stars, and you can purchase it here.

If you'd like to see my rating system, you can check it out in the right sidebar.