Monday, November 6, 2017

Harvest Time

I'm still in Matthew, just taking my time and enjoying the book. I was recently in Chapter Thirteen reading the parable of the sower, and though I've read it many times, something new (at least to me) jumped out. That's why I love reading and rereading the Bible because God always has something fresh to say to us even in passages we're incredibly familiar with:)

Twice in this parable Jesus talks about when the seed falls on good soil it will yield a crop. And oh, do I want to have good soil so that something can grow in me! Something that reaches others and points straight to Jesus. What's so interesting to me is that Jesus goes on to talk about the size of the crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

Those are the words that stopped me this time around. You see, we all have potential to bear fruit. To haul in a harvest for Christ. We all were born with a purpose woven uniquely into us. But not all of us were created to have the same reach. And that's okay! In fact, that's exactly God's design. Unfortunately, in this day and age we play the comparison game all too often. We look to the side and see someone else's reach, the size of the platform they're speaking from, the diameter of their circle of influence; and we think if it's larger than ours then what they've been called to do is vastly more important.

But look closely, friends. Never in this parable does Jesus say the size of the crop matters. No. In fact the entire parable is about ensuring you have good soil so that the seed will grow and you will produce a harvest. That's where the importance lies. Jesus tosses in those sizes to ensure we know and can be confident in the fact that the size of my harvest is going to be different than the size of yours. He doesn't want us so caught up in comparing that we stop producing, so he lays it all out there for us in no uncertain terms. We simply need to remember it:)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper Basham

Basham's newest book released this week, but I'd already received a sneak peek:) Now it's time to share that peek with the rest of you! Here's a short blurb and we'll chat on the other side...


When Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell. 

Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne. When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?

"Rainey Mitchell is doing just fine. She has a great job helping children in need, her family is around her, she is mother to a fabulous little girl, and is getting over the betrayal of her ex-husband. Dr. Alex Murdock is not doing so well, as he is forced to work at a rural university, his life is full of secrets surrounding his family, and he has to start over in a new town. Luckily, Rainey, the daughter of his landlord, is there to get him settled. Rainey just wants to stay away from the new professor, who has the same charm as her ex. Unfortunately, they seem to need each other. Rainey needs his grant-writing ability to save her program, and Alex is terrible at the lecturing at which Rainey excels. The two must work together to fulfill their goals, but will they be able to do it? Rainey's insecurities and Alex's obsession with protecting his family could be their undoing.

While this is the second in her Mitchell's Crossroads series, you can read it as a stand-alone. Though don't be surprised if you wind up snapping up book number one if you haven't already. The Mitchell family is one you'll love getting to know.

Let's start by acknowledging that Basham uses classics as the base for her contemporary romance novels. She spins an Appalachian twist on them and ushers them into the twenty-first century in a way that still maintains their classic beauty while also making them all her own. So while there's echoes of classic romance in them, the reader is treated with a beautiful story in Basham's incredibly romantic and fresh voice. Charming the Troublemaker is no different!

Rainey and Alex are quite a pair with enough of their own hurts and hang-ups to prevent an easy path to their happily ever after. Still, they handle them like adults and with growth all along the way. Simple misunderstandings don't become large stumbling blocks, but rather they provide ways for each character to step forward and shed their past while being so incredibly relatable. Alex and Rainey are far from perfect, but they make perfect progress together:) And oh, does Basham do swoon-worthy for her romance. She's not shy in writing her love stories but rather embraces the genre, diving full-force into it while maintaining clean lines. So if you love a heart-fluttering romance where the characters have chemistry yet restraint, Basham's books are for you.

I happily recommend Charming the Troublemaker and you can purchase it here.

(PS...just so you know, I received a complimentary copy of this book but was under no requirements to post a review. While I read many books for review, I ONLY post reviews on books I can happily recommend. That's why you'll only find positive reviews from me. Authors work very hard on their books, and while some may not be my cup-of-tea and I'll note that here, I won't post negative reviews.) 

Happy reading, friends!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

It's always bittersweet to read the last book in a series, and Kristi Ann Hunter recently released hers. An Inconvenient Beauty was a wonderful addition to her Hawthorne House series, and while it was the last, it can also function as a beautiful stand-alone title. So for those who've read the entire series and for those who are new to it, here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!


Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He's certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can't seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.


Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she'll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.
Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?

All right. Can we first simply talk about how gorgeous the covers to this series have been? Some of my favorites. And the writing on the inside matches the beauty on the outside perfectly! This series about four siblings has entertained me with each addition, and finally reaching Griffith's story was a delight.

Griffith has been a mainstay in all his sibling's books. The eldest and the protector, he often came across as the wisest one who also had it all together. Those elements are in this book too, yet we also gain a glimpse into his own internals which show us Griffith isn't quite as sure of things as we've been led to believe. Like what to do when his ordered ways fall prey to the unplanned desires of his heart.

I loved watching the storyline unfold in this book between Griffith and Isabella. It was a well-tuned story with two leads who are perfect for one another. The interaction between siblings and friends in this book bring heartfelt moments and ones full of laughter. The romance is sweet and endearing, one you'll definitely be cheering for. While I've loved all of Hunter's books, I must say of the two brothers, Griffith's story has been my favorite. The plot was a tad faster and more intricate than with Trent's book, which I prefer. 

All together, this is a strong ending to a wonderful historical romance series and I look forward to seeing more from Hunter in the future. You can purchase An Inconvenient Beauty here on Amazon or find a local store near you here.

Happy reading, friends!



Monday, October 23, 2017

Who Are You Trying to Please?

I've been reading in Matthew lately, and I was stopped by Jesus repeating something. You see, when Jesus repeats something we need to take note. Not that we don't on everything he says, but you know what I'm getting at ;) So anyway, Matthew 6 has some wonderful points in it. Jesus is talking about giving, fasting, and praying. As he teaches about each of these he encourages us to do them in quiet.

Why? I mean, is Jesus telling us it's bad to receive acknowledgement from others? No. He's not. It's okay to receive approval from man. What's not okay is to only want approval from man. To believe that's where our identity and reward lie. To allow that approval to be our motivation in doing what God has called us to do. None of that is okay.

You see, God is a jealous God--but he's also a God who loves us lavishly. All he wants is for our motivations and desires to center on him. So he cautions us to do things quietly so that we don't fall into the trap of pleasing man rather than him. What amazed me in these verses is what Jesus said three times to people who have fallen into that trap:

"I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get..."

In other words, sure, they'll receive the accolades of man, but that is all they will ever receive. But to those who quietly go about what they're doing with only pleasing God in mind he says this:

"And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you."


Friends, if we have a choice between receiving the accolades of man verses the rewards of Christ, why would we ever choose man? God's rewards far outweigh man's. They are eternal. And they are SO much better than anything man can give, so why would we want to miss them? Because, take note, while Jesus isn't saying we will miss out on the rewards of man when we seek to please only God, he is saying we'll miss out on the rewards of God when all we seek is to please man.

So today when you embark on what God has called you to, fix your eyes on him and only him. Trust me, you don't want to miss what he has for you!





Monday, October 9, 2017

Bending and Swaying

This summer I took a dune ride out through Saugatuck, Michigan. Such a fun place! Once we'd made it through the sandy hills we dipped into a forest behind them. Quiet and dark, it was amazing to think this enchanted area lay behind all that sand! But what grabbed my thoughts as the guide toured us through the birch, oaks, and maples were how many of the trees bent and turned at unique angles. I'd never seen anything like it! The guide called it phototropism, and though I had never heard that term before, I was immediately intrigued by its meaning.

You see, some of the trees had shot straight up and created a canopy over the forest floor making it hard for sunlight to reach below. And what is one thing a tree needs to grow? Light. So instead of staying in the dark, the new trees bent until they found the sunlight. Then when that sunlight was cut-off and the tree found itself in darkness again? Well it took another turn--sometimes in the completely opposite direction--so that it could find the light again. What an amazing phenomenon. After years of growth these trees didn't have a straight trunk, no, their trunks spoke of the story of how it bent, dipped, and swayed to remove itself from darkness and return to the light. That tree made seeking and remaining in the light at all costs its main goal, because it knew without that light, it wouldn't thrive.  Of course it made me think of our walk with God:)
I never took a picture that day! This is the closet
I could find online to a picture of phototropism:)

Friends, our walk with God is never a linear path. Life happens. Darkness presses in at times. And we have a choice; do we adjust to remain in God's light, or do we continue in the dark? God is always there. He's always beckoning us and ready to engulf us with his love and light, but there are times where we have to change the direction we wanted so that we can follow the path he's calling us to grow along.

Bend. Dip. Sway.

Grow.

And never stop seeking him.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bookshelf Friday: Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Politano

Friends, I am so excited about this book! You see, it's one I had the pleasure of reading in its infancy, and it's only grown better since! Joanna Davidson Politano's debut from Revell, Lady Jayne Disappears, is a wonderful addition to the historical fiction genre. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!



When Aurelie Harcourt's father dies in debtor's prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father's unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother's disappearance--and perhaps even her father's death.

From the first page to the last, this book captivates. I'm typically a romance reader (honestly, I think Jesus is our biggest romancer of all!) and when a book isn't strong in the romance thread, I can sometimes skim it. Yet Politano's writing and characters are so strong that even though romance isn't the central focus of this book, I couldn't stop turning the pages! Politano's ability to sink her reader into the setting and tug at their heart through her characters is a strength that makes her writing sing. The mystery rolling through this book keeps you asking questions. The plot moves at a perfect pace and through it all, hints of a humorous voice pop through that perfectly matches the time period this book is written in. And for the romance lover, it does makes its way on page with enough doses to keep a lovely smile on your face. Best of all, this book is full of hope and faith.

All together, Politano's debut is one that will leave the reader adding this author to their TBR lists for all her future books. I happily recommend Lady Jayne Disappears and you can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - All This Time by Melissa Tagg

Boy oh boy! Today I'm reviewing the fourth book in Melissa Tagg's Walker Family series. All This Time has been much anticipated and it released yesterday! I was super blessed to receive an advanced copy of this book, so here's a short blurb and we'll chat on the other side:)


Bear McKinley’s past refuses to let go. 

Ten years ago, Bear gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. But after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him once again. Suddenly he finds himself back in Maple Valley, charged with the care of his missing brother’s children, convinced he’s out of second chances to make his life count. And yet, with every day that passes, these kids, this quirky town and the woman he never stopped missing help patch the holes in his heart. Maybe this is the fresh start he’s been longing for all along. But as his newfound hope grows, so does the mystery surrounding his brother’s activities—and when the threat reaches into the lives of those he loves, it’s clear he can’t run away this time.

Fear holds Raegan’s future captive. 

Raegan Walker is fine. She’s happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more than fine. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending?

I want to start by reassuring you that this novel can function as a stand alone. However...you are going to want to read the entire series if you haven't already. Melissa Tagg only continues to grow better and better as a writer.

I loved the stories of both these characters. Them navigating all of their past junk that they've tried to ignore only makes the story richer. While Bear is seeking to outrun his past, Raegan is outrunning her fear, but what is so great is how they help one another face and overcome their struggles. It makes the reader root for them all the more. And for those readers who've read the entire series, the payoff of finally seeing Bear and Raegan come together is even greater:)

And these two are meant to be a pair. They compliment each other so very well. Their story is fresh and the plot is perfectly paced without being forced. There's a depth to the characters Tagg pens that makes them feel like friends you could sit down with over coffee--and Bear likes his coffee:) The love story is sweet and lined with the slightest of mystery/suspense following Bear's storyline. All the layers create a read that you don't want to put down and bring not only a sweet ending to Bear and Raegan's story but also to the entire Walker Family series.

I happily recommend All This Time and you can purchase it here. (Ooooh, and it's currently on sale. $3.99 for the Kindle version!) Also, Melissa has a giveaway going on here, so you'll definitely want to check that out! Happy reading, friends:)

***I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not paid or obligated to write a positive review.***

Friday, September 15, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason

Summer sabbatical is over! We are already knee deep in all things fall:) I had a great rest and read many books, and while I'm still praying over my blog format here, one thing I'm 100% on is Bookshelf Fridays! Reading and writing are two of my largest loves, so shouting out about amazing authors and great reads will always be something I do. Let's start off with Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!


Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan may be in South Carolina, but when a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, her life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she's made a career out of taking care of others. But after an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her--and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he's not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.

In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories--and the depths of the heart--Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley's past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won't quit.

Let me start by saying this is the final book in a series. Let me follow that by saying you do NOT need to have read the others to pick this one up. Oh, reading every book in the series always rounds the storyline out for you, but it is not necessary with Eason's books. I picked this one up only having read book number 1, and I absolutely enjoyed every moment of this read!

Eason is a master with twists and turns that keep you turning the page. She has a way of making your heart race without freaking you out. Her main characters are always strong and well matched--and this book remained true to that. I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of women bodyguards who were smart, trained, and still accepted help while maintaining that strength. And in this story, I loved Haley's past and how it comes to light. It was intricate and handled believably. The touch of romance was sweet as well, evenly creating a balance between love and mystery. All together, a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

For a romantic suspense that is fast-paced and keeps you up at night for all the right reasons, you'll love Chasing Secrets. You can pick it up here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Sabbatical


Hey friends,

I've been writing here for seven years. I know. It doesn't even begin to feel like it! Things have morphed and changed throughout those years, and I've loved every second of it. But these past few weeks God has been stirring in my heart that it's time for a rest. Resting is a hard thing for me to do, but so needed. It refreshes us, and I can tell that is needed. 

So this summer I'm taking a break. I'm digging my toes into the sand. I'm opening the Word and sitting outside with it. I'm playing...because we're never too old to play:) And I'm asking God to refresh me. I'll still be around on my Facebook author page--you can connect to it through that little Facebook button on the right there--posting some fun questions, info on books to read this summer, and just simple encouragement. 

Otherwise, you can find me outside in the sun:) And I'll see you back here in the Fall!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Old Habits Die Hard

This past week I was reading Genesis. Sometimes I just like to go back to the beginning. Anyway, I came to the whole Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery part and dove into the familiar story. But it was once I arrived at the end that I stumbled on a few little words that I didn't remember seeing before. I love how God always makes his word new to us:)

So as you'll recall, Joseph's brothers were jealous of him. It didn't help that his daddy, Jacob, showered him with special attention and gifts. To say Jacob lavished him with more love than his other siblings would not be an understatement. Joseph was Jacob's favorite (his little brother Benjamin was a close second) and it was a well known fact. This led to fighting and eventually Joseph's brothers selling him off to rid themselves of him.

If you're familiar with Scripture, you know it worked out all right for Joseph--and his family--in the end. What they'd intended for evil, God wound up using for good. Joseph wound up as second-in-command in Egypt and helping the country through several years of famine. Even his brothers came to him for help, although they didn't realize it was Joseph at first.

Through God's grace, Joseph forgives his brothers. And then he bestows gifts upon them. He gives them animals, clothing, and money while asking them to journey home and bring their father back to him. But while he's bestowing them all with gifts, he gives a heftier portion to his little brother Benjamin. Hmmm...the brothers have been here once before. And here is where the words came in that I've missed so many times before.

You see, as Joseph is sending off his brothers to go retrieve their father, he calls after them, "Don't quarrel on the way!"

Why were these his parting words?

Because Joseph knows how hard it is to change behavior! He knew this situation mimicked the exact one that had gotten them into trouble years prior. And he knew their natural bend would push them toward old actions. Actions they'd been forgiven of and found freedom from. So he was warning them. Reminding them to react differently this time because they were different.

Oh, that we can learn from those few words. Friends, once we know freedom from our pasts, don't go back! Yes. We may be faced with similar situations, but that doesn't mean we have to react in old patterns. God has changed us. So live in that change. Let your old habits die--even if it's hard.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hit the Mark

I've been hanging out in Acts this week and came to verse twenty-six where Paul is representing himself in court. See, the Jews were angry with him because he was preaching the Gospel, and they didn't like it very much. They didn't believe Jesus was the Son of God, crucified, and raised on the third day from the dead. And they didn't want Paul preaching any differently.

So Paul is arrested. And when he stands before King Agrippa, he represents himself. He starts right off owning the fact he used to persecute people for the very beliefs he now stands on trial for. But then he moves into preaching. Because Paul never let a moment pass him by. He's passionate about his brothers realizing what they missed.

Paul turns to the king and says,

"And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" vs. 6-8

Basically he's saying "You all have been sitting around waiting for a promise that's already come, and because I'm preaching that it has, you're wanting to shut me up. But listen, you've studied all about God. Are you really telling me you don't believe it? That He can't raise His own son from the dead?"

Paul was challenging them, because for all their studying, memorizing, watching and waiting, the Jews still missed Jesus.

They'd missed their promise.

Oh. Have you ever been there? It might have been a whisper or maybe thunderous, crashing waves, but God spoke to you. He gave you a promise for your future. And you prepared. Watched. Studied. Waited. But somehow in all your preparation, you missed it.

For the Jews, their missing it was all part of fulfilling the prophecy, but once the prophecy was fulfilled, they refused to admit maybe they were wrong. And in our stubbornness, we can be much the same. It's humbling to admit we were wrong. That we so completely missed the mark. But here's what I so love about our God.

He loves us too much to let us continue shooting arrows that miss. He sends us help to get us back on track.

For the Jews, He sent Paul. Listen to what Paul goes on to say: (And here Paul is giving us the very words God spoke to him when He sent Paul.)

"I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." vs. 18

Oh! See this! God loved them so much. He knew they'd messed up. He knew their hearts were hardened and they were totally walking blind in the dark. But He wasn't about to let that anger and darkness allow them to keep missing the promise He'd sent--or His forgiveness.

And why?

Because He wanted them with him. That "place among those sanctified by faith in me" is Heaven. His home where He so desperately wants us. The ultimate promise of eternity spent with Him.

God wanted their aim corrected, and He provided a voice to point them back to their bullseye. And that's totally His personality. He never leaves a promise unfulfilled. He seeks us out. Shines a light so we can see the mark we're aiming for and steadies our hand, but it's up to us to release the shot.

And while this story is talking about the promise of Jesus Christ--a promise given and fulfilled for each and every one of us--we can also use it to apply to our individual promises in our lives. God created each and every one of us with a specific plan and purpose. He has specific promises He wants each of us to claim.

So what about you? Are you waiting for a promise, watching one being fulfilled, or being called back to one you may have overshot? Today let Him guide your hand, rest in His perfect aim, release the shot, and let your arrow hit its mark.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - True to You by Becky Wade

Becky Wade has started a new series about three sisters and her first book, True to You, came out this week. I could not wait to read it and cracked it open yesterday. I could not put it down:) Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.


After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he's diagnosed with an inherited condition, he's forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother. 

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John's already dating someone and Nora's not sure she's ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they're seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Wade has opened this new series with a new style. There is something fresh and yet familiar with her writing, and it was that juxtaposition that I loved! From the first pages this book reads unlike any other Wade book, and yet her voice is evident. Wade remains a master at believable chemistry and pacing between her characters. Her heroes have her signature voice all over them, and that remains true in True to You. She also maintains the beauty of family in her book, only this time it's with three sisters. While never perfect relationships, the bond of a family is something she keeps in tact, which is refreshing. And her faith element is woven in organically, another piece Wade seems to do effortlessly which can only stream from her own love of God. It's simply a part of her, so it's a part of her writing.

What's new is her style of writing. She's introduced small snippets of emails and texts which allow us to see pieces of background information in unique ways that don't stall the progress of the story but rather enhance it. And even her wording and beats are different here, creating a unique flow to the story that completely suits these new characters. And yet, it's still 100% a Wade novel. This, to me, is the mark of an amazing author, and Wade is most definitely one of those.

As for the meat of the story itself, I thoroughly enjoyed Nora and John. Pairing a historian with a Navy Seal brought about some fun moments. And the fact that these two established a friendship first allowed only had me rooting for their relationship all the more.

I happily give True to You 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

***I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions here are my own.***

Monday, May 1, 2017

Planted

Life is full of seasons, and dry ones are the hardest. Those moments where the hard-packed ground around you is rutted with deep cracks fingering out in all directions and no moisture can be found anywhere. There's no oasis. There's no rain. There's only dust and maybe a tumbleweed or two drifting by. (Okay, I may be waxing a tad poetic with my description of a dry season, but there's some truth to be found in those exaggerations.  Anyone who's ever experienced one is probably nodding with me.)

And it always seems like making it through the dryness is nearly impossible. Struggles that aren't normally an issue suddenly loom large. Our brittle spirits can't quite handle battles with the strength they once did. How do we stand firm in our faith when issues arise, and we aren't fresh enough to face them?

The answer is found in where we're planted. I love Psalm 1:3. It tells us that when we draw near to God, we will be like "a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither...."

Friends, do you see that? We can yield fruit in all seasons, and we won't wither! Dry seasons will come, for sure, but that should describe our outside location not our inside experience. Yes, we'll have times where everything around us is cracked and broken, but we can remain internally strong if we draw near to Jesus. He is our source. He will renew us. He will keep us fresh. And he'll produce fruit in us, even when everything around us is barren. He's able to because he's our water! Drinking from him ensures we will never run dry (John 4:14).

So today if you're struggling through a desert, check to see where you're planted. If needed, move your roots closer to the Well that never runs dry. Dig into the Word. Spend time in prayer. Spend time simply listening to him. Your external circumstances may not change, but your internal ones will--and that's all you need to make it through. No, it's not easy. Dry seasons never are. But you can be victorious in them when you tap into the only Source that will give you the necessary strength to make it through.

Plant yourself in Jesus, and let him drench your dry places.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Laughter and Joy

Life can be busy. It can be hard. It does its best to steal our joy and sometimes, just sometimes, it succeeds. I'm going to lay it all out there people, I've been struggling lately. Not in knowing in the depths of my core that God loves me. Not in knowing I'm saved by grace. Not even in my love for God. I've simply be struggling with retaining my joy.

Oh, there's several reasons that can claim responsibility. A very busy schedule. Not enough time in the Word. Too much time on social media. Cloud-covered days. Troubled relationships. And even a few discouraging moments that were like well placed flaming darts to my faith. Things like this create the perfect concoction to strike at the core of our joy and remove it from us.

Thing is, our joy comes from the Lord, and when we let outside circumstances pull us out of alignment with him, we end up off track and in a ditch. It's not a fun place to be. And though we can often stand back and pinpoint what the contributing factors were, it's not until we do something about them that things begin to change. For me that meant dedicating my mornings this week to time in the Word. I set aside my Bible study and went straight to sitting at God's feet. Bible studies are wonderful tools, and I love them, but when I'm drained it's time to go straight to the source. It also meant less time on social media and more time with real-life friends this week. And this is when something wonderful happened.

Laughter.

Pure, free, wide-open laughter.

Do you know what I discovered? Laughter lightens something inside of us. It restores our joy. It releases the heavy cloak of oppression. Friends, we forget we need to laugh. We need to surround ourself with people who stoke our joy. Rather than pulling away, we need to dive into moments with people who love us. We need to drop our heads back, open our mouths, and laugh like when we were little kids. As I drove away from those encounters with my friends, I truly felt lighter yet stronger at the same time. I mentioned it to God who reminded me that "The JOY of the Lord is our strength."

So for anyone who's struggling this week, first dive into the Word. Immerse yourself within his presence. Then make a date with a friend. Get off the couch. Turn off your phone. And seek actual connection with someone who can listen and who you can play with. Yes, play. Sometimes we forget as adults to simply be childlike. But we are children of God. Go out. Have fun. And laugh--even if it's forced at first.


Because joy may not be restored in one moment, but in a collection of them. It involves work and choices on our part. Some days may bring success, some not. But keep digging, keep discovering, and keep holding to God. He is ever so faithful to do what he's promised, and he's promised us joy friends. So go after it with all you've got. Even if you have to fake it till you make it first, the real thing will take hold because God never breaks his promises.

(And dear friends please know, there are times where we need outside help too. I know and understand that. Depression is a very real thing that may require more than we have on our own to contribute. God has given us wisdom and amazing medical advances. While this post wasn't aimed at that level, don't be afraid to seek Godly counsel and help if needed.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading Pepper Basham's books, so I happily snapped up the chance to read Just the Way You Are and review it. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!


Single mom, Eisley Barrett, prefers to keep romance housed within a centuries-old mystery, but when she travels to England to unearth the secret, an actor with a sordid past offers her heart a very different type of discovery.

Wes Harrison has a past he's ashamed to confess. Suspicious and cynical, he's managed to avoid romantic entanglements since a tragedy upended his career and life, that is until American Eisley Barrett comes along. Her authenticity and kindness upend his bitter assumptions and send his heart into unscripted territory.

When his past threatens to ruin a second chance at love, can some Appalachian matchmaking and letters from the grave salvage their unexpected romance?

Something I've really grown to love about Basham is her ability to straddle two genres effortlessly. It reminds me that good stories don't have any particular shelf space. Historical or contemporary time periods don't matter. What matters are characters you connect with, timeless romance, and plots that take you on a journey you don't want to end. Just the Way You Are delivers all these things.

I loved the characters in this story. They paired together so very well. I also enjoyed the natural conflict that arose from placing these two together. The reminder that we are new creations in Christ and also that we can heal completely from old hurts was a spiritual thread that will speak to many. And as usual, Basham delivers her romance sprinkled with laughter. OH! And I have to mention that Basham was recently touted as The Queen of Swoony, and after reading even one of her books, you'll know why:)

All together I loved this book and happily recommend it. You can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Sunshine Needed

I live in a state where sunshine is a rare commodity from about November through February. In fact, we've made national lists for how few hours of sunshine we see during our winters. But typically when we hit March I can pretend that spring is at least going to arrive, and the sunshine begins to reappear. It's something I crave after the long winter. This March, however, fought the sun for every day. Even as we flipped our calendars to April, spring struggled to arrive. And then last week happened.

Spring Break. The time when flowers should be blooming, blue skies should be flying, and warm breezes should be blowing. But no. We had grey days, rain, slush, snow...and not a hint of sunshine anywhere. Just day after day after day of rain.

People. I about had a come apart. You see, with the lack of sun we were already experiencing, the higher incidence of rain showers, and what appeared to be a never-ending winter, I was done! Oh, we'd had a nice day sprinkled in here and there, but they were only minor blips on what was now a calendar full of storms. My body was crying out for the sun. My emotional state was quickly deteriorating. My energy levels were kaput, and my brain fog was an ever-present issue.

I needed sun. Badly. Ever day.

And then it hit me. This was a very prominent picture of what happens to our spiritual state when we spend time away from God. We begin to wither. We become dry. And one quick dip in the word on the second Tuesday of the month isn't enough to sustain us.

We need the Son. Badly. Every day.

Oh friends, just as our bodies weren't made to be deprived of the life-giving nutrients from the sun, our spirits weren't made to be without the life-giving attributes of Jesus. And though we cannot control the weather, we can control our exposure to Christ. He's as close as our breath. Our words. All we need to do is give voice to them. Pray. Worship. Even better, pick up his Word and dive into it.

Be refreshed, friends. He's waiting to shine on you:)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Game On by Jill Kemerer

My good friend Jill Kemerer is known for her fiction works, but recently God laid a non-fiction subject on her heart. After much prayer, she decided to tackle it. What followed was her newest book, Game On. I had the privilege of reading and endorsing this book, and today I'm reviewing it here for you. Here's a short blurb and we can chat on the other side!


For years I couldn't escape the anxiety that came with my children’s sports. The competitive atmosphere prevalent among parents often left me anxious, upset—even bitter. But all that changed when I defined why I wanted my kids playing. Instead of fretting about their performance, I saw opportunities for them to grow. Now I enjoy watching them play without letting politics, other parents, or my own unrealistic expectations get in the way.

Join me in exploring the realities of sports, the reasons parents get caught up in unhealthy competition, and strategies to keep the big picture in mind when we're too close to the game. We can be composed and confident while our kids are in sports.

I knew Jill and I shared a lot in common when it came to our boys playing baseball. We'd shared many texts while sitting on the sidelines--both in different states--as we watched our boys play. So it was no surprise to me when she mentioned she was writing this book. What was a delight, however, was my chance to read it. This book encompasses far more than baseball moms. This book hits to the heart of any parent who's had a child participate in the sports arena. Jill brings truths that need to be heard while pairing them with funny, personal stories that we can all relate to. She holds nothing back and truly delivers a survival guide that challenges us as parents in how we tackle these sideline years.

I happily recommend this book to anyone who has a child in sports. You can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Prayer Time

Hey all! So every Sunday I listen to our pastor pray for local churches, and it's always stuck with me. Rather than being in competition with them, we pray for their success. That God would bless their message, increase their reach, and protect their ministry. And we pray for safety and security for their families. It's made me think...why not do that with all the authors I've been blessed to meet?

The world of writing could so easily disintegrate into competition and comparison. And wouldn't that be exactly what the enemy wants? To distract us from our calling? It's not simply for the writing world either. Each of us has a purpose God created us for. Don't let satan pull your focus off of it by enticing you to watch others with similar callings. Instead, pray for them!

1 Timothy 2:1 says, "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them."

So that's what I'm going to begin doing every week. Every Wednesday over on my Facebook page I'll be featuring one author to pray for that week in our Author Prayer Circle. My hope is that you'll all circle around them with me and lift them up. We'll do exactly what 1 Timothy 2:1 instructs: ask God to help them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them.

I hope you'll join me!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tag!

Kids love the game of Tag. I personally think they’re crazy—that’s an awful lot of running—but they can play it for hours. Or, well, twenty minutes at least, which is really good considering their attention spans.


And while we may not play the actual game of Tag as adults, I do think we still play it. Have you ever said something along these lines: “I’m done running after them. Now it’s their turn to chase me.”

If you have, then you’re playing Tag. But…

Love is not a game of Tag.

I know, I know, so often we want it to be, but it’s just not. We can emotionally ‘tag’ people all we want, but that doesn’t make them It. Half the time they don’t even know they’re supposed to be playing. Oh, and just because we ‘tag’ them doesn’t let us off the hook of being It ourselves.

See, love isn’t a game. Love isn’t conditional. Love isn’t dependent on the other person. Love is always giving—even when we aren’t receiving. It’s thinking of the other person, chasing them, pursuing them, even when they don’t deserve it…especially when they don’t deserve it, because that’s what God has done for us. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) I love that our God pursues us!

And here’s what else is so cool. He doesn’t ask us to love our of our own strength. See, God is love (1 John 4:8), and if He’s in us that means we have the ability to BE love too. We have the power to pursue others, the strength to keep running after them even when we’re tired, because “we can do all things through him that gives us strength”. (Phillipians 4:13) It doesn’t rest on our shoulders, but on His.

Thank the Lord His shoulders are HUGE, because I'm so not able to love that way on my own. Let's just be honest, it's hard enough do it with Him--hard, but not impossible:)

So what about you? Do you ever play tag? And what was your favorite game as a child?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

Guys. It's been a long time since I read a novel by Susan May Warren. But this new series caught my eye, and while I'd missed book one, I had no problem diving into book two. Here's a short blurb and we'll chat on the other side.


When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him--not just on the job as liaison between the Mercy Falls sheriff's department and PEAK Rescue, but in his private life. He's the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father's accidental death. And he's the one--perhaps the only one--who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she's nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on--namely, nabbing the job as youth pastor for her small-town church. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

Like I said above, while this is a series you can easily pick them up to read as stand alone titles. There was so much to enjoy about this story. Warren is always great at writing her heroes, and Sam was no exclusion. What I liked was not only his struggle over his heart for Willow, but his struggle with his brother as well. It deepened Sam's emotional and spiritual arc, making his journey authentic. And he wasn't a perfect character--at times you might not even like him. But he was very quickly redeemable. Willow's struggles were also organic and left you rooting for her. I enjoyed her friends and the way she cared for others. These two were an unlikely pairing and yet it was evident they belonged together.

There's an over-arching story that continues to grow in the background, and it's evident that it will culminate in the final book of this series. Meanwhile we are graced with other characters whose stories are building as we ready for them to take center stage. The balance of secondary and primary characters is something Warren does well, giving her a wide cast of characters to play with and making sure the reader is invested in each one.

My only issue with the book was that the ending had a very predictable moment to it. Even still, it was sweet and we received our happily-ever-after. Definitely a book I enjoyed reading and I happily give it 4 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Rest in Our Storm

Ever watch the horizon of your life and see a storm gathering? The clouds slowly darkening and billowing up into the sky, churning around in circles. Then the low rumble of thunder starts.

I've been there my fair share. I mean, it's a part of life. Down here with all our imperfections and sand-paper spots, problems happen. Not to mention God sometimes does his best work on our lives in the midst of our storms.

And while we know this, big or small, no one likes to go through life's storms. We pray, we fast. Maybe we sit at the altar, but sometimes the thunder just keeps rumbling. It's then we realize that while we don't want to go through it, Jesus isn't exactly taking us around it either. And, quite frankly, there was one particular storm where I finally asked him "why not"?

He desires our questions. So I laid it on him.

And he returned my question with a question: Where is your faith? Then he followed it by reminding me of Mark 4:35-40. Jesus had just done a multitude of amazing, miraculous things and told some pretty amazing parables. The disciples actually got to see him teach. Sit at his feet! They were front and center. And then they all boarded a boat.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

Okay. There is so much to those verses, and yet in our own storms, we forget it all. We focus on the waves swamping us and wonder how in the world Jesus can sleep through it all, on a cushion no less. Did you catch that? It's there. Go back and look. And it's why I love Mark's rendition of this story, because he included that little fact and can't we sound just like that? I'm in the middle of a storm here, Lord, and you're all tucked up nice there in heaven on your cushy seat not really caring. Have you not heard my cries? Can you not feel the rolling waves? You certainly haven't done anything about it.

But it wasn't that Jesus didn't care, he was simply living out his faith. He knew they were going to get through the storm, so why worry? Pull up a cushion and rest.

Rest in the midst of a storm. Totally sounds like a crazy idea, right? But it's what our faith is all about. And those storm-challenging moments can oftentimes be what stretch our faith the most, especially when they reach hurricane proportions. Yet if we've got God as our center, we can rest assured that the storm will not harm us, no matter how battered we are by the waves. And how can we know this? The same way the disciples should have, because they'd already learned it though what Jesus had taught them. They simply needed to remember it.

Matthew 6:24-25 talks about where we build our houses.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

That parable doesn't say if a storm will come, but when the storm comes--and it sounds like quite a storm. But it also says that house did not fall because its foundation was on the rock...and that rock is Jesus Christ.

So if we know he's in control of the storm, then why do we worry when we see it building on the horizon? What if this time, as the storm is rolling in, we pull up a cushion and rest in the knowledge that he has it all under control.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

A book I've been anxiously waiting to read and tell you all about came out this week! Kristy Cambron's The Illisionist's Apprentice. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side:)


Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.
But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.
Set during one of the richest, most vibrant eras in American history, this Jazz Age novel of illusion, suspense, and forgotten pasts is perfect for fans of The Magician’s Lie, challenging all to find the underpinnings of faith on their own life’s stage.
As a history buff, I always love Cambron's novels. She is skilled at taking well-known seasons and figures in history and weaving magical tales around them. This time she's brought in moments of suspense that show she is a skilled writer no matter the bend she takes with her genre. 
Wren is a strong female lead who pairs well with FBI agent Elliot Matthews. But I like that this story is so much more than their romance. It's about Wren's past and how that is affecting her present. It's about God's grace and our faith, and that is something else Cambron does well in her books. Cambron's own faith and love for God shine clearly on the pages without a heavy hand. It simply just is. As if you cannot separate the author from her faith, which makes the spiritual thread of this book so very natural.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The new characters. The underpinnings of faith. The moments of suspense. Cambron has hit her stride with The Illusionist's Apprentice, and I cannot wait to see what she does next.
I happily give The Illusionist's Apprentice 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here. Happy reading, friends!

***Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.***

Monday, March 6, 2017

Out With The Old

We have a dog that is ten years old. He's a creature of habit who likes things the way they've always been. Recently he was experiencing problems with his joints that were giving him a lot of pain. Concerned, we purchased some new vitamins for him and a brand new bed. Prior to this he had a few ratty old blankets in his cage--but they were his blankets that he'd always had. But he'd reached a point in his life where he needed a little more support than those thin blankets could give him. We were so excited to show him the soft and cushy new bed we purchased him! What can I say, he's like our fourth child:)

Upon bringing it home, we presented it to him with much excitement and then removed the old blankets in his cage and dropped in the new, improved pad. It was made for aging dogs with memory foam that would support his joints. Yes. We were thrilled to offer it to his sore bones. Only problem? He wasn't so thrilled to receive it. He was determined to stay with his tattered old blankets rather than the soft bed we replaced them with. No amount of feigned excitement or long explanations could convince him otherwise. In fact, when we weren't looking he pulled the new bed out and dragged it to the front door, chewed the corner off, then proceeded to grab his blankets and try and push them back into his cage.

Can you say stubborn?


And while we were able to force the issue because we knew it would be better for him, I could hear God chuckling in the background. See...for whatever reason God uses these little life moments to speak directly to my heart. How many times has he had something new for me, something better for me, and I reject it to hold tightly to the old? And I know I'm not the only one! Maybe right now he's asking you to let go of what has served you well but you've outgrown. That season is over and what you need now is something very different. But different isn't always a bad thing! In fact, different can often usher in amazing things--if we'd only let it.

So what are you dragging back into your life today? Be willing to let it go. Because unlike our ability with our dog, God isn't going to force you to change. That's our decision to make. He'll present it to us. He'll give us chances. He'll sometimes even tell us why it's good to let go. But ultimately, we have to be willing to open our hands, release, and then receive.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Ready to Fumble by Christy Barritt

Christy Barritt is a prolific author of suspense. She both self-publishes and writes with Love Inspired Suspense. And she has a new series out titled "The Worst Detective Ever". Something about those words snagged my interest...and made me laugh. So I picked up the first book in the series. Here's a small blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!


Joey Darling, better known to the world as Raven Remington, detective extraordinaire, is trying to separate herself from her invincible alter ego. She played the spunky character for five years on the hit TV show Relentless, which catapulted her to fame and into the role of Hollywood’s sweetheart. When her marriage falls apart, her finances dwindle to nothing, and her father disappears, Joey finds herself on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, trying to piece her life back together away from the limelight. A woman finds Raven—er, Joey—and insists on hiring her fictional counterpart to find a missing boyfriend. When someone begins staging crime scenes to match an episode of Relentless, Joey has no choice but to get involved. Joey’s bumbling sleuthing abilities have her butting heads with Detective Jackson Sullivan and kindling sparks with thrill-seeking neighbor Zane Oakley. Can Joey channel her inner Raven and unearth whodunit before she ends up totally done in? And where is her father anyway? Can she handle fame or is disappearing into obscurity the wiser option?

Much like Barritt's "Squeaky Clean Mysteries" series, this new one is written in first person and with plenty of wit. Christy Barritt has mastered her tagline of "Quirky mysteries and spine-tingling suspense". And here in one of her quirky mysteries there are still plenty of suspenseful moments, but none that have you reaching to flip the lights back on.

With Ready to Fumble we're introduced to a new character, Joey Darling. She's strong and smart, and I like that about her. I also like that she has a sense of humor and is a very unlikely detective. Like other Barritt books, a love triangle is set up in this book. Here's the only thread I struggled with. I won't lie, I'm not in love with the character of Zane. I do like that he's very different from Jackson, but at times I felt Zane bordered a caricature of a surfer-boy and seemed too young for Joey. I missed what drew her to him, and that made the third angle of the love-triangle lacking for me. That being said, the mystery moved at a very good pace and the remaining characters were a joy to meet. I looked forward to the second book coming out, which did this week!

I happily give Ready to Fumble 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Imitation Game

I've been reading 2 Kings lately, a book that never ceases to amaze me! Every time I read it I shake my head how chapter after chapter follows the same pattern of the Kings of Israel and Judah not following God. And where the King went, the people followed. They had so much God wanted to give them and do through them, but they forfeited it due to their continued lack of obedience.

As I was reading the repeating pattern, I came across words in 2 Kings 17:15 that made me pause. The chapter starts in much the same fashion as the previous ones and goes on to share how the Israelites were stiff-necked and unwilling to listen or follow the Lord. Then it says, "They imitated the nations around them..." and those few words made me stop. Actually, it was one word: imitate.


What got them in trouble was that instead of being the unique nation God created them to be, they tried to be someone else. Oh friends! How we do the same! Constantly faced with social media posts and air-brushed advertisements (to just name a few items) we strive to be like what we see rather than who God created us to be. And in doing so, not only do we miss out, but those around us do as well. Imitation is not the best form of flattery, it's the best way to miss your destiny. You were created for a specific purpose and plan (check out Ephesians 2:10 or Jeremiah 29:11) and when you choose to imitate someone else rather than walking in your unique purpose, there's a hole smack dab where you should have been.

That's not to say that God cannot fill that hole with someone else. But oh! Why would you want to exchange the amazing plans he has for you to mimic someone else's? What God has for you is exceedingly more than you can ever come up with on your own (that's in Ephesians also, chapter 3, verse 20.) so don't settle. Don't imitate. Seek out God and all he has for you. And start today.