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.


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


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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vengeance or Grace?

So I was sitting in church a while ago and the sermon was on forgiveness. I've got to say, in my life I've had to practice that quite a bit--on both the giving and receiving end. I was rather sure I had it down too, because quite honestly, I don't want to spend my time here bitter and hardened. Not forgiving doesn't hurt anyone but ourselves, and I'm just not willing to go there any longer.

When our pastor asked this question: "When you think about something bad happening to that person, do you get a little satisfaction, even just a twinge?" I could easily answer "no." In fact, I smiled at God and said, "I've got this God, right? I'm soooo past this one, we covered it years ago. Vengeance is all yours, I've left them with you."

But after my pastor's question, God followed it up with a deeper one--because He's God, and He likes to do that, especially when He sees those little corners of our hearts.

"But what if you're idea of vengeance doesn't match up with mine?"

Uh. Say what?

And He didn't stop there. Oh no. He went on.

"What if I save them. Redeem them. Give them grace instead of revenge?"

Yeah. Not a picture I'd thought of before.

And I know He wasn't talking about consequences. Of course there are consequences to sin--but they are God's to hand out, not mine. And while I can dream all the consequences up that I want, there's no guarantee they are the same ones God will be handing out. In fact, I may never see their consequences, but I sure may see their salvation and healing--and I should be praying for it. (oh, and be OK with it too--like even celebrating it, even if it's just a quiet "woo-whoo" in my heart.)

Gives a whole new meaning to: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:44

And yet why was the whole purpose God came? "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost" Luke 19:10 and "...He is not willing that any should perish, but everyone should come to repentence." 2 Peter 3:9. That includes the person you're trying so hard to forgive.

See, God calls us to something deeper than simply forgiveness when He calls us to pray for them. He calls us to the ultimate end goal--their souls. That doesn't mean we even continue unhealthy relationships. But just because we may need to sever a relationship does not mean we sever our prayers for them.

Believe me, I know what I'm saying is not simple. Exactly how I felt when God nailed me between the eyes with it. But it is His Word, and it is freeing. It happens in steps. Slowly releasing that person to God, and remembering the same grace that has saved us is the same grace He wants to extend to them. Forgiveness is a daily, hourly thing at times, and if you're wondering if you can do it, remember this verse too:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13

And you can. You can release them and pray for their salvation and healing. You can give up your idea of vengeance for God's gift of grace. You can do it because it's been done for you, and His strength now resides in you.

It may take a minute-by-minute reliance on God, but His power is made perfect in our weakness. Pray with Him today, ask Him to start this work on your heart, and then allow Him to move. You'll be amazed at what seems impossible, God makes more than possible.

Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God." Luke 18:27

Let Him show you:)

Praying for you today!

***this post originally ran 5/2013***

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon

It's been a bit since I'd read an Irene Hannon book, so I picked up Tangled Web with a readiness to dive back into her stories. She's an author I enjoy, and this book was no exception. Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime. A peaceful month in the woods sounds like the perfect way to decompress. But peace isn't on the agenda once he crosses paths with publishing executive Dana Lewis, a neighbor who is nursing wounds of her own. Someone seems bent on disrupting her stay in the lakeside cabin she inherited from her grandfather. As Finn and Dana work together to discover who is behind the disquieting pranks, the incidents begin to take on a menacing tone. And when it becomes apparent Dana's foe may have deadly intent, Finn finds himself back in the thick of the action--ready or not.

One thing I like about Hannon is her pacing. She keeps her plots moving at a good clip with rarely a slow moment. Everything that happens on the page is for a reason, and that keeps the reader pulled in and interested. Whether it's pushing the suspense forward, the romantic thread, or the antagonist's story, Hannon uses her words on the page wisely.

Overall I liked Finn and Dana very much. At times I wasn't as sold on the motivation behind their decisions, but they did maintain their believability and most moments were very organic. I did feel the end brought an easy out for one of the characters, but I could also identify with why Hannon chose to write it the way she did. I loved the interaction between Finn and his brothers as well, reminding me that I haven't read the first book in the series yet but do want to! And as for Finn and Dana, Hannon balanced the romance and suspense incredibly well, something she's become very adept at doing.

Tangled Webs entertained from start to finish with very little I disliked about it--which is no surprise when it comes to an Irene Hannon novel. I happily give it 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Day Off

Hey all!

Between my hubby having surgery Friday (he's doing well, but we'd welcome prayers of healing!) and my youngest being sick the entire week (5+ days with fever), I'm taking a necessary day off to care for them both.

I'll be back Friday with a book review. Until then, have a happy Monday and great rest of your week!

Friday, February 10, 2017

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

I have followed this series since Hunter's debut and was excited to pick up this, the third in the series. When I got my hands on it, I quickly dove in knowing I'd enjoy the story. So here's a small blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier if she hid in her older sister's shadow--which worked until her sister got married. Even with thepressure of her socially ambitious mother, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience to save her previously spotless reputation.

Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn't be happier that he is not the duke in the family. He's free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, which includes grand plans of wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he doesn't know, his dream of a marriage like his parents' seems lost forever. 

Already starting their marriage on shaky ground, can Adelaide and Trent's relationship survive the pressures of London society?

The book opens at Adelaide and Trent's wedding. I have to say, that caught me off guard. I felt as though I was missing something and for once, wished for a prologue. Quite honestly, I'd have loved to see a few of the moments that led to their being forced to wed. We definitely see snippets of it throughout the book as they recall the incident, but I would have loved to see it on page. Tossing that aside, the start of the book sets our protagonists up for quite a bit of conflict. It was an interesting concept that definitely snagged the story-teller and reader in me, and I happily dove into this tale. And overall, I really enjoyed it. I do believe Hunter could have added more interactions between the two and found a bit of a faster pace at times, but when Adelaide and Trent were together, their relationship was one I rooted for. They definitely had many obstacles to overcome.

I found Trent's desire to court his wife adorable and romantic. I could relate to Adelaide's insecurities and had an intense dislike of her mother. Hunter nails these characters, their desires, and their fears, making them very believable. And while I still love the first book of this series the most, it was wonderful to finally see Trent receive his happily ever after with such a deserving woman. His tender treatment and protection of her made him the hero we already believed he could be.

Overall I give An Uncommon Courtship 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here. Please note that while this is book number three in the series, they can all be read as stand alones.

Happy reading, friends!

Monday, February 6, 2017

God is Good

Life hurts.

Ever experience that?

Ever wonder why bad things happen to you?

Me too.

But when bad things happen to us, does that change who God is? It certainly has the potential to change how we see Him. But make no mistake, it does not change Him.  Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The circumstances around us do not change Him. No matter what, “He faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love." (Psalm 33:4-5)

Even in pain, God is faithful.

Just look at Joseph’s story. Sold into slavery by his brothers. Wrongly accused of a crime and thrown in jail. Left there after he helped a fellow prisoner who promised to remember him but didn’t. Read his story. It starts in Genesis 37—you get a little interlude in chapter 38, but it returns to Joseph in 39—and you’ll see, though we follow God, things are not always perfect. However, God is good.

He never left Joseph’s side. He restored him to a place of honor. He sowed healing into Joseph’s heart through forgiveness. And through all the bad things that happened, God was following His plan for Joseph’s life. Growing Joseph even while keeping Joseph in His hand. In the end what does Joseph say to his brothers who set the whole ball in motion when they sold him? “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50:20) 

Looking back (hindsight offers us so much, doesn’t it?) Joseph could see God’s plan for his life. He could connect the dots and understand why there were moments of pain. How it shaped him. How it brought him to where God wanted him to be. Did Joseph struggle during those moments? You bet. But he never let go of his grip on God, and ultimately he could look and see that God is good. And he could testify to that, even with all the awful things that had happened to him.

I don’t know what you’re going through at the moment, but I do know this. God is good. Cling to that. Repeat it. Believe it. And each morning, wake up and praise Him—the devil hates that! Don’t let satan take what is harming your life and use it for evil. Grab it back, and let God use it for good.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Still Life by Dani Pettrey

You all know I love a good suspense, and Dani Pettrey's newest series is off to a great start. Still Life is number two in the group and I just finished it. Here's a short blurb and we'll chat on the other side!

Dani Pettrey knows how to write a good romantic suspense. I loved her "Alaskan Courage" series and was incredibly excited to dig into this one. However, when Cold Shot debuted, I was left slightly let down. I still loved the book, but it wasn't quite what I expected. Now digging into book two in this series I find I'm warming to the change of pace. The "Chesapeake Valor" series leans even more toward an ensemble cast with shared screen time than her past books. The pacing is slightly different than "Alaskan Courage" series, but that isn't a bad thing. In fact, I'm finding it a good thing. It's just enough of a difference to keep things fresh while maintaining Pettrey's voice.

In Still Life we revisit Avery Tate and Parker Mitchell. They've realized their attraction--one we all picked up on in book one--but aren't quite sure what to do about it. Avery was ready to build a relationship with Parker, but he wasn't able to let go of his first love who'd died. Yet he knows he's come to care for Avery. Pettrey does a wonderful job of writing Parker's struggle and moving him forward while also making Avery patient yet strong. These two are well matched, and I loved seeing them on page together. They are definitely a couple you'll root for.

The suspense and twists in this book were very well done. For some the subject matter at times may borderline creepy, but as one who gets creeped out easily, I found it never quite got as dark as it could. Pettrey balanced that darker story with enough light to keep you turning pages rather than setting the book down. My only complaint was the ending seemed slower paced than it could have been. While twists were revealed, they seemed to lack any heart-racing moment. Still, this is definitely a read you'll want to add to your shelf, especially as Pettrey manages to take the on-going back story to another level, feeding the reader just enough information to keep you sucked into the mystery that will no doubt span this entire series.

All together I've come to really enjoy this series. While one couple is high-lighted in each book--their story is told and they receive their HEA--this is very much a bigger cast series. The page time is split with other POVs as Pettrey has done in the past, and there's evidence that something much bigger is going on in the background of this cast's lives. I think the final book is where we'll receive that pay-off. That fact has sucked me in, and I'm eagerly awaiting book number three to continue the ride with these characters.

I happily give Still Life 4 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here. It is a stand-alone, but I highly recommend reading Cold Shot as well if you haven't done so yet. Happy reading, friends!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bottomless Pit

I have a teenage son. He eats all the time, as teenage sons do, and reaches more often for whatever is quick and convenient. He truly is a bottomless pit. And you know what? I can be one too. Spiritually speaking that is.

See, we were created with a cavernous hole that only God can fill. Because of this, we have a constant hunger in our spirit. And much like a teenager, we don't always reach for the best things to fill it. We tend to reach for people, asking them to fill the emptiness inside of us and getting upset when they cannot. We reach for success, feeling less-than when we don't reach the mark we've set for ourselves (one often set by comparing our lives to others). We reach out for money, but when it's bought us everything on our list and filled our bank accounts, we still feel empty. Even gaining status or the title you strive for doesn't satisfy for long.

That list can go on. Some of us even reach for alcohol or drugs to try and fill what has left us feeling so hollow. But nothing can fill the spot meant for God. This yearning is supposed to be here because it's meant to make us hungry for him. And when we turn to him, when we seek him, he is faithful to fill us to overflowing so that we will never be hungry or thirsty again.

What are you trying to fill your bottomless pit with today? If it's anything other than Jesus, let go of it right now and turn to him. He's right there waiting with all you'll ever need.

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35

Friday, January 27, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - Control Girl by Shannon Popkin

One of the things I love most about working in women's ministry is the vast amount of Bible studies I am privileged to have sneak peaks at seeing. When Shannon Popkin's debut, Control Girl, ended up in my hands, I was immediately hooked by that title. I'll admit to battling this issue in my life, and I couldn't wait to delve into the subject. So here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!

Little fights with your husband and kids. Unhappiness when things don't match your version of perfect. Tension, anger, fear, anxiety--it all begins with a heart that craves control. When your perspective of how life should go replaces God's, you doom your quest for security, peace, and joy before it even starts. 

Thankfully, there is a better way.

Join Shannon as she shares what she has discovered about her own control struggles and 
about God from studying seven Control Girls in the Bible. Whether it was Eve's desire to know instead of trust, Sarah's inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah's controlling hand on her family's future, each of these women's stories contain warnings and lessons for us today. 

Learn how you too can lay down this burden of trying to control everything and find rest in surrendering to the One who truly is in control.

Like I mentioned above, the title immediately grabbed my attention, but it was the sub-title that hooked me. I love Bible studies that delve into the lives of the women (and men) of the Bible. The reminder that real people dealt with the same struggles as we do--and have since the beginning of time--makes me feel not so alone. It also allows me to see the reality of victory through Christ Jesus. Popkin does an amazing job at this. She has a way of balancing personal moments with the age-old Biblical stories that allow women of today to completely connect with the material. I found the read easy and enjoyable while also pushing me to surrender several areas of my life to God's shoulders rather than my own--a struggle I wage daily:)

Popkin's debut is filled with these relatable stories and attainable applications that will have you releasing any tight grips you still hold on areas you need to release. She backs everything up with Scripture, which only made the strength of this study greater, for there is no stronger Truth to change our lives than the Word of God. 

I truly enjoyed this study and happily give it 5 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here.

Happy reading, friends!

***I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.***

Friday, January 20, 2017

Bookshelf Friday - The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

I've only read one other book by Michelle Griep, and I liked it well enough to keep a watch on her name. The Captive Heart released in October, and I finally had a chance to read it. I'm so glad I did! Here's a short blurb and we'll chat on the other side.

Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a brute of an employer. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.

The Captive Heart was one of my favorite novels in some time. Maybe because Griep did such an amazing job of sweeping me straight into the wooded colonies and the struggles occurring there. At times I felt more as if I was watching a movie than reading, and that only enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

I fell in love not only with the setting, but with these two characters--three if you count Samuel's daughter, Grace. Samuel was such a strong male lead, and Griep balanced that strength with emotion that only served to deepen his character on every page. Adding Eleanor into the mix, a woman who only rose to the challenges placed in front of her, made this book a story I didn't want to put down. The plot was well paced, the story elements organic, and the ending...well one that definitely delivered a sigh-worthy smile. I happily recommend The Captive Heart, and you can purchase it here.

Happy reading, Friends!