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!