Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fiction Book Review: Where the Fire Falls: A Vintage National Parks Novel by Karen Barnett


Book Description:
Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as "pervaded with divine light."

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region's wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.

    After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he's faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?

    As Clark opens Olivia's eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park's story as its vistas--a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

My Review:
Where the Fire Falls is a refreshing and exciting read with some unexpected twists and turns. Karen Barnett captures the amazing essence of Yosemite National Park. Even though I've never been there, I feel like I went on vacation. Her description of the scenery pulled me into the majestic outdoor space. I loved Olivia and Clark's stories. They grabbed my attention from the first page. I also appreciate the way Karen weaves the gospel in throughout the story. Reading about Clark's journey encouraged me as his faith grew. Olivia's story was original, creative, and well done. I've not read many books set in the 1920s. That was a nice change. This book is a five star for sure. I received this book for free from NetGalley with not expectation of a good or bad review.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Blessed to Work


1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12
Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

My dad shared his wisdom through actions more than his words. He taught my siblings and me to be responsible and have a solid work ethic. How did he do that? He set the standard by working hard himself. By trade he was a welder. But he was also a man who could fix most anything. I remember when Tim and I purchased a house that needed a lot of fixing, I came home from work and found him and my daughter, Hannah, on the roof repairing the shingles. He was in his seventies. After I finished freaking out a little, he assured me he was fine and not to worry. He went back to his work and patched up the roof.
I'm thankful I learned to work hard. Both Dad and Mom taught us to be responsible and respectful. Not just in our daily labor, but in the work we do for Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4 is one of my favorite passages. I've been a crafter for years, and I work on the computer every day. So I've literally worked with my hands my whole life. In leading a quiet life, I hope I've blessed others as I've labored for Jesus. In Thessalonians, Paul is telling the people not to rest on their laurels, but to continue in their daily work and their efforts for the Lord. I pray we can instill responsibility and respect in younger folks, so that they will learn the value of hard work, both in their jobs and in loving Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Like a Baseball Team


1 Peter 4:10-11
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 

My grandson, Zeke, stood on the pitcher's mound. At eight years old his excitement for the game of baseball shined. As the inning progressed Zeke and the first baseman made a great play to get the runner out. All the young men on the team filled different positions throughout the game. As they ran and hit and caught the ball their skills increased. I witnessed them finding their potential and strengths.

My other grandson on the team, Eli, shows the gift of encouragement. He cheered Zeke on as he pitched. Another young man, A.J., shows compassion for his teammates. The boys are not only learning the game of baseball, they are realizing their gifts.

Watching Zeke and Eli on the field reminds me of God's plan for people. Everyone of us has God-given gifts. Some are speaking, serving, being hospitable, and so many more. Each one of us has a reason for being, a purpose. One of my gifts is encouragement, which led me to write my blog. Through that gift I reach out beyond myself, follow God's heart, and give a bit of joy and hope to anyone who reads the words.

God creates each of us with our own passions and he gives us the tools to pursue them. If we pray, read God's word, listen, and pay attention, God reveals to us how to use the gifts he's filled us with. Then like a baseball team, we work together for God's kingdom—each of us in our position, ready to commit to the team. Are you on God's team?
What's your gift? I'd love to know.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Love in a Mist


My dear friend, Phoebe, gave me this beautiful blossom in a sweet bouquet. 
Blue blooms are not as common as pink, white, or yellow flowers, but they are so lovely.

Fiction Book Review: A Vast and Gracious Tide by Lisa Carter


Book Description:
A wounded veteran and the police chief’s daughter must work together to bring a killer to justice.

Caden Wallis lost friends, his girlfriend, and even his leg to the ravages of war. He arrives on the Outer Banks broken and still reeling, struggling to make peace with his new life.

McKenna Dockery has been stuck in limbo since her fiancé died three years ago. Now, when the handsome yet heartbroken Caden arrives at her doorstep, she starts to wonder if there may be hope for her heart after all . . .

But no sooner do they meet than a man is found murdered on McKenna’s property — and Caden is the prime suspect. The two must learn to trust each other, or no one will be safe in the tangled web of conspiracy, greed, and deceit lurking in the tidal marshlands of the Outer Banks.

My Review:
I loved reading A Vast and Gracious Tide. Not just the intriguing mystery, but the story of Caden's life after war, an injured soldier, both physically and mentally. I enjoyed reading Caden's story as it unrolled and intertwined with McKenna's. The setting for the story, the Outer Banks, is written beautifully. The small town feel creates a cozy background for the mystery. If you enjoy small town  life, ocean settings, and well-
written mystery with romance, I recommend A Vast and Gracious Tide. I received this book from NetGalley with no expectation of a good or bad review.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Fiction Review: Justice Betrayed by Patricia Bradley


Book Description:
It's Elvis Week in Memphis, and homicide Detective Rachel Sloan isn't sure her day could get any stranger when aging Elvis impersonator Vic Vegas asks to see her. But when he produces a photo of her murdered mother with four Elvis impersonators--one of whom had also been murdered soon after the photo was taken--she's forced to reevaluate. Is there some connection between the two unsolved cases? And could the recent break-in at Vic's home be tied to his obsession with finding his friend's killer?

When yet another person in the photo is murdered, Rachel suddenly has her hands full investigating three cases. Lieutenant Boone Callahan offers his help, but their checkered romantic past threatens to get in the way. Can they solve the cases before the murderer makes Rachel victim number four?
 
My Review:
Rachel Sloan sticks her neck out in Justice Betrayed, Book #3 of the Memphis Cold Case series. Rachel is new to the homicide department so she wants to prove herself worthy of the job. She's smart and skilled, but her emotions tend to get the best of her. In other words, she's a realistic hero. I enjoyed the banter and friendship between Rachel and Lieutenant Boone, as well as the relationship Rachel has with a young friend. If you love Elvis, that adds another plus to the story. There are plenty of references to him and his legacy. This story is an exciting mix of CSI and Cold Case. I received this book for free from Revell with no expectation of a good or bad review.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Fiction Review: Where Hope Begins by Catherine West


Book Description:
Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.
Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

My Review:
Where Hope Begins is one of those books that draws the reader in and doesn't let go. Then after you finish, the story lingers. Savannah Barrington's life is filled with sorrow, confusion, and trouble. But God has a plan. While I read, my emotions roller coastered up and down. At one point I thought I knew how I wanted the book to end, then changed my mind several times.  I was pleased that the author created the perfect ending for Savannah. Catherine West is a talented writer who tackled some very difficult subjects in this book. Some that are hard to think about but need to be understood. If you do read this book, read the author's notes after you finish. FYI-Some of the characters drink alcohol even though this is considered an inspirational/Christian book. I'm not a fan of that, but that said, the story is five star. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Life Long Foot Race


Acts 20:22-24
"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."

Kati sprinted up the slight grade on North Sandusky Street in Delaware (Columbus). She'd already trekked over six miles and had six plus to go to reach the half-marathon mark of 13.1 miles. Along with Kati and many other runners, a group of people accompanied individuals who couldn't run the course by themselves. These inspiring people pushed their friends' wheelchairs and helped them finish their race.

As I sat along the side of the street and witnessed runner after runner complete the course, Paul's words in Acts came to mind; "my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me." All Paul wished to do was finish his service to Jesus, the race of his life. As a follower of Christ, I am right there with Paul. But sometimes I need someone to run alongside me.

I can't quite wrap my mind around running so many steps at one time. Even though I'm not able to physically run anymore, I can support my family and friends who do. With positive words and just being present to boost their spirit, I can support and cheer. Just like Paul who depended on his friends to help him to the end of his race, we need each other's encouragement and the Holy Spirit's urging to stay the course and cross the finish line. The race we run for Jesus is filled with obstacles. But with a little help from our friends and sustenance from God's word, we can finish the race "of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." One step at a time wins!
Who can you encourage this week?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Stinky or Pleasant, What's Your Scent?


John 12:3
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Sometimes the world stinks, literally. Like when we drive past Mount Rumpke, the local
trash dump, along the highway. The odor is too much. I pull the neck of my shirt over my nose just to drive by. And how about the smelly perfume or aftershave that's been poured on the man or woman you sit next to at a restaurant. A little goes a long way.

For years I grew herbs in my flower beds. Not so much to cook with, but to inhale the lovely smells. Herbs have an earthy, natural scent that not only refreshes me, but reminds me of the goodness of Jesus. Chives and garlic, with the purple tufts on top of their long slender green stems, give of an odor of strength and protection. People use garlic to ward of colds and illness. The refreshing fragrance from those pretty seed heads on dill remind me of bursts of joy. Then there are the spicy herbs like oregano that give a boost, encouragement, and enthusiasm. My favorite of all the herbs, lavender, produces a scent that fills me with a peace beyond my comprehension, much like the peace Jesus pours over me when I believe no peace can be found.

As Jesus followers, we leave a distinct odor in our path. Whether a smelly garbage dump or a lovely scent of peace and encouragement. When Mary, Martha's sister, went to Jesus she had a desire to fill the room with the most beautiful scent she had available to her. She took the most expensive perfume, usually saved for burial, and poured it over Jesus feet. The love she poured out with the oil created a lasting scent of dedication to her Savior.

What fragrance or odor do you leave behind? A stink or a pleasant reminder of faith in Jesus?
Ephesians 5:1-2 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Straight Arrow Planning or the Arrow Dance?


Proverbs 16:9
In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

Have you seen the picture of the black arrow shooting across the white page, from point A to point B, that represents what we think life's path should be. Next to that is a white background with a black lined arrow that curves and squiggles as it crosses back and forth over itself. The second one with all the twists and turns represents living life as it happens.

As more of a point A to point B person, I like to know what's coming and when. That's probably due to my anxiety. But guess what. God has been working on me for years, teaching me the best laid plans may not be the straightest.

I know God lays desires on my heart. He gives me ideas to plan my course, but the path I take is seldom straight as an arrow. Most of the time, I go over and around the mountain to get to where I'm going. And sometimes, I shoot past where I'm headed, only to land where God intended.

As a teenager, he placed a desire on my heart to pursue a bachelors degree. To me, that meant going four years to college, right after high school graduation. Straight arrow planning! But the plan played out much differently that I dreamed. When I finally received that diploma, I was 48 years old. God knew the big picture. He understood what I needed and when.

I'm considering retirement now. I don't know when, but I'm gathering information. Although I don't know the details, I trust that God does. He sees the big picture of the arrow dance. He understands every step of the curvy route we live. In prayer, I'm seeking God's wisdom to guide me. I'm trusting him to show me the way.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fiction Review: The Fashion Designer by Nancy Moser


Book Description:
The American Dream thrives in 1912 New York City

Annie Wood, the housemaid-turned-pattern designer in The Pattern Artist, jumps at the chance to design her own clothing line when a wealthy New York couple offers to finance her endeavor. Joining the project is Annie’s new husband, Sean Culver, her best friend at Butterick, Maude Nascato, and a mother figure, Edna Holmquist.

Annie and her colleagues give up their careers, risking everything to follow a shared passion: clothes that are both fashionable and functional for modern, busy women in 1912.

Personal and financial setbacks test old relationships and new romances while threatening to keep the business from ever selling a single dress. No one said it would be easy. But the promise of the American Dream holds a deep hope for those who work hard, trust God, and never give up.

My Review:
I was delighted to read, The Fashion Designer, the follow-up story to Annie's journey into the world of design. Nancy Moser sews her research of the fashion industry in the early twentieth century into a perfect pattern of hope and determination. I loved the camaraderie of the entrepreneurial ladies and their desire to grow a business. There are many ups and downs in the story, but regardless of the situation the characters faith shines in the face of controversy. This is a book filled with excitement for women at the turn of the century, love among the wonderful characters, and hope for family and friends. I highly recommend this beautiful story. If you haven't read book one of the series, The Pattern Artist, check it out too. I received this book for free with no expectation of a good or bad review. This book is available July 1, 2018. Pre-order on Amazon.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

He Will Give You Rest


Matthew 11:28-30
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I've spoken to a lot of women lately who say the same thing. "I'm so tired." Me included. Whether they are running after pre-schoolers, staying up late waiting for their teenager to come home, working long hours, volunteering, or just tired of the chaos of living. We're all tired. Whether 21 or 91, we live in a world where we're worn out too much of the time. I'm sure men feel the same way. Living life on this earth is exhausting. Whether physical labor or emotional exhaustion, life takes the gumption right out of us.

And Jesus knew this would happen. That's why in all of his wisdom, he offers us relief. The only rest that removes burdens and allows us to sleep at night, comes from Jesus. His arms are wide open to receive our anxieties, worries, and burdens. Jesus offers to carry our cares. He asks that we give them to him. Through prayer, release the weight of life and let him take your load. He's willing and able.
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Children's Book Review: Nighty Night and Good Night by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki



Book Description:
Nighty Night and Good Night is the first book in a series of bedtime books by multiple Grammy and Dove Award-winning recording artist Michael W. Smith and VeggieTales co-creator Mike Nawrocki. In Nighty Night and Good Night, the stuffed animal band the Nighty Nights are called upon to help their friend Ben try to fall to sleep. This cute and sleepy adventure leads Lamby, Bear, and Sleepy Puppy to discover that a classic lullaby might just do the trick.

This book includes a link that allows readers to listen to Michael W. Smith sing the same lullaby that helps put Ben to sleep.

My Review:
Young children will enjoy this sweet bedtime story. And once they listen to the lullaby, they'll want to sing it before they go to bed. That would be a great nightly routine to help get children to sleep. The story is simple and aimed at giving comfort to the child as they doze off. The cute illustrations will bring a smile to little faces. I received this book for free from Zonderkidz with no expectation of a good or bad review.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

How about a God Hug?


Psalm 91:1-2
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

I have a friend who talks about "God kisses." Those moments when life works out. Maybe your path runs across that of a friend you haven't seen in a while, or an unexpected opportunity opens. For me, even the sight of my lavender tulips felt like a God kiss, a tiny joy of spring. But then there are those times when I need more. I may feel a little lost in my path. Sadness affects my life, anxiety gets me down. During those times, a God kiss is sweet, but I need a "God hug." A big old, God pulls me into him, hug.

Yes, an embrace from God. Many times those come to me on Sunday morning, while I'm standing in church singing worship music. I close my eyes and picture myself walking into the most comforting hug I can imagine. That's how it works for me, but God reaches out to us in so many ways. Maybe as you walk along your favorite trail, or drive down the road in your car (just don't close your eyes) you feel his arms around you. Perhaps while you rock a newborn, or sit quietly reading the Bible. God offers his open arms whenever we want to step into them. He's our comfort and safe place.
I'm grateful for a God who offers me shelter and his shadow for rest.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Fiction Review: Dancing in the Rain by Eileen Rife & Jennifer Slattery


Description:
On the verge of college graduation, Loni Parker seeks employment as a music teacher, but no one will hire her since she’s blind. Or so she thinks. To take her mind off her troubles,
her roommate invites her to spring retreat at Camp Hope in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains. Unbeknown to Loni, Michael Ackerman, the director, is an ex-con responsible for the accident that caused her blindness. When Loni warms up to camp and to Michael, and wants to return as a summer counselor, Michael opposes the idea, which only makes Loni want to prove herself all the more.

Camp director Michael Ackerman recognizes Loni instantly and wants to avoid her at all costs. Yet, despite the guilt pushing him from her, a growing attraction draws him to the determined woman. She sees more with her heart than the average person does with his eyes. But her presence also dredges up a long-buried anger toward his alcoholic father that he’d just as soon keep hidden. When circumstances spin out of control, Michael is forced to face a past that may destroy his present.


My Review:
Dancing in the Rain is a beautifully written story of changed hearts and forgiveness. Eileen and Jennifer did an excellent job with Loni's point of view as someone who is blind. The description they gave of what Loni hears, tastes, touches and smells had to be a challenge. Yet, they did this with beauty and grace. As I read, I had a better understanding of Loni's trials and a great appreciation for her ability to stand on her own and face her challenges with confidence. I loved the camp setting. The author's description reminded me of all the times I attended camp. I can't write a good review without mentioning my favorite character, Loni's guide dog, John Thomson. He's an exquisite creature she trusts with her life. Michael's story is also one to be appreciated. I love this story's unique perspective. I received this book for free, with no expectation of a good or bad review. This book will be available on Amazon in late May.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Prayers Reach Heaven


2 Chronicles 30:27
The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.

I love to witness our grandchildren's prayers. Their sweet "Charlie Brown" voices resound with sincerity. No traces of doubt color their words. They know God listens to them as they bless the food, or ask God to make their friend or family feel better. Children trust God to listen. So why is it, as adults, doubts niggle in to our prayers. We dismiss talking to God as childish or pointless. Belief slips and fear takes over.

Maybe in life, no one listens. Days are too noisy with social media, television, negativity, or defeat to reach out. Then there are the busy days. Too much to do, not enough time. Or, maybe we think God doesn't want to hear from us anyway. How could he? I'm a sinner, why would he listen to me? But I have amazing news! The creator of the universe, God himself, loves you and me. He considers us his children. And he wants to hear our words. Whether we pray out loud or think our prayers, every single word we breath toward him is precious to him.

"He turned his ear to me." Yes he leans toward us, with his ear in our direction, ready to listen. I love the picture 2 Chronicles paints of prayers rising to heaven. Because that's what happens—prayers rise and God leans down to listen. That's just beautiful!
Psalm 116:2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fiction Book Review: Julie by Catherine Marshall



Welcome to this stop on the Julie by Catherine Marshall Reissue Celebration Blog Tour with JustRead Publicity Tours!



Title: Julie
Author: Catherine Marshall
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
ReIssue Date: April 17, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance Fiction

· JustRead landing page

Purchase Julie at:
· Amazon
· Itunes

Will the dam hold?

Julie Wallace has always wanted to write. Trying to escape the Great Depression, Julie’s father buys the Alderton Sentinel, a small-town newspaper in flood-prone Alderton, Pennsylvania, and moves his family there. As flash floods ominously increase, Julie’s investigative reporting uncovers secrets that could endanger the entire community.

Julie, the newspaper, and her family are thrown into a perilous standoff with the owners of the steel mills as they investigate the conditions of the immigrant laborers. As the Alderton Sentinel and Julie take on a more aggressive role to reform these conditions, seething tensions come to a head.

When a devastating tragedy follows a shocking revelation, Julie’s courage and strength are tested.  
Will truth and justice win, or will Julie lose everything she holds dear?

My Review:
I read the story of Julie, years ago, when my grandmother gave me a copy. I've enjoyed it now as much as I did then. Julie's story is a powerful testimony to faith. Alderton was a town filled with problems, but within the framework we meet several wonderful, faithful people. I especially enjoyed the way Julie's family worked together to try to establish a newspaper and the many folks who God sent to help them. Catherine Marshall's research about the Johnstown flood and difficult working and living conditions for the blue collar workers enhance the story with accuracy and believeability. The story is full of excitement, a bit of romance, a thread of faith, and a nod to families and people who work together for the good that God has called them to. If you haven't read this wonderful book, you have a chance to now. Julie is being re-released by Gilead Publishing. I'd also recommend this story for Young Adult readers. I received a complimentary copy of the book and a positive review is not required.


About the author:

Catherine Marshall (1914-1983)
, “The New York Times” best-selling author of 30 books, is best known for her novel “Christy.” Based on the life of her mother, “Christy” captured the hearts of millions and became a popular CBS television series. Around the kitchen table at Evergreen Farm, as her mother reminisced, Catherine probed for details and insights into the rugged lives of these Appalachian highlanders. Catherine shared the story of her husband, Dr. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate, in “A Man Called Peter.” A decade after Dr. Marshall’s untimely death, Catherine married Leonard LeSourd, Executive Editor of “Guideposts,” forging a dynamic writer-editor partnership. A beloved inspirational writer and speaker, Catherine’s enduring career spanned four decades and reached over 30 million readers.



(1) Winner will win: 

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Bookmark Swag
  • Necklace (exact or similar & *subject to change)
  • Print Copy of Julie

(Only Gift Card open internationally. Others open to US Mailing Addresses)

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