Saturday, August 11, 2018

He Created us on Purpose

GiraffePsalm 65:8
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.

Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Some days I feel like Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit when he yells, "I'm going on an adventure!" And we did, to an African savanna. As I sat on a motorized scooter, (because of my bum knee) I watched giraffes, ostriches, lions, and zebras roam together on the grassy plain. Fascinated by the elegant and graceful giraffes, I thought about the wonders God has made. It kind of blows my mind when I consider how many different animals God has created. Each time we've toured the Columbus Zoo, where our daughter works, we've never visited every exhibit in one trip.

God's creation is vast. So many incredible creatures roam the earth, and God designed them all. Just imagine God's love pouring over the earth as he formed and placed each creature in its home. Every animal roams their part of the world on purpose,  because of God's plan.

The almighty father who put the creatures on the earth, also made you and me. He designed us with purpose, to love him and to love each other. Like the animals, each individual has a role in this life. We have people to encourage and influence. We have work to do. We have a Savior to worship. Whatever situation I find myself in, I've learned to pray for God's guidance and purpose. I want to be a positive, encouraging influence for Jesus, even when I don't feel like it. 

Ask God what you can do for him each day. He loves us so much and wants to speak into our lives. Pray for purpose.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

No Matter What, Pray


Ephesians 3:14-19
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.



Some years ago, I reconnected with my college girlfriends. Since then we've renewed our strong bond of love for one another. Thanks to social media, we "talk" every week. Our Messenger thread is long and filled with our hearts' needs and joys. One of the beautiful things about our 40+ year friendship is our collective desire to follow and worship Jesus. Which makes it easy to share prayer requests. And we do. We pray for each other on a constant basis. There are days, I know my prayer warriors are raising me up to God, and I feel the love. I've sought prayer for other friends and my family, and they prayed. We do this because we love each other and we love our great Father, God.

In Ephesians 3, I love how Paul prays for his friends. He kneels before his Father and pours out his heart. He asks for strength and power through the Holy Spirit. And seeks to have Jesus fill their hearts with faith. Paul understood the magnitude and necessity of prayer. He knew that God wanted to hear from his people. That hasn't changed. God asks us to talk to him. He wants to hear from us. Simply because he loves us.
Pray when you're happy. Pray when you're sad. Pray with joy. Pray in fear. No matter what, pray. Talk to God. He's listening, always.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Historical Fiction Review: River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart


Book Description:
Orphaned in the cholera epidemic of 1833, Adria Starr was cared for by a slave named Louis, a man who stayed in Springfield, Kentucky, when anyone with means had fled. A man who passed up the opportunity to escape his bondage and instead tended to the sick and buried the dead. A man who, twelve years later, is being sold by his owners despite his heroic actions. Now nineteen, Adria has never forgotten what Louis did for her. She's determined to find a way to buy Louis's freedom. But in 1840s Kentucky, she'll face an uphill battle.

Based partly on a true story, Ann H. Gabhart's latest historical novel is a tour de force. The vividly rendered town of Springfield and its citizens immerse readers in a story of courage, betrayal, and honor that will stick with them long after they turn the last page.

My Review:
River to Redemption is a wonderful story, laced with hope. Ann Gabhart's research shines as she recounts the horrendous effects of cholera on a small town, plus the miserable circumstances of slavery. Even from the negative, she shares a beautiful story of love. The main character, Adria, is a brave young woman with a heart of gold and enough spunk to shake things up. Another character who touched my heart was Aunt Tilda. I've read several of Ann's books. I believe this is my favorite, so far. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but I'll read Ann's every time. She's that good.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Planting Seeds

Acts 4:1-4
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

Our neighbor plants hyacinth bean vine every summer. From the large terracotta pot, he strings wire from stakes in the dirt to a beam, so the plant will train its way up and stretch toward the sun. I enjoy watching the progress as the seeds germinate and push through the dirt and become seedlings. As they grow, large heart-shaped leaves emerge with pretty purple veins. By the end of summer purple blossoms spike from the stem, and deep purple seed pods dangle.

Like my neighbor's plant, my faith started from a seed sown by folks in my life who loved Jesus. The seed germinated because someone watered my faith with teaching and love, as God poured his grace over me. During challenging times I've pushed through the dirt of grief, stress, and sin to reach the Son. My stems have grown and stretched until I've produced flowers to encourage others and seeds to plant in someone else's life. What a beautiful process God has established. Love for Jesus begins with the tiniest kernel and stretches and grows throughout life to produce the glorious blossoms of his love.

In Acts 4, Peter and John planted the seeds of truth as they preached about Jesus. Even though the Sadducees were angered and threw Peter and John in jail, the people who heard the message took that seed and believed. "But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand." Jail time didn't stop Jesus' seeds of truth from sprouting and growing.
Who plants seeds in your life? Are you planting seeds?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Historical Fiction Book Review: The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright


Book Description:
For over a century, the town of Gossamer Grove has thrived on its charm and Midwestern values, but Annalise Forsythe knows painful secrets, including her own, hover just beneath the pleasant facade. Yet her strange and sudden inheritance of a run-down trailer home--full of pictures, vintage obituaries, and old revival posters--leaves her wholly unprepared for how truly dark and deadly those secrets may be.

A century earlier, Gossamer Grove is stirred into chaos by the arrival of controversial and charismatic twin revivalists. The chaos takes a murderous turn when Libby Sheffield, while working at her father's newspaper, receives an obituary for a reputable church deacon hours before his death. As she works with the deacon's son to solve the crime, it becomes clear that a reckoning has come to town--but it isn't until another obituary arrives at the paper that they realize the true depths of the danger they've waded into.

Two women, separated by a hundred years, must unravel the mysteries of their own town before it's too late and they lose their future--or their very souls.


My Review:
I've never read a book quite like The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. Moving between two centuries was fascinating but a bit difficult for me. However, the story is well written and interesting. Jaime Jo Wright's research into old-time tent revivals adds a mysterious and at times frightening aspect to the story. The twin revivalists, based on real people—provoke thought about how the approach of teaching Jesus matters and adds a dark note of suspense to an already mind bending story. I loved the part of the story where redemption steps into the lime light. Annalise's story made me want to turn the pages faster to see what happened next. The characters learn some hard lessons, but in the end..well I can't tell you that. You'll have to read for yourself. If you enjoy suspense and mystery mixed with history, you'll want to read The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House by way of NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.



Sunday, July 22, 2018

Historical Fiction Book Review: A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden


Book Description:
As a biochemist in early 1900s New York, Doctor Rosalind Werner has dedicated her life to the crusade against waterborne diseases. She is at the forefront of a groundbreaking technology that will change the way water is delivered to every household in the city--but only if she can get people to believe in her work.

Newly appointed Commissioner of Water for New York, Nicholas Drake is highly skeptical of Rosalind and her team's techniques. When a brewing court case throws him into direct confrontation with her, he is surprised by his reaction to the lovely scientist.

While Rosalind and Nick wage a private war against their own attraction, they stand firmly on opposite sides of a battle that will impact far more than just their own lives. As the controversy grows more public and inflammatory and Rosalind becomes the target of an unknown enemy, the odds stacked against these two rivals swiftly grow more insurmountable with every passing day.

My Review:
A Daring Venture is a fascinating story about scientist, Doctor Rosalind Werner and her struggle as a woman in an all male science field. She works to prove that her theories can save lives, even when her methods may be questionable. She's a strong character with a heart for saving people from water born disease. But who wants to listen to a petite lady when money and power are on the line. Nicholas Drake, charming and a little dangerous, climbed the ranks from plumber to a man who decides life and death decisions. But he has a soft spot for Rosalind. The back and forth of their relationship entertains. One of the things I like about this story is the light it brings to the conditions of living with contaminated water. Many countries still do. We can't take it for granted. Elizabeth Camden's research into the time period illuminates her wonderful writing. If you enjoy historical fiction, I recommend you read A Daring Venture. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Light of Hope

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Tim and I arrived at Marblehead, on Lake Erie, just in time to see the sunset and watch (my favorite ever) lighthouse signal a green light over the water. As I watched the waves lap, I tried to imagine navigating the lake in a seventeenth century schooner. Masts flapping in the wind, bobbing up and down in rhythm with the water sounds appealing, but no electricity and little privacy left me with no desire to sail the seas on an ancient vessel. But people did, many folks sailed the Great Lakes. When they neared land at night or in a storm they depended on the lighthouse to keep them from crashing into the shore. The glow of the Fresnel lens not only provided light, but safety, and comfort.

When Jesus proclaimed "I am the light of the world," the Pharisees questioned his integrity. They didn't understand that he'd come to bring grace and forgiveness to a troubled world. They didn't believe he was the hope God promised.

But I do. Jesus assures us whoever follows him will not walk in darkness. As I trust him, my path is illuminated by the hope Jesus offers. Like the lighthouse, he sheds light and gives warning even in the darkest night or the most tumultuous storm. He sheds the light that provides safety and peace. Yet unlike the lighthouse, Jesus hope doesn't sit on a majestic pinnacle. His light doesn't wait at the end of a tunnel. Instead, his radiance wraps itself around his followers. His light reflects on the heart as a constant companion, a steady ray of hope.
Jesus' light is with us—All.The.Time. Through loss, illness, frustration, indecision, depression, anxiety, stress. He never leaves. His light gives guidance and comfort. Open your heart to his light of hope.  

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Pitiful and Prayerful

Colossians 3:15-17
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Monday morning, back to work...

I took a couple of vacation days last week to hang out with my daughters, Hannah, Maggie, and Sara and their families. We played in the pool, watched grandsons play baseball, and enjoyed pedicures (thanks to Hannah.) Tim and I enjoyed a quiet Sunday. Then the dreaded Monday rolled around. Back to work and the daily grind. Ugh! After I dragged through my morning routine, I climbed in the Jeep, then headed to work. As I zipped along the familiar road, the pity party that danced in my head came to a screeching halt.

What was I thinking? Not what I should have been. My friend, Lori, faced an extensive surgery Monday morning. She found out she had cancer after a routine gall bladder surgery. And she could still find joy. Here I was acting pathetic because I had to go back to work. Shame on me. At that moment I realized my selfishness, and I prayed. First for forgiveness for being pitiful, then for Lori. I prayed hard because I want Lori to heal and be fully recovered from the cancer. She's a warrior for God who ministers in countless ways. Even through this tough time, she gives thanks to God.

Can you relate? Have you found yourself in the midst of a pity party, then realized how pathetic that is? We have so much to thank God for. My health isn't perfect, but I can get up and go to work. I get to spend time with my family and friends. I have people who love me. And so much more...
Today, I choose to thank God first thing in the morning.
There is a song on the radio right now that reminds me to be joy filled and grateful. 
Old Church Choir . Give it a listen!  



Friday, July 13, 2018

Historical Fiction Review: Minding the Light (Nantucket Legacy series) by: Suzanne Woods Fisher


Description:
"How could I have expected so much? How could I have given her so little in return?"

Six long years ago, Captain Reynolds Macy sailed away from his bride, looking forward to the day when he would return to Nantucket Island with a ship's hold full of whale oil. But when that momentous day finally arrives, Ren soon discovers that everything has changed in his absence. Everything.

Unlike most islanders, bold and spirited Daphne Coffin doesn't defer to Ren as an authoritative whalemaster, but sees through his aloofness to the aching heart beneath. She encourages him to return to his Quaker roots and "mind the Light," finding solace in God and community. As Ren becomes the man she believes him to be--honorable, wise, faithful--she finds herself falling in love with him.
But how can she, when her heart is spoken for? 


My Review:
Minding the Light is one of the most interesting historical settings I've read. I found the history of the Quakers on Nantucket fascinating. As I read the story of Daphne and Ren and continued following the diary of Daphne's great-great-great grandmother, the smells and sounds of a whaling town came to life from Suzanne Woods Fisher's pen. I could picture every detail. The characters vivid personalities made for an intriguing story. I'm looking forward to reading book three, The Light Before Day. If you are a historical fiction fan, you'll love this book. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Two Defining Forces


Romans 3:22-26
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

I just finished reading a book based on a letter written during the American Revolution. In the story one of the main character, along with an army of men, went to war with his muzzle loader to acquire the freedom of all Americans. Since that time, we've had countless soldiers continue to fight for the freedom of America. I thank God for those who have given their lives, their time and their families to allow me to worship God.
I've read a saying that says something like this: "Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you; Jesus Christ and the American G. I. One died for your soul; the other for your freedom." -Author: Unknown
Jesus died to free me from the weight of sin in this world. He came to earth and took on the burden of any who believe in him. He gave his life. That's true freedom! The freedom to live in this world without the burden of sin. The freedom to live in this world and not of this world. The freedom to love God and love people. I thank the Lord for sending his son. To live in this world without Jesus would be hopeless. To live in this world with Jesus means to live with hope and joy. I love Jesus and thank him for his sacrifice!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Fiction Book Review: The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck


Description:
Romance has never been actress Chloe Daschle’s forte—in life or on screen. But everyone knows who to call for a convincing death scene . . . and it might be killing her career.
When Chloe is given a peek at the script for an epic love story, she decides to take her destiny into her own hands and request an audition for the lead female role, Esther Kingsley. The compelling tale, inspired by family lore and a one-page letter from the colonial ancestor of scriptwriter Jesse Gates, just might break her out of this career-crippling rut. Jesse would rather write about romance than live through it after his past relationship ended in disaster. But once on-set together, the chemistry between Jesse and his leading lady is hard to deny.

Centuries earlier, in the heart of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton Lightfoot and Esther Longfellow wrote their saga off the silver screen. Esther’s Loyalist father opposes any relationship with Hamilton, but Esther must face her beloved father’s disapproval and the dangers of war in order to convince Hamilton of their future together. Hamilton has loved 
Esther for years, and on the eve of battle pens the love letter she’s always wanted—something straight from the heart.  

Set in stunning upcountry South Carolina, The Love Letter is a beautifully crafted story of the courage it takes to face down fear and chase after love, even in the darkest of times. And just maybe, all these generations later, love can come home in a way not even Hollywood could imagine.

My Review:
When I started reading The Love Letter, I didn't know what to expect. What I found was a story of faith. It took me a bit to adjust to going between Hollywood and the Revolutionary War, but once I got the hang of it, the story unfolded beautifully. Chloe is an amazing character who struggles and faces obstacles; but relies on her faith to help her. And that's not the norm in the acting industry. Esther, also an amazing character for her time, carries the Esther/Hamilton story into unknown territory for that day. The parallel stories create an interesting journey and a superb ending. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Hello, Black-eyed Susan!

Every year I look for the first black-eyed Susans of the the summer. I love to see them dance in the fields and along the roads. My favorite flower arrives just in time for my birthday. I believe they are God's way of reminding me he created me and he loves me. Today I discovered the first Susan bloom in my own flower bed. She smiled and said, "Hello! I'm here." 


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Shout like the Lilies


Isaiah 40:28-31
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Tim and I stopped by the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Park to gaze at the Ohio River and watch the birds and other wildlife. Across the road we checked out the bridge dedicated to the 18th President. I enjoyed seeing the plaque of Grant in his Civil War Uniform and the lanterns and miniature cannon that graced the corners. On the way back to the Jeep, I noticed a wooden fence row that stretched across one end of the small park. Tiger lilies shot up through the slats as if they were poised to announce, "Attention, please. This is where Ulysses S. Grant was born."

The lilies appeared to trumpet good news. Just like Isaiah 40 proclaims—"Do you not know? Have you not heard?" I have heard the news, and I am so grateful. Some days I am exhausted. My energy wanes and I crave rest. But guess what, God renews my strength, because I place my hope in him. He alone gives me the energy I need. He helps me walk, when I can no longer go. I mean that literally and spiritually. There are days when my bum knee doesn't want to move, but God lifts me up with his encouragement and keeps me on my feet. Because I know Jesus loves me and supports me, I want to shout like the lilies, "The Lord is the everlasting God." He loves me and cares for me, even the everyday things. He is the hope this world needs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Fantasy Fiction Review: The Story Peddler (The Weaver Trilogy Book 1) by Lindsay A. Franklin


Description:
Selling stories is a deadly business---

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down . . . and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers . . . and they’re after her too.

My Review:
Lindsay A. Franklin is one imaginative and talented writer. The Story Peddler may not have crystallized in my hand, but the descriptions came to life in my head. The characters are fantastic, the setting spectacular, and the story is amazing. I love that Tanwen is a spunky character ready to discover her life. The many folks she meets along the way add a flair that only a good fantasy can boast. The Christian truths woven throughout the story add an element of depth and wisdom. The Story Peddler reminds me of one of my favorite fantasy books, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (but written for adults.) This book is every bit as good. The first book in the trilogy, I guarantee, will leave you wanting more. I received this e-book free from NetGalley with no expectation of a good or bad review.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Stand Like a Deer


Psalm 18:30-36
As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

On my way up the driveway, to the college where I work, a deer stood in the middle of the pavement. I stopped the Jeep and watched her. In slow motion, she sauntered off the drive and headed toward the forest. Just before I pulled away, she seemed to nod at me, then take off at a run. The next day, in the same spot, she stood along the road, while another one sipped water from the pond. We often see wildlife on campus, but I don't think I'd seen the deer two days in a row. But the sightings didn't stop there. The next day, I walked to the Westwood building where the windows look out over the woods. Lo and behold (I say that with amazement) a doe preened her fawn.

Seeing the deer reminded me of the verses King David penned in Psalm 18. Even though the deer in Ohio don't have mountains to climb, mule deer in the Rocky Mountains climb like mountain goats. They're sure-footed and able to make their way up a steep path. David claims that God gave him the balance and ruggedness of a deer, with the ability to take to a path without his ankles giving way. David's words tell me that God equips me to meet my needs. Too often I fear that I don't have the talent I need to complete a task, or the words to write, or the wisdom to understand. I imagine God is probably shaking his head at me, saying "Silly woman, I'm giving you all you need. I always have and I always will." Yes he has, and he will. My unfounded doubts lead me to worry when there is no need.

David, considered a mighty warrior, composed these words before he went to battle. He knew he needed God and God prepared him. We go to war every day against the enemy. Satan creeps around every corner and slings doubt and fear at us. But God has given us the weapons we need to fight him off. Like a deer, I'll climb up the mountain away from Satan and make my way to stand close to Jesus. Praise God he watches out for me.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fiction Book Review: The House at Saltwater Point (A Lavender Tides Novel) by Colleen Coble


Book Description:
The dangerous beauty of Lavender Tides is harboring secrets that reach around the world.

Ellie Blackmore is making a name for herself as a house flipper. But when her sister
Mackenzie disappears, Ellie can’t focus on anything but uncovering what happened. Her only clue is the bloodstain on the deck of Mackenzie’s boat. Ellie knows her sister isn’t on the best of terms with her ex-husband, Jason, but he wouldn’t kill her—would he? 
Coast Guard intelligence officer Grayson Bradshaw believes Mackenzie faked her own death after stealing a seized cocaine shipment. The problem is convincing Ellie, who seems to view him as the true enemy.

Both Ellie and Grayson want truth, but truth—and family—is often more complex than it first appears. From international terrorism to the peaceful lavender fields of Puget Sound, The House at Saltwater Point is a thrilling race to uncover the truth before it’s too late.

My Review:
Colleen Coble is an excellent writer of suspense, taking the reader to the edge. Two of the things I loved about this story involve the sisters, Ellie and MacKenzie. One is a true hero in the strongest sense of the word. She puts her life on the line for the people she loves. The other is shown as a totally flawed human being in need of grace. The setting is lovely, I could almost smell the lavender. Grayson Bradshaw's story is complicated. But in the midst of the craziness, it is good to meet a man of honor. Coble's story is timely and in accord with current events. The book reminded me to give thanks for people putting their lives on the line every day. Both military and investigative units—so we can be free. If you enjoy NCIS Los Angeles or any of the shows or stories that focus on those who keep us safe, you'll love The House at SaltwaterPoint. I received this book from NetGalley with no expectation of a good or bad review.

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