Saturday, May 28, 2016

Trust in the Lord

Psalm 37:1-4
Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

They lived in a perfect world. A lush garden filled with beautiful animals, soaring birds, diving fish, and trees. The two strolled through the greenery and the flowers. They watched the butterflies and the bees. They shared the joy of their lovely surroundings. Until the day they defied God. They disobeyed. Then everything changed.

Living in the world is hard. Ever since Adam and Eve's choice to eat the fruit from the tree of life, sin has flooded the world. With the sin comes discouragement, hurt, and frustration. But the good news, yes the very best, most wonderful news, is— I can totally, without a doubt trust the Lord to bring goodness to my life. He has my best interest in mind. As I delight in him, he gives me the delights of my heart. The joy, peace, and love that only he can give. Praise God that the evil passes away and the love of my Father remains.

Fiction Book Review: Someone Like You by Victoria Bylin

Book Description:
Single mom Julia Dare has a lot on her plate.

A brand new Christian, Julia is busy trying to run her own business, spend time with her widowed mother, and raise her young son, Max, despite his father's less-than-ideal influence on him. When a big account from her event-planning business sends her to the Caliente Springs resort, she's shocked to come face-to-face with Zeke Monroe, the resort's general manager and her college sweetheart.

With his faith in tatters, Zeke Monroe is determined to keep the historic Caliente Springs resort running despite financial difficulties. But when Julia walks back into his life, he can't ignore the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client's dream wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. When Zeke and Julia are pushed to their limits both personally and professionally, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?

Book Review:
Someone Like You isn't just another romance. Victoria Bylin creates realistic characters, warts and all. This may sound strange, but I am pleased to read a novel with a single mom who has to deal with her ex-husband. More often than not that's the reality. Many women have to figure out how to "live" with an ex-husband in their child's life. I enjoyed watching Julia grow in confidence and faith throughout the story. She has a lot to balance and work through. As a new believer she handles it all with prayer and grace.
Rather than a knight in shining armor, Zeke has demons of his own to fight. He's an appealing, yet believable character. The strong spiritual element Bylin threads through the book adds depth and insight. Caliente Springs is a lovely setting for this great read. This would be a good book to pack for vacation. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

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About the author:
Victoria Bylin writes contemporary and historical romances known for their realistic, relatable characters. Her work has finaled in contests such as the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and the RT Reviewers' Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fiction Book Review: All Summer Long by Melody Carlson

Book Description:
Tia D'Amico is thrilled to move to San Francisco to help her aunt transform an old luxury yacht into an upscale floating restaurant. What's not to love? Sunset dinner cruises, posh wedding receptions--the possibilities are endless and far more appetizing than staying in a monotonous job in her Podunk hometown. Besides, some of her best memories are tied to San Francisco--especially the memory of Leo Parker, her crush from a long-ago sailing camp.

When Leo Parker himself turns out to be the yacht's captain, Tia is floating on air. But will it all come crashing down around her when she discovers his heart belongs to someone else?

Get ready for a romantic summer in San Francisco, where the future glistens brighter than the Bay at sunset.

Book Review:
I got to travel to San Francisco last year, so when I saw the setting of All Summer Long I wanted to read it. I wasn't disappointed. Many of the places I visited were the backdrop of this sweet story. Melody Carlson is a master storyteller and she uses her gift to weave a tale of love, friendship, recovery, and recognition. Much of the story takes place on the water of the San Francisco Bay aboard an old yacht, being refurbished as a restaurant. How fun! I was thrilled that Tia wasn't a high maintenance kind of girl. Instead she's a smart, hardworking, beautiful inside-and-out, young woman willing to help out family. And Leo is adorable. A kind man who finds himself in a dilemma because he cares too much. This is a great summer read, perfect for vacation or sitting outside by the pool or in the shade. Melody Carlson is one of my favorites. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Are You Prepared?

Ephesians 6:10-18
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

She tried on the catcher's helmet, too.
As her brother, cousin, and their six-year-old teammates took the field, Ella Cate, who is not quite two yet, toddled over to her brother's batting helmet. She picked it up then popped it on her head. Next she walked over and picked up her pretty, pink, made-for-a-little-girl, baseball glove and tucked her tiny hand in. Then she grabbed her cushy pink baseball and threw it to her mom. When she noticed me watching her she gave me one of her big cheesy grins. What a cutie. And smart too. She wanted to protect her head from the ball or most likely just thought it would be fun to put on the helmet. But in any case, she'd donned her protective gear.

Paul shares specific instructions with the Ephesians' church about how to prepare-not for a game-but for battle. Not just any war, but the one that plays out in the spiritual world every day; with Satan shouting the battle cry. Praise God he's given you and me the armor we need for protection. Where Ella Cate put on a batting helmet, I wear a helmet of salvation. Instead of a glove and ball, I carry a shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit. Jesus wants me to be prepared to face temptation and sin. He expects me to be ready, well versed in his word, and covered in prayer. Stand firm with me as I pray.

"God, shore up your followers. The people who believe in your son, Jesus. We want nothing more than to serve you. Thank you for your mercy and grace." Amen

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Children's Book Review: God Bless America illustrated by Peter Francis

Book Description:
The Land That I Love Book series will show little ones how God crafted the nation and each state for you and me. In God Bless America, children will enjoy learning about America’s landmarks and cities and how God made a wonderful place for us to live.

My Review:
Henry the bear's enthusiasm for learning about America is contagious. Children will enjoy landmarks Henry finds as he travels along in God Bless America. They've chosen prominent places and cities for the book. This is the beginning of a series that will feature each state. The illustrations are fun and colorful, and at times comical. This board book is perfect for two and three year olds. My favorite part is Henry's prayer for the USA at the end of the book. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Poetry Review: When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Julie Morstad

Book Description:
Flowers blooming in sheets of snow make way for happy frogs dancing in the rain. Summer swims move over for autumn sweaters until the snow comes back again. In Julie Fogliano's skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad's charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry.

My Review:
I ordered When Green Becomes Tomatoes from the library because the title intrigued me. Curious about what the poet had to say about the seasons, I opened the book and fell into a lovely treasure of words. Julie Fogliano's poems may be written for children, but they spoke to my soul. As a lover of nature, I delighted in each encounter. The verses are titled by date and divided into seasons. I especially liked "july 12", the date of my birthday. The children go to the beach and eat plums and peanut butter sandwiches. How fun! I'm also partial to the winter poems. Not only are the poems well done, the illustrations are perfect. They set the stage for each season. Julie Morstad's gouache and pencil crayon art are soft and appealing. I highly recommend reading this book to your children; after you read it yourself.

Afraid but Filled with Joy!

Matthew 28:8
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had just gone to Jesus' tomb. Instead of finding his body, they ran into an angel whose "appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow." I can imagine they were pretty upset. The angel had already caused an earthquake, rolled a humongous stone out of the way, and petrified the guards. And now their Lord was gone. But even in fear, the ladies were filled with joy. They had good news. Jesus was alive. He defeated death and lived again.

When I watch the news and see the changes, the violence, the horrible things people do, I'm appalled; and downright afraid. I wonder what life will be like for my grandchildren. At times the fear overwhelms me. But in the midst of the sadness and sorrow over the sin in the world, I still have joy. Because like the ladies who ran to the tomb, I know Jesus is alive. My joy was bolstered again this week as I watched my granddaughter Dilly accept Jesus as her Savior. My daughter, Dilly's mom, baptized her. What a joyous time that fills me with hope for the next generation. I pray she always finds joy in Jesus.

That joy, that floods my heart, is what I hang on to when I'm overwhelmed and afraid. Join me as I rejoice and praise God for Jesus!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fiction Book Review: The Inheritance by Michael Philipps

Book Description:
Everyone assumed MacGregor Tulloch's heir to be his grand-nephew David, a local favorite, but when it is discovered that MacGregor left no will, David's grasping cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island's land. And while Hardy doesn't enjoy much popular support, he has the backing of a shadowy group of North Sea oil investors. The courts have frozen the estate's assets while the competing claims are investigated, leaving many of the residents in financial limbo. The future of the island-and its traditional way of life-hangs in the balance.

Loni Ford is enjoying her rising career in a large investment firm in Washington, DC. Yet in spite of her outward success, she is privately plagued by questions of identity. Orphaned as a young child, she was raised by her paternal grandparents, and while she loves them dearly, she feels completely detached from her roots. That is until a mysterious letter arrives from a Scottish solicitor. . . .

Past and present collide in master storyteller Phillips's dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace, and of the dreams of men and women everywhere.

Book Giveaway

My Review:
The Inheritance is the kind of book I enjoy sitting on the porch to read on a beautiful spring day or snuggle into the couch with when the wind blows and the rains pour. Either way, I savored every word as the writer led me from Whales Reef on one of the incredible Shetland Islands to the lovely Pennsylvania countryside where Loni grew up. The vividness of the Scottish isles drew me in and made me want to travel there. Michael Philipps brought first-hand experience to the story through he and his wife's ventures into Scottish territory.

He's also the creator of some incredible characters in this latest saga. Plus an ancestry that spreads over more than four generations. I especially enjoyed Loni's venture to find her own history and her challenge to figure out what to do with it. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Purchase a copy:

Humble and Selfless

Philippians 2:1-4
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Proverbs 31 is often the go to chapter of the Bible for Mother's Day. Granted there are many wonderful words there in reference to a wife and mother. But as I was reading through some Bible verses for this week's devotion, I read Philippians 2. I know Paul was speaking to the church in Philippi, but I can't imagine better words to describe a mom. Throughout the scripture, I've read of many mom's who put their children's needs above their own, practiced tenderness and compassion, loved God, and bowed before him with a humble spirit.

Hannah turned her son over to God's service after she'd spent years praying to have a baby. Moses' mom hid him to keep him safe. Ham, Shem, and Japheth's mother climbed into an ark full of stinky animals to ride out the storm with her boys. I've always appreciated that Timothy's grandmother and mother raised him to love the Lord. Of course I can't leave out Mary, Jesus' mother. She watched her son die for the rest of us. She knew God needed him to do that.

Whether we're moms, daughters, aunts, Grammies, or friends God shows us many great examples of what a Christian woman looks like. I mention women because of Mother's Day, but the scripture applies to guys too. We all need to be selfless and encourage each other.

And by the way, when your mom said she didn't really want that last piece of dessert she gave you, she probably really did. She was just being nice.

Happy Mother's Day!