Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Blessings: Hope


Luke 2:17-18
When they [shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 

Psalm 71:14
As for me, I will always have hope;
 I will praise you more and more.

I watch a lot of Christmas movies, mostly Hallmark. This particular year, as I'm recovering from knee replacement surgery, they've been great company. In almost every one of them, someone mentions the "magic of Christmas." True love develops, hearts are healed, mysteries solved due to this holiday spirit. Whether set in a small town or big city, the characters depend on the enchantment of the season to carry them through.

While that's sweet and entertaining, 
the magic of Christmas isn't magic at all.

After the shepherds laid eyes on baby Jesus, magic didn't pour over them. Initially fear filled their hearts. But then, the men who traveled to Bethlehem from the sheep fields witnessed God's hope for mankind. With beautiful, amazing hope they told everyone they met about the King born in the stable of Bethlehem. These men understood that God's promise of redemption arrived on earth. And they were excited! Because they found hope.

I'll admit that at Christmas positivity fills the air. People seem nicer, more thoughtful, more attentive. They smile more and practice kindness. For this I'm thankful. I know people say it's the season that brings out the good in people. But, I believe hope is the reason. The hope in Jesus fills the air. The excitement over this little baby, who would grow into a man and save us from the depravity of the world, arrived here. To save us!

That's hope, friends! Hope in Jesus.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Traditions Around the World: Italy's Presepe Napoletano



This year in my "Forever Friends" college circle we exchanged ornaments. My dear friend, Thora Jo chose a gorgeous wooden and gold star shape with a nativity in the center for me. I love it; because it's beautiful, because a dear friend chose it for me, and because Jesus is the focus. 


Way back in the 1220s, St. Francis of Assisi traveled to Bethlehem to visit the cave where it is believed Jesus was born. Back home, he was inspired to create his own nativity scene in a cave. Using a crib and candles, he put together a site for people to visit and worship. Setting up a crib for baby Jesus caught on and spread through Italy and other parts of Europe.

Naples, Italy is well known for crib making or Presepe Napoletano. In Naples, cribs are traditionally set out on December 8. On December 24, baby Jesus is placed in the crib.

I love the nativity sets and ornaments we display each year. I inherited Grammy's Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus and have a miniature set with Bethlehem in the background.

St. Francis started a beautiful tradition that reminds us why we celebrate Christmas!   

Cooper, James. “The History of Christmas Cards .” Why Christmas?, 2018, www.whychristmas.com.
Green, Jonathan. Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Christmas. Skyhorse Publishing, 2017.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What do Bells have to do with It?

A few years ago, I had the privilege to listen to a bell choir. The group of students chimed out some beautiful Christmas carols.

Bells have long been associated with Christmas. From jingle bells on Santa's reindeer to Juju's teacher in It's a Wonderful Life proclaiming, "Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings." 

Long before the jingling bells, St. Paulinus of Campania in Italy requested a bell-tower be built with a large bronze bell used to call his congregation to worship. On Christmas he chimed the bell four times, in celebration of Christ's birth.

Casting Crowns sings one of my favorite Christmas songs, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. The song calls for peace on earth, much like the angels who sang to the shepherds.


Kerensa, Paul. Hark!: the Biography of Christmas. Lion, 2017.

Fiction Book Review: Who I Am with You (A Legacy of Faith Novel) by Robin Lee Hatcher


Book Description:
For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith. 
Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination. 

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have wronged them, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again. 

Who I Am With You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

My Review:
I loved this book.
Who I Am With You is one of those books I didn't want to end. I fell in love with the characters and want to know the rest of the story. Robin Lee Hatcher writes her characters with depth and insight. I enjoyed both Jessica's story and that of her grandfather. And I loved how the two connected through an old Bible. What a legacy! The town of Hope Springs sounds like some place I'd like to visit with its quaint downtown and surrounding mountains. The book as a whole is enjoyable and thought provoking with a beautiful spiritual thread woven throughout. This is the first in a series. I'm excited for the second one to be published. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Christmas Blessings: Joy


Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Nine years ago on December 22, my daughter, Sara, labored for hours. In the hospital they kept a monitor on her as the labor pains ebbed and flowed. I sat close by and prayed this little one would arrive soon. And he did eventually come. She gave birth to Elijah Duncan, a beautiful baby boy. Joy overflowed from my heart when I held that sweet bundle.

Sara and James made their way to a hospital for Eli's birth. Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to the far away town of Bethlehem. No hospital, not even a room to stay in. Instead they rested in a cave used to shelter animals. And there, Mary gave birth to the Prince of Peace. The manger used as a feeding trough for the animals turned into a bed for the new born king. I've experienced childbirth, and I can tell you I wouldn't want to give birth in a cave for animals. But God made a way for Mary and Jesus to be safe and sound even among the sheep and cows.

I can imagine the joy in Mary's heart when she swaddled that sweet baby and held him tight. I wonder if she sang a lullaby to him before she placed him in the manger to rest. Jesus birth is a beautiful gift of redemption; the beginning of the joy the world can have if we trust in him. 
He truly is the reason for the season.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Christmas Traditions Around the World: Norway's Julekurver



For years, I've enjoyed making a fun paper craft. Until recently, I didn't know that the tradition of making woven paper baskets came from Norway. 

Close to Christmas, people in Norway cut and weave paper or straw heart shaped baskets. They sometimes attach a handle and then fill the basket with sweets. The hearts decorate their trees and homes. There's rumor that Hans Christian Anderson may have started this tradition.

This is an entertaining craft to do with the whole family.
If you'd like to try your hand at heart baskets, follow these instructions.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Who Put the First Selfie on a Christmas Card?


We can thank Sir Henry Cole of England for the tradition of sending and receiving Christmas cards. In 1843, he commissioned John Calcott Horsley to create an image Henry could send to his friends and family. The card featured a family celebrating the holiday, as well as, folks helping the poor. With the writing of A Christmas Carol, a new light shined on helping those in need.

My great-grandma's Christmas Cards on display.
Eventually Americans adopted the practice of sending cards to friends and family to celebrate the season. In 1875, Louis Prang mass produced affordable cards for everyone to share in. Then in 1915, the Hall brothers created Hallmark cards. And you know the rest of that story.
Guess who had the first "selfie" Christmas card? Ohio's own Annie Oakley. She toured Scotland around the holidays and had her photo printed on the cards she sent back to friends in America.
I'm fortunate to have a few of my great-grandma's Christmas cards framed for display. I enjoy sending and receiving cards. I hope you do too!


Cooper, James. “The History of Christmas Cards .” Why Christmas?, 2018, www.whychristmas.com.
Green, Jonathan. Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Christmas. Skyhorse Publishing, 2017.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Christmas Blessings: Peace


Luke 2:13-14
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
  
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

As Eli and Ella Cate put my Fisher Price Nativity set together, I watched with great joy. They placed Mary and Joseph in the stable and gently laid baby Jesus in between them. Ella Cate found all the palm trees and lined them up, while Eli herded the sheep to the shepherds. As they were playing, my daughter, Sara, asked Eli if he would sing a song he'd learned for his great-grandfather's funeral. As he tinkered with the manger scene, his strong, young voice filled the room. "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." Wow, what a blessing to hear this almost nine-year old sing one of my favorite songs.
At Jesus birth the angels rejoiced with a song of peace. They glorified God and poured the favor of peace over the shepherds.
The Christmas season can get hectic. Too much to do, places to go. So many families are knee deep in sports and activities, while others are lonely, even sad. The holidays can be a difficult time for so many reasons. But it can also be a time filled with peace. Just knowing that Jesus birth changed the world and our options in life brings me calm and comfort. If it weren't for that sweet baby in the manger growing to be a man who gave his all for me, my life would be utter chaos. Instead I have peace in my heart, knowing my life is in God's hands.
I pray God's peace pours over you as you prepare to celebrate Jesus birth. May his arms be a place of rest and his feet a place of worship.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christmas Traditions Around the World: Iceland's Jólabókaflóð



We all create traditions in our families for the holidays. My daughters and I get together with my mom and roll out, cut out, and bake Christmas cookies. My husband and I cruise the area and marvel at Christmas lights. We gather together to open presents, share food, and celebrate Jesus' birth. I never miss the children's Christmas pageant.

I've always been curious about Christmas traditions in other countries; or even in different regions of America.

Have you heard about a cool custom in Iceland?

As a book lover, I adore this Jólabókaflóð"the Christmas book flood." Icelander's open their gifts on Christmas Eve and one of the wrapped gifts is always a book. Once the clutter is cleared, the receiver of the gift takes their new shiny book, wraps up in a cozy blanket and cracks it open to read the night away. What a glorious tradition. Meaningful because the giver took the time to choose the perfect book. Relaxing as they read well into the night.

We read about Jesus birth from the Bible each Christmas and Holiday stories from Mary Engelbreit's Believe: A Christmas Story.
How can you incorporate book giving into your Christmas?
  • Add a book to your gift list.
  • Share a favorite book with a loved one.
  • Celebrate the joy of the printed word.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Mystery of God


Lamentations 3:25-26
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

The city of Cincinnati sparkled outside my hospital window. I viewed the crown on top of Great American Tower and the reflection of lights twinkling on the Ohio River. At two o'clock in the morning, I listened to the tap, tap, tap of ice hitting the window; a beautiful chorus to kick off my recovery. In the quiet of the early morning, God's Spirit dwelled by my side. As did my wonderful husband who slept on the hard as a rock couch, under that scenic the window.

I'm not usually awake in the middle of the night. But this night I'm thankful I was, because I experienced a love I almost can't fathom. The mystery of God's love intrigues me. How can my creator continue to love me, even as I fail and fall? Yet he does. He not only loves me, he pours his grace over me. As I rested in the quiet and listened to the ice tapping the window, I thanked God for the many prayers given on my behalf. I praised him for the miracle of medicine and the wonderful team of people who took care of me.
God is faithful. He met me in the quiet time with his comfort and peace.

As we head into the holidays, find time for quiet reflection. Time to thank God for his many blessings. Time to find comfort in his arms. Time to connect to his love.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Respect and Appreciation

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 

1 Peter 2:17
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

We love that our grandchildren attend schools where they are taught to respect and appreciate the people in the armed forces. On Monday, we visited Max's school for their Veteran's Day program. Students from elementary through high school participated. We listened as the children reminded us why we celebrate the heroes who have fought for our freedom. Boys and girls read thank you notes they wrote to the veterans. On the front row of the audience, several vets from the local veteran's home listened with intent. The band and chorus groups played and sang several songs honoring these men and women. One song in particular stirred my heart, "Let There be Peace on Earth." Two students filled the auditorium with their lovely voices as the words recounted how peace must start with each person.

For me this program tied together Veteran's Day and the appreciation I have for the folks who work and fight to provide my freedom with Thanksgiving Day, a day where I count my blessings. As I listened to Max's class sing the National Anthem, I couldn't help but feel joy for the respect and appreciation being instilled in these children. They are being taught to value each other, just as the apostle Peter noted. As you celebrate Thanksgiving Day, contemplate why we are free to gather and enjoy food and family. Think about the men and women who are away from their families, serving overseas. Pray for each one who has served and continues to, that they may be protected and blessed with peace.
With gratitude and respect, I thank each one who has served and is serving.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Be Kind


Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Tim took me to one of our favorite restaurants for breakfast this morning. At First Watch, I looked around at all the people sitting in community. I didn't know any of them, although I recognized a few of the wait staff, yet I felt comfortable. Tim mentioned too, that he felt relaxed among the group. We noticed the restaurant goers chatting and enjoying each other's company.

We're heading into a season of gathering. On Thanksgiving, family and friends will join together to eat delicious food, serve meals to the homeless, play football or watch the games, or just enjoy the day. Looking ahead, Christmas is around the corner when days will be spent with loved ones and folks out and about. Hectic shopping and busy preparations may equal anxiety and tension. Stress often peaks during the holidays. But as followers of Jesus, we have a job to do. Just.Be.Kind.

The fruit of God's Spirit includes kindness. With compassion and patience, treat people as Jesus did on the many occasions when he opened his heart and let the kindness flow. In the hustle and bustle, preparation and joining together, let your heart's kindness pour over the people God places in your path. "In a world where we can be anything, let's be kind."
"Have courage and be kind. When there is kindness, there is goodness." -Cinderella's mother

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

On Magnolia Lane (A Blue Ridge Romance) by Denise Hunter


Book Description:
From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.


Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same. 

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

My Review:
Denise Hunter has written a beautiful story of love. Not just a romance, but a tale of the how far love can go to mend a heart. Daisy is one of the most delightful characters I've met. She's a refreshing young woman who cares about her family and her community. Jack, a pastor, takes care of everyone else. Hunter weaves a beautiful story of forgiveness and understanding. I'd love to see this book as a Hallmark movie with Kate Corbett as Daisy and Niall Matter as Jack. Also, this book can be read as a standalone from the series. I love Hunter's writing. Reading her book is like sitting on the porch swing, with a glass of sweet tea; savoring each scene, yet needing to turn the page to see what happens next. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Be Ready


1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Sun bursting through clouds

I spent two hours in the surgeon's office going over what to expect, what to do, and what not to do for my upcoming surgery. In between talking to the nurse, the physician's assistant, and my rock star surgeon, I waited. As they spouted my much needed information, I took copious notes. Next, I'll sit down with paper and pen and create a list, in order, of all my instructions. I want to be as prepared as possible to face this important event, the one that will in time give me a better quality of life.

All this readiness reminded me what our minister encouraged us to think about this past Sunday—to be prepared for Jesus return. Whether I'm here when the trumpets blow and Jesus descends, or I'm taken home from this earth by him, I need to be ready. Bless God's heart, he gave us a road map to prepare for the trip. The Bible has all the information we need to make the journey. Which is a good thing, because my internal GPS doesn't know right from left.

I want to be as prepared as possible for this all important event, the one that will give me not just a better quality of life, but eternal life.
As I pray, read God's word, and do my best to live a faith filled life—I hope you'll join me as I wait for the Lord. Let's be caught being faithful!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Novella Collection Review: The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection, Seven Historical Romances


Book Description:
Lighthouses have long been the symbol of salvation, warning sailors away from dangerous rocks and shallow waters.


Along the Great Lakes, America’s inland seas, lighthouses played a vital role in the growth of the nation. They shepherded settlers traveling by water to places that had no roads. These beacons of light required constant tending even in remote and often dangerous places. Brave men and women battled the elements and loneliness to keep the lights shining. Their sacrifice kept goods and immigrants moving. Seven romances set between 1883 and 1911 bring hope to these lonely keepers and love to weary hearts.

My Review
The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection written by Lena Nelson DooleyRebecca JepsonCarrie Fancett PagelsCandice Sue PattersonKathleen RouserPegg Thomas, and Marilyn Turk is a delightful gathering of the often romanticized life of lighthouse keepers. Throughout the stories you'll meet a variety of fascinating characters, including female lightkeepers, a lady doctor, backwoodsmen, sailors, gentlemen business owners and more. Every story brings to life the history of the Great Lake's shores. When I finished reading, I was impressed at how each author took a similar setting and topic and created such a unique story. Some based their writing on historical characters, while others were total fiction. I had some favorites, too — but I'll let you decide what yours are after you pick up a copy of this wonderful anthology and read for yourself. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fiction Review: Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh

Book Description:
An emotional novel of family, friendship and forgiveness from Courtney Walsh, the New York Times bestselling author of Hometown Girl.

Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best—and worst—memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.
But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.

Cassie’s mother, father and brother, still struggling with the loss, have been drifting further and further apart. And Elle herself, the last to see Cassie alive, carries an impossible burden of guilt. Now reunited, each of them has a choice: to reveal the truths of that night or continue to live in its shadow. That means embarking on a personal journey of the heart—to escape the darkness and all its regrets and to finally come to terms with the past and, especially, with each other.

My Review:
I can't say enough good things about this book! Things Left Unsaid is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness. Courtney Walsh delves into the difficult territory of guilt and self-blame. Lyndie's heart has ached for years, taking her on a negative path, far away from the faith she once had. Her trip back to a place she once loved is both difficult and necessary. I absolutely love how Courtney handles the telling of this poignant story. She gets inside the characters' hearts and peals away the layers of years of hurt. After I finished the last chapter, parts of the story replayed in my head for days. If you enjoy well written fiction filled with meaning, read Things Left Unsaid. I guarantee you'll connect to at least one character and their story. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterfall Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

You Are Not Alone

Psalm 95:6-7
Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
sheep free from Pixaby

for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

During my childhood, I had the measles three times. Back then, we didn't have vaccines against that annoying disease. The German measles put me in bed, in a darkened room, for at least a week. My mom made sure I rested, fixed me my favorite foods, and watched over me. Even in the darkness, I knew my mom was there. 

As a mom myself, I've watched over my children; helped them through illness, surgery, and life's heartaches. You see my mom loves me, and I love my children.

Maybe you've not experienced a mother's care or a father's love. Maybe loneliness surrounds you, disappointment overwhelms you, or sorrow embraces you. Even in our deepest hurt, there is one who cares. God loves you. We are not alone. We are the people God cherishes. "We are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." He calls each one of us to come to him. He wants to pour his love and hope over us. God's not in the business of watching people suffer. His desire is for all people to reach out to him. Even in the darkness, God is near. He wants you to come to him for comfort and peace.

When the world overwhelms, and the loneliness creeps in, look to God. Invite him in. He's waiting, nearby, ready to embrace you and pour his love over you.

Kari Job sings about God's nearness, that she is not alone. He goes before us and never leaves us. He's the one who loves us more than we can imagine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Fiction Book Review: Reason to Breathe by Deborah Raney


Book Description:
Phylicia thought life was passing her by, but maybe this was love’s plan all along. . .

At twenty-nine, Phylicia Chandler put her life on hold to care for her dying mother with her sisters, Joanna and Britt. Now Mom is gone and their father stuns them all by running off with a woman young enough to be their sister. Life is moving forward all around her, but Phylicia feels stuck—until her father’s protégé, Quinn Mitchell, presents the sisters with an intriguing business opportunity to purchase a trio of cottages just outside of Langhorne, Missouri. Joanna and Britt are convinced the three of them should launch a vacation rental venture, but Phylicia remains skeptical.

To complicate matters, Quinn soon finds himself falling hard for Phylicia. But how can he pursue this beautiful, talented woman twelve years his junior when she’s still reeling over her father’s hasty engagement to a younger woman? Quinn is determined to give Phylicia her happily-ever-after. But first, he must help her come to terms with her discovery of long-held family secrets and persuade her that true love can transcend their differences.

My Review:
Deborah Raney's uplifting stories beat with the heart of everyday life. Every one of Deb's books has left me wanting more, including Reason to Breathe, the first book in the Chandler Sisters novel series. I adore Phylicia's spunk and determination even when she doubts the family plans. And Quinn is a sweetheart. His patience with Phee and her sisters goes above and beyond. But the part of the story I enjoyed most was the relationship of the sisters; three women, totally different, yet grounded with the same  upbringing. As the mom of three girls, I especially enjoyed their spot-on, tug-of-war interactions and the love they share, despite their disagreements. I found myself smiling as I read this story of new beginnings, old friendships, family secrets, and redeeming love. Reason to Breathe will appeal to all the fans of the fixer-upper shows on television, as the sisters consider diving into a huge project together. I can't wait to read more of the Chandler sisters' stories. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Gilead Publishing by way of NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Shepherd and a King


Psalm 23
A psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

I've been reading my way through the Book of Psalm. When I opened to Psalm 23 this week, I paused. I didn't want to read through this familiar chapter too quickly. Instead I focused with a fresh perspective. As I studied the familiar words, I thought about the author, King David, and the stories I've read about him.

David was a shepherd. He understood life lived outdoors, 24/7. No doubt he spent days in the dust and dirt, sweating under the sun, and sleeping under the moon. He chased sheep back to the flock and played his harp. Yet, in this less than glamorous job, he lacked nothing. God went before him and supplied clean water, a comfortable place to lay his head, and refreshment for his soul.

David was a warrior and king. God guided him through the valleys of war. Then when David fell to temptation, wallowed in sin, and journeyed through the darkest of days, God went after him. David beat himself up; his heart ached due to his own mistakes. But through all of his cries for mercy, he eventually heard his Father say, "You're forgiven." He realized that the God of his youth was ushering him back into the fold, just as a shepherd leads his sheep to the flock. He understood that God was not going to desert him. Instead, God led him. David praised God for his constant presence and care.

I love the words that end this passage. "Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." God loves us and wants to give us his grace, just like he did David.
Psalm 23~what a beautiful reminder of hope!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Historical Fiction Review: The Light Before Day by Suzanne Woods Fisher


Book Description:
After three years on a whaling voyage, Henry Macy returns to Nantucket to news that his grandmother has passed, bequeathing her vast fortune to him and his sister, Hitty. And it was truly vast. But Lillian Coffin was no fool. The inheritance comes with a steep cost, including when they should marry and whom--a Quaker in good standing, of course. But if they relinquish the inheritance, it all goes to Tristram Macy, their father's thieving business partner.

As Hitty and Henry seek a way to satisfy the will's conditions, they'll be faced with obstacles on every side--and it may be that Lillian Coffin will have the last word after all.

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher surprises and delights with this story of hope and renewal, love and redemption, arriving just when most needed.

My Review:
I've read all three books in the Nantucket Legacy series, and I've enjoyed them all. Suzanne Woods Fisher is an excellent historical fiction writer. As her research brought to light the early history of Nantucket, she captured much of the island's original story. In this third book of the series, The Light Before Day, Suzanne touches on the disagreements over slavery and integration in school, as well as other troubling circumstances. She features several people who lived at that time and contributed to society, including Maria Mitchell and Frederick Douglas. But the true stars of the book are the fictional characters Henry and Hitty, twins who have grown up on Nantucket and are now the adults about to change history. As Henry reads Great Mary's journal, passed on to him by his step-mother Daphne, he learns about what is truly important. Hitty, who has a heart full of love, finally finds a way to share it. Times were both wonderful and difficult for these two. Yet, they depended on God through it all. If you enjoy historical fiction and haven't read the first two in this series, I suggest you begin with book one and read the whole set. If you have read one and two, you're in for a treat with book three. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Purchase The Light Before Day and enter your information to receive a free
Amish Christmas novella signed by Suzanne Woods Fisher. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Fiction Review: A Sparkle of Silver (Georgia Coast Romance Book #1) by Liz Johnson


Book Description:
Ninety years ago, Millie Sullivan's great-grandmother was a guest at oil tycoon Howard Dawkins' palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia. Now, Millie plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of the same manor. But when her grandmother suggests that there is a lost diary containing the location of a hidden treasure on the estate, along with the true identity of Millie's great-grandfather, Millie sets out to find the truth of her heritage--and the fortune that might be hers. When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate's private library, he threatens to have her fired. But her story seems almost too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up . . .

Get ready for a romantic escapade through dark halls and dusty corners that will have you holding your breath and sighing with delight as two charming characters get caught up in the adventure of uncovering the past and finding their way to an unexpected future.

My Review:
Some things I love about Liz Johnson's books: the intrinsic humor, the quirky characters and the amazing settings. I've read Liz's books set on Prince Edward Island and loved them. Now she's moved south with her Georgia coast series and landed on St. Simon's Island. Since I visited the island several years ago, I had to read this book. And she did not disappoint. As Millie feels the stress of needing to help her grandmother, she doesn't just sit and hope for a remedy. Instead she takes on an almost mythical legend with determination. Millie is a delightful character who has lived through disappointment and challenges. Yet she's ready to tackle a new obstacle with aplomb and hope. Ben suffers from the destructive path left by his mother. He wants nothing more than to right a terrible wrong. He finds himself entangled in Millie's scheme. I like Ben because he wants to better himself and break the cycle his mom pushed upon him. The history woven throughout the story represents the times of the rich and famous quite well. If you enjoy women's fiction with a dash of mystery and romance, you'll enjoy A Sparkle of Silver. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Even if You Just Say Hello


Ephesians 6:18
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. 

As I scooted into the restaurant booth beside my granddaughter, Ella Cate, she noticed the band aid on my arm. With the sincerity of a four year old, she asked me what happened. I said, "I have a scratch that needs covered." She tilted her head, as if in thought, and replied, "Awww...I'll pray for you tonight, Grammy Penny." My heart melted, and I thanked the Lord that this little girl already knows about the power of prayer. This is one of many reasons Jesus told us to be like children. They don't complicate things. Instead if they've been taught about leaning on Jesus through prayer, they take it straight to him.

I am blessed with an amazing group of friends who pray for me and I for them. No matter what we share, we pray. Why? Because we know God's desire is that we bring our needs and praises to him. In all the letters the apostle Paul wrote in the Bible, he often tells the people he's praying for them. He either thanks God for their friendship or lifts up their needs. He also asks them to pray for him. Prayer is an important part of being in God's family. So why don't we pray more often? I could say: too many distractions, too much social media, too busy. But the truth may be that we just don't think to do it. We haven't trained our minds to go to God first. I want to challenge anyone reading this post to stop and talk to God. Right now. Even if you just say hello to him. Reacquaint yourself. Create a new habit. Pray.

God wants to hear from you because, he loves you.  

Friday, October 12, 2018

Children's Book Review: Rex's Winning Day written by Mary Neville, Illustrated by Francesca Cecioni


Book Description:
Last year's Annual Wiener Dog Race had been a disaster for Rex! But this year was going to be different. He would make sure of it.

Will Rex finally get his winning day?



My Review:
Rex's Winning Day is a delightful book. This little wiener dog just wants to have a perfect race, where everyone cheers and is happy. Drawn from the inspiration of Mary Neville's granddogs, she penned a fun story children will enjoy. Rex and Trixie's photos are even posted in the back of the book. The illustrations Francesca Cecioni created for the story are incredible. Colorful and filled with detail, she placed all manner of people and dogs at the race. I especially like the multi-colored storefronts in the background. I've had the privilege of knowing Francesca and watching her create her art. She's done a fantastic job drawing pictures that capture the fun and excitement of Rex's Winning Day.  I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Fiction Book Review: Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock


Book Description:
As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current court case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while she’s in court, Sydney arranges for a cab to get her to the clinic.
The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. 

Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is making his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on wild goose chases to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter.
When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite sure that she’s never needed help finding a date. 

Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.

My Review:
I loved this amusing story of a grandmother's attempt to give her granddaughter the perfect Christmas. My heart went out to Sydney. Her life is a bit of a mess, but she's trying to do the best she can. Finn is drifting along when his days are taken over by Miss Callie. A comical yet heartwarming tale blooms from their predicaments and a grandmother's amazing love. In the midst of your holiday preparation, this story would provide the perfect break, or a great gift. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson
 through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

God's Peace


Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What is the most peaceful thing you can think of? A baby sleeping in your arms. A stream flowing through a meadow on a summer day. A fresh layer of undisturbed snow in the woods. That perfect song that takes you to a place of rest and renewal.

For me a peaceful time is sitting in the living room with my husband on a quiet Saturday morning. Having my family gathered around me. Walking in the woods on a spring day. Watching the snow fall and glisten. Sitting under my favorite lighthouse and listening to the water strike the rocks. 

Peace on this earth seems harder to come by every day. With so much negative noise in the world, I find it difficult at times to come to a moment of calm. Yet knowing what I do about Jesus, I understand that peace is near.

When I chose to follow Jesus, I gained a serenity that is incomprehensible on this earth. Because of my relationship with him, I know the peace of God will guard my heart. His grace pours over me and offers hope. His Spirit dwells in me and comforts me. When I feel anxious, I know I can go to Jesus and seek his quiet reassurance. I love the verses in Philippians that remind me that God has a peace to pour over me that is beyond my comprehension. He has a peace that transcends understanding. The very peace he fills my heart with is the same one Jesus experienced when he died on the cross and rose again. Jesus knew God held his heart.
God's peace is a gift; given to anyone who chooses to follow Jesus.