Saturday, July 20, 2019

He Sees my Journey


Psalm 20:7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

My granddaughter shared with me that she rode her cousin's horse. In the pictures she stood tall and handled the horse well. She was a natural.  I surprised her when I told her my family owned two horses and two ponies when I was young; Musket, Babe, Shotgun and Pistol.  She had no idea her Babaw (grandma) rode horses.
Photo by Maggie Wickline-Jowers

The strength and confidence horses exude gave me the trust I needed to climb into the saddle and ride Shotgun through our fields. God created pure beauty when he made horses. I admire their muscular grace. I trusted my pony would carry me across the rough terrain and then lead me home.

In Bible times, the people traveled by foot, horse, and chariot. They trusted their horses to guide them where they needed to go. Even as they relied on their horses they knew that animals could stumble and fall.
But God never fails.
My faith in Jesus outweighs everything. I place all my trust in the Lord because he never falls short . He has a plan for my life, and I do my best to follow the Holy Spirit's nudges and direction. I loved the freedom of riding Shotgun through the fields as the wind blew through my hair and the weight of the world fell away. By trusting God to guide me through life, I embrace the freedom of knowing he understands me and knows my needs. Sometimes fully trusting my life to God is hard. At times, I don't understand the whys and what fors. But God knows me, he recognizes my needs before I do. He created my path and sees my journey. I trust him with my life. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Flower Friday: Queen Anne's Lace

When I was child, the ditches along my parent's home were filled with Queen Anne's Lace. I was sure these were the flowers the fairies grew. 
Their lacy, delicate heads swayed in the hot summer breeze. 
According to legend these beauties are named after Queen Anne, who sewed her own lace. The tiny purple-red dot in the center is said to represent a drop of her blood when she pricked her finger.

Queen Anne's Lace

“Queen Anne's LaceDaucus Carota.” EdibleWildFood, www.ediblewildfood.com/queen-annes-lace.aspx.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Children's Book Review: Brick Builders Illustrated Bible


Book Description:
The Brick Builder’s Illustrated Bible uses the popularity of brick-building pieces to engage children with the Word of God. With bold, colorful illustrations by Antony Evans and child-friendly text, over 35 beloved stories from the Old and New Testaments come to life. Readers will travel from Genesis to Revelation as they read stories like Creation, Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, the Birth of Jesus, and Jesus Walks on Water. And each story contains a “Building Block” takeaway for kids to help them apply the biblical principal to their own lives. What better way to bring the family together than with the Brick Builder’s Illustrated Bible, perfect for readers of all ages.

My Review:
My grandkids love building with Legos. When I saw this book, I had to see what it was about. From beginning to end, the bright, bold illustrations blew me away. I love the designs of the characters and the expressions on their faces. They fit perfectly with the well done Bible stories. My favorite feature in the book is the take-away. After each story is a section called "Building Block," a call to action that echoes the wisdom in the story. This would make a great gift for any child who likes to build. You could also use it in Sunday School to emphasize a lesson or in family devotion time. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zonderkidz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Walk in Love


Philemon 1:7
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

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.

An array of colors hung on the wall in front of us. The rainbow reached from beautiful blues to passionate pinks and purples. Excited to experience a relaxing pedicure, we ladies perused the polishes. We wanted our toenails to be the loveliest shade of summer as they peeked from our sandals.
Every year my youngest daughter gifts myself and her sisters with pedicures for our birthdays. We have so much fun picking out the colors, admiring each other's toes, and laughing and talking together. The love we share makes the whole experience wonderful.
"Living in love is the color we bring to the world." -Didi Bacon
Our pastor, Didi, preached about a humble love we, as believers and followers of Christ, show the world. We are called to spread the most important color in the world—love. Share a smile, stand up for someone who's been hurt, offer help, give money, share a hug, talk to a friend about grace and faith, sit quietly beside the one who grieves, have the hard conversations. Jesus loves us more than we understand. He wants us to pour that love into other people. We need to see others the way God sees them and move beyond ourselves to love people.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Flower Friday: Black-eyed Susans

Every summer for as long as I can remember, Black-eyed Susans bloomed on my birthday. Seeing the beautiful sunshine-filled flowers reminds me how much God loves me. These lovely posies bloom in gardens and meadows. I remember seeing them in the fields and ditches and feeling blessed to have such lovely birthday bouquets.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Historical Fiction Review: Yours Truly, Thomas by Rachel Fordham


Book Description:
For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people's mail.

Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the dead letter office, and she dreams of something more--a bit of intrigue, perhaps a taste of romance. When she comes across a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love, it becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

But when Penny's undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter, and yet . . . she finds herself caring--perhaps too much--for the one who wrote it.

My Review:
I'm picky about the historical fiction I read. I admit I was drawn to this book because the main character's name is Penny, like me. Yours Truly, Thomas is a wonderful story of forgiveness of self and others. Guilt is such a difficult burden to bear. Fordham's story of love and adventure creates a beautiful backdrop for a difficult journey. If you enjoy Hallmark's series and movies, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, you'll love this story. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. 5 stars.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Children's Book Review: Seek and Explore Devotions for Kids by Yvonne H. Van Ee, PhD & Michael Williams, PhD


Book Description:
The Seek and Explore Book of Devotions is a full-color, interactive journey through every book of the Bible—365 days (plus one for leap day!) of reading and hands-on activities, like journaling, crosswords, word searches, puzzles, and more. During each week, your child will learn about one or two books of the Bible in short, easy-to-handle activities. Whether reading, writing, drawing, crafting, moving, or going out into the world, kids will learn about the Bible, God, and themselves. By the end of this interactive journey, your child will have a better understanding of the Bible as the story of God’s people and his love for them. Perfect for a child to use on his own, as a family, in a classroom, or even in a Sunday school setting, this devotional is unique and engaging for ages 6–10.

My Review:
I like the premise of Seek and Explore. The illustrations are engaging and fun. The devotional activities are varied. I'm not convinced a six to eight-year old would be able to use this book to the full extent. But with an adult or as a family, this would be a great addition to devotion time. For independent use, nine to twelve might be a better target age. The activities look enjoyable and will help the child have a better understanding of the scripture. I especially like the devos that are more like a puzzle than the writing activities. I can also see this as a good home school tool to prompt Bible discussion. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zonderkidz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Cross and the Flag


2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

As the fireworks flared and boomed, our country celebrated another year of independence. A freedom fought for and protected by our men and women in the armed forces. I thank God for their sacrifices and bravery. I cannot imagine being at war. Hunkering down in ditches, putting up with one-hundred-twenty degrees of heat, tolerating annoying insects, snakes, spiders, or being separated from family and friends.


Pray for the folks who defend American freedom. Give them a thank you, when you see them. My dad fought in WW 2, and I will be forever grateful to him.
As much as I thank God for our soldiers, even more I praise God for the one who sacrificed for the ultimate freedom. Jesus Christ gave his life so that my life could be saved. He allowed my sins to fall on him, so that grace could pour over me. Jesus paid the price, like many soldiers, he died for my liberty. Then he rose in victory. He won the battle.
When I think of freedom, I look to the cross and the flag, two symbols of sacrifice, hope and love.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Flower Friday: Chicory

The delicate light-blue blossoms of chicory wave hello to summer. 

Did you know, the roots of chicory are sometimes used to make coffee? I had the opportunity to taste this interesting drink at the Cafe Du Monde, in New Orleans. It was quite tasty along side a delicious beignet.



Saturday, June 29, 2019

From Pain to Praise

Psalm 30:11-12
You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

For the last couple of years I was employed, I carried a lot of stress. My health failed me. Pain increased as my knee cartilage disappeared. I limped and ached. The environment at work changed. We were under constant construction, updating toward a better place. But the noise and chaos troubled me. Changes in staffing and increase in responsibility took a toll. As my physical pain increased, my joy evaporated. I may not have wailed, but I cried and complained. Yet all along, God had a plan.

Last November, the surgeon replaced my old, broken-down knee with a brand new, shiny one. In May, I retired. Since then, joy has replaced my sorrow and pain. Although I still can't dance (I couldn't before, either) I rejoice and praise God for meeting my needs. He knew my future before I did. Many circumstances in life bring sorrow, crying, and pain. God takes those situations, guides us through and gives hope. Now as I look back on the many months I struggled, I see where my Father held me up and helped me, literally, put one foot in front of the other. He carried me through those last days on the job and has given me tools to help others.

I praise God for walking with me every day.
God's plan for your life, far exceed the circumstances of your day. -Louie Giglio

Friday, June 28, 2019

Flower Friday: Iris

A row of irises grew along the fence row in the front yard. Dad planted and tended them. He loved his "flags", the southern Ohio name for irises. 
They bloomed in a rainbow of colors. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Anxiety in the Deep

Psalm 94:19
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I stood in the shallow water, turned and plopped my bottom into the kayak. As I paddled across the lake to the deep, I found my bearings and relaxed. Until a twinge of doubt struck me. A bit of fear crept in, then anxiety tried to shake me up. What if I fell into the water? I tightened my life jacket, pulled the oar through the water, practiced the guiding technique Tim showed me and paddled deeper.

I pushed the anxiety aside. If I didn't, I'd be miserable and unable to enjoy the trip. I closed my eyes and listened to the soft sound of the water lapping against the kayak. The birds chirped, children's laughter wafted through the air. Peace settled over me. We floated for a while on the water, then paddled in against the mild waves.

Anxiety has dogged me for as long as I can remember. Several years ago a doctor diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. Since then my brain has required meds to help the chemical imbalance that exacerbates the anxiety. Yet, I still feel anxious at times.

In an anxious moment, I pray. God has peace to pour into me. But I need to turn my fears and anxiety over and allow the Holy Spirit to work in me. In a practical sense, I have to force myself to stop and breath. Pray and believe. When I closed my eyes on the lake, my heart slowed, and I relaxed. I knew my fear was imagined. I had nothing to worry about.

So often in life, anxiety rears its ugly head. Fear overwhelms. Satan uses our weaknesses to scare us. But, my God is bigger than any anxious doubt or made up fear. He wants us to give our doubts to him. He loves us and wants to replace our anxiety with joy and peace.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Flower Friday: Peony

I have a fond memory of peonies. On Memorial Day weekend, my Grammy and I would snip the stems of the peonies growing in Mom's garden. We'd cover glass jars with foil, add water and place the fragrant flowers in the jars. Then we'd visit Grandpa, Great-grandma, and my great-uncle's graves. Gram would have me dig a small divot, to tuck the bottom of the jar into. My brother carries on this tradition that shows honor and respect. 


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fiction Review: Ever Faithful (A Vintage National Parks Novel) by Karen Barnett


Description:
Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more--and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can't read will never amount to anything--or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain "requirements." Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.
   
Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger's daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park's hotels, she still hasn't saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate's secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

My Review:
This is the second Vintage Park National Novel I've read, and I loved it. Karen Barnett takes the reader into the heart of the park and the story from the beginning. She adds in the research from that decade and creates an entertaining and heart-warming story. There is a bit of mystery as well as romance as Elsie and Nate figure out their futures. I enjoyed learning more about how the parks inner workings were and the people who worked in the background. The beauty of the park itself is woven into the fabric of the story. Pick up a copy for a great summer read! I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

From Brokenness to Beauty


Psalm 34:17-18
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Waves washed the shore as we ambled on the sand, in the morning sun.

On Kelleys Island, Tim and I searched for lake glass and colorful rocks, along their small coastal beach. I love finding pieces of glass that the waters have tumbled and refined. The bottle, or whatever the glass piece is topples into the lake. Over time the fragile piece falls against the rocks and breaks. The ebb and flow of the lake's water tosses the glass back and forth, bumping it into sand and debris, replacing the sharp, broken pieces with beauty.

When I find an ideal fragment, the jagged edges are smoothed away and a subtle, frosted sheen covers the surface.
The sharp broken edges are transformed into perfection.
Like the jagged glass, the struggle with forgiveness results in broken edges for the soul. Anger results with more sharp edges and brokenness. Life hasn't turned out how you planned. Disappointment sharpens another edge. Friends turn away, church leaves you empty, you've tumbled down a hole of sin and destruction. Rejection and hurt cause the heart to break; the sharp edges to poke and injure.  

God who formed the lakes and oceans, wants to take the broken pieces of our lives and create beauty. Sorrow, sadness, anger, sin, betrayal, hurt; he will take them all and sand off the sharp edges through grace. In that grace, he offers hope. The hope of a new life in him.

God will fill the emptiness and turn the sorrow into joy. He loves the brokenhearted and wants nothing more than to heal the wounded soul. Pray to him for forgiveness, help, and guidance. He will takes the sharp, broken edges and replace them with peace and hope.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Pray Now

Romans 15:30
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

Remember when prayer chains moved across telephone lines, one person at a time? Some still do. But, now many are posted on social media. I’m concerned that the ones posted may be overlooked or forgotten. We flick through the pictures, glance at captions and comments, then move on. I think I'll remember to pray or at least write them down as I see them, but I've found the best method for me is to stop and pray at that moment. God wants me to seek him in prayer. Not just for myself, but for others. For the burdens of life, praises and joy and to bring others to salvation. He wants to hear the requests, groans and thank yous.

Even the apostle Paul asked his friends to pray for him. Packed and ready to move along on his journey, he sought out prayer warriors, who would take his needs to God.

As I write this, hundreds of people pray healing prayers to God for a dear, dear lady in our community. One who has suffered at the wretched hands of cancer. She's a light to all who know her and a joy to the children she loves. Her ministry has touched countless lives. Now she needs our prayers. Even in her suffering she loves God and continues to shine Jesus light.

Pray for Lori, her family and the friends who rally around her and love her. God is bigger than all of this.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Here's the Church, Here's the Steeple



This old church, the stories it could tell. But what kind of stories? Rejoicing, babies born, funerals planned, sermons preached, friends made, prayers recited, confessions made. So many stories.

I'm intrigued by church buildings, especially those that have been abandoned. They once held the soul of the church, the people. Did the folks who attended get along or did they bicker. Did they serve or did they want to be served?

I've attended church in traditional buildings with a steeple, in a high school where assembly and tear down were part of worship, in a former bowling alley. I've worshiped outside and watched the sun rise over the mountain, and the water wave in the lake.

Yet, those old clapboard buildings intrigue me with their memories. My imagination goes to church picnics on the lawn, funerals where the casket is buried in the cemetery that sits on the same plot of land. Old hymns drift out windows so birds can join the melody. Hands held and heads bowed in prayer.

The church building I focus on today is an old, abandoned one. The outside looks worn out, weathered.

I'm sure cobwebs and thick layers of dust fill the pews. Like someone who has abandoned Jesus. Worn from the sin of the world, weary of life. A no trespassing sign graces the front door. No one is welcome. Sadness drapes over the building. Sorrow embraces the person who won't welcome hope.

What happened? Was the building condemned?

Did the person, whose soul weighs down with weariness of the world, give up?

The building may be a remnant of the past, but the person, the people still have a chance. Jesus waits with open arms calling the lost sheep home. He's never abandoned a soul. He waits.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

2 Corinthians 3:16-18
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Blue Morpho butterflies, the size of my hand, darted around Krohn Conservatory. They flashed their iridescent blue wings in every corner of the tropical dome. My grandkids, Eli and Ella Cate, watched in awe at the many varieties of butterflies that dipped in and out of our path.

On the way to the conservatory, I read a book to the kids. It was all about a caterpillar who was learning to become a butterfly. The whole process tested his patience. Once he figured out that he had to spend time in his chrysalis in order to sprout colorful wings and fly, he embraced his quiet dwelling and waited.

Reflecting on the story of the impatient caterpillar reminds me that I'm in a chrysalis, a place to grow and change in Jesus. Once I chose to follow Jesus and claim him as my Savior, I started the transformation journey. Each day that I proclaim my faith, I change a little more. Being a Christ-follower is a process. I have the Holy Spirit in my life, who helps me transform. He gives me guidance and wisdom, comfort and hope while I live on earth. Like the blue morpho, one of these days I will burst from my shell, then I'll stand in heaven with God, as a new creation. One who is fully transformed, because of God's grace.

The caterpillar feet were gone, the wings unfolded.
One should never lose hope! - Tomas TranstrÖmer

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Fiction/Suspense Review: Living Lies by Natalie Walters


Description:
In the little town of Walton, Georgia, everybody knows your name--but no one knows your secret. At least that's what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son. Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.

Lane must work with Walton's newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she'll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.

Debut novelist Natalie Walters pulls you to the edge of your seat on the first page and keeps you there until the last in this riveting story that will have you believing no one is defined by their past.


My Review:
Living Lies is a page turning suspense. I love that the author addresses the story of a woman who suffers from depression. The topic needs to be talked about. Natalie Walters did a great job sharing the insight into Lane's life with depression. Woven into a thrilling mystery, Lane's story drew me in and kept me turning pages (I may have even lost a little sleep.) I liked Charlie Lynch's character. He's a kind man who balances Lane's struggles. As always, I like a well-written story set in a small town. If I hadn't been told, I'd never have known this was Walter's debut. Well done, Natalie! If you enjoy suspense with depth of character, you'll want to read Living Lies. Also, I see where this could be a good book for YA readers as well as adults. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Last Breath

"Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it."


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Great is Your Reward

Matthew 5:11-12
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


The sounds of May—teachers shouting with joy and students laughing and fist bumping the air. Schools out for the summer.

The week has been busy with end of school awards. Since retirement, I've been able to attend the activities of grandkids. At the middle school on Wednesday, I watched as my granddaughter Dylan was given certificates from the teachers who worked hard to instill a love of learning. On Thursday, I attended awards for Eli and Zeke, moving from third to fourth grade. Every child beamed when their name was called. They held up their certificates and medals, joyful about their accomplishments. What a way to end the year!

Many of the children received the Tiger award. A special acknowledgement of good behavior, kindness, and hard work. Those students treated their fellow students with respect and were rewarded.

When I accepted Jesus as my savior, I agreed to obey God. Frankly, at times I've failed. But the beautiful thing is—God gives grace. Yes, I obey in hopes of receiving the reward of heaven. More than that, I want to emulate Jesus. I strive to show love the way he has, to others.

Jesus reminds me, in the passage in Matthew, that following him may bring persecution. The devil loves to poke, prod and attack from every side. As certain as I am that it wasn't always easy for the students to show kindness to each other, I know how difficult the path is when following Jesus. Yet, I choose to follow the example Jesus set. To love God and people. For great is the reward of heaven.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Fiction Book Review: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes


Description:
In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss's humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the tiny, coastal Maine town, and he sets his calloused hands to work, but the building halts when tragedy strikes.

Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when she learns her Great-Uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. What she didn't anticipate was finding a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Long-ago memories of stone ruins on a nearby island trigger her curiosity, igniting a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers.

She joins forces with the handsome and mysterious harbor postman, and all her hopes of mending the decades-old chasm in her family seem to point back to the ruins. But with Robert failing fast, her search for answers battles against time, a foe as relentless as the ever-crashing waves upon the sea.

My Review:
Whose Waves These Are is an amazing story of love, devotion, misunderstanding, loss and redemption. Annie Bliss is a plucky character determined to make amends for her own mistakes and those of her family. She's strong, yet vulnerable. Jeremiah's patience and uncertainty add a delicious layer of mystery to the already interesting story. As Annie and Jeremiah work to unravel the years of tangled family threads, the village of Ansel-by-the-Sea rises up to its full potential to love the people who need it most. Amanda Dykes has woven a fascinating and satisfying story, A perfect Maine tale. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Fiction Review: Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter


Description:
When her grandmother goes missing from the family beach house, Maddy and her estranged sisters converge in Sea Haven, North Carolina. Being with uptight Nora and free-spirited Emma in the home where their family broke apart is a struggle Maddy is not in the mood to face, especially since she’s recovering from her ex-boyfriend’s betrayal.

As the sisters wait for word of their grandmother, they begin to pack up the family belongings—and unpack memories of the idyllic summers of their childhood. But with those memories come long-buried secrets, and Maddy discovers that all was not as it appeared that last summer in Sea Haven. Meanwhile, Gram’s neighbor, Connor Sullivan, seems overly interested in Gram’s whereabouts. Maddy is drawn in by his quick smile and steady gaze in spite of herself.

Undercurrents of jealousy and resentment threaten to pull the family under again, maybe for good this time. As tensions rise, the sisters must find a way to accept each other for the women they’ve become—and Maddy must decide if falling in love again is worth the potential heartbreak.

My Review:
Love this book! Summer by the Tides is a beautiful story of love, hope, and forgiveness. A visit to Sea Haven, North Carolina made me feel like I was on vacation. The memories embedded in Gram's cottage, from family summers of the past, creates tension between the sisters. The kind of tension that made me keep turning the pages. While Maddy tries to figure out her life, Gram's handsome neighbor, Connor, reaches out to the family. The story of the three sisters is intriguing. I enjoyed this is perfect summer read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

God is Love

1 John 4:7-10
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This week has been a tough one. I've been in prayer—a lot. For dear friends who have physical ailments, surgeries and recoveries. For grandchildren and children who need some extra special care. For Tim and I as we let go of one of our best friends, our dog Tater. I don't really know how to say goodbye to our dog. He came to us as the sweetest little puppy. Now fifteen years later, yes that's a long time for a big dog, his body is giving out. But when I look into his face, I see that puppy who stole my heart. Some folks won't understand losing a pet, but many will. He's been part of our family, a comfort at times and a buddy always. The same grief we experience for a loved one has been pounding me ever since we knew he'd be gone soon. I've been angry, sad, relieved, comforted, all those emotions and sometimes all at once. But the one thing I know...we have wonderful memories with a fabulous pet. He protected and loved us.

I don't know if dogs will be in heaven. They are part of God's creation, so I hope they are. But even if they aren't, I'm thankful God made them for us here. Tater has loved us unconditionally. He's given us a glimpse of the bigger love God has for us. I've learned a lot of things from my dog, but the best lesson is love. His love is pure, without manipulation or selfish ambition.

God's love, the purest love, reaches across the universe to every person. Through his love he sacrificed his son, Jesus, so our sins would be forgiven. That had to be hard. His own son. Think about that. God's love is so huge we can't comprehend it. How can he love me, a sinner? Not just love, but forgive. He loves and wants to be loved back. 
Love God and love people. There is no greater commandment.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Historical Fiction Book Review: The Refuge by Ann H. Gabhart


Description:
When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It's meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique--and lonely--position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?

My Review:
I enjoyed delving into and learning more about the Shaker community in The Refuge. Ann H. Gabhart's research into the lifestyle and beliefs of the Shakers is beautifully woven into the plot. Darcy and Flynn's stories are entertaining, and I love the stories of the children. Ann added some twists I wasn't expecting, which always makes for a good read. This is well crafted historical fiction; written with great detail and based in the reality of the times. If you enjoy well-written historical fiction, you'll love The Refuge. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Fiction Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay


Description:
Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop.

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened her heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

My Review:
The Printed Letter Bookshop is a beautiful story of love, loss, misunderstanding, friendship, and joy. I'd love to have a bookshop like this one in my neighborhood. The store itself is an amazing character. The two ladies who work in the shop create the perfect tension to carry the story through to the end. I enjoyed watching Maddie grow into the person her aunt knew she could be. And I love the gardener. He's a sweetheart. Katherine Reay's books always captivate me, this one was no exception. She adds in so many wonderful literary references. This is definitely a story for book lovers. It would make a wonderful gift for the avid reader.
 I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Children's Book Review: Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You words by Annette Bourland, illustrated by Kit Chase


Description:
Featuring read-aloud rhymes and adorable illustrations, Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You is the perfect book for a parent, grandparent, or any other loved one to share with the little one in their life. With each reading, it will bring joy to your child’s heart, and might even bring a tear to your eye as the charming illustrations and sweet rhymes remind you how precious these moments are between you and your Little Sweet Pea.

Little Sweet Pea, God loves you.
From button nose to gentle coo.
Squishy cheeks and sparkly eyes,
Pure delight and perfect size. 

My Review:
Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You is an adorable book made for reading aloud. This is the perfect story for lap-sitting and snuggling. The words are in a sing-song easy to read rhyme. The delightful illustrations add charm. Kit Chase uses watercolor, gouache, acrylic and ink to bring the pages to life. If you have a sweet child in your life you enjoy reading to, or know someone who would enjoy this positive, inspiring read about God's love for them pick up a copy to share.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zonderkidz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Like the Birds

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

A baby barred owl nestled into the roots of a tall oak tree. He sat as still as a statue— until my youngest daughter and I approached. We stood about three feet from him when we heard his mama hooting. He clacked his beak and flapped his wings to scare us off and she kept hooting. The next day, on a field trip with my oldest daughter's first grade class, we spied a killdeer. She flapped her wings, swelled her chest out, and ran around trying to shoo us away from her eggs. Both mama birds went into protector mode when their babies felt threatened.


Like the birds, I have a protector. One who knows my enemy. I love the verse in Psalm that reminds me I rest in the shadow of the almighty. Can you imagine the enormity of God's shadow? Neither can I. Yet what I do know—in his shadow I'm surrounded by God and his army of angels; I have God's word that pours truth into my weary soul; I have the Holy Spirit who walks with me every day; and I have Jesus promise of new life. Praise God for his love and protection.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fiction Review: On a Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Bk#1 of Three Sisters Island)


Description:
Sometimes love hurts--and sometimes it can heal in the most unexpected way.

Camden Grayson loves her challenging career, but the rest of her life could use some improvement. "Moving on" is Cam's mantra. But there's a difference, her two sisters insist, between one who moves on . . . and one who keeps moving. 

Cam's full-throttle life skids to a stop when her father buys a remote island off the coast of Maine. Paul Grayson has a dream to breathe new life into the island--a dream that includes reuniting his estranged daughters. Certain Dad has lost his mind, the three sisters rush to the island. To Cam's surprise, the slow pace of island life appeals to her, along with the locals--and one in particular. Seth Walker, the scruffy island schoolteacher harbors more than a few surprises. 

My Review:
On a Summer Tide, the first in the Three Sisters Island series by Suzanne Woods Fisher, is a heart-warming story with a glorious setting. You may be familiar with Suzanne's many Amish and historical novels. Her contemporary romance is delightful and full of charm. The beautiful Maine coast is the perfect backdrop for this story of reconciliation and discovery. Paul Grayson wants his daughters back in the fold, to accomplish that he buys an island. That alone made the story appealing to me. They work together to rebuild the camp he holds dear to his heart. Each of the three sisters brings a different personality to the table, as is the case with sisters. There are some surprises along with the restoration. I plan to keep this book and reread it when the next ones in the series are published. This a perfect summer read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Fiction Review: Becoming Us (Haven Makers Book 1) by Robin Jones Gunn


Description:
Five young women, including beloved Gunn characters Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen, gather for a simple Christmas party and soon become unlikely best friends. Told from the viewpoint of Emily, a timid young mom going through a difficult season of life, the regular gatherings provide the much needed community she's longed for. As the women begin sharing their life stories in Becoming Us they are endeared to each other and find ways to challenge, encourage, and help each other become the nurturing mothers they wished they'd had when they were growing up. They see themselves as Haven Makers and unite to be remembered for what they do and not for what was done to them.

My Review:
Becoming Us is a sweet inspirational novel. Fans of Robin's Christy Miller books will love this new series. I enjoyed the interaction of the young women as they learn and grow through tough times. The most inspiring element in the story is the common thread they share; young women doing life together. I've read several of Gunn's books and enjoyed them all. This one will appeal to young women who can relate to the trials of life as mom's and/or working women. I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Children's Picture Book Review: A Kite for Moon by Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrated by Matt Phelan


Book Description:
Dedicated to astronaut Neil Armstrong, A Kite for Moon is the perfect children’s book to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first United States moon landing.
What would it be like if the moon was your friend? Find out as you walk alongside a little boy who journeys through life to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut. And then blast off with your little one as you zoom to the moon together!

The story begins when a little boy, who is flying his kite, notices a sad Moon. He sends up kites to her, writing notes promising he will come see her someday. This promise propels him through years of studying, learning, and training to become an astronaut. Until … he finally goes up, up, up in a big rocket ship with a fiery tail!


A Kite for Moon, written by New York Times bestselling author of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi Stemple, is a heartfelt story about a young boy’s fascination and unlikely friendship with the moon.

My Review:
A Kite for Moon is the perfect conversation starter about space exploration, the moon, or a summer night of star gazing. Share this poetic tribute with an elementary school class or your own children. This sweet story will inspire children to dream about what they'd like to do when they grow up. Dedicated to Neil Armstrong, the story follows a little boy and his desire to help the moon find happiness. I like that the point of view comes from the moon's perspective. At the age of 12, I remember watching Armstrong's moon landing; as will many grandparents who will want to read this to their grandchildren. This gorgeous book, filled with beautiful illustrations, is a perfect salute to Armstrong and all the boys and girls who dream of bigger things. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zonderkidz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.