Saturday, November 21, 2020

Sunrise---Sunset

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Linus, of Charlie Brown fame, starts each day with a fresh blanket.

Photo by Maggie Wickline-Jowers
I don't often wake up in time to witness the sunrise. Yet, I know every day that bright star lights our world from dawn until dusk. With the morning I'm given the gift of a new day, an opportunity to start fresh on my journey with Jesus. While I attempt to follow the Holy Spirit's lead each day, some days I fumble through on my own and make a mess.

On the days I fail miserably, I bow my head as the sun sets and ask God to forgive me.

And he does.

The Lord gives second chances. His patience amazes me. I would have been done with me a long time ago. Not God. He calls me to repent when sin strangles me and drags me to the ground. He reminds me how much he loves me and wants me to understand I'm not alone. Instead I'm loved and accepted as his child.

I'm thankful for sunrise, a new beginning every morning. I'm even more thankful for sunset, a time to reflect on my day and seek God's grace.

Jesus calls everyone to repent, to throw off the burden of sin, and follow him.

If you haven't accepted Jesus love and grace, he asks us to hear his word (or read it), believe he is the son of God who died and rose to life, confess our sins, repent (turn away from a life chasing sinful things toward a life of hope and joy), be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit (our comfort and guide,) and be obedient.

 Jesus loves us and wants us to live a life of abundance.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Quiet Joy

As we approach Thanksgiving,
think back on 2020 and capture the good moments.
Find those times of quiet thankfulness.

Let go of the sorrow, frustration, and grief
and hold onto the peace and joy.



 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Historical Fiction Review: A Castaway in Cornwall by Julie Klassen

Book Description:
Set adrift on the tides of fate by the deaths of her parents and left wanting answers, Laura Callaway now lives with her uncle and his disapproving wife in North Cornwall. There she feels like a castaway, always viewed as an outsider even as she yearns to belong.

While wreckers search for valuables along the windswept Cornwall coast--known for its many shipwrecks but few survivors--Laura searches for clues to the lives lost so she can write letters to next of kin and return keepsakes to rightful owners. When a man is washed ashore after a wreck, Laura acts quickly to protect him from a local smuggler determined to destroy him.

As Laura and a neighbor care for the survivor, they discover he has curious wounds and, although he speaks in careful, educated English, his accent seems odd. Other clues wash ashore, and Laura soon realizes he is not who he seems to be. Despite the evidence against him, the mysterious man might provide her only chance to discover the truth about her parents' fate. With danger pursuing them from every side, and an unexpected attraction growing between them, will Laura ever find the answers she seeks?

My Review:
Cornwall's coast is fascinating, especially to Laura Callaway. Although she feels like an outsider in her new home, she fills her days helping others and working to return lost flotsam and jetsam to the rightful owners. On the day she discovers a man who has washed ashore, her life changes. Julie Klassen has done her research in this interesting story of love and loss. I found the characters compelling and the setting remarkable. Although the book was a bit slow, the story is well written. Klassen goes into detail to make the reader feel the chilly coast and the heartache Laura carries. If you enjoy historical fiction set in England, this is the book for you. I received a complimentary copy of this item. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Thanks for Music!

Psalm 95:1-2

Come, let us sing joy to the Lord;
            let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and
            extol him with music and song.

Raise a hallelujah!

In the fall of 1975, I joined several other 18 and 19 year-olds on the campus of Kentucky Christian College. Fresh out of high school, we prepared to join the ranks of freshmen in higher education. I knew a few of my fellow classmates and met a slew of new friends. We gathered at least twice a week for campus worship, where we heard preaching and raised our voices together in praise. One song touched our class more than any other, It is Well With my Soul. To this day it's my all-time favorite hymn.

Fast forward 40 yearsseveral from our class gathered for a reunion. What a joy to meet with these longtime friends. We ate and chatted, then had a time of worship. And guess which song we all wanted to sing. It is Well, because even after all these years, we know whatever life brings, our souls rest in the Lord.

The words of the hymn may seem old fashioned, but they translate into peace, hope, and joy for our troubled souls today. With all the grief, frustration, discontent, doubt, and temptation, God is still watching out for us. Jesus still offers grace and salvation. The Holy Spirit still lives and breathes in the souls of Jesus' followers.

When I feel down, I plug into music that praises the Lord, and then I sing like nobody's listening. I'm thankful for the music written to praise the Lord, whether a psalm, a hymn, or a contemporary piece. Thank you, Lord for musicians.

Come before him with thanksgiving and song!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Thank you!

 I am thankful to the men and women
who have put their lives on the line
so we may live in freedom.

Thank you Veterans for your sacrifices!







Monday, November 9, 2020

Gift Item Review: Whatever Is Lovely Postcard Book: Twenty-Four Inspirational Cards to Color and Send: Postcards by Ink & Willow

Item Description:
Spread joy and inspiration with twenty-four colorable postcards to send to friends and family (or enjoy yourself!), from the creators of the Whatever Is Lovely coloring book.

Featuring inspirational quotes and beautiful artwork from the award-winning Whatever Is Lovely coloring book, this set of twenty-four detachable, colorable postcards offers a peaceful escape from the stress and busyness of everyday life. Quotes from contemporary voices, familiar hymns, and Scripture are included on the back of the cards.

Each card has a splash of metallic ink, so they are pretty enough to send before being colored. That way, you can color them yourself or let the recipient have all the fun! You might even decide to keep them yourself to display in your home!

Artists of all ages will enjoy coloring and displaying these beautiful cards!

My Review:
The Ink & Willow postcards come in a cute book where they can be removed one-at-a-time or kept to enjoy. Although the cards have designs that can be colored with pencil or markers, the touches of gold make them beautiful on their own. Each card is beautifully designed with a drawing and an inspiring quote. I'll enjoy sending these to friends and family. These would make a lovely gift or a sweet surprise, with each postcard sent. The paper is high quality and great to color on. The back of the card continues the sentiment with room for an address and a message. I received a complimentary copy of this item. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Historical Fiction Review: The Dress Shop on King Street (Heirloom Secrets Book #1) by Ashley Clark

Book Description:
Harper Dupree has pinned all her hopes on a future in fashion design. But when it comes crashing down around her, she returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, and to Millie, the woman who first taught her how to sew. As Harper rethinks her own future, long-hidden secrets about Millie's past are brought to light.

In 1946, Millie Middleton--the daughter of an Italian man and a Black woman--boarded a train and left Charleston to keep half of her heritage hidden. She carried with her two heirloom buttons and the dream of owning a dress store. She never expected to meet a charming train jumper who changed her life forever . . . and led her yet again to a heartbreaking choice about which heritage would define her future.

Now, together, Harper and Millie return to Charleston to find the man who may hold the answers they seek . . . and a chance at the dress shop they've both dreamed of. But it's not until all appears lost that they see the unexpected ways to mend what frayed between the seams.

My Review:
Wow! What a wonderful story. The Dress Shop on King Street captures the tension of the time period in the 1940s-60s, then slips on to modern day to tell an incredible story of courage, despair, and hope. I absolutely love Millie and Franklin's story as Millie traverses the world of a white person, whose heritage speaks differently. At times Millie's story breaks my heart and makes me angry because of the unfair world she lives in, but she perseveres. Harper's search for the future she dreams of leads Millie and her into Peter's life. The story that tumbles out of the past and crashes into the future is one filled with untold secrets, regrets, and hope, always hope. I also enjoyed the sewing references and the tale of the buttons. I'd love to see Harper's gorgeous creations. Ashley Clark did a beautiful job stitching the eras together and giving Harper a clear understanding of what it takes to follow your dreams. 5+ stars. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

When is Enough, Enough?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Into the woods we go.

Beyond the forest we trekked through, Lake Erie roared. Leaves scattered across the trail, under an overcast sky. We dodged puddles as we hiked along the North Loop on Kelleys Island. From an opening in the woods, we spotted the alvar, a rare ecosystem along the coast, made of limestone, very thin soil, and scant vegetation.

After we climbed over roots and rocks, we stepped onto the limestone and watched the angry waves tumble in. At first the alvar looked barren. Then I noticed plants and moss growing out of what appeared to be nothing. The environment provided just enough soil and nutrients for plants to grow. I'd read that the northern bog violet grew there in the spring. Even in late October, with the water crashing in, the autumn plants thrived.

I've experienced times in my life when resources were thin like the soil on the alvar. Other times my physical being felt weak or my spiritual life fell short. In all of those times, the Holy Spirit reminded me God is enough. Trust me, I struggled. I didn't just glide through without doubt and fear, but my Lord provided the resources, the strength, and the desire to plant my spiritual roots deeper.

With faith and hope, I believe with all my heart—God is enough. When I fall on my knees and seek his forgiveness—God is enough. When I worry and fret—God is enough. He provides all my needs, if I am willing to ask him and trust him.

Believe God is enough, even in times of doubt and despair. He loves us more than we understand.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Cozy Mystery Review: Bag of Bones: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery by Jackie Layton

Book Description:

Does one good turn deserve a murder?

Despite all her good intentions to focus on a healthy lifestyle and leave crime solving to the professionals, Andi Grace Scott has run right smack into another investigation--literally. Who’d have thought caring for stray cats and a healthy morning beach run could lead to murder?

Andi Grace has found another body and a young woman who needs help. Solving this puzzle will come with a cost. This time, catching the killer will require Andi Grace to confront her past relationships and truths about her deceased mother.

My Review:
I love Andi Grace Scott. Despite wanting to live a simple life, she winds up in the middle of a murder investigation, again, and helps a young woman with a rough past. And who wouldn't love Marc Williams, Andi's patient and attentive boyfriend. There were some surprises and twists I didn't expect, which makes the book that much more appealing. Bag of Bones, the third Low Country Dog Walker mystery is a great story. It's one of those series, when I finish reading, I miss the characters and hope there's another book coming. I have enjoyed all of Jackie Layton's Low Country Dog Walker books. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, you'll love Jackie Layton's books. I purchased this copy, and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Enough

I am blessed beyond measure.
Am I rich? No.
Am I poor? No.
Do I have what I need? Yes.
Who provides? God

Years ago, when I was a single parent, we didn't have much money or material things. 
But we had enough.
I prayed, and God provided. 
He met every need, and he still does.

For that I am grateful.


 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Fiction Review: The Sowing Season: A Novel by Katie Powner

Book Description:

After he's forced to sell the family farm he's labored on his whole life, 63-year-old Gerrit Laninga doesn't know what to do with himself. He sacrificed everything for the land--his time, his health, his family--with nothing to show for it but bitterness, regret, and two grown children who want nothing to do with him.

Fifteen-year-old Rae Walters has growing doubts and fears about The Plan--the detailed blueprint for high school that will help her follow in her lawyer father's footsteps. She's always been committed to The Plan, but now that the pressure to succeed is building, what was supposed to unite her family in purpose, may end up tearing it apart.

When their paths cross just as they each need a friend the most, Gerrit's and Rae's lives begin to change in unexpected ways. Can they discover together what really matters in life and learn it's never too late for a second chance?

My Review:
I love this heartwarming story of hope and forgiveness. Gerrit Laninga spent years working the family dairy. The whole time he carried guilt. When he finally lets go of the farm, he's faced with what to do with his life. He loves his wife Hannie, but lots of mending needs to be done. In comes Rae Walters, a self-driven teenager who needs to stick with The Plan. These two go on a path that leads them to self-examination and discovery. Katie Powner's debut is beautiful. This is a great read as we go into the season of thanksgiving. I enjoyed the country setting and all the characters who matter to Gerrit and Rae. If you enjoy books with a redemptive thread and a family/community theme, you'll love The Sowing Season. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

They Laugh, They Cry

Matthew 19:13-14
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 

I miss the little ones.

Before COVID 19 changed our lives, I spent Thursdays in my daughter's first grade classroom. As Sara taught, I helped any child who needed a little nudge. Sometimes Sara and I would read an Elephant and Piggy book and do the voices back and forth. The kids laughed and learned. I watched them play at recess, color pictures, and count blocks.

Small children absorb the world around them. Whatever the environment, they take in the good and the bad. I love watching my grandkids grow and learn. They think about life with imagination and fascination. Sometimes they ask the hard questions, because they want to understand. Other times we hang out and play games and just enjoy each other's company. I love talking to them.

Jesus knew children understood him. He kept his life simple and spent time showing children they were important to him. He embraced their imagination and encouraged his followers to be more like them.

What did Jesus see?

Children allow their belief to blossom into faith through experience and trust. They love unconditionally. They see each other without pre-conceived ideas or prejudice. They play. They laugh. They cry. They ask for help. They start over. They fall and get back up. They aren't afraid to look silly. They take in God's creation with awe.

Children love Jesus without expectation. They embrace his joy and dwell in his love.

Love Jesus as a child. Embrace him. Seek him. Stand in awe of him. Talk to him. Then teach a child about him. If you're like me, you'll learn more from the little one than they learn from you.

"Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born." -Albert Einstein

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Song You Heard

I am a fan of Mary Oliver's poetry.

This one in particular reminds me to go back to my childhood 
and embrace my imagination.



 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Children's Devotional Review: Wonder & Wisdom: Everyday Reminders from Psalms & Proverbs by Joanna Rivard & Tim Penner

Book Description:

A highly engaging introduction to Old Testament Psalms and Proverbs for young children, each bite-sized reading draws on the timeless wisdom of these books to remind young ones who God made them to be and how to live their lives with him on a day-to-day basis. The lessons found in Psalms and Proverbs are enduring and key for understanding what it looks like to live a life of love and gratitude, make good choices, and ask helpful questions.

An ideal companion to The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible, Tiny Truths Wonder and Wisdom helps children ages 4 to 8 discover:

Who God is: the one who made everything and everyone

Who we are: his children, whom he loves unconditionally

What we were made for: to love God and everyone else

My Review:
Tiny Truths Wonder and Wisdom is a beautifully written book for children. The illustrations are eye-catching and fun, they remind me of the cute Funko Pop toys. Most important, they show how God loves all people. The truths written out in a kid-friendly way are timeless. Each story is paired with a verse from Psalm or Proverbs. The book includes a table of contents, an introduction to Psalm and Proverbs, and more to explore verses. Written in easy to read text, the wisdom and wonders will delight little ones. This would be a perfect gift book for many occasions or a great book to use in a class for children. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Historical Fiction Review: Nothing Short of Wondrous (American Wonders Collection Book #2) by Regina Scott

Book Description:
It is 1886, and the government has given the US Cavalry control of Yellowstone. For widowed hotelier Kate Tremaine, the change is a welcome one. She knows every inch of her wilderness home like the back of her hand and wants to see it protected from poachers and vandals.


Refused a guide by Congress, Lieutenant William Prescott must enlist Kate's aid to help him navigate the sprawling park and track down the troublemakers. But a secret from his past makes him wary of the tender feelings the capable and comely widow raises in him. As they work together to protect the park and stand firm through injustice and tragedy, they may just find that two wounded hearts can share one powerful love when God is in control.

My Review:
Nothing Short of Wondrous is a delight to read. The Yellowstone Park setting drew me to this story. Regina Scott's writing made me feel like I was hiking through the park and seeing all the amazing geysers and paint pots. I love Kate Tremaine's spunk and determination as she fights to protect her home and the park. Her son, Danny, is a sweet boy ready to defend his beloved buffalo. I adored the lieutenant and his story, as well as the quirky men in his troop. The guests and staff at the hotel are interesting and add humor to the story. As I read I craved a piece of Alberta's pie! If you enjoy historical fiction and nature this is a perfect combination. Regina Scott is such a good author. She presents the history with accuracy and leaves the reader satisfied. I've enjoyed both of the American Wonders books, A Distance too Grand and Nothing Short of Wondrous. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Nothing But Change

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

The leaves they are a-changing.

As green fades and red, orange, and gold hang like jewels from the branches, I stand in awe of God's creation. On my morning walks, I take in the amazing changes on the hills that surround us. If I'm early enough, I watch the sky turn from gray to pink, orange, and blue. The clouds billow overhead and a breeze blows.


While I'm excited to see summer gradually fade into autumn, I'm not a huge fan of change in general. I get a bit nervous when plans are altered. I struggle a little as I learn new software, try a different writing technique, or drive somewhere I've never been. (Thank goodness for the GPS.) And good grief, 2020 has been nothing but change. Sometimes all the changes rattles my confidence.

When life throws curveballs—like this year—what do I do?  

I reach out to the One, I know without doubt, I can depend on. Jesus. He never changes. He's the same every day. His love and compassion stay steady. When Peter betrayed him, Jesus kept loving him. Even though religious leaders mocked him, He continued to speak to sinners. Against the custom of his day, He spoke to women in a respectful manner. Jesus made change happen, yet He remained the same.

He's the one consistent anchor. No matter what kind of crazy day I've had, I can open my heart and pour out my prayers to the one who always cares. As the leaves change, I know Jesus stays the same. For this I am thankful. Praise God for Jesus.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

As Long As It Takes

In my sixty-three years, I've found that I don't enjoy hurrying. 
I doubt most of us do.

When I was younger with children at home, no doubt we hustled about, 
keeping up with all of our obligations. 

Whether you find yourself in the hustle and bustle or the slow rolling waves, 
be gentle on yourself.

Take what time you can to slow down, and just be.


 

Historical Fiction Review: The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

 Book Description:

Focused on a career in medicine and not on romance, Willa Duvall is thrown slightly off course during the summer of 1865 when she discovers a never-opened love letter in a crack of her old writing desk. Compelled to find the passionate soul who penned it and the person who never received it, she takes a job as a nurse at the seaside estate of Crestwicke Manor.

Everyone at Crestwicke has feelings--mostly negative ones--about the man who wrote the letter, but he seems to have disappeared. With plenty of enticing clues but few answers, Willa's search becomes even more complicated when she misplaces the letter and it passes from person to person in the house, each finding a thrilling or disheartening message in its words. 

My Review:
I enjoyed reading Willa's story in The Love Note. She's a woman on a mission that goes a bit sideways, which makes for a wonderful story. The characters at Crestwicke won my heart, even the ones who were a bit difficult. I loved the twists and turns the note caused and the story of why the note was written. The setting adds to the story, especially the place where Willa goes to think and pray. Joanna Davidson Politano has written a beautiful story to be savored. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Romantic Suspense Book Review: Point of Danger (Triple Threat Book #1) by Irene Hannon

Book Description:

Radio talk show host Eve Reilly is used to backlash from her pot-stirring on-air commentary and interviews, but now it seems a disgruntled listener is resorting to more than angry words to express their displeasure. When a suspicious package arrives on her doorstep, Eve turns to law enforcement for help.

Police detective Brent Lange can't find any evidence to link the string of unsettling incidents that follows, but he's convinced they're connected. As the harassment grows more menacing, it becomes clear someone wants Eve's voice silenced--permanently. 

But unless he can track down her foe, fast, the gutsy woman who is willing to take risks for what she believes--and who is swiftly winning his heart--may not survive.

My Review:
I'm so excited to share a new series by Irene Hannon. Whether her Hope Harbor novels or her latest romantic suspense, Irene's stories entertain. In her latest, Point of Danger, radio personality, Eve Reilly, has stirred up a listener with her straight-forward comments and opinions. Now her life is in danger. Detective Brent Lange is determined to keep Eve safe and find the person behind the threats. Hannon has written an exciting, fast-paced novel woven with current events. She's written some awesome twists and interesting characters. I love the relationship Eve has with her sisters and enjoyed the honesty between Eve and Brent. If you enjoy contemporary romantic suspense, you don't want to miss Point of Danger. I'm already looking forward to book #2. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Fiction Review: Autumn Skies (A Bluebell Inn Romance Book 3) by Denise Hunter

Book Description:
When a mysterious man turns up at Grace’s family-run inn, it’s instant attraction. But she’s already got a lot on her plate: running the Bluebell Inn, getting Blue Ridge Outfitters off the ground, and coping with a childhood event she’d thought was long past.
A gunshot wound has resurrected the past for secret service agent Wyatt Jennings, and a mandatory leave of absence lands him in Bluebell, North Carolina. There he must try and come to grips with the crisis that altered his life forever.

Grace needs experience for her new outfitters business, so when Wyatt needs a mountain guide, she’s more than happy to step up to the plate. As their journey progresses, Grace soon has an elusive Wyatt opening up, and Wyatt is unwittingly drawn to Grace’s fresh outlook and sense of humor.

There’s no doubt the two have formed a special bond, but will Wyatt’s secrets bring Grace’s world crashing down? Or will those secrets end up healing them both?

My Review:
Denise finished this series with an amazing story of courage, love, and mystery. Grace may be young, but she's had to grow up and help her siblings with the inn. Wyatt carries an air of mystery and sorrow. While Grace's sister and brother are busy with their own lives, Grace wants nothing more than to get her business up and running. In the mean time, Wyatt's story tugs at Grace's heart. As the story unfolds I was drawn into the Blue Ridge Mountains and the quaint town of Bluebell. The inn is lovely and the setting beautiful. If you have read the first two in the series, you can't miss Autumn Skies. If you haven't read any of them, start with book one. This can be a stand alone, but you don't want to miss out on Molly and Levi's stories. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Palms up...Let Go

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.

My flower bed looked kind of pitiful.

The black-eyed Susan's blossoms had dropped and their leaves had turned reddish brown like some of the autumn trees. The wind had knocked them down for the count. My lavender plants stretched until they looked lanky and the woody under part showed. The blazing stars' heads looked more like cattails than purple flowers. My zinnias were the only plants hanging on to summer.

I could wait for the first frost to kill more foliage or I could start the process of cutting the plants back. With clippers in hand I attacked the lavender. A lovely scent filled my nose as I snipped the branches. With just two plants, the trimming took minutes. But what a difference the pruning would make for spring growth.

Sometimes life mirrors a flower garden. I plant, fertilize, water, and prune my flowers, and God waters, prunes, and encourages growth. Sometimes I need more than a trim. Old habits, like worry, need chopped out to allow for more positive behavior. Worry produces about as much good as a gangly plant that languishes and flops in the garden. While some plants survive and even flourish with a quick trim, others like the black-eyed Susan and blazing star must be cut to the ground in order to grow the following spring.

Paul calls us to pray instead of worry. Our heavenly father asks us to talk to him instead of keeping our concerns balled up inside or wringing our hands with frustration.

I sat on my porch the other day and tried something I'd read about, but not done. I opened my hands, palms up, and held them in front of me. Then I prayed. This small gesture of letting go of my requests brought me peace as I spoke to my Father in heaven. Worry steals the peace that encourages my faith. God listens. He loves to hear from us.

Pray instead of worry. God's peace guards the most vulnerable parts of our being.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Fiction Book Review: Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant

Book Description:

The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so, she's created her own version of the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery in Story, Kansas. She never expects it to go viral--or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He's definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for a love story like the one her parents had, and that certainly will not include the love-scorned-and-therefore-love-scorning Gerard.

Just when it seems Bri's bakery is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just her business but the pedestal she's kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri's recipe just needs to be tweaked.

My Review:
Paris has nothing on Story, Kansas. Key to Love is a sweet story (literally.) Bri, following in her mother's footsteps, bakes macarons and petit fours at the local bakery. She's determined to tread the perfect path to romance, like her parents, until a secret changes her perspective. Oh and there's Gerard, an attractive, single man who swings a wide berth around romance. What a story these two make with their back and forth bantering and polar opposite view points. Key to Love is a delightful romance filed with dreamy scenarios and likable characters. Dive into this delicious tale and escape for a few hours into a modern romance. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Worry or Pray

I'm not sure why it is so much easier to worry than pray.

When I worry, I tend to imagine the most ridiculous outcomes.

When I pray, I place those worries in the hands of the one who created me,
the only one who can give me peace.

Repeat after me-pray instead of worry.
Not easy, but so much better!


 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Look in God's Mirror

Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

As a writer, I think about words a lot.

When I was a teenager, I spent too much time in front of the mirror. I didn't wear makeup, but I brushed my long straight hair for hours. I checked my outfits to make sure I conformed to strict school rules. And I talked to myself. The words weren't positive. I didn't like my ears or nose. I wasn't as pretty as my friends. The lies I told myself hurt and beat up any confidence I had. Unfortunately, this is typical behavior for many teenagers and adults.

I still talk to myself but not in the same demeaning way I did as a young person. Over the years my attitude changed, one of the benefits of growing older and wiser. I learned to listen to the words of God, my husband, my family, and my friends. You see—they value me as a person. Oh, I'm not perfect and I make plenty of mistakes, yet I'm a useful and unique person who loves God and seeks his purpose.

God created me, not to knock myself down, but to soar.

I love Psalm 139:13-14
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
 I know that full well.

If my words are negative, self-talk is unwholesome and detrimental. Our minister said, "Stop beating yourself up with self-talk." He instructed us to "Look in the mirror of God's truth." God made you and me as a wonderful work of his creation. He made us on purpose. Look in the mirror and see the potential God sees. Ephesians 4:29 tells us to build each other up, not to let negative talk pour from our mouths. That applies to talking to ourselves too. Spill out the positive on others and yourself.

Whether you've been treasured by family and friends or sent into a tailspin of abuse. God sees your value. He cherishes you. Change self-talk from negative to positive and know God created you as a beautiful person with joy and hope in His heart.

 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Christmas Book Review: The Christmas Table: A Novel by Donna VanLiere

Book Description:
In June 1972, John Creighton determines to build his wife Joan a kitchen table. His largest project to date had been picture frames but he promises to have the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspired to put something delicious on the table, Joan turns to her mother’s recipes she had given to Joan when she and John married.

In June 2012, Lauren Mabrey discovers she’s pregnant. Gloria, Miriam, and the rest of her friends at Glory’s Place begin to pitch in, helping Lauren prepare their home for the baby. On a visit to the local furniture builder, Lauren finds a table that he bought at a garage sale but has recently refinished. Once home, a drawer is discovered under the table which contains a stack of recipe cards. Growing up in one foster home after another, Lauren never learned to cook and is fascinated as she reads through the cards. Personal notes have been written on each one from the mother to her daughter and time and again Lauren wonders where they lived, when they lived, and in a strange way, she feels connected to this mother and her daughter and wants to make the mother proud.

The story continues to from 1972 to 2012 as Joan battles breast cancer and Lauren learns to cook, preparing for the baby’s arrival. As Christmas nears, can Lauren unlock the mystery of the table, and find the peace she's always longed for?

My Review:
The Christmas Table
is a lovely holiday story that will fill your heart with joy and hope. Donna VanLiere did a great job with the time slip between 1972 and 2012. I enjoyed reading about Joan and Lauren learning to cook and the stories behind the recipes. Joan's story touched my heart as her husband, John, poured his love for her into building her a kitchen table. I love that Lauren, with great determination, sought out a significant piece to an important puzzle. The folks who work at Glory's Place are delightfully funny and caring. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A Great Tragedy

 

Look in the mirror to see the truth God sees. 
We are his children and he loves us.
We are valued by Him.

Even the humble bee is treasured by his creator.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

It's Messy

Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Forgiveness is hard.

I was probably five years old when I learned my first lesson in forgiveness. Our family visited my aunt and uncle. On their coffee table sat an enticing bowl of candy (I'm trying to blame the bowl.) When we got ready to leave, I snatched a couple of pieces and stuck them in my pocket. When Mom tucked me in she
picked up my pants and out fell the two pieces of foil wrapped delight. "Did Uncle Lynn give these to you?" My little head shook a slow no. "Did you ask before you took them?" Another head shake no. "Tomorrow we'll take them back and you can apologize to your aunt and uncle." I'm sure my eyes were big as saucers as I nodded. "Now you need to tell God you're sorry for taking something that didn't belong to you." I prayed and asked God to forgive me.

I often write about grace and the beautiful act of God's love. But I think sometimes I forget about the messiness of forgiveness. The word of God, in black and white (sometimes red) lays out what God considers sin. As I think about the many acts God points out as sin, He's selected them to protect me. But the thing is, God gives me the choice to follow his wisdom or not. But I know, even when I fail, God has my back. He's given me a way to come clean through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness frees us from sin, and the act of forgiving another person frees us from hate and anger. Yes—it's messy. Sometimes it's easier to hold a grudge or become complacent. But the anger toward the other person burns a hole in the heart. I've been there, both needing forgiveness and offering forgiveness. In both situations, God lifted my burden and filled me with peace.

God offers forgiveness and hope to everyone. Seek him.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Historical Fiction Review: Her Secret Song (Brides of Hope Mountain #3) by Mary Connealy

Book Description:
After a rough winter spent alone, Ursula Nordegren realizes she must overcome her fears of the outside world and begins a trek down Hope Mountain. Along the way she finds a badly wounded stranger and realizes God may have used her decision to leave as a way of saving the man.

Wax Mosby was climbing Hope Mountain in part to atone for his terrible choices. He was hired to drive out the Warden family and now knows he was duped. But when he's wounded during the climb, the last person he expects to rescue him is a beautiful blond woman with the voice of an angel.

As both Ursula and Wax weigh the costs of living new lives, the two find an unlikely bond. And they're joined by Ursula's sisters and the Warden family as the final showdown over the family ranch looms with the coming of spring.

My Review:
Ursula's story is one of fear, hope, and reconciliation. She's a strong mountain woman, which I love, who steps out on faith and follows God's call down the mountain. The story moves on to her pouring grace over a man she finds injured and coming down the mountain to find her life. There are scenes worthy of an old western as the good folks fight off the bad. Her Secret Song is book 3 in the series Brides of Hope Mountain. I have not read books 1 or 2, but the author reflects enough on Ursula's sisters' stories from the previous books to pick up the thread. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Bible Review: NIV, Beautiful Word Coloring Bible for Girls by Zondervan

Book Description:
Girls will get creative through coloring and journaling in the NIV Beautiful Word™ Coloring Bible for Girls. Included are pencils to color, blend and shade the
detailed line art surrounding hundreds of inspiring verses. This Bible gift set is perfect for the special young girl in your life and will become a cherished keepsake full of personalized creative expressions of faith.

Features include:
  • Complete text of the accurate, readable and clear New International Version (NIV)
  • Over 600 verses illustrated in ready-to-color line art
  • Four colored pencils
  • Six sheets of stickers designed for girls
  • Thick white paper for writing and doodling
  • Lined, wide margins for notes and reflections
  • Satin ribbon marker
  • Beautifully debossed and screen-printed cover
  • Exclusive Zondervan NIV Comfort Print® typeface in a readable 8-point print size

Using the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version (NIV) text makes the Bible accessible and easy-to-read for kids. The NIV is the result of over 50 years of work by the Committee on Bible Translation, who oversee the efforts of many contributing scholars. Representing the spectrum of evangelicalism, the translators come from a wide range of denominations and various countries and continually review new research to ensure the NIV remains at the forefront of accessibility, relevance, and authority. Every NIV Bible that is purchased helps Biblica translate and give Bibles to people in need around the world. 

My Review:
This Bible has some great features. The books of the Bible are listed in the order we are familiar with as well as in alphabetical order, making access easy. Girls can read the tips for Bible journaling and learn how to make this a great Bible reading experience. The illustrations are inviting, and there is room for notes in the margins and the back. The white pages with the black ink is printed with an easy to read font. The cover is sturdy, colorful, and well made. The colored pencils twist out from the top and come in four colors: blue, red, purple and yellow. The stickers offer encouraging messages on flat finish paper, for easy coloring. This would make a lovely gift for twelve years and up. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

True Freedom

Until I seek forgiveness and give forgiveness, I'm bound by the chains of sin and despair. 
True freedom comes from reconciliation with God and people. 


 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Book Review: Finding Wings (Chandler Sisters Book 3) by Deborah Raney

Book Description:
Taking care of her family is a blessing, but Britt thought there would be more to life--like falling in love 

Being the youngest of three sisters isn’t always easy for Britt Chandler, especially when her older sisters have successful lives and hers is still on hold. She put everything aside to care for her dying mother, but now their mother is gone. Just as her life finally has a chance to blossom, her sister is ordered on bed rest during a difficult pregnancy, and it looks like God is again calling Britt to be a family caregiver--and nothing more.

Rafe Stuart is unable to forgive himself for a childhood mistake that had grave repercussions. And no matter how many lives he saves now as a first responder, he can’t ever seem to do enough penance to free his soul from that decades-old tragedy. There definitely isn’t room in his wounded heart for love; it’s much too dangerous.

When these two struggling souls encounter each other, sparks fly. But they’re both scared the fire that might result could destroy them--and the others around them. How can they begin to trust God to have the best for them and real purpose for their lives beyond what they’ve dreamed . . . or feared?

My Review:
I love Britt's story. As always, Deborah Raney has taken on some difficult topics and created a beautiful story filled with hope. I've read all three of the Chandler Sisters books. Finding Wings resonates with me the most, perhaps because I'm the youngest child or because Britt is searching for her purpose. Deb tapped into the realities of being the youngest daughter and brought that to life. The family contrasts in the story add depth. I cheered for Britt and Rafe as they struggle to make time to get to know each other and care for family. There's also a beautiful surprise for Jo, Britt's sister. If you haven't read the series, I highly recommend it. Once you read Finding Wings, you'll want to know Phee and Jo's stories, too. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Consider Love

Romans 12: 9-10
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

In this time of topsy-turvy living, we need more love.

Most of us are ready to say goodbye to 2020. The year brought a lot of grief, pain, and suffering. People have turned against each other in disagreement, or just been frustrated with each other. We all have opinions. That's okay until our opinions become more important than people. Consider kindness. Speak with compassion.

God calls us to love, not just those who are easy to love, but all people. I need to pour love over each person as in turn Jesus pours love over me. Instead of anger—love. Instead of hate—love. Instead of frustration—love.

Jesus tells his disciples, in John 13, to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He knew when he went to heaven he needed to leave his followers with a direct command. Those words are for me, too. Jesus wants me to love others and show love by listening, offering compassion, meeting needs, and sharing Jesus. Loving people is hard sometimes—I struggle just like everyone else. But God offers a tool box with two important tools, the Bible and prayer. Through his words and the Holy Spirit's guidance, I want to spread more of his love and compassion.

Before you speak or post on social media consider whether there is love in your words.
We are our words.
Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Review: Until I Met You (Restoring Heritage Book #2) by Tari Faris

Book Description:
When she hears that the small town of Heritage, Michigan, is looking for a new librarian, Libby Kingsley jumps at the opportunity. Little did she know the library is barely more than a storage closet stuffed with dusty, outdated books. What the community really needs is a new building. But the only funds available are those being channeled into the new town square, and the landscape architect in charge of the project wants nothing to do with her plans.

All Austin Williams wants to do is get the town square project finished so he can do right by the family business and then extricate himself from the town that reveres the brother who cost him so much. But the local media and the town's new librarian seem to be conspiring against him at every turn. Will the determined bookworm find her way into his blueprints--and possibly even his heart?

My Review:
I love Tari Faris's books. This is her second in the series and her second book published. Tari's fresh, fun voice gives a unique flare to her characters. In Until I Met You, we see the flaws, warts and all, as the emotions fly. Libby has issues, but she also has a heart for the new project she's faced with. Austin expects too much of everyone, including himself. The town of Heritage is the perfect stage for Tari's stories. I love what they are doing with the library as they make the town come to life. Along with Libby and Austin's stories, we get a bonus. Olivia, Libby's roommate and Nate, Austin's brother, have their own relationship to work through. If you are looking for a fresh new voice in inspirational fiction, pick up a copy of Until I Met You. If you haven't read it, you'll also want to read the first Restoring Heritage book, You Belong With Me
.  I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

We Need More

Voices of kindness, listening for compassion, generous charity, 

minds for truth, and hearts of love...

More of these...

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Fiction Suspense Review: Two Reasons to Run (The Pelican Harbor Series Book 2) by Colleen Coble


Book Description:
A lie changed her world.

Police Chief Jane Hardy is still reeling from the scandal that rocked her small-town department just as she took over for her retired father—the man who wrecked her life with one little lie. Now she’s finally been reunited with her presumed-dead fifteen-year-old son, Will, and his father, documentarian Reid Bechtol. 

A crisis looms. 

When a murder aboard the oil platform Zeus exposes an environmental terrorist’s plot to flood Mobile Bay with crude oil, Jane and Reid must put their feelings for each other behind them and work together to prevent the rig from being sabotaged. 

A killer targets her son. 

Then the terrorist puts her son Will’s life on the line. Protecting him could be the common ground they need . . . but then ghosts from the past threaten to ruin Jane and Reid for good. 

She’s got plenty of reasons to run. But what if she stays? 


My Review:
Colleen Coble has written another satisfying page-turner. I love her character, Jane Hardy. The woman has overcome so many obstacles but still moves forward with a heart for justice, even as problems mount up. On top of that, there's something evil going down at the oil platform in the Gulf. As the Police Chief, Jane must put others before herself and go down a rocky road to find the truth. I enjoyed the role her son, Will, and his father, Reid, played, and the thread of faith that runs through this suspense-filled story. If you haven't read Colleen's books, this a great series to start with. If you are a regular Coble fan, you won't be disappointed. Start with book one, One Little Lie. Watch for book three, Three Buried Secrets coming in the fall. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

He Knows my Name

John 10:14-15

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

It's good to be known.

In my endeavor to learn more about needle felting, I ordered a couple of hanks of roving from an online vendor. Most of the time I purchase dyed wools, but this time I found natural black Welsh Mountain Top and a beautiful variegated Bluefaced Leicester Top. I'm not sure what I'll make, but the lovely colors and textures drew me to them.

When the bundle arrived in the mail the other day I couldn't wait to open the package. As I drew the scissors through the plastic and pulled the first roving out I stopped. My nose wrinkled. "What's that smell?"

As soon as I opened the bag, I knew the sheepish odor. I recognized the farm fragrance because I grew up next to a sheep farmer. Mind you, it wasn't repulsive, but it was unexpected.

In John 10, Jesus reminded his followers that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. Maybe he recognized some of the stinky shepherds, or the salty fishermen by their aroma. But more likely, he knew them by their heart.

The shepherd and the sheep are loyal to each other.

When Jesus lived on earth sheep wandered the hills, sometimes falling into a crevice or walking to another territory. You know what the shepherds did? When they noticed one missing, they pursued that lost one because they knew them and missed them from the herd. When the sheep were found they followed the shepherd home.

Jesus knows our names and our hearts. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. If we wander he will pursue us. He loves us so much that he sacrificed his life for us, to give us the gift of grace and a life in heaven.

Do you know the Good Shepherd?