Saturday, July 11, 2020

Take Heart!


John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Summer peace...

I tucked myself into the old swing where maple trees shaded and cooled. In my hands I held my favorite book, probably a story featuring a horse or dog. Or maybe my favorite novel, Christy. I read Catherine Marshall's classic several times as a teenager.
Cincinnati at the Banks

Where I grew up, an awesome porch sat on the corner of the house. When the heat of the season pressed in on me (no air conditioning) I'd take my iced tea and book of the day and cozy into the porch swing. The back and forth sway cooled my skin as I lost myself in the story.

That was the peace of long ago summers.
I still enjoy porch sitting. Now we have a glider instead of a swing. And I still like to read on the porch to escape the chaos of life. When I sit in the quiet absorbed in a story, peace fills my soul.

In the book of John, Jesus speaks to his disciples, those he considered his friends, about his end days. He assures them they will have peace even though he is going to die. I'm not sure how I would have felt if I'd been with him. I'm guessing each of the disciples needed time to process and comprehend. They may have had a place to sit and think (their own form of a swing.) They may have contemplated the parables Jesus told. As we know, some of them didn't understand until Jesus had risen from the dead. Even then, a few had to be convinced. But Jesus promised they'd find peace if they trusted him.

As I seek calm in this chaotic world, I hang on to the promise Jesus shared with the disciples, "...take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Seek his peace.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Blessings of Peace

I've spent most of my life seeking peace. 
Quiet and calm encourage me.
Peace in the midst of chaos fills me with joy.

In my life, I've found only Jesus provides that kind of peace.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Fiction Review: The Peasant's Dream by Melanie Dickerson


Book Description:
In this reverse Cinderella story, a poor farmer’s son, who dreams of using his talent as a woodcarver to make a better life for himself, falls in love with a duke’s daughter and must fight for a chance to win her heart.

Adela is the youngest daughter of Duke Wilhelm of Hagenheim and is never allowed outside of the castle walls. She loves her family, but she sneaks away one day to the market in the town center. There she meets a handsome young man and wonders what it might be like to fall in love with a poor farmer with a kind heart instead of marrying the man her family is suggesting for her.

Frederick earns the income for his family and defends his mother from his father’s drunken rages. He also uses his talent and creativity to carve figures, animals, and scenes into wood, and he's asked to carve these scenes into cathedral doors when his talent is noticed. Frederick is inspired by the sweet and beautiful Adela, but he has no knowledge of her true identity. When he gets swept up into a plan to kidnap the duke’s daughter, both are shaken by what they learn about the other.

With the heartbroken Adela resigned to an arranged marriage with her noble suitor, Frederick must decide what he’s willing to risk for love.

My Review:
Be ready to swoon. Dickerson has created a beautiful fairy tale featuring a kind-hearted young man who wants nothing more than to provide a better life for his mother and sisters. Then he meets Adela, the lovely daughter of a duke. With elements from the Cinderella story, she's woven a delightful tale filled with adventure, chance meetings, deception, and of course love. The Peasant's Dream is book 11 of the Fairy Tale Romance series. I loved the setting and the story. This book made me smile, laugh and fret. If you enjoy fairy tales, or beautiful love stories, pick up a copy of The Peasant's Dream and drift off to another world and time. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, July 6, 2020

An Interview With Author Jackie Layton

I love cozy mysteries. Often set in small towns with quirky characters, the stories offer an escape and a bit of fun detective work. Last month I came across a cozy I loved, Dog-Gone Dead by Jackie Layton. The author's name sounded familiar. She and I had met on Instagram several years back. I was so excited to see her published!

I invited Jackie to tell us about her writing journey:

Hi Penny, 
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog! 
I began my writing journey while my youngest son was in high school. I took online classes and attended conferences to learn more about the craft of writing. I worked full time and went to tennis matches and all the other things mothers do.

From the beginning, my husband has been very supportive. I appreciate him more than you know. I started out writing romances and romantic suspense stories. I did well in contests, but whatever I pitched to publishers was never the right fit for what they were looking for that year.

I’m a member of ACFW, and the last conference I attended was a huge turning point in my writing. I met with an editor looking for authors interested in writing cozy mysteries. As we chatted, a peace fell over me. I have always loved reading cozies, but at conferences romantic suspense was the thing everybody wanted. Very few authors were writing mysteries.

After that meeting, I prayed about my conversation with the editor. I began writing my first cozy mystery. I often learn by doing. It’s probably not the most efficient way to write, but it’s what works for me. I visited cozy mystery websites and studied the craft of mystery writing.

One of the most special aspects of cozies to me is the characters. I love that so many cozies are written as series. It allows each character to grow throughout the series.


I keep my notes in Scrivener, and I have secret Pinterest boards to help me keep up with details. I also have public boards so readers can get to know my characters and setting better. 
I’ve always loved the beach, and I set my first series on the coast of South Carolina. Heyward Beach is a fictional town with some of my favorite elements from various coastal towns. It’s got the small-town vibe, and I hope readers enjoy visiting Heyward Beach.


Thank you, Jackie. I love how God worked in your writing and gave you a sense of peace as you pursued the cozy mystery genre. I'll be reading Bite the Dust: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery, your first book in this delightful series. Read more about Jackie on her website.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Trusting a Swing

Psalm 9:9-10
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

God has called me on an adventure of faith and trust.

When Hannah worked at Camp Lookup, I spent a week with her exploring the beautiful setting and experiencing an adventure. I hiked around the lake, met a little snake while I relaxed in the gazebo, and took photos of all the beautiful azaleas. Then the adventure happened. The camp has this huge swing that holds two people. Hannah and I climbed on the double seat and latched our harnesses (that's enough to scare a person.) A camp worker grabbed the rope and launched us into the sky. And yes, I screamed like a baby. But I had fun and trusted the swing to hold in place. As we sailed through the air, I believed I would be safely pulled back to the ground.

In Hebrews 11:1 the writer tells us, "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hannah had assured me the swing was safe or they couldn't use it for campers. Made sense. If I could trust something so simple as a swing, how could I not trust the God of the universe. 

The "hall of faith" in Chapter 11 lists many Old Testament warriors who had faith in God, even as they lived in uncertainty.
We are living in chaotic times. Anger, hate, and judgment mixed with opinions, sickness, and financial burdens cause faith to slip. Trust rings hollow. Yet, God remains the same. He's still there for me to depend on. He's still there for me to run to. I'm confident in the hope I have in Jesus. I trust him to see me through the hard times and celebrate with me in the great times. God hasn't gone anywhere. He's still my refuge.

Have faith in the one who loves you more than you know.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Speculative Fiction Review: These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker


Book Description:
Before Dan opened his door to find a wounded woman who had escaped from the tormentors in the mountain, his life had become rather quiet. He and the eight other people in the mostly abandoned town had become friends. They spent peaceful evenings around the campfire and even made vague plans to journey east one day and leave the ominous mountain behind.

But the woman's arrival changes everything.
Who is she? How does she know so much about Dan's brother, who is still held captive in the mountain? Why are long-forgotten memories rising to the surface? And why does Dan feel so compelled to keep her presence in his house a secret?

My Review:
I occasionally like to read outside my usual genres. I chose These Nameless Things because it looked intriguing. And it is. This book, written with the characteristics of an allegory left me pondering. Thinking about the handhold guilt has on a person. Dan is trying to do the right thing, while making poor choices all for the brother he loves. Smucker writes about wisdom, temptation, sacrifice, and fear like a master storyteller. He takes the reader on a journey that opens the eyes to the agony of guilt and the hope of deliverance. If you enjoy speculative fiction, you'll want to read These Nameless Things. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Cozy Mystery Book Review: Dog-Gone Dead: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery (2) by Jackie Layton


Book Description:
Who’d have thought mulch could cause such a stink?

Low Country dog walker Andi Grace Scott is happy to score some free mulch from one of her brother’s landscaping jobs—until she discovers the dead body buried beneath the bark.

Worse, her brother’s landscaping tools were used to commit the murder. Once the police arrest her brother and seem happy to have “caught their man,” Andi Grace has no choice but to track down the real killer. She’ll risk everything to prove her brother’s innocence. Even if it means turning over every rock in town.

If you love small-town coastal life, dogs, and strong heroines, you’ll love Dog-Gone Dead.

My Review:
I love cozy mysteries. Dog-Gone Dead is one of the best I've read. Andi Grace is a delightful, determined young woman who wants her brother freed. She snoops in all the wrong places and gets herself in trouble with the local police. As she solves this murder mystery she and her sweet dog will endear themselves to you. Just as they did me. And you just might find a bit of romance. I love the setting. Makes me want to head to the beach. I haven't read book one of the series, but I have it downloaded on my Kindle and ready to be read. If you enjoy clean, cozy mysteries, you'll love this book. Take this one on vacation! I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Splashed with Joy

Psalm 28:6-7
Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.

I have the joy, joy, joy...down in my heart.

I remember singing that chorus at church camp, my favorite place in the summers of my youth. Surrounded by friends who believed in Jesus, exploring nature, meeting together at the campfire to sing and pray, filled our souls with joy. Not happiness—but pure joy, the deep satisfying feeling that everything is going to be okay. And it bubbled over. The joy I discovered overflowed and tumbled onto other people. And their joy splashed all over me. When I came home, the delight I tucked into my heart carried me through my days. No matter what happened at school, or wherever I was, Jesus' joy bubbled. 

As an adult, I'm more conscientious of the joy I find in Jesus. Sometimes rejoicing is a struggle. On those days, I tap into his word and cry out in prayer to reassure myself everything will be okay. It's hard to experience joy when the world is so out of whack. But Jesus always comes through. As I trust in him for wisdom and mercy, he splashes me with joy. I love Jesus and he loves me back. I sing that same little chorus today that I sang at camp. I have Jesus' joy down in my heart, and I praise him because that joy carries me through the hard stuff, the frustrating things, the opinions, the anger, and the unkindness we are seeing in the world.

Even on days when my joy is more like a grain of sand that a solid rock, I'm thankful I have a glimmer of hope.

Let the joy of Jesus overflow like a fountain of love.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Fiction Review: The Heart of a Hero (Global Search and Rescue Book #2) by Susan May Warren


Book Description:
Jake Silver may not be able to put the memories of his time as a sniper and Navy SEAL behind him, but at least he can put his skills to use as a part of the Jones Inc. rescue team. Saving the life of pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Aria Sinclair on Denali helped too. Now he can't get her out of his head, and when he hears she is in the path of a hurricane down in Key West he can't help but jump on a plane to rescue her.

Aria has dedicated her life to helping children born with defective hearts. After all, she was one of those children. Now driven to succeed, she lives a lonely, stressful life. One she would have lost on Denali if it hadn't been for Jake. Jake is exciting and handsome, but he's also dangerous, and she's already lost one person she loves. She can't bear it again.

It's not until she finds herself trapped in the middle of a category 4 hurricane that she can admit she needs Jake desperately. With their very survival in the balance, can they hope for a second chance at life . . . and love?

My Description:
You've got two strong characters in the midst of a crazy storm which leads to a story of will-power, trust, and second chances. Susan May Warren weaves a story filled with energy and excitement. When Jake follows Aria to Florida, he's prepared to rescue her. What he finds is a woman who pushes herself aside to save others. In the midst of the chaos, some of the other characters try their patience and make them question their trust, while others teach them lessons they didn't know they needed. While they wrestle with their inner demons, they fight the elements and search for the light at the end of a hard and hectic tunnel. Filled with suspenseful moments as well as tender embraces, this is a great summer read. One thing I enjoy most about Warren's stories is her focus on the male heroes, flaws and all. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

Think on These Things

I saw this sign on Sunday and felt God calling me to share. 
"When joy is a habit, love is a reflex."

I'll leave that here for us to think about. 
Saturday I'll post more about the joy I find in Jesus.

Have a great Wednesday!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A Harvest of Hope

Psalm 33:20-22

We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you.

When I was young, we planted a garden. A big garden.

Dad plowed the space and created rows for us to plant corn, green beans, tomatoes, peas, and other good veggies. And he planted a section, down the hill from our pond, meant just for potatoes; which seemed gigantic in my young mind. Dad hoped to grow an abundance of food.

When it came time to harvest and put up the bounty, it was all hands on deck. My brothers, cousin, and I grabbed baskets and plucked beans and ears of corn off those beautiful plants. Later when we shucked the corn, I hated finding those gross, little worms that ate into the kernels. I did enjoy the relaxing rhythm of breaking beans and shelling peas. When the potatoes matured, we searched for them as if they were Easter eggs buried in the rich soil.

I look back on those days and remember how we all worked together. Dad plowed and planted, we picked, snapped, and shucked. Mom, Grammy, my sister and aunt canned multiple quarts of tomatoes and beans and froze bag upon bag of corn. We ran into snags along the way, too much rain or not enough and animals and insects who feasted on the plants. Yet, we still received a full bounty of food for the winter.

In these difficult times, the hope I have in Jesus gets me out of bed in the morning. I pray every day for peace, even as I harvest hope and store it up for times like these.

When life goes through winter seasons of bleakness and fear, the hope that fills my heart gives me courage to face each day.

Plant God's hope in your heart and encourage it to grow. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Take Heart

We are living in a time of high stress, unexpected circumstances, and constant change. 
To navigate the choppy waters of 2020, 
I'm squeezing tight to the anchor of hope I have in Jesus. 
If I didn't, I might drown. 

My hope is in the Lord.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Historical Fiction Book Review: The Librarian of Boone's Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Book Description:
A traveling librarian ventures into the mining towns of Kentucky on horseback—and learns to trust the One who truly pens her story—in this powerful novel from the best-selling author of A Silken Thread.

During the Great Depression, city-dweller Addie Cowherd dreams of becoming a novelist and offering readers the escape that books had given her during her tragic childhood. When her father loses his job, she is forced to take the only employment she can find—delivering books on horseback to poor coal-mining families in the hills of Kentucky.

But turning a new page will be nearly impossible in Boone's Hollow, where residents are steeped in superstitions and deeply suspicious of outsiders. Even local Emmett Tharp feels the sting of rejection after returning to the tiny mountain hamlet as the first in his family to graduate college. And as the crippled economy leaves many men jobless, he fears his degree won’t be worth much in a place where most men either work the coal mine or run moonshine.

As Addie also struggles to find her place, she’ll unearth the truth about a decades-old rivalry. But when someone sets out to sabotage the town’s library program, will the culprit chase Addie away or straight into the arms of the only person who can help her put a broken community back together?

My Review:
As a former librarian, I enjoy the stories of these brave souls who ventured into the mountains to deliver literature. In The Librarian of Boone's Hollow, Addie's life is opened to a whole new world she never imagined. Set in the time following the Great Depression, Addie takes the only job she can find. I love the Kentucky mountain setting and variety of characters. Addie, Bettina, and Emmett venture into a time where they need to rely on God and one another, even when they think they can't. I love how the author brings out important issues and effortlessly weaves them into the story. Her writing offers hope. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

Saturday, June 13, 2020

He Hears Me When I Call

Psalm 102:1-2, 17 (NIV)
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
    when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
    when I call, answer me quickly.

He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
    he will not despise their plea.

Prayer is a privilege. If I don't ask my heavenly Father for help, that's on me.

My five-year-old granddaughter bows her head and prays every night with her momma. During the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, she asked Jesus to "stop the rona." Her little heart echoed the prayer of many. I asked God to protect my family and friends from the virus and to put an end to its rampage through the world. I prayed for the folks who lost loved ones and healing for those infected. No doubt God's ears have been filled with cries for help.

Now as I cry out once again to end racial tension and distress in our nation, I ask God to hear me. Please fill my heart with how to love better and how to respond as a Jesus' follower.

In the Psalm, the writer of chapter 102 sought out God in a time of distress. He understood God heard his voice and his request. Yet he begged him to answer quickly. Even as God's timing isn't my timing, I need to remain faithful and believe he will answer. And he does. In verse seventeen, the writer reminds me, "He will respond." In the meantime, I need to follow his lead and love well. I need to be encouraging and caring. I need to reach out to people with the arms of Jesus.

If I doubt God hears my pleas, I read Philippians 4:6 and am reminded to take everything to God in prayer. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
He hears me when I call.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Help Comes From the Lord

If I don't ask God for help, that's on me. 

He loves me and wants me to talk to him and seek his favor.
He's always available to listen.

God, please heal the hearts of those hurting and guide those who want to help.
Give us wisdom.

Thank you Lord for your continuous love and care.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Fiction Review: Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner


Book Description:
Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what's next. She couldn't have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.

In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

My Review:
I love this beautiful story of courage and hope. The author captured the decade of the 1960s with great insight. I was about Hugo's age at that time, and remember so much of what Susie Finkbeiner has written. I love how Norman's family wraps Betty in graciousness and kindness as she faces difficult times. And the stories Betty tells to Hugo are precious. Susie intertwined them perfectly with what the characters are going through. If you enjoy a good read that leaves you with a feeling of hope, you'll want to read Stories that Bind Us. From the lovely cover to the last sentence, I enjoyed every word. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Love Your Neighbor

Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."

I love that God made our world in color.

From the kayak, I watched the sun cross over the fresh spring foliage. The shore, covered in trees, showed various shades of green. The sky moved from pale blue to sky blue to cerulean as the white clouds whispered across. Along the bank, rocks and pebbles rested in assorted shades of brown. Beautiful colors. All created by God.

In the hours before we took our kayaks out on the lake, I'd wrestled with how to respond to recent news of racial strife and sorrow. I'm an older white woman who has only walked in my shoes. I can't say I understand what my friends of color are experiencing, but I can say I care. 


I contemplated how to offer hope in a time of sorrow and help in a time of stress. But I'll be honest, I wasn't sure how.

As I prayed, I understood two things:

  • What's going on in the world right now is breaking God's heart.
  • God loves every single person he created, and he calls us as his followers to love people, too.
In Matthew, Jesus said to love God and love people. It's that simple. But sin has gotten in the way. Satan stirs the pot and throws in envy, anger, and a whole lot of other junk. He rejoices when he recruits one more person to destroy another human being, a building, a lifetime of work. He spreads his evil anywhere he can.

Together, let's toss Satan out and pour in the ingredients of love, hope, compassion, and peace. Let's stir in joy, acceptance, patience and understanding in whatever way we can.

As I floated in the kayak and soaked in the variegated world we live in, Jesus reminded me to love and appreciate people. He gave us different shades of skin, different textures of hair, different eye colors. And he gave all of us hearts for love, abilities to help, and minds to think. We are more alike than we are different, because we are created in God's image.

Love God and love people. Click to Tweet

Friday, June 5, 2020

Non-fiction Book Review: Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship by Ruth Chou Simons


Book Description:
Become What You Behold

You are in the process of becoming. Every day is an opportunity to be shaped and formed by what moves your heart…drives your thoughts…captures your gaze. Is it any wonder that where you direct your eyes and your heart matter in your day-to-day?
 
We become what we behold when we set our hearts and minds on Christ and His redemption story here in the details of our daily lives. Not just on Sunday, not just on holidays, not just when extraordinarily hard or wonderful things happen…but today.  

Bestselling author and artist Ruth Chou Simons invites you on a new journey to Beholding and Becoming.  With more than 850 pieces of intricate, original artwork, Ruth encourages you to elevate your gaze to the One who created all things.

Today is an opportunity for God to demonstrate His love and His faithfulness in the midst of your mundane. No circumstance is too ordinary or too forgotten for Him to meet you there in worship. His transforming grace turns your “everyday ordinary” into a holy place of becoming.

My Review:
I absolutely love this book. From the gorgeous watercolor paintings to the heartfelt words, Ruth Chou Simons speaks to the heart. There are so many reminders of how we can live a better life in Jesus. Beautiful quotes are encased in Ruth's artwork. That alone is worth the read. I read a section a day and delighted in each one. If you are looking for a book to read that will encourage and enlighten, buy Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Fiction Book Review: Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes


Book Description:
Lucy Clairmont's family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it's Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she's discovered in her family home.

Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.

As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers--and the healing--they so desperately seek.

My Review:
Amanda Dykes is a gifted writer who pens beautiful stories of mystery, love, and sacrifice. 

Set the Stars Alight is a scrumptious book to be savored. As I slipped from one century to another, the story twined together as a beautiful masterpiece. The setting is incredible and the characters found their way into my heart. I love Dash and Lucy and cheered them on in their search for truth. Dykes gave the folks, who live in the community Lucy and Dash travel to, interesting quirks and stories. I felt like I was sitting at the table with them drinking tea. This is a well done time-slip novel. If you enjoy historical fiction and contemporary fiction this is the perfect read. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

Historical Fiction Review: The Green Dress (True Colors) by Liz Tolsma


Book Description:
Fiction Based on Strange, But True, History

True, riveting stories of American criminal activity are explored through unique stories of historical romantic suspense. Collect them all (True Colors series) and be inspired by the hope that always finds its way even in the darkest of times.

When Harriet Peters came to Boston in 1882, the Robinson family took her in like one of their own, and Harriet became closer to Lizzie Robinson than her own siblings. Now, four years later, Lizzie is deathly sick, failing quickly just like several others in her family have done over the past few years. How can so many in one family die from the same mysterious illness? Harriet doesn’t have answers, but she is determined to help the family, bringing in a new-to-the-neighborhood doctor, Michael Wheaton.

As Harriet and Michael close in on the answer, putting their own lives at risk, can the cause be found before anyone else dies?

My Review:
They say that truth is stranger than fiction. In this case, truth written as fiction is riveting. Liz Tolsma wrote a fascinating story based on the Robinson family. The story of the Robinsons (true) related through Harriet and Michael's eyes (fiction) draws together an interesting history of a true crime. At times I thought I knew who and how the crime was committed, but then the author threw in something that made me doubt. If you enjoy reading about true crime, mystery, or historical fiction, you may want to give this series a try. Also, there was a thread through the book I found intriguing. You'll have to read it to find out what it was. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Covered With Feathers


Psalm 91:4
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Faithful to the end.

My daughter, Maggie, raises chickens on their little farm. A while back she added turkeys to her flock of birds. One in particular grabbed everyone's hearts. They call him Bubba. He's a special turkey who has adapted to his crossed beak, that works more like scissors than a scoop, when he eats. As he's grown older, Bubba strives to be a social butterfly. When I pull in their driveway, he hustles out to my car and walks me to the door. But if Maggie is outside, he goes into protector mode. He has taken ownership of their yard and his keeper. As soon as I get out of the car, he takes a watchful stance between Maggie and me. If he could, I'm sure he would cover her with his wing.

In the Psalm the authors often reference battles and war. They sought refuge, a place to find solace, and recharge for the battle. King David turned to God who promised to protect him.

In these times when I feel vulnerable and uncertain, I seek the one who watches over me. Jesus covers me with his love and grace, like a mother hen cuddles her chicks with her feathers, or a new momma swaddles her babe. When I'm afraid, I talk to him. When I need help, I seek him. When hope wavers, I look to him. His love has provided a fortress where I can rest and recharge. The one thing I love more than anything about God, He never changes!

He's always the same. His love never changes. And he draws me to him as I struggle in this life.

Seek Jesus as your protection against a world of grief and sin. He loves you and wants you to love him back.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

And God Created Egrets

On one of our trips to Lake Erie, we stopped by the Port Clinton Lighthouse. 
We walked along the beach and searched for lake glass,
 then sat on a bench and watched the waves.
We were preparing to leave when I turned and 
looked toward the two ponds that sit in front of the lighthouse. 

A speck of white caught my attention. 
As I moved closer to the water, an egret stood. 
What a beauty. I am partial to these remarkable birds, with their graceful movements. 
As with any of God's creation, I love to watch them and learn their ways. 

Fun fact: they build their stick nests near the water, but high in the trees. 

Fortunately, this bird was photogenic!  


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Am I my Words?

James 3:17
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

I am my words.

When I worked at the library, I hung encouraging reminders above my desk. Many of them have moved to my refrigerator since I retired. One magnet I'd picked up at a book conference said, "You are your words." I thought about that phrase a lot. People observe actions, which are important, but in this world where we chat on social media my words speak for me. When no one can see me—I am my words.

Recently, I attended an online writers' conference. One of the speakers shared about writing on social media. She encouraged us to determine our posting value and to filter our words through these values. She mentioned three I also impose on myself. Be fun, inspirational, and encouraging. One I'd add, teach Jesus' truth.

As a believer in the Bible and Jesus, I find myself clinging to these values and seeking God's wisdom more than ever. You see, I have opinions about the world, but do my opinions speak the wisdom I seek from God. I have thoughts on what might be best, but would my ideas help or hurt? Would they flame an unnecessary fire? James 3:5 says, "Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark."

I am my words. As I pen my weekly devotion, I have to ask myself if my words help or harm. When I respond to a Facebook post am I sharing good news or stirring an already boiling pot.

One thing I've learned and try to practice is to pray before my fingers touch the keyboard. I'm not perfect, sometimes I forget, but I try to put Jesus' wisdom before my own. Opinions are good, thoughts are great, and I value freedom of expression. But I'm called by my Father to be considerate and kind, a vessel for his peace and grace.

What values do you align yourself with? Seek God's wisdom as you express your thoughts and ideas. He loves us and wants us to show Him to the world.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Fiction Book Review: Carolina Breeze (A Bluebell Inn Romance Book 2) by Denise Hunter


Book Description:A jilted bride. A struggling innkeeper. And a romantic mountain getaway that changes everything.

Rising Hollywood star Mia Emerson is looking for a safe place to land in the wake of a public breakup and scandal, and she finds it in the lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina—the location of her canceled honeymoon. She wants nothing more than to hide and wait for the tabloids to die down.

Soon after her arrival at the Bluebell Inn, Mia meets Levi Bennett, who runs the inn along with his two younger sisters. Drawn to one another from the start, Mia trusts Levi to keep her location from the press, and Levi confides in Mia about the financial state of the inn—a secret he’s been keeping from his sisters.

When Mia and Levi discover an old journal that hints at a rare diamond necklace hidden in the inn, they set off on a treasure hunt to find the long-lost heirloom. What they don’t expect to surface are feelings they thought were safely locked away. Mia and Levi must decide if falling in love again is too big a risk—or if it will uncover a treasure of its own instead.

My Review:
Denise Hunter knows how to write romance. Her first book in the Bluebell Inn series satisfied readers with her sweet romance between Molly and Adam. Now Molly's brother finds himself smitten with the romance bug. Mia Emerson has hunkered down at the inn. Along with her, an entourage of excitement and craziness follows. Levi has always been the family member with the calm, cool, no-nonsense demeanor. Now he needs to figure out how all the emotions he experiences fit into his well-laid plan. I especially enjoyed watching Levi grow into himself and re-discover emotions he'd buried. I also liked Mia's determination to be herself in the midst of accusations by tabloids. Hunter created a sweet story that shines light on trust, support, and love. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Unveiling the Past: A Novel by Kim Vogel Sawyer


Book Description:
Newlyweds Sean Eagle and Meghan DeFord are no strangers to pain and loss. As cold-case detectives, they know intimately the anguish family members endure after the murder or disappearance of a loved one. But when a new case hits too close to home, it threatens to pull loose the fragile cords of their young marriage.

Sheila Menke was just a girl when her father left for work and never returned. An investigation revealed he had embezzled enough to start a new life elsewhere, but Sheila could never accept the court’s criminalization of her father. Meghan reluctantly takes the case, secretly fearing it will stir up buried feelings about her own biological father. And while Sean investigates the mysterious death of two young brothers, he longs to start a family. But Meghan worries that with a negligent mother and an absentee father as her parenting examples, she might never be fit for motherhood.

As they delve deeper into the past, both Meghan and Sheila must choose to either stumble along the road of bitterness and resentment or walk the difficult path toward forgiveness and healing. When the cases begin to break wide open, these young women are poised to discover that while earthly fathers may fail, there is one in heaven who is a father to the fatherless.

My Review:
Unveiling the Past rings of redemption, forgiveness, and grace. There are a couple of things I especially enjoyed. The author set the book up in short segments featuring the various points of view, which made the story easy to read. And the story focuses on women who no longer have fathers, but depend on their heavenly Father. Following the cold case detectives as they solved old crimes was interesting and fun. One thing I noticed in this story is Kim Vogel Sawyer used her writing to teach of Jesus' love without being preachy. The reader got to glimpse the way these characters might witness to their co-workers and friends. I also loved Sean and Meghan's relationship with each other. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Let Joy Overflow

Psalm 28:6-7
Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.

Since I've been sheltering-in-place, I've invited a few friends to visit.

A couple of years ago, my daughter gave me net bags filled with Niger seeds (sometimes called thistle) to hang by my back porch. I'd sit outside and watch the gold finches and house finches play and eat. Those little birds brought joy to my heart. When the bags wore out, I purchased a fancier feeder. But there was a problem. When rain poured the feed mildewed. I gave up and tossed the contraption. Then I went a year without seeing those sweet little birds.

After the verdict came in March for folks to stay home, I ordered new finch food bags. I hung one by the porch. But I wanted to watch the flit and flutter of yellow and brownish-red birds more often. So I hung one outside our living room window; where I could see them from my chair. They are a riot. Some days I see as many as five beauties perched on the bag. Sometimes they run each other off, even though there is plenty for everyone. In this time of isolation the finches stir the joy within me. I'm so glad I invited them over.

When life seems crazy, different, even unpredictable Satan tries to steal our joy. He pokes and prods until he deflates our hope. Don't let him. Choose to seek Jesus as the hope and joy of your heart. Trust God for your strength. His joy runs deep and bubbles up inside. As much as I love my little visitors, I know the joy they bring comes from the love I have for their Creator, the God who loves me.

What makes your joy bubble over? Music? Nature? Talking to a friend? Creating something by hand? Hugging your spouse? Loving your kids and grandkids?
Grab that bit of joy and let it overflow.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

He Made Them

Spring brings much needed color and beauty to the world.
God has created the most incredible creatures and blooms.
I love watching the birds at my feeder and seeing the flowers shine in their glory.

Sometimes we just need to stop, look around, and witness God's artistry.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Fiction Book Review: Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay


Book Description:
After fleeing her hometown three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never planned to return. Then the Silicon Valley start-up she worked for collapsed and turned her world upside down. She is broke, under FBI investigation, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she comes home to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup then move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as friends and family welcome her back, Alyssa begins to see a place for herself in this small Midwestern community.

Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. After asking for her help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complex lives, and the future they both hoped for is not at all what they anticipated.

With the help of Winsome’s small-town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.

My Review:
What a delight to return to Winsome, Illinois, the home of quirky folks and a cozy bookshop. In the previous novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop, we met Madeline who inherited her aunt's bookstore along with eccentric employees, Claire and Janet. The bookshop is running well when Janet's daughter, Alyssa, returns to Winsome. As much as she doesn't want to, she moves in with her mom. As Alyssa tries to come to grips with the mess called life, she meets Jeremy. He needs a friend and some good business advice. Reay's Of Literature and Lattes is another charming story of hurt, hope, and healing. I've enjoyed every one of her books. I look forward to the nod to literary references she sprinkles through her stories, as well as her lovable characters. A little bonus, her books have gorgeous covers. I hope she'll visit Winsome a third time. I'd love to catch up on more of the folks from this lovely town. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.