Saturday, September 25, 2021

Crayons and Hope

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The delicious scent of crayons fills me with hope.

In my elementary years, I owned a large coffee can filled with broken crayons. The tin held every color you could imagine, some with the paper intact, some free of wrap. Instead of tossing the colorful sticks when they crumbled under pressure, mom gave me a can to store them. I loved digging through the pile of color to find just the right one for whatever I was drawing. And the smellan aroma that signified the beginning of a beautiful creation. 

I scribbled with them until they smashed down to a nub. Some of the tiny pieces, melted with wax, were recycled into candles. That glorious can of broken crayons gave me hours of joy.

I may not be a crayon, put to the test by little fingers coloring vigorously and snapped in two, but I relate because I'm a broken person. We all are in some way. It's difficult to live in this world with all the violence, negativity, distress, and grief. At some point emotions, spirits, and bodies break. I've never broken a bone, but my spirit and emotions have been crushed, sometimes through my own actions and at times by others.

But the good news, yes, the great news isGod loves the broken. He's close to the brokenhearted, He heals the one whose heart hurts. He renews the crushed spirit and offers hope.

I love that about God. He doesn't discard the person whose life looks like a pile of fragmented pieces. Instead He takes the cracked spirit, and the emotional mess and creates a brand-new work of art.

God embraces broken people every day. The love He gives wraps around anyone who seeks Him. He adores His creation and wants the best for us.

God opens His arms to the broken. Run to Him.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Christian Suspense Book Review: Labyrinth of Lies by Irene Hannon (Triple Threat Book 2)

Book Description:
When the daughter of a high-profile businessman disappears from an exclusive girls' boarding school, police detective Cate Reilly is tapped for an undercover assignment. It doesn't take her long to realize that beneath the veneer of polish and wealth, things are not as they seem at Ivy Hill Academy. But the biggest surprise of all? The only man she ever loved is also working at the school.

Zeke Sloan has never forgotten Cate, but now isn't the best time for their paths to cross again. When their two seemingly disparate agendas begin to intertwine--and startling connections emerge among the players--the danger escalates significantly. But who is the mastermind behind the elaborate ruse? And how far will they go to protect their house of cards?

Queen of romantic suspense Irene Hannon invites you to scale the heights of human folly and plumb the depths of the human heart in this second gripping book in the Triple Threat series.

My Thoughts:
Cate is done with undercover work, but her boss says one more time. Zeke is done with travel for the DEA, but he has one last job. Oh, and did I mention Cate and Zeke were once in love? The two come together, quite by accident or is it providence? Cate's character is strong and determined, Zeke has a kind and brave heart. In the midst of discovering the head of the biggest drug runners in St. Louis, the two must sort out their feelings toward each other. Well written and intriguing, Hannon delivers another edge of your seat suspense. The all-girls school was an unusual setting and added an interesting twist to the story. I was happy to continue on the journey of Cate and her sisters. If you enjoy suspense and romance, you'll want to read Labyrinth of Lies. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Broken

God loves broken people.

Healing begins with Him.


 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 
Psalm 147:3

Monday, September 20, 2021

Fiction Review: Since You've Been Gone by Tari Faris (Restoring Heritage Book 3)

Book Description:
Leah Williams is back in the quaint town of Heritage, Michigan, and ready to try again to make her business a success. But blank slates are hard to come by, and a piece of her past is waiting for her there. Heir to the Heritage Fruits company, Jonathan Kensington is the guy who not only made Leah's past difficult, he also seems determined to complicate her present as well.

Jon is trying to prove to the Heritage Fruits board that he, not his manipulative uncle, should be running the business. The board insists Jon find a new owner for the building that will house Leah's business. To avoid forcing a buyout of Leah's part of the building, Jon strikes a compromise with Leah, and the two go into business together. With her vision and his know-how, it might work. And Leah might realize he's loved her since high school. If only he didn't keep on shooting himself in the foot by boxing her out of important decisions.

Sparks fly in this romantic story of two people who must learn to trust both each other and the one who called them to this journey.

My Thoughts:
I've read all three Restoring Heritage novels. I wanted to like Since You've Been Gone as much as I enjoyed books one and two. But I didn't. I didn't connect with Leah or Jonathan. Their back-and-forth, up-and-down relationship drove me crazy. However, I did enjoy Madison's story. She had a lot to overcome. The kindness and encouragement of Colby to Madison was endearing. I did enjoy going back to Heritage, but didn't find Leah's addition of the store she'd closed and reopened compelling. If you've read book one and two, you may want to read book three to learn a bit more about Otis the moving brass hippo. Now that was fun! I will give the book three stars, because even in a story I didn't connect with, Faris writes well. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Joy is...

Psalm 65:8
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
 you call forth songs of joy.

Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering; it is the presence of God. -Sam Storms

With autumn tumbling toward us, I cut down some of the flowers in my little garden. I've enjoyed the black-eyed Susans since early July, but they were looking pretty ragged. Even though I hated to trim them down, I knew it was time. Funny thing is, when I cut away the battered stems, I exposed another flower. The gorgeous pink blooms of my zinnias waved their lovely heads. Now when I look out my front door, the pink catches my eye, and I appreciate the change.

A flower garden varies throughout the season. This year due to a late frost, my little garden didn't fare as well as usual. Yet, the daffodils, tulips, blazing star, columbines, lavender, black-eyed Susans, and zinnias bloomed their joyous blossoms despite the set-back.

Life shifts, change is inevitable, sometimes with change comes stress and suffering. With all the craziness in the world today, it's difficult to hold on to joy. I like what Sam Storms said about joy being the presence of God amidst the suffering. God doesn't move away from us. If anything, we move away from him. Yet in the midst of some of the most difficult things we experience, He offers joy and hope.

As I attempt to navigate life, I cling to the hope I have in Jesus. He fills my heart with joy, even as I struggle, because He stands beside me and wraps me in a God-hug. He fills my heart with joy through my husband, family, and friends. He fills my heart with joy through His Word. The Bible speaks of joy, a lot. This little three letter word carries a great importance in the lives of believers. Think of joy as a life preserver. Regardless of the circumstances, I can keep my head above water and float with joy and hope in my heart.

My wonder deepens when I understand joy comes from God.

He's in the midst of suffering, reach out to Him and seek His joy.

James 1:2-3
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Simple Things

The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple things.

I was watching the bees land on 

this "obedient" or sometimes called "dragon" plant. 

They buzzed around and gathered pollen, paying no mind to me.

Observing nature colors my soul with joy.


What simple things do you enjoy?




Monday, September 13, 2021

Book Review: The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox

Book Description:
Present Day. After tragedy plunges her into grief and unresolved anger, Sarah Ashby returns to her childhood home determined to finally follow her long-denied dream of running Old Depot Grocery alongside her mother and grandmother. But when she arrives, her mother, Rosemary, announces to her that the store is closing. Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, make a pact to save the store, but Rosemary has worked her entire life to make sure her daughter never follows in her footsteps. She has her reasons--but she'll certainly never reveal the real one.

1965. Glory Ann confesses to her family that she's pregnant with her deceased fiancé's baby. Pressured into a marriage of convenience with a shopkeeper to preserve the family reputation, Glory Ann vows never to love again. But some promises are not as easily kept as she imagined.

This dual-timeline story from Amanda Cox deftly explores the complexity of a mother-daughter dynamic, the way the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of others, and the healing power of telling the truth.

My Thoughts:
You know how you bite into a multi-layered cake and taste each sweet ingredient, then savor the last bite. The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery is like that. I sliced through the layers of family and place and tasted an incredible story of love and forgiveness. Amanda Cox is a gifted writer who delivers a beautiful story of women whose lives have been affected by one another as well as circumstance. When Sarah goes home to the Old Depot Grocery, her grandma is excited to welcome her enthusiasm, but her mother, Rosemary, is concerned her daughter's return is a waste of her time and talents. As secrets are revealed and new friendships are made, the characters hearts open to trust again. I absolutely enjoyed the dynamic relationships of Glory Ann, Rosemary, and Sarah as they navigated the waters of truth. This is a book you want to take your time with and think about the sacrifices made to make life better for the next generation. Cox's mastery of the time-slip novel is excellent. If you enjoy a good story about family, this is a read for you. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Restoration

1 Corinthians 3:16
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 

Proverbs 24:3-4
By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

I'm fascinated by this truthwhen a house is abandoned, it falls in to disrepair.

As my husband and I drove around the city, we noticed so many abandoned homes. It was sad to see places that once housed people in such poor repair. I thought about the laughter, shared meals, and life that once dwelled there. Kind of like a person who loved God then turned away from him. An emptiness of neglect fills the space.

HGTV and other channels are filled with television shows about restoring neglected and dilapidated houses. On Maine Cabin Masters, the carpenters restore cabins for folks who want a safe and beautiful place to relax. At the beginning of each episode, we see the damage done by animals, rot, and time. Chase Morell and his team of Mainers start with demo day where they strip the house down to the bones, and remove all the nastiness. Before they can start the remodel, they reset the foundation and make sure the house is secure. Once that's finished, they transform the place into a lovely, livable space.

1 Corinthians reminds me my body is God's temple, or his home. Like a house, my body can fall into disrepair. Maybe I haven't taken care of my physical needs. I'm sick and don't seek the proper care, or I fail to exercise like I should. I'll feel the effects of the neglect. What if I haven't taken time to keep myself mentally alert or healthy? My anxiety causes me to worry. What if I ignore my spiritual needs or step away from God into sin? My soul feels abandoned and empty. When that happens, I'm broken and distraught.

When I suffer from spiritual neglect, I first need to restore my relationship with God, seek forgiveness and rebuild my spiritual foundation. Without a firm foundation the house will crumble and fall. Jesus, the one who shores me up, gives me a solid base. Through Bible reading and prayer, the Holy Spirit speaks to my soul with wisdom and understanding. God secures my foundation, and I fill up with his rare and beautiful treasures. His hope and grace pour into the spaces of what was once an empty, desolate place. God wants to dwell in his temple with the people He loves.

Invite God to dwell in you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

My Joy and Strength

Physical strength isn't something I have much of anymore.
 All part of the maturing process we experience as humans.

 But the strength I do have,
the strength I cherish,
comes from the joy I have in the Lord.

 Many things bring me joy—
my husband
my family
animals
flowers
books
reading
ice cream

But...

My number one joy—
is knowing I'm loved by God—
the one who created me.



 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Meet Deena Adams

I'd like to welcome award winning writer, Deena Adams, to my blog. She's been a great encouragement to me on my writing journey through her Facebook groupMARATHON. If you’re a Christian Fiction writer, she’d love for you to join the group! Click here for the link, and be sure to answer the membership question.

Deena, I love that you focus on hope in your writing and in your life. What motivates you to have such hope?

Hi, Penny. Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog! I believe hope is as necessary to life as air and water, and genuine hope comes through Christ alone.

I’ve experienced some rough times over the years and every time I felt hopeless, I knew I had to shift my focus back to the Lord. I think about the story of Peter in the Bible. When his eyes were on Jesus, he walked on the water, but when he looked at the storm raging around him, he sank.

Keeping my eyes on Jesus and believing God’s promises is where my hope comes from and is the only way to not only survive the hard times, but to find joy in the journey.

 You encourage people to read hope filled fiction. What is your favorite fiction genre and how does it encourage your life?

Women’s fiction is probably my favorite—and it’s what I write—because I love stories that tackle gritty, true-to-life issues and focus on the character’s spiritual transformation. Of course, I love to be entertained when I read, but I don’t read for pure enjoyment alone, but to be challenged in my faith.

The beauty of God’s work in a person’s mess and bringing them to redemption and healing encourages me in my spiritual life. It helps me know I’m not alone and if others can have victory in their trials, maybe I can too.

You've written a short story, Behind the Scenes. Can you tell us a bit about the story and the novel you are working on?

Behind the Scenes is a prequel to my novel and features the childhood story of Clayton, my novel’s hero. The short story opens with seven-year-old Clayton searching the house for his parents and realizing they’ve left him home alone again. He tells no one when his parents leave him because he’s afraid of being taken to a terrible place, like kid jail or an orphanage. 

Camille and Raymond Richards are medical missionaries who work at a nearby clinic. As they walk the roads of a poor community in the Mississippi Delta area of Memphis, Tennessee, she senses God may have more in store for them than their current ministry.

While passing out toys to children, they meet Clayton, and Camille is immediately drawn to him. She envisions him as their son, but keeps that to herself because that’s just crazy. He has parents, and she’s pregnant with their first child. Their paths cross several times, intensifying Camille’s prayers for the boy.

You’ll have to read the story to hear how God works behind the scenes and find out their journey’s outcome.

In the novel I’m working on, Clayton is twenty-eight, loves Jesus, and works as a behavioral psychologist and homeless shelter manager. But he’s still single and longs to get married and have a family.

He meets Amanda Wright, who is a hot mess. She has a sordid past she keeps buried at all costs because when she told her mayor husband her secret, he stormed out angry and died in an accident.

Amanda’s abusive stepfather shows up, threatening to expose her past unless she gives him money. She agrees to his demands but determines to pay penance for her past sins, protect innocent children from the childhood she endured, and honor her late husband’s community service legacy by becoming a court-appointed special advocate for foster children.

She and Clayton meet and learn they are working on the same court case. As their lives intertwine, a shelter resident uncovers a link to Amanda’s past through a carved angel keepsake, and Amanda is thrust headlong into the past she seeks to escape.

Aspects of foster care, adoption, addictions, abuse, abortion, death, and an interracial relationship bring real issues to the surface. You’ll find God’s love, grace and forgiveness throughout and, of course, hope.

I’ve worked on this story for the past three years and have fallen in love with these characters and their journey. I hope readers will too.

I've read Behind the Scenes. It's a wonderful, uplifting story readers will enjoy. I look forward to reading your work-in-progress. How can folks get a copy of Behind the Scenes?

Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed Behind the Scenes. I offer the story free as a thank you to my newsletter subscribers. The Hope Collective newsletter contains lots of hope-filled fiction content and giveaways and goes out once a month, so it won’t overwhelm your email inbox. Readers who are interested can subscribe here.

You've won some awards. Can you tell us a bit about those and why it's important for writers to enter contests?

Contests not only build a writer’s confidence when we place or win and give us a positive addition to our writing resume, but the feedback and critique from experienced authors and other professionals is invaluable in helping us grow and better learn the craft.

With no idea what I was doing, I started writing my first novel in the fall of 2018 during Nanowrimo. In about three months, I had finished the first, very messy and way too long, draft. A couple of months later, I signed up for my first writer’s conference and entered their contest for unpublished writers. To say it shocked me to win second place is an understatement. 

I met with an agent at that conference who looked at a sample of my writing and encouraged me to keep entering contests. His praise for my writing, and the second-place win, gave me confirmation to keep moving forward and keep entering contests.

In the fall of 2019, I was a double finalist and winner of the ACFW First Impressions contest, another shocker.

I entered multiple contests in 2020 and didn’t place in any of them. It was a discouraging year in a lot of areas of my life, so maybe God allowed me to be a Genesis finalist in 2021 for a boost to keep plugging onward in this publishing journey.

Where can people find out more about you?

Social media is great, and I love interacting with people there, but because of the algorithms, most of my followers and friends never see my posts. The best way to learn more about me and keep up with my writing journey is through my website and newsletter. If you’re interested in connecting, you can find and follow me at the links below.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Penny. I appreciate your support and friendship. God bless you and your readers!

Website

Newsletter and/or Blog Sign up

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Pinterest

BookBub

As a Jesus girl for more than thirty years, Deena understands how important hope is to daily life. That’s why she’s passionate about inspiring others through writing hope-filled fiction and highlighting other Christian authors on her blog. 

Deena is an active member of ACFW and two Virginia writer groups, board member of ACFW Virginia, founder of the Marathon online writer’s group, 2019 Foundations contest finalist, 2019 First Impressions contest double finalist and winner, and 2021 Genesis contest finalist.

She lives with her husband near the coast in beautiful Virginia. When she’s not writing, reading, or serving in her church, you’ll find her hanging out with family and friends and doting on her seven grandchildren.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Contemporary Romance Book Review: Riverbend Gap by Denise Hunter

Book Description:
She came in search of the family she’d always wanted—and found the kind of love she’d never dared to imagine.

When Katelyn Loveland’s car veered off a winding Appalachian Mountain road, she thought she was done for. That is until Cooper Robinson, local sheriff’s deputy, came to her rescue. And though Katie narrowly escaped her brush with death, she still fell. Hard.

She wasn’t the only one. But soon Cooper learns that the woman he’s more attracted to than any he’s ever met is his brother’s new girlfriend—and therefore unquestionably off limits. Yet, despite his best efforts, Cooper and Katie can’t seem to avoid running into each other. Or ignore the undeniable chemistry between them.

As they grow closer, Katie shares the secrets of her past and the real reason she moved to their small North Carolina town. She also wins over Cooper’s welcoming and bighearted family. But they don’t know that her feelings for Cooper keep growing—all while she’s dating his brother. Soon the stakes of their emotional connection become higher than either of them could have imagined. Katie stands to lose the first family she’s ever had, and a scandal could doom Cooper’s campaign for sheriff’s office. Suddenly they find themselves on the edge of another precipice—and they’re forced to make a decision that could change their lives forever.

My Thoughts:
Life can throw you into an unexpected situation. Such is the case for Katelyn and Cooper. At first, I wasn't sure I liked the premise of Riverbend Gap, but as usual, Denise Hunter delivered an excellent story filled with emotion and romance. Cooper Robinson is swoon worthy and Katelyn Loveland is adorable, but even better, they both have kind hearts. Cooper's brother, Gavin, is dating Katelyn and she loves his family. Boy, is she surprised to find out Cooper is her boyfriend's brother. So begins a situation filled with hope, regret, confusion, forgiveness, and family love. This is a lovely story that portrays a family who cares about each other. For Katelyn, that's huge. As a foster child, she's searching for the kind of love she's missed out on, which adds another layer to the story. I loved the setting in a small town on the Appalachian Trail and the tidbits written about hiking. If you enjoy romance, family, and a good story, you'll want to read Riverbend Gap, book one in the Riverbend Romance story.  I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

If My People

Acts 1:13-14
When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Prayer is not a last resort—it is our most powerful weapon.

A newspaper clipping is making the rounds on Facebook that asks everyone to stop what they're doing at 8pm and pray for our country for one minute. If we as believers, in the power of prayer to our heavenly Father, asked for deliverance and safetyimagine the outcome.

At times, I've flung up a prayer in desperation, not realizing the powerful tool I had at my fingertips. Think about it, we, as fumbling humans, have the opportunity to speak directly to the Creator of the universe. I can call on Him any time, and He hears me. That's incredible!

Not only does He hear me, He cares about whatever I'm asking.

In Acts chapter one, the apostles and followers of Jesus found themselves in a tough situation. Their beloved teacher and friend had died. Yes, he rose from the grave, but his closest cohorts found themselves at a loss. They needed to move forward and establish the church, but were perplexed about the situation.

They didn't sit around and grumblethey prayedand not just a few words aimed toward God, they talked to Him constantly. The folks who knew and loved Jesus, talked to God all the time, to seek guidance and direction for their lives and for the church.

These days I find I have much to pray aboutfolks who are ill, our military, Christians who are suffering at the hands of evil, our country and the unrest we all feel, my family and friends, my writing, and so much more.

God calls me to pray. To seek Him, to talk to Him about the concerns on my heart. I won't get a better offer.

Pray constantly to the One who listens.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Hope in the Dark

Jesus' light shines

—hope.

 

When night falls

—pray.

 

In the morning

 —praise.

 

The rest of the day

—love.

 



Share the good news of Jesus.
 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Historical Fiction Book Review: Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes

Book Description:
A mysterious song in the forest . . .
A discovery in war-torn France . . .
A journey toward hope.

The trenches of the Great War are a shadowed place. Though Platoon Sergeant Matthew Petticrew arrived there with a past long marked by shadow, the realities of battle bring new wounds--carving within him a longing for light, and a resolve to fight for it.

One night, Matthew and his comrades are enraptured by a sound so pure, a voice so ethereal, it offers reprieve--even if only for a moment. Soon, rumors sweep the trenches from others who have heard the lullaby too. "The Angel of Argonne," they call the voice: a mysterious presence who leaves behind wreaths on unmarked graves.
 
Raised in the wild depths of the Forest of Argonne, Mireilles finds her reclusive world rocked when war crashes into her idyllic home, taking much from her. When Matthew and his two unlikely companions discover Mireilles, they must embark on a journey that will change each of them forever . . . and perhaps, at long last, spark light into the dark.

On the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier comes an emotive tale inspired by the courageous soldiers of World War I.

My Thoughts:
Yours is the Night filled me with hope and a better understanding of what the military endured during WW1. In the darkest of times during a great war, sparks of light shine through the darkness. Amanda Dykes, an amazing storyteller, created such real characters they could walk off the page. I love Matthew and his constant awareness and desire to protect. Mireilles strength and faith inspire. George's journey of faith and Henry's documentation weave together the heartache of war with the hope of the future. Captain Jasper Truett carried his heart into battle, as he grew to admire the men in his charge. Written from five points of view, Dykes lyrical words painted such vivid pictures, I felt like I was in the midst of the war with the characters. This story kept me reading well past my bedtime. I've enjoyed every book she's written, but I think this one outshines them all. If you enjoy a great story filled with amazing characters, read Yours is the Night. (Sidenote: I love the gorgeous cover.) I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Most of All be Kind

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

Glitter, sparkle, shine, but most of all be kind.

When my kids were growing up, our home was kind of messy. We crafted, drew, glued, and sewed. If the girls had a school project with friends, our house was often the one where they made dioramas, science projects, and book reports. On Valentine's Day and Christmas the cards required as much glitter as they would hold. Little hands scattered the shiny sparkles over white glue and made a fine mess. Sort of like the sprinkles we shook over Christmas cookies. When I attempted to vacuum the tiny, sparkly pieces, I inevitably left some behind. It seemed like I'd find glitter for months, after a project.

What would the world look like if we sprinkled kindness and compassion like glitter? So much so, that the kindness stuck around and was difficult to remove. In the third chapter of Colossians, Paul addresses the church. A place where kindness and compassion should indeed be present. Yet, he had to remind the very people who said they loved Jesus to be kind. I imagine if Paul lived today, he would preach his message in homes, workplaces, at sporting events, and in public spaces.

In a world where we can be anything, shouldn't we be kind? Considerate? Thoughtful? And shouldn't those traits be so ingrained we don't have to think about them. I know sometimes I don't feel kind, I get grumpy like everyone else, but Jesus calls me to have compassion, so I need to work on that daily.

Jesus loves people. When he walked the earth, he showed kindness. Even when he rebuked or corrected someone, he did it with love.

Sprinkle kindness like glitter, so it sticks around. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Catch the Wonder

As I was walking my daughter's dog, I enjoyed the flowers I found along the way.
I came across the one in the picture, which I'd never seen before.

After I snapped a photo, I checked my plant identification app.
This beauty is called the passion flower or maypop, a vine with an intricate flower.

If I hadn't been paying attention, I would have missed this interesting plant.
I want to catch the wonder of God's creation every chance I have.


 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Christmas Novella Review: A Christmas in the Alps by Melody Carlson

Book Description:
After a time of heartache and loss, Simone Winthrop discovers a tantalizing letter from her French great-grandmother, which seems to suggest that she is heir to a family treasure. Ever practical, Simone assumes the claim is baseless, but her best friend encourages her to find out for sure. Despite her deep-rooted fear of flying, Simone boards a jet to travel to Paris at Christmastime to uncover the truth.

During the long flight, Simone meets the charming Kyle Larsson, who's on his way to France to become an apprentice clockmaker. Though they abruptly part ways, an unexpected rendezvous in the French Alps at Simone's family's clock factory may lead to the discovery of the family treasure . . . and so much more.

For anyone who is wearying of staying home, Melody Carlson invites you to spend Christmas with her in the beautiful French Alps this year. So pull on your mittens, tie your scarf tight, and prepare yourself for a magical mountain holiday.

My Thoughts:
A Christmas in the Alps is a lovely story of family, reflection, and holiday joy. Melody Carlson has created the perfect story to sweep the reader away to the Swiss Alps for a beautiful holiday experience. I enjoyed the family history Simone discovered when she arrived in their little hometown, snuggled into the Alps. The setting is perfect for a holiday tale. As Simone searches for her family treasure, she finds much more than she ever expected. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Grieve With Hope

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 

As a believer, I grieve with hope.

About a month after I retired, we knew our lab-retriever wasn't long for this world. Tater's illness got worse every day. I had thought he'd be by my side as I sat in my chair and wrote stories and devotions. Because he enjoyed laying on the floor under the footrest, I had to be careful when I got up, or I'd bonk him on the head. As I watched him struggle to rise from the floor, realization sunk in that he'd go to doggie heaven (I’d like to think there is such a thing, but I have no proof) later that summer. I still miss my furry buddy.

When Tater passed away, I grieved. Yes, he was a dog but the sadness still overwhelmed me. When my dad, my grammy, my aunt, and my friends left this earth, I grieved. Grief is a natural part of life and the process looks different for everyone. I might cry, sit in silence, go through the motions of living, while someone else might go back to work or shut down.

Tim Peace, our associate minister, reminded us that if we have faith in Jesus, we grieve with hope.

Yesit hurts, yeswe may get angry, yesdepression may set in, but even in our sorrow and sadness Jesus offers hope. At the end of 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul tells the people to encourage one another. Remind each other of the hope we have in Jesus so everyone will have the chance to claim the inheritance of heaven.

I believe in the hope of heaven and the hope of being reunited with my loved ones. Through faith, God offers the promise of heaven.

Look to Jesus for strength and peace.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Historical Fiction Review: The Warrior and Lady Rebel (Warrior Bride book 1) By Teresa Smyser

Book Description:
Lightning and thunder crash around her as Elizabeth runs from her pursuer. She rests for only a moment ... or so she thinks. Castles ... swords ... men of war ... Elizabeth is stunned! How did she arrive in England? Who brought her here? As she struggles to uncover the events that landed her at Fairwick Castle, nothing is as it should be. Danger surrounds her. Forced to put her trust in the arrogant Lord Nicolas Fairwick, Elizabeth prays for God’s intervention.

My Thoughts:
I enjoy reading stories set in the Middle Ages. Elizabeth, even though she has amnesia, pulls herself together to be a spunky, honest woman, determined to do what is right. Lord Nicolas Fairwick is a medieval overseer of the castle who sometimes lets his power get in the way of his intentions. They are two people who need each other. They just have to figure it out. This book is filled with adventure. At times I cringed because of the stories of the characters who caused heartache for the pair, while other times I cheered for the bravery and fearlessness of Lady Elizabeth and the kindness and caring of Lord Fairwick. There are some difficult circumstances in the story, but they make Lord Fairwick fight to be a kindhearted man. I enjoyed the comradery of the three brothers and their sister as well as the relationship between the staff and the royals. If you enjoy medieval historical novels with a bit more bite to them, you'll like The Warrior and the Lady Rebel. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

He Strengthens our Hearts

Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart.
The good news is, God will strengthen us. 

Bible reading, prayer, and relationship build spiritual muscles that include our hearts.

I pray He strengthens your hearts as we live for Him.


 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

A Wombat Tale

Psalm 62: 5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

Sometimes I want to curl up in a ball.

When I worked at the elementary school library, I enjoyed reading a book to the children about a cute little wombat. This little guy jumped in the mud, danced in a circle, and eventually curled up in a ball. The children giggled at his antics.

The book reminds me how I often go about working, playing, and living life, then something comes along that makes me want to curl into a ball. Exhaustion, excitement, exuberance, fibromyalgia, frustration, sadnessemotions  that even when they are positive may leave me weary.

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions. Joy that our youngest daughter is getting married. Excitement for signing a contract for my debut novel. Empathy and sorrow for one of my best friends who lost her husband, who was also a dear friend. Sadness laces the edges of joy even as I rejoice for his homecoming to heaven. Plus, grabbing the last few days of summer before my grandkids go back to school. Granted the joy and happiness carry my heart, but I'm tired. Worn from the moments of life.

The good news isI have a place to go when I need to refuel, sort through, rest, or just be for a little while.

When that little wombat wound himself into a ball he thought, because he was so small, he could hide in the flowers. But where can I go? Not in a bed of posies. Instead, I'll curl up and find rest in my Father's arms. God, my fortress, rock, salvation, and refuge, gives me joy and hope. He's the one who understands my emotions and physical struggles, and He offers strength and peace. I trust in Him to carry me through.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Historical Fiction Book Review: Freedom's Song by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Book Description:
Her voice made her a riverboat’s darling—and its prisoner. Now she’s singing her way to freedom in this powerful novel from the bestselling author of The Librarian of Boone's Hollow.

Indentured servant Fanny Beck has been forced to sing for riverboat passengers since she was a girl. All she wants is to live a quiet, humble life with her family as soon as her seven-year contract is over. However, when she discovers that the captain has no intention of releasing her, she seizes a sudden opportunity to escape—an impulse that leads Fanny to a group of enslaved people who are on their own dangerous quest for liberty. . . .

Widower Walter Kuhn is overwhelmed by his responsibilities to his farm and young daughter, and now his mail-order bride hasn’t arrived. Could a beautiful stranger seeking work be the answer to his prayers? . . .
 
After the star performer of the River Peacock is presumed drowned, Sloan Kirkpatrick, the riverboat’s captain, sets off to find her replacement. However, his journey will bring him face to face with his own past—and a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be free. . . . 

Uplifting, inspiring, and grounded in biblical truth, Freedom’s Song is a story for every reader who has longed for physical, emotional, or spiritual delivery.

My Thoughts:
Freedom. We all love being able to move about freely and believe what we want. But what if you couldn't? What if you are sheltered in a room in the lower chamber of a boat and only allowed out to perform? To what measure would you go to escape? Kim Vogel Sawyer writes an amazing story of Fanny Beck's brave journey to find the freedom she longs for. Fanny is a lovely character who has a lot to give. Walter is a kindhearted man who needs love in his life, and his little daughter is adorable. I like that the author took a historical situation, a river boat singer, and created a tale of compassion. The thread of forgiveness and kindness is woven in beautifully. If you enjoy historical fiction, Freedom's Song is an enjoyable read by Kim Vogel Sawyer. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

In His Arms

Summer flowers nod in the sunshine.

As I watered my little garden the other day, I admired the bees 
and butterflies that flitted about.
The bees nuzzled into the blossoms and sucked nectar into 
a little sac on their body called a crop.
Those little creatures took refuge in the buds until they filled up on the sweetness.

When I seek refuge in God's arms, 
I rest there until I fill up on his love and peace.

When life is hard, seek shelter in God's arms.


 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Exciting News!

"Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. 
The time will pass anyway." -Earl Nightingale 


Once upon a time I dreamed of having a book published.
Through the years, the dream changed here and there, 
but I never closed my mind to the possibility.
I'm excited to announce I signed a contract with Mt. Zion Ridge Press
My debut novel, Home Where She Belongs is set to enter the world spring 2022.

I'll post more about this great adventure in the coming months.
To get updates first, sign up for my monthly newsletter at 

I'm so thankful God has given me this opportunity to use the talent he's given me.

Click to Tweet: Share my exciting news!

 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Scribbled on my Heart

Proverbs 3:3-6

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

The word tablet has a very different meaning today.

It's interesting how, through the years, the definition of words has changed. When I was a child, I rested on a blanket in the yard and watched the clouds float past. Now I save my stories, devotions, and book reviews to an invisible cloud I can access from my computer or phone. In college I listened to my professor drone on and on, now a drone flies in the sky (with those clouds I mentioned earlier) and snaps photos. The birds in my trees tweet in the morning, so do my friends on Twitter. The tablet I mentioned is an electronic device I use to connect with social media. Wow!

In the Old Testament, people often wrote the words from scripture on a small scroll, tucked it into a tiny box, and tied the box to their heads, arms, or necks. That way, they could remember God's intervention at the time of Exodus, and his promises to them.

I scribbled Proverbs 3:5-6 on the tablet of my heart years ago. Trust in the Lord. In this world with its sorrow, blessings, sadness, and joys, what else could I do? For the one thing that never changes are the promises and love of God. He calls me to trust him no matter the circumstances. He asks me to seek him, whether through scripture, prayer, or the new Bible app my daughter showed me.

I may still watch the clouds and listen to the bird's tweet. But I can also use the new tools God gives me to seek him and glorify him.

What have you written on your heart?  

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Fiction Book Review: Under the Bayou Moon: A Novel by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Book Description:
Restless with the familiarity of her Alabama home, Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country. Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their culture, most of the people in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher as a boon to the town. She's soon teaching just about everyone--and coming up against opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives.

Acclimating to a whole new world, Ellie meets a lonely but intriguing Cajun fisherman named Raphe who introduces her to the legendary white alligator that haunts these waters. Raphe and Ellie have barely found their way to each other when a huge bounty is offered for the elusive gator, bringing about a shocking turn of events that will test their love and their will to right a terrible wrong.

A master of the Southern novel, Valerie Fraser Luesse invites you to enter the sultry swamps of Louisiana in a story that illuminates the struggle for the heart and soul of the bayou.

My Thoughts:
The bayou of Louisiana is different from any place I've ever traveled. Valerie Fraser Luesse paints a picture from the cypress trees with the Spanish moss draped on limbs to the alligator eyes watching folks glide along in their boats. Under the Bayou Moon is the story of Ellie and Raphe and their fight to help the people of Bernadette. While a beautiful love story takes place, the book is really about the people who live a different life style in a unique part of the world.  I enjoyed learning about the area and getting to know the people. Though fiction, the story felt real. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you choose to read Under the Bayou Moon, be prepared to spend time in a place that feels like another world. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Trust

Some weeks are harder than others. This is one of them.

A dear friend passed from this earth and entered the gates of heaven.
My heart breaks for his wife, one of my best friends, 
even as I rejoice in his eternal peace.

When life hurts and things don't make sense, there's only one thing I can do.

Trust in the Lord and his plan for us. 


 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Historical Fiction Review: The Librarian's Journey: 4 Historical Romances

Book Description:

A brave fight for literacy during the Great Depression

Four women set out on horseback to bring the library to remote communities

Part of FDR’s New Deal was the Works Progress Administration, which funded the Pack Horse Library Initiative. Ride along with four book-loving women who bravely fight for literacy in remote communities during the Great Depression by carrying library books via horseback. Will their efforts be rewarded by finding love in the process?

Love’s Turning Page by Cynthia Hickey
1936, Ozark Mountains
Grace Billings jumped at the chance to be a traveling librarian, but she didn’t anticipate the long days of work, the intense poverty, or the handsome new schoolteacher whose love for the mountain people surpasses even her own.

In This Moment by Patty Smith Hall
1936, Pine Mountain, Georgia
Forced out of her nursing job due to budget cuts, Ruth Sims applies for a position with the Pack Horse Library incentive, only to discover she must go to the one place she swore never to return. The children instantly steal her heart with their thirst for books, and she’s happy in her post until she meets their teacher, Will Munroe—the man who broke her heart. 

Book Lady of the Bayou by Marilyn Turk
1936, Mississippi
Forced out of her comfort zone, Lily Bee Davis travels by horse or boat taking books to remote areas. When she meets little Evie and her reclusive father at a dilapidated plantation house, she is drawn by their losses and longs to draw them out into life again. 

The Lawman and the Librarian by Kathleen Y’Barbo
1936, Kentucky
Lottie Trent connects with a backwoods bully’s wife by secretly carrying messages for her in exchange for books. FBI agent Clayton Turnbow is on the trail of a criminal gang and discovers the packhorse librarian maybe a key member. 

My Thoughts:
I enjoy reading about the women who carried books into the mountains to help their communities. They traversed rough terrain, sometimes on a horse, others on a mule. These four stories give us a snapshot of what they went through while entertaining us with a romantic tale. I enjoyed the stories set in the Appalachian Mountains so much. The story set in Mississippi made me shiver when Lily Bee goes into the swamplands to deliver books. All four stories feature a strong female character who is determined to help with the literacy of her community. I particularly liked The Lawman and the Librarian. Lottie and Clayton have a certain chemistry that made me want to read more. If you enjoy historical romance and stories of brave women, you'll enjoy The Librarian's Journey. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Fiction Book Review: The Nature of Small Birds: A Novel by Susie Finkbeiner

Book Description:
In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy's desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he'll lose the daughter he's poured his heart into. Mindy's mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy's sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family--but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

My Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed The Nature of Small Birds. Susie Finkbeiner has written this family story of love from three distinct points of view. She chose wisely as we hear the voices of Dad, Mom, and sister to Mindy, the lovely young lady they adopted into their family. With little knowledge of the adoption process, I opened this book with hope of reading a great story. Through a group of flawed people who choose to love each other warts and all, I found a page-turning story filled with hope. Mindy's story is beautiful, while at the same time sorrowful. Finkbeiner does a remarkable job weaving different time periods (1975, 1988, & 2013) together through these distinct voices. During and after the Vietnam War many terrible things happened, perhaps the blessing was saving the children. I hope you'll read The Nature of Small Birds, if for no other reason than it's a beautiful story filled with hope.  I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.