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.