Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

This is a beautiful story that will intrigue you, open up your senses, move you emotionally, and allow you to ponder the story behind the women who had suffered for so many years with an issue of blood. 

It was the cover that caught my attention. Then reading the description I knew this was an adventure I wanted to take. Back in time to the life of a woman who I think we can all relate to in one way or another. 

I have always loved this story. I have written many times about this Biblical account of this women needing such healing. A woman strong of faith and one emboldened and empowered by her Savior. 

Tessa Afshar is a new writer for me. I was not disappointed. I have found another gifted writer. I love being introduced to new writers and Afshar is one writer who will leave an imprint on your heart. She pens beauty and brings our imagination to life at what life could have been like for this woman. 

You may find yourself in Elianna's story. Guilt and shame blanketed this beautiful soul until she thought no hope could be found. But there she finds the Savior and she is healed before she ever touches the hem of His garment. Such mighty faith! 

I love pondering what life could have been like for those in the Bible where we are only given portions of their story. Afshar gives us that gift with this novel as she brings Elianna to life. This is a story that will make you want to dive deep into the Word. That's always a blessing to leave a reader. I love writing that helps me to grow and to seek the Savior on a deeper level. 

A love story on a whole different level!

This novel was a gift from Tyndale for sharing my review with you.

Sins of The Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason

Okay, a novel containing three masters at their craft all in one book! I have read everything penned from Dee Henderson and Lynette Eason. They are faves in the suspense genre, so I knew to only expect amazing reads from them. Dani Pettrey believe it or not is new for me. I've heard her penned works are amazing, but I have just not had the chance to review for her. Wow!! Turns out her novella was my favorite!!

I was instantly hooked with the intensity as Dee Henderson's, "Missing" began. It started fast paced and I was with the main character, John, the entire length of the story. Love the premise of this story and also the connection between John and Sharon. Dee is an artist when it comes to giving detail for the reader to imagine as if they are weaved within the pages having a front row seat. She is gifted at bringing out the best of each character and allowing you to truly care about them. 

In Pettrey's novella, "Shadowed", I couldn't read fast enough! I knew after reading the first pages that I would have to have more of this author. This story was perfection in every way. The connection between Ben and Libby was magical. Loved going back in time to 1979 to the intrigue of spies, murder,  and hidden messages. Being a newby to this writer I just truly enjoyed how she allowed these characters to come alive within these black and white pages. So much suspense weaved in this novella. Love how the writer filled her page limit to perfection!

In this last novella, "Blackout", by Lynette Eason we meet another great character, Macey. A crime has occurred and Macey cannot remember the account of this day. This selection was more in-depth for me. A story that was great, but let's face it, we are never happy to see an Eason book end, right? Once again we see a great connection between the characters here. I love how Lynette brings Chad and Macey together. I am astonished how Eason gives us so much within 130 pages! 

All of these stories are based on the sins of the past. How the sins of others touch our lives. No one is exempt from the sin of another blindsiding them. We have a choice when fear and anxiousness invades our lives. We can run or we can face it head on. These characters chose to face their circumstances head on with the strength and grace of God. Each of these characters looked to our Heavenly Father for support and they trusted Him to lead them to freedom, justice, and to a new peace of letting the past go and taking hold of the present He was now giving them. 

This is a great way to introduce yourself to these writers. You could read a story in one afternoon setting. Perfect for the rainy days of spring!

This book was a gift from Bethany House for sharing my review with you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dependency on God

There are times we feel God asking us to share our story, but being transparent is difficult, isn't it? It's hard to share where we struggle. I mean how will people respond to our journey? Well, we have to get to that place of obedience, right? If we hear our Lord asking us to share, He knows the value of our story, because He is so intricately weaved within it. 

Twelve years ago I was completely crumbled under the weight of something happening to me I didn't understand. I was living in total fear. Many midnight visits to the ER with what I would later know as migraines and panic attacks. At the time I had no idea what was happening to me. I just knew I was dying, living in fear of the next one hitting. 

These migraines would last anywhere from two days to two months. I didn't have the classic migraine. Nope, I would have every kind of migraine under the sun. Panic attacks would slam me out of no where. Mostly at night I would feel trampled in fear. 

I would go many months until I found a specialist in Neurology who had a specialty in migraines. This would be the doctor to uncover what was plaguing me. He would save my life. At this time during this unwanted journey I wanted to die. I didn't want to live with such fear and pain. 

This was a burden that would wear me down to almost nothing. I felt like a failure. I was homeschooling my children, involved in so very much. Life was busy, but so great. When the migraines and panic attacks came I thought I was losing my mind. I felt so lost. I knew no one who had faced what I was facing, so trying to explain it to others was impossible. I felt I was letting my family down and continually making excuses as to why I couldn't function as I was.

Sometimes such shame can come with living with such fear. Outward all seems just perfect, while inside you feel like your dying. You hide your pain to the world. This should be something you can face alone, right? I mean how weak can a person be to need the help of medication, right? There is never shame in seeking help. I literally thought I was losing my mind with these migraines and panic attacks. Two things most people around me couldn't understand. "Just take a Tylenol. Try to calm yourself. You're fine." These are words I would often hear. Words that would bring shame to my heart. 

The doctors would later figure out my thyroid was totally a mess. I would have it removed as I would learn I had Graves Disease and a goiter growing backward around my windpipe that would be a longer than usual surgery. Healing was not to come easily or quickly. It would be years later until my thyroid levels would straighten out and some sort of peace would blanket me. 

When all this happened the doctors prescribed many different medications. Most of which I endured every side effect. I'm not an easy girl to prescribe meds. But my doctors were vigilant in bringing me to a healing place. Finding the right doctors is key to healing. Through this I would uncover so much about myself. I would overcome. It would just take time and most importantly prayer.

One of the medications prescribed to me was Xanax. I was on a small dose, but four times a day. It wasn't just for attacks that erupted out of no where, but to hopefully help in preventing them. I have been on this medication for twelve years. I have taken this med because one, my body was a mess and needed some kind of calming, and second, I lived in total fear of these panic attacks. 

A little over a week ago I was standing in the kitchen. I went to grab my medication for my noon dose and I felt this strange calm. I heard the Lord speak to me. It was plain as day. "It's time, My daughter. You can do it. I will help you." Really? Could I really give up this med I was told I would be on for the rest of my life? This med I was told I would have to be hospitalized if ever wanting to rid my body of its effects? Twelve years is a long time to be on a medication. I wasn't mentally addicted to this drug, but my body was clearly not wanting to part with it.  I mean what if a panic attack came? How would I skip a dose? Fear was already churning as I was thinking about it, but there was the Lord again. "With Me you can do it".

I put my bottle back on the counter and thought about how difficult this would be. Now, I've never been a quitter. I'm up for a challenge, but this? Detoxing myself? So, it began. I soon found out skipping a dose was not going to work. Xanax is not a drug you can just stop. Death could be right around the corner. Okay, there is that threat of fear beginning to burn. No, I can do it. I know I can. So, my journey began.

I would lesson and lesson each dose until today I am only taking a fourth of what I was in each dose and only taking two a day. Today is the day I am hoping for one dose. Pray with me, please. This almost week and a half has challenged me. I never once have thought about giving up. With each dose lessened I grew in strength and encouragement. I couldn't believe it!! The Lord was guiding me to being free of this medication. I am hoping that in the next few days I will be Xanax free!!

I have had sweats, stomach cramps, headaches, and that feeling I'm going to crawl right out of my own skin. But those are growing less and less. God has totally shown me that I do not have to be dependent on this medication any longer. I am finding such new freedom. It's like I'm waking up from a long fog. Everything is coming alive once again. I always thought that the medication didn't make me feel dopey or effect me in any way except keeping the panic attacks away, but this medication trapped me in ways I had no idea. My memory was fading, my energy levels were being depleted. I was growing more dependent on this medication. 

The Lord's timing was perfect. Isn't it always? There was a time I needed this medication, but the Lord knew it was time to rid myself of it before the addiction became worse as years past. 

I would remain busy. I have done everything possible to keep busy and keep my mind focused on Jesus. Each time I could feel my body growing to want a dosage of medication I would refuse to give in and change my focus. I would pray for God's strength. He has remained at my side and I know without a doubt in the next few days I will overcome and it will be all praise to Him! 

He is always preparing and molding us. God's timing is never wrong. Like me, maybe you allow fear to keep your feet planted instead of taking that leap of faith. I have learned to be totally dependent on the Lord and trust Him. 

Maybe you too are facing a journey that holds fear and uncertainty. Friend, don't give up. Hold tight to that hope that it is possible. If God has you on this journey it is with purpose. He will forever turn ash into beauty. He will remain true and never leave our side. 

It took me a few days before I shared with my husband. Maybe I just wanted to be sure this was really happening before I shared. He has been such a rock for me. His encouragement has lifted me and has only given room for God to do His work in me. To hear my son and daughter tell me how very proud of me they are fills my heart with such gratitude. To be able to share with them and to have their support has been so valuable in this journey.

I know where I started with this medication. I know how much I was beginning to take and now I see where I am and how I have gotten to this day. God is so good. He has given me such insight as to how we grow dependent on people and things of this world. We can allow fear to swarm us and invade every area of our lives. This medication had its purpose. At the time I'm not sure I could have held on without it. But now the Lord sees my journey. He knows me better than anyone. Even better than myself. He sees the road behind me, and the one before me. He knew I was ready. I just wasn't going to come up with the idea out of fear. I was ready because He said I was and with Him the road before me wouldn't be an impossible one, but one that would hold so much more in this journey of learning about myself and about the One who would challenge me.

My journey continues. With each step I will trust in the One who set me on this course for continued healing and grace. Friend, whatever journey you are on today, don't give up. Allow room for your faith to grow as the Lord unveils Himself to you. Seek Him on every level and don't allow doubt or fear to overtake you. Satan is good at making us think we can't do the impossible. Where we are weak our Jesus is strong and sufficient to meet our needs and even go beyond all expectation.

Journey onward in faith, my friends, knowing the path before you is already paved in greatness. Be bold today and take that leap of faith into a new day paved with new mercies.

"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him." Psalm 28:7

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

I was excited to be receiving this new novel by an author I had not yet been acquainted. I always love being introduced to new authors.

This novel is published by Thomas Nelson. I'm not quite sure why one would find this novel in the Christian section of the closest book store. The main character speaks of God, but it never goes deeper than that. One could question what god she is speaking about.

This novel is fast paced. One in which each chapter is devoted to a character. Allie, Emma, Caroline, and Sheriff Gaines. I love the premise of the story. Allie is falsely accused of a crime and placed in prison. Emma her sister, raises her daughter, Caroline. Sheriff Gaines enters the story and we see bits of pieces of his life unfold. The story flows easily until the last few chapters. Then it speeds up and I felt like each chapter kind of just fell off the page with no more detail of the circumstances the characters were facing. With that being said, I never really connected to the characters because it was so fast paced. I feel the story just stayed on the surface without going deep. Maybe that's where my connection was lost.

Within these pages we do get to see a character, Allie, never give up. We see her strength continually grow as she seeks to find the truth. As she uncovers the truth we see her freedom become real and there is where she is able to find true peace now. I enjoyed the daughter's journey. Caroline is a struggling teenager, trying desperately to fit in and not be found out. She is fearful when her mom is released her world as she knows it will come crashing down. Emma is that girl who lives behind the facade that all is okay. She hides so much inside and doesn't want to reveal any depth of herself. She just wants to be loved and accepted. She has a distorted view that Allie is her parents favorite child. Sheriff Gaines is a more complicated character. I just feel like there needed to be more pages for these characters to develop fully.

My three star review isn't because of poor writing or a story that isn't worthy. This writer is very talented. I expected to see faith throughout these pages since it is published by Thomas Nelson. If faith were weaved into story and our Jesus was given credit for the main characters strength that would have left me with a more meaningful novel.

You may pick up this novel and just love it. I hope you do!! We all experience something different while reading a novel. I think I was just hoping for more.

This novel was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.

Laura McNeill is a writer, mom, travel enthusiast, and a coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master's degree in Journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a PhD in Instructional Leadership at the University of Alabama. When she's not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in North Alabama with her family.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dreaming Big

Joseph is seventeen years old when we meet him in Genesis 37. The age when we just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, right? Joseph may have worn a coat of many colors, but he was hated for who he was. He was his father's favorite son. His mother was his father's favored wife. Rachel was a beauty and loved by Jacob. When she gave him a son in his old age he was proud as a peacock. 

See, Joseph's coat wasn't just a gift because his father loved him best. It was given to him because he was now his father's heir. All the brothers had coats. Their coats were made with the purpose of them staying warm as they worked the fields. Joseph's coat was to show his place in the family. 

Can you imagine how Joseph must have felt? Just maybe he wanted to be little brother who was loved and accepted. Sure, I have always heard pastors preach on Joseph's life during this time as if he were prideful and arrogant. But just what if it was the opposite? He has ten older brothers who hate him. Reuben the oldest brother should be the heir, but that title passes him and the other brothers and goes to Joseph. As if life wasn't hard enough, Joseph's parents didn't make it any easier with their differences they made in their sons. But this goes back further. 

What parents do in moderation children will do in excess. Jacob favored Rachel over Leah. There was always a competition of these sisters vying for the love and attention of Jacob. But even before them Jacob and Esau battled for their parents attention. Jacob was the favored son of his mother, Rebekah.  Esau the favored son of his father, Issac. For generations there would be favoritism. From this bitterness would take root and grow.

So Joseph as a few dreams. Yes, there are two ways of looking at this. He could be sharing these dreams out of pride and arrogance or he could be sharing like a little brother would in wanting to fit in and maybe have a bit of acceptance and praise from his other brothers. It's obvious his brothers do not like his dreams and his father isn't too happy either. His father calls him to quietness. His father's favored, but here Joseph could have only felt worse. His sharing got him no where fast. It angered his brothers even more. 

As if that wasn't enough his father puts him in a pickle of a spot. He tells Joseph to go check on his brothers. Really? Does Jacob think for a minute that this is going to turn out well for Joseph? His brothers already despise him. I can see Joseph asking his father to please not send him to the fields. Of course it doesn't tell us this in scripture. It's just me relating to how Joseph could have felt at the time being little brother and all. 

Joseph takes off and his brothers see him coming. They are plotting his demise before he even reaches them. That bitter root is making life for Joseph unbearable. But as his father's heir just maybe Jacob was giving Joseph the task of taking responsibility for who he is and for whom he belongs. 

Joseph couldn't have possibly seen what his brothers were planning. But God did. He was already present there. Waiting and protecting Joseph every step of the way. Through all of these trials Joseph would face his faith only grew. In the bottom of that pit was a God Joseph believed in and trusted. God would make a way.

Joseph knows he is hated. So, I'm sure there was mistreatment from his brothers. He must have felt so alone in this huge family. Maybe he even wished his father had given such a coat to Benjamin instead. For Pete's sake, just give it to Reuben. As a young teen this had to be such a trying time for him. Later he would see how God had been working in his life. He would recognize God as the Architect of his life and see that all along God was moving him toward the masterpiece He created him to be. In the meantime life didn't make much sense.

I see Joseph as so much more than the snotty nosed, prideful, baby brother. He knew he was hated. Maybe he tried all he knew to impress his brothers. Can't you see them sitting around the table talking about their day's activities? Just as brothers do giving one another a punch in the arm. But then Joseph shares and all is quiet. Did he really just say we would worship him? Oh, the anger that was brewing just exploded into a fury bomb. 

Sometimes no matter how hard we try we just are not going to be liked by everyone. We are not going to find love and acceptance from everyone around us. But isn't that how we are? We try so hard to fit in and to find acceptance. We become people pleasers. The only thing is, we can't please everyone and we cannot produce love from others no matter how much we try. This was a life lesson Joseph was learning that would later aid in his leadership and staying true to himself. 

I can see the brother's saying, "Here comes Daddy's little spy". Joseph's coat would be removed and covered in blood. The pit would hold Joseph. He would be stripped of all his brother's hated and thrown into a blackness so his brothers could finally forget him and be done. But there is Reuben, the oldest. The one to whom the heir should belong, but Joseph took that spot when Rachel gave birth to him. Big brother just can't imagine killing little brother, so the pit idea forms. He plans to go back later and rescue him, but that rescue wouldn't come in time. He would be sold for less profit than what a slave would bring. 

These brothers would dance their way back to the farm and deliver the news to their father. They would share his favored son was dead and gone. Oh, the pain Jacob must have endured. I can envision this time for this family. Jacob broken and the brothers living this lie. But all would not be well for Reuben's soul. He is broken over his actions and now must live with the choices he has made. That bitterness would now turn to guilt and shame. But that's how Satan works, right? 

Reuben is distressed but never enough to go to his father and speak the truth. I think there are more brothers here we can relate to besides Joseph, right? Nothing good becomes of secrets kept. Lies lived only turns to more lies until the pit becomes real for us as the truth prevails and comes to light before us. 

Did Jacob wish he had never sent his young son out to those fields? Joseph's character is even seen as he went into the fields. His brothers were not where they were suppose to be. He could have easily went back home and told his father they weren't to be found. But he traveled many miles more until he did find them. I think he truly loved his brothers. Maybe when he first didn't find them he was a bit worried and unsettled? Don't you love how the Word gives us room to dream along with Joseph? 

Of course Joseph was dreaming of greatness. He was a young teen with a big heart and big dreams. The hated one, the misfit, the black sheep to his brothers. Sure, he had his father's love, but he was seeking more. Ah...how often do we do the same? When will our Father's love be enough? My heart aches for Joseph. Maybe because I can relate to him. 

Maybe he just dreamed of normal. Don't we all just want a normal family? Can we all just get along and love one another? Yep, I knew you too could relate. 

Joseph would be pulled from that pit. Sold to Potiphar and travel to Egypt in chains. Joseph may not have known the road before him, but his God did and He never for once left Joseph alone. He never allowed Joseph to face anything that he couldn't do through his God. Joseph was more than his father's heir. He was an heir to thrown of King of kings. God would later bring Joseph's family together. He would be reunited with his dad and little brother. He too would gain the respect and love he so desired from his brothers. Not because of what he could do or he was, but because he remained true to who God created him to be. 

Young Joseph was filled with dreams. Dreams that God gave him. He would live with a mighty faith as an example to us all. He knew the God who rescued him from that deep cistern would forever go before him to prepare the way for those dreams to be lived out in a life that would bring glory and honor to God and would pave out the perfected arrival of our Savior.

"Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." Galatians 4:1-7

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

Wow! One of the best novels I have read in quite a long time. Where have I been that I have not read more work by this exceptionally gifted writer? Mike Nappa nailed this novel in so many ways. 

It was the cover of this book intrigued me and of course I love reading works penned by authors who are new to me, so when I seen this for review I had to see what it was all about.

It is categorized as Fiction/Suspense, but this novel holds so much more than just suspense. The characters are so well written. Their lives penned in black and white on these pages, but through Nappa's use of words and expression their lives are before us in living color. 

This is one of those novels that would make a great television series! But for those of us book nerds, paperback is even better. Nappa had me in the first pages. I hated to have to put this book down and carry on with my daily activities. I couldn't wait for some extra reading time to get back into this story. 

I'm so thankful Nappa grew up with the works of Poe. What a great impact on his life and his writing experience. Even more so, what a great gift to share with us! This is a fast paced novel. Twists and turns come at such unexpected times. This is what I truly loved about this novel. Nappa keeps the reader engaged with characters that you want to know more about. Not all the secrets are laid out in the first chapter so you know exactly where the book is going. He has perfectly and precisely placed such amazing detail throughout these pages that you feel as if you are have a front row seat for the mystery unfolding before you! 

If you are looking for a great afternoon summer read this is it! I cannot imagine anyone not loving this novel. Each character has their own story, their own mystery to uncover. This is just such a well written novel. So much more than just suspense! I am now definitely a fan of Mike Nappa and cannot wait to see what's next for Coffey and Hill. 

This novel was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you.

Mike Nappa is an entertainment journalist at FamilyFans.com, as well as a bestselling and award winning author with more than one million books sold worldwide. When he was a kid, the stories of Edgar Allen Poe scared him silly. Today he owns everything Poe ever wrote. A former fiction acquisitions editor, Mike earned his MA in English literature and now writes full time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I Miss You, Dad

I had never prayed before. On a late night in the month of April I laid at the foot of my father's hospital bed, listening to his shallow breathing. Every few minutes a loud buzzer would go off and a nurse would rush in as if she could save my dad. That night I laid in the floor and begged God, a God I had yet to know, to either heal my dad or take him from this earth. 

I can still go back to that prayer. Tears flowing. My heart pounding. I counted my dad's breaths and wondered if there would be another. I begged God, "Please, God. Can You hear me? Please hear me. Heal my daddy tonight. Take this cancer from him. Allow him to breathe again. If You cannot do that for me then please take him. Please, God, don't make him suffer another night." My dad would spend three weeks in that hospital bed. 

I was nineteen. A young woman, but still so much just a girl. A girl who refused to believe her daddy was dying. No way! My dad would be here forever. God wouldn't take him from me. This girl with such a love would hate God for years to come. A God she didn't know, didn't want to know. 

A year earlier my dad was told he had terminal lung cancer and would never live past a year. That doctor got it right to the exact day. Now, knowing God, I know that with Him all things are possible. Then I believed Him to be a God who could do nothing. Oh, what a God of grace we have. My heart was so bitter and filled with such painful anger. God has healed my heart. He too healed my dad. Just not in the way I had hoped or had known possible. He would heal him on the other side of heaven.

My mother would remain at my dad's bedside for the next three weeks. Never leaving him for a minute. I would go to work each day, go home, clean house, and prepare things for my mom. I would visit my dad each day, but often called throughout the day to check on him. 

When my parents were told my dad was terminal they didn't share that information with me. I truly believed my dad would be coming home. Even those last three weeks at the hospital he would have days that weren't so bad. He celebrated Easter Sunday in the hospital. That would be the last day I would see my dad. 

I sat next to my dad, curled up in his bed, as he said to me, "Rob, I'm not gonna be able to leave here. You're going to have to take care of your mom. Always take care of her." As I type this tears flow so easily. I have worked to hard to keep that promise. I looked at my dad and said, "Dad, stop talking like that. Of course you will be coming home and you can take care of her yourself." But I still promised him and that would be a promise I would be determined to keep for the rest of my life. 

The next day the hospital was sending a hospital bed to our home for my dad. They knew they would be sending him home with hospice to die, but for me, I didn't know. I was thinking if they are sending him home he must be getting better. Still the little girl wanting her daddy, but so much the young woman wanting to protect her father. 

I was home on a sunny April morning. I didn't have to go into work until the afternoon. I called the hospital to check on my dad and mom said, "He's doing great. Having a great day." I was to wait for the bed to be delivered. I thought I'd catch some sun while waiting and then travel to the hospital to see my dad before I went into work. 

There I was with my iced tea as I see my brother-in-law and little nephews pull in the drive. I thought he came out to help with the bed. After all, my dad was coming home. He looked at me with tears and said, "Rob, we need to go to the hospital. Your dad has died." I was floored. I made him repeat it. I still didn't believe him. That was the longest ride I had ever taken. 

For years I carried such guilt. I should have been there. Here I was laying in the sun! He had told my mom to go get herself something to eat. That was the first time in three weeks that she had left his room. Did he know? All I could think about was him being all alone. Later I would realize he wasn't alone at all.

I wouldn't know until later and wouldn't understand until many years later, but two days before my dad died a pastor came in and visited with him. My dad accepted Jesus as his Savior. What a Jesus we have. Oh, to know that my dad would receive the love and forgiveness of a Savior I would later come to know. 

See, my dad could have easily died in a car crash on his way to work, never accepting Jesus. Never knowing that eternal hope. Was it God's plan for my dad to have cancer? I can't say that it was, but I can know for certain that God didn't allow one minute to go unused. He was planning. He loved my dad and was working to see my dad come to know Him as his Savior. Years later I would look back and see how God moved in my life to bring my heart to know him as well. 

All is possible with God. Thirty years has passed since that day. Thirty years without my dad. All those special times you wanna call and share with your dad were never to be.  I missed him as I walked down the aisle. I missed him being there when his grandchildren were born and now his great-grandchildren. To read my first piece of writing. So many moments, big and small,  we didn't get to share. But there were so many treasured memories.

I miss my dad's laughter. At night I would be in my room and hear my dad laughing as he watched Benny Hill, The Three Stooges, and Johnny Carson. His favorites. Oh, how he loved watching All In The Family. To hear his laughter one more time. 

We loved to fish together. He taught me how to play baseball. He taught me to love the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of course we were the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, but no one played like the Steelers! He taught me how to drive, but not before teaching  me to ride a bike. Each time I fell he would pick me back up and say, "Try it again, Rob". He was my greatest cheerleader. 

He made the greatest cheeseburgers and fries! Every day at four he would walk through the door from work. My mother would be preparing dinner. He always came through the door singing to my mom. "Hey, good-lookin'. Whatcha got cookin'? How about cookin' somethin' up with me?" Oh, the country music I endured in the backseat as a youngster I would one day learn to love as it brought me back in time. 

He taught me to believe that nothing was impossible. That I was capable and talented to do anything and be anything I wanted to be. We loved to laugh and Christmas was our favorite day of the year. Only we never waited for Christmas morning to open our gifts. We always had them open the night before, leaving my mom none to happy with us. He was everything a little girl needed. As an adult woman I look back so proud of him. 

I know he would so love my husband. His three grandchildren and three great-grands, soon to be four. I can only hope he would be so proud of me. I pray I have honored my dad in all he taught me. He taught me to stand up for what is right. To be brave no matter what may come. He taught me to be true to myself and never compromise who I am. Most of all he taught me to be humble and to walk with honor. To work hard and to never take a moment of life for granted. 

Oh, how I wish we could fish once more. That last year of his life he would catch and release. He loved catching the big fish. That year must have taught him so much. Something changed about his love of fishing. It became a different love for him. He purchased an old bike that he would ride a bike through the country for miles. If we could only have a few minutes for him to share with me all he learned on his journey. As a teen I wasn't so interested. So much time I allowed to pass. The years I would want to know more about my dad would just not be. I just always figured time would be forever. As a teen you never think about things happening to your parents. 

I look like my dad, but my son is perfect image. I look at my son at times and just fill with such joy. He would have been my dad's fishing buddy for sure. My girls would have been spoiled rotten and protected by his strong and mighty love. 

The years pass. I'm now older than my daddy was when he left this earth. That just doesn't seem right. But nothing is much right about this world we live in today. That God I once hated? Well, that God has moved in powerful ways in my life. I can look back and see His presence throughout my life. He has moved heaven and earth on my behalf. His grace and mercy brought me to know Him and I have loved Him for a little over twenty-five years now. I accepted Jesus as my Savior with my husband at my side as I cradled my son in my arms.

I can look back through tear stained eyes, but I too can look forward with a heart of joy as we will one day meet again. I'm sure, without a doubt, that we will have time to catch up. For me to hear all those stories I missed out on then. Now, there are even more stories to share. What a glorious day that will be for daddy and daughter to meet once again. Who knows, we may even get to throw the ball around again. 

Daddy, I'm all grown up now. I have accomplished so very much. Much of who I am today is because of you and all you instilled in me. You gave me such strength. You always gave me room to make mistakes and was always quick to forgive. So many years ago you wanted a boy. God had me in store for you instead. I know how proud you were to hold me that first time. I now have your wallet that carried my picture for so many years. Love forever remains and the love you gave to me was mighty. I thank you, Dad. I thank you for everything. We'll catch up soon and boy, is there a lot to share. 

I miss you.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

An Appetite of Regret

I have opened chapter twenty-five in Genesis and I find something so interesting that I never realized before. We always hear stories of how Jacob took advantage of his twin brother, Esau, but there's so much more to grasp. Such a powerful lesson to learn here that goes far beyond Jacob's actions and more so to Esau's actions. 

Let me back up. Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons. We learn that Jacob was a favorite to Rebeka and Esau was Isaac's favorite. {Genesis 25:27-28} Can we really have favorite children? I can't say that I have a favorite child. Maybe we can relate to each of our children in different ways. Our children take on characteristics of each parent. We find as our children grow that they each take on different loves of each parent. There's always something that makes each child stand out, but to have a favorite? For me that answer has to be, no.

Maybe this is where the  beginnings of their brotherly angst toward one another started. We learn that in Rebekah could feel them struggling within her womb. So much so she calls upon the Lord. As expectant mothers I am sure each of us can relate to her wondering if all is okay. 

Time passes. They grow. They become their own person with their own loves and dislikes. The day comes when we learn that Jacob cooks a stew. {Genesis 25:29} Now, we know from early scripture that Esau was a man of the field. He loved hunting game. We see that Esau even cooked for his father and Isaac loved what his son prepared for him. {Genesis 25:27-28}.

So here comes Esau weary and hungry. He smells his brothers stew. He asks Jacob to please feed him. I am guessing at this moment Jacob's mind is churning. He's about to manipulate his brother when he's hungry, when his appetite  is burning for something to fill his emptiness. This is exactly how Satan works with us. 

Jacob says, "Hey gimme your birthright and I'll feed you whatever you want, bro". I'm sure Jacob had been thinking of this day for a long time. But just as he asks, Esau is quick to answer. He doesn't say, "What? Are you nuts, bro? Why would I give up my birthright to you?" He is quick to turn over every single blessing without thought. "You got it. It's all yours. Now, I'm starving. Gimme some of that great smelling stew". {Genesis 25:29-34}

Now, before we get all judgy at Esau let us think about how easily this can happen to us as well. Because if not for the grace of God there go I. Esau tells Jacob, "Look I'm about to die; so what is this birthright to me?" {Genesis 25:32} About to die? He's so hungry he's willing to give up his birthright and just what is his birthright? It's much more than material things. It is much more spiritual. These are gifts from his father, Isaac, who is still alive. 

He gave up so very much. His recognition as the oldest son, a double portion of inheritance when his father passed, and regard as the leader of the family. That's huge!! His father didn't pass on these gifts lightly. This was not only a gift from his father, but from God. This was a legacy to treasure. A legacy for Esau to pass down to his first son and so on as the generations came to pass. 

Jacob is thrilled at Esau's choice to just give up everything. How long had Esau's belly been full did he regret his actions? Was there a moment after his filling had settled and he thought to himself, "What did I do? Why did I do that?" Oh, how often do we make choices in the blink of an eye to only regret them after all settles?  Choices that at the moment we think nothing about, but later realize all that we gave up and for what? At some point we are going to have to ask ourselves, "What is it that I love? Do I love my God or do I love my world?" This world can be exceptionally enticing with all it has to offer our bellies, but is it worth it to give up all we are to accept the world's offerings? This world has nothing eternal to offer those of us living in Christ Jesus. 

We allow our wants to consume us. It nothing sacred for us? We exchange God's gifts for the gratification of our own desires, and then we later regret our choices that have left us once again empty. Now we are left longing for more. Searching for something more to fill us. But nothing can ever replace what we have so easily given up.

As my husband and I go antiquing we see such beautiful old items. Things that I look upon and wonder how one could give them up. I know there are many reasons why families give up belongings of their elderly parents or grandparents, but there was a time when these things meant so much to those who gave them as gifts. I know I am speaking of material items, but here Esau had so much more than material 'stuff'. But too often we give up much of ourselves. We give up our character, respect, and honor. We give up our heart and heritage in Christ as this world continues to call out to us. 

We can be so controlled by our appetites, always searching for that next thing to fill us that we don't even look back to what we gave up until we come to the realization that nothing can ever fill that God-spot. 

"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26

"Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears." Hebrews 12:15-17 

Let us not exchange the gifts of the Lord for what this world offers. May we never compromise our faith and our walk with the Lord for anything this world has to offer. Let us be true to who we are in Christ. Always remembering who we are and whom we belong to. 

Temptation will forever surround us, but let us be strong and resist. Never allowing our temptation to turn to sin. For all it takes is one poor misguided choice to forever alter our lives to a point we can never go back. 

If we keep our thoughts upon our Lord, filling our minds and hearts with all He has for us we will never turn to this world to fulfill a longing within us. If we do become tempted the Spirit will be quick to speak to us, giving us wisdom to turn back to our God and walk away from the world. This is why it is so important for us to live lives determined to be in the Word. To search the Word. To dig deep and uncover scripture that will guide us to living a life of intention in Christ Jesus. 

We have a choice each and every day to walk with Jesus or turn from Him and follow our own desires. May we find wisdom and truth in His Word that will lead us to living lives of fullness in Christ and without searching this world to fill us with lives of regret. 

"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will received the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." James 1:12

"But each one is tempted and drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then we desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect blessing is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."  James 1:14-18

Friday, April 15, 2016

Our Forever North Keeps Us True

A writer is always pondering where the pen will go next. Hubs and I drove past this and had to go back to get a shot. I found this so profound.

"Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37:5

Immediately I thought of each step we take and how we need to be so focused with Jesus that we measure each step by His Word. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

A reminder that He is our Forever North and our Compass to lead the way. By His promises we know He  will never lead us astray, but always point us in the right direction for our good and for His glory. He will forever keep us true.

"Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established." Proverbs 16:3

"To discern God's will, a person must first be determined to do it. More frequently, Christians try to determine it before doing it. Prayers like this- for wisdom, grace, and clarity regarding the Lord's will-are ones the Lord honors. God has a wonderful way of affirming His plans after His servants step out in faith." David Jeremiah

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We Are Not Alone In Our Trials

Abraham and Sarah were great-grandparent age when they had Isaac. A hope and a promise made to them in God's perfected timing. Don't you just love when His will is uncovered for us? When we finally get to see His promises come to fruition is as much a relief as a joy. But we don't always want to wait with patience. Too often, just like Sarah, we want to take things in our own hands and manipulate circumstances to get what we want when we want it. 

God had already promised Sarah and Abraham a son, but Sarah didn't want to wait. It had already been so very long. Her hope was diminishing. If we could only wait on God. It's about that time when all hope seems lost that God once again reveals Himself to us in miraculous ways. 

As soon as Isaac is born Sarah no longer wants Hagar there. She wants Hagar and Ishmael to leave. She seems heartless and uncaring. She just wants them gone. She now has what she wanted all along. At first she thought she could manipulate life and use Hagar to bring her a son, but then it happens and Sarah isn't as happy as she thought. She's jealous and envies the relationship Hagar has with Ishmael. She knows how much Abraham loves his son, but she still tells Abraham to make them go. 

Can you imagine the heartache of Abraham? But an angel of the Lord comes to Abraham and tells him to listen to Sarah and do as she asks. What? So many questions of why scream in my heart. I want to stand up for Hagar. I want God to put Sarah in her place. Oh, but what my eyes have not seen, God opens them to more today. He allowed Hagar to go. It's in the desert that she finds that He is her everything. He is going to provide for her and Ishmael in ways that no other person could provide. Where Sarah made her feel unwanted and unloved, God fills her heart. It is with Him she finds a love in the middle of the desert that she didn't find in the riches of Sarah's home. {Genesis 21:1-21}

A journey of trial for Hagar and for Abraham. Abraham's trials are not finished. Friends, it's often found that the closer we are to God the more trials our lives will contain. It is through those trials we find the presence of God. We call upon Him and He answers. Those trials bring us closer to God and closer to becoming the people He has created us to be. God will only ask us to do what He will enable us to do. 

Abraham will now be asked to give up and sacrifice his only son. This brings us to the crucifixion of our Savior. So many parallels here for us to see. {Genesis 22:1-19 and Galatians 4} I cannot imagine the burden upon Abraham's heart. The tears and prayers that must have poured out from him. How could he sacrifice his own son? Abraham had seen God provide. He has witnessed God move in his life and I truly believe that Abraham was not only walking in faith, but in hope, in belief in knowing that He would provide once again. It was through obedience that Abraham's faith has grown. It's through obedience that he has witnessed God moving on his behalf. He would not only show Himself, but He would provide a ram in the thicket, just as He provided for us so long ago when He gave His only begotten Son, with thorns upon his head. Praise Jesus!! 

What would our lives be like without trial? Oh, I'm just like you. I would rather trial never touch my life, but without it would we truly see God move? Would we appreciate the good in life? Satan tempts people to bring out the worst in them. God tests us to only bring out the best in us. Just as going through the fire refines and beautifies, God too wants His children to come to know Him more and more. We are to walk an intimate relationship with Him. One of obedience. From that faith blossoms and love grows. How we are forever awed by our God and all He does for us. His mercies are new every day. His grace builds a bridge and closes in the gap. 

Can we profit from God's trials? You betcha we can. God never sends us on a journey without first going there Himself and He forever provides us with all we need no matter how long the road ahead of us. He will never leave or forsake His children. {Deut. 31:6}

"My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

Let us remember that the trials that God allows to strengthen the believer are different from the consequences of sin in a believer's life. Ever look at one's circumstances and wonder, "Boy, what did they do for that to happen to them?" May we be very cautious in judging the circumstances of others. God is always working to bring His children closer to Him and to perfect their journey to completeness. 

Trials are a part of what God is doing to prepare His people. Have you ever gone through something to only walk a different journey facing a totally different trail later, but now you have learned something to help you in this journey that you would have in no way learned if God had not allowed you to travel the trials that tested your faith? We have an amazing God who knows our journey. He knows where we came from and where we are going. There isn't anything He doesn't know about His children. We should take comfort in that. Trusting Him all the more. 

Those who remain faithful will receive the crown of life. How can we not be excited about that? We can endure because our Savior endured. We can overcome because He first overcame. We gain our strength and wisdom from Him. Seeking Him and walking in a relationship with Him brings us to only appreciate life all the more. 

"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." James 1:12

"In this you greatly rejoice, through now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, through it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Through now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith-the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:6-9

We often ask, "Why did this happen to me?" How much more should we ask, "Why not me?" Is it okay if it happens to another person? Does that make it easier for us? It's often harder to watch others go through such difficult trial. I am learning that no trial comes that God has not in some way prepared me for. I am learning to ask, "Okay, God, where to now? What is it that you wish for me to learn here? What am I to do?" Now, I said, learning. That doesn't mean those words come easily for me. I cannot imagine going though trial and not having Jesus walk the journey with me. 

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:1-5

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

I do not know the trial you are facing today, but our Lord knows. Friend, turn to Him today in the midst of your heartache. Seek Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Just as Abraham walked in faith through his trials we too can walk this journey ahead of us without fear, but with a growing faith in the One who is leading the way. 

"But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand." Isaiah 64:8

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