Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Katie Ganshert is that author that gets a reader excited. I was thrilled to be receiving her newest release, Life After. I invite you to take a peek at all of my reviews of Katie's penned gems.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful, Wild Flowers from Winter, Wishing on Willows, and The Art of Losing Yourself, are all wonderful creations penned by this gifted writer (check out my reviews).

I may be all alone here in my review, but this wasn't my favorite. This was a difficult read. There was a great deal of anger, resentment, and blame. Now, with saying that, I understand why there was so much anger. A crazy man set off a bomb and families were destroyed as their loved ones were killed. 

There is one survivor of this day, but she didn't go unharmed. In fact, she carries within her soul scars of this day. Some she remembers, but much she cannot. She blames herself for surviving. Autumn Manning is a woman burdened with a great deal of emotion she has yet to understand. We journey with her as she wants to be normal but is so far from it. Everyone tells her to move on, but to her that thought seems ridiculous in the midst of all the questions she has erupting in every thought. 

There is a family who intertwines in Autumn's healing. See, they too are hurting. A husband lost his wife on this day and a daughter and son lost their mother. Their story, their secrets uncover as truth surfaces. The husband is a therapist who feels as though his life is an altered illusion. His daughter reaches out to Autumn. She begins writing secretly to her. This is where the story really takes off. 

The title is Life After, but really it is so much more about life before. Yes, how to live after such a tragedy, but this brings these characters to ponder even more deeply their life before this day. Their lives are changed forever and making sense of that takes on the last part of this novel. 

These characters are in a whirlwind of wounds of lose, but also of healing that we see come in small wonders. We see God move in this mess and bring these characters together. They never imagined meeting. We see that God is in the unexpected and once we allow Him room wonders of mercy and grace overflow. 

Reese Elliott is the standout character of this novel. Oh, the heart of a little girl only wanting to remember good and not wanting to make the reality of what was her truth for now. I love the heart of this child. Through her the other characters learn much about themselves. 

It is categorized as romance, but I didn't grasp a lot of romance. By the end of the novel the characters were just starting to know one another beyond that tragic day and all the emotion that they had lived with since. The relationship that stands out is between Autumn and Reese. As the story comes to an end the characters are just then coming to life out a darkness that has surrounded them. I guess for me I just needed more. 

With that said, I am still a huge Katie Ganshert fan. You may pick up this novel and find that it is just what your heart needs. It may be that novel that I can go back and read later and find a nugget of sweetness I had yet to uncover in my reading. I will be excited to see where the pen takes Ganshert next!

Happy reading ๐Ÿ“•

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

Katie Ganshert is the author of several books and works of short fiction, including the Christy Award-winning A Broken Kind of Beautiful and Carol Award-winner The Art of Losing Yourself. Katie lives in eastern Iowa with her family. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning

I came across this selection on Amazon. I had seen so many reviews that it intrigued me. I had never read anything from this German author. The cover caught my attention as did the description of this novel. 

It's a part of a trilogy. I am getting ready to open up book 2, The American Lady. I cannot wait to begin. I tell you this book marveled me. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What a journey into another time and place. 

We travel to Germany where this novel is set. The year is 1890 and we find ourselves in Lauscha, Germany. The author did a fantastic job at the perfect description of not only the area, but circumstance, and heart of the characters. Her writing style flows so easily that the pages almost turn themselves. 

The characters are easy to love. Three sisters who are now wondering, after their father had passed from this earth,  how they will now provide for themselves. It isn't going to be easy, but these sisters show us how to prevail over challenges that would keep some from taking a step forward for fear of failure. 

These sisters, Johanna, Ruth, and Marie, are close-knit. I love that they are all so different. Throughout this novel we see them grow, become stronger, become more sure of themselves in this world where men are in charge. 

They have tender hearts, and walk with grace. These sisters were raised with values and to treasure themselves, never allowing another to take advantage of them.

This novel is about family, love, sisterhood, trust, and prevailing against the circumstance of life. Glassblowing in this time was only accomplished by men. It was unspeakable for women to design such beauty. 

Each of these girls journey into finding themselves as trial seems to come from every corner, each facing something different, but all overcoming with a strength and a bond that comes from such a loving family. 

Now, for me I usually only review Christian novels, but there was something about this one that drew me in and I had to see what this writer and her work was all about. For my Christian readers this may not be the book for you. This is why. On two different occasions there are sex scenes. At first I struggle with these. I wondered what the book would have been without them and just how was I going to write a review to a mostly Christian audience about a book that contained sex. 

Well, I never share spoilers. I just really dislike when people do that, but this time I just cannot go around it. Could the novel been written without the sex scenes and prevailed as a great novel? Of course it could have. The writer could have shared other challenges these women faced. But these are also times where men held a hand over women and these women were expected to keep quiet about it. 

One sex scene is when one of the characters, Ruth, is falling deeply for a young man. This is the first man she has really known. In this scene he is extremely rough, no tenderness, and nothing as she thought her first time would be. Later we see this character being abused by her husband. 

The next is when her sister, Johanna,  is raped by the shop owner where they are all employed. Of course there isn't going to be anything gentle about this scene. Now, there is one more sex scene for Ruth. She has finally found love. She finds the tenderness of a man, his heart, and finds real value. She is a gem to this man and he truly cares for her. This scene is tender and intimate as it should be when there is love. 

For me, I can look at these scenes and take away the importance to the character, Ruth, and to her growth. It shows how many of us young women meet a young man and think that this is reality. But Ruth shows women they do not have to remain in a relationship where they are being abused. This was something very difficult to walk away from during this time in history. 

For these characters to overcome issues that women face is of value to this story that will continue on in this trilogy. As for Johanna, being raped, she feels she is now unworthy of love. No one would want to have her. But this isn't what we uncover in the novel. We too see her find unconditional love. 

So, I wasn't a fan of these very small sex scenes, but I do understand why the writer added them. I still must give this novel a five star because the story weaves such a connection between the reader and the characters. I love seeing characters overcome. Before they overcome they must face the struggle head on and that is exactly what these characters did. 

I love the idea of glassblowing. The beauty cannot be found until the glass undergoes change. Another great illustration of beauty from ash. 

Happy Reading๐Ÿ“˜

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

Petra Durst-Benning lives near Stuttgart, Germany, with her husband, Bertram, and their dog, Eric. Before writing her first novel she worked as an import/export translator and edited a magazine for dog owners. All this changed with the publication of The Silver Thistle, which was set against the background of the peasant uprising in Germany in 1514. Her next dozen books take place in times ranging from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century, and are set in Germany, France, Russia, and America. They bring tales of historical times, love and family, happiness, and hardship to an ever-growing readership. The Glassblower is the first part of a trilogy. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The" I Am" Makes Us Think About What "i am"

In Genesis 1:26-27 it shares something valuable to each of us about who we are in God. We are created in His image. What I love about this verse below is that is says, "make man in OUR image". What's OUR? The trinity, God, the Holy Spirit, and Christ Jesus. Ponder that. I mean really go deep. We are make in THEIR image. 

"Then God said, "Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them."

We are His workmanship. He knew us before we were ever born. He weaved us together within the womb, but even before then He planned our life perfectly for us. That's so much to ponder isn't it? 

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in Him." Ephesians 2:10

"and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:24

So, we were created in God's image, we were created as His workmanship, and in Him we are found to be to made new. Scripture takes us deeper even. We are told that He lives within us! Yes, our bodies, that He created, He too made to be a temple, a holy temple, for the Spirit to abide within us. When we come to personally know Christ, when we invite Him into our heart, at the moment we believe He is our Savior, He sends the Holy Spirit to live within us. 

"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." Ephesians 1:13-14

"In Him also we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ Jesus should be to the praise of His glory." Ephesians 1:11-12

We are now sealed with a promise. We have an inheritance that is only found when we accept Christ Jesus as our Savior. Once we do, at that very moment, the Spirit abides within us. In our temple, designed specifically made for Him. 

"Or do you not know that your body is the temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." 1 Corinthians 6:19

What was the price for us to have life? Christ Jesus. His life was the price in which was paid so that we could have everlasting life. This isn't just a life on this earth. Our life here is rather short compared to the everlasting life in heaven, our destination, our home, that was created for us by the God who gave it all. It is in Him that we find redemption. 

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him." Ephesians 1:7-10

This God who created us, gave us not only purpose, but one to bring glory to God. He didn't just create us and let us be. He loves us so much more that to do that. He planned our lives. Each moment, each breath before us, He planned. I tell you, it's difficult for me to take in that kind of love. A love that goes far beyond the love we feel on earth. Oh, don't get me wrong. We love deep, right? But see, God's love is deeper. 

"And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." Exodus 3:14

Our God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. As He remains the same, we change as we walk with Him. The closer we abide with Him the more we are going to be in constant change. As we are always changing we are being made new. This remarkable metamorphosis can only happen through our Lord. 

"Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to you in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered." Psalm 40:5

"For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

His thoughts toward me are good. My Savior intercedes for me. He goes before the Father on my behalf. What a mighty love. There are so many scriptures that share of who I AM is to us. He is our Everything. Through Him we are found righteousness. But what about my thoughts? Those daily thoughts that I have toward myself? 

In the Bible we see I AM over Seven hundred times in the Old and New Testament. These are places were God is described to us. He is the I AM. See, every time we speak, "I am", that is a description of God. We are made in His image, right? Everything good about us is His creation. But how often does our daily description of oursselves look like this?

I am so fat.
I am so ugly.
I am so lazy.
I am so stupid.
I am so...You fill in the blank. We do a lot looking down on ourselves, don't we? We speak a lot of, "I am", but when we speak of ourselves in such a way what is this saving of our Creator? That "I am" list could be pages long. It too could go to the other extreme and be a very prideful list. 

But somewhere in there we must instead of looking in the mirror and judging ourselves to this world's standards, let us look instead at our Creator and all that He is within us. That's extraordinary. 

See, every time we put ourselves down, we put down our God, our Creator. We are saying to Him, "What You created in me isn't good enough. You didn't do a good job with me. You made a huge mistake when you created me". Imagine Him designing each of us. Imagine our God creating us to be spectacular and unique in every way possible.

Think about for a bit. We say, "I am", all throughout the day.
I am so sad.
I am so hungry.
I am so happy.
I am so excited.

Yes, every single time we introduce ourselves to another we say, "Hi, I am Robin." That's something to really ponder! I AM is in everything about the people He created! This is remarkable to me to even ponder. 

Let us instead praise our Savior with words of edification. Let us be thankful. Let us speak with gratitude, finding the beauty within the ash. We are pearls of beauty to our Savior. I want to see myself as He sees me. I don't want to compare myself to others or judge myself as this world finds beauty. 

As I glorify my God with my words I too need to glorify Him as I describe myself. Give it a try today. See how it goes. Each day find something extraordinary about yourself and praise God by living a life of gratitude. It changes us. It also helps us to be examples for others. It's easy for me to praise Him for His creation. I easily see His beauty in others. But when it comes to myself, well, that's a bit more difficult. But we are always harder on ourselves than on others, right? 

Changing my attitude, catching myself when I say, "I am....", and then pondering my thoughts before I speak them brings me to ponder God all the more. I am not only thinking of my words I would use to describe myself today. How I look and how I feel. But going beyond appearance and thinking about my use of language and my actions throughout the day. It seems we talk differently when others are around. You know, when we are all alone? Yeah, those thoughts and deeds. I want everything about me to give praise to my Savior. To this God who create me, planned my life, gave me life, and continues to live within me. 

Of course, I can never repay Him for all He has done. If I could it would no longer be about my Savior. It would be about me. But see, it's about grace and mercy. And that's all about Him.

Of course we are going to have bad days. Things are always going to happen. But it isn't that circumstance that defines us. It is who we are in Christ and let me tell you, through Him, we are children of God. In that alone there is much to be praised. 

All those I am's I speak daily need to change. What about you? 

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Why So Much Worried Waste?

Why so much worried waste? God is not limited in time, power, or space. We limit Him in our lives through our lack of faith and our lack of obedience. His presence is promised to us who believe. So, why do we fear? He is either in control or He isn't. I choose to believe that He is in total control.

He's already in our tomorrow. He has heaven awaiting us who choose to believe. There is no greater inheritance.  So, knowing that, having our faith grounded in our future with Him, what do we really have to fear? 

We can't stop life from happening. Some things, actions, and reactions, are of our own choice. Some circumstances are not of our choice or making. But no matter how the circumstance around us, God is still present. Still in control. That's living a "no matter what" kind of faith. 

Fear is a natural instinct when something dangerous is happening to us. But what about the fear we hold for things that have yet to happen? Things that may never happen? That is the precious time stolen away from us by the great deceiver, Satan. If we are living in fear we are without peace and joy. 

God releases life to us moment by moment, breath by breath. Can you imagine if He released all of life upon us at once? Think about that. We simply couldn't handle it. We would live in constant overload. 

His yoke is easy. His burden light. We become fearful when we try to take it all in at once and hold life itself within our own hands. You know that saying, He doesn't give us more than we can handle? That is so off from His Word. Scripture doesn't say anything of the sort. Life unfolds before us with measured time. What is too much for us, we can with His power and strength. We faith to allow God the room He needs to move on our behalf. 

He's capable, isn't He? I give to Him and then I try to take it back as if I can somehow protect my family better than He. I can rest in Him, weary and anxious. See, I've learned it's when I am so scared, when I choose to open my hands to Him, and say, "Yes, Jesus, my life is Yours. Use every circumstance in my life to grow me closer to You", that I see Him move in extraordinary ways. 

Where is my belief? Why am I constantly waiting for disaster to happen? His ways are higher than mine. He sees far beyond my vision. His capabilities surpass anything I can do on my own. Peace isn't all flowers and sunshine. Peace comes in our darkest hours when we give over our fear to God as the storm rages wildly around us. 

There is nothing that I will face today that He is not already prepared for. What a mighty love, right? He isn't leaving us to our own devices. He comes in our darkest moment, and says, "Trust Me". I see my weaknesses and question myself, when instead I should be focused on my Jesus and His mighty strength. 

Let us not go through life starving ourselves of faith. Let us today empty ourselves of all fear and anxiety. Instead of hanging on to fear of what hasn't yet happened, let us open our hands wide and say to our God, the God who created our lives, who knows every step, "Lord, Your will and not mine." 

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:34

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundant." John 10:10

"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." James 4:13-15

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies

This novel kept me company while spending long hours at the hospital with my mother. It's one of those easy reads. One you can curl up with and simply enjoy the wonderful story before you. 

This is the first writing I have enjoyed by this author. I found her use of words marvelous as she described a time and place far from anything I have experienced. Her words brought this country to life for me as the characters too found a place in my heart. 

We are all just travelers in an unknown land, searching for home. There are times we are comfortable and those in which all is new. It is these times where we find ourselves uncomfortable and unsure that we grow as people and find our place and treasure where we are planted at the time. 

I really enjoyed the main character and all the writer brought out about her. She made her transparent for the reader to understand her heart. Of course some characters are more enjoyable than others. Some are easy to like where others try our patience. The writer did an excellent job of bringing out the completeness of each character. 

I usually only review Christian works, but this selection's description and cover captivated me. I was curious and wasn't let down at all. I will look forward to the next work from this author. 

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Because you're Mine by Colleen Coble

I became a Coble fan with her Rock Harbor Series. My admiration for her grew from there. It seemed I loved every series and every stand alone. I was excited every time there was a new release. 

Her writing style is straight to the heart. It's simple and beauty. She gives heart to the characters and as they come alive on the black and white pages before us we begin to fall in love with them. We can understand them. We have walked where they have walked. They are filled with journey and faith. 

It was the cover that caught my attention. A new novel into a new series. I was excited for the journey before me. 

This novel is fast paced. There is one thing happening right after another. Sometimes predictable, but never boring. The reader will certainly travel a journey into creepiness with these characters. 

I cannot say this is a favorite. I understand the main character, Alanna, is not wanting to lose her son, but to marry the band manager so quickly? How did they not know his creepiness before now? 

There are sinister plots and suspense throughout the novel, but I have to share this one was a bit too creepy for me. Maybe a little too much of the dark side? I needed more faith for this journey into the dark side. 

You may very well pick up this novel and love it from the first to last page. A roller coaster ride for sure. For me, I just needed more substance. I understand like the main character we can feel like life continues to belt us with one hit right after the next. I can relate to her walking with strong faith and then tragedy happens and she walks away from the truths she has known. 

I hope you pick up this novel and enjoy it immensely. This may be a selection I need to put up and read again at another time. Maybe then I will gain more insight to share. Colleen Coble is a favorite of mine and this won't discourage me from choosing another new release from her. There's always a blessing to be found in her writing. 

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

Colleen Coble is a USA Today bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her romantic suspense novels, including, Tidewater Inn, Rosemary Cottage, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.

Of Stillness and Storm by Michele Phoenix

This is my first novel read by Michele Phoenix. I love the premise of this novel and all that she opened my eyes to. We always hear of the 'calling' by missionaries. We want to go where God calls us. We want to make a difference. 

To be called by God isn't the same for every soul. We all fit differently into His plan. Our walk with Him isn't ALL we do for His name, but our relationship with Him, our intimate journey with our Savior. 

This novel is raw and transparent. For me, it was the journey of Lauren. We see that her husband feels called to work in Nepal and with the people, but we really don't read about much of his personal journey. 

Their son, Ryan, is struggling. We can see through the conversations he has with his parents that he is truly unhappy. We see the fall, but we don't really get a close glimpse into his heart. 

It is with Lauren that we journey. She feels alone and lost. Through her words we can 'feel' the pain in her heart. She is broken and a mess. We can see that she wants more of a close relationship with her husband, which is clueless to anything she or their son is going through. Nothing seems to matter to him except the call. We see his words of encouragement, but they aren't so much words to inspire his family, but his life and calling and how they fit into it. 

So, as Lauren is lost in her time alone she connects with an old friend. But their relationship grows beyond just a message here and there. They begin chatting through messages daily. She can never seem to find the time to share this with her husband and when she finally does his response is one I wasn't ready for. Their relationship is really strained and pretty much completely lies on his 'feelings' with God and how he says their life should be. 

I enjoyed the rawness and the transparent look into Lauren's life. The novel goes back and forth from her younger years when she and her husband met to present time. So much I enjoyed, but much I didn't. Although the novel took us into her life as a missionary, the missing link was faith. Not much faith being shared, but more so the 'calling' of the husband. 

I enjoyed the writing style. But the novel just kind of ends..period. For me it ended where it should have been more of the middle of the novel. It just left me pondering what life would be for these people we journeyed with through three hundred and sixty something pages. 

I would like to read more of this author. As her words are powerful and she does bring the reader into a world most only hear about as families come to church to share the need. We never really see or hear about the personal struggles of these families. 

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

Michele Phoenix born in France to a Canadian father and an American mother, Michele Phoenix is a consultant, writer, and speaker with a heart for Third Culture Kids. She taught for twenty years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own advocacy venture under Global Outreach Mission. Michele travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group. She loves good conversations, mischievous students, Marvel movies, and paths to healing.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Healing Of The Heart (book 3 in the series Secrets on Sterling Street) by Loree Lough

I admire Loree so very much. Love when an author gives a dedication for the novel they poured their heart into. Loree's dedication to her granddaughter touched my heart in a powerful way. Such a love-bond between grandmother and granddaughter. Words for us all to ponder and live in example. 

Currency of the Heart began this series. It was followed by Guardians of the Heart. You can peek at my reviews on both of these gems. I loved the first. After reading the second I was sure it would be my favorite. Then here came the last of the series. Wow! It is difficult to pick a favorite when the pen is in the hand of Loree, but book 3 is my absolute fave of this series! 

Now, why would I pick this novel for my fave? There isn't a character in this novel that doesn't leave a heart-message for one to ponder. That's powerful stuff right there. 

Okay, so you can know the gist of the story by reading the description. I won't do that for you and I won't give away any secrets๐Ÿ˜. Oh, the keeping of secrets! These characters have secrets they want to keep from others for many different reasons. Some are because they are afraid of judgement. Some secrets are kept in hope that love will continue. There are those secrets we keep not because we are afraid of how others will react, but because we are afraid if we speak them our own heart will be changed in some way. Maybe we lose a friendship, a loved one, or we simply fear exposing too much of ourselves and we just won't be accepted. 

This tale begins in the year of 1879 in Baltimore, Maryland and takes us on a journey to Sterling Street in Fairplay, Colorado in 1884. I tell you that I have loved visiting Sterling Street and getting to know these characters that make us feel right at home. 

We meet Ruby McCoy and her mother. Now this is a relationship that at times made me giggle. It's almost as though Ruby has taken charge and is in the leadership role. As they visit each town we witness this relationship of mother and daughter grow as Ruby tries to make amends for the actions of another. 

This is something we can easily relate to if you're a "fixer". A heart of grace always wants to make things right, even when the actions are not of their own doing. Ruby is a character with a heart of grace. Mercy seems to flow easily as she knows the actions of her father has caused such grief for so many. She wants to right each wrong, placing herself in a position of not wanting anyone to know who she is or why she is spending so much time in each town her father visited. 

Her mother doesn't quite get it. She isn't really concerned with what other people think. She thinks very highly of herself as she looks down on others. She would rather go shopping and get back to the life she has always known. But in a few twists even mama begins to grow in ways she never expected. 

Ruby is that strong woman that we all hope to be. She's that girl that doesn't easily give up. She lives determined to make a difference. Trying to right all the wrongs made before her doesn't make an easy road for Ruby who carries upon her shoulders the sins of her father. She is ashamed of her last name and would rather no one ever know who she really is. 

Now there is Rex Truett. The name speaks strength and honor. Truth flows from his life. He's the sheriff in Fairplay. Okay, just the name Fairplay speaks volumes!! Rex is that guy you want on your side. He is ready to stand up for those who have been wronged. He is all about justice. Rex lives with his Aunt Mavis, another strong character, and two children, Arlo and Payton, who will make your heart smile. 

Rex is a man who isn't easy on trust. He sees all that Ruby is doing with the townsfolk and he begins to question who she is and the truth behind her actions. Here is where the story begins to grow. It easily flows as these characters come to life before our very eyes. Loree allows us to see the heart of each one. Their background plays a huge roll in who they are today. It is always a blessing to see the growth in characters as they face trial and circumstance. 

These characters are not just their past. We see one try desperately to be nothing at all like the man who raised them. Another we see them work hard to fill the shoes of the one before them.  We learn that the choices of others leave behind something in all of us. How we perceive that is our choice. What we inherit is not always our choice, but how we live with that inheritance is. 

There is much to take away from this novel where faith weaves its way through the pages. Life lessons of grace, forgiveness, redemption, and healing. These characters each carry different burdens of the heart. Secrets of their own kind. But when they choose to let them go something magical happens. Healing begins and they are able to truly be themselves without any kind of fear of not being accepted and loved for who they truly are. 

Happy reading๐Ÿ“˜!! I have a feeling you're going to love it!

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

Loree Lough with nearly five million 4-and 5-star rated books in circulation, Loree Lough has been called by reviewers and readers alike a "gifted storyteller whose novels touch hearts and change lives." Healing of the Heart follows Guardians of the Heart and Currency of the Heart in the series Secrets on Sterling Street, published by Whitaker House. Loree lives near Baltimore and enjoys spending time with her husband, daughters, and "grandorables" at their cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she delights in showing off her skill at identifying critter tracks. She loves interacting with readers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and via e-mail (she answers every letter, personally!) at loree@loreelough.com.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Unexpected Blessings

The last words my dad spoke to me from his hospital bed were, "Rob, take care of your mom." Those are words I have never forgotten. I have not only honored them for my dad, but for my mom. I too am commanded by my Father to honor my mother and father.

 "Honor your father and mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12

My mom gave her life in caring for me. On my first birthday, my very first Christmas, was spent in the ICU as I was very sick with pneumonia. A little later I would burn myself with spilled coffee. A few years later I would tumble down many stairs and once again spent time in the hospital. 

I remember all the times I was sick and could feel my mom's hand brush against my forehead as she checked for fever. All the times she must have stayed up all night as I was sick. 

When I was little she would pour me a bowl of Raisin Bran. I loved it. Only I didn't like the raisins. She would take the time to pick out each raisin leaving me with only the bran. Every time I was sick she would make me mashed potatoes. She took the time to do things special for me. 

We visited my grandmother in Arkansas. I was about eight. I was playing in the backyard and found myself smack in the middle of a cactus. Screaming, the words that escaped were, "MOM!!" She carried me in the house and laid me on the couch. She spent hours picking out prickles from my back, arms, and legs. 

Every skinned knee she kissed. Every warm blanket she gently laid over me. Every bowl of ice cream. All of those things add up to measure nothing short of unconditional love. 

Today my mom is not in good health. She has stage four COPD. She has been in and out of the hospital for many months now. It seems as each month passes she grows weaker and at times more confused. It is heartbreaking for me. I had to say goodbye to my dad when I was only nineteen. Watching my mom deteriorate at seventy-eight isn't any easier. 

In October of this year my husband was hit by a drunk driver. He has been slowly recovering at home. Still unable to return to work. This has completely turned our lives upside down. I don't think even raising five children I have ever known this kind of exhaustion. 

"For if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8

When your young and raising a family you know exhaustion well. But raising children, working, buying a new car, a new home, and all the 'fun' side of things, isn't the same exhaustion as caring for your husband and elderly parent. This is mind, body, and soul exhaustion. This is new to me. Life unexpected you could say. 

My mother in law took a terrible fall a little over a week ago. There was a rush to the ER. My husband and I have been caring for his mother and father as well. His father has suffered many strokes and is unable to care for himself. I find myself praising Jesus for allowing my husband to be home and to help care for our parents. 

How much do you give? There is no end to giving. There isn't an end to helping. At this time in our lives I always thought our home would be filled with our grandchildren. Always planning days with them and enjoying the fun  of being a grandparent. But when our parents are so ill there isn't planning. There's keeping everything open just in case they need us. It's checking on them every morning and throughout the day. It's helping making meals and getting medicines. It's scheduling doctor visits and taking our parents there. It's grocery shopping and cleaning house. 

"Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God." 1 Peter 4:8-10

I praise God that we are near our parents and we are able to care for them. I cannot imagine not being there for my mom. I have never missed a birthday, never missed an opportunity to bless her on Mother's Day, and never has a Christmas passed without a gift. But there's more than just these holidays. It's just being there. It's answering her calls. It's asking how she is doing and is there anything she needs. 

I know the day will come where she is no longer on the other end of the phone. Where her apartment will be empty of her presence and someone new will move in. I will no longer to be able to call her and share good news or share with her a wound that has cut deep. But for now, no matter how tired I grow, I will forever take care of my mother as long as possible. I may need help from others in this journey, but for me, I must be willing to do all I can do for her. 

Sometimes it's easy to find myself frustrated. A migraine hits and lasts for days. My back decides to go out and pain resides with each step. But with the strength of God I carry on. I honor my Father and through obedience to Him all things seem to work out. 

"For you were called to be free, brother; only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love." Galatians 5:13

I am sure there are many who do things much better than I can. I learn with each step forward. With each hospital visit I am there to pray over her. To talk to doctors. To learn her medications. Mostly I am there at her side to hopefully quiet her fears as her breath slowly becomes a whisper of air. 

"Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and so that you may prosper in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Deuteronomy 5:16

I get scared. But in all things I have learned to trust Jesus. Without Him I make a mess of things. But focusing on Him, making sure I spend time with Him, He resets my course. He keeps me focused on what is important and at this venture in my life, it's taking care of parents. Sometimes that means cancelling plans and days out with my husband. It means leaving the weekend opened to care for things they are not able to do. 

We never want to see our parents age or think about them not being here with us. But as I turn fifty in a just a few short days that becomes a reality more and more. I see this now as a privilege, an honor. In loving my mother I am giving her all of myself as she has done her life for me. 

There are many blessings to be found in caring for our parents. It doesn't matter how old our parents are, we should honor them, and hold them in a special place. They spent so many hours watching over us. So many prayers spoken. Such love shared between moments we cannot even remember. But our parents remember. They remember those tiny fingers held to cross the street. Those little giggles we made as we seen their face and heard their voice. 

The list never ends at all that I find myself grateful. It wasn't until I began raising my own children that I began to discover all my mother must have endured with me. All those midnight's she waited up until I was safely home. We can find ourselves in our parents shoes, can't we? It's easy when we take our eyes off of ourselves. 

Let us bless our parents today. No matter if they are near us or far away. A call blesses the heart. A card gives assurance they are being thought of. A gift shows them we care. Most of all, all those little things we can do for them lets them know how much they are treasured. They leave behind in us a legacy. In me, my mother instilled love and mercy. It is today I am allowed to show her the same. 

I love you, mom. 

"Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land." Ephesians 6:1-3



Take A Walk With The Wind

Ever think much about the wind? There's so much about the wind to love. Hanging clothes on the line. Flying a kite. A sweet breeze on a summer's day. A child holding a dandelion by tiny fingers with giggles escaping their wide open mouth in nothing but excitement over the wonder before them. Can you think of blessings of the wind? 

Many fear the wind that comes with storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. There is much power in the wind. That same fearful wind can set a sailboat to find beauty in the open seas. It can aid in balloons flying high above. It almost seems they are searching to reach the heavens. 

In Hebrew the word for wind is ruach. But it too has another meaning. Spirit

To think about the wind is soul pondering. On a summer's evening we like to face the wind as it blows gently upon our face. But give us a cold winter's day and we don't much like facing the wind. We would rather have that wind at our back. Facing it brings such coldness to the cheeks. The eyes and nose begin to run water. If it is a strong wind it's almost painful to face. 

Give us a windy day as we are out and about. It seems if we are facing the wind it slows us down. We walk against it as we endlessly push against it never getting anywhere as it pushes back. But if we walk with the wind things change for us. It's as though it almost carries us. We are free from the pushing and in your face strength. 

There is something powerful for us to learn from the wind. Most of us don't think too much about it. But the moment we stop and ponder, wow, we find ourselves in amazement. 

"The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8

"Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying." Acts 2:2

"I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don't do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." Galatians 5:16-18

"The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this?-even the wind and the sea obey Him!" Matthew 8:27

"Then He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord's presence." At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind was there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake." 1 Kings 19:11

All through scripture we see the wind as the Holy Spirit, as the Lord of lords. There is so much to be learned by these scriptures. No one can see the wind. We see the leaves blow, the trees shake. We see the effects of the wind. We too feel the wind on our skin. We feel its power or its gentleness. We can hear the wind as it roars past us. But we cannot see it. Just as we cannot see our God. But we see the effects of Him. We hear Him speak to us. We feel His very presence. We can witness His power and might just as we can His gentleness through His grace and mercy. Just as we experience the wind, we too experience our God. 

When we walk against our God things seem to be harder, don't they? Things just don't go right for us as we fight to keep pressing on against the weight of the wind. But when we choose to walk with Him, that's when things begin to change for us. Life is a bit easier for us. The motion of walking our journey can feel as though He is carrying us, lifting us up off the ground, and guiding us to be exactly where we need to be. 

A few nights ago when the winds were strong and the air was cold I had to take Stanley, our dachshund, out for a walk. Stanley wanted to go one way and I the other. He wanted to go toward the wind. I walked against the wind for a bit. It was cold and the wind hurt my cheeks. I could feel it pressing against me. This is where the scripture came to life for me. It wasn't just black and white pages, but the wind was now facing me. I turned to walk with the wind. I said, "Let's try this way, Stan." The wind was at my back. It pushed us along. It was no longer fierce in my face. The walk was easier. This is how I want my walk with Jesus to be. How about you?

It doesn't mean life's circumstances aren't still going to be ahead of us. But in obedience to Him, keeping focused on Him, our journey can be easier, because He is doing the leading and we are following the Spirit before us. We can journey differently through those circumstances.

I know, I get it. I'm just like you. I want to do things my way. I see what I want and I take the path easiest to get there. At least the path I think that leads me there. But when I face the wind like that I am leaving His guidance out. I am doing nothing but pushing against His will. I don't want to take that path. Oh, how much better our lives to be if we completely follow Him and trust Him with each step of the way.

In taking the Spirit's leadership we get to see things we would have otherwise missed if we had kept on our own path. Walking with the Spirit gives us power to move forward. So, it can be said that we want the wind to be at our backs. The Irish Prayer that speaks of the wind at our backs? This makes so much sense to me now. What a prayer to pray for ourselves and others, to always have the wind at our backs!

Friend, I don't know your journey. But I do know mine. I know this road is more than tough. It can bring us to our knees as we press against it. We push our way through searching for some kind of solace. Some sort of answers to the fight before us. I am learning to stop pushing against it and allow the Spirit to lead me through the journey. In doing so, I feel His presence and His peace. That's something more powerful than any circumstance we face. This way I am trusting my Savior. I am giving ALL control over to Him. That isn't it, but that's the place where faith comes alive. That's the very place where we see Him move on our behalf. 

Today as the wind touches your face, feel it and in that moment, ponder Him and all of His wondrous gifts to us. I promise you will find a blessing new to you today. 

The Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back. 
May the sun shine warm upon your face; 
the rains fall soft upon your fields 
and until we meet again, 
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.



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