Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Mapmakers Children by Sarah McCoy

This is my first read from Sarah McCoy. The cover and description quickly caught my eye. I was hooked from the beginning pages. I am a huge fan of historical fiction. Sarah has brought us a gift of history weaved in a contemporary setting. Two stories, separate times in history, tied together to make one brilliant and beautiful story.

We begin with a New York setting in April 1859 and then we gracefully move to West Virginia in August of 2014. From there we meet many characters and travel different places in area and time. It's not a messy flip flop story, but brilliantly navigated together, going from past times to present.

These are characters filled with courage and strength. Each adding something different to the novel. Sarah shows us the intimate and transparent soul of these women. I admire how this author shows us their heart, struggles, fears, and we too are there to see them soar above obstacles. 

The words flow elegantly. Oh, the gift Sarah has for revealing the heart and emotion through pages that at times felt like poetry in motion. The detail this author gives is so vibrant that the reader is able to capture the scenes as if we are present within the story.

It's easy to see Sarah's passion in penning this novel. When an author is deeply driven to get the story right we see something magical happen. For me, that makes this penned work all the more spectacular. The author visited Sarah's grave site and leaves us with these words in the Author's Note. "I went to Sarah's gravesite, sat beside her on a bed of pinecones, and listened to the autumn leaves whisper." 

For my friends who strictly read Christian novels, this isn't a Christian novel. But it is a novel that I would recommend to friends. I loved this novel and am interested to now read The Baker's Daughter.

This novel was a gift from Broadway Books and the Blogging for Books Program for sharing my review with you.

Sarah McCoy is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bakers Daughter and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She lives with her husband and their dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Newsmakers by Lis Wiehl and Sabastian Stuart

I was so excited when I seen this book could be requested in print. I couldn't wait to begin reading. I have read many of Wiehl's novels and they were unputdownables!! This one was a bit difficult for me to stay with. It was pretty predictable and as far as it being marked {Christian}, I'm not sure why Thomas Nelson lists it as Christian Fiction. As an avid reader of Christian Fiction it truly didn't leave a mark of faith with me. 

In fact, I think many might be let down a bit by the language afforded in this book. I've never read a Christian novel that carried ungodly language. Although subtle, some may be offended just for the reason of being reviewed as Christian. The book itself is listed as Fiction/Suspense. 

I enjoy how the main character Erica is transparent. Weihl does a great job at bringing out her personality and her struggles. She is a strong character, a woman who is trying to achieve a life worthy for her daughter to respect. We do see she has a great love for her daughter and is willing to do whatever she must to continue fighting against her past issues with alcohol. Weihl shows us the the destruction this caused in her life and also how Erica fights to overcome. 

The newsroom is a place where we see a battle of good and evil. Erica has been warned that everyone isn't so nice and trustworthy. She has this gut feeling that she doesn't ignore, but trusts. She's a woman whose strength shines through. She is able to lay her fears down and push through this new life of her with unveiled eyes. 

Yes, there is intrigue, but not the thriller I expected. But we do see a woman who is transparent and through telling her story is able to overcome obstacles in life that in her past would have caused her to crumble. I love seeing people overcome. If there is any kind of {faith} message that comes from this novel it would be the battle against good and evil. We see good triumph when one person is willing to stand up and do the right thing. We see through this novel that when we are willing God will use us to complete His will. 

Not what I expected, but still a great story. If you are strictly a Christian novel reader this may not be the book for you. I'll leave that choice in your hands. For me, I really enjoyed this novel and will look forward for the next to be released. 

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

Audacious by Beth Moore

Beth Moore is that girl you chat with over coffee and because there's so much to share your coffee ends up getting cold. She's that teacher you can relate to and the one you wish you could call in the middle of the night. It seems wisdom just flows from her spirit.

Audacious and verve just may be your new {fave} words once you finish this book. This book wasn't what I expected. Maybe with this one I expected a bit more. Something different. But blessings still flowed from Beth's penned words. Her audacious heart touched mine. 

Here's a few of my faves from this penned work:

"WE don't have to half Him. Have all of Him. Have the audacity to take Him up on everything He is., And, if you do, I dare you not to live an adventure."

"If we stomp out every bit of spontaneity and edge out every inch of risk in our divine romance with Jesus, we are going to flatten what was meant to be the greatest thrill of our lives into the roadkill of religious routine. When you are head over heels in love, you make a fool of yourself sometimes."

"Participating with Him in something that is humanly impossible or naturally unexplainable. Knowing full-well that He just enabled you to do something you were utterly incapable of doing."

"To audaciously love Jesus Christ is not the only best thing you could ever do for yourself. It's the best thing you could do for those around you even if, at first, they beg to differ. Every relationship in your life stands to benefit from your bold, adventurous affection for Jesus Christ, not because you will run them down with the gospel eighteen-wheeler, but because you will walk the gospel out right in front of them. Audacious is not obnoxious. If our spiritual fire burns people instead of warming them, we have zeal without knowledge. When time affords us the luxury-and it doesn't always-the most effective gospel is show and tell. You share Jesus with your heart by the way you love, with your hands by the things you do, and, yes, of course, you share Jesus with your mouth. Sooner or later, you won't be able to keep from it. Audacious love unties the shiest tongue." 

"We set people free to love us in a way they never otherwise could have done when we no longer hold them responsible for giving us the lives we were born to live."

"We are called by Jesus to jeopardize everything we are on this one supreme love, counting all else as loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ. Only after the risk do we discover the reward: with Him came everything else of ultimate value."

"Boldness says that we don't see every little obstacle as some big hindrance. We're not too fragile to adapt and too finicky to accept. Boldness says that each circumstance is up for rent as opportunity. What we're willing to do with the room we've been given is up to us. Boldness makes the best of it."

"Those willing to give up their insatiable self-preoccupation to identify with Jesus and follow Him furiously will find an ever-unfolding life and love that they couldn't have scripted if they'd tried. God knew better than to lay it all out there at once. With brilliant mastery, He insisted on mystery. We do't get an advance bio of the precise life we're trading our self-absorption for. Even that is a gift from the giver. God authored a masterpiece of a story by setting into motion a process that would require a journey of faith. It was meant to be a nail-biter. It was intended all along to be a process that would require the naked exposure of our most sacred, carefully-guarded human possession: our trust." 

Beth uses scripture, stories from those who lived the Bible, personal stories of her own and from the lives of those she knows well, to highlight the audacity we should be living in Christ. 

This may not be quite what I expected, but Beth still gave me wisdom to ponder and set before me this new way of looking at my journey with Christ and how I can best share Him through this life He has so graciously given me. 

This book was a gift by B&H Publishing Group for sharing my review with you.

Beth Moore is a writer and teacher of the best-selling books and Bible studies whose public speaking engagements carry her all over the United States. A dedicated wife and mother of two adult daughters, Moore lives in Houston, Texas, where she is president and founder of Living Proof Ministries.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I Want That Kind of Peace

Ask a Miss USA contestant what they wish for most and they will eagerly say, "World peace", with a smile that is big as the world. Peace is something we all want, but for some reason we've come to believe that in this world we live in it is unobtainable. 

We search for peace. We look for tranquility and solace. That quiet place where we can escape from the troubles of the world. Maybe shopping for a few hours helps. Fishing the pond and letting our catch go can help quiet us. Sometimes when my Spirit is anxious I feel the need to clean, wash dishes, or do laundry. Going for a walk can clear our mind. All of these things help us, but they can be temporary fixes unless our focus is Jesus. 

Peace comes from that God-spot deep inside of us. That spot no one else can touch. That spot we know is real because we trust in the One who has given us a great hope. A hope that we can believe in because we know His Word is true and His promises forever lasting.

Today we carry such heavy burdens. We can feel all alone in our struggles. It's me and against the world attitude, right? We can feel crushed under all the weight. It's not good for us keep everything hidden inside. That pain needs an escape. If there isn't one we are like a time bomb waiting to implode down upon us. Is peace possible with such troubles upon us? Yes, it is! 

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

"Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

"Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken, says your compassionate Lord." Isaiah 54:10

Having peace isn't based on our circumstances. It is possible to have peace in in the midst of our trials. Peace is a choice. We either believe that God is in control or we don't. If God is in control, and He is, we can trust that He wants the very best for us and He will work all things out for our good and for His glory. That doesn't mean that everything will go the way we wish it to. It means we can trust that God will do what is right and needed for His glory.

"Blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They're like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers-never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season." Jeremiah 17:7-8

We can be anxious and live our life trying to manipulate every situation to go our way or we can pray with thanksgiving for each and every circumstance in our life. Is that easy? No way. I'm not saying that peace comes easy. We may be able to find a temporary solace, but there's no easy fix. Peace comes by opening our hands and giving God everything we have and entrusting Him with each and every aspect of our lives. 

Prayer casts out all worry. I find that through prayer, through talking with my Savior, my heart is settled and there deep within me, I know that no matter what Jesus is with me and He will see me through. 

How can we create peace in our life? Changing our focus to Jesus. Being thankful. Giving thanks to God for all in our lives. Make a list and focus on those things. Just think if we changed our mindset to completely praising God for all He has done, is doing, and will do. There would be no room for worry.

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any praise-dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8

We cannot change every circumstance in our lives. What we can do is change our reaction. By living out our faith with an I will believe {no matter what} attitude it brings us to a place of peace in knowing that He is in control and He has already been where we are. He knows where we are going and my friend, He is already there preparing. While our circumstance around us rage, while the storm is wickedly strong, we can know that the God who set the sun to light the day and the moon to light the night will also light our way and make the crooked paths straight. 

"I don't say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am. I know both to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content-whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13

"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 8:9-10

What has you worried today? Are you dealing with health issues? A job loss? Marriage troubles? Maybe a child is having a difficult time at school. Taking care of an elderly parent can bring one to make unexpected decisions. A death of a loved one can cause us to question God's sovereignty. In today's world attack comes from every direction. It can feel like life is out of control. I've been there with you. 

"Do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don't realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need." Matthew 6:31-32

We lose sleep over countless battles. One thing we can do is pick our battles. It is important for us to realize what's truly important in our life. In the grand scheme of things every issue doesn't have to be our battle. To often we are letting anger control us. We cannot allow the troubles of this world to consume us. 

"Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life." Romans 8:5

By surrendering all to God, through deep prayer, and trusting Him with every circumstance, we can begin to live a life of peace. Journaling a thankful list can give us an attitude of praise. Be aware that Satan sets things in our path to keep our focus off of Christ. By reciting the Word, penning scripture and placing them in areas that we see often can encourage and inspire can help keep our focus heavenward. Just little reminders that our Jesus is present can be huge in our daily walk in finding peace in this messy world. 

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." Ephesians 6:14-15

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." Isaiah 26:3




Friday, February 5, 2016

Blooming Perfection

Everything blooms in His perfected timing. A season for everything.The difficult part of that for us is waiting for it to happen. But what we must remember is that He is always doing a work. A work that we are not always present to see. 

It's so important for us to be true to who we are in Christ. To live out our faith no matter where we find ourselves. Who are we at work, at school, at home? Are we someone different from the girl who attends church on Sunday? While on lunch at work do we pray over our meal? At home when having friends over is our faith present? 

We pray for our family and friends. We pray for strangers we will never encounter again. We pray for requests shared. Every prayer is heard. Every prayer powerful when prayed in the Spirit. We are human. We pray for what we want, for what we hope. We need to pray His will and His Word. As we listen to the Spirit He will lead us in our prayer. It may be something totally unexpected from what we would hope. We hope for what is unseen not for what is seen.

"Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen." Hebrews 11:1

"So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

"Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience." Romans 8:24-25

We pray for the salvation of family and friends. There are times we have opportunity to share Jesus. We are able to witness our faith through our daily lives. If we are constantly conforming to those around us to make others feel comfortable they are not going to see an active faith and therefore they may even question if we are really Christian.

Have you been praying for a loved one? A situation that is yet to change? We can often feel unnoticed by God. We pray and pray, but yet we see nothing happening, nothing changing. Friend, Jesus is at work. He is moving, putting things in place. He uses a word, an act, so many things put together to bring change to the heart of man. 

"Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:5-6

We push our prayers heavenward and expect God to move in a hurry. He's moving, but for us not quick enough. We are kind of 'right now' people. We want to see action. We want to see circumstances changed, family situations 'fixed', and healing come quickly. God sees our past, present, and future. He has a perfect plan for our lives. He has knit it together in woven love. Each of us, whether believe in Him or not, are loved and valued. Our prayers, no matter how big or small, are important to Him. 

"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't His mother called Mary, and His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, aren't they all with us? So where does He get all these things? And they were offended by Him." Matthew 13:55-57

"The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, so His brothers said to Him, "Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he's seeking public recognition. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world. (For not even His brothers believed in Him.) John 7:2-5

Think of James, the brother of Jesus, who didn't believe Jesus was Savior. Ponder back with me and imagine the life of Jesus as a child and a teen and then later in His ministry. All we know from scripture is that James didn't believe until after Jesus was resurrected. Don't you know Jesus prayed for His family to believe? Above all else He prayed for their salvation. I can't imagine Jesus changing and acting any different with His family and friends then He did with His Father. He was flesh as we are flesh, but He was still Lord. 

"Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles." 1 Corinthians 15:7

"All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers." Acts 1:14

Can you imagine the joy that exploded in the heart of Jesus when James came to see Him for who is was all along? His brother and Savior. And James seeing Jesus for the first time as Savior. What a glorious picture. I can envision Jesus as a child praying for His family and friends. Just waiting for the perfected predestined time for Him to be witness to the salvation of each love to come to fruition. Later James would lead the Jerusalem church and he too would write the Book of James. 

What a powerful testimony of love and prayer. Our prayers are living. It is a gift when we get to see our prayers answered, but many times it takes many years passed. We cannot forget that God is always at work in the heart of man. In those being prayed for and in the heart of the one praying. As He is working things out for others He too is working in us to bring us to being complete in Him.

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect." James 5:15 

We trust and we hope in our Savior. We believe and it's through our hope in the unseen that our faith grows. Like little seeds watered with love, those buds pop open and blossom a beauty far beyond anything we could have imagined. We are His vessels. His hands and feet to be real in a world that needs to see a faith daily present. We may struggle and trip over our feet, but our continued love of Jesus will be seen by others. Someone is always watching. Always. It may be in the moment we think matters the least that a person comes to see Jesus. Oh, the beauty Jesus can do with the tiniest of moments.

One word of kindness. One act of forgiveness. One heart forgiving. One servant giving. All these moments are seen and to a world that thinks Christianity is fake they can be shown through just one heart that Jesus is as alive today as He was yesterday.

"First of all, then, I urge that petitions,prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself-a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time." 1 Timothy 2:1-6

"If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:9-14

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Love Shining Through

It's not always easy is it? You know, to love those around us. But we are called to love. To love mightily beyond ourselves. This is how Jesus moves through us to love. He loves in ways that we are incapable. All He needs is a willing and obedient heart.

To love the lovable is easy. What about the unlovable? Those who make life miserable. Those who add a frown to our day. Those who are rude and selfish. Those who aggravate and do ugly. Those who, well, those are unkind and unfriendly. Yes, those people exactly. It's those who need love the most.

"Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." Colossians 3:14

People allow us to see what they want us to see. Most keep their hearts hidden. They are already wounded and don't want to be again. They are carrying burdens that outweigh any joy that comes. What we need to remember is that every person has a story. It's one we don't know. 

"Brothers and sisters, keep rejoicing and repair whatever is broken. Encourage each other, think as one, and live at peace; and God, the Author of love and peace, will remain with you." 2 Corinthians 13:11

As Jesus shines upon us we are to reflect His love. As He changes us inward we are to outwardly show His love. That's Christianity. That's being the church to a lost world, to brothers and sisters who are struggling. 

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:7

God doesn't call us to love the easy. He simply calls us to love. For us to make a difference, for us to show this angry world Jesus, we are going to have to respond differently. We are going to have to change our attitude. When we face ugly we face it with a smile. Oh, I'm not saying be a welcome mat for wounds, not at all. But sometimes it's just a smile or a kind word that can change an atmosphere of difficult to bearable. When people see us respond in a loving way it can very well be the window to Jesus they have been waiting to see. 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

Sometimes it takes courage for us to love. It takes us stepping out of our comfort zone and not being afraid to be wounded by rejection. We are to be the vessel, the hands of feet of our Lord. We may not see the response hoped, but that person we shared kindness with just may go home and be encouraged in a powerful way.

Our smallest acts of kindness just may be the greatest treasure to another. A little splash of love goes a long way.

"May God our Father himself and our Master Jesus clear the road to you! And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you." 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12


Living Letters

I love writing letters. Hand written notes of love penned with words that try their best to describe what the heart is so trying to convey. 

To go to the mailbox and see a stamped letter from a friend makes the heart soar. This is something that doesn't happen so often now in the age of texting and emailing. A hand written note takes time. It says, "I love you". 

We are living letters of Christ. How cool is that? Think about that for a moment. Let it ponder there for a bit. What is your letter saying? It is happy, angry, or sad? Is is sloppily put together or greatly thought out? Each and every word is counted and has action behind it. Our living legacy. Our words are powerful and our actions mighty. To think of myself as being a living letter of Christ makes me ponder deeply the magnitude of my word and deed. 

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone. It is clear that you are Christ's letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God-not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh." 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

I have a drawer where I keep card and letters from family and friends. Those words penned are special to me. They are keepers that have written on my heart a love that is mighty. Just as the Word of the Lord is written upon my heart. It's everlasting. I use old cards as bookmarks. I go back and read notes penned over the years by my children and husband. These precious words are those that I especially treasure when I'm having a rough day. 

"I have treasured Your Word in my heart so that I may not sin against you." Psalm 119:11

To treasure the Word is to live the Word. To live in such a way that the world will see Jesus through us and in our action might there be some love ink splashed on the heart of everyone who passes. 

"Keep My commands and live; protect My teachings as the pupil of your eye. Tie them to your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart." Proverbs 7:2-3

May each person who looks upon my life see a reflection of the Lord. May they see through me a living letter of God's love. This is the kind of chain letter we need to pass to one another. A letter that has return. A heavenly return that brings glory to our Lord. 

"Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

We live in a world that needs to know that feeling of going to the mailbox and seeing handwritten letter. A letter splashed with grace and filled with love. A letter that warms the heart and lifts the soul. 

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Monday, February 1, 2016

Step By Step by Candace Calvert

This is my first novel to read penned by Candace Calvert. Wow! I wasn't sure what to expect, but let me tell you that all that was missing was popcorn. I felt like I was sitting in the front row of a movie theater. Calvert has penned a beautiful novel about tragedy meeting healing, brokenness finding beauty within the ashes, anger letting go and reaching for forgiveness, and love abounding in the midst of a messy world. 

A medical drama, but this novel goes far beyond the doors of the hospital. Calvert takes us to the heart of the characters. 

The characters tugged at my heart. We are introduced to people who are real. People you and I know. They could very well be us. We not only know their story and circumstance, but as the story weaves a beauty of faith we feel their emotion. That makes me admire Calvert as a writer. When the reader is able to connect to each and every character that is a story well written. 

We meet characters who are a part of a crisis team. People  filled with grace and mercy. They go out at all hours and whenever hearts are in need. No pay. Nothing expected in return. Just willing vessels ready to be present. We see that as they reach out to give aid to others, they themselves are overcoming their own wounds one step at a time. Some of these characters are easy to love as others are a bit rough around the edges, but once we get to know them and understand their story we see they too are just as lovable. I think that is one lesson I can take away from this novel. Each of us have our inner struggles. Each person we meet, whether lovable or not, has their own story that they are trying to overcome. 

I enjoyed everything about this novel. The story line flows easily. The characters come to life off of these black and white pages. This would make for a great Sunday night Hallmark movie. This story continues and will be released in fall of 2016. I can't wait to see what's next!

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

Canace Calvert is a former ER nurse and author of the Mercy Hospital, Grace Medical, and Crisis Team Series. Her medical dramas offer readers a chance to "scrub in" on the exiting world of emergency medicine. Wife, mother, and every proud grandmother, Candace makes her home in northern California. Please visit her website at www.candacecalvert.com 

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell

When I read my first Cantrell novel I knew she was going to be a favorite. This gifted writer doesn't write easy. She takes the reader on a journey, a deep heart tugging, thought pondering story that leaves you thinking about your own life and circumstances. She brings the reader characters that are real and leave us thinking of them long after we have closed the last page. Yes, Cantrell writes unforgettable stories. 

I love this novel and the reality of emotions that Julie brings to each character she introduces us to. The story flows easily. Love, faith, and endurance are weaved in this story. This is a novel  that will leave you wanting to hug your children tighter and embrace all you treasure, family, friendship, and faith. We realize what's really important in life and what doesn't matter at all in the big scheme of things. 

For me this novel is deep, but deep is what I enjoy the most. Life doesn't always go smooth and easy. Trials and fears attack us when we least expect them. Cantrell brings a story that touches on issues we would rather not think about, but issues that are very real and personal. 

This is a gem and I'm so thankful I had the pleasure of reviewing it. Another beauty penned by Cantrell. 

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

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, the 2013 Christy Award-winning Book of the Year and recipient of the Mississippi Library Association's Fiction Award. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction and, like her debut, was selected for several Top Read lists.
juliecantrell.com
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Glass Shattered Under Foot

Do you think Cinderella ever thought about her glass slippers breaking? Oh, having a perfect night up until midnight when all would shatter to pieces. I mean one day you're walking in your Cinderella slippers and all of a sudden you're no longer walking with ease, but they have shattered and now it is cutting glass under your feet. 

We all envision a family that has Sunday dinners together, right? I had shared with my son that it would be awesome if we could all enjoy a Sunday dinner together once at month. His reply was, "Mom, we aren't the Reagan family on Blue Bloods". 

Yep, I always thought our home would be filled with our kids and grandchildren on the weekends. Maybe cooking and baking together. Spending afternoons just sharing all that's going on in our lives and well, sharing dreams together. Laughing and remembering the times when all seemed perfect right about before midnight. 

Somewhere along the way our children grow up. They leave the nest and have families of their own. But that quiet home is never really what you imagined. You just assume your home will always be filled with kids stopping by just to visit for an afternoon. My husband and I enjoy our time spent together now more than ever. But having our family together would just make everything right.

Family makes us feel secure. We can call upon one another for support and encouragement. We should cheer one another on and desire to know more about each other. 

It's hard at times, isn't it? I mean having adult children. Sometimes our dreams of having a close family isn't quite what we expected. I dream of having conversations about Jesus and talking about faith. The happenings around the world and what their thoughts are on things. There's so much we can teach our children, but so very much we too can learn from them. But today everyone is busy. I remember those days of helping to raise five children at home and homeschooling three of them. But where does our time go? Sometimes I think it's wasted on things that we later in life realize doesn't matter much at all. At some point I think we look back with regret and wish we had shared more time together, don't you?

As a parent you don't want to invade on your children's lives. You don't want to feel as if you have to know all that's happening and know every detail. But it would be such a blessing to have our children want to share their lives with us. If they have a bad day, let us know to pray for a specific area. If they have had a blessing, share so that we too can be joyous with them. 

It's not easy to give advice to our children. I've learned to wait for the invitation to share my opinion. Raising children is hard enough, but asking your parents advice can at times ease what we are going through. I think today young people would rather ask their friends instead of going to mom and dad. 

What's expected of being a grandparent? I always knew the kind of grandparent I would be. The kind I didn't have. We would spend time sharing stories, baking, exploring, giggle, and leave behind a legacy that they would cherish and pass down to their own children one day. I want to be that Nanny that they can come to with anything. 

I didn't have grandparents. Oh, they were there, but they weren't a part of my life. Do we really miss what we never had? I do because I know what could have been. 

Being a grandparent doesn't mean you're {just} a babysitter. But to babysit is a wonderful gift, right? A grandparents greatest joy is spending time with their grands. Oh, to be there when you can is wonderful, but to be taken advantage of is something that wounds the heart. I don't want to just be a babysitter. I want my grandchildren to know that Nanny and Papa love having them near. 

It would be a great reward to the heart if families could talk about things instead of just hiding our true feelings and pretending all is fine.  We shouldn't have to pretend anything. Families should be able to talk, even argue, but walk away knowing that bond of love is stronger than any disagreement. So much time is spent on being angry about things that mean nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. I don't want that kind of relationship with my children. Goodness, every parent gets aggravated with their children just as every adult child gets angry at their parents over something or another, but is it really worth it? What happened to loving each other unconditionally? Taking time to give one another a call just to check up on each other? 

Sometimes it doesn't matter what a parent does, it just isn't ever the right thing that the child wants. Well, to that I say, don't expect from another what you yourself aren't willing to give. Somehow we say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, and most of all we say no to something they ask of us. Ouch! Does a parent get to say no? Yes, we do! We shouldn't have to explain ourselves. Sometimes we have plans, sometimes we are just exhausted from the week, sometimes we just want to do something we have been waiting to do for twenty-six years. 

My husband and I have been married for almost twenty-six years now. I praise Jesus daily for my husband and the relationship we have together. It is so wonderful having someone by your side no matter what. They are there to go the journey with you and they know you better than anyone else in the world. Most of all they accept you with warts and all. They see the beauty and they know your faults, but choose to love you. And that's it, isn't it? It all comes down to choice. 

Losing my dad when I was nineteen taught me a valuable lesson about time. At nineteen I was doing my own thing and just when I was at that age to really want to know my dad he was gone from this earth. Oh, how I wish we had shared more and how I wish I truly knew his heart. We shared a mighty bond together, but going deeper would have been a treasure to keep. 

As my mom gets older and as her health and memory deteriorate I realize more and more how much she needs me and how much I need her. I can't imagine the day when I can't pick up the phone and call her. Now, she can irritate the fire out of me. As she ages she has no filter on her mouth and has the attitude that she can say and do whatever she wishes. Maybe she's earned that privilege. I don't know, but what I do know is that I can accept my mom the way she is because she loves me. 

There's so much about me that my children don't know. Oh, the stories my husband and I could share with them about our journey together. The ups and downs. The joys and struggles. How walking in faith has grown us closer together. I think my husband and I would just love to spend more time with our kids. 

Some parents get calls every Sunday from their kids. Some parents don't get calls at all. Birthdays should be celebrated with joy. We have yet to share Thanksgiving Day with our children. I understand that our children have many places to do and so much to do. That's all great, but my husband and I would just sometimes enjoy not coming in last. At least feeling like we do. 

My mom never baked cookies with me. I wasn't allowed in the kitchen. We didn't share that kind of relationship, but I knew my mom was always there and always on my side. She would certainly tell me if I had done wrong and I have always accepted her advice willingly. A parent shouldn't have to be afraid to share advice, but so many of us are, aren't we? 

Relationships take work. No matter what kind of relationship it is. They simply take work and you must make an effort. Egg shells and glass shouldn't be a part of our relationship. We should be able to be honest and you know what? Just not get so mad about everything and say nothing. That kills a relationship faster than anything. We have to have communication.

Today in our world the family is under attack. Satan is heading that attack. He wants the family destroyed. It can happen ever so slowly as the heart feels wounded and nothing is said, and then the day comes when all explodes and then what's there do? We need to be praying for our children and grandchildren. Pray for our families to come together and grow stronger. To be that strong unbreakable bond of love. 

I think for parents, after raising our children, we simply want to have the respect we deserve. They want to be appreciated, needed, and wanted. Goodness, our children have no idea all that we have done for them over the years. When my kids were at home, after they were older, they began sleeping with their door shut. So I no longer walked in and laid my hand on their back and prayed over them. I would stand at their door and place my hand upon the door and pray over them. I hope one day they can know the prayers that have been spoken on their behalf and truly know the love that their parents have for them. 

I was forty years old when I wrote my mom a letter. I was forty when it completely hit me all that my mom had done for me. In raising my own children I came to understand just a little bit more about my mom and my respect grew even more for her. In all my years of being her daughter I can share that I have never disrespected my mom. So, in this letter I shared every single thing I could and apologized for all the wrongs in my teenage years and just stuff I could have done better. I thanked her for all she had done for me and for all that she had done that I had no idea about. Love doesn't count every wrong. It doesn't keep score. Love forgives and it accepts. Love gives room for us to make mistakes and even more so love gives us room to be ourselves. 

We think it's hard when our children are small, but goodness when they become adults it seems life takes on different challenges that parents didn't quite expect. 

There are parents that live miles apart from their children and see them maybe once a year. Sometimes it is years between visits. Sometimes parents live thirty minutes from their children and don't see them as much as they would enjoy. I think parents just want to be a part of their children's lives, but they just aren't sure how to do it. I mean I don't want to be that parent that calls constantly and my kids look at their phone and roll their eyes. Ugh...it's my mom again. Finding that balance is difficult. Finding that adult relationship isn't as easy as it should be. 

I don't want to wear glass slippers. I surly don't want to walk on egg shells. That just isn't how parents and children should be. So, what about you? How is your relationship with your children? Is it everything you dreamed or has midnight struck and you're totally lost in the shattered glass beneath your feet? 

I don't expect perfection. Goodness, I am a work in progress just like you. There is no family that is perfect. We love beyond our imperfections. In fact, we embrace them and learn from our differences. I made mistakes daily just as I know my children do. But shouldn't we as parents and children have grace? Children can expect so much from their parents, but be willing to give so little. The same can be said for parents expecting much. If we aren't careful we can expect so much and then feel wounded when all our dreams have yet to come true. 

Don't wait for too much time to pass. Time isn't something to take for granted. We don't want to look back with regret. Pick up the phone, send a text, mail a card. Recognize birthdays and celebrate the life you have shared together. We should treasure our time and make the effort to spend time together.

As a parent you want to lift your children in prayer. You want to encourage them and hopefully inspire them. At my night table I have photos of my children and grandchildren. I pray for them throughout the day, but especially at night when all is quiet and my heart is stirred as a momma who only wants the best for her family and prays for the Lord to place a hedge of protection around them. To watch our children soar is a blessing. 

There's no room for pride and arrogance. Our words should be filled with grace and love. Never allowing the sun to go down when anger has us stirred. Oh, be careful of the words we say in anger and misunderstandings. We can't take those back. But what we can do is choose to forgive. No relationship is perfect, but we can always strive to make them better. 

So, we simply enjoy the time we do get to see our children. A parent is only as happy as their happiest child. And a parent always misses the one they see the least the most. Our children mean the world to us. As they were growing we gave our all. We did the best we could. Being a parent is a treasure. We try our best today. Wanting more, but finding contentment in how things really are. It's okay to dream a Cinderella kind of dream, right? One that doesn't contain any shattered glass beneath the feet. But one that is filled with joy in the heart. 




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