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 secrets😏. 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 reading📘!! 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.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Let Us Make Room

"Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me." Revelations 3:20

"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare to prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going." John 14:2-4

"Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough-because there was no room for them at the lodging place." Luke 2:7

Mary and Joseph knew the wound of not being invited in. Our Savior as a babe was turned away before He was even out of the womb of His mother. They were turned away because there was no room in the inn. No room for the King of kings. Mary would not give birth in the warmth of an inn. Did the inn keeper know who he was turning away? Was it possible to make room for this expecting mother? All we know is that the inn was full. If there was room would the inn keeper have invited them in? 

Do we always invite others into our home? Do we make room for others? During this season this question is one for us to ponder. I mean really open our hearts to the question of making room for others in our life. Too often we exclude people. We only invite in certain people, never really giving thought to those we wound by leaving them out. 

We just want to be invited in, right? We want to be accepted by others. Not for who we are or what we do, but simply because of love. Have you felt this wound? Me too. We have a Savior who knows this wound. So, friends, we are not alone. Jesus is always waiting in hope to be accepted in the hearts of man, but is always a Gentleman, never pushing Himself into a heart that isn't willing. 

Being excluded, not included, not invited, not accepted, not wanted, however one would like to put, it cuts deep. We can find many reasons as to why we don't invite others in, but wouldn't it be nice if we really thought about those reasons and applied the same grace, mercy, and love we have received from the Savior? If only we could extend the love of Jesus. 

We see often others gathering when we have not been invited to join. This makes us feel unloved and unwanted. We begin to ask ourselves, "What's wrong with me? What did I do that makes me so unworthy to be included?" Families don't always get along. Brothers and sisters bicker. Mothers and daughters don't always see eye to eye. Fathers and sons can hold anger. But are these reasons to exclude loved ones? I don't know. I just think during this season of Christmas it seems we could make room for love, make room for forgiveness, and hope. 

This is a season where often hearts are burdened with this wound. Oh, we try to hide it, make excuses, but in the end when we see photos of others gathered while we are at home in front of the television it makes us feel so lonely. We find ourselves longing for family. No family is perfect. We are all pretty much a mess, right? But when we make the choice to come together in love there is always room for hope and restoration. 

So, when we exclude people it says more about us than it does about the one we are excluding. It says, "I'm more important than you. I'm more valuable than you. My feelings matter more than your feelings. As long as I'm in charge, there's no room for you."

Just think. Our Savior feels this pain daily as people push Him out. Our entire Christmas is because of Him and Him alone. Without Him there would be no Christmas. His very name in in Christmas. It is a celebration of His birth. But look at our world, the world created by our God, the God who sent us His Son to give us life. This world excludes Jesus from His very celebration. We gather to celebrate with gifts and desserts, only to never give Him thought. 

So, see. He knows our pain of being left out and not wanted. But what do we do about that wound? We begin by inviting in our Savior. We make room for the King of kings. We pray in asking Him to fill us with all of Him and to empty us of all this world's wounds. We forgive even when we don't find forgiveness in others. We reach out even when no one is reaching back. Oh, it hurts. There's nothing easy about it, but when we focus on Jesus and do everything in love it changes everything. 

We first seek Jesus. See, the more of Him we seek, the less of this world we need to fill an emptiness within us.  In My Savior I know that I am cherished. I am accepted. I am wanted. He becomes our joy and our hope. It is in Him we find purpose and pleasure. When we focus on Him it takes our focus off of others. He can remove the anger and bitterness. He is the Jesus who has the power to change the heart of man. Let us serve others this season. Be a part of something bigger than ourselves. 

Too often we determine our worth by how many family and friends surround us. Let us turn that around and surround ourselves with the Savior, seeking Him as never before. Not because we want to feel good, but because we know there is more than the wound we have become. 

Sadly in our world people knock on doors and no one answers. Many times people are knocking and are told they are not invited in because of this reason or that. Too often people place restrictions and conditions on whether or not we can be included. It isn't fair is it? It cuts deep as we see that others gather without us. Friends, know that Jesus will never exclude you. He will never leave you out and will never make you feel unwanted, unloved, and not good enough. His love is unconditional!

"Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God's love was revealed to us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we mighty live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us." 1 John 4:7-12

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Spectacle of Glory (God's Light Shining through Me Every Day) by Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby

This is my first book to experience the pen of Joni Eareckson Tada. I am hoping to now read more of her work. Oh, what a tremendous blessing for the wounded and struggling soul. 

This is a powerful devotional. A gift for the friend who is trudging up that mountain, trying to find glory in their mess. A beautiful gift for anyone who desires to see God's glory in everything in us and around us. 

This little gem is packed with goodness and strength. Each devotional is dated, with the address of scripture that the devotional reading comes from, and  each ends with an uplifting prayer or words of sweet story. 

I will share with you a favorite. This devotional is listed for September 21. The scripture is Psalm 46:10

"There is only one situation where weakness is a virtue. The Bible, of course, urges us to "be strong" again and again. Our culture celebrates powerful people and shows contempt for weakness. But in the presence of the Almighty, all-knowing, everywhere-present Lord of all, admitting weakness is both wise and appropriate. In today's scripture, the Lord Himself speaks: "Be still and know that I am God." In Hebrew, the term translated be still could also be rendered "to be weak; to let go, to release." A paraphrase might read, "Let yourself become weak, and you will know God's power in your life." The apostle Paul agrees: "When I am weak, then I am strong." Whatever adversity you may be facing right now, don't be ashamed if you feel weak or lack strength or resources. That's the best time to present yourself to God, so He can supply His strength.

Lord, I remember the story of David at Ziklag. He was defeated and heartbroken, and he had cried so hard that he had no strength left in his body. His men were so angry with him that they were about to stone him to death. But your Word tells us that "David strengthened himself in the Lord his God." That is what I want to do, Lord, right now,"

This is just a marvelous devotional that truly touches the broken, bruised, and weak. So often we feel alone and exhausted as we take the next step into the unknown. Joni Eareckson Tada gives the reader words of hope and grace that points to our Savior and Him alone. 

This is definitely one of those devotionals to treasure for this long journey home. 

This devotional was a gift from Zondervan for sharing my review with you. 

Joni Eareckson Tada is found and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community. Joni and Friends provides practical and spiritual support to special needs families worldwide. Joni is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Joni & Ken, Diamonds in the Dust, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning When God Weeps. Joni and her husband, Ken, reside in Calabasas, California. For more information, visit www.joniandfriends.org

Grace For The Moment (Inspirational Thoughts for Each Day of the Year) by Max Lucado

There are some books that are timeless. They are prevalent for us at any time in life. Touching us in special ways and filling us with encouragement and inspiring word to guide us closer to the Father. This is one of those gems. A keeper for sure. 

This devotional was first published in 2000. These devotionals are taken from Max's previous books. Each page gives us scripture and  his words of wisdom. I love each devotional having a title and a date. Over and over through my walk with Jesus, as I pick up a devotional, especially those from Max, it is always a blessing that on that date that specific devotional applied to my day. 

These are wonderful words to ponder as one begins the day or in the dark of night before pillow and cheek touch. In this leather bound edition it would make a beautiful Christmas gift. Another great aspect is the large print. Easily read by those who need glasses. 

I love devotionals that lead me to a closer walk with Christ. Those that point me to the Word and don't take away from it, adding the writer's own idea of what they perceive the Word to mean. Max shares stories that always lead the reader to open the Word for themselves and ponder the message before them. 

This beautiful copy will remain on my table where I do my study. We all have those mornings where we need a jump start. This is that gem to bring us to open up our Bible for a deeper study into the Word. 

These devotionals are simple yet so poignant to our lives today. In the beginning of this devotional Max shares from his book, When God Whispers Your Name. To begin our day with choosing love, choosing joy, choosing peace, choosing patience..kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, just these alone can bring us to a day of walking with our Savior. What a wonderful opening to a devotional. 

Just one page, a few paragraphs, words shared, hearts touched. Yes, that makes for a day of choosing grace in the moment. I so love this devotional. If you have yet to purchase a devotional to jump start your day, this is a great choice!!

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon (Men of Valor Series book 3)

If you have yet to read an Irene Hannon novel this is a great place to begin. But I encourage you to go back and start at the beginning of the series. Yes, this could be read and enjoyed as a stand alone, but in first reading, Buried Secrets and Thin Ice, you will grasp so much more and be introduced to one of the main characters of this story. 

How's this for choosing a novel that is super close to home? The characters are very close to Potosi, Missouri, which is right down the road from where I live. The main character is battling Post Concussive Syndrome which my husband is now battling after being hit by a drunk driver. Coincidence? I don't think so. This was perfect timing! 

Irene Hannon is a favorite of mine. I love this Missouri girl who writes about places I visit. Her attention to detail is a marvel as it allows me to feel as if I am present in the story. 

Storytelling is a gift of Hannon. She knows how to bring a story to life through using characters that we can relate to. We are able to feel their emotion in so many ways. The fear they feel jumps off the pages to make the reader ponder what they would do in that circumstance. We feel their wounds, anger, and most importantly their hope! Hannon magically weaves faith into something believable for us. It is something the reader not only desires for the characters, but for their own life. 

Yes, Hannon not only weaves a magnificent story, but brings a message of healing, hope, and finding faith in the midst of any circumstance. She is brilliant! Nothing better than closing the last page and marveling over the pages you were gifted to read. 

This is the third and last novel in the Men of Valor series. Oh, I have loved this just as much as every other novel and series I have had the pleasure of reading. The story flows quickly. It moves at a pace that keep you turning pages with a curiosity as to what is to come. 

We once again meet Finn McGregor. With a name like that you just expect hero, right? He is a strong character. Wounded, but living with a faith that will allow him to overcome. He's seeking some time of rest and decision making. His neighbor across the woods is Dana Lewis. She too is searching for solitude and healing. Her character is just as strong. I love that both of these characters have been through such trials, but they are not about to give up. These two together bring something really special for the reader. 

Another character is the sheriff. He is placed in a circumstance that brings the reader to wonder just what they would do in his position. He has to make some difficult decisions. These are decisions of right or wrong. But as his character develops I found myself feeling so sorry for him. Of course he knows what is right. He is an honorable man, but that man also has a wife battling early onset Alzheimers and he is determined she has the best care possible. Wouldn't we all what the same? I find him trying to turn things to make them seem right even though in his heart he knows what he is about to do is so very wrong. 

Now, of course in this area it wouldn't do to tell a story without something sinister taking place in the woods, right? Oh, the evils that take part in the dark when you think no one is looking. 

A Romantic Suspense filled with so much more. That's what I love about Hannon. She brings so many aspects to a novel other than just a great story. For me that's what writing is all about and that's the kind of novels I want to be a part of. 

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

Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty novels, including Buried Secrets, Thin Ice, and the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. In addition to many other honors, she is a seven-time finalist for and three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She is also a member of that organization's elite Hall of Fame. Learn more at www.irenehannon.com.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Child of the River by Irma Joubert

I have been blessed to read some amazing books. I can now add this novel to my list of gems. Beauty from the very first pages. The story seemed to just begin and grow from there. A page turner that keep me wanting to know more about Persomi. 

We are transported to another time and place in history. A place I have yet to visit in black and white. What is amazing is the detail and story Joubert gives makes you feel as if you are there seeing this story on the big screen. 

With her writing style everything flows in a way that it gives you time to mull over what's taking place. The story begins in the year of 1938. We find ourselves in South Africa as Joubert weaves this magical story about a sharecroppers daughter. We see her struggle through so much, but she isn't one to give up. She dreams big and we are blessed to see her overcome. There is so much to be learned from her life as well as from the lives of the other characters. 

What caught my attention was the beautiful cover. When I seen Joubert was the writer I knew I was in for another wonderful story. After reading, The Girl From the Train, I couldn't wait to see what was next for this author. 

WWII is alive and tragedies seem to be all around. I loved the historical detail Joubert gives the reader. She has a gift to take the reader on a journey well traveled. One where the reader can find themselves within the characters portrayed before them. 

I was drawn to the heart of the characters. Joubert writes transparent, opening up every character in such a way that they are real before our eyes. Nothing imagined, but life as it is. 

A coming of age story for any age. A tender read about relationships, growing, and experiencing life by being on the front lines, not allowing fear to hold you back, but grasping what seems impossible and having the faith to know all things are possible.

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

Irma Joubert International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing fiction. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She is the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on the bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels. 

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

A Charles Martin novel is like poetry for the soul. There is simple beauty in his words. Words that touch the spirit in a way that makes a sentence linger. That's a novel that is lasting. One that leaves behind a story to ponder in your heart.

A prodigal child story. Not just of a son coming home, but of a father too. Not just living a life, but finding what matters in each moment shared. This remarkable novel holds such poignancy in leaving the reader to not only love the characters, but to find myself within them. That is the beauty of a shared story.

None of us are ever too far gone. Our lives should be a love song to our Father. These are just a few things that I walked away with after closing the last page. 

The story flows so easily. I enjoyed how the story continued to grow. The characters lives are unveiled to us in perfect timing. Just everything about this novel was spectacular!

The characters are rich and transparent. They are people just like us trying to find their way in a world that tries to hold us still.  Everything in our life matters. Every choice, every action. Not only does it touch our lives, but the lives of those around us. No one is untouched by choice. 

Oh, to see this broken man find his way home. Isn't that what we are all trying to do? I loved this novel so very much. It is a keeper for sure. A story to share with others. Love, redemption, forgiveness, friendship, grace, and mercy. If you are searching for a great novel don't pass by this gem of a read. You will find yourself lingering over portions and reading them again to grasp it all. At least I did. 

Even if you choose this novel for simple pleasure there is no way you can walk away and not be moved. We are all prodigals in a borrowed land seeking to find our way home. Within these pages you will find yourself in these wounded hearts. Oh, but these characters are bathed in strength and grace. Beautiful wounds scarred to perfection. 

We can choose to give up way too soon or we can choose to live a life with a destination in mind and a Savior leading the way. 

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

Charles Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels. He and his wife, Christy, live in Jacksonville, Florida. Learn more about him at charlesmartinbooks.com .

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Jericho High

Walls of anger. That's what is surrounding me right now. Since the early morning hour of 1:30 on October 12th when I received a call from my husband that he had been in a crash this anger has been taking hold of me. On his way home from work, the only car on the highway, except for the drunk driver who crashed into him at approximately seventy-five miles per hour, he was hit from behind. This wasn't just one hit. First it was the impact hit. The next came when he was flipped upside down and slammed down on the roof of his truck. The final hit was when he slid one hundred feet into a utility poll. 

Needless to say, I have no use for drunk drivers. My best friend's son was only fifteen when he was killed by a drunk driver. Not just one, but four, as they raced from where they partied to the local diner for breakfast. Only they never made it for breakfast. Donnie was in their path of destruction. 

My husband is suffering from Post Concussive Syndrome. Serious? Yes. It has changed every aspect of who he is. Think of a broken bone in the leg. This is like a broken bone in the head. A traumatic brain injury. Months, maybe years of healing before he is back to normal, and that is if that ever happens. Anger? It boils within me. 

At night after my husband goes to sleep, I lay in bed and cry for hours. Each day I have to keep a health journal for my husband. Every single time I have to pen about the day he has lived I go right back to October 12 all over again. It is like living this crash day after day and for right now there is no end in sight. 

Doctor visits are weekly. I am tired of hearing from people, "He will be okay". I don't know that. Doctors do not know that. No one can promise that. I see my husband daily as others don't have the opportunity to see him suffer. He isn't himself. He cannot return to work. He cannot work the farm, nor can he help his parents. This is a man who is continually busy. A man with much responsibility and now everything has changed. And why? Because two pathetic people chose to drink and get into a car, neither thinking of the consequences of their actions. Neither paying any mind to my husband who was innocently in their path of destruction. 

As my husband was being loaded into the ambulance these two women were found laughing hysterically, saying, "What the hell just happened? Check it out.We didn't even get hurt". No regard for life. Never checking on my husband. A stranger, a witness, called 911. Praise Jesus for this man! Anger? How can there not be anger? 

When my husband was hit the impact was so great his gas tank ruptured. It has been shared by firefighters that if he would have stopped to fill up on the way home his truck would have blown up on impact. It is this that I see at night in my dreams. I see my husband's truck on fire and he inside. This is an image that I cannot escape. 

As my husband has described to me that night it is terrifying to envision my husband actually trying to crawl outside a side window as gas is pouring on him. He makes his way out and he can hear the laughter of these two women. Pathetic. My anger stems from just the blindsided destructive decision of another human being. 

These were not young kids. No, this driver is forty-six years old and is the owner of a local bar and brewery. That adds a nice touch doesn't it? It makes me sick in the pit of my stomach. Anger? It is Jericho high!

As we now live the repercussions of this woman's actions, we struggle in such a way that one cannot just let the anger go. This is our life now. It is very real for us. Everything has changed. But for this bar owner? She can be found living it up at local winery's and bars. She can be seen at concerts with friends with a drink in hand. Anger? 

This woman could have killed my husband. I think of all that could have happened. In the blink of an eye everything has changed. Next week is filled with doctor visits and more tests. In the twenty-seven years my husband and I have been married I can count on one hand the times he has visited the doctor. Now each week is filled. Anger? Yes. This was not by choice. This wasn't something that my husband chose. This wasn't because of any action of his. He was innocently in the path of a drunk's destructive obsession with themselves. 

At each doctor visit with a new specialist I have to retell the crash and how my husband came to be injured and all that he is living with now. Every single time I have to retell this my heart feels like it will beat right outside my chest. I feel this burn inside of me right in my gut. 

I am not the girl who carries anger. I am that girl who walks in grace and mercy. But now? I am not so sure. I hate that I have changed. I hate that my heart is struggling with such anger. I am not ready to forgive. I cannot believe I am saying that, but it is truth. So, this is where my heart lies. In the middle of anger that is Jericho high.  

But see, I too have a choice. I have the choice to allow this anger to eat at me every day stealing away all joy or I can choose to open my hands and give God room to remove it. Holding on to anger isn't going to do anything good in me. It will only destroy me. My problem is that I am asking God to remove it, but as He does I grab it back and hang on tight. Anger is ugly and destructive. Nothing in it's path gives beauty. This anger isn't me. I don't want it any longer! Why can't I just let this go? Because the love of my life was injured by someone so reckless and no regard for his precious life. But evil doesn't care about good. 

Oh, Jesus, please tear down these walls. Destroy these walls of anger and bitterness that scares me to my knees. It is one day away from Thanksgiving. I wake every day with thanksgiving. My Savior and I share so much. He knows my heart like no other. He knows the grace and love I carry and He understands my pain and anger. I know in time forgiveness will cover this heart of mine as the anger resides to peace. But not yet. Not now. How can it? I struggle each day as anger boils and I try to replace it with joy. 

See, that's the thing. I cannot imagine living this journey without our Savior walking it every step of the way with us. This journey into the unknown is one no one should have to walk. I understand people make mistakes. I understand people have accidents. This was neither. This was a choice. This is attempted murder. This was two selfish women who used their car as a lethal weapon. Anger? Even as I share this transparent pain with you anger rises inside me. I wish it would just escape and leave me. Tears come as I know the depth of my husband's every day life and how it is even a struggle to remember the day. 

Knowing that Air Evac was on standby. Knowing that when that call was cancelled firefighters and EMS workers thought my husband to be dead. These thoughts are not those that can escape my head. I fear being inside our car. I fear the highway. The places my head now goes are areas they have never traveled. Why did this have to happen? Why did these two selfish women have to be on the road this night? Why couldn't they just make the decision to not get in the car, but to remain where they were until they were no longer drunk? Why didn't the life of my husband matter to them? 

As my anger is Jericho high, I too know that my Savior's grace is even higher. His love is mighty and His provisions are unlike anything of this world. He has walked our steps. He was there at that stoplight on October 12 before my husband every arrived to a stop. His hands wrapped around my husband and rolled that crash with him. Praise Jesus! His protective angels knew what was coming and shielded him from the death that could have happened. 

I am learning the height of anger and the depth of pain as I live this journey with my husband. We live in hope that the day of healing will come. We live with faith, knowing our Jesus is already in our tomorrow. 

Friends, if you too are going through uncharted territory, don't give up. Hold on tight to what you know to be true. In this life we don't always get the answers we so desire. Trial is inevitable for each of us. Struggle is real. Heartache crushes the strongest of hearts. But there in our Savior hope is found. We can rejoice because of Him. The evils of this world will never stop trying to destroy the heart of those who believe. Each day we put on our armor and we don't just live to survive, but we live as if we are in a battle. We are indeed in a battle. It is a spiritual battle. Although this world can steal much away from us, it cannot take from us our faith in a Savior we know is battling for us each and every day as He intercedes on our behalf. 

Being angry isn't a sin. But, being controlled by anger is. I don't want to be controlled by anger. I don't want this woman to live rent free in my head. But where can I escape all that I feel? My Jesus. Oh, how He comforts me. If not for my Savior I would be lost in this anger and see no end in sight. 

Your anger is just as real as mine. It may be Jericho high too. Friend, don't allow that wall of anger to swallow you. Give God the room He needs to bring healing, mind, body, and soul. Open your hands daily, giving to Him all that belongs to Him. Trust Him with everything. What Satan meant for destruction, our Savior will use for His glory. Even though that wall is high, don't close off your heart to God. Allow Him the room He needs to bring down that wall. It may be brick by brick. We may try to rebuild it as He is tearing it down, but let us hold to the hope that our Savior will never stop interceding for us. Let that trumpet blow the anger down!

"Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward." 
C.S. Lewis

"Be angry and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." 
Ephesians 4:26-27

You can read more of our story in Mangled Grace

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