Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Significantly Bitter

A few days ago while sitting next to my husband, he says to me, "Rob, hon, you are bitter." I laughed and said, "How can you say I'm bitter? You know that can't be true." But even as I said these words the tears began flowing. Oh, I already knew, but  his words  hit the spot. He didn't say them to be mean. He said them with grace. His love for me overflows, and on this day, his words overflowed into my heart. You know, that deep spot no one knows. No one that is except our Lord Jesus. As our conversation continued my husband shared, "Hon, you are so hurt and angry." I reply with a mighty, "Yes, I am". And there is was. He says, "You know that hurt and anger has created bitterness". 

It killed me to hear those words. I've never been a bitter person. If you know me at all you know I am that mercy that connects with others. I'm that encouraging girl next door. But lately..well..over the past two years, hurt has been building. Anger has grown it's own little town in my heart. There right smack in the middle of town is the house of bitterness. 

We have become friends. Yep, bitterness hitched a ride in my back pocket. It traveled everywhere with me. I would lay it all down, only to see someone or hear something one said and there is was again rearing it's ugly head. "You were never loved. You were never appreciated. It was all a lie." Bitterness has found a way to sneak in and it has begun to overtake my life. I've not been that sweet friend. I've all but pushed..no wait..shoved people out of my life. I've built a wall to protect me, but while I was building that wall I forgot all that remained inside with me. 

Let me back up. Church wounds are hard. They are unexpected. No one thinks to be hurt by the church, but that is exactly what happened. After leaving our home church it was as if we were totally shunned. I never expected to be forgotten by the very people I called family. Twenty something years were spent inside this church. I can be honest with you and tell you I walked away and didn't look back. I didn't contact anyone wanting to talk or make peace. I waited for those who hurt me to come to me. This still hasn't happened and that is where my bitterness has rooted. It has built up a wall of untrust for others. As we have visited other churches it has been so difficult for me to open up and to let others in. When the very people you admire hurt you, whether intentional or not, it stings. It leaves a nasty scar and for me it is still healing.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:31-32

I made a mistake of looking to others for my significance. Have you ever done the same? We attend church looking to fill our empty. We look to the pastor, leaders, Sunday school teachers, and to those who sit in the pew next to us to complete us. I didn't attend church as a child. So many things were missing in my life when I began attending church with my husband. That was over twenty years ago. As a new Christian I was looking to have my God spot filled, but I was still looking in all the wrong places. I simply needed to find Jesus and look to Him for my everything. Sure, others can inspire and encourage us, but we must not fall into the trap of depending on others to make us who we should become.

I looked for friendships to complete me. Plan and simple, I was desiring to be significant. To be accepted. For a time, this all worked for me. I stayed busy serving. I was surrounded by friends. I felt wrapped safely by the church. But something was still missing. I needed to seek Jesus on my own. It wasn't up to anyone else to supply my needs or make me 'feel' emotionally steady. I was placing my matter and my worth in what I was doing. I can tell you, now looking back, even though I was surrounded by many people, I was still lonely.

When our family decided to leave our home church my relationship with Jesus grew. I soaked in His Word. I found myself saturated in prayer. I found that it wasn't what I was doing, who I was with, or where I was attending church that mattered. What mattered was simply that I was falling in love with Jesus all over again. I found myself complete only in Him.

As a mother and a wife, I had a home that kept me busy, but I had the idea that I couldn't say no to anyone. The more I said yes to others the more I was accepted. It was when I laid it all down at the feet of Jesus that I began hearing Him whisper to me again. My stagnant faith was once again blooming. When I found myself in Jesus I could be the mother and wife I was created to be. I found a new joy, but yet in all this, there was that bitterness growing.

How could no one from the church I served in for over twenty years not come to me? How could our family simply be forgotten as if we never entered the doors? Yes, these questions and more just kept pounding away and everything Jesus was building in me. Pretty soon, the whispers of God, were almost silent. I didn't only feel left out by those I loved so dearly, but I was asking God what was the purpose? Why had all this happened and what in the world was taking place in my heart? I'm not sure there is any blame to be placed anywhere. I just want to find peace and have this bitterness significantly gone from my life, never to return again.

As I read over scripture I keep coming back to Galatians 5:22-23 "But the Holy Spirit produces the kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!"

I couldn't have what is contained in these verses until I let go of what God shares in Ephesians 4:31-32 I cannot produce fruit for Jesus until I surrender all the ugly. All the hurt and anger. I must lay down the bitterness. But before I could begin I had to hear the truth. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but that was exactly what I needed. I need to forgive those who have hurt my heart. We are simply people trying to find our way. We are sinners. Imperfect. I cannot expect of others what I am not willing to give myself.

So, what am I learning? This is a journey. A journey that at times is confusing. It's okay to ask God questions. That's how we share conversation. But I too must be willing to listen to Him. I can't be the one doing all the talking. This is my journey. My journey to finding Jesus more and more. My life cannot depend on what others think of me or how many friends I have. It isn't the circle that surrounds me. It isn't my status, but my heart. It all begins with my heart. I must love beyond the pain. I have to be willing to be injured in order to be ready to love. We cannot judge our God by His people. I must be willing to give and trust the Lord.

We haven't found our home church yet, but as we visit other churches I am finding more and more that God has a huge plan in all of this. Most of all, to bring me closer to Him. There are times things just don't seem to make sense. We try to figure it all out. I'm learning that I can't always figure it all out. If I trust in Jesus and follow His leading, He will guide me to having that perfect peace that surpasses all.

Are you on a journey of finding forgiveness and letting go of bitterness? You can't do this journey alone. Not without the Lord. He will open your heart to a new life in Him when we give Him the room He needs to make the changes. We must first come to the truth. Find the root of what has snagged us and allow the healing to begin.

So as I let go of my significantly bitter, I am growing significantly better. Not by anything I am doing, but by what the Lord is doing in my heart. In letting go I'm finding that Jesus is my everything.

"Our Refiner will take what is impure and make it pure. He will take what is dull and make it beautiful. He'll take what is of potential value and reveal its actual value. He will transform us into treasure." 

Runaway Saint by Lisa Samson

You know the saying, "We can choose our friends, but our family chooses us"? If you have a perfect family you may not understand, but if you are part of a family that struggles, you are going to find yourself within these pages. 

This story will bring you to ask yourself, "What do we do with secrets?", and "What do we do when our family is..well..strange?" Lisa Samson has brought an exceptional story to us. First of all, the cover is what got me to request this book. The title is intriguing and as we read we total get it. I love the shadow behind the woman on the cover. The closed umbrella. It all says so much about the poetry Lisa writes. 

This wasn't a quick read for me. It was one to soak in and figure out the characters. Sara, the main character, has a hard time saying no. But when she accepts the visit of her Aunt Bel into her home, things begin to quickly change. Early into the story Sara is having a conversation with her mom and Sara shares that she was living as if her aunt were dead. She has been gone for so long and now she has returned and the reasons are what really bring this story together. Do we accept change? Do we accept our family no matter what? 

This is a well penned story. I found her mother to be really quirky and her father to be almost stagnant. I found her aunt to be intriguing and Sara captured my heart. With all the characters in this story they all connect and the story flows beautifully. 

Lisa Samson is an exceptional writer who tells a story with passion. Faith, love, and acceptance all play a roll in this story. If your looking for a new read this is one to check out!

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

Unquenchable by Carol Kent

I have heard Carol Kent speak and I must say that this precious woman of God is transparent as they come. She opens up her life, her heart, her struggles, and the blessings. It is apparent she is on a mission. A mission of sharing God's love through the fire.

I encourage you to visit Carol's website and learn more about her. Once you do you will want to read this book and every book she has penned with such grace and beauty.

In Unquenchable she shares the story of her son's imprisonment and how this has impacted her life. He is living his life in prison, but his life is much more than his surroundings. Of course this wasn't God's plan, but through this fire, God is bringing beauty from ash.

Carol shares more of her life through these pages than I have seen in other books. This is a woman I admire greatly. I can say with honesty that I'm sure I would be where she is today with all that has happened in her life. Trial and tragedy can bring us to a dormant faith. A place where we give up. But here in these pages, Carol, shares how we can overcome. She shares how we can live through the fire and ignite a faith that will continue to burn bright.

Carol shares her story, the story of others, and she brings us to the Word, where we find amazing stories of grace and strength to bring us to a faith that is unquenchable. I highly recommend this book. If you have gone through a fire it will give you great insight and wisdom to keep going. If your in the fire right now you will find encouragement for the journey ahead. If you have yet to face the fire this too is for you. In this life the fire will come and we can learn such great wisdom from women like Carol to prepare us for the days to come. Believe it or not, God is preparing you right now and Carol brings us to understand how to tap into a faith that is real and alive and lasting.

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

Carol Kent is the bestselling author of When I say My Isaac Down and Between a Rock and a Grace Place. Carol is an expert on public speaking and writing, as well as encouraging people to hold on to hope when life's circumstances turn out differently from their dreams. She and her husband, Gene, live in Florida. For more information visit www.carolkent.org.

Monday, February 24, 2014

William Henry Is A Fine Name by Cathy Gohlke

The first book I read penned by author Cathy Gohlke was, "Promise Me This". I instantly fell in love with her writing. I went on to read, "Band of Sisters", which I equally loved. I had seen many talking about her first books. "William Henry Is A Fine Name", and "I Have Seen Him In The Watchfires."  People were saying wonderful things about this Civil War series. I had to add these choices to my bookshelf. I just finished reading, "William Henry Is A Fine Name", and I can tell you I was blown away. Cathy Gohlke is a master story teller. She weaves a story like poetry. It's as though a fire ignites as your reading and your pulled in to a time long ago, but yet with her writing style it's as though your right there with the characters. 

In this first book of the series my heart was captivated by these young characters. William Henry is indeed a fine name, but as you will see, the name Robert Leslie Glover is also a fine name. This is one of those books that needs to be on every bookshelf in every school. This book won the Christy Award, an award of excellence. I found this book to be so much more. I cried with these young men. I laughed with their antics. But most of all, I walked away from this book with a deep yearning to follow the honor of young Robert and William. 

This is more than a Civil War series. It's much more than a coming of age story. It's a story of the heart. A story that leaves you changed. One that you will not soon forget. The characters in this story are so very real. Cathy brings out their personalities in the truest form. For some this could be a difficult read. There were parts that hurt to read. To know these things took place and people stood by doing nothing breaks my heart. But to know there were people like William and Robert makes my heart soar. These were just young boys who took a stand. They looked fear in the face and faced it head on with dignity and honor. They knew the line between right and wrong and they weren't going to stand for wrong. 

We see both sides. The ugly and the beauty that rises from the ash. You will love some characters and dislike others. Throughout this book Cathy gives a beautiful portrayal of God's love, faith, and grace. This is one that stirred my heart. I am eager to begin reading the second in the series, "I Have Seen Him In The Watchfires". 

This book was a gift from Moody Publishing for sharing my review with you. 

Cathy Gohlke's writing has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Single's Soul, My Turn to Care: Encouragement for Caregivers of Aging Parents, and Woman's World. She worked as a school librarian, drama director for adults and young people, and as a director of children's and education ministries. Cathy lives with her husband in Elkton, Maryland. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book of Days written by James L. Rubart

"Book of Days" is spectacular! James Rubart is a favorite author of mine. He has a style of writing that draws the reader in to the unknown. Once I begin reading one of his books I am swept away into another place. I continue to turn pages in complete anticipation. I trust him to give me a story that will remain in my ponderings for days to come. He is one of those writers who takes you for a roller coaster ride. You have no idea where your going, but  you know the ride is going to be exhilarating. 

In "The Book of Days", James Rubart begins with this scripture: "All my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began." Psalm 139:16 So, that gives you the premise for the story line, but Rubart's storytelling is masterful. This book was not only an unputdownable for me, but left me pondering many questions about my own walk with the Lord.

So, if you could see this 'book' and know your today and everything in your future, would you want to know? Would we use it for good or would we use it for our purposes to control and change things to suit our own wants and desires? Many questions. For me, I wouldn't want to know. Walking away from this book makes me wonder how much time we spend looking for proof, spending time in what if and if only. If we could only learn to live in today and live each moment with extreme gratefulness and grace, we wouldn't always be searching for a better or different tomorrow.  

This book contains a little bit of everything. You will not be disappointed by this choice. The only book from Rubart that I have yet to read is, "Rooms", and that is next on my list!!

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

James L. Rubart is a professional marketer, speaker, and writer. He serves on the board of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and lives with his wife and sons in Seattle, Washington.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Are You Ready To Live?

If you knew today was your last day here on this earth would you be ready? Yes, your day has been long. Work has been difficult. The drive home insane. You walk in the front door to face the chores undone. The dog is waiting. Dinner is waiting to be prepared. You have calls to make. Promises to keep. Shopping to be done. Beds to be made. The list goes on and on, but today at 7:45 you are going to breathe your last breath. That quick. Are you ready? 

Would you be ready to leave everyone and everything behind knowing you gave your all or would you stand in regret, wishing for more time to do all the things you didn't make time for?

Just maybe there is a reason we don't know when we will breathe our last. Would we wait until the last minute to fill in all the blanks? It seems we waste such valuable time on nothings. Nothings that amount to anything, but end wishes for more time to truly live life. 

We dream big. We wish mighty. But we let them go as pixie dusk. Time floats through our fingers and then our dreams are scattered ash left for another to dream. God's Word gives us direction in how to live in each moment. Through His Word we understand what is important and what simply isn't. Don't allow the rushing anxieties of this world to steal away precious moments of a grace filled life. 

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8-9

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

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

"Let all bitterness, wrath, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:31-32

"Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Ephesians 5:1-2

The Word shares with us just what should flow from our lives. Take a second look. Now, what is your life filled with? I know mine carries too much stuff that needs to be let go of so I can have a life not just lived well, but one that knows when to slow down and enjoy the small moments. To look deeper into the eyes of a friend. To giggle more and to not be afraid to be me. Yes, the me that God created. I am to shine in this world so I point others toward Jesus. If my life surrounded by loads of junk, they aren't even going to get a glimpse of him. 

We fill our lives with everything under the sun. We will our homes with stuff. We fill our hearts with junk. Our minds are filled with worries. We try to keep up with others. Success takes on a whole new meaning of outdoing the neighbor and besting the guys at work. We will our closets with shoes and purses of every color. We spend our time living in yesterday and trying to catch up on tomorrow, all the while we are forgetting to live in today. 

Funerals become our family reunions. We let go of family and embrace people who see us as a tool to use for their enjoyment. We think the more friends we have the happier we will be, but come to find out, those friends weren't really friends at all. We let junk into our lives and then question as moments are stolen. We never seem to get enough and no, we aren't really ever going to get ahead. I mean, all the bills are never going to be paid. There's always next month. The car will break down. The furnace will need replaced. Do you see what I'm getting at? There will always be something. Sickness punches us in the gut. 

We leave words unspoken. Forgiveness is just a dot on a map that seems unreachable. We put things off for tomorrow, but what happens when 7:45 arrives and there is no more time? Why do we wait? Take care of what today needs and let God care for tomorrow. We push people out of our lives. We cancel dates over and over again. We stop writing letters and sending cards. We just assume others know we love them. 

“God created me—and you—to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion—namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”  John Piper

“As I stumble through this life help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more cheer than gloom, spread more joy than despair. Never let me become so indifferent that I will fail to see the wonder in the eyes of a child, or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged. Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy, and forget momentarily all the unpleasantness in their lives. And in my final moment, may I hear You whisper, 'When you made My people smile, you made Me smile.”  Nancy Mehl 

“The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His.”  Francis Chan

I know. The days grow long. Weariness sets in. We rush to get things done only to realize there is more still yet to go. Friends, let the junk in this life completely go and embrace right now. Learn that you cannot fix the world and we cannot change others. Circumstances will arise and many of those we cannot change, but what we can change is our lives, our attitudes, our perspective on life.  Love your husband deeper. Forgive your parent. Love your children no matter what. Most of all, place our Lord first in your life and He will guide you to a life filled with abundance and joy. 

Anticipation for Your Arrival

A few days ago I watched a beautiful documentary on the Amish who decide to leave their family home and travel onward experiencing a life of Christ in a new way. As the program came to a close fresh tears formed and fell. 

One particular young man explained that the Amish set a place at the table for those who are not present. No one sits at their place. This empty chair doesn't go unnoticed, but is there, set and prepared, in anticipation of their return. 

Picture a table set by the Savior. Your name is beautifully written for your place setting. He knows your favorites and has prepared the very best for you. He has sent out your invitation with anticipation of your RSVP. He knows exactly what it's going to take to get you there. The journey may be long, but your travels will not be made alone. 

He hasn't just invited a few. He has invited all to join Him. 

"In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2

He has already set a place for you! Don't you see? He is awaiting your RSVP to join Him for the dinner of all dinners. The gathering of all of God's people. There's room for everyone. 

"Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you. The sure mercies of David." Isaiah 55:3

He is calling. He is preparing. He is awaiting. 

He knows your place setting is empty. He isn't giving up hope of your arrival. Even more so, He is eager for you to join Him as this great buffet of ever lasting life. After all, He chose us!! 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:3-6

Picture our Father in heaven creating a list before the foundations of this world were created. He has His book open and has written your name down to be His guest. You are to receive a great inheritance. He has created you and knows your entire life. He has everything planned just for you as if you were His only child. 

"For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all are written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." Psalm 139:13-16

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

Everything has been planned. We don't know the date of this wondrous party, but our seat is prepared. He is patiently awaiting our reply. He doesn't want us to miss what He has created just for us. He wants no name blotted from His book of life. Doesn't this change things for you? It does me. To know that our Savior loved me so much, He prepared for my life in advance. He wrote my name down in hopes that I would reply and send in my RSVP. Mine is signed, sealed and delivered. I await in great anticipation. What about you? Don't miss out. Your seat is open. Your loved so highly, that He has set a place for you. 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:3-5

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

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Quilted Heart (Three Novellas in One) by Mona Hodgson

There's an easy reason as to why I chose this book for review. I grew up in St. Charles. Living in the very same areas as in Mona Hodgson's newest gem. For this reason I was excited to begin reading . For this same reason I felt a little disappointed. I kept waiting for Mona to describe the St. Charles I know and admire. I grew up in a small farm town and I know the rich history behind St. Charles. I wanted to envision myself among these characters. For the lack of descriptive writing I felt a little disconnected. 

Now, with that being said, I really enjoyed these sweet characters living in a different time and place. Each title has meaning and I will leave that up to you to discover. These novellas take place in the years of 1865-1866. These ladies face everything imaginable. Moving to a new country. Being away from their family. The death of a spouse. Finding their way in a new land. Faith is interwoven within these pages. I found the author invited us to know each character. Of course with a novella they are short. You can't pack everything in, but what Mona does give us are stories that will bless your heart. These women overcome different trials. Just like the women of today, we all face trial, but each of our lives are different. We can learn so much from one another if we just allow ourselves to make room for friendship. Love and relationships are woven into these stories. I do love how each story didn't turn out exactly as I would have thought. Again, just like our lives. Little turns out the way we expect, but it's in those unexpected places where we find the sweet grace of God.

I loved the connection of friendship these ladies carried with them. They didn't always have friendship, but once it was found they treasured it. I love the idea of a patchwork quilt and how we are all woven together to create God's masterpiece. 

Mona is a gifted writer and the words she has penned come together nicely. This was a sweet read for me. Mona is a new author for me and one that I will keep up in the future. 

These are novellas. They are short reads. Each is a little over 100 pages, so that makes for easy reading when it's hard to find the time to sit for long periods and soak in a book. In  Mona's release of, "The Quilted Heart", we find all three novellas in one. "Dandelions on the Wind", "Bending Toward the Sun", and "Ripples Along the Shore".

This book was a gift from WaterBrook Press for sharing my review with you. 

Mona Hodgson Over the last twenty-five years, Mona Hodgson’s publishing credits have grown to include nearly thirty children's books, contributions to more than ten books for adults, and four historical novels, including her debut, Two Brides Too Many in The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series. Mona is a popular speaker for women's groups, schools, and educators’ and writers’ conferences. She lives in Arizona with her husband and has two daughters and several grandchildren.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Storm Inside by Sheila Walsh

Upon receiving this book I put all others down and opened it and didn't stop reading until I was finished. I devoured this book. To myself I kept repeating, "Oh, this is good. This is good. This is so good". I had to grab a highlighter. I had to make notes. It was as if this book was written for me. I immediately texted a friend and said, "Girl, of all the books I have encouraged you to grab up, this one is for you." Yes, it's one to share. It's one to purchase for every person you love. 

I have been blessed to hear Sheila Walsh speak. I have read most of her books. I must tell you, by far, and her books are all amazing, this one exceeds all the others. Maybe it is because it is a book every single person can relate to. If you haven't been in a storm, you will be. Maybe your in a storm right now. Life will never be perfect. It is an absolute that storms will touch our lives. The key is in how we respond. 

Sheila is transparent. She shares that it's okay to open up and share everything with God. Our good times and most of all our disappointments. She shares with us ten feelings that can become overwhelming burdens: Heartache, Disappointment, Fear, Bitterness, Unforgiveness, Anger, Regret, Abandonment, Shame, and Insecurity. From these ten feelings we enter on a journey together to healing. Scripture is everywhere in this book. Sheila opens our eyes to the truth that we are loved. She shares story after story from women that have shared with her. Sheila brings to light many stories from the Bible that help us to see God is always in the picture. 

Amazingly, when I read these beautifully penned pages I hear the sweet sound of Sheila's voice. She doesn't write in preacher mode. She is the girl next door who is encouraging and inspiring and real. She is that big sister we love and admire. Not because of her greatness, but because of her pure love for Jesus and the fact that she shares her own life struggles and how she has overcome. 

Friends, I can say without a doubt, this book is one you too will devour. I loved this book. How is it different from others? It's Sheila. She doesn't just open up and share. She doesn't claim to know all the answers. But what she does do is point us to Jesus through every word shared. 

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shadows of The Past by Patricia Bradley

How awesome to read an author's debut novel! First just let me share with you that Patricia Bradley is an author to be on the lookout for. This being her first novel, I cannot wait to see what is next for this new author. We can catch the next installment of the Logan Point Series, entitled, "A Promise to Protect", in the fall of 2014. 

After reading the words, Death unfolds like a budding flower, tentatively, sweetly. Unfurling in majestic power. Until then, my love...until then, I knew I was in store for a fantastic ride. And the author didn't disappoint. She held my attention throughout the story. As the story progressed it grew more entertaining. The suspense was terrific and kept me turning pages into the night. 

The romance was sweet too. It was slow moving. Building always without fizzing out. The characters are those we can relate to. Characters that grew with the story. The two main characters both carry a past they are not over my any sort of imagination. Those shadows are always present keeping them from truly moving forward to finding solace. 

I truly enjoyed this read. It was a quick read. With the story continually moving at a steady pace I was always in anticipation for what was coming next. If you love suspense and romance this is a great selection! 

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

Patricia Bradley's manuscript for Shadows of the Past was a finalist for the 2012 Genesis Award, winner of a 2012 Daphne du Maurier award (1st place, Inspirational), and winner of a 2012 Touched by Love award (1st place, Contemporary). She is a published short story writer and is cofounder of Aiming for Healthy Families, Inc. When she's not writing or speaking, she can be found making beautiful clay pots and jewelry. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America and makes her home in Mississippi. Learn more at www.ptbradley.com.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Be On Guard of Creeping Sin

Sin doesn't often just happen. It creeps in slowly. It sneaks up and as you finally see the danger it's ugly teeth are showing. Yesterday I went outdoors to care for Gunner, our Red Bone. As I was kneeling down and filling his bowl with food he moves quickly behind me. Before I see the danger I hear it. It wasn't to be ignored. It was our neighbor's Pit Bull that had gotten loose. I froze. Gunner is sweet and lovable. He's the kind of watch dog that would watch thieves come in and steal us blind, while waiting to see if he too could go along with them. 

I stood slowly and as I rose up the neighbor's dog was now trying to get on top of Gunner. I picked up his water bucket and with the metal food scoop in my hand I chased that dog away with everything in me. I still had more to do outdoors so I ran inside and grabbed a bat just in case he returned. Sure enough as I was ready to walk out the door he was waiting and his tail was not wagging. I was fearful for Gunner. I chased him away again. I stayed outdoors for quite awhile guarding Gunner like a mother bear in protection mode. After awhile I came inside, but still kept watch through the window. 

This got me pondering how that dern dog sneaked up on me so quickly and I didn't hear him. I wasn't prepared to defend myself. He could have easily jumped on me and I wouldn't have had any warning. Gunner was my warning. He moved so quickly I knew something was happening. It was his quick movement that make me stand up and take notice. But just what if he had not been there to see him coming? I don't even want to think about that. 

But that is exactly how life is for us. Sin sneaks in quietly like a snake. We often don't see them until we have stepped on top of them. 

Read what Peter shares with us.

"Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm int he faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world." 1 Peter 5:8-9

Isn't that just like the devil to take someone out while they aren't watching! We have to be on guard at all times. So, just how do we do that?

"Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle isn't against the flesh and blood, but against the world powers of this darkness, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand." Ephesians 6:10-13

Solomon gives us great wisdom. 

"Guard your heart above all else, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23

So, we are to be alert and we are to put on the full armor of the Lord. Now we see that we are to guard our heart above all else. Where we fail. Wait, I should say, where I fail, is when I turn my back. I wasn't anticipating an attack. But, isn't that just how Satan wants us to be? He would much rather us be ignorant to all that is around us. 

We need to protect our eyes, ears and our minds. The only way to do that is to guard ourselves against this world and fix our eyes on Jesus. 

"Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne." Hebrews 12:1-2

We must have a heart check. Look deep within and allow God to show us what needs to be there and what needs to go. Listen closely with love and a humble heart. One that is ready to obey. Stand guard and be ready. This battle rages on, but it's one that we already have victory over through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

The Sentinels of Andersonville is extraordinary. I was fascinated, intrigued, and appalled. With great sadness I must admit I had not heard of this prison in Georgia. I received this book and shared with my husband about my great anticipation to begin reading it. Of course, he knew of Andersonville, and shared a great interest in reading the book when I was finished with my review. As a history lover I found this book to be so rich in history. 

Tracy Groot is a new author for me. Her writing is profound and gets in your gut. This isn't one of those romance novels that is gushy. It is faith bound, but wrapped in exquisite story-telling that is top rate. These characters were easy to fall in love with. I wanted to stand with them and fight this monstrosity of horror that lie in wait for these men of this prison. The war was horrific enough, but to put these valiant   men through more is just too much. This was father fighting son, brother fighting brother, neighbor against neighbor, all fighting for what they thought was right and honorable. 

As we meet the characters within these pages we meet people who if helped would be charged with treason. Thousands of men died here. Many died from the appalling neglect and ignorance of humanity. This is a book that went to my core. For some this may not be an easy read. For the history lovers, you will absorb these pages and long for more.  

As I began reading I simply couldn't read fast enough. My heart wrenched for those in Andersonville and for those willing to step out and make a difference. This is definitely an award winner for me. One that could easily be on the big screen. This is a finely written story and as you will see, Tracy did her homework and gives us a clear and stunning portrayal of the days during Andersonville. 

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

Tracy Groot is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including Madman and Flame of Resistance-both Christy Award winners. She and her husband have three boys and together run a coffee shop in Holland, Michigan. Visit her website at www.tracygroot.com 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

You're Going To Be Okay by Holley Gerth

I have been blessed to read every book penned by Holley Gerth. Each book although totally different all have the same theme; pointing us closer to our Jesus. Through Holley's words we truly see a woman of God. A woman with a passion to reach other women for the glory of God. 

Holley shares such encouragement. She inspires us by sharing truths from her own life. In reading the words penned by Holley you really do feel like she is a friend. A sister in Christ we can truly connect with because she is real and transparent. 

"Once you know who you're not, it's time to ask God one of the most important questions of all: "Who am I?" Perhaps there's no more important time for seeking these answers than when we're in the middle of a bad day or a hard season. We lean into God's heart and ask, "Who am I in spite of this? Tell me what's true about me no matter what happens." I love how Hebrews reassures us, "It is impossible for God to lie" (6:18). Your circumstances will lie to you. Your emotions will lie to you. Even other people will lie to you. But not God. And because of this, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (6:19) Your identity is secure. Nothing going on in your life can change it." 

"Whatever your going through now is adding to your stash for tomorrow too. Right now it may just feel like frustration and heartbreak. But God won't let this hurt or hard time to unused. The only difference between a lump of coal and a diamond is time and a lot of pressure. What seems worthless now may become a source of great treasure in your stash later." 

A few things I connected with is that Holley shares that we at times sabotage ourselves. We have these ultimate expectations that we set for ourselves that only creates for us a place where we are stuck in pity. There is emotional, social, spiritual, and physical sabotage. She too shares the myths that hold us back. Myth no.1 is that, the promise land is only in heaven. Wow, this was huge for me. "Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full", (John 10:10). He didn't say an easy life. He didn't say a self-indulgent life where all your wishes are granted. He didn't say a life free from pain. But He did say a full life. One of joy, peace, love and hope. It's not only possible. It's promised." 

This book holds so much valuable information for the heart. Another great point to this book is the study that is included in the back. She asks some amazing and poignant questions that make the heart stir and move. This is a book I would encourage you to grab up. This would be a great personal read or even one for a small group study. This is a book to totally take your time with. It isn't one to hurry through at all. 

Holley leads us to scripture and to Jesus by showing us that we are not alone and yes, we are going to be okay! 

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

Holley Gerth is a bestselling writer, certified life coach, and speaker. She loves connecting with the hearts of women through her popular blog and books like You're Already AmazingYou're Made for a God-Sized Dream, and Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream. She's also cofounder of (in)courage and a partner with DaySpring. Holley lives with her husband, Mark, in the South. Hang out with her at www.holleygerth.com.

With Autumn's Return by Amanda Cabot

What a wonderfully written end to the, Westward Winds Series. Amanda Cabot was a new author for me when I opened the pages of the first book in this series, "Summer of Promise", (take a peek at my review. I missed reading the second book of the series, "Waiting For Spring". Although with reading this third book I am finding that it can be read a stand alone novel, it would suggest you grab the first two books, so you get a greater understanding of why this sister, Elizabeth Harding, joined her two sisters in the wild area of Wyoming. 

Boy, the winds certainly do blow with each season. With this new season of life for Elizabeth is an uncertainty of just what to expect. She hears from her sisters of the beauty this country beholds, but nothing can compare until she experiences this on her own. 

This novel flowed easily for me. Amanda Cabot is a wondrous story teller. She places together many characters each having an impact on the outcome of the story. They are tightly woven together so that we feel as if we have a front row seat to the goings on of each character. 

With each of these novels we meet each sister from the Harding family. In this selection we get to know the youngest sister of the family. Elizabeth is a doctor on a mission to be accepted and taken seriously. She has a heart of service. What I loved about her character is the fact that she put others before herself. She was genuinely caring and this is a character trait that I found absolutely lovely. The more she gave to others the more of herself she found. 

We get a glimpse at just how God's perfect timing is always moving in our lives. He is there in the midst of every moment in our lives preparing and motivating us to move forward and live out our calling. Elizabeth isn't looking for love, but of course it is love that finds her. What I enjoyed is the fact that it is a love that celebrates who she is. This wasn't a love that took away from her or changed her in some way, but a love that brought out the best in her. 

I can tell you that this series is a must read for the historical fiction lover! 

This book is a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of the Texas Dreams series, Christmas Roses,Summer of Promise, and Waiting for Spring. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards and the Booksellers Best. She lives in Wyoming. Find out more at www.amandacabot.com.


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