Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"One Perfect Spring", written by Irene Hannon

Oh, how I love this Missouri girl! Once again, Irene Hannon has proven she has a gift to pen a story that reaches the depths of the heart. She can write suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat and she can stir up a romance that makes your heart soar. 

I fell in love with Irene Hannon when I read her Guardians of Justice Series, "Fatal Judgement""Deadly Pursuit", and "Lethal Legacy". Then I was blessed to read her next series, Private Justice, which included, "Vanished", and "Trapped". Next up was, "That Certain Summer". Can you tell I am a huge fan? LOL I have never been let down by reading an Irene Hannon book. She is gifted with the pen to bring a story to the reader they can relate to and be so absorbed that they stay up late in the night turning pages. 

In her newest gem, "One Perfect Summer", we find a novel about relationships. One about God's perfect timing. We see what He can do with what seems like our greatest failures at the time, but as we see here in Irene's novel, God doesn't see our failures as the end, but as a beginning to bring beauty from ash. 

These characters are so real. They are people we meet daily. People we have in our lives. These people are you and me. As we get to know them they become family. The main character is Claire Summers, but the story only begins with Claire and her daughter, Haley. With one penned letter, a little girl, writes a story she hopes will bring healing to a neighbor. From here, this story soars! 

As each chapter passes we learn more and more about the characters. Those that stand out to me are Maureen and Laura. Two mothers, each with their own story that will touch the lives of many. Adoption is the backdrop to this wonderful novel. We too meet two men, Keith and David. Together, with all of these characters, Irene weaves a story of love, forgiveness, and peace. Our choices touch the lives of others, whether good or bad. Emotions get in the way of living free. 

We see how hearts are torn apart by decisions made long ago. Our pasts truly never leave us until we settle them. It's then we are able to move forward. This is the perfect novel for a Mother's Day gift. A poignant story. An unforgettable read that will leave you pondering as you close the last page.  

Sometimes the story doesn't always end as we wish. We dream of another ending, but somehow time passes. For me, although I loved each character, I was drawn to Maureen. Her story brought tears. Ah, but there, always, is the sweet grace of God. 

Irene's novels are spectacular reads. She allows us to feel the heart of each character. When you close the page you feel that you have just been on a journey. Irene has a way of leaving you longing for more. I love how she gives a perfect portrait of St. Louis and the surrounding areas. It is wonderful to read a story and know the places where the characters are spending time. YES!! This is the perfect read to begin your spring!

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

Irene Hannon is the author of more than 35 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, a HOLT Medallion, a Daphne du Maurier Award, and two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. Booklist also included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011. She lives in Missouri.

For more information about her and her books, Irene invites you to visit her website at

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Broken Kind of Beautiful written by Katie Ganshert

The words penned by Katie Ganshert go far beyond the back cover description. When Katie shares in her acknowledgments that her second book was much more difficult to write than her first and the third was much more difficult to pen than the second, I can totally see why. I have read all three of Katie's books, and although I love her first two creations, this is by far my favorite! She has truly created a masterpiece. 

Not only is the cover gorgeous and so telling, this story is breathtakingly Katie at her best! God is present within these pages. Her writing is spectacular and her passion of faith is evident throughout the story. 

There are two quotes within this story that I am still pondering. I am hoping to get them copied and framed to sit on my desk where I write daily. 

"If I have to choose between easy or what will bring me closer to Him, I pray my choice will be Him." 

"God isn't in the business of pampering His children. He's in the business of perfecting them." 

Are those not AMAZING quotes? If that was all I took from this story it would be well worth the read, but there is so much more! Katie's words flow so easily. The characters are real and memorable. Yes, this is an unforgettable story. 

I must share a conversation that is found in the story. It is one that stirs my heart tremendously. 

"I don't think you were messed up; I think the situation you were born into was. But you know something? God has a way of taking messed-up situations and flipping them on their heads."
"Oh yeah? Give me one example."
"Turning an executioner's cross into a symbol of hope."
Ivy hugged her knees tighter and looked at the surf.
"Trust me, God wants you." 
"You're wrong."
"I promise I'm not."
"You don't get it. I'm not clean, Davis. I'm about as far away from clean as a person can get."
"He'll forgive you."
She shook her head. "If God hasn't forgiven somebody like you, what chance is there for someone like me?"
He leaned back. What did she mean, if God hadn't forgiven somebody like him?
"Ivy, God has forgiven me."
She looked at him with eyes that crashed like the waves. "You don't live like it."

When we first meet Ivy she is almost unapproachable. She keeps her distance from those around her. She comes off as being super confident. But as we see, she isn't. She is insecure and vulnerable. The more the story shared about Ivy the more I connected with her. I understood that her actions were because of her brokenness. Even though she tried to act tough and hide what was real, you could still see the tenderness in her heart. The longing she carried to just be loved. To be hugged. To be accepted for just being Ivy. I fell in love with her and related to her on so many levels. She is a woman in pain. There is so much more to Ivy than the sheer beauty of what others see. 

Davis is another character I loved. I don't think there is a character I couldn't relate to on some level. Davis knows Jesus. He is forgiven, but he isn't living forgiven. He carries much guilt. Guilt that is keeping him in chains. Ivy is carrying her own kind of chains. As the story weaves of grace and mercy, we get to witness Ivy and Davis come to recognize the very chains holding each of the back from living. 

Marilyn gives us a portrait of Christ's love. She is Ivy's step mother and she never gives up on Ivy. She continues to loving her even though Ivy doesn't recognize her love and affection. Ivy hates her for many reasons. Marilyn is a woman of grace I long to be. I admired her character. I love seeing strong characters. Women of faith, steadfast and sure. 

Sara is the sister of Davis. She is overcoming obstacles with such a wondrous attitude. What I loved about Sara's character is that even though she is upbeat and positive, she still had her bad days. That's life. Real life. And that is the story you are going to read within these pages. A story that is life changing. 

We see that beauty is more than skin deep. We see that God sees beauty much different than the world's view of beauty. To the world, Ivy, is all but finished. Her story is far from over. She is just beginning a new journey and it isn't one to miss. As we learn from Davis, sometimes we miss out on the beauty right before us because we are focused on all the wrong things. 

Friends, this is a story about immeasurable love and accepting God's redemption. I recommend this novel and hope you too will check out my reviews to, "Wildflowers from Winter", and "Wishing on Willows".

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

Katie Ganshert Christy Award-finalist and Carol winner, Katie Ganshert is the author of Wildflowers from Winter and Wishing on Willows. She lives in Iowa with her husband and their son. When she's not busy writing or playing or snuggling, she is obsessing over the paperwork and the waiting that comes with adoption. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Songs of the Shenandoah by Michael K. Reynolds

I just closed the last page of, "Songs of the Shenandoah", and let me tell you, I do so without dry eyes. This was one of the most precious and extraordinary novels I have yet to read. This is why people fall in love with books. Michael K. Reynolds is brilliant! After reading the first two books in this series, I can tell you that this third treasure is my absolute favorite of all! 

This series is a penned masterpiece. A classic for years to come. Stories such as these do not just appear. They are created by one who has been gifted with telling a story. Not just any story, but one that is filled with everything one can imagine. Michael K. Reynolds has closed this series with a magical journey into the past. 

I couldn't read fast enough. Every page spills over with such intensity. My heart was being tugged in every direction. These characters are unforgettable. We see them at their weakest moments, struggling to find themselves in the midst of a time past that held such tragedy. We see the ugliness of war. But we see so much more. We see the beauty from ash. We hear the song in their heart. We see a strength that is greater than any man can carry on his own. We are gifted to complete our journey with the Hanley family. 

Honor, integrity, and faith. These are the things in which these characters are made of. They are rich beyond gold nuggets. They carry a song in their heart as they travel into the valleys and up through the mountains to a new life beyond anything they could have ever imagined. 

Of course, Clare, is a favorite character of mine, but I so loved and admired, Seamus. In this last book of the trilogy I too grew to admire, Davin. But, there is another character that I grew fond of. Muriel is a character I didn't expect. I guess you could say that what I loved most about this book was the unexpected. So many characters battling wars within themselves. We see them grow in faith and we are blessed to see them soar beyond the lines that war had drawn, into a freedom they didn't know was obtainable. 

I hope you take a peek at my reviews, "In Golden Splendor", and "Flight of the Earls". Yes, each of these books could be read as a stand alone, but you would miss out on so much. I suggest you read them in order. Friends, you are in for a wondrous journey into Ireland and Immigrant America. The Civil War is the backdrop for this spectacular piece. You will find love, romance, suspense, intrigue, and so much more. This is a series that has left me with so much to ponder. If there was only one series you had time to read this year, I would suggest that this be that series. This Irish girl loved each and every page! I cannot wait to see what is next for this superb writer!

This book is a gift from B&H Publishers for sharing my review with you. 

Michael Reynolds is the writers and producer of Emmy and Telly Award-winning film campaigns with more than two decades of experience in fiction, journalism, copywriting, and documentary production. He owns marketing agency Global Studio and is also an active leader in church and business, speaking in both ministry and corporate settings. Michael lives with his wife and three children in Reno, Nevada. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Don't Be a Drip!

At night I lay down. After a busy day I am calmed by the quiet. I'm snuggled up and close my eyes. Sleep isn't far away. I'm thinking of sweet dreams. But there it is, that sound that is bugging the fire out of me. I try to ignore it. I don't want to have to get up. I'm so comfortable. I can't take it. I toss the quilts back and make my way to the bathroom. Just that one constant drip causes me to want to pull my hair out. It isn't comforting. It's downright annoying. Just one drip could literally keep me awake all night and I can tell you without a doubt that it would not give me a great waking.

Once that drip has been turned off I am now able to quiet myself and calm my thoughts as sleep overcomes me. A goodnight of rest does wonders for the body, mind, and soul. But what happens when that calm is disturbed? Everything is out of whack!

"If one blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him. An endless dripping on a rainy day and a nagging wife are alike. The one who controls her controls the wind and grasps oil with his right hand." Proverbs 27:14-16

"A foolish son is his father's ruin, and a wife's nagging is an endless dripping. A house and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a sensible wife is from the Lord." Proverbs 19:13-14

After twenty-four years of marriage I have learned quite a few things. One of those is that a man doesn't embrace a nagging wife. Not that a wife wants to be nagged at either. I don't want to be that dripping faucet. I must admit that I've never quite been a nagger. I've never been one to make a honey-do list. I am blessed with a husband who I respect and one who respects me in return. 

Something I have learned over the years is that everything changes when I'm right with the Lord. When all isn't right with Him everything else becomes a mess of things. We can come to expect others to make us happy and look for others to make us feel needed. It isn't up to my husband to make me happy. It isn't up to my husband to complete me. Ladies, that is huge for us! I am to seek my heavenly Father for everything and it is in Him and in Him only that I will find who I am and be complete in His mighty purpose and plan for my life.

When we are unhappy we tend to make others feel unhappy. Funny thing is that is starts as a drip. Slow and aggravating. Then it's spewing out of control. Have you ever noticed what change can occur from just one person with a kind word to share? Just as when I was ready for bed and the drip unsettled me. All I had to do was get up and do something about it. Sometimes we don't want to. We'd rather just settle in and try to ignore it. But that drip can't be ignored forever. 

In my study I came across these verses. First the Proverbs 27:15 and then I was guided to the others. There is a lot to take in here. Great life lessons within these verses. We see how we are to treat others and how we too should be treated. In the very first verse we see that our neighbor's early words can set our day off to a great beginning or has the potential to bring a not so happy morning. Yes, this verse is speaking of a neighbor, but don't you think it could apply? When we first wake up we sure don't want someone barking out orders and checking off a list for us before we have enjoyed our first cup of coffee. Attitude is catching. 

There are mornings I wake up like a cheery, little bird and others that I am a grouch from the word go. That goes for the evenings too. After a day full of chores and an aggravating circumstance I may not even greet my husband at the door, but stay put right where I am and wait on him to say something nice to me. Again, there I am waiting on him to make me feel better. That isn't his job. He just worked a ten hour day and he too is coming home and wanting to find some relief after working so hard. 

Yes, in today's world the wife and husband both work. We work in home or outside of the home. We get tired. We get worn slap out. But we must remember we are to work together in bringing out the very best in one another. We are to help each other. We are to encourage and inspire one another to be the very people God has created us to be. Marriage isn't a 50/50 contract. There are days where my husband is doing 80% and I'm moving at 20%. There are other times where I'm doing 70% and he is able to do 30%.

"The one who controls her controls the wind and grasps oil with his right hand." Proverbs 27:16

When I ponder this verse it pretty much brings everything into perspective for me. My husband can't control his nagging wife anymore than he can control the wind. Have you ever tried to grasp hold of oil with your hand? It's impossible to grasp. Just like that dripping faucet that keeps me from finding peace at night. I don't find solace until that drip has come to a stop. Rest is not even in my reach. Look at the definition of nagging.

Nagging: To find fault incessantly; complain. To be a persistent source of annoyance or distraction. To irritate by constant scolding or urging. Badger, Worry. 

Does that sound like someone you would like to wake up to? Yikes, it's kind of scary to think about isn't it? 

I enjoy waking up with my husband and sharing coffee. We talk about our dreams and we laugh about complete silliness. After twenty-four years we are completely comfortable together just being ourselves. I could sit next to my husband for hours, never sharing a word and be in complete solace.

Today as I write our grass is growing tall. There are things around the house that need attention. But my husband will come home around 7:00 and that will be the last thing on my mind. As my husband is at work I am praying for him throughout the day. I too am praying him home. I want to be that smile he sees when we enters our home. I want to greet him with love, not a list. I want to share dinner and spend our time just being together. 

Sometimes it's all in our voice and how we communicate. In asking my husband, "Hey, hon, could you please help me in the kitchen", sounds much better than, "Hey, do you expect me to clean all this up by myself? A little help would be terrific." Lets be real. We cannot expect from our husband what we ourselves are not willing to do. Sarcasm isn't pretty. Especially when we use it toward our spouse. Communication is key. Too often we don't share our heart and then after we have kept everything bottled up we tend to explode.  

Maybe it's age. Maybe it's lessons learned from being married for twenty-four years. There will always be things to be done. My husband is more than a list to me. I don't want to be that woman I so often see as we are walking through the store. You know those couples you see. Your thinking to yourself, boy, I'm glad I don't have to go home with her. Am I right? 

Our home should be a place of peace and place where there is a steady flow of love. Like a flowing spring near by that you might like to lay down a quilt and open up a book and take a rest as the sweet breeze blows. 

We have a choice in how we make our home. Our attitude creates an environment that is either loving and gentle, or harsh and uninviting. My husband is a gift from the Lord. I want to make each day special. Each day living as if it were our very first meeting. Although I feel totally comfortable with my husband, I never want to be so content that I take him for granted. I want our love to continue to grow. A love that begins with Jesus is one that will blossom into something new each day. 

"A man who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." Proverbs 18:22

"Who can find a capable wife? She is far more precious than jewels." Proverbs 31:10

Monday, April 21, 2014

In Golden Splendor by Michael K. Reynolds

I love how Michael K. Reynolds takes a character and makes him so approachable. Once again he has allowed the reader to be carried away to another time and place. Oh, the splendor of it all!!

"In Golden Splendor" continues the story of the Hanley family. Although this second book of the series focuses on Seamus, we too get to catch up with Claire once again. 

After reading book 1 in the series, "Flight of the Earls", (check out my review), I fell in love with the writing of Michael K. Reynolds. This is truly becoming an all time favorite series of mine. I am so excited to open the pages of the last book of this trilogy. 

We truly see that God has a plan for each of us. We may make poor choices and get off track, but God is never off track. He uses our ash for beauty. This is exactly what He goes with the life of Seamus. The Hanley family didn't think Seamus would turn out to be much of a man. Even Clare wasn't so sure he could make it on his own. What I love is the fact that although Seamus felt alone at times, he was never alone. God placed people into his life to guide him to be the man of God he was called to be. 

I loved watching Seamus journey through the unknown. I pitied his character in the first book. In this second his story wavers and he gets tossed about by the storms of life. Many brought on by his own poor choices and then finding himself living with the consequences of those very choices is eye opening. 

The portrait of history that Michael K. Reynolds gives us is spectacular. This is a phenomenal book of the past that gives us a wonderful glimpse of the life of an Irishman and his family as they seek to find freedom and life in a new land.  

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

Michael Reynolds is the writers and producer of Emmy and Telly Award-winning film campaigns with more than two decades of experience in fiction, journalism, copywriting, and documentary production. He owns marketing agency Global Studio and is also an active leader in church and business, speaking in both ministry and corporate settings. Michael lives with his wife and three children in Reno, Nevada. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Flight of the Earls by Michael K. Reynolds

"Flight of the Earls"  is an extraordinary journey into the past. Every so often I have the pleasure of reading an unforgettable book. You know those books. They stick with you forever. You share them with friends. You walk away feeling blessed that you were gifted to turn the pages into another time and place. 

Michael K. Reynolds is an outstanding storyteller. Within the first few pages I was completely captivated. He gives a vivid portrait of the lives of the characters. He doesn't just share the surroundings or circumstance. He shares their heart. He opens us up to being moved by extremely rare characters. I think his writing style is exquisite. 

I was moved by this story. Stories within a story. This is a sweet gift to the reader. I connected with the characters and felt as though I knew them. Clare Hanley captured my heart and held it in her hands throughout the story. 

This is a story of hardship and redemption. A story of new beginnings and finding one's self not in the eyes of another, but in the eyes of the One who created us. The characters leave behind everything to enter into a new homeland. Possibilities are endless, but circumstance changes everything. 

I am a lover of historical fiction and this is one of the best! I felt honored to read this story. Immigrant America is not what these characters expected. Home is a place they complained about, but as they find out, home is where the heart is. Reading these richly penned words was a sweet journey and one that I cannot wait to continue with as I reach for the next book in the series. 

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

Michael Reynolds is the writers and producer of Emmy and Telly Award-winning film campaigns with more than two decades of experience in fiction, journalism, copywriting, and documentary production. He owns marketing agency Global Studio and is also an active leader in church and business, speaking in both ministry and corporate settings. Michael lives with his wife and three children in Reno, Nevada. 

Noah and the Mighty Ark by Rhonda Gowler Greene and illustrated by Margaret Spengler

On the day of the arrival of this sweet and beautiful book my three year old granddaughter happened to be here. We opened the package together and she pulled out the book. "Oh, Nanny, look! A pretty book!" We sat and opened the pages. She was immediately captivated by the illustrations. They are beautifully created. Peyton loved the bright colors. 

For my three year old granddaughter the story captured just enough for her little mind to comprehend. Noah and the ark is a story that I have been sharing with her for the last year. This is a great beginning for little ones. I have seen reviews that said there wasn't enough information. Not enough subject on sin and so on. For me, little minds cannot be carry such heavy information. I thought the story line was perfect. Just enough to capture their imagination and short enough that they will want to come back to the story again and again. This is the opportunity of the reader to share more information and answer questions for the little ones interested. I say, let them ask the questions and be ready to explore more of the story. 

Again, this is a sweet and tender read. Beautifully done. These ladies have done a wondrous job of allowing little ones to be intrigued. This would make a great addition to your library for your little ones. 

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

Rhonda Gowler Greene is athe author of over twenty picture books. Her books received honors such as School Library Journal Best Book, Children's Book Council Showcase Book, and Bank Street College Best Book. Rhonda lives with her husband, Gary, in a house overflowing with books in West Bloomfield, Michigan. They have four grown children. For more information, visit her on the web at 

Margaret Spengler was born and still resides in Northern California. Since receiving her BFA from Art Center College of Design, she has worked as an illustrator and designer. Her other books include The Happiest Hippo in the World, There's an Animal Strike at the Zoo, and Little Loon and Papa

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Jumping Ship and Landing in the Grace of God

God makes His plan.

We run.

We change direction. It's our life, right?

We do it our way.

He takes our new life and creates beauty from our mess.

We see Him work. We see Him move. We feel His presence.

Then again we step back and circle the desert. We go round and round.

He stops us. Time is altered. His grace finds us.

We are persistent and disobedient, but God is forever reconstructing the plan. The purpose is the same. To bring us to Him. He forever gives us time to learn, to settle in and brings us to remember to pray.

You know, I think I can connect with Jonah. Can you? Such a short book compared to others, but one that packs a mega lesson. You can't run from God! 

Jonah was kind of prideful. He was called to Nineveh to warn those living there. He more or less looked at God and said, "Are You kidding me? You wanna save them? Those people? You want muah to go there?" Did Jonah think he was better? Was he just filled with fear? Maybe he held contempt for these people. but who were they? Lets be real. They were sinners. Just like you and me. Just like we are called to reach out and go, we stay behind and lets be even more real. We can think of every excuse under the sun to say, "Nope, not me", to God, and feel as if we are confident. 

Jonah didn't just squat a spot and park it. He ran in the opposite direction he was being called to go. Oh, how well I can connect. I have felt the Lord's calling and I have stood in my fear or anger or whatever held me back at the moment and thought I could make a better selection. There is no better plan than the Lord's. 

Jonah runs and hops aboard a ship. He goes below deck. The storm begins to brew. The crew is horrified at what's happening. Had there never been a storm like this one? There had to be something different going on that the crew would be so fearful of their lives. Perhaps the storm of a lifetime. 

The captain goes below and pulls Jonah from his sleep. I can imagine the anger and fear of this captain hissing at Jonah. And here is skittish Jonah acting as if he has no idea why such chaos is taking place around him. Been there with Jonah? We make our choices. Not wise ones. We think we're in the clear, but then out of no where come the consequences. The funny thing is, when those consequences hit, we aren't shaking our head in wonder. We know exactly what's going on. This is the part we hate to face. This is where we learn to let go of the Jonah pride and in doing so we find a humble heart, seeking God's forgiveness. 

"Then the Lord hurled a violent wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart." Jonah 1:4

Everyone is calling upon their god. They are realizing nothing is happening. Jonah is surrounded by angry men who are too scared to admit it and they are hurling question after question to Jonah. He has to be to blame. No one else could bring on this chaos. Hmm..How often have we thought the same about our own situation? Perhaps those around us facing trial? There has to be someone else to blame. In this case the crew is right. God has come to call on Jonah. 

Another lesson I find is that the load they were carrying was too heavy. Yes, they were tossing everything in sight off the ship, but until they found the cause the storm was not ending. They were being tossed in every direction. When chaos surrounds us, it's not always our fault. Sometimes, the reason points directly to us. But no matter the reason there are always lessons to be learned. 

They tell Jonah to pray to his God. How do they save themselves? Again, isn't this what we are often worried about? Saving our self in the midst of chaos? Jonah tells them to toss him over. Can you imagine? Jonah either must face these angry men or the raging sea. He chooses the sea. Little did he know that big fish would be awaiting him for dinner. I bet that fish's name was Consequence. 

So, Jonah ran in the opposite direction. He boards a ship and heads to the very bottom. Oh, mercy. That still wasn't low enough for Jonah to fall before he learned. He ended up in the belly of a fish in the depths of the sea. He is at the bottom of the bottom and he still hasn't figured it out yet. Yes, I have been there right along with him. Oh, how long it takes us to learn. But there in the lesson is the sweet grace of God. 

Ah, now Jonah still hasn't gotten it. Three days in the belly of whale has a way of changing a person, don't ya think? Three days brought God's people from death to life! Praise Jesus! Jonah is about to learn the lesson of redemption. 

Jonah begins to pray. Ya all, there is prayer and then there is prayer. 

"I called to the Lord in my distress, and He answered me. I cried out for help in the belly of Sheol; You heard my voice." Jonah 2:2

"As my life was fading away, I remembered Yahweh. My prayer came to You, to Your holy temple." Jonah 2:7

Wow! Praise Jesus! 

Jonah was meeting God at his deepest point and that is about as real as it gets. We can never fall so deep that God cannot reach us and bring us back. I love Jonah's prayer. He lets out all of his fear and lays everything out for God. He surrenders. Finally, he surrenders and what he finds blows Jonah away. Well, the whale spits him out right onto the sandbank of the sea. Vomit and yuck cover Jonah. But the grace of God is about to wash him clean. 

"Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will  have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" Romans 8:35-39

At the end of Jonah's prayer he says, "but as for me, I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from the Lord!" Jonah 2:9

There Jonah is, coughed up on land and not looking his best. Ah, but that doesn't change the love of God! Jonah hears the call of God again. This time his feet follow the calling. Nineveh is waiting. God is watching. Jonah proclaims and Nineveh listens. Jonah follows and God saves. 

But Jonah still has some issues going on in his heart. His journey isn't over. He still has some lessons to learn. He must let go of his pride and anger. God is compassionate and merciful and these are lessons Jonah's heart finds. 

Jonah has anger directed at just about everything in his path. He is saved from the depths of the sea, from the belly of a fish, and now he is still battling anger. Another lesson I learn from Jonah? He isn't comfortable. He's a complainer. Aren't we the same with God's calling? We don't want to face struggle and we certainly don't like to face discomfort. It's hot and Jonah is wishing he was dead. He even asks God to just take his life. (Jonah 4:3) 

God appoints a plant and it grew to give Jonah shade while he rested. That is mercy, friends. God is still working in the heart of Jonah, but yet, his head is a bit tough. Another trait I too carry. Stubbornness is not pretty when being called to move. Picture that two year old in Walmart who is screaming and having the fit of a lifetime that is bringing horror to their momma. 

But see, Jonah was happy in the shade. He was finding comfort. So, what does God do? He sends a worm to eat up that tree and a wind that would scorch Jonah. (Jonah 4:7-8) God has already asked Jonah if he should be angry and now here He is again asking him. Jonah speaks up and I can hear him now shouting a big O' YES!!! (Jonah 4:9) 

The lessons just keep coming! Friends, the lessons from our God never cease. He never gives up on us. He wasn't about to give up on Jonah. 

"So the Lord said, "You cared about the plant, which you do not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?" Jonah 4:10:11

Friends, God cares! Did you catch that? He cares about people and animals. He cares about His creation. He isn't wanting anyone to perish. He is calling everyone to come to Him. He wants to use us as His vessels. That isn't something we take lightly. We should be humbled and honored to be called. Who are we to say where we should go and who should hear the message? It's one for all to hear and God often calls us to the most unexpected places.

"For there is one God and One mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself-a ransom-for all, a testimony at the proper time." 1 Timothy 2:5-6

"The Lord does not delay in His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

Critical Condition by Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

Before I even begin to write my review I feel like I need to apologize. I have read books by Richard Mabry that I have enjoyed immensely. This novel doesn't fall into a favorite for me. I was intrigued when I seen the cover and read the description. I was expecting a novel that focused around the medical field. Other than the main character, Shannon, being a doctor, and all of her friends being doctors, it had nothing to do with medical field. To me, with the title, "Critical Condition", I'm leaning to believe this is a suspense novel that has something to do with what the cover projects.

Richard Mabry's words flow easily. He does give an interesting story. But, I couldn't connect. I kept reading, waiting to fall in love with the characters, but it never happened. I enjoy reading unforgettable, and I'm so sorry to say, but this doesn't fall in that category for me.

The story moved along at a slow pace. Yes, in the beginning, Shannon's boyfriend dies right before her eyes. (I'm not giving away any details) Next, shots are fired and there a man who lay dying on her front lawn. The story builds from here into who done it and just how is Shannon involved.

So, I've said I really didn't find a connection with the characters and the story moved slowly for me. But there are good things in this novel too. We meet Shannon's sister, Megan, who to me, is the main focus in this story. She has fallen from grace. Life hasn't been easy and her choices, well, haven't been the best. But she turns her life around. Rehab actually works for her. Life is different now, but circumstances occur and now all eyes are on Megan again. She is being questioned and treated as if, what's happening, is just expected from her. Megan is free from her old life, but does that really ever escape her?

Shannon questions her faith. A faith that is all tied up in doubt and question, but it's a faith that isn't dead. We do get to see her life change from the fear that held her captive into a now faith lived life. So, see, there are a quite many good things within this story. It just wasn't what I expected.

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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Praying Honest

Don't ignore your heart. Admit your anger. See through to your bitterness. Restlessness and anxiety are real. They are powerful tools for the enemy who wants to destroy your heart, mind and soul. We wake each day with so much on our minds. The list is endless. We have good days and those that seem never ending. Our hearts can become stone. Our blood can boil at the drop of a word. Life is hard. Don't you agree? 

We often bottle up everything and when we come to pray we don't share with Jesus what's real. We stay in a comfort zone. "Dear, Jesus, I pray for Sally Mae as she has surgery this morning. I lift up Kathy who is suffering from cancer. I lay Joe at Your feet as he faces a new obstacle. I ask for a special blessing upon Kim and Rick as they are facing divorce." Sound familiar? 

I'm not saying anything at all is wrong with this prayer, but after all, aren't we speaking with Jesus? He already knows our prayer before we speak it. He knows of every situation. Friends, He knows we are filled with anger and resentment. Why not simply be real with the One who gave all for us? 

"Dear Jesus. I'm mad. No, not mad. I'm furious. I don't understand. I don't get why Kim and Rick are getting divorced. I don't know what the deal is, but Joe is having a hard time and nothing is making sense. Why does he keep falling deeper into depression? Can't You help him? Sally Mae is the sweetest woman I've ever met. She has no one at her side and well, it makes me angry that her kids are not there with her. Kathy is battling cancer again for the third time. Jesus, sweet Jesus, help me! Help me, help others. Open my heart. I don't understand, but I sure don't want to be filled with doubt and anger. As I lay these folks at Your feet, give them peace and courage. Empower them, transform them, and enable them." 

We must be intentional in prayer. It's okay to be honest with Jesus. Friends, it's okay to be angry. It's okay to not understand. We face many different obstacles each day. We have troubles at home, at work, at school. You name it, someone is facing it. We can't look too far without seeing someone in need. We become furious at a friend. We're wounded by our church. A tornado takes our home. Shout out that anger. Release that bitterness. Let the rage your feeling out so it doesn't eat you alive. Jesus understands. He understands more than we can imagine. We are desperate to let go, but we are fearful we can't share our deepest worries and hurts with Jesus. What would He think? He already knows. He wants us to feel His strength and comfort. We cannot be transformed until we are ready to surrender everything. 

Our prayer time should be a conversation with Jesus. I can tell you there are times I'm praying as I do the dishes. Others I may be driving. My son has walked in my bedroom as I am laying down in rest, praying out loud for my children. But there are times I'm home alone and I'm face down on the floor, tears streaming and I'm praying as if it's my last prayer. I have screamed out to God. I have prayed in silence. Jesus wants a relationship with us. He wants to have a conversation. He wants us to share and as our tears dry, He wants us to listen. 

I struggle with my prayer life. I can admit that I can be a strong prayer warrior, but then I can find myself deep in study. I can begin reading a book in the Bible and find myself there for days upon days, just soaking it all in as I wonder. But as I study I notice that my prayer time lessens. Soon, it's been a few days since I've shared with Jesus. Sometimes even longer. I can get so mad at Jesus I just don't want to talk to Him. Have you been there? 

But there is a flip side to that. I can find myself so deep in prayer that I allow my study time to dwindle into nothing. What I'm learning is that I must find balance. The first step for me was admitting to Jesus that I was struggling. The second was learning to be intentional. 

I suppose I've been learning quite a few lessons in my walk. One thing that leaves me breathless is the fact that my Savior intercedes for me. He goes to the Father on my behalf. When I don't know what to pray and when I no longer have any idea what to say, He goes to the Father for me. That is mighty love. 

See, we often worry about the prayer life of others and just where they are on their walk, but see, that's what's so sweet about our relationship with Jesus. There's no other like it. It's our personal journey with Him. We can't compare ourselves to others. We are all in different places. And amazingly our Jesus understands that and He meets each us where we are. Unconditional love. 

We must leave the candle burning. We can't just light it and walk away. Friends, we must intercede for others. Ever have someone just come to mind out of no where? Just maybe the Spirit is leading us to pray for that person. It's a wonderful gift to have open communication with Jesus. No matter what time of day or night, no matter where we are, or who we are with, we can come to prayer. 

Something I've begun in my prayer life is opening up my heart and just praying as the words spill out of my mouth. Whether I'm angry or bitter. Whether it's something I don't understand. I simply share with Jesus. I pray for healing, comfort and strength for those that come to mind. But then I pray for God's will. "If Sally Mae must face this surgery, Lord, use every moment for Your glory. As You are with her, bring her to find a sweeter friendship with You. Lord, use us for Your purpose and plan, and give us everything we need to fulfill Your glorious works."

Friends, don't ignore your heart. Be real with Jesus. He will meet you right where you are and He will bring peace to your heart and comfort where anxiety once lived. Our walk isn't day by day. It's moment by moment and the more time we spend with Him, the more blessings we are going to uncover. 

"Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always." 
1 Chronicles 14:11

"In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings." 
Romans 8:26

"Pray constantly." 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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

"Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints." 
Ephesians 6:18

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Four Margaritas

You know what I'm uncovering? Most of the things we worry about never come to fruition. Recently I had surgery on my hand. It was the third surgery on the same hand. I can be honest with you and share that I was completely terrified. My biggest fear? The block. If your not familiar with a block, it's a shot that numbs the entire arm so when you wake from surgery you feel no pain whatsoever. Now, that part is a blessing, but when your fingers begin to tingle, watch out!!

With the first two blocks I had a LOT of pain with them. They go right under the collarbone and sometimes under the arm too. (That was my first one). The second block I had was some serious pain. So, as you can imagine the night before surgery sleep did not come. Even in the morning as I prepared to leave I felt as though I just wanted to keep my pain and ignore the surgery. But, I knew that wasn't an option.

My hubs was able to stay with me until I went back to surgery. Everyone was so nice, but that niceness still didn't take away my fears. I had prayed for God's peace and courage and calm. I knew He was there, but I also remembered.

Now, as I laid on my bed and had doctors and nurses enter and prepare, one speaks up and says, "Ah, we've got ourselves a wiggler". My anesthesiologist says, "Yep, we sure do. She's gonna wiggle right out of this bed. But I'm getting ready to give her a nice cocktail." That perked me right up. He asked me if I liked Margaritas and I said, "It's been a very long time since I've had a margarita." He smiles and says, "Well, since your already tucked in and safe, your gonna have about four of them right now." LOL Hello!!

Obviously he thought I was ready to proceed. I'd rather just kept my margaritas and headed home. But here they all came and the needle came out. They tell me, "Ya know, your last block was seven years ago. Things have changed and your gonna be surprised." Do you know, I barely felt them give me my block! Sure, there was pressure and it was uncomfortable, but nothing..nothing like I'd remembered. I had held on to that fear, a fear, that didn't need to be there, for so long, and it all turned out just fine.

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

Matthew 6:25-34

Friends, we can spend time looking back or looking forward, when in reality we simply need to look at right now. Fear can trap us in the past and keep us from moving forward. It too can rush us so far ahead, that we lose sight of the right now. We can allow our fears to get the best of us. Fear can encapsulate us.

What I needed to do was pray. I needed to share every deep fear with Jesus and trust Him. Even if it did hurt, there was nothing I could do about it. Just in the cases of those first two. Yes, they were super painful, but you know what? I got through them! They only lasted a few minutes and it was over. But look at the time I've wasted in fear? We lose so much when we concentrate on fear.

Friends, is there something you are fearing right now as you read these words? Please, surrender that fear to Jesus. Be honest with Him. Give Him your anxiety and unsettledness and watch what He does. I am learning more and more to rely on my Jesus. He truly is our Everything. Place all your trust in Him and know without a doubt that He is going to lead you through. Just as the doctors shared with me. A lot changes in seven years. Friends, a lot can change within one moment. Don't lose hope. Find yourself in the comfort and courage of Jesus.

I was in fear from the very moment I scheduled my surgery. Oh, I trusted my surgeon. Loved the hospital. But the fear of that block stole an entire month away from me. I allowed Satan a stronghold that I should have surrendered to the Lord. There is no room for fear in our lives. None. And you know what? Everything turned out all right. I learned a huge lesson. Fear does nothing for us. In giving in to that fear I wasn't trusting Jesus. I was letting Satan tell me that Jesus wasn't enough. And friends, Jesus is always enough.

"How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, in a believer's ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear."
John Newton

Big Picture Interactive Bible by B&H Kids Holman Bible Publishing

First I must share that HCSB is my favorite Bible! There just isn't another like it. Holman publishes the best of the best in Bibles. I have an outstanding study Bible that I absolutely love. So, when I received this children's Bible for review I was over the top excited. I now have grandkiddos that are going to love spending time learning stories that they will connect with over a lifetime. 

This Bible is for boys between the ages of 8-12, but it could really be used for a girl too. And the ages can also vary according to your child. You are the best judge of that. I encourage you to follow the highlighted links and check out all of the children's Bibles. You are sure to find the perfect Bible to fit your little one. 

This is a beautiful and inviting Bible. The pictures are big and bold. I think that's a great visual aid for little ones. They tend to ask more questions and can connect with the story on a whole new level.

There too are memory verses for little ones to begin learning. I must be honest. I'd LOVE to carry this Bible!! God's Words are highlighted in red. I always love that added gift. There are maps, a dictionary, and many AWESOME sections such as; Big Questions, Christ Connection, Seeing the Big Picture, Big Words and many more cool stuff that will draw little ones in. 

Hands down this is the best Children's Bible I have seen. You can even download an app! Now that's pretty cool stuff for kids!! This would make a great gift for little ones and most of all, it will make for a wonderfully sweet time between parent and child. 

This Bible was a gift from Holman Bible Publishing for sharing my review with you. 

Wedded To War by Jocelyn Green

Wow!!! Jocelyn Green can pen a magnificent story. She is an outstanding storyteller. I first read, "Widow of Gettysburg", (check out my review),which is the second book in the series. Yes, I'm going a bit backwards, but it doesn't matter at all. This series doesn't have to be read in order. Whichever book you start with is going to make you fall in love with Jocelyn Green. 

If you love history this is a book that will take you back to another time and place. Through Jocelyn's words you can feel the surroundings. You don't have to imagine too hard. She easily takes you there on a journey into the life and times of the people of the Civil War. The characters are rich and courageous. Something I love about his series is that it left me inspired. 

It's hard to imagine a time when it was frowned upon for women to enter the profession of nursing. That's exactly what the main character, Charlotte, faces as we meet her in this wondrous novel. We not only are able to connect with Charlotte on an emotional level, but we see the ravages of the war. Jocelyn isn't afraid to share a story and one that is inspired by the women of this time. 

We meet many characters. Some you will fall in love with and others will make you madder than a hornet. This series should be in every library. History lovers will soak up each and every chapter and those who have yet to love our history will close the last page with a new determination to explore history. 

I love the cover. It encapsulates the character so well. The title is brilliant. Charlotte makes the choice to follow what she is called to do no matter what others think. She leaves the privilege behind and lives a life of compassion and mercy. Character traits from her father. I promise you this is one that will leave you pondering a time that many have forgotten. 

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

JOCELYN GREEN is an award-winning author, freelance writer and editor. A former military wife, she authored, along with contributing writers, Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody 2008) and Faith Deployed . . . Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody 2011). Jocelyn is also co-author for Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009), which won the Gold Medal from Military Writers Society of America in 2010. She is the editor of, the online magazine of Christian Military Wives, and maintains her own award-winning Web site for military wives at . She holds a B.A. in English from Taylor University, and is an active member of the Evangelical Press Association, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and the Christian Authors Network. She and her husband have two children and reside in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What Follows After by Dan Walsh

Dan Walsh is gifted with the pen. His words leave me breathless at times. When I open a book penned by Dan I know I'm in for a rich blessing. I too know when I close the last page I'm going to be left wanting more. 

I am seriously blown away by the novels Dan pens. He is truly a gifted storyteller. This is one of those novels that stays with you after you have closed the last page. He gives the reader so much to think about. Life lessons are grown throughout the pages. The story begins and you know without a doubt you are about to embark on a journey no one else is able to provide. 

This novel is rich. The characters are undeniably relatable. The story begins in 1962. I wasn't even born yet, but Dan is able to bring me back in time to a place that has left a mark in history forever. 

I loved, "What Follows After". The title and cover are so telling. This is another inviting novel that I couldn't put down. This is an emotional read. One that enters the heart of family. What we allow others to see and what we would rather keep secret. But as we see, nothing is off limits. The more we try to cover up the more the Lord moves to uncover so healing and freedom may come. 

We learn what really matters. We learn to let go of the seemingly important of the world and grasp a hold of the real and lasting. Yes! This is why I love novels penned by Dan Walsh. He takes the reader on a journey and you come out with a new perspective and appreciation for what really matters. 

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

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley, as well as The Unfinished GiftThe Discovery, and The Reunion. He has won three Carol Awards, and two of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year for 2011 and 2012. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for twenty-five years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. Visit for more.

Orchard of Hope by Ann Gabhart

I can tell you without a doubt that Ann Gabhart is one of my favorite authors. Not only is she a fave writer, but one sweetheart of a woman. I so admire her and one day hope to inspire others through writing as she does.

This is part of the Hollyhill Series. I began with reading, "Scent of Lilacs", and then went on to book 3, "Summer of Joy". (You can check out all of my reviews of Ann's books.) So, I was blessed when Ann sent me book 2 to complete the series! 

Everyone should visit Hollyhill. It's a place that holds such beauty and grace. The characters are real. They are people we are able to connect with and grow with. You could say this is a coming of age of story for the main character, Jocie Brooke, but this series is filled with characters that will touch your heart. 

I fell in love with Jocie when I met her in, "Scent of Lilacs". I would have thought this to be my fave of the series, but then I went on to read the last of the series and again was simply blessed by the sweetness of Jocie. Even though she is young, she is a girl that inspires me and encourages me to walk in grace and love. 

In, "Orchard of Hope", it is 1964. A time that brought change for everyone. Change that wasn't easy. Life wasn't easy, but the characters of Hollyhill were determined to make a difference with the changes that were heading straight for their town.

They are in the south, but not the deep south. Still yet, racism didn't leave their town void. Evil tried to hit the town of Hollyhill. The war was taking place. Camelot was falling. No matter how much they tried to keep the evils away, they still touched the hearts of those living in Hollyhill. The KKK was alive and they were ready to roar, but God had other plans for those who loved Him. He was about to use all the evil for good. 

This book carries a bit of everything. Jocie is filled with questions as life is ever-changing. She sees people from the heart. She is able to see beauty in everyone. She is that girl who simply wants everyone to soar. She's a dreamer and she too isn't settling for common anytime soon. She is ready to stand and make change for the better. 

Romance is alive. A baby comes. Friends come home. For some, loss is something they must come to face. For others, freedom is ready to be found. 

Ann's words flow with beauty. Her novels are easy. The words leave an imprint upon your heart. If you haven't been blessed to read a book penned by Ann this is a great beginning!! 

I see Ann has a new book coming in June. "Love Comes Home", is one you surly don't want to miss!!

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

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author ofAngel SisterSmall Town Girl, and Words Spoken True, as well as several Shaker novels--The OutsiderThe BelieverThe SeekerThe Blessed, and The Gifted--and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at

The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey

Billy Coffey writes lyrical. Poetic. Deep. This is the first novel I've read penned by Billy Coffey. I'm excited to read more of this author. This book was fascinating. 

I'm hoping to read, "When Mockingbirds Sing". He is a writer who brings the reader to the deep. A territory no one wants to visit. The past. Living in the present can be overrated when the past overrides every joy. These characters cannot get past the guilt and shame they carry. Sins of the past have a way of destroying everything good of today unless we can totally surrender. 

These characters are holding onto such deep pain. A wretched torment. Their journey is one of forgiveness. Finding forgiveness and most of all forgiving themselves. 

The main characters are in agony and almost live as though the more they do for others the past will somehow just erase. All they want is to make it through the night without being tormented by dreams. These dreams even begin to walk with them throughout the day. They seem so real. The pain of the past is real. 

I loved traveling this journey of finding forgiveness and redemption with these characters. It's a journey that is one we must all travel at one time or another. They  find salvation and freedom. When they are released from the past they are able to live new and find that as the Devil too walks among us, Christ is at the center of all. 

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


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