Friday, September 23, 2016

The Moving Boxes Loaded

I am moving. To a new blog site, that is. I would love to have you join me there. 

It is called Sing Over Me  . Click on over and join me for a fresh start! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Newton & Polly - A Novel of Amazing Grace (review)

"Adventure is only a page away". This is true of Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund.

Newton & Polly is the captivating story of John Newton, the author of the beloved hymn, Amazing Grace, and his love, Polly.

John Newton's life was anything but calm. He questioned God's existence and wasn't afraid to mock those who were vocal about their trust in God. A sailor by trade, he exasperated his father by throwing away almost all his father did for him. He was reckless enough to be imprisoned and chained. Newton's decision making was poor to say the least. Yet, Newton's charm does not go unnoticed.

Polly is a young woman who falls for John even though her parents see lack of character on his part. She is a believer yet is in search of a connection with God.

I was taken away on an adventure of a life time. At times I honestly wasn't sure I wanted to be on board the ship with Newton especially during a time of imprisonment. Oh, and there was that major storm that made me a bit green around the gills.

In all seriousness, there were a few chapters I found difficult to read. Not because of anything too graphic but the subject matter - the capture and selling of human beings into slavery - but because of the compassion I felt reading the black words on the white page. Ironic, isn't it?

Author Jody Hedlund stayed true to history with a few exceptions. As I was taught in school, we study history so we do not make those mistakes again. I can only pray we will end modern slavery and never repeat history again.

Newton & Polly is a must read in my limited mind. The reader will never sing Amazing Grace in the same way again. I highly recommend this book! (I was given this book from Waterbrook and the author. All reviews/posts are my honest opinion)

This was one of the author's most difficult books to write. Find out why here.

Find out more information about John Newton, quotes from Newton, and other links including discussion questions here.

"I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am." John Newton

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Heart Most Certain Review

I admit it. I watch her. Unnoticed like always. Momma said my curiosity would get me in trouble one day. She may be right, although she'll never hear it from me.

Lydia King. The name is as beautiful as she. Except for the beauty, she and I are a lot alike and I think that is why I watch her. At first it was to try to be like her. Then, I saw the real Lydia and the Lydia she wants the world to see. I knew right then and there if we ever had a chance meeting we would become the best of friends. 

You see, society looks down on those of us who don't have much, if any, money. But, when I watch Lydia trying so hard to hide the fact and succeed, well, I guess it gives me hope. So, I continue to take notes from afar. I know Lydia is desperate to help her family. Sometimes, I just stay close by her house just in case she needs someone to run and get help. Things at home aren't always as they seem. 

Imagine my surprise when Lydia, trying to impress her soon-to-be mother-in-law, marched right on up to Mr. Nicholas Lowe's office at the sawmill requesting he give the Teaville Moral Society money for fancy sewing machines so the Society could sew more blankets for the poor. I mean, I about fell out of the tree! Hey, I can't help it if the richest man in town leaves his window open right under the tree I just climbed! 

Nicholas Lowe is more than handsome. Yet everyone knows he won't let anyone tell him to whom he should give his money. I knew I would have a difficult time keeping my roaring laughter to a snicker when he told her no. But, what happened next, now that was something to see - he dismissed her, left his office, and she just stayed put. That girl is determined. I made a mental note to add determined to my notes later. 

What happened next? I would be writing a book, myself, if I told you all the adventures I witnessed. I'm tired just thinking about it. Author Melissa Jagears did a mighty fine job in her book, A Heart Most Certain telling and showing this amazing story. It's like she saw everything I did. And, shoot, can that girl weave a story. 

I've read the book and I will tell you it left me thinking on some matters of the heart for days. Maybe even weeks. So many thought-provoking moments in that book I thought I was going to run out of paper just marking all the good stuff. Like when Lydia admitted to Nicholas that using wool, instead of fancy blankets, would be cheaper, quicker to make and help more people but she knows "how it feels to have "good enough". But to received something beautiful..." 

I have some more snooping...I mean, my curiosity for learning about others is sending me on my way now. So, go on. Go on and purchase A Heart Most Certain to find out more about Nicholas, Lydia, and all the people in and out of their lives. Now go get that book! 

While your purchasing A Heart Most Certain, make sure you check out Melissa Jagears other novels. You won't be sorry. 

**I received this book free from the author and publisher for an honest review. And, honest is what you got. ;)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Looking for Lovely...

"...for me understanding that sometimes the only beauty in anything, especially tragedy, is that Jesus is still on the throne."   Looking for Lovely; Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie F. Downs
Go ahead. I'll wait right here will you read that quote again and find the lovely in that truth.

I know. Right?! Doesn't this just stop you in your tracks and want to yell "YES!!!" so loudly you think the author hears you?!

In light of junk going on in this world we live in today, both locally and globally, I found comfort in those words. People killing people. People shooting people. People stealing people. People just being people. It can make a person ask all kinds of questions and wonder what in the world is happening - adopting a more negative than positive attitude in general.

 By the way, this is just one of many quotes I highlighted in my Kindle. Less than half way through the book I was wondering why I didn't just purchase a paper copy.

I read Looking for Lovely slowly. Partially because of time constraints and partially because I just needed her words to soothe something in me. Annie doesn't offer fixes. Just her story. Sure, at the end of most of the chapters is some "action" suggestions. But, Annie doesn't push. Annie just tells her struggles and brokenness while her honesty and humor peek through. She looks for lovely in the messy situations and encourages the reader to do the same.

There are so many more quotes I could say and bring forth more gushing but I'll just leave you with this....

GO!. Go purchase this book today!

Be sure to check out her Looking For Lovely Bible Study and more!

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Struggle is Real

This life is hard. Said Captain Obvious.

Last week we attended an awesome church conference. Yes, it was hot. It was sticky-humid. We walked 3,000 miles (just kidding...maybe) and we 'lived' on the fourth floor (read 4 flights of steps) in a freshman dorm with a hard (read rock) bed and little sleep for six days. It was like God was testing us. (I smile as I type this because it wasn't all that bad...except for the rock hard bed and little sleep but more on that later...)

This was the first conference for this network whose goal is to equip churches. The theme for the week was Dare Greatly. Each session had it's own mini-theme; Land, Start, Heal, Repent, Go, Host, Love, and Live. It was a week full of insight and learning from great speakers who I truly believe God spoke through.

And, just as in life, we were all pumped and excited until the shootings (LA, MN and TX) happened. Isn't that just like this thing we call life? We walk along in our own bubble until the bubble pops and we feel as though life just slapped us, not gently, but hard. Tears and crying out to God happened in that auditorium as we learned of the shootings. One of the worship leaders felt a very personal connection and her struggle was real and honest. I wondered what I, a person from a small, quiet town who has never experienced the hatred, could do, say, or... insert many question marks here. All I could think of doing is making a bee-line walk to her after the session. I just held her, told her how sorry I was (over and over again) as she cried.

You see, I just see her. A beautiful woman. I don't see the color difference in our skin tone. I just see her. Yes, I see the difference in our backgrounds - just as I would anyone who is not from my neck of the woods, so to speak. Please forgive me if I have trouble understanding the struggle. This may sound so unbelievable naive. And, perhaps it is. Perhaps that is why I find it so hard to understand. I know, know, know, without a shadow of a doubt there is still racism, prejudice, bigotry and hatred. And, I am sorry. Truly sorry.

I know that I know that I know, God isn't happy with this either. God made us in his image. Yet we are killing each other...HIS own image. Think about that and let it sink in.

Honestly, I'm struggling with what God would have me do as I'm a fixer-type of person. Yet, I'm a true introvert and, forgive me, Lord, a people-pleaser who is trying to recover from that dreaded thought process. So I struggle between comfort-zone and getting out there and having my eyes opened wide. Yet, my struggle to know how to proceed is inward and unseen in comparison to what is happening with the struggle of others in the world. Yes, this life is hard.

Update: this is an excellent, and I mean excellent, post written by a person whose heart is bravely and honestly seen in her words. Take a moment and check it out. 

And, just so you know, I did enjoy the conference even with all the junk going on outside of our conference bubble. Sitting around large round tables during meals proved to be one of the highlights. The first meal of the official start of the conference had a couple sitting down with us. We became fast friends and hope to one day visit them. Other meals found us and others laughing and sometimes discussing deep issues. It was a wonderful time of hearing about their lives in their communities.

Of course it wouldn't be my life if I didn't embarrass myself at least once. Hubs played in the worship band (with wonderful-hearted people). The band members practiced very early in the morning so I would meet him in the cafeteria lobby in the mornings after practice. An elevator was pointed out to us on the second day (after we lugged everything up the hot, four flights of stairs - not that I'm complaining at all). Since the elevator was closer to the cafeteria, I decided to ride it down for breakfast. As I was leaving our dorm room another couple, whom I had seen a few days earlier at the sessions, walked out of their room. We made conversation as we walked to the elevator and to the cafeteria. It was small talk, of course. It started out with an innocent question. "How did you sleep?"

Let's just say my nervous talk got me in trouble again. I complained (not hiding that fact) about not getting a lot of sleep because of my bad back and hips on a rock hard bed. The lovely couple felt my pain. They are newlyweds. Newlyweds sleeping on twin beds. Oh, did I forget to mention the rooms had three twin beds? Okay, now you're caught up to speed. ☺ We talked of where we were from and then departed as they went inside to eat and I waited on hubs.

The first session started soon after breakfast. When the host introduced the speaker for the morning I do believe my jaw hit the floor as I was hitting my husband telling him I embarrassed myself in front of THE SPEAKER!!! A speaker talking about hospitality. My mind tried to rewind the elevator conversation. OH THE HORROR!!

After her WONDERFUL talk, I waited until she was alone and went over to her. I said, "If I would have known you were the speaker, I would have talked about Holy things instead of complaining about my bed and my hips hurting!" Well, that turned into the joke of the week and was our conversation starter each and every time we saw those lovely newlyweds!

The worship songs were wonderful. So many songs are permanently embedded in my brain. One of the songs touched many deeply. I hope you take time to listen and allow Him to have it all.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Forever Safe -- Review

Author Jody Hedlund has done it yet again! Forever Safe, a Historical Christian Fiction novel, is the fourth book in the Beacons of Hope series but never fear for it can be classified as a stand-alone book. The author does a fabulous job of catching the reader up without going overboard.

The reader will be swept away as the author takes us on a journey through the lives of two people whose lives intertwine with others. Victoria grew up in a life of privilege yet it hasn’t kept her free of the troubles of life. Tom, her reluctant body guard, grew up without the privileges of life and still struggles with the memories and heartache of the past. He vows to protect her. She vows not to give him trouble. Will Victoria keep her end of the bargain? Forever Safe is a page turner, for sure!!

The author does a fabulous job, as always, of bringing the characters to life. Her knack of story-telling keeps the reader more than interested. She paints a beautiful picture through description that has one feeling, seeing and hearing it all. 

I was reluctant for it to end but couldn't wait to find out what happened next. The author sneaked in twists and turns to the very end. Forever Safe will have the reader contemplating all the little life lessons after the last word is read. I love when that happens; a book which has me soaking in life's chaos and how it affects me. 

There are so, so, so many great quotes from this book like "Some things are beyond our control. You can't be perfect. No one is. That's why we need God." Just one of the many! As well as a wonderful chapter on what it takes for a great marriage. I wrote the author and told her I am marking those pages and sharing it with our son. :)  One of my favorites quotes is in the author notes:
...I pray that you'll learn to run to the One who promises to walk beside us through our darkest valleys and fiercest storms. He may not take us out of the valley or storm, but He will hold our hand and stay by our side. With Him, we will be forever safe.
I highly recommend getting this book into your hands as soon as possible. It's that good. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Letter M

It's May. And, since the last time I posted was March, I thought it only fair to post again in a month beginning with the letter "M". I'm consistent like that. Yeah, that's it. Consistent. Or classy. Same thing.

Many things have happened this year. Mostly the same-old-same-old, yet, many changes as well. I believe this year is going to go down in the books as a year of change. The oldest child changed work locations, the middle child went to a foreign land for a few months and has returned to the states (not home-home...yet) recently, and the youngest moved out stepping closer to his dream career and will soon finish a class and begin another.

And, hubs and I? We are just trying to keep up. Well, maybe I should say I'm trying to keep up. Hubs is of the laid-back kind and takes it as it comes. Me? As my mom (and many others) would have told me if she were here today, "One day at a time."

In other news....

I'm reading:

  • Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs. I just started this and highly recommend already!
  • Love Does by Bob Goff. I, also, just started this one (I have no idea why I am reading multiple books right now but I am). Short chapters packed full of personal stories with a great lesson. Highly recommend as well. If you ever want to find great quotes...look no further.
  • On the lighter side of things in the Christian Fiction genre, I'm also reading Unexpected Family by a local author Jill Kemerer. So far so good even though I'm reading it slower than I'd like but considering I'm reading two other books at the same time and apparently my life is the year of change.... This is the first book in a series of three and I've heard each book gets better and better so I can't wait to give my undivided attention to this little one. 
  • And soon to be reading as an influencer (which means the previously mentioned books will need to take a back seat for a few days or so), Jody Hedlund's newest, Forever Safe. This is book four in her Beacons of Hope series and I am sure it will be just as great as her previous books in the series. 

I'm listening to (and maybe dancing to but I'd hate to put that image in your head...):

  • Anything and everything by the artist Sleeping At Last. His latest is the last song in the series about the five senses. It is called Sight and is something I could listen on constant repeat. Check it out! 
  • Thy Will by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family. Yes, Hillary Scott of the country group in which I can't think of the name since I can say I do not like country music and am not ashamed to admit that. Antebellum. There I thought of it! Phew. Anyway... I do have this song on constant repeat. Beautiful. Listen to! 
  • King of My Heart - this version only! This one is by Stephany Gretzinger and Jeremy Riddle. There are several King of My Heart songs out there so make sure you listen to this one. Yes, I'm the boss of you!
  • Lift Your Head Weary Sinner by Crowder never gets old. 
  • Believe me when I say there are more but I won't overwhelm you with my vast array of song choices. Or something like that. 

Have a lovely rest of the month that begins with the letter "M". 

Monday, March 21, 2016

I was hurt. Angry. Rejected.

I was hurt. Angry. I felt rejected.

I cried out to a friend through a text instead of praying about it. 

During the text conversation, I turned on the radio. Christian music spilled out and all of a sudden I was reminded. 

This is Holy Week. A time to really focus on the events leading up to Christ's crucifixion. 

All of a sudden God convicted me. Why am I getting caught up in emotion? Jesus died for me. He didn't reject me. He could have. Should have. But, He didn't. He loves us.

So why am I getting all worked up about something, in the greater scheme of things, is petty?

God didn't send His Son into this sinful world to condemn the world [us]. But to save [us] the world through Him. (John 3:17 roughly translated.)

God gave me the "gift" of emotions. I'm a crier. An ugly crier. But, someone who hardly cries told me once, "What a gift. People see God's heart through you." I'm not sure if that is true but I do believe He made me this way for a reason. However, I can't let those emotions rule my actions. And, to be honest, that is really difficult. 

I re-read the text messages and realized how many times I used "me" and "I". It reminded me of John 3:30; "He must become greater. I must become less."

May this week remind you of the love God has for us. On Friday, remember Sunday's coming!!! 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Daring Sacrifice Book Review

By now, I'm sure you all know all too well how much I enjoy Author Jody Hedlund's books. I know, I know, it is a bit obvious. So, I'm going to go all fan girl (is that the proper use of fan girl?!) on her latest book, A Daring Sacrifice.

Stick with me...I do have some meaningful thoughts at the end. ;)

A Daring Sacrifice is in the teen fiction genre but anyone 13+ years of age would enjoy reading this fast-paced, sweet story. It is the second book in a series involving Knights. And, really, who doesn't want to dream about Knights?!

Juliana is a late teen who is similar to Robin Hood – steal from the rich and give to the poor. Juliana and many peasants from the kingdom hide in the forest for protection from a hideous Lord, who happens to be her uncle. Can you even imagine?! No friendly Christmas gatherings on that side of the family, for sure!!! At first Juliana is raiding/stealing to help people survive. But, is it the right thing to do? Juliana begins to question her method.

In walks Lord Collin who is a true gentleman. And, I imagine him ruggedly handsome...just throwing that in for free... He is home after his father died to take over the estate. This life is certainly different than his role as a Knight under the training of The Noblest Knight.

Juliana and Collin are re-introduced after a certain situation occurs. As one of Juliana's cohorts said, "He's a nobleman and the only good nobleman is a dead one." Well, now. Read how both of their worlds collide and struggle with understanding their completely different ways of living. Will their past keep them from working together for a greater good? They do have chemistry, those two!!

A Daring Sacrifice reminded me of the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us on the cross as Collin made a sacrifice of his own. At one point, it seemed they wanted to out-do each other in this department. They were both willing to give up something huge for one another. Neither one deserved it, but each was willing to sacrifice for the other. Just like Jesus did for us...

The plot line also encouraged me to contemplate how my life is so different than the life of, say, a person in a third world country. Maybe it is because our favorite #2 daughter is flying with a team to Nepal soon. What ever it is, it made me wonder. And, think. We all know how dangerous it can be when I begin thinking deeply. I'm over here in my comfy house and full refrigerator, freezer, cupboards, and a comfy 68 degrees in here. Other areas of the world are trying to survive the next hour or the next day. I can get enraged at the injustice. I can spend money by supporting goods made (fair trade) in those countries. I can even send money to a trustworthy charity or group working in that foreign, to me, land. But, will I ever truly understand what that person's life is really like? I don't have all the answers. I just have many questions and concerns. Oh, Author Jody, thanks for making me think! ;)

As I say with Jody's books...RUN or CLICK over to your favorite book retailer to get a copy of this fabulous book. Well done, Jody!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I Saw You

Dear Little Boy in front of me at the checkout,

I saw you. I saw how much you love your mom. How big of help you are to her. I, also, saw how tired your mom was - tuned out from what I imagine was a very long day.

Your younger brothers, well, you know. I'm sure it gets tiring for you as well. The grabbing, the fighting, the hitting, the screaming between those two. I could tell you are a very thoughtful person as you tried to break up the fight with the bags of candy your brothers were fighting over. When your mom said, "It's okay," as your brothers grabbed more and more from the candy bins and literally threw it on the checkout conveyor belt. You piped up, "But, I don't want you wasting your money!" I could tell you cared.

You were very helpful to the cashier as she came around the cart and scanned the items on the very bottom of the cart while your youngest brother wailed for reasons I'm sure we both couldn't figure out. Since I couldn't hear past the wailing toddler, I hope the cashier thanked you for your help.

And, loading the bags back into the cart without being asked? Whaaat?! I'm so proud of you! That was a huge help to your mom. I hope you heard my silent applause.

It's not your fault she barely acknowledged you when you thanked her for your pop. I could tell it was a very special treat. You held that plastic bottle like it was a rare piece of glass. I know this sounds redundant but, thank you for thanking her. I hope she gives you an extra long hug and kiss tonight.

I hope you know that even though we, moms, fail to tell our children how proud we are of who they are --- not what they do --- that you feel it and own it. Never stop helping. Serving others is huge.

Do you know who else saw you tonight? God. I am absolutely positive He had a huge smile on His face and a tear or two in his eyes as he watched you serve your mom. In my imagination I can see Him nudging an Angel or two saying, "Look at my child. Look at him. I'm so proud of him!"

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Undaunted Hope

You know my love for any book by Jody Hedlund. Undaunted Hope is another smash hit in my humble opinion. Her gift at character development and the way she can hook a person within a few pages of the first need to really read this book.

Who among us hasn't experienced a situation in our past we wish we could forget. A bad decision, an indiscretion, words said in anger. The list could go on and on. And, just when we have moved on and getting along fine and dandy - BAM - it's back to haunt us.

Tessa is running from the mistakes of her past. She finally begins to believe she has found a safe place where no one will know or hear of her mistakes. Tessa believes she has a job as a school teacher...until she arrives and they discover T. Taylor is not a male but a female.

Since winter is on its way and it is too late to find a replacement, Mr. Updegraff, who thinks he is King of Eagle Harbor, MI in 1871 but really the superintendent for the copper mine, allows Tessa to stay. Mr. Updegraff is a nasty-nasty man and Tessa soon finds out just how far reaching his power goes. (side note: this guy is a meaner!)

Two Lighthouse Keepers keep life lively for Tessa. One of the Keeper's children makes it her personal mission to keep her brother and Tessa hopping. The Assistant Keeper and Tessa go toe to toe in the world of sarcasm and joking.

Tessa's past catches up to her. Will she lose the job she loves and the one she has fallen for? It's a tale of deceit, lies, hope, perseverance, courage, kindness and love.

I highly recommend the book. It is #3 in the author's Beacon of Hope series but Author Jody Hedlund has a knack for getting you caught up to speed without driving you insane. It can be a stand alone book but why would you not want to read books one and two?! ;)

As Lavar Burton from Reading Rainbow always said, "But, you don't have to take my word for it..."

I received this book from the publisher for my honest review.