Monday, March 29, 2021

Book Review: "Miriam's Song" by Jill Eilieen Smith

Biblical Fiction has got to be one of my favorite genres! Jill Eileen Smith is one of the incredible Christian authors that can make someone's story out of the Bible jump right off the page and come to life! 

I was thrilled to read about Miriam's account and get a glimpse into what it was like to live in the shadow of her little brother, Moses. 

What courage it took for Miriam, as a little girl to watch her little brother be placed into the Nile River in hopes that he would be saved and not succumb to the wild waters or the creatures that lurked within. When Pharoah's daughter sees baby Moses in the basket and decides to raise him as her own, what strength it took for Miriam to step in and offer their own mother to be Moses' wet nurse.

Smith's book goes on to explore about 120 years worth of time between Miriam, Aaron, Moses, Joshua and Caleb's time. That is indeed a lot of ground to cover in one book and I think would have been more intriguing had she split this up and made it a series. Nonetheless, it makes for a thrilling account of the Israelite's exodus from Egypt and if you are a fan of Biblical fiction, this is not one to miss! Get your copy of this new book just released this month here.

From the Back Cover

She has prayed for deliverance from Egypt.

But perhaps the greatest liberation happens within the heart.

From the very beginning, Miriam has lived in her younger brother's shadow. Thrust into the role of protective older sister before Moses was even born, she will grow up into a woman who not only keeps her family's secret but bears the burden of leading a new nation. 

In her mind, she knows that she is serving both her God and her people. But in her heart, Miriam yearns for more. She longs to experience the privileges Moses has--to talk with God face-to-face. But when God finally does speak directly to her, the outcome is not at all what she expects.

With her impeccable research and keen eye for detail, bestselling author Jill Eileen Smith offers this epic novel to fill in the gaps in Miriam's story, following her from childhood to motherhood, obscurity to notoriety, and yearning to fulfillment as she learns that what God promises He provides--in His own perfect timing.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, February 26, 2021

When God Doesn't Turn it Around

 When Mary came [to the place] where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

John 11: 32 (AMP)

This season of Covid has lasted entirely too long if you want to ask my opinion. I don't think that any of us would have ever thought it would have been something we would still be talking about and wearing masks for a year after first hearing about it.

I call it a season because although it feels unending, it will end. People will remove the masks, go on vacations, and move on with their lives. It will become one of the events in human history that will be in the history books for our grandchildren to read about one day. 

But for some people, including me, its presence is going to be felt the rest of my life. January 29, 2021, my father passed away from Covid pneumonia. He battled it valiantly for about 30 days. It came as a complete and utter shock to the entire family. He was healthy, had no pre-existing conditions, was not overweight, was in his mid-60's and never even had pneumonia before. 

This wasn't supposed to happen. This wasn't supposed to be the way he went. It doesn't feel real. It honestly doesn't feel fair. I am mad, hurt, and I am telling God about it. I never in a million years thought my family would be apart of the statistics of a pandemic. 

Although I am still struggling with enormous grief, I can find some consolation in God's word that so many people in the Bible, including Jesus himself, were no stranger to. 

In the book of Job you read about him finding out about losing his livestock and his children all at the same time; "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell down to the ground in worship..." Job 1:20.

This was Job's first response to grief. I can honestly say this was not my first response. I was a lot more like Mary, weeping and  telling God He could have healed my daddy if he had wanted to. I was standing next to my Dad when he was here one moment and then another he was gone. I, like Mary, fell to my feet in tears in the hospital room. 

I have lost grandparents that were near and dear to my heart, but I have never felt a loss like this before. I can barely even describe what it feels like. 

Although I lost a father who I loved very much, I did come to the realization that my Heavenly Father does love me and He loves my earthly father. He has both mine and my daddy's best interest at heart, and to that I cling too. 

My dad was a believer and I do have hope and reassurance that I will see him again. I do believe that this was another form of healing for my Father and know that when he got to meet His maker, see his father, mother, and sister who passed before him, it was such a sweet reunion. 

But, I also can't deny that what was heaven's gain was my loss. So I began to search the scriptures for hope in this difficult time and came across Isaiah 53:5, "He (Jesus) was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain."

I then went on to read the rest of the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus when he (Lazarus) had passed and Jesus arrived and both Mary and Martha confronted him. It goes on to say: "When Jesus saw her sobbing, and the Jews who had come with her also sobbing, He was deeply moved in spirit [to the point of anger at the sorrow caused by death] and was troubled, and said "Where have you laid him?" They said, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept" John 11:33-35 (AMP).

Although this story in the Bible has a happy ending (Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead), I pause here to tell God thank you for something. I know Jesus had many purposes in doing what He did in this story: waiting 4 days before coming to see about Lazarus after hearing he had fallen ill and then choosing to raise Him. But, what I thank Jesus for in this story is that for a moment, he stepped into the grief and allowed that loss to wash over him and experience it, feel it, weep over it, and see what it did to the family and friends that deeply loved Lazarus. 

This makes Jesus relatable. This makes me come to him with my anger, my hurt, my grief, and my questions. He hears me, He sees me, He understands. He cries with me, He holds me, He carries me at times when I feel too weak to go on. When Job's friends came to comfort him after tragedy struck his home, "...they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was" Job 2:13. 

Sometimes I just sit with God, because I have no words and He is ok with that. God didn't turn my situation around like I would have hoped. I did pray for healing in my dad's body, He just chose to heal him in Heaven. As I grapple with things out of my control, I raise my hands in surrender to the one who is. 

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 (AMP)

When my family and I were praying and interceding for my daddy's healing, there was a song on my heart that I sang in the car and even in the hospital room. It became my anthem during the most difficult time of my life. 

"God, Turn it Around" by Jon Reddick is a powerful song. For a while I couldn't listen to it after my dad passed, but it's words do still ring true. There are still so many out there grappling with loved ones who have COVID and this is why I share this song and write these words, because someone besides me needs to hear them. 

Even if God doesn't turn our situations around or bring the healing we pray for, may we still be bold in our faith like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and say, like they did when their faith was tested, 

"our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods...” Daniel 3:17-18 (AMP)

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Book Review: "When Twilight Breaks" by Sarah Sundin


I was first introduced to Sundin's work through my church library. I started with her "Sunrise at Normandy" Series about three Texas brothers whose path led them all to participate in one way or another in the battle of Normandy. It was such a fantastic series and each book really stood out alone. When the opportunity came with Revell Reads to be a first reader for her latest, "When Twilight Breaks" book that came out this month, I jumped at the opportunity!

The best thing about this novel is that it makes you want to bust open a history book (or do a simple Google search) to research and look up some of these historical events that are brought to life in the story.

You can tell Sundin does her research- from what the characters wear, to how they style their hair, to the kinds of cars driven in the era.

What I thought was most interesting is that this book is set in 1938 which is Pre- World War II. It explores so much about the thoughts, feelings, and emotions from those who sympathized with Hitler and the Nazi's and those of the Jews when the anti-semitic laws began to become more frequent and more harsh. 

I highly recommend this book as a fantastic exploration of this time period that explores love, history, war, and faith in God when it is put to the ultimate test. 

From the back cover:

Evelyn Brand is an American foreign correspondent determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession and to expose the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany. To do so, she must walk a thin line. If she offends the government, she could be expelled from the country--or worse. If she does not report truthfully, she'll betray the oppressed and fail to wake up the folks back home.

Peter Lang is an American graduate student working on his PhD in German. Disillusioned with the chaos in the world due to the Great Depression, he is impressed with the prosperity and order of German society. But when the brutality of the regime hits close, he discovers a far better way to use his contacts within the Nazi party--to feed information to the shrewd reporter he can't get off his mind.

As the world marches relentlessly toward war, Evelyn and Peter are on a collision course with destiny.

Get your copy today at Amazon or your favorite online retailer, or click here!

I was given a free copy of this book to review from Revell publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Book Review: “All That We Carried” by Erin Bartels


I have been laying bed for the last several days sick and there is nothing like a good book to accompany you during a time like this. Erin Bartels is a new author to me and one I am looking forward to reading more in the future. 

In "All That We Carried" the Greene sisters are estranged after the parent's death 10 years prior. They decide to go on a hiking trip to reconnect and end up discovering much more than they bargained for. The girls get lost in the woods multiple times, close encounters with bears, mountain lions, and forest fires, that comes to a dramatic conclusion that brings them to a point of reconciliation neither of them can deny. 

Throughout most of the book the girls are bickering between each other and it reminds me of my two sons that never do seem to get along. (I had thought several times throughout the book that I needed to throw my kids into the forest and see if they can work out their issues.)

Beyond reconciliation with each other, they come to a point of reconciling their spiritual differences with God as well. They are both confused, hurt, and angry at a God that would allow both of their parents to die. Bartels does a great job of exploring the complicated emotions that comes with doubt, fear, and questioning God. 

The raw honesty and emotions throughout the book are heartbreaking yet speak so much truth. Kudos to Bartels for exploring such a difficult topic. This book comes out tomorrow, January 5, and I implore you to get your copy here.

I was given a free copy of this book to review from Revell publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Book Review: "The Edge of Belonging" by Amanda Cox


Unplanned pregnancies, abandonment, the plight of shuffled foster children, PTSD, abuse, human trafficking, infertility, adoption, and homelessness...Did I leave anything out? All of these major issues are beautifully interwoven into a gripping story that brings the most vulnerable populations at the feet of an endearing woman that points them all to Jesus. 

In Amanda Cox's new novel, "The Edge of Belonging", I find myself reading through the eyes of multiple different characters from present day to the past. The matriarchal character, Pearl, reminds me of my own grandmother reaching out to the lost and hurting despite her own baggage to show them the love of the Father. 

Ivy, the story's main character, goes on a journey to discover who she really is from the lessons of the past. In the process she realizes that despite her frail beginnings, she can rise up to be the strong woman God created her to be. 

As someone who has a degree in human services and psychology and worked in the criminal justice system and crisis pregnancy centers, I appreciate the raw feelings and emotions the author conveys through the story of Harvey and Ivy. I appreciate the detail in their plight and heartache to explain how some people labeled "at risk" arrive to this label. Sometimes it's all about having that one person in your life to love you through the hardest and darkest times in your life to give you a glimpse of God's love for you. 

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: 
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8

I gave this book 5 stars on my Goodreads profile and I don't hand those out just nilly willy. You should pick up your copy today! 

**I received a free copy of this book by Revell publishing in exchange for my honest review.**

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Book Review: “An Appalachian Summer” by Ann H. Gabhart

 I love when you pick up a book by an author you’ve never read and end up loving it! Ann H. Gabhart is an author local to me. I currently live in Kentucky and she is a local celebrity with her books for sale in a small-town gift shop that I have perused and never picked up until “An Appalachian Summer” came along. 

I was delighted with the story of debutante, Piper Danson, who left a life of comfort and luxury among the socially elite of Louisville, Kentucky during the height of the Great Depression for a summer of soul searching. Piper leaves behind a summer of courtship with the most eligible bachelor in Louisville, Braxton Crandall, to be a courier in the Appalachian Mountains with the Frontier Nursing Service. 

Feeling stifled by her father’s expectations of an arranged marriage back home is what inspires Piper to chart a new path for herself. She struggles with the loss of her best friend and childhood love, Jamie Russell, who fled town with his mother and siblings after their family loses all of their estate during the Great Depression. Piper also considers the proposal from the handsome Braxton Crandall knowing it could afford her the financial security so many lacked during this difficult time. 

Confused and unsure of what she really wants, she hears about the need for help with the Frontier Nursing Service from Mary Breckenridge who comes to town to raise funds for medical assistance in the mountains. Piper decides to join as a courier and take the summer to “do something different” and not have to think about Braxton or Jamie. 

As a courier, she assists nurses who deliver babies to mothers in some of the most treacherous and rural parts of the mountainous region. Riding horses, cleaning stalls, killing chickens for dinner, and watching out for rattlesnakes is just a small portion of what Piper experiences on her adventurous summer. 

But what she doesn’t expect to happen is just when she thought she was far enough away from it all, life happened to catch up with her there. 

I don’t want to tell you what happens, you will have to read it for yourself. 

What I love most about this story is that Piper is showcased as a strong female lead who doesn’t ever play the damsel in distress part that I come across in so many books. When she is faced with a challenge, she perseveres even in the face of fear. She isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in and is brave enough to try new things.

There is more than one love story weaved in and a strong sense of family and faith prevails throughout the pages. 

I can’t wait to read more of Ann H. Gabhart’s work knowing the incredible storytelling will take me on a journey that will allow for a fun escape in a world that is COVID crazy. 

If you are looking for a lighthearted summer read, I highly recommend “An Appalachian Summer”. You should look for it at your local inspirational bookstore or online wherever your favorite books are sold. You can get your copy here

(This book was given to me by Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Purpose in a Pandemic

“There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and even or purpose under heaven…
A time to be born and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to keep silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.
…He has made everything beautiful in its time…I have seen that there is nothing better than that a man should be happy in his own works and activities, for that is his portion (share).”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 11; 22

This scripture came to mind during the last (almost) 2 months of quarantine. It feels a lot longer than that, especially for those of us who are extroverts and crave friendship, girl’s nights, and get togethers. 
No one in this current generation or even in their parents’ generation has ever experienced anything like this before. The closest thing I could think of would have been the fear of our men overseas fighting in World War II and certain items being on ration. We aren’t fighting anything we can see, and we aren’t necessarily being rationed (although score gold stars for you if you can find cleaning supplies and toilet paper on the shelf right now). But, it is still a situation that incites fear, worry, anxiety, and stress unlike many of us have ever experienced. Despite the news and media telling us how we are living in trying, unprecedented, and unsure times, we can be sure of one thing, God is up to something.
Do I believe that God orchestrated this to teach us all a lesson? No, I am not going there either. As much as there is a good and heavenly Father looking down on us, there is also real evil in this world and because of that fact alone, we live in a fallen world and bad stuff happens. Yes, sometimes bad things happen to good people. I am not going to get all into theology and answering life’s questions as to why. But, I also can’t help but pause and think that even though we are in the middle of a pandemic we can find purpose here. 
If we want to sit here and dwell on the negative, we can certainly find it. But, if we want to dwell on the positive and uplifting and ask God to reveal to us something he wants us to see and learn from all this, he will. 
For example, I am a busy body. I am usually always doing something. I like to have something planned or a something to accomplish. Well, since that is all out the window, God is teaching me to enjoy the unplanned, the laidback, and mundane days that are seeming to all roll into each other. I can find contentment in being busy and I can find contentment in having nothing to do. 
Another area this is teaching me is to be a good steward of everything God has given me. How am I spending my time and who am I spending it with? (Let’s get real, when my Apple screen time showed me that I went from 2 hours a day on my phone to 6, I felt some conviction). How am I spending my money and am I saving any (for situations like these if I had lost my job, what would that look like)? How am I raising my children and am I imparting to them the basic spiritual principles I want them to grow up on (or have I given way too much of that responsibility to our church)? How am I stewarding my health? Have I ever paid attention before to how much sleep I get on a regular basis? What about exercise and eating right? Am I filling up on junk and expecting a 6 pack by summer? (Hmmm, maybe I need to tweak my habits).
 Listen many of us may have a lot more time on our hands than we know what to do with and although I don’t want to pressure anyone to do get up and do something they are uncomfortable with because our mental, social, emotional health are a bit fragile right now. The last thing we need in a crisis is pressure. What we need, instead, is purpose! 
So where do you even begin? With whatever the next right thing is for you. Maybe it starts with journaling where you are and where you want to be. Maybe it starts with creating a vision board and a plan of action for where you are right now in some of those areas of your life and thinking through the next practical steps to where you would like to be. 
Maybe you want to save more money for when the next crisis hits so you won’t be in such a state of despair- start with something small like an automatic draft of $25 a month into a savings account and build on that when you can. 
Maybe you want to start reading your Bible more or reading it with your kids. Instead of feeling the pressure to do it every day, start with once a week- maybe a Sunday evening before your week begins. Perhaps reading a scripture and asking the members of your family what they want to pray about is a good start. 
Perhaps you want to begin exercising or eating right. Start small- walk around your neighborhood or on the treadmill 10-15 minutes a day and build from there. Look up healthy recipes online and write down the ingredient list so the next time you go to the store you’ll have everything you need to make it. 
I could go on and on, but your purpose is to take care of you so that you can then fulfill the God-given purpose God created you to fill. That looks different for every single one of us. If you feel a tug to do something do the next small step that will get you there. 
A friend recently texted me “through the pressure and through waiting, that, my friend, is how diamonds are created.” This pressure, this pandemic that we are going through right now is going to make us stronger, braver, and refine our beauty like nothing else. It is during the most difficult moments of my life that I felt drawn to God’s presence and got to know him the most than in the most prosperous times. This pandemic has not drowned out your purpose. In fact, it is in the middle of all this that God is wanting to work in you to reveal what has been hidden in the dark, remove what needs to be removed, and place in you the strength, resolve, tenacity, and resiliency to be able to fulfill the purposes placed on this Earth only you can fill. 
“…He has also placed eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God] -yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11