Monday, September 19, 2016

Strong and Courageous

"Have I not commanded you? 
Be strong and courageous. 
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
 for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

How many times in life are we in a position that we are called to be strong and courageous? Starting a new job, moving to a new city, becoming a parent for the first time, competing in our favorite sport, or trying a new activity like sky diving or zip lining!

Trusting the Lord with our children, holding our heads high even while struggling through a difficult diagnosis, or learning to put one foot in front of the other after losing someone we loved dearly. There are ample times and opportunities to share our strength and courage in different situations.

I am currently in one such situation myself and God has brought me to the book of Joshua for this season of my life. So when I have a heart for a certain story in the Bible I start from the beginning- Joshua chapter 1. God tells Joshua " I will give you every place where you set your foot...No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life." (verses 3, 5)

Wow! Pretty powerful stuff! Re-imagine that situation you are in with the promise that God has already got it covered, you will come out the other side not only fine but victorious, and any opposition will melt before you! Can you even imagine? So he goes on to instruct Joshua the battle plans for war and who he needs to conquer, the time he needs to conquer them, and how to do it, so as to claim the promised land for Israel. 

Sounds amazing right? You would feel like you're on top of the world and can conquer just about anything! But... I notice something throughout the book of Joshua that catches my attention. God tells Joshua repeatedly " Be strong and courageous" or "Be very strong and very courageous". Why in the world would Joshua need so many reminders when God has already promised success and prosperity to Joshua and the Israelite's? The enemy was going to be delivered into Joshua's hands! So why all the reminders? You would think the promise of God's deliverance would be enough to power Joshua through all those battles. But the real enemy was not all the "-ites" that were inhabiting the promised land (Amorites, Gibeonites, Geshurites, etc...) The real enemy Joshua would need to face was his own fear.

Wow! This realization struck me and it's something that I have been going over and over again in my head, praying about and experiencing firsthand myself. Despite the victories that Joshua saw along the way, there were many times when the enemy looked very intimidating and their numbers seemed to not be in their favor. But in these moments that Joshua could have very well doubted his ability to win, He needed to remember who was on His side and the promise the Lord gave Him from the very beginning. God's promise didn't waver in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The thing Joshua needed to be careful of was that his faith in God didn't waver and that his doubt didn't take control.

I speak to the power fear can have over our lives in my book "Arm Yourself: Equipping Ourselves with the Armor of God." There is a whole section on fear and how it has the power to strip away our faith and lead to anxiety and anxiety can paralyze us. We can keep from moving forward and our unbelief leads to doubting God's ability to truly intervene in our situation, ultimately telling God that our problem is bigger than Him. 

We can't walk in victory with that kind of attitude. Neither could Joshua, so that is why Joshua needed those reminders from the Lord to be strong and courageous! 

Let me break this down just a bit more. Let's look at strength for a moment. According to Google, strength is defined as "the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult." So what are these mental and emotional qualities needed? Well the  verse that comes to mind is when Nehemiah says in Nehemiah 8:10, "...the joy of the Lord is your strength". How many times do we trade our joy for sorrow or despair when times are tough? A lot! Well, don't do that! Allowing joy which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives to shine through even in hard times is a gift to you in difficult situations. I am not talking about the feeling of happiness, but the decision you need to make everyday to operate in this joy despite what your feelings tell you the moment your feet hit the floor. 

Courage is a quality we tap into when fear is knocking at our door, but we choose to trust in God's promises and His timing, purposes and plans for whatever situation we are currently facing. We may feel afraid, but we don't need to give into fear or let it control our lives. We need to speak to that fear-God's Word and His promises over our lives and situations that threaten to steal our victory! 

Jesus has already won the victory over our lives! We need to walk in it. The same promise He gave Joshua, He has given to us. Don't live your life afraid of failure or rejection. Live boldly with strength and courage exuding from your soul and spirit. There were times when Joshua and the Israelites did stumble and offer treaties to tribes they should not have and allowed certain tribes to stay within the Promised Land that should not have stayed. Because of that, they were not able to fully conquer some parts for Israel's victory. 

Don't make treaties with worry or stress. Don't allow things that strip away your victory to take places in your heart that God wants to fill with courage and boldness. 

In Joshua chapter 21: 43-45, the promise becomes fulfilled. The Israelite's take possession of the land God promised and settled there. God gave them rest from war on every side and it ends with a verse I love (v.45) "Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled."
I don't know about you, but that makes me excited! So let me encourage you with this today, be strong and courageous! There are lots of things out there that threaten you, but remember it's not the people in our lives we need to fear or the situations seemingly out of our control: 

 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6: 12

And over that, you can be sure we have already won the victory!!!

What courageous thing is God asking you to do? Write this verse down and carry it with you. 

"So do not be afraid. I am with you.Do not be terrified. I am your God.
I will make you strong and help you. I will hold you safe in my hands.
    I always do what is right.
11 “All those who are angry with you will be put to shame.
    And they will be dishonored.
Those who oppose you will be destroyed. And they will vanish.
12 You might search for your enemies. But you will not find them.
Those who go to war against you will completely disappear.
13 I am the Lord your God. I take hold of your right hand.
I say to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I will help you.’
Isaiah 41: 10-13 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Re-routing (When God Takes You On A Detour)

Traveling to visit my mom in far northeastern Arkansas from the Dallas, Texas area several years ago, me and my husband, along with my oldest son and my brother made the long trek to visit my mom for Thanksgiving. 

During that 8 hour trip, the GPS on the phone would say "Re-routing..." when there was traffic up ahead or a faster detour we could take. My brother would look down at his phone and say "Aaah, Rita, she's done it again!" 

"Rita?" I asked quizzically, "Who are you talking to?"

"My phone" my brother replied, "She re-routes so much I nicknamed her Rita Re-route."

So for the remainder of the trip and pretty much the rest of my life since then, I never looked at my phone the same way again, Rita Re-route always popped into my head when a re-route was necessary on our travels.  

How many times I have listened to Rita Re-route willingly, and sometimes, not so willingly in my journey through life. Changing majors in college, switching professions (from aspiring Christian artist/preschool teacher turned stay at home mom/published author), relocating for my husband's job that has recently brought us across the country twice... all these things have definitely thrown kinks into my plans and at times, made me feel the rug was pulled out from underneath me. 

But I can look back at all the re-routes in my life and see that the whole time, God was in control of mine and my family's ultimate destination. How we got there depended on whether or not we listened to take the faster detours or not.

That's why I love God's gift of free will. We can choose to listen to the Rita Re-routes in our minds or continue on our chosen path. But when we keep God first in our lives we will ultimately end up where we are suppose to be. 

About a year ago I looked at my husband after we were settling into our new home in North Carolina and through homesick tears for Texas asked, "Is this where we will grow old? Or do you think well find our way back?"

He looked up, sighed heavily and replied, "I think we'll end up where God ultimately wants us to be."  

I was not satisfied with that answer, I wanted to know and know now! I bent down on my knees asking God to answer this question for me, but all I ever got was silence. So I settled in my soul that I didn't need to know the answer, I just needed to bloom where God had currently planted me. So I did my very best with what I could with the time and talents I was given. I wrote, filmed and edited a bible study to go along with my first book, filmed a radio interview, hosted a book signing at a local coffee shop and got involved in a local church we started attending. But then I could feel a stirring in my soul, that we were about to get re-routed once again. 

When my husband got the offer to relocate to Kentucky, we had the choice to accept and believe this was from God and provide us another opportunity to grow and flourish elsewhere or stay and see if maybe God was not quite finished with us here. When both my husband and I felt the release to move on and go with God, knowing He would provide for us there as much as He had here, we graciously accepted the detour. 

As cliche as it sounds the quote that says "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future" is my life's motto right now. I may not know what church we will attend or how my kids will like the schools or when well make new friends in Kentucky, but I do know that God is the center of this family and this home. 

Sometimes God re-routes our lives to get us back on track, perhaps we've detoured far off the path that will be good for us.  Sometimes He offers safer detours because there might be a dangerous path up ahead that can be avoided, and sometimes He re-routes us to grow us into the people He created us to be. That re-route might be what builds strength, character, hope or perseverance like it says in Romans 5:3-5 (NLT):

 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Your re-route might not be a physical move like ours has been, but it may look like a cancer diagnosis or perhaps you got laid off from your job.  Maybe your re-route is deciding whether or not to go back to school or get involved in that ministry opportunity at church. Perhaps your life is at one of those crossroads where your youngest started kindergarten this year and you feel the stirring to go back to work. Maybe all of your children have left home and you find yourself an empty-nester and that nudging to finish writing that book or maybe even to start your own business is constantly on your mind. 

Life offers us many re-routes and a lot of detours. But we can trust we are on the right path when we consult with the ultimate navigator- Jesus! 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Get Up and Go!

I was a teenager sitting in church barely able to keep my eyes open. Hardly listening to the pastor's message that Sunday, I was in a season of my life where I was actively trying to grow in my faith. But that Sunday I just wasn't feeling it, wasn't paying attention at all, then my eyes closed. 

Have you ever had one of those moments when you fall asleep in places that you know you shouldn't? Oh man, I remember the times in high school and college where I would drift off only to have my head jerk up so hard, if people around me didn't know I was asleep, they knew then by my wild reactive movements.  

Well my head jerked up and I wildly looked around to see if anyone noticed and after breathing a sigh of relief, I looked down in my lap at my opened Bible and read the following words:  "Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

It was almost like I received a shot of Espresso through an IV. I know no one around me saw me doze off that day, but  God did. I can't tell you what the sermon was about or if anything profound happened after that service, but I woke up and got to listening to the Word of God being preached for that day. 

This Summer, I have been enjoying the lazy days being at home with my boys, staying up late watching things like Shark Week and the Summer Olympics and getting to sleep in the next morning. But allowing myself to sleep in till the boys wake up, also keeps me from getting some quiet time with the Lord done in the morning. 

When I hear my children rustling around, I look over at my phone, read the latest blog devotional in my email, say a little prayer and then drift back off to sleep before I hear the voice... For about a month now, I have been feeling the Lord telling me to get up, before my kids did and spend time with Him. 

At first, I was frustrated. I thought I need that annoying voice telling me to get up to stop, because I need rest too! I justified rest is just as important to God as it is to me and he would understand. Only I knew no evil voice would be telling me to get up and spend time with God, the Holy Spirit was wanting to get me back in my quiet time, because there were things me and Him needed to hash out. 

I had been feeling dry spiritually and frustrated.  There were a lot of big decisions going on in my life and my family's that I should have been face down on the floor about, but I wasn't. In my quiet time I turn my Pandora channel on the Elevation Worship station, grab my Bible (not the one on my phone) and my journal and head to the front porch and get in the zone! In the stillness and quietness of those moments, that is when I hear God most speaking into my life. He and I both needed that. 

He needed me to wake up from my sleep, rise up from the demands of my life trying to drown out His voice and take the time to let Jesus shine in me, through me and speak to me just like it says in Ephesians 5:14.  

He needed me to get up and go spend time with Him, pray to Him and hear from Him. Let me tell you, I didn't regret it one bit! 

What is God whispering into your life that you keep brushing aside? Does your spiritual walk feel like it is falling flat and lacking depth? Perhaps because it is. Get up and go to your quiet place. Do whatever you need to do to cancel out any distraction and mute all noise and just sit in God's presence to hear what He has for you today.  

Deserts will bloom in the light of Your love
Valleys make room for the river of God

You never run dry
Never run dry
Never run dry

You're my source, never ending
You're my life, never lacking

Lyrics from "Never Run Dry" by Housefires

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Never Say Never

 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 

I have decided...NEVER SAY NEVER! 

I always said I would never drive a minivan. After being voted "most likely to drive a minivan" in high school, I determined to rebel against people's expectations of me and become an SUV mom. But when it came time, the standard leather seats, automatic doors and dvd system with bucket seats were calling out to me in the form of a Chrysler Town and Country and the fact that it was much more affordable, made it even more appealing! So I drove off the lot and haven't looked back, loving my minivan and the spacious room it has afforded me and my family and friends. 

I always said I would never home school my children. Yet I found myself purchasing the curriculum online yesterday in preparation of homeschooling my two boys into their 3rd grade and 6th grade year due to circumstances beyond my control. 

I always said after our first cross-country move from Texas to North Carolina, I would never move across the country again! It was too hard, too expensive and emotionally way too messy. Filtering through the newness of our new town, fixing up a home, weeding through the homesickness and loneliness was at times more than I could bear. But here I am, getting ready to list my home here in the piney woods of North Carolina and searching for new homes in the state of Kentucky, venturing out once more to move across the country. 

So I have resolved, never to say never. It's funny how God can take these "Nevers" and turn them into revelations. It's funny how God can take these "Nevers" and turn them into something we never knew we needed. 

So I have resolved that if there is ever anything certain in this life, it's that things are going to change. Life evolves, people grow, circumstances shift from mountain tops to valleys. But here is one unchanging truth that truly will NEVER change...God is steadfast, he is unmovable and He is in control. 

When entering into uncharted and unfamiliar territory in my life, I have learned it best to face it with wide open arms. Embracing the seasons of change, knowing that with every situation, new friendship, or opportunity comes with it growth that sprouts good things in my life. How do I know that? I cling tightly to Ephesians 2:10 as written above. 

God is the center of my life, my marriage and my home. He hasn't veered me wrong before and he isn't going to start now. God has good things in store for me, my husband, my children, even in the uncomfortable, the new, the rocky, and the situations we say we would never find ourselves in. 

I have used my minivan as a place of ministry. Both in Texas and North Carolina, I have taken my children and their friends and cousins to school and even in the simpleness of a child's prayer before they get out of the car, they jump out knowing that the God of the universe heard their voice that morning. I have had deep and insightful conversations with my 11 year old when he ponders why things are the way they are. I have heard my 8 year old crack the funniest jokes fills the minivan with laughter. 

I look forward to this year of homeschooling my children, even though at times I find myself scared to death at the thought of it. Why? Because I have covered this decision in prayer and know that throughout another transition in our family's life this year, being able to be at home with them and pouring into them, will help them ensure a solid footing of family and faith, and help them adjust emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Believe it or not, I am excited about this move. I can hardly believe it myself. Why? Because I know that God is going to lead and guide our steps just as He has before.  I have hope and confidence in His guiding hand because I have seen the work it produces in my life- strength, endurance, perseverance, courage, determination. I also rest in the fact that good things are prepared in advance for us in Kentucky, just as they were planned for me here. 

Although it has been a whirlwind 9 months, I have met sweet friends that will forever leave an imprint on my heart. I have launched an online bible study for my book Arm Yourself and been able to share my story and passion with people in this coastal community. My husband has been able to grow professionally and have his talents and giftings in the world of  computers be met with favor and blessing with promotions that stem from a wife's heart of earnest prayer over her husband the last 13 1/2 years. In world that has been wrought with turmoil and recession, God has always protected my husband's job and even been given positions of promotion throughout companies that have been littered with layoffs and many unknowns. God has great plans for Him in Kentucky too.

My children are learning that home is where we all are. It doesn't have to be the place of your birth, it just has to be where love welcomes you with open arms. Besides our homes here on this Earth are temporary, our eternal home is in Heaven. Moving releases the tight hold we have on material things and helps keep our focus on eternal things. The attitudes, the heart and the incredible strength my children have displayed is a blessing to behold.  

You may not be moving to Kentucky, but you may be preparing to move into the unfamiliar and uncharted too and it scares you to death. You may be finding yourself doing exactly what you said you would never do. If that is you today, let go. Let Him lead. You don't have to be scared. He has good things planned for you, things He already has completely laid out, He's just asking you to take that next step of obedience. Will you?

Stop saying never and start saying yes!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Different Kind of Blog: Love and the Outcome Concert Review

I always love getting the opportunity to share with you the latest in Christian music. Today's post is a review on an up and coming band you might have heard on your local Christian radio station. "Love and the Outcome" is a band composed of Canadian husband and wife, Chris Rademaker and Jodi King.

 I had the privilege to attend one of their concerts in my new town, Washington , NC. It was sponsored by 98.3 the Bridge, our local Christian radio station here in the inner banks. What I love most about concerts is that you get to hear the story behind the songs and their passion for writing inspirational music. They were newlyweds and sold everything they owned to follow God's call on their life. Their heart was burdened to take their music as a message and uplift and inspire fans all over the country to follow Jesus and share His love with them. Their motto, "God is love and we are the outcome", rings true in all of their music. 

You might be most familiar with their tune "He is With Us" that currently plays on Christian radio, an upbeat song that will have you singing along quickly. My personal favorite is their new single, that I used in last week's blog, "The God I Know", that talks about letting go of perfection and laying everything we are, good and bad and imperfect at his feet and enjoying being in the presence of "The God I Know".  

(Sidenote: I have never seen a live show where the female lead sings, plays the drums and the keyboard all at the same time. Kudos, to her, that takes skill! )

 One of their most moving songs was written right after they moved away from Canada and found out that Chris's mom had cancer. They took a year off from music and touring to be there for her. Out of this situation birthed an amazing song called "The Story You're Building In Me". 

Attending a concert gives you a glimpse into the heart of these fantastic musicians, that you wouldn't have otherwise known. I am grateful I got the chance to hear their incredible music and their story. 

If you get a chance, I highly recommend you see this incredible couple in concert. Here are their tour dates. 

Here is the link to purchase their latest album!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pharisee Double Life

"What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. 

So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily."
Galatians 2:19-21 (MSG)

Wow! Who knew that was in the Bible? I certainly didn't. 

Well I did, might recognize it as "I have been crucified with Christ so I no longer live, but Christ lives in me..." as stated in the NIV. But there is something so special about reading your bible and then looking at it through different translation lenses.

I woke up this morning and the first thing I do before I get out of bed is open my YouVersion app and read the daily scripture. It does not replace my quiet time with God, but due to pressing demands on my time, this is the best way to get some Jesus in me before I get out of bed. 

This is what was on my screen as I groggily opened my eyes and the words of the screen jumped off my Iphone and right into my heart.

I can relate so much to this scripture. I have been a believer my whole life and always thought that doing, saying, wearing the right thing helped me be a "better" Christian. I have always been labeled a "good girl" although I secretly hated it, it did make me feel I was just a bit closer to heaven than those around me that still clung tightly to worldly things. 

Talk about a mirror into my Pharisee double life! That kind of attitude gets you no where fast! I have had to cut myself some slack and say "You know what? I am not going to get it all right and I am going to make mistakes and that is OK. It doesn't negate God's calling on my life. It doesn't make God mad at me and I am certainly not going to be condemned for slipping up every once in a while." 

Bringing my honest self to the Lord is the greatest sacrifice anyone could ever make...inadequacies and all. 

I have also had to cut other people slack too. God did not create us all the same! That's what is beautiful about this world. God created us with different temperaments, personalities, struggles, and victories so that not one of us would be identical. We need to embrace who God made us to be and give a lot more grace to other people who aren't like us. 

It's OK to step outside of your box and make friends with people who may not exactly be like you or think like you. Jesus took a smorgasbord of men from varying occupations and backgrounds and created 12 phenomenal disciples out of them. From stinky old fishermen to snooty tax collectors Jesus picked a lot of men who to a Pharisee's eyes had no chance at getting anywhere near close to the coming Messiah.

But what can be said about these men? 

"Now when the men of the Sanhedrin (Jewish High Court) saw the confidence and boldness of Peter and John, and grasped the fact that they were uneducated and untrained [ordinary] men, they were astounded, and began to recognize that they had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13 (AMP)

The important thing is not the cross around our necks, the bumper sticker on our cars, or the political party we are affiliated with,  but the fact that we have taken the time to spend with Jesus. What freedom falling into the arms of Jesus brings rather than falling into the trap of religion.

Don't let satan confuse conviction for condemnation. Yes God is good and He loves us as our Heavenly Father, but any good father will discipline and when we come under that discipline let it convict you and change you for the better. Condemnation brings with it heavy guilt that you feel you can't get out of. Guess what? When sins are forgiven they are also forgotten. Rest in that. 

What is hindering you from fully walking into the freedom Jesus offers in His Presence? I challenge you to take it to Him in prayer this morning- whether on your lunch break, waiting in the carpool line, or in the quietness of your bedroom before you drift off to sleep tonight- give it to Him. Whatever you are clinging onto too tightly- perfectionism, sin, fear of the unknown, whatever it is. Start walking in his freedom today!

If it was all about religion 
What to do What to say What to Wear
On a Sunday
All about perfection
Black and white Wrong or Right Never Grey
I'd never make it
I'd never be good enough   

Then I threw my hands up, worries down
I remember when he showed me how 
to break up with my doubt, once I was
lost but now I am found
No strings attached when he saved my soul
I want you to know the God I know  

The God I Know by Love and the Outcome 


Monday, May 16, 2016

2016 Summer Reading Book List

It's mid-May and time to start planning those vacations, road trips and weekend getaways. There is nothing I love more when waiting at an airport terminal or sitting on the beach underneath your umbrella, knowing a good book is close at hand.

 Or, if you are not going anywhere this summer, grab one of these books off my summer reading list and sit on the front porch with a glass of sweet tea and get lost for a couple of hours. 

 These are the books I have read just since January and I would be remiss to not share with you some of these incredible titles! How ironic that most of these books dealt with a current season I was facing in my own personal life. 

I am a huge fan of the Christian non-fiction genre and there is one nod in there to a Christian fiction book. So sit back, grab a highlighter (all of mine are covered in pink, blue and yellow highlight) and let's dive into each of these!

1.  The first book on top is The Girl's Still Got It: Take a Walk with Ruth and the God Who Rocked Her World by Liz Curtis Higgs. Liz is a well known author for both Christian fiction and non-fiction and has written many books! I actually got to meet her last Summer at a women's conference I attended. She is a hoot to hear speak and is an incredible story teller. This book journeys through the book of Ruth and breaks apart each verse explaining the significance behind the bond shared between Ruth and Naomi. She then explores the beautiful love story of Ruth and Boaz using a bit of a non fiction twist. Where the Bible leaves gaps, Liz does a fantastic job of transporting us there with details like sights, sounds and smells of what it was like during that time. I am currently reading through this book with a group of ladies as a bible study. This book also includes study guide questions for those who want a more in-depth look into the Story of Ruth.

 (Me and Liz Curtis Higgs-2015 SheSpeaks)

2. Next on the list is Come with Me: Discovering the Beauty of Following Where He Leads by Suzanne Eller. Get your highlighter ready for this one! Suzanne fills this book with incredible statements and profound personal experiences that bring her to a place of complete and utter trust in our invisible God. Sometimes we get excited when God says to go, but it takes a lot of grit, determination and prayer to stay in God's will instead of throwing your hands up in the air and telling God, "Nevermind, I was just kidding when I said, "Here I am , send me!"" Enduring a her own and her husband's cancer diagnosis and the strain of moving across states, Suzanne, takes us on a journey of complete and total dependence on a God who never failed her and reminds us that He will never fail us either. I can't recommend this book enough! Oh, and I got to meet this incredible lady at a writer's conference I attended last year also. (I hadn't even bought this book then!)

 (Micca Campbell, Me, and Suzanne Eller-SheSpeaks 2015)

3. The next book is 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Quit by Nicki Koziarz. Do you see a recurring theme here? Most of these ladies are all writers and speakers for Proverbs 31 ministries! If you haven't heard of Proverbs 31 ministries, check them out! Incredible ministry!!! So back to the book. 5 Habits is a book that also takes you through the book of Ruth. Author, Nicki, has a bad habit of quitting pretty much everything. So when God brings her to the book of Ruth she feels the Holy Spirit convicting her to stay the course in life, wherever God's will leads, and don't give up! Using personal reflection of past experiences and seeing how much she missed out on lights a fire under her to apply Ruth's tenacity and determination to her own life. This book will wreck you-but in all the best ways! 

4. I could not leave this incredible author and dynamic speaker out- Christine Caine. This is one of her older books, but incredibly powerful- Unstoppable: Running the Race You Were Born to Win. This book makes you look at life like a runner in the Olympics that pass the baton to each other. It makes you stop and think about the baton being handed to you in your own personal life and if you are running your race to meet your fullest potential living inside of you. It also gets you to think as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, etc...who might be getting the baton behind you. Sharing stories of those who work in her organization she founded, A21, that fights human trafficking, you will look at your life like, "I don't really have it all that bad". I love reading books that show me struggles going on all over this world. Sometimes living in my own little suburban bubble needs to be popped and books like this gets me to think from a much bigger kingdom perspective. Oh and grab your highlighter for this one too! (She has a brand new book out this month too called Unashamed. Oh, my Amazon wish list keeps getting bigger!)

 5. Next is Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God's Voice Above All Others by Steven Furtick. I was lucky enough to actually get this book in Pastor Steven's church's bookstore near Charlotte, NC last year. I had never been to a mega church and honestly had negative preconceived notions when I arrived. But after hearing him speak, I could understand why he needed so many locations. He spoke truth- like honest, raw, get all up in your business truth that rivaled no other Pastor I had ever heard before.  His podcasts and books such as Crash the Chatterbox, made me feel like it was ok to be a hot mess and still be used and loved by God anyways! I had just finished writing a youth series delivered to the teenagers at my church called, Voices in My Head, so hearing that a well-renown pastor deals with the same issues, validated my craziness. Oh and let me just say again- HIGHLIGHTER! (Check out his new book Unqualified too!)

 (Hearing Pastor Steven preach at Elevation Church- Summer 2015)

6.  Ok all you fiction readers! I don't think there is a more powerful read than biblical fiction. Esther: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt takes you on a journey with Esther and her uncle Mordecai. What a beautiful story that is brought to life using historical information from the time that makes all the characters all the more real. Humanizing King Xerxes and even telling the story from the perspective of one of the King's eunuchs, you see a perspective that even though isn't included in the bible, makes you wonder if it could have been.When a good Biblical fiction book makes me want to go read the Bible, you know Angela did a very good job! 

7. Last but not least is Glynnis Whitwer's book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day.  This book fell at the bottom of my to do list. Not because it wasn't good but because that is how bad, my to-do list got! She dives deep into the how's and why's we get overwhelmed- oh, that's right we all inherently have a procrastinator inside all of us! I didn't think I did, but was shocked at how many similarities I had with the ones described in the book...uh oh...GUILTY! So I kept reading and the last part of the book explains great practical advice on how to organize your to do list so that each day is very productive. She brought fresh, real and honest insight into this area of my life. Now I have a planner with things written down weekly and daily that I want to accomplish and being a better steward of my time opens up my schedule to say yes to more things I enjoy and whatever God wills. Also, I wanted to give a shout out to Glynnis! I met her last year at the same conference and she told me I was the first book she ever signed! Woot!! See? Here's proof! 
Well that's a wrap! I hope you check out these incredible resources. I have to put in a plug for my book too if you haven't gotten a copy yet: Arm Yourself: Equipping Ourselves with the Armor of God.There you go!!!

Be blessed and I am sending happy thoughts of beaches, mountains and summer fun your way!!!