Our Advocate

1 John 2:1

Judging a book by its’ cover

17570843I’m guilty of judging a book by its’ cover. The title piqued my interest when I saw it on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble. I’d never heard of the author, the publisher wasn’t a traditional “Christian” publisher, and one of the endorsements was from someone who was having a war of characters on Twitter with a pastor I respected. So I sighed and put it down and bought a a book study about women in the Bible. I felt I’d made the “biblical womanhood” approved choice.
A few weeks later the cheery yellow book caught my eye as I browsed the religious non-fiction section of my public library. Two years after moving to “the city” and I’m still geeking over the size of the non-fiction collection.
Sarah (after the opening chapter, I feel like she’d be okay with me addressing her by her first name), starts out the book with the Gospel. She invites us to leave our baggage about biblical womanhood and women’s roles at the door. Instead Sarah writes in a conversational and narrative writing style. This is not a word study. But Sarah’s writing is still more theologically grounded than much of what is wrapped up in a pretty package and sold to women about the Bible. I gave it 4 stars because she does meander it a bit when I’d like more meat on her views.

I don’t want to debate whether Sarah’s opinions on biblical womanhood are right or wrong. Because that’s not what I took away from the book. What I’ll remember is that Jesus loves men and women equally. He wants Christians to serve.

I’ll close the post with a couple of my favorite quotes from the book.

“After years of reading the Gospels and the full canon of Scripture, here is, very simply, what I’ve learned about Jesus and the ladies: he loves us. He loves us. On our own terms. He treats us as equals to the men around him; he listens; he does not belittle; he honors us; he challenges us; he teaches us; he includes us-calls us all beloved. Gloriously, this flies in the face of the cultural expectations of his time-and even our own time…Jesus loves us. In a time when women were almost silent or invisible in literature, Scripture affirms and celebrates women. Women were a part of Jesus’ teaching, part of his life. Women were there for all of it.”

“The lack of women among the twelve disciples isn’t prescriptive or a precedent for exclusion of women any more than the choice of twelve Jewish men excludes Gentile men from leadership.”

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It’s Not What You Think-Book Giveaway and Review

Do you ever buy any of your favorite books in more than one format? I’m tempted to buy an ebook copy of “It’s Not What You Think” by Jefferson Bethke, which is on sale for $1.99 on Amazon (as of 3/26/16). You might know Jefferson as the Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus Spoken Word guy who went viral on Facebook a few years ago.

bookI first read the book back in November (yeah, I’m a bit behind on my blogging) after checking it out from the library. (Y’all, I now live in a town where the library has enough money to buy Christian non-fiction besides the titles you find at Wal-Mart!) I picked up a paperback copy on sale at Barnes a Noble a while back to give to a friend who’d expressed interested in reading it after I posted some quotes from the book.She already had a copy so now I have one just hanging out on my overstuffed bookshelf, waiting to be read. That’s where you come in. Leave a comment to enter your name in the drawing for a paperback copy of “It’s Not What You Think”.

The first few pages of the book had me wondering if I wanted to keep reading. I’m glad I kept going. I’m a social reader, sharing worthy passages on Facebook and Goodreads as I find them. I’m glad I hashtagged them on Facebook so I could go back and find them to share with you now.

This was one of the most powerful quotes of the book.

“So many young people are ‘leaving the faith’ after they get older because they never really knew the faith in the first place. Or a better way to say it is maybe they never really knew Jesus. It’s easy to leave facts. It’s easy to change your mind. It’s easy to throw something off and forget it. But its awfully hard to forget a person. To forget a relationship. To miss not being known and loved and forgiven at the same time. That’s what Jesus is offering and that’s what we are invited to. To sit at the table with him. He invited us long ago. It’s about time we take a seat.”

I still think about friendships that ended a decade ago. How much more would I miss Jesus if He were gone from my life?

I’m putting this next one to practice as I apply (and get turned down) for scholarships to enable me to pay for tuition to earn my Master of Library Science degree.

I think thanksgiving is the secret to a healthy Christian life. When we feel as if we earned, something, we become entitled and smug. But if we understand even the oxygen in our lungs is a gift from an amazing and beautiful Creator, then gratitude and thankfulness start to explode in our lives. When we can be thankful, we get joy.

A few more quotes….

It doesn’t work to stand on a street corner and yell at people. Instead, truth is when we sit at the table, facing one another and breaking bread. God has made the table a holy place. We aren’t left guessing what the kingdom of Jesus looks like, when we can read what it looked like on earth. And one of the main components was Jesus ate with people. He sat down with them. There is something mysterious and beautiful about the table. The table is scandalous and subversive. While Jesus did a lot of eating with folks and proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is near, we’d do right to follow suit. What if we invited those we disagreed with-or people whose perspectives we are completely removed form-over for dinner?


When we are in the Scripture-the Gospels specifically-on a daily basis, then Jesus’ voice is clearer. These ancient texts, narratives, and songs have a way of waking my heart to the Holy Spirit…The tough question is, do we even leave space in our hearts to hear that voice? hen we are looking at our phones while in line at the store, when we are bored at home, when we are waiting for something to happen, then we might listening to the voice of emotional bankruptcy. We are always listing to voices-on TV, on the Internet, from our friends. Do you know the differences? God speaks in the quiet. The wilderness is a place of utter silence…That’s the importance of the wilderness. It’ a place where we can hear the whisper. It’s a place that isn’t drowned out by the noises of our phones, computers, and twenty-four-hour news cycle. Wilderness is sometimes the only place we can her the voice of God. Jesus went into the wilderness to let his belovedness soak in. Do you do the same thing?

When you view the Bible as your personal road map, you cant help but create a God who is a blend of Santa Claus and the magic eight ball. He exists to satisfy your desires, answer your specific questions, and give you exact details about who he wants you to marry or what school he wants you to go to. This view of the Bible places you as the center of the story. The world is revolving around you, and God is present as the butler, not Lord.

If this sound like a book you’d like to read, or share with a friend, just leave a comment and you’ll have a chance!

Update: I’ll pick the winner via on Saturday, April 2 at 8 p.m.(ish).

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Book Review: Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow-Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich, edited by Dean C. Stroud

I should be studying for my Critical Reasoning class right now. Instead, I’m going to add another book review to my neglected blog. Fifteen credit hours this semester has put my blog at the bottom of my priority list. But I still have time for some “pleasure” reading. One of my recent reads was Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow-Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich, edited by Dean C. Stroud. I put “pleasure” in quotation marks because this book delves into one of the darkest moments in history-the Holocaust.

“Where were the Christians and the Church in Germany during the Holocaust?” It’s a question I asked my history teacher in high school and continued to wonder about for many years. Reading “Preaching In Hitler’s Shadow” finally gave me the answer. This was not a time of theological darkness. God and his Church were still active in places where the Nazis ruled. There were many Christians who did not hide in silence. They were fighting against Hitler and the Third Reich in the pulpit, in the Nazi occupied villages and cities, and even in the military.

17605454“Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow” includes short biographies on several Christian pastors on the front lines of a theological war as well as a physical war. The real gems of the book is the collection of sermons these men preached at the risk of death (and more than one pastor did die) during Hitler’s reign.

One of the men featured is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. While Bonhoeffer’s role as a pastor who plotted with others to assassinate Hitler makes him the most well-known in this book, the book also includes stories or less known men that are just as powerful. Such as Paul Schneider. Schneider, German pastor, was the first Protestant pastor to die in a concentration camp because of his opposition to the Nazis.

“Our faith stands (or) falls with the miraculous events of the cross and the resurrection.” Paul Schneider

One of Bonhoeffer’s sermon reminds us that God does not need to use superheroes to accomplish his mission. In reality, he often uses the underdog.

“We have Gideon because we don’t want always to be speaking bonhoefferof our faith in abstract, otherworldly, irrreal, or general terms, to which people may be glad to listen but don’t really take note of; because it is good once in a while actually to see faith in action, not just hear what it should be like, but see how it just happens in the midst of someone’s life, in the story of a human being. Only here does faith become, for everyone, not just a children’s game, but rather something highly dangerous, even terrifying. Here a person is being treated without considerations or conditions or allowances; he has to bow to what is being asked, or he will be broken. This is why the image of a person of faith is so often that of someone who is not beautiful in human terms, not a harmonious picture, but rather that of someone who has been torn to shreds. The picture of someone who has learned to have faith has the peculiar quality of always pointing away from the person’s own self, toward the One in whose power, in whose captivity and bondage he or she is. So we have Gideon, because his story is a story of God glorified, of the human being humbled.”

Many books have been written about Bonhoeffer, including “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas (keep the tissues close). The movie “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace” was also made several years ago and is available to rent / stream on Amazon. Below is a clip of the execution scene where Bonhoeffer remained a faithful witness.

This book is a good choice for anyone interested in World War II history. It is also a picture of how God’s light will not be extinguished, even in the face of some of the darkest evil the earth has seen.

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Book Review of Jesus Swagger by Jarrid Wilson

It’s been one year since I moved to a city with a bookstore. I even worked there for six months. But with my college student salary I’ve only bought 7 new books (not gonna count the ones from the used bookstore, library book sale, consignment shop or ebooks). One of those books was Jesus Swagger by Jarrid Wilson.

Jesus Swagger

Silly title, solid Christian theology and apologetics. Jesus Swagger encouraged, and empowered my faith. It’s one of those books I looked forward to picking up and didn’t want to put down. More importantly, Jesus Swagger is Bible centered.

Most helpful for me was Jarrid’s thoughts for living out faith in the work place and among our non-Christian friends. For those of us living in the world but not of the world, Jesus Swagger is filled with several thoughtful passages.

“Your current situation and workplace are your personal mission field. Why? Because you can reach people a church can’t. You’re on the front lines! You might even have a better opportunity to reach people than a missionary or church professional does. God has put the people around you in your life for a reason. Find out what that reason is, and make it your mission to empower their lives with Christ. Jesus will always supply you with the necessary tools and weapons needed to conquer anything that comes in your path. Your job title doesn’t matter, but the way you use your time does.”

“What’s stopping you from being the one to make a difference in the secular world? What’s wrong with showing an example in dark places? If you won’t, who will? Honestly, I think many of us are just too scared to jump headfirst into something Christian culture calls ‘secular.’ That word sounds scary. And while I agree there are many things one should stay away from as a Christ-follower, there is a mature and honorable way to go about being a Christian while still being engaged in today’s culture. Once again, Christ called us to reach “all the nations,” not just Christian cliques (Matthew 28:19)

“Don’t let culture be what changes your relationship with God. Do feel free to let your relationship with God help you change and contribute positively to culture.”

As I read I was constantly highlighting passages (yes, I write in my books!) and sharing quotes of Facebook. A few friends even ordered the book. Biggest reward for a librarian / bookworm! I won’t share with you all the text I highlighted but I will share a couple of the quotes. This one got my friends talking.

“Hate the sin, not the sinner” isn’t working…I encourage you to instead “Love the sinner, not the sin.” Remove the word hate from your vocabulary, and start reflecting an image of Jesus that portrays him differently than a man standing on a soapbox wielding a megaphone. I can’t ever recall a person who came to faith because of hate. Let’s start a movement of people who are willing to take hate out of the equation and love people regardless of their sins”

This next one sliced my heart and still hurts worse than a paper cut!

“I’m amazed how a single act of love can transform someone from the inside out. Even in your life, one single act of love could be the tipping point to someone knowing the truth of Christ, so don’t withhold that from anyone you come across.

For seekers and saints alike, this book will appeal to a variety of ages from teenagers to grandparents. It would make a great gift for high school or college grads. Jesus Swagger is also an excellent choice for a group book study. I’m now following Jarrid Wilson’s social media and blog posts. I look forward to reading more by him.

Let me know if you read it and what you think! I love talking about books here on my blog, my Goodreads profile, and on my Facebook page

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Book Review of “Does Prayer Change Things?” by R.C. Sproul

currently available as a free ebook
currently available as a free ebook

This short book is filled with deep water theology that anyone can grasp, whether you’re wearing floaties or are an Olympic swimmer.

Dr. Sproul presents the subject of prayer in a very accessible way. The average reader need not be intimidated.

The book covers a lot of ground in six chapters, including: The Place of Prayer, The Purpose of Prayer, The Pattern of Prayer, The Practice of Prayer, The Prohibitions of Prayer, and The Power of Prayer.

This is a very quotable book, great for sharing snippets on social media. I could have quoted 3/4 of the book. I got a little happy with the highlighter feature on my ereader-marking 50 passages. One of the quotes I highlighted says:

“Prayer, like everything else in the Christian life, is for God’s glory and for our benefit, in that order.”

I like that it’s only 88 pages. Dr. Sproul slices into the heart of the subject and doesn’t veer off. Because of it’s short length and easy readability, I would (and have) recommended this to Christians at all stages of their journey of faith.

Dr. Sproul reminds us that for Christians, prayer is both duty and a privilege, an invitation and a command.

One might pray and not be a Christian, but one cannot be a Christian and not pray.”

“Does Prayer Change Things” by R.C. Sproul is currently available as a free ebook.

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Who I Am (Not a Disney Princess)

There are a lot of “sexy” women’s costumes out there. Not a word I want to associate with the outfit I’m wearing to the Fan-Con event at my local library. (Regardless of of the “hot librarian” trope that lives on in Hollywood.) My part-time paycheck and a full-time college schedule hasn’t left me much money or time to find a pre-made costume. So my mom suggested that I wear my prom dress and be a princess.

The princess dress
The princess dress

I immediately dismissed the idea.

“Mom. I have short hair, acne, I wear glasses and I’m overweight. I don’t look like a princess.”

(No, you don’t have to comment and tell me how beautiful I am, inside and out. :D)

Earlier that day I’d heard the song “Who I Am” by Blanca on the radio. I’d already thought about sharing the song on my Facebook page. I think the message is one that all of us (especially women) need to remind ourselves of.

In my Sociology of Media class we’re discussing all of the different voices that clamor for our attention a daily basis.

Ads with picture perfect models, celebrities with the best bodies money can buy (is that mean to say?), products for our “self-improvement”… (At least a pair of Spanx is more comfortable than a princess’s corset!)

Blanca sings…

Another voice, another choice
To listen to words somebody said
Another day
I replay
One too many doubts inside my head

(You can read the lyrics at the end of the post.)

Not long after I told my mom that I wasn’t going to be the inspiration for the next Disney movie (unless we’re talking about Belle’s love of the Beast’s library), I heard another Voice asking,

Whose opinion matters? 

I didn’t have to go reread Proverbs 31 to know Whose standard of beauty I need to live up to. And it’s not the standards of Disney, Hollywood, or Mattel.

I am a daughter of the one true King.

As for the costume, I think I’ll take the easy (and fun) way out, and recycle the costume I wore for Superhero Training Camp a couple of weeks ago. Hey, even Princess Kate has been photographed wearing the same outfit in public twice.

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Awesome Librarian!
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Awesome Librarian!

Who I Am by Blanca

Another voice, another choice
To listen to words somebody said
Another day
I replay
One too many doubts inside my head

Am I strong
Am I good enough
Do I belong
After all
That I’ve said and done
Is it real
When I feel
I don’t measure up
Am I loved

I’m running to the One who knows me
Who made every part of me in His hands
I’m holding to the One who holds me
‘Cause I know whose I am, I know who I am

I am sure I am Yours

Turning down
Tuning out
Every single word
That caused me pain
And unafraid
‘Cause I believe You mean it when You say

I am strong
I am good enough
I belong
After all
‘Cause of what You’ve done
This is real
What I feel
No one made it up
I am loved


I am sure I am Yours
I know who I am
I am sure I am Yours

You have made me

I’m running to the One who knows me
I’m holding to the One who holds me


I am sure I am Yours
And I know who I am

Publishing: © 2015 Dayspring Music LLC / Group 1 Crew Music Publishing (BMI)(All rights Adm. by Dayspring Music, LLC)/ CentricSongs, 2 Hour Songs (SESAC) (Adm. by Music Services) / Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Upside Down Under (BMI) (All rights on behalf of itself and Upside Down Under adm. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC) Produced by Seth Mosley. Writer(s): Blanca Callahan / Seth Mosley / Mia Fieldes

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Book Review: “A Mother to Love” by Gail Gaymer Martin (Love Inspired romance)

“A Mother to Love” by Gail Gaymer Martin available in paperback or ebook from your favorite bookseller.

Book Description  “A Mother to Love” by Gail Gaymer Martin
“Angie Bursten wants to find love on her own timeline. Tired of her family’s interference, coworker Rick Jameson comes to the rescue—as her pretend boyfriend. Angie starts to spend time with Rick and his adorable daughter, Carly, and what began as a hoax soon feels all too real. Betrayed by the woman he’d married, single dad Rick is slow to trust. But seeing Angie with Carly, he can’t ignore the way he feels for his beautiful coworker. And when Angie helps Rick with the toughest battle of his life; gaining full custody of his child;there’ll be no more pretending. If they can open their hearts, Rick and Angie have a real shot at happily-ever-after.”


I feel Angie’s pain. She’s a modern, single, working woman living on her own. And everyone wants to set her up with the perfect guy. Angie’s not interested in the perfect guy-or any guy. She’s content with her life. But just because she’s not looking, doesn’t mean love can’t find her. Rick’s a single dad who doesn’t have time for romance. But he does have time for a friendship, especially when his daughter enjoys hanging out with Angie as much as he does. I don’t always like kids running through romances, but Rick’s daughter is as cute (and realistically written) as they come. Even though this is a modern romance, Angie and Rick’s relationship has an old-fashion courtship quality to it. The plot has an easy and enjoyable pace. I appreciated the way modern issues of dating, parenting and divorce are weaved into the plot and addressed in a practical Christian manner. Gail’s writing features a maturity that your don’t always find in romances. This is the first book in the Lilac Circle series. Like most streets, Lilac Circle has neighbors that are quirky, nosey and caring. I’m ready for another visit to Lilac Circle.

*I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a honest review. The opinions are my own.  I did not receive compensation for this review.

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$2.99 ebook “Protection for Hire” by Camy Tang

“Protection for Hire” by Camy Tang is currently on sale for $2.99 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (Always check price before downloading.) This is one of my favorite books!

Camy Tang must have taken a cue from her days working in a biology testig lab when she came up with the formula for “Protection For Hire.” She took the basic ingredients of romantic suspense and added in a kick of her trademark wasabi to create a five-star recipe that will keep you coming back for more!

Tessa Lancaster is a Japanese American with deep family ties. From the age of sixteen Tessa is known on the streets as a violent and ruthless enforcer for the Japanese Mafia (yakuza) until she sacrificed her freedom to protect the family. Fresh out of prison after serving seven years for a crime she didn’t commit, Tessa is free to return to “the family”-literally-the yakuza run by her Uncle Teruo. While in prison, Tessa is set free spiritually, encountering Christ and becoming a Christian.

Tessa sets out on a straight career path, channeling her skills into serving as a bodyguard for wealthy socialite Elizabeth St. Amant and her three-year-old son. But being from the upper crust doesn’t preclude Elizabeth from having problems. The socialite comes with a lot of baggage, including an abusive ex-husband and a missing fortune.

Tessa is grittier than most heroines-she’s trained in martial arts and we get to see her put her skills to the test against a variety of bad guys. She doesn’t doubt her ability to keep her charges safe but she’s going to have a harder time guarding her own heart. The case forces her to work closely with Elizabeth’s lawyer, Charles Britton. Tessa unknowingly lets her guard down to the man who led the charge to lock her up and throw away the key for her supposed crime.

The pair must try to survive assassins, gang rivalries, and exasperating family in their search to give Elizabeth her life back.

It’s not only evil that Tessa is battling. She faces temptation in the form of a disappointed mother, an angry sister and eager uncle who still see Tessa the same as they always have. Tessa must decide whether to handle things herself, the way she did when her life revolved around the yakuza, or fully follow Christ.

I was surprised that one of my favorite characters was Uncle Teruo. Tang does an excellent job of slowly growing his character into a man much deeper than just a caricature of the organized crime boss.

The first few chapters are heavy on description-though it’s integral to the plot and informative about the Asian mob community. The book quickly progresses to a page turning read with strong dialogue, an engrossing plot and characters you’ll care about.

Fans of books by Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock and Irene Hannon, and fans of female detective including Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and the Sunny Randall series by Robert B. Parker will enjoy “Protection For Hire.”

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Review: “Rescued by the Firefighter” by Gail Gaymer Martin

About the book
Paula Reynolds is looking for a new job, a new home, a new everything—except for love. Determined not to repeat old mistakes, she’s staying away from romance. She never counted on falling for handsome firefighter Clint Donatelli. Clint is used to saving lives, but with the beautiful Paula, he faces a challenge. Getting to know her is a daunting task, especially since he’s just as wary of relationships. When he learns a stunning secret from her past, he must choose—to live the way he’s always lived, or trust in a new love.


My review
5 stars
This is a really sweet romance. The kind that makes you smile and sigh and feel gooey inside. But it’s not so sweet that it’s nauseating like you’ve eaten too much candy.
Paula and Clint are very likeable so I was eager to see how they’d handle the obstacles on their road to their happily ever after. The plot is character driven. There’s lots of internal dialouge and introspection that allows us to grow along with the characters. As always Mrs. Martin brings a maturity to her characters and and an organic spiritual thread.
There’s lots of clean romance balanced with realistic hurdles that the couple must overcome in their relationship.
Clint is a fun take on the alpha hero. He’s been burned by an old flame. But instead of letting the scars affect the way he treats women he waits  patiently for the right woman to let his guard down with.
Paula has a lot of guilt about her past but shes’s working hard to find beauty from the ashes of her mistakes and build a better future.
This is the final title in the Sisters series but can be read as a stand alone. We get to catch up with characters from Her Valentine Hero and The Firefighter’s New Family. It was a fantastic way  to wrap or begin the series.
For more about Gail Gaymer Martin’s books, visit her website.

I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of “I, Saul” by Jerry B. Jenkins

Jerry  B. Jenkins is one of only a couple of authors who can entice me to pick up Christian historical fiction. Jenkins can make paint drying sound interesting. Which is a good thing because the first half of “I, Saul” doesn’t deliver on exciting opening. But I’m happy I kept reading!
The novel features two parallel stories, that take place 2,000 years apart, and converge to create a mix of danger and intrigue that ultimately give God the glory. This was an interesting concept and I applaud Jenkins for featuring two different heroes in two separate yet interconnected stories.
Professor August (Augie) Knox (he’s not nearly as old as he sounds) receives a life or death text from a friend in Italy. But a two day flight delay sends us around our elbows to get to our thumbs as we get a recap of Augie’s life story while he waits for his flight.
The book alternates between Augie’s story and the tale of the Apostle Paul as he is Imageimprisoned for the final time and waiting execution by the Roman government.
The relationship between Paul and Luke is a richly textured one. The storyline in Christianity’s earliest days is an exciting and emotional one filled with discipleship and danger. Jenkins is one of the few authors who can entice me to pick up biblical fiction. What sets this book apart is Paul s first hand account of a how his life took him from executioner to death row all in devotion to God.
The story is touted as being similar to “The Da Vinci Code” and “Indiana Jones.” I haven’t read either or seen the movies. Jenkins attempt is clever and the last half of the novel is a fast paced read that absorbed me into the story.
The plots intersect to create a modern day antiquities mystery that would make the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow drool. Paul and Luke’s story was enhanced for me as I went back and read the New Testament.
Overall a good book that I’d recommend.

I was provided with an Advance Review Copy of this book from Worthy Publishing via NetGalley.

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Three Strikes or Seventy Times Seven?

After being frustrated with someone for what seemed like the thousandth time I asked God, “Why can’t it be three strikes and you’re out instead of seventy times seven?!”

Instantly the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant came to mind. And I was humbled. Especially since I tend to feel as smug as Peter might have felt when he asked Jesus a similar question.

Matthew 18:21-35 ESV The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[g] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[h] 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[i] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[j] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[k] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

The hundred denarii that the servant owed wasn’t an amount he could grab out of the ATM or borrow from a payday lender. It was more than he could hope to earn in a lifetime!

Those few verses are a HUGE reminder that the minute I put my faith in Jesus as Savior I was forgiven of my enormous sin debt against my Master. The debt I could never paid was paid in full by Jesus’ death and Resurrection.

Jesus certainly didn’t leave any wiggle room on Whose example I’m to follow.

A few minutes later I had a chance to do unto her and she’d done unto me. But thankfully that’s not how the commandment goes is it?

One of my friends often tells her children it’s not just about obeying, it’s about doing it with a happy heart. So with a happy(ish) heart I treated her as I’d like her to treat me.

And I thanked God that He’s not a cosmic umpire just waiting for us to strike out.

In addition to Scripture God has also used a couple of songs to correct and grow me in the area of forgiveness. “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North and “Forgiveness” by Matthew West help those verses in Matthew come to life for me.


Whoever wrote “Losing” must have followed me around one day (possibly when I was the one doing the wounding and in need of forgiveness!)

“I can’t believe what she said…
I can’t believe what he did
Don’t they know it’s wrong?
Don’t they know it’s wrong?
Maybe there’s something I missed?
But how could they treat me like this?
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

This is love
This is hate
We all have a choice to make

Oh, Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doing
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losing

It’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times
Lord it doesn’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
But I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done.”

view the rest of the lyrics for “Losing”

There’s one line in Matthew West’s “Forgiveness” that sums up most any situation, whether you’re the one who is owed or who owes.

“It always goes to those who don’t deserve…”

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Review of “True Riches” by Gail Gaymer Martin

I’ll be vacationing this summer vicariously through books. Books are the best staycation. For my first summer staycation I traveled to Mackinac Island, Michigan which is the setting of  the novella “True Riches” by Gail Gaymer Martin.

Image Copyright to Grand Hotel
Image Copyright to Grand Hotel

I lodged at the Grand Hotel on the shores of Lake Michigan where Allison Kessler is working as a college intern. It’s not all work for Allison though as she gets to spend her off time exploring the island’s trails, caves and lakeshore. When a flat bike tire leaves her stranded, Allison crosses paths with a good (and handsome) Samaritan who bandages who bike and her scrapes.

Jacob Randall is on the island for the month visiting with his parents who own a vacation home there. Jacob is happy to have some company and is eager to show Allison around the island.

Allison is reluctant to spend time with Jacob because of their differences. He’s twenty-eight, has a solid career and is from a wealthy family while she’s an older college student who’s still paying her own way through school at twenty-six.

Jacob grew up vacation of the island and convinces her to let him play tour guide. The island doesn’t allow cars so the two set off on foot, bike and horseback. Allison is convinced Jacob is only after a summer romance. But Jacob persistence and acceptance helps change Allison’s attitude and bring healing to one of her old wounds.

This is a gentle romance. It’s sweet and will probably remind readers of their own first love. Though as always, Martin brings a maturity to her characters. There are no silly misunderstandings or miscommunications.

While on the island Allison also explores the mystery of her family tree as she searches for an ancestor who was stationed on the island. This thread seems a little out of place but it was a tie in with the three books in the original anthology which the book appeared. You don’t need to have read the other books to enjoy this title.

The ebook is available for $1.99
The ebook is available for $1.99

I enjoyed taking in the view at Arch Rock, biking to Sugar Loaf and seeking refuge in Skull Cave. Maybe someday I’ll enjoy a sunset from America’s longest front porch or cross the island’s five-mile long suspension bridge.

If you’d like to visit Mackinac Island, “True Riches” is available as an ebook for $1.99. “True Riches” also appears in the paperback “Mackinac Island” which features four novellas spanning four generations.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Review “Stealing the Preacher” by Karen Witemeyer

stealingFrom the backcover

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the person is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher.

I don’t read many historical romances. But the title intrigued me enough to pick-up this book. I’m so glad I did! “Stealing the Preacher” was a lot of fun! It’s not often that you can laugh during a kidnapping scene. All of the characters are likeable, even the heroine’s leathery cowboy dad. Crockett is an interesting mix of ranch cowboy and preacher. I loved Joanna’s relationship with all the men in her life. The plot was engaging from start to finish. The ending took a bit of suspension of disbelief but hey it is historical fiction and I got the parallel Mrs. Witemeyer was trying to make between the character’s circumstances and Jesus removing our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

This was the first book I’d read by Karen Witemeyer and I’m looking forward to reading more by her. This is the second Archer brother book and I’ll definitely read the first one.

*Disclosure-I received an advance ebook copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Review of “To Keep Me Warm” by Gail Gaymer Martin

Even though the Internet has made it easy to find an author’s back titles at an online book seller I still prefer the hunt-searching used book stores, thrift stores and libraries. I love the thrill of finding an out of print title that I haven’t read or don’t own. But I confess that one of the biggest thing I’ve used my ereader for is purchasing previously out of print titles by some of my favorite authors. Many authors are reprinting back titles in ebook format only for just a few dollars-sometimes as low as 99 cents.

So I snapped up the chance to review Gail Gaymer Martin‘s classic “To Keep Me Warm” which has been out of print for several years and has just been released as an ebook on Amazon for $1.99.

ImageThis is one of Gail Gaymer Martin’s first stories and her writing is just as enjoyable then as it is now. This is a quick and easy read that longtime fans and those who’ve never read her books will both want to download. The story is a novella and is the final story in the series. However readers will easily become engrossed in Tim Richmond’s story without having read the other titles. I think we can all empathize with Tim in the book’s opening scene as he stands uncomfortably in the proverbial corner of a church singles social. The widower and dad of a disabled son isn’t looking for love. When he meets Julie, a chatty nurse, he finds himself drawn to her. The blue collar dad doesn’t think he has much to offer anyone. Orphaned as child and widowed at a young age, the past plays a big part in his present. It pushes him to be a better father while the unworthiness he felt during his own childhood threatens to nip his blossoming romance in the bud. With the help of God and Julie, Tim learns that worth isn’t defined by the size of a bank account. The story wraps up with a special Christmas blessing and introduces other characters from the series, including Eden whose story is available in “Heart Full of Love” by Colleen Coble.

*Disclosure-I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review

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Review: Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings

ImageFrom the back cover of “Love in the Balance” Molly Lovelace dreams of being a society leader in 1879 Lockhart, Texas, but being smitten with handsome wrangler Bailey Garner doesn’t seem the quickest route. If only he would settle down so he could support a family.

Bailey imagines doing great things for God, but his greatest obstacle is Molly. As long as he thought they’d be married, he excused their stolen kisses, but when she keeps refusing, he vows to earn her love. In town, he tries his hand at several different trades, but everywhere he turns he runs into the mysterious stranger Edward Pierrepont. No surprise that Molly’s always making calf eyes at the wealthy adventurer.

As pressure from Molly’s parents grows she is forced into a hasty decision. Had she weighed all her options and will she find love in the balance?

Everyone in Lockhart, Texas has expectations. Molly Lovelace’s parents expect her to pick a suitable husband and settle down. Molly expects wrangler Bailey Garner to pick a more stable job. And Bailey expects Molly to accept him as he is.

It’s a bumpy beginning for the folks of Lockhart in 1879. But the opening scene of the book, which takes places in church during the Sunday service, literally made me laugh out loud.

I had a lot of fun becoming a part of Lockhart. Jennings paints a vivid picture of the Texas town and its cast of characters that absorbed me into the story. I loved going to work each day with Molly at the courthouse.

I don’t read a lot of historical novels but the characters in this book are identifiable with us today. Molly in particular has a lot of room for spiritual growth. Her actions aren’t always the most likeable. But neither are mine. I appreciated the authenticity of Molly’s character. The journey to defining love is exciting and real. Jennings has written a story that subtly reminds us the importance of acceptance.

I chatted with Regina recently about the characters spiritual journey.

Me: All of the characters seemed to have expectations of one another in the book. And often they let one another down. Did this figure into how you wanted the spiritual plot to play out.

Regina: You know, a character doesn’t grow or mature without trouble. Often we don’t turn to God until everyone else has let us down. I wanted the growth to be realistic, and for that to happen they had to be desperate.

If you missed the book’s launch party, check out the link for photos and and QandA with Regina about the book.

Be sure to stop by Regina’s site for fun facts about the real town that inspired the book.

I received a copy of “Love in the Balance” from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

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Review & Giveaway: The Gospel Centered Woman by Wendy Alsup

I wish I could give every woman I know a copy of Wendy Alsup’s new book The Gospel Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel.” (Click the link to purchase, it’s currently only $8.71 at Amazon.)

I hesitated before signing up to review it. Would this be another book that only spoke to a woman’s Christian role as a wife and mother? Would it swing the other way and make no differentiation between the biblical roles of men and women? The title really intrigued me so I took a chance.

ImageWhen the book arrived packaged in bubble wrap I prayed “please Lord let my enthusiasm for this book last longer than it takes for me to pop the bubble wrap.”

The first paragraph-an example from the author’s life-had me cringing, afraid that the book would be filled with true-ish stories of Jane Christian that we’re all supposed to relate to. But the next few pages had me grinning! This is the most refreshing book I’ve ever read that is written for women because it doesn’t speak to a certain group of women based on a season of life. Single, married, never married, divorced, widowed, childless, mother to more kids than the Duggars..none of these is your primary identity.

We (both male and female) are created in the image of God and are being conformed back to the example of Christ. Ruth is not the idea for women-Jesus is. Our identity is completely tied to what He has done for us.

Not that Alsup ignores and discounts our everyday roles. But she focuses on subjects that apply to every woman.

The book begins in the beginning, literally, as we look to Genesis to the account of woman’s creation. It progresses through our fallen state to our redeemed state in Christ. Subjects like godliness with contentment and forgiveness are explored by focusing on the Gospel and all of Scripture.

This is a book that examines theology, ladies. Don’t be intimidated. Theology isn’t just for guys. And theology for women is more than being a Proverbs 31 woman (which is addressed in the book.)

There are several word studies which examine how and why the Bible uses a word. The word helper is explored. I’d always equated helper with helpmeet as it applies to married women. It was certainly encouraging to read that each woman is called to be a helper.

God Himself is our example on what it means to be a helper suitable to the needs of our male counterpart, and His example reveals a high and worthy calling for women to embrace. Christian women are not glorified maids, butlers, or cooks waiting on an order to perform for a master. This is not God’s example of help at all! We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in our homes. We are called to be like Christ.

All of the points made in this book are firmly rooted in and thoroughly backed up with Scripture. From Genesis, to the Gospels, to the Epistles, you’ll find yourself being led to the Bible in every chapter. Ephesians is heavily referenced (as Alsup has written a study on the book) and I found myself not just reading the verses listed but entire books of the Bible.

My only complaint about the book is that a few of the sentences were confusing-not the point, just the structure. But then the author is a math teacher, a subject I’ve often misunderstood.

Do I agree exactly with every point in the book? No but it’s not Scripture. The book not only encouraged me but it called me to examine myself and to examine Scripture. Unlike many books I read, this material didn’t go in one ear and out the other. I think I’ll be applying what I learned in many situations for the rest of my days.

Be sure to visit Wendy’s blog at

I mentioned that I’d like to give everyone a copy of the book. I can’t but I can give away one copy. To enter, visit the website of Susan’s Kids, a charity close to my heart. ( Leave a comment on this post (be sure to leave an email address.) The winner will be drawn on April 30. The winner will have five days to respond or a new winner will be drawn.

**I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. **

About The Gospel-Center Woman
Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel
Many Christian books written to women claim to present God’s good instructions for their lives. Some expound on the value of marriage and children. Many extol the virtues of the Proverbs 31 wife. A good number teach the value of love, submission, and respect in Christian marriages. Though this book deals with these topics, The Gospel-Centered Woman addresses women from an entirely different perspective. The most important part of the Bible’s instructions to women center around the gospel. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection brought about a seismic shift in our understanding of Scripture. After His resurrection, His disciples understood words written thousands of years before with a clarity they never had previously. The good news of Christ illuminates all other Scripture, including instructions to women.
Link to buy the book:
Meet Wendy:  

Wendy Alsup is a wife, mom, and math teacher. She is the author of “Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives” and “By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity”.

Find out more about Wendy at her blog

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2 free Christian fiction ebooks and a scarf pattern

ImageMaybe this will make up for the hour of sleep most of us lost when the clock sprang forward early this morning-TWO FREE EBOOKS. But both titles are page turners that might mean reading until the wee hours. Maybe it’s not meant for us to get our beauty sleep this week.

Fans of medical dramas like Greys Anatomy or Chicago Fire will want to check out “Trauma Plan” by Candace Calvert which is a FREE ebook download March 10-16, 2013. Click here to download it to most all ereaders and apps including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Sony.

Sidelined by injuries from a vicious assault, chaplain Riley Hale is determined to return to her former duties as an ER nurse. But how can she show she’s competent when the hospital won’t let her attempt even simple tasks? Determined to prove herself, Riley volunteers at a controversial urban free clinic despite her fears about the maverick doctor in charge.
Dr. Jack Travis defends his clinic like he’s commander of the Alamo. He’ll fight the community’s efforts to shut its doors, even if he must use Riley Hale’s influential family name to make it happen.
As Riley strives to regain her skills, Jack finds that she shares his compassion—and stirs his lonely heart. Riley senses that beneath Jack’s rough exterior is a man she can believe in. But when clinic protests escalate and questions surface about his past, Jack goes into battle mode and Riley wonders if it’s dangerous to trust him with her heart.


Even if your experience on a horse is limited to the mechanical kind, come on and saddle up for the romantic western by Loree Lough. “Beautiful Bandit” volume 1 in the Lone Star Legends trilogy is available as a free ebook as of this post. Click on the photo for the Kindle download.

Joshua Neville is a quiet, even-keeled rancher who was just minding his own business when he witnessed a brazen bank robbery in San Antonio, Texas, that leaves three men dead. Even more shocking than the heist itself is that the ringleader looked like a woman!Weeks later, when Josh is on the trail, a lost and confused woman stumbles upon his campsite. He agrees to take “Dinah” to Mexico, but soon their journey is hampered by harsh weather and wild animals. When Dinah breaks her ankle, Josh takes her to his ranch to heal.As the two grow closer, Josh realizes he’s fallen in love, even as he learns the truth about Dinah. But does he know the whole story? And, after the truth comes out, will he put his life at risk to keep her with him?


I’ve seen this style of scarf everywhere for the past year. Despite being a pretty competent crocheter I was intimidated by the ribbon like yarn. One internet search and 2.5 hours later I’d created my first Sashay Scarf. It’s made from Red Heart Sashay yarn and the color is Rumba. Even if you’ve never picked up a crochet hook before you can breeze through the Sashay Scarf thanks to the free video tutorial at Livin’ Looney.


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Meeting Mr. Right by Deb Kastner

Veronica Jane’s coworkers know her as Vee, the  passionate, spunky and determined female firefighter.

meeting mr. right

No one gets a taste of Vee’s tough side more than co-worker Ben Atwood. The two have been butting heads for a while. But there’s more than meets the eye with their relationship.

When Veronica Jane enrolls in an online Spanish class she strikes up a virtual friendship with classmate BJ. The two exchange a series of emails that reveal more than details about the class assignments.

Meanwhile at work Vee and Ben begin a tentative truce that has both of them rethinking the other.

I love a feisty heroine. It’s pretty cute the way Ben came make Vee hot under the collar. Yet the two quickly move beyond the tension as they mature personally and as they grow in their relationships with each other and with Christ.

I was very pleased with the story’s ending and with the journey along the way.

Click on the book’s photo to the left to read an excerpt or to order it in ebook or paperback formats. Also look for “Meeting Mr. Right” in the book aisle of big box and grocery stores  through the end of March.

*I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Surrendered Hearts by Carrie Turansky

buy the ebook of Surrendered Hearts

Surrendered Hearts” is currently available as an ebook for $2.99 on Amazon. (Check price before downloading.)

Jennifer Evans’ scars are still fresh from the explosion that nearly killed her and the fire that cost her her home, beloved dog, career and fiance. She arrives in Tipton, Vermont in search of refuge and reconciliation with her brother. Bill Morgan, her brother’s roommate and coworker at the Wild River Nature Center, is a complication that her healing heart doesn’t want.

Bill is instantly turned off by Jenn’s career as an actress, after being burned by his former girlfriend who chose the bright stage lights over him. His conscience tells him to offer her hospitality while she recovers.

As the two are thrown together as they prepare for her brother’s wedding, Bill is drawn to Jenn and helps her accept her physical scars. But it’s the scars on her heart left by her parents death ten years ago that could keep them a part. Jenn is still angry at God for not answering her prayers to let them live.

Bill’s faith is based on actions and few words. His attempts to explain Jesus as a trust worthy healer push Jenn away. He falls deeper in love with her even as he knows they can’t have a future. Bill wonders if his prayers salvation are motivated by the wrong reasons.

As Jenn is loved on by the people of Tipton, she encounters the words of Christ lived out among believers. As she ponders her friends reasons for believing, she turns to the Bible Her heart softens as she sees Bill’s faith lived out.

I enjoyed “Surrendered Hearts” by Carrie Turansky because of the flawed characters. Even Bill, the mature Christian hero, isn’t a perfect prince charming (though he does lend some aid to the damsel in distress.)

The dialog kept me turning the pages. There’s lots of genuine emotion, from Jenn’s struggle to trust God to funny lighthearted romance.

The nature park setting adds a lot to the story and I really felt like I’d traveled to Vermont. There’s a cast of charming supporting characters and a very realistic “bad guy.” The ending felt a tad rushed but it was a satisfying end to a very enjoyable read.

This is book two in the Vermont Blessings series and I’m going to buy number one “Along Came Love.”

“Surrendered Hearts” is a available as an ebook on Amazon.

Visit Carrie’s website or friend her on Facebook.

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Loree Lough’s “For the Love of Eli” Launch Week

ImageNew from bestselling author Loree Lough, FOR LOVE OF ELI, 4th in Abingdon’s “Quilts of Love” series.

Help Loree celebrate starting Friday, Feb. 1. Drop by her Facebook page and enter her “I Love My Readers” drawing.

To read the first chapter, visit

And to watch the video book trailer, click

This heart-tugging memorable story—Loree’s 98th published book—is available at these fine stores:

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After I posted book five in my 100 books in 2013 challenge I realized that I never reviewed book three. There’s a very good reason that I work with words instead of numbers.


Book three is “Naked Heat” by Richard Castle. Yes, I admit, I read a book “written” by a fictional TV character. I’m going to say something I never thought I’d say about a book. Instead of reading “Naked Heat” just go and watch a couple of hours of the TV show Castle. An episode of the show is much more rewarding than the book. If you want to read the summary of the plot, click through to Goodreads. I only gave the book 2 stars so instead of rehashing what I didn’t like about the book, I’ll just leave you with this.


You’re welcome!

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Book 5 “Her Valentine Hero” by Gail Gaymer Martin


Before you read what I have to say about the book, why not click thru and read the 1st chapter of the book for free?

From the back cover of “Her Valentine Hero.”

“This handsome football coach cannot be little Jonny Turner, Neely Andrews’s best friend’s kid brother. Back in high school, Jonny was nothing but a pest. When family troubles bring Neely back to her hometown, Jon is there to offer friendship and support…and maybe something more. Turns out that Jon has adored her from afar all these years.Neely has to admit he’s become the kind of man who’d make any woman proud. But will a terrible secret from her past scare him off? Or will Jon make her feel free enough to share everything with him?”

My thoughts: The book is deeper than the title implies. The story has very little to do with Valentine’s Day, which plays only a small (but sweet) role at the end.

Neely is a thirty something who’s biggest problem isn’t her unemployment, her ailing father, her widowed sister, her weight, or her love life. Neely’s biggest problem is discontentment.

It took a few chapters before I was able to appreciate Neely’s personality. Her tough cool exterior can be off putting. But there’s a very realistic vulnerability underneath that few people see. She’s still nurturing her guilt over a painful past that threatens to ruin her present. She’s struggling with the move back to her hometown and into her father’s home. She searching for balance between caregiver and daughter. The same determination that won her the childhood nickname “Steely Neely” is both positive and negative in her adult life. Doing it her way is causing problems with her family and with her potential love interest, the “boy next door” Jonny. Jon’s now the local football coach and a mature Christian man. Jon has never forgotten his teenage crush on Neely. He appreciates the woman she’s become even more.

While Neely is determined to keep things casual he’s just as determined to show her that the past is behind them. Neely’s famous determination proves helpful as she learns from her mistakes and matures into a better woman by the story’s end. Football fans will appreciate Mrs. Martin’s efforts to include coaching details and plays into the story. Even a football novice should enjoy the football style metaphors about love and life.
It’s refreshing to read a story about two never married people who don’t have kids. The book started off a little slow. But I appreciated the heroine’s emotional growth, a likeable hero and a solid ending. I give the book 3.5 stars.

Join Gail Gaymer Martin on Facebook.

“Her Valentine Hero” is available in paperback or ebook format.

I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Free ebook “Protection For Hire” thru Jan. 17

Image“Protection for Hire” by Camy Tang is available for FREE now through Thursday, Jan. 17. Click this link to download your FREE copy!

Why is this book worthy of space on your eReader or more importantly your time? Here’s my review of “Protection for Hire.”

Be sure to visit Camy’s website and LIKE her on Facebook.

Camy Tang must have taken a cue from her days in the lab when she came up with the formula for “Protection For Hire.” She took the basic ingredients of romantic suspense and added in a kick of her trademark wasabi to create a five-star recipe that will keep you coming back for more!

Tessa Lancaster is a Japanese American with deep family ties. From the age of sixteen Tessa is known on the streets as a violent and ruthless enforcer for the Japanese Mafia (yakuza) until she sacrificed her freedom to protect the family. Fresh out of prison after serving seven years for a crime she didn’t commit, Tessa is free to return to “the family”-literally-the yakuza run by her Uncle Teruo. While in prison, Tessa is set free spiritually, encountering Christ and becoming a Christian.

Tessa sets out on a straight career path, channeling her skills into serving as a bodyguard for wealthy socialite Elizabeth St. Amant and her three-year-old son. But being from the upper crust doesn’t preclude Elizabeth from having problems. The socialite comes with a lot of baggage, including an abusive ex-husband and a missing fortune.

Tessa is grittier than most heroines-she’s trained in martial arts and we get to see her put her skills to the test against a variety of bad guys. She doesn’t doubt her ability to keep her charges safe but she’s going to have a harder time guarding her own heart. The case forces her to work closely with Elizabeth’s lawyer, Charles Britton. Tessa unknowingly lets her guard down to the man who led the charge to lock her up and throw away the key for her supposed crime.

The pair must try to survive assassins, gang rivalries, and exasperating family in their search to give Elizabeth her life back.

It’s not only evil that Tessa is battling. She faces temptation in the form of a disappointed mother, an angry sister and eager uncle who still see Tessa the same as they always have. Tessa must decide whether to handle things herself, the way she did when her life revolved around the yakuza, or fully follow Christ.

I was surprised that one of my favorite characters was Uncle Teruo. Tang does an excellent job of slowly growing his character into a man much deeper than just a caricature of the organized crime boss.

The first few chapters are heavy on description-though it’s integral to the plot and informative about the Asian mob community. The book quickly progresses to a page turning read with strong dialogue, an engrossing plot and characters you’ll care about.

Fans of  books by Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock and Irene Hannon, and fans of female detective including Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and the Sunny Randall series by Robert B. Parker will enjoy “Protection For Hire.”

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Book 4 “Headed for Trouble” by Suzanne Brockmann

Book number four in my 100 books in 2013 challenge is a collection of short stories featuring the characters from Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series.

*I normally review Christian fiction and non-fiction here. This review features a secular novel and the book (not my review) contains adult language and content. If you’d like a Christian alternative to this title please check out the Uncommon Heroes series by Dee Henderson.

IImagef you’re a Troubleshooters groupie (like me) you may have already read many of the dozen plus short stories, vignettes, character interviews and notes from Suz that make up “Headed for Trouble” by Suzanne Brockmann. But having them all together in one package makes this book one for the keeper shelf! The one new short story “A Seal and Three Babies” featuring Sam, Jules, Robin and their families, is in itself absolutely worth the price of the book. The story is about 30 pages and manages to pack in a reunion with characters along with a real page turning plot line that provides a satisfying ending. Though who can get enough of Cowboy Sam? Especially when the former Navy Seal’s team members for a vacation turned escape from terrorists consists of an actor, a civilian mother, three babies, and Murphy (as in Murphy’s Law.)

There’s also a new chapter in Arlene and Jack’s previously released short story.The book contains extras including a timeline of where each story falls in the TS universe to help acclimate you whether you’ve read none or all of the previous TS novels. Not every TS character makes an appearance but it’s a fun and often laugh out loud experience as familiar faces make an appearance.

So who are the Troubleshooters? They’re the men and women of the Spec Op community. They include former and current Navy Seals, FBI agents, and law enforcement officers. All have an incredible sense of duty to their country and the ones they love. They’ve got heart, skill, determination, and they’re pretty cute too. The love as passionately as they live.

I read this book in the midst of a frustrating week and it provided some much needed laugh out loud moments!

The stories pack in romance, suspense, military action, and comedy all while facing life TS style. Funny, sensitive, action packed and well-written, “Headed for Trouble” serves as an amazing introduction for new fans and a wonderful gift to longtime TS fans. Here’s hoping for more full length novels and short stories in the Troubleshooters series.

Click here to order “Headed for Trouble” which releases April 30, 2013.

*I received a free advanced review ebook copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions in this review are my own.

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Challenge accepted!

100 Books in 2013

Like one of my favorite heroines, I plan to be a girl on fire in 2013. My goal is to read and review 100 worthy books in 2013. Do you have a book or genre that you think I should read? Comment and let me know. I’m linking up with The Book Vixen 2013 Out Door Yourself Reading Challenge. Are you brave enough to join me? You can set your own pace and goal. If you have a blog or other place where you review books, leave a comment with the url so I can visit you. You can keep up with my progress here and on Good Reads.

Reviews for book 1 and 2 are up. Follow along by visiting my1o0 books in 2013 shelf and for previous reviews visit my bookshelf.

Thanks to my blogging buddy Melissa at ReadingNKS for the heads up about the challenge!

The Book Vixen Out Do Yourself Challenge: What’s your reading goal for 2013? If it’s to read more books, then this is the reading challenge for you! There have been almost 400 readers who wanted to outdo themselves so far. Are you up for the challenge?

The Book Vixen: 2013 Outdo Yourself Reading ChallengeReading Challenge Details:

  • Runs January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013 (books read prior to 1/1/2013 do not count towards the challenge). You can join at anytime. Sign up on The Book Vixen’s blog.
  • The goal is to outdo yourself by reading more books in 2013 than you did in 2012. See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you. You can move up a level as often as you’d like but no moving down.
  • Books can be any format (bound, ebook, audio).
  • Novellas that are at least 100 pages in length, as well as full-length novels, will count for this reading challenge.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • Grab the reading challenge button and post this reading challenge on your blog to track your progress. Please include a link back to this sign-up post so others can join the reading challenge too. You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads or LibraryThing.


     Getting my heart rate up – Read 1–5 more books
     Out of breath – Read 6–10 more books
     Breaking a sweat – Read 11–15 more books
     I’m on fire! – Read 16+ more books

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Book 2: Giveaway and Review of “Love Finds You in Glacier Bay Alaska”

My 2nd title in the 100 books of 2013 features a chance for YOU to win a copy of “Love Finds You In Glacier Bay, Alaska” by Tricia Goyer & Ocieanna Fleiss!

LFYGlacierBay_postcardFrom the cover: Singer Ginny Marshall is one signature away from the recording contract of her dreams—a deal that would guarantee success for the former foster child, who still struggles to bury the memories of her painful childhood. But Ginny needs advice from the one person who will look out for her best interests—her former fiancé, Brett Miller. She travels to the remote town of Glacier Bay, Alaska, where the town’s colorful characters and stunning scenery provide respite from LA’s pressures.   In Glacier Bay, Ginny discovers a box of old letters and is swept up in the love story between Clay, an early missionary to Alaska Territory, and Ellie, the woman who traveled there to be his children’s governess. When Ginny is reunited with Brett in Glacier Bay, will she discover—as Ellie did—that healing and love are sometimes found in the most unexpected places?

I enjoyed this book for the setting as much as I did the characters! Set in the breathtakingly beautiful town of Glacier Bay, Alaska this book provides a quirky backdrop for a typical romance. The small knit community provides a cast of colorful townsfolk that reminded me a bit of Mayberry.

Ginny’s journey becomes even more interesting as she receives guidance from 80 year old journals that speak to her own pain and confusion. The letters are woven seamlessly throughout much of the book. Though long dead the writers of the letters become a part of the story as Ginny and Brett retrace their footsteps throughout the small town and surrounding countryside.

The most significant part of Ginny and Brent’s journey is about finding and granting forgiveness.

I’d recommend grabbing a cup of hot chocolate and curling up in your favorite chair for a trip to Glacier Bay!

To get a peek at the research trip that Tricia and Ocieanna took to Alaska, check out this video.

Want to win your own copy of LFYI Glacier Bay? I’m keeping it simple, just leave a comment by Jan. 13 at 11:59pm EST. Since LFYIGB is set in Alaska, where’s the place you most want to visit?  Make sure to leave an email where I can contact you. (Open to residents of the US and Canada only.)

Check out my Travel Dream Board on Pinterest. Texas, Paris (not the one  in Texas) and Yellowstone are on the top of my list of places to go before I need a Hover Round Scooter.

Feel free to visit Facebook and ‘like’ Our Advocate or Tricia Goyer, tweet about the giveaway and follow Tricia on Twitter.

Want more chances to win?! Click on the little smiley blob below to enter giveaways of LFYI Glacier Bay from my friends on the book’s launch team happening Jan. 8-14, 2013.

Order your own copy of LFYI Glacier Bay.

I received this book as a part of the Tricia Goyer 2013 Launch Team. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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100 books on the shelf…1st book of 2013

100 books on the shelf, 100 books to read, take one down, pass it around, 99 books on the shelf. My goal this year is to read and review 100 books. Book 1 of 100 books in 2013 is “Found: God’s Will” by John MacArthur. At well under a hundred pages and just seven chapters, this is a very quick read.

ImageThis book begins and ends with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Don’t ever water down the gospel. If the truth offends, then let it offend. People have been living their whole lives in offense to God; let them be offended for a while.”

Most of the book is spent helping the reader to understand salvation and the Holy Spirit.

“Do you know what the Spirit-filled life is? It is living every moment as though you are standing in the presence of Christ.”

The remaining chapters address sanctification, submission and suffering. The last chapter arrives at how to recognize God’s Will.

“God’s will is that you be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering.”

This is a small but powerful read that can be understood by the unsaved and Christians alike. The five principles in the book aren’t MacArthur’s steps to success but is simply Scripture made plain.

Thank you to David C. Cook Publishing for offering this as a free ebook download. CLICK HERE to to be notified of weekly free ebooks  from DCC! The title is currently just $2.51 in the Kindle Store.

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Review of “Snowflake Sweethearts” by Carrie Turansky

The first two days of Advent has brought flip flop weather to my door here in eastern  Carolina. Quite a difference of the opening scene of “Snowflake Sweethearts” by CarrieTuransky.

ssAnnie Romano is back in her hometown standing the cold literally and figuratively as she shows up on the doorstep of her friend’s bakery looking for a part-time job to support her and her young daughter while she builds her business as a personal chef.

Bringing her daughter to the one place she feels safe, single mother Annie Romano returns to Fairhaven, Washington. Though hoping to start a new life as a personal chef, Annie accepts a different job. Alex Jameson, the handsome man she secretly loved as a teenager, needs a live-in caregiver for his ailing grandmother. A big-city workaholic in town temporarily, Alex doesn’t seem to realize how much he needs family—or love. But the holiday season, his grandmother’s matchmaking friends and one fatherless little girl start pulling at both Annie’s and Alex’s heartstrings. Just in time for the most special Christmas ever.

Annie turned out to be one of my favorite heroines. The single mother heroine pops up a lot even in Christian fiction. But Annie’s life isn’t mired down in guilt. She’s a Christian and has chosen to let love and forgiveness win over guilt from her past. She doesn’t give you much chance to pity her as she spends each day moving forward.

“Tingles traveled up her arms as that thought sank in. She’d felt so distant from God when she’d gotten pregnant, sure that He’d pulled back from her because He was disappointed in her choices and actions. But He’d been right there all the time, watching out for her and protecting her from deeper heartache. He didn’t take away the consequences of her foolish choices, but as soon as she called out to Him, He walked with her in the midst of them and cared for her each step of the way.”

When an unexpected romance develops between Annie and Alex she must decide if she can choose again whether to let love and trust win.

Alex is basically a good guy. He works hard and loves his grandma. And he’s falling for Annie and her little girl. But his own past have left him lacking in trust and faith.

Annie and Alex’s road to happiness resonates with real obstacle, emotions and faith. “Snowflake Sweethearts” will satisfy your reading sweet tooth (and it’s good for your waistline too.) This is a sweet story for the Christmas season or next summer when flip flop weather comes back to stay. You can purchase “Snowflake Sweethearts” in paperback or ebook formats online or at your favorite retailer.

I was provided with a free copy of the book for review purposes. The opinions are my own.

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Shoe boxes of love-Operation Christmas Child Samaritans Purse

I wanted a fun and functional wash cloth to include in my Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. When I’m looking for free crochet patterns I often start my search at Tangled Happy. Sara has an eye for finding some of the best free crochet patterns to be found online. Plus she designs pattens too! I found inspiration in her star pattern.

I used 100% cotton yarn in several colors and G, I, and K hooks to create several wash cloths to pop into the boxes for preschool-teenagers. The cloths measure about 7″x6″. Use the smaller hooks for preschool kiddos and a larger hook for tween/teens. This is a super simple pattern and uber fast (by the third cloth I was whipping them up in about 30 mins.) You only need to know the sc (single crochet) stitch. An advanced beginner should be able to tackle this. Don’t worry if your first one (or two) isn’t perfect. Only God makes perfect stars. Sara explains the pattern very well. My only note is that when working the spiral part of the pattern, use a stitch marker.

Just like these stars, Sara’s site is addictive. I was using her site long before I’d heard of Pinterest.

If you want to pack a shoe box for OCC, collection week is happening now (Nov. 12-19, 2012.) If you don’t have time, you can build one online for a $30 donation.

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10 books 3 winners on Camy Tang’s page

I love free books. 10 free books feels like my birthday! Author Camy Tang will be choosing 3 winners from the fans of her Facebook page to win 10 free books each. Check out her blog for details.

While you’re there, read some of her posts. She’s pretty funny. 🙂 The contest ends Oct. 20. So go on over.

I’ve reviewed a couple of Camy’s books so for a teaser check out my Bookshelf section of my blog.

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Back page news

The back page is probably the most read part of my town’s newspaper. That’s where the obituaries are printed. In a small town where everybody knows everybody it’s typical to see a familiar name in black and white. A few weeks ago a customer where I work was telling me about a thirty-something guy who’d died suddenly. After a while she shut the paper and said “I don’t like thinking about death. It scares me.”

Without hesitation I replied “I’m not scared of dying. I know Who I’m going to see and where I’m going when I die. And you can know too.”

The woman said that she was raised Catholic and she didn’t think religion could give you that assurance. I was at work so I had to end the conversation there. But the encounter reminded me that sharing the Gospel starts at home. As much as I want to go and carry Jesus to countries that don’t have churches on every corner, there are many people I can reach every day. At work, the ball field, a family dinner or wherever my everyday life takes me.

I hope I didn’t sound smug when I declared that I know where I’m going when I die. I hope she heard the confidence and joy in my voice that comes not from a denomination but from a Savior. 1st Corinthians 15 is a wonderful celebration of Jesus’ victory over the grave and of humanity’s chance to put on immortality.

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I don’t see this woman outside of my job so my chance to share Christ with her might not happen. But I am praying for her. I pray that before any of our names appear on that back page that our names will be found in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

One of my favorite songs that captures Jesus’ victory over the grave is “Overcome” by Jeremy Camp. Check out the video.

“We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, everyone overcome.”

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Still Changing Tomorrow

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6

For those of you who’ve been following the Changing Tomorrow Foundation ministry please check out Wim’s June 6 Update. If you’re not familiar with the ministry, they provide physical and spiritual nourishment to preschool children in South Africa and Lesotho, Africa.

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Willing Hands Crochet

If you’re interested in what projects are hot off of my crochet hooks or if you’d like to order an item, check out my Willing Hands Crochet page on Facebook. When the page hits 50 likes I’ll be choosing one random fan to receive a free item.

You can custom order hats, scarves, mop covers (I’m not kidding) and anything else your mind and my hooks can come up with. The name comes from Proverbs 31:13 ESV “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” My other choice was Hooking for Jesus but I figured that my generate a totally different kind of traffic for my page!

As if this little one is adorable enough, his mom ordered a pumpkin hat for when he takes his autumn portraits. (Free pattern found at

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Review of “Full Disclosure” by Dee Henderson

For five years I’ve been eagerly anticipating a new book from author Dee Henderson. But when my copy of “Full Disclosure” finally arrived I was hesitant to start reading. Would it live up to my expectations? Short answer: yes!

For a taste of “Full Disclosure” check out the video book trailer.


Available Oct. 2 in paperback, hardback and ebook “Full Disclosure” is trademark Henderson-page turning romantic suspense with characters you keep caring about long after the book is done.

I was intrigued by the synopsis:

The Lady Shooter, a hired gun responsible for dozens of murders, has managed to keep her trail cold. Though she’s long been inactive, Special Agent Paul Falcon refuses to give up the hunt. Then, Midwest Homicide Investigator Ann Silver seemingly appears out of nowhere and drops the best lead on the case that he’s had in years. But Ann leaves him with more than just good evidence—he also has a strong desire to get to know this clever cop better. Is he prepared for both the case’s and Ann’s secrets?

A woman bad guy who for years has slipped out the grasp of the FBI’s top cop. The heroine of romance novel who is comfortable single and not looking for marriage. That alone was enough to start me reading.

“Full Disclosure” is one of those rare books that doesn’t need a genre label beyond excellent book. Henderson’s sharp dialogue, meticulous detail and genuine emotion are enough to draw in any reader regardless of what kind of story you’re looking for. Guys you’ll enjoy Henderson’s books, I promise! Don’t let the romance label turn you off. And for romance readers, don’t let the suspense label scare you. Though if you’re prone to bad dreams, don’t read this title too close to bedtime.

“Full Disclosure” is Christian fiction but this is a book that you can give to anyone who’s just looking for a good read. The spiritual aspect of the story is seamlessly woven into the plot. The character’s faith journey is a natural extension of their life. I would recommend “Full Disclosure” to fans of James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Karen Kingsbury, or Nicholas Sparks.

While Henderson sticks to the same formula of danger, romance and faith that has won her awards and loyal readers, this latest novel shows that Henderson isn’t afraid to take chances in her writing. Both the suspense and romantic plots dig deeper than any of Henderson’s previous titles. The maturity of Ann and Paul is reflected in their romance and in their relationships with family, coworkers, and God.

(Update to review) A fellow reader mentioned that she felt Ann was selfish in her relationship with Paul. I laughed at that comment about Ann. Not because I disagreed but because I’m 30, single all my life and an only child. My friend and I were joking the other day about being single and selfish and loving every minute of it. I was impressed that Dee took a different route with the heroine of this book. Usually it’s the man being “selfish.” I admire Dee for taking chances in her writing. And Ann’s stubbornness worked as an obstacle for Paul to overcome. It also gave a chance for us to see a character enjoying a deeper intimacy with God than we usually see in Dee’s books.

As a bonus, readers of Henderson’s O’Malley series will appreciate catching up with Lisa, Kate and the rest of the family. Ann also reveals a fun surprise that will please longtime fans while sending new readers of Henderson’s books looking for the rest of her titles. My favorite Dee Henderson titles are “The Truth Seeker” or “True Devotion” but you can read first chapters of all her books at

Some books I read it one sitting. But I took my time to savor each page of “Full Disclosure.” I hope it doesn’t have to hold me over for another five years, though!

To pre-order “Full Disclosure” click here.

Be sure to click over to the “Full Disclosure” website for fun extras including a note from Dee, overview of the book, free peek at the first three chapters and more. There’s also a D-Day Countdown Party happening on Facebook with weekly chances to win an autographed copy of the book. To talk with other fans of Dee’s books, join the Readers of Dee Henderson group on Facebook where one member will be selected to win an autographed copy of the book. (Drawing Oct. 1) Congrats to Ann P., the winner of the autographed copy of “Full Disclosure.”

Fine Print: 
I was provided with a free Advance Reader Copy of "Full Disclosure." 
The opinions of this review are my own.
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I’m Not Who I Was

One of the unique things about living in a small town is that even when you head out of town to a slightly larger town, you’re still going to run into people you know.

On the 4th of July a couple of single girlfriends (for which I thank God for putting into my life during this season) and I drove 20 minutes down the road for music and fireworks on the river. Despite the crowd of several thousand people I still saw lots of faces from home. There was plenty of waving across the commons and quick hellos.

After the fireworks I literally bumped into an old friend amid the crush of people making our way to our cars. I’ve only seen this person one other time in the last ten years. We did the quick “Hey. How are you” as me moved along with the crowd.

This person had been my BFF from the third grade when we hung out at a birthday party while everyone else watched a New Kids On the Block video all the way through our freshman year in college. I’d pictured us being in each others weddings or someday causing trouble together in the old folk’s home.

Then one day we had a falling out. A cut you out of my life, I’m not going to acknowledge you in public, kind. In one moment a lifetime of friendship was over

For me it was devastating and brutal.

It took a lot of tears, years and prayers for me to forgive my friend. And to forgive myself. To be able to let go of the pain and the past.

I feel like Brandon Heath looked into my heart and wrote the song “I’m Not Who I Was” for me.

One of the lines that cut the deepest for me is

Well the thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace
Is the chance to give it out
Maybe that’s what love is all about

It’s taken me a decade to get to this point.

I don’t know if this person would even want my forgiveness. But regardless I can finally say “I’m not who I was.”

I don’t say any of this to cast blame or brag about what I’ve been able to overcome. It has only by God’s grace, loving rebuke and healing that I can say “I’m not who I was.”

One of the verses God has led me to many times when I’ve laid this hurt at His feet is Ecclesiates 3:1 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

I don’t think anymore about how our friendship ended. Instead I think about my friend and smile at the happy memories. And the good things that we brought to each others lives. Instead of longing for a different ending to the story I simply give thanks for season of friendship we enjoyed. And I remember this person in prayer often, hoping that one day we can say “hello” in Heaven.

“I’m Not Who I Was” Lyrics  by Brandon Heath from the album Don’t Get Comfortable
Copyright: (P) 2006 Reunion Records

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I’m not who I was
I used to be mad at you
A little on the hurt side too
But I’m not who I was

I found my way around
To forgiving you
Some time ago
But I never got to tell you so

I found us in a photograph
I saw me and I had to laugh
You know, I’m not who I was
You were there, you were right above me
And I wonder if you ever loved me
Just for who I was

When the pain came back again
Like a bitter friend
It was all that I could do
To keep myself from blaming you

I reckon it’s a funny thing
I figured out I can sing
Now I’m not who I was
I write about love and such
Maybe ’cause I want it so much
I’m not who I was

I was thinking maybe I
I should let you know
I am not the same
But I never did forget your name

Well the thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace
Is the chance to give it out
Maybe that’s what love is all about

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I’m not who I was

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Life can be like a dropped cell phone in the toilet

Hung Up
Hung Up (Photo credit: jurvetson)

On Thursday I dropped my Droid in the toilet. I think that’s an apt description of this week. My phone’s imitation of Michael Phelps going for the gold was preceded by a malfunctioning smoke detector on Wednesday (thank-you to the local Fire Dept. for installing a new one!) and encored by a roof leak in the attic discovered during Saturday night’s mini-monsoon.

If I start listing everything that has gone wrong in 2012 this post would have to be titled “Heather and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year.” (You knew I had to sneak in a children’s book title, right?)

But bemoaning my week isn’t the point of this post. It’s to say that I have found joy in these trials! That’s what we’re instructed to do by the Apostle James in the first chapter of his epistle.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3 ESV)

Not that a computer with an inadequate fan that cuts off more than an overheating clunker traveling through the desert qualifies as a faith testing event (even if I do have a July 31 deadline for a major project I’m working on.). These recent toilet weeks have been a lesson that I can trust God in the small stuff. Yes, even with the ‘rolling pennies for gas money because of a ten cent per gallon hike in one day’ details.

Maybe the Holy Spirit inspired James to write his epistle for us fixers. When I’m confronted with a problem I immediately start looking for solutions. If a friend comes to me with a problem my first question is “What can I do to help you?” Both are perfectly acceptable. Except that they shouldn’t be my first step. That spot is reserved for prayer. James 1:5 says

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Of course I pray and ask for God’s help with problems. But too often I’m guilty of telling Him how that problem ought to be solved and asking Him to bless my actions. Miss Fix-It isn’t good at waiting on the Lord. Instead I start naming my abilities to fix the problem myself like a child reciting the alphabet.

In those times when I hold problems too tightly I have to go before the Lord and ask His forgiveness for not giving Him the time or the room for His will to be done instead of mine.

I know there’ll be more ‘phone in the toilet’ trials that will give me the chance practice the words of the Psalmist.

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7a)

Epilogue: My Droid is working once again after I sealed it in a bag of rice for three days (thank-you Uncle Ben)! And from now on I’ll take a piece of advice I received and keep my phone out of the bathroom.

Next time you experience your own  ‘phone in the toilet’ moment think about the song “This Is The Stuff” from Francesca Battistelli.

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Granny Square Goodness

Last year I taught myself how to crochet. Since then I’ve been obsessed with all things Granny! I’ve made bags, a scarf, a shawl, and even twinkle star garland for my mantel using the Granny shell. But after a year of crocheting I still hadn’t made an actual Granny Square.

This weekend I made my first Granny Square! Before I post a photo of the square, here are some of the Granny goodness projects that I’ve made so far.

One of my first projects was a Granny Stripe Boutique Bag. They make sweet Bible bags. Be warned they are addictive. I’ve made a dozen of them. Once you start you’ll want to finish one more row. You can find the FREE pattern over at Tangled Happy. (Thank-you Sara for making me feel like a real crocheter with this pattern!) If you’re a crafter, you’re going to adore the Tangled Happy blog.

Then for Easter I made myself a Granny Triangle Shawl. I’ve always wanted a shawl since I wore my Grandmother’s to church one Easter. This shawl makes me feel feminine (even if I do look like a giant watermelon in this photo.)

And I made this Granny Skinny Scarf for my cuz Kelly as her Christmas, er Ground Hog’s Day, make that International Day of Awesomeness present (I did get it to her before Spring!)

For my first Granny Square I went with a simple Summer Garden Granny Square from Attic24. I dug in my stash and used a little cotton, some Caron Simply soft and lots of Red Heart Super Saver yarn. If the square looks huge, it’s because it is! It measure 12.5×12.5 inches. This square will be added to dozens of others made by folks from across then country and made into a blanket that will be sent to the Justin Boots Crisis Fund where it will be given to an injured cowboy or cowgirl.

I was joking with Wendy (who will stitch all these squares together) that my square might be best for a cowgirl. But hey, cowboys are Tough Enough to Wear Pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness. So my bright square should work for any cowboy or cowgirl!

If you would like to contribute a Granny Square, you can join the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund Project group on Ravelry.

Ravelry is a free community for crocheters and knitters where you can find TONS of free and for sale patterns, get advice or inspiration, and connect with other crafters.

My next Granny Square goal is to create a groovy afghan using this Peace Sign pattern.

I mentioned that I’m a self-taught crocheter. I got started using a book I checked out the library (in the children’s section of course.) “Get Hooked Again : Simple Steps to Crochet More Cool Stuff” by Kim Werker uses simple instructions and detailed photos to teach the basic steps that will having you rocking projects in no time. Unfortunately it’s out of print but check your local library or favorite used bookseller.

There are lots and lots of empowering blogs and website with photo tutorials and even videos to help you get hooking. Some of my favorites are Little Birdie Secrets, Crochet Spot, Mrs. Greene, Simple Beans and Mr. Micawber’s Recipe for Happiness.

Feel free to share your favorite Granny Square pattern, crochet pattern or craft blog.

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Little One Books Giveaway $25 gift certificate and 5 CD set

One of my favorite presents to give and receive is a gift certificate to a bookstore. So I’m super excited about the giveaway happening over at Little One Books. They’re giving away a $25 gift certificate AND a signed set of five CDs from children’s musician Caspar Babypants to one winner.

Whether you’re rocking your little one to sleep or rocking to the radio on the way to grandma’s, Caspar Babypants’ fun songs is music to your child’s ears. It will be easy to spend the gift certificate since the site offers classic and current children’s books. Hmm, maybe not so easy when you see all the great choices.

To enter, just click through to their website by July 1.

Please visit to enter.

I’m not sponsoring this giveaway nor am I affiliated in any way with Little One Books.

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Free ebook: “Danger in the Shadows” by Dee Henderson

Update: “Danger in the Shadows” is no longer available as a free ebook but it is ABSOLUTELY worth your money and your time! I bought the paperback several years ago and I’ve read it a few times.

The best books are the ones that keep me up late or make me late because I forget all about time. I no longer have my mom telling me to turn out the light and go to bed. Instead of sneaking a flashlight into bed, I now read on my the ereader app on my smartphone and sometimes fall asleep with the phone in my hand trying to finish “one more page.”

In the case of books by my favorite authors I ration the number of pages I read in a day to try to make the book last longer.

One of those authors is Dee Henderson. Dee is one of the most original voices in inspirational suspense. The “Danger in the Shadows” ebook is currently available as a FREE download. In “Danger in the Shadows”, Dee doesn’t waste any words. The pace is fast, the dialogue is sharp, the characters are real, and the suspense will keep you turning the pages. This isn’t chick lit, guys won’t be embarrassed to be caught reading this book.  The inspirational aspects of Dee’s book are a genuine exploration of faith-no hokey getting saved moments or random Bible verses.

Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson (From

Sara is terrified. She’s doing the one thing she cannot afford to do: fall in love with former pro-football player Adam Black, a man everyone knows. Sara’s been hidden away in the witness protection program, her safety dependent on staying invisible—and loving Adam could get her killed!

Introducing the O’Malleys, an inspirational group of seven, all abandoned or orphaned as teens, who have made the choice to become a loyal and committed family. They have chosen their own surname, O’Malley, and have stood by each other through moments of joy and heartache. Their stories are told in CBA best-selling, inspirational romantic suspense novels that rock your heart and restore strength and hope to your spirit.

Though free at time of posting, prices may change at any time. Please verify that the “Kindle Price” is $0.00. If you see a price for “Prime Members” or “read for free”, then the book is NOT free any longer.

Download from your favorite retailer




Check out the trailer (yes books have them now) for Dee’s upcoming novel “Full Disclosure” which hits stores Oct. 2

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You’ve got mail

I bought six greeting cards yesterday. It’s common for me to send twice that many emails in a day. But I rarely send handwritten cards.

My grandmother Viola always kept a box of cards on hand for every occasion. Okay maybe not every occasion-while browsing the card aisle I saw sympathy cards for the loss of a dog, cat or pet. I shouldn’t laugh since it did seem pretty tragic to eight-year-old me each time I’d find one of my beta fishes doing the belly float. (My mom owes me a LOT of sympathy cards. Or maybe I owe her a thank-you note for drying my tears and taking me to the store to buy another fish.)

Usually I just wish friends a happy birthday on their Facebook wall. But a post on the Love Inspired blog by author Alllie Pleiter reminded me that handwritten notes are more than about communicating but are really about connecting with people.

Growing up I wrote letters back and forth to my cousin Amy who lives in Virginia Beach. (I still have those letters in my keepsake box so that maybe one day my kids can laugh at our childhood antics.)

In that last year I’ve received several handwritten cards and notes from my friends’ kids. Kelly and Angela are doing an excellent job of instilling in their children the importance of written communication as a way to connect with friends. I know some public schools no longer teach cursive. I recently learned of a school that doesn’t teach kids to print their letters.

Back to the half a dozen cards I’m mailing out. I’m sending a few thank-you notes to my friends who helped me move, a couple of birthday cards for young girls turning 5 and 9, and a card for a little friend who’s heading to church camp for the first time.

Do any of you still send handwritten cards, notes or letters by traditional mail? Would you rather get mail, email or a Facebook message? One of the cards I bought was blank on the inside. Which do you prefer, pre-printed verses or a blank inside to express yourself?

The one drawback to traditional mail…postage. I’m thinking about writing notes and then scanning and emailing them. 🙂

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Book Review: A Dream of His Own by Gail Gaymer Martin

I love that giddy feeling of anticipation that I get whenever I’m in a book store or library. It started back when my elementary school would host a book fair. I’d circle the rows of tables again and again and again in search of the perfect book or more likely books (thanks, Mom!)

Even in elementary school I loved a good mystery. I spent hours on Fear Street and with The Boxcar Kids. In high school my best-friend Jerri Lynne and I thought we were grown for sure when we started reading James Patterson’s Alex Cross series. A real grown up mystery series with blood and guts and mystery and mayhem.

I still love a good mystery. I own every book written by Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock, Irene Hannon and Camy Tang

For a while though I was on mystery overload. Between whodunit books and TV shows, I was ready for something a little lighter.

I started reading Love Inspired novels. One of my favorite LI authors is Gail Gaymer Martin. I’ve  featured several of her books before. The  final installment of the Dreams Come True  series is now on sale. (The following may contain SPOILERS.)

“A Dream of His Own” is a refreshing mystery. The enemy isn’t a flesh-and-blood psycho. The families in the series battle a common enemy: cancer.

Throughout the series, a different family with a child in need has received a grand, once in a lifetime wish from the Dreams Come True Foundation. This wishes are funded anonymously.

In the final book we meet Quinn O’Neill, the man and money behind the foundation. Quinn is as guilty as he is giving. Or at least he feels guilty about a lost opportunity. Years ago he put all his energy into making money and missed a chance to be a good father to his son. An accident took away Quinn’s son.

Now an accidental fender bender with single mother Ava Darnell  may give Quinn a second chance at a family. Ava is struggling to parent her teenage son Brandon, a survivor of cancer. She’s also struggling with her own past issues of distrust.

Quinn and Ava’s road to romance is plenty bumpy. There’s a fun give and take between the two. Quinn steps into Brandon’s life to model manhood and Christianity to the confused teen. As always the characters’ spiritual growth seems genuine and organic.

This is the last book in the series but can be read as a stand alone title. But you’ll likely be eager to immerse yourself in the entire series including “A Dad of His Own” and “A Family of Their Own.”

If you’d like to leave a comment or ask a question from Gail Gaymer Martin, she might be dropping by to say hi.

Writers will want to check out Mrs. Martin’s writing blog.

“A Dream of His Own” is now on sale in stores or online.


I received a free copy of this book from review purposes but wasn’t required to give a positive review. The opinions are mine alone.

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Books on the big screen

I rarely watch movies-particularly ones based on books I’ve read. Bookworms know that the book is always better than the movie.

Tonight my mom and I watched “One For the Money” based on the book by Janet Evanovich. My mom is a huge fan of the Stephanie Plum series. Katheryn Heigel was funny and believable in the role of Stephanie Plum, an embryonic bounty hunter, with more attitude then sense who’s over her head in the search for a murder. The Jersey girl gets help from the bail jumper she’s hunting, a sexy security guard, and a sassy “working girl.”

I haven’t read any of the books so I don’t know whether or not the big screen portrayal measured up to the book.

Sometimes even mediocre movies can make new fans for an author. After watching the Jesse Stone TV movies on CBS I finally gave Robert B. Parker’s books a try. My mom had been laughing out loud to his books for years and constantly told me how much I’d like them. I read straight through the series during Spring Break. I’d never have pictured Tom Selleck in the role of Jesse Stone (he’s old enough to be Jesse’s father) but now I can’t imagine another actor playing the part.

The worst adaptation of a book into a movie was “The Horse Whisper.” The movie leaves out the last 3rd of the book and the end is different. As the credit’s rolled I was like “but they didn’t, and he’s not and she’s not.” I don’t think the script writers read the book. Not even Robert Redford can make-up for the three hours of my life that I lost.

If I were the head of a Hollywood studio I”d start with making Christian suspense books into movies. My dream list: The O’Malley series by Dee Henderson, the Newpointe 911 series by Terri Blackstock and “Protection for Hire” by Camy Tang.

What’s your favorite (or least favorite) book that’s been made into a movie?

What book would you love to see on the big screen? Who would you cast?

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Erasing Passive Voice-Q and A with Camy Tang

One thing I like about winter is the lack of bugs. In the summer, no matter what kind of pest control measures I do around the house, I know that I’m going to run into at least one creepy, crawly creäture that has decided to crash rent free in my house. I also know we’re probably going to run into each other in the middle on the night in the darkened kitchen or bathroom.

That’s the way I feel about passive voice in my writing. No matter what I do, Passive Voice sneaks its way into my story, popping up in unexpected places.

So I called in the professionals for advice on how to eradicate Passive Voice from my writing. I asked one of my favorite authors Camy Tang for tips. Camy answered my question over on her Story Sensei blog. Click over to Camy’s blog for her tips on how to avoid and fix passive voice in your story. Even if you’re not a writer, it’s fun to see how your favorite authors stories come to life.

For my interview with Camy and my review of “Protection for Hire”, click here. And for my review of her book “Stalker in the Shadows” click here.

I also want to give a shout out to author Darlene Franklin who offered similar advice about using find and replace to permanently erase Passive Voice.

I found Gail Gaymer Martin’s article “Love in Motion”  helpful in creating an active voice. For a treasure trove of writing tips for Gail Gaymer Martin check out her WRITING FICTION RIGHT blog.

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Winner of “Montana Match” Giveaway and a Review of “Stalker in the Shadows” by Camy Tang (Love Inspired Suspense, January 2012)

Rain, sleet, snow, wind…most of the country looks like a winter wonderland. The weather fits in perfectly with the setting of last week’s giveaway, “Montana Match” by Merrillee Whren. I’ve picked a winner which I’ll announce at the end of the post. Sneaky, I know.

If you’d like to escape to a warmer spot, take a trip to sunny Sonoma, California via Camy Tang‘s newest release “Stalker in the Shadows” (Love Inspired Suspense, January 2012.)

There are some dark clouds on the horizon for nurse Monica Grant, the heroine of “Stalker in the Shadows.” Monica’s on a  mission to open a children’s free clinic. She seeks support from investors and the community to make the dream a reality. But not everyone in the neighborhood welcomes the idea. Someone is trying to shut down the project at any cost.

Monica knows someone is stalking her. The person wants her to know and to be afraid. Monica receives anonymous threats that are very real. Threatening letters accompanied by a dead snake, phone calls, and photos  tracking every move she makes.

Monica is resilient and persistent. She turns to former lawman Shaun O’Neill for help. Shaun takes the case personally. Five years ago his sister was murdered-and Shaun’s believes it was by the same madman who’s stalking Monica.

Together the pair set up to save Monica’s dream and to catch a killer. Along the way both Monica and Shaun discover things about themselves and about each other. The dialog between the pair is a fun give-and-take, adding levity between the serious scenes.

Tang subtly weaves in a believable spiritual subplot that can be digested by a non-believer or spiritually mature Christian.

“Stalker in the Shadows” is my favorite book by Camy Tang. Okay, so I said that in my review about her last book “Protection for Hire” but it’s true. Tang’s writing continues to improve which each story. If you like romantic suspense, “Stalker in the Shadows” is a must have for your collection. But beyond the label of romantic suspense, “Stalker in the Shadows” is a book that breaks out of the genre mold and earns the label of a great read.

You can purchase “Stalker in the Shadows” in stores, online, or as an ebook.

To learn more about Camy, check out my interview with her. Or visit Camy’s website or look her up on Facebook.

For more book reviews check out my Book Shelf.

I was a provided a free copy of this book for review purposes. Love or leave, my opinions are my own. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

Oh, and the winner of a free copy of “Montana Match” by Merrillee Whren is commenter 40 Lisa Howard Colpo. If you want to make sure you don’t miss future giveaways, be sure to subscribe to my blog.

I leave you with these photos that made my heart smile. Born into poverty, each of these precious little ones are children of the KING! Enjoy a little fellowship with some of Susan’s Kids at Faith Hill Church in Leratong, South Africa.

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“Montana Match” review, author interview and book giveaway!

It wasn’t love at first sight for me when I met Parker Watson, the hero of “Montana Match” by Merrillee Whren (Love Inspired, January 2012.) This cowboy’s heart is colder than a Montana winter. The only thing that can melt this glacier is his young twin daughters.

He has reason to be bitter. Six years ago unfounded accusations and malicious gossip cost Parker his career, his reputation, his friends, and the woman he loved. Taking refuge on his ranch, Parker’s lived the life of a recluse-staunchly avoiding the town of Stockton and the residents that shunned him.

He believes he’s protecting his daughters from Stockton’s scorn by keeping them in the nest.  But when the girls’ nanny and teacher moves away, the working dad is desperate to find a replacement.

After an unexpected meeting with recently unemployed Brittany Gorman, Parker makes her a generous offer. But Brittany has reservations, she’s a former financial planner and sometimes substitute teacher, who feels ill-equipped for the challenge of schooling two energetic girls. Despite her misgivings, Brittany feels God is pushing her outside of her comfort zone, so she reluctantly accepts the position.

After a rocky start, Brittany fits in with the family, bringing fun and a fresh perspective to the lives of Parker and his girls. Brittany’s rock-solid faith in the God that Parker hasn’t had any more use for than he does the folks of Stockton has him considering that it might be time to let go of the past. Slowly Parker begins to warm to Brittany’s optimistic spirit and hardworking ways.

But his inability to forgive and forget the past, causes strife between the pair. Brittany’s determination to expose the girls to the simple joys of town life angers Parker. His icy tongue will have you reaching for a parka.

Spring is slow in coming to Parker’s heart. But seeds of hope and change take root in his life. Parker’s journey from silent and sulking to a changed creature in Christ seems as natural as a winter snowfall. By the end, even this Carolina beach girl would be willing to be his Montana Match!

I don’t think it’s too soon to say that “Montana Match” is one of my favorite books of 2012!

Montana Match is on sale now in paperback and ebook formats. Be sure to stop by Merrillee’s website at

Interview with Merrillee Whren

OA:  What led you to write your first novel?

MW: I always enjoyed reading romances and decided I’d like to write one.

OA: Why do you choose to write inspirational versus secular books?

MW: I like being able to relate God’s principles in my writing.

OA: Which comes first when you write a book, the plot or the spiritual journey? 

MW: Probably the spiritual journey because that creates the plot.

OA: How do you choose which Bible verses to include in a book?

MW: I pick one that fits the spiritual journey of the characters.

OA: How do you balance showing a character’s spiritual journey without “preaching” to the reader? 

MW: It is a part of the character’s life and can’t be taken out without leaving a void in the story.

OA: This may be like asking you to choose a favorite child but do you have a favorite character or book that you’ve written?

MW: I suppose if I have to choose, I would pick my first published book, THE HEART’S HOMECOMING, since it started me on this journey.

OA: Who are some of the authors who’ve inspired you? 

MW: Karen Kingsbury and Linda Goodnight

For more books by Merrillee check out

  • Hometown Proposal, August 2010
  • Hometown Dad, Feb. 2011
  • Montana Match, Jan. 2012

Book Giveaway ends Saturday, Jan. 21 at 11:59 EST

To enter to win a copy of “Montana Match”, simply leave a comment for Merrillee. Be sure to make sure I can contact you by email.

Bonus entries. You may leave a separate comment for doing any or all of the following (each action earns a comment entry.)

  • Visit Merrillee’s website.

  • Sign up for Merrillee’s newsletter (added 1/18)

  • Friend Merrillee on Facebook

  • Visit the Love Inspired website

  • Like” Our Advocate on Facebook (added 1/18)

  • Subscribe to my blog (added 1/18)

  • Tell a friend about this contest or my blog! Share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, by carrier pigeon, word of mouth, etc. (added 1/18)


I was provided with a free copy of “Montana Match.” I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

This post may contain affiliate links.

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Winners of the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways

Christmas in Leratong, Village 2008

Thank you to all the authors and readers who participated in the 12 Days of Christmas!

I hope you find at least one book in your stocking or e-reader on Christmas morning! My book wish list is forever growing and I can never decide what to read next, so at Christmas I just hand the list to my mom and let her choose what book to buy for me.

The fun part of the last 12 days has been getting to know the featured authors through reading their interviews. Beyond the good stories and memorable characters these women create are enduring stories of faith, hope and love.

I enjoyed the insights each of the authors shared with us about their faith, their writing process, and their Christmas traditions. If you missed any of the interviews, just click on the author’s name below.

I though I’d share a favorite Christmas memory with you. My mom and I are supporters of Susan’s Kids and Changing Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, which support children in crisis by providing physical and spiritual nourishment, a preschool education and other humanitarian aid. A few years ago many people in my county (and beyond) donated to these organizations to give a very special Christmas to the kids of Leratong, Village. (Click here to see photos.)

To read more about the story click here Susan’s Kids Christmas page 1 and Susan’s Kids Christmas page 2.

And before we find out the winners, watch as the Nativity Story comes to life via Social Media.

If you get a chance, check out other posts on my blog. Merry Christmas and Season’s Readings!

12 Days of Christmas WINNERS

(Winners, I’m contacting you now. If you don’t receive an email from me by Dec. 27, please contact me at ecucowgirl (at) yahoo (dot) com.)

Day One: Loree Lough WINNER: Crystal Renfro

Day Two: Gail Gaymer Martin WINNER: Bethany

Day Three: Lenora Worth  WINNER: Chris Granville

Day Four: Jennifer Hudson Taylor WINNER: Jolene Hevner

Day Five: Family Fiction (Karen Kingsbury book giveaway): Anna Linarez

Day Six: Irene Hannon WINNER: Aletta

Day Seven: Camy Tang: WINNER Nancy Farrier

Day Eight: Vickie McDonough: Linda

Day Nine: Teresa Holey Slack: Judy Burgi

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Last Chance to Enter Giveaways

If you missed any of the 12 days of Christmas (which really turned out to be 9 different interviews and giveaways), check out these links to enter by 11:59pm 12/23/11. Please Note….Contest entries are not accepted on this page. Feel free to comment. BUT to enter a giveaway, click on the post for the giveaway you’d like to enter, and comment on that post. ~Blessings, Heather

Day One: Loree Lough

Day Two: Gail Gaymer Martin

Day Three: Lenora Worth

Day Four: Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Day Five: Family Fiction (Karen Kingsbury book giveaway)

Day Six: Irene Hannon

Day Seven: Camy Tang

Day Eight: Vickie McDonough

Day Nine: Teresa Holey Slack

Day Ten:

Day Eleven:

Day Twelve:

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Chasing Squirrels with author Teresa Slack

Today I’m hopping aboard the “Arctic Express” for a magical train ride around the world with conductor Steve Somers.The “Arctic Express” is stopping by my local public library as a part of the annual Christmas program. Through classic children’s books and with help from a few friends including Hopper the rabbit, Steve teaches children the importance of giving and sharing. When Steve makes it snow inside or as he brings to life the “Polar Express” with a magical bell trick, everyone is mesmerized, even the adults, who for a few minutes become kids again.

While I’m gone, my friend and writer Teresa Holey Slack is here with her guest post “Chasing Squirrels.”

Teresa Slack is the author of five novels. EVIDENCE OF GRACE, her most recent release, debuted nationwide at #18 in the Christian market. Three jobs, three grandchildren, two dogs, and a needy husband have conspired to temporarily derail her writing career. But she’s determined to get back to writing and procure another book contract for her latest novel, JOY REDEFINED…just as soon as she finishes her Christmas shopping. To learn more about Teresa and her writing, please visit

Teresa is giving away 2 books to the winner! Leave a comment & you will be entered to win two of her titles, STREAMS OF MERCY & A TENDER REED. (See end of post for Bonus Entries.) You can enter now through Friday, Dec. 23.

Don’t forget, you can enter each giveaway of the 12 Days of Christmas. Click here to see what (and who) you’ve missed.

Chasing Squirrels by Teresa Slack

Behind our house is a few hundred acres of state owned property. That means I have miles of hiking trails at my disposal. It is a rural area, and I have never run into another person on the trails. But I run into wildlife nearly every time I’m out there.

The other day while hiking with my dog Molly, she spotted a squirrel. She laid her ears back, lowered her body to the ground, and dug up paws full of dirt as she gave chase. She wanted that squirrel so badly she could taste it. Literally, I’m sure.

I immediately noticed the difference in her pursuit of something larger. We often see whitetail deer in the woods too. I always hope to spot them first so I can enjoy their majesty and beauty before Molly scares them away. As soon as she spots them, she’s off. But there is hesitancy in her stride. She doesn’t lower herself to the ground. She doesn’t run so fast it looks like her feet are missing the ground. She’s curious, but I can tell she’s wondering what in the world she’d do if she caught the thing.

Sometimes I wonder if we do the same thing with our writing goals. We say we’re going to write the next great American novel. We attend conferences and read the right books and groan in indignation when a celebrity or ex-president’s wife signs a multi-million dollar book deal.

But are we like Molly chasing the deer? We want it, but not badly enough to put our chests to the ground and paw up earth the way we do when we’re chasing squirrels.

You see the squirrel isn’t a threat. We can handle an overgrown rat. But a deer, well, that’s different. We’ll never catch something that moves that fast. Even if we did, we aren’t strong enough to bring it down on our own. So we begin our pursuit but hold back. Even while we’re running, we wonder if we’ve bitten off more than we can chew.

Writing is not as romantic as we’ve been led to believe. It takes blood and sweat and a strong constitution to stand against the frustration and rejection. That’s why you probably know someone who’s talked about the same book idea for years but hasn’t written the first word.

Molly thinks she wants that deer when she sets off down the hill after it, but she knows she’s outmatched. She’ll put forth a half-hearted attempt every time because she’s a herding dog and it’s in her nature to chase anything that moves.

It’s in our nature to want affirmation. We want the pat on the back, the accolades, the respect of our peers, the right to say we’ve done something that most others only dream about. But are we willing to get down in the dirt and go after it? Only you know how badly you want to catch the illusive dream of writing a novel or seeing your name in a national magazine’s byline.

Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. Don’t let your dreams be stopped by the fear of what happens should you catch them. Pretend it’s only a squirrel you’re chasing and see how far it takes you.


Now for the contest. But First the Rules. Please read over them, they’ll likely answer any questions you have about the giveaway-if not, ask away.

This giveaway is open to US residents, with the book mailed to the winner by the author.

Here’s how you can enter to win a free copy of “Streams of Mercy” AND “A Tender Reed.”

  1. Simply leave a comment under this post your name and email address.
  2. Tell us about a prayer that God answered in an unexpected way.

BONUS ENTRIES (Leave a Separate Comment for each action you complete stating what you did along with your name and email.)

  • Visit Teresa’s website
  • Subscribe to my blog
  • “Like’ my blog on Facebook
  • Read any blog entry on my page and tell me which one you read.
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Vickie McDonough

“God had a plan for my life that I never saw coming.” Vickie McDonough, best-selling author

As a little girl whenever my family would go to town, I made sure I had a quarter with me. Having that shiny piece of change in my pocket meant I could buy a ride on the electric horse outside of Roses Department store. For sixty seconds me and my bucking horse could herd cattle or chase outlaws across the open plains.

Most every Sunday during the ’80s and ’90s my family tuned in to watch Mesquite Championship Rodeo on TNN. After the rodeo was over I’d pretend to be a sports reporter and I’d write stories recapping the events. In high school I interned at the local newspaper and every time the rodeo was in town I’d put on my boots and hat and bring my camera to get as close to the action (and the cowboys) as I could.

If I’d followed my childhood dreams I might be riding the rodeo circuit, traveling the country with my horse, or maybe working cattle on a ranch. Instead God’s providence provided a job as a children’s librarian.

One of the reasons I love historical novels is that for a couple of hours I can immerse myself in another time and place (while still having the creature comforts of electricity, running water, an indoor bathroom and air conditioning.)

Whenever I feel the urge to saddle up and ride into the Old West, I grab one of Vickie McDonough’s novels. (No stall mucking required.) Vickie has penned 24 books and novellas. Many are set in Texas and Oklahoma in the 1800s.

In the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series I loved experiencing the bumpy road to matrimony for three mail-order brides who arrive in Lookout Texas, with intentions of wedding the Marshall, who has no clue he’s anyone’s intended groom!

Vickie is giving one reader a copy of Long Trail Home, book 3 in the Texas Trails series. To enter, just leave a comment (make sure to include your name and email)-that simple. (See end of post for Bonus Entries.) You can enter now through Friday, Dec. 23.

Don’t forget, you can enter each giveaway of the 12 Days of Christmas. Click here to see what (and who) you’ve missed.


OA: Vickie, thanks for joining us. Tell us about the Texas Trail series.

VM: Texas Trails is a six-book collaborative series written by three authors. The first three titles in the Texas Trails series are Lone Star Trail by Darlene Franklin, Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis, and my book, Long Trail Home. Next spring, the final three books in this series will be released: Ranger Trail, Cowgirl Trail, and End of the Trail.

OA: What led you to write your first novel?

VM: For years, I’d prayed for God to give me an idea for a home business, so I could make some income but still stay home with my four boys. I never dreamed God would answer that prayer by sending me stories to write or that I’d one day be a published author, but that’s what happened. About 11 years ago, a story idea started running through my mind and wouldn’t go away. It was like watching a movie in my head. It was affecting my sleep a lot, so I thought maybe if I wrote it down it would go away. I ended up writing a whole book, but as soon as I finished it, another idea came…and they are still coming. Most writers say they always dreamed of becoming a writer, but I can honestly say I never did. God had a plan for my life that I never saw coming.

Why do you choose to write inspirational versus secular books?

VM: For me, secular was never an option. I’ve been an avid fan of Christian fiction, ever since discovering it back in the 1980s. I’ve read hundreds of books in the genre. Writing an inspirational novel is a ministry. It’s a way for me to walk out—or rather—type out my faith in a story that’s entertaining, and hopefully engaging, with a message that will inspire readers.

OA: Which comes first when you write a book, the plot or the spiritual journey?

VM: Actually, it’s the characters that usually come first. I’ll get an idea for a character in a certain situation and built from there. The spiritual journey is a natural outflow of whatever is going on in the character’s life.

OA: How do you choose which Bible verses to include in a book?

VM: It usually has something to do with what the character is currently struggling with. In Long Trail Home, my heroine is a pickpocket in the prologue. It’s the trade she learned from her father and all she’s ever known. After she hears a street preacher preaching about the ten commandments, she realizes for the first time that stealing is a sin. After that, it bothers her until she is finally able to quit.

A writer shouldn’t whack their characters or readers over the head with scripture. It needs to be a natural flowing part of the story.

 OA: How do you balance showing a character’s spiritual journey without “preaching” to the reader?

VM: It’s pretty much like I said in the last question. A character’s spiritual journey must develop naturally as part of the story. A character who is angry at God over the death of his wife isn’t going to be mad and hurting one day and happy and right with God the next. It’s a gradual progression. Think of it like a garment made on a loom. You have certain colors of thread running up and down. Then the weaver shuttles through a horizontal thread. It doesn’t look like much at first, but the more he weaves, the more the pattern develops. Writing a story is like that. You have a character’s physical journey interwoven with his spiritual journey, and hopefully when the book is done, you have a beautiful tapestry.

OA: This may be like asking you to choose a favorite child but do you have a favorite character or book that you’ve written?

VM: Yes, that is hard, but I do have a favorite. It would be Jack aka Jacqueline Hamilton Davis, a feisty tomboy and later a spunky young lady, who appeared in my Texas Boardinghouse Series. Jack is a girl in the first two books and the heroine in the last book, which is set ten years later. The book titles in that series are The Anonymous Bride, Second Chance Brides, and Finally A Bride.

OA: You’ve written several historical titles. What’s inspired you to set your books in the past?

VM: I’ve always loved horses and cowboys. I grew up watching the westerns of the 1960s with my dad. My dream as a girl was to grow up and marry a rancher. Instead, I married a sweet computer geek who’s scared of horses. When I read, I mostly read historicals. I love the slower pace of the 1800s.

OA: What kind of research do you do for writing historical novels?

VM: It varies a lot, depending on how familiar I am with an area and the subject matter. When I wrote my North Dakota and Charleston series, I had to do a lot of research, but not as much with my Texas books, since I’ve visited Texas many times.

How much I research also depends on my hero’s or heroine’s career, the time period, and the topics covered in the book.

OA: Who are some of the authors who’ve inspired you?

VM: The first Christian fiction book I ever read was written by a Scottish pastor, George MacDonald. His books were a bit deep for me but I enjoyed the unique plot twists he always had. Next, I discovered Tracie Peterson’s and Janette Oke’s work and devoured their books. Gilbert Morris is another author I read early on. I believe that reading their books before I ever started writing gave me a fictional foundation to build on. There are so many other authors who’s books I love that I can’t mention them all, but these are the ones I first read.

OA: What is your favorite and least favorite parts of writing a novel?

If I’m being totally honest, it’s the actual discipline of writing that’s hardest for me. Writing is hard work and takes a lot of time. I love the creating stage before I start writing and the “ah” feeling after the book has been turned in, but probably my favorite part is going on a research.

OA: Do you have advice for writers aspiring to be published?

VM: Yes. Try to get involved with other writers, either locally or online. Study your craft and learn all you can and then write and write and write. Most writers need to write a few practice books before they are ready to seek publication. A good group to join if you’re writing Christian fiction is ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Their website is

OA: What do you have in the works for 2012?

VM: End of the Trail, which is the final book in the Texas Trails series, releases next spring. It’s the story of a returning Civil War soldier, and my pickpocket, who has grown into a respectable woman—for the most part. Whispers on the Prairie, book 1 in my Pioneer Promises series from Summerside Press releases Aug. 1st. It’s the series of a family who runs a stage stop at the beginning of the Santa Fe trail.

OA: Christmas is just around the corner. What special traditions that you and your family do each year at Christmas?

VM: We always put up our tree the weekend after thanksgiving. The boys and my husband bring down all the boxes, my mom unwraps the bulbs, and I hang they on the tree. At Christmastime, we all usually go to my sister’s house, which is an hour’s drive from ours, and eat brisket, scalloped potatoes, veggies, and lots of pie and Christmas goodies. My granddaughter is five this year, and seeing the excitement of a young child again at Christmas is a lot of fun.

OA: In this spirit in the season of giving, would you tell us about a charity or organization that you support?

VM: My youngest son is going on a engineering missions trip to Ghana next summer with ORU missions. Their goal is to build a renewable energy source that will help the Ghana people. Here is a link to their website:


Now for the contest. But First the Rules. Please read over them, they’ll likely answer any questions you have about the giveaway-if not, ask away.

This giveaway is open to EVERYONE-US and International residents, US residents, with the book mailed to the winner by the author.

Here’s how you can enter to win a free copy of “Long Trail Home.”

  1. Simply leave a comment under this post your name and email address.
  2. Tell us about a prayer that God answered in an unexpected way.

BONUS ENTRIES (Leave a Separate Comment for each action you complete stating what you did along with your name and email.)

The giveaway closes on Friday, Dec. 23 at 11:59pm. Winners will be announced on Saturday, Dec. 24 at

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