Monday, July 17, 2017

Gladden the Heart- July 17

Have you eve had a friend who was a little different than you? Or have you ever encountered something you just didn't understand? In this book, two friends from different lifestyles learn about faith from one another. We see how differing religious beliefs can coexist when based on the sane principles. We also see how community can come together.

I enjoyed the characters in this book, especially Susanna. This was not a typical Amish book and I appreciated that. Susanna's work with dyes was interesting to me as well. The conversation flowed well and it was easy to read. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amosh fiction. It is a series book but I had not tread any of the previous books so it can be a stand alone, but I will most
Likely read the other books. I did receive a complimentary copy from Celebrate Lit. This is my honest review.

Book title: Gladden the Heart
Author: Olivia Newport
Release date: July 1, 2017
Genre: Historical Amish
“When you have experienced the Holy Ghost as I have, you would see that it is difficult to turn back.”
When the lively fervor of nineteenth century revivalism endangers the staid customs of the Amish community in the lush but rugged Kishacoquillas Valley of central Pennsylvania in 1847, the Amish church must deal with a divisive question: What is a genuine spiritual experience?
The question turns personal when Susanna’s beloved cousin Noah begins preaching while under trances and even though he is not a minister he gives long sermons that attract increasing attention. Curious, she helps to keep Noah safe during his trances. At the same time Adam, Susanna’s intended, feels pressure from the bishop to speak out against the ways of revivalism.
Susanna and Adam are pushed to opposite sides of a controversy that threatens their traditional Amish faith.. Now they must grapple with whether love is possible…even if they come to different conclusions.
When Noah goes missing at a time of day when he often preaches while asleep, circumstances thrust community members with divergent opinions into a crisis that demands they recognize the humanity they share regardless of beliefs. But can strong-held opinions be softened by the truths that shape their lives?


Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to discover where faith and passions meet. She chases joy in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is. Her books include the Avenue of Dreams series set in 1890s Chicago; the Valley of Choice series, which intertwines contemporary and historical Amish stories; the historical Amish Turns of Time series; and Hidden Falls, a warm, contemporary, small-town novel.
Sleepy Sundays
Now don’t laugh, but my guess is that if you looked around your church on any given Sunday morning, you’d see somebody sleeping. It might be an infant or toddler whose nap time collides with the worship time resting in a parent’s arms, or it might be a senior citizen who has perfected the art of dozing in an upright position.
What you don’t expect is that the person sleeping will be the preacher.
I’ve always been interested in church history. I even read a magazine called Christian History on a regular basis and consider it pleasure reading. In my ambling through church history, I came across a notation about “sleeping preachers” in the nineteenth century in various denominations, including the Amish. The accounts suggested that individuals who were not ministers would fall unconscious, wake up to preach for lengthy periods, sleep again, and have no recollection of their actions.
Could this possibly be true? Or a giant hoax? What’s a genuine spiritual experience, and what do we do when don’t agree on how to answer that question? Let’s face it, even now, 150 years later, we still don’t quite know what to do with our varying traditions when we don’t agree on how to answer that question.
I knew I had the makings of a story. Gladden the Heart travels back to 1847 and wrestles with these questions. When a divided community faces a life-or-death situation, they must respond to a crisis that challenges them to look past their differences. But can strong-held opinions be softened by the truths that shape their lives?
Gladden the Heart is the fifth story in Olivia Newport’s Amish Turns of Time series of historical Amish novels. Olivia chases joy in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.

Blog Stops

July 5: Book by Book
July 6: Genesis 5020
July 11: Artistic Nobody
July 14: cherylbbookblog
July 15: Bigreadersite
July 15: Carpe Diem
July 16: Splashes of Joy
To celebrate her tour, Olivia is giving away a Grand Prize that consists of:
All five books in the Amish Turns of Time series (
Bonus: All three books in the Valley of Choice series (
$25 Amazon Gift Card!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Finding Love- July 12

This is the second book in the Maple Run series but could easily be read alone... however, I loved the first book, Buying Love, so I'd recommend you read both.

Delaney has a busy life: working in her family-run business with her twin brother and mother; raising her twin boys who are full of energy.  Since her husband was killed in combat, she's learned to juggle work and family but still feels as though something is missing.

A handsome gentleman walks into her family restaurant and she seems to find it... but she isn't sure it's ok. Luke turns outs to have formally served with her deceased husband, and there's a connection there in more ways than one.

This story is a sweet tale of forgiving each other, and forgiving ourselves.

Delaney is beautiful inside and out and the antics of her twin sons will keep you smiling.

I highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys good, clean Christian fiction and romance.

I received a copy of this from celebrate lit and this is my honest review. Finding Love can be purchased by clicking the title.


Book: Finding Love
Author: Toni Shiloh
Release date: June 28, 2017
Genre: Contemporary
Delaney Jones has finally started to pick up the pieces of her shattered life after the death of her husband, Parker. Just as life enters a new normal, in walks Army soldier, Luke Robinson. Just when she makes the decision to trust him, life deals her a heavy blow.
Sergeant First Class Luke Robinson can’t get over his part in the death of Delaney’s husband. In hopes to assuage his guilt, he offers to lend a hand. Only, he never counted on the feelings she evokes with just a smile. Will his secrets widen the gulf or will he finally find absolution?


Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.
She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the president of the ACFW Virginia Chapter.


I’m so excited about this book tour for Finding Love. This book holds a special place in my heart. The pathway to writing Finding Love was not as easy as I thought it would be. For the most part, my brain has an idea or characters share their story, and bam, I’m off and writing at my laptop.
I decided to write Finding Love when I got the contract for Buying Love, the first book in the series. I figured fans would want to read another story in the fictional Maple Run, Virginia. I also figured that Shorty and Nikki’s story would be the second book, but alas, they refuse to talk to me.
The reason I love Finding Love so much is because it’s about what every person is searching for: love. We search for it in families, in friends, and in that romantic ideal of happily ever after. And even greater, it’s a testament of God’s love for us.
Sometimes, love is scary. To let another person in our heart, bare our secrets, and hold our breath waiting for them to accept us…makes a person’s heart quake. With Delaney, she wasn’t even trying to find love, but it rode in on Harley seeking for forgiveness. I loved watching Luke and Delaney fall in love and I pray you do as well.
Blessings, reader friends!

Blog Stops

June 29: Remembrancy
June 30: autism mom
July 5: Carpe Diem
July 9: A Path of Joy


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Joy Plan- A Review

My take:
When I read the title of this book, I knew it was one I wanted to read.

Because I worry...

and I complain.  A lot. Even though I preach positivity to everyone else.

And who doesn't want ridiculous happiness?

Roman took a challenging experience and used it as a growth opportunity... and really, isn't that what we all should do? It's easy to look at difficulties and wallow... but instead, she developed a plan (just like the business woman she is!) to find and keep joy.

Not just everyday happiness... but joy.

This book takes scientific evidence of the inner workings of the neurotransmitters of the brain to explain how we can better approach life to be happier...

and if we are happier, we naturally will be more productive and healthier, in all aspects of our lives.

Several of her tips were very useful. I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to have a more positive attitude in life. A great read!!!

I did receive a free copy of this book through netgalley and am offering my honest review. Professional Reader

From the Author:
5 Tips to Finding Joy in Your Life, and How to Start Today! 

A few years ago, my business crashed and my self-esteem hit an all-time low. Although there are far worse fates than the failure of a business, it felt like the last straw in a long string of failures in my life that all pointed to my inability to do anything right.

As I sunk into depression, my friend Niko suggested that if I focused on making joy my top priority for one month, my entire life would turn around. With no job, no plan, and no other ideas, I decided to give it a try.

For 30 days, I went after joy from all angles—from the scientific to the spiritual, and everything in between. I tried every tool and trick that was recommended in every self-help book I could get my hands on. It was remarkable to see what worked and what didn’t.

And yes, Niko was right. After 30 days, I had experienced enough changes in my life that I was able to not only continue my Joy Plan, but to write a book about the extraordinary events that took place in the six months that followed (The Joy Plan, Sourcebooks, available here).

The Joy Plan has become a way of life for me now, and the discoveries I made during my experiment are now my everyday practices. The good news is, you don’t need to take 30 days or make major changes in your life to do these things—they are simple enough that you can start today!

1.       Embrace Mindfulness
Today, I teach a research-based Mindfulness curriculum to elementary school children. Because I’m a total science geek, to me, mindfulness is all about physiology. It’s about doing whatever it takes to bring your attention to the present moment, into your body, and out of your chattering mind. And it’s been shown to have multiple health and brain benefits. 

2.       Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
I start each day with 10-15 minutes of gratitude, either by writing in my gratitude notebook or simply reciting in my mind what I’m grateful for. This helps me get into the right headspace for whatever the day will bring. It is impossible for our brains to be in a state of appreciation and fear simultaneously, so I do my best to appreciate like crazy as often as possible.  

3.       Practice Acts of Kindness

Being kind to others feels good. In fact, it releases dopamine in the brain. It helps take our attention off of our own troubles, and also creates a feeling of interconnectedness. I try to do something kind every day, whether that’s as small as smiling to everyone I see or a big as making a donation to my favorite charity. 

4.       Focus on Solutions Rather than Problems
It took me some time to break the ingrained habit I had of frequently complaining, but making this shift has had a huge effect on my mental state. Instead of complaining now, whenever there’s something I’m unhappy about, I use my urge to complain as a springboard to create something new—to focus on a solution rather than a problem. 
5.       When in Doubt, Laugh
Laughter really is the best medicine, but the truth is, I’m a pretty serious person. I like scientific research, philosophical discussions, and big ideas. So I have to make an effort to create more laughter in my life. I make it a goal to laugh (by myself or with others) at least a few times a day, and I use whatever means necessary! (Smiling works too : )
Unfortunately, joy doesn’t come easily for everyone. But with practice and repetition, joy is a habit that anyone can cultivate. As we shift our mental habits, we change our experience of life.
About the author
Kaia is the author of the new book, The Joy Plan (Sourcebooks, July 2017). She teaches Mindfulness to elementary school students in Santa Cruz, California and is a blogger for minbodygreen and other sites. She writes about how she went from joyless and anxious to grateful and optimistic so she can remember how she did it if she forgets. She’s also a communications consultant to some of Silicon Valley’s largest companies. For everyday joy and mindfulness tips, sign up for Kaia’s newsletter at  You’ll find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Friday, July 7, 2017

FMF: Play

I lay down in the floor because I'm lazy.

Next thing I know, she comes barreling at me, pushing me down.

Her giggle is infectious.

Over and over, she pushes, and I pull myself back up.

Then, she is next to me, our elbows touching, backs on the carpet.

Sit-ups have never been as fun.

"One... Two..." She says as she struggles to get up, giggling as she goes.

The twinkle in her eye reminds me of her Mama, as does that deep belly laugh.

There's just something about a baby bordering on the brink of childhood.

Not quite two, chubby leg rolls and soft belly and silky hair a little wild because Caleb has tousled it.

She likes to run "fassss" and "spash!!!"... but right now she's content to play a new game with her aunt.

And as I am on that floor looking up at the ceiling, I think of how difficult it is for us to just appreciate the moment.

Too often as adults we're too busy to pause and take it all in.

And now, thinking back on those few minutes in the floor today, playing a made up game that had no name and no characters and no imagination except seeing me fall down, I'm reminded of how Jesus welcomed the little children.

Their innocence, certainly, and their joy...

but also their ability to see the wonder in the very small, minute things.

Just like my Melody Belle.

If only we could pause a few minutes each day to pull the curtain back and roll up our sleeves and play... uninhibited.

I think maybe a whole lot more of our problems would be solved.

Linking up with five minute Fridays where we write for five minutes, unedited, on one word. Today's word: play

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Prayer, Continued

Last night I wrote about prayer and then this morning part of my devotion was about how prayer.

I love it how God will keep bringing something up to get your attention.

You see, I'm not the best pray-er.

I feel like I've written this before.

I have good intentions.

I KNOW prayer is powerful... after all, I'm Naomi Clemons's granddaughter, and if I had a dollar for everytime a patient in the hospital would say, "Tell your Mamaw to pray for me. I know if she's praying, I'll be ok." I'd be a rich woman.

And I'm not sure why I don't pray like I should. I have all kinds of excuses. I'm too busy. I forget. I don't know what to say...

but that's all those are; excuses.

Because as I mentioned last night, I can pray anywhere and the words don't have to be eloquent or anything over the top. After all, God already knows my heart. He knows what I'm going to say. He just wants me to make the effort... to be in relationship with Him.

Will you join me in being more intentional in prayer? Perhaps when you see someone who has a prayer request, say a prayer right then... either out loud or in your heart.  After all, we are told to pray without ceasing, so I'm thinking that means all day, every day.

Another thing that we skimmed over in Bible study was how different people express themselves different ways. I never will forget one time in church my Mamaw wanted me to go pray at the altar. I informed her that I could pray just fine in my pew... and I still believe that... but I also think maybe I need to humble myself a little more.

Ouch. That just hurt to type that. Not to get all legalistic because y'all... some of my best prayers have been prayed in my car driving somewhere. I got choked up a few minutes ago just watching a video on my computer and found myself thanking God.

And that's another thing. One of the guys said he felt like the outdoors was his church and this summer I have totally gotten that. I don't know if it's just that being outside makes me feel close to loved ones lost or what, but you can't stand in the middle of Red River Gorge and not feel something. Or sit in a kayak on a still lake with the sun bouncing off the water in front of you. He truly is everywhere but when I'm right there in His pure creation, uninhibited by all the craziness of other people, I know He's God and it just makes me want to praise Him.

So... that's another thing. Find something that makes your heart sing, and then do it. Even if you can't carry a tune. Even if you don't have any words. Praise Him, for you... and I... and the earth... are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Praise Him. Humble ourselves and make it about Him. Get those feelings off your chest. And then... allow Him to give you peace even if He doesn't answer right away...

because all things are working for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Breakdown On Prayer

Tonight in Bible study we talked about The Lord's Prayer. Such a short passage of Scripture with a huge impact.

In the book of Luke, this passage comes after the disciples have asked Jesus how to pray. It amazes me, yet encourages me, that they could have spent all that time with Him, in close proximity to Him and observing Him and breaking bread with Him, yet they still had so many questions.

The passage directly before this in Luke also deals with Jesus teaching someone something... and I wonder if it happened in the same place. Two sisters with completely different personalities... and a little sibling rivalry, perhaps. Martha had to be shown that it was important for her to learn to rest- to pause- to breathe in what Jesus had to offer.

I wonder if she listened as Jesus instructed those around Him about how to communicate God Almighty.

Praying is an open line to Heaven. I've often wondered about the simplicity of it... and even at times deemed it unnecessary. After all, God knows all anyway, right? He knows my thoughts and my needs...

But prayer is about relationship.  To develop a relationship of any kind, we have to spend time with one another. To get to know one another, communication is necessary, and God desires that from His children.

"Our Father- This part comes easy to me, because I've got a pretty awesome earthly dad who loves me and provided for me (and still does!!!). To some, though, who have strained or nonexistent relationships, this can be difficult.  He is our Heavenly Father- Abba- Daddy- who can love us like no other. I think of how I feel when Caleb is hurt or sick or in need of something. How much more does God's heart break?

who art in Heaven- He's the creator of the universe, and He looks down on us from His throne. Not in disgust or disdain or superiority- but looks down on us because He cares.

hallowed be thy name- He is holy. He is supreme. We should be in awe. Reverant.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.-In today's world, I think of this often. Life's so messed up. So hard. But it's temporary, and there will be a new kingdom, an everlasting kingdom. But here's the thing. Even though life is hard here, we have a little bit of Heaven in us. We're living for eternity. We long for more. And by allowing Jesus in, we can have peace and joy and love right here on earth. His kingdom, in us...

Give us this day our daily bread- Bread could be anything we need. Food, yes, but also shelter and comfort and clothing and employment and health- anything that helps to sustain us. We only need enough for right now, because if we have more, we tend to either squander it or worry it away. He told us to only worry ourselves with today because it's all we've got and it's got enough to worry us with.

forgive us our debts as we forgive those indebted to us.- Lord have mercy!  I want forgiveness, for sure, but am not always so willing to be forgiving.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. He protects us. Guides us. Saves us.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" It's all His. Always has been. Always will be. He's got the power and He deserves the glory and He is eternal.

The thing about prayer is it is immediate. You can pray out loud or in your mind. You can pray anywhere. It doesn't have to be eloquent. Just talk to God like you would talk to a friend...
And yet when I have a problem I want to talk to everyone else but God. I seek out everyone's opinion, share how I've been wronged, ask them for their advice on how to handle the situation...

When I've got accessibility to the one on High who is the ultimate problem solver.

When I don't know what to pray, His Spirit makes intercession for me.

Think about that.

He is sovereign. He is able. He loves us more than we can imagine.

How can I pray for you this evening?? It's an honor.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Doing Busy Better- July 4

Who isn't busy???

I'd wager a bet that there's not many of us who don't feel overwhelmed at times.

Busy can even be a competition... the more things on our plate, the more important we must be, right???

But deep inside, we still feel as though something is missing.

We neglect the important things to focus on things that we think matter.

And then we find ourselves stressed, feeling unblessed, and chaotic... so much so that we can become paralyzed to the next good thing.

God didn't want that for us.

He modeled rest for us in the very beginning, and rest is something that He expects us to do.

Whitwer gets this.

She is a recovering "busybody"... that is to say, she, too, loaded her plate to high.

She, too, got overwhelmed...

but she realized through the grace of God that it was a rough way to live, and completely against what God desired for her.

In this book, she wants to share that with her readers.

I found this book very easy to read, with simple to understand language, as though we were sitting down for coffee and chatting across the table.

She offers real-life examples from her own life, as well a planning tools to help the reader lasso in the craziness.

Biblically based with scripture throughout, this book offers hope that by seeking God's will, being obedient, learning to prioritize on the most important, and resting in Him, we, too, can find peace in our chaos.

We can still be busy...

just busy, better.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who feels overwhelmed or anyone who is looking for a way to ensure they are living a meaningful life.

I was honored to serve on the launch team for this book, and received a free copy of this book to do so. This is my honest review.

You can purchase Doing Busy Better on Amazon.