Sunday, June 25, 2017

Lessons from Ruth

Today the message at church was from Ruth.

It's one of my favorite books in the Bible. It truly has anything that a reader would want in a story. Drama. Death. Long, arduous journeys. Romance. Redemption.

It's also part of a study that I'll be working through with Proverbs 31 Ministries starting tomorrow. I love when God keeps bringing things up... it usually means I need to stand up and take notice.

Ruth had to choose to leave a familiar country and go somewhere that she wasn't familiar with... with her mother-in-law.

A mother-in-law who was self-described as "bitter".

Not my idea of a great trip, y'all.

But Ruth was faithful.

And Naomi was rewarded for her faithfulness.

Because Ruth chose to follow her, she was cared for.... and she was blessed.

Blessed with a new family line...

Blessed with a kinsman redeemer...

Blessed to nurse her grandbaby.

All because Ruth decided to take that unknown step.

Ruth means friend in Hebrew.

It can also be translated as a vision of beauty.

A true friend is a vision of beauty.

It's a beautiful thing to have someone in your corner.

I've been reading a lot about friendship and community and I am seeing the importance of having someone who you can relate to. Even though they were different, and ages apart, Ruth and Naomi could relate to one another. Ruth was a true friend, a companion to the end.

And because of this beautiful friendship, Naomi's bitterness turned into pleasant delight, just as her name had always indicated.

Tonight I'm reminded of several things from Ruth.

Don't be afraid to step out.

Love those around you even when it is hard.

If you don't have community, seek it out. As an introvert, I get that this is hard... but making yourself vulnerable and allowing others to be vulnerable with you opens up a true heart connection that can't be replaced.

Don't buy into your feelings. Don't allow what you don't have or what you can't do be your identity... instead, embrace who God says you are.

Be a friend in action. Be present. Walk with them.

And never think you're too old to see your redemption.

He's got a greater plan... and He's working it out for your good.

(For another take on this story, read this this blog from January 2016

Friday, June 23, 2017

Five Minute Friday- Steady

I've never been too coordinated.

Even at the almost 38, my legs are a testament to this... full of bruises in various colors from bumping into dressers and falling down.

Here's the thing, though... I don't always feel that clumsy. One of my favorite things to do as a young girl was to pretend I was an ice skater or gymnast. I'd skate across the living room carpet, light on my feet as I perfected turns to the cheers of the audience in my head.

And while I'm not athletic, I have learned to embrace activity.

Yesterday, I had even convinced myself that my balance had improved as I skirted across some wet rocks in the creek, light on my feet as the rain misted around me...

And then my foot slipped.

I found myself shaking my head at my confidence, because I had ALMOST convinced myself that I wasn't a clutz.

Granted, I caught myself, but I found myself going a tad bit slower as I maneuvered my way across the remaining creekbed.

And I thought how life is like that.

You can be flying along, coasting on your good luck and even standing on one leg...

and then you hit that slick spot, careening out of control.

The ONLY thing that can hold us is an inner balance...

an inner ability to right ourselves and stand a little straighter... pretending like we're a puppet and the puppeteer is holding the string straight up.

Steadying us by His peace... allowing His Spirit to help us right our balance.

Linking up today for Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes, unedited, on one prompt. Today's prompt- STEADY
(Image taken from Five Minute Friday website, as seen in picture).

His steadfast love endures forever, and He will hold us steady even as the waves of chaos and uncertainty knock us off balance.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Worth

There can be a lot of meaning in five little letters.

Take, for example, the word used for this week's Five Minute Friday prompt.


Worth can be related to an object.

It can be related to a task.

It can be related to a person.

One of my favorite phrases to tell students when they start nursing school is, "It'll be hard, but all that hard work will be worth it in the end."

Worth indicates value.

It indicates the willingness to sacrifice.

If you think someone is worth your time, you'll sacrifice in some other areas.

It's true that we live out our priorities.

When we value an activity or a person, we make time for it.

We determine the worth of something or someone based on how much we are willing to give for it...
 how much time. How much effort. How much money.

Too often we see the worth of others when perhaps they don't see it themselves...

and maybe don't see our own worth.

It's easy to look at someone else and think they are special, beautiful, talented, smart... you fill in the blank.

But you? And me?


We are worth more than we can ever know. God made each one of us a priceless masterpiece.

You're worth the Savior of the world giving up Heaven and taking on sin...

That's how much we're worth.


Linking up today with five minute Friday at, where we write for five minutes, unedited on a word prompt.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

For Such a Time as This... and That

Every now and again I get in a melancholy mood.

It usually always happens in the wintertime, when the days are short and the sun doesn't shine and it just always looks gray.

Occasionally, though, I get that way when everything seems to be going good.

Today was one of those days, just for a few minutes.

I had a great day. I went to Lexington with my Mamaw and Caleb and Aunt Lisa. We got to see my cousin Brandon's baby Scarlette and have lunch with him, the baby, his Mom and sister Alaina. Then, I actually napped in the sun for about an hour in my hammock before Vacation Bible School, where I spent two hours with some really awesome kiddos.

The rain held off just long enough for them to play their outside games and then we got blessed with a beautiful rainbow...

but I was still kind of blue when I came home.

Today I spent some time contemplating about how life isn't fair. I got teary-eyed thinking about Dennis not being able to see his grandbaby, and Scarlette not benefitting from hearing his hearty laugh. She's such a happy little thing, with soft skin and kissable cheeks. I know he would have fallen in love.

And then I thought about how unfair it is that kids get cancer. As I watched Colton Ritchie dance at VBS and listened to his twin brother Jaiden lead us in a Bible verse that said in all things we are more than conquerors, I got tears in my eyes again.

Y'all.  Life stinks sometimes, that's for sure.

And sometimes it's easy to question God, and I think He's ok with us wondering why things have to be the way they are, because while he's all about blind faith, He's also crazy in love with us.

And the truth of the matter is that some of us are just flat out lucky...

lucky that we're born in a place that has running water and enough food to eat.

The only difference between me and someone barely scraping by is God's grace.

And it's not because I'm special.

I wish I could explain why some people seem to have it easy and some struggle every single day of their life...

but all I can do is think about the story I talked about on Tuesday night. Esther was an orphan who ended up being a Queen. A Queen that saved her people.

She had been put through those circumstances, everything that she faced, for just that moment.

We are all living in our difficult circumstances for such a time as this, to show God's wonder and to proclaim His glory and to win others to His kingdom.

For such a time as this...

we were made to love and trust and live every day as if it's our last.

For such a time as this...

we were made to help others and be kind and do our best.

For such a time as this...

We may not understand, but when we finally make it, we'll see it clearly, and we'll say...

"Oh.  That's what that was all about."

Or we may not even care because we'll be so in awe...

We're living for such a time as this...

to get ready for such a time as that. When there is no time and no death and no crying and eyes haven't seen and ears haven't heard and we can't even imagine what it's like.

Such a Time...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Consignment Thinking

Today we met Kami in London (Kentucky!) and picked up Riggins. We got there a little early so decided to go to the Vender's Mall.

I love Vender's (or Peddlers or whatever they may be called) Malls because you seriously have no idea what you will come across.

Today, though, as we roamed up and down the aisles, looking for a "bus" for Melody to play with, I started thinking about the items on the shelves.

As I gazed at the chipped crockpot with the lid placed on it askew, I thought of the young housewife who may have received that as a wedding gift. How she may have anxiously tried out a recipe passed down from her grandmother and sat across from her husband, holding her breath as he took his first bite. Did she get it right? Is it even edible?

The set of porcelain dishes lined with flowers may have served some ladies group, or been used for a fancy tea party for a grandmamma and her grandchildren.

All of those Barbies had entertained some little girl for hours and hours, changing their clothes and brushing their hair and getting them ready for a date with Ken.

Those books had fascinated some little girls as she hovered under her covers with a flashlight on because her Mom told her to turn off the lights.

Some of those objects had happy memories attached to them, but many of them may carry negative significance- they are no longer treasure because of divorce or death or a necessary move.

Some of the stuff may seem like junk to the shopper... and maybe to the owner, since they were selling it...

but to others it truly is treasure, because of the memories associated with it.

And honestly, sometimes we are like those objects. Easily tossed aside and forgotten. Full of painful memories, so it's easier just to get rid of us. Maybe you feel like that... maybe somebody has hurt you or rejected you recently and you find yourself asking why.

Here's the thing... those objects that were tossed aside? Put up for sale? Someone will stumble upon it and put it to use again. The crockpot may help a down on his luck college student have something semi-homemade as he studies for finals. There will be new little girls having tea parties and brushing Barbies hair. Those books will transport someone else to a magical land.

Things that may seem as though they have little to no value, but somebody will always find a use for something. If you don't believe me, you've never visited my Papaw Paul's basement, where he kept hundreds of bread ties because "you never knew when you might need them".

And like those objects with seemingly no value, you have value.  You are valuable more than you know!!! And you'll never be a hand me down or cast off!

As I type this, I'm looking around my living room. There's the teddy bear that Caleb brought me home for Christmas, a Mission of Hope giveaway that he was so proud of. A conch shell my Uncle Greg brought Caleb home from the beach. A Longaberger basket Wallace surprised me with. My Bybee pottery is more than just pottery... I can't look at it without thinking of standing in line with Mom outside of the shop early in the morning, and the eeriness we felt driving the morning after 9/11.

So the next time you stop into a consignment shop or visit a yard sale, stop to think about those objects that have been cast away. Think about the people who they belonged to, who cherished them... and maybe say a prayer for them.

And then snatch up whatever bargain you can and give it a place of significance.

And whenever you are sitting uncomfortably at a meeting or at school or standing in the line at the grocery story, see that person next to you as a treasure, too...

You never know what you may find.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Fathers

(Image courtesy of The Broke and Bookish blog, where I'm linking up for their Top Ten Tuesday.

I was excited when I saw this prompt because Father's Day is coming up and I've got one of the best dads out there.

Plus, my love of reading was in a sense fostered by my Grandpa Paul, who voraciously read everything he could get his hands on.

The prompt involved honoring fathers somehow, whether it be best advice from a literary father, best or worst father figure, best books with a father mentioned...

And as I pondered all of the books I've read (and that's A LOT), I realized something.

I read a lot of chick lit.

A lot of literature centered around the relationships between mothers and daughters and coworkers and friends...

but not much with strong father figures.

Off the top of my head, here's the list of favorite fathers I could come up with:

1. Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird), because he is raising Scout and her brother on his own with the help of their aunt, and he stands for all that is good and right in this world. I hear Go Set a Watchman paints him in a different light, and to be honest, that's one of the reasons I've not read the book.
2. Gerald O'Hara (Gone with the Wind)- because this is my favorite book of all times and he's such a lively little thing. He loves Scarlett with a passion and loves Tara and teaches Scarlett the importance of loving her land.
3. Rhett Butler (Gone with the Wind)- bet you didn't see that one coming. He's known for his love affair with Scarlett, but he was a doting father to Bonnie Blue and when tragedy struck he near couldn't stand it.
4. Pa Wilder (Little House series)- He made sure his family was protected and loved his girls. Also I loved this TV series, so I always picture calm and serene Michael Landon as Laura runs to him, braids flying.
5. Nancy Drew's father- I don't even remember his name, I just know that he made sure she was recognized time and time again.

And that's it.
Seriously, y'all. 
I couldn't think of another book with a strong dad figure.
I know they are out there.
I know I've read them.
Nothing sticks out...

but t google was full of ideas, so I browsed

Sunday, June 11, 2017

My Bucket List

2017, as you know if you frequent this space much, has been designated my year to live. I chose that word to guide my year because I often felt as though I was going through the motions, and I wanted to do more.

To be more.

So I've been trying to step out of my comfort zone (a little) and experience life to the fullest. After all, that's what Jesus said He came for... so that we may have life to the fullest... the abundant life.

Last night I was thinking of my newfound zest for life and I had this thought.

I'm living like I'm dying.

Because, honestly, we all are.

We are told our lives are but a vapor, and we never know when that vapor will be gone...

so, as I strive to fit in as much life as I can, I truly am living to experience all I can because my life here will eventually be terminal.

This is not my final destination... but there's a lot it has to offer while I'm making my temporary stay.

Here's what I'd love to do as I really live...
I created this list a few years ago on a piece of notebook paper. As you can see, I've been blessed to do some of the things.

Mostly, though, in addition to this list...

I want my life to be reflective of Jesus Christ, and when I take my last breath, I want those who knew me to say that I somehow made their lives better.

That's my ultimate bucket list item...

but this stuff would all be pretty awesome=)

1. Be multilingual.
Taking a Spanish class in the fall

2. Grand Canyon
Visited on 7/22/14 while at a nursing conference in Arizona. Jenna Boothe, Donna Combs, Gwen Collins, Pat Herald, Christy Martin, Sherry Woods, Tammy Bailey& Ludrenia Hagans-Shepherd.

3. Put my feet in the Pacific Ocean- I've been to the Atlantic but have heard the Pacific is beautiful.

4. Hot air balloon ride- I've always been fascinated with hot air balloons.

5. Get my doctorate.
Completed through Western Kentucky University in May, 2017

6. Run a 5K - I know this doesn't sound that ambitious, with so many people doing marathons, but I'm learning life really isn't a competition, and I'm not a runner. So, start small...
I've walked a 5K, but really would like to run it. Maybe sometime in the fall.

7. Learn to play piano. I took lessons as a kid, but didn't practice. And it's hard. And you have to think a lot...
Started piano lessons in 2017

8. Crochet- My Mamaw Bert has crocheted for years, and even though I'm not the least bit crafty, I'd love to do this just to have some connection with her.

9. Time Square on New Year's Eve- Just because I think it'd be awesome.

10. parasail- Wallace, Kami, Allie, & Landry- North Duck Watersports- 6/16/11- I was a nervous wreck but loved it!!! And we had lots of good laughs when Kami, Allie, and Landry went up!

11. Go on a mission trip

12. Zipline
Wallace and I- Red River Gorge Zipline 7/14/12- Again, I was nervous but enjoyed it. I wish I was a little more adventurous, but I'm not.

13. Write a book for Caleb

14. Write a book for others- fiction, nonfiction... I'm not sure. I just love to write.

15. Superbowl- Preferably watching the Steelers

16. Appalachian Trail- this would be a long time away... because I'd definitely have to get in much better shape!!! But this trail fascinates me!

17. Beth Moore live- I love to listen to Beth Moore, and working on her Bible studies was one of the things God used to help me fall in love with his Word. She's a dynamic speaker, and I was blessed to get to attend with a group from Providence Pentecostal Church in August 2012

18. Europe- Ideally, France, England, and Italy

19. Final Four
Wallace and I watched UK win! in the first round of the Final Four, 4/4/14- Arlington, Texas- but then we had to be back in town for work on Monday morning so we watched them lose the championship at home. What an experience, though!!!!

20. Cruise- Just because I've heard these are great vacation options and most people who I've talked to who have been on one have loved it.

21. Kentucky Derby- Because I'm from Kentucky!!

22. Steelers game- 12/23/12- Heinz Field- Wallace, Caleb, Kami, and I watched the Steelers lose to the Bengals. At halftime, they honored members of the team from the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

23. Visit all 50 states
24. Visit all 120 counties in Kentucky- I'm working on this one!!!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Five Minute Friday: EXPECT

I'm not one to step out of my comfort zone.

I don't like change.

I don't like not knowing.

I like to plan, even though I'm not always great at following through.

Let's just face it.

I like to know what to expect.

Expectations can be confusing, though.

They can actually be damaging...

because too often I develop unrealistic expectations.

For myself.

For time.

For those around me...

And I don't always communicate these expectations, so the other person has no idea why I'm suddenly mad at them because something doesn't go how I had planned.

Crazy, huh?

So this year, in my year to "live", I've really been challenging myself.

To expect the unexpected.

To expect that I'll be disappointed.

To expect that change will come, even though I don't like it, and I'll have to adapt.

But also to expect beautiful things.

To expect happy.

To expect joy, each day...

because while my expectations may not always be realistic, I can always respond to the reality.

I can learn to embrace what it really is, not what I may want.

To appreciate the here and now, not mourn what wasn't.

To expect to live life to the fullest...

because sadly, even though we expect it, we aren't always promised tomorrow.

And we shouldn't allow those false expectations kill the beauty of today.

Writing today and linking up with Five Minute Fridays, where we write for five minutes, unedited, on one prompt. This week's prompt?

 (Picture courtesy of FMF website, as noted on the picture).
Click on over to read lots of great thoughts!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Secrets of Southern Girls: A Review


My take:
This is a delightful story that puts the reader through the spectrum of human emotions.
Because I love all things Southern, I was enthusiastic to start reading this...
but found myself set in busy Manhattan. The main character, Julie is living there trying to move along from her past.
She is a wonderfully developed character who feels like a girl who could be a good friend if she didn't hold herself so aloof. Her aloofness is understood, though, because she carries the guilt of Reba, her childhood best friend's death and is afraid to get close to anyone. Anyone but her daughter...
Her daughter is a cute and smart little thing that made me smile.
The story is advanced with excerpts from Reba's diary.
This book is a suspenseful write that kept me on the edge of my seat, but is well written with short chapters that keep the reader engaged.
I'd highlight recommend it for anyone who enjoys suspense novels!!!
I received a copy of this book from and this is my honest review.
Professional Reader

About the book:
In Secrets of Southern Girls, the powerful, affecting debut from Haley Harrigan, a young woman uncovers devastating secrets about the friend she thinks she killed…

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back.

Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

In fact, she may not be responsible at all.

Haley Harrigan graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in creative writing and public relations. She lives in Athens, Georgia, with her husband. Secrets of Southern Girls is her debut.  Visit her website at or on Twitter @HCHarrigan.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Love Among the Lilacs- June 6

My take:
Mollie is a doll!  She's been through a lot in her life, but has managed to scrape by. She's finally got to a better place, but is threatened when the deal on her house falls through. She's not one to give up, though...
I loved the neighbors in Grady Cove, and Aunt Genevieve is a jewel. Mollie finds herself believing that family could be possible. Sean, well... he's the kind of guy that you kind of want to shake.
This novel pulled on my heart strings and had me rooting for all the characters, which is sometimes hard. Definitely a must read for anyone who loves a story about people overcoming hard knocks!  I'd highly recommend.
I did receive a complimentary copy of this book to review through Celebrate Lit.  This is an honest review. This book is one I would have purchased and I will be checking out other books by this author.

Book title: Love Among the Lilacs
Author: Jenna Victoria
Release date: April 4, 2017
Genre: Sweet romance
Bookkeeper Mollie Wright knows about living on the streets, and her purchase of sweet Lilac Cottage is a dream come true. She is determined to stay and fight when a legal error puts her ownership at risk. Attorney Sean Grady never wanted his great-aunts to sell their cottage in Westchester County, New York, so when a paperwork snafu puts the deal on hold, he moves swiftly to evict the pretty, feisty squatter. Mollie finds unexpected allies in Grady Cove neighbors and a member of Sean’s own family but knows the clock is ticking. Will a theft and her past secrets force a showdown to heartache, or will Mollie and Sean discover home is truly where your heart is?

Ever since her grandfather co-created Twinkies, Snowballs & Hostess cupcakes for Intercontinental Baking Company, circa 1955, Jenna has yet to taste a cake she hasn’t liked.
Jenna writes books for readers who enjoy sweet & compelling romances, and also for those who look for her “fiction that feeds your faith” titles – happily-ever-after romance & romantic suspense stories with a Christian world view. Her stories emulate those she enjoys reading…with a heroine who is in grave danger & a hero who is smart enough to get out of her way as she kicks butt & takes down names… and those that feature satisfying fairy-tale-endings.
Her clean romances won’t put you into a diabetic coma, and her faith-based romances aren’t preachy or unrealistic. It is her glad purpose to glorify God and His sacrificial love through His Son, Jesus Christ through books that illustrate hope & peace in unbearable situations. Her first triple negative breast cancer diagnosis in 2012 has led to surgeries, radiation, reoccurrences and incurable metastasis. Still, Jenna continues to praise God and trust His oversight in her life; and continues to write more books.

I am thrilled you will be introducing my newest novel, Love Among the Lilacs, to your readers and visitors through CelebrateLit. I am excited to share this sweet love story with quirky characters who hijacked the plot mid-stream, and took me places I did not anticipate!
So – Why Love Among the Lilacs? I chose the title and a subplot regarding lilacs for one reason – I absolutely adore the scent! The fact that a lilac’s bloom is so fleeting, makes their fragrance that much more memorable and anticipated.

Mollie Wright anticipates something too – finally buying her own home, Lilac Cottage, after a childhood of homelessness. Genevieve Carter, one of the two elderly sellers, leaves her a note of welcome next to a small bouquet of lilacs in Mollie’s new bedroom, after the closing. This helps readers experience Genevieve’s spirit of generosity. Isn’t the bedroom phone antique? The sisters lived in the cottage for more than 50 years, and changed little of its amenities.
How did I choose to write about Mollie? What if a character dreamed and saved and finally bought a house after a childhood of homelessness? Then, due to a real estate closing error and interference by the seller’s great-nephew, her sweet cottage ownership is in real peril. Dare she hope for a positive outcome?

Attorney Sean Grady didn’t want his maternal great-aunts, who lovingly raised him and his younger brother Mark, to sell Lilac Cottage. After a rookie mistake led to a tragedy when he was an associate at his family law firm, Sean decided to concentrate on elder law. He’s seen plenty of abuse of the elderly in his ten year career, and something about Mollie Write doesn’t sit well with him.
Mollie finds support from her neighbors – including long retired Emily Rogers (Genevieve’s BFF) who often visits Lilac Cottage’s back garden through this connecting gate. It’s so beautiful! She reveals her profession which is perfectly suited to Mollie’s needs. We see selfless giving and stalwart friendship in Emily’s character.

Mollie has secrets to hide, and a far away half-brother and Mother who aren’t exactly upstanding members of society.
When her half-brother unexpectedly surfaces, bringing a mountain of trouble with him, the budding love between Sean and Mollie takes a hard tumble.

The theft of an antique necklace, Sean’s renewed lack of trust and Mollie’s shame at her past – not to mention final outcome of legal decisions – pull them further apart.

The intervention of others gives Mollie and Sean a chance at reconciliation – but is it too late? Can they finally unpack and empty baggage from their past?

I hope you enjoy Love Among the Lilacs as much as I did writing it!

Happy Reading!

p.s. my selected giveaway, an authentic Coach Disney X Mickey Mouse accordian zip wallet in glovetanned leather was chosen to represent the transformation of Mollie’s negative childhood experiences into memories of acceptance and joy among the trials.

Blog Stops

May 26: Carpe Diem

To celebrate her tour, Jenna is giving away a grand prize of an authentic, new in unopened gift box Coach zipper accordion leather wallet – from their Disney X collection (Value $140.00)!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Return to Huckleberry Hill- June 5

My take:
Reuben is a forlorn young man who has been jilted... for his best friend.
His best friend's sister, Fern feels awful about the situation.
His grandmother is determined to find him a good wife, and his best friend's sister is happy to help with the matchmaking.
The two decide to form a knitting group so that Reuben will have lots of young ladies to socialize with as they visit his grandmother's house.
I loved how Reuben's pride was seen as such an issue... too often he was convinced others would judge him because he had been abandoned for his best friend, but they really didn't see it as being a big deal.
I loved his elderly grandmother, as well.
Fern is a likeable character who truly has his best interests at heart.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction with a little bit of romance.
I've never read other books set in Huckleberry Hill but believe I will give them a try.
I did receive a complimentary book for giving an honest review through Celebrate Lit. This is my honest opinion.


Book: Return to Huckleberry Hill
Author: Jennifer Beckstrand
Genre: Inspirational Amish Romance
Release Date: May 30, 2017
When it comes to matchmaking, Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin’s unstoppable octogenarians Anna and Felty Helmuth never seem to run out of opportunities—or grandchildren…
Reuben Helmuth is plenty bitter. John King, his best friend—or so he thought—is engaged to the girl Reuben loved. Humiliated, Reuben flees from Ohio to his grandparents’ home on Huckleberry Hill, where he knows he’ll find comfort. He’s enjoying wallowing in his misery—until John’s sister, Fern, shows up. She won’t stop pestering Reuben about forgiveness—or trying to help him find love again. Yet Fern’s efforts only reawaken Reuben’s long-buried feelings—for her…
With her brother too ashamed to face Reuben, it’s fallen to Fern to help mend fences. But as she and the Helmuths do all they can—even organizing a knitting club event filled with eligible girls—it may take one more challenge to inspire Reuben to forget his heartache, recognize his own blunders, and embrace the true love that’s right in front of him…


Jennifer Beckstrand is the award winning Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hillseries and The Honeybee Sisters series for Kensington Books. Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth and the Honeybee sisters’ aendi Bitsy. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a passion for Jane Austen and Shakespeare. She and her husband have been married for thirty-two years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and soon-to-be six adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten.

In Return to Huckleberry Hill, Anna Helmuth and Fern King decide to start a knitting club in order to introduce Anna’s grandson Reuben to some girls from Bonduel, Wisconsin. Anna is a very good knitter, with years of practice making baby blankets, scarves, mittens, and potholders. One of Anna’s scarves actually saved someone’s life, and her potholders have helped her make many a match.
When I was a young teenager, I learned how to knit and crochet. My mom taught me how to sew and quilt, and I made several of my own dresses in high school. I never learned to love sewing, but it was an invaluable skill that I am so grateful to have. Now that I’m a little older, I love putting together simple quilts for baby gifts and making quilts for the local children’s hospital. There is nothing like a homemade gift to say, “I care about you.”
I have a friend who is a wonderful cook. Making a delicious, beautiful meal is how she tells her family she loves them. I don’t consider myself a great cook, but I still take pride in putting something nutritious and satisfying on the table for my family.
It seems to me that some of the “home arts” that our mothers and grandmothers practiced are dying out. Who knows how to tat anymore? Or embroider? Some of these arts have died because of expediency. Who doesn’t think today’s stocking choices are more comfortable and practical than knitted wool ones? Others have died out because so few people want to learn.
What about you? Do you still practice any of the home arts that your grandmother did? What do you want to pass on to the next generation?

Blog Stops

May 24: A Greater Yes
May 25: Just Commonly
May 30: Quiet Quilter

To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away a $15 Amazon gift card to three lucky winners!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

What I Read in May

I read somewhere that in order to read more books, you should read more than one book at a time. I had always been the kind of reader where I was reading more than one book at a time, but in recent years I've went a little overboard.

I think it's great to read more than one book... but you have to be able to keep them separate, and also if you get into one, keep reading. Don't stop just because you haven't read something else for a while.

I only read 10 books in May, which is a little unusual for me because this is the time of year when my "work" wasn't as heavy... but I've been busy "living" and being more intentional with family time, meaning my reading has been whenever I can sneak it in.

And there's also the case of Netflix, which I can somewhat blame on reading, because Kami bought me the Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girl fame's biography, and told me not to start reading until I had watched enough to be able to understand... and I also have a devotional centered on Gilmore Girls with the first entry focusing on an episode from season 6. I'm on Season 5...

But I digress.

What I read in May:
1. Their Life's Work-This one was about the glory days of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Started it a long time ago but decided to finish it when Dan Rooney died. 
2. All Things New-This one is a Bible study by Kelly Minter about 2 Corinthians. Loved it!! 
3. A More Beautiful Question-This book is a nonfiction book about questioning to learn and discover new things. A great read for someone looking to discover new ways of looking at life and any problems they may have. 
4. Hidden Figures- I started this one in January because the movie version was coming out. I ended up watching the movie first, but I really enjoyed this insight into the Race to Space and the role Black American women played in the achievements made. Great read!
5. Fear Fighting- I was on the launch team for this book and read the book, but it had a study guide included, so I didn't officially finish it until this month, because I worked through the study guide chapter by chapter. You can read my thoughts on this book here- Living Fearless
6. Renovating the Richardsons- This was the second in the Goose Creek series and I loved it. It's set in central Kentucky, has enjoyable characters, and has enough romance thrown it to make it a fun read. I'm getting ready to start the third book in the series.
7. The Broken Way- This is Ann Voskamp's second book. I often feel as though she can read my mind. I really enjoyed this book, and have embraced the concept of living my life as a gift.
8. The Broken Way Study Guide- This was the accompanying book, and one that went along with video sessions. I watched the video sessions earlier in the year when they were free through a book study, making notes as I went, and then later went back and finished the other questions and read the rest of the book.
9. The Cherry Cheesecake Murder- Another book by Joanne Fluke. Another fun read. Same funny protagonist. Same frisky feline. New delicious recipes (not that I've ever tried them!)
10. 13 Reasons Why- I decided to start this one because of all of the recent hoopla on social media after the book was made into a Netflix series. My plan was to read a chapter, then watch the corresponding episode on Netflix, but I just went ahead and read the book. I'm currently on episode 11 out of 13. The series is a little hard to watch because it does have much sexual content and foul language. The book isn't as bad, but there is still some sexual content. I thought it was important for me to know what it was about, though, being the parent of a teenager, and I can say that it is honestly pretty accurate, sadly. Teenage suicide is a hot topic and as parents we must be diligent in maintaining open communication with our kids.

So... what's on your to read list? I've got to finish the 40 books I've already started, but June means I visit old friends like Gone with the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird. And the other to reads?

Limitless!!!! Stacks upon stacks virtually on my kindle and on my bookshelfs... so I'm going to go read.

As soon as I finish the last two episdoes of 13 Reasons Why

2017 Popsugar Ultimate Reading Challenge
A book recommended by a librarian
A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long- Girl on the Train
A book of letters
An audiobook
A book by a person of color
A book with one of the four seasons in the title
A book that is a story within a story-The Story Keeper
A book with multiple authors
An espionage thriller
A book with a cat on the cover- The Cat That Went Bump in the Night
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read
A book by or about a person who has a disability- Tough as They Come
A book involving travel- The Yellow Envelope
A book with a subtitle- Zip It: The Keep it Shut 40-Day Challenge
A book that's published in 2017
A book involving a mythical creature
A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile
A book about food
A book with career advice
A book from a nonhuman perspective
A steampunk novel
A book with a red spine- The Cherry Cheesecake Murder
A book seet in the wilderness
A book you loved as a child
A book by an author from a country you've never visited
A book with a title that's a character's name- Dearest Dorothy...
A novel set during wartime
A book with an unreliable narrator
A book with pictures
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
A book about an interesting woman- Hidden Figures
A book set in two different time periods
A book with a month or day of the week in the title
A book set in a hotel
A book written by someone you admire
A book that's becoming a movie in 2017
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas
The first book in a series you haven't read before- The Most Famous Illegal Parade in Goose Creek
A book you bought on a trip

A book recommended by an author you love
A bestseller from 2016- Hillbilly Elegy
A book with a family member term in the title
A book that takes place over a character's life span
A book about an immigrant or refugee
A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
A book with an eccentric character
A book that's more than 800 pages
A book you got from a used book sale
A book that's been mentioned in another book
A book about a difficult topic- 13 Reasons Why
A book based on mythology    

Friday, June 2, 2017

FMF Future

It's hard to believe it is already June, 2017.

I've been a bit nostalgic lately...

I'll have a kiddo starting high school in the fall, and Wallace is no longer coaching, and I'm busy working with others to plan a 20th year high school reunion, so I've really been thinking a lot about where I am in life.

Plus, the word of the year is "live" and that's what I've been trying to do.

When I teach about growth and development I realize that my age centers me in young adulthood, but I feel more in tune with middle adulthood, which is generativity vs. stagnation... where I'm starting to look toward developing the younger generation, because I have tried my best (and continue to try) to do that every day.

Everyone is a beginner at something, and needs a mentor...

And I think of how quickly these next few years will fly by, and then I'll be in that older adult stage, where my goal will be to maintain ego integrity and not have despair, looking back on my life and feeling like I've contributed.

I've tried to live in the present, but I also realize that there is something lurking just around the corner.

I have to prepare for it, knowing it is uncertain.

We don't know what tomorrow holds, so we have to live in this moment preparing for it.

How we treat others today will impact how they will treat us tomorrow.

The story we write today will affect our happy ending.

Each small act is like a rock thrown in a still stream, causing a ripple effect that will push water into the bank.

Our legacies, what others think of us in days to come, are what we are living today...

The future isn't all that far away... so make today count.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes on one prompt, unedited, unscripted...

Today's post? FUTURE (Image from FMF webpage in the above link...)

Make the most of your today so your tomorrow will be brighter...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What I Learned in Spring

1. I always thought Somebody's Watching Me was sung by The Police.

Wrong. It's sung by a singer named Rockwell, whose father was a bigwig at Motown Records... and Michael Jackson sang backup vocals on the chorus.

The Police did sing about watching, though... "Every breath you take... I'll be watching you."

2. Girl Scout cookies- different kinds for different states. I discovered this when I was visiting Kami in Knoxville, and a troop was set up in front of the store. I spied a yellow box and requested "Lemonades"... but they didn't have lemonades. They had Savannah Smiles, which were ok, but not as good as the Lemonades we have in Kentucky. The leader said, "We wish we had those, but our manufacturing plant doesn't make those." Yet another time I was lucky to be in Kentucky!

3. "OK" is a mistake- short for "oll korrect", a popular misspelling of "all correct". I've used "ok" my whole life but had no idea what it stood for!

4. Morehead State University... landlocked... has a beach volleyball team. That has amazed me! When I picture beach volleyball, I picture, well... the beach. And the closest thing to the beach in Morehead is Cave Run Lake, which is beautiful, but not my idea of a beach...

5. Anybody who is familiar with Kentucky knows about Ale 8 1, our signature non-alcoholic drink manufactured in Winchester. It was created in 1926 to be served at the  Clark County Fair, and was named Ale81, as in  "A late one"- the latest thing. It's not my cup of tea, but a lot of people in my parts drink it religiously!

6. You can totally do something if you put your mind to it!  Sincerely, Lauren Bates, DNP, RN =)

7. Mean Joe Green drank more than 20 bottles of Coke a day for his 1979 Coke commercial... and the commercial took 3 days! Mean Joe was known for his "mean" image, and this Coke commercial helped paint him in a better light. He actually drank the Coke, though, because he wanted to make it authentic.
Check out the commercial here-
8. The third Thursday of April is National High Five Day.
9. Vanderbilt Costume Ball of 1883- I had always been fascinated by the Vanderbilts, since watching a show about Biltmore and other famous houses. I recently read a book set at the Vanderbilt Costume Ball of 1883, an elaborate affair where one woman dressed as a cat... complete with an actual cat head as part of the costume. Learn more here:

Linking up with Emily Freeman at, where each quarter she discusses things she's learned.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books for the Second Half of 2017

I recently followed several book review blogs and I was thrilled when I found that one of them linked up with this post over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday they do a top ten related to some kind of book topic, so y'all know I had to put my two cents in. This week's topic is the most anticipated books of the second half of 2017.  (Click on the link to find lots of book suggestions!)

I'll admit this is a hard topic for me, because as much as I love books I don't really "anticipate" them much... namely because I'm cheap and tend to wait to purchase books until they've been out a while. Plus, I've got so many on my to-read list that I feel bad neglecting those I already have to start one I don't, but there are always exceptions to the rule.

So, here goes!

1. Camino Island by John Grisham- releasing in June. I love anything by John Grisham, and he is one author I will buy fresh off the press!
2. The Identicals by Elin Hildebrand- releasing June 13th, just in time for it to be a good book read... which is what Hildebrand always delivers!
3. When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Whalen- releasing in September. This book caught my eye when I saw it involved high school cheerleaders, because I still feel like a high school cheerleader even though that's been 20 years ago.
4. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate- releasing June 6th. Wingate is another author that I absolutely love.
5. The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck- releasing in July. I don't even know what this book is about but I know I'll love it because I have loved everything I've read by Hauck.
6. Love Story by Karen Kingsbury- releasing June 6th. The characters in Kingsbury's books are so relatable... I feel like I'm meeting with my next door neighbors.
7. The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green- releasing June 6- another great beach read!
8. Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle- releasing in October- because she is funny. And relatable. And I feel like she reads my mind.
9. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker- releasing in August- Because what woman doesn't need to be reminded that it's ok to be strong but also a mess?
10. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin- releasing in September- Ever since reading The Happiness Project, I've been enchanted by Rubin's form of self-help.

And, on my night stand... not new releases, but ones I look forward to every summer- Gone with the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird

I'd love to hear what you're anticipating!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

If We Don't, Who Will?

A field of crosses.

Each representing a life.

The ultimate sacrifice.

Gone too soon...

the pages turned and the cover closed on their story.

One by one, their names were individually called and a flag was placed on the top of their cross.

Just a brief moment in time, of reflection.

Stories ended before they had even begun...

And I thought how so many in that generation are gone, and nobody knows their stories...

I know the story behind one of those crosses. His name was George Washington Arrowood, and he was my Mamaw Na's older brother. He was a handsome young man, just 19 when he was sent overseas. He went into training and then came home on a furlough, missing his brother Paul by 2 days, as he was headed to Europe and Paul was headed to the South Pacific.

GW's Daddy was a preacher, and his Mama was a devout woman, petite in stature, but if she was anything like my Mamaw probably a little firecracker. Mamaw often recalled the story of when they received the telegram telling of GW's death. He is buried on a cemetery in South Jackson, with his Mom and Dad and his brother-in-law, and a baby niece named Sharon, my Mom's sister whom she never met.

A few sketchy details passed down by word of mouth...

and he was well-loved, as were many of the other men from here in Breathitt County whose names were read Friday night. I thought of how many of them were so very young... many Privates and Private First Class. Some of them buried at sea, some of them buried overseas, with no marker for their families to visit. Some of them killed before they even left stateside...

And each of those men left behind a family with a wealth of stories, memories of their loved ones and treasured family folklore to be told and retold...

We are a culmination of the stories of those who have gone on before.

What of those men (and women) who didn't have families waiting for them? Who will tell their stories?

If you've ever been to Arlington you know the solemnity of row after row of wooden crosses, symbolizing brave men and women across the generations that showed the greatest love because freedom is not free.

Perhaps tomorrow as you have your cookout or jump into the lake or toss a football with your loved ones you could pause and reflect on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice... and then find someone in your family who served and let them tell you their story, if they so choose, or the story of someone they've lost...

Because if we don't tell their story, who will?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Remembering Your Stories

I'm a big fan of stories. If you follow my blog at all you know I love to read...

and my favorite kind of books are those with engaging plot lines that suck you in and tell a mesmerizing story.

I can remember when I was younger both of my Grandmas would keep me entertained for hours with stories...

and I'm big on the importance of the story of the individual.

That's why a tweet I recently read stuck in my mind, and I've been pondering it.

It basically said that our stories don't matter, it's God's story that matters...

and while I think I understand the premise of that statement, I have to say that our story matters BECAUSE God's story matters.

I won't be presumptuous and say that God's story isn't possible without our stories, because God is God and can do all things, created all things, and without Him we wouldn't have a story...

but He also specifically made us with a calling, a purpose, and He loves the stories of our lives.

Just like a novel, there are some good parts and some bad parts.

Plot twists and parts where you feel like you should cover your eyes.

Parts when you groan at the decisions made by the main character, and parts that are so sickenly sweet it renews your faith in mankind... for a few minutes, at least.

I think God wants us to tell our stories... the good and the bad and the ugly... to bring Him glory.

In fact, in Revelations we are told, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of their testimony..."

His Word, Jesus, yes....

but the word of their testimony. Their stories of how He saved them. How He changed them. How He redeemed them...

their stories.

And just as God left us a "letter" to follow, His Word, we are a letter. In 2 Corinthians 3:3, we're told, "It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced[a] by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God—not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh." (HCSB)

We are letters telling of Christ. Our daily words. Our actions. Our thought processes and how they impact how we love...

we're telling the Gospel story as it interweaves with the mundane but beautiful dance of our very lives.

Your story matters... and so does every other story of every other individual breathing right now.

Keep telling it. Keep living it.

Don't try to hide the messy parts... they are often the most thrilling of the entire story!

And if your life is a book... that means that each day... today... is a new chapter.

Full of new opportunities to rewrite the plot...

Kind of like those choose your own adventure books you've seen.

I'm thinking this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, would be a great time to remember some of those stories your loved ones might have told you... of difficult times in your family. Of brave heroes who went off to war and didn't come back. Of love stories and stories full of hope.

And then, share your story with someone. Remember where you've came from...

so that we can see how far we've come.

And if you're really into storytelling, grab the Bible. It's truly the greatest story ever told, with a true heroine who rides in like a knight in shining armor and battles the dragon to save His love. If you don't know Jesus, I can guarantee He'll change your story. I'd be happy to share more with you! Just comment below.  <3

Friday, May 26, 2017

Joyful Noise

Wednesday I had piano lessons. It's part of my whole "live to the fullest" goal of 2017. I took piano lessons as a child, but detested practicing. When my piano teacher moved away, the lessons stopped and my days of painfully deciphering sheet music were over.

But I always regretted it. I would watch others who could sit down on the piano bench and make lovely music, and I would wish that I had stuck with it.

So I decided to take the plunge and start taking lessons again. I asked around to see if anyone had recommendations, and found a piano teacher. My first lesson started me off in a beginner's book, with the very basics, but it was new and exciting and when I sat down at my Grandma's piano to practice those three note songs I felt akin to Mozart.

And then, life. End of school events and running around and trying to squeeze in a few minutes to run up to Grandma's old house to practice. I found myself in the car on Wednesday heading to lessons knowing that I hadn't practiced like I should, and finding myself wishing that I wasn't in the beginner book and it wasn't so hard to try to figure out what the notes were while thinking of how softly the music should be played and which finger should be where...

and I thought how like life that is. We often want to start off in the most advanced position, with little practice and little effort... but that's not how it's set up. Before I learned to read I had to learn my alphabet, and then learn the sounds and how they are strung together to make words, and then eventually how sentence structure works. I didn't just pick up Gone with the Wind... I had to start with those elementary books.

And piano will be the same way. I'll eventually get the hang of it. I'll eventually be able to sight read and not think of where the notes are on the page.

In the meantime, I'll keep plucking away at three note songs and occasionally attempting Jesus Loves Me in the most elementary fashion...

Because God just likes my joyful noise, however it is made.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alice's Notions- May 24

My thoughts: World War II has always fascinated me, and so any fictional book set in or around that time captures my imagination. This book combines a small town that reminds me of my own hometown with that time frame, so it was a great read for me! I loved the idea of a barn quilt tour, as my small town recently did quilt blocks on local buildings. Alice was a likeable character, as was Greta, the German refuge who Alice is unsure of. There were also some unlikeable characters, which is great for the book. Sheriff Jenner, who should be a good guy, is extremely unlikeable to me!

Alice has to figure out who she is as a person, and work through her feelings about the people around her as they relate to who she is. The cast of characters she is surrounded by are interesting to say the least.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fiction set in small-town communities, and for anyone who loves the WWII era. Alice is a good example of the women who were forced to find their way in a changed world following the war. Great read!

I did receive a complimentary copy of this book for a review, and this is my honest review.


Book: Alice’s Notions
Author: Tamera Lynn Kraft
Genre: Christian historical romance
Release Date: April 1, 2017
In this quaint mountain town, things aren’t always what they seem.World War 2 widow Alice Brighton returns to the safety of her home town to open a fabric shop. She decides to start a barn quilt tour to bring business to the shop and the town, but what she doesn’t know is sinister forces are using the tour for their own nefarious reasons. Between her mysterious landlord, her German immigrant employee, her neighbors who are acting strange, and a dreamboat security expert who is trying to romance her, Alice doesn’t know who she can trust.


Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States because there are so many stories in American history. There are strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure in her stories. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest and has other novellas in print. She’s been married for 38 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and two grandchildren. Tamera has two novellas in print: A Christmas Promise and Resurrection of Hope. Her first full length novel, Alice’s Notions released in April through Desert Breeze.
You can contact Tamera on her website at

Guest Post from Tamera Lynn Kraft

How Classic Movies from the 1940s Made Their Way in My Latest Novel
By Tamera Lynn Kraft
One thing I loved about writing my post World War Two novel was my main character’s passion for movies. Alice Brighton and her late husband loved to go to movies on Friday nights. Now, even after the war made her a widow, Alice still loves movies and compares everyone she meets to a movie character.
Of course for Alice, all these wonderful classic movies and movie stars and a part of her culture, but for me, it was so much fun because I love classic movies. In the novel, Alice compares her landlord to Cary Grant. Cary Grant is one of my favorites. After starring in movies like Suspision, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Notorious, Grant was one of the biggest stars around in 1946 when Alice’s Notions takes place. My favorite Cary Grant movie wouldn’t be made until a few years later. An Affair to Remember, released 1957, with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is one of my all-time favorites.
At one point in the novel, Alice thinks back to when her late husband always said she reminded him of Judy Garland. Garland would have been twenty-four at the time, just a bit younger than Alice, but she became a big star in her teens. She began acting at two years old when she debuted as Baby Francis and sang Jingle Bells. After playing in various roles including a few movies with Mickey Rooney, Garland had her big break in The Wizard of Oz. She went on to star in a ton of movies and had a thriving singing career until she committed suicide in the 1960s. One of my favorite Judy Garland movies released in 1945 during the war was The Clock. The Clock was about a woman who met and fell in love with a GI on leave. Their romance was intensified because they only had the weekend before he was shipped out again for the remainder of the war. This movie must have been in Alice’s mind since she had lost her husband shortly after the movie came out.
During Alice’s Notions, Alice goes on a date to see the movie, The Postman Always Rings Twice, starring Lana Turner and John Garfield. It was released in 1946 and was considered scandalous at the time because the two main characters have an affair and murder her husband. The main theme of the movie is you can’t get away with your sin. The truth will be revealed. In Alice’s Notions, the truth being revealed is also a main theme.
So you may be wondering what classic movie Alice’s Notions reminds me of. Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn was released in 1963. In that movie, Hepburn is being pursued and doesn’t know who she can trust. The movie has light hearted intrigue, suspense, and romance just like Alice’s Notions. Alice, also, doesn’t know who she can trust.

Blog Stops

May 11: Genesis 5020
May 13: Carpe Diem
May 20: Mary Hake
May 22: Vicky Sluiter


To celebrate her tour, Tamera is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!